It is Mental Health Awareness Week (8th – 14th May 2017) and as hypnotists and hypnotherapists, we spend a lot of time helping others improve their mental health, but this week; it is time to take care of you and work on your own self care routine…
It all starts with taking responsibility for you!
Rather than spending your time thinking about the past (which has already happened and cannot be changed) or thinking about the future (which hasn’t happened yet, and may not be how you think it will be), instead, spend some time in the present moment, experiencing now. One aspect of experiencing the present is to be aware of what is going on around you. Notice what is happening, be observant. In the same way, listen to what your emotions and body are telling you. Take time each day to scan all aspects of your physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual (if you are) being. As you do that, be aware of when you need sleep and when you are tired; allow yourself enough restorative rest and sleep time. Also notice when (and how) you are experiencing stress, identify the source and address it.
Talking of stress, it is helpful to become aware of when things are ‘good enough’, letting go of any unnecessary ‘perfectionist tendencies’. Things don’t always have to be ‘perfect’ for them to work effectively. Become aware of your ‘core values’, those principles and beliefs that matter to you the most, and consider these when identifying and evaluating the priorities in your life. Living in alignment with your core values can lead to greater life satisfaction.
Rather than restricting your life and shutting down your emotions as a result, it can be a wonderful experience to allow yourself to feel strong positive emotions; feeling passionate about something enhances your mood (and this is attractive to others). In the same way, use your imagination to focus on a positive future, one that is both achievable yet not ‘set in stone’. By doing this ‘exercise in imagination’, it produces positive actions and behaviours. By allowing yourself some ‘you time’ every day, you have an opportunity to do something that makes you feel good every day.
Develop strength and resilience
Strength and resilience are both physical and psychological. One key route to enhancing your physical strength and resilience is with healthy nutrition; good quality protein, varied vegetables, fruit and wholegrains help optimise health, particularly at times when your body is under greater stress. Also, do remember that being dehydrated can be stressful to the body, whereas keeping hydrated helps with cognitive power and mood stabilisation. If you’re stressed out and you’re dehydrated too, your body will become even more stressed. The NHS recommends drinking around 1.2 litres of water (6-8 glasses) a day.
(and no, coffee doesn’t count.)
Another mood enhancer is regular exercise, which also reduces stress and increases stamina. Psychological health and resilience can be just as important as the physiological. It can be helpful to challenge yourself to explore something new. By going outside of your comfort zone, you expand it, enhance your confidence, gain a sense of achievement and it can even be exhilarating. Also, as humour and singing both enhance the mood, make some time to have fun!
Balance work and life
We tend to think of balancing work and life as a massive part of self care, yet it can be just as important to create balance within the work environment and also separately within your life outside of work.
Whilst at work, it can be more beneficial to take regular short activity breaks during peaks of intense work (10 minutes in every hour, doing something different), rather than attempting to plough through the work and not take a break for hours. Talking of taking breaks, it is highly beneficial to take that lunch break! A brisk walk, having a laugh over a coffee, looking through some unusual books in a bookshop… Doing something different can be a mental recharge. Another important recharge is a holiday. Take your holidays (without packing work in your suitcase). One way to enable you to take those breaks that you deserve is to develop the ability to say ‘no’, rather than becoming overloaded (also learning to delegate work where possible). Instead of stretching yourself too thin, allow others to take more responsibility.
With what you think you need to do, plan, prioritise and structure your time. Put the big important things into your plan first, then fit the medium-sized things around it. After that, you can then fill any remaining gaps with the smaller stuff… a bit like this:
…if you just focus on the sand you would never fit in time for the big stuff. The same principles can apply in your life outside work. Furthermore, just as you can benefit from the support of your colleagues, so it is highly beneficial to accept the support within your structure of family and friends, taking time to enjoy these relationships, and strengthen the important ones!
Take a moment for yourself, whether during Mental Health Awareness Week or at some other time, and consider what you can do to enhance your own mental health. By taking time to help yourself, you will be better able to help others.
We hope this blog has been helpful, and it is important, because as a therapist, you do need to remember to take care of yourself as well as your clients… If you have any questions or concerns around your own self care or any of the topics covered in this blog, do please get in touch, because we’re always happy to help!
– written by Dr Kate Beaven-Marks