1. Recognise when you are feeling mentally tired
We are all really good at recognising when our physical health is poor but not so effective at recognising when things are emotionally overwhelming. Being overwhelmed can materialise as:
- feeling tired alot more than usual;
- poor sleep patterns;
- being irritable and impatient,
- excessive worrying, stress and anxiety;
- lack of motivation;
- trouble concentrating;
- poor eating habits (either overeating or not being able to eat);
- general negative thinking and responses e.g., thinking “I’ll never be able to do this” rather than “how can I do this”;
- feeling tearful without real cause.
The stress caused by these indicators may then impact on our physical health, often triggering or increasing illnesses, particularly those associated with the stomach.
2. List writing - prioritise
In a way this is ordering all the things causing you to feel overwhelmed, identifying the immediate stressor. Take a few minutes to write down all the things that are causing you stress and anxiety. Once you have your list, identify what things you can tackle immediately, in the short term and those that might take a bit longer.
3. Keep active
Being overwhelmed, causes physical changes. Breathing becomes shallower, posture slumps and muscles tense, all of which drive an increased feeling of stress. Straightening your posture and taking deep cleansing breaths really helps to combat the effects of stress. If you are able to fit in a little exercise, the benefits would be immense. Even a quick walk
4. Choices - you can say NO
Saying yes is so much easier than saying no and we often agree to things even when we know this will negatively impact on us. It took me a long time to realise that saying yes to all requests really wasn’t good for my wellbeing as I just got stressed trying to fit additional tasks into an already busy schedule. Saying no is okay- it can be said in a nice respectful way and be a positive.
We all know how important sleep is for our children, but a good sleep pattern is also vital for your overall physical and mental health and general wellbeing. Not only does it enable your body to repair and restore for the next day, rest may also help prevent excess weight gain, heart disease and prolonged illness.
Sleep has a huge impact on how our minds and bodies function. Impaired or lack of sleep affects our mood, alertness and negatively impacts on our ability to concentrate. Research also shows that long-term sleep deprivation may contribute to serious health problems e.g., diabetes, strokes.
We need sleep for our prefrontal cortex, that’s the part of the brain that thinks rationally, to work well. This helps us to make effective judgements, choices and be able to consider other people’s points of view.
Just one night’s poor sleep may leave us feeling tired, irritable, tearful and unable to work or function well. So, to sleep you may want to try:
- reducing your alcohol and caffeine intake;
- before bed, writing a “things to do” list. Creating this list orders tasks and creates a sense of time management, helping your mind to relax
- plan. Research shows this prevents feeling overwhelmed;
- regular sleep pattern- fix a bedtime and stick to it - go to bed at the same time
- do not look at any devices e.g., mobile phones, tablets or laptops an hour before bedtime and switch them off when you go to bed;
- bathe before bed. Bathing helps lower your core body temperature which helps you to sleep;
- regulating the room temperature, lower temperatures (approx. 16 degrees) aids sleep.
Do not reward your mind if you wake. Try something that you do not necessarily enjoy or that may exhaust you, e.g., reading a book, mindfulness exercises.
6. Eat well
Ever heard the saying you are what you eat? Well our mind, just like the rest of our body, is affected by our diet. It needs the fuel from a healthy diet to function well. For example, a balanced regular diet will help the prefrontal cortex of the brain, preventing irritability and enabling us to concentrate. Research shows that if you eat a diet high in processed meat, fried foods, refined cereals, pastries and high-fat dairy products, you're more likely to be anxious and depressed. The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables have great healing, restorative powers. So here are a few foods that can boost and maintain your mental wellness:
- Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries contain antioxidants which help improve the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Strawberries and blueberries also contain a compound which can help improve your attention span, concentration and memory. You can also get an antioxidant boost by snacking on
- walnuts which studies have shown also promote the growth of new brain cells;
- Probiotics found in yogurt and yogurt drinks assist in lowering levels of stress, anxiety and depression;
- DHA, an Omega-3 fatty acid found in oily fish such as salmon, trout and prawns can help improve short- and long-term memory and reduce anxiety. Don’t like fish or seafood? Don’t worry, you can get these benefits from taking a fish oil supplement;
- The amino acid found in wholegrains helps us produce serotonin often referred to as the feel-good hormone, which helps us to improve our mood, calm our mind and maintain a healthy sleep cycle;
- Chickpeas, lentils and kidney beans are full of fibre and antioxidants. They not only keep your blood sugar stable, they also enable you to burn more energy, essential for good mental health. Beans also contain a vitamin called thiamine which helps us to produce a neurotransmitter essential for memory.
7. Limit alcohol
Alcohol affects the chemicals in your brain and the central nervous system. The central nervous system controls most functions of our body and mind and alcohol slows our ability to function. Alcohol can affect the part of the brain that controls inhibition, which is why we often feel less anxious after having a drink but, although in the short term we may feel more relaxed, regular or heavy drinking negatively impacts on mental health and can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety and make stress harder to cope with. So, if you do drink alcohol, try to keep to NHS guidelines, that’s not drinking more than 14 units per week spread over 3 days.
8. Talk about how you are feeling
There’s an old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. As adults we often see ourselves as failing if we’re not coping with what life is throwing at us and we internalise our feelings. This is really unhealthy. As human beings we are designed to feel and express our feelings, so bottling them up has a negative effect on our mental health and wellbeing. There really are benefits in sharing how you’re feeling whether that’s with someone you trust or as we detailed earlier to support organisations. Sharing can help:
- reduce the intensity and power of a feeling e.g., reduce anxiety levels;
- get a new perspective on difficulties;
- make problem solving and decision making easier;
- reduce the sense of isolation and help restore a balanced sense of reality.
We’ve covered lots of topics in this resource which hopefully, as we’ve worked through them, has enabled you to reflect on how you are feeling. That’s a good thing, it’s not self-obsessing! By reflecting in this way, you will better tune into your feelings and question how you are coping with life. Often when stressed we feel that’s the norm, just the way things are and we can be unaware of its negative impact on our health, mental and physical, and wellbeing. So, here’s my bonus tip- regularly reflect on how you are feeling even if it is only once a week, set aside some time to reflect on what went well that week, what not so well. Start by examining what helped make things go well e.g. I achieved lots of things this week because I managed my time well. Then think about the things that didn’t go to plan. Are there any actions from your ‘worked well list’ that would have helped make these things work better? e.g. If I managed my time better in the evening, I’d be more relaxed when going to bed and might sleep better.
We hope you find these practical tips helpful. They are general tips designed to help but as ever, if you have any concerns about your mental health or wellbeing please don’t hesitate to contact your GP. There is also lots of good information via the NHS website and through other support organisations.
Content written with relation to ssscpd.co.uk