Mental Health Practices
The date on this post may say May 13th, but it’s not just a regular Monday. Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and I didn’t want the time to pass by without marking it in some way. The theme this year is around body image and how we think and/or feel about our bodies and it’s an important conversation to be had. But I wanted to use this as an opportunity to share some of the tools that I use to support my own mental wellbeing, in the hope that you can connect to some of these too.
In my book, I talk a lot about the interconnection between our physical and mental wellbeing so I think this is a good place to start. Looking after my physical body with movement to have a positive impact on my mind. It makes me feel good, it helps me to feel strong and that sets the tone for my mindset too. I choose exercise and movement that I enjoy and have recently found that lower intensity options support a calmer mindset as they put less cortisol in my system. You don’t have to be sporty, or do something you enjoy. Just moving yourself from A to B can be enough. And fresh air when possible!
Sometimes when we are feeling down or anxious or something else, it can be a lonely place to exist but the stigma around these struggles is lifting thanks to initiatives like Mental Health Awareness Week and the hard work of many individuals and organisations. So I really encourage you to reach out to someone you know. Ask them how they are and really listen to them without judgment. Set the tone and hold the space to open up the relationship. Having people around you that you can be open with can help you become more connected to your own experiences too. It might seem scary if it’s unfamiliar but the chances are, you’ll both be grateful. You could start by simply asking “How are you today?”. It only takes one person to make the first step.
Being in nature is one of my favourite ways to look after my mental health. We weren’t made to exist between concrete and sometimes the city can feel overwhelming and removed from the natural rhythms of nature. When I leave the city I often find an instant reset in my energy by the proximity to the sea or jungle or countryside but I sometimes forget I have it on my doorstep too. This week I’ve taken two lovely long walks with friends in stead of sitting in coffee shops and it’s the perfect way to spend time and reconnect to the pace of nature. Tool #3 is a gentle reminder to get connected to the beauty and wisdom of whatever nature you have available to you.
Setting healthy boundaries is a practice that doesn’t come easily to me. But it’s one I know I need to work hard at, especially in my relationships with others. I have always struggled a lot with intense guilt (which fortunately means I’ve always been a terrible liar). I often share where it isn’t needed. I offer my shoulder to anyone that may need it and will always think of how I can look after another before thinking of the impact it might have on myself. And if I get it wrong, I feel guilty for the choices I did or didn’t make. Or feel I haven’t done enough when I’ve probably gone above and beyond. I’m slowly learning that I can be in support of someone’s happiness without being responsible for it. I’m working with setting boundaries where I can acknowledge where someone else is or how they are feeling without letting that become my own experience. This watery, un-boundaried prominent aspect of my self is something to acknowledge and celebrate but it must be contained by grounding, earthy practices if I am to exist in a positive state of flow. So tool #4 is about working to create healthier boundaries in support of my own wellbeing, as well as that of those around me.
My final thing to share for Mental Health Awareness Week is that I’ve been trying to spend more time off my phone. It really, really helps. I urge you to keep your phone at home or in your bag over the weekend and just observe the effect that it can have.