YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
We’ve come a long way in terms of the conversation around our mental health. What was once considered a taboo has increasingly become something we are willing to talk about and share with others.
The HSE's #LittleThings campaign reminds us that there are many things we can do for our mental health. It's always good to remind ourselves that we don’t have to experience a dip in our mental health alone or in silence. Remember the #LittleThings.
8 hours sleep make the other 16 easier
Sleep is so fundamental to how we feel that even one night’s missed sleep can play havoc with our sense of well being. Without a good night’s sleep it’s impossible to deal with even the simplest of daily tasks and lack of sleep makes it harder to cope. Everyday life becomes a much greater challenge when you're tired. Over time, this can affect your self-esteem and mental health. Lack of sleep can make you less able to socialise, which in turn can make you feel isolated and lonely, it can also lower your mood.
· Keep active
Get regular exercise but try to avoid exercise in the hour before bed time
· Avoid stimulants
Avoid tea and coffee, or foods high in sugar, in the evenings
· Wind down
Have a bedtime routine and wind down time before going to bed. Turn off all technology and do something restful such as gentle stretches or taking a warm bath
Go to bed and get up at the same time each day
· No naps
If possible, avoid naps during the day
· Get comfy
Your bedroom should be a comfortable temperature. If it is too hot or too cold, it may make it more difficult for you to sleep
· Find a good book
Reading in bed can focus your mind and empty it of the day’s worries
Try to relax with deep breathing exercises when in bed. The smell of lavender oil also helps with relaxation – try sprinkling a few drops on your pillow
Need more help than this?
Long-term lack of sleep can either be a cause or a result of a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety. If insomnia or sleep disturbance causes problems in your life, talk to your G.P. You can find more information about sleep disorders here.
Add friends to your tea
Evidence shows that good relationships - with family, friends and your community - are important for your mental health. It doesn’t have to cost money, just reaching out to someone is enough. Building social connections will stand to you and family and friends will be there when you need them.
· Send a text message or make a phone call
· Meet someone face to face if possible
· Don’t worry if you haven’t heard from people in a long time, make the first step, they probably feel the same way
Need more help than this? Click here.
Boost your mood with healthy food
It’s a well-known axiom that ‘you are what you eat’ and today with increased additives and reduced nutritional value of processed foods that it becomes more important than ever to watch what we eat.
Just ask artist Barbara Brennan, who exudes positivity and enthusiasm about food, and more importantly, life.
Barbara learned about the importance of food when it comes to mental health after she thankfully, and luckily, survived a suicide attempt in 2008.
While recovering, she was introduced to WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) and spent several years working on her own version that’s now helping her live free from medication and depression.
“I was a vegetarian and I ate veggie burgers and that kind of stuff but basically what I was eating didn’t have enough nutrition,” she explains.
“I didn’t understand that I wasn’t feeding my body properly.”
Barbara taught herself about nutrition by reading books, researching online and visiting health food stores. She began experimenting with her diet, trying out new foods and monitoring their effect.
“Basically I started cutting things out of my diet for a couple of weeks and seeing how I felt. For example, I found that when I eat potatoes they make me feel very sluggish and I got pains in my stomach so now I choose not to eat them on a regular basis.”
Find information on healthy eating here.
If a friend seems distant, catch up with them
By supporting and helping others, you are more likely to feel good about yourself. There are lots of simple ways to help others - from volunteering, to visiting an elderly neighbour who lives alone, to helping a friend with work in their garden or house. Go to the VolunteerIreland website for information on things you can do throughout the country.
· Join a group, club or local activity
· You can go back to education or learn something new by signing up for a course
· Taking part in a local action cause or political group is a good way to have your say and others may benefit from your contribution
Drink less and great nights become good mornings
Alcohol is a depressant and overdoing it can increase anxiety and lead to depression. It is best to drink only in moderation and to avoid binge-drinking. For the average Irish drinker, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink will have a positive impact on your health and mental well being.
· Use this handy guide to tell if you are drinking too much
Need more help than this?
If you are worried about how much you drink, there is support available. Talk to your G.P. or visit www.drugs.ie for more information and listings of alcohol and drug services nationwide.
Lending an ear is lending a hand
Being there for people and actively listening to what they have to say is beneficial both for them and for you.
Active listening involves really trying to understand what the other person is saying, without imposing our own expectations or judgements.
Click here for more on how to listen well.
Problems feel smaller when you share them
A problem shared is a problem halved, so the old saying goes. And it’s true. Talking to someone when you’ve got something on your mind can make a big difference to how you feel. Find the right moment for the conversation – you want to have time to talk and not be interrupted. You might find it easier to start the conversation when you are doing something else – such as out for a walk or doing the dishes together.
· It’s okay to start off by saying you have been going through a tough time and to describe what you’ve been thinking and feeling.
· It is normal to feel a little nervous
· Or perhaps you have tried to talk to someone – or to get help – and things haven’t improved for you. Don’t give up
· You can also write down how you feel, as this may help make the words clearer in your mind. The act of writing itself can be a therapeutic release and allows you to find ways to deal with them
Need more help than this?
The more you move the better your mood
Three of the most important things we can do to make ourselves feel better are eating healthy, sleeping well and exercising. Some people find it difficult to exercise but it doesn’t have to be a chore and once you find a way of working out that suits your lifestyle, you’ll really enjoy it. Some people like gym routines, circuit training or yoga classes while others love jogging, walking or playing sport.
· Any amount of exercise will have positive effects on how you are feeling but regular exercise is most helpful. Try to include some exercise in your everyday activities
· Find something active you enjoy- football, swimming, walking, dancing, boxing or cycling - and then just do it. It may be hard work, but it’s worth the effort
· Start gently and aim to build up to 20 or 30 minutes of exercise every day
· Improve your motivation by trying group activities or asking a friend to join you
· You can also track your activity and set yourself challenges
Need more help than this?
See GetIrelandActive.ie for guided challenges to suit everyone.
Do things with others there’s strength in numbers
Whatever you do, you don’t have to do it alone. Whether you’re going for a walk, doing the shopping, the garden or a bit of DIY, everything is better if you share it with someone else. Humans are social animals and we thrive when we’re in company with others, even the smallest problem can seem magnified if we feel on our own. People love to help, and you’ll find that simply surrounding yourself with other people will make you feel safer, more confident and better able to cope with life’s challenges.
By supporting and helping others, you are more likely to feel good about yourself. There are lots of simple ways to help others - from volunteering, to visiting an elderly neighbour who lives alone, to helping a friend with work in their garden or house. Go to the Volunteer Ireland website for information on things you can do throughout the country.
· Join a book club, take up walking or any other kind of activity and you’ll meet like-minded people with the same interest as you
· Try and keep company with others, not when you need it but as part of daily life
· Seek out old friends you haven’t seen in a while
· Make new friends, it’s easier than you think
The #LittleThings campaign from yourmentalhealth.ie is a national effort by the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention and scores of partner organisations and support groups to raise awareness about mental health and to provide information, advice and support for you and your loved ones.