Did you have a wonderful bank holiday weekend? Or did you feel a tad lonely or down? Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can affect us at any time, making you feel as if you're surviving, rather than thriving, and when everyone around you seems to be having fun, it can be really hard to reach out to people and ask for help.
Mental Health Awareness week runs from 8th to 14th May and is dedicated to helping end the stigma surrounding mental health and encouraging people to ask for help when they need it.
Professional help is always recommended if you are battling to cope, but here are a few useful ways of helping to balance your body and mind through movement, diet and breath. Head to our blog to read more.
Healthy gut, healthy mind
There is a strong relationship between what you eat and how you feel. Eating regularly is important, because when your blood sugar drops, it can trigger feelings of irritability and depression. Choosing foods that release energy slowly, such as high protein foods, nuts and seeds, oats and wholegrains will help keep you on an even level. Drinking enough water will also ensure you can focus and think more clearly, and eating proteins rich in amino acids as well as good fatty oils rich in omega 3 and 6 helps to regulate the chemicals in your brain responsible for thoughts and feelings. Fill up on oily fish, avocados, eggs and legumes.
When in the middle of a panic or anxiety attack, your breath is often the last thing to cross your mind, but taking some time to calm it down and regulate your breathing will have a huge part to play in calming your nervous system and restoring balance in your body. While the best way to practice pranayama or breathing techniques is under the guidance of an experienced teacher, there are simple techniques that can be used at any time to transform not only your breath but also your state of mind. Basic breath awareness is a great place to start breathing more fully and consciously. Try it at least once a day, at any time.
How to: Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor about hip-distance apart. Place one hand on your abdomen and breathe naturally for a few moments, noticing the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense,strained, uneven or shallow? Simply observe the breath without any judgement. As you feel ready, slowly begin to make your breathing as relaxed and smooth as possible, introducing a slight pause after each inhale and exhale.
Once the breath feels relaxed and comfortable, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the softening of the abdomen. In a gentle way, try to actively expand outwards on the inhale and soften on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm. Continue the practice for 6 to 12 breaths.
Take it to the mat
The practice of yoga is far more than just asana ( poses). Yoga helps us to work with the nature of our mind and emotions and the effects on our body and our behaviour. The mental benefits of a regular yoga practice can be hugely beneficial because you are giving yourself space to recognise how you are feeling emotionally and physically and to be fully present with those feelings. Even a few minutes of noticing and breathing more mindfully can make a huge difference to your mental and emotional state.
Once you have allowed the body and breath to settle, try this pose. Setu Bandhasana, or Bridge Pose, reduces anxiety, calms your central nervous system and relaxes your mind while strengthening your spine, hips and neck.
How to: Lie flat on your back with arms at your sides, palms down. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor, keeping them hip width apart, parallel to each other. Slowly raise your hips towards the ceiling, pressing your feet into the floor until you find a comfortable position, Lift your chin slightly away from your sternum and breathe slowly and deeply as you hold the pose for 30 seconds to the full minute. Release on an exhale, rolling down through the spine. You can also support this pose with a cushion under your pelvis.
Look out for our daily mental health tips throughout May on Instagram, join us here @goodvibestudios
2 May 2017