Today, April 7th, marks World Health Day, a concept created by the World Health Organisation to create awareness about health and wellness. This years campaign supports global health-related inequalities, which have come to the forefront in light of the pandemic and look at ways to help build a fairer and healthier world. For more information, head to the World Health Organisation website.
Regardless of the circumstances or time of year, finding ways to support your mental health is always important. Today, our wellbeing expert Lily Silverton discusses her top tips to prioritise your mental health on World Health Day and beyond.
We’re all familiar with yoga and meditation as remedies for stress. But while those practices are incredibly beneficial, sometimes you crave something a bit different. In fact, often a totally new (and perhaps slightly strange) practice can be just the tonic your brain needs to step away from a place of stress and worry.
With the prospect of a return to “normal” life in clear sight, it’s possible that alongside feeling excited, you’re also feeling a bit anxious and stressed. This is completely normal and to be expected – it’s been a hard year, and just as there was no “correct” way to deal with the pandemic, there is no “correct” way to deal with coming out of it either.
Below is a list of Lily's 5 favourite esoteric methods to turn to when she's feeling stressed, worried or anxious. They all work by interrupting the stress response in the brain – our fight/flight/freeze switch – which tends to be activated far too often in our modern lives.
Developed by Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, this takes a fake-it-till-you-make-it approach. Cuddy discovered that body language shapes both how we feel and behave – and that different postures will release different amounts of hormones (particularly those that affect stress levels). We can improve our ability to cope with stress by taking a ‘high power’ posture – one in which you take up a lot of space (think, Wonder Woman or someone man-spreading on the tube) – for just a few minutes. Great for when you’re feeling nervous about a presentation or a upcoming date. Watch her TED talk for more guidance and information on this incredible phenomenon.
People tell you to take a deep breath when you’re stressed because it works! Ideally you want to take that breath into your belly, as this will target your largest cranial nerve – the Vegas nerve – which connects with the stress response in the brain and will help signal to the mind that everything is okay. Try it here.
Cold Water Immersion
Wild, cold water swimming is having a bit of a moment, and for good reason. Even just a short dip can decrease your stress levels and leave you feeling calmer, more capable and serene. In lieu of a swim, try a very cold shower… For the last 30/45 seconds of your morning shower turn the water as cold as possible and marvel at how incredible you feel after you get out. More information on this here.
For those who come to my sessions often know that I push this remedy A LOT. It’s one of my favourite practices to start the day. It’s wonderful for an achy body, and even better for a stressed and worried mind. Try it here
It’s not just our thoughts that contribute to how we perceive a situation; the images we create (both positive and negative) in our minds also play a BIG part. One of my most effective stress-management techniques I use with clients is visualisation to help them challenge the negative and/or catastrophic imagery and thoughts that plague them. There are five steps:
- Think of a future situation you are anxious about.
- Note down the aspects of the situation that you are most stressed about.
- Develop ways to deal with these difficulties.
- Carefully visualise yourself in the feared situation. Slowly picture yourself coping with each anticipated difficulty as it arises. Repeat this three or four times.
- Practice step 4 daily, especially when you become stressed/anxious about the event.
Crucially, don’t stress yourself out with the exercise itself – imagine ‘coping’ with the event, rather than ‘mastering’ it.
By Lily Silverton
Lily Silverton is a journalist, podcaster and mindset coach. She is also the founder of Mindful Moment, an online membership that makes prioritising your health easy and quick. Try your free 7-day trial today.