Tuesday: “Watch a documentary or TED Talk from around the world.”
This was an activity I’d love to do anyway, so it felt like when your teacher says your homework is to HAVE SOME FUN.
I decided to focus on self-improvement, and found a TED Talk I’d never watched before. I’d been getting anxious lately about my ability to perform under pressure. I do a lot of presentations with work, and I often find myself worrying that I’ll freeze, so I found a talk titled ‘Why we choke under pressure and how to avoid it’. It was really interesting, and I found myself with tangible steps to ensure that doesn’t happen.
But the most important discovery was that it's not just me. Everyone has that fear. It’s normal, it’s human and it doesn’t mean you’re fundamentally inadequate.
Wednesday: “Take regular breaks today. Even if it’s just for 10 minutes.”
This was a hard one. Work is fast paced so regular breaks aren’t something I’ve ever afforded myself. For the first time, perhaps ever, I decided to walk around the block. Not to get a coffee or lunch, but just because.
I left my phone in the office on purpose, and just concentrated on my breathing. It was a ridiculously beautiful day, unseasonably warm for winter, and I found myself smiling at dogs and toddlers. Who was I becoming?
Thursday: “Unplug two hours before bedtime to get a good night’s sleep.”
Well. The tasks were clearly getting harder.
Most psychologists would be horrified to hear this, but I virtually go to sleep with my phone in my hand. I read the news and scroll through Twitter on my phone in bed, and usually go to sleep with a podcast playing, because otherwise I find my thoughts can spiral.
Lately, however, I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping, which is probably quite unsurprising.
On Thursday night, I showered, got into my pyjamas and laid in bed with a book two hours before my bedtime. I found myself grabbing for my phone probably half a dozen times, but eventually I got so into my book I forgot about scrolling. I read until my eyelids felt heavy, and although I didn’t fall asleep right away, my thoughts did feel slower and less scrambled.
Friday: “Get creative.”
My relationship with creativity is complicated. I love it and am terrified of it in equal parts. I struggle to create for the sake of creating, rather than focusing on the finished product.
On Friday night, I sat down with my laptop and just wrote for 10 minutes with no brief. It was magical. I didn’t know I was capable of doing that. What came out was better than I expected, but that also wasn’t the point. It wasn’t for anyone else. Just me. I weirdly felt like I’d accomplished something that wasn’t work related.
Reflecting on my week of prioritising my mental health and wellbeing, I realised how simple all the little tasks had been. At first, I’d wondered if they would just exacerbate my stress, just another thing to add to my list of things to do.
However, it was incredible the difference a walk around the block can make, or thinking about the things that make life wonderful.
These little strategies are now tucked away in my arsenal, ready for whenever I feel the need to take a deep, long breath.
In fact, I might try new things a little more often.
Active August is all about trying new things to improve your mental health and wellbeing, whether it be physical, social, mental or spiritual. For more ideas and activities around your local area, visit Mentally Healthy WA's Act-Belong-Commit Activity Finder.