As we hit the halfway mark of January, and with the UK now into its third national lockdown, it's important to devote a little time and attention to our mental health. The workshop crew (now largely in a 'virtual workshop') have been lucky enough to have the skills of our resident Mental Hygiene coach, Jen Hannibal, to lean on.
A key member of our retail team, Jen also provides mindfulness based support for the mental health and wellbeing of our staff. Currently studying for her Masters Degree in Teaching Mindfulness based Stress Reduction, below she shares some simple tips and techniques to help you maintain your mental hygiene.
Since the turn of the 20th century, we have known about the importance of physical hygiene; if we practice being physically hygienic it will keep us healthy, happy and increase our longevity amongst other things, but we have never explicitly been taught how to keep ourselves mentally hygienic. That's where I come in: my aim is to teach people the tools so they can maintain their Mental Hygiene on their own.
Who actually enjoys brushing their teeth? Are you someone who rushes through it? Or someone who uses an electric brush to bring some excitement to the task? Despite the monotony of teeth brushing, we still devote at least four minutes every day because we know the benefit to our physical health.
So how many minutes a day do you devote to your mental health? I mean actively devote to the maintenance of your mental health? For most people this can be a big fat zero! So, let’s change that today, for the longevity of our Mental Hygiene and in turn, those around us.
Here are three simple techniques to add to your toolbox to help prevent yourself from losing your head anytime soon:
1. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
Give yourself a break! The way you are feeling is the way you are feeling; frustrated, bored, fatigued, high, low, numb, angry, worried... the list goes on. Remember you are only human, and it is natural to feel emotion, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Once you have acknowledged the way you actually feel remember this is only temporary, ride it out.
2. Do something radical that snaps you out of your funk.
You know you best, so what gets you stoked? If there is no surf, try an ice-cold shower or dip in the ocean. What music makes you want to move? Do you love a super-hot bath?
Do something to bring you out of your thinking mind and into your feeling body. The physical activity will help break any unhelpful negative loops your mind may by stuck in.
3. Pepper your day with awareness.
This sounds way more complicated than it actually is; use the S.T.O.P. acronym.
- STOP - Wherever you are, perhaps on the tube, getting out of the car, wherever it doesn’t matter.
- TAKE A BREATH - The breath is always in the present moment and can be used as an anchor to bring our monkey mind back from worrying about the future or dwelling in the past.
- OBSERVE - Notice the physical sensations of what is happening now, e.g. your feet on the floor, the quality of the fabric against your skin, the temperature of the room, your breath movement in your body. Whatever ‘now’ feels like to you. (Linger in this step for 10-30 seconds).
- PROCEED - Having snapped out of your autopilot, or simply adjusted to what is happening in the present rather than in your head, you can now choose how you would like to proceed with your day.
The Blues can often follow us around all day, from home to work and beyond. Perhaps you are working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic and finding it tricky to make clear boundaries. The S.T.O.P. technique is ideal to practice at any transition point in your day to mark a change of direction, mode of mind or role. You can also use it as an instant stress buster if you feel tension rising; it is so short and sweet that it will fit nicely in your metaphorical pocket, ready to slice through any stink that is in your wake.
Low mood can often feel sticky and hard to climb out of, developing a coping strategy when you are feeling good or balanced will make letting go easier; you can thank your future self for that now.
So begin by asking yourself this question: what ammunition does my Mental Hygiene Toolkit need?