An illustration of three women sat together
Mental Health

Mental health: 4 simple ways to practise ‘everyday mental maintenance’

Are you struggling to take care of your mental health at the moment? Here’s how the concept of ‘everyday mental maintenance’ could help you feel more in control of your wellbeing this summer.

Whether you schedule regular trips to the gym, make an effort to eat nutritious food or use supplements to ensure your body has everything it needs, taking conscious steps to take care of our physical health is something most of us do on a daily basis.  

However, when it comes to our mental health, the idea of taking daily steps to promote better wellbeing is a lot less common. We’ve all got self-care routines we turn to when we’re feeling rubbish – but what about when you’re feeling OK? While the importance of taking care of our mind may not be as ingrained as the physical side of things, making space for regular care is essential to maintaining good mental wellbeing.

That’s the message behind the book How To Grow Through What You Go Through by Self Space co-founders and therapists Jodie Cariss and Chance Marshall. While the book provides plenty of general tips for looking after your mental health – from dealing with grief to the ups and downs of relationships – it’s largely based on the concept of ‘everyday mental maintenance’.  

You may also like

Emotional coasting: a therapist explains why so many of us are feeling so out of sorts at the moment

Devised by the pair as a way to help their clients adopt a more sustainable approach to mental wellbeing, the concept is nothing complicated; in fact, it’s all about changing the way we think about taking care of our mental health so it feels a lot easier and more straightforward.

“Essentially, everyday mental maintenance is a proactive, bite-sized approach to looking after your mental health,” Cariss tell Stylist. “Most of us understand what helps to maintain our physical health daily, so it’s not surprising then that when we apply the same consistent and step-by-step approach to our mental health practices, we get good results.”

She continues: “This isn’t about quick fixes but low-key commitments to yourself through self-curiosity and activities that help you to feel more buoyant in the world – we prefer this term to resilient as it allows for much more flexibility. This could look like planning your meals for the week or sticking to that one exercise class because it gives you space to be you.” 

How To Grow Through What You Go Through book cover
How To Grow Through What You Go Through by Jodie Cariss and Chance Marshall.

While the idea of setting aside dedicated time to look after your mental health may feel weird at first, it shouldn’t take long until you notice the benefits, Marshall adds.

“We see results in the work we do with clients and our partners who take a realistic, consistent and proactive approach,” he says. “Keeping that kind of commitment to ourselves reassures us that we are valuable. This work focuses on building small rituals and routines that we can dip in and out of and return to when we are and aren’t struggling – especially the things that go at the first sign of stressful times like drinking water, eating nourishing food and breathing.”

In fitting with its simplistic ethos, there’s no one ‘right’ way to practise everyday mental maintenance. However, to give you some inspiration, we asked Cariss and Marshall to talk us through four simple ways to get started. Here’s what they had to say. 

4 ways to practise everyday mental maintenance 

Check in with yourself

A woman looking in the mirror in the morning
Checking in with yourself on a regular basis will help you to become more aware of where you're at.

To start with, all you need to do is make a conscious effort to check in with yourself. This will help you to be more aware of how you’re feeling on a daily basis.

“Take a moment in the morning to tune in to you,” Cariss says. “Try taking a few deep breaths and ask yourself ‘how do you feel?’ and allow the feelings to emerge. Then, ask yourself what you need – it could be food, rest or validation. Listen carefully and act accordingly.”

Make space for all your emotions

No matter what emotions come up during your daily check-in, it’s important to reserve judgement and allow your feelings to flow through.

“Society tends to send us the message that if we’re not happy, there’s something wrong with us,” Marshall highlights. “Many self-help books promote the benefits of positive attitudes, positive thinking, and positive behaviours, labelling sadness, anger, boredom, loneliness and even grief as ‘problem emotions’ that need to be kept at bay and ‘fixed’.” 

You may also like

Are you an ‘emotional perfectionist’? Here’s how to tell (and what you can do about it)

He continues: “Normal, natural emotions are too often seen as negative or positive. A natural response to painful experiences is to avoid thinking about them, but research tells us that when feelings and emotions are ignored, they amplify.

“The only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves. Allow yourself to feel (both heavy and light) without judgement, let them teach you what you need to know.”

Be open with others 

Two women talking while drinking tea
Making a conscious effort to be open will help you to feel more relaxed.

When we’re struggling, it can be tempting to hide how we’re feeling from others by putting on a ‘mask’ and presenting ourselves in a certain way. Not only can removing this mask help you to confront your emotions and feel less alone in how you’re feeling, but it can also encourage others, too.

“It has become normal to live a filtered life and become dependent on how the outward version of ourselves is received and validated, which often has no resemblance to how we actually feel,” Cariss says. “Because we meet such filtered versions of each other, we think we are the only ones who are struggling. Over time, the filtered version of ourselves grows bigger and our real self shrivels.

“We need to share how we are really feeling so we can see how those around us are or aren’t coping with the crap life throws at us all. This is a key ingredient for how we grow, how we relate and how we become more ourselves. Being able to recognise and share our own humanness and experience that of other people is a powerful, reparative and connecting experience.” 

Say no to busy

Our fast-paced modern lives convince us that busyness is the be-all and end-all – but that’s just not the case. Saying no to being busy all the time will not only give you the time you need to rest and unwind, but it’ll also give you space to work on other areas of your life, too. 

You may also like

Stress and burnout: why you feel the need to be busy all the time, and how to stop

Busyness can be addictive and habitual,” Marshall says. It can be a fear-based response to trauma that keeps us apart from the feelings we’d be forced to acknowledge if we slowed down. In fact, at this point, it’s become a culturally acceptable avoidance strategy – our default response to difficult things is to look for something to distract us.

“We unconsciously do anything we can to keep busy and away from what we can’t face. When we stop and slow down, it can get very uncomfortable. How often do you get poorly when you go on holiday? Or feel worse at the weekend when you aren’t working?” 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and services.

If you are struggling with your mental health, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.

For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. In a crisis, call 999.

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

This article was originally published in May 2022 and has since been updated throughout.

Images: Getty/Vermilion