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Do you know your 'blind spots'? How to look after your mental health

The CEO of the Psychological Society of Ireland gives practical tips on how to encourage positive mental well-being.

Terri Morrissey

THERE ARE A baffling number of “self-help” books, articles, tips and anecdotes out there – all telling us how to stay healthy, “look our best”, have the right attitude and how to reach our full potential.

It is a billion dollar industry. Some of the advice is trite, some of it is profound, some useful and practical. It is important to recognise which bits are words of wisdom based on sound evidence, and which ones are just plain quackery.

The Psychological Society of Ireland is very keen to promote well-being and positive psychological and emotional health by gathering sound evidence from reliable sources on what works.

There is a large body of knowledge in this area which we believe should be more readily accessible and available to the general public.

For example, people often ask about “warning signs” that a young person is at risk of self-harm or depression, how you can manage stress, how can you deal with cyber bullying, or how you build up coping skills and resilience.

Before embarking a journey to positive mental health, it is important to start by taking stock of yourself. You should look for strengths and areas for development. You need to test some of your assumptions about yourself and look at how realistic your expectations of yourself and others are.

Become more self-aware

We recommend that people write down a list of all the positive qualities that they have. It is surprising how many of us find this one difficult, especially if asked to write at least 30.

Write down what kind of thoughts you have about yourself. Is the balance of your self-talk positive or negative?

Do you set yourself personal goals that are unrealistic as a stick to continually beat yourself up with?

To test some of your own perceptions ask people who know you to give you honest feedback.

  • What do they like about you?
  • What do they appreciate in terms of skills and talents?
  • Where might you improve by doing more of or less of something?

This is called 360 degree feedback and is used very often to gain a more rounded picture of strengths and areas for development.

Weigh up the information to help build self-awareness. See where there may be gaps in the differing perceptions.

  • Are there any patterns?
  • Is there a consistent message?
  • Are there strengths you overlooked, forgot or never thought of?
  • Have you uncovered some ‘blind spots’?

Practical tips

Source: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

There are then some practical things you can do to help. These fall into a few key categories:

Language

The words we use reflect how we feel and think. Think about what you are saying and how you are approaching situations. Try to put a positive spin on things.

Mood

Tune into your feelings and learn how to recognise the triggers for certain emotions such as anger and sadness.

Find things to be grateful for and express gratitude to others for their support and help. The old phrase “count your blessings” really works!

Sometimes we have to make an effort to do these things especially if we are not feeling too happy or we are experiencing stress.

Attitude

  • Find something positive in the situation you are in
  • Weigh up the pros and cons
  • Find a way to resolve issues rather than let them fester
  • Talk things out with a trusted friend
  • Keep a sense of fun and make time for yourself to do things that you like
  • Set realistic goals

Behaviour

Social interaction is crucial to psychological well-being. Isolating yourself or cutting off friends and family is a signal to watch out for.

Getting to know people, engaging in group activities or sport, going to social events and meeting for coffee, all help.

Terri Morrissey is the CEO of the Psychological Society of Ireland. The PSI is hosting a series of public talks on mental health over the coming months. The next is on 22 September. For more information, visit the PSI website.

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Terri Morrissey

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