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Achieving Career & Financial Balance


Introduction:

In the captivating dance of professional life, while career and finances play the riveting tango, we often find ourselves two-stepping behind, trying to catch the rhythm. It’s a common tale – chasing professional milestones only to realize that financial wellness is trailing or vice versa. But what if you could master the choreography of both? Embark with us on this insightful journey as we harmonize career aspirations with financial tranquillity, ensuring you not only lead in the waltz of life but also dance with joy.

The Intricacies of Career and Finance:

Before we wade into the depths of balance, it’s imperative to understand the intertwined relationship between career and finances. A flourishing career often signals promising financial prospects. Yet, it’s not just about the income but how we manage, save, and invest it that crafts the true financial narrative.

5 steps to achieving career 7 financial balance

1. Setting Clear Career Goals:

Carve Your Path: Every successful journey begins with a destination in mind. Set clear, tangible career goals. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder, mastering a skill, or even transitioning to a new field, having a vision guides your efforts.

Continuous Learning: The corporate arena is ever-evolving. Engaging in regular upskilling or reskilling ensures you remain a valuable player in the field. Not only does it enhance job security, but it also opens doors to higher-paying opportunities.

2. Mastering Financial Planning:

Budget Like a Pro: If your finances were a play, budgeting would be the lead actor. By tracking your income and expenses, you gain clarity on your spending habits. This lucidity empowers you to make informed decisions, ensuring your hard-earned money is used wisely.

Emergency Fund: Think of this as your safety net, cushioning you against unforeseen financial setbacks. A sound emergency fund can cover 3-6 months of living expenses, ensuring that sudden medical expenses or job losses don’t throw you off balance.

3. Integrating Career and Financial Growth:

Invest in Yourself: Use a portion of your income to further your career. Whether it’s taking a course, attending workshops, or even networking events, consider it an investment promising substantial returns.

Financial Literacy: Just as you hone your professional skills, familiarize yourself with basic financial concepts. From understanding taxes to exploring investment avenues, this knowledge equips you to maximize your wealth.

4. Achieving Work-Life and Financial Balance:

Time Management: Your career is crucial, but so is personal time. Efficiently manage your hours to ensure you’re not always consumed by work. A rejuvenated mind is more productive, which can lead to better career prospects and, subsequently, improved financial outcomes.

Spend Wisely: A well-balanced financial life isn’t about stringent frugality but making conscious choices. Enjoy your money, indulge occasionally, but also ensure you’re saving and investing for future goals, be it retirement, buying a home, or world travel.

5. Seeking Expertise:

While it’s commendable to navigate the maze of career and finances independently, seeking expert guidance can offer invaluable insights. Career counselors can provide clarity on professional choices, while financial advisors can tailor strategies to bolster your financial health.

Conclusion:

Achieving career and financial balance is like mastering a musical instrument. Initially, the notes might seem scattered, but with practice, patience, and persistence, a harmonious melody emerges. It’s not about vast fortunes or illustrious titles but feeling content, secure, and poised in both spheres. As you refine your skills in this delicate dance, remember that the goal isn’t just to keep pace with the music but to find joy in every step, turn, and twirl. So, tighten those dancing shoes and embrace the exhilarating journey of career and financial balance.

4 Simple ways to improve your social life and relationships

Introduction: Improving your social life and relationships.

In the intricate symphony of life, relationships and a thriving social life are the soulful melodies that add depth and richness to our existence. Humans, inherently social beings, derive strength, joy, and a sense of belonging from these connections. Imagine being surrounded by a network of relationships, each like a comforting embrace, supporting us in times of despair and celebrating with us in moments of joy. These bonds are more than just interactions; they’re vital lifeblood, influencing our emotional, mental, and even physical well-being. Research consistently highlights the significance of interpersonal relationships in boosting happiness, reducing stress, and even increasing lifespan! So, if the key to a vibrant and fulfilled life lies in the bonds we nurture, isn’t it time we delve into the art and science of magnifying our social canvas and fortifying those precious relationships? Join us as we explore the avenues to achieve just that.

4 simple ways to improve your social life and relationships

1. Active Listening – The Heartbeat of Genuine Connections:

The Art of Being Present: Active listening isn’t just about lending an ear but being genuinely present in the conversation. It’s the bridge to deeper understanding, fostering trust and intimacy. By giving someone your undivided attention, you’re not just hearing their words but valuing their emotions and sentiments.

Benefits: This seemingly straightforward act can revitalize existing relationships, making loved ones feel cherished. Moreover, in new social situations, active listening can be your secret weapon, transforming casual chats into meaningful connections.

2. Embrace New Experiences – Broaden Your Social Horizons:

Venture Beyond Comfort: Joining a new club, attending workshops, or trying a fresh hobby can be gateways to expanding your social life. These environments are rife with like-minded individuals, paving the way for organic and shared experiences.

Benefits: Not only do new experiences enhance personal growth, but they also facilitate the creation of shared memories – a potent binder for budding relationships. Plus, there’s the bonus of an enriched life dotted with diverse experiences and stories.

In the digital era, platforms like Meetup or local community boards can be goldmines for discovering events or groups that align with your interests, promoting vibrant social interactions.

3. Communicate with Clarity – The Elixir of Healthy Relationships:

Speak Your Heart: Misunderstandings can be the weeds in the garden of relationships. By communicating your feelings, expectations, and concerns with clarity, you ensure that the soil remains fertile and conducive for growth.

Benefits: Transparent communication prevents minor issues from snowballing into major conflicts. It fosters mutual respect and understanding, forming the bedrock of enduring relationships.

In our age of emojis and abbreviated texts, revisiting the art of heartfelt conversations can be a game-changer for relationship dynamics.

4. Prioritize Quality Over Quantity – Nurture the Bonds that Matter:

Depth Over Breadth: Having a vast social circle can be exhilarating, but genuine relationships thrive on depth. Prioritize spending quality time with those who resonate with your essence, values, and spirit.

Benefits: Deep connections offer emotional sustenance, ensuring you have a support system during life’s ebb and flow. Such relationships are nurturing, offering solace, joy, and genuine companionship.

In an era where social media followers can be mistaken for genuine friends, redefining our metrics for meaningful relationships can be the touchstone of a fulfilling social life.

Conclusion:

Enhancing your social life and fortifying relationships isn’t about grand gestures or ostentatious displays but authentic, consistent efforts. It’s about understanding that in the intricate tapestry of human connections, every thread, every bond, has its unique hue and significance. By weaving in active listening, embracing novel experiences, communicating with clarity, and prioritizing depth, you’ll not only enrich your social garden but also revel in the beauty of each blossom. So, grab your metaphorical watering can and let’s nurture those blooms to their fullest potential!

5 Things You Can Do Today To Improve Your Physical & Mental Wellbeing

The Importance of looking after our physical and mental health.

In the grand orchestra of life, physical and mental health are the lead musicians, setting the tone for the symphony of our existence. Physical health, more than just the absence of disease, empowers us with the vigor to chase our dreams, turning aspirations into achievements. It’s the energy that fuels our daily endeavors and the resilience that aids in bouncing back from life’s challenges. Parallelly, our mental well-being orchestrates our thoughts, emotions, and reactions. A nurtured mind becomes the sanctuary of positivity, clarity, and creativity, allowing us to navigate the complex maze of emotions, relationships, and decisions with grace. Neglecting either is akin to trying to sail a boat with a hole in it – eventually, the journey becomes arduous, if not impossible. Hence, maintaining both physical and mental health is not just vital for survival but is the essence of a life lived fully, vibrantly, and with purpose.

No lets not waste any precious time, and have a look at some simple ways we can work on our wellbeing each day.

5 easy ways to improve your physical & mental health each day.

1. Break a Sweat (But Make It Fun!):

You don’t need to sign up for an intense boot camp or practice yoga on a mountain peak to reap the benefits of exercise. Physical activity can be as simple as a brisk walk in your local park or a dance-off in your living room (bonus points if it’s in your pajamas). The key is to find something you genuinely enjoy. So, whether it’s cycling, swimming, or even a lively game of tag with your kids, get that heart rate up! Not only will it enhance your physical stamina, but the release of endorphins will sprinkle a touch of joy on your mood.

2. Nourish the Temple (Yes, That’s You!):

Eating right is not about chasing the latest fad diet that promises a slim waist in seven days. It’s about nourishing your body with what it genuinely needs. Incorporate a rainbow of fruits and vegetables into your diet, as each color brings its own set of nutrients to the table. And while you’re at it, drink water like it’s going out of style! Hydration is the unsung hero of health. Remember, occasional treats are okay; after all, what’s life without a little chocolate or that slice of grandma’s apple pie? Just ensure it’s in moderation.

3. Master the Art of Mindful Breathing:

Ever noticed how your breathing becomes shallow when stressed? Deep, mindful breathing can be an anchor in turbulent times. It’s like a mini-vacation for your overworked brain. Even a few minutes of focused breathing can reduce anxiety, sharpen your focus, and offer a fresh perspective. You can practice it anywhere, be it during a tense meeting or in a bustling supermarket aisle. Inhale positivity, exhale the chaos, and watch as the world slows down, if only for a few precious moments.

4. Declutter the Sanctuary of Your Mind:

Our external environment often mirrors our internal state. A cluttered desk or room can amplify feelings of overwhelm and stress. Set aside a few minutes today to tidy up your space. But don’t stop at the physical. Take a digital detox, even if it’s for a short while. Unsubscribe from those pesky promotional emails, unfollow accounts that don’t inspire or uplift you, and give your mind the space it craves. As the old adage goes, “A tidy space is a tidy mind.”

5. Connect, Truly Connect:

In an era of instant messaging and video calls, genuine human connection often takes a backseat. Reach out to a loved one today, not just with a customary text or emoji but with genuine interest. Share a laugh, reminisce about old memories, or even share your worries. This simple act can fortify your emotional well-being and remind you that, even in the labyrinth of life, you’re never truly alone.

To sum it all up.

Improving your physical and mental health doesn’t require a Herculean effort or a complete overhaul of your current lifestyle. It’s the little things, the seemingly insignificant choices that weave the fabric of robust health. So, the next time you feel bogged down, remember these five simple yet potent remedies. After all, in the grand theater of life, it’s not always about the big, dramatic scenes; sometimes, it’s the subtle moments in the background that steal the show. Here’s to making those moments count, one step, one breath, one connection at a time. 🌱🌟

7 techniques for personal growth that you can do each day

Introduction: Personal growth and why it matters.

Each day is a blank canvas, presenting a new opportunity to paint strokes of progress, learning, and self-discovery. Personal growth, an enriching journey rather than a destination, can be woven seamlessly into our daily rituals. By infusing our routine with small, yet potent techniques, we can pave a path towards a more enlightened, self-aware, and evolved version of ourselves. Ready to dabble in the palette of daily self-improvement? Let’s explore seven transformative techniques.

7 Techniques for personal growth.

1. Mindful Meditation – Cultivate Inner Peace:

The Technique: Begin your day with a 10-minute session of mindful meditation. Focus on your breathing, the rise and fall of your chest, and the sensations it evokes. Let go of fleeting thoughts without judgment.

Why It Matters: Meditation anchors the mind, reduces stress, and heightens awareness. It’s a sanctuary where clarity flourishes, allowing us to approach challenges with equanimity.

Studies indicate that consistent meditation can bolster cognitive abilities, making it a favorite tool in the arsenal of many high-achievers.

2. Gratitude Journaling – Foster Positivity:

The Technique: Each night, jot down three things you’re thankful for, no matter how big or small.

Why It Matters: Gratitude shifts the focus from what we lack to the abundance we possess. Over time, this fosters a positive mindset, deepening contentment and happiness.

With the burgeoning interest in positive psychology, gratitude journaling has surged in popularity, touted for its potent mental health benefits.

3. Continuous Learning – Quench the Intellectual Thirst:

The Technique: Dedicate at least 20 minutes daily to learning something new. It could be a podcast, an online course, or even a chapter from a thought-provoking book.

Why It Matters: Continuous learning ensures we remain adaptable in an ever-evolving world. It sparks curiosity, creativity, and elevates our professional and personal spheres.

Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Audible have democratized learning, making personal growth accessible to all.

4. Physical Activity – Energize Body & Mind:

The Technique: Incorporate a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity into your day. It could be a brisk walk, yoga, or a rigorous workout session.

Why It Matters: Regular physical activity invigorates the body, releases endorphins (feel-good hormones), and sharpens cognitive functions. Plus, it’s a stellar mood-booster!

The connection between physical health and personal growth is widely recognized, making daily workouts a staple in many successful individuals’ routines.

5. Reflective Practice – Gain Insight & Clarity:

The Technique: Set aside a few quiet moments each day to reflect upon your actions, decisions, and experiences. Analyze what went well and areas for improvement.

Why It Matters: Reflection cultivates self-awareness, accountability, and fosters growth from experiences.

6. Foster Connections – Nourish the Soul:

The Technique: Make it a point to connect with a loved one daily. It could be a heartfelt conversation, a quick check-in call, or even a thoughtful message.

Why It Matters: Human connections feed the soul, offering emotional sustenance, perspective, and a sense of belonging.

7. Set Clear Intentions – Navigate with Purpose:

The Technique: Start each day by setting clear intentions. What do you wish to achieve? How do you want to feel by day’s end?

Why It Matters: Intentions act as the compass guiding our actions, ensuring we move purposefully through the day.

Conclusion:

The mosaic of personal growth, composed of myriad tiles of daily actions, illuminates the profound truth: progress is a culmination of consistent, intentional efforts. By integrating these seven techniques into our everyday life, we not only inch closer to our best selves but also revel in the journey, cherishing each lesson, insight, and breakthrough. Embark on this daily odyssey of self-improvement, and watch your canvas come alive with hues of growth, wisdom, and fulfillment.

Benefits Of A Well-Balanced Lifestyle

Balanced lifestyle

Modern Day Living:

You’re racing against the clock, dashing from one meeting to the next, constantly buried under a pile of emails so tall it could rival the Leaning Tower of Pisa. By the time the day ends, you might feel as if you’ve just finished a marathon – and not the fun kind with celebratory selfies and medals. In this relentless pursuit of deadlines and to-do lists, the moments for meaningful relationships and personal growth seem to have taken a backseat. If your daily routine resonates with this, if the words “me time” sound like a distant fairy tale, then welcome, dear overworked soul, to the haven of a well-balanced lifestyle. Let’s embark on this enlightening journey together, where we unpack the wonders of balance, making room not just for work, but for life in its entirety.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. Between work, family, and that ever-demanding social media feed, maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle just seems, well…unattainable. The result? Burnout, fatigue, and a sofa that knows a little too much about our weekend plans. Sound familiar?

Creating Balance.

Fear not, dear reader, because unicorns do exist. Well, metaphorically speaking. A well-balanced lifestyle isn’t a far-off dream. It’s about mixing business with pleasure, exercise with relaxation, and salads with… okay, maybe an occasional pizza. It’s about finding harmony in our daily lives.

Picture your life as an intricate dance, a ballet of moments, where every step, leap, and twirl is meticulously choreographed. But more often than not, it feels like you’re constantly tap-dancing on a tightrope. Achieving balance doesn’t require a grand overhaul but rather small, intentional steps. Begin by prioritizing tasks, understanding that not every email requires an immediate response and not every call is urgent. Designate specific ‘unplugged’ hours, where digital devices take a backseat, allowing you to reconnect with the world beyond screens. Dive into hobbies, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. Rekindle old friendships, or just relish a warm cup of tea in solitude. Delegate when you can, be it tasks at work or chores at home. And remember, it’s okay to occasionally say ‘no’ without feeling guilty. Seeking balance isn’t about juggling everything flawlessly; it’s about discerning which balls are made of glass and which are rubber. So, lace up those dancing shoes, and let’s rediscover the rhythm of a well-balanced life. And the benefits? They’re more tempting than a slice of double chocolate cake (and that’s saying something).

Benefits of a well-balanced lifestyle

Let’s break down the five main benefits of living the good, balanced life:

  1. Improved Physical Health: Think of your body as a car. It needs the right fuel and regular maintenance. When you balance exercise with a nutritious diet, your body works at peak performance. And you don’t need to run marathons or become a kale enthusiast. Just simple choices like choosing stairs over the elevator or incorporating more veggies can make a huge difference.
  2. Enhanced Mental Wellbeing: A well-balanced lifestyle is like a spa day for your mind. Regular exercise releases endorphins, nature’s mood boosters. Pair that with adequate sleep and relaxation, and you’ll be on cloud nine. Plus, ever noticed how a cluttered room can clutter your mind? So, occasionally decluttering your space can be therapeutic too.
  3. Boosted Productivity: Contrary to popular belief, being glued to your desk doesn’t boost productivity. Regular breaks, a balanced diet, and a clear mind can work wonders. You might find that tasks you’ve been dreading for days can be ticked off in hours!
  4. Better Relationships: When you’re feeling good inside and out, it reflects in your interactions. You become a sunbeam in other people’s cloudy days. And when you take time out for your loved ones, it nurtures bonds. Remember, quality over quantity.
  5. Increased Longevity: It’s no secret. A well-balanced lifestyle can add years to your life and life to your years. And who wouldn’t want some extra time, especially if it means you can finally learn how to play the ukulele or take that trip to Fiji?

To Summarise

So, the next time you find yourself debating between the couch and a short walk, remember the tantalizing benefits awaiting you on the other side of balance. A well-balanced lifestyle is not just about sacrifices or stringent rules; it’s about making mindful choices. And the rewards? Well they are more than worth it, don’t you think?

Signs of Health Anxieties & OCD in Childhood Post-Pandemic

OCD in childhood

After almost two years of hand-washing, sanitizing and fear of a scary sounding virus, it is unsurprising that OCD in childhood is on the rise as children are suffering from fears of getting ill and germs in general. 

With such an emphasis on hygiene, and daunting news reports of deaths and disease ever present on TV, newspapers, and social media, there is a high risk for health anxieties and OCD in childhood to develop.

Research studies estimate that between 1.9% and 3% of children suffer from OCD. It is likely that this could rise post-pandemic. So, it’s important to notice if your child is showing signs of OCD or symptoms of health anxiety. Recognizing common traits could mean that you can help them to negotiate triggering situations, and realize when they may need professional or medical assistance. 

Spotting early signs of anxiety and OCD in childhood is important,  the sooner a child can be diagnosed, the quicker they can receive the treatment and help they need. Children as young as 5 have been diagnosed with OCD, so getting help early could mean that they find coping mechanisms that help them for the rest of their lives, or even never experience a bout of OCD again. 

In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between health anxiety and OCD as well as how they cross over. We will then look at signs you can look out for to identify if your child is suffering from OCD, where you can go for support, and the many ways that OCD can be treated. 

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What is health anxiety? 

Health anxiety, sometimes also called hypochondria, is a challenging condition that means sufferers spend a lot of time worrying that they are, or will get, ill. These thoughts can be all-consuming and overwhelming, and impact the quality and enjoyment of their day-to-day life. 

Often, but not always, traumatic events can result in health anxiety. It can also be triggered by experiencing a serious illness, the death of someone close, or other early years trauma. Other times, it can have no clear origin.

In the midst of a pandemic, where children may have experienced the loss of loved ones due to COVID-19, and lockdowns potentially inducing trauma, we could see a rise in health anxieties in children in a post-pandemic world. 

What is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

Like health anxiety, OCD was originally classified as an anxiety disorder, due to the intense anxiety linked to its symptoms. But since 2013, it has its own, separate classification. As the name suggests, OCD is related to obsession and compulsions, so severe that they can be debilitating; they can take over those suffering, leaving them unable to perform basic tasks.

Obsessions are intrusive, involuntary thoughts, ideas or worries that constantly run through the person’s mind. Compulsions, or rituals, are repetitive behaviours that are performed to reduce the anxiety brought on by obsessive thought. 

There is no recognized ‘cause’ for OCD in childhood, though it is believed that some children may be more vulnerable. This could be genetic, with some being more prone to anxiety-related disorders. Sometimes OCD can be triggered by an event that a child may perceive as frightening.

There are many types of OCD in childhood. This could include fears about contamination and germs, and health-related obsessions, like fear of catching a sickness bug. This makes it hard, at times, to differentiate between health anxiety and obsessive-compulsive discovery.  

During this public health crisis, the constant emphasis on washing hands, social distancing, and being hygienic may trigger OCD in childhood or could result in relapses for those formerly managing their symptoms.

Signs Your Child May be Suffering From Health Anxiety 

Health anxiety can be more obvious, as sufferers are often vocal about their concerns. Look out for these common symptoms or signs of health anxiety in your child:

  • Constantly worry about their health
  • Frequently check their body for signs of illness, such as lumps or a temperature.
  • Are always asking you for reassurance that they’re not ill.
  • Act as if they are ill, but more seriously than ‘pretending’. 
  • Requesting to stay home from school, for fear of catching a bug at school. 

Often you will be able to tell quite quickly if your child is actually ill. Be careful though, as anxiety itself can cause symptoms like headaches or a racing heartbeat. These symptoms can easily be mistaken for signs of illness.

Signs of OCD in Childhood 

A big difference between OCD and health anxiety is that those suffering OCD may try to hide their compulsions, and often lots of their obsession is internal. That being said, there are some physical symptoms you may notice in a child suffering from OCD, which includes:

  • Repetitive behavior, such as asking the same questions over and over.
  • Touching things a specific number of times, or counting steps 
  • Checking things multiple times, like if a door is locked. 
  • Avoiding touching certain surfaces, for fear of catching germs
  • Obsessive and repetitive washing of hands
  • Preoccupation with death, illness, or abstract concepts such as good/evil

Some things that you may not notice as easily include counting, perhaps under their breath or even in their head (look out for them being distracted, or unable to focus on what you are saying to them) or repeating compulsions, like repeating certain phrases in your head or out loud, to a point of obsession. 

It is worth remembering, some of these behaviours are part of normal childhood development. All children process worries at different stages. If it lasts a long time or begins to interfere with daily living, that’s when it becomes a problem!

The relationship between health anxiety and OCD in Childhood.

There are overlapping symptoms, and triggers, with health anxiety and OCD. Some treatment techniques can be used by people suffering either. However, they are defined as separate disorders. 

One significant difference between OCD and health anxiety is awareness of the sufferer of their problem. While someone with OCD may, deep down, realize that their thoughts are intrusive and often irrational, someone with a health disorder truly believes that they have a serious illness. However, for a child suffering either, it may be unclear if they are aware of the rationality of their fears, given their continued development in early years, through to preadolescence. 

Managing these conditions can feel impossible for children, young people, and their families. What are the ways to treat health anxiety and/or OCD, and how can you support your children?

How to support your child with health anxiety or OCD

In a time of ‘unprecedented’ and ‘unforeseen’ circumstances, and lots of ‘unknowns’, it could be hard to offer your child reassurance about their health worries. However, there are ways that you can support them, before and alongside formal diagnosis and medical treatment. 

Talk openly about their fears and give them a safe space to share any worries they may have. This could also mean talking about COVID-19, as it could lighten the fear of the unknown. Being honest means you will build trust, and show that you aren’t angry about their anxieties. 

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It can be easy to facilitate fears in your desire to lessen stress and suffering in your children. But in the long run, this could be more detrimental and strengthen their fear. Similarly, it can be tempting to try and overly explain why a fear is irrational by making them face it. While this is a similar method seen in exposure therapy, it should only be practiced by mental health professionals and/or practitioners. Forcing your child to ‘face their fear’ could, actually, mean they hide more from you. 

Routine can really help with anxiety. So work with your child to create a schedule or regime that suits your entire family, yet offers comfort for your suffering child. Explore mindfulness options, and try some easy mindfulness activities that are perfect for children

Source Link: YouTube

Learn what triggers your children, and see if there are ways you can avoid stressors, without leaning into their fears. For example, when entering a triggering situation, warn your child ahead of time, and build an action plan of how to tackle the occasion, with clear boundaries and even a code word if it all gets too much.

Seeking Further Support

Even if you are practicing some of the above ways to help manage your child’s health anxieties or OCD symptoms, it’s important to seek support and advice from professionals. 

Ensure that your child knows before you speak with their GP about symptoms, as they may be able to explain better how they are feeling. Speaking with your doctor is usually the first step towards getting a referral to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). 

There are 2 main treatment paths for health anxiety and OCD; psychological therapy and/or medication. Psychological therapy, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), can help to face your fears and obsessive thoughts, gradually, without “putting them right” with compulsions. Therapy like this gives sufferers the tools, coping mechanisms, and strategies to manage their symptoms, and deepen their understanding of their condition. 

Sometimes, medicinal routes are taken, often in very severe cases. Certain types of antidepressant medication can help to alter and stabilize, the balance of chemicals in the brain. This can be used alone, or alongside therapy. 

There are also many OCD charities and support groups, like OCD UK and OCD Action. These can offer advice and help you, as a parent, to understand more about your child’s condition. 

Final Thoughts

Both health anxiety and OCD can be overwhelming and difficult conditions to manage at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. It is unclear now what the ongoing, lasting impact the past two years may have on our children’s mental health.

But, looking out for early signs of health anxiety or OCD in your children could mean that you are able to get them professional help, and maybe even prevent these conditions developing into more severe, disabling issues in later life. 

Early signs your kids are suffering from anxiety

Early Signs of Anxiety

With just over 7% of children aged 3-17 years having been diagnosed with anxiety, it has never been more important to recognise the early signs of symptoms and suffering in youngsters. There are many signifiers that your child may be suffering from anxiety or associated disorders. These can be obvious physical signs, emotional changes or subtle behaviour alterations. 

Early Signs Of Anxiety

Noticing and managing anxiety in young children can avoid worsening conditions later in life. Untreated mental health disorders have the potential to lead to much more severe issues during adolescent years or intensified anxiety over time that can affect the quality of life and ability to function in adulthood.

Teaching your kids mindfulness is a very good way to alleviate stress and feelings of anxiety. But, sometimes anxiety can take over. Understanding signs of mental health struggles could mean you are able to spot some of the tell-tale signs that your children may be struggling more seriously with anxiety.

In this article, we will outline some of the early signs to look out for that indicate your kids may be suffering from anxiety. 

Physical Signs 

Some of the easiest signs that your child may be experiencing anxiety are physical symptoms. These are a result of the ‘fight or flight’ response, the body’s normal reaction to feeling fear or danger. This can trigger the release of natural chemicals in the body which causes certain physical bodily functions or actions. 

Though these physical symptoms may be occurring internally within your child’s body, like an increased heart rate or feeling hot, these can also impact them physically. Listen to their breathing pattern, and notice if it is quickening or they seem short of breath – this could be a sign they are experiencing anxiety. 

Similarly, spotting if they are sweating, or trying to rapidly adjust their temperature, like removing some layers to counteract temperature increase. With their consent, feel if their face is hot, or their hands are clammy.

Anxiety can also disrupt digestion, so look out for complaints of stomach aches or avoiding food due to ‘feeling sick’. Similarly, headaches without a medical cause could be worth exploring further. 

Although these symptoms can be more obvious, sometimes they can be misunderstood as physical illnesses, rather than mental health disorders. If you begin to notice any of these signs, look out for some emotional or behavioural changes that, together, could indicate they are suffering anxiety. 

Emotional Signs 

Emotional signs of Anxiety

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You may notice emotional changes in your kids, but this doesn’t always mean they are experiencing anxiety. Roller-coaster emotions can happen in key growth periods when hormones are surging, and before puberty hits. 

However, some emotional changes could be an indication that they are struggling with anxiety. This could present itself in your child being more ‘sensitive’ than usual, or crying more often about seemingly small things, or over nothing at all. 

They may have a shorter fuse, becoming angry quickly or without a clear reason. Similarly, being generally grouchy may be a sign of mental stress, or lesser through being irritable or argumentative. 

Another way mental health can manifest is subconsciously in dreams or worrying about situations that may not happen. This could trigger when in periods of transition, like at the end of school holidays. 

Generally, encouraging your children to talk to you, or someone they trust, about their feelings and emotions, is good practice. Having open communication could mean that you pick up on these emotional signals early and help your child regulate their emotions. 

Behavioural Signs 

Early signs of Anxiety for kids

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Often, people who suffer from anxiety experience behavioural changes. Sometimes this is on purpose to avoid triggers, and others it is unconscious. However, behaviour changes are important to recognise. 

This could be seen in changes to their sleeping patterns; either sleeping too much, or not enough. If your child is having difficulty falling asleep, or they try to stay up later to avoid sleeping, this could be indicative of nightmares or feeling overwhelmed by many thoughts. 

Alternatively, they may sleep far more than usual. Feeling anxious all day can take a lot of energy, so oversleeping is something to look out for. Wanting to sleep more could also be avoidance, to get out of situations that cause them anxiety

Suddenly being more clingy than usual and suffering from separation anxiety could also be a sign. Typically this could also link to refusing to go to school or feigning illness to stay off school and be with you. 

Similarly, difficulties socialising with other children and being obviously uncomfortable meeting new people may not just be shyness. If they are usually chatty and suddenly seem more quiet or even silent, this could also be something to note. 

Many of these symptoms are linked. For example, grumpiness could be caused by tiredness as a result of avoiding or struggling to sleep. If you think your child is showing some, or several signs of anxiety, you may want to keep a note and look out for any patterns. This could help you determine if it’s time to seek further help.

Next Steps  

Experiencing anxiety at any age can be scary and overwhelming. Remember not to confront your child or accuse them of anything. This could lead them to be more secretive with their struggles, or even increase their anxiety. 

Approach the conversation in a safe environment and allow them room to talk when they feel comfortable. Don’t ask leading questions and most importantly, remind them that you are there to help and to listen. Reiterate that their feelings are completely normal and many others experience it. 


Encouraging them to try mindfulness activities, ensuring they eat a balanced diet and live an active lifestyle can all help with their overall mental wellbeing. But don’t forget to seek professional help from doctors or psychiatrists if you’re worried about your child’s anxiety.

This article was written exclusively for MindPanda by mental health writer Sophie Bishop

Stress Relief techniques 2021

Stress Relief Techniques 2021

There is no doubt 2020 and 2021 have been highly stressful for all of us. COVID-19 has thrown up more challenges than we’re used to, leaving us trapped in a negative mindset of “when will it all end?”

Now, more than ever, it’s vital to focus on your wellbeing and seek out ways to reduce stress.

If you’re feeling stressed and unsure where to start, here are 10 stress relief techniques for 2021.

Exercise to Relieve Stress

Exercise is not just good for your physical health but also for your mental health. Even the NHS recommends exercise to boost your mood and can be used to deal with depression.

When we’re confined to our homes, getting out for exercise is more important than ever! You don’t have to run a four-minute mile or lift heavy weights, but a daily walk could do wonders to relieve stress.

Not only is the physical activity from walking good for you, but the change of scenery could also help boost your mood.

Mindfulness Meditation

A 2013 study found that mindfulness meditation is effective at reducing neurogenic inflammation linked to stress. Harvard Medical School also recommends mindfulness and breathing exercises as a way to reduce stress.

You don’t have to be some spiritual guru to start meditation. It’s as easy as closing your eyes and breathing. Here is a quick guide to get you started:

  1. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably.
  2. Close your eyes and breathe normally.
  3. Focus on your breath entering and leaving your body.
  4. Your mind will wander; every time it does, bring your attention back to your breathing.

That’s meditation in its most basic form. The NHS also offers simple breathing exercises to reduce stress.

MindPanda has an excellent mindfulness mediation pack designed for all levels if you need some guidance and motivation. If you’re not sure how to get started, check out MindPanda’s free resources, including colouring exercises, mindful word-searches, and more.

Connect with People

According to the NHS, connecting with friends and relatives is crucial for our wellbeing. These connections don’t mean texting and emailing but face-to-face conversations.

While physical connections are complicated during lockdowns, there are still ways to connect with people face-to-face, even if it’s over video chat.

If you’re working from home, try to arrange regular video lunch dates with friends or relatives. You can share experiences, receive or offer support, or have a laugh.

Volunteering is another way to connect with people and improve your self-worth. Developing a sense of belonging and purpose can relieve stress.

Learn a new Skill

Find something new to learn, especially if it challenges you creatively. We spend so much time watching TV these days, so why not divert that time to self-improvement.

According to the NHS, “research shows that learning new skills can also improve your mental wellbeing.” Another study found that even colouring reduces anxiety for adults.

Developing a new skill may also open you up to new possibilities, help start a business or even create new career opportunities. 

Improve Your Diet

Too often, we turn to comfort food and alcohol as a way to deal with stress. The trust is that high-fat and high-sugar provide some “false relief” but actually add to stress levels over time.

Another stress-inducing substance is caffeine. In moderation, caffeine has some health benefits. But high intake can increase anxiety and even disrupt sleep.

Being more mindful of what you put into your body is vital for your mental wellbeing. A change to your diet could have fantastic benefits for your mental health and thus reduce stress.

Stress Relief

Always consult a registered GP or nutritionist for advice about food and alcohol intake. To get started, the NHS has excellent resources for its Live Well campaign.

Practice Yoga

There have been multiple studies on yoga’s health benefits, including a recommendation from the NHS stating yoga reduces depression and stress.

Yoga is a fantastic stress reliever because it incorporates both exercise and mindfulness. Yoga isn’t an instant stress reliever; it’s something you must practise regularly to achieve any long-term benefits, including stress relief.

MindPanda’s Mindfulness pack guides you through some light yoga and self-care exercises if you need help getting started.

Practice Gratitude

Ironically, we take gratitude for granted, but studies show gratitude can improve our wellbeing and mental health.

Too often, we focus on the negative, forgetting the good that has happened or that we have done. You might think you’ve “had a terrible day,” when in fact, it was one moment or interaction that made it feel like a bad day. The rest of the day was great!

Oprah Winfrey famously started the gratitude journal back in the ’90s to get into the habit of seeing the good in life. The idea is to get into the habit of writing just five things you’re grateful for during the day.

By practising gratitude, you start looking for things to be grateful for during the day, shifting your focus from the negative to the positive, ultimately boosting your mood and relieving stress.

Take Control of Your Time

Poor time management can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety. Forgetting appointments or trying to rush through a task you left to the last minute is highly stressful.

If you’re serious about managing your stress levels, taking control of your schedule is vital! Managing your schedule doesn’t mean assigning a task to every hour of the day.

  • Set goals
  • Make todo lists
  • Prioritise
  • Make time for yourself, your friends, your family
  • Learn to say no
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Delegate

Taking control of your time is empowering and will certainly mitigate stress related to poor time management.

Improve Your Sleeping Habits

There are multiple studies on the benefits of sleep and the adverse effects of not getting enough sleep. Quality of sleep is just as important!

Ways to improve sleep:

  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Yoga
  • Exposure to natural light during the day
  • Read a book before bed

You may also want to ditch poor habits, including:

  • Eliminate screen time (TV/phone/laptop) at least 2 hours before bed
  • Sleep with your phone in another room
  • Eliminate caffeine intake after midday
  • Develop a healthy sleeping routine – don’t sleep in on days off

Laugh More

The cheesy phrase, laughter is the best medicine, is, in fact, true! A study found that humour reduced stress and increased immune function among cancer patients.

stress reduction

Reading a funny book or watching something funny on TV can help, but connecting with people who make you laugh is most beneficial. Try to spend more time with people who make you laugh and feel good about yourself.

Conclusion

As you can see from these stress relief techniques, finding balance is crucial. You’re not going to reduce stress and find happiness by doing just one thing. Every decision we make is inextricably linked to our health and wellbeing.

One of the most essential stress relief techniques in 2021 is maintaining connections. Through lockdowns, many of us have lost contact with friends and loved ones. Find a way to reconnect and talk to loved ones about your stress and mental health.

The Best Stress Ball – Much More That Just A Stress Reliever

Stress Balls for teens

How Stress Balls Can Help You To Juggle Your Life

What are the stress factors in your life? Maybe your upstairs neighbours are keeping fit during lockdown with Zumba videos on YouTube. Maybe you’ve had a lifetime’s worth of Zoom calls with kids and pets bouncing round in the background. Or maybe it’s just the common garden variety of stress from balancing family, work and home.

Whatever makes you feel tense, stress balls can help. If you haven’t got one to hand, why not try this? Clench your fist, really tight. Feel your fingernails on your skin. Notice what your tendons look like and how the skin stretches over your knuckles. Are your thumbs inside or outside of your fist? Hold for five, four three, two, one… and release.

You might not have realised it, but that was a tiny lesson in mindfulness. By redirecting our focus to the present moment, we can tune in to how we’re really feeling physically and mentally. It allows us to break thought spirals and regain small moments of refreshing calm.

At MindPanda, we believe that our Stress Balls can be so much more than than a simple stress reliever . And we hope you’ll think so too. Ready to deep-dive into the world of squishy little stress-relievers that empower you to be better? Here we go.

How were stress balls invented?

Ever heard of Baoding balls? They were invented in the Ming dynasty in China as meditation aids and for stress relief. They were made from metal and rolled in the hand, rather than squeezed.

Baoding balls work in pairs. You hold both of them in one hand and try to move them around. This promotes focus and helps you to move your thoughts away from usual preoccupations. With practice, you can learn to rotate the Baoding balls without letting them touch.

Chinese doctors sometimes recommend these stress balls to patients suffering from tiredness. They believe that they activate different pressure points in the palm and promote good energy flow.

Nowadays, you can find many beautiful versions of Baoding balls. Hollow versions that chime when struck. Jade, agate and marble sets that are wonderfully smooth to handle. And beautiful, engraved ones.

Fast-forward to the 1980s and there’s a whole different inventor’s story. Alex Carswell was a 29-year-old TV writer who received an angry phone call from his boss. He got so worked up, that he threw a magic marker across the room and damaged a photo of his mother. Wishing to limit future property damage, he instead invented the squishy stress balls we know and love today.

Since the 80s, there have been many more incarnations, including the mindfulness stress balls from MindPanda.

What are the benefits of stress balls?

Stress balls are a marvellous invention. Squidgy, flexible and always there when you need them. But how exactly do they help us with stress?

Physical

The action of tensing and releasing our muscles dissolves tension. Don’t take our word for it – try it out. And it isn’t only Chinese doctors who recommend stress balls. They’re also used by physiotherapists in the UK as an aid for rehabilitation and injury prevention. That’s because they’re great for improving grip strength, dexterity, muscular tone and motor skills.

Mental

Do your thoughts ever go round and round in circles? It happens to everyone, so we’re guessing the answer is ‘yes’. By focusing on something outside of your mind, you can interrupt thought spirals and refocus on the present. After all, mindfulness is all about staying in the present and rebalancing our minds.

Stress balls can help to build a mindfulness routine and keep stress under control. That’s why we invented the MindPanda stress balls. You’ll find some fun exercises you can try in a section below.

Focus

Psychology research has found that people need a particular level of stimulation in order to concentrate. For example, some people like total quiet. Others prefer bustle and background noise.

The right level of stimulation even changes during the day and depending on the task at hand. We all make changes like putting on headphones, walking around or putting the kettle on to regulate our environment to our liking. When we can’t do that, a fidget item like a stress ball can help us to stay focused.

What’s different about MindPanda stress balls?

Our MindPanda stress balls are perfect for relaxing. They come with smooth Lycra covering and a variable level of hardness, for that perfect level of squish. And they smell great.

Best Stress Ball

Did you know that your nose is connected to the part of your brain that deals with emotion? That’s why fragrances can produce such powerful memories. Try it out: can you think of an orange without remembering the smell? And some smells can even reduce anxiety and stress.

Each of the MindPanda stress balls has its own delicious fragrance:

Jasmine, for alertness and better mood.

Research has shown that it can lead to an uplifted mood and help with depressed thoughts. The laboratory study with human volunteers showed that the smell of jasmine oil produced both physical and mental benefits, compared with a placebo. It’s a tiny flower that really packs a punch.

Peppermint, for motivation and stamina.

Smelling peppermint invigorates the brain. And it’s been linked to cognitive stamina and motivation. It’s just the thing when you need a natural pick-me-up.

Lemon, for more energy and alertness.

If you’re looking for a boost, ditch the coffee and have a sniff of lemon instead. It’s a true super fruit that can calm anxiety and anger.

Positive reinforcement

MindPanda stress balls also provide verbal cues to encourage positive thinking. They offer a combination of mindfulness, physical stress relief, aromatherapy scents and positive messages. All to set you on the path to a more positive way of living.

You asked, we listened. New for 2020, we have stress ball sets with a choice of mindful, motivational and empowering messages:

Empower yourself

‘The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.’ We love this quote by Alice Walker. Empowerment, self-love and gratitude are three concepts that you can build your life on. And our empowering stress balls are the perfect little reminder for every day. They come with the captions ‘purpose fuels passion’, ‘be unique – be yourself’ and ‘count your blessings’.

Get mindful

‘The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little’. Jon Kabat-Zinn was onto something there, we think. Mindfulness is a wonderful antidote to the stress of everyday life. And our classic blue mindfulness stress balls are there to anchor you to the present. They come with the captions ‘as you think you become’, ‘be. here. now.’ and ‘count your blessings’. And they make the case for mindfulness, positivity and gratitude.

Fuel your motivation

Our motivational stress balls remind you that confidence, motivation and positivity are key to keep on moving forward. Because sometimes all it takes is a change in your thought patterns to change your day. They have the captions ‘anything is possible’, ‘dream bigger – do bigger’ and ‘what you focus on grows’. What will you make possible today?

Want to know more? Just head over to our product page for details on all three sets.

How can I use my stress balls?

There are lots of ways that stress balls can help you relax. Here are a few of our favourites:

The raisin technique

The raisin exercise is a mindfulness classic. Why not give it a go with your MindPanda stress balls?

  1. Hold a stress ball between your fingers. Imagine you’ve never seen it before. Give it your full attention. What colour is and what shape?
  2. Start moving it around and feel how squishy it is. You could even close your eyes to focus better.
  3. Hold it close to your ear. Does the fabric or gel make a sound when you squeeze it?
  4. Give it a good sniff. What does it smell like? Do you start to feel differently if you go on smelling it?

Pay attention to your breath during this exercise. Breathe deeply and slowly, from the diaphragm. How do you feel now?

Learn to juggle

It’s a great metaphor for life and good fun, too. If you have kids around, it’s a great lockdown boredom-buster. So how do you learn to juggle?

Start with one ball and pass it from hand to hand. Step up to two balls. Toss one straight up and when it reaches the top of its arc, toss the other one. Keep going until you feel comfortable.

Adding the third ball is the tricky bit. Start with two balls in one hand and the third one in the other. Toss the first one up and pass the second one from your right to your left hand (or the other way around if you’re left-handed).

When the first is at its peak, throw the second one and pass the third one to your left hand. Catch the first one and throw ball three once ball two is at its peak. Then rinse and repeat.

If that sounds confusing, try practising with lighter objects that don’t bounce or roll away. Good luck! (And if juggling gets too hard, a good game of ‘hot potato’ is just as much fun.)

Mindfulness SOS

Sometimes, we just need a break. There’s that moment everyone can recognise when things get overwhelming. Having a mindfulness SOS ready and waiting can help you take a few precious moments for yourself.

Keep your stress balls with you, on your desk or in your bag. When you need a minute, take them out and get started.

Hold or squeeze your stress balls, while you take deep, relaxing breaths. Breathe in slowly, hold, breathe out slowly, pause. Focus on the sensations of your breath and your touch. With time, you’ll start to associate your stress balls with relaxation.

How will you use your stress balls? We’d love to know. Please drop us a line in the comments or leave us a review. They also make a great gift, Secret Santa surprise or stocking filler. Stay well and stay safe.

What are stress balls good for?

Stress balls were invented to relieve stress. But ours can do even more. They can help you to break negative thought patterns and literally smell the flowers. Don’t take our word for it – try it out.
 
Stress balls are also good for boosting blood circulation and can help with the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. They’re even used by physiotherapists as a treatment aid.

Are stress balls good for anxiety?

Yes, absolutely. They work particularly well as part of regular mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is staying aware of the present. Your senses are engaged by squeezing feeling, hearing the stress ball, which is why this is helpful.

What’s inside stress balls?

Most stress balls are made of foam – However, MindPanda stress balls are filled with a relaxing gel core. They’re non-toxic and BPA-free. In fact, each ball has its own level or firmness – soft, medium and hard.

What’s mindfulness?

Mindfulness means to focus on the present moment. To be fully present and aware of what’s happening in our bodies and minds right now. The benefits of mindfulness include reduced anxiety and stress.

How can stress balls help with mindfulness?

Stress balls can act as a reminder and a prompt to stop what you’re doing and take a moment for mindfulness. And they’re small enough to pop in your bag or put on your desk, so that they’re never far away.
 
Focusing on physical sensations, like your breath or the squish of a stress ball, is also a great route to mindfulness. That means they help us to break unwelcome thought patterns and negativity.

Whats the best stress Ball

Everyone is different, so choosing the right stress ball for you will depend on what you are looking for.

MindPanda have designed a stress ball that suits everyone and helps too tackle stress at its core – the mind. Each back has three levels of firmness – soft – medium – hard. Each ball has its own unique fragrance to help clear the mind and is surrounded by inspiring themes to help you build healthy mental habits.

We hope you enjoyed this article and would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with using stress balls. Have they worked for you? Do you prefer an alternative method?

Check out our free Resources page for lots of other great ideas on how to become more mindful, including some guided meditations, mindful colouring PDFS and much more.

Enjoy Better Mental health – 5 Easy Techniques

Enjoy Better mental Health

5 tips to enjoy better mental health

“How Can we begin to Enjoy Better Mental health” – This is something we have heard quite a lot recently. Its 2020, and what a year it’s been – COVID restrictions might still feel new, but they’re far from normal. Whether it’s feeling all ‘zoomed out’ after working from home with small children underfoot. Or missing our friends and family.

The shorter, darker days are closing in and we’re probably going to spend even more time at home. The pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Sometimes it’s not the big events that push us off-kilter. It’s the little stressors in daily life.

On the bright side, we’ve made it to November. Many neighbourhoods are coming together to support people who are shielding or struggling financially. And while this year has been a challenge for many, there are lots of good things to look forward to. This is why this is the perfect moment to check in on our mental health and wellbeing.

Investing a few moments to check in with how you’re feeling will pay off. And we have some great tips on how to enjoy better mental wellbeing this winter. Let’s dive straight in with 5 tips to enjoy better mental health.

1) Start as you mean to go on

Are you sitting comfortably? Take a deep breath, all the way down to your diaphragm. Hold for a few seconds and breathe out slowly. Pause a little and breathe in again. Listen to the sound of your breath. Feel it filling your chest and your belly area. Feel the air leaving your mouth or nostrils.

Mindfulness means staying aware of the present. Some people think meditation means emptying your mind. Have you ever tried this? Spoiler alert: it’s not possible. Our brains are always thinking, always going – it’s how they help to keep us alive. But getting too caught up in our thoughts can be unhealthy. By bringing the focus to physical sensations, like our breath, mindfulness meditation helps us to take a break from thought spirals.

Here’s a metaphor: Picture a busy motorway with cars driving by at high speeds. This could symbolise our thoughts when we’re stressed. We can’t stop them, but we can step back from the motorway. Maybe there is a leafy green tree just a few yards away. We could go there to in the shade. Observing our thoughts from afar gives us a new perspective and the space to reflect on the situation.

There are many types of mindfulness meditation. If you’re new to this exercise, you might like to start with a guided version. There are lots of free recordings to choose from on the MindPanda website. We also have an informative and inspiring collection of videos to share. Whatever your level of experience, there’s something for everyone to help you Enjoy Better Mental Health.

2) Healthy body, healthy mind

It’s a cold, rainy day. You’re curled up on the sofa with a good book/movie and some snacks. Doesn’t it sound like just the ticket? Even if this is the third day in a row. Taking care of our physical health is important for our mental wellbeing too. So grab an orange and your exercise gear – let’s look at what the scientists have to say.

Sleep

The amount of sleep you need is personal, but the NHS recommends 7-8 hours per night. The side effects of not enough shuteye? Brain fog, grumpiness and a greater risk of medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. When people with anxiety or depression were asked about their sleeping habits, it turned out that most of them slept for less than 6 hours a night.

So that’s the bad news. The good news is that you can turn things around. What should you do if you need more sleep? Your bedtime routine is a good place to start. Think about whether you:

  • Get to bed at roughly the same time every day
  • Have a ‘wind-down’ routine to help you relax
  • Have a comfortable place to sleep – quiet, dark and a good temperature
  • Keep your phone away from your bed

Mindfulness tip: why not try out a body scan meditation before you fall asleep? It’s a perfect relaxation technique.

Diet

Enjoy Mental Healthy Eating

The trend towards meat-free eating accelerated during lockdown. In the UK, there were 45 million views of videos with “vegan” or “vegetarian” in the title. Apparently, there is an appetite for mindful eating, as people think about what that meal means for the world.

Eating well can make for healthy living too – mentally and physically. Studies have found that people who eat lots of fruit and veg (like in the Mediterranean diet) have higher levels of wellbeing.

Here are a few things to think about when it comes to diet and mental health:

  • Eat at regular intervals and choose foods that release energy slowly. It’ll keep your blood sugar levels steady and make it easier to avoid snacking. Not to mention, that it’ll put you in a better mood.
  • Staying hydrated is important too. Why not start your day with a big glass of water? You’ll be surprised at what an effect it has on concentration.
  • Manage your caffeine and alcohol intake. Caffeine gives you a quick burst of energy, but can then make you feel anxious or depressed.
  • Get your five portions of fruit or veg a day, but don’t forget about protein. Protein contains amino acids, which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings. It also helps you to feel fuller for longer.

Mindfulness tip: why not try mindful eating? Start by eating away from screens and distractions. Concentrate fully on the tastes, smells and textures of your food, as well as how your body responds to the meal. It’s been shown to help with weight loss and emotional eating.

Exercise

We’re not talking about running a marathon or climbing the height of Mount Everest on your stairs. Exercise has been proven to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative mood. It can improve self-esteem and brain power. And it’s even been found to help with low self-esteem and social withdrawal. In fact, walking for an hour a day or running for 15 minutes can reduce the risk of depression by 26%.

Lots of us started new exercise ideas during lockdown. If your enthusiasm has waned or if you never got started at all, here are a few ideas for getting more active. If Captain Tom can do it, so can we!

  • Make small changes to your routine. Take the stairs, not the lift. Walk to the shops, don’t drive. As the saying goes, every little helps.
  • Try something new. There are more online classes available than ever before, so you can try new forms of exercising without leaving home.
  • Get outdoors. Nature has its own healing powers and spending some time surrounded by green can have a powerful effect. Depending on the COVID restrictions in your area, going for a walk with friends or family can also be a great way to stay in touch.

Mindfulness tip: when you next go for a walk, see how many different colour leaves you can spot. Think about how many sounds you can hear. Paying attention to your surroundings can help you to stay more aware of the present.

3) Stay connected

Some of us are in crowded homes with children bouncing off the walls. Others are struggling with the lack of social connection. There is Zoom, of course, but video calls aren’t quite the same as a good face-to-face chat.

Did you know that social isolation is a key trigger for mental illness? Our relationships with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues are all important for keeping us healthy. When you’re not feeling good, it can be tempting to burrow down and spend time recuperating. But too much of a good thing can be counter-productive.

What we can do depends on the COVID restrictions in our area, but here are a few ideas that will help you to Enjoy Better Mental Health through connection during lockdown:

  • Look into volunteering. There are lots of new groups that could do with a hand. You’ll benefit from the social interaction and the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from doing good.
  • Slow down and pay attention to the people around you. Rather than waving at your neighbour, how about stopping for a chat?
  • Get organised and schedule social calls at least once a day – online or on the phone. It might feel a little odd to start with, but will pay off in terms of connectedness.

Mindfulness tip: at MindPanda, we’re big fans of journaling. Keep a written log of your week and always include a section on things you’re grateful for. Not only will it help you to reflect on what’s working for you (and what isn’t), it will also make sure you’re tuned in to all the positive things in your life.

Want to hear about some more mindfulness research to help you Enjoy Better Mental Health? Harvard psychologists have found a positive connection between gratitude and happiness.

4) Learn something new

There must be lots of us who are heartily fed up with the sight of our sitting room walls. Learning something new can boost our mental wellbeing, boosting confidence and self-esteem. It can also be another opportunity to Enjoy Better Mental Health on the level of connection.

It might be learning mindfulness meditation, trying a new recipe or taking a different route on your walk. Even small changes in our daily routine can really shake things up. Breaking up monotony forces us to consider a new perspective – and helps to break up any negative thought patterns that might be taking hold.

Dancing for better mental health

There’s no end of things you could try. Here are a few of our favourite ideas for shaking things up a little:

Try drinking a big glass of water first thing in the morning for the next ten days. We’re often dehydrated after sleeping and having a drink of the clear stuff first thing can work wonders. What’s your morning routine and what could you tweak to set yourself up for a great day?

If you’re working from home, are you doing more hours than usual? It can easily happen, as boundaries between home life and work life get blurred. Talk to your colleagues to find a better balance between discussion and heads-down concentration. You could also create a stop-working trigger, like putting away your laptop (or even your desk, depending on where in the house you’re working).

Have a declutter day. With so much time at home, it’s easy for things to get misplaced. You might not want to go through the full-on Marie Kondo experience. But creating new space and maybe even adding a nice pot plant or two will give you a much nicer place to hang out. What will you change first?

Dance like no one’s watching, while you do the housework. (Maybe check that no one’s watching first.) Not only will the exercise do you good, taking a new approach to a familiar task can refresh your mind without a whole lot of preparation.

Mindfulness tip: if you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, why not try our 30 Days of Mindfulness course? With boredom-busting ideas and relaxing exercises, it’s already in use by healthcare professionals across the country.

5) Get help and give back

There’s a lot we can do to look after and enjoy better mental and physical help. But if it’s not working out, please do ask for help. Reach out to friends and family, or get in touch with your GP. It’s so much better to get help early, before you reach the end of your tether. There are lots of online organisations available too.

It looks like coronavirus is here to stay a while. With long winter months and little light ahead, making a priority of mental health is important. Many of us are struggling on some level this year, so thinking about what we can do for each other is important. Maybe it’s volunteering; maybe it’s a friendly smile and chat. If we stick together, it’ll work out better for everyone.

So what are you doing this autumn to Enjoy Better Mental Health? We’d love to hear from you. Please drop us a line in the comments below. Stay safe and stay well.