For the first time ever, Christmas came and two of my close family members were in hospital. It made the holiday period fraught with anxiety and concern. On my visits to the hospitals I became aware that I was sharing the experience with many others, whose family members were also there. We exchanged nods and acknowledgements in the awareness of the discrepancy between the normal expectation of the time of Christmas and the reality of serious illness with fear of what could go wrong.
Opposite one of the hospital’s there was a house festooned with lights and bright images of Father Christmas which brought the stark reality between the two scenarios into sharp relief. I took a photograph of the house to remind me that perhaps the dark times would pass and we would experience another Christmas without hospital visits.
I am grateful that in a life of many years, it was only the first time that I’ve experienced such a scenario, whilst for so many others, it might have been an experience duplicated many times. It has made me think more deeply about health and well-being and what it takes to handle ill-health when it comes.
A number of my clients last year were also seriously concerned about their health – physical as well as mental. It has therefore caused me to identify some useful tools that we can all use to take greater personal actions to keep ourselves healthy.
If like me, you’ve made a new year’s resolution to improve your wellbeing, whether in the realms of getting to bed earlier, becoming more mindful, or managing pressures or stress better, you may have been looking around for help to make this happen. So here are some useful tools I’ve discovered that can make a world of difference.
This is one of the most powerful things I do each day – it helps to start the day feeling intact and balanced. For anyone who doesn’t have a meditation practise, try using a meditation audio to guide you through. One of the newest things I’ve begun to use is Insight Timer which has the largest free library of meditations on the planet. They have more than 5,000 teachers and a whole host of guided gems to help with sleep, focus, relaxation, reducing anxiety, and much more. I also have a 6 minute audio meditation which I’m happy to send you if you email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spend time in nature
Every day if you can, but certainly several hours at the weekend allow yourself to spend time in nature – whether it’s the countryside, a golf course or local park – take a walk! Breathe in fresh air and let your mind become present to the sights and sounds of nature. There is healing available to stressful minds and just walking for an hour or two will help you to let go of mental or emotional pressures from work, re-connect to the rhythms and timings of nature, rather than the timer clock of appointments and delivery schedules.
Run, walk, yoga, pilates – focusing on the body and respecting its need for oxygen and muscle tone – exercise is a good thing to do regularly. I’ve never been an advocate of marathons or even half marathons, (my body does not enjoy being put under such pressure) but aerobic exercise releases endorphins into the system, bringing feelings of well-being and happiness. As a society we’ve become far too mentally focused and the pressure to spend so much time in our heads, whether through work, social media, or TV leads to a sedentary lifestyle that is unhealthy for our bodies. We need to balance time away from our minds to focus on our bodies. After all, it the home for all else that we are. And every home needs regular airing, cleaning, decluttering and upgrading.
Take time to do nothing
Each one of my coaching clients will know that this is one of my strongest recommendations to tackle mental or emotional stress, pressure, or overwhelm. In a fast paced, concrete paved world, where external pressures often take precedence over our personal needs or wishes, we lose touch with who we are and what is really important to us. Losing touch with ourselves is the beginning of losing touch with our mental health. We lose the awareness that we can say ‘No’; we lose the power to believe that we can choose to see things differently; and we lose the knowledge of how to see things positively different.
Innately we are all well, naturally and without interference we would have mental and emotional health. Left to our own devices, well-being would be easier to access. So taking time to do nothing acts to counteract the impact of external stressors and circumstances beyond your control. Doing nothing can remind you that in fact you do control your own attitude and you can choose NOT to be stressed by managing your mind and having it think differently. It is not life’s events, but one’s reaction to them that activates the symptoms of stress. Knowing this puts you into a position of power – you are the ultimate arbiter of whether you will allow yourself to feel stressed or not.
And determining what you will think and feel will need to be the subject of another article!
14 January 2020