Did you know that in any given week, around 16% of the UK population are identified as having a common mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression? Since the COVID19 outbreak, studies have shown that this figure may have increased to as much as 48%, with a specific diagnosis of Coronavirus Anxiety being recognised by doctors in many cases.
Through my own experience of living with anxiety and depression, and through my work as an Aromatherapist and Mentor, I have learned of some great self-help techniques that can help combat some of the symptoms associated with these conditions. I think, in a similar way to the pandemic; mental ill-health can be an indiscriminate and invisible enemy too. But, with the right tools, it can also be managed and controlled effectively.
I would like to share with you my top 6 tips that you can do today!
Many people think that the mind and body are separate but evidence actually shows that there is a link between being physically active and enjoying positive mental wellbeing. Furthermore, evidence shows that being physically active can protect people against depression and anxiety as it causes chemical changes in the brain which can positively alter your mood. It also brings about a sense of greater self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge.
Although we’re in lockdown, it is still recommended that you take approximately one hour of outdoor exercise each day. This could be a brisk walk, run or bike ride local to your home, following government social distancing guidelines. For those people who are unable to get out, we’ve got plenty of advice for home workouts or, there are many free online exercise classes available on platforms such as Instagram, Youtube and Facebook to access, including some from our very own WBC Champions too!
Practising mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to manage feelings of stress and anxiety, and can even be used as a relaxation technique for panic disorder. This meditation technique can help to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm the mind and body.
I recommend Calm and Headspace both of which have free apps available for download along with guided meditation, tips and helpful advice. If you’d like to dip your toe into meditation slowly, you can even try some simple and effective breathing techniques to help you to relax in those moments of stress and panic.
Using aromatherapy is a wonderful way to lift the mood and calm the mind. When essential oils are inhaled or applied topically (in a carrier oil) the molecules rise into the limbic system of the brain and into the bloodstream. The brain’s responses are determined by the different qualities of the oils being used (e.g. calming or stimulating). I absolutely love the ‘Good Night’ lavender & chamomile calming essential mist and ‘Botanical Garden’ relaxing and uplifting aromatherapy oil from www.kwaromatherapy.com
You can even make your own fragrance mist at home with some bottled water, a little witch hazel (vodka can be used as a substitute) and your favourite essential oils!
A healthy diet and a healthy mind
Although your diet won’t cure anxiety, there are foods that can help with anxiety and have a calming effect on the body and brain. This can be achieved by eating organic, unprocessed foods; rich in vitamins, minerals and healthy fats whilst limiting or avoiding caffeine, sugar, alcohol and gluten.
I chose to switch to an organic, plant-based diet two years ago after reading a book called ‘Had Enough Yet?’ by Michael Pearce. I found that the changes had a really positive impact on both my physical and emotional well being. Since changing to a clean eating lifestyle, I have even been able to reduce some of the medication I take for my chronic pain condition and have found both my energy and sleep patterns have improved considerably.
It’s Good to Talk
Talking and listening can play an important role in the path to managing common mental health conditions. Often, when a worrying thought that you may have been keeping to yourself for some time is verbalised or chatted through with a friend, family member or therapist, etc, it can be a quick and effective way to help refocus the mind and rationalise those concerns.
The ‘Get Britain Talking’ mental wellness campaign with the charities Young Minds and Mind along with TV channel ITV has launched a dedicated page on the website www.youngminds.org as part of their project. It’s really worth checking out. It has some fantastic ideas and conversation starters to help you open up the chat with your friends and family.
Write down your thoughts and be kind to yourself
Commonly known as ‘journalling’, this means simply writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly. If you struggle with stress, depression, or anxiety, keeping a journal or diary is a great idea. It can help you gain control of your emotions and give your mind some well-deserved rest time. Limit yourself to only writing in it once a day though.
You could then reward yourself with a little ‘me time’ once you have put your thoughts down on paper but putting your feet up with a good book, having a soak in the bath or however you wish to pamper yourself a little! Doing something you enjoy, even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day can really give your mood a lift.