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Feeling Good, Great and Glad: Practical Steps to Improving Your Health and Wellbeing

Feeling Good, Great and Glad: Practical Steps to Improving Your Health and Wellbeing

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The words ‘mental health’ have never been more prominent in our society; it seems like everywhere we look there is a growing focus on our personal wellbeing.

But what does ‘good mental health’ look like? What does it feel like? And how do you know if you’re doing well or not? After the past 21 months, there’s never been a more important time to focus on you and your personal wellbeing – your ‘normal’ – because when you’re firing on all cylinders, your business is likely to be too. To get some practical advice, we contacted director and lead psychologist at YES Psychology and Consulting Kash Thomson. Kash has 25 years of experience working in the field of psychology and his team specialise in talking to business owners and their teams about wellbeing in the workplace.

Many benefits, for you and your business

“When people are aware and looking out for their mental health, little errors get sorted out. You’re able to be more organised, able to meet the demands of clients and the business more easily. A positive wellbeing helps you be more focused and productive, not just feeling well and feeling happy.”

Self-Awareness

Knowing where to start in all this can be tricky, but honestly appraising where you are at is the perfect place to begin, says Kash. “The first thing I say to people is always start with self-awareness, start with knowing who you are, how you’re living right now, and what you need. Self-reflection is working this out, and asking yourself ‘How
am I feeling? How am I really going?’”.

Warning Signs

There are certain signs we can all look for that may help us identify if we aren’t going as well as we could be, these ‘warning signs’ are based around our behaviours and mood. “Changes in behaviour would be when we find that we’re working longer hours or we’re shifting our habits towards unhealthy ones. It might be avoiding people, drinking more or having a bit more coffee or chocolate to stimulate our energy,” says Kash.

“We might find ourselves thinking or behaving in uncharacteristic ways, having difficulty making decisions, poor concentration, or it might be making little errors that we wouldn’t normally make.” Kash adds that some people may find it hard to regulate their emotions. “Maybe we’re not able to get into a more positive mood very easily and we can’t snap out of it. We’re experiencing things like increased levels of anxiety, frustration or increased levels of demotivation, we’re just not going to have that same get-up-and-go.” says Kash.

Signs that you may be struggling:

  • A sense of mental and physical fatigue
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Compassion fatigue or lack of empathy
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, aches and pains, feeling sick in the stomach or an increase in colds and flus.

Everybody Has Their Turn of Needing Help

Almost everyone will experience some sort of mental hardship or struggle throughout their lives; life probably wouldn’t be life without these ups and downs. But it’s  important to know that no one is alone in facing these issues. “We call that awareness, in psychology, normalising. Normalising the fact that you’re human, that you’re going to be impacted at some time. Sometimes it’s my turn, sometimes it’s your turn, everyone has their turn of needing a bit of help.”

Kash and his team have found that with the additional challenges of the pandemic, a lot more people are having their turn. With many people experiencing these feelings for the first time, there’s a growing understanding across our communities as more people experience mental stress.

“Before the pandemic approximately 20% of people at work experienced significant stress and 30% of the community would say they had elevated psychological distress,” says Kash. “We’ve seen that significant stress jump up to between 40 and 60%, depending on the research we’re looking at.”

The facts are that one in five Australians encounter some sort of a mental health issue every year and up to 48% will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. The adage of ‘you’re not alone’ is demonstrably true when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

‘Feeling Good’

The word ‘normal’ when it comes to health and wellbeing is entirely subjective, and our definition of ‘feeling good’ will vary from person to person. However, as Kash explains, there are some general markers we can all look for, signs that you’re doing okay mentally. 

“What we’re looking for is that, generally on a given day, your moods are stable, and you can self-regulate your emotions. So, if something really peeves you off or something makes you scared or disappointed, you can recognise your emotion and you can do something about it.”

Kash also says that a sense of self belief is important, knowing you can deal with what’s in front of you and that you have a way through. “We want our sense of control to be stronger than our sense of being potentially overwhelmed.”

Practising Self-Care and Building Resilience

Self-care starts with putting yourself first, says Kash. “It’s saying that I matter, not just in my work role, my family role, or my friendship role, but that I as a person matter and my self-care is important. “It comes from the idea of when you’re on a plane and one of the first things you’re told when you’re about to take off, in the case of an emergency if oxygen’s required, fix your own mask first. It’s the idea that if you put yourself as a priority, looking after yourself, you can then help others.”

In practical terms, self-care is really being deliberate about a range of practical, repeatable activities that are healthy and that help to build up your social, emotional, physical and financial wellbeing. Through these repeatable, practical activities, you can build your pathway to resilience.

Your operating system

Remarkably, improving resilience actually involves a physical change in the brain, as we develop our resilience to mental stress and become less reactive to things, the part of the brain that controls our emotional response, the amygdala, becomes less dense.

Self-Care and Resilience-Building Activities

Let’s now explore some self-care and resilience building activities that you can use to bolster your overall health and wellbeing. It’s important to note, however, that everyone can benefit from these activities regardless of how you feel.

Wellbeing: Improving your physical and mental health

  • Maintain basic health: prioritise healthy lifestyle routines such as exercise, good nutrition, sleep and recreation.
  • Practice self-reflection: regularly take time to think and identify what you honestly need in order to thrive.
  • Choose your attitude: adopt a deliberate and constructive attitude toward life and life’s challenges.
  • Connect to positives: recall and reconnect to your values, accomplishments and sources of gratitude and joy – positive memories and experiences that make you smile.
  • Flex your strengths: identify your strengths and use these more in work and life; actively engage in interests/hobbies.
  • Purposeful activity: do things that provide a sense of purpose, connection and meaning in your life.

Stress Management: Improving how we react to difficult times

  • Social support: spend quality time talking with mates, family and others who can support you when needed.
  • Recognise stress: acknowledge that stress is normal and know your early signs of stress, remember that you are in control of your response.
  • Regulate stress: develop ways to relax and calm yourself on cue e.g. relaxation exercises such as meditation and deep breathing, positive thinking.
  • Problem-solve: adopt a problem solving approach to life’s hassles and working with what’s in your control. Create a written action plan with options. Consider talking with someone to work out what can be done about it. 
  • Manage energy: work around your energy cycle (dips and peaks); use breaks and healthy energiser activities.

Grit: Helping us to get through the difficult times, for longer

  • Develop self-belief: focus on what you can do; visualise success; rehearse your approach; give things a go.
  • Practice Grit: develop deliberate mental and physical strategies to persist longer with uncomfortable or boring tasks and build up your resilience.
  • Reframe perspective: be realistic, identify and ‘reframe’ unhelpful thinking – review your thoughts.
  • Develop mindfulness: the ability to pay calm attention, on purpose in the present moment, nonjudgmentally. Take a few minutes from your day to focus on your breathing, go for a walk, take mini breaks throughout the day.
  • Bounce back: be open to feedback, learn from mistakes and try again; revise your approach and go again.

Find Your Motivation

For those embarking on some of these pathways it’s important to figure out what our motivation is, and this doesn’t always have to come from a negative place. “For some people, it’s a sense of urgency,” says Kash. “Like, ‘I’m feeling crappy’, or your spouse or a family member saying, ‘You work too many hours,’ but you can also be motivated by the excitement of, ‘Actually, I can perform better and have better client relationships. I can have better outcomes if I feel well. And I want that in my life.’”

Benefits For You, Your Business and Your Loved Ones

When we are feeling good mentally, we can start to enjoy the flow-on effects of that feeling in our work life. “From talking over time with professionals in financial services and in law, one of the big side effects is the reduction in risk issues and errors,” Kash says.

And the benefits don’t stop there, Kash says. “You’ve also got the great benefits of reducing the impacts of stress. When we are changing, when we’re going through challenging times, the body wears more stress, it actually absorbs more stress, so we’re reducing all of that as well.

“We also get a flow-on effect to our relationships. So, when you’re feeling well, you’re better able to communicate, you’re able to be more patient, more focused, listen better, and that’s a flow-on effect to your clients, your family members and friends as well.”

 

Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed are those of the individual contributors and not of NFC Aggregation. Any reference to third party goods and services are not endorsements or recommendations by NFC Aggregation.

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