Feeling anxious about lockdown lifting?
You’re certainly not alone, and the good thing is that there are things you can do to help.
Harley Street psychotherapist Zoë Ashton, who has worked with the likes of Pixie Lott and Barry’s Bootcamp, is here to give you a five-week workout plan for your mental wellbeing.
After all, when we’re in need of a fitness reboot, we tackle our physical health head-on with a plan. Why should our mental health be any different?
Here’s how to do it.
The mental health warm-up
Warming up the muscles is essential before exercise – and it’s no different for your mental health workout. Within this programme, the main muscle groups are self-esteem (core stability) and boundaries and vulnerability (your psychological range of motion).
Everything in the Mental Health Workout comes back to self-esteem — it’s the foundation, the core stability. If that’s out of shape, everything else is problematic. Self-esteem is fundamentally how you feel about yourself and something very few other s see because we’re so adept at pretending.
Exercise #1: Look in the mirror, clomid make you gain weight observe and repeat three times: ‘I notice I feel (_____) about my (_____) and I accept myself anyway.’
Exercise #2: Watch the self-talk. Use the mantra ‘I am equal’. You’re not going to diminish your own self-respect. Take shame, blame and power out of the equation.
Boundaries and vulnerability:
If your self-esteem is your core stability, then boundaries and vulnerability form the range of emotion protecting it. The more practised you become at feeling vulnerable and managing it through boundaries, the more flexibility and opportunities you will have. You’ll then see a reduction in anxiety and panic.
Exercise: Identify the boundary that needs setting, imagine and practise what you’d like to say and do to set that boundary, then go back to the situation or person and set it. Feel the feelings, hold your position. This can be the hardest part.
The daily workouts
If the weekly workouts create a holding space, the daily workouts are programmed to strengthen your relationship with yourself. These are where you work those smaller muscles and understand your reactions, feelings, thoughts and what you need and want. This involves:
1 x mindfulness per day:
People confuse mindfulness with meditation. They’ll say ‘I can’t quieten my mind’, but really it’s about choosing where your focus goes. It allows you to have authority over what you concentrate on. It’s energising and refreshing, which is why I liken it to hydration and a chance to realign your focus.
Exercise: Practise mindfulness by doing a body scan, focusing on something soothing, slowing down, adopting self-acceptance or being aware of distractions.
2 x connection per day:
Ultimately, the basic human need is belonging and being with other people and so many of us struggle with it. After a year of being separated, it’s going to feel like hard work because all those muscle groups are out of practice.
Exercise #1: Connect with yourself. Each morning, ask yourself, how am I feeling? How am I going to work with that today? Then stay connected to that for 24 hours.
Exercise #2: Connect with others. Assess what you need and want from others so you feel seen and understood. Get to know your triggers, be conscious of your attachment styles. and make contact and listen to others — to understand rather than to respond.
3 x appreciation per day:
The equivalent of your post-workout glow, this is made up of gratitude and affirmations that work on a deep level on your self-concept. It’s about finding a way where they sit well and encourage you to feel better.
Exercise #1: Get gratitude working for you. Become observant — notice what is going on right now. Notice what privileges you have. Let yourself feel it. Write it down or make some other record of it for future reference.
Exercise #2: Create your own affirmations. Always write them in the first person and, ideally, the present tense. Keep them positive (what you are as opposed to what you’re not) as well as short and punchy.
4 x movement per day:
We live very sedentary lifestyles and lots of things about how we feel about ourselves and our anxieties can build up inside of our system. When we move around, they literally flush out.
Exercise: Make your bed, walk, stretch, dance, do light chores. Think about how it changes your feelings and thoughts. Like a cooldown, this should help your mind and body chill out and reset.
The weekly workouts
The weekly workouts create structure so you know what you’re doing in your week, where your exercise and therapy is going, and can carve time out for self-care. This involves:
1 x therapeutic space per week:
Identify what this space will look like and whether it’s a one-to-one with a professional or a group session. Really, it’s any space where, for an hour a week, you can be reflective enough to be gaining insight about your mental health workout journey.
Tip: If you’d rather do this alone, you can create time in your week for self-reflection but in this context, self-reflection is not therapy.
2 x social events per week:
For lots of people, social events bring up certain thoughts, feelings and behaviours, so they’re a good opportunity to assess your mental health, which is why I refer to them as your technique check-in. People often don’t realise they’re cancelling social events and isolating or overdoing it and not spending any time on their own. I’m encouraging people to find balance.
Tip: Your social arousal levels are a helpful way of diagnosing early changes in your mental health. Keep an eye on how your desire to socialise or be around others changes.
3 x 30 minutes of exercise per week:
This means cardiovascular exercise but it’s about tuning into your body and connecting the mind with the body so you don’t use exercise to simply escape your feelings.
Tip: Think about: what is your self-talk during exercise? How do you feel skipping a workout?
4 x self-care per week
Self-care is essential. It’s the fuel that sustains you. A long and luxurious bath is seen as a form of self-care but really it’s creating a space to feel calm and relaxed so you can focus on those parts of you that need your attention.
Tip: Ask yourself, how do you define self-care? Why do you practise self-care? What do you want to get out of your self-care practice?
Your Mental Health Workout: A 5 Week Programme For A Happier, Healthier Mind by Zoë Ashton (Yellow Kite) is out now
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