It’s currently Mental Health Awareness Week and so I thought I’d compile a list of my top tips on how to keep your brain (and mind) healthy.
1. Eat breakfast
Many people skip breakfast for a variety of reasons, but you’re not doing yourself a favour if you do this. Your brain needs fuel to get started and isn’t going to perform very well if you’ve got a busy morning at school or work but are running on empty. Try to eat, even if you just grab a banana on your way out of the door.
2. Sleep well
Sleeping is essential for us as it’s during this time that the body carries out repair work and our mind rests. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, but the average amount of sleep an adult needs per night is 7.5 hours. If you find it difficult to fall asleep then practising good sleep hygiene is the way forward- try a relaxing bath before bed with lavender, have a warm milky drink, don’t watch television an hour before you need to sleep (and certainly don’t watch television in bed!) and reduce caffeine. As prescriptions for sleeping tablets are on the increase, it’s important to promote good sleep hygiene.
3. Make space to relax
Stress is also on the increase, and long term this can lead to high blood pressure, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and isn’t good for mental health. It’s important to create time for yourself during the day to relax, whether it’s physically getting out of the office during lunch and sitting in the local park, or switching the television off after dinner, taking the phone off the hook and picking up a good book for an hour or two.
4. Keep talking
I think it’s important to talk through any worries or anxieties with someone you trust instead of keeping them locked inside where they can fester. It’s also important to keep a check of your emotions- are you feeling ‘blue’? Are you more anxious than usual? This is so that you know when you need to see a doctor if you think you may be getting depressed or experiencing any other mental health symptoms, after all, one in four of us will experience some form of mental illness at some stage during our lives. Getting help is not a sign of weakness- it’s a sign of strength.
We all know it’s important to exercise, but if you’re like me, this conjures up images of PE at school and cross country runs. Exercise doesn’t have to be a scary experience! Anything that gets your heart going and makes you slightly out of breath is exercise. So try taking the stairs instead of the lift (and walk briskly up them), get off the tube or the bus a stop early or even try riding a bike to work (environmentally friendly too!), take the dog for a longer walk, or borrow a friend’s dog. You can even buy pedometers fairly cheaply- these are a good way to monitor how far you walk each day and then you can set yourself targets to increase the distance.