mental health awareness

How to maintain a healthy mind.

In these unprecedented times, improving and maintaining your mental health should be a priority. As Lockdown progresses, you may start to develop negative thinking patterns as you find yourself becoming more and more tired and frustrated. These negative thinking patterns tend to cause conditions like anxiety and depression to worsen, which means that recognising and preventing negative thoughts is critical to sustaining a healthy mind.

There are a few strategies you can implement to identify your triggers and help you train your brain to maintain positivity. 

Are you having negative thoughts?

Identifying negative thoughts can be tricky – but realising that specific thoughts are harmful or unhealthy is the first step to changing them. Thoughts that consistently lower your self-esteem or cause you to doubt your worth aren’t healthy – especially if you find your mind replaying them several times a day, creating a pattern of negative thinking. 

Here are some patterns you should look out for:

  • Personalisation: Believing that you are the cause of adverse situations. 
  • Magnification: Exaggerating situations in your mind until they seem helpless.
  • Overgeneralisation: Designating the feelings of previous negative experiences to all similar experiences.
  • Emotional Reasoning: Making decisions and assumptions based on your feelings at the moment, rather than the facts.
  • Black-and-White Thinking: Your thinking jumps from one extreme to the next, with no middle ground.

How to stay positive:

Retraining your mind to avoid these negative thought traps isn’t too difficult, as long as you are consistent in your training. Try to implement one of the following strategies every day, and document your positive and negative thoughts to see how you’re improving.

Personal Mantras:

Repeating affirmation statements helps to steer your mind away from negative thoughts. Your mantra could be a phrase that motivates and encourages you and repeating it consistently when you’re experiencing negative thoughts will help you feel better. It especially helps if you believe what you’re saying.

Happy Scrapbook:

Keeping a scrapbook of all of the positive thoughts, happy memories, and overall positive aspects of your life can become a great mood booster in times of stress and anxiety. Bring it out when you’re feeling down, and it’ll help break you out of a negative thinking pattern. 

Kindness:

A recent study concluded that performing acts of kindness improves your overall mood and mental state. It also improves your self-esteem and makes you feel more valuable. Contributing to positive change in your community will help you create a positive difference in your mind.

Redesign!

Colours, textures and the ambience of spaces all affect your mental state. If you’re in an area that’s dark and gloomy, you’ll find yourself drifting to that mind space more frequently. Add a little bit of colour to your environment, move some furniture and find ornamental items to inspire you.

Create a Routine:

Structuring your days to include self-care activities and positive changes will help to keep you on track. Find a way to add time for things you’ve always wanted to do – like learning a new language or taking up a new hobby. The internet has millions of online classes and guides to help you learn.

Check-in with yourself

Monitoring and revising is key to the success of any ongoing project, so creating a system to be able to check-in with yourself is vital to developing a long-term change in your mental wellbeing. 

Journaling is a powerful method of keeping track of your mental wellbeing.

Start by making a note of any negative thoughts you have and jotting down the causes, effects and strategies you implemented to stop them. As you progress, you’ll start identifying patterns in your thinking, and you’ll be able to act proactively to stop negative thoughts. 

You’ll be able to avoid triggers more effectively and understand which situations could affect your mental wellbeing. 

Food for Thought

I recently wrote a piece for Trove Wellness on the topic of eating to support and enhance your mental health:

“Many foods can increase our mental health and should be strategically included in our diets to assist with alertness, memory and mood. This is especially critical now because of the fear and anxiety which is induced by the lockdown. Prioritize your mental health and mind, we are shaped by our thoughts and the happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”

To read my full article and see which foods I recommend, click this link

Get Started!

Negative thoughts happen to everyone. It’s an unfortunate part of life. 

When your negative thoughts start impacting your perception of yourself and the world around you, they create unnecessary stress and anxiety. When your negative thoughts are consistent and unyielding, they could cause you to become exhausted, depressed, unmotivated, frustrated and angry. 

Replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones seems easy enough, but you do need to be consistent. Try implementing some of these strategies into your daily routine to help counteract the cycle and maintain a positive, healthy mindset.

Overeating during lockdown

How to stop binge/stress/boredom eating during the lockdown

Being in this lockdown is a harsh reality we all have to deal with in our own way.  But let us not throw all our health goals out of the window and eat ad lib, and rather see this as an opportunity to create some great new habits that will last longer then the lockdown.

I have also found myself struggling being at home with easy access to food all the time.  Some of us are not working which can cause “eating when bored syndrome”.  Most of us are also experiencing some degree of stress around this situation which can also lead to overeating.

I have found these few tips very helpful and wanted to share them with you:

  • Start your day well. This sets the tone for the rest of your day.  You are less likely to eat badly the rest of the day if you began it right with for instance a green juice or a balanced breakfast of Oats and fruit.
  • Create some sort of daily routine as well as structure to your eating.  Plan when and what you are going to eat.  Very importantly have a cut off time to stop eating and stick to it.
  • Setup your office away from the kitchen.  Being close to the kitchen can be a really big temptation and send hunger signals to your brain.
  • Eat your vegetables first and really fill up your plate with them.  The fibre from the veggies helps with satiety which means less space for junk.
  • Gradually stop eating processed and sugary foods. In doing so this will also help regulate your blood sugar levels and you will eventually stop craving them.
  • Even if no one sees you it is not ok to eat out of the pot!!!  Always dish your food in a plate and sit down and eat.
  • After eating wait at least 20 minutes to establish if you are still hungry.  Distract yourself by phoning a friend, reading a book or watch a show.  If after 20 minutes you are still hungry then have something.
  • Practice some mindful eating tips that can help prevent over-eating:
    • Always Always sit and eat
    • Don’t do something else like watch TV or be on your phone while eating as this can distract you from your food and also lead to overeating
    • Before you start eating take 3 deep breaths, this helps to create some sense of calmness before     eating as most of us eat way to fast which can lead to overeating.
    • Halfway through your meal put down your knife and fork and take 3 deep breaths again
    • Remember that food is there to be enjoyed and a fundamental part to our human experience. Even healthy food can be delicious and should be delicious!!

“Becoming mindful is the antidote to emotional eating.” Susan Albers PsyD

  • Find non-food ways to deal with stress eg journalling, reading, meditation, yoga etc
  • Remind yourself that your health is of utmost importance during this time.  We are all going to rejoin the world and still be exposed to the virus and other illnesses due to winter.  You want to be at good health when this happens.  Eating processed foods and sugar (what we all crave when stressed or bored) can weaken your immune system.

We are all in this lockdown together, let us learn from each other, encourage each other and share positivity in this negative space we can find ourselves in.  Let us take this time to establish good routines, good eating habits and good mindsets that will stay with us for years to come.