Our previous article outlined some first tips for improving our mental health by taking care of our physical health. We can also develop our mental health resources (internal factors that affect our mental health): the ability to control our thoughts, emotions and behaviour and our relationships with others.
We’re all different, which is why there’s no “one size fits all” solution for developing our mental health resources. But in this article and the next, we’ll offer some tips and guidance to help you find what works for you when it comes to looking after your mental health.
- Be kind
Kindness can be defined as an understanding mindset, as wanting the best for people.
What if we started by being kind to ourselves? We are the person we spend the most time with throughout our lifetime! It makes sense to take care of ourselves so that we’re ready to face whatever life throws at us and be there for others.
In the current climate, it’s common to experience moments of doubt, tiredness and irritability. It can be hard to stay upbeat and constructive. That’s the time to go easy on yourself. Accept your ups and downs. It’s OK to be not OK. Maybe you need to take a break, slow down, recharge your batteries or change certain habits? Ask yourself, honestly, what do you need? How can you meet that need?
- Be generous with your time and company and listen to others
According to the experts*, an act of kindness, no matter how big or small, can boost our sense of happiness, satisfaction and well-being. Helping someone triggers the brain’s reward system, releasing dopamine, the happiness and motivation hormone, and oxytocin, the hormone that promotes bonding, social cohesion and creativity.
There are many ways to help others, from a simple friendly gesture or listening to someone to volunteering for a charity.
- Stay positive by being creative
Creative activities are a source of pleasure and well-being. The list is endless: DIY, singing, drawing, dance, etc.
- Focus on what you can control
We can’t control everything. It’s important to accept that and focus on what we can do rather than wasting time and energy on the rest. The three-circle strategy might help:
Take a situation that’s worrying you, such as your health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Imagine three circles. The first contains the things that are entirely in your control (e.g. what you can do to protect and look after yourself – eat well, exercise, follow the protective measures, start a creative activity and take a COVID-19 test if you’re concerned). The second contains the things that you have some influence over but don’t depend entirely on you (e.g. if other people fail to follow the protective measures, you can remind them to do so and thereby bring about a change in behaviour). The third contains the things that you don’t have control over (e.g. government decisions on easing restrictions).
Sort your concerns into these three circles. Focusing on your areas of influence will help you to be more efficient and cope better with uncertainty.
- Boost your sense of self-efficacy
Your sense of self-efficacy reflects your confidence that you can apply your knowledge, skills and resources to handle changing situations. Having a strong sense of self-efficacy means you can approach threatening situations with assurance.
To boost your sense of self-efficacy, you can keep a diary in which you record all the small successes of the day or week as well as your past successes (this reminds us that we have been successful in the past and should have confidence in ourselves and our abilities).
We hope that these five tips will inspire you. Stay tuned for five more in our next article.
Let’s not forget that our mental health is crucial to our overall health.
If you feel that you would benefit from talking professional or personal matters through with a professional, don’t hesitate to contact us. The Medical Service offers all members of the personnel (MPE and MPA) first-line psychological counselling. Appointments with our psychologists, Katia Schenkel and Sébastien Tubau, are free of charge and strictly confidential: https://hse.cern/content/psychologist.
* Martin Seligman, Authentic Happiness.