No matter what Instagram might suggest, a perfect, worry-free life does not exist. For all of us, there will be tough parts. We can’t avoid these, and trying to do so generally leads us down a path of even greater worry and anxiety. However, just like keeping your body fit and healthy, there are things you can do to look after your mental health.

You will probably have read or heard about some generic suggestions before. Eating well, sleeping well, making time for physical activity, managing stress, staying connected to others and asking for help when you need it are all important in staying resilient through life’s challenges. Many of us go through a cycle in regards to how much attention we are paying to looking after ourselves, and when we let it lapse, we will generally notice a dip in the strength of our feeling of wellbeing.

This is normal, but it is helpful to be aware of your own personal recipe for good mental health as well as the warning signs that you are not as OK as you were before. Without awareness, it is hard to pinpoint why you are feeling so stressed, so tired, so cranky, or overwhelmed.

What keeps us well and feeling emotionally and mentally healthy will be different for all of us. A combination of the above suggestions (nutrition, sleep, exercise, connectedness, etc) is a balance that may work well for many people. It is likely, however, that what works for you will be different to what works for your friends or family.

Most of us will have something(s) we do that we enjoy so much that we lose track of time while doing it, that leaves us feeling re-energised, that leaves us feeling like ourselves. For some, it is exercise – the feeling they get while pounding the pavement helps them to feel at one with themselves.

For others, it might be getting lost in a wonderful novel. Or feeling the spray of the ocean on their face, wind in their hair. It might be something creative, it might be being around loved ones, it might be exploring a new place or pottering around one’s own garden, seeking an adrenalin rush or sitting and watching the clouds go by.

It is all too easy to be swept up in the busy pace of our everyday lives and forget to take time for the things that make us feel alive. And of course there are often responsibilities taking up space and making us feel as though we don’t have time for ourselves. And we certainly can’t do it all, all the time. Feeling as though we should is one sure way to undermine our mental health.

However, noticing that you are not feeling your best might be a trigger to let you know that you need to reflect again on what is important for you in looking after your wellbeing, and to try to prioritise those things, and as much as you can to make them habit. This is something we will all continue to learn about over the course of our lifetimes.

If you really stopped to think, is there some small way you can do the things you love? Some small way you can change your routine to prioritise that area of your life that might be lacking attention at present? Some small way to care for yourself the way you would for others? There often is, and such small changes can be the key towards feeling more satisfied with our lives and more equipped to take on the harder aspects of our reality.

If you would like some help identifying your warning signs or planning activities to increase health and well-being there are plenty of support services available at the Uni. A good place to start is making an appointment with a Student Support Advisor, give us a call on 4921 6622.

Emma is a Student Support Advisor in  Student Care and Equity, Student Central.