5 Proven Ways To Cultivate Your Mental Health
“We are all dealing with unprecedented uncertainty and major changes to the way we live our lives as a result of coronavirus,” said lead author Emily Holmes from Uppsala University’s department of psychology.
Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. All of this is taking its toll on people's mental health, particularly those already living with conditions like anxiety and OCD. Being concerned about the news is understandable, but for many people it can make existing mental health problems worse.
When the World Health Organization released advice on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, it was broadly welcomed.
Here are 5 simple ways we can incorporate into our day-to-day routine to lay a healthy foundation and maintain our mental wellbeing.
1. Protect Your Sleep
There is clear evidence that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on emotion and performance. Nature Neuroscience, 10(3), 385-392) indicate that a night of restful sleep may ‘reset’ brain reactivity in order to prepare for emotional challenges the next day. Sleep has an important restorative function in ‘recharging’ the brain at the end of each day, just like we need to charge a mobile phone battery after prolonged use. Maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle allows the natural rhythm of the body to be reset every day and therefore optimises brain functioning.
The brain likes patterns; repetition, routine. If it receives signals on a regular basis, even unhealthy ones, it will lock into that pattern. So it is important to recognise and sort out sleep problems as soon as they are identified.
2. Stay connected with people
Staying in touch with those you care about will help to maintain good mental health during long periods of self-isolation.
"Agree regular check-in times and feel connected to the people around you," says Weatherley.
Strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety. For some people it might end up actually feeling like quite a productive or restful period. You could work through your to-do list or read a book you'd been meaning to get to.
3. Get Regular Exercise
Yes, we all have very busy lives, but we can all find a way to carve out 20 minutes for ourselves for this very important task. Any activity that induces our heart rate to increase is considered exercise.
For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise, which equates to about 20 minutes a day. In fact, healthy diet and exercise will circle back up to improving our sleep.
If we engage ourselves in such habits, our bodies will certainly thank us.
4. Maintain a Balanced Diet
Our eating habits can play a large role in our mood regulation throughout the day.
Big carb loads can lead to big carb crashes which can cause fatigue, concentration issues and irritability, symptoms that are also apparent in depression.
Protein, healthy non-saturated fats, fiber and some simple carbohydrates should all be represented in our meals.
Moderating our food intake will give us the best chance of having a good day
5. Get a Hobby
Finding an enjoyable activity serves a preventative role in combating the onset of depression and anxiety, as it can be a healthy outlet at the end of a stressful and can be a positive distractor from any negative thoughts. Engaging in an activity that brings us pleasure and enjoyment has a physiologic effect on our brains, triggering a release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and newly discovered brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is our ammunition in fighting depression and anxiety.