Self-care isn’t just women doing bubble baths and skincare. Self-care is also for men, and it’s also about looking after your mental health, even when it’s hard.
Here’s a little on why mental health matters and what you can do to take care of yours, topped off with free helplines in South Africa.
Why is mental health important?
You can’t escape your mind. It’s where you live all day, everyday.
Mental health = your mental and emotional states being in balance. In other words, it’s an absence of mental illness or disorder, just like physical health is an absence of physical illness or disorder.
And when everything up there is well balanced, you have a higher quality of life. That’s why mental self-care is important.
We can’t control everything - that annoying co-worker, a demanding boss, difficult family life - but we can control how we treat ourselves and what we give our energy to.
For some, that means exercising a bit more, eating differently, and setting boundaries. For others, it means medication and/or therapy. The important thing is we’re aware of our mental and emotional wellbeing, and we take steps to look after it.
Now there’s no quick fix when it comes to mental health, but there are certain habits we can create to give our brains the best shot at thriving.
5 things you can do today to support your mental health
#1 Move that body of yours
Exercising releases neurotransmitters - the chemical messengers that help transmit signals throughout your body to your brain and back.
Some examples are endorphins and endocannabinoids that, when working together, block pain, boost pleasure, and create a sense of euphoria.
Another neurotransmitter that gets kicks from exercise is dopamine, which plays a huge part in feeling pleasure and improving your mood, along with regulating your heart rate, sleep cycle, memory, and even pain processing.
It’s a cliche, but exercise really does help. It can be as simple as a 15 minute walk over your lunch break.
#2 Eat well & drink water
Scientists have discovered a connection between your gut health and your brain.
Even your gut’s microbiome can impact your mental health. So look after it.
You don’t have to cut out koeksisters and kotas, but including more fibre (i.e. vegetables, get yo greens) and whole foods could be what you gut needs to give your brain a boost.
#3 Sleep, sleep, sleep
Forget rise and grind, snooze and improve.
Sleep and mental health have a complex link. 50-80% of psychiatric patients have chronic sleep problems.
But it goes both ways. A lack of sleep can also worsen mental health conditions, causing brain fog, irritability and mood changes, and even psychotic symptoms like hallucinations and delusions. Prioritise your rest.
You might think it’s bogus or lame, but meditation and breathing exercises are incredible for your mental health.
Slow, deep breathing stimulates your vagus nerve and activates your parasympathetic nervous system - the part of your nervous system that helps you relax and rest (essentially the opposite effects of fight or flight).
And when it comes to meditation, you don’t have to sit still in silence for hours. It can be as simple as journalling or even working on a puzzle if it helps you relax mentally.
#5 Seek help if you need to
You could be doing all of the above and still be in a dark place.
How our brains work is not up to us. The important thing is to know when you need help, and to be bold enough to seek it.
So talk to your loved ones about where you’re at. Look for a therapist. Consider medication.
Professional help resources:
South Africa has the third highest suicide rate in Africa, with more men going through with it than women. It’s no longer time to Man up. It’s time to SPEAK UP.
Free counseling hotlines in SA 👇
- Suicide Hotline - 051 444 5691
- South African Depression & Anxiety Group (SADAG) - 0800 12 13 14
- Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline - 0800 70 80 90
- Lifeline South Africa - 0861 322 322
- Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit - 0861 43 57 87
- Alcoholics Anonymous South Africa - 0861 435 722
- Narcotics Anonymous South Africa - 0881 30 03 27
- Eating Disorders South Africa - 012 338 25 43
It’s ok to not be ok.
Look after yourself to give your brain the best shot at feeling better. Stay in touch with the people who care about you. And remember there is no shame in getting professional help.
We’re all rooting for you.
The articles published by &BAM are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. If you have any medical questions or concerns, you should contact your doctor.