The first time I really became aware of the impact of not looking after my own mental health, was during a pitch for a large insurance business. For weeks we had been working long stressful days, but this particular evening I’d just about managed to get out the office in time to join a few friends for a game of 6 a-side football. However, once kitted up and ready to go I could barely move; I spent the next hour in a trance like state staggering about and struggling to make any meaningful impact on the game.
Being under so much strain at work for so long had had a profound impact on my mental and physical capacity to do something I’d usually be loving. The experience, and a few others since, have helped me appreciate the link between mental and physical wellbeing. This has encouraged me to take more and more proactive steps to stay mentally healthy.
These won’t be right for everyone, but over the years I have built up certain protective behaviours that include, but aren’t limited to…a big healthy breakfast right at the start of the day, to stabilise blood sugars and calm worries about the day ahead, not drinking any caffeine to avoid over stimulating my nervous system and exacerbating any stress, physically moving as much as possible throughout the day, ideally outside, to get endorphins flowing and to open up my brain to think differently about the stuff I’m working on, avoiding too much alcohol (obviously!), and trying to eat dinner as early as possible, so that by the time I go to bed my body isn’t desperately trying to digest anything and is ready for rest and relaxation.
I find that each little thing has a positive incremental impact on my mental and physical wellbeing, as well as preserving sense of control when the pressures & stresses start to load up again.