Maintaining Me Week 3 >>>

Mental Well-being

Welcome to Week 3 of Maintaining Me where the focus is on mental well-being.

Hopefully Week 2 went well and you’re continuing with your target of a minimum of 15 minutes of activity and improving your nutrition each day.

For Week 3 you’re challenged to focus on your mental health and well-being and to develop a new practice or activity that you do each day to do just that.

In recent years the area of mental health has been hugely de-stigmatized. We’re reminded of it’s importance and it’s something that comes up in general conversations with friends and family. We all understand that taking care of our mental well-being is important.

Being aware is great but unfortunately we’re probably not great on following through on all this and actually taking steps to protect and care for our mental health.

But doing so doesn’t require huge amounts of effort or setting aside lots of time each day. We can do a simple activity every day to help us feel OK and to ensure we’re able to cope with life’s challenges. Again, it’s all about developing healthy habits that prevent problems later on.

General tips for looking after your mental health:

  • Look after your physical health and eat a balanced diet. Feeling physically unwell or lacking in energy can negatively effect our mood.
  • Make sure to do things you enjoy to make sure life isn’t just one big chore.
  • Give yourself permission to take time to relax and recharge and to take a break from things if you need to. It can be preventative and avoid a bigger problem later on.
  • Avoid harmful substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Even though they may seem to make you feel better in the short term, they can make you feel worse in the long run. They also put you at increased risk or injury and disease.
  • Make sure to spend time with friends and family. Connecting with people is important.
  • Limit your use of social media. While social media can be great for staying in touch it can also create unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy about your life and your image. 
  • Get quality sleep. A lack of sleep causes tiredness which can result in poor coping abilities, anxiety, and stress. Experts advise 7-9 hours per night. Avoiding screens for an hour before bedtime can also help improve your sleep as the blue light stimulates the brain.
  • Learn new skills. It gives us a boost by helping with self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Give to others. Acts of giving and kindness create positive feelings and gives us a sense of reward. It also boosts our self-worth. 
  • Practice some mindfulness. Paying attention to the present can improve your mental well-being. This includes paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, your body, and the world around you. 
  • If you are going through something or are feeling down, speak to someone you trust and feel comfortable speaking to.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Sometimes we need that extra bit of help to deal with life’s challenges. Ignore any idea you have that what you’re dealing with isn’t serious enough or seems foolish. There’s no threshold you have to reach before you can seek support.

An introduction to mindfulness

Mental Health Ireland has a 28 day mindfulness programme on their website that’s easy to follow and is suitable for beginners.

If you’d like to talk about any of the issues arising from this week please contact Claire and Aoife in complete confidence. The Employee Assistance Programme is also available to every employee and if you like to know more about more support visit Mental Health Ireland.

IMPORTANT: It’s always advisable to check with your GP before starting any new fitness activities. Depending on your fitness levels you may need to start slowly. Please take care and avoid injuries.

Remember to always check that any advice you come across online or in podcasts or books comes from qualified reputable sources before you follow it. Just because it’s online or in print doesn’t mean it’s true.

Podcasts and Apps you might find useful:

The Sleep With Me Podcast

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The Sleep With Me podcast takes a slightly different approach to the ‘sleep story’ mentioned above. In each episode, creator Drew Ackerman tells a nonsensical story designed to distract your mind and bore you sleep! The podcast is a great solution for people who find it hard to switch their mind off at bedtime. Be warned, it’s a ‘love it or hate it’ sort of thing. But, with over 1.3 million downloads a month and plenty of raving followers, it’s worth a try! 

Ten Percent Happier Podcast

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American journalist and former ABC News anchor Dan Harris is the charming host of Ten Percent Happier, a podcast that explores the often confusing world of meditation. Dan is the author of the brilliantly titled ‘Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics’, and completely understands that it can be daunting to begin a practise from scratch. The podcast is completely accessible, and sees Dan speak to coaches, gurus, scientists and even the odd celebrity about how they came to meditate and what benefits they get from it.

Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast

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From the number one non-fiction bestseller, comes Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast – with everything you need to hear to get on top of your anxiety. This practical and relaxed series explores everything from what anxiety is and why it happens to us, how our brains work and why it’s actually very normal to the various tools and techniques necessary for owning it. Author Caroline Foran shares her story, along with some expert input, in an attempt to help you show your anxiety who’s boss. Most importantly, this is a series that tackles the reality of anxiety from a refreshing and relatable perspective.

The Breathe with Niall Podcast

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Another fascinating Irish pod is Breathe With Níall, hosted by Níall Ó Murchú – a wellness expert and instructor of the famous Wim Hof breathing method. Níall posits that stress and fatigue can be alleviated by learning to use the breath in new ways and (this is the biggie) gradually exposing yourself to the cold. Discover more about Níall’s work (which includes workshops and retreats) and how you can apply this interesting method, in the podcast.

Headspace App

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Probably one of the most well-known meditation apps on the market, Headspace is both popular and easy-to-use and is full of brilliant guided meditations.

Calm App

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If you’re struggling to sleep, this might be the app for you. As well as a whole host of guided meditations, breathing exercises and relaxing music, the Calm app  features some incredibly soothing ‘sleep stories’ from well-known actors like Matthew McConaughey and Cillian Murphy. 

Aura App

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Aura calls itself the “Spotify of mindfulness” due to the frankly astonishing depth and range of its content. When you first log into the app, users are asked to choose two or more topics from a long list including calming anxiety, increasing happiness, improving focus and dealing with anger.

Once in, you get access to the “world’s largest premium library” of meditation tracks, life coaching, stories, nature sounds and music. The app is fairly easy to navigate, although the amount of content perhaps ends up being its Achilles’ heel. There is so much to choose from, we found it hard to know where to start.

We liked the shorter three-minute guided meditations, which we used to help frame our day positively, and the fact the app uses AI to build an understanding of your preferences, so over time it becomes more personal and tailored to your needs. A premium subscription allows you access to all of the content, as well as full mood tracking and offline use.