It’s National Mental Health Week in Australia, so we’re bringing you a series of tips on how to keep your mind healthy. Here’s some of our favourite ways to keep a steady mind, at work or study.
Did you know that some foods can actually improve your mental health?
Our favourite is probably dark chocolate. A square or two of dark chocolate can help to regulate your cortisol levels (a pretty nasty stress hormone) and calm you. Honey has been found to reduce depression and anxiety levels by acting on inflammation in the brain. Mango, as well as being a delicious excuse to take a break (they do take a while to peel) contains an amazing substance called linalool that can also help you manage your stress.
Wash it all down with a cup of green tea, containing L-Theanine, to minimise anger and frustration and bring the meal together.
To learn more about how different foods can impact your health, check out our free Food, Nutrition & Your Health course.
Sometimes, the best way to get away from stress is to reduce stressful thoughts. A five-minute guided meditation, that you can cue up on your phone and do at your desk, can help recenter your thoughts and set you up for the rest of the day.
There’s an interesting exercise used as part of mindfulness, in which you close your eyes and pay attention to each part of your body, in turn. Not only does it give your brain something to focus on, other than your worries, it can also help you to identify parts of the body that are holding tension, and then release them.
If your worries are too loud to get away from, sometimes a distraction is the best option. You can try counting backwards from 20, to distract your mind and give it a break from tracking all the worries running around your thoughts.
You could also have a go at creative visualisation or guided imagery. That’s where you spend a few minutes imagining all of the details around a scenario that you’d really like to happen. Maybe it’s diving into clear, cool water in a tropical paradise, maybe it’s bursting into song on the street and having everyone around you break into a perfectly choreographed dance routine. Whatever it is, picture all of the things you can see around you, as well as the smells and sounds, and then let your imagination take you on a little holiday from reality.
You don’t need to book into the day spa down the road to get a little massage into your day. When you find the tension turning into a headache, apply some pressure to the fleshy bit on your hand, between your thumb and forefinger. This acupressure point will hurt a bit when you press on it, but it’ll probably ease the pain in your skull. You can also slip off your shoes and rub the bottom of your feet over a golf ball, for a little self-delivered foot rub.
One of the senses we don’t often consider, when it comes time to relieve stress, is hearing. Just listening to a favourite song can take you away for a few moments, and if you find a song that always puts a smile on your face and gets your toes tapping, you can use it as a sort of emotional trigger to bring you back to your happy place.
Change of pace
Sometimes, just giving yourself a break from the environment causing the stress can allow your mind time to find its centre. We love taking five minutes to walk around the block. Not only does the sunshine and fresh air give you some much needed Vitamin D and oxygen, but the physical activity stimulates blood flow and helps to improve your overall mood.
If you can’t get out of the office, stand up and have a stretch, then sit back down and close your eyes for a few moments. Shutting out the stressors, even for a few minutes, can make all the difference to your day.
Put it all together
Of course, the very best option is to use a combination of these things (and any other favourites you might have) to lower your shoulders, calm your nerves and make the day run faster and more smoothly.
If you’d prefer a distraction that also teaches you something new, why not check out the free, short courses with Open2Study.
What’s your favourite way to reduce stress at work or study? Tell us in the comments below.