Healthy eating, exercise and relationships all contribute towards great mental health and help minimise or prevent problems that can arise. Our relations with others, whether close or not, are an implicit factor in understanding that humans, as social beings, need meaningful and healthy engagement in order to maintain and promote their mental health with well-being.
It is estimated that one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point during their lives, while one in twelve will be forced to face depression. These alarming statistics make mental health a massive issue in society today.
There is a lot to understand about what good mental health with well-being can look like. Achieving and maintaining positive mental health can often prove difficult, especially for those who struggle with long working hours and commitment to emotionally demanding care. Healthcare professionals are no exception in regard to how hard work can adversely affect their relationships both professionally and personally.
So, exactly how do relationships promote good mental health? And how can you sustain your mental well-being as a healthcare professional? Well, here are seven handy tips that could help you in your everyday life.
All kinds of relationships present opportunities to talk about our feelings. Whether it's tackling a long-standing problem with the help of your partner or having a quick chat with one of your peers, discussing your feelings can go a long way to helping you achieve good mental health.
But what if you don’t have the time?
While a heavy workload and healthcare staffing issues might mean you don’t have any spare time at work, a few minutes spent chatting to your colleagues after your shift, or socialising at the end of the day, can make all the difference.
The Mental Health Foundation stresses that taking the time to talk honestly and openly about your feelings should be actively encouraged. This can be far more beneficial for your mental health than automatically responding with 'I'm fine' to any enquiry after your well-being.
Discussions don’t necessarily need to mean purposefully sitting down to discuss a particular problem. Instead, try waiting for the topic to arise naturally - it can be surprising how quickly it does.
Taking the time to talk about your mental well-being can have a profound effect on others around you, too. The more you open up - even a little – the more likely others are to do the same. Over time, this may help foster a conversational culture that helps promote good mental health.
Of course, for many people working in nursing jobs, or as doctors, care workers or in other healthcare roles, making time for important relationships can seem challenging. A busy schedule can quickly eat away at the time you have to spend with family and friends.
Be mindful of this fact and allocate your time accordingly. Make a conscious effort to set aside time to enjoy the company of your closest family and friends, as well as more casual acquaintances. This will help ensure you feel the positive mental health benefits relationships generate.
A key element of talking to those around you is that, as well as allowing you to feel supported emotionally, it can help put your problems in perspective, particularly when chatting to friends.
"Friends form one of the foundations of our ability to cope with the problems that life throws at us," the Mental Health Foundation states.
The best friendships for our mental health are those that allow us to be completely honest without fear of being criticised or judged. When sharing problems with friends like this, it's possible to get into conversations that will help put problems in perspective, often making them feel less troubling.
The results can often prove surprising. Such issues not only tend to play on the mind less but also no longer feel like your burden to carry alone. Your conversation may even provide an answer to a problem with which you have been struggling. Such discussions can prove beneficial to your overall mental well-being.
Humans are social creatures, but how we socialise has changed a lot in recent years. Text messages and digital communication, including social networking, have transformed how people interact with friends, family and even partners.
While digital communication certainly has its place (it can be a great way of keeping in touch when meeting up in person simply isn't possible), it simply does not provide the same positive mental health benefits as face-to-face contact.
This is because so much of our communication as humans is non-verbal. Tone of voice and body language are incredibly important for honest and open communication. Eye contact, reassuring hugs and sympathetic smiles are all impossible to emulate effectively in a digital environment, which is why face-to-face contact is so important when it comes to maintaining mental health.
No-one is superhuman. So many people struggle to ask for help when they need it and are often scared that doing so demonstrates 'weakness'.
On the contrary, asking for help is an excellent way of taking positive steps to sustain mental well-being.
While this is largely a cultural problem, having strong relationships can make it easier for people to ask for help when they need it, thus taking a vital step towards preventing a developing problem from evolving into a crisis.
Of course, it can be that the help that's needed isn't actually available within your circle of friends, family or partner; however, that feeling of being able to ask nonetheless, of being listened to without being judged, and being encouraged to seek professional help, are all equally vital.
In a work setting, being able to ask for help is crucial to avoid becoming overloaded, and the associated stress and repercussions this brings. This is especially important in high-pressure professional environments, such as healthcare jobs.
Relationships are two-way. This means that as well as providing opportunities to talk and be listened to, they offer the chance to listen and support those we care about. Taking up the role of confidant and helping family, friends or even fellow doctors or nurses in any situation, no matter how small, is helpful in two ways.
Firstly, it promotes a sense of community. Rather than feeling alone in their problems, people who listen to those of others will understand that troubles are a universal experience.
Secondly, providing support allows people to realise that they have the ability to help others. This can be instrumental in recognising personal worth and boosting self-esteem, which are important ingredients in good mental health.
Of course, not all relationships are created equally. Many people harbour negative relationships - friends that make them feel bad, for example. These connections can result in feelings of unhappiness and stress and do not positively impact mental health.
To foster mental well-being, it is important to remember to give more time and energy to connections that make us feel good. Enjoy creating positive memories with friends, family members and colleagues who make you feel happy and devote less time to those that have the opposite effect.
If you are interested in helping others by furthering your career in mental health, contact one of our dedicated recruitment teams.
Alternatively, learn more about our wide range of locum psychiatry jobs.
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