That’s right, mental health must always come first – it is the only way we can move forward, irrespective of what life throws at us. Long-term illness, in particular, can weigh us down, and our loved ones too. The stress and the powerlessness open the door to depression and other mental illnesses.
However, all of us, patients, caregivers and healthcare workers alike, have the right to sound mental health, as is beautifully spelt out in this year’s theme for World Mental Health Day: Mental Health Is A Universal Right. We also have a duty to ourselves and our loved ones to put our mental health first.
Here are a few things we can do to care for our mental health.
- Focus on the moment
At times when you feel overwhelmed, take a few moments to ground or center yourself. Focusing on the present moment can work towards improved mental health.
A quick scan of where the tension resides in your body – tense shoulders, a clenched jaw, shallow breathing and so on – and then consciously releasing the tension in those areas can also help to relieve stress, refocus energy and improve your sense of well-being.
- Communicate with people you trust
No good comes from bottling things up. Make it a habit to talk to someone you trust about anything, especially the things that frustrate you. It will help you feel lighter and get a different perspective. Remember, the thoughts in your head are not a burden to the people who love you, so talk freely and be open to listening too.
- Educate yourself
Take the time to learn about your illness or that of a loved one and have open discussions with your medical and/ or palliative care teams. The more you know, the more questions you answer will keep unnecessary anxiety from building and help you figure out the best way to manage your situation.
Don’t underestimate the healing power of rest for your mental and physical health. If you have a serious illness, weakness often comes as part of the package. There’s no need to put on a brave face and fight it. Listen to your body and rest when you need to. The same goes for caregivers; you can’t look after someone if you don’t have the strength and alertness to do so. Try to sleep at least 7 hours at night or take naps during the day if you can’t.
- Adopt healthy habits
Regular exercise – even something as simple as stretches – eating regular meals, staying hydrated, enjoying a little me time, and most importantly, staying positive goes a long way to boost your mental health.
Living with a long-term illness or caring for someone is not easy. It can and will get overwhelming. You can do a few things on your own to take care of your mental health, but it is always advisable to seek help from a professional. Don’t fear what people say or old notions about asking for help. Your mental health matters, and getting the help you need makes you stronger.