In some ways, taking care of your mental health is not a lot different to taking care of your physical health. Making sure you have a healthy, balanced diet; exercise regularly; get enough sleep; and avoid excessive use of alcohol and other drugs are the fundamentals of looking after your mind and body.
Sometimes when you are feeling down, it is difficult to eat well. Try to keep things simple by preparing straightforward meals that do not take a lot of time or energy. When you do have the energy and motivation to cook, consider preparing big batches of food and freezing individual serves, so you have nutritious meals on hand for when you do not feel up to cooking.
Just like cooking and eating, you do not always feel like exercising when you are not feeling your best, but getting your body moving helps relieve tense muscles and relaxes your mind. The natural endorphins that your body releases when exercising can also help you feel better. Exercising does not have to be intense, but the benefits of doing something active every day are huge, even if it is just going for a walk.
You could experiment with low intensity classes like yoga or Pilates which will not only have the benefit of getting you moving, but you will also be interacting with other people, which is also important for mental well-being. Swimming is another popular, low intensity activity. Remember to increase your activity levels gradually and plan your exercise as part of your daily schedule.
Get a good night's sleep
Our body does its most important healing and regenerating work when we are asleep. This makes getting a good night’s sleep essential to our physical and mental health and well-being. Often when we are not feeling at our best, mental health problems like depression and anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns and we get caught in a vicious cycle of not getting enough sleep and feeling worse – which then makes sleeping even more difficult.
To help you restore a regular sleep pattern, try getting up at the same time each morning. Aim not to drink more than two caffeinated drinks like coffee, strong tea, cola or energy drinks in a day and avoid drinking caffeine after 4pm. Even though it feels like it makes you sleepy, alcohol affects your sleep cycle, causing less deep sleep and sometimes causes you to wake up more during the night, so it is best not to use it to help you sleep.
It is also good to allow yourself to wind down before you go to bed. If you are working or studying, or looking at a phone, tablet, or TV screen, stop at least half an hour before bedtime and do something relaxing that does not involve a screen. You could read a book or magazine, or have a warm shower to help you unwind.
Spend time with friends and loved ones
Having good relationships is an important part of our well-being. This can include friends, family, workmates and other people in the community. Sometimes just talking about how you are feeling with a good friend or close family member can make a world of difference in the short term. This might be the first step on the road to improving your mental well-being. Having a good support network is important for everyone.