Seven ways to look after your mental health during challenging times

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and this year it may be more important than ever.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption to normal patterns of life.  Increased anxiety along with a reduction in social interaction, educational and employment opportunities has led to an increased risk of anxiety and other mental health issues for many people.

mental health

How can we look after our mental health in difficult times?

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and both are interrelated. Yet we often fail to make our mental health a priority.

Just as we should not wait until we suffer an illness or injury before we think about looking after our bodies, don’t wait for a mental health crisis to occur before you think about taking care of your psychological, emotional and social well-being.

Good mental health is much more than the absence of depression and other psychological illnesses. Emotional and mental resilience help us to cope with the stresses of life, overcome challenges and setbacks, as well as build and maintain healthy relationships.

What can I do today to improve my mental well-being?

  • Prioritise sleep

When we are stressed and overworked it can be tempting to cut back on sleep, forgetting the importance of sufficient rest and renewal. Losing even a couple of hours sleep can affect your mood, decreasing your energy levels and ability to work and handle stress. There are also long-term health effects of lack of sleep.

  • Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Establish a regular bedtime and a relaxing routine, avoiding caffeine later in the day and turning off electronic devices at least one hour before sleeping.

 

  • Get active and do something you enjoy

Exercise has benefits for both physical and mental health. But this doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon or slog it out at the gym if that is not your thing. You are more likely to establish a regular routine by finding an activity you enjoy, exercising with a group of friends and sticking to the time of day that works best for you. 

  • Find an activity that you enjoy and join a group or class if possible. Even a regular brisk walk outside in nature or your local park will lift your mood. 


  • Optimise your diet

Eating a balanced diet and avoiding too many processed foods is good for both your brain and general health. Excessive consumption of sugary snacks, saturated fats, alcohol or caffeine, although tempting when tired and stressed, can adversely affect your mood and health in the longer term.

  • Increase your intake of foods that boost your mood and brain health, such as fatty fish rich in Omega-3, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit such as berries.


  • Be social in real life, not just online

Have you noticed feeling more tired and drained after interacting on social media and video calls? During the COVID-19 pandemic many of our usual work and social interactions have become virtual. Nothing matches real face-to-face connections to build supportive relationships, and it can be particularly challenging for those who live alone.

  • Arrange to meet up with supportive family or friends when possible. If unable to meet in person, talk on a voice or video call rather than just texting. If you don’t have a supportive social group, consider joining a group with similar interests or hobbies. Just smiling and interacting with neighbours on the street can improve a sense of connection and well-being.


  • Find out what gives you meaning and purpose 

Having a sense of purpose in life and a reason to wake up each day is vital to emotional and mental well-being. This will be different for each person, some may find it in their work, relationships, creative pursuits, or caring for others.

  • Find out what is most important to you and make time for it. Try to develop a balance between your work, personal and social life. If you have spare time, consider volunteering to help those in need or challenge yourself with learning something new like a sport or creative hobby.


  • Manage stress

Stress is your body’s response to anything that requires attention or action. However, the nature of modern life means that we may become stressed by events and situations beyond our control. It is important to distinguish factors that we have control over and avoid focusing too much on things that we cannot change.

  • Limit your consumption of news media if this increases your anxiety. Keep a gratitude diary of things you are grateful for. Set realistic goals each day and congratulate yourself for each small step you achieve along the way. Find meditation and relaxation techniques that work for you, such as listening to music, reading, art, or getting outside in nature.


  • Reach out for support if you are struggling

We do not hesitate to call the doctor when we have a physical problem requiring medical attention. Asking for mental or emotional support if you are struggling in this area is no more a sign of weakness than going to see the doctor if you are ill or in pain. Reaching out for support indicates strength and self-awareness. 

If you are struggling with emotional or mental health issues, seek local sources of support, such as counselling.
Contact our team of Specialists at Neuro Spinal Hospital Dubai