As a psychotherapeutic counsellor maintaining my mental health is very important. It prevents burn out and allows me to continue being effective at my job. These tips may not work for everyone, just as mental health support does not have a “one size fits all” solution, but I would always encourage anyone to try anything which they think might help. We can’t know for sure what will make us feel better until we try it but these tips are ones which help me.
Starting a journal can feel like a lot of work. Committing to writing something everyday can seem daunting, including working out what exactly you’d like to write. But with journaling booming on social medias such as Pinterest and TikTok it’s easier than ever to come up with ideas and prompts. Personally I like to try and write something positive each day, even when I’ve had a difficult day. Sometimes I write about my day and other times I write about a thought but the entries are never negative. If you’re still finding it difficult to find your flow there are journals which have done the hard work for you. The Happiness Planner is a great example of this, I also keep a happiness planner, they give you all the prompts and you just fill in the blanks. There is also the Wreck This Journal, where each page it open to artistic interpretation to decorate and express yourself. I keep all three of these journals but my daily goal is to only write in one each day. Realistic goals are often the key to creating routine.
Getting some fresh air
Getting some fresh air is purposely vague. It doesn’t need to be an hour walk or a long journey, during days we find most difficult we often don’t leave the house at all. So getting some fresh air by just stepping out of the door or sitting on the front step for 5 minutes is good enough. This tip also allows you to add some grounding and mindfulness into your day. Both techniques are highly recommended by professionals. Grounding while getting some fresh air could include stepping outside with bare feet and taking a moment to really push your feet into the ground and feel where you are in that moment. Bringing yourself back to your current environment and situation in a natural way. Mindfulness can also be used while getting some fresh air, taking the moment to find things for each sense. 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you can taste. Just being present in the moment and aligning your thoughts with your psychical presence. This stops us thinking of the past and looking into the future.
Self care comes in many ways, there’s the traditional beauty aspects. Doing your nails, hair, shaving, using a hair or face mask, moisturising or fake tanning after a nice shower or a bath are all great ways to practice self care from home. But you can also splash some cash on self care if you have the means, with paying for beauty/spa routines but also having some retail therapy or going out to do something that you love. Things like eating out, seeing a movie and feeding your soul are all forms of self care.
As mentioned earlier we tend to hide away on our worst days but this can result in isolation. But even the most introverted of us are social creatures by nature and we need interaction to not feel lonely. Being social doesn’t mean attending a party or inviting the whole family round but just sending a text to a friend or calling a loved one can help remind you that you’re not completely alone in this world.
House plants are a brilliant way to improve circulation and air quality in your home. Depending on how much time you want to dedicate to your green family, you can purchase plants which thrive on less care. Each plant can also have different positive elements for example, aloe vera can be added to your self care routine, eucalyptus can aid in breathing and lavender can support good rest and sleep. Having another living thing in your home can also help by reinforcing personal purpose.
Sharing your home with our animal friends means there's always someone home waiting to give you their unconditional love. Studies have also shown that simply spending time or even just stroking our pets releases the same "feel good" chemicals that we make while doing exercise. Pets also depend on us for their care, having this responsibility can help on those days when we struggle to find reasons to get out of bed. The happiness, funny stories and love I receive from my dogs and turtle every day help to keep me going when everything feels too tough and always find a way to make me smile when things feel hopeless.
Medication is a controversial solution to mental illness. It appears for every person who believes in the use of psychiatric medication there’s another who does not want it involved in their care. There is no right or wrong here, for some people it is a helpful tool to add to their well-being toolbox and for others it is not. However if you are interested in medication the options have grown with advancements. There are now antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood stabilisers and antipsychotics. I personally find medication useful, if you’d like to learn more visit your local GP to discuss your options including common side affects and possible affects on other medications you may already be taking. Although if chemical medication is something which doesn’t appeal to you there is also herbal medication. This includes tablets such as St Johns Wart, a natural serotonin producer and CBD oil, a natural anti-anxiety product.
Getting enough sleep
Sleep is a funny subject, we are told frequently throughout our lives that we need at least 8 hours of sleep a night. However sleeping from 10pm to 7am is widely respectable and looked upon favourably whereas sleeping from 2am to 11am is often seen as lazy and unproductive. Despite the fact that both have the same number of hours sleep in the night. The same is said for napping, often if we declare we’re going for a nap it’s an unproductive waste of our time but if we accidentally fall asleep watching tv it’s because we’ve had a hard working day. My top tip for sleep is sleep when you’re tired and be productive when you’re most awake. No one can tell us what’s best for us but us.
Lighting candles and incense
Lighting candles and incense is something which doesn't sound like it would make a big difference. But once I had found scents which are comforting or relaxing and started using those smells around my home on stressful days or in my bedroom to help me relax I noticed a big difference. Mindfulness encourages us to use all our senses during techniques and smell is an important part of grounding.
Using noise is something which works great for me, but for others it has the complete opposite effect. I just wanted to add that little disclosure in case you try using noise and find it doesn't work for you. Personally using noise helps me to stop overthinking or being left alone with my thoughts, this makes it incredibly difficult to stop "snowballing" into deeper, less helpful thoughts. Noise is also a broad statement, noise can come in the form of keeping the television or radio on in the background or playing music while completing other tasks. This also works for night time, getting to sleep can be difficult, especially when you feel your head is swimming with many different thoughts. Using noise to drown those thoughts out and allow ourselves to switch off is a valuable to tool to use.
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