The power of self-care and self -love

Nurturing yourself is important, especially in times of uncertainty. When the outside world seems crazy, turn inside. You’re a wonderful human being, who’s doing the best they can, given the current circumstances. Acknowledge how well you’ve done, how difficult it perhaps has been. Give yourself a hug and a pad on the shoulder. Life’s never been more different and unusual. We’ve been bombarded with lots of change, new rules and have been fed fear-producing messages. So, if you’ve been feeling a bit anxious, worried or just unusually tired, that’s absolutely normal. Many of us are a bit out of balance these days, trying to cope with the new situation and perhaps feeling a bit insecure about it all, or even overwhelmed. Yet one thing we often take for granted is ourselves. We expect ourselves to just adjust overnight, cope with anything thrown at us and deal with people around us, who are struggling, while we might be internally struggling too. I believe it’s important to acknowledge how we feel and become aware of our own needs too. Self-care and self-love are important and should not be forgotten. These last few months have been strange, and you’ve made it through! So, give yourself a big fat WELL DONE!

Wouldn’t it be nice to make yourself feel cared for and appreciated? Why not take a moment to thank your wonderful body, your brain with its amazing capacity to learn new things and your mind and psyche with its ability to generate a wide spectrum of emotions! Be nice to yourself and acknowledge how far you’ve come. Remind yourself of all the many good qualities you have. Make a list of things you’re grateful for. Switch to positive feelings and give yourself some love and appreciation. You deserve it!

A great tool that I highly recommend is doing daily affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements. Louise Hay, the queen of affirmations, wrote lots of books about the topic. Starting with that first thing in the morning is a great way of setting you up for a positive day. Think of a few things you like about yourself and tell your reflection in the mirror. Or see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you. If you need ideas and inspiration, check out this website with new daily affirmations: www.louisehay.com/affirmations/   Today, 30th July says the following: “Today I listen to my feelings, and I am gentle with myself. I know that all of my feelings are my friends.” Wonderful words of wisdom!
Some people prefer their statements expressed as a process, e.g. ‘I’m feeling better and better each day.’ ‘I love myself a bit more every day.’ or ‘I love learning how to relax’. When you become your own best friend, nothing can stop you. It’s worth making a bit of an effort to love yourself more. If you love yourself, the world loves you right back.

Self-care goes hand-in-hand with self-love. It’s about setting boundaries, looking after yourself and taking a bit of ‘me-time’ out whenever possible or appropriate. A dear friend of mine introduced me to the idea of having a duvet morning. I love the concept! Every now and then, I just stay in bed an extra hour in the morning with nice cup of tea and a book, or a notepad if I feel creative, to brainstorm ideas or make my gratitude list for the day. If mornings aren’t possible, how about a duvet evening? There’s plenty of ways to look after ourselves, some people love having a warm bubble bath, chat to a friend, go for a nice long walk, meditate, try out a new recipe, write into a journal, light a candle or engage in crafts. The important bit is to make time to feel good. Even a 2- or 3-minute breathing exercise can help you feel calm and more balanced. Acknowledge that you’ve done enough and you are enough! Feeling loved and appreciated is an inside job. I hope this short article has inspired you. Love and light. Sandy

Gratitude

There’s no question that these are strange times and life as we knew it has changed. Change can be scary, especially when it affects our sense of safety and control and leaves us with uncertainty about the future. This can really get us out of balance and that’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s especially important now to look after ourselves, acknowledge our feelings and thoughts but make sure we don’t get carried away with them. EFT tapping is a great tool to deal with any uncomfortable feelings. If you’re unfamiliar with EFT, just try one of my breathing exercises. Take a few really deep breaths and count to 5 or 6 while you breathe in and again to 5 or 6 while you breathe out. That’s a great little shortcut to help your nervous system to calm down.

Once calmer, I recommend to count your blessings. Seriously, make a list and write down at least 7-10 things that you’re grateful for. That read that list every day and add to it. We can’t be anxious and grateful at the same time, so choose your focus. Look at gratitude. There’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s just the weather, the fact that you have shelter and food in the fridge or great past memories.

Gratitude is powerful and when applied on a regular basis, you’ll soon find more things to be grateful for and gradually train your mind to focus on the positive things in your life. It’ll make a great difference in how you feel. Have fun with it. Take care. Thanks for you reading.

Sandy x

How to switch your focus from anxiety to calmness

These are difficult times and not being able to see friends and family, the current uncertainty about the future mixed with fearful messages from the media can really have an impact on somebody’s mental health. Now it’s especially important to look after ourselves and for some it might be easier as long commutes are not on the agenda at the moment and working from home or not working at all free up time and hopefully provides comfort. So we’re trying to find the balance between what’s worse right now, getting used to what’s different and be happy about what’s better.

Our mind is such a powerful tool yet it’s important to feed it the right messages and take control. There was once a story about two wolves, an old legend of unknown origin. It’s the tale of the fight between two wolves we all have insight of us representing our inner conflicts. One wolf is evil full of anger, jealousy, self-pity, regrets, arrogance and laziness while the other, the good one, is filled with joy, empathy, peace, courage, faith and generosity. The question is asked which of these fighting wolves would win the battle and after reflection the answer is revealed: The one you feed.

Free photo 88039025 © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com

So which one are you feeding? Are you spending time complaining how bad it is or are you actively seeking to find the opportunities in the current situation? Are you taking time to look after yourself and embrace new hobbies, habits and connecting to others perhaps via technology? Or are you hiding in your ‘cave’ waiting for the storm to blow over? The important bit is that we all have a choice which wolf we feed and the one we feed will be growing and becoming stronger.

I know this is a very simplistic point of view and things aren’t usually just black or white but I like the message behind it as we can only focus on one emotion at a time, we can’t be happy and sad at the same time and even if we’re sad we can switch our focus to something else, someone we love, for example and the feelings will change and follow our thoughts.

Sometimes, however, we can get stuck in a negative emotion, such as anxiety and find it hard to switch and get out. If changing your thoughts doesn’t change, then give your body a break and use both your body and your mind to find a bit of peace. When body and mind work together, anything is possible. So here’s a quick and easy 5-10 minute relaxation exercise to get from anxiety to calmness:

Sit somewhere quiet and comfortably. Focus on your breath, observe it for a minute, then start counting. Count to five or six while you breathe in and to five or six while you breathe out. Do this for a few minutes. Then start daydreaming. Think of a lovely safe place where you can relax, perhaps a beach or a forest you know. Build it up with your inner eye and notice the colours, sounds and smells. Then imagine going for a stroll there while taking in the calmness of that place. Do this for a couple of minutes or so before coming back. Notice the difference in how you feel. Repeat regularly.

Try it out, really, how about now? Don’t postpone or delay. If appropriate, do it now for a few minutes! If it works teach it to someone else. If everyone did take a 5-minute break like this every day, we’d all be much calmer and happier.

Stay safe. Big hug. Love and light.

Sandy x

How to look after your mental health in these difficult times

In these unusual times it is very important to look after ourselves and others. Apart from our physical needs such as water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, etc. we all have innate emotional needs that ought to be fulfilled to keep in good mental health. While in the Western world most of us have our physical needs met, our emotional needs are still often neglected, partially because many of us are simply not aware of them. In addition, with current restrictions and uncertain times, it’s relatively easy to get out of balance.

So here’s a few simple tips to fulfil your emotional needs to help with your mental wellbeing.

I understand that for many of us the need for security and safety is a bit shaken at the moment. Yet we’ve been given guidelines to follow to keep us safe, so we are in control and know what to do. Why not appreciate the fact that we have a home where we can feel safe and secure? Think of three things you like about your home! That’ll help you shift your focus. It can also be fun to create a little safe haven with a sanctuary-feel somewhere in your room. Children love building a cave or a safe space, so why not follow their example. Identify a spot. Find your favourite blanket and a teddy bear or soft toy you loved as a child. Add your favourite colours with cushions, scarfs, other fabrics, pictures and other accessories. Add photographs of your loved ones if you like and perhaps a few candles or a plant; some also like incense, soft light and relaxing music. Voila! Spend time there whenever you need to feel safe and perhaps even get into the habit of doing some regular relaxation exercises there. This will help you increase your need to feel safe and secure which will build the more often you use that corner or place to relax.

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Some other emotional needs are to give and receive attention and the need for intimacy and connection. If you live on your own, why not ring your friends and family members more frequently, connect via text, create a WhatsApp group, share funny videos or record an audio message and encourage them to do the same for you. This will help you feel connected and your friends and family will surely appreciate that too.  If you fancy a cuddle but can’t get one, there’s no shame in hugging your pet, a cushion, a teddy bear and especially yourself, which helps with our human need for intimacy.  

Another emotional need is one for creativity and stimulation. This is a great time to reactivate old hobbies or start new ones. Here’s just a few ideas to get you thinking: painting, crafting something, singing, writing, playing a musical instrument, learning something new, join an online yoga class, try out new delicious recipes, create a quiz for your kids or friends and become a quizmaster (online if necessary), DIY, make jewellery, repot your plants or do gardening if you have a garden, redecorate your room, listen to an audiobook or read some of the books you’ve never had time to read or watch your favourite films from your childhood. These activities will give you a sense of creativity and stimulation and perhaps also develop into a new goal you wish to achieve.

Finally, you can exercise your sense of control by looking after your body-mind connection. Choose to look after yourself, get dressed every day, watch what you eat, get enough sleep, try out a new (indoor) type of exercise, create helpful rituals and feed your brain too, ideally with positive things. Please avoid watching the news several times a day or engage in fear-promoting social media posts as they can create and increase anxiety. You have a choice of what to focus on. Energy flows where attention goes, so focus on the good things in life, make a gratitude list, reignite your talents, connect with old friends and help those in need. Being of service can be great boost. Now is the time to shine. If you’re not ready that’s fine but make sure you look after yourself and your loved ones. Stay safe, enjoy the simple things in life and try to have a laugh because laughter heals. If things get too much for you and you need further help with lowering your anxiety, feel free to contact me for an online session.

Sending you a big virtual hug
Sandy

Am I really depressed, or could I just be an introvert?

In a world where the majority of people (apparently two thirds) are extroverts, there are certain unspoken expectations of how to fit in and how to ‘be normal’. For example, we should see friends and family regularly, always go out when asked, engage in active hobbies and continuous professional development, support good causes, be successful, do exciting things and ideally let the world know about it by posting pictures and status updates on social media.

For extroverts this might not be a problem as many of them like being around others and don’t usually mind the general busyness and noise of modern life whereas introverts, on the other hand do! Working all day, commuting and the feeling that we then should also fill our leisure time with exciting things, tasks and people can be overwhelming, although I guess to a certain extent that is true for everyone. Perhaps extroverts just generally cope better with being busy, having full schedules and long to-do-lists and somehow still seem to find the energy to have a great social life too.

Introverts may just need more time alone, they may not want to be out and about all the time,  communicate with everyone constantly about what’s going on in their life or simply do lots of different things. They like to retreat, have time to think and process events of the day, need peace and quiet to balance out all the noises, pressures and expectations they encountered. And that is totally okay! We’re all different and both introverts AND extroverts are needed and valuable.

Introverts might get fed the feeling that something is wrong with them, if they need a break from it all every now and then. Questions might pop up around them like “Where have you been?” “Why aren’t you coming out with us?” “You’re so quiet, is everything ok?” “Did you get my text?.” etc. The unspoken label ‘depression’ may occasionally float around but are people who need some alone time and don’t feel up for talks, events and gatherings really depressed?

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m neither downplaying depression nor am I suggesting that introvert people come across as depressed. It’s just that in my experience as a holistic health practitioner I’ve come across a number of clients who diagnosed themselves and thought they had some sort of mild depression, many of whom turned out to ‘just’ be introverts with no mental health problem whatsoever. So, I thought I’d write about it as I guess it can be quite a relief for anyone doubting themselves.

You don’t have to bend over backwards to fit in. It’s okay to be who you are, it’s okay to miss out on an evening with friends, it’s okay to stay in and take time out for yourself. In fact, if you feel you need it, it’s necessary! It’s important to respect our own needs and if alone time is what we need, then let’s take it. It helps to recharge our batteries and only if we look after ourselves, can we also look after others, plus if you have kids, you set a great example in showing them the importance of self-care.

Now, I’m not advocating to become a hermit. If someone is losing interest and enjoyment, feels in a depressed mood for an extended period of time, experiences increased fatigue or loss of energy, has disturbed appetite and/or sleep problems and engages in pessimistic views of the future, there might be an element of depression and getting support would be advisable. The IDC-10 (meaning: international classification of diseases 10th edition) is often used as a model for diagnosis and can be helpful. I’ve worked with a lot of clients to help them get out of their ‘down period’ and there’s lots of wonderful tools to help with that, such as Solution-focused psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and EFT.

Yet simply being introspective, reflective and observing, enjoying a bit of alone time, having quiet hobbies, not joining every social event or being a bit under the weather every now and then does not mean depression! These are qualities of introverts and it’s important to respect them in order NOT to get depressed in the future because by not getting our emotional needs met, we are more prone to mental health problems. So, take a break to daydream if you need to. Take time out for yourself and please respect others who do the same. What about you? Has this blog post been helpful? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I look forward to reading your comments. Thanks.

How to reduce anxiety in less than 5 minutes

Stress and anxiety are buzz words nowadays. Everyone is just rushing around, being busy with being busy and having a million things on the to-do list. Many have not enough time to relax and look after themselves, especially women who always seem to care and look after everyone else and don’t get enough time for themselves. Yet just like a car can’t run at 100 miles an hour all the time without stopping to refuel, so do we need to stop regularly and look after (refuel) ourselves. People who don’t take time to look after their health will HAVE TO take time later to look after their illness. Which way are you heading?

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The good news is that refueling doesn’t have to take ages. A day at the Spa sounds very appealing but many have neither the time nor the money for such a treat. Here is a very simple tool that you can surely fit even into the busiest schedule and you can do it anytime, anywhere. It is a breathing technique called 7/11 breathing. This is how it works: take a deep slow breath in while counting to 7, fill your belly and lungs with air, then breathe out even more slowly while counting to 11, notice how your belly and chest slowly release the air. Repeat several times: breathe in to 7 and out to the count of 11. If 7 and 11 feel too long, adjust the numbers to your own pace and capacity. The important part is to breathe more slowly and to breathe out for at least 2 counts longer than you breathe in. Doing this for a few minutes switches your body from the sympathetic nervous system (stress mode) to the parasympathetic nervous system (relax mode). Seriously try it right now for at least 2-3 minutes and watch your anxiety melt away…

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This techniques puts you back in touch with your body. The counting engages your mind and the combination of counting and watching your breath helps you become present and be in the moment. Too often we spend too much time thinking about the past or planning our future. Right in this moment, we are ok, right now we don’t have to find a solution to all of our problems. Just for this short moment we can start anew as in every breath there is a new opportunity. Once we calm down and release the stress we get access to our intuition, can think more clearly and often become aware of the most amazing ideas and solutions that have been in us all along. All it takes is a bit of breathing, allowing your body and mind to relax. Do this regularly and see what happens. I recommend doing this exercise several times a day, even if it’s just for a minute or two each time. It reduces stress and anxiety, quietens the mind, helps you sleep better, provides your brain with more oxygen, cuts off the constant noise in our head, especially that critical voice that many of us have and puts us back in touch with our own resources. Enjoy!

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If you found this helpful, please share and/or leave a comment. If you’re interested in finding out more about this topic, join my next workshop on 25th March in Brighton:

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