Tips for looking after your mental wellbeing
In these uncertain times, many of us are feeling worried for our health, jobs and the future. This is natural. To those with underlying health conditions, the feeling can be acute.
Sadly, for some people, this worry can turn to anxiety, stress and depression, creating debilitating side-effects that are all too often simply treated with anti-depressants. Indeed, in 2020, the UK recorded its highest ever use of prescription anti-depressant medicines.
No matter where you are on your stoma journey, it’s important to pay as much attention to your mental wellbeing, in just the same way as you can look after the health of your body. There are lots of things you can do to rebalance your mind and if you are struggling, remember free me+ specialist stoma counselling is here for you.
Get better sleep
Good sleep is vital to controlling our moods, while also giving us the energy to stay active. Experts recommend at least 6 hours, but the emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. Try these simple steps to sleep like a dream:
- Set and maintain consistent bedtimes – and set an alarm to wake up at the same time each morning
- Switch off (literally) from all devices at least an hour before bed
- Unwind before bed with a book or by having a relaxing bath
- Turn your bedroom into a sleep-room by keeping it should dark, cool and relaxing
- Avoid food, caffeine and alcohol before going to bed
Read our tips for a better night's sleep if you have a stoma
Eating the right foods isn’t just good for your body, but your mind too. Follow these simple bite-size steps to improve your mood with food:
- Avoid foods which are high in sugar – these can give us short-term highs, followed by longer-term lows
- Reduce your consumption of alcohol and caffeine – both are classed as depressants and can alter your mood
- Eat more fish which is high in mood-balancing omega-3
- Many vegetables and fruits contain essential mood-boosting minerals
- Stay hydrated, it’s proven to help you think more clearly
For more healthy food choices, take a look at our special stoma nutrition blog here.
Be more active
We don’t just see the benefits of staying active, we feel them through our mood. Any kind of physical activity produces chemical endorphins in our brains, which literally put a smile on our faces.
- Just 30 mins of low-intensive activity can help to boost our mental wellbeing
- Start small and try to increase your activity every time you go out
- A simple walk outside can raise our heartbeat and do wonders for our mood
- Many people find going for a run, cycle or swim helps them blow off steam to reduce the onset of stress
- Do something you enjoy and never make it too arduous that you wouldn’t want to do it again
- Ask a friend or family member to join you – it’s more fun and you’ll motivate each other
Discover more about our renowned me+ Recovery exercise programme, with simple, gentle exercises designed to help you move with confidence and exercise without fear.
Find out more
It might seem an unusual thing to say, but relaxing doesn’t come naturally to everyone. At least not in our busy, hectic lives. Our minds get scrambled up with things we need to do, and we forget to make time for us. And since mental wellbeing is centred around our minds, let’s start there:
- Learn to recognise negative thinking – you might be constantly down on yourself, always self-critical or thinking the worse. One clear sign is called ‘Catastrophising’ whereby we always anticipate the most negative outcomes. Or we think in terms of ‘black-and-white’ failing to see every option in-between. Once you start recognising these patterns, you can replace them with healthier thoughts.
- Reframe your thoughts – once you start recognising unhealthy thoughts for what they are, you can start to reframe them into positive thinking. For instance, many of us put stumbling blocks around starting to exercise, when we should be thinking ‘what is stopping me and what can I do to get started?’.
Manage your stress through mindfulness
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that can be practised anywhere you can be seated comfortably. Some people even use it to combat stressful situations as they are occurring. There are loads of online resources and many local support groups, but here’s a quick overview to help you get your head around the benefits:
- Sit comfortably
- Close your eyes
- Breath naturally
- Focus on how your body feels while you breathe
- When your mind wanders, redirect attention back to your breathing
Find relaxation through yoga and breathing
Not only is yoga simple to try but it’s also proven to help reduce stress and anxiety. You can create your own, simple 5-minute sessions as you wake up and embrace the day or take part in organised community classes. The choice is yours:
- All you need is a mat, a positive mindset and a bit of time for yourself
- There are loads of free resources online, videos on YouTube and community classes
- Yoga combines, gentle stretching with mindful breathing
- Yoga also strengthens our core muscles, making it perfect for anyone with a stoma
Please remember, you’re never alone. Free stoma counselling can be conducted over the phone or via video call. To find out more click here.