November 16, 2017

Mental Health Basics


Basics are the easiest things to forget because we take them for granted, but we really shouldn’t – because they are The Basics! Which means, everything else depends on them.

The basics are the foundation of what we do and who we are and, in life and mental health, the basics should never be forgotten. Here they are, to remind yourself when life gets a bit much. Based on my personal experience of battling depression, anxiety, panic attacks and social phobia, I have found that taking good care of the everyday basics does wonders for improving the quality of life.

Positive thinking

It might seem impossible to try and force yourself to find a positive angle in what seems like a dire situation, but if you are to have any chance of helping yourself out of negative feelings and thoughts, it is by consciously choosing to think positively. You don’t have to believe in this process, just practice it – what is the alternative? A never-ending cycle of misery and doom – who wants that?!

Whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively about anything, be it yourself, a situation or other people, do your best to turn your thinking around and frame it positively or otherwise start thinking about an unrelated, positive topic. In other words – distract yourself.

It is a sad fact of life that many of us have not been taught by our childhood caretakers how to self-soothe and self-regulate our emotional ups and downs – most likely because they didn’t know how either.

What you have to do is treat yourself as if you are a four-year-old child: acknowledge and validate your own feelings but then re-direct towards something a lot more positive.

Please try it and let me know how you got on.

A body that is clean and well maintained

Many of us are guilty of knowing something in theory but failing to apply it in practice. It is worth persevering and setting yourself up for success by setting up non-negotiable routines for hygiene and exercise.

It is much easier it is to bounce back from setbacks and maintain good mental health when we are taking care of our bodies and exercising regularly outside.

D vitamin deficiency is rampant. If you are not able to make it out into the sunshine every day, remember to take a supplement but first check with your healthcare provider. I was shocked to learn that vitamin D deficiency is linked to low mood as well as many other serious problems. However, excessive intake can also be harmful, so get those baseline blood tests done.

Good quality nutrition

Healthy, good quality and well-proportioned food, seems to be somewhat of a mystical unicorn in the modern age of excess. Many people have food intolerances they are either unaware of or willfully blind to. Older generations were brought up in different times and often fail to realise that what was good for them definitely isn’t good for those who came after – pesticides, widespread use of antibiotics and genetically edited crops were not something they had to worry about.

You may choose not to buy organic, but please do try and keep your processed food intake to the minimum.

Eating whole foods is your goal here and also trying to go for food combinations that suit you – don’t force yourself to eat things that your body reacts badly to, just because someone else swears by it.

Healthy environment

Our surroundings have a huge impact on our overall health, from the air and noise pollution to our personal set up. Living and working in substandard conditions can degrade the quality of our lives and erode our mental health.

This is why it’s vitally important that you take steps to improve every aspect of your day to day environment that you have control over. Invest in a good chair if you are spending all your days in front of a computer. Get out for a walk at lunchtime if your office has constant noise and no fresh air or sunshine.

Clean and beautify the spaces your occupy and this will be reflected in your mood.

Clearing my desk makes me feel instantly happy and productive and making my bed in the morning sets me up for a focused day ahead.

Supportive relationships

Family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, authority figures, dependants – make sure to cultivate good quality relationships everywhere and take steps to distance yourself from toxic people in your life, mentally as well as physically.

There are many resources on the web about how to cultivate positive relationships [5 practices for cultivating more loving relationships by Susan Cain].

My own rules are to always try to be kind, polite and caring and to try and understand where the other person is coming from.

I expect the same from people I associate with, but there are some people who are struggling with difficulties far beyond our ability to manage.  We have to protect ourselves from abusive and manipulative people, regardless of who they are.


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