How to Protect Your Mental Health

anxiety, depression, stress, mental health
A mental breakdown can be the breakthrough that you need, but it’s far better to protect your mental health in the first place.

A counsellor once told me that a breakdown is often a breakthrough, and she was right. For me, it took away all the things that were really stressing me out and it made realise that I wasn’t superhuman after all. I had pushed myself for years. Long hours, a stressful job that I didn’t really like, and forever trying to move onwards and upwards, eventually took its toll on me and I ended up in a psychiatric hospital.

Your mind can only take so much and, just like your body, you need to take care of it. The pace at which we all live life today puts an immense strain on us, so don’t let it get of control and get the better of you. A breakdown may well be a way to breakthrough, but there are better, and far less drastic, ways that you can get your life under control. Here are ten easy ways that you can protect your mental health. You probably know them to be true already, but I wonder if you actually put any of them into practice?

1. If something can’t be done, then say so
Don’t be afraid to say that something can’t be done in the timescale given, or that you can’t do something without help. Working through the night to get a job finished will get you a pat on the back, but it won’t do your health any good. It will also mean that the same will be expected of you the next time, so you will never escape from burning the midnight oil, or working all through the weekends.

2. Don’t abuse substances to keep you going
Alcohol will calm your nerves and give you a bit of Dutch courage, and coffee will keep you going through the night. Before you know it, though, you will need alcohol to get to sleep, you will need coffee to wake you up, and you will need recreational drugs to have a good time. Remember; caffeine is a stimulant that can cause anxiety, Alcohol is a depressant, and recreational drugs can cause paranoia. Quite obviously, overuse of any of them is not going to be good for your mental health.

3. Don’t start skipping meals
You need food to fuel your mind and your body, so don’t start skipping meals, because it will make you even more susceptible to stress, anxiety and depression. I know how it goes. You get up too early to eat breakfast, you skip lunch because you don’t have the time, and you get home so late the only thing you have time for is fast food. You don’ need telling that this won’t do you any good. Do you?

4. Make time for friends and family
It’s not just that you don’t want to have your kids saying that their dad was never there for them, it’s also important for your own wellbeing to chill out with friends and family sometimes. Talking to other people gives you other perspectives on things and, if you are feeling the strain, talking about it can really help.

5. Take those holidays
Did you know that studies have proven that people who take regular holidays live for longer and are less likely to suffer from depression? It’s not rocket science really, but when was the last time you took a proper holiday, and you didn’t take any work with you? You are actually far more productive after a holiday and the same applies to taking short breaks during the day too. Switch off and give your brain a chance to rest; it needs it.

6. Get your sleep
When you are tired you make mistakes, you take bad decisions, and that will just lead to more stress. Get into a regular sleep pattern and make sure that you get your eight hours of sleep every night. Everything can seem to be a lot worse than it really is when you haven’t had enough sleep and that’s when things can begin to build up in your mind.

7. Understand that your mind can exaggerate things
Is your world really going to tumble down around your ears if you don’t make that next sale, or you miss that next deadline? Don’t assume the worst will always happen, because it probably won’t. Look at the facts and think about what is most likely to happen. Keep things in perspective and remember what is really important in your life.

8. Don’t keep your emotions all to yourself
Big boys don’t cry, they don’t say they are scared and they never ever admit that they might need help. If you can’t talk to your wife, then talk to a friend, if you can’t talk to a friend then talk to a counsellor. If things are getting on top of you then talk to someone about it. The biggest breakthrough that I had when I was admitted to psychiatric hospital was that I could actually talk about how I was feeling. Don’t leave it that long before you open up to someone.

9. Do the things that make you happy
Don’t do what you think other people expect of you, do the things that will make you happy. Think very hard if you are doing a job you hate, just because it pays a lot of money. Flashy cars and big houses are great to have. Who doesn’t enjoy the finer things in life? You need to find a balance though, so that you can actually enjoy the things that you have worked so hard for.

10. Ask for help if you need it
You do know when the strain is getting too much, but who wants to admit to having a mental problem? Even though most people would rather pretend that mental health issues don’t exist, one in four adults in the UK will suffer from a mental health problem at some time in their lives. Don’t try and be the big man and struggle through it on your own. Visit your doctor and ask for help. There is no shame in it, it’s just an illness like any other. Make your breakthrough being honest with yourself, instead of waiting for the breakdown.

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