A resource to support good mental health and wellbeing for the people of Qatar
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Tools for Mental Wellbeing

Here are a few tools to help us cope and improve our wellbeing; 

Sleep Matters – Tools for improving your sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for our mental and physical wellbeing. Our sleep schedule, bedtime habits, and day-to-day lifestyle choices can make an enormous difference to the quality of our nightly rest. Good quality sleep is not about the length of sleep; it is about the amount of ‘deep sleep’ a person gets. Most deep sleep occurs during the first five hours after falling asleep. There are two types of sleep that generally occur in a pattern of three-to-five cycles per night - Rapid eye movement (REM) and Non-REM – known as deep sleep (when most dreaming occurs). 

How much sleep we need varies depending on age and varies from person to person. Most adults need about seven to nine hours of restful sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. 

Sleep can be disrupted for a number of reasons, including;

  • Worry
  • Late night meal
  • Medication
  • Snoring by others
  • Pain and undiagnosed physical illnesses
This can have negative consequences for our wellbeing including tiredness during the day, poor concentration, irritability, muscle aches and pains and weakened immunity.  

“I used to manage my time between work and sports and I didn’t have time to sleep… 
I used to think of work a lot and I was always awake… I used to spend two to three days without sleeping…”

Getting in harmony with our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (also known as circadian rhythm) is one of the most important strategies for achieving good sleep. When we keep a regular sleep schedule — going to bed and getting up at the same time each day — we will feel much more refreshed and energized than if we sleep the same number of hours at different times.
Optimizing the quality and quantity of sleep can have a positive impact on productivity, alertness, emotionally balance and energy levels through the day.

Here are some tools to optimize sleep: 

  • Make the bedroom a calm space
  • Make sure the light, temperature and sound level is optimal - cool, dark and quiet usually works best
  • Turn off electrical screens, TVs, computers and phones which all stimulate our brain and make it hard to relax
  • Try a breathing technique. For example, in a comfortable position, breathe in deeply; then breathe out slowly – making the out-breath longer than the in-breath. Repeat as needed to promote relaxation
  • Try to do more tasks that may induce worry or stress early in the day and relaxing ones later in the day
  • Keep a sleep diary to help to identify what might be the cause of sleep problems 
  • If sleep is difficult, get up and do something relaxing and go back to bed when we feel sleepy
  • Try to do some daily exercise as this will improve the quality of sleep, as long as it is not too late in the evening
  • Seek to reduce the sleep disturbances that may be caused by the intake of caffeine, alcohol and sugary food 

If you regularly have trouble sleeping, then you should discuss this with a trained health professional. 

Making time for relaxation practice

​No one can avoid all stress, but we can control it by learning how to produce the relaxation response, a state of deep rest that is the total opposite of the stress response. When the relaxation response is activated:

  • Our heart rate decreases
  • Breathing becomes slower and deeper
  • Blood pressure drops or stabilizes
  • Our muscles relax
  • Our body begins to heal

A variety of different relaxation techniques can help us bring our nervous system back into balance by producing the relaxation response, including:

  • Deep Breathing Techniques
  • Meditation and Mindfulness
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Message

The relaxation response is not lying on the couch or sleeping, but a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed, calm, and focused.

Learning the basics of relaxation techniques is not difficult, but it does take practice. Experts recommend setting aside at least 10 to 20 minutes a day for relaxation practice, ideally a set time each day, and finding the relaxation technique that works best for you. 

Learn a deep breathing relaxation technique 

​This technique focus on full, cleansing breaths, which is a simple and powerful relaxation technique. It is easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to de-stress. The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much oxygen in our lungs as possible. The more oxygen we get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious we feel.

  • Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
  • Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
  • Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
  • Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.

If you find it difficult breathing from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying on the floor. All you really need is a few minutes and a place to stretch out.
(Adapted from Stress Management: Approaches for Preventing and Reducing Stress, a special health report published by Harvard Health Publications)

Learn Mindfulness or “present-focused awareness”

Mindfulness meditation is a particular attitude towards experiencing or relating to life that helps us to free the mind from unnecessary and stressful thoughts and experience relaxation, clear thinking and harmony.

Mindfulness equips people with effective strategies that can fit into any life style. This could be driving to work, washing dishes or waiting in a queue. Adding 10-15 minutes mindfulness practice to your daily routine will be beneficial. 

The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing, and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future. 

Try these mindful practices: 

  • Relax at the end of the day with a 15-minute meditation - There are many apps, podcasts and audio files available online and in bookstores which may be useful guided resources. 
  • Start your day with a basic yoga sequence or gentle stretching. 
  • Check in with yourself - Bring yourself into the present moment by asking yourself, ‘What is going on with me at the moment?’ You can name your thoughts and feelings, for example, ‘that’s an anxious feeling’, and let it go. You may start to feel more of an observer instead of someone reacting to thoughts and feelings.
  • Eat mindfully - When you are having a meal, focus on your eating. Do not read or watch TV at the same time. Pay attention to how the food looks, smells and ta​s​tes. You may find you enjoy your food more, and stop eating when you’re full instead of automatically finishing what is on your plate.

Developing a ‘Stay Well’ Plan 

A ‘stay well’ plan can help to identify what personal triggers are and the strategies that help people cope better, based on their personal experiences. Having a plan can help people to recognize early warning signs of poor mental health and allowing coping mechanisms to be implemented as quickly as possible. The earlier we intervene, the better our chances of recovery and a return to overall wellbeing. 

Here is an example of a person’s stay well plan which can be adapted for personal use:

​Example of Area of Wellness ​Example of Actions for Staying Well
​Setting Goals/Building Confidence
- Take one day at a time
- Exercise at least twice a week
Triggers and Ideal Respons​e
​- Financial Concerns: seek financial advice
- Feeling overwhelmed: take a break and stop taking on too much at work
- Family related issues: try to resolve the issues, learn to say ’No’ and take control
- Existing physical Illness: set up a support plan and ask for help during recovery 
Things I like to do to keep well
​- Cooking
- Catching up with family
- Going for a walk
Things that I must do to keep well
​- Establish a regular sleep routine
- Share with my family and friends about how I am feeling
- Eat healthily 
Things I notice about myself when I am becoming unwell
​- Want to sleep all the time or sleeping very little
- Arguing with people around me
- Change in eating habits
- Not taking care of myself
- Decrease in productivity at work or school
- Lower self confidence
- Not enjoying time with friends
- Worried over small things
Things others notice about myself when I am becoming unwell
​- Not wanting to attend social activities
- Irritability

​Implementing your stay well plan:

  • ​Share your strategies for staying well with those close to you, so that they can help you stick to them.
  • Talk about how you are feeling – do not keep things bottled up. Discuss potential triggers with your family and friends so that they can support you in avoiding or managing difficult situations.
  • It is also important to recognize the early warning signs if you are becoming unwell and when you should speak to a health professional. Friends and family can help by looking out for changes in your thoughts and behavior that you may not notice yourself.
  • The ‘stay well’ plan is a work in progress. Set aside time to review it​ regularly and make adjustments as necessary. For example, if you find that a particular coping strategy no longer works for you, find another one to replace it.
​(Adapted from beyondblue, Australia)

“I know a girl who faced a death in her family. She wasn’t able to sleep for a long time, really awake all day and night! She believed that she was facing a depression and she needed treatment”​​​​​​​​​