Mental Health: Building a Strong Foundation
May 27, 2021
In the building and construction industry, we know the importance of starting with a solid foundation. Just as we take care to lay a proper foundation on a job site, so we should do the same for our mental well-being.
It’s an interesting conundrum that isn’t unique to construction, but sometimes workers don’t prioritize their own mental health as a foundational asset. We want to change that and start to eliminate any stigma around mental health issues.
Here are five simple strategies to help you maintain a solid foundation for a healthy mind.
- Get enough sleep.
If you struggle to get enough sleep or suffer from insomnia, it could cause or exacerbate existing problems such as anxiety and depression. We spend as much as a third of our lives asleep, and it’s as essential to our physical and mental health as eating and breathing. Poor sleep can make it more difficult to deal with even minor daily stress. If you’re having sleep troubles, consider trying a sleep and meditation app like Calm, or make an appointment to discuss the issue with your family physician, who can recommend next steps to help get you back on track.
- Stay active.
Studies show a clear link between exercise and better mental health. A consistent commitment to physical activity can improve self-esteem, help you concentrate and even result in better quality sleep. These days, you don’t even need to invest in a gym membership to reach fitness goals. You can choose from a plethora of free and paid apps, but we like Nike Training Club for the variety of workouts available – from running to yoga and stretching – and the stellar quality of their trainers.
- Aim for a healthier diet.
Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy just as other organs in your body do. It’s not necessary to completely overhaul your diet if you’re not making healthy choices. Just by making a few small changes to start can have a positive effect on your mind. Many people find that cutting back on sodas, processed foods and refined sugars can boost your mood and help sharpen your concentration.
Staying properly hydrated helps boost your mood and will keep you focused throughout your day. It’s a myth that everyone should drink eight glasses of water a day, but it is true that you should keep your body sufficiently hydrated for optimal physical and mental health.
- Consider starting a meditation/journaling practice.
The data doesn’t lie. A recent study found that employees who used a mindfulness meditation app for 8 weeks experienced improved feelings of well-being and decreased stress and job strain, compared with those in a control group. These days, a whole host of apps are out there for you to find your bliss. Headspace is great for beginners, offering straightforward instructions on how to start a practice, with hundreds of guided meditations to sample. Headspace offers a free trial, after which time you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee.
Journaling is another effective way to relax your mind. Sometimes journaling can be as simple as writing down the stressors in your life. Taking five minutes to put your thoughts onto paper each day can help you organize your mind. Many people find journaling to be a calming, positive way to kickstart their day.
- Talk to someone.
It is important to discuss your feelings, whether it be with a trusted friend, family member, significant other or professional. Many men still feel a stigma around discussing emotions in a therapeutic setting, but it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to ask for help when you feel depressed or numb. Mental health professionals can guide you to the proper treatment for what you’re struggling with and do so without judgment.
You can also reach out to help a colleague if they seem to be struggling. Some signs to look for are someone who starts to show up late or not at all, seem to be less motivated and/or more irritable and are not getting along with others, or even something as universal as the stress of the pandemic.
A final note on getting help.
There are many great tools out there you or a colleague can utilize. Online counseling services such as Talkspace provide affordable, convenient and private services that may even be covered by your medical insurance policy or employee wellness plan. You can reach out to your H.R. department if you’re unsure what might be available to you, or directly with your insurance carrier who can provide details on coverage.
It can be challenging to make your own mental health a priority, but a healthy mind is just as important as any exercise program you’re currently doing at the gym. Make the space to address any struggles you have in your life that are a detriment to your mental health and you’ll soon see your stress levels go down and your quality of life improve. Take the time to give your own mental health a solid foundation.