How to manage boundaries while respecting others

I am the self professed Queen of boundaries. Since turning 40, I’d say I’ve found managing boundaries even easier.

Managing boundaries is all about enforcing your personal terms and conditions. It’s now or never so if you need to set some out, you’ve come to the right place for some advice to manage boundaries.

For me, there are many situations where I can feel uncomfortable. It’s not a confidence issue nor one that I actually want to fix. For example, I simply do not enjoy being in a group of women. SO, I just don’t join in. I literally have the opposite of FOMO. The idea of a girls’ night out makes me shudder. Perhaps it’s all those hormones in one place. Who knows? Who cares! Large groups of people don’t enthral me at the best of times. Perhaps it’s because I like being the focus of the attention. I like to be able to interrupt before I erupt, much like a toddler, so I’ve found my people. They like me for my quirks and understand in no uncertain terms not to invite me to girls’ nights out!

I need my own space. I do not like sharing. If there’s a family event, I insist we have our own accommodation. The noise gets too much. The constant ‘togetherness.’ I can’t cope with it. However, I respect that my husband comes from a big family so he likes it – this is where the respect and compromise comes in. We discuss it and come up with a solution. I like to work with exact timings. Again, not something I want fixing, I thrive on routine and habits. So we set out a plan before we go anywhere. God forbid I might enjoy myself and stay later! It doesn’t happen often but it can and when it does, it’s wonderful. Setting boundaries makes me feel in control in a positive way.

There are no set rules in how YOU should live YOUR life. But what is important is that you live YOUR best life. Communicate with your friends and family. Let them know if when you’re uncomfortable in situations. The last thing you want is to live with resentment.

Firstly let’s take a look at why boundaries are awesome: Katharina Wolf Counsellor (MBACP) & PR Account Manager says, “they create space for people to exist in, rather than shutting others out – obviously, they can do that, too, and therefore tend to get a bad rep. Working from this line of thought, that boundaries are a safe place, boundary setting can become easier (among examining the reasons why other people are more important than you – boundary-pushing/crossing is happening.) Especially the over 40s can be affected as their upbringing might still be very much people-pleasing, own-needs disregarding inspired (especially women)”.

To add to that, accredited coach Emma Jefferys aka Action Woman offers her insights to managing boundaries. Her top 5 tips are:

1. What do you need?

Know where the edges are: if you don’t know your breaking point then it’s hard to stop intentionally before you reach it. So notice what you need, what makes you feel good and on top of things. Consider sleep, nutrition, alone time, family time etc. For example if you know that one late night is enough for you then more than that is your edge. Check in daily with how close to the edge you are personally and what you need right now.

2. Set your limits

For you and for others: the whole point of knowing our edges is to stop before we reach them. Sometimes this is about saying no to ourselves so perhaps we only go out on Friday night and not Saturday too or we build in some extra rest time. And other times it is about setting these limits with others.Perhaps you don’t want to fill the diary every single weekend. Or want to shut your laptop down at 6pm and have no screens til morning. Whatever it is that you need think about how you communicate that to others that need to know it.

3. Just say No

Know you can say no and still be a good person: this should be a daily reminder. Your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for others…..repeat after me……

Your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for others.

4. Get your priorities right

Schedule your priorities: most people are excellent at prioritising their schedule but what if the wrong things are on there.  Take time each week to schedule the things that are important to you. Whether that is exercise, meeting a friend, calling your mum or getting an early night, plan to do it and then don’t cancel on yourself.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

Forgive yourself daily: no one is perfect, life isn’t perfect, and we won’t always get things right. Sometimes setting boundaries is having to do lifelong habits (like people pleasing) so have a go, don’t beat yourself when it goes wrong, celebrate when it goes right and know that there will always be another chance to practice. 

6. Ask for Help

Don’t do it alone: If you are trying to maintain boundaries that you don’t find easy then find support. Perhaps practice saying no with a friend. Ask your partner to nudge you if you’re mindlessly watching TV past the curfew you’ve set for yourself. Use an app to limit the amount you can spend on social media.

How to set boundaries and be happy in love

Pascale is a Therapeutic Relationship and Life Coach, the founder of the Surviving to Thriving group coaching program and author of How to be Happy in Life and Love: A guide to living the life you Deserve. See more at: www.youfulfilled.co.uk

Dating can be a wonderful thing and yet a complete minefield at the same time… Once we hit a certain age, things are so different for us. What we look for in a man, in terms of fun, commitment and family, are very different to how we looked at it in our 20s and early 30s. Being able to look after ourselves both physically and emotionally is essential. Our resilience levels and boundaries are very different and because of that we need to be cautious in different ways.

Here are 5 ways to protect ourselves in all things love and dating.

Know your expectations 

We have different priorities when we’re older and deserve to be a little more fussy. We don’t have to be settling or compromising as we did when we were younger. Being prepared to know what you want, I think at our age, is perfectly fair and realistic. If somebody doesn’t make you feel good or makes you feel like you have to change parts of yourself in order to fit their standard, be comfortable to draw the line and say no. No compromises are necessary.

They get to choose too

If they decide that you don’t meet their requirements, that’s totally cool as well. It isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t mean that there aren’t other, better options for you around the corner. This isn’t meant to be a cheesy ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’ gag, but more likely that, we all get to choose who is right for us and who is not so right for us. It’s not the end of the world, it just means that this isn’t your happy ever after ending (yet).

Trust can be a challenge

If you have been cheated on in the past, which statistically, a lot of women at our age have, don’t treat every man like a cheat. Cheating is unacceptable in any situation, but there are so many good men out there who wouldn’t dream of cheating on you. Unless you have very good reason to think otherwise, trust your partner to treat you well. If your spidey senses are telling you something different, question them and let your intuition guide you as to what’s going on. If you have been hurt before, you may be hypervigilant. Hypervigilance doesn’t mean they are doing you wrong, it just means that you are super wary of not getting hurt again.

Remember to have fun 

Dating and love are meant to be fun. It’s meant to be a happy affair that brings you joy. Don’t make it too serious. Don’t make it too heavy too quick and remember that even though it can at times be very scary, it can also be wonderful, so make sure you enjoy the ride. 

Go with your gut instinct 

Always. If something feels off, don’t push it down and ignore it. A woman instincts are usually spot-on, whatever the situation. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, wary or even scared, please act on those instincts. Just because there are a lot of great men out there, there are also some douches. If the relationship doesn’t feel fun and you don’t feel safe and special, it’s definitely time to move on.

How well do you mange boundaries? Comment below and let us know how you cope.

How to manage intrusive thoughts

‘Just don’t think about it.’

Possibly the most unhelpful thing one can say to another. How about we respect our thoughts. After all, that’s all they are.

Imagine if you could see everyone’s thoughts. Now there’s a thought. There’s no way of knowing how people think. You might be able to guess what they are thinking but you can’t know how they manage their thoughts.

I wanted to share some of my intrusive thoughts with you. For me, it helps to talk about them. It helps me validate them and it creates a platform in which we can safely say, you know what… this might sound bonkers but… and after this, you might realise you’re not alone and I hope you find some comfort in that.

Gemma Thickett, Advice and Information Service Manager at Rethink Mental Illness, said:

‘Intrusive thoughts can be associated with mental health conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing mental illness. Intrusive thoughts can be very common, but if it’s starting to affect your quality of life it’s important to explore what you can do to manage them and seek out professional support which can help you.’

My top 4 intrusive thoughts

Like most of us, I think about a bajillion things at once. What can be rather annoying though is the frequency in which I think about the SAME things and they are often things from the past. However, I have managed to use some of my intrusive thoughts to my benefit and I channel them in a positive way while maintaining a good sense of humour about them as that is my way of coping and it works for me.

If I don’t do this…

…then that will happen. I used to wager a LOT on things like if I don’t see another magpie, something negative would happen to me or someone I loved. It wasn’t until fairly recently I realised that I had got a handle on this. I would have physical symptoms of panic (racing heart rate, tingling) if my thought wasn’t fulfilled.

I won’t need a poo will I?

I imagine this is a common one but when I was a very young girl, I was obsessed with not needing to poo anywhere. I won’t need a poo will I? Will I, Will I? The question would swirl around my head over and over again. Now my Mum, who was a legend by the way…. unhelpfully told me that I wouldn’t. And I believed her. So you can only imagine my horror when I was caught short at school and shat myself in year 7. It was decades later I realised that although there’s no place like home, pooing in other places wasn’t as bad as previously dreaded. It’s taught me that if my boys worry about something, I offer them a scenario whereby we come up with a solution if the unthinkable happens.

If I don’t try a bit of the food….

…it will be poison and that person will die. I’m not over this one so if my husband orders a different meal to me, I have to take a bite just in case. Same with the kids’ food.

The one about the boiler pressure

This is currently the most annoying one and it plagues me daily. Do you know what the pressure is on your boiler? Well I do and I know exactly how it fluctuates and unless it remains stable, it really affects me. I’m yet to fully understand why I seek comfort in my boiler but I do and that’s just the way it is. Every morning when I wake up, the 1st thing I do it check it. When I’m feeling particularly anxious about something, I find myself having to leave the boiler cupboard door open just so I can check it more regularly. I don’t need a new boiler. I realise it’s absurd and I can’t make the connection. When the pressure isn’t where it should be, I can find myself in a manic state. But I have lots of tools to help me. Talking of help…

Managing intrusive thoughts: Help is at hand

If you also have to deal with intrusive thoughts – as so many of us do whether we care to admit it or not – then here, Antonia Harman, multi award winning emotional trauma expert and healer and founder of www.divinempowerment.co.uk offers her top five tips to manage intrusive thoughts.

What to do when intrusive thoughts are getting you down

Intrusive thoughts can be both destructive and distracting; they keep you up at night, they stop you from being present, they could even alter your behaviour, making you play small. You may not take opportunities as the little voice in your head tells you not to, even when you know in your core it’s the right thing for you. Intrusive thoughts can cause anxiety and are generally a blight on your life.

Here are my top 5 tips on how to deal with intrusive thoughts:-

1. Self-enquiry

What are the intrusive thoughts actually saying? The thoughts tend to bubble up when you feel a little unsure; they escalate your feelings making a mountain out of a molehill. Are the thoughts constantly murmuring in the background? If they are, which they are for most people, take some alone time to sit and engage with your thoughts. What is that broken record playing on repeat? Is it that you are not good enough? That you will never achieve your goals. Is it abusive about your weight? That you are a terrible parent? Too much of this or too little of that? Whatever it is, listen and work out what the loudest voice is saying.

Once you know that, start asking yourself, is it true? Most intrusive thoughts are unfounded. Let’s take “I’m a bad parent” as an example. Well, are you? No one expects Mary Poppins. Do you stuff up from time to time? That’s cool you are human. Are your kids fed, with a roof over their heads and happy? If so, you can’t be doing that badly now, can you?

To stop intrusive thoughts, you need to find a resolution to them, to get to the point where they no longer resonate; they don’t make sense. For example, if some said you were a ‘tin can’, you would be puzzled. You definitely are not a tin can, so the idea of you being one completely bounces off you.

You need to be that annoying kid who says “But why” repeatedly. Listen to the thoughts dissect them with ‘But why’ you need to be honest with yourself. If some of the points are accurate and there is room for improvement, that’s fine too; make a list and action it. Get proactive and neutralise the blighters. Once the loudest thought is gone, go onto the second and so on.

2. Seek Professional Help

If you are struggling with point one, you could seek professional help? Talk therapy can help probe into the ‘why’ of things to help you burrow in and let things go. Letting it go is the most important thing, seeing it for what it is with a neutral, adult perspective and forgiving all parties. This means you need to forgive them, the situation and yourself. There is a good reason that forgiveness is a central theme in all religions; even AA has ‘make amends’ a major component. Forgiveness stops intrusive thoughts and allows for a happier you. If you are looking for non-attachment to your thoughts, you could give Divine Empowerment a try; we dissolve the energy or emotion associated with trauma. Once it’s gone, you find peace in the situation you don’t feel triggered when you think of it; you don’t feel anything; it’s neutral and just the facts without the loaded emotions.

3. Get into Nature

The more grounded and relaxed you are, the quieter your mind is. Have you noticed that the intrusive thoughts subside when you are on hols? Why is that? Of course, you are less stressed (hopefully), but there is more to it. Being in nature is grounding the negative ions you get from the sea or forest to help to quieten the mind; the body is less stressed and anxious. Make being in nature part of your daily practice if you can do it barefoot or in moccasins, all the better (rubber-soled shoes block grounding); that way, the negative ions can be absorbed through your feet. To really connect to nature, go for a walk alone and if you are feeling brave, leave your phone indoors. The world is unlikely to end whilst you are on your 30-minute stroll. Many people constantly listen to music and have little or no time to self-enquiry whilst on your walk. Allow your thoughts to bubble up and refer to tip one.

4. Exercise

Yoga, pilates, chi gong, and tai chi are great way to ground and quieten the mind. They calm down your adrenalin and cortisol levels, causing less stress. The more pressure you have, the busier your mind will be. Meditation is another option; there are countless guided meditations on YouTube; apps like Calm and Mindful are brilliant as they keep you accountable to your daily practice. You can start your day with a guided meditation, use breathing techniques when you get stressed and even listen to bedtime stories and much more.

5. Monitor Visual Consumption

Are you hooked on the news? Let’s face it; there hasn’t been much good news of late are you watching the news on repeat and stressing yourself out? It’s great to be well informed but not overly well informed. If you have news bulletins on your phone, switch them off. Stick to watching the news once a day at the most. Whatever you are doing now, halve it; there is a lot of ‘fear porn’ out there which will cause intrusive thoughts.

Are you hooked on true crime documentaries or horror shows that stress you out? Do you watch scary things late at night and go to bed fretting about it? If so, knock it on the head entirely. If the intrusive thoughts are about something you have seen on the telly, turning your box off is a simple fix!

Have you ever suffered with intrusive thoughts? Do leave a comment and connect with us on Instagram here where we love to chat all things being in your 40s.

Will meditation help me? Here’s why you need meditation in your life

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Have you often wondered “will meditation help me?”.

Well, let me break it down for you like this. Life before meditation, and quite frankly, I was completely crazy. From struggling with insomnia to unleashing seismic fits of rage on my partner, I felt like a terrible parent and human being wound like a tight coil ready to spring at any time. You name the inner demon, I was struggling with it.

I was on the road to 40 and beginning not to like myself very much. I had become so grossly reactionary to pretty much everything and especially when life wasn’t going according to plan – which let’s face it can feel like 99% of the time. I wondered “will meditation help me?”. I desperately hoped the answer would be yes.

I needed to mentally unplug and get away from it all, and six years ago booked myself onto a half day meditation workshop with Simon Hoten for beginners where I learnt the basics of meditation, how to meditate using a candle, moving meditation and more. I had always been nervous about the idea of meditation. Could I actually sit still and meditate when I couldn’t even handle a Savasana at the end of a yoga class without wanting to have a massive twitching fit? And even if I managed to do that, when on earth would I ever fit meditation into my daily life?

I left the workshop feeling deeply and sublimely relaxed. The best takeaway? The revelation that even just three minutes of meditation could help me. And armed with that knowledge that meditation didn’t require a large chunk of my time, I tentatively started my meditation practice, just before light’s out every evening.

Six years later, it’s still going strong. Sometimes it’s three minutes – sometimes it’s 15 minutes. Hey I’m not counting! But either way I am no longer asking “will meditation help me” because I know the answer is a resounding yes.

Will meditation help me? Here are the ways it has done good in my life

Meditation has so far improved my life by:

  • Easing my anxiety
  • Improving my overall mental health
  • Helping me sleep
  • Making me less reactionary
  • Increasing my self-awareness and self-control
  • Making me feel overall happier and more confident
  • Enhancing my productivity, creativity and efficiency

But don’t just take my word for it. Just google “How meditation changed my life” and you will find reams of pages dedicated to people saying the same. This – my friends – is no coincidence. Because meditation works.

Will meditation help you find your right mind?

Recently I discovered Finding my Right Mind: One Woman’s Experiment to put Meditation To The Test. The book follows Vanessa Potter’s journey – where one day she woke up to find herself blind and paralyzed. How absolutely petrifying! She was stunned to discover that it was meditating, not drugs, that saved her mind.

Convinced she had more to learn, she embarked on her own consciousness road trip, exploring the major schools of meditation, along with hypnotherapy and psychedelics. In order to objectively record her journey, Cambridge neuroscientists measured her brain activity, with their observations and results featured within the book. It’s a fantastic whistle-stop your of the different types of meditation out there, and it provides an unusually voyeuristic glimpse into how powerful meditating can be. So if you’re not yet convinced that meditation can help you find your right mind – or even how on earth it can – then I would suggest you read this book!

I loved how perfectly she summed up the impact meditation can have on your life in her conclusion:

“It’s taken effort and time, but meditating doesn’t have to be a straight jacket; ironically, it’s been freeing. I’ve learned to be responsible for myself – what I think, feel and do is up to me….I had to acknowledge the different versions of myself. The nice, patient self along with the grumpy, worried-about-my-kids self. Neither is better or worse.”

She continues, “Meditation doesn’t have an on-off switch. It’s not as simple as doing it or not doing it. Sitting still is only part of it. What happens after that then, twenty or thirty minutes is just as important.” It’s that last part that rings so true for me – it’s about how meditation eventually informs everything that you do in your life, and makes it better.

Help! I can’t sit still and quieten my thoughts for love nor money

I hear you! I also have a brain that behaves like it has been soaked in amphetamines for a week straight plus a back that screams “I hate you!” most of the time. But yet still, I am living proof that it is possible. If you are in the same camp, then you will want to know about Sitting Comfortably by Swami Saradananda – an internationally renowned yoga and meditation teacher who has inspired thousands of people to practise.

It is full of tips for those who are prone to getting distracted, finding sitting painful, lack of time and self-discipline. Read: everybody. Once you have read this there will be no more excuses. You will stop wondering hmmmm will meditation help me and dive in and finally find out for yourselves.

Swami notes, “The mind likes constant stimulation, so when you try to sit quietly during meditation, without giving your mind external entertainment, it may come up with resistance and excuses not to continue. Rather than viewing these as setbacks, it is useful to view them positively, as obstacles to be overcome and lessons to learn from. Below are some common mental and physical challenges of meditation and how to overcome them.”

Be in the moment

Memories of the past and daydreams of possible futures can often distract the mind. If these come up while you are trying to meditate, just bring your mind back to your point of focus – whether it is your breath, a mantra, a visualization, or whatever other technique you have chosen to use.

Avoid fault-finding and replaying thoughts

Try not to review the shortcomings of other people when you are sitting for meditation and also be careful not to get caught up in self-criticism. If you find your mind re-processing the events of the day during meditation, remind yourself to come back to your point of focus, whatever that may be.

Be fearless

You may uncover hidden fears during meditation that have been lurking within your subconscious mind. These can manifest in many forms: fear of death, disease, solitude, criticism, or even just facing yourself. All fear stands in the way of meditative progress, so develop the habit of observing them with detachment. You will find that many will dissipate of their own accord if, instead of allowing yourself to get caught up with them, you simply return your attention to your chosen point of meditation focus.

Avoid muscle cramps

You could take a walk before sitting to prevent cramps. Make sure that you are getting enough potassium in your diet – and maintaining a healthy potassium-magnesium-calcium balance. Consider eating more bananas, dried apricots, prunes and other fruits.

Feeling disorientated?

Sometimes you may feel that your body is whirling or moving in a spiral motion as you sit in meditation. This tends to be more common if you meditate with your eyes closed. If this happens, open your eyes for a moment to reorient yourself and then close them and restart your meditation practice.

Exercise for optimal energy

Doing some form of exercise prior to meditating – whether stretches, yoga poses, breathing exercises or even just going for a brisk walk – can help to energize you for it.

So if you still think that meditation is just sitting around and doing nothing then think again! Still wondering “will meditation help me”? Let’s put it this way – I would be willing to put my house on the line and answer your question with “yes it will!”. Well, go on then and give it a try. After all, you’ve got nothing to lose, apart from all those bad habits that meditation can help you get rid of :).

Photo by Shashi Ch on Unsplash

Anxious about restrictions easing? 5 ways to manage the stress

From today the rules are changing

Restrictions are easing in the UK. But, honestly, my heart is sinking a little and I’m feeling anxious about it.

On the surface, I’m an extrovert. I will talk to anyone. I will smile at you until you smile back at me. Full of energy, rather annoying and always happy. Until I’m not. I can’t paste a smile on if I’m worried, scared or unhappy about something. It’s written all over my face and sometimes I can’t hide from people. Until now. Face coverings, although a little constricting, have offered me a little solace. Quite handy really.

With covid-19 restrictions lifting across the country I’ve realised something sad. I’m going to miss my little bubble. Having not been allowed to have people over, my standards slipped a little. Mrs Hinch might be gasping in despair at me but I’d stopped buffing my faucets with such ferocity. The family didn’t seem to notice and nor did I. I stuck to the bare minimum. We had clean clothes, clean plates to eat off and the dried cheerios would periodically get hoovered up. But now the guests are coming back. And I’m frantically buffing again. I can’t help it. Talking to other people can be exhausting. So, guys, we need to take this one step at a time. Especially if, you’re like me, and can get your knickers in a right old twist. Here’s my advice to socialising as covid-19 restrictions lift, top 5 stylee.

1. Don’t overbook yourself

Last week, I was super excited to see a friend for tea in the garden but I had stupidly arranged to see another friend later that morning. Just because I could. Most people wouldn’t bat an eyelid but I spent the majority of the time fretting about the time and trying to be calm and relaxed. I’d forgotten that actually, I’m not very good at sitting down and relaxing with company. I’m much more of a keep it moving kind of girl. I don’t want to put a label on my personality. I imagine I have a form of ADHD but being older, I can manage my time and surround myself with people who understand my quirks and don’t care.

2. Don’t go anywhere you don’t want to go

Time is so precious. Unless it’s to the detriment of someone else’s feelings (and this person is super special to you)…. just say NO. If you don’t want to go somewhere. Don’t go. Just say NO. It’s so liberating. How many times have you dreaded going somewhere? Here’s a revelation…. Just don’t go. Do what makes YOU happy. I’ve always loved being at home and staying in. If you’re like that too then just enjoy it and don’t feel guilty about being content about it.

3. Ditch the shitty friends

We’ve all got them. The mate you hate. You can’t remember why you’re friends. They bring you down. They drain the life out of you. Hate no more. Ditch them, delete them and move on hun.

4. Plan an adventure

Go somewhere new. Don’t take adventure for granted. Because we don’t know when it will be taken away again. We are so lucky to be able to explore our wonderful planet. So get adventuring today. We discovered so many gems within walking distance from our front door and those visits became so important during lockdown. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I recently visited Avebury. I’d never heard of it. It was magical. Check it out here. If you’re feeling bold, you could also consider carpooling for your next adventure!

Which brings me to my final piece of advice.

5. Practise hovering over the toilet seat

I bought a Shewee and the first time I used it out, I peed down the back of my jeans.

I’ve been dreading using public toilets during the plague. I could never perfect the art of squatting so I knew I’d need a full-proof plan to protect my lady bits from being exposed to any potential germage. We took a day trip for the first time and I knew I’d need a plan. I made up a little bag containing a clean mask, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser. My plan was to wipe the seat with the antibacterial wipes within an inch of its life then line the toilet seat with paper.

But to my surprise……. all that lockdown exercise had come in handy….. I held a squat like a PRO! I recommend a course of wall sits and you too will be able to perfect the art of the wee squat position.

Still anxious about restrictions easing? Let’s take it each day at a time

So here we all are. The start of a return to a life more ordinary. For some of us it’s a daunting prospect. For some it’s a relief and others this whole experience has been an opportunity to take stock and think about what’s important to them and has incited a change. Perhaps for the better. Perhaps not. One of the perks to being 40 was that I got to have my covid vaccine last week. It’s offered me a reassurance that IF I am exposed to the virus, I PROBABLY won’t require as much intervention than if I hadn’t had one. And for that reason… it was totally worth it.

Whatever the next few months holds for us let’s do it with gratitude in our hearts, kindness in our souls and buns of steel to hover without peeing down our trousers! How are you coping with the easing of restrictions? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels

Worried about mental health? 5 steps to maintain a positive mindset

Worried about mental health? We are inundated with information on how to keep our physical bodies healthy. You feel fat so you eat healthier foods and exercise. Physically you see the difference. People start to say how much weight you’ve lost. You LOOK different. But mental health? Sadly there’s no window to our minds. Many people hide their true emotions, scared to show their ‘real’ selves incase others take umbridge.

Our minds need exercise. Our minds need rest and our minds need as much attention as our physical being.

Mental health awareness week

It’s mental health awareness week (10th-16th May 2021). This offers an opportunity to focus on assessing how we are ‘feeling’ and what we might need to change. Maintaining a positive mindset is more important than ever before. Given this past year during covid, we’ve constantly faced challenges and adversity head on.

Mental Health Matters

Kelly Mesut is a counsellor and psychotherapist, reiki practitioner, health & wellness business owner and trainee yoga teacher. She has pulled together a few key tips that she recommends to clients, family and friends.

These aren’t prescriptive tips, neither are they a cure for mental health conditions, but can help you care for your mental health every day.

Top Tip Number 1: Movement

Many people readily admit to ‘hating’ exercise which turns them off the idea that this could be beneficial, so the term ‘movement’ feels more accessible. 

Movement is anything that gets your body moving, doing something that you enjoy and makes you feel good. Kelly recommends a podcast with Kelly McGonigal PhD, a health psychologist and lecturer, in which she discusses her book, The Joy Of Movement. She talks about how movement is fundamental to being human and discusses its role in combatting mental ill-health.

Try to move your body in some way each day, if you’re goal oriented set a few goals to motivate you. If you’re not, just enjoy it and feel into it, be mindful of how movement makes you feel and monitor your mood before and after. Most of all, enjoy it! Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t like, indulge in an activity that you find fun, and bear in mind that just 10 minutes of walking has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health matters.

Top Tip Number 2: Healthy Diet

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat’. If your body isn’t receiving the nutrients it needs to function optimally, then how can we feel our best mentally and physically? It’s like filling a car with the wrong type of fuel. If our bodies are continually deprived of ‘real’ nutritious food, then sustainable good health is going to prove elusive. The perfect diet isn’t possible, we should enjoy our food and take pleasure in it, but be mindful that you’re giving your body and mind what it needs. You don’t need to say ‘no’ to the things you love, just include them as part of a healthy balanced diet.

Top Tip Number 3: Sleep 

Sleep and rest is really key to mental health. There’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health. So, it can be a bit of a negative cycle. Brain fog and a lack of clarity, feeling slow and sluggish, irritability, lacking in energy; it’s not fun. What can help is working out if an early night or a later rising time suits you better.

Sometimes it can be a matter of just consciously prioritising more sleep, but if you’re struggling to sleep, there are a number of things you can do that may help promote better sleep:

  • Start winding down a couple of hours before your planned bedtime, put screens away and start thinking about consciously slowing down.
  • Try to avoid TV etc in the bedroom so that you associate the room with sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is a nice temperature – so you don’t overheat or get too cold.
  • Try and go to bed at the same time each day so your body becomes used to a routine. 
  • Try reading before bed in another room to help your mind relax. Journalling before bed if you have things on your mind can be helpful to get thoughts out of your head. (a notepad by your bed can be helpful if you are woken by worries or an endless to-do list)
  • Sleep meditations. (there are so many meditation apps around to choose from)
  • Be aware of how foods and eating patterns such as caffeine, alcohol and eating late can affect your sleep and mental health.

Top Tip Number 4: Connect 

Connecting with someone you care about, someone who lifts you up, whether that’s in person, online or over the phone, is hugely important. ‘Connect’ is one of the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’. “There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.”

There’s also the saying that ‘we are the average of the five people we are around the most’. Surround yourself with the people who bring out the best in you, who make you laugh, who leave you feeling on top of the world. As we move through life and our social time is perhaps more constrained by our various responsibilities, use it wisely and surround yourself with those people who make you feel like the best version of yourself. Not for validation, for solidarity!

Top Tip Number 5: Give

‘Giving’ is another one of the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Giving doesn’t have to mean money, it can be your time, your expertise, or your kindness. It could be donating to a cause dear to your heart, or it could be a genuine compliment to someone. There’s something lovely about giving to others with no agenda, about making a difference, large or small to someone else, it makes us feel good. If you’re thinking about someone else, it also helps shift the focus away from the self. Research shows that depression and anxiety are linked to a state of self-focus, but when helping others, you shift to a state of ‘other’ focus.

Mental Health Matters Bonus Tip: Do something that lights you up – everyday

This is a bonus tip! No matter how small, do something (positive) you love every day. When we do, we switch our energy and our state. Whether it’s listening to music you love, dancing around the kitchen, reading, meditating, yoga, running, a walk in nature (nature is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week and its many beneficial effects on mental health are widely documented), a raucous phone call with your favourite person, painting, an episode of your fave TV show, just give yourself permission to fully ENJOY something at least once a day.

The above are not a cure for mental health conditions and you should always consult your GP first and foremost if you’re are struggling with your mental health. But these are a few strategies that can help to boost mental health. If you feel that you need to seek help, please do so. There is no shame, only strength, in admitting that you need to address something.

You are important, we are all important, and we all deserve to feel our best as much as possible. We’re human, our emotional states change all the time, but if you’re feeling persistently low and are continually struggling, please know that this is not fixed and can change.

Own yourself. Protect your mental health. Because mental health matters.