LET’S TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH - TIPS FROM THE OI FAM
You may have seen, heard or been told that this month is all about mental health awareness. And, as I’m sure you’ll agree, after the last year and a bit mental health is more in the spotlight and arguably more important than ever before. More than just a trendy millennial term that finds some of its best advocates on social media, mental health is extremely important to each one of us. Unlike its name suggests, it is not something that is limited to our minds but it affects everything from our moods, our physical health, our emotional health, our ability to work, our digestion, our appetite, our relationships, our outlook on life, and so much more.
Whichever way you swing it, it’s safe to say that our mental health is a pretty big deal. And with a pretty big deal comes a pretty big responsibility to look after it. As the world spends time reflecting on the importance of mental health this Mental Health Awareness Month, the Oi Team also spent some time looking at how we can best look after our mental health - especially in a time such as now.
So, here are a few of the team’s top tips on how they give their minds some TLC. We hope that you're able to take some of these thoughts and ideas and implement them in your own life to help you to look after your mental health - not only this month but each day.
For me, I usually find that when things get a bit chaotic, stopping whatever I’m doing and just taking a moment to rest really helps my mental health. If I feel like I’m under some kind of pressure or a bit overwhelmed, stopping and taking a deep breath does wonders and helps to give me a better perspective of whatever is going on.
My go-to tip to help look after your mental health is exercise. I know what you are thinking, not another generic tip. But hear me out!
We're told that exercising is good for you and that you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. However, the trouble is that the reasons why this is the recommended advice are often not communicated along with the advice itself, leaving us with little motivation to actually go and do any exercise at all!
Even though I work in the Marketing Department for OutsideIn, my background, education and a lot of my passions find their grounding in the Health and Fitness industry. My career started as a Personal Trainer, Strength & Conditioning Coach and educating people about the importance of exercise through various platforms. So one could say I (hopefully) know what I’m talking about! So, here are the reasons why I’m a big advocate for exercise, especially when it comes to looking after your mental health!
What exercise can help with:
- Improves your mood 😄
- Reduced tiredness and helps improve and increase mental alertness 🧠
- It acts as a stress reliever ✌️
A huge misconception about exercise is that you need to change your lifestyle drastically to reap its rewards. However, by gradually increasing your daily activity and doing so consistently, I’m pretty sure you will notice a change. And hey, you may even find that you enjoy it in the process! Additionally, exercise isn’t just logging in hour upon hour at the gym. There are so many different ways to get active and all come with their own unique sets of benefits! Here are some of my favourite ways to add some exercise to my day:
- Strength Training 🏋️♂️
- Running 👟
- Country Walks 🌳
- Swimming 🏊♂️
- Team Sports i.e. Football ⚽️
- Rock Climbing 🧗♂️
- Surfing 🏄♂️
- Anything else that gets you moving!
A small and easy habit that really helps me and my mental health daily is writing a list of everything I hope to accomplish throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be a strict list of important things only, it’s the practice of simply breaking down your day into small and achievable chunks that really helps - especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed by life’s busyness! A list can make things clearer and less daunting, as well as act as a great motivation when you’re able to tick off tasks and tangibly see what you’ve accomplished!
Another tip, and an important one, is to get outside every day! Whether it’s for a long run or even just a quick walk, getting some fresh air is sure to help you clear your mind and unwind. In a time where a lot of us are spending most of our days working from home with very few boundaries to separate work and home life, this is more important than ever.
For me, looking after my mental health is as simple as taking some time for myself. Whether that be a long drive, a good cry or listening to my favourite music, some time alone does wonders for me.
Whenever I feel my mental health begin to decline, I force myself to breathe. I know breathing sounds like something that everyone does all the time but when you choose to focus not just on the action of breathing but also the method, deep, slow, long breaths, in a strange way the world seems to slow down and often, any racing thoughts with it. This helps me to tackle each problem at a time, inevitably making them less overwhelming. By giving each problem, thought, task or responsibility individual attention, I feel far more capable of achieving success and ultimately, keeping my mental health in check.
I believe that gratitude is a huge player in looking after your mental health. You may have heard of different practices you can implement into your day which helps you to focus on things you have to be grateful for. For me, taking some time each day to reflect on what you’re grateful for and to intentionally recognise the goodness in your life, really helps to cultivate a positive and optimistic outlook on the world around you.
A quick and simple way to begin implementing this is to start each day by thinking of and writing down three things that you are grateful for that day. This can be as small as the sun being out or having clean bedsheets, no answer is wrong and the more you do this, the more you’ll begin to see that there are so many things in your life, big and small, that you have to be grateful for.
I live in New York City which, like most busy cities, comes with a whole lot of overwhelming thoughts and feelings! For me, whenever I feel overwhelmed or anxious I tend to do one of three things:
- Take a walk: A change of scenery, some fresh air, a moment or two for myself to process everything that’s going on in my life and simply having some time to take my mind off things, does absolute wonders for me, my physical health, my emotional health and my mental health.
- Practice gratitude: It can be really easy to dwell on difficult situations or become anxious about all the many unknowns of the future and, when this happens, often a mental break is needed to adjust your perspective and change your outlook on things. By practising gratitude in these difficult moments, I'm able to find new motivation, shift my thoughts in the right direction, and ignite refreshed hope to keep me moving forward.
- Confide in someone you trust: Being open and vulnerable with others is by no means an easy task. Some of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had have been when I’ve decided to share the more vulnerable sides of me and my feelings with someone else. However, difficult as it may be, it creates an incredible form of support and allows you to not only develop a stronger trust with the person you choose to confide in, but also gives you someone to celebrate your victories with. This kind of vulnerability may be scary at first but it makes a huge difference in the long run.
Whether you’re in a busy city like me or somewhere completely different, perhaps these simple and easy practices can make a big difference for you too!
When I find something is starting to stress me out or have a negative impact on my mind, I try to think of the person I want to become and consider how they would handle this stressful moment.
I also like to take mental breaks which can look like anything from turning my phone off for a few hours, going to the gym and lifting something heavy or simply heading outside and sprinting until my legs can’t run anymore
If you’re anything like me, you’ll often find that your mind tends to run at a speed so fast that it can be difficult to catch a break between thoughts. For someone with a mind as busy as mine, mental health is unbelievably important. But among the busyness of my thought, personal, working, and relational life, it’s often the thing that gets pushed to the side.
Over the last year as the world reached a standstill in more ways than one, I realised just how important it is to allow yourself time to rest to protect your mental health and avoid mental burnout. For me, rest looks a little different from simply putting your head on a pillow and catching some z’s. However, in the various forms in which I find it, it hits the spot every time and in those whirlwind moments (and there are many of them), rest allows my mind the space it needs to recuperate, refresh and come back ready to take on whatever lies ahead.
Here are a few of the ways I find this kind of game-changing rest to be my best:
- Exercise: Now, I know this sounds completely counterintuitive to the idea of rest but daily exercise provides an uninterrupted escape from all the things life is throwing at me. Movement helps me to think and with the many mood-boosting, mind-easing chemicals that are released during exercise such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins, I always leave feeling refreshed and remarkably more relaxed than when I started. Sometimes exercise is a gym workout, a run, a walk, skipping or some yoga, but whatever it looks like, it works a charm.
- Music: Music is not just the way to my heart but the way to my mind too. I find that when I'm feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or all of the above, listening to music helps me to process what is going on around me. I’ve always found that I can think more clearly when I have music playing and in a time such as now where there really is so much to think about so much of the time, music is the gift I use over and over and over again.
- Writing: I’m a words girl through and through but I’ve never been a big fan of journaling. I’ve always felt a bit weird doing it and before I can even experience any of its benefits, I’ve questioned its effectiveness. However, I recently started looking into the benefits that come with writing down your thoughts and admittedly, I’ve been blown away by what the research shows. Whether you love or hate writing, putting your thoughts to paper has been proven to help your brain process and work through them. For the last few months, I’ve started each day writing down all the thoughts, fears, concerns, joys, feelings and on and on that are rushing through my mind. Despite my initial scepticism, this disciplined practice has helped me significantly. And I do not doubt that if you give it a shot, it’ll help you too.
Whoever you are and whatever your life looks like - whether crazy, calm, chaotic or a conglomeration of all of the above and more, prioritising our mental health is something we all need to think about and implement in our lives. So much of our lives starts with our minds and so, from our team to you, please look after yours 💜P.S. Have any tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment below and pass on your advice to someone else 😊