This week here in the UK, we’ve seen the important topic of mental health being brought to light by Prince William and Harry. The Heads Together Charity was the London Marathon 2017 charity of the year.
Many of us have experienced, or know someone close to us who has struggled with their mental health in varying forms.
I personally think the Royals did an amazing job in helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, by opening up about their own battles following the loss of their mother, whilst being under the scrutiny of the public eye.
People are often afraid of opening up when struggling mentally, through fear of judgement, stigma and prejudice.
I truly believe we all need to encourage each other to talk openly about how we’re feeling, men, women and our children. Once we begin to open up the conversation, we often find that someone else feels, or has felt the exact same way. Just knowing this makes us realise we’re actually more than normal and not alone.
Not opening up can lead to fear that we’re the only ones who have ever felt this way. This feeling of isolation and being left alone with our thoughts can cause them to compound. Thoughts such as:
Why do I feel like this?
Am I abnormal for feeling like this?
Am I going mad?
What if they lock me up and throw away the key?
What if I never get better or feel normal again?
People will laugh at me if they know my thoughts
I might not be accepted if I tell people how I feel
It’s actually at this point that the mind is letting us know that it needs a rest.
So what do we do?
We stress it further, making it work harder, by giving it heaps more thoughts to unravel and solve.
Think of it this way. If you broke your leg you would accept it will be in plaster for some time and will need to be left alone to heal.
You wouldn’t start prodding and poking it the next day, worry why it’s not better yet, or take the pot off the following week in an attempt to walk, yet feel frustrated that you were still unable to.
You wouldn’t keep fixating, googling and reading ways to make your broken leg better.
You would simply let it be, trusting that the body has an amazing ability to heal.
Why then should your mind be any different?
Your mind is constantly working more than your legs, so it stands to reason that it needs rest to function at it’s best.
Just like a phone or computer if the power is permanently switched on with more programmes being uploaded and windows left open, it will begin to slow down, work less efficiently and eventually crash.
It’s ironic that smart phones were meant to make life easier, when in fact for me, they have done the opposite. Some of you may remember in the days pre mobile phones, those valuable snippets of time when your mind was able to drift, wander and day dream. How often do you do this now? In those precious moments we pick up our phones, check in on social media and reply to texts, overloading our mind with yet again more information.
it’s only my opinion, but I think those seconds of space and day dreaming were essential to us for releasing tension from our minds, like a pressure valve letting off steam. Now we turn to meditation to do the same thing.
If you’re struggling with your thoughts here are a few first steps you can take.
The most important step of all. Be honest with yourself accept and acknowledge how you really feel and remember so many others feel the same way. Once you’re able to do this then the first step is to talk to someone about how you feel. It could be a trusted family member, friend, a trained health professional, therapist, or mental health charity worker.
If you observe your own thoughts or read back through some of the ones I listed, most thoughts are projecting worry in to the future. A future which doesn’t yet exist. Thoughts can also go back to the past, searching for reasons why we feel the way we do and replaying old painful memories. A past which has gone and no longer exists. If you find yourself chasing an upsetting thought, ask yourself, is what I’m worrying about happening right now? Am I worrying about something which hasn’t yet happened or has already been and gone?
The present moment, right here, right now is all there is. If all is well in this exact moment, simply observe the thought for what it is, just a thought, then acknowledge it and let it go. Don’t try to fight the thought as the thoughts will only come back stronger.
With trained help, specific techniques can be used to heal past trauma, helping to bring closure and stop the constant projecting of worry in to the future.
The most effective way to connect to the present. It sounds so simple doesn’t it? but it works.
Connecting to your breath can be done whilst undertaking any activity at work or rest. Take a big deep breath in through the nose and allow an even longer exhale. It instantly calms a stressed mind, sending a signal to your brain that all is well, you’re safe and it’s ok to relax. Check in through the day and observe how you’re breathing. Do you have a tendency to hold your breath or not breathe properly in certain situations?
Participate in something that makes you feel good
Avoidance can be a huge factor. Don’t let the feelings you have stop you from doing things. It can be common to think, I’ll wait until I feel better or more confident to go to that event, meet that friend for coffee, start that new hobby or exercise programme.
Accept how you’re feeling that day, even if it’s crappy, but still do the activity that you want to do. Talk to your fears, say to them “Ok I accept how I feel today, but you’re not stopping me from doing this”. It may feel uncomfortable at first and you may not feel great straight away, but by being involved in activity or connecting with others, it encourages normality and to be less inside your own head, giving your mind that valuable rest it craves.
Notice what depletes you
This could be anything from over stretching your schedule leading to poor work / life balance, leaving no time to recharge and fill your self back up.
Feeling obligated and saying yes to things you don’t want to do.
Eating excessive amounts of processed foods, which contain no nourishment for the body and mind to perform optimally.
Alcohol consumption. How do you feel the day after alcohol? Do you feel more anxious, lower in mood, sluggish? If you’re currently struggling emotionally, alcohol may be greatly hindering your recovery. I’m not being a stick in the mud saying never drink, but feel into your own triggers and limits and find what works and what doesn’t for you.
Unplug and get out in nature
We are nature! We’re made up of the same stuff. Turn off your device, get out there and be part of it. Let nature heal you. Take a walk in the woods, lay on the grass, look around at the miracles that surround us and breathe.
Instead of trying to figure out how to feel happy again, write down your ultimate feel good goal. How do you want to feel?
What do you have in your life now that you can be grateful for. It could be your warm bed, the roof over your head or the simple fact that you and your loved ones woke up alive and well this morning.
Once you stop the fight, the struggle to feel better you begin to create space in your mind. Space your body and mind needs to heal. Try not to put a time limit on things. This is also holds true if struggling through loss in bereavement.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a bereavement counsellor. I couldn’t understand how speaking to someone would help, as in my words it wasn’t going to change the situation, or bring them back!
I was frustrated as to why I was struggling 18 months down the line. I told her ‘I should be over it by now’ and she replied. ‘why should you ever be over it’? When you love someone you never get over them, and why should you, you just learn to live life in a different way’. It was like I’d been given permission to give up the fight, accepting and in doing so healing.
The road to healing may see you have some bad days mixed with the good. Don’t let the dips discourage you. Accept the feelings, let them pass through you and soon the good days will begin to outweigh the bad.
I may be bias but for me Strala Yoga is amazing at helping with mental well being. It encompasses all the above points. It forces you to be completely in the present moment and connects you to your breath. It can be done anywhere where you have a little space, including outside in nature. It encourages patience and helps socially if you become part of a class community.
It helps fizzle tension out of a tense and rigid body and helps your mind become calm and clear, soothing you on your healing journey. When you begin to reconnect to you and feel into yourself, you come up with creative solutions to situations and tune in to your intuition
I encourage everyone to give it a go men, women, kids and people of all ages and abilities.
Lastly, remember if you need help urgently, to contact a trained health professional. They are there to help, not judge.
Lots of love and hugs
My Thursday 4 week Strala Yoga courses re starts this week on Thursday the 27th of April.
Monday 4 week course starts Monday 1st of May. Class time 6-7pm (slightly earlier than previous sessions). Classes can be purchased via the online shop.