Factors that can affect emotional health and what can help

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“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behaviour. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain” Eckhart Tolle

There are many factors which can affect our emotional well-being including stress, difficulties in relationships, rumination and bullying.

Stress

If a person is under a lot of stress in their lives this can affect both their physical and mental health. Some stress is good in a person’s life but it can be a problem if it is excessive and unmanaged. Hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are produced as part of the “fight or flight” response.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. Cortisol triggers the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Stress can play a role in anxiety, panic attacks and Depression. It can affect relationships as the person may become more irritable and find it hard to relax.

Some tools that may be used in stress management include Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, watch diet / alcohol / caffeine, exercise, learning to breath properly, time management, cutting back on responsibilities if possible or delegation, self-awareness and keeping a journal. Mental / physical health requires daily work. For some more than others. It’s important not to develop unhelpful or damaging ‘coping mechanisms’ e.g. using alcohol to excess.

Difficulties in relationships

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space, In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness” Viktor Frankl

Having difficulties in relationships with others can affect mental health. Our early relationships with our caregivers are important. To flourish people need safe and secure attachments in the early years.

Human beings are social creatures and their experiences and interactions with others is an important part of everyday living. Isolation from others can affect mental health.

If you feel betrayed by others this can affect your future relationships. Difficulties in relationships should be addressed sooner rather than later. Good communication is key. Sometimes a mediator may be necessary. A person can work on their interpersonal skills. It’s important to show respect when communicating with others e.g. not to resort to name calling or abuse. Be “the best possible version of yourself” while not allowing others to take advantage of you. Learn how to use positive influencing tactics with others as opposed to forceful or nagging ones e.g. nudge theory.

Rumination

“Most of the shadows in this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Rumination involves going over things repeatedly in your mind, sometimes in an obsessive way. If we overthink negative experiences or are hard on ourselves, blame ourselves and feel guilty, this leaves less time for enjoyment of life. This can lead to increased levels of anxiety and affect mood.

Over thinking doesn’t change what happened in the past. There is some overlap between techniques used in Stress Management and what can help rumination. Useful tips in coping with rumination include:

  • Identify the thought or fear

  • Think about the worse case scenario

  • Let go of what you can’t control

  • Look at mistakes as learning opportunities

  • Schedule a worry break

  • Mindfulness

  • Exercise

  • For more deep seated long term issues Psychotherapy may be helpful [1].

CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) might also help [2] and keeping a journal.

It is important to wind down in the evening and avoid over-stimulation e.g. Stepping away from social media and being disciplined around that. For some social media can be addictive. The light emitted by screens can affect sleep. Sleep is an important part of physical / emotional well being.

Bullying

“Bullying is defined by the Department of Education and Skills guidelines as unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical, conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time. Placing a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image or statement on a social network site or other public forum where that message, image or statement can be viewed and/or repeated by other people is also regarded as bullying behaviour. Bullying can occur at any age, in any environment, and can be long or short-term” [3].

Tips on “How can I help my teenager respond to bullying” can be found in a Barnardo’s document on positive parenting [4]. Example tip ~ “showing little reaction or response can be a useful tool”. The document also includes advice on what not to do.

Exercises that can help improve our emotional well being

“Make a list of the areas in your life that feel like a struggle. Use this writing time to let it all out; write until you feel complete. After journaling take a moment to feel all of the sensations in your body, mind, and heart associated with your writing. Take a deep breath in, using your breath to send gentle love and light to any place within that feels tense, uneasy, heavy, or conflicted. Visualize all feelings of struggle being released as you exhale” ~ From Oprah Winfrey / Deepak Chopra 21 day meditations in 2013 [5].

“Write yourself a self-care plan for this week. How can you take good care of yourself? What things can you plan to incorporate into your week that nourish and fuel you?” From Oprah / Deepak Chopra 21 day meditations, 2013.

Vision Board

A Vision Board is a useful tool that can be used to create a picture of what type of future a person would like to work towards. It is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations of dreams and desires. It can help bring to light goals in a creative way. There are plenty of online resources that describe Vision Boards in more detail. The picture at the top of this blog is one I created a while back. It includes aspects of my past, present and future and what I consider to be some of my priorities on my Life journey.

Having structure in life and managing time

Dr. Daniel Siegel looked at how we can use our time so that it supports our well-being and inner growth. He list seven ways to spend time [6]:

  • Sleep time – Getting a full night’s restful sleep

  • Physical time – Taking time to move and let your body be active

  • Focus time – Being alone for a while to concentrate on what matters to you

  • Time in – Taking time for meditation, prayer, or self-reflection

  • Downtime – Setting aside time to simply to be here

  • Play time – to have fun and enjoy yourself

  • Connecting time – between you and those you love and care for

If the person gets the balance right between minding themselves but also challenging themselves, they are more likely to enjoy life and experience peace of mind.

Bibliotherapy

Bibliotherapy, the therapeutic aspect that sometimes comes from reading, is a useful aspect of recovery if the person enjoys reading or would like to get into reading. There are a lot of great authors out there eg Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Stephen Covey and Sadhguru. Some of these authors/motivational speakers can help a person understand how to live more in the present and how to overcome any negative thinking patterns. Recovery can involve learned habits that need to be unlearned. Some have good talks on youtube.

Meditation

Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.” Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Meditation can be practiced at night and in the morning or whenever suits the person. There are lots of useful resources out there that can help a person learn more about this [7].

Mindfulness

“Mindfulness is the Psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.” (Definition on Wikipedia).

Some of the experts in this field include Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now), Thich Nhat Hanh and Jon Kabat-Zinn. See Other Useful Resources below.

Exercise

As physical and mental health are very much connected, it is good to set some goals for fitness or at least to make exercise a part of a daily and weekly routine. Sometimes medication may have led to weight gain so it may be necessary to set targets for weight loss and possibly join a gym or a weight loss class. In my own routine I like to take a few minutes in the morning to do some Yoga stretches, sometimes with a video [8]. It’s also good to get out into green areas and away from traffic.

Social Inclusion

People with mental health difficulties sometimes end up feeling socially excluded. A person who has been through emotional distress may need help with this. Some people may need support in recognising patterns of behaviour that may lead to exclusion and to work on improving that area of their life e.g. where there are addiction issues.

Integration into community life is a goal in recovery, as isolation and withdrawal from society can hinder progress. Goals can be set and time frames that will assist the person in participating in and becoming a productive member of society. Local sports activities, clubs and events could be looked into depending on the interests of the person e.g. drama groups, dance classes, a cycling or walking club. That would enable the person to meet new people and possibly establish friendships, thus broadening their social circle. It would also help them build up their self-confidence. When someone has been through trauma and distress, their self confidence can be low and sometimes their trust in other people. This may need to be rebuilt.

Depending on the person and what they would like to achieve, some voluntary work could be looked into e.g. working to help raise money for those who are experiencing homelessness.

There are various organisations that run courses. In the Midlands in Ireland the Dr. Steven’s Centre provide QQI courses in computer skills, Personal Development, Communication skills, Customer Service, work experience etc Through courses people get to meet others, develop their skills and sometimes get back into the work force.

Social media can be a great way to connect to others. You also need to be able to protect yourself from any bullying and step away from communications that you are not comfortable with. Internet safety is important for adults and children [9]. Unless you are self-disciplined about time spent on social media it can take up a lot of time and become an addiction in itself.

Motivation

“As you reflect on your heart’s deepest desires know that it is inspiration paired with action that activates the path to making your dreams come to life” Deepak Chopra

A golden rule is “Action leads to Motivation” [2]. A diary can help and small goals each day. For longer term goals a Life Coach may be useful. Writing in a journal can assist a person in organising their thoughts and feelings.

If a person is lacking energy and motivation the drugs they are on may need to be reduced slowly under the supervision of a doctor, as some prescribed psychoactive drugs can have a very tranquilizing effect.

As part of daily work on my physical / mental health I try to get the day off to a good start with a few Yoga stretches, some meditation and a healthy breakfast and make that a habit.

Conclusion

When you find yourself getting caught up in the twists and turns of life, become aware of what brings you back into balance. For me it is important to breath correctly, not to catastrophise and think the worst, Yoga, mindfulness, meditation, to get outdoor light, to be solution focused and to be kind to myself. Nutrition and Sleep are very important. Also for life to have some purpose or meaning and to be able to spend time with friends or family without conflict. Downtime can become harder with access to the internet. That is where self-discipline comes in.

References

[1] 8 Tips to Help Stop Ruminating by Lauren Feiner ~

https://psychcentral.com/blog/8-tips-to-help-stop-ruminating/

[2] “The Feeling Good Handbook” by David D. Burns (CBT) ~

www.amazon.com/Feeling-Good-Handbook-David-Burns/dp/0452281326

[3] Bullying in Schools ~ http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/education/primary_and_post_primary_education/attendance_and_discipline_in_schools/bullying_in_schools_in_ireland.html

[4] Parenting Positively ~ Helping Teenagers to Cope with Bullying ~

https://www.barnardos.ie/assets/files/publications/free/Teenagers%20and%20Bullying_web.pdf

[5] Oprah and Deepak 21 Day meditation experience ~
https://chopracentermeditation.com (Free 21 day meditations every few months).

[6] Dr Dan Siegel ~ The Healthy Mind Platter ~
http://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/healthy_mind_platter/

[7] Back To Basics Guided Meditation: For beginners & returning meditation users ~

by Jason Stephenson ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzV6J4WCwRM

[8] Flexibility and Range of Motion, Beginner Yoga With Tara Stiles ~
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PgIfOOHwH8

[9] Top Ten Internet Safety Tips – Ensuring Online Safety For Your Family ~
https://www.netnanny.com/learn-center/safety-tips/

Other useful Resources

* Dr Chatterjee ~ Episode 11: Good Sleep Habits & Sleep Misconceptions with Dr Guy Meadows ~
https://drchatterjee.com/guymeadows/

* A Pragmatic Guide to the Power of the Now by Eckhart Tolle ~
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykmwCyHlDXM

* Eckhart Tolle’s Top 10 Rules For Success ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1Zc7EYXdds

* Thich Nhat Hanh ~
https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/

* Thich Nhat Hanh interview with Oprah Winfrey on compassionate listening. Can help with difficult relationships ~ http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/thich-nhat-hanh-on-compassionate-listening-video

* Jon Kabat Zinn Breathscape And Bodyscape guided meditation, mindfulness 20 mins ~
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbXUAg5tA0s

* Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Jon Kabat-Zinn, 2013 ~
https://www.amazon.com/Full-Catastrophe-Living-Revised-Illness/dp/0345536932

* 3 Definitions of Mindfulness That Might Surprise You ~
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-matters-most/201711/3-definitions-mindfulness-might-surprise-you

* Anti-bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary schools ~
https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Policy-Reports/Anti-Bullying-Procedures-for-Primary-and-Post-Primary-Schools.pdf

* Sticks and Stones anti-bullying programme ~
http://www.sticksandstones.ie/anti-bullying-programme/resources/helplines/

* A National Anti-Bullying website ~ http://tacklebullying.ie/

* The Happiness Habit by Brian Colbert ~

www.amazon.com/Happiness-Habit-Choose-Path-Better/dp/0717147762

* List of Wayne Dyer books ~
https://www.drwaynedyer.com/products/

Books for Children

* Relax Kids: Aladdin’s Magic Carpet: And other Fairy Tale Meditations for Princesses and Superheroes by Marneta Viegas, 2004 ~
https://www.amazon.com/Relax-Kids-Meditations-Princesses-Superheroes/dp/1903816661

* Where is Happy? by Lou Lou Rose ~ https://www.lilliputpress.ie/product/where-is-happy

* Its Always There – Childrens Meditation ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTIsv9CFuNQ

{ Louise Shanagher is a children’s therapist that provides creative and wellbeing workshops, mindfulness classes as well as individual therapy sessions. Louise along with talented artist Rose Finnerty produced a series of children’s books }

 

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