I can't just keep calm and carry on: what about my mental wellbeing?
Friday 22 April 2022
It’s been a tough few of years for pretty much everyone, and it’s important to acknowledge what we’ve all been—or are going—through.
How can we forget the impact of school and university closures, losing the social contact with friends and classmates, with lessons and lectures moving mostly online.
Then there were cancelled school formals, closures and restrictions on clubs, and restaurants, and even home gatherings with mates. There were travel bans, isolation, loneliness, fear of getting sick . . . it’s honestly been a lot for everyone.
It’s not surprising that some people’s mental wellbeing has been impacted.
We hear about it often, but what is mental wellbeing?
Good mental wellbeing looks different to everyone but it’s usually where you feel able to work and study, feel connected to others, are involved in activities in your community, and ‘bounce back’ when life’s changes and challenges come along.
You could look at mental wellbeing as the garden and mental health as what grows in it.
If you nurture the garden, keeping it healthy and nourished, you’ll be more likely to grow beautiful things in it. What grows there is going to be stronger and more resistant to bad weather.
How’s your mental wellbeing?
So, would you know when you’ve got good mental wellbeing, or only when it’s bad?
That’s the tricky part. It’s easy to get swept up in the busyness of living and push yourself.
It’s okay to not feel okay. Sometimes it takes a major life event, or input from a loved one or friend to realise that you may need to incorporate some new tips to uplift your mental wellbeing.
But before we get to some practical tips on how you can look after your mental wellbeing, let’s address the elephant in the room.
Could it be time for a breakup with social media?
For most of us, social media is an important part of connecting with the world. Sometimes though, it can leave us feeling down and out as we compare ourselves to others and spend less time doing things that are good for us or keep us healthy.
With that being said, now might be a good time to reset and find balance with your social media use.
Some things to consider:
- Try to track how much time you’re spending on your social media accounts daily. Many phones can do this for you.
- Set up time limits for yourself (Apple and Android have built-in tools that can help with this).
- Clean your feed by unfollowing accounts that are making you feel bad about yourself.
- Turn off those pesky notifications.
- Limit the time you spend on social media before you head to bed.
- Let your friends and family know that you’re slowing down/taking a break.
- It might be difficult to stop using social media so it’s important to start slowly, with something easy and build up from there. Just remember, the more you do it, the easier it can get.
Alcohol and other drugs
Excessive use of alcohol and other drugs can have significant impacts on your mental and physical health and wellbeing. Limiting alcohol and other drugs can improve your mood, energy and motivation, and clear your mind. See headspace for more info.
Here are some good reads on alcohol:
- 10 weird things you might not know alcoholic drinks are doing to your body
- I think I drink too much alcohol—what do I do?
- 10 hacks for catching up with friends without drinking
Other practical steps towards better mental wellbeing
It only takes a few small actions (2-3) each day to find a happier you, and the best thing is, you don’t have to do the same ones every day. You can mix it up with things you know you’ll enjoy, or try some new activities using some of our tips below.
These daily activities can be thought of as falling under different categories. Dear Mind calls these the building blocks to strong mental wellbeing. For more on each, with lots of suggested activities, click on the headings.
Spending time with family and friends can help stimulate the production of those feel-good chemicals in your brain, boosting your mood, so it’s important to keep strengthening your relationships and connections.
Try reaching out to an old friend you’ve not heard from in a while, or even better, Facetime them instead of just messaging them.
If you’re bored, frustrated, or feeling stuck, it can be hard to have good mental wellbeing. By challenging your mind and seeking out new things, your mental wellbeing can go from strength to strength.
Learning doesn’t need to be formal. How about taking up something new such as playing the guitar, watching an interesting documentary, or going to a foreign film festival?
Did you know that being kind to others is also a great way to be kind to yourself? By doing acts of kindness, you can unlock a big happiness boost so it’s a win-win situation.
When we say an act of giving, it can be a wide range of things—not just giving material things, although that can be good—but also your time, your ideas, your friendship and support, your gratitude, and more.
Help one of your school, uni, or work friends with a project, or problem, or try complimenting someone on their outfit.
Taking care of your body physically and mentally go hand in hand. It’s harder to have good mental wellbeing if you’re unhealthy or unwell. Try being physically active for at least 30 minutes each day, eating well, and getting enough sleep.
Join a free yoga class at a community centre or even just try standing up more instead of sitting down if you work in an office. Volunteer to take your neighbour’s dog to the dog park, or for a nice walk.
Daily life can be challenging and stressful but simply taking a moment to stop and focus can help calm that pressure. Try connecting with your feelings and thoughts without judging them.
You can also try practicing mindfulness by trying to be 100 per cent present in whatever you’re doing, paying attention to all your senses: what you’re seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting and feeling.
Set your alarm and wake up with the sun to start your day appreciating mother nature. Listen to your favourite playlist and notice how it makes you feel.
There are big benefits for your mental wellbeing when it comes to spending time in nature. It can also have positive effects on your physical health such as building your immune system and lowering your blood pressure.
Go for a hike. Swim in the ocean. Walk in a forest. How about having a meal in the park or garden?
Being out in nature is great, but we can’t always get there, so there are ways you can enjoy nature without being in a forest or next to the ocean.
Try raising some easy-to-care-for plants in your home. You could try peace lilies, a fiddle leaf fig, or monstera plants.
You can do the same or different activities every day, whatever floats your boat! For plenty more ideas, check out these Dear Mind activity cards, and build your personal mental wellbeing activity deck.
How can I get more support?
It’s normal to feel sad or worried sometimes, especially when life gets tough. Sometimes, you might need some help to feel better again. If you’re struggling with your mind, support is available. There are a range of services and organisations that can help.
For immediate help contact triple zero (000) if it is an emergency
National 24/7 crisis services:
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- beyondblue: 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au