To survive this winter season, and to thrive as you journey through it, I’d like to encourage you, and myself, to have regular mental health and self care ‘check ins’. Make an appointment with yourself to focus on taking care of you. It’s easy to get lost in the many things going on around us, to the detriment of our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. So along with all of the other tips in this season, let’s make our wellbeing and our mental health a priority. Once again I have loads of helpful tips and articles on these issues on my blog, and the many things I’ve learned over the years from personal experience, so I’m with you friend, I know it can be hard, but you’re important and your mind matters, so do what you can to take care of yourself, to regularly make some time just to be kind and look after your wellbeing so that you can be and feel your best this season. x
If it’s anything, this time of year is the perfect time to snuggle up indoors and to have a cosy night in, whether that’s on your own or with your loved ones or friends. I love putting on some cosy and comfy clothes, warm socks and curling up on the couch to watch a good film, box set or TV programme.
In the UK, you know it’s autumn / winter time when ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ comes on the TV. It signals the countdown to Christmas and it’s become a bit of a TV tradition for me at this time of the year.
What are your favourite films, series or TV programmes to watch that make you feel cosy during the winter seasons? Do you have an equivalent in your country to the show I mentioned? Whatever you choose to do, stay warm, cosy, healthy and happy! 🙂 x
Sitting around a lot, or staying indoors more than usual during the colder seasons when life tends to become a bit more sedentary, can lead to achy muscles, and tension in our body. Take some time every day to do a few simple stretches, even if it’s just for five minutes a day. It will help you feel better, calmer, more relaxed and supple and will ease away some of that tension that we hold in our bodies throughout the day, especially when those days are spent curled up on the couch indoors!
We all need that reminder, don’t we? Most people have some kind of struggle, even if only a minor one, in their relationship with food, and obviously what we put into our bodies affects our health, wellbeing, state of mind, energy, mood and so forth on so many different levels.
It’s important to fuel our bodies well for the winter, to remember to eat, but also to be aware of the temptations towards over indulging, comfort eating, or eating too much unhealthy foods. By all means enjoy what you eat, but keep things in balance. Don’t neglect to eat enough, for you’ll need the energy, but also don’t over eat, and try to eat healthily and do all things in moderation.
I know for many people this seems too ‘glib’ and it’s not easy because of your deeper struggles. But remember you are important and worth taking care of, which includes in how you treat your body and in what you eat, so stay well, warm, healthy and happy. x
Take care of your health everyday, and never take it for granted; good health is one of life’s greatest assets, so look after what you can.
Mental resilience requires daily training.
In a world that always seems to tempt us to look around us, to compare, and to feel like we aren’t enough, or don’t have enough, let us choose to humble our hearts and minds, and in gratitude give thanks for how much we do have, and think of ways that we can share our plenty with other people who are in need.
Do you ever have days or weeks when you feel like you’re doing pretty well in terms of fitness and healthy eating?
You’ve been eating well, exercising, getting fresh air and drinking water, and feeling pretty good with it. You’ve found a groove and are maintaining progress, even if that progress is gradual.
I hope you do.
However, we probably all also go through days, weeks or even longer periods when we lose focus, motivation or become overwhelmed with other things. We comfort eat, we get lazy, we notice the pounds creeping on, and feel a bit uncomfortable.
Some people swing back and forth in unhealthy ways from one extreme to another, and I don’t have too much experience of that myself. There have been times during periods of depression when things were more noticeably difficult for me, at one point I was too thin, and then some years later I noticed I was putting on weight after starting on medication. But apart from that, the pendulum hasn’t swung too far in one direction or another for me.
That being said, even for relatively healthy people we do notice the subtle changes in ourselves that leave us feeling ‘sluggish’, unhealthy and not so great physically. We know when we’re beginning to lose focus, motivation and when our health, wellbeing and weight isn’t quite what we know it should be, even if that isn’t particularly noticeable to other people.
So what happens if you find yourself in such a position? The key is consistency. Overnight transformation doesn’t happen. It takes regular, consistent and intentional changes in our lifestyles in order to maintain progress.
Maybe you’ve ‘fallen off the wagon’ a bit with your health and fitness. Maybe you’ve been inconsistent during seasons of celebration, holidays, festivities, or conversely low mood, depression and difficult circumstances. You’re not on your own.
Don’t beat yourself up about it. Remember you have to start somewhere, and once you’ve started just keep going. If you’re overwhelmed, make some small steps forward, start with 5 minutes of exercise if you’re struggling, and build up from there, keep consistent, keep moving, keep eating well, don’t be demanding or obsessive with yourself and your habits, but just try to maintain consistency and you’ll make progress.
There are no shortcuts, but try not to be overwhelmed by thinking about how far away you are from where you want to be with your health and fitness. Just do one small thing today and if that’s all you can manage for now, that’s ok. Start again tomorrow, and just keep going. Small steps in the right direction all add up, so stay positive, you can do it.
Which of us doesn’t get the ‘munchies’ during our work day? It’s all too easy to grab an unhealthy snack because it’s the easiest thing to find, and I know that I certainly have done this while at work. However, today’s inspiration for your lunch break is to spend a little bit of time the night before prepping some healthy snacks to keep you going throughout the day, and also to prep some healthy lunches. You’ll be amazed at how a few simple ingredients can go a long way, save money, and be better for your wellbeing, not to mention your waistline too! You can bring things into work and make up a lunchtime snack while you are there, and store your ingredients in the fridge – or you can do a little bit of cooking or putting things together at home and bring your lunch in. That way you know exactly what you’re getting, you’re not left with the only option of a calorific unhealthy meal, and you have a bit more change in your pockets.
For quick and easy vegan and vegetarian meal prep ideas, see my main page and click on the relevant ‘tab’ on the menu. Also, keep an eye out for some new recipe and snack ideas coming soon. Today I am enjoying a home made healthy pasta lunch, and for snacks I have been happily munching on cucumber sticks and vegan mayo which are surprisingly filling and much better than grabbing a chocolate bar from the vending machine or filling up on biscuits. Happy munching – if you have meal prep ideas, be sure to share them with us 🙂 x
It’s easy enough to talk about physical fitness. Even if people have issues around their health, weight, diet, conditions or lifestyle, there is such an open platform to talk about bettering ourselves physically. There is no shortage of diet plans, exercise programmes and encouragement to keep fit, physically. For people who have never exercised, there are initiatives such as ‘Couch to 5k’, there is a lot of talk about nutrition, vegan diets, making sure you get your 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, keeping active and training physically to look and feel your best. So, even if one isn’t particularly fit, there are plenty of resources available to help them to make changes and talking about fitness is seen as a positive thing in most cases.
But what about mental fitness? We train our bodies, but do we train our minds? Do we make sure we get enough mental rest and exercise, and linked to physical health, do we supply ourselves with the correct nutrition, fresh air and exercise to help us to stay mentally well? Mental health is often viewed negatively, or as a ‘problem’, and even with things being more open nowadays, there are still societal taboos around talking about mental health. However, just as everyone has physical health that can be either good or poor, so too does everyone have mental health – which can be generally good, bad or variable.
Do you think of your mind in this way? Just as you would exercise your muscles to keep in good condition, do you also explore what are the best ways for you to exercise your mind, to stay mentally fit and healthy or to recover from ‘injury’?
Chances are that most of us know that we need to pay attention to our mental health, but aside from seeking professional help, we don’t really know how. Staying mentally fit and looking after your mental health does not only apply to people with conditions, such as myself, like depression, anxiety and C-PTSD. Even if you have no diagnosable mental health conditions, you still have a mind, and you need to keep it healthy. What the mind is, is a more nebulous topic for discussion, but the way we think affects almost every aspect of our lives, including our physical health.
Of course, seek professional help and support for mental health conditions or ‘mental illness’. But even if you consider yourself to be ‘fine’ mentally, you still need to stay in training on a daily basis. This doesn’t simply mean ‘brain training’ or doing things to improve your cognitive abilities, it also means giving your mind what it needs.
So what are some of the things your mind needs to stay healthy?
- Rest – just as our physical bodies need rest, we also need to rest our minds in order to stay well and to help process the multitude of information that we encounter on a daily basis. As well as good sleep, nutrition, hydration and exercise, our minds also benefit when we take time just to be still, and if you like to ‘meditate’ and allow yourself to be quiet for a while, free from distraction, noise, busyness, technology and external input. You might like to meditate on a Truth, a verse from scripture, or simply try to rest and allow your thoughts to come and go and settle.
- Journaling – our thoughts and emotions are intricately linked. Expressing ourselves through writing can be very helpful to externalise difficult emotions in a healthy and productive way, and can also help us to identify what we are thinking, how we ‘talk to ourselves’ in our minds, and to see whether we have any particular negative thought patterns that we need to address.
- Talking – our minds process information received in a variety of ways, and this includes through narrative and through verbalising and sharing our thoughts with someone else. This is why Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other ‘talk therapies’ can be so beneficial for addressing thoughts, and the consequent feelings, emotions, beliefs and behaviours that result. Talking helps us to process our thoughts, put them in some sort of order, as well as receiving input from someone else who might be able to provide a healthy perspective or to offer constructive advice.
- Close some ‘tabs’ – we live in an age of information, and just as technology can suffer from information overload, so too can our minds. We seem to have lost, as a society, the ability to ‘switch off’ and to concentrate on just one thing at a time, and apply all of our focus, energy and attention to that thing. Some of the most satisfying times spent whether at work, playing sport, or doing something creative, occur during ‘flow states’, when we are so absorbed in what we are doing, that time seems to pass effortlessly, we are fully engaged in what we are doing, are present and cease to worry as much about the past, or the future. If our minds are constantly having to flit from one ‘tab’ to the next, and if we have to filter and process several pieces of information at once, then we really aren’t allowing our minds the chance to get fit, strong and healthy. When you workout in the gym, you don’t hop from one machine to another and back again every few seconds. If you did, you probably wouldn’t stick at it very long, and wouldn’t be in great shape as you wouldn’t have allowed your muscles to train. Just as with physical training you require focus and planning, similarly with mental agility you need to exercise particular thought processes in order to form and strengthen healthy patterns of thinking, and behaviour. ‘Closing tabs’ doesn’t just mean on your computer, but also on your ‘to do’ lists, and minimising noise, distraction, and sensory input. Let your mind have the chance to rest and grow strong.
- Be grateful – our mental agility will increase as we intentionally practice looking at situations in a healthy way, and learning to problem solve and identify opportunities rather than just problems or barriers. Gratitude helps us emotionally, physically and mentally to stay well.
- Create and play – engage your mind positively through creativity, and allow yourself to participate in an activity rather than passively absorbing information. You could colour, draw, paint, do a puzzle, word-search or crossword, play chess, play an instrument, design something from scratch, write a story, make a puppet, invent something, and so the list of endless possibilities goes on. Exercise your mind to not only take in information but to assimilate information, create new ideas and to engage actively in what you are doing in the present.
- Read a book – reading stimulates the imagination, engages our thinking, provides a single point of focus for our ideas rather than the multitude of articles, clips, videos, images and posts that pop up on social media to vie for our attention.
There will be many more things you can do daily to strengthen your mental health and wellbeing, and if you have any ideas to share and inspire others please do comment. We cannot neglect the need to keep our minds fit and healthy. For without healthy minds, what good will healthy bodies do? xx