"Let's Talk Wellbeing" is a phrase by many NHS organisations to engage us all in the conversation about mental health. It's a serious topic.
1 in 4 people experience mental health issues each year;
792 million people are affected by mental health issues worldwide;
In many ways, poor mental health is one of the greatest risks to society and it raises the question - "What can we do about it?"
Well, for many, there are specialist services setup by both the health and care bodies and focused charities. The incredible work they do has created a net of support both online and offline. The support required though is extensive. It needs to be available for people at all places along the mental ill-health spectrum - from mild anxiety through to severe schizophrenia. This is where we can step in and ask ourselves, "What can I do to help myself?"
First of all, let's be clear, if you know someone suffering with mental ill-health that extends beyond mild depression, then the best route for them is to seek the help of a professional. Whilst some of the ideas below can help anyone, they are not a cure, or even something that can alleviate symptoms, for people suffering from more acute levels of mental illness.
What follows then is a list of 5 ways to help yourself (or help someone else) who is suffering from stress, anxiety or mild depression. If you would prefer to watch / listen to a similar list, check out my video on the subject.
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When our feelings and emotions begin to dominate, our physical functions hit the pause button. We forget to do even the most fundamental of things, such as breathing! We breathe quickly and with short gasps.
What to do: take two deep breaths in and one long exhale. This focus on your breath will jump start a more regular tempo and lower the stress levels immediately.
Any level of exercise releases the happy hormones into our body and increases our whole sense of wellbeing. Literally anything will work.
What to do: Start where you are. Stretch and move as much as your body will let you. Over a very short period of time you will be surprised at how much your range will improve. But that's not the aim. The aim is to release stiffness, energise the body and stimulate the brain!
Any routine will provide you with a sense of control. Most anxiety and stress can be traced back to a feeling of being out of control. So, a routine of any kind can boost your self confidence.
What to do: Choose one thing, anything, and decide to do it regularly. If you can combine it with some of the other ideas in this list, even better. Maybe you can decide to MOVE every 45 minutes and get a double whammy?
None of us would speak to our best friends the way we talk to ourselves sometimes. We berate ourselves, we reinforce how we are "always" making the same mistakes and beat ourselves up for even the slightest error. If we were an objective observer, we would step in and protect the target of such terrible behaviour. For a bit more on the detrimental affects of this behaviour, have a read of this micro blog.
What to do: Switch off all judgement for a week. Catch yourself being your biggest tormentor and instead dial up best-friend mode. Speak to yourself the same way you would speak to your best friend. Show some compassion, become a cheerleader.
"It always seems impossible, until it is done!" - Nelson Mandela
Anxiety is a fear attached to something that has not happened (and so may never happen). If this is something that affects you and stops you from doing anything in life, remember Mandela's words. EVERYONE feels fear, gets nervous and senses butterflies in their stomach, the key is to get them to fly in formation.
What to do: Imagine those feelings you associate with fear as being something else. Maybe they are butterflies that you are training to fly in formation. And then do something immediately. Soon the action becomes normal and we have forgotten our fears. It really is like riding a bike, once we've got it, we forget the fear we had before we sat in the saddle.
This is a list to get started. Whatever level of stress or anxiety you are experiencing, these tried and tested actions will help. Let me know how you get on.
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