As the season is turning to spring in the UK, new growth can be seen in the ground and the birds are singing with joy. The air feels fresher and warmer, welcoming us out.
Nature can be a great example on how to live our lives. We can apply the seasons to us and how we are feeling, for example;
Spring – excitement and getting ready to step out, new growth, new beginnings
Summer – we are visible, active and doing what we want to do, we are in flow, sociable, blooming, at our best, feeling happy and expansive.
Autumn – we are starting to get tired, maybe slowing down, lightening our loads, stopping some things altogether and getting ready to rest, to sleep.
Winter – we are spending time on our own, cosy and safe inside, maybe reading, nourishing ourselves, keeping protected from the harsh winter, not wanting to go out in it.
What if the weather is bad though? In this case the weather could be any external influences; a bereavement, massive changes to your life eg retirement, a new baby, a new illness, redundancy, a break up.
When it is snowing, we do not go out in our summer clothes do we? Instead we wrap up warm against the weather. The same goes for our mental health; when we are going through a tough time, we need to protect ourselves, keeping safe however we need to, be gentle with ourselves, keeping warm, keeping protected while we wait it out, respond and process what is happening.
It is easy to put pressure on ourselves to always be in ‘summer’ mode, always being active and switched on and happy but we need to respond to what is happening externally. We need to pause, to reflect on our feelings and seek support if needed. We can not stop external things happening to us but hopefully we can be self-compassionate and support ourselves with gentleness to get through, hopefully coming out stronger for having gone through it.
What season is your soul in?
What do you need at this moment in time?
There is no shame or judgement, just as in nature, it is a cycle and this is the moment you are in right now. It is not where you will be forever and this will change too, just as the seasons change. Just remember, it is important to respond and honour the season your soul is in.
So many of us in today’s society live a very busy life. Busy seems to be the new word defining our status in society. If we are busy, oh so busy, ALL the time, we have somehow made it in life.
We are on a Busy treadmill, going from one thing to another, no time to stop because we are so Busy.
Our to do lists are ever growing, there is so much to do in our lives; work, school, children, homes. So very much to do.
Being busy is quite nice and does give us purpose but we need to keep an eye on just how Busy we are. When does the enjoyment of having a life become stress and anxiety we struggle to manage? When does our to list start feeling like dread in our chest, maybe manifesting as actual pain in our chest from the moment we open our eyes in the morning?
Many of my clients have come to a point where their lives are taking over. They are living just to manage their lives and not actually living their lives they want.
Maybe it is saying yes to too many other people at the detriment of their own health.
Maybe it’s not having any balance and not resting or switching off.
Maybe they have been so busy with life they suddenly look at themselves and don’t recognise themselves or their lives as something they want.
The only antidote to the anxiety and stress of a busy life I know is Mindfulness. Not quite sitting zen like for hours on end but instead being aware and conscious of our lives. You see, we do go from one thing to another almost without thinking. We rush around, always thinking of the next thing, worrying if we have done enough, if we are enough.
If you are busy, the wise men say we need to meditate for an hour, and if we are really busy, we need to mediate for two. It feels counterintuitive to our Western ways of thinking but it is in this extremely simple way of living that our answers lie.
There are a number of ways we can help ourselves if we feel we are starting to feel frazzled by our lives:
Take note of where you are in this exact moment in time, without any judgement around it. You can engage all your senses to take it all in; What can you see? Hear? Smell? Feel?
This is a good way to reset your mind, body and soul if you feel anxiety is taking over.
It sounds so simple but the simple act of breathing can help you get back in control of You. You can focus on your breathing for a couple of breaths or for an hour, whatever you need to get back in touch with yourself. If you are struggling to do this on your own, do a quick online search and find a guided breathing meditation. There are so many out there and the trick is to practice it until you are able to do it on your own.
You have been breathing all your life, you can get this wrong. This practice can help you check in with yourself to see what is important and therefore what is a priority, it can help check in with your emotions and feelings around something or someone, helping you to know yourself better. In the simple act of breathing, you are connecting with yourself and in turn, connecting with other humans on a species level and connecting with your place in this world.
- Set Boundaries.
It is so difficult for us to say No these days. We worry we might offend or upset someone but it is necessary if we give so much of ourselves away that we feel a shell of who we used to be. By setting boundaries, we can learn a new way of being; We are telling others what we find acceptable and not, we are spending our energy wisely and are not running out of energy when it comes to ourselves. By setting boundaries, we are in control of our time, we are managing our time and therefore, we can choose what we are doing when, creating that much needed and very important rest or down time.
As adults in our busy Western society, play is something we think of as an after thought, if we think of it at all. We think of play as something we did as children but actually, we need to play as adults too. Play helps to give the brain a rest, reduces anxiety, builds self confidence and self esteem and can help us to connect with others and certainly with ourselves. It can lift us from within, give us enjoyment in life and improve our wellbeing. Time and space needs to be created for play, so have a think about what you enjoy doing, without judgement or justification.
In our busy lives, so much happens that we don’t even notice or remember. It is in the little things we can see what is important to us, what makes us happy and acts as a reminder for ourselves and others. Journalling is a good way to build a relationship with yourself, so if you enjoy writing, why not treat yourself to a new notebook and pen and simply write to yourself. Write down all you have achieved in the day, no matter how little. Note down all the things you are grateful for in your life, the things that make you smile, make you happy, that you could not live without.
If writing is not your thing, maybe take photos of what you are grateful for, what catches your eye, what is important to you in your life. Or you can get creative and make some art. You see how play is so important now and can play a vital role in helping you record things?
We can carry on being busy in our lives, running from one thing to another, getting more and more anxious and stressed or we could slow down and remember that we are living our lives, we are in control. We deserve to live balanced, happy lives and if you are struggling, I hope these few pointers will help you to help yourself, if it all still feels like too much, then please do seek support, maybe from a counsellor. Let us redefine what success means and instead of being Busy, let us be balanced and happy.
“I don’t know how to deal with mental health”
Hands up who feels like this? Mental health is scary, right? We hear of stories of someone with Mental health issues shooting people, maybe stabbing their partners, or suffocating their babies.
These are extremes but these are also the examples we are given of what Mental health is. So when we are faced with anything concerning Mental health, for many of us, there is a stigma attached, from society and from ourselves.
We’re not as bad as the stories we hear, so we don’t seek support or help. I have to say, awareness is growing and part of my work is to raise this awareness.
First step is to be aware that we ALL have mental health, just as we have physical health. And just like physical health, we can have good and bad mental health.
We know a lot about physical health; what to eat, how to look after ourselves and we do things everyday to keep our physical health good like brushing our teeth. Look around you though, not everyone is at their peak physical health are they? There are differences, because we are all different. There are different levels because we all have different abilities. The same can be said for mental health.
We are all at different places with our mental health; some of us can bounce back from a crisis, some cope under pressure, some take changes in their stride, some are very positive. The majority of us though, I suspect, struggle a little every day but do not feel the need for support because this is how it’s always been.
For healthier Mental Health, let’s start doing a little bit everyday; just like we do with our physical health (brushing our teeth, combing our hair, showering etc). I want us to start looking after our mental health.
The way I see it, if we found a lump; we’d be straight at the doctors. We wouldn’t wait until it was stage 4 cancer, would we? So why do we do this with our mental health? We wait until we are at crisis point before we seek help. This does not have to happen and we can start by simply getting into good daily practices.
As part of raising awareness and improving your mental health, I have put together a chart, just for mental health: Your 5 a Day for Good Mental Health. Please feel free to download your very own copy and start filling it in today – you can write a word a day, or use it as a guide for your journaling.
The simple things work best, and this guide is here to help you have better mental health.
So, what are the steps?
1. Self compassion
At first, as most say, it means being your best friend, being in your own corner with kindness, gentleness and love. The first step is observing the way you talk to yourself. Observe what you are saying to yourself but without judgement. If you are being mean, don’t then beat yourself up for being mean to yourself. Take a step back, take a deep breath. Whenever you catch yourself being mean, bullying or unhelpful, simply use that kind, caring voice.
Journaling is great because you are doing something physical and it because of that, it forces you to take time out of your day just to sit with yourself, talk to you yourself and before you know it – you start forming a relationship with yourself. You start to figure out what experiences are teaching you what, which people energise you and who drains you, you start to give yourself advice even and dare I say it – you start caring and loving yourself just that little bit more. This helps reinforce the self compassion as it is in written form.
Go on, give it a go. Buy yourself a lovely notebook and start writing in it.
We’re so busy, aren’t we? We don’t stop to appreciate, we don’t stop to realise how much we really have, we don’t slow down enough to SEE any of it, to FEEL any of it.
You can start by simply saying, “Thank you” to things, out loud or in your head. Gratitude is opening your heart to see and feel what is around and not join this modern world game of always rushing to the next thing.
If you want, you could also write in your journal, perhaps at the end of the day, things you are grateful for.
4. Ta-da list
All too often we look at what we haven’t done, don’t we? Perhaps at the end of the day, list all the things you have done and TA DA!!! Wow, look at how much you have done!
Focusing on achievements gives a sense of accomplishments, boosts self esteem and confidence and gives a feeling of calm that you are going in the right direction, things are getting done, you can slow down the pace and yes, it will all be OK.
Why don’t we play as adults? We seem to get into a rut of work, chores, passing out, work, chores, passing out (note I didn’t say sleep…)
Those adults who have hobbies they can dive into and time flies are happier because they are resting on so many levels. And no, it doesn’t have to be the gym, although exercise does help.
I’m talking about fun here, playing, letting your inner child out and taking the lead.
What does play mean to you?