As we head into Mental Health Awareness week, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk to you about the power of the mind, how I have personally suffered with mental health issues & some tips you may find useful if you also suffer or have recently experienced some unfamiliar feelings to you.
Firstly, the whole point of ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ is to make more people aware that it is okay to struggle with mental health issues, whether that is in the form of anxiety or depression and actually it is quite normal! It is about sharing experiences and stories, also knowing that it can affect not only the individual but partners, friends and families too. Anyone can suffer with mental health issues; whether you are a man, woman, child at any age. That is the first point I want to make, that anyone can suffer with mental illness and it is completely ok so please don’t be ashamed if you do. Even if you don’t know why you are feeling like this, because perhaps you are happy with your life and ‘have it all’ yet for some reason have feelings of uneasiness… that’s absolutely fine and completely normal to have feelings like that.
…Because life isn’t easy! We are constantly being tested; through our work, relationships, children, parents, school, general life admin, there is a lot that can stress us out & make us feel uneasy. This current situation we are living in has definitely thrown a curveball & being out of our ‘normal routine’ may have caused some people to feel anxious for the first time which will have been quite worrying to someone not used to feeling this.
The more we talk about it, the more we can help each other.
I have suffered with anxiety for quite a long time now, my confidence has been knocked for various reasons, I have had mild panic attacks & even been prescribed anti-depressants by the doctor, I’m not ashamed to say it because I know I’m not the only one! I’ve also had people close to me suffer which can also have a big affect on you, even if you are not going through it personally.
I want to share some of my top tips that help me and hopefully can help you too:
1. B r e a t h e
The first thing to do, is control your breathing… when we are feeling anxious or feel we may be about to have a panic attack, our breath heightens and it can be so difficult to control, so sit comfortably and take some deep breaths, it will help to lower your heart rate and calm you down.
Inhale – Take a deep breath in counting to 5
Hold your breath for 5
Exhale – breathe out counting to 5
Do this for as long as you need to. You can also place your hand on your stomach feeling it rise with each inhale and lower with each exhale. I also feel it helps when you imagine the air that you inhale brings waves of peace and calm throughout your body. Mentally say, “Inhaling peace and positivity.” When you exhale, mentally say “exhaling anxiety & negativity”. If you think positive thoughts, you will feel positive – believe it.
Anyone can meditate, its not just for ‘hippies’ as some might say!
How crazy to think that we are not in control of our own minds?
Meditation helps you to control your mind, which means when you are feeling a sense of uneasiness coming along, you can tell yourself that it will be ok, just relax, stay calm, stay confident & you can handle anything! Try to sit quietly, focusing on the breath & being in the moment.. if any thoughts come into your head, accept them and let them pass (show them the door!) There are so many apps that can help you with this or join a meditation session (virtually until live ones may be held again)
3. Talk about it
So many people feel like they can’t talk about their feelings, strangely I feel that more men are less likely to open up than women, I’m not sure why that is but we need to change that stigma where men feel ‘less macho’ if they open up or show emotion.. as soon as you start to talk about it, you will feel lighter because you have shared with someone that may be able to help you! Even if you don’t know what to say, just let someone know that you are not feeling your normal self and need some support. I have also seen a counsellor which I have found useful as it is someone ‘neutral’ that doesn’t know me or my situation, sometimes speaking to someone that you don’t know is easier and you may feel more inclined to open up. Again, seeking ‘support’ is SO normal… you’ll be surprised to learn how many people see counsellors to help them with all areas of their lives. Please don’t feel ashamed, embarrassed or guilty for talking about it, the more we talk about it – the more people realise it’s OKAY and acceptable to experience these feelings.
4. Let it out
I don’t understand people (mainly men) who don’t cry… where is all that pain inside going if you don’t let it out? If you feel sad – cry, it honestly makes you feel better to let it out and there’s nothing wrong with that. Research has found that in addition to being self-soothing, emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins. These chemicals make people feel good and can ease both physical and emotional pain. In this way, crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of well-being and it actually makes you stronger as a person, to be true to your feelings. Also, know that that you can reach out to someone for a shoulder to cry on, a hug or to share your feelings makes it all better. (I’m always here if anyone wants to open up to me & I love a hug!)
5. Self care
The theme for this year’s mental health awareness week is ‘Kindness’ – this is so important & even more so now, when we are all feeling a little low, more so than usual, we need to be kind to each-other but most importantly, to ourselves. Self-care can come in lots of different formats depending on what your interests are and how much time you have. Simple pleasures like a cup of tea, a bath, baking, listening to some music, watching a feel good film, whatever it is you need to make yourself feel better – do it. I have quite a few ‘Self-help’ books, the only kind of reading I seem to do now but they always make me feel happier and uplifted.
6. Exercise & Fresh air
Exercise actually releases chemicals in your brain that you make you feel good so even if you don’t feel like you have the energy for it, just 20 minutes of exercise will honestly make you feel so much better. Also fresh air – go outside when you can, get some fresh air in your lungs, ideally in nature because just being around nature can really help completely change how you feel. If you are a runner, go for a run, if you cant walk much, just go round the block or spend time in your garden, just spending time outside can make you feel better.
7. Essential oils
I love lavender and it really helps to calm me down, rub some lavender or other essential oil onto your wrists whilst you take some deep breaths in, no matter where you are this can really help calm you down. Lavender can reduce your heart rate and blood pressure, also help you to sleep, I like to rub it on my wrists when I go to sleep to help relax my mind.
8. Eat well
They say ‘you are what you eat’, well the truth is you feel what you eat… its quite normal to want to head for the fast food when you are feeling down or anxious about something, you want to consume something naughty that you think will make you feel better. And yes, chocolate in small quantities does actually contain an amino acid that is linked to the production of seratonin which makes you feel happy so eating some chocolate will make you feel better. However, in general, if you eat well, your brain will be happier and function better. It is all linked, so whatever you eat will send signals to your brain. If you are eating takeaways all the time or processed food, you are going to feel low because you’re not providing the nutrients that your body deserves to perform its best! Be conscious of your diet, try to choose an 80/20 approach – 80% of the time eat well, 20% of the time treat yourself, your brain will thank you for it.
I’ve also recently come across a natural product called ‘InnerCalm’ by Arbonne, a de-stress powder featuring sustainably sourced Ashwagandha, a powerful adaptogen which is basically a herbal pharmaceutical (used for centuries in chinese medicine), along with sustainably sourced Saffron – the most expensive spice in the world because it’s so powerful… to help you achieve a balanced mindset. It also includes L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea leaves, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation without feeling drowsy. I’ve started trying this as a natural way to settle nerves rather than relying on pills and safe to drink on a daily basis.
As we go through mental health awareness week, remember that is okay if you are feeling low, especially more than usual because of the unusual situation we have found ourselves in!
And if you feel brave enough to share any of your own experiences, please do, the more we talk about it, the more we can help each other 🙂 But otherwise, remember you’re not alone, there is always someone you can reach out to (including me) and I hope my tips may benefit you in some way.
We will get through this together!
#mindovermatter #mentalhealthawareness #removethestigma #itsoknottobeok #letshelpeachother #wewillgetthroughthistogether
Next time – Look out for my post where I’ll be talking about ’travel’ …& when we may have the opportunity to travel again out of lockdown…!