In honour of #mentalhealthawarenessweek, I would like to encourage all to educate themselves, like I have been doing, on various different mental health issues and stigmas. From everything I have learnt, I would now like to give back in a more practical way. So, today, I am offering 5 self-care practices that can help you build a relationship with yourself. For me it has:
- Created a greater understanding of what matters to me
- Made me rethink negative thoughts
- Let me have a more positive outlook
These following practices will cover the 4 key wellness compartments: mental, spiritual, emotional and physical. So, to stop faffing about these are my top 5 self-care practices.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation are key elements to decrease stress and improve your mental wellbeing. Mindfulness has been found to help specific groups of people including:
- Those who suffer from restless legs syndrome (Bablas et al, 2016);
- Parents (Gouveia et al, 2016);
- Healthcare professionals (Burton et al, 2017);
- Veterans with depression and/or PTSD (Felleman et al, 2016);
- Police officers (Bergman et al, 2016).
Mindfulness is the act of observing your body and your environment: moving with awareness, accepting feelings as they come. Being able to regulate your emotions will help with all kinds of anxiety and depressive symptoms. Specifically, Costa and Barnhofer (2016) stated that training in mindfulness helped participants struggling with depression to reduce their symptoms through greater emotion regulation.
Some podcasts that have helped me:
- Sleep Coves Guided Meditation and Sleep Hypnosis.
- One mind dharma
2. Create a Routine
Another key thing that has helped soothe my mind is creating a routine. This may be a slightly more controversial one because point 3 is creating time for yourself. But I am a strong believer in creating a balance.
On one hand, you need to have a purpose, something to focus on – which is quite difficult right now during this lockdown. On the other hand, you need to not put too much pressure on yourself creating unrealistic expectations.
According to Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine there have been reports that bipolar patients started feeling better and more secure when they have been granted ‘social rhythm therapy’ as part of their treatment focused on establishing a daily routine: even if it is as basic as when they will sleep or eat.
The ‘social rhythm therapy’ is the idea that having irregular sleeping habits, for example, can trigger manic episodes disturbing the circadian system (body-sleep clock). Bipolar or not, I believe that anyone can and should implement the calming daily routines.
Some things that could help:
- Forest: if you want to help the environment whilst also being more productive you can set timers that lock you off your phone (also another strategy to help mental health). You save up ‘coins’ that you can transfer to planting real treees in the world. Don’t worry you don’t actually spend money!
- I will be shortly creating resources to help productivity so subscribe and check back here!
3. Make time for yourself
As I said, its not all about being productive and controlling your day minute by minute. It is also about setting time aside for you to do what you want to do. It’s an ultimate way of creating self-care. For me, self-care is the 3 ‘Re’ words:
I think self-care is vital to creating a healthy lifestyle. If you want to create certain successes, you’ll need time, energy and a lot of planning. However, one cannot have a constant outpour of energy, there needs to be input. This maintenance of your physical and mental health.
This picture kind of sums it up for me. Here are some activities split down by minutes ranging in satisfaction:
- Brush your hair
- Watch a candle burn
- Text someone you love
- Breathing exercises
- Go for a walk
- Face mask
- Make a smoothie
- Have a nap
- Listen to your favourite music
- Watch YouTube clicks
30 minutes + activities:
- Watch a show
- Call a friend
- Read a book
- Cook a meal
Another key practice is quite literally a practice. Put on some trainers and get moving!! No matter the form and no matter for how long – exercise on a regular basis not only helps you physically but also mentally and emotionally. Most people know that exercises create the hormone serotonin (the happy hormone) and other endorphins but I would love to give a few extra facts and thoughts about how exercising helps.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%
- Try noticing the rhythm of your movements during your exercises: this incorporation of a mindful element will not only help your physical condition but also the enjoyment of the process
- By exercising you break up the cycle of tension which can be found in insomnia, heartburn, stomach-ache and even diarrhoea. Relieving your physical muscles through exercise will help relieve your mental muscles
- One of the most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood is through exercising. Exercise works in the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.
- you can help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Specifically, outdoor activities such as hiking, sailing, rock climbing and skiing will help.
Here are some apps and ideas to get started:
- Gymshark app and Instagram account
- Instagram fitness accounts are personally my favourite ways to find exercise routines
- 30-day fitness to get started!!
- Centr: this is Chris Hemsworth’s exercise programme (I have been thoroughly enjoying)
I personally do this a lot: a form of organisation which helps remove unneeded waste from my life. I often spend in ‘my time off’ bathing, reading, eating or watching TV. However, I genuinely find organizing and filing to be quite a calming process. I love a minimalist way of life and I hope to improve this: but decluttering is such a mentally, emotionally and spiritually freeing thing. Some other benefits:
- UCLA’s Centre on Everyday Lives and Families (CELF) found that clutter has a deep-seated effect on our mood and self-esteem. By decluttering it can improve stress and anxiety.
- Neuroscientists at Princeton University explained that the reasoning is that physical clutter competes with our attention, which negatively affects performance and induces stress. Thereby, science shows that decluttering helps productivity
- Pamela Thacher of St. Lawrence University suggests that clutter and sleep loss are linked. The link was specifically between those that hoard objects and bad sleep quality. Of 198 participants, 83 of them who were at risk of hoarding disorder also suffered from sleep latency. Hoarding disorder being people who accumulate items and then struggle to get rid of items that have little or no value to them. Sleep latency is the length of time it takes from lying down to sleep until sleep onset. But being able to declutter can improve sleep quality.
Overall, these are the key practices that I do that have helped changed my outlook on life. Not instantaneously, but over many months of practising. In summary,
- Practice mindfulness
- Create a routine
- Make time for yourself
Each have been supported by studies and I hope this gives you some inspiration. I would love to hear your feedback so please comment below your favourite techniques!