With Gumboot Friday falling in Movember, Kiwis all over the motu are united in supporting the well-being of our tane and youth mental health. And, here at BedsRus, we’re aligned with this goal too: our biggest motivation is the well-being of all Kiwis. Quality sleep is a huge factor in this, and it forms a strong foundation for the other things we can do to keep our minds healthy.
This month, in support of Gumboot Friday and Movember, we’re exploring some mental health tips to try with the whole whānau—because good mental health is something we can all work on together!
Tip 1: It Takes a Village
Let’s start with a quick mind-shift.
Think about the people around you. Your friends, your whānau (however you define family: by blood or by choice), your community and your general environment. That’s your village.
We often think of our mental health as a very individual thing: we experience it individually and we might seek help individually as well.
But our moods, our emotions and our general outlook don’t just come from inside us. They’re connected to our environment, our relationships and our experiences. So paying attention to your mental health as a family is a way of acknowledging this, and can open up new ways of connecting that benefit everyone.
Read more: we explored the importance of community (Taha Whānau) in our blog about Te Whare Tapa Whā.
Tip 2: How to “Talk it Out”
We’ve long been encouraged to reach out for help when we’re having a tough time. And this is great advice—let’s all keep doing that. But both sides of that conversation can be a challenge, so here are our “talk it out” tips:
When you need help
- Say something. This can often be the most difficult part, but telling a trusted person out loud what you’re experiencing is the first step. Sometimes—not all the time—that’s all you need: to feel heard and validated.
- Ask for what you need. People are generally very prepared to jump in and help when you’re having a tough time, but if you don’t tell them what you need, then they might start guessing—and sometimes that’s… really not helpful. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do and that’s okay, but if you’re able to be specific, then chances are you’ll get the kind of help you need, or at least start moving in that direction.
- Activate your resources. While talking to just one person is a great place to start, if you need a bit more meat in your mental health sandwich then remember there are plenty more options out there: counsellors, GPs, other community members, and the wealth of open resources available in Aotearoa for just this kind of thing.
When someone comes to you
- Show up. The #1 most important thing is that you’re there. Isolation is a major factor in mental distress, so just by showing up you are already helping.
- You don’t have to fix it, you only need to listen. Most of the time, there isn’t a lot you can do in the moment to change the situation. But listening and validating someone’s feelings or experience is the best way to help them feel less alone.
- Call in the cavalry. We don’t all come equipped with the resources to help a person in distress, and our own mental health can take a dip if we aren’t careful. They don’t need to go through this alone, but neither do you: encourage the person to reach out to others, like their GP, a counsellor, or other community members, and leverage these resources for yourself, if you need them.
Tip 3: The “Flipping the Script” Trick
It’s the little things that contribute to our overall outlook, and it’s easy for the little things to add up and turn into big things. Paying attention to our internal thoughts and how we process them is an extremely effective way to improve our frame of mind.
Flipping the script means making a choice about how you frame a situation or experience. It’s great to talk about it openly, because we can learn a lot from each other in terms of how to do it and what it can achieve.
As a family or group, you might try discussing one or two different emotional reactions you had each day and how you processed them. Did someone cut Dad off on his way into the parking lot at work? Did he get angry and think that person didn’t know how to drive? If he flipped the script, he might feel sympathy for that person: we’ve all been in the wrong lane before, or been late for something important. If Dad switches his thinking about that experience, then the outcome is no different for the person who cut him off, but it is for him: he’ll let go of the angry feeling more easily.
This is not to say we should ignore our negative feelings, they’re there for a reason. It’s just a way to control how you process them. Acknowledge them, and then see if you can flip the script. It might save your day, and over time it will definitely improve your outlook.
Tip 4: Remember Your Physical Health Too!
We’ve all heard that you only get out what you put in, and this is never more true than when it comes to your brain.
Choosing nutrient-dense foods over processed ones is one of the best things you can do to make sure your brain has the good stuff it needs to fire in all the right places. And to complement this, moving your body (however you like—walking, dancing, playing, jumping on things) activates a whole lot of good brain juices that improve your mood and energy.
And then there’s our personal favourite part: Sleep.
Quality sleep is the really good stuff, the time when your brain does its housekeeping—the best kind of housekeeping, too, because it all happens while you have your eyes closed. If we didn’t know better we’d call it magic, but it’s just a thing our brains do without any input from us (apart from going to sleep).
But here’s the big tip: keep it in the whānau. It’s so much easier to achieve healthy habits when you do it as a household or group. Preparing healthy food together, moving together and committing to regular bedtimes means that everyone is more likely to stick to good habits and stay accountable.
Bonus: Get Behind the Cause
There are a lot of great New Zealanders out there doing good mahi to help improve the mental and physical health of our tangata whenua. If you’d like to support them in their kaupapa, here are two happening right now:
Gumboot Friday raises money to provide free counselling for young Kiwis. Show your support by putting your feet in your gumboots on November 3rd! You can also text BOOTS to 469 to donate $3, or click here to see other options for donation.
And of course it’s Movember right now! The leading charity changing the face of men’s health needs a whole lot of community involvement, and there are heaps of ways to support them—either by growing your own mo, donating to a mo-grower, or getting involved in the other fundraising options. Check out how you can help here.