1) Talk talk and more talk
From personal experience let me say this simple tip sounds a whole lot easier than it actually is. Talking to someone about your problems, issues or feelings can be one of the hardest things to do, but it can also be one of the most uplifting and stress releasing experiences you can have. The hardest step of course is the first one.
Before you think to yourself that I am referring to the clearly obvious and very beneficial channels for talking to people like psychologists, counsellors or support services please read on.
Whilst those avenues are extremely important and I certainly recommend them in this article I am specifically referring to talking to people like your friends, your family or your work colleagues if you have that relationship with them. For me the thought of opening up to those groups of people was far far scarier than talking to a medical professional. Why? Because I didn’t personally know the medical professionals I had to talk to and there was a fair chance that I was not likely to bump into them at the shopping centre on a Saturday morning.
So what was it like? Scary as hell at first, but actually amazing and it provided me with a huge sense of relief after I managed to finally blurt it out. I was shocked to hear that I was not alone with my struggles and fears and that some of the people who I feared the most in telling had gone through similar struggles and actually gave me practical advice that helped.
So if you are having some of the above mentioned struggles or issues don’t be afraid to talk to someone close to you about them, as you might be very pleasantly surprised by their response and ability to somewhat normalise your issues.
2) Focus on small milestones or achievements
Some of the best advice I ever received was to break your month, week or day down to smaller chunks and focus on simply achieving smaller milestones.
Milestones or achievements like getting to work on time, finishing a particular report, getting through a meeting or presentation, doing the grocery shopping or hanging out the washing. They certainly don’t all have to be glamorous and should be tailored to some of the smaller tasks you have to complete in everyday life.
Then take the time to stop and reflect at the end of the day, week or month and look at what tasks you have managed to successfully get through and finish. This simple method can be used as a building block to slowly add to your milestones or tasks and keep you in a positive mindset for achieving them.
3) Relaxing your mind
It should be no surprise when I mention the words yoga or meditation! These two activities have both been around for a long time and they can be extremely beneficial in helping you to relax, to learn the skill of training your mind to block out the chatter which will help you gain clarity and find your way in a world full of noise.
4) Intense ………I mean Intense exercise
Whilst a nice walk can be somewhat relaxing what I am talking about involves intense exercise like beach sprints, mountain biking, hills runs or high intensity interval training. Why? Because medical information has shown that doing intense physical exercise releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that actually improves your mood.
Why not add to it by doing your intense exercise somewhere scenic like a beach or bush trail while you listen to some pumping music. What can I suggest from my own personal experience? Well exactly that, intense running on the beach or interval training on footpaths or tracks near the beach whilst listening to some cranked up exercise music on an iPod.
Can I further suggest finishing off your intense exercise session by resting for about 30 minutes and simply watching the waves roll in or whatever relaxing view you have available? Follow this by finding that out-of-the-way coffee shop that allows you to peer out and watch the world going by whilst reading your favourite paper or motivational book.
5) Getting the balance right
I am actually referring to the use of medication to assist with mental health issues. Certain medications work by balancing chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters that affect mood and emotions.
Are they for everyone? Possibly, possibly not and the final decision to take them is one that should be taken very seriously and made by yourself and the relevant medical specialist. I can offer a brief insight into my own past experience with medication and hopefully this may assist in answering some of those unresolved questions for you.
My initial thoughts around taking any form of medication was simply no way not me, I am not taking that stuff! Why? Because I thought I would be stuck taking it for the rest of my life. Along with the stigma attached to taking mental health medication and situations that might arise like, what happens when I have to fill out a form, any form and it asks ‘what medication are you taking and then why?’
In its rawest and most basic form, by taking medication I felt I was having to admit to myself and the world that I had a problem and one that I could no longer keep to myself. I thought that once word got out that people would think less of me or not want to associate with me.
What I can advise you is that Yes I have taken medication, did it go to plan? No not initially and the process involved trying a few different types and dosages until both the type and dosage of the particular medication was right. I can say for me it was worth it. The benefits definitely outweighed the very minimal side effects and my own personal paranoia associated with taking medication for a mental health issue gradually subsided.
I can almost hear you wanting to ask, so what type of side effects are we talking about here? Well for me it was things like them making me too sleepy, too hyped up, having a very dry mouth, getting the shakes and them simply just not doing anything. No second head, No turning into an animal after dark and no adverse reaction to alcohol or other medication.
Contrary to popular belief taking this type of medication does not miraculously make everything peachy and have you dancing around talking about rainbows and unicorns. It merely brings some degree of normality back into your life and allows you to do some of the normal activities and tasks whilst allowing you to also focus on other additional methods of treatment to assist you on your road to recovery.
So there you have it my take on 5 ways to keep your mind healthy! Not from a book but from my own personal experiences.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like any further information on what I have spoken about in this article, I would love to help out!
Stuart Rawlins | Healthy Mind Healthy Future
Strategies to improve your Mental Health