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For positive mental health, start with yourself

As the World Mental Health Day was observed on October 10, there has been a sustained interest in understanding causes and cures, or at least ways of coping with one’s psychological well-being.

As parents, educationists and even employers try to find ways to retain and promote mental health, an important person being missed out is, simply put, just you.

We all learn from our immediate surroundings and a caring, understanding atmosphere is key to maintaining harmony in a community.

Being aware of one’s own mental strength will provide tools for the organisation, whether it be a family or an institution to create a supportive environment.

The most important challenge is to identify symptoms of depression or low motivation as triggers which challenge one’s mental health. Constant and recurring feelings of stress lead to a vicious cycle of guilt and appeasement.

This is particularly true for young mothers struggling with careers, children and extended social responsibilities. The need to perfect each role is daunting and humanly impossible.

It is at such a time that focusing on oneself is not only selfish, but acutely important.

Psychologists have offered various suggestions to maintain mental health including prioritising chores and giving oneself meaningful time.

Public policies like more paid leave and flexible working hours could help young career mothers as well.

Accepting that mental health is not a problem that can be wished away is important before any solutions are given. Having a life work balance is crucial to comfort and happiness but that is easier said than done.

The key to good mental health, according to psychologists, is to accept that life is not perfect. There will always be gaps in parenting and professional life will never be completely satisfying.

Simple, everyday activities help in keeping one focused and relaxed. These include engaging in a hobby, staying in touch with friends, keeping a good routine, focusing on a good diet and even planning for the future.

Often, the guilt of spending time or effort on ourselves makes us turn our attention to others but this can only have negative effects.

In order to help others, it is important to care first for oneself. This will give comfort and support to others in the immediate surroundings who need our time and care.

An important strategy to adopt for sustained mental health is mindfulness. Seen as a way to focus on the present, practicing mindfulness brings attention to the moment, without focusing on surrounding noises and preoccupations.

“Mindfulness teaches you the skill of paying attention to the present by noticing when your mind wanders off,” according to Harvard University psychologists.

In the wellness industry, this has become a popular way to let go of the tensions of everyday life.

Whatever strategies one chooses, good mental health can only be achieved when we accept that it starts with the individual who can then ensure the health of the community.

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