For most of us, 2020 has rolled up it sleeves and had a really good go at shaking our mental health at its foundations. Our world and local communities have been turned upside-down by an invisible germ and the ups and downs of life have come to seem a little more stark. It is no wonder that for many, fear and anxiety have been having a heyday, while fun, freedom and fitness are ending up a bit short changed.
As a therapist I’d love to say that I’ve had a truly joyful lockdown and simply read on for my recipe to perfect tranquility and fitness. But I can’t. It has been a properly tough time in places, with so much to learn, most of it along the lines of upping my game when it comes to self-care and compassion. For me, Covid has been a minor factor in the background while more momentous challenges have played out. Strangely, many of my acquaintance can say the same: if 2020 had a facebook profile it really wouldn’t be getting many likes. Soul-shaking and growth inspiring, maybe, but not massively likeable. And yet.
The sun has kept shining. There have been precious opportunities for reflection, change and growth, particularly in compassion, for ourselves and for those around us. We have been creative at making the most of what freedoms remain, and many of us have found new ways of working, exercising and connecting to the people, places and things we we love – and need – to feel happy and healthy (or at least human).
Saturday 10th October it is World Mental Health Day. What better moment to celebrate the things that make you feel good and recommit to them for the days and months ahead. World Mental Health Day is also a special way to remind ourselves that every one of us has our moments when it comes to mental health, and if you’ve been struggling lately, you are not alone. Best of all, there are things we can do to help get back to a happier place…
Below are some top ways to nurture wellness of mind and body. No rocket science, just simple stuff that lets us slow down or get in touch with our sunnier side. Perhaps you might like to explore these or reflect on and recommit to your own self-care practices, whatever they may be!
Look no further than Daniel Goleman & Richard J. Davidson’s book The Science of Meditation: How to change your brain, mind and body for an account of the many mental and physical health benefits of meditation, from deeper spiritual practices to minutes-long meditations (for which, check out Headspace). Explore your own way to meditate and reap a greater sense of stability, detachment from stress and more calm reactions to life’s up and downs.
A wondrously lazy and yet powerful method of relieving stress on a deep level, restorative yoga is a true joy and brilliant exercise in self-care. Once you’ve got the hang of props and learned a few poses (check out Judith Hanson Lasater’s book Relax & Renew) restorative yoga will not let you down as a way to come down to the ground and find peace and release, no matter what your stress levels or emotions have been up to. Restorative yoga is a particularly good way to end the day, a before bed practice often paving the way for a good nights’ sleep, as your body goes into rest and repair mode (think heaven for your parasympathetic nervous system).
Mindful stretching as you’ll find in yin yoga, allows you to turn your attention inwards, moving from a whizzing mind to a sense of surrender and slowing down. Yin yoga is not only a great way to look after your body but it also lets your parasympathetic nervous system take centre stage, fading out your inner stress response and encouraging your mind and body to land in a place of ease. If you fancy giving this a go, you might like a peek at Yin Yoga: Stretch the mindful way by Kassandra Reinhardt or come along to one of my mindful stretching sessions on Zoom! Super relaxing, chill-out mode supreme.
Exercise you enjoy
Get your body moving and happy chemicals flowing by taking exercise that you enjoy. Nothing medicinal that you’ll give up on before you’ve even started, but have a ponder: what activities put a smile on your face? Do those a teeny bit and go from there! I love yoga, whizzing along on my bike or playing Peter Pan on the aerial silks. Soooo much fun.
Connect with those who get you
Making time to connect with those special people who truly ‘get you’ is a brill way to nurture your sanity and joie de vivre. Even if it’s only occasionally, for a little goes a long way, it’s worth seeking out those loved ones who accept you just the way you are and help you see things in a new way. Somehow staying in touch with true friends helps us appreciate the many other lovely people around us, and feel connected to our communities, able to give, receive and build each other up. Reach out to a friend today – they’ll be happy to hear from you!
Be in nature
Going for a walk in the woods, by the sea or wherever you can access a little slice of nature, is a great way to provide balm to frazzled nerves. Where will you find yourself on your quest to take some space and take time out?
Be part of something bigger
While it’s essential to look after ourselves with compassion, especially when we are under a lot of pressure and stress, it can also be liberating and uplifting to forget about ourselves for a while and make a positive difference outside our own backyard. We might write letters to friends and relatives or offer befriending in our community; we might volunteer at a school or charity; maybe spend an afternoon picking litter off the beach. Contribution benefits our mental wellbeing, and there are so many ways to be part of something bigger!
Teach your phone some manners
When you wake up in the morning, if you lay eyes on a phone, even if you know it’s switched totally off, it still floods your brain with as much cortisol as if it was switched on. That’s before you’ve even looked at the screen. Lesson? You brain sees red when it sees a phone, it can’t help itself. Poor brain! Let it have a rest. No phones (or tablets…) in your bedroom! Feel the freedom of not having a clue what is going on in the world while in your precious sanctuary of sleep, aaaaaahhhh. And during the day put some limits in place! You could check your phone at specific times, use Do Not Disturb mode, leave your phone in a specific place in your home (we have a “tech basket”) rather than having it on your person etc. etc. – so many ways to set boundaries and help the needy, demanding, stress-inducing out of control thing that is your phone, learn some manners.
How might you change your phone hygiene today, and how different might that feel? What would you do with all the extra brain space? (Write excessively long blogs maybe…) Start by challenging yourself to switch off for a day, for a trip out, or see how it feels to have a phone free bedroom, just for one night.
Get extra support
If you’re really struggling with anxiety, low mood or other mental health issues there is specific support out there to help you move forwards. Whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone.
Local groups like ManDown Cornwall, SheSaid or Carrick Mind are welcoming places to find mutual support and counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and NLP offer their own unique forms of support. An extraordinary science-based technique called the Lightning Process is a show stopper for putting fatigue, anxiety and depression behind you, and for a life-changing technique related to the LP, but with compassionate mindfulness and self-care in the mix, head over to the BodyMind Programme. For a taster, have a read of Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body. You won’t look back.
Many find that regular holistic therapy treatments are supportive in helping them maintain health and wellbeing; therapies such as reflexology, massage or reiki can be deeply relaxing and restorative. Explore the range of treatments on offer here at Reflexation Therapy or for a truly life-affirming reiki & hypnotherapy practitioner who helps you relax like never before, I recommend Sarah Turner from Penzance!
To celebrate World Mental Health Day, you can book a Reflexation Therapy treatment in October quoting code WMHD2020 for £5 off!
As the evenings draw in and winter appears, spectre-like on the path ahead, how will you keep your light shining? No matter what twists and turns await, I wish you good health and happiness of mind, one day at a time.
I get lockdown. But I get up again.– Banksy