It’s World Mental Health Day on October 10th. What is mental health? According to the Mental Health Foundation who are organizing fund raising events to raise awareness, if you’re in good mental health, you can:
- make the most of your potential
- cope with life
- play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends.
Some people call mental health ‘emotional health’ or ‘well-being’ and it’s every bit as important as good physical health. The Mental Health Foundation found that two thirds of us experience mental health problems at some point in our lives, why then is mental health so often a taboo subject, and given far less attention and resources than physical health?
As someone who has lived with mental health issues in my immediate family, I am acutely aware of the need to fund this area of health and also to enable people to find a way to nurture themselves. Without doubt there will be times when medication is critical, but in addition we need to be aware of the importance of self-care. Literally taking care of ourselves, many of us are notoriously bad at it.
Having a sense of community and purpose is of course paramount, being part of a group will benefit you and if you are fortunate enough to be completely well, you can boost your own optimum mental health by supporting and praying for others.
Take some time out for yourself, if you are a bath person (I love my hot baths!) make it a proper ritual, get someone else to mind the kids, turn your phone off (yep totally) light a candle (make it a natural one) and soak away the blues. Gary Lloyd founder of Shui Me says…
“Cut down on electronic devise use, breath deeply at every opportunity (and every time you remember, like sitting on the toilet or sat on the bus), have a long soak in the bath with essential oils and let go (or use an oil burner with your favourite essential oils) and do this in silence with deep breathing”
Getting out into nature can really make a difference Wellness coach and author of ‘My Reason and ME’ Alison T Smith says…
‘Never underestimate the power of a walk in fresh air and nature during times of stress. You will always return feeling happier and more positive, and may even find the answers to your challenges whilst you’re out. Walking in nature is also a great form of meditation, and a hugely beneficial way to take a break from the hamster wheel.’ www.alisontsmith.com
Alison suffered from burnout and ME before she turned to natural treatments and natural nutrition but she definitely recognises the feeling of brain fog, and overwhelm.
Gareth Stubbs who is the author of The Big Mindful Colourful Book says “During periods of stress, it’s often difficult to think ‘straight’ as our minds are all over the place. The feeling of overwhelm often stops us from taking any form of meaningful action so finding a way to interrupt this cycle is helpful. One thing that often gets the mind thinking differently is to stop and do something totally different, something that has nothing to do with anything you’re working on.
Maybe it’s to down tools, put your headphones on and go for a walk. If you’re able to find a place to walk barefoot, that’s a great bonus. It could be something like doodling or colouring in and maybe even a simple thing (that could sound a bit silly) like picking up a comic or a child’s book and reading it out loud to yourself. Interrupting the stress cycle gets the mind working differently and often gets it into a place where other solutions can appear whilst also giving us a chance to simply stop and take a few deep breaths before returning to our lives’.
Gareth Stubbs is an award winning author, accidental chef and retreat owner who helps people to take time out for them busy lives and reconnect with what truly matters.
It goes without saying that good nutrition plays a part. Louise Mercieca is a nutritional therapist and author of ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ and she says…’Food can literally make us, happy, sad, alert, calm, irritable or confused. There are three main connections; the blood sugar connection, (blood sugar drops you might feel tired, anxious, nervous irritable and depressed) our gut microbiome and the neurological connection. To stabalise mood eat foods that are rich in Tyrosine (which in turn produces Dopamine) such as eggs, dairy, lean meats, seeds, wholegrains, fish, cottage cheese, seaweed (spirulina), soy protein. Tryptophan rich foods are important too, to produce Serotonin so you need cottage cheese, milk, red meat (lean), fish, chicken, chickpeas, bananas, almonds, sunflower seeds, spirulina, peanuts’. Obviously avoid sugar and fatty foods. http://www.louisemercieca.co.uk
Alcohol is a factor too, I read a staggering statistic recently that over 70 % of the population with addiction disorders also have a coexisting mental health problem. Of course we don’t know which came first, did the mental health issues lead to drinking in order to self medicate or did the alcohol which is a major depressant exacerbate the mental health condition?
Jo De Rosa is the founder of Quantum Sobriety and believes meditation is the key.
“In meditation we take the outside layer of life off, and sit for a period of time with ourselves, who we really are. Not who we pretend to be, or would like to be, but us at the most basic level. I have always called this part of us our ‘essence’ but you can call it any other name that resonates.
The more we connect to who we really are at this level the more we really know ourselves, what makes us tick, what makes us happy. We can even notice when we are out of balance before we get sick.
Meditation compliments everything in your life; it will increase concentration making you more efficient in your work; it will slow you down so that you can focus your attention on those you love; it aids all types of therapy, making their effectiveness ten-fold, and of course it will help you step off the merry-go-round of addiction, giving you clarity and a deep connection to your authentic needs”
Don’t forget the breathe too, Kamran Bedi author of ‘Your Mind is Your Home’ says...”A daily action of conscious breathing can allow anybody to feel an immediate positive shift on their mind and emotions in reducing stress. It’s the breath that actually allows a person to have a focus, away from their thoughts, to de-stress and de-steam, but it helps relax the autonomic nervous system. Stress can lead to fight or flight, so reducing this stress response can easily come through breathing. Anyone can breathe – any age and any sex, you don’t have to be spiritual, into meditation, or self-help, anyone can experience the powerful benefits of de-stressing from breathing. It also costs nothing, has a huge reward and return, and the only cost is time”. Kamranbedi.com
Coach Nadine Searle says “My sure way to relieve stress and give your mental health a boost is to use a Mindfulness technique of noticing when you are feeling a little stressed, taking a moment to pause and focus on your breath, especially your exhalation which naturally triggers your relaxation response. Take a few breaths concentrating on the long, slow out breath and imagine that exhalation is sliding all the way down your body right to your feet. Take a second while at your feet to feel safe, solid and grounded and then continue with your day refreshed and relaxed. If possible, do this while out in nature, or imagining your favourite place in nature which is a tried and tested way to boost your mental health and wellbeing.”
So practice self care, work out what works for you when the chips are down, and put yourself first.
Check out the work of the Mental Health Foundation