Football (It’s coming home) to mindfulness I was delighted to see pictures of the England football team practising relaxation, mindfulness and yoga techniques as part of their post-match cool-down. It really has made it to the mainstream! More importantly, it gets the message out […]
I’ve been spending this week considering the subject of stress in support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018. The central question asked being “Are we coping?” Singing for stress In my profession as a counsellor we are actively encouraged to monitor our stress levels […]
This blog has been produced as part of a mini-series on stress for Mental Health Awareness Week.
Get up and Go
Firstly, I may have set myself up for a fall here by deciding to be grander than I am! Mini-series! It just sounded exciting and I couldn’t resist! Unfortunately it means you will have to endure more mini-blogs around the subject of stress. But that’s a good thing right? We all need to be reminded of ways to manage our stress levels. Very often when life gets busy we don’t pay attention to ourselves. We only notice when it hits a critical point; when we are flattened by a virus or start getting cold sores, eczema flare ups or other physical indicators of stress. To support and celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week I’m aiming (notice I said aiming….) to do a mini-blog a day with a top tip for managing your stress. They are not rocket science but they do work. I’ll offer up a few options which I recommend to my clients and which I use myself. Yes, counsellors get stressed too!
TIP no 1: Walking outside in nature
Get your trainers on and get out now! Go anywhere. It would be great if it were somewhere green but it actually doesn’t matter. But set a positive intention as you do this. Not “I’m going to get this over and done with” but “I wonder what I’ll see on my walk today”. I recently joined a month long challenge to get out for a walk every day and post a picture of something that I noticed in nature, maybe being a bit creative with it. I love it!! It’s made walking so much more interesting. I’ve always got my phone at the ready to snap a lovely landscape or fabulous flowers and foliage! (not easy to say). But it’s also made me slow down and really notice my surroundings. Paying attention to things I wouldn’t normally notice. This week it’s been gothic archways and blossom. Who knew! I’m also a big fan of a daisy. They just make me smile, which is the point really. A walk whilst being good exercise is a chance to let the stresses of your day ebb away for a few moments and an opportunity to let your mind clear out the mental clutter to make space for other stuff. Nice stuff. Interesting insights or maybe even an outline for a novel! Why not! It’s a chance to daydream…..gosh do you remember that? When we just let our minds wander WHEREVER THEY WANTED TO! It’s widely recognized that a walk in nature has a positive effect on mental health, so what are you waiting for. Just get up and go!!
There’s been a hoo-hah about “Mindfulness” for some time now. To some it’s the latest thing, a panacea for all ills. There’s “mindful parenting”, “mindful birthing”, “mindfulness for depression” to name a few. To others, it’s still deeply rooted in mystery and weirdness with images of sitting cross-legged, chanting and burning incense. There is so much information on it, it can be difficult to know where to start. So I thought I’d give my very own brief overview of what I think mindfulness is and how I incorporate it into my life.
For many of us, we spend our life on “auto-pilot”. As we go about our day our heads are somewhere else, pondering things that have happened or worrying about things that might. This means that we often aren’t fully engaged in what we are doing and to this end, we can miss out on lovely moments that are right in front of our noses. We just don’t see them as we are lost in thought. Mindfulness helps us to press “pause” in our lives and come back into this present moment so we can savour it more or change it if we don’t like it. It allows us to reconnect with ourselves and our lives so we can truly appreciate it. So how do we do this mindfulness stuff then?
Well, there are lots of mindfulness practices you can do but I sometimes think it’s nice to start small. Pausing by a window looking out onto a view is great. You bring your full attention to what you can see, perhaps noticing things you hadn’t seen before. Bringing “new eyes” to what you are paying attention to. Appreciating the different colours available to you, the shape and form of what you are seeing, the way things move visually. (I especially love doing this with trees which dance and shimmer in the breeze). I also love watching my washing ebb and flow!
At times your mind will try and hi-jack you saying…”stop looking at that, what about that argument you had yesterday? What about that work you need to do”. Minds LOVE doing that. When this happens (which it will), you smile inwardly (cultivating kindness to yourself and others is inherent in mindfulness), notice where your mind has taken you (because that helps you to get to know your own mind), and then gently you escort yourself back to your practice noticing what you are seeing. This momentary pause allows you to take the edge off that mental chatter, quietening it down slightly, giving you a little space between your thoughts and you! We all need a breathing space. Sometimes you just have to create your own.
At some point I will record a brief mindfulness video and post it on here but for now you can get further information on mindfulness at:
So go on, take a moment!