We can’t change the world but we can change how we react to it : Part 1

How to be mindful when you wake up!

What do you do when you wake up? Are you aware of anytime in your morning routine when you are fully present? Do you wake up feeling tired, low in mood, anxious about the day ahead? Do you struggle to concentrate when working from home, feel overwhelmed with everything you have to do?

Building both formal and informal mindfulness techniques into your day may help you to have more energy, improve concentration and focus, reduce anxiety, improve your mood and energy levels. It only takes a few minutes each day to build into your morning routine. The pay off is that for just a few minutes of effort you may feel the benefits for the whole day. The more you practise every day the more every day, week and month will feel less of a struggle and more of an enjoyable time noticing things that make a difference to how you feel and behave.

Formal practise; if you feel you can put 1 to 5 minutes each morning either when you wake up in bed or when you are sat down. Taking the time to actively notice your breath, the sounds, sensations as you breathe. Being mindful of what you are thinking. Acknowledging all the thoughts that come into your head without judgement but allowing yourself to direct your thought back to your breath. The more you can focus your attention on this the more you will be able to switch from automatic pilot drifting into doing mode and allow yourself to just’ be’ for a few minutes.

Informal practise; being mindful of your senses within your morning routine. What better way to be mindful then when you have your morning cup of tea, shower or when you brush your teeth or hair. They are already part of your daily routine, but how often does your mind wander to what you need to do whilst you are doing them. Using these small daily tasks to be mindful is quite simple. Notice the warmth of the cup with your hands, focus on noticing the steam, how the liquid moves, the taste of the cup of tea and sensations as you drink. Notice the water running, the smell of the shower gel or tooth paste, focus on the sounds and sensations just for those few minutes.

Over time and with daily practise just these little changes can make a difference to your brain. You are training your brain it is ok not to always think about doing things, it is ok to be in the moment, to be fully present. If you do this without judgement acknowledging when your mind wanders that, that’s OK too but focusing back to your senses the neural pathways in the brain begin to change. The part of the brain (pre frontal cortex) that deals with ration logical thinking becomes more active. When this part of the brain is active we are generally in a brighter mood. The pathway to the brains internal alarm bell (amygdala) that fires up every time we feel anxious, overwhelmed and fearful becomes weakened. We start to feel lees reactive to situations, events, people that may have affected our mood. In turn we feel and behave in a calmer way, feeling less anxious, less overwhelmed but still with everything around us staying the same! We can’t change the world but we can change we react to it. If we change our reactions we become more resilient, things affect us less, we can sleep better, feel motivated to eat healthily and exercise regularly and feel both mentally and physically well.

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Finding your resilience charger!

It’s Friday and we have made it through another cold, dark January week. I hope that you feel a sense of accomplishment in what ever you have been doing this week. Whether you have been working, home schooling or just getting through each day at home. However big or small the tasks you have achieved this week, it is important to tell ourselves that you did well. You got through it and what ever challenges you faced this week, they were there to help you become stronger.

It never feels like that at the time, but reflecting back on a Friday or at the weekend is a good way reset our internal resilience charger. We may feel emotionally drained from feeling anxious, stressed, low in mood, lonely, difficulty concentrating with work and school work. They all drain our internal reserves of energy to help us get through each day. All those feelings are normal, acknowledging we feel them and having the ability to move to a different emotional state within the same hour or day helps build our resilience charger. Having the ability to be emotional flexible and self-regulate our emotions is like adding a booster pack to our internal battery! Take time to notice the things that make you smile, laugh, feel warm, peaceful and content. Recognise what you achieve each day to boost emotional energy.

Physical energy is easily drained with long hours at home. Taking the time to prioritise taking regular breaks to stand up, move around and build in exercise that gives you energy is important. Ideally getting outside if you feel safe and able to do so in daylight helps to boost our resilience charger. Pilates, Yoga and gentle full body exercises in the morning and evening help us stay mobile and strong. Ensuring you have a regular evening routine and at least 7-8 hours sleep helps our body to rest, repair and digest.

Ensuring you are mindful of what you are eating is hugely important for our energy and resilience. A high sugar, refined carbohydrate and highly caffeinated diet gives only quick fixes but long term drains our energy and resilience. Eating little and often, following a plant based diet rich in vegetables, nuts and seeds all helps keep our resilience topped up with a good intake of vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, proteins and essential fats.

How we communicate with ourselves each day can deplete or resilience. Be kind to yourself, try not to put pressure on yourself. Be mindful if you have fixed ways of thinking about things. If you can be open to change, other opinions and doing things differently this may also help keep your resilience levels high. These all help with mental flexibility.

Feeling a sense of purpose each day really is as important as eating well, daily exercise, sleep and emotional regulation. Whether you are looking after a pet, family member, feel part of a church group, volunteer, are able to work all contribute to having a purpose in your day. Feeling without a purpose is like living without a battery.

Resilience is like an internal battery, it helps us have the ability to adapt and recover from the challenges we face. Given we are all facing huge daily challenges, being mindful for a few minutes each day of the ways you stay resilient, that keep you feeling mentally and physically strong may help you get you through each day with more ease.

If you feel depleted of emotional and physical energy reach out to others who can help. Being in a constant state of stress with our fight or flight mode switched on for a year drains even the strongest of us. If you notice regular fatigue, low mood, irritability, poor sleep, poor concentration and lack of connection with others consider talking to your GP or local support service.

Let the light in: Improve sleep, energy and mental wellbeing

As sun rises, the darkness of night turns to daylight. Why is this significant, why do we have daylight? Sunlight and light is essential for all living things, especially human beings. We may all notice we may struggle more with energy, sleep, low mood when the seasons change. During the winter months with less daylight hours, many of us may notice the impact of less light on our mental wellbeing.

Being mindful of getting up when the sun rises is really important for our internal body clock known as our circadian rhythm. Our body releases different hormones when it is exposed to light and dark. When it is aware of daylight it releases Cortisol to help motivate us to do things. When it is dark it releases Melatonin to help us feel sleepy. Being in doors in 2021 may affect our body clocks and energy levels and impact our mental wellbeing. Having a routine each day ensuring you get up around sunrise and open the curtains or blinds, let the light in however muted or wet the weather is that day. During the winter months try if you feel comfortable to go outside in the daylight hours. Whether that is in your garden or for a walk, bike ride or run in your local area. Being outside in the sunlight is important to feel the fresh air, hear the sounds around you, notice what you can see. From April to October the sunlight is converted through our skin into Vitamin D.

To help maintain the natural rhythm of your body clock start to reduce artificial lighting when daylight turns to the evening. Use softer lighting, lamps and begin to reduce technology at least an hour before bed. Reducing all the artificial light sources helps your body stop releasing Cortisol and helps it release the sleepy hormone Melatonin. Your are more likely to sleep well if you help follow daylight hours and natural light and reduce light sources in the evening. Have a set time to go to bed each night if you can. This is called a sleep hygiene routine. Similar to a personal hygiene routine where you get up, shower and brush your teeth! Sleep is vital to help our bodies rest, repair and restore its energy levels. Sleep is vital for our mental wellbeing, physical health including our immune system and digestive system.

Light is an energy source. We may all feel exhausted with juggling so many things we have to do. We may feel exhausted with all our overwhelming thoughts, fears, feelings of loneliness and isolation. We may feel dark in mood acknowledging that we are or feel depressed. If we were in a dark room we may switch a light or lamp on to help us see more clearly. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) you may already use a light lamp.

Metaphorically switching on your own light switch and letting light energy flow through your body may help increase energy levels through the daytime.

Try this 3 minute light based meditation exercise to boost energy and resilience:

  • As you sit in a chair feel your feet feel connected to your shoes or the floor
  • Bring your attention to how you are sat, notice the weight in your legs, the position of your lower back, shoulders and head.
  • Rest your hands, palms up on your thighs
  • Close your eyes and bring your attention to noticing your breathing: the sound and sensation as you breathe
  • Imagine if you can a warm light entering through your feet and gently moving up your legs. Notice the warmth and energy it starts to bring to your lower body as you feel aware of being connected to your feet, the ground and lower body.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out before you allow the warm light to enter around your tummy, imagine in moving in a clockwise direction around your abdomen, soothing as it flows.
  • As you pause and take a breath in and out allow the warm light to move to your chest bone and allow and feel the light to expand into your whole chest.
  • Feel the warm light fill your heart with energy, warmth, compassion and peace.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out before allowing the warm light to move through your throat giving energy to your voice, energy to communicate with peace and kindness to yourself and others.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out
  • Feel the warm light growing in energy radiate through your face and forehead, the warm energy giving you the confidence and resilience to keep doing everything you do well.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out.
  • Allow the warm light to sit at the the top of your head like a warm, bright hat or crown. Be aware of how it radiates energy through your whole body and can radiate light externally to others.

Imagine that light source each day for a few minutes recharging your energy and your resilience. Follow the pattern of nature, take time to be, see and move in the daylight. Rest, feel peace and calm when daylight turns to night. Through darkness there comes light and with light comes growth, strength and life.

Rainbow red: Energy, sleep and mental health

The first chakra and the first colour of the rainbow is red. The red chakra (root) centers around feeling safe, secure and stable. How grounded/rooted/connected we feel about what is happening in our world affects both our mental and physical wellbeing. It affects our flight or fight response which at present is heightened in most of us as we all feel fear of the unknown with Covid. When we feel fear, anxiety, uncertainty, anger and despair our fight or flight response floods (sympathetic nervous system) our bodies with adrenalin and cortisol. We may feel destabilised, uprooted and disconnected from controlling the environment we live in. Staying in a heightened stress response increases inflammation in our bodies affecting our digestive and joint health. Our immune system is lowered and our sleep and energy levels are significantly affected. The root chakra positioning is close to the adrenal glands. Over production of the stress hormone cortisol leads to adrenal fatigue causing us to feel exhausted and unable to function in our daily life. We can become physically exhausted through how we feel!

Seeing the colour red is synomynuous with feeling angry. Anger and irritation are very draining and depleting emotion that keeps cortisol levels high, affecting our sleep, and our waistline!

Being mindful of noticing your sense of smell is one way to connect your mind and body, be present and ground yourself to the now. Fear takes our mind into what might be, being in the now can help reduce anxiety and regulate our nervous system. Being mindful through connecting to a scent helps ground us, helps us to pause and take a few minutes or as long as you can to focus on the scent, your breath and help quickly lower the fight or flight response and assist with stimulating the bodies ability to rest, repair and digest (parasympathetic nervous system).

Scents that have a calming affect on the mind include lavendar, sweet marjoram, Roman chamomile, lemon, neroli, jasmine and rose. I personally love The White Companies ‘Flowers’ body lotion and room diffuser range, rich in jasmine, neroli, rose and lavendar. I also use L’Occatine’s Verbena range. I instantly feel connected to what I am thinking as I apply the lotion in the morning. Having a hand cream, diffuser or tissue with a scent to check in to feeling calm through the day helps soothe an over thinking mind, reduce anxiety and stress. Using scents in a candle, essential oil or shower gel in a bath or diffuser at night time such as lavender may help improve sleep and relaxation.

Being outdoors in nature helps us notice the red berries and flowers dependant on the time of year. Gardening helps us to connect to the earth, is a great mindful activity especially when outdoors in the sunshine, whether it winter or summer sunshine! Being active in nature either gardening, walking or cycling all help lower the fight or flight response, help balance our nervous system and help support sleep, energy and mental and physical wellbeing.

The more we can take control of our emotions, noticing when we feel fear, anxiety, anger and irritation the more we can control both our mind and bodies reaction. Seeing or wearing something red could be reframed to a cue to pause, find a scent in a hand cream, candle, shower gel or an essential oil burner. Remember to focus on it for a few minutes and reset the mind and body. Doing this everyday quickly trains our brains to let go of fear and anxiety. The pathways becomes less automatic are reaction to triggers such as the news, family, friends, traffic, what ever it might be reduce and our response changes to a calmer one. We feel in control of noticing and reducing a racing heart rate, increased breathing rate, shallow breath, tight neck and shoulders muscles, reduced digestion through nausea, stomach upsets, trembling and shaking as we lower all those physiological feelings of the fight or flight response and feel calmer, more relaxed and in control. Our physical and mental energy is increased.

Reframing red as a cue to pause, ground ourself, take root in the present moment, notice with our sense of smell overtime helps your body lower high cortisol level that may be impairing sleep and energy levels. We may start to notice improved digestive and joint health through reduced inflammation. Switching a relaxing mode helps our body release the immune boosting hormone DHEA important for everyone. If our body no longer wants to fight or run away it stops releasing excess fat and sugar that stores around our waist affecting our risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

So simply reframing red has huge mental and physical health benefits! Try it today and build it into each day. A few seconds, a few minutes all add up to big lifelong habits that improve your health and wellbeing.

Next time- Rainbow red: how eating red foods helps our mental and physical wellbeing

Let the rainbow guide you!

We have all become familiar with the image of a rainbow in 2020 as it is a symbol of hope. The rainbow is one of nature’s natural wonders that stops us in our tracks, makes us notice the present moment and can make us wonder in the spectrum of colours displayed in the sky. It doesn’t matter how many rainbows I see they all make me go WOW! I have set out on a personal quest to learn more about rainbows and I would like to share with you how important having a rainbow in your mind each day is important for our physical health and mental wellbeing.

You don’t have to see a rainbow in the sky every day. Having the rainbow in your mind each day may help you notice the colours in your food and help to increase nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your daily diet. Having a rainbow of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables at least 5 a day is part of the recommendations of the Mediterranean diet. This diet has been studied in many populations and is the most recommended way of eating to lower your risk of depression, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Having a rainbow every day in your diet helps increase vitamins A, C, D and E and a heap of antioxidants important for immunity and reducing inflammation internally. What does red look and taste like: sweet or sour or hot? Strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, chillies, peppers? Adding orange each day through butternut squash, sweet potato, oranges, satsumas. Yellow in peppers, bananas, mango, pineapple, lemon, sweetcorn green in spinach, broccoli, kale, peas, lettuce, cabbage, avocado, celery, cucumber, green beans, kiwi, green grapes, green apples and pears. Blue and purple (indigo & violet) are a bit more tricky each day but possible with purple grapes, blueberries, blackberries, black currants, figs, prunes, plums, raisins, purple sprouting, aubergine, purple cabbage and purple carrots!

What we see can have a big impact on our mood. Noticing the colours of the rainbow in nature each day is a good way to be present, looking for different colour leaves, flowers, birds can all help build the rainbow picture in your mind each day.

What we wear affects how we feel. Have you noticed if you wear grey and black often? Adding a colourful scarf, hat, gloves, socks, underwear and being mindful of the colours we wear and have in our home can help lift our mood. Exercising in a bright colours, eating and drinking from coloured crockery can all help keep the rainbow with us every day.

Having taken the time to stop and notice the rainbow I realised the colour spectrum is the same as the seven chakras in yoga! Having taught yoga for a few years in my 20’s even I was amazed that the rainbow is a sign to us to help us heal and become more in tune with who we are and support are mental wellbeing. You don’t have to be into yoga (yet!) to continue reading but understanding the rainbow colour spectrum and the healing powers of the chakra system may be the bridge to self -healing and self- discovery. The chakra system helps connect our mind and body and represents the energy centers that exist in us all. You may have noticed the rainbow is not a straight line but a bridge shape! ‘Crossing the rainbow bridge’ is a mythic metaphor, reconnecting to ourselves, our environment and the world around us.

The chakra system originated over four thousand years ago in India. They are forces of energy like a spinning wheel and are rooted both within the body and the mind. Yoga, pilates, breathing, meditation, mindfulness and exercise of any kind you enjoy all help us tune into the seven coloured chakras and can have a profound effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. Like a computer program, we can reconnect and adjust our internal programming through the things we choose to do to improve our physical and mental wellbeing.

Join me in January 2021 on a quest to heal, feel connected to yourself and others through connecting to the rainbow in our mind and body. Learning new ways to build resilience to adapt and overcome the daily challenges we all face. With over 20 years experience in health and wellbeing, I want to share my knowledge to help you understand how exercise, nutrition, sleep and meditation all affect your rainbow and your resilience! Gaining a greater understanding of how to be resilient and what drains your physical and emotional energy may help support your mental and physical wellbeing in 2021 and beyond.

Working from home; upper back and shoulder mobility exercises

For many of us this year finds us spending a lot more time working from home. My Pilates class have mentioned they notice more upper body stiffness, tight hips and a stiff lower back. It only takes a few minutes each day to include some mobility exercises into your working day. This may help reduce the risk of back and shoulder pain, headaches and improve mobility and circulation.

It doesn’t have to be the same time everyday if this isn’t realistic with your working day and meetings. However, getting into a habit of performing the exercises everyday, just like brushing your teeth each day would assist in positive healthy behaviours when working from home.

Sitting all day in a sedentary position isn’t good for our posture, weight, heart or immune system. Standing up through the day, having micro breaks for a few minutes, using the stairs, watering the plants, performing 5 minute exercise routines all add up to being less sedentary.

Sitting at a computer affects the alignment of of head putting pressure on our neck and shoulders. Typing continuously can cause rounding of the upper back and stiffness in the shoulders. Sitting in long Zoom or Teams meetings we may be slouching, leaning to one side, crossing our legs all of which affect our posture and risk for back pain. Often when we are working to deadlines or feel under pressure multi tasking we may be breathing from the chest adding to tension in the upper back, neck and shoulders.

Upper back and shoulder mobility exercises:

5 minutes repeat once or twice every day

If you can and want to these are best performed in front of a mirror so you can see how your posture changes!

  1. Stand up, with your feet hip width apart, soften your knees, both feet on the floor
  2. Notice your posture, the position of your head, shoulders and feelings in your upper back
  3. Take a minute to bring your attention to your breathing, notice if you are breathing from your chest. if you can start to take a longer slower deeper breath into your tummy, in through your nose and out through your mouth
  4. On your next breath gently drop your chin to your chest as your breathe out, returning your head back to the start as your breathe in x3
  5. As you breathe out turn your chin to your shoulder gently, breathe in and return x 3 each side
  6. Gently stick your chin out and then draw back towards your neck x 3
  7. Place your hands on your shoulders and draw circles with your elbows backwards. Close your eyes and see if they are equal both sides moving at the same time x 6
  8. Place your palms together in front of your chest. Keeping your hips and lower body still gently rotate your upper body as you breathe out x 3 each side
  9. Open your palms, hands level with chest at your side, finger tips pointing to the ceiling. Breathe in and reach your arms to the ceiling, shoulders relaxed, breathe out draw your shoulder blades down your back, forming a soft V shape between your shoulder blades x3
  10. Place your arms by your side, as you breathe in shrug your shoulder to your ears, as you breathe out roll your shoulders back and down x3

You may find listening to the exercises easier through this podcast.

I hope you find it helpful.

Upper back, neck and shoulder mobility routine

Understanding your heart-brain connection

Have you heard the saying ‘your heart rules your head’? How can that be true when the brain instructs the rest of the body what to do following a thought, feeling or stimulus?

The heart can actually over ride the brain and choose to ignore some of its commands. It can operate to some degree on an autonomous level through special heart cells called autorythmic cells. They instruct the heart to contract and relax. The heart can store emotions and memories not just the brain. There is a two way communication between the brain and the heart. The heart can listen to the brain and send signals back, the brain can also listen to the heart signals and respond to these.

When discussing tools to help us cope with anxiety, low mood, fear and isolation; understanding how to tap into your hearts emotions may help to rest your brain reducing stress, anxiety, improving mood and help improve digestion and reduce inflammation. As a wellbeing physiologist, over the past 13 years I have had the pleasure of helping people understand this relationship by using software from the Heartmath Institute. They software helps to interpret the variation in each single heart beat known as heart rate variability (HRV). We all have the power to change the pattern of of HRV and in turn can help to reset our moods, anxiety levels, blood pressure and improve digestive health and immunity. By learning how to slow our breathing down when can balance the internal nervous system. When we feel stressed and anxious our sympathetic nervous system takes over. This increases our heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones Adrenalin and Cortisol, increases glucose and free fatty acids that affect our waist line, cholesterol and risk for type 2 diabetes. When we breathe slowly and deeply we slow down the rhythm of the heart and help the other side of the nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system to function. This helps support digestion and releases immune boosting hormones DHEA.

Heart focused breathing can help you connect to your heart when you head isn’t listening to other tools you may be trying to use to help manage anxiety, fear and panic. It takes just a few minutes but and really does have a physiological affect on the mind and body, why not give it a go, here how:

Heart focused breathing

  1. Either when you are in a situation or visualising a situation where you notice negative emotions or anxiety.
  2. Consciously acknowledge what you are feeling
  3. Bring your attention to your heart as you are breathing
  4. Taking a slow breath in and out (for around the count of 4)
  5. Think about a positive thought/memory that makes you feel safe, calm, happy, relaxed
  6. As you focus on your breathing visualise it around your heart and keep the positive emotion in your mind
  7. Continue for 2 or 3 minutes

Your brain will start to mirror the positive feelings you are instigating from your heart with your ‘heart ruling your head’.

Taking moments in your day to notice positive things, thoughts, emotions, what you feel grateful for, being present and mindful all help the brain keep positive. They help keep the pre frontal cortex working well. The more anxious, fearful and negative we become the more the emotional part of the brain ( the amygdala) takes over and the more we may need to rely on our heart to rule and reset our brains.

For the love of flowers!

What are your favourite flowers? For me, hydrangea’s are the most exquisite flowers; so many colours with diamonds in the centre. When I look at their beauty I feel cam and still. I make a point of sending flowers regularly to my mum and nan as viewing flowers in your day that give you a sense of pleasure lifts physical and mental wellbeing.

I have recently become interested in social therapeutic horticulture whilst volunteering during the pandemic. Having always been involved in wellbeing, primarily my focus has been on helping reduce anxiety, panic and depression. I have always felt that nature played a part in calming the mind and how being mindful of what you see, smell and touch connects you to the present moment. Further research into social therapeutic horticulture (STH) has heightened my understanding of how nature really does help calm the mind. STH uses plants and gardens to help improve both physical and mental wellbeing. It helps develop communication & thinking skills in a safe and secure place. They help to give a sense of purpose, engage in society and assist in finding coping comping mechanisms for mental wellbeing (Thrive). Gardening itself is a physical activity, helping to reduce sedentary time that may affect our weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Edward Wilson (1984) suggested the theory of Biophila -‘ humans evolved in nature and are happiest in a natural setting’. Wilson felt there is a primal biological need for humans to be around nature, flowers and greenery. Kaplan & Kaplan’s (1989) theory of ‘Attention Restoration Theory’ suggests that nature helps the mind escape and helps hold our attention. It helps to restore our energy which is being drained from the daily stresses in our world. Roger Ullrich (1984) felt we are genetically geared to look for threats and danger which increase our stress levels. In nature those threats and danger seem less obvious and are stress levels reduce. Nature helps with our recovery from psychological and physiological stress.

I have had a passive interaction with nature more than an active one. If you are lucky enough to have a garden you may have noticed you are spending more time looking after your plants. If you don’t have a garden like me, having a window box, vase of flowers even a picture all helps the brain visualise nature.

If you would like to be more active in nature walking in nature, gardening, growing fruit and vegetables are all parts of STH and ecotherapy. If you feel you would benefit from support if your suffer from anxiety or depression them maybe considering attending an ecotherapy or green care programme may help. These can be based in the community and often run by local charities. They may also be prescribed by social prescribers through your GP.

The following links may be helpful:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/about-ecotherapy-programmes/

https://www.thrive.org.uk/

Calming scents

We may all be experiencing higher levels of anxiety right now. Whether we are going back to work, home schooling, self-isolating and thinking about leaving your doorstep or unsure whether you have a job. There are so many things we have little control of and when we start to think about things we can’t control this may quickly escalate into heightened levels of anxiety, fear and panic.

Having a tool kit of coping strategies when you notice you feel anxious is important. One important part would be to consider using either a scented hand cream, aromatherapy oil on a tissue or in the room as a diffuser. When we connect to our sense of smell through scents that evoke a sense of calm and peace this can quickly help reduce a busy over thinking mind and ground us back to the present moment.

Remember being present and mindful means we are more likely to stop the emotional part of our brains (the amygdala) hijacking our thoughts. When this part of the brain takes over we loose control of rational thinking and our brains can create so many what if’s………..

Using a scent each day stimulates our sense of smell switching on our oficatory bulb which sends signals to our brain. Calming scents help you become present and stimulates the part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) that helps us feel in control. The more this area is stimulated the more we are able to logically reason with our thoughts and worries. The world and our worries may not have changed but we may learn to control them rather then them control us.

Scents that have a calming affect on the mind include lavendar, sweet marjoram, Roman chamomile, lemon, neroli, jasmine and rose. I personally love The White Companies ‘Flowers’ body lotion and room diffuser range, rich in jasmine, neroli, rose and lavendar. I also use L’Occatine’s Verbena range. I instantly feel connected to what I am thinking as I apply the lotion in the morning.

Having a hand cream, diffuser or tissue with a scent to check in to feeling calm through the day helps soothe an over thinking mind, reduce anxiety and stress. When we reduce our anxiety and stress levels this helps reduce inflammation that may be affecting pain, joint health and digestive health.

Natural healing

In February 2018 my whole world changed. I found myself at work struggling to speak, with a headache like childbirth and the left side of my body going numb. I spent the next few weeks in an out of hospital with various tests including MRI scans, CT scans and lumbar puncture. The final diagnosis from the neurologist was viral meningitis.

As a mindfulness meditation teacher noticing the sensations in my body may have been heightened. Over the coming months I became unable to function as a mother and go to work. I had 6 months off work and it took another two years to almost recover. All the little things we take for granted like going for a walk, watching the T.V., listening to music, dancing, playing with my children and swimming were now activities I couldn’t do.

I found it very important to focus on what I could do and what I could control. I have always found nature and being outside helps to make me feel calm. Taking the time just to look at the sky, feel the sun on my face, notice the flowers on the table were all goals to get me through each day. I could no longer look at the sea which was my sanctuary. Nature became a greater importance in my life as they were calm, still and something that brought me great joy to see the colours and feel the air and the sun.

With any virus for many of us there is a period of post viral fatigue. For me, the fatigue lasted over two years. Every day I adapt to what I can do however big or small that may be. Recovering from an illness has a big impact on mental wellbeing. Mindfulness is an important part of recovery and may help you feel a sense of calm and peace when days can feel frustrating, painful and less hopeful. Mindfulness also helps with acceptance. For some the hardest part of being ill and recovery is adapting to your new normal! Everyday may be different and everyday you may go forwards or backwards. Accepting each day as a new day and accepting what you can do helps reduce stress and anxiety levels.

If you are recovering from an illness viral or any other that affects your daily life I would highly recommend the mindfulness for health course/book –

https://www.breathworks-mindfulness.org.uk/mindfulness-for-health

https://www.meningitisnow.org/support-us/news-centre/meningitis-stories/sharons-story/