Health Tips: Best Mental Health Self Care Tips
Health Tips: Identify your triggers
Another reason it can be difficult to spot triggers is that they may be things that are part of every day, ‘normal’ life, which aren’t always things we are taught that we can question or challenge. For example, some people find loud noises particularly alarming, and find that they trigger symptoms of panic, fear or anxiety, so they would feel safer in environments where people try to be actively mindful of that.
Communicate if someone is triggering you: A person triggering another person is often unintentional. Talk to them about the impact of their actions to clear up any misunderstandings and consider possible solutions. Have an open, calm, and understanding dialog. Be willing to work with them. If the person who is triggering you refuses to act sensitively, it may be best to set clear boundaries.
Being triggered is usually a result of something that has happened to you in the past. Therefore, it has little to do with the person or event that is causing you to feel triggered. Being aware of what things are triggering you to have a specific response every time, will also help you to recognize what your reactions are and decide whether they are problematic. You can’t control the outside world and how it impacts on you, but you can try to manage your own reactions to it. If the idea of that is challenging, you can also get professional help to support you in managing your experiences and responses.
If you’re experiencing the same feelings and responses in different social or work settings, when certain topics are raised, or when you’re around certain behaviors, it’s likely these are things that trigger you. It may be a certain topic of conversation, or being around specific types of people or social groups. If there are certain people or subjects that you’re around often, it can be useful to ask yourself “what do I feel when I’m around this person?” or “this feeling of X that I have, always happens when X is around or discussed”. Make some notes over time, see if there are any patterns to your reactions and you may start to see some common triggers.
Health Tips: Best Mental Health Self Care Tips
In these cases, a trigger is anything that prompts an increase in or return of symptoms. For example, a person recovering from a substance use disorder might be triggered by seeing someone using their drug of choice. The experience might cause returned cravings and even relapse.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare talks about stress and trauma and the difficulty in getting ‘… accurate information about the prevalence of stress and trauma and associated impacts because of the complex events and variation in individual responses.’ What we can say is that stress, trauma, PTSD, and mental illness all impact individuals differently and each person will have specific things that ‘trigger’ them as a result of their history and their personal mental health status. Broadly speaking, a trigger is a response your body has to a situation – either spoken, witnessed, heard or experienced – that causes a reaction within you.
While it can be difficult to control triggers, those who experience them can learn from past experiences, apply what they learn, and limit the risk of being re-triggered. Avoid only focusing on what happens after a trigger; also focus on what can be done beforehand.
Health Tips: Stay positive
“Have a notebook by your bed, and each morning write down three things you’re grateful for,” Chatty advises. “It can be anything, from the love of your family, to the fact the sun’s shining. Humans are designed to look for the negative as cavemen had to constantly lookout for danger to survive, but it’s not impossible to rewire your brain to focus on the positive,” she concludes.
Turn off your social media notifications. This is a great tip for anyone looking to make their relationship with social media healthier and more positive. It’s natural to find validation in comments, likes, and replies—but those shouldn’t be the only metrics we use to feel good. Turning off those notifications can help you interact with your apps more mindfully—checking them when you feel like it, and not because you’re hungry for judgment from others. Read more about this tip here.
Be curious. Learn to engage in difficult situations with a focus on maintaining a positive relationship. Learn what is triggering for those around you, and try to avoid causing pain. Remember to respect an individual’s right to not share, or share on their own timeline.
Make a list of all the hard or uncertain times you’ve already gotten through. If you’re reading this, you’ve survived 100 percent of your bad days. Surviving isn’t always easy—usually, it’s not—but reminding ourselves of this can encourage further resilience. Plus, if you’ve gotten through that, who’s to say it’s impossible that you’ll get through this too? So write down the hardest times you can recall. Perhaps you can use some of that same resilience now. Read more about this tip here.
Think of yourself as your own best friend. Be kind to yourself. Encouraging and rewarding yourself for getting through a difficult period or achieving a goal, however small, will reinforce your self confidence. Try to be as positive and compassionate towards yourself as much as you can.
When you take the time to notice positive moments in your day, your experience of that day becomes better. Try writing down one thing each day or week that was good. Even if the positive thing is tiny (“It was a sunny day”), it’s real, it counts and it can start to change your experience of life.
Remember that nothing lasts forever—not your best feelings, but not your worst feelings, either. This too shall pass. In reflecting upon living alone during the pandemic, former SELF editor Patia Braithwaite wrote about how remembering that nothing lasts forever helped her get through her hardest moments: “The only thing I know for sure is that nothing lasts forever. Every horrendous low has eventually lifted. Every good feeling mellows out. The ups and downs are part of surviving this pandemic.” Of course, this applies to everything in life—outside of COVID-19 too. Read more about this tip here.
Health Tips: Get enough sleep
On that note, practice regular relaxation. Try to squeeze in some meditation before starting your day. There’s a bunch of free apps you can download but if they aren’t your thing, try to visualise a safe, peaceful space e.g. a comforting room, a beautiful beach or lovely bush setting and spend 5-10 minutes imagining this in your mind.
Get good quality sleep and hop into a routine. We’re on our phones so much, especially in the evening however try to switch off your electronics at least an hour before going to bed so that you can wind down. If you’re finding it difficult to get to sleep, try a relaxation technique or an app that helps you feel sleepy again.
Develop a sleep schedule — As much as possible, try going to bed and waking up at the same time daily. This one can be hard to do if we succumb to bad habits during the week — drinking caffeine late in the day, consuming nicotine or alcohol close to bedtime, ruminating on our worries (try journaling it out at the end of the day so that you can leave them there and revisit them in the morning), eating large meals before bedtime etc. The Mayo Clinic recommends that if you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes of getting into bed, get out of bed and do something relaxing and return to bed when you are ready to sleep. Your bed should be a trigger to your body that it is time for sleep.
You might try giving yourself an extra 5 minutes to just take a beat, do some deep breathing, and set an intention for the day. An intention can look like whatever makes sense to you at the moment, as long as it’s positive and rejects any beliefs that limit you.
And finally, get yourself into the right headspace. Unwinding before bedtime will help you do so, but you might also need to manually stop that racing mind. Tell your mind, “No, not right now. Right now, it’s time to sleep!” Meditating also helps me, and so does counting sheep (or any other animal/object), believe it or not.
Create a sleep routine. Have a wake-up time, a wind-down time and a set bedtime. This means waking up at a fixed time every day, winding down or getting ready for bed, and having a set time you want to fall asleep. It is important for your circadian rhythm, the natural process your body goes through to regulate your sleep and wake cycle. Try having your alarm clock, phone, tablet or other electronic device on the other side of the room. This will help ensure you don’t have any distractions.
Practice good sleep hygiene. This means using your bed for sleep and sleep only. Try to avoid sitting or lounging in your bed when it’s not bedtime. If you have a TV in your bedroom, move it to another room in your house. It can also be a hard habit to break if you’ve become accustomed to working from home in your bed. If you’re tempted to look at your phone or devices before bed, simply leave them on the other side of the room when it’s time to turn in.
Health Tips: Exercise
Exercise daily. Exercise can take many forms, such as taking the stairs whenever possible, walking up escalators, and running and biking rather than driving. Joining a class may help you commit to a schedule, if that works best for you. Daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall health.
Exercise not only benefits your physical and mental health, but it also improves your overall mood and happiness. When you exercise, endorphins (feel good chemicals) are released in the brain, leading to an overall more positive mood. Exercise can also lead to a boost in self-esteem and self-confidence.
Making time: It can be challenging to find time in your busy schedule to exercise. Keep in mind that any activity is better than none. If you can’t schedule a 40-minute workout, keep in mind that ten-minute walks between activities add up. You may find that getting out of bed a half hour earlier to exercise will give you an energy boost that makes up for hitting the snooze button a couple more times.
No time to exercise? No problem! Studies show that three 10-minute workouts can be as effective at helping you achieve your fitness goals as long bouts of exercise. To sneak exercise into your day, park further away from the entrance to the building so that you can enjoy a brisk walk to and from work. During the day, take the stairs whenever possible to burn calories, build muscle, and maintain cardiovascular health. Finally, when you’re home, use an opportunity like cooking dinner or washing dishes to make room for some calf raises, squats, or lunges. Before you know it, exercise will be ingrained in your daily life.
Exercise improves mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood and by improving self-esteem and cognitive function.2 Exercise has also been found to alleviate symptoms such as low self-esteem and social withdrawal.3 Exercise is especially important in patients with schizophrenia since these patients are already vulnerable to obesity and also because of the additional risk of weight gain associated with antipsychotic treatment, especially with the atypical antipsychotics. Patients suffering from schizophrenia who participated in a 3-month physical conditioning program showed improvements in weight control and reported increased fitness levels, exercise tolerance, reduced blood pressure levels, increased perceived energy levels, and increased upper body and hand grip strength levels.5 Thirty minutes of exercise of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking for 3 days a week, is sufficient for these health benefits. Moreover, these 30 minutes need not to be continuous; three 10-minute walks are believed to be as equally useful as one 30-minute walk.
Don’t overdo it: There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Make sure that you drink plenty of fluids, and eat something before a workout to give your muscles the fuel they need. Take it slowly, especially when you’re getting started so you don’t strain muscles. Exercising too much can overtax your system, especially if you’re not getting adequate nutrition.
Aerobic exercises, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have been proved to reduce anxiety and depression.3 These improvements in mood are proposed to be caused by exercise-induced increase in blood circulation to the brain and by an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, thus, on the physiologic reactivity to stress.3 This physiologic influence is probably mediated by the communication of the HPA axis with several regions of the brain, including the limbic system, which controls motivation and mood; the amygdala, which generates fear in response to stress; and the hippocampus, which plays an important part in memory formation as well as in mood and motivation.
Health Tips: Connect with friends and family
Attend community events. Look for groups or clubs that gather around an interest or hobby you share. You may find these groups online, or they may be listed in the newspaper or on community bulletin boards. There are also many websites that help you connect with new friends in your neighborhood or city. Do a Google search using terms such as [your city] + social network, or [your neighborhood] + meet ups.
Spend quality time together. It’s important to spend time together as a family every day doing something everyone enjoys, such as cooking or listening to music. You can also connect with other family members, friends and neighbors with phone calls, text messages and video chats.
There’s ample research connecting social interactions with mental and physical well-being, and even longer life. A study published in September 2017 in the journal American Psychologist noted that high-quality, close relationships and feelings of social connection are so much associated with a range of benefits that it should be considered a public health priority. Make it a priority for yourself, and perhaps even create a schedule for catching up regularly.
Make sure you are disconnecting. There are many things that can get in the way of socializing. Make sure that distractions like news feeds, instant messaging, etc don’t interfere with the social time that you have. Use your social times to focus on your relationships with those around you.
Spending time with family and/or friends. This is difficult to do in the current climate but you can meet one person outside. The majority of people take comfort when they’re around family and friends – but if seeing these people heightens anxiety or impacts on your mood, don’t go.
You may feel you don’t have the time to stay in touch with friends or start new friendships. Focus on the long-term. If you can meet up with a friend once a month, or go to a community event at your local library once every two months, it still helps keep you connected. It also gives you the chance to connect with people on multiple levels. Being a caregiver is an important part of your life, but it’s not the whole story.
If anyone stands out in your memory as someone you’d like to know better, reach out. Ask mutual friends or acquaintances to share the person’s contact information, or — even better — to reintroduce the two of you with a text, email or in-person visit. Extend an invitation to coffee or lunch.