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Health and Wellbeing - October 2019

01 Oct 2019

Looking after yourself

It seems that everyone is talking about mental health right now, but the challenge is to keep the conversation going throughout the year and beyond.

RU OK Day in September encouraged us to ask the question “are you OK?” of family, friends, at work, school and in the wider community.

Once you have found the right time and place to ask the question, listen to what that person has to say. The simple act of listening communicates that you are interested and that someone cares. If the person you are talking to expresses a concern, think together about what they might do. This isn’t giving expert advice, but rather having a collaborative conversation about what has and hasn’t worked in the past and what new or novel strategies or resources could be applied to the problem.

Mental health, like physical health, is rarely improved in a single moment and often takes time, just like mending a broken arm or improving physical fitness in a gym. We know from positive psychology research that people are more likely to achieve goals if they tell someone they are going to do it; so making a plan with someone and checking on their progress from time to time will increase the chances of change.

This year Mental Health Week runs between Sunday, October 5 through to Friday, October 11, so perhaps this could be a great prompt to promote your own self-care. Remember you can’t help others in the long term unless you are in a good place yourself. By taking care of you, you enhance your happiness and resourcefulness.

So, what are some ways in which you can help yourself? The basics are very similar to your physical health; seek quality sleep and eat well. Activity is important because not only does it impact positively on your physical health it also increases the chance of social interaction which is important for us. Practice being kind to yourself. Criticising others most often leads to negativity and rarely achieves behavioural change in others, so the same applies to your own self-talk. Finally take a few moments to practice mindfulness or relaxation strategies like slow deep breathing.

We should never be afraid to seek professional help, whether it be your GP, a psychologist or counsellor. They may have ideas about how to resolve the concerns you might have and optimise your happiness. If you feel resistant, think of it like just getting an opinion in the way you might take your car to a mechanic to see if that noise you hear is anything to worry about?

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