In the UK, one in every 4 people will be diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety at some point. But caring for your mental health doesn’t begin and end with a diagnosis! Just like your physical health, your mental wellbeing can fluctuate from day to day, and there are plenty of self-care activities you can enjoy regularly to keep your mental health in peak condition.
1 – Take A Long Soak
For many, this is the ultimate definition of taking some ‘Me Time’. Smartphones and tablets have led to a world where we’re more connected than ever. Connecting digitally means we’re constantly sharing our time – and ourselves – with the online community. A bathtub is the perfect place to lock your phone and the whole rest of the world outside.
But there’s more! There are also benefits to laying down in warm water (not boiling hot, as this can put your body under stress). Being in this position predisposes you to relaxation by overriding your body’s fight-or-flight response, the survival instinct which is essential to getting us out of life-and-death situations. Because your body is at ease, your mind is reassured that you are in no immediate danger, and it slows production of the hormones which get us ready for a fight!
A good night’s sleep is increasingly being linked to good physical and mental health, and a bath also happens to be a great way to get ready for a restful night.
Have you ever noticed that feeling when the night draws in, you start to feel a little bit chilly and your thoughts turn to snuggling up under a nice warm duvet? ‘Cooling off’ is a part of our natural sleep cycle, and a drop in body temperature triggers the production of sleep hormones. So warming your body artificially in the bath and allowing it to cool down again is a cheeky shortcut to a blissful sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, taking a warm bath at bedtime could be a good alternative to lying in bed, fretting and watching the clock.
2- Colouring In
It’s fair to say that the trend for adult colouring in has really taken off. You can’t venture into a bookstore or newsagent without being overwhelmed by a huge choice of colouring books. Surprisingly, colouring books for adults were being prescribed by renowned Psychiatrist Carl Jung in the early 1900s.
I must confess, I tried some colouring in for my Cynical Trials project, but before I could write up my thoughts, I wanted to try another page. And another. And now I’m on my second book. What is it that’s got me hooked?
Well, for someone who spends their working life on Social Media, it is great to have something to do with my hands which doesn’t involve scrolling, clicking or typing. Inside and outside of work, social sharing has become second nature to me, so it’s liberating to spend time on a project which I have no intention of showing to anyone. There’s something gratifying about completing a complex design, or finding an unexpectedly juicy colour combination, and the consequences of ‘getting it wrong’ or ‘messing it up’ are virtually non-existent.
Like bathing, colouring in helps to mute the brain’s ‘fight or flight’ response, giving you a reprieve from the stress hormones which insist you better update your status or check your emails. But perhaps better still, colouring in doesn’t ‘switch off’ your brain, but forces you to focus. Considering the colour, balance and aesthetics of your piece requires gentle concentration, and could be particularly beneficial to anyone who has a tendency to ruminate on negative thoughts or unpleasant memories.
3 – Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
However mentally strong you are feeling, the above suggestions or any self-care ritual could help to improve your sense of wellbeing. But what if they don’t?
For a huge number of people (one in 11 in the UK), self care activities like the ones above are not enough. It might be time to speak to your GP if:
- Your low mood has lasted for more than 2 weeks
- You are finding it difficult to complete day-to-day tasks at work or at home because of your mental health.
- If you’ve had any thoughts about harming yourself, or thought that your loved-ones are better off without you.
Long-term low mood disorders like depression and anxiety happen because of a chemical imbalance; the brain produces serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’, but reabsorbs it before you feel the benefits. This is a medical condition, and is not something which you have to just ‘put up with’. After speaking with you, and getting a full understanding of your situation, your GP might recommend a course of medication called an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) to help increase the serotonin level in your brain.
Speaking to the Doctor about your mood can be daunting, but if you would take medication for a physical condition like a migraine, diabetes or asthma, there’s no reason to view this any differently.
For more hints, tips and suggestions about self care, visit http://tinybuddha.com/blog/45-simple-self-care-practices-for-a-healthy-mind-body-and-soul/
If you are concerned about your mental wellbeing but feel uneasy about seeking medical help, this article is well worth a read https://themighty.com/2016/02/myths-about-mental-illness-medication/