For a long time Ive been wondering why, as a society, we only consider wellbeing once someone’s already ill? Often our mental health is only considered once we’ve encountered problems / stress, when surely it should be considered even when we our well; we should play an active role in taking care of ourselves and become aware of factors that contribute to a healthy life. This past year I have definitely began to learn how to recognise what makes me well and what makes me stressed, so I thought I’d learn what Ive learnt so far with you all, and feel free to share any of your tips in the comments. Currently, I have identified around 6 factors that impact my wellbeing – I’m sure there are lots of others, but I have tried to group them together into core themes.
Sleep is a major factor that impacts our mental health. This may not be so easy to see if your someone that always gets that gold standard 7- 9 hours, but if your like me and your sleep patterns fluctuate between good and poor, you’ll know how crucial a good nights sleep is to your functioning the next day and maybe even throughout that week.
2- Relationships / social support
The strength of your support network also contributes, and I find that even a quick chat on Facebook with a friend or a Skype call with my mum can instantly lift my mood. Sometimes, especially as a student, you can get so stuck in a pattern of work work work, that you get trapped in your own head and worry/ anxiety/ stress begins to build. Taking a 15 minute break from work or studying just to have a quick catch-up with your partner/ friend works wonders. Trust me!
3- Time for yourself
On the other hand, it is important that you don’t fill all of your spare time with social events, surrounding yourself with lots of people. If your anything like me spending time with people is great, especially when your stressed and need to let your hair loose, but it’s also important to take time for yourself, to really check in with your body and practice some self-care.
4- Fresh air/ nature
One lesson my mum has always taught me is that there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved with a little fresh air. Every time I complain to her about feeling ill, or stressed, or overwhelmed, her first question is always: have you been out of the house today? I also recently received a piece of advice: to just get out of the house. Although this was meant in referral to work / business, I definitely apply this to my day to day life; spending too much time inside the house is almost a metaphor for spending too much time inside my own head. Just by going for a short walk I always feel calmer, and turning your focus from the internal to your external environment always helps distract me.
This is something Ive only recently realised affects my wellness. As a student, when times got stressful I would often skip meals or rely on sugar and coffee to get me through the day. However, this often left me feeling tired and groggy, and boy did my skin pay for it. Recently Ive started taking note of what I have been putting into my body, and how this affects the way I feel throughout the day, and I have definitely noticed a link between the food I eat and my mood.
Exercise also lifts my mood! Although a lot of the time it takes a lot of effort to get onto the exercise mat, once Ive finished my workout I always feel happier that I did it. I especially love yoga as it’s really good for the mind-body connect and tuning in with your body at the end of a long day. And it doesn’t have to be anything too rigorous, even some basic stretches will work wonders!
With these factors in mind, whenever i start to feel slightly overwhelmed, I check each of these factors to see if they are balanced. If one factor is lacking, of example sleep, I try to make a conscious effort to improve this over the following days.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to dedicate a blog post to each of these factors to examine the science behind their link to mental health, and what I do to ensure I’m keeping all of these in check. Be sure to check them out!
Are there any other big factors that influence your wellness?