For some, the slower pace during the holidays is a chance to recover from stress, fatigue and physical exhaustion. For others, it’s a time to relax with family and friends, and to find personal time that can be hard to fit in at other times of the year.
But what can you do when the holidays are over?
Maintaining mental well-being on an ongoing basis begins with everyday habits. We recently reviewed a number of mental health smartphone apps that will give you some tools you can use. Here are five science-backed tips to incorporate into your everyday routine.
1. Diet Really Does Matter
Research from the UK’s Mental Health Foundation shows that good nutrition is essential when it comes to good mental health.
They’ve also found that diet is increasingly linked to the development, management and prevention of specific mental health conditions like depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
While the Foundation provides some great advice for healthy changes to your lifestyle, here are three habits for you to consider:
- Drink lots of fluid. “The early effects of even mild dehydration can affect our feelings and behaviour,” the Foundation says.
- Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Frozen vegetables are OK, too — whichever is most budget friendly. The important thing is that they haven’t been processed.
- Eat a variety of food. The body needs many different micronutrients, and choosing different foods within each food group makes it more likely your body will get what it needs.
Want more guidance about good nutrition? Download or order a free copy of Canada’s Food Guide.
2. Get 30 Minutes of Exercise, Five Times a Week
Research increasingly shows that regular exercise has an impact on our mental well-being. It’s been shown to have a positive impact on mild depression, reducing anxiety, anger management, and other aspects of our mood and attitude.
Plus, it’s not just the exercise that has a positive impact; planning to exercise adds structure to your day — another factor that can help relieve stress.
How much exercise do you need to get? “You should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week,” suggests the Mental Health Foundation. They describe moderate exercise as enough to leave you breathing heavy, but not out of breath, and enough to warm you up, but not necessarily sweaty.
3. You Probably Need More Sleep Than You Get
Staying up late or getting up early seems an easy choice when we feel we don’t have enough time in the day. However, by cutting back on sleep, we may actually be cutting ourselves short.
An article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter about sleep and mental health describes two types of deep sleep:
- Quiet sleep which, at its deepest stage, helps our body boost immune system functioning, and
- REM sleep which, in complex ways, “enhances learning and memory, and contributes to emotional health.”
Fewer hours of sleep mean fewer cycles of both quiet and REM sleep, which impacts our body and mind’s ability to recover from the day and strengthen themselves.
How much sleep do you actually need? While the Mayo Clinic says we need fewer hours of sleep as we age, the average adult should have between seven and nine hours of sleep a night. However, a National Health Interview Survey found that nearly 30 percent of adults get fewer than six hours of sleep a night.
4. Figure Out What Personal Time Means To You
In their Mental Health for All fact sheet, the Canadian Mental Health Association underlines one theme: What creates balance in your life is unique to you.
For some people, making time for exercise and eating right will help them feel more in control. Other people get a sense of fulfillment by volunteering, reflecting in a journal, or scheduling regular time for friends and hobbies.
Whatever “taking a break” looks like to you, prioritize that time on a regular basis. This personal time will help you maintain your sense of well-being as well as your resilience to deal with the variety of situations life can throw at you.
5. Get Professional Help
It’s OK to need help. In fact, sometimes asking for professional help isn’t just the best thing you can do, it’s the only way you’ll get the support you need.
Often people ignore or downplay symptoms of mental health issues because they don’t think it’s serious or because of the stigma around those issues — even though there are effective treatments available, whether those strategies include medications or coping skills.
If you’re concerned about the mental well-being of yourself or a loved one, please contact us. We can answer your questions and provide you with helpful information and guidance.