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How to manage your mind: A doctor's guide

Updated 12 February, 2018

Your mind is a powerful thing. Taking control of that power is the key to living a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.

Of course, this isn’t always easy. As part of #MindMatters, we’ve looked at how you can manage your mental health in three areas that can often be challenging:

  • Work - Your job is a huge part of your life. If it’s not going as well as you’d hoped, it can have a very negative impact.
  • Food - They say you are what you eat, so if you’re not eating healthily, it can make you feel terrible both physically and mentally.
  • Your Thoughts - How we think about ourselves can have a huge impact. Everyone has to deal with the occasional negative thought, but it’s important to be able to keep them in check.

Helped by GP Dr Punam Krishan, we’ve put together some expert tips that can help you maintain a positive outlook and create healthy relationships with these key pillars in your life.

Your mind and your work

Woman working at a laptop.

It’s vital to maintain a healthy relationship with your work. Letting it run wild can lead to stress and anxiety, which can have a serious impact on your long-term health. If you’re concerned, try the following:

Find what’s causing your stress


There are so many ways work can be stressful. You could be under pressure from tight deadlines and long hours. You might feel that you’re not paid enough, worry about poor relationships with your co-workers, or simply realise that your chosen career isn’t making you happy any more.

Dr Krishan has a way to deal with this. “Reflect on why these things are causing you stress. What can you do to make it less stressful? Sometimes it’s the simple things that can make a big impact.”

In practice, this could involve:

  • Speaking to your manager.
  • Asking colleagues for help with a difficult task.
  • Initiating a conversation with someone you’re having problems with, to see if there’s a way to resolve the issue.
  • Finding a new job, or looking at ways to change your career path.

Maintain a healthy work/life balance


“This is exceptionally important,” says Dr Krishan. “A healthy work/life balance allows a healthy state of mind. Reflect on your typical week and ask if you have enough time to yourself.”

Not happy with what you’ve found? Only you can change it. Find a job with a better balance, or make sure you find time to relax when you get home. Even if you love your job, it’s important not to let it rule your life.

Your mind and your food

Bowl of healthy food

We all know we should eat a healthy diet, but in practice it can be hard. After a long day at work, the idea of cooking a nutritious meal simply might not seem appealing compared to a faster, less healthy option.

Unfortunately, a bad diet can have a negative impact on your health and give you a low opinion of yourself. The good news is that there are ways to combat this.

Take action


If you’re struggling with your diet, the one thing you mustn’t do is ignore it.

Dr Krishan advises: “The moment you realise you’re not happy, act on it! There’s so much help available, so tap into it.”

A large part of this will involve identifying the underlying cause of your eating habits. In some cases, it can be a symptom of a problem with your mental health, so it’s important to see a doctor and address this.

Of course, there are some options you shouldn’t pursue...

Avoid fad diets


Here, we turn to Push Doctor nutritionist Will Hawkins for advice. “Don’t fall into the trap of fad diets,” he says. “They don’t work, and when the promised effect doesn’t happen, it can leave you feeling like a failure.”

“Many people go on a diet to lose weight, but remember that this shouldn’t necessarily be your aim. Setting a goal like this means you’re more tempted to take short cuts. Simply enjoying a balanced diet will improve your wellbeing, and a healthy weight will be a by-product of this.”

Don’t beat yourself up

It’s natural to feel guilty after you’ve indulged a little. A cheeky snack at your desk, a Friday night takeaway, or choosing a carb-rich, high fat dish when you’re out with friends can all make us feel bad about ourselves.

However, as Dr Krishan explains, the odd ‘cheat day’ isn’t the end of the world. “We all indulge sometimes. It’s when the occasional treat becomes a daily habit that problems develop. Don’t dwell on it, move on.”

Your mind and you

Man in a field

Are you your own biggest critic? Many of us will be familiar with that little voice in the back of our minds, filling our thoughts with doubt and negativity. It’s all too easy to compare yourself unfavourably with others, or dwell on past mistakes.

The trick is to silence this voice. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but there are ways to manage your mind.

Try not to compare yourself with others


In this age of social media, it’s all too easy to compare yourself unfavourably with friends and colleagues.

People tend to post a very filtered version of their lives on social media. This can give the impression that their life is great compared to yours, whereas they actually have the same problems and worries as you.

According to Dr Krishan, it’s a societal problem. “We’re raised with expectations to be a certain way and society is driven by preconceived opinions of how people should look, feel and act. However, societal and cultural shifts in attitude. Individuality is becoming the new cool.”

In other words, being yourself is enough.

Don’t keep your feelings bottled up


“Problems can only be solved when they’re externalised,” says Dr Krishan. Talking to people can certainly help. If it’s something that you feel would help, you should see a doctor about it.

But it’s far from the only solution. If you don’t like the idea of sharing, Dr Krishan recommends writing as a powerful tool. “Writing down whatever comes to mind is incredible self-therapy. Keep a journal of your days just for you.”

“I always end my day by writing down three things that I’m grateful for. It doesn’t always come easily, but I can always find at least three and end my day with a smile.”

Shake off negative thoughts


If you’re having negative thoughts, you don’t have to accept the situation. It isn’t easy, but doing something about it will make you feel better in the long term.

“The first step is always being able to tune in and recognise something bad is going on in your head.”

“Take a minute of silence 3-4 times a day and literally just breathe. When you slow down and breathe, you’ll notice how your mind starts to talk. Recognition is key and willingness to change things and feel happier is when magic happens.”

Join the discussion

If you’ve found this advice useful, you might also be interested in following our #MindMatters discussion on Twitter. You can share your own experiences and get plenty more guidance on how to look after your mental health.

If you have any concerns about your mental health, remember that our doctors are here from 6am - 11pm, 7 days a week.

Find out more about mental healthSee a GP

Topics: Mental Health