1 in 5 Australians are affected by mental illness annually, yet many don’t seek help because of stigma. During the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritising mental health and wellbeing has been more important than ever. This World Mental Health Day – October 10 – the message was simple: “Look after your mental health, Australia.”
It is a great reminder of the importance of one’s own personal health and well-being. Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced stress and anxiety. It is key to a good relationship with oneself and others.
Where do you begin?
- Stick to the basics. Focus on activities that work for you. Get these right and you are off to a great start.
- It needs to be something you actively plan and not something that just happens. Make a plan, write it down, block time in your calendar. Stay focused.
- Keep an open mind, believe that the activities you choose will help you take care of your mental health. Focus on the outcomes.
Running my own business for many years was rewarding and challenging. When things were running smoothly if felt wonderful and the best job in the world. At other times the pressure felt unbearable. I felt I was always juggling the needs of clients, employees, suppliers and the tax office. I struggled with finding time for myself.
This seesaw effect was often difficult to manage. It took great perseverance to juggle all the different needs a business throws at you each day. Over many years I learnt to manage the highs and lows. I don’t feel I was ever an expert at it, I just found different approaches for me that worked well.
Over time I became aware of the challenges I would face on a daily basis. Learning about the best way for me to cope with them took time. I would trial different approaches. I would listen to my mind and my body. I learnt to be mindful of my stress levels and asses when the levels were reduced. I built resilience.
I realised to be successful and survive, I needed to manage these challenges. They weren’t going away. I wanted to continue running my own business and in doing so I had to take care of myself. There were times when I didn’t, and I suffered. Rather than blame myself, I learnt to be kind to myself.
Everyone manages stress in different ways and it’s important to be aware of this. One solution does not fit everyone. It is important to seek out what works for you. It may take time and some trial and error. By persevering you will discover what ways you can better manage your mental health and what activities will make a difference.
Over the years I found focusing on the following has helped me better manage the challenges I face each day:
A good night’s sleep
- 8 hrs work best for me and I wake refreshed.
- Winding down prior to sleep by disconnecting from my tech devises has a positive impact on my sleep
Exercise in the morning
- This energises me for the day and helps make me more resilient to what is coming my way
- It sets up my day for success
- It is wonderful giving out, with no expectation in return
- The volunteer work I do for Beyond Blue allows me to give back to the community and helps others. It’s a wonderful feeling
Use positive words
- I always get a much better response when I start with a positive
- Positive words create positive energy for me. Then I find those around me then react more constructively
Set a start & end time each day
- Staying late doesn’t give me time to relax and unwind
- Setting boundaries around my work time keeps me more focused
Do it now
- When I complete tasks, even the difficult ones, I feel more in control
- Scheduling tasks and due dates keeps me on track
- This really helps me to offload and talk about issues
- I find having a mentor or coach is a great benefit and allows me to share with them and this lessens the burden on family or friends
Spend time with your loved ones
- The most important part of my everyday
- Spending time together makes life worthwhile
- It might seem hard to focus on mental health and wellbeing at this time but prioritising this is more important than ever. Making a mental health promise is a great way to remind yourself to look after your wellbeing.
Here are some examples of promises you can make to yourself:
- Eat well and be healthy
- Call a friend or family member today
- Take time out to play
- Find some colour and fun in your day
- Find joy in the little things
- Explore new hobbies
- Look after your mental health
- Bake something yummy, or at least try
- Make exercise part of your routine
Every day it is important to take time to reflect on yourself. Not just on World Mental Health Day. Think about how you are feeling and if there are things you could do differently to take care of your wellbeing.
Don’t wait for the next World Mental Health Day to make a mental health promise.
Ask for help early and remember you are not alone.