Suggestions for making changes and supporting our mental health.
I have also produced this blog on my podcast called The Therapy Guy and you can find it here https://therapyguy.buzzsprout.com/
We are constantly being offered different tips and advice on how to stay healthy and active, and we are increasingly offered the same advice for caring for our mental health. so why do we sometimes struggle do listen to all this great advice and guidance from the experts?
For years we have been told to eat more fruit and veg and take more exercise and although a lot of us do this, some of us can struggle with prioritising ourselves over other things in our lives and of course, at times there can seem to be the financial and time elements which prevent us from engaging in the changes we know we should do but also want to do.
I see lots of reasons why we struggle to make changes both personally and professionally, myself and my colleagues support people every day to find the strength and will to make the changes that they want and understand will benefit them in the long term.
Some of the basic reasons we struggle are that we feel pressured at times to conform and feel that we are told what we should and shouldn’t do and when we can’t for whatever reason we get an inner sense of failing and it compounds of feelings around what’s the point of trying as I failed last time.
In some of us, there is a rebellious streak which struggles when we are told to do or not do something, just think about if we see a wet paint or do not push the red button sign! How many of us give in to our curiosity and press the button or touch the paint just to see if it is wet still? When we are told, we can’t do something our internal thought process can lead to us craving it even more than we do normally. Think about the situation with COVID-19 and the lockdown guidelines issued by the government how many people are finding it difficult to not go out? All of a sudden, we want to go out for walks and do all these things that we haven’t done for a long time just look at how many people are out jogging and cycling at the moment.
So, what I’m trying to say is that to make changes to our lifestyles takes a couple of very basic things that people can sometimes overlook.
So, the first one is desire, what is the advantage of the change is that advantage big enough for us to endure the changes to our lifestyle. If we consider losing weight or getting fit, it involves a lot of change we have to watch or change what we eat, we have to exercise whether that’s at a gym, class or on our own. The sudden changes can make our body struggle with all this just think of those hunger and exercise pains we get as a result initially.
Our desire and reasons behind the change have to be big enough to see us through this, that’s why sometimes it takes a big event or moment in our lives to encourage those changes. Previously I was asked by a lady who wanted hypnotherapy to give up smoking, she had previously had open-heart surgery partially due to her smoking and while she had stopped for a while, she had found herself starting to smoke again, I asked her what it would take to give her a big enough reason to stop if open-heart surgery couldn’t. The reason she had started again was that it was all too much of a change and she or her brain wanted some normality and her normal for many years was to smoke.
What are your reasons?
Secondly, what are you going to do first? People can have this moment and then decide to change their lives and they go on that diet and start heading to the gym several times a week but after a while, their motivation can start to struggle. They can forget why they started all those weeks or days ago and with the change being so big it can be difficult to maintain.
Now this might all sound like doom and gloom but it isn’t what I’m encouraging you to think about is that you can achieve anything you want, sometimes it will be hard, sometimes it will take longer than you expect, sometimes you will fail and then fail some more before you get there, but understanding that we all have to fail and taking responsibility for ourselves is what will enable us to achieve the things we want. The smoker I spoke about earlier blamed other people for offering her a cigarette and for smoking around her, we discussed that it was her strength that was going to enable her to say no.
I would encourage you to break things down and start with becoming aware of how you do things now first before initiating any changes. Now by this I mean if we use dieting as an example first if you want to lose or gain weight, you can just grab a diet plan online and get stuck in, but there are so many variables in whether it will be successful or not. By checking and writing down what you eat now normally for a week or two will then naturally start to encourage you to see the areas where you can make changes. When I did this, I recognised that when I was at work, I constantly grazed on quick-fix easy snack stuff, I knew this before, but I didn’t realise just how much I was eating. How the portions of food I was eating were always bigger than the recommended portions etc, etc,
Knowledge is power in helping you make changes and it doesn’t matter what change you want, raising your awareness of what you are doing now and what small changes you could make to that will help in making lasting changes in the future.
Want to get fitter, how much exercise do you do now? Can you start by walking more or doing an exercise you enjoy if you don’t like running then what about swimming or vice versa? Find a time that works for you if I want to go to the gym it has to be first thing in the morning I have lost my motivation by the end of the day by knowing this I can plan when I can go, getting my kit ready the night before, saying to myself I will just go there and do what I can its easier than saying I will go and run or lift x, y or z. Once you have walked through the door, you will feel the achievement and you haven’t done anything yet.
Want a promotion or better job, what always stops you from applying or putting yourself forward? Is it you don’t feel good enough? Do you blame others or see it as they are better than you or they are liked, and you aren’t, their face fits and yours doesn’t?
By taking responsibility for yourself and understanding these are your thoughts, yes you may have evidence to support those thoughts but are you helping yourself or the situation to change in any way holding onto all that negativity, blame, and unfairness you feel? If you start to look at ok this is the situation, I don’t like it, what can I do? Do I need to change my thinking, my knowledge, my confidence what can I do for me?
Yes as I’ve said it may be hard and it may sometimes not work out for you initially, but every time we fail we need to consider what we have learnt from the situation not beat ourselves up for failing again, all that does it keep us exactly where we are. Keep making the small changes, keep doing the things that make us feel good, and keep to a routine and structure. Know that each step and it doesn’t matter how small that step is will eventually get us to where we are going, the only time we truly fail is if we stop and start looking for something or one to blame.
So, before I give you some tips for supporting your mental health and wellbeing please take away the message.
Accept responsibility for you and your thoughts, start small, it doesn’t matter how insignificant the change is, the ripple effect will be huge and finally with raising your awareness of what you need to do to change is within you and you have got this.
So, here are 10 tips for helping you emotionally and supporting your mental health.
1. Stick to a routine. Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, every day don’t be tempted to change this at weekends or on your days off, getting up each day at the same time helps to improve the quality of our sleep.
2. Dress in comfortable clothes that make you feel good, get showered, wash your face, brush your teeth, look after yourself. It is amazing how doing these things can impact our mood overall even if we don’t realise it at the time.
3. Get out at least once a day and breathe some fresh air if possible, nature and the sun can have a big impact on our mood.
4. Find some time to exercise each day, this doesn’t have to be sweating profusely it can be a long walk, a short cycle, a fitness DVD, or run any movement is better than none!!
5. Interact with other people, again it doesn’t have to be in person, but instead of texting try to talk to people, video calling like skype or facetime are all ways to connect with people. If you are putting it off, ask yourself what’s stopping you?
6. Eating and drinking as healthily and regularly as we can, helps us keep our bodies and brains working in the right way, negative feelings and thoughts have a huge impact on us both emotionally and physically so look after the thing that looks after you.!
You would let your car run out of fuel and water or put the wrong fuel in it on purpose so why do you do it too yourself?
7. Attempt to give yourself some me time and space, whether that’s in the shower or taking a bath, go out for a walk or read if possible, just a brief time for you!
8. Now, this is important! Limit social media and the time you spend scrolling through different feeds. The negativity it can bring to our lives through our comparisons of looking at how great someone else’s life is or isn’t. remember they are only showing you a snapshot and what they want you to see. The post is to get some attention whether that’s good or bad attention. Unfollow people who are negative or critical, follow people who are supportive and encouraging.
9. Notice the good in the world. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to find when we look for it. Remember the news and newspapers get your attention with attention-grabbing headlines, just look at the magazine aisle in the shops next time you go there what headline jumps off the shelves at you? There are lots of fantastic people in the world just like you and there are stories of people helping and giving to others all the time that get overshadowed with that attention seeking vague headlines. For every negative thing, you think, read or hear try and balance it with something positive or at the very least rational statements or stories.
10. Finally, break things down into smaller bite-size pieces, take one day at a time, one job at a time we can only concentration fully on one thing at a time stress and anxiety can be caused by trying to do too much at once so start somewhere on your to-do list and congratulate yourself when you do each job. Try and help others, with support and encouragement, there are enough people in the world that criticize and undermine others why be one of them and smile try and find something each day that brings a smile to your face or makes you laugh out loud.
I know this is a lot of information and I hope it helps if you require any advice, guidance or have any comments it would be great to hear from you. in the meantime, take care.