According to the World Health Organisation, “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Our mental health is therefore integral to our overall health. It can be helpful to incorporate practices into our everyday life that can aid both our physical and mental health.
Humans are social animals, we crave connection. This is even more apparent in recent times, as we all learn to adapt to a new way of life, during Covid-19. With self-isolation and social-distancing measures in place, and an increase in remote working, we can really start to feel the loss of human contact. This can impact our mood and well-being. Although we are physically distant from one another, we can still be emotionally close. Maintaining regular human connection can be helpful as we navigate these difficult times. Tackling difficulties together can help us to feel connected, receive vital support and help to improve our mood.
Current government guidelines place the responsibility on each of us to use our own judgement and take personal responsibility for protecting ourselves, our friends and our families [see full government guidelines here]. It is time to get creative and seek new ways to stay connected! Utilise technology when you can for general catch ups or perhaps to host your book club. Perhaps you may like to go for a walk with a friend, or pack a family picnic. It is important to recognise that everyone has different comfort levels, you know best what feels right for you.
Exercise can be very beneficial. Exercise releases endorphins in your body which are known to improve your mood. Try your best to maintain an exercise routine. Short walks or simply sitting in the park can help you get some fresh air and get your body moving, while also giving you break from your usual routine. This can make a difference to your physical well-being, as well as your mental health.
If you cannot go outdoors, you may be in a position to follow some online classes, or perhaps doing some skipping or jumping jacks. Think of movements you can do to get your heart rate increasing.
Take care to eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Eating fresh food, with lots of fruit and vegetables, is good for health, both physical and mental. Try not to consume too many sugary foods, as they can cause a sharp drop in blood sugars leading to energy and mood slumps. Monitor your caffeine intake, as this can cause an increased heart rate and interfere with sleep. Also, alcohol is a depressant, so be mindful with your intake.
You may find Sarah Keogh’s talk Feeding Your Mental Health helpful.
Maintaining a good sleep routine is really helpful when trying to look after your mental health. Aim to keep a routine of going to bed and getting up at a specific time. Sleep is linked with nutrition and exercise. If you are having difficulty with sleep, look at your diet (caffeine or rich foods late in the evening can prevent sleep) and also think about getting some light exercise and fresh air later in the day.
You may find Dr Breege Leddy’s talk Sleep Well to Live Well helpful.
Anxiety and stress are natural responses to some situations that arise in life. But, as with any health concern, if it is having a significant impact on your everyday life, relationships and behaviour, Aware recommends that you seek help and speak to your GP or mental health professional.