Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
1:00 AM 2nd March 2024

Spring Clean Your Mental Health

Photo by Emily Underworld on Unsplash
Photo by Emily Underworld on Unsplash
Many of us give our homes a deep clean in the Spring, but not many give the same time and attention to their own psychological health. Here mental health expert Noel McDermott offers his top tips for your mental health Spring cleaning. Decluttering your brain is just as important, if not more so, than organising your home!

If you’re looking to improve your wellbeing than make some time to look at your emotional and mental space. With Spring comes a renewed sense of hope with warmer weather, increased daylight, and the joy that nature brings us at this time of year.

Start with the insights from Lifestyle Medicine ensuring you have the 4 corners of health and wellbeing in place:

1. Exercise/active life. The single biggest health improvement you can make is to have regular exercise, ideally 3 times a week for 20 minutes, raising your heartbeat is what you want to aim for, anymore and that’s a bonus!

2. Stress management. Relaxation and stress management are crucial to physical and psychological health. Stress is implicated in all major lifestyle illnesses and every manifestation of psychological distress. Learning to spot and reduce stress reactions is central to living a healthy life.

3. Diet. Having a heathy balanced diet contributes massively to a healthy mind and body. Try to reduce processed foods, eat a mix of 80-20 vegetable and fruit to meat, control portion size and reduce sugar.

4. Sleep. Good sleep hygiene is essential to healthy living. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture due to the psychological consequences of missing REM sleep cycles. So, practice good hygiene in your sleep habits; don’t drink alcohol or other stimulants at night, exercise, have a simple and regular bedtime routine, reduce blue screen activity at night and don’t use your phone in bed!

Spring Cleaning Psychological Check List – ask yourself:

How is your sleep?
Have you seen any significant changes in appetite?
How is your weight?
What are general energy levels like?
How do you feel about yourself?
Do you have trouble relaxing and do you feel on edge?
Are you experiencing a generalised sense of fear or doom?
Do you feel worried about the future?
Are you dealing with feelings of hopelessness or of being a failure?

Developing Healthy Habits

The key to a healthy lifestyle is developing healthy habits, things that are done automatically. One of the best examples of this is an everyday habit! It’s simply part of our routine and the more we can turn healthy decisions into routine lifestyle habits the better. As psychological health and wellbeing is largely about preventing problems rather than solving them, we want ideally to be psychologically fit in the same way we aim to be physically fit. Again, thinking about our teeth, we don’t want to wait till we need a filling, we want to avoid having the filling in the first place. Spring is the season of hope and these regular general wellbeing habits form the foundation of your psychological fitness giving you more detailed actions plans to put in place to ensure you meet psychological needs and reduce the risk of becoming debilitated by unhealthy psychological functioning.

Top Tips for positive psychological health:

Keeping good sleep hygiene
Eating regularly and healthily
Hydrating properly
Keeping your work schedule
Socialising with loved ones and with friends
Keeping your alcohol consumption down
Exercising regularly
Getting into nature, your local park regularly?

Noel McDermott comments:
“One of the key features of psychological distress is what we in the trade call ‘lack of insight’. That people don’t know they are ill, they are depressed, or anxious etc. Because of the lack of insight people can delay getting help and making their condition more complex and chronic. Regular mental health check-ups in the same way as regular physical health check-ups are a great way of dealing with this issue and help prevent serious and avoidable problems. Linking these check-ups to times of the year that we traditionally use for resets, such as Spring cleaning means we can drop this habit into others easily and with little effort”.

Give yourself a general psychological wellbeing check and ask:

How much satisfaction do you feel from your life?
Do you have a strong support network?
How is your physical health?
Are you active and fit?
What regular social activities do you engage with?
What hobbies and interests do you have?
How is work?
What is your view and feelings about your future?
Are you achieving in the way you wish, are your goals clear to you and are you meeting them?
Do you feel loved by others, and can you express your love to others?
Are you financially sound?

Noel McDermott comments:
“As well as providing a checklist, these questions can also provide an action plan as psychological wellbeing can be improved by meeting any deficits indicated. Regular check ins with a mental health professional to have an MOT on your psychological state can be really beneficial. It’s not an assessment for services or a referral for psychological therapy, it should be linked to your everyday functioning”.

Noel McDermott is a psychotherapist and dramatherapist with over 30 years’ work within the health, social care, education, and criminal justice fields. His company Mental Health Works provides unique mental health services for the public and other organisations. Mental Health Works offers in situ health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised teams to meet your needs. For more information click here