Picture this: you just hurt your arm in a minor accident. You immediately head to a doctor, get diagnosed, get a prescription for medication and agree to return every week for physical therapy. Now imagine a world where we carry the same attitude towards mental illnesses, minus the stigma. If you wouldn't think twice before seeking medical assistance for a physical ailment, why shouldn't you do the same when you're dealing with mental health issues? Thankfully, owing to social media, there's been a lot of open and honest conversation about mental health tips and the importance of taking care of it. Several Hollywood and Bollywood A-listers, including Beyonce, Selena Gomez, Ryan Reynolds, Deepika Padukone and Hazel Keech, have openly spoken about their own struggle with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. Not only has this helped destigmatise the topic, but it has also helped people like you and me to confront our problems, discuss them with our loved ones without fear of judgement and seek help as and when required.
If you've been struggling with managing your own mental health, here a list of the tiny things you can do every day to take better care of your emotional and mental well-being.
A lot of our mental issues stem from the fact that most people tend to bottle up their emotions instead of dealing with them and processing them in a healthy way. These bottled up emotions eventually explode and manifest themselves in the form of panic attacks or mental breakdowns. If you want to avoid that, learn to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. Build a support system of friends, family or co-workers that you can talk to after an overwhelming day. If you're dealing with specific issues, it might also help you to join a support group and discuss your problems with people suffering from similar ones.
Before you brush off meditation as a 'hippie' activity, hear us out: we're not asking you to chant loudly and try to achieve nirvana (although if you're into that, you do you!). You might be busy, but setting aside just a few minutes in your daily routine to meditate can help you become more mindful, relieve stress, and improve your focus. This is because the act of meditation makes you de-clutter your thoughts and focus on your breathing. If you're new to meditation and don't know how to start, apps like Headspace have guided meditation sessions to help you out.
According to studies, there's a massive connection between being physically active and having stable mental health. But sometimes when you're having a bad mental health day, even the thought of leaving the bed can make you feel overwhelmed. Worry not! Exercise doesn't always have to mean lifting weights in the gym or running on a treadmill for hours. When you're feeling low, even a little bit of movement can uplift your mood. Activities, like putting on some music and dancing away in your bedroom, taking your dog for a walk or even just spending some time tidying up your house, can help you feel better!
We're strong believers of the fact that life is short and beautiful, so we'll never tell you NOT to eat that piece of cake. However, you also need to remember that what you put into your body has a direct effect on your mental health. In fact, studies have shown that over-consumption of sugar can worsen mental health problems like anxiety and depression. The alternative? Switch to foods that are good for your mental health--like avocados, eggs, bananas and fatty fish. But never put extra pressure on yourself by going on extreme diets or completely cutting foods off--it's all about balance! I've you've been eating healthy all week, you deserve that cheeseburger on a Sunday!
When we start stressing about something that's bothering us, our brains stop functionating normally and our productivity takes a massive hit. Worrying about something will not fix your problem, but taking a break certainly will! Give your mind a break from the stress and do something to distract yourself for a short period of time. This will not only help your brain calm down and get back to regular functioning, but the break from work will freshen your ideas up, and you might actually come up with a solution to the problem!
When you're going through a difficult time, it can be hard to think of the good things that are going for us. After all, you can't force yourself to be positive on a bad day, right? So instead of 'thinking positive thoughts', try writing down three things you were grateful for that day, and do this every night before you go to bed. This exercise may not make your present worries evaporate into thin air, but it will make you appreciate what you already have and help you see the silver lining on that dark cloud over your head.
This may sound simple--and that's because it is! You don't need to be a world-renowned artist or a Pulitzer prize-winning author--you just need to find an activity that brings you joy and devote some time to doing it every day. Something as simple as putting together a puzzle or knitting can make you feel relaxed because when you do things you enjoy, your brain releases feel-good hormones, which in turn elevate your mood. So don't worry about the outcome--buy those art supplies and start working on your masterpiece already!
There are days when you should push yourself to do better, and then there are days when you should listen to your body and mind and take the day off. When you feel like even getting out of bed is a struggle, go into survival mode and call in sick. Mental illness is still an illness, after all, and you need to give yourself some time off to heal before you can get back to all your personal and professional commitments. On such days, try not to put too much pressure on yourself and just do the bare minimum--eat something nutritious (like bananas), try to take a shower and change into fresh clothes, and call a friend over to keep you company if you don't want to be alone.
One of the best ways to snap out of a funk is to get up from where you are and get moving. Ideally, an hour at the gym would be perfect, but if you don't have the physical or mental energy to work out, just change your clothes, put on a pair of comfy shoes and go out for some fresh air. You could go wherever you feel most at ease--whether it's a walk to the local dog park, your favourite ice cream parlour or just that new coffee shop that you wanted to try. Remember the main focus here is the movement, and not the destination--so leave your car keys at home and get walking!
How you ever noticed how your excitement spikes the moment you start planning your itinerary for an upcoming vacation--sometimes more than the actual vacation itself? That's because having something to look forward to inadvertently puts us in a good mood, and the process of researching and planning out your trip can be extremely relaxing. So if you can't afford to take a holiday anytime soon or just don't have enough leaves--we'd still encourage you to plan the sh*t out of that crazy vacation you always wanted to take and don't be afraid to get into all the details! Not only will you trick your brain into replicating that same feeling of excitement, but you will have a ready-made itinerary when you do decide to take that vacay! Win-Win!
The hardest part about dealing with a debilitating mental illness is that sometimes you can't imagine a future for yourself. So instead of waiting for things to happen to you, write down all your hopes and dreams, and make elaborate plans to achieve them. If you don't have any concrete plans, start with daily, short term plans, like making a cleaning schedule for the house, setting up lunch with friends or booking a spot at a local networking event. Start small and work your way up--you'll get there eventually!
Remember how much you loved writing in your diary when you were younger? Well, turns out journalling can not only bring you the same amount of joy as an adult but also help you take stock of your emotions, making you feel lighter. Don't believe us? Try this the next time you're feeling overwhelmed: Grab a notebook and a pen (you can also do this on your computer, but that's not half as fun) and write down each and every emotion you are experiencing. The mere process of emptying out your scattered thoughts onto a paper will feel cathartic, which will end up making you feel calmer. In fact, maintaining a daily journal will also help you keep a log of your moods and this can help you keep track of your fluctuating moods.
There are several factors that can lead to poor mental health, ranging from childhood trauma to dealing with grief. Some of the common factors include, but are not limited to: childhood abuse, trauma, or neglect, social isolation or loneliness, experiencing discrimination and stigma, social disadvantage, poverty or debt, bereavement, severe or long-term stress, having a long-term physical health condition, unemployment, homelessness, being a long-term carer for someone, drug and alcohol misuse, domestic violence, bullying, significant trauma as an adult, such as military combat. Sometimes, physical causes such a head injury or a neurological condition such as epilepsy can have an impact on your behaviour and mood. Lifestyle factors such as work, diet, drugs and lack of sleep can also affect your mental health.
Taking care of your mental health is important because it's a vital part of your life and impacts your thoughts, behaviours and emotions. Moreover, neglecting your mental health can lead to several health issues, some of which can have severe consequences, including heart attacks, stroke, obesity, and premature death.
According to medical experts, mental illnesses seldom just 'spring up out of the blue'. They can sometimes take years to manifest so it is important that you watch out for certain warning signs, like changes in moods, sleep patterns, social withdrawals, cognitive issues, heightened sensitivity, apathy, unexplained nervousness, and any behaviour that might seem unusual. If you do notice these symptoms, we suggest you see a medical professional for a thorough check-up.
So remember, it doesn't matter how busy you are--always prioritise your mental health, and don't be afraid to seek professional help if you need it!
POPxo is celebrating seven days of self-care and you're invited!