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When it comes to managing your life, we all know that exercising, eating healthily, steering clear of drugs, drinking in moderation and sleeping at least eight hours a day are sure-fire ways to keep you in tip-top condition. But what steps do you take to safeguard your mental wellbeing? Do you share your troubles with family or friends, or better yet, a mental health professional? Do you have enough self-knowledge to know when you’re losing control or feeling overwhelmed? And if you have already been diagnosed or treated for psychological illness, how much do you know about your condition? Some of these questions are a good starting point for you to evaluate your mental wellbeing.

  • To keep your mental health in check, make a point of taking up a hobby or activity (surfing anyone?) that will boost your confidence and provide you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment. ‘Investing time in doing the things you enjoy reinforces the message that you are valuable and deserve time and care,’ says Durban clinical psychologist Dr Sherona Rawat.
  • Surrounding yourself with positive people who enjoy and appreciate you is another key aspect in improving – and maintaining – your mental health. ‘Strong relationships are particularly important when you are going through a period of hardships or distress,’ Dr Rawat says.
  • Acknowledging negative emotions is also much healthier in the long run than keeping your feeling bottled up. ‘In addition to relief and catharsis, expressing your emotions means you can communicate your needs to others,’ Dr Rawat says. ‘And don’t forget to laugh as often as possible.’ Laughter decreases stress hormone and increases endorphins, which means your mental health gets a nice boost.

The world we live in – where we’re connected 24/7 via cellphones and data – is a wonderful one in many ways. But taking a break from the constant frenzy is vital for your mental health. Meditating, walking in nature, indulging in a digital detox or simply enjoying a beautiful sunset will go a long way towards relieving stress and staying emotionally healthy.

October is Mental Health Awareness month. The Department of Health estimates that one in four South Africans suffer from mental illness – and sadly, only about 10% of those affected by mental illness seek help.

If you or a loved one are struggling to cope, help is available. Call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 456 789 or 0800 21 22 23 to speak to a counsellor.

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