Refresh and Revive
Mind Over Matter – Help your mind deal with Stress, to help your body be its best and feel great.
Life a juggle?
Does your life feel like you are constantly juggling 101 balls at the same time every day?
Do you feel that all this spinning and juggling is causing you to have problems focusing on the task at hand and causing you stress? Do you constantly feel like you are failing, when you inevitably drop one of those many balls?
If so you are not alone. Our lives seem to be so much more hectic than ever with greater aspirations, expectations and goals we get set by work and society plus what pressures we put on ourselves and for our children to help them be their best. Worryingly stress is a common problem in life now and sadly effects all areas of our being: mind; emotions; behaviour and our body.
Mental Health Problems are so common
In fact, the Mental Health Foundation reports that in an average week it is estimated that 1 in 6 people will have experienced a common mental health problem (1). Now that seems quite a worry, and something we should be addressing, don’t you agree? Good news is that the power is in the hands of your mind to deal with stress in a positive way and this blog highlights some tips about how you can Revive and Refresh your Mind into a positive state.
Problems of 21st Century Hectic Lifestyles
Interestingly, Nick Begley, Head of Research, for Headspace (Mindfulness app), highlights in a meditation tutorial, that the problem with our extremely hectic lives is that we have an inability to focus. Did you know, that according to a study carried out by Begley, an average worker changes windows on their computer 37 times per hour. This is because we are all trying to deal with so many jobs, responsibilities and issues at the same time.
In addition, technology means that this increases the variety and amount of information we end up receiving and sifting through, including social media, every day, adding extra pressures on our time and spreading our focus even wider than ever. This brings up that debate about whether multitasking is good or not?
Begley highlights that changing focus that rapidly prevents all the mind moving to the next task, as a part of it is still on the previous topic or task. This results in reduced concentration on the current task, which leads to a poorer ability to filter relevant information from irrelevant information, ultimately resulting in reduced productivity. And we all know that when we don’t feel like we are able to keep on top of our workload or lives, the symptoms of stress increase further.
In addition to the inability to focus efficiently due to our manic lives that we’ve created and are expected to achieve nowadays, we have learnt that stress is a key problem. Stress causes a part of the brain called the Amygdala to fire, which is a primitive part of the limbic brain that responds to fear and allows our Fight or Flight Response to kick in to keep us safe from physical dangers. This causes the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol to be released resulting in an increased heart rate (HR) and Blood Pressure (BP) ready to fight or flee.
However nowadays most of the time we feel stressed we are perfectly safe as we are never normally faced with imminent danger to life, such as a Saber Tooth tiger about to eat us; hence the release of adrenaline and cortisol is unnecessary and instead becomes a problem, especially if the stress response becomes prolonged rather than intermittent.
The physiological changes we experience through stress, can take us down 2 paths:-
- a)The first is that it makes us make impulsive, irrational decisions, prevents us focusing, causes us to perceive the world very negatively and takes us down a destructive or negative path mentally, emotionally and behaviourally
- b)Secondly it can result in Physical and health implications, which are commonly reported such as increasing the risk of many health problems including cardiovascular health, fatigue, immune problems, Gastrointestinal (GI) problems including, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), joint and muscle problems, Diabetes, skin issues and more as seen in the picture.
Power of the Mind
The ethos to Refreshing and Reviving our systems needs to be dealt with as a holistic lifestyle approach looking at all facets of our life to improve our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing and resilience. We naturally recognise that diet, exercise, lifestyle habits improve our health, yet we often ignore the effects of stress on our health.
Stress is well documented to be a factor in many health problems as highlighted previously. So, it truly is important to prioritise our minds as well as our bodies. After all, stress is perceived and felt in our unconscious mind and this influences our body and how it functions.
In relation to Gastrointestinal Health we all know the link between diet and the gut, and many of us take a shot of Symprove each morning to help give our gut some resilience, immunity and bacterial support to optimise our health and wellbeing. However, there is a great deal of research now to show that the health of our gut and how it functions is often more than just refreshing and reviving our body. The health of our gut is also down to how we feel, what we believe in our mind and how we are dealing with stress.
Hence Hypnotherapy and psychotherapy treatments are now recommended as part of the treatment for Gastrointestinal problems by NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). The mind is often the key to unlock most of our problems in life, including our health.
Professor Ian Bernard Hickie, psychiatrist and executive director of the Brain & Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, says: “There is no denying the mind-body-spirit connection. Research shows that a sense of wellbeing arises when our physical, mental and spiritual parts all work in unison, and the brain plays a vital role in allowing this to happen.” He also says, “We understand better than ever before that there is a continual feedback loop between the brain and the body’s organs.” Hence by improving the brain function and state of our minds can have a real benefit on our physical health and vice versa.
Harvard University, supports this highlighting the synergy and power of the Gut-Brain Connection, recommending serious focus should be made on the patients mental and emotional state, when dealing with Gastrointestinal problems. (2)
So how can we revive and refresh the brain to help our mental, emotional and physical health?
Former Monk, Andy Puddicombe, co-founder or Headspace, the popular Mindfulness app, talks about how doing mindfulness daily helps, during his TED Talk in 2013. (3) He suggests: –
- “Find ways to quieten your mind for 10 minutes each day
- Practice observing thoughts and anxieties without judgement. Just experience them
- Focus on what you are doing at each moment”, instead of your mind whizzing and juggling the other hundreds of things you think you’ve got to do that day.
As Puddicombe says, “We can’t change every little thing that happens to us but we can change how we perceive it”
So which is you?
Furthermore, it is important to note that the unconscious mind is unable to tell the difference between reality and imagination. Hence whatever you think about, it will assume it’s just gone through that experience again. So, you can see that when we ruminate over negative experiences we reinsert that feeling over and over. Hence important to get us out of our thoughts and into our bodies, using mindfulness as Puddicombe suggests.
So how can you Refresh and Revive your mind easily and practically?
Telling people to quieten the mind sounds easy enough but have you tried to just think of nothing? This is a key point as when we ask ourselves to quieten the mind it never means think of nothing, after all this is something the Dalai Lama and Puddicomb have been practicing their whole lives, so be kind and realistic with your expectations.
With all these techniques you may notice thoughts coming in to your awareness and that’s ok. Just notice them and watch them drift on as if they were floating in a breeze, out of sight and out of mind and reconnect with what you were doing.
So, let me give you some tips of what I tell my clients to do:
- Just by focusing on your breath brings you out of your thoughts and into your body.
- A) Notice where you feel the breath in your body the most. Is it your chest, your stomach, the tickle at the back of your throat as you breathe in?
- B) Follow your breath in and imagine it going down to your toes and then exhale bringing your awareness back up to the crown of your head.
- C) Square Breathing or Balanced breathing as its more commonly known. Focus on something square or imagine and breathe up for a count of 4 as you imagine moving up the left-hand side of the square. Then hold along the top of the square for a count of 4 and then out again for a count of 4 as you imagine going down the right-hand side and hold again along the bottom horizontal line for a count of 4. Repeat!
- This is brilliant as reducing your heart rate, B.P, cortisol and adrenaline levels.
- So, think breath in going up, exhale going down and holding on each horizontal of the square.
- 2)Guided meditations
- Enjoy listening to a guided meditation.
- Listen to a relaxation Hypnotherapy session or better still having one designed specifically for you to relax, release your stresses and focus on the positives.
If you are interested in Gastrointestinal problems, look for a Therapeutic Hypnotherapist to deal with the root of your GI problems and possibly stresses. As a Registered Nutritionist and Master Therapeutic Hypnotherapist I find the combination really does make a difference to people’s gut health and quality of life.
- 4)Mindfulness into daily routines
- It is important to try and break up your stress throughout the day with reconnecting to the present moment. So, decide to be mindful and fully aware of everything you are doing during a certain activity, such as making a cup of tea or cleaning your teeth etc. Notice every part of it using all your senses and pause to get the full awareness. Great way to lower the stress response and refresh your mind, without doing anything differently.
- 5)Turn off social media
We all know how tempting it is to look at our phones or screens when we hear a ping, but this ruins our focus and feeds into the negative cycle. Set a time aside to look through them later and turn off notifications. Plus reading about everyone’s ‘perfect lives’ can cause us to see the negatives in our own. Beware of the pitfall. Remember everyone has a story even if they hide it well.
- 6)Bed = Sleep not Screens
Allow your mind to switch off by turning off screens an hour before bed so the blue light doesn’t affect your sleep during the night or stimulate your mind when it needs to calm. Lack of sleep can increase stress levels and make us make bad choices including what we eat the following day.
- 7)Gratitude and Reflection journal
Filling out a Gratitude and Reflection Journal is a great way to teach your mind to learn to notice the good around you and learn to spin challenging experiences into positive learnings as well as focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t; all this helps you move forward in a calmer and better way.
A 10-week study by Emmons & McCullough (2003) (5) suggested that those people who kept a ‘Gratitude Diary’ were 25% happier than those who kept a ‘Hassle Diary’, which is sadly the standard mindset most people have in these hectic times that we live in.
For an example and more about journals see, http://nicky-anstey.co.uk/Gratitude/
For more information on Tips to deal with stress visit blogs referenced 6 and 7 below.
A positive mind helps maintain positive health and wellbeing.
- (1)Martin-Merino, E., Ruigomez, A., Wallander, M., Johansson, S. and GarciaRodriguez, L. (2009). Prevalence, incidence, morbidity and treatment patterns in a cohort of patients diagnosed with anxiety in UK primary care. Family Practice, 27(1), pp.9-16
- (5)Emmons & McCullough (2003), Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (2), 377-389
- (6)Top Tips to Deal with Stress – Part 1 Tips 1-5 http://www.mind-bodywellness.co.uk/blog/10-tips-on-how-to-combat-stress-and-be-successful-part-1-top-5-tips
- (7)Top Tips to Deal with Stress Part 2 Tips 6-10 http://www.mind-bodywellness.co.uk/blog/10-tips-on…