During isolation, it became more important than ever to stay positive and boost your mental health. As we emerge, it will be just as important to look after yourself
In these worrying times, it can be hard to stay positive. As we go to print, we’re still in lockdown and it looks as though it will be some time before restrictions on our movement are lifted. But that doesn’t mean we should stop looking after ourselves. We asked local experts for their advice on how to look after our mental health and wellbeing.
Stop stress in its tracks
It’s simple, but easy to forget – deep breathing helps reduce stress.
‘Combining deep breathing with movement can be really helpful,’ says Suzy Reading, a psychologist and yoga teacher from Berkhamsted and author of ‘Self Care In Tough Times’.
‘Stand tall, arms by your sides. Breathe in and lift your arms outwards and up. Pause, then breathe out and lower your arms back down. Repeat six times.’
‘Exercise releases endorphins that trigger a positive feeling in the body and help reduce the perception of pain,’ says Liz Van Hullen from Tring Pilates.’ Try this Pilates move. All you need is a TheraBand, or an old pair of tights.
Stand with knees and ankles hip width apart, shoulders above hips.
Take the band (or tights) around your back, cross it in front of your chest, and hold an end in each hand.
Connect your abdominal muscles and inhale deeply. Breathe in for four, then exhale, gently pulling on the band to tighten it. Exhale for five. Repeat.
Get enough sleep
According to the Sleep Council, almost half of us are getting six hours or less every night, which can really affect our mental health.
‘Ensure your room is dark and cool,’ says Philippa Taylor, who runs www.feelfabnaturally.com. ‘Melatonin is a hormone, created during darkness, that helps to regulate sleep, so any disruption can create chaotic sleep patterns.’
Also try a yoga move before bed. ‘The cat-cow move is perfect for letting your body know it’s bedtime,’ says Pauline Gibbons from Tring Yoga. ‘On your hands and knees, pull your spine up to the ceiling, then drop it down towards the floor, lifting your head. Use your breath to control the speed.’
It might sound strange, but allowing yourself time to worry can be helpful.
‘Schedule 15 minutes of daily “worry time”,’ says Philippa. ‘By the time it arrives you might find you don’t need to worry any more, but if you do, ask yourself “is this something I can do something about?” If no, dismiss it for the day. If yes, ask yourself “what’s the first step?”.’
Look after yourself
You can’t help others if you’re not looking after your own needs. What makes you happy? If it’s having a long soak in the bath or reading a book, find 20 minutes to do it.
And while we might not be able to have beauty treatments yet, think about booking one in. ‘Reflexology is perfect for total serenity and relaxation,’ says Lucie Fountain from Elementary Day Spa in Tring. ‘Reflexologists use a map of the feet to work on the whole body; it creates homeostasis, where all the body systems are working together, leaving you balanced and revitalised.’
Boosting children’s wellbeing
Life can be tricky for children to navigate at the best of times. At times of heightened anxiety such as now, it can be even tougher. Sarah O’Brien, Executive Assistant at Hector’s House, based in Berkhamsted, explains how we can help.
‘Don’t shelter them too much from what’s going on,’ she says. ‘If you tell them everything is fine they’ll know that’s not true, which will make them feel less safe. Be honest, in an age-appropriate way.
‘It’s also important to let them know it’s ok to feel worried, scared or angry, and encourage them to talk to you about it. But try not to project your anxieties onto them – they’re very perceptive.’
There are some practical ways you can help too.
‘Keep a routine,’ says Sarah. ‘It doesn’t have to be strict, but it helps them feel secure. Make sure they exercise and, if they need to, get them to write or draw about how they’re feeling. It can be very therapeutic.’ www.hectorshouse.org.uk