Posted on 03 March 2017
It’s a paradox of everyday life. When we are mentally calm, feeling at our best and generally all right with the world it is not too difficult to take care of ourselves both mentally and physically.
I’m sure this will ring a bell. If you are feeling okay and generally positive about the world, it seems much easier to do all those things you know will make you feel better.
You may eat your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day (or even the newly recommended 10!) and enjoy making healthy meals. You drink plenty of water and take regular exercise. You find time for your hobbies and interests.
Without realising it you will probably be looking after your mental health by doing things you find enjoyable and calming. This will vary from person to person, but will often include being in nature, spending time with pets and animals, being with your family. Many people also try more ways of ‘looking after yourself’, such as mindfulness, meditation, or self-hypnosis.
Everything looks good, but then it can change.
If your anxiety levels start to go up, things can change for the worse and change can happen quite quickly. It is very easy for these good ways of living your life to go out of the window. You may begin to alter your eating habits and start to snack on sugary and junk foods more, you may drink too much, then you stop going for that walk which you know does you so much good. You are on a slippery slope and you are starting to not feeling so good. Things crowd in and you cannot even remember how you managed to do the things which made you feel so much better.
It is easy to get into this vicious circle. You start feeling worse mentally and before you know it your lifestyle is actually hindering your well-being.
If this scenario is familiar to you, then it is time to learn how to protect yourself. I am going with current thinking here, where ‘self-care’ has become something of a buzzword. There are many resources out there, but much of the advice seems no more than common sense. If you have looked at these, you may have tutted in impatience and closed the website or shut the book, feeling patronised and treated like a bit of an idiot. But before you dismiss self-care, let’s look at it from a different angle.
Putting the concept of self-care in your life means you are giving yourself time to look after yourself and this can be a benefit in itself.
What you are doing is devoting some time on a regular basis to check out how you are feeling and doing something about it. Taking self-care seriously means you need to ask yourself some important questions. Are you eating, exercising and playing? Are you happy with your surroundings and environment? Are you coping with those stress points? Are your anxiety levels at an acceptable level for you? If you get into a habit of answering these questions you will get an early warning if your answers are turning negative. You will know quickly if things start to go awry and you can take action.
Another way self-care can help is to make you face up to the importance of making time in your life. It can pull you back if you hit one of those periods in life where you are very busy, and feel you do not have enough time to look after yourself. You may be heading for that promotion by working serious amounts of overtime, but if you begin to spot that this is increasing your anxiety and making it difficult to cope, then it is time to reassess.
One of the best explanations of self-care I have seen is this with its emphasis on taking stock and understanding that it can be hard to spot problems when you are experiencing problems.
Self-care has a place in a healthy life but if you are suffering from anxiety it might be that you need outside help.
Anxiety has deep roots, often based in earlier experiences and beliefs. If the ways we see our world are making us unhappy then it can often take targeted and specific work to change this. I do this sort of thing in my anxiety hypnotherapy clinics in London’s Harley Street and in Henley on Thames. The treatment is often quite quick and its effects are long-lasting.
If you suffer from anxiety, I would strongly advise you seek professional help. Then set up a good self-care regime. Perhaps a good analogy is buying a car. You buy a lovely shiny new car (that is coming to see me), but then it’s important to make sure you look after it (that is self-care).
Look after yourselves.
Anxiety can affect us all, even those who many of us would envy for their seemingly perfect lives. So, it is so good to hear this story from Anna Williamson, who has not only combatted her anxiety, but has added helping others to her already bright and full career.
By her mid-twenties, it looked like TV presenter Anna Williamson had it all. Secretly, however she was plagued by anxiety and having panic attacks. It was so bad that she says she “wanted to die.”
She overcame her anxiety by using talking therapies and developing a regime using self-hypnosis and meditation. Now in her 30s Anna is now a counsellor and NLP practitioner as well as an ambassador for the mental health charity Mind. She is determined to help others overcome the problems. She advocates taking ‘me time’ to look after yourself and has recently written a book which she hopes will help others. You can read more about Anna’s story here
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