City Lit Blog

Seven ways to invest in your mental wealth

Story added 17th May 2018


Mental health is defined as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community” (World Health Organization).

World Mental Health Day (10 October 2018) is a time to reflect on how we stay well mentally and emotionally. Key to that is building resilience to enable us to cope with whatever life throws at us. Taking some time to invest in our mental health can help us live richer and more fulfilling lives. Here I suggest seven practical ways to make that investment in your emotional wellbeing…

Know your stressors

The first step towards optimum mental health is knowing what stresses you out. Your stressors may be lack of time, an overwhelming workload, a cluttered environment, a fractious relationship, a crowded train. Whatever your pressure point is, stress can burn you up and turn your energy to ashes. To keep your flame lit, get to know your triggers. Once you know them you can take steps to monitor them and reduce them. Look at alternatives to the stressor and introduce them into your life. Lowering your stress levels buys you some time before you snap.

Bracket your worries

Worry has a nasty habit of creeping into your thoughts and twisting them until your mind has created a worst-case scenario. Worrying can spoil your day and stop you living a full life. Worry robs you of the present because you’re absorbed with what might happen in the future. To support yourself in worrying less, try these two things. Firstly, agree with yourself that you will only worry about things that you have some control over. Let everything else go. Secondly, if you need to worry give yourself a set time each day – say, 20 minutes – when you can allow yourself to worry, worry, worry. When the 20 minutes are up, you can leave the worry behind and take it up again tomorrow.

Express your feelings

Expressing how you feel is vital to mental health. Bottling things up never works: eventually the feeling you’re trying to suppress will come out sideways. It’s OK to have feelings. There’s nothing right or wrong with a feeling. Speak to a friend or loved one and tell them how you feel. Speak to a therapist if you feel you need professional support. Or start a journal where you check in with yourself daily and write down what’s happening in your inner world. You’ll feel the relief of unburdening yourself. 

Prioritise self-care

This is about putting your own oxygen mask on before you help others. You may feel it’s selfish to put yourself first when there are other people who need you, but without self-care you won’t have anything to give others. By self-care I mean ensuring you sleep and eat well, take some exercise, and build in some time to relax or meditate. Tune into your needs and aim to meet them where you can.

Stay connected

It can be so tempting to tune the world out and isolate yourself as an antidote to the 24/7 demands of life. Yet part of the definition of mental health is “making a contribution to your community”. Staying connected with people – friends, family, groups, or even volunteering for a good cause – can build the feel-good within.

Create a project

Do something just for fun. Build, draw, write, paint, dance, act, knit, learn. Choose something that makes your heart sing. Do something you love just for the sake of it – not because you’ve got a deadline to meet or a boss to impress or a point to prove. Whether it’s finishing a tricky jigsaw, crocheting a blanket, or starting a vegetable garden, having a project can give you meaning and purpose. It can put the spark back into your life.

Take the pressure off

A lot of frustration in life is caused by expecting perfection. Having incredibly high standards that you expect everyone to meet can often lead to feelings of disappointment and resentment. Self-pressure can be even worse. Your inner slave-driver can torture you with ‘shoulds’, ‘musts’ and ‘ought tos’, leaving you feeling as though what you do will never be enough. That’s exhausting and can lead you down the road to anxiety and depression. Taking the pressure off yourself, and giving everyone permission to be imperfect, can be so freeing. Accept that you’re good enough just as you are.