Mental wellbeing – keeping your mind healthy too

This month, we’d like to tackle a more sensitive topic for the blog, mental health and wellbeing.

Mental health is as important as physical health.  The two are also closely interlinked.  It’s more difficult to maintain a sunny disposition if you are physically unwell.  Likewise, our mental wellbeing can affect how well we take care of our physical health, and even affect how quickly we recover from injury or illness.

While it’s fair to say that attitudes towards mental health are slowly improving, too many people are reticent to discuss their mental wellbeing, due to fear of stigma.  This can be especially true for men; many guys have internalised a belief that strong men do not share their problems.  This can lead to men leaving problems too long, and the issues becoming worse, even chronic.

We at the Blue Ribbon Foundation recommend that men look after their mental health, as well as physical health, and urge you to seek advice or support in the cause of issues.  There are also a number of ways we have found useful for men to safeguard their own mental health.  To be clear, these tips are for you to consider, but none of us at the Blue Ribbon Foundation are doctors.  If you or your loved ones have severe or enduring mental health conditions, please see a mental health professional as soon as possible to get the specialist support you may need.

With that caveat out of the way, here are six simple tips to that can help maintain good mental wellbeing

1. Stop.  It’s a very simple approach, but too often we rush from one situation to another, always looking ahead to the next appointment, project or responsibility.  Realising that this can cause us stress, and taking a few minutes to catch your breath can be immensely helpful to prevent a longer-term impact on your health.  Taking just a few minutes away from your work to think, go for a stroll, or simply gaze out of the window can help anxieties die down and reduce pressure that may have built up unconsciously.  This can also help you identify the cause of your unease, which is not always obvious, which is a first step to dealing with it in a direct, healthy way.

2. Have a pick-me-up ready.  It can be really useful to have something to hand you could use to raise your spirits, or lift your mind out of situations which are troubling you.  For some people, this could be a rousing song or piece of music, an inspiring phrase, or a heart-warming memory.  Let’s be clear though – your pick-me-up should be something that is healthy itself; having a hipflask or a cigarette for the difficult moments could lead to a whole new set of problems!

Having this pick-me-up available to you (even writing this down as a reminder) can give you a much-needed shot of emotional wellbeing.  The pick-me-up could also be deferred, for example by planning a nice meal or evening out as a reward for later.

3. Talk about it.  It can seem like the hardest thing to do, but if you are feeling down or anxious, sharing your feelings with someone you trust can really help.  Men can be reticent to share their emotions.  However, being prepared to speak about challenges and how they affect you is a brave act, rather than a sign of weakness.  Nor is this ‘dumping’ your problems on other people; many people will be happy to support you.  You can return the favour by hearing them out too.

If you have friends or family who can listen, this can be a really good way to clear your mind, think through your problems out loud, and realise that often many challenges are not as bad as they seem.  This can help you work out solutions to these problems, but the main focus here is just to be heard and unburden your mind.

4. Identify triggers.  Without knowing it, we all have situations or activities that cause us stress.  It is not always obvious what these situations are, or indeed the reasons why they upset us.  But setting aside some time to consider the reasons for your stress in specific situations will help you identify what’s bothering you, and help you address it.  Identifying triggers is often more easily done by talking things through with someone else, so this is definitely a tip to apply with number 3.

5. Exercise.  Yes, we banged on about this last month!  But it is well documented that exercise can raise your mood, by stimulating your body’s own feel-good hormones endorphins.  Undertaking exercise will also help you psychologically, as you will feel better about yourself for doing something active and positive.

6. Change your environment.  Too often we can feel hemmed in by the same four walls, location or situation.  So take positive action – go for a walk, ask to work from home or for flexible hours from your employer, or arrange a last-minute weekend getaway to keep things fresh.

To reiterate, if your feelings of gloom or anxiety persist, seek professional support and advice.  However, applying these tips should help us be less stressed, happier and more aware of how to deal with difficult situations.  If you have found other good ways to deal improve your mental wellbeing, why not tell us about it on Twitter?