At Target Physio, we believe in a holistic approach to health and we know having good mental health is essential to having good quality of life. But staying on top of your mental health can be tricky, especially with all the stress and uncertainty of the current climate! Luckily, we have some helpful tips to help calm your mind and boost your mental health.
An excellent place to start when calming your mind is with breathing techniques as they help lower anxiety and allow you to stay present in the moment. Square Breathing is an exercise that can be completed at any time. All you need to do is find a quiet and comfortable place to sit, rest your hands on your stomach and close your eyes. Then breathe in through your nose for 3 seconds, hold that breath for 3 seconds, then exhale through your nose for 3 seconds and hold for another 3 seconds. You can repeat this as many times as you feel necessary but we recommend at least 3-5 rounds!
Another technique to help you stay present and calm is the Grounding Technique. Often we get lost in thoughts, worrying about the future or fretting about the past; the Grounding Technique aims to bring you back to the present moment. You can start by doing 3-5 rounds of Square Breathing. Then look around at your surroundings and list five things you can see around you, taking time to concentrate on each item as you say it. Next, begin to list five things you can feel at the present moment. Then, close your eyes and concentrate on five things you can hear around you. Continue by listing four new things you can see, feel and hear. Then three things, then two things, than one. This exercise is designed to get trickier as you go along, so take your time as you move through!
No doubt, at some point in our lives, we’ve all been worried about something! Too much worrying can be detrimental to our mental health. The ‘Postponing Worry’ technique aims to stop worry consuming our daily lives. Start by choosing a time and place to worry. It’s good to pick a time that you can consistently come back to each day and a safe space that you can easily access. If you start worrying throughout the day, acknowledge the worrying thought by writing it down. When you reach your designated worry time, take a look at the worries you’ve noted- some may no longer be relevant! It’s a good idea to have a pen and paper handy so you can write down your thoughts and think of constructive ways to overcome the worry, as opposed to letting it circle around in your mind. It is recommended that your worry time should last no longer than 20-30 minutes.
It is normal to be anxious or stressed about the unknown. Whenever we are feeling intolerant to uncertainty, it’s important to question why we are feeling that particular way and if we can change our approach to the uncertainty. This can be done by asking yourself a series of questions:
- Can you be uncertain about everything? The answer is we can’t be certain about everything and we actually face uncertainty everyday.
- Have you been able to accept uncertainty in the past? The answer is probably yes! Whether we realise it or not, most people accept uncertainty daily. Getting in a car and driving from one place to another, is an example of everyday accepting uncertainty.
- Can you apply the ability to unaccept uncertainty in these situations to any other uncertainty and worry we may be feeling?
While it is important to acknowledge any unnerving worries or thoughts we might have, it is important to stay present and aware of your current state to avoid living in fear. If you are struggling to stay present, you can revisit the earlier mentioned techniques of square breathing and grounding exercises.
Unhelpful Thinking Styles
Unhelpful thinking styles are very common, even if we don’t necessarily realise when we are using them! Using unhelpful thinking styles can be detrimental to a person’s overall mental health so it is important to challenge yourself and learn to question your own unhelpful thinking styles. The first step is to recognise and acknowledge the unhelpful thought (writing down your specific thoughts can help). Once you recognise and acknowledge the thought/s, you can learn to question them. Listed below are the ten different styles of unhelpful thinking and an example of how you can start to question them.
Different styles of unhelpful thinking and how to question them:
- Jumping to conclusions: What are some alternative explanations for this?
- Personalisation: was this entirely my responsibility?
- Catastrophizing: Am I jumping ahead of myself?
- Black and white thinking: Is there an in-between where things are not perfect but not a disaster
- Shoulding and musting: Can I replace this with a ‘could’ or a ‘would have liked to’?
- Overgeneralization: Does this apply to all situations or am I overgeneralising?
- Labelling: Are there examples where this label hasn’t been true?
- Emotional reasoning: What are the good things in this situation?
- Magnification and minimisation: What are the facts and what are my interpretations?
- Mental filter: Am I taking all the information into account?
Exercise and Mental Health
Of course, we can’t talk about mental health tips and calming the mind without mentioning one of the most beneficial activities to mental health: exercise! Regular exercise can help alleviate some of the symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and ADHD (to name a few). But you don’t have to have a clinical diagnosis to see the positive effects of exercise on mental health! Regular exercise can help sharpen memory and mental focus, as well as help increase energy, self-esteem, resilience and sleep. To start seeing mental health benefits, it is recommended you do at least 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise five times a week.
View the first video in our series, ‘Looking After Your Mental Health’ below, and click to view the whole series here.