Time to talk day – lets end mental health discrimination

Thursday 6th February 2020 is Time to Talk Day.

Time to talk Day is a yearly event aimed to encourage people to talk about mental health. The yearly initiative is promoted by Time To Change. https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/time-talk-day/resources-your-event

Time to Change exists to end the stigma and discrimination experienced by people with mental health problems. As a result you can find resources to hold your own Time To Talk event at the link above.

The Time to Change website states that their aims are specifically:

  1. Improving public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems.
  2. Reducing the amount of discrimination that people with mental health problems report in their personal relationships, their social lives and at work.
  3. Making sure even more people with mental health problems can take action to challenge stigma and discrimination in their communities, in workplaces, in schools and online.
  4. Creating a sustainable campaign that will continue long into the future.

One in four of us in any year

Statistically, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year. We all have mental health and at any given time our mental health will sit somewhere on a scale ranging from feeling great to feeling awful. This will change and it is normal for it to change and consequently our mental health can tip below a point where it starts to cause us problems. At this point when we need help and could do with talking about how we feel, unfortunately we often do not talk.

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Check twice – often people say they are ok when they aren’t

The Time To Change website reports the following;

The overwhelming majority of people with mental health problems report being misunderstood by family members, shunned and ignored by friends, work colleagues and health professionals, called names and much worse by neighbours.

Stigma and discrimination prevent people from seeking help: this can delay treatment and impair recovery.  It isolates people, excluding them from day-to-day activities and making it hard to build new relationships or sustain current ones. It can stop people getting or keeping jobs.

Experiencing a mental health problem is hard enough, without having to deal with the shame and isolation that often comes with it.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/why-attitudes-mental-health-matter

Our shared human experience

Mental Health problems can feel isolating as mentioned above. We should always remember our shared Humanity. We are all human beings having an experience of life. Part of this experience of life is that we have difficult times and challenges. Some of these challenges may by short in duration and some may last longer. Whatever we experience is part of being human and we are not alone in these experiences. Many other people have been through what you are going through, you are not the only person to feel the way you feel. When we allow ourselves to remember this and accept ourselves as being a human being having a human experience we can take a step back from our feelings of isolation.

Despite what lifestyle magazines, health and fitness magazines and social media portray, pretty much everyone will experience a mental health challenge at some point in their life. This is part of being human. Just as at some point in our life we will likely have physical health problems so too will we experience mental health problems. We are all human. Give yourself permission to be human and accept yourself as being human.

An opportunity to connect

Time To Talk day gives us an opportunity to connect with a greater sense of being part of a wider human experience of life. When we talk to others about mental health we work to remove the stigma around it. We spread the message that it is ok to not feel ok. It is part of our shared experience of being human to not feel ok.

Both Steve and I are open about our own mental health. Steve has detailed on our website in the About us section how it was a period of depression and mental health difficulties that led us to a regular yoga practice. Who knew that it would ultimately take us to where we are now! It was through talking about the challenges that he was facing that Yoga was recommended to us.

Steve, like many of us, has been through a number of episodes of depression and anxiety and continues to use the tools he has learnt over time to manage his mental health in his daily life. This has included talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), medication, yoga, healthy eating, self-care, mindfulness and exercise (too many to list!). And caring for our dog Archie! Steve has also learnt that no matter how bad things seem at the time, it will pass and you will feel better in time.

You can read the About us section of our website here: https://yogasmiths.org/about/

My own mental health

One of my own experience of my Mental Health becoming a problem was with work related stress and anxiety. I can clearly recall sitting at my desk with a huge amount of work to do. Due to this my head felt like it was in a whirl and consequently I sat there unable to do anything. I felt frozen with anxiety. I felt aware that something was wrong and decided to take a walk in the fresh air. Upon returning to the office one of the receptionist asked me if I had been for a jog. As a result of this I went and looked in the mirror and saw someone who did indeed look they had been for a jog, sweating and red in the face.

In that moment, I made the decision to log off and go home. I used Yoga, walking and swimming to help me get through this difficult period. Sometimes I did not want to do those activities, but I never regretted when I did. Slowly I felt on more of an even keel. As a result of this period, I became more aware of what triggered my anxiety and stress. I explored Mindfulness more deeply and began to develop my tool kit of things to help me.

When we feel ok

Time to Change detail on their website that a lot of people think Mental Health is something that does not effect them or the people around them. This in itself is isolating. As a result of this way of thinking people are removing themselves from this shared human experience. We are all in this together. Let us remember this when we are feeling ok and be there for others. Take time to listen compassionately and mindfully to others, do not try to solve others problems, but listen to them. If we feel ok lets make sure we keep our eyes open for those who do not.

Our life long journey

Our life long journey is to learn to live with our fluctuating mental health. The fluctuations of our minds and our emotions. With Yoga, Mindfulness and self-compassion we can build our resilience and tool kit to navigate our way through life. Whatever we experience is part of being human, we are not alone. In my experience, we can learn to control our reactions to stressful events a little more, we can learn what our triggers are. As a result we can experience life less like an extreme rollercoaster and more like a gentle fairground ride! Difficulties still arise, mental health may still raise it’s head as a problem, life can throw many challenges at us. Talking can help us. It is Time to Talk and to help end discrimination and stigma around mental health.

You can find a previous blog containing tips for dealing with stress here; https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

Blue Monday?…..Finding that inner calm

A marketing gimic?

It is likely to be widely reported that today is ‘Blue Monday’, apparently ‘the most depressing day of the year’. A quick google search reveals that the concept of ‘Blue Monday’ was actually coined by Sky Travel in 2005! (The google search also prompted me to listen to New Order whilst writing this blog!) I’m not sure how calling a day ‘the most depressing day of the year’ is meant to be helpful to us but it might just help to sell a few holidays! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Monday_(date)

It did get me thinking, however, that there is something to this concept of ‘Blue Monday’. It’s January in the UK. Christmas is a distant memory. The days are apparently getting longer but it’s a slow process. I could swear that’s it’s getting darker and not lighter in the mornings! It’s cold! It’s often raining and grey. We’re still awaiting payday! My point is….is it any wonder that all this can affect our mood?

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Is every Monday Blue Monday in January?

Accessing our inner calm

However, regardless of all of the above, it is comforting to know that internally we can access a constant, calm space within us that is always there. It is unmoved by the changing of the seasons. It may be very difficult to access at times. Particularly with all the external factors that can affect how we feel (weather, work, relationships, whatever else is going on in our lives). However, this calm, constant space is still there, despite all this.

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But how do we access this calmness? Well the first part of this is knowing it is there. Knowing that it can be accessed with practice. A breathing practice, bringing attention to the inhale and the exhale. Simply observing the breath, without judgement. This can help us begin to access this calmness within. The breath is always with us. But how often do we pay attention to our own breath? Thoughts and feelings will of course arise whilst we observe the breath, wanting our attention. Instead of giving attention to these thoughts/feelings, gently guide your attention back to observing the breath. There are innumerable breathing techniques (pranayama) to help us in finding this sense of calmness within. So regardless of whatever else is going on, with practice we can help manage our stress levels using our own breath, the constant calm space that is within all of us.

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A mindfulness of breath based meditation can help us tune into our inner calm and help us to deal with Blue Monday. Lhasa Apsos will sometimes join in too.

Mindful Movement

Yoga posture (asana) practice is also great at helping us access that calm space within. Bringing our attention to how the body is feeling in a particular posture. The sensations you are noticing in the body and where are you noticing them? Also, breath-led movement, moving the body on an inhale and an exhale, creates a mindful practice whereby we are again bringing our attention, without judgement, to the sensations in the body. How often do we mindfully observe our bodies in our every day life?

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Mindful movement in our Yoga poses – banish the blues from Blue Monday

Self Compassion

And of course there are so many other actions that we can take to help us find this calmness within, a big part of which is to learn to treat ourselves with more compassion (ahimsa). We often find it easier to treat others with compassion than we do ourselves, especially when we’re perhaps not feeling our best. Treat yourself! Find and do the things that you enjoy, those things that make you feel good. Yes, the weather might be less than ideal at this time of year for many of us, but use this as reason to enjoy a cosy night in, a nice relaxing, hot bath, etc. Give some thought to what you can do to help you find that inner calm.

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A hot drink in front of a warm fire – an antidote to Blue Monday

So yes, it may be hard to find that inner sense of calm particularly at this time of year, and it may be easier said than done (I know I’ve felt like that many times!). But there are many ways in which we can all try to help ourselves find that constant inner calm, regardless of all external factors, and before we realise it maybe that third Monday in January, and then the rest of the winter, might not feel so ‘blue’ after all!

You may also want to check out our previous blog on Helpful ways to deal with stress which you can find here; https://yogasmiths.org/2018/05/19/mental-health-awareness-week-helpful-tips-to-deal-with-stress/

Namaste x

World Mental Health Day

The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is suicide prevention.

The following link will take you to a blog on this years theme;

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/world-mental-health-day-suicide-prevention

The Mental Health Foundation have put together a suicide prevention advice poster;

We all have mental health and our mental health can vary from day to day. It can vary as we move through different stages of our lives and deal with different life events.

Mental Health can often be referred to as emotional health or wellbeing.

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Yet people talk much more about their physical health and often shy away from addressing the subject of their mental health. In general people do not like talking about their feelings but it is healthy to be able to know how we are feeling and to talk about how we feel and to communicate this.

Mental Health problems are common, you are not alone. The following statistics are from the Mental Health Foundations website;

As found by the APMS (2014), 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem.
Anxiety and depression are the most common problems, with around 1 in 10 people affected at any one time.

Take some time to visit the Mental Health Foundation website where there is a wealth of resources https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/

Talk to your friends and loved ones if you are struggling, speak to people and seek help.

Yoga can help us with greater self awareness so that we can become more aware of our triggers. We can become aware of the early signs of stress or anxiety and then we have an opportunity to try and deal with this at an early stage. This may be through breathing practices or relaxation or just taking some time for yourself. Ahimsa – Compassion – directed towards ourselves is a very important part of yoga. Practicing ahimsa is to take care of yourself – both your mental and physical wellbeing.

We all have to learn to live with our minds and we are all dealing with this on a daily basis. Some days it goes well and some days less well. It is something we all experience, when you feel low you are not alone, reach out and talk.

World Mental Health Day 10th October 2017

It is World Mental Health day today, Tuesday 10th October 2017. Most people suffer at some point during their life with a mental health problem.

This can range from a period of work related stress and anxiety to a more complex mental health condition. Sometimes these challenges can come right out of the blue and hit us.

Yoga is an excellent way of helping to build our resilience to mental health challenges and is also a wonderful recuperative practice.

Both Steve and I have used yoga to help us at various times in our lives. We first ventured to a yoga class when Steve was living with depression and we thought we would see if it would help. Steve found that the yoga really helped him and was a step towards recovery. I also found that the yoga helped me in many ways and I hadn’t realised that I needed it! That was the start of our regular yoga practice that has lead us to becoming yoga teachers!

I have also used yoga and breathing techniques to deal with periods of work related anxiety when I was working in middle management. Yoga techniques can provide you with the space that is all so important when the mind feels so busy and full.

There is an excellent article written by Dr Mercola titled Yoga Benefits Your Brain Function and Mental Health.

The following is an extract from it and there is a link to the full article below;

Why Yoga Is so Beneficial for Your Brain

Over the years, a number of studies have honed in on the brain benefits of yoga. For example, studies have found that:

Twenty minutes of Hatha yoga improves your brain function (speed and accuracy of mental processing) to a greater degree than 20 minutes of aerobic exercise (jogging).5,6 Potential mechanisms include enhanced self-awareness and reduced stress.

Yoga helps improve mental health, including psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.7,8,9,10

Some of the studies suggest yoga can have a similar effect to antidepressants and psychotherapy.

Yoga helps improve teenagers’ emotional resilience and ability to manage anger. As noted by yoga educator and writer Iona Smith:11

“During adolescence, the frontal lobes of the brain (the seat of language and reason) are still being formed, leaving teens to overly rely on their amygdala (the seat of emotions) …

The brain’s malleability during adolescence marks a crucial stage in both cognitive and emotional development.

Luckily, researchers are now able to paint a clearer picture of some of the factors that allow students to thrive throughout high school and into adulthood, such as self-awareness, managing distressing emotions, empathy, and navigating relationships smoothly.

When students hone these skills, they are not only happier and healthier emotionally, but are also better able to focus on academics.”

By improving stress-related imbalances in your nervous system, yoga can help relieve a range of symptoms found in common mental health disorders.

Researchers also believe yoga can be helpful for conditions like epilepsy, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and PTSD by increasing brain chemicals like gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA).12

 

Here is a link to the full article;

Yoga and the Brain – Dr Mercola article

We always ensure in our Traditional Hatha Yoga classes that we teach our students a range of different breathing exercises and different guided relaxation so that everyone can find one to suit themselves that they can use in their day to day lives.

Namaste

Paul