Here are my 20 best tips for mental wellbeing – valuable both every day, and in times of crisis.
1. Okay, let’s start with the most important by far. If you are feeling down or anxious and this mood persists for two weeks or more, see your GP. Hiding under your doona is not acceptable.
2. If you had a heart problem, you’d happily see a cardiologist. The same goes for psychologists and psychiatrists. These are not people to be worried or ashamed about seeing. Seeing one does not make you crazy. In fact, if anything, it is proof of your sanity. You are ill, so you are seeing somebody capable of getting you better.
3. The same goes for medication. If your GP or psychiatrist recommends you take something to help you get better, take it. And if you do have trouble with your medication, go back and tell your doctor and they will change it. There are plenty of alternatives out there, most of which will agree with you.
4. If you’re concerned about a friend, family member or colleague’s mental health, ask them. They may not tell you the truth immediately, but they will still love you for it. And don’t worry about embarrassing them or yourself or being politically incorrect. If you approach them through genuine concern you can’t go wrong.
5. While you don’t want to push yourself too hard if you’re down, it’s important to try and keep to your daily routine. Routines keep us focused and give us meaning without which it can be easy to start feeling helpless and believing our negative thoughts.
6. Recovering from a mental illness can take time so you need to be patient. Don’t expect to get better overnight.
7. You don’t have to have a goatee and dress in cheesecloth to benefit from relaxation exercises such as meditation and mindfulness. Nor do you have to spend hours every day doing them. Even just a few minutes a day will help dramatically.
8. Ignoring signs that you may not be well is a sign of stupidity. Seeking help is a sign of strength.
9. Helping others helps yourself. Mowing a neighbour’s lawn because they can’t do it themselves will earn their gratitude and make you feel good about yourself. Research shows that people who do things for others while expecting nothing in return enjoy better physical and mental health.
10. If you’re not travelling well, you’re occasionally allowed to make a fool of yourself. Just don’t make a habit of it.
11. Smartphones are dumb things for bedrooms. Anything that can send or receive an email, message or download files at 4am in the morning, should be out near your car keys and nowhere near where you sleep. Get an old electronic clock and sleep like the dead.
12. Be prepared to laugh at yourself. So have a laugh at your own expense. Others will love you for it and you’ll feel better for the experience too.
13. No matter whether it’s a physical illness or a mental one, it’s easy to become obsessed with your problems. This isn’t good. By all means, stay aware of your health and on top of it, but don’t become obsessive.
14. Walking to the fridge is not considered exercise. Yes, you need to eat well, but you also need to maintain a good exercise regime to keep your mind and body in good shape.
15. When you’re mentally unwell, your mind can tell you terrible lies. Be prepared to tell it to go away. You need to be wary of your thoughts and be objective about them rather than taking them as gospel.
16. If you wouldn’t tell a cancer patient to ‘snap out of it’, don’t tell someone with depression. It’s an illness.
17. Be proud of yourself, not ashamed. You didn’t ask to be ill and you will get better so don’t be too hard on yourself. I have suffered from bipolar 1 all my life and yet I am strong. So too are you.
18. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, if you’re going through hell it’s best to keep going.
19. One in five adult Australians suffer from some form of mental illness every year. Remember you are never alone. Never, ever.
20. Droughts break, floods recede and pandemics end. So too does mental illness.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Business Australia.