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Healthy Habits for Mental Health

To function well both physically and mentally, you need to look after yourself. As the aeroplane motto goes, you need to fit your own oxygen mask before you can help others!  Taking action in one or more of these areas may help manage stress.

  • Eat nourishing food – a healthy balanced diet, low in processed foods and sugar and loaded with vegetables, fruits, healthy fats can help maintain normal levels of stress hormones.
  • Move your body – even if it’s a gentle walk or a yoga session, it can work wonders for your mental health. Moving your body and being in the fresh air and sunlight can also boost your mood.
  • Skip the stimulants – while drugs, alcohol, coffee and sugar may all seem like tempting coping mechanisms during tough times, they all negatively influence the way your brain and body operate and can make matters worse over time, further impacting your sleep, mood and behaviour so aim to reduce or avoid them altogether.
  • Stay social and participate in life – during stressful periods, it can tempting to become a recluse. But staying connected to others through positive relationships and community can help you maintain your mood or provide support if you are not feeling great.
  • Schedule down time – being busy all the time and taking on too much can add to your stress and drain your battery. Schedule time in your calendar to do something slow-or nothing at all. Allow yourself to get the rest you need, when you need it, without feeling guilty. And remember to give yourself permission to say No.
  • Practice relaxation – It’s important to take time to switch off and engage in a positive practice to calm your highly active nervous system. Cultivate calm by taking an Epsom salt bath, booking in a massage, practice yin yoga, read, journaling or meditation.
  • Prioritise quality sleep – it’s important to get good quality sleep especially when you are stressed. Practice good sleep hygiene practices such as no screens at least 1 hour before bed, no large snacking or meals before bed, dim the lights, make sure the bedroom is not too hot or too cold, maintain consistent sleep and wake times. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, try a relaxation or mindfulness technique to calm a busy mind.
  • Engage in an enjoyable past-time  – Focusing your full attention on something that you really enjoy can make something else seem more important to your stressed-out brain, rather than dwelling on your problem.  Pick a healthy hobby that will stimulate your senses and get you out of your head, like a concentrating on a puzzle or game, dancing, having a conversation with a friend, painting a picture or playing an instrument.
  • Meditate and be mindful – mediation and mindfulness tools are proven to help manage stress. Set aside time each day to mediate, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Be present in the moment, set intentions and acknowledge current feelings. Once it’s part of your daily routine, it’s easy to maintain!! There are mediation and mindfulness apps that can provide guidance. Simply stopping to take a few deep breaths in a stressful situation can help.
  • Journaling – expressing your thoughts and emotions and getting them out of your head and onto paper, can help you release them. Acknowledge your feelings and if you’re comfortable share them with a friend or professional. 
  • Let Nature Nurture – get outdoors and spend time in nature.  The fresh air and sunshine on your skin can be cleansing and reinvigorating for both body and mind.  Beach, bush, local green space. These practices can help you return to a calm, grounded perspective.
  • Deep Breathing – when you’re stressed, your breathing pattern changes, becoming short and shallow in your chest which can perpetuate feelings of anxiety, When you’re relaxed, you breathe in a slow, even, gentle way. Check in with how you’re breathing. Conscious deep belly breathing can help calm the nervous system, encouraging the body to relax.
  • Laughter – you’ve all heard it before..…laughter is the best medicine!!  Spend time with a friend who makes you laugh, watch a comedy or silly video on YouTube.  Whatever it takes, because everyone should laugh every day!!