[ 6 min read ]
Despite mental health having greater focus than ever before, the prevalence of mental health issues continues to increase at a striking rate. Technology makes it harder for us to switch off; we’re tempted into checking work emails one last time before we go to sleep, Instagram shows us that our day-to-day lives can never compare to how others are living, and the proliferation of ‘success secrets’ make us feel bad for not working eighteen hours a day.
Being stressed, anxious or depressed isn’t a sign of failure – it’s just a sign that you need to take better care of yourself. We’re all guilty of wanting to constantly go at 100mph, but this isn’t always possible.
In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week, the team at Scale Space have come up with some of their favourite ways of keeping their cool…
Schedule plenty of ‘me’ time
What is it that you really enjoy doing? Are you an avid runner, a lifelong cinephile or do you yearn for long country walks with your loved ones? Whatever it is, you need to make it a priority in your life.
Having passions and hobbies will enrich your life to no end. Otherwise, it’s easy to fall into the habit of simply viewing weekends and evenings as rest periods before you get back to the grind. Flip this around in your mind and start to view work as enabling you to live a life worth living – a life of your choosing.
Always make time for doing what you love. As Virginia Wolff put it: “If you are losing your leisure, look out! It may be you are losing your soul.”
Take a break
Every office has that person who’s ‘always on’, constantly typing away furiously and switching seamlessly from task to task. They’re always the most productive and most successful people – right?
In fact, Dr Srini Pillay, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has found that your brain can only take so much focus. His research has unearthed that in order to be most productive you need to toggle intense periods of focus with periods of unfocus.
Warren Buffet purposefully blocks out entire days in his diary so he can sit and think, deeming this a key part of his success, and Charles Darwin was a fan of heading off on long walks to clear his mind after spending the morning writing.
Instead of having lunch at your desk every day, get outside and go on a walk. Or, if you’ve been jumping from task to task all day, how about a game of ping pong with your colleagues? Table games like ping pong have been embraced by more innovative companies as a great way of helping employees to take short, reinvigorating breaks.
Don’t chastise yourself for spending ten, fifteen minutes chatting with your colleagues or for going on short coffee breaks. In the long run, you’ll be more productive and feel less stressed as a result.
Plenty of ‘go-getter’ types like to trod out common sayings like “I can sleep when I’m dead” as they justify their gruelling habit of getting five hours of sleep per night. This shouldn’t be seen as admirable; in fact, it’s highly dangerous.
Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, has dedicated his career to looking at the importance of sleep. And, as it turns out, our society’s attitude towards sleep deprivation is akin to its attitude fifty years ago towards smoking. The evidence is there, we’re just ignoring it.
As he puts it: “Sleep is the Swiss army knife of health. When sleep is deficient, there is sickness and disease. And when sleep is abundant, there is vitality and health.” He even claimed that loss of sleep costs the UK economy 2% of its annual GDP, a whopping £30+ billion last year.
One of the best things you can do for your mental health is aiming for eight hours of sleep each night. This way, you can be sure that you’ve gone through all the different sleep cycles, which is key in ensuring physical and mental wellbeing.
Blue light from electronic devices delays the onset of melatonin – a key hormone that induces sleep – so we recommend switching off from all screens at least half an hour before bed (though preferably over an hour before you actually go to sleep). In contrast, reading in bed is great at helping you get to sleep, so try and work that into your evening routine.
There’s nothing worse than waking up in the morning and realising that you’re underslept. If this is how you start your day, it can only go downhill from there. Prioritise sleep and you’ll be giving yourself the best chance at maintaining your mental health – no matter what you have to tackle that day.
Healthy body, healthy mind. Exercise is a great way to get some fresh air, take your mind off any frustrations you might have or to socialise with like-minded people.
When you exercise, your body produces endorphins. These ‘feel good’ hormones have an analgesic (painkilling) property to them – which is why you might have heard of the ‘runner’s high’ – and means that intense periods of exercise are usually followed by long states of relaxation
In fact, research from Harvard has even gone as far as suggesting that exercise could be as effective at helping depression as clinically-prescribed drugs. Exercise can also a great way of allowing yourself some ‘me’ time where you can just switch off from your day-to-day worries.
Lastly, remember – if you’re having a tough time, then talk about it. As the old adage goes, “A problem shared is a problem halved”.
The days of having a “stiff upper lip” are well and truly gone. If you’re feeling down, the worst thing you can do is bottle it all up. Rather than dealing with the problem, this just makes you feel even worse.
Instead, try and pluck up the courage to share your true feelings with your friends or family, and encourage those around you to do the same if they’re ever not quite feeling themselves.
There you have it! We hope you found our recommendations useful and that they’ve given you some great pointers on how to stay mentally sound.
Before you go, here are some of the top apps, podcasts, books and playlists that the Scale Space team use to keep their cool.
Headspace – to help you with guided meditation
Sleep cycle – analyses your sleep and wakes you up at the appropriate time in your sleep cycle
ForestApp – helps you to put your phone down and stay in the moment
Penzu – a personal journal so you can jot down your innermost thoughts
Happy Place – presented by Ferne Cotton, it featured candid conversations about how people manage their own mental wellbeing.
The Minimalists – two authors discuss how to improve your life by focussing on what really matters to you.
The Hilarious World of Depression – comedians discuss their own personal experiences with depression (adding a touch of brevity, of course!).
Our recommended books:
Mad Girl – Bryony Gordon’s hilarious look at living life with OCD
The Little Book of Mindfulness – Patrizia Collard’s bitesized tips to help you improve your mindfulness right away.
The Upside of Stress – psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s reminder that in some cases stress can be good for you – though obviously not too much!
And our recommended playlists:
- Mood Booster on Spotify
- Energy Boost on Spotify
- The stress buster on Spotify
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