Tips To Help Keep The Black Dog At Bay

With mental health at the forefront of social media as we have lost yet another person far too young to suicide I thought I would write a few words, offer some stats and offer some advice.

In the UK it is reported that around 1 in 4 of us at any time have an issue with anxiety and/or depression. In 2018 6,507 people in the UK took their own lives, three quarters of those were men.

With our lives becoming ever more sedentary as we hurtle through the 4th industrial revolution and technology further taking over manual labour we are moving less. Pubs and social venues are disappearing, shop cashiers are being replaced with self service checkouts and with social media ever present we are losing our social interaction. Lives get busier, we survive ever more on cheap convenient processed food, news gets grimmer, it’s no wonder poor mental health is on the rise.

We need to take action, there needs to be a shift in culture and the stigma needs to drop, that however is going to take time. With one in six people having considered taking their own life at some point we don’t have time, we therefore need to learn coping strategies to help ourselves and others.

Get Moving

An increased heart rate and breathlessness starts to change the chemicals racing around our bodies, endorphins race around and change the chemical balance. I’m no medical expert but I have experienced it myself and so has probably any runner I’ve ever spoken to. Try it, go for a run, get out of breath and sweaty and try and be angry, sad or in a generally bad mood, it’s near on impossible!

There’s something very primal about running, especially in a group, a pack, chasing down the next meal or running from a predator. The rhythmical nature sets you in a trance, blood is taken from your brain, your thoughts subside and you focus on your breathing. For me there is nothing better.

Banish the negativity

To keep your mind healthy you must remove yourself from negative situations and people. The news is just purely negative, have a glimpse get a feel what’s going on but balance it with good news. 

People are where the real issues come and hard decisions need to be made, jealousy is rife especially if you post on social media, many people do not like seeing others succeed and will do their hardest to put you down. Remove yourself from the situation, either stop posting or remove them not just from social media but maybe even your life too. You get to live this life once, it’s not a dress rehearsal, even if that person is a spouse, sibling, parent, friend think long and hard. I’ve had to make one of those very hard decisions and no longer speak with one of my parents. I don’t want to forever hear the past being dragged up, to have nasty comments made about me to others or to have no interest shown in anything I do. Yes it’s hard but I’m at peace with it now and life is moving on.

Eat well

Try to eat healthy when you can, test different foods by cutting them out and see how they affect you. I gave up dairy, saw my IBS disappear, bloating disappear and my mood lift. It might not be the same for you, we all have billions of gut microbes that are different in each and every one of us, you have to experiment. Food is changing so much, meat, dairy and eggs are  full of antibiotics, produce is fast grown and ingredients changed in ready meals to increase profit over human health. Where you can I suggest plant based whole foods, seeds, nuts etc. OK I’m not always fantastic at this and will have the odd Big Mac, we don’t need to be perfect, just make small improvements.  

Sleep well

Sleep is so important to your mental health, do everything you can to get a good nights sleep. Try and stay away from screens an hour before bed time, still not got this right myself though! Ensure you have a comfy mattress and pillows. Keep the temperature low, the body temperature drops when you sleep, save some energy too. Stay away from caffeine after midday and try some herbal teas.

Work well, work smart

If we are lucky enough (or not) or well enough to work then we spend most of our time there, even at just standard hours. Firstly make sure you are in the right job, think about what kind of person you are, a test such as the Myers Briggs can help, there are many free personality tests online. Are you a thinker or a feeler, a leader or a follower, what kind of work do you like, what environments suit you best? Working in the wrong environment can be very draining. 

Take regular breaks, walk to the furthest loo, get away from that screen if you’re office bound. Try and get some fresh air during the day, taking 20 minutes to walk around the block can make you so much more productive and you will easily make up that time. 

Trial and error

Like I have mentioned, I’m no expert and am only qualified through my own personal experience, we are all different. I hope though that some of these tips will really help you or start you off thinking differently. Change is hard though, don’t be hard on yourself, just make little changes, just try to improve one thing at a time, too many plates spinning and you will make matters worse.

Good luck out there, look out for each other.

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