Keeping Mentally and Physically Fit

Written by Dr M Manjula, Professor of Clinical Psychology

Ten tips to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Taking care of your mental health is as essential as staying physically fit

Mental and emotional health is an essential part of your overall health and wellbeing. Managing emotions and maintaining emotional balance is an important skill. When you manage your emotional health, it helps you face challenges and stress. Lack of emotional regulation skills can lead to poor mental health and difficulty in relationships.

It is as essential to care for your mental health as it is to care for your physical health. A few activities you can follow for your mental health are:

1. Take care of your physical health

You can stay healthy by eating well, getting adequate rest and exercise. Eating fresh foods rich in vitamin B-12 and Omega 3 fatty acids keep up levels of mood-regulating chemicals in the brain. Getting enough rest for your body helps to heal its daily wear and tear, while lack of sleep can make you feel tired, stressed and cranky.

2. Get fresh air and exposure to sunlight  

A study has shown that exposure to sunlight increases the production of serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood in the brain.

3. Take care of yourself

Investing time in self-care contributes to your mental and emotional wellbeing. Set time aside for yourself; attend to your own emotional needs; read a book; pamper yourself. You could learn to use aspects of mindfulness to relax. Take up yoga or another form of relaxation exercise.  Be non-judgement and cultivate a positive attitude for life. 

4. Spend time with people whose company you enjoy

Spending time with people you love and get along with gives you a sense of being valued and appreciated. Having healthy relationships with your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours can increase your sense of emotional wellbeing and give you a feeling of connectedness. Have lunch with a colleague, or make plans to meet a friend you haven’t spent time with in a while. Spending quality time with someone in person — if this is an option — is often better than using technology to connect with them.

5. Pursue a hobby, or a new activity

Participating in activities that you enjoy helps you stay engaged and in turn, happy. Picking up a new skill challenges you, increases your concentration levels and makes you feel good about learning something new. It also increases your confidence in being able to face new situations, challenges and people.

6. Manage your stress

You, just like everyone else, will have certain triggers that cause you stress. You can try to avoid a stressful situation, but when you don’t have a choice but to face the event or person that causes you stress, you need to find a way to cope with it. “If you know you get stressed by an exam, you must learn how to put exams in perspective and not let them become life-defining events for you, because your exams are something you will just have to face. In some cases, avoiding stress-generating situations may work, but you must be able to differentiate between when you can avoid them and when you cannot. So find your strategy to manage your stress so that you can take better care of yourself. This could include talking to a friend, believing in yourself, reappraising and reinterpreting your situation.

7. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and boundaries 

Acknowledge your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Accepting that you have some weaknesses just like everyone else is a key to your mental and emotional wellbeing. Set realistic goals and consciously choose to participate in activities and surround yourself with people who further your goal rather than distract you.

8. Practice gratitude

When you practice gratitude for what you have, it can take away focus from what you don’t. Studies show that being grateful for what you have helps you stay optimistic about your future and boosts your mental health.

9. Express yourself

Poorly managed or unregulated emotions can be harmful to your mental health. You may shy away from expressing emotions or feelings that you think are ‘negative.’ Being able to express what you’re feeling, what you like or don’t like, can help you de-clutter your mind. Suppressing emotions is believed to lead to depression or anxiety disorders. Every emotion is important and essential. What makes it healthy or unhealthy is the intensity of the experience, and how it was expressed (too much or too little), the appropriateness of the expression and the frequency of the emotion occurring.

10. Ask for help when you feel overwhelmed

When you feel sad, challenged, frustrated, confused, angry, or just simply overwhelmed and unable to cope, speak to someone you trust – a spouse, friend, parent, sibling or relative. If you think you need even more support, reach out to a physician or counsellor. The earlier you reach out, the better.