The busy Christmas rush has passed, and the much-needed break has been a blessing. With a new year comes new intentions, new challenges and a fresh perspective. It’s a time to refocus, realign and consider future priorities. You might have big ideas for business in 2022 but it’s important to prioritise your mental health during this time, too. Without taking care of the mental, we can’t thrive in the work we do and support colleagues around us. If mental health practices are new to you, make 2022 the year you prioritise your wellbeing, and see if you notice any changes in the various parts of your life.
Better mental health begins with a proactive approach to wellbeing. But remember to be kind to yourself throughout the ups and downs of life. Look out for signs that your mental health has taken a knock and reach out to others if you feel like you need support.
START WITH YOUR PHYSICAL WELLBEING
The mind-body connection is real. Keeping active, eating well and getting enough sleep all influence our mental health. When we feel healthy in the body, it translates to a happy mind. Setting and accomplishing physical health goals such as implementing and sticking to an exercise regime, cutting down on alcohol consumption or competing in a sport also boosts self-esteem and adds another facet to our lives. On a different note, addressing any health issues as soon as they arise should always be a priority – don’t put it off.
MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE
Self-care is the practice of tending to your body’s needs. Those needs are always there, no matter how busy life might get. Self-care protects against mental and physical health problems, and it also prevents existing conditions from worsening. Really, selfcare can be thought of as a way of “owning” your health. It’s a way to create a happier, healthier and more balanced life starting from where you’re at right now, no matter what has happened previously. It could be spending time in nature, writing down your feelings or a soothing, hot bath when your stress triggers are running on overtime – whatever helps you decompress, find perspective and reset. When you can carve out this time to give to yourself, you’ll be able to give to others more effectively, be it in clinic or in in your personal life.
CREATE A WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Thoughts of chores, jobs and plans that need taking care of have the potential to cloud the mind, especially while at work. They take attention from the task at hand and can trigger overwhelm about what lies ahead. Juggling work and life can be a struggle, but it is possible with acceptance. Things won’t always be plain sailing; there will be days where schedules clash, people let you down or you simply run out of time to get everything done. That’s just part of life. When we can let go of perfect ideals and become more accepting of the unexpected, we find calm amid chaos. There’s a release of tension and a sense of ease and freedom that comes through accepting that whatever comes up each day, that’s the way it is.
FIND AN OUTLET FOR YOUR EMOTIONS
You can only take on so much; it’s no surprise that excessive stress and overwhelming emotions can leave you feeling burnt out, drained and exhausted. However, finding a way to release these emotions and diffuse the energy behind them can be liberating. Activities that involve your hands will help to bring your attention into the now. It might take time to figure out what works for you, but gardening, painting, running, cooking or cleaning are all good ways to help you find breathing space from pressing worries and thoughts. When you find an outlet for difficult emotions, you’ll feel lighter and more prepared to take on your day without carrying that heavy weight with you everywhere you go.
Anxiety, worry and regret often arise due to rumination about the past or anticipation about the future. Mindfulness, however, involves bringing your attention to the present moment. In the present, you can begin to relax and experience life. This helps to take energy away from intrusive thoughts and difficult emotions. All you have to do is bring your awareness to the sights, sounds, feelings and emotions you’re experiencing. It helps release you from the grips of worry and allows you to handle the waves of changing emotions when they occur.
Nick Babington is sales director of Health Assured, where he leads the growth of the Employee Assistance Programme. His main objective is to drive workplace wellbeing with industry-leading employee support.