As the COVID-19 lock-down evolves, and none of us have any certainty about when life will return to normal, it’s vital that we focus on what we can control: our proactivity and habits toward our wellbeing.
Typically, one of the most overlooked aspects of our overall wellbeing is our mental health. Unfortunately, stigma and misunderstanding prevent many people from taking an active interest in their mental wellbeing, while the practical tools and strategies to take action aren’t relevant, engaging or accessible to many people. So we put it off.
At Resilience Agenda, we believe that good Mental Health is something to strive for at all times. We all have mental health, and it’s not just something to think about during crisis situations or when bad things are happening. That’s why we want to change the entire perception of mental health – so that it’s something we work on daily, and so that it’s proactive, preventative and positive.
Because mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness.
With that in mind we wanted to share with you our Five Pillars of Mental Fitness. Mental Fitness is the idea that we can work on our mental health just like our physical health – using similar mindsets, approaches and methods.
These five pillars are the building blocks of good mental health and wellbeing. Understanding this collection of ideas and strategies for building the habits and routines of Mental Fitness now should not only help you get through isolation and staying at home, but become a platform for building your resilience and fitness when life does get back to normal.
Here they are:
Almost everyone has heard the benefits that stem from regular physical exercise. But for some people, the habits and routines of exercise still aren’t a daily reality. That’s why we prefer the term movement, because staying energetic and productive throughout the day is possible even if we don’t spend 45 minutes sweating it up at the gym.
The feeling of a runner’s high is there for anyone who does more than 20 minutes of moderate exercise each day, just enough to get our lungs pumping and feeling a little short of breath. On a smaller scale, movement can also mean getting up regularly from our desks to get a drink, any kind of stretching or yoga, or even dancing around the house to a YouTube video. Whatever works – as long as we aren’t sitting all day.
Even though it’s tough during isolation, that’s inspiring because according to Stanford University professor Kelly McGonigal, movement can bring us hope, meaning and connection. We just might have to improvise a bit given the sudden change to our routines.
Make it Happen:
Many people intuitively understand the connection between what they eat and their physical health. However, many people don’t fully recognise the impact of what they eat on how they feel, their moods and their mental health.
Recent research is beginning to show the impact that high levels of sugar (in soft drinks and pre-made juices especially), high levels of processed food and high levels of salt can impair concentration, make us feel sluggish, and send our energy levels up and down throughout the day.
Even more, incidence of depression is higher for people who eat a ‘typical western diet’ rather than a less processed diet such as the Mediterranean diet (high in healthy oils and fresh produce) or a Japanese diet (high in sea-food and low in red meat).
With more of us at home and tempted to snack or eat more, it’s important we set up great habits to ensure that we are taking the best care of ourselves.
Make it Happen:
“The best bridge between hope and despair is a good night’s sleep.” Matthew Walker
Sleep is only just starting to be recognised for what it is: possibly the single most effective thing we can do each day to re-charge and revitalise our mood, immune system and physical and emotional health. Unfortunately, many of us prioritise it last, after everything else that has to get done, even if those things aren’t actually important.
According to Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep, this isn’t sensible given sleep’s healing properties and its ability to improve our concentration, decision making and judgement. For example, just one week of poor sleep is enough to raise our blood sugar levels to the pre-diabetic range. Some studies have even equated excessive tiredness with the equivalent of a high Blood Alcohol level.
Make it Happen:
We need interaction with people to be happy, fulfilled and effective. It’s that simple.
Going to work, chatting to strangers, paying for our daily coffee – there are so many social interactions in our regular lives that we just take for granted. Now that many of us are staying at home, it’s important that we be proactive with making human connections with people.
Make it Happen:
The way we choose to think, the approach we take to solving problems, and even our belief in our own ability to change, impact the world and improve our lives is our mindset. In other words, our mindset is the lens or filter through which we see the world and which we interpret what happens to us. By the same token, our mindset is the attitude we take towards our impact on the world around us and how proactive and persistent we are.
For example, some people might believe they have to work from home, while another person might believe that they get to work from home. It’s all a matter of perspective and mindset. And very often, we can change our perspective, if only we ask ourselves the right questions and take the time to really question what it is we believe.
Mindset is about understanding that the way we think isn’t inevitable, and that changing our mindset is an ongoing skill that can be learnt. Over time we can choose our mindset.
Make it Happen:
So that’s it for now. In part two, we’ll go a bit deeper and outline the Five Elements of the Mental Fitness Framework for taking your mindset and resilience to the next level – Optimism, Mindfulness, Gratitude, Re-framing and Perspective.
Until then, stay safe, stay at home, and take care.
Founder & Managing Director