This year Mental Health Awareness Week 10 – 16 May uses the theme of nature to support our wellbeing.
Since emotional wellbeing plays a significant role in positive mental health, we have to feelbetter in order to have positive mental health and for that we need to change our physiology. Here are my top 5 tips for feeling better.
1. Shake It Off Firstly we need to move. Even if you can’t get outside in the open air you can open all the windows to change the air in your space and disperse any heavy negative energy. Do that now!
Next stand with your feet hip width apart and bounce up and down on your heels, now begin to shake your fingers, hands, arms, shoulders and hips. This is one of the quickest ways to disperse stress. Keep shaking and bouncing for a minimum of 2 minutes, this will change your physiology and emotional and psychological state.
2. Keep your feet hip width apart. Raise your arms palms up to meet each other and back down 5 times then arms out in front of you and up beside your ears and down beside you again. These two movements involve your cardiovascular and respiratory systems thus changing your physiology.
3. Add music to the above two movements, loud strong beats if you’re prone to depression and slower calming sounds if you’re prone to anxiety. Or better still, dance like no one’s watching to your favourite song.
4. Surround yourself with Blue and Green… in this instance I’m referring to nature. Do your best to get out to your nearest coastline and walk beside the sea whatever the weather. Alternatively immerse yourself in the green of a park, woodland or nearest countryside walk. Spend at least an hour and make sure you take some time to look up, this will without a doubt, leave you feeling calmer and more grounded.
5. Finally sit in garden, park or woodland and soften your gaze as you gently focus on a flower, tree or the general landscape. Aim to stop your eyes from grasping and looking intensely at the scene, instead allow your eyes to softly ‘absorb’ your surroundings. From time to time in this mindfulness exercise be aware of your inhalation and exhalation.
I hope you find this helpful and of course you wont know unless you try! To make it easer I’ve added a short audio clip to help. Listen below:
Are you having trouble getting to sleep? You're not alone according to research a whopping 36% of UK adults struggle to get to sleep at least on a weekly basis. Almost 1 in 5 have trouble falling asleep every single night. Nearly half of the UK have trouble falling asleep at least once a month.
Make a note of my best sleep tips:
1. STOP STIMULATING YOURSELF!
One hour before bed STOP drinking, especially alcohol and anything with caffeine in.
STOP scrolling, watching TV, working on devices, and listening to the radio or podcasts. Even reading is a No No if you want to get to sleep and stay asleep.
2. START BEING SMART
This is what to do with that hour. Once or twice a week oil up! Especially if your skin is dry. Massage, using warm sesame oil. Cover your entire body gently massage your face, your ears, up your nose and in between your toes! Allow the oil to soak in for 20 minutes, then have a warm bath or shower you will sleep so well.
Prepare: Get things ready for the next day during this hour. If there are things you feel you have to do, make a note of them before you go to sleep and decide to do them first thing in the morning.
Head trash? If you’re plagued with thoughts this is the best time for you to journal. Scribble it all down to empty out your mind.
Still awake? If you’re still obsessed with thoughts, sit upright, close your eyes and gently hum… feel the vibration on your lips as you exhale the hum - do this for 10 minutes it will help your mind to quieten and sleep to come.
Still can't sleep? Why not? Write down the following sentence and then the next 50 things that come to mind. " I can't sleep because..." Let's face it, you're the expert on you and somewhere you know what the problem is - unearth it and deal with it!
3. AND DO THIS...
Are your feet cold at night? Massage warm sesame oil into your feet and put socks on - you'll sleep like a baby!
Meditate for 15 minutes. Sit upright ideally on a hardback chair. Close your eyes. Bring your awareness gently to your nostrils and follow each in breath, pause, exhalation and the following pause... rinse and repeat.
Don't go to bed hungry or full, both get in the way of a good night's sleep. Exercise a little discipline and aim to stop eating and drinking after 7.00pm. Plan to eat aa more substantial lunch.
If you’ve missed out on sleep - Don’t nap, go to bed a bit earlier instead.
Set your alarm for no later than 7am. Don't play the alarm game... you're an adult! Get up and get on.
This is by far the best tip, go for a brisk 30 minute walk within two hours of waking up.
Going back to work after lockdown will have it’s challenges for sure. Because there’s a tendency in life to cling to the familiar, to feel safe and secure, change can feel threatening. Are there steps we can take to feel more in control and stress free after lockdown?
Read on for some suggestions on how to make your re-integration as stress free and smooth as possible.
Indeed let’s also remember, that whilst the more extrovert among us may be excited at the prospect of returning to work and re-engaging with an audience, other’s may well dread the return to work for that very reason! Just the act of interacting with gregarious
colleagues can be draining, anxiety provoking and far from stress-free for those with more introvert tendencies.
Rather than worrying about what might happen, aim instead, to discover how to ring fence yourself and reduce the risk to your mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Write a personal risk assessment and find stress-free solutions for your particular situation. Have a look at some of my suggestions below
You may wonder, can there be certainty in such uncertain times?
Perhaps a level of acceptance is a better state to aim for than a sense of certainty because we are in a state of flux and futures are uncertain for many of us.
Yet the fact remains, we want to feel in control and there is so much in life that we have no control over, the sooner we accept this, become flexible and adapt, the less stressful life will be.
How can we handle the stress of not having control? In this link I explain the Circle of Influence and Circle of Control a tool that facilitates the discovery of personal ways to feel empowered and stress-free.
In fact, something as simple as learning a gentle breathing technique can quell a rising panic allowing you to regain self-control in the middle of a meeting or on the train going to work.
Before returning to work make a list of some of the things you are in control of.
Below are some tips about how to stay stress free after lockdown.
1. Consistent Clear Communication
This might be expressing to your line manager/supervisor/boss that you’re struggling with an aspect of the return to work. If you find it difficult to verbalise, write a private and confidential email outlining your concerns.
Likewise where possible, suggest one or two solutions to the problem you’ve identified, such as split working from home/office. Changing hours or asking for clarity on the troubling issue.
This way you take both the problem and the solution to your boss, who may also be struggling with issues.
2. Listen to yourself first
Your body will give you very clear signals of discomfort and distress if you tune-in and listen.
Try this, a minimum of 5 minutes quiet time each day can be enough to pick up on a tightened chest, or a churning stomach. If your body is light and buoyant all is well. Feelings of heaviness, constriction are not good signs, what do you think that’s telling you?
Pay attention to these feelings and aim to explore and address the issue causing these problems, talk them through with a trusted friend, colleague or engage a therapist or coach.
We know that there is a global collective grieving at this time but what we don’t know is who is grieving, or what or whom has been lost. It could be a loved one, a job or an income. Never has there been more of a need for kindness, compassion and understanding.
3. Listen and be prepared for emotion
Besides listening, know that we can’t fix other people’s stuff so don’t even try! What you can do is offer people time and space to listen, really listen and it’s one of the kindest gifts we can give another. Even identical twins suffering the same loss will experience their bereavement differently, so we should never presume to know what someone is feeling or when.
It’s much easier to ask them, “How are you?” and then listen, you may pick up the signal immediately that they do not want to talk about it or maybe if you stay quiet for just that tiny bit longer, they will share something with you.
Again, prepare yourself to be uncomfortably comfortable in the face of emotion. People who you least expect to be emotional may break down and cry in your presence. Be with them, hold the space for them and resist the temptation to hand them tissues, put an arm around them or placate them with platitudes.
Consequently they are more likely to benefit and recover quickly if you don’t react in this way. That’s empathy and compassion and can help them enormously.
4. Find Your Balance
Aim for balance and work out how you can achieve that? What do you need to do to re-energise? Do you need to stop and give yourself a short break to move around for example? Are you the type of person who needs to eat a little and often to keep your energy high? Are you sipping any water regularly? Is your head feeling hot? Perhaps you need to take the EarPods out of your ears to give them a rest.
Make a list of resources you need to keep with you to help you to feel balanced and in control.
5. Ask yourself good quality questions
“What do I want. What do I need to feel more balanced now?” Listen to your response, that’s your prescription, your wisdom so why not take your own advice!
6. Work Smarter
Because many people will be returning to a backlog of work and since multi-tasking has been debunked, avoid that! Instead aim to spend longer at the outset and create a clear plan of action.
Besides prioritising tasks with a simple A,B,C,D method which will quickly provide order, you’ll also have a more realistic view of your workload. This will give you greater sense of control. You will also be in a better position to manage your expectations and communicate your position to colleagues or staff.
7. Set Realistic Goals
In addition to creating a schedule of work, aim to set small pragmatic goals. In your planning phase work out roughly how long each task will take, block that time out in your diary/calendar with the time span. This keeps goals realistic, also schedule in short breaks, to stand up and stretch, have a comfort break or a drink.
As a result of utilising steps 6 and 7 you offer yourself an opportunity to validate your efforts and recognise your achievements. In this way you’re not waiting around for someone else to pat you on the back. Say ‘Well done” and reward your good behaviour with a treat. A luxurious bath, a walk with a friend or carving out some time to read a book.
8. It’s OK to say No
Furthermore practice saying a good, clear No try saying it out loud now! You can be pleasant but firm when you say No. “No, I already have more than I can realistically handle” No I simply do not have the available time. No, it’s not my responsibility, I cannot take that on” Get used to that word in your mouth and throat.
In fact I often have clients’ practice saying No in front of a mirror in as many different tones and volumes as possible. Add to this good body language, such as a firm hand extended away from your chest with a big “No” should you need to communicate your position more clearly, will speak volumes.
9. Connect At Your Own Pace
You’re either itching to get back out with friends and family or feel the need to connect slowly.
First it’s your business is to know what you want and need. Secondly negotiate with yourself to establish what feels right and manageable for you. Thirdly practice out loud explaining to your friends and family how you need to proceed and see how you can arrive at a workable compromise between their expectations and yours.
10. Recognition And Validation
Finally, Be Your Own Cheerleader. Just be kind and loving to yourself. You will get the best from yourself by being supportive and gently encouraging. Watch out for the inner critic, sack your ‘Judge’ and pump up the volume on your balanced assertive adult self!
There is no ‘right’ way to do this only the way that is right for you, so aim to honour and respect your needs and keep your communication honest clear and consistent.
And lucky for you that you’re not female working in agriculture in rural India where they are purportedly underpaid by as much as 34%
Why should women work more and get paid less?
Want to know another mistake? It’s this, despite women collectively being at the forefront of the race to combat Covid-19 – we’re talking health care workers, scientists, doctors etc – globally they are still paid 11% less than the men in their fields.
Men, we also need your voice here, to speak-up and speak-out for your female colleagues who are being undervalued, undermined, underpaid and mistreated. We are your mothers, sisters and daughters, help us fight this worldwide inequality.
Also on a local level you can help the women in your community by supporting their businesses. Aim to buy their products, use their services and recommend them to others. You can do this by sharing in social media and word of mouth.
Never tear down her Crown, always straighten it and champion each one another.
On a personal note self-care is a must check out my SCABTS in a past post… these are ways to take care of yourself.
When a client asked “What is Open Heart Therapy?” We went on to talk about the effects of being emotionally hurt, I think most of us have some experience of this.
Does anyone sail through life without being wounded at some point?
When we feel hurt, scared and rejected the natural response is to withdraw, close down and push away in order to protect ourselves.
This shutting down often takes place in the heart area. It can be a gradual closing down from small childhood hurts to a more sudden snapping shut after a major rejection.
The fall-out from this ‘protection’ can be devastating and one of the consequences is poor communication. In our efforts to keep ourselves safe, we can end up closing down in the throat area, meaning that open honest conversation is a no-go.
Instead of juicy heartfelt conversations that lead to real intimacy and healthy relationships, important dialogues left unsaid will have negative effects. Couples I’ve worked with talk about avoiding direct eye contact, instead talking about mundane things like the weather or “What’s for dinner.” Humour can also be used to avoid genuine connection or worse still, no conversation at all as couples polarise to opposite ends of the bed, room, home or country.
Rather than searching or waiting impotently for someone else to provide the magical key that will open our hearts and free our speech, it is possible to take control and do it ourselves.
In a secure environment we can gently work on the business of improving our relationships, with ourselves first and then as a natural evolution, with others.
The benefits of this heart work are manifold as we learn to accept our unique selves and practice self-love, we can breathe more easily, feel authentic, empowered and more comfortable in our skin.
When we fill our own cup first, we have more to offer others, you cannot serve from a depleted cup.
Back in 2004 I ran the first ‘Open Heart Therapy’ workshop in Holmes Place and a few times since then but NOW definitely seems the right time to open up the heart chakra and get the other centres energised and spinning.
If you’re ready for the ‘Open Heart Therapy’ challenge you can book your space on this Saturday’s workshop Registration closes Friday 5th March 2021 at 1.00pm. Book here or drop me an email at Sue@thestresshacker.com to join us.