It’s mental health awareness week and a good time to remember that to live well, we not only need good physical health, we need to feel balanced, happy, able to cope with the stresses of life and to enjoy the things we love in life.
During a global pandemic, for lots of us it's harder than ever to feel mentally stable, when the world around us has turned upside down and our usual distractions and supports are no longer accessible. But even during less pandemical times, we can get overwhelmed by our lives and our selves.
For many of us the stress and anxiety of modern life are bigger than ever before. Our days can feel like a race against time, we rarely separate from our digital devices, we're bombarded by advertising, competitive consumerism and negative news, we have less face to face contact with our nearest and dearest and we have less time to fully switch off and rest.
This post is a reminder to reach out. It’s ok to need a helping hand sometimes, us humans are complex and social beings, and sometimes we need connection, kindness and expertise from fellow humans. Self care is great, but we don't have to do it all alone 😊
STRESS AND TRAUMA
I worked for several years managing a multidisciplinary therapy centre in London that provided mental health support for vulnerable children and young people. Working closely with psychotherapists, I developed a strong drive to support people experiencing emotional and stress related health issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia and PTS.
Traumatic and stressful experiences, big or small, can leave huge footprints on our emotions and physiology, leaving us feeling powerless, fearful and stuck in the stress response.
Therapeutic bodywork sessions - e.g. massage, acupuncture, yoga - with an experienced therapist can be life-changing over time. Those experiencing stress or trauma can learn to regulate their physiology in safe spaces that encourage the building of trust, connection with sensations of the body and facilitate much needed stillness and quiet to notice how things can and will shift.
Observing sensations that emerge and then fade, allowing them to pass, combined with the experience of being in a safe space, are all positive neural imprinting experiences which regulate the core arousal system in the brain and allow people to feel safe once again inside their bodies.
Acupuncture is proven to have a positive effect on stress related conditions including anxiety, depression, PTS and insomnia and is known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation state) and regulate cortisol levels – the stress chemical.
In the short term, acupuncture can provide instant relief by grounding when agitated, lifting when down, clarifying when muddled, smoothing emotions and restoring overall balance. It can help provide a bit of space from the hustle and bustle of life, just enough to recharge and keep going, and perhaps even build enough strength and clarity to take appropriate action.
In the longer term, acupuncture can enable us to gain greater awareness of the changing nature of sensations – therefore circumstances - therefore our emotions, feel more balanced, have a sense of agency, build greater resilience for life’s struggles and help us grow our strengths.
Even in the most challenging and traumatic of circumstances we can find balance and are reminded of the incredible human capacity to transform.
MY THERAPEUTIC JOURNEY
I went through a traumatic time myself a few years ago, and am incredibly grateful for the support of family, friends and my own self-care bag of tricks, but what also got me through and enabled me to deeply grow is the professional therapeutic support I received over the years. I was lucky to receive short term specialist counselling at the time, ongoing long term psychotherapy and more recently a course of EMDR, as well as regular acupuncture.
Nothing compares to having an experienced and compassionate professional holding space just for you and whatever you turn up with. I still have monthly skype sessions with my psychotherapist, and I highly value the space to unravel and gain new insight.
If times are hard, I utterly recommend finding a therapist who is experienced at working with mental health and creating a regular time for you to receive kind and transformative attention. Whatever feels right for you, talking therapy, massage, acupuncture, yoga, meditation or a combo of it all – for me it was a bit of everything - every day was different.
THE IMPORTANCE OF S P A C E
Time and space heal. During stressful times, we tense up and the spaces between our breaths, between our flesh and bones, between thought and action, stimulus and reaction, the space we allow our bodies to take up, become smaller and we feel even more restricted and powerless.
If we can insert contemplative intervals in life, be they a yoga class or a mindful cup of tea, and hopefully face-to-face therapeutic sessions in the not too distant future, we allow ourselves to recover and catch our breath, clear the mental clutter, gain perspective and make sense of our lives.
It doesn’t make all the bad stuff disappear, but a little bit of space offers distance, allows airtime for the good stuff and enables a more complete picture to emerge.
LOCKDOWN SOUL FOOD
My lockdown soul soothers have been walks on the beach and now paddles, regular chats with loved ones and all the amazing meditation, yoga, qigong, talks and discussions put online by the London Buddhist Centre – which used to be my local haven when I lived in London, so good to be back there virtually!
Check out their website if you’re interested www.londonbuddhistcentreonline.com
Also have a look through some of the posts on this page for some self-care tips, and there are so many local lovely yoga classes online - too many to list!!
I hope after this lock down we can see each other's faces again very soon :-)
Sending love, strength and solidarity