Ways to prioritise your mental health

Sep 27, 2023 | Blog Articles

October is Mental Health Month and 10 October is World Mental Health Day – so what can you do to support your mental health and flourish?

Life continues to present both individual and community challenges with uncertainty about the economy, climate change, fires, floods, crises in health and education, and many more issues. These challenges have a very real impact on our bank balances, health, mental stability, and quality of life in general.

Too much exposure to the troubles we face contributes to communal stress, anxiety and/or generalised fear of the future. We know from recent data that Australians are still reporting a significant increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety related to the pandemic and its flow-on effects.

Many people are still without a home or sense of community after the fires or floods tore their lives apart. It would be a challenge for anyone to cope with so many cumulative traumas.

Sadly, there are many stories of people feeling trapped in a damaging or violent relationship from which they are unable to escape. Long-term feelings of hopelessness, helplessness or feeling trapped leads to serious consequences for our mental health.

One in five Australians are affected by mental illness, yet many people don’t seek help. The World Health Organisation expects that by 2030, depression will have become the largest single healthcare burden.

For our happiness and peace of mind, we need a sense of autonomy and personal control over our lives and our choices. However, it is not enough to hope that things will get better. We often say at Quest, “hope has to have legs”, meaning hope has to be underpinned by effort.

It’s important to prioritise your mental health every day of the year. If you do, then when the unthinkable, the unexpected or the unimaginable happens in your life, you’re more able to embrace your challenge in a resourceful and skilful way.

Here are our top tips for prioritising your mental health:

Do less

Practice doing nothing occasionally. The washing, dishes, vacuuming and other projects need to wait sometimes. The value of taking ten minutes for a cup of tea in the sun without any devices or distractions is hard to measure, but will pay you back in bucket loads! Start with two minutes and build up to ten. Repeat daily. We need to retrain the brain to do ‘nothing’ because the mind thrives on space to both restore and repair.

Exercise more

Regular exercise is great for the mind and body. Doing gentle exercise, like walking or yoga, are both mindful practices that can bring you into the present moment and quieten the chatter of the mind. Walking outdoors in nature is a great way to breathe in some fresh air and get some Vitamin D naturally from the sunshine. Exercise reduces stress hormones in the body.

Take time to rest

Prioritise your sleep and seek help if you’re experiencing poor sleep. Sleep plays an important role in every aspect of our lives, and it has a great impact on our mental health. Without restful sleep, we can feel exhausted and become irritable, which may impact our relationships at work, with family and with friends. Long-term sleep deprivation affects mental health, physical health and your overall quality of life. A lot happens when you’re asleep to support your good health and good memory, and in children and teens, sleep is essential for growth and development.

Start a new hobby

Find a hobby that’s just for you, something that really makes you feel good. Learn a new language, play an instrument, learn to paint, to knit, or play bridge. Find a creative way to express yourself. Learning something new and focusing on another goal will help you stay in the present moment.

Set healthy boundaries

Living in a world where we can be connected 24/7 whether by phone, email or social media, it’s important to set healthy boundaries so we don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s OK to disconnect from the digital world for a day – or longer! It’s OK to say ‘no’ to social invitations, to not answer a phone call – let it go to voicemail. We can choose when we want to talk to someone. If we answer the call, we’re answering to them. When we make the call, the person is answering us. Your family and friends will understand your need to take time out for yourself, and, if they don’t, then you’ll have more information about the people from whom you can expect to receive support. Don’t share your vulnerabilities with people who don’t respect the tenderness with which they’re held!

Share what’s on your mind

Find a mental health professional you can talk to regularly who’ll listen generously and without judgement. Our mental health is affected when we bottle things up instead of talking to someone. You could also write your thoughts down in a journal. Getting things out of your head and onto paper is extremely helpful because it’s no longer a private, unexpressed anguish. You’ve found the words to express it in writing and this reinforces our sense of being more than whatever it is we’ve expressed.

Read a book

Reading a book or listening to personal development podcasts are both great ways to prioritise your mental health. There are so many tools and techniques available through books or online courses and these can help you learn more about yourself and how to manage the more difficult days. One of those techniques, for example, might be meditation or learning more about mindfulness.

Meditate

Taking the time to meditate each day can help bring you into the present moment and quiet the chatter in your mind. A few minutes in the morning each day can completely change your mood and how your day will unfold.

We have a Default Mode Network (DMN) in the brain that causes much of our inner chaos until we ‘wake up’ and learn to engage our Task Positive Network (TPN). The DMN replays memories, holds our “I’ll be happy when…” stories along with the patterns or our behaviour that were laid down in our very early years. When the DMN is active, we experience the inner chatter, or commentary, about everything, that most people are very familiar with. As soon as we focus our attention on a hobby, a conversation, an object or through meditation or mindfulness, the DMN quietens as we engage the TPN. These two systems – the DMN and the TPN – cannot operate simultaneously. Meditation is the practice of engaging the TPN. Simple, but not always easy!

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is about bringing attention or awareness to the present moment – engaging our TPN. This is a universal human capacity and can be fostered in the young and refined as an adult. It sounds easy enough, however many people find their DMN is full of worry, anxiety, concern about the future, or rehashing the past. Petrea’s Coming to Your Senses practice helps you engage your TPN and can be used at any time.

Quest for Life programs

All of Quest’s programs can help you find hope, healing and peace of mind. We provide a safe, nurturing and compassionate space to focus on your needs and learn valuable life skills. Learn how to relax deeply, sleep soundly, reduce stress, resolve conflict, create an environment for healing and feel empowered to make informed choices in your healing journey. Learn more about Quest for Life’s Programs.

Wellbeing resources

  • Wellbeing books Including Your Life Matters by Petrea King – a Guidebook for Life
  • Meditation CDs and MP3s including Be Calm, Sleep, Learning to Meditate

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