We all know good mental health is important - but how do we achieve it?

14 September 2021
In these challenging COVID times, it is harder than even before to look after our mental health. So, we Ask Amy our Telehealth Nurse, what her tips are for improving and maintaining good mental health, now and into the future.

By Amy Seeary

The 9th of September was R U OK? Day - a day where we are encouraged to check in with others to find out if they are ok. This year’s theme highlighted that there is a lot more to say beyond the question ‘R U OK?’, that it was important to have broader conversations about mental health and wellbeing. 

The team at CPSN reflected on the importance of checking in with others, but we also discussed the importance of checking in with ourselves. I have always believed this is one of the key actions for good mental health.

I recently read a report that stated parents of children with additional needs are more likely to be self-critical and less likely to practice self-care. It is also known that children with a disability have increased rates of mental illness, and adults with a disability even higher rates. 

I am a big advocate for self-care and particularly for self-compassion. Here are my top tops for achieving and maintaining good mental health in these challenging times;

1.    Make mental health a priority
It is certainly important to look after our physical health with diet and exercise, we learn this from an early age, but making good mental health a priority is something that has only been spoken about more recently. Of course the two are intertwined, good physical health is likely to lead to improved mental health and good mental health will lead to improved physical health. Just thinking about our mental health and how we can improve it is a step towards prioritising it. 

2.    Have a self-care plan
Self-care is very individual, reflect on what self-care looks like for you and make a plan to keep up with it as much as us possible within your day to day life. It might be getting out for a walk, sitting outside in the fresh air, taking time to meditate or participate in an activity that you enjoy. 

3.    Self- compassion
I am a big believer in the importance of self-compassion. Self-compassion is treating ourselves with the same care and compassion we do our friends and family. We often reach out to others with kindness and support them through difficult times in a caring and compassionate manner. When it comes to getting through difficult times ourselves, we are often ‘critical’ and our inner voice can tell us to ‘be better’ or ‘do better’. Self-compassion acknowledges this and encourages us to acknowledge our stress or suffering and respond to it like we would with others, with kindness and care. Self-compassion has been found to improve mental health and overall wellbeing.
Here is a good introduction to self-compassion.

4.    Reach out for help
This might be reaching out to a friend or family member or it could be seeking out a professional. I have seen several psychologists throughout my adult life and sometimes it takes a few to get the ‘right fit’. Support can be in the form of psychological help from your GP, a psychologist or nurse or any other health professional you are in contact with or it could be asking for help with daily life. Could help from family, friends, support workers or other professionals help you to have some time to yourself. 

5.    Practice gratitude
This isn’t always as easy as it sounds but if you can reflect on the things you are grateful for in life, no matter how small this can make a big difference to your mental health. Practicing this has been shown to improve mental health significantly. 

Young women seated and having a hot drink while looking out the window

6.    Be mindful
Mindfulness is not for everyone, but mindfulness can also be practiced in many different ways - from mindfulness meditation, right through to being mindful when you are out walking, mindful colouring and even mindful eating. Mindfulness is essentially being in the moment and letting thoughts of the past or future pass by. Apps like Calm, Headspace or Smiling Mind can be a great way to start out. Mindfulness can be an excellent tool for helping children maintain mental health also. 

Amy Seeary is CPSN’s Telehealth Nurse. If you have any questions for Amy, or would like to book a Telehealth appointment, you can contact her on 9478 1001 or email cpsn@cpsn.org.au 

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