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Mental health issues: at home

Your home should be your refuge; it should be the place where you feel safe, relax and just be yourself, however you may be feeling. To make this a reality, we've got some simple ideas that are really easy to do. 

Create a quiet space

If you want to do some relaxation exercises, meditate, read a book or just flop down into your favourite comfy chair, having a quiet space to do so is essential. You don't have to take up a whole room; just a little corner will do. Decorate it with a nice chair, some cushions, a picture or two and some tchotchkes that make you feel happy. Just create a space that embodies peace and quiet, and then relax and enjoy.  

Get a good night's sleep

Having restful sleep is key to your mental and physical wellbeing. In order for your body and mind to be well rested, it is optimal to get eight hours of sleep every night. If you're taking medication, you may find that it makes you sleep too much or too little; it's vital to make sure that your sleep is both relaxing and rejuvenating. Many experts recommend that the best time to sleep is between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am.

To get started, you'll need to stick to an evening routine that helps you wind down before you head to bed. 

Here are our top tips for having a good, restful sleep:

  1. Exercise regularly. Exercise is great for overall wellbeing, but when it comes to helping you get to sleep, regular exercise plays a vital role. If you are active five to six hours before bedtime, this raises your body's core temperature. When your temperature returns to normal a few hours later, it tells your body that it's time to sleep.
  2. Have a light dinner. If you can, make dinner the lightest meal of the day. There is certainly truth in the old adage, "Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper".
  3. Go for a leisurely walk, do yoga relaxation exercises or take the time to stretch. Light, relaxing exercise helps to prepare you for sleep. Doing stimulating exercise, such as playing sports or spending an hour in the gym, does not.
  4. After 8 pm, do activities that relax, rather than stimulate, your mind. Listen to relaxing music, meditate, read inspirational books—anything that helps to settle your mind and body.
  5. Keep a journal. If your mind is very active, you may find that keeping a night time journal helps. You may find it useful to write down your thoughts and concerns. Writing your thoughts down may stop you from playing them over in your mind when you lie down to sleep.
  6. Take a hot bath an hour to half an hour before bedtime. You can use essential oils or bath salts to aid relaxation. If you can, keep the lights low and soak for 10 to 15 minutes. You may also find that listening to relaxing music helps.
  7. Cut down on caffeine and go herbal before bed. If you enjoy caffeinated drinks, such as tea or coffee, see if you can cut down on these drinks throughout the day—especially in the evenings. About 15 minutes before bedtime, drink a cup of warm herbal tea. There are many different bedtime teas available from supermarkets and health food stores that you can try. You may prefer a simple chamomile or peppermint tea. Try it and see! What matters is that your tea is herbal and does not contain caffeine. If you are taking medication, some herbs, such as Valerian and St Johns Wort, may not be suitable. It is best to check with your doctor.
  8. Avoid drinking alcohol at night. Although alcohol may make you feel drowsy, it actually makes for a restless, rather than a restful, sleep. If you're not sleeping well, it's best to avoid alcohol entirely, particularly in the evenings.
  9. Make sure your bed is set up for sleep. Watching TV, doing work or using technology in bed? These activities do not aid restful sleep and are best kept out of the bedroom. Make sure that your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool, and your bed is comfortable. Having the right kind of mattress makes a big difference.
  10. Get into bed and relax. You may find that following the tips we've provided thus far helps you to get to sleep easily. You may also find some meditation or relaxation techniques work for you.

Relaxation tips

Relaxing your body. When in bed, find a comfortable position, lie still and close your eyes. Focus on how your body feels and become aware of the different sensations. If you notice any tension in your body, focus your mind on relaxing that area. You may just want to feel the sensation of your breath as you breathe the intention to relax in and out of your body.

Following your breath. You may simply prefer to watch your breath. You can begin by taking three long, slow comfortable breaths. Breathe in deeply, following the rhythm of your breath and then breathe out slowly, making your out breath lasts longer than your in breath. Then just relax and follow the slow and easy rhythm of your breath until you fall asleep.

Check out the Sleepio website for more helpful tips on improving your sleep.

Managing money

Managing your finances when living with a mental health condition can be quite stressful. Having financial worries can add to this stress, which can take its toll on your mental wellbeing. So getting to grips with your finances and keeping it all under control is key.

For some helpful information and resources, check out the Help to manage money section of the Mind website and the Managing budgets and debt section of the Rethink website.

Physical wellbeing

Although people talk about mental health as being separate from physical wellbeing, we are here to tell you that these are connected. Your wellbeing is about you as a whole person—your mind, your body, your feelings, your experiences and your emotions.

And so it goes that if you take care of your body, you are laying the foundation for overall wellbeing and good mental health.

Eating a healthy diet

What do you eat? How much do you eat? These things have a direct impact on wellbeing.

Lots of traditional Jewish foods are not necessarily balanced. If you love Jewish food but want to stay trim and healthy, check out our Healthier traditional Jewish recipes in the Jewish life and culture section.

If you want to find out more about healthy eating, check out the NHS Choices website and go to the section on Eating a balanced diet.

Getting enough exercise

Being physically active and getting a good amount of exercise are great for overall wellbeing. Exercise can benefit mental health and relationships and lead to a healthier and happier life overall. Exercise reduces stress and helps your body deal with mental tension. It can increase norepinephrine, a chemical that moderates your brain's response to stress.

Exercise also increases happiness; it releases endorphins that create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Many people who have anxiety or clinical depression have experienced the benefits of exercise. Some even say that it's better than medication.

For more information, check out the Get active for mental wellbeing section of the NHS Choices website.

Medication and overall wellbeing

If you're taking medication for a mental health condition, you may find that it has some unpleasant or unwanted side effects. It is important that you are aware of these side effects and that you let your GP or psychiatrist know if you're experiencing them. There may be alternative medications or treatments that will suit you better. To find out more, please visit the Medication & side effects of the Rethink website.

Spirituality and mental health

Spirituality is a central part of religion, but you don't need to be religious to be spiritual. Spirituality is something we can all experience. Put simply, it is the means with which we find meaning and purpose in life.

If you're living with a mental health condition, finding meaning or a sense of purpose in life can be invaluable.

How spirituality can improve mental health

Spirituality can help you find balance, hope and healing in the most challenging times. It helps you focus on the things that matter most and encourages you to be the best person you can be in relation to yourself and others around you.

You may find that your focus on spirituality is greater when you experience extreme stress or anxiety or when you experience a loss or bereavement.

Spirituality is not otherworldly or esoteric; it's just a part of being human. Opening up to your spirituality can help you view life as a journey, where both pleasant and unpleasant experiences can help you to learn, develop and mature.

In research conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, they discovered that people who identified as being spiritual experienced:

  • Better self-control, self-esteem and confidence;
  • Faster and easier recovery;
  • Better relationships with self, others and with G-d/creation/nature;
  • A new sense of meaning, hope and peace of mind.

Exploring your spirituality

Many people find that spirituality is just something that they experience quite naturally in their day-to-day lives.

Other ways of experiencing spirituality may be:

  • Taking part in religious festivals, such as going to synagogue on the High Holidays;
  • Taking part in religious rituals, such as lighting the candles on a Friday night;
  • Being outdoors and connecting with nature;
  • Being kind and compassionate to other people;
  • Being charitable, such as giving tzedakah;
  • Spending time in meditation, contemplation, reflection or prayer;
  • Reading the Tanakh, also known as the Old Testament;
  • Following the disciplines of yoga, qigong or tai chi;
  • Playing sports;
  • Cooking;
  • Appreciating the arts; and
  • Maintaining relationships with friends and family.

Spiritual practices can help you to become—and be happy with—the person that you really are.

Giving your spirituality a kickstart

Spirituality is a very personal thing. Your best bet is to try a few things and find out what works for you.

To get you started, it may be helpful to establish a regular routine. You can try:

  • Having a regular quiet time every day for reflection, meditation, contemplation or prayer;
  • Setting some time aside every day to read spiritual or religious books or materials;
  • Joining a study or discussion group at your synagogue or community centre;
  • Attending synagogue on Shabbat; and
  • Meeting up with friends who share the same spiritual aspirations.

Finally, to request information about--or support for--mental health and the Jewish community, contact Jami.

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