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6 Ways to Look After your Mental Health

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Looking after our mental health can be a challenge in a fast-paced environment and can sometimes feel inaccessible. External stressors will always be a part of life but with the right tools and coping mechanisms, we can make things a bit easier on our minds. Scroll down for a few ways (and helpful Instagram accounts!) to take a moment to pause, reset and look after your mental health.

Disclaimer: If you need urgent help please speak to a trained professional - resources linked at the bottom.


1. Calm your nervous system

When we're dealing with internal or external stressors, our nervous system can become dysregulated and put us in a state of fight or flight mode - which can take its toll on our minds and bodies.

If you're feeling anxious or stressed, these are some things that can help to regulate your nervous system:

  • Hold an ice pack to your chest to stimulate the vagus nerve (the longest cranial nerve in the body) to reset your internal body temperature and bring your heart rate down.
  • Try some deep breathing techniques, inhaling and exhaling for 4 seconds. Deep sighs and breaths help to release any stored tension.
  • Ever noticed how animal shake their bodies when they're scared or have hurt themselves? This is because it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and signals the brain to calm down. You can try this by shaking your arms and legs for 5 minutes whenever you're feeling nervous energy.

2. Take care of your gut

Taking care of your gut has so many benefits and we know that nutrients and vitamins can play a big part in how we feel mentally as well as physically.

It's been said that 90% of our serotonin is created in our gut - which is the hormone that helps us to feel good and balanced.

Some ways to take care of your gut include:

  • Adding more (plant derived) variety to your meals. The latest gut research shows that 30 different plant varieties a week can massively improve our gut microbiome.
  • Eating more live cultures like yoghurt, saurkraut, keffir and kombucha. If these aren't your thing you can take pro-biotics instead!
  • Monitoring how you feel after eating certain foods and noticing any intolerances that affect your energy levels.

The Gut Stuff has loads of helpful resources on their Instagram to help you integrate more gut healing habits into your lifestyle.



3. Do something creative

Creative outlets can help us to be more present, fulfilled and spark our inspiration for other things. There's a creative outlet for everyone depending on what your personal interests are. You don't have to commit to a hobby or do them all the time but it's good to have a back up list for when you need to wind down. Watching Netflix and TV are also valid forms of rest for when you don't have creative energy!

Here are some creative outlet ideas:

  • Painting/drawing (see watercolour video for inspiration)
  • Dancing
  • Creating music/DJ-ing/Playing an instrument
  • Pottery
  • Making/DIY
  • Sewing
  • Digital art
  • Baking


4. Reset your circadian rhythm

Circadian rhythms are the natural 24-hour cycle that our bodies operate on. Nearly every cell in the body has a biological or internal clock made up of various genes and proteins. In fact, 80% of the genes in your body and brain are circadian.

Things like artifical light, lack of natural daylight and our sleep routine can affect these natrual rhythms and make us feel off kilter.

Some ways to be more intune with your circadian rhythm include:

  • Spend 10 minutes outside within 30 minutes of waking up (without sunglasses!) to set your natural bodyclock and let your body know that it's time to wake up.
  • Avoid strong, artifical lighting in the evenings and instead opt for soft, warm lighting and lamps.
  • Try to limit artifical light an hour before you want to sleep - use the night mode function on your phone for bedtime scrolling!

5. Spend time with animals

Spending time with (and cuddling) animals not only raises our oxytocin levels - but they can also have a big healing affect on us. You may have already heard of animal therapy via horses, dogs and birds that help to provide comfort, reduce levels of pain and decrease loneliness.

If you don't have access to your own pet, these are some ways you can spend more time with animals:

  • Register on pet-sitting sites like Borrow my Doggy and Cat in a Flat where you can take a dog for a walk or pop to someone's house to keep their cat company.
  • Ask a friend or family member with pets to hang out or offer to keep them company!
  • Visit a local farm or riding centre where you can spend time with horses or sheep and pet them if they allow it. This way you get to spend time in nature too!

Fun fact: A cat's purr has healing powers for both themselves and us due to the frequency. It's been proven to lower our heart rate and blood pressure *runs to cuddle cat*


6. Speak to someone

Speaking to someone when you're feeling low, anxious or overwhelmed always helps to share the burden, whether it's with a good friend or trained professional.

Here are some mental health services that you can access:

Free services/resources:

Mind

Better Help

Give Us A Shout

Black Minds Matter

Paid:

Self Space - High street and virtual therapy for drop ins or on going sessions. You can fill out their online survey to be matched with the right therapist.