Mental health awareness is not the taboo subject it once was. However, the reality is that anxiety and depression are on the rise across age groups, ethnicities and social standings. Thankfully, there are ways to combat these illnesses, from practising self-care to seeking out professional help. In some cases, both methods may in fact prove beneficial. But, how do you go about practicing self-care? Especially, in between work commitments, family responsibility and other stressors.
Make your mental health care a priority. We often take our well-being for granted, always delaying our personal care for when we have a spare moment. Rather schedule out a specific time to focus on yourself. It could be first thing in the morning, during your lunch break or right before bed. Pencil this time into your calendar, or ask a friend to keep you accountable. After at least a month, it should become a habit. After three months, it becomes a lifestyle. Doesn’t seem too difficult to follow does it?
Every person should have their own interests, hobbies and relaxation tools. Nevertheless, many of us are unaware of when we are in need of a little downtime. Make an effort to monitor changes in your mood over the period of one month. An excellent way to track this is to draw up a chart. List the days of the month in one column. Allocate a colour code to a range of emotional experience words such as happy, sad, anxious, depressed and overjoyed. Then, take a few minutes every day to assess your overall mood for the day. Colour in a square for that day in the appropriate emotional colour code.
If you like, make a note of why you may have been feeling that way for the day. You may begin to notice certain emotional triggers in yourself. Similarly, you could pick up on negative thought patterns that you have in certain situations. While this whole process is tedious, it is an incredibly effective self-awareness task. Colouring in has also been proven to reduce stress in some people, so get out those pencils. We recommend using a bullet journal to draw up your mood chart. These dotted journals are a must-have for creatives. You can find them at Exclusive Books stores or online from loot.co.za.
Ways to practice self-care
You have probably heard it all already. Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise and do the things you love. But, it is important that you consider these self-care practices nonetheless. Being kind to yourself goes a long way.
If you are feeling stuck in a rut without a way out, start a new hobby, attend a part-time class or go on a short trip. Little things like this can ease your anxiety and help you add interesting skills to your resume. Joburg has endless opportunity for learning, so wherever your field of interest lies, there should be someone out there willing to teach you more about it.
Alternatively, take a day trip over a weekend to renew your spirits. There is nothing like fresh air to give you new perspective on things that may be bothering you. Take a break from being behind the wheel and hop aboard the Reefsteamers historical steam train. You can either book a trip to the Irene Market at the Big Red Barn, or get right out of the city and chug along all the way to the tranquil Magaliesburg village. There is something incredibly relaxing about this nostalgic ride. As it takes awhile to navigate the hills and peaks of the journey, there is also quite some time to just sit back and think. Don’t take your cell phone with you. Pack a disposable camera instead. Just remember to bring along your wallet – there are lots of goodies to buy along the way.
When you need extra help
We all know that sometimes self-care just isn’t enough. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it. Whether you turn to family, friends or a professional mental health care specialist. Take care.