Remembering to take small steps has played a role in improving and maintaining my mental health, so I’m pleased to be sharing strategies from others – I’d love to hear yours too.
I have been inspired by Jonny, Louise, Angelique, Silja, Antalia and Sallyann in so many different ways within the mental health community. So I asked them just before Christmas about what self-care strategies they had embraced this past year for their own mental health.
I’m so grateful to hear how they maintain mental wellbeing and I hope these tips might help you find your #SmallStepstoHappiness.
Illustrations copyright Jonathan Pugh.
Jonny Benjamin MBE:
Mental health campaigner, writer, filmmaker and public speaker.
My focus this year has been on self-compassion. I’ve spent most of my twenties loathing myself and now I’m 30 I’m determined not to endure the same through my next decade! I’ve been practising mindfulness as much as possible, ideally meditating every morning and evening if possible. I’ve also been keeping a positive log about myself – writing a few things down each day I like about myself. In addition, I’ve been treating myself to things for the first time in my life, like a trip to the cinema or a meal out for myself. I must maintain this regime – when I don’t my self worth plummets again. But I’m being kinder to myself about this. Self-forgiveness is another really important tool in this journey!
After a tougher than usual day I will lie on the rug in my sitting room, covered with a blanket, and the dog lying nearby, and listen to the Body Scan practice on my rather ancient Patrizia Collard Mindfulness for Dummies CD. Ten minutes later, I always seem to arise with a better feeling, a fresher approach.
Registered nutritional therapist.
For me, self-care centres on the theme of balance and nourish – this is of the mind, body and soul. We live in a busy world so I focus on nourishing myself with nutrient rich meals daily. Along with getting enough rest, short mind-nourishing meditations form part of my daily practise to help me centre my thoughts, practise the attitude of gratitude, live in the moment and to get out of my own head.
As an entrepreneur of the digital mental health company PsycApps who is launching the Emotional Fitness Game “eQuoo” in the next few months, I need to take extra care to maintain my mental health and wellbeing. Launching is extra stressful.
I usually practise these forms of self-care:
- A gratitude moment before sleeping, where my partner and I name 3 things we are grateful of during the day. Gratitude actually ‘trains’ your brain to see and look for positive moments in your life, adding to your overall satisfaction.
- Taking moments throughout the day where I ground myself, become aware and stay in the moment. Mindfulness actually shrinks the flight and fear response of the brain, making you more resilient to stress and less prone to anxiety.
- Working out as often as I can get myself to. Working out completes the flight or fight response cycle and helps reduce stress hormones in your body.
- Being careful about what kind of media I consume. Watching too much negative news doesn’t inform you more, it changes the way you process information and gives you a more negative outlook on the world. We actually have a historical low on domestic violence, crime and war deaths, but we feel like we’re living in the dark ages due to consuming too much news.
This might not work for everyone but it works for me – I have turned to escapism in my writing. I began writing self-help advice to myself on a blog a few years ago and this writing bug then developed into writing creatively. Immersing myself into words and into a world helps me cope with my mental health struggles and for a moment helps me forget the emotional numbness/pain I feel on those particularly cloudy days.
Writing has helped me find my creative outlet once again – one that I had lost when struggles with my depression and bulimia were at their worst. I cannot recommend finding something creative to help nurture your mind more – it really saved my sanity.
Meditation brings me home. Practising daily, often twice, if only for 10 minutes, has been truly transformative. Alongside gratitude and grateful living, these are the tools that fill my heart with love and make me feel alive, yet at peace.
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