Maintaining Mental Health & Well-Being -Practical Tips
Stress - we feel it physically, mentally and emotionally. Stressful events will affect everyone in different ways.
Physical signs - tension all over, bodily aches, bodily symptoms such as digestive issues, headache, dizziness, fatigue, loss of or increased appetite, being unable to sleep or frequent waking . 😧 *
Emotional signs - feeling on high alert to everything, an increased startle response, feeling irrational, overestimating danger, maybe feeling you can't focus on everyday tasks, feeling tearful.
Behavioural signs - arguing over everything and nothing, procrastinating, increase in unhealthy coping mechanisms - alcohol in excess, gambling, etc. Nail biting, and similar habits. Some people may want to reach out to others while some may withdraw completely.
We may experience some or all of the above, or may have bouts of each one. Great eh.
It comes as no surprise that sitting at home, trying to work or sleep in a body that is primed for survival, won't feel very pleasant. Attempting to just not think about it and calm down likely will only work minimally if at all. Your brain wants you to know there's a predator remember. 🦖
What can we do then to help ourselves❓
BREATHE 🌬️Let's start with the basics. Yes we are all breathing already, hopefully. We can breathe to live or we can breathe effectively. If we are breathing in a fast, shallow breath, our primal brain and autonomic nervous system gets the message - more danger. ⚠️ So it becomes a cycle. You have control over this - control your breathing and you send the message to the brain that all is ok. Aim to keep your breaths slow, steady and even all the way down to your belly. Colour breathing is very useful - imagining breathing in or around your body a calming colour, bringing with it a sense of ease. On the out breath, imagine that colour changing and taking away tension.
Ground Your Senses 😌 We are being bombarded with all kinds of sensory input at the moment. The 54321 technique can be a great grounding method.
5️⃣ Look around your surroundings and find FIVE things you can see, look at those things and describe them.
4️⃣ Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Objects close by - remember your hand washing though 😉 👍
3️⃣ Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound.
2️⃣ Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.
1️⃣ Take one slow deep breath. By using your senses in this way, you can help to ground yourself in the moment.
Laugh 😃 Humour is a great antidote to anxiety. Spend an hour each day watching your favourite comedy show, or talking with friends, you can't beat a good joke with friends. 👍
Move🏋️♀️🏃♀️ If you are able, movement is the best way to discharge all those stress hormones flying around your body. Your survival brain is ensuring your body is primed for action, while being told to sit at home. Perfect recipe for anxiety. If you have any exercise equipment at home - use it. There are also many instructors now offering online classes too. Getting out in nature can be the perfect antidote to anxiety and a great endorphin boost.
Plan✍️ Having a clear solid plan for when this is all over, will give your brain a message that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that you'll get through it. Having a strong future focus is the perfect way to take yourself from emotional panic to logic. Think of something you really want to do, that means something to you. Focus strongly on this - visualise it, feel it, imagine it, and look forward to it!
Limit ⏱️ Keep yourself updated with the news, and find out what's happening - but avoid constant watching, checking, reading. All that will do is keep your primitive brain on high alert, ensuring you feel terrible and don't sleep! Social media can also fuel anxiety, more so now with so many opinions, arguments and theories. It's great to speak up for what we believe is right, and there are times when voicing our opinions can be liberating and empowering. However we need to be mindful of when to share, and when to realise which discussions are simply fueling our anxiety. You can't change others opinions - so do you really want to spend time engaging with it? It's likely you'll spend hours being pulled into conflict for nothing to change.
Step back, give yourself some screen free time and allow your mind to process all the chaos. You'll come back with a much clearer perspective.
Look after yourselves people - better days are ahead.
*While stress can cause physical symptoms, always check out with your GP anything that is new, unexplained or unusual for you.