Focus & self care is the best way to improve mental health.
Let me explain how… 🙂
With the advent of Covid19 being an ongoing crisis we are all experiencing a change in our lives – it is now the ‘new normal’. In amongst all of this, our children and elders are facing a new way of learning and a new way of life. Social media has become even more invasive than before, in my opinion, some cope better than others – some are experiencing extreme anxiety/ depression/ job loss/ failure.
What is the definition of Mental Health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. Taken from the following article which was incredibly informative: About Mental Health.
Let’s be honest (why not?) the stigma of mental health is still very much alive – yes there are small improvements. People in general are more accepting but I think there still needs to be a lot to be done before huge improvements will be seen.
I did a ‘deep dive’ into the internet and I was amazed at two things: 1) how badly women were treated and terribly stigmatized and 2) how far they have come. So the next section is dedicated to all my women out there – yes you I ‘see you’. This part wasn’t included originally in my post because it was too sad but then I saw the rainbow and the glimmer of hope in our society and thought it might make you smile a little when reading it.
Women and Mental Health
How to start? Where to start? There have been so many examples of the stigma clinging around women and mental health. This is a list of what was originally thought of as mental instability/ poor mental hygiene (1837 – 1901) these people were thought to be demonic, different and possessed (hello life in general):
- Period related annoyance
- Pregnancy-related bitterness
- Post-birth anxiety indications
- Ongoing exhaustion condition
At the time any women who exhibited these conditions were defined as ‘insane‘ and put away in organizations (like a correctional facility) that controlled them. These women had no rights. Any non-compliance was met with adverse consequences and in some cases extreme punishment. Reading this for me is so upsetting – what the actual hell is wrong with people? This! This is where the negativity perpetuated. Not only leading to stigmatization of women but anyone exhibiting any of these conditions!
Oh wait – how to improve mental health – have a baby 🙁 said no one ever but how many times have we been asked ‘when are you guys starting a family’? The irony eats at me!
There have been some reports of women being brutally punished, fastened to theirs beds and left to survive in foul conditions. These women were considered to be crazy and evil.
So much has happened since the Victorian era; most importantly I think the advent of antipsychotic drugs which are coming out rapidly to improve mental health. It was also then that drugs like Lithium was a good discovery for people exhibiting signs of bipolar disorder and anti-psychotic drugs were used for the treatment of patients with schizophrenia. One has to bare in mind that these medications/ treatments are not a cure for mental health they can almost be described as a ‘stop gap’.
Today people with psychological instabilities have rights – thank goodness for sanity! My question to you is do you you think the stigma has decreased? I know many people are daily working on how to improve their mental health – because it needs to be done daily – but how do you feel? HOW ARE YOU TODAY? HOW ARE YOU NOW? Do you admit to having mental health issues? Do people talk about it enough? Are you working on ways to improve mental health?
How does Self Care impact Mental Health (2022)
Before going into details about self care and mental health I would like to explore mental health in 2022 and what we know now. Since Covid19 and countries going into ‘lockdown’ there has been an increase in mental health ‘issues’. In fact the prevalence of depression in South Africa alone, has doubled from 2017 to 2020. Factors such as the economic situation, home schooling, and the spread of disease have all contributed to this increase. Mental Health can be broken into many different facets here are 7 of them:
|MENTAL HEALTH CONCERN||OUTCOME/ EXHIBITS AS|
|MOOD DISORDER||DEPRESSION/ BIPOLAR DISORDER|
|ANXIETY DISORDERS||SEEN INCREASING IN OUR GEN X|
|EATING DISORDERS||BULLEMIA/ OBESITY|
|TRAUMA RELATED||POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER|
|SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDER||DRUGS/ ALCOHOL ADDICTION|
In general this increase is related to people feeling more anxious, lonely, worried and depressed due to issues related to the virus, finances, relationship problems, job security, grief, gender based violence and trauma. This pandemic has been equated to a trauma.
Self Care has been defined as anything that is nourishing to you
Self care can therefore be described as an unselfish act that, can be relaxing or calming but can also be spiritual or physical. Today in 2022, the act of self care has become even more valuable as it has been shown to improve mental health.
Self Care Tips
Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact and improve mental health.
Here are some tips to help you get started with self-care:
- Exercise regularly – this can be every day but if you can manage about 150 minutes a week it will help significantly
- A balanced diet goes a long way – drink water (to stay hydrated)
- Make sleep a priority – aim for 7 to 9 hours a night and see if this changes your life
- Meditation/ some relaxing activity (journaling for example can be relaxing)
- Learn to make lists with priorities – very importantly learn to say ‘no’ I know this is a tough one but the sooner you do it the better
- Practice gratitude – with everyone ‘bad’ or negative going on around us that we are exposed to on a daily basis it is so easy to forget how much we actually have. Be mindful. Look around you. Be appreciative of what you have.
- Try and be positive – again a hard one, especially when we are exposed to so much negativity. For every negative thought try and change it into a positive one!
- Stay in touch – stay connected with friends and family. Covid-life has damaged relationships and cost many lives. But we need to cherish the ones that we have left whether they be family/ friends. Reach out. Stay in touch.
- Find out what works for you – could be listening to music, having a long relaxing pampering bath, gardening, walking along the beach, makeup before work, massages, nail treatments etc.
Self Care Sunday
Life as we know it has now given us (in South Africa) Sundays for days whereby we pamper ourselves (DIY days). These days are no longer ‘South African braai days’ where people get together and socialize. Due to the restrictions on social activities, we now dedicate this day to ourselves and find ways to relax and regenerate, focusing on ourselves and our immediate family. Lots of people now do DIY masks/ yoga/ gardening/ take long relaxing baths/ walks, binge watching series but generally listening to the needs of our bodies and mind. I think the general aim is to find ways to improve mental health for the week ahead.
Self care tip – if you are looking for a bath/ body range don’t forget all the gorgeousness at Glamore Cosmetics. They have just imported a bath and body care range called Dairy Fun! What I love most about this range is that it is cruelty free and vegan friendly fitting well into our brand ethos – you can read about all of that here! I also love that it is a range smelling mostly of fruits and berries as these have been shown to relax and awaken our senses simultaneously leaving our bodies relaxed but our minds more awake.
More about the Dairy Fun Range
All the different scents in the Dairy Fun range are dedicated to nourishing our bodies as well as uplifting our senses. For instance some of their products have the popular Acerola ingredient which is the natural version of Vitamin C. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system as well as building and restoring fibroblasts which produce collagen. Vitamin C is known to be an effective antioxidant. The antioxidative qualities of acerola make it an ideal ingredient in skin care products to fight cellular aging.
Other products contain Allantoin. Extracted from the root of the comfrey plant, Allantoin is a non-irritating ingredient that soothes and protects the skin. With the ability to help heal the skin and stimulate the growth of new tissue, it’s a great all-rounder for keeping skin at the top of its game. This ingredient really does so much. Exfoliating. Moisturizing. Hydrating. Anti-aging.
And then something which interested me was the use of Avocado Oil. The natural oils in avocados can deeply penetrate the skin to nourish, soften and hydrate – perhaps reducing fine lines and wrinkles. These oils have also been linked with helping keep skin smooth and boost skin’s immunity against stress and other environmental factors.
A picture speaks 1000 words and I really do love this one from Shannin – thank you for sharing this with us! It screams freshness, fruits and enjoyment as well as happiness, sunshine and relaxing.
Improving Mental Health Is Important!
Mental Health problems can have dire outcomes such as suicide which is on the increase in the Gen X generation. For me this is why if you have a Mental Health issue you need to 1) communicate – tell someone, 2) try get some form of support (whether it is therapy or medication) and most importantly implement some form of self care (such as exercise or any form of pampering). Mental health is not your fault BUT you can improve it and more importantly you can treat people with kindness, love and respect.
I think that is the ‘thing’ with people, we all wear ‘masks’ we say we ‘fine’ when in reality we are struggling and can’t talk about it. Where to start? ‘Hey my life is ugly how about yours?’ So my point here is be kind, thoughtful because we don’t really know what people are going through – have patience and try and be supportive.
We did a poll on our Instagram stories a while ago and we found that many people enjoy doing their makeup as a form of self care. Shannin is a firm believer of this as she says it allows her to escape and improve mental health. These are my very favorite photos of her I love the colors (blue lashes!!!) and they make me happy – I hope they make you smile as well 🙂
How can Makeup Improve Mental Health?
Whether it be a skincare, haircare or a makeup routine it can be something soothing and relaxing and ultimately it can improve mental health. Make YOU a priority at least once a day – let it be a calming, fun and a healing experience. If you look good – you will feel good right? Looking good builds self confidence and in this way reduces stress, anxiety and depression.
The value of makeup became incredibly obvious to me during lockdown and also with the advent of masks. Many people stopped using makeup which led to anxiety and depression. This is because having a makeup/ skincare routine gives one control over something small and you feel accomplished in yourself. Head on over to this post on skincare to see our recommendations.
I remember watching a video from Lewis Howes and he said start every day with something you can do – from start to finish. He gave the example of making your bed. Lewis Howes is an amazing motivational speaker he is worth listening to for some ideas on how to improve mental health. My example of this is doing your makeup/ having a skincare routine. It can be simple and basic or it can be ‘more is more’ – but either way the act is doing something for you and by increasing your self esteem, self love, self care, self expression you can reduce anxiety and depression.
This time is ‘me time’ it is intentional and focuses only on you – becoming a daily ritual which is peaceful and calming. Almost meditative. Being mindful in that moment takes your mind off all the surrounding negative stresses of daily life giving you control over something (like yourself) and can improve mental health. This time reminds you that you matter and with consistent self care you will learn to feel 1) confident as well as 2) value yourself.
So armed with fresh healthy looking skin and gorgeous makeup you know that no matter what comes your way you can deal with it! No, it is not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s ok to put your needs first at times, and you should not feel guilty about it. If a beauty routine makes you feel good, balanced, restored, more confident, then it is helping improve your emotional and mental health. It’s not frivolous, or self-indulgent, but rather it is quite necessary.
According to the World Health Organization: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds.
Mental Health and Parenting in the New Normal
As mentioned suicide is the 2nd highest cause of death among the ages of 15 and 29. This is a very personal subject for me and I want to make it clear – there is NOTHING WORSE than having a suicidal child. Or experiencing a suicide or even knowing about a child that committed suicide. NOTHING! As parents we feel helpless, angry, we feel like we have failed our children, sad and incredibly depressed. The thought that the risk of suicide is increasing is devastating to me!
I have been a parent for 26 years and for the first time ever I don’t know what to say or even how to go forward! There are days when no matter what I say it is wrong and if I don’t say anything – that is wrong too. So I am learning for the moment to have a ‘watch and see’ attitude. I am encouraging exercise, self care and spending time with friends and family. I am desperately encouraging less screen time but I have to admit this isn’t working for me right now.
If you are reading this and feeling even slightly suicidal/ depressed or know of someone who has suicidal tendencies please reach out to the SA suicide hotlines – this is the link. You are not alone. There are many well trained people who can and will help you, just reach out! You can improve mental health using the self care tips above but sometimes getting professional help is crucial.
As a parent it is extremely difficult living and navigating in this new ‘normal’ as they now call it. We have no experiences in the new normal as we have not lived it yet so how do we raise our children? Screen time is an enormous factor because we can’t control it. And everything happens on their phones/ iPad etc. Cyber bullying affects so many of our children today that I don’t think we even know about it. They don’t talk to us or tell us what is happening – it just happens.
So as we learn so do they learn and I presume we navigate the new normal together. Maybe every one of us should be in some sort of mandatory therapy right now?
I recently watched ‘13 Reasons Why‘ on Netflix. I didn’t finish it as I found it completely heart breaking. However, it certainly did open my eyes – and it made me realize that we need to be more vigilant with our children. Spend time with them. Just be together. Try communicate. Eat together as a family.
The way forward
As far as I can tell Covid19 is part of our lives – just like the flu/ cancer, it is here to stay and we have to find a way forward. I know it has been extremely tough for many of us – some have experienced loss of jobs, friendships, family and friends have passed away, the world is a completely different place. Some of us have been affected in other ways and need support.
I by no means have the answers. It is all like an experiment now to see what works best for us. Try something and see if you like it – see if it improves your mental health. If you like it and it helps you to be more mindful/ calm and relaxed (and less stressed) do it as often as you can. If it doesn’t work keep looking – there is something out there for everyone!
Parents as Role Models
No matter the situation or age of our children we as parents will always be their role models. Our influence starts when they are little, when we show them how to share/ help them walk & talk or encourage them to go on play dates/ sleep overs. As they get older our role changes, yes but we are still the parents and we still influence our children – even if we are bad role models we still influence them.
Reading up on parents (or ‘rents’ as we are often called) I found some discrepancies in our behavior – so we say to our children x but we do y. We are sending them mixed messages and if our message is unhealthy then what is stopping our children from following that behavior. Here are some examples, let me know if you can relate to any of them:
- A mother tells the cashier at a movie that her 11-year-old son is actually 13 so she can get him in to watch the movie. Her son learns it’s OK to lie sometimes to get what you want.
- A father spends his evenings watching television, but tells his 14-year-old daughter she should read more.
- Parents tell their kids to treat everyone with respect. Yet, they often make critical comments about other people behind their backs.
- A couple argues frequently in front of the children, but they expect their kids to get along with one another.
- A father tells his kids that they should eat healthily, but he sneaks dessert after they go to bed.
- Parents tell their kids to share and be generous with what they have, yet they never make donations or get involved in any sort of charity or volunteer work.
- A father smokes cigarettes. While he has a cigarette in his hand, he tells his kids that smoking is unhealthy and that they should never pick up the habit.
- Parents tell their kids to take responsibility for their behavior and their choices. Yet, when they forget about their child’s dentist appointment, they argue with the receptionist and tell her she clearly made a scheduling error.
In writing this post I have realized some very important things about being a parent – and how it relates to how we can improve mental health. 1) We as parents need to look after our OWN mental health perhaps by making use of different self care techniques or perhaps therapy. 2) We aren’t perfect and we make mistakes. 3) But to be good parents we need to be strong mentally and emotionally. And lastly no matter the season or the conditions we are living in, we will ALWAYS want the best for our children and will endeavor to be there for them (whether we are the ship for a while, or the anchor or even the harbor).
I would like to end this post with 5 points/ strategies that I think can help parents be good role models:
|RESPECT||How do you treat others and yourself teaches children how to value others. How do you communicate (positive/ negative)? Are you tolerant of ALL people? Are you a bully? Harsh words/ threat?|
|LISTEN + COMMUNICATE||Take time to listen to our children – whether it be about their daily life or their fears. Make them feel and believe that they matter.|
|BE CONSISTENT||Walk the walk and talk the talk every day, every minute of every day! This is where our inner strength and resolve as parents come in. Set the boundary and make sure it stays in place.|
|TEACH ACCOUNTABILITY||We all make mistakes – no one is perfect. Teach our children that we will still love them if they make mistakes. Teach them to own their mistakes. Acknowledge the mistake. Accept responsibility. Apologize. Find a way to make amends. Think about the lesson you have learnt.|
|BE OPTIMISTIC||This for me in todays diverse world is imperative. Keep that glass ‘half full’ always and stay as positive as possible.|
I hope that this post made you think outside the glam box – it was my intention to use this pertinent topic of how to improve mental health in such a way that you will think ‘what can I do about me/ myself’? How can I make myself stronger? What can I do for me? How can I improve my mental health? If you have any other parenting tips/ mental health advice or self care ideas I would be very grateful if you left a comment 🙂 What works for you? How are you surviving 2022?