The month of May is dedicated to Mental Health Awareness, and every Tuesday on our Twitter page (@bellanaija), we will host mental health experts who will provide advice on how to stay mentally healthy.
Temitope Omolehinwa, mental health first aider at Hay Foundation Africa @HayAfrica, was our first guest, and she offered advice on “Building a Better Mental Health.”
Check on it!
What does having strong mental health mean?
It is the ability to cope with daily stressors and have a positive outlook on life. It is also the ability to perform key functions like learning, ability to express and manage a range of positive and negative emotions. Also means managing change and uncertainty.
Since we are talking about “Building a Better Mental Health”, what does it mean to be mentally healthy?
To be mentally healthy does not necessarily mean that you never go through bad times or experience emotional problems. You are mentally healthy when you have the ability to learn, form and maintain good relationships with others and cope with daily stressors of life.
To buttress @HayAfrica’s explanation, to be mentally healthy entails:
1. Realisation of one’s self
2. Can cope with everyday’s stress
3. Can work productively and fruitfully
4. Can contribute meaningfully to the society
What are the characteristics of mentally healthy people?
I will take this in two parts.
PART 1: Mentally healthy People have: a sense of contentment with life, the ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity, a zest for living, the ability to laugh & have fun
PART 2: They have a sense of meaning & purpose, they can balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc. They also have the ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships. Most importantly, they have Self-confidence & high self-esteem.
What is the relationship between resilience, and mental health emotional & mental resilience?
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness etc.
Physically healthy people can bounce back from illnesses fast. Likewise, mentally healthy people can bounce back from trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience.
In addition, people who are emotionally and mentally resilient have the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and productive, in bad times as well as good.
Mentally resilient people are less afraid of new experiences or an uncertain future. Even when they don’t immediately know how a problem will get resolved, they are hopeful that a solution will eventually be found.
Is it possible to become a happier person and how?
Yes! it is, but it takes a lot of being intentional. Researchers in the field of positive psychology have studied this question and the answers are encouraging. It turns out you can genuinely increase your happiness and overall satisfaction with life by following some steps:
Steps to becoming happier
1. Give sincere thanks to others
2. Keep a gratitude journal
3. Making time for your hobbies
4. Building and maintaining positive relationships
5. Adopting positive rituals e.g. listen to music, dancing going for walks, exercising, etc
How can one effectively manage stress or keep their stress levels in check?
Not all stressors can be avoided. Stress management strategies help you bring things back into balance.
Some of these strategies are:
– Good sleep routine
– Proper dieting
– Make leisure time a priority.
– Take up relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, etc
– Going to Therapy
In addition, some signs that you’re exceeding your stress limit include insomnia, headaches, tense muscles, difficulty making decisions, and rapid shifts in emotions.
Let’s talk about social connection. How can one make social connection a priority?
Great question! To begin with, Social connection is very important. No matter how much time you devote to improving your mental and emotional health, you will still need the company of others to feel and function at your best.
Humans are social creatures with emotional needs for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionship—even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.
How can we make this a priority?
1) Maintaining relationships: Call a friend or loved one now and arrange to meet up
2) Socializing with people of the same interest: Think about activities you enjoy or the causes you care about.
3) Be a joiner – join social groups, volunteer.
Let’s talk about staying active. What if one isn’t a fitness fanatic? What are the tips for starting an exercise routine?
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits of being more active. You don’t have to exercise until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches. Even modest amounts of physical activities can make a big difference to your mental and emotional health.
Some of these simple activities include:
1) Taking a stroll to short distances
2) Going for a jog (Ikoyi link bridge)
3) Dancing to your fav song
6) cycling, etc.
To conclude, Aim for 30 minutes of activity on most days. If it’s easier, three 10-minute sessions can be just as effective.
What are those meals that can affect one’s mood?
According to Help Guide, an unhealthy diet can take a toll on your brain and mood, disrupt your sleep and sap your energy. Some meals that can affect your mood negatively include Caffeine, Alcohol, Trans fats, Sugary snacks, Refined carbs (e.g white rice); Fried foods etc.
Some meals that can affect your mood are:
1. Fatty fish rich in Omega-3s such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna.
2. Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts.
6. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, etc.
What are some tips for getting better sleep?
When it comes to your mental health, getting enough sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. Skipping even a few hours here and there can take a toll on your mood, energy, mental sharpness, and ability to handle stress.
Some tips for getting better sleep include:
1) Calm the mind, and prepare for sleep, try taking a warm bath, reading in soft light, listening to soothing music, or practising a relaxation technique before bed.
2) Stick to a regular sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends.
3) Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Curtains.
4) Avoid being on your phone or any other gadget 30 minutes before bed.