Put Yourself First: Tips For Caring For Your Mental Health
It all starts with you.
Beauty starts from within – and when we say ‘within’ we aren’t just talking about your daily supplements. We’re talking about your mental health, too.
Like most things in life, working on your mental health is a journey. It can take a little or a lot of work to keep your mind in check. At the end of the day, though, you are all you’ve got so the journey is 100 per cent worth it.
Need a helping hand? (It’s 2021, who doesn’t?) Psychotherapist and counsellor, Jennifer Nurick, is here with advice on how the smallest habits can make the biggest difference.
The 2020 (and 2021) Experience
For almost two years you’ve listened to every man and his dog harp on about COVID-19. Whilst we know it’s getting repetitive, we need to acknowledge this experience. 2020 (and, for those of us in New South Wales and Victoria, 2021) has been like no other. The last two years have seen us #WFH, bake banana bread excessively and engage our core in at-home pilates; it has also seen global job loss, unimaginable financial stress, illness and death.
This prolonged period of stress, unpredictability and social isolation has taken a toll on our collective mental health. Just as you check in with others, it’s important to check in with yourself: are you okay? (Remember: it’s okay not to be okay.)
TIP 1: BREATHE
We do it everyday without thinking; however, breathing is actually a fast, effective and free way to calm our whole body.
Whether you try a meditative breathing technique (such as square breathing) or simply take five deep breaths each morning, this practice turns on the vagus nerve, which activates our parasympathetic nervous system. “Check in with yourself and acknowledge what you need from the day is important,” says Nurick.
TIP 2: EXCERCISE
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, exercise is so important. “Use the time you save from your commute to get our for a run or to do an online yoga class,” recommends Nurick.
Whilst the novelty may very well have worn off when it comes to at-home workouts, this is an easy way to keep your body moving. Or, are you in a city where you feel comfortable attending the gym in person? Either way, not only does exercise pump blood to your brain, help with memory, improve sleep and boost self-esteem, it will also reintroduce you to your old friend endorphins. You know, the mood booster.
TIP 3: HUMAN CONNECTION
Humans crave human connection. Depending on where you are in Australia, this connection may have to be virtual. But for now, it will do! “[We] are social creatures and we need connection,” says Nurick. “It is not optional for our mental health.” We suggest scheduling Zoom or FaceTime drinks with your friends or having a family games night over Skype. And if you are lucky enough to be able to see people in person, make the most of it.
TIP 4: DOWN TIME
If WFH has meant that you roll out of bed at 6:30am and jump straight online, only to realise you’re still working at 6:30pm, it’s time to set some boundaries. “You need to put boundaries in place with yourself and others to ensure you’re getting enough time to do the things that make you happy,” says Nurick. Think: what lights up your soul? Is it comedy, your dog, going for a swim, painting, writing? There is no wrong answer. Whatever it is, schedule in time to do it. Your hobbies are just as important as your 9:30 meeting.
TIP 5: LISTEN
Listen to yourself, your significant other, your friends, your family…
This practice helps to keep everyone in check. Actively listening to friends and family will help you just as much as it helps them.“Listening to people can be incredibly powerful, validating and healing,” says Nurick.