The below post is written for Mental Health Awareness Day by Linda Clarke, Master Hypnotherapist, Personal Coach and NLP Practitioner at The Counselling & Psychotherapy Centre, Swindon.
Just about everyone knows how to promote good physical wellbeing. We are bombarded with information about the importance of stopping smoking, reducing sugar and salt in our diet, being a healthy weight and taking regular exercise.
What many people don’t realise however, is that there is much we can do to promote good mental wellbeing. When we are mentally and emotionally healthy, we are better able to enjoy life. We also have the spare capacity to cope during difficult times.
The most important step in promoting good physical and mental wellbeing is to reduce stress.
Life has its ups and downs and most of the things that cause us stress are things from the environment, that are beyond our influence and control. Our boss, the traffic, the economy and now we have Covid-19. We cannot change these things.
We can also become stressed by what we think. If you lie awake at night worrying, if you always imagine the worse case scenario of every situation, you will feel stressed.
Physical effects of stress
- Poor digestion
- Sleep problems – difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up exhausted
- Reduction in Serotonin – a key hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of well being, and happiness
- Lowers immunity to infection
- Increased aches and pains
- Difficulty in problem solving – can’t think straight
- Poor memory
- Poor concentration
- Increased irritation/anger/frustration
If you are struggling with any or all of the above, then you will have no energy or motivation to do the things that you enjoy. This can lead to depression.
Steps to reduce stress
Physical activity – A daily walk, gardening, dancing, housework, washing car, formal exercise
If you are prone to rumination and worry, physical activity will help you to get ‘out of your head’ – it gives your mind a break and releases endorphins, your feel-good hormones.
Even if you are restricted due to Covid and cannot get out of the house, all of the above activities can be done at home. Try dancing to your favourite music – it will give you a significant boost.
Meditation – There are several types of meditation. Muscle relaxation, visualisations, mindfulness and spiritual practices. Don’t be put off if you have difficulty. If one type of meditation doesn’t do it for you, try something else. I am a huge advocate of mindfulness – daily practice can reduce stress and depression after just 6 weeks of daily practice. It also helps you longer term to be more cognisant of how you think. Read my article about mindfulness for more information. Listen to body scan meditation.
Reduce worrying – Worrying is a nasty habit that drains your energy. Because your body doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined, negative thoughts will cause your body to release the stress hormone. Over many years of practice, I have found that worriers tend to be inward thinking. They get stuck in rumination and the worrying thoughts just keep going around and around on a never-ending roundabout.
Try writing your worries down. And then ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? What then? What then? The more you do this you will practice being solution focused rather than letting your imagination run wild.
Sharing your worries with other people will also help you to brainstorm and even to see a different perspective.
Having the skill to ‘worry well’ is an important step towards having a life of peace and joy. If you would like a free copy of the ‘Worry Well’ strategy, please contact me.
Sleep well – Getting a good night’s sleep is key to good physical and mental wellbeing.
- Reduce caffeine, alcohol and sugar
- Don’t eat a heavy meal within 2 hours of retiring
- Remove the TV or any digital devices from the bedroom
- ‘Wind down’ routine. If you are working from home, allow 1.5 – 2 hours to relax
- Don’t sleep during the day, however tired you are. This fragments your sleep
Time out – Do things that you enjoy. Over and above our basic needs for food and shelter humans have a whole set of needs that, if met, keep us mentally and emotionally well. Read my article about Primal Needs and how you can meet them.
Due to Covid we are restricted quite significantly. We can, however, find other ways to get some of these needs met. Perhaps registering for an online course of study, taking up a creative hobby.
I have been in private practice for many years helping people to be mentally and emotionally well. I offer a no obligation complimentary 30 minute remote session so that I can get an understanding of what you are going through and how I can help. You can book the free session here.