Our wellbeing is so important for our happiness and quality of life yet so many of us push it to one side or overlook it!
For me, Autumn a significant time of year. It’s my absolute favourite time of year for a start. Not only the nearing of the festive season but the beauty of the changing season. The colours. The food. The weather cooling, I much prefer the cooler months.
I love noticing the warm glow from the neighbours living room lamps spilling through their curtains. The cosy feeling I get when I see a cluster of crispy leaves scamper down the road carried on a gust of wind.
In my house, following the return to school, we also have my daughters birthday in October. Then the cat. Halloween. My sons Birthday and the big guy comes tearing down that chimney just six weeks after that. It’s an exciting time of year, filled with celebration, family and excuses to do fun stuff around every single corner.
I’m torn between my love for Autumn and winter while these months are also the hardest of the year for our wellbeing.
As the season’s change and evenings draw in, it also brings an intense range of physical, emotional and mental challenges.
These are my challenges. I’m sure for others there’s a range of other Mental health issues made worse by the winter.
I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression since I was 15 years old. It’s taken me a long time to gradually work with it and take care of my own wellbeing. I now and manage to keep ticking over nicely with only manageable anxious moments here and there.
If you are an ongoing sufferer or maintainer like me, these coming months are significant ones. Stay vigilant to stop dark clouds forming a claustrophobic grey sky over your sense of wellbeing.
It’s really important to think carefully about your self-care from around the end of September. Start working on prevention rather than getting to the spring and be in the need to seek a cure!
So here are my tips for staying positive
keep the sun shining through those grey clouds all the way to spring. Don’t forget prevention is far better than cure!
I’m starting with this because it’s the most important and effective way to boost your mental health.
First and foremost, it’s a proven fact that exercise reduces cortisol the stress hormone. Releases endorphins and has a very similar effect to an antidepressant in your brain. It has an immediate effect on the brain as well as a lasting effect on our wellbeing.
If your an anxiety sufferer it’s likely you already have a strong workout routine in place by now. It’s really important not to let it slip and actually increase it through the coming months if you can.
It’s recommended that you do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of physical activity per week for good mental health.
Also, a good exercise routine will motivate you to achieve all of the other tips. It will trigger your mind to eat, sleep and feel better and motivate you to look after yourself.
I try to get my work-out done in the morning.
There are so many benefits to doing exercise at the beginning of the day. Such as boosting metabolism. Burns fat more effectively. Will engage your brain and boost productivity and simply wake you up. So if you can this is when to do it.
In the winter, I am NOT one of these people. In the summer it’s no problem. I will naturally wake up when the sun wakes me ( or my little rays of sunshine). When the weather turns cold and I have to drag my tired asrse downstairs shivering, in the dark, with my sports bra over my Pj’s and dressing gown over the top – Not gonna happen!
I find this creates more stress and I actually start to feel nervous of the morning the night before. So from September to around Feb/ March I change my exercise routine and do it in the evening instead.
I know if I do a work out in the morning I am more alert, less agitated and function better all around. I think ‘healthier’ and clearer but I will dread it to the point where I won’t do it, a month goes by and I’m on a slow and steady track to SAD.
Find your rhythm
See what works best and don’t be stuck doing something because you think you should. Find what works, whatever it is.
For anxiety in particular Exercise, outside is by far the best form
Through the summer this is easy peasy. In fact, you probably do it by accident. In the winter it’s important to make a conscious effort to combine both.
I Do a good workout in the evening or yoga or combine a 15 min HIIT with 15 min yoga. I then compensate by doing lots of autumn walking with the kids as well and walking to school.
If I feel sluggish in the morning or need a boost I’ll put the music on and dance around the kitchen or run up and down the stairs a few times.
It’s a good idea to invest in a SAD lamp to use while you exercise to double up on serotonin levels. We’ll talk more about his later.
Types of exercise you can include
It’s not as easy to get out to public places as it used to be but since Lockdown. However, We do have a massive increase in home workout quantity and quality.
You can find videos for almost everything on youtube, Instagram, or Facebook.
I follow the Own your own goals programme. OYG has loads of choice so you can pick what you fancy that day, plus extra on the community groups and social media.
Hiit – Brilliant for really getting a sweet on and raiding your heart rate.
Weights – Often people don’t think of this as the right workout if you’re not trying to become a super muscly bodybuilder. Working on your strength it is just as effective for boosting mood as any other exercise.
Cycling – Getting outside and can include the kids or friend. I’m a big fan of activities that include children. It enforces the importance of exercise as a part of life. It’s another exercise that doubles up on getting outside.
Running – Why not pick up the pace on your next walk. Run back from dropping the kids at school, or on your next walk, Run!
Classes – You’ll need to check the COVID regulations beforehand and maybe book ahead. Or find Outdoor classes.
Gym – Book ahead and check COVID regulations
Swimming – Book ahead and check COVID regulations
Trampolining – Trampoline parks are amazing exercise. I didn’t realise how energetic it was until I took my daughter. I had to go on with her I felt like I’d done an hour of intense cardio. It’s really great fun and a brilliant way to get an extra session in at the weekend with the family
Skipping – Outside in the Garden or in front of the TV if you’re looking for a quick heart-raiser
Excercise on Instagram and Facebook groups communities is a good way to find free workouts that suit you
You can sign up to Programmes such as Davina McCall- Own Your Own Goals, Chris Hemsworth –Centr , Ella Mills – Deliciously Ella, They offer a paid subscription and often a free trial so you can try before you buy. It usually works out way cheaper than the gym.
Yoga has become a massively popular type of exercise and it’s no wonder with its many stress-busting benefits.
For a start it’s exercise, and following on from the fact that exercise in itself is proven to release endorphins and combat an umbrella of mental health issues. It’s fab if you’re not into jumping about doing cardio and running. The calmer and slow-moving technique is still a really effective workout.
Yoga is particularly good for stress and anxiety. It combines deep breathing with stretching and toning techniques along with visualisation building on mindfulness techniques.
When performed regularly you’ll build strength in your muscles and achieve new poses giving you a real sense of achievement.
In particular, The breathing techniques generate a state of relaxation by slowing the heart rate down.
Bringing the mind into the present. The physical effects of the poses will ease and release tension in the muscles.
Yoga combines mind and body awareness. These build a long-lasting resilience against stress, aids in sleep or can set a calm and present tone to your day. Yoga incorporating PMR techniques to help to reverse the arousal of the fight or flight response.
Yoga can also be combined as a cool down to a workout routine
Walking is a great way to get outside and get your body moving, Try to keep up a good speed to increase your heart rate to get the best benefit.
When talking anxiety I don’t find walking alone is enough. You will probably need to include some good blood pumping, sweaty exercise at least once or twice a week to make sure you stay really balanced.
Walking can be a great tool to double up with some other techniques so secure good mental health.
Tree’s are glorious, I’m a big fan of trees. It’s so important to be getting outside into the sunlight. As it starts to disappear we need to grab it where we can. Take a walk through the woods every now and again to reconnect with nature soak up some sun. – if you can find any!
Caffeine Will increase your awareness and stops you feeling tired but in the process will trigger your adrenaline hormone.
Anxiety is fuelled by adrenaline, by stimulating your fight or flight response.
Any anxiety sufferer will need to be very careful in general about the amount of caffeine they consume to keep a balanced level of adrenaline in your system. It increases your heart rate, rapid breathing which increases stress. Interrupts sleep, increases alertness and acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system.
Caffeine can actually make you more fatigued!
If you’re dependent on a lot of coffee throughout your day this can actually be because as the caffeine leaves your system you are getting a ‘low’. This makes you feel more tired which, you’ll then need more and more to boost your energy, sometimes even leading to addiction
Caffeine is not all bad it doesn’t have some health benefits. It can improve energy levels and make you smarter by improving mental function, increases fat burn, increase physical performance, does contain some useful nutrients, reduces the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, can reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. It’s up to you to figure out if caffeine has a place in your life.
When we think of caffeine we think coffee. right! but its actually also in things like chocolate or cocoa, energy drinks, tea, green tea, cola, and even some medication like cough syrup and slimming tablets.
Caffeine-free and herbal teas
Herbal teas are a good way to get some plant power into your system. Using the right types of ingredients can boost your serotonin and help balance hormones.
The very first step in the self-care ritual is to add a range of my decaf favourites. Along with some herbals teas to my first weekly shop of October.
I also add spices such as ginger, turmeric and cinnamon to make some beautiful autumn elixirs. Boost immunity and taste like autumn.
There are some really beneficial health benefits to drinking herbal teas and plant infused drinks. They can add vitamins and minerals. Boosting the immune system. Aids sleep. Contain antioxidants. fight disease and infection. For this particular post aid sleep and de-stress. Depending on the plants your using.
Things to look out for to combat anxious mood or depression are.:
Passionflower Camomile Lemon balm St johns wart Peppermint Lavender and Valerian. There are hundreds of combinations in various supermarkets, health food shops, and online sources like Etsy and Holland and Barrett, Twinings, Tea pigs and The Tea Makers. . There are many many more but these are some of my favourite places to buy from and brands.
If you have Greenfingers you can also buy the plants from a garden centre and make fresh. Pop some of the plants in a beaker to infuse throughout the day. Preferably smash them up a bit, pour boiling water over them leave to cool. Then pop in the fridge the next day to get the most out of the plant and a stronger infusion.
Things like camomile, passionflower is particularly good. They’re good for calming the mind and boosting serotonin. If your likely to have a hot choc or cuppa before bed try swapping it for a Sleep tea. I drink this any time of day I love the autumn flavour and doesn’t make you want to drop off. It has more of a calming and relaxing quality. You could try sipping on something to boost your immune systems Like a fresh batch of ginger and lemon. Or a decaf version of what you love
If you’re used to drinking a lot of caffeine-based drinks you will need to wean off gradually to avoid withdrawal. This is done simply by reducing your intake over time. Start by reducing the amount of coffee each day. Also, change the time you have it. If it’s usually when you wake up to leave it until when you get to work. Then have it with lunch. Eventually, when you’re down to one and you’ve moved it around a bit you’ll be able to swap to decaf. Have some painkillers handy in case you get a little headache but this will usually only last the day, then ease after a good nights sleep. It does depend on how much you drink as to how long to will take.
For some, a good stiff drink can help you to relax and calm you temporarily. The odd glass here and there can be beneficial, even a social benefit.
However, a lot of the time alcohol can have a detrimental effect on your anxiety levels. This is usually when the alcohol begins to wear off. A glass of wine every evening can leave you in a continuous state of heightened anxiety. As the alcohol leaves your system every morning, in turn, keeping you in a constant anxious state.
My advice is to enjoy a drink on occasion but try to keep it to planned events (without bing drinking ). Even if that event is a dinner at home or movie night with a glass of wine. This will enable you to be aware of the effects on the body. You are in control. You know that your anxiety may increase temporarily but will subside as long as your not repeating too often.
SAD lamps or Light therapy are designed to use an intense light that mimics sunlight. They reduce the level of melatonin and increase serotonin.
Melatonin is the hormone that triggers sleep while serotonin your happy hormone.
Using a SAD Lamp during the darker months can help to lift the mood. You can opt to seek out a venue to do Light therapy. There are a number of different home lamps you can buy and ways to use them.
Try a SAD alarm clock to wake you up in the morning or SAD light bulbs and desk lamps. You’ll also need to be careful not to use them in conjunction with your bedtime routine to avoid sleeplessness.
Let’s Talk about our DIET.
I’m a firm believer that we are what we eat. So it goes without saying what you consume is going to be a real key tool in these coming months. There are a few ingredients that are great for helping relieving stresses and feeding your brain.
As we head into Halloween fuelled with sweets. Then the Christmas season where the world is filled with mince pies and mulled wine and everything we long to indulge. It seems to last for months with goodies already being stocked a mile high in the shops to tempt us. It feels like it’s impossible to resist.
We want to be sure our bodies are ready to take the hit as soon as summer ends. Set our minds to the challenge that is CHRISTMAS!
Build some great eating strategies you can maintain through the winter to avoid piling on lbs, feeling sluggish and lethargic, even vitamin deficient. We’ve already talked about reducing your alcohol and caffeine.
Sugar is another big stimulant that we need to seriously take a look at.
Diets high in sugar are proven to increase the risk of depression. Sugar withdrawal can cause anxiety, irritability, headache, effect neurocognitive functions, effecting your decision making and memory.
A sugar rush will create extreme highs and lows which will increase the level of anxiety and lead to depression or mood disorders. Sugar reduces the body’s ability to cope with stress. Gives us blurry vision and makes it difficult to think.
Eating well will increase your mood, improve brain and gut functions and increase energy.
Nuts – Walnuts in particular Seeds – Pumpkin in particular Salmon camomile Turmeric Dark Chocolate Yoghurt Beans and Legumes Avacado Banana’s Olive oil Leafy Greens
You want to start looking at increasing your : omega 3 vegetables +fruit pulses + Legumes Good gut health yoghurt fermented foods wholegrains
Have a weekly plan. Decide on some nutritious ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner then allow for treats and snacks in moderation. Take all of your drinks into account too!
Try and make all your standard meals as nutritious as possible and plan in your indulgent treats. We have treats at the weekend and one weekday as we get closer to Christmas or Halloween. If an event comes up on a weekday just swap it for weekend treat days.
If you are struggling to stay on track keep a food diary. Keep track of what you eat as you would for a diet and look back to see how often you are making wise choices. Treats are as essential as nutrition. Food can be a social and pleasurable activity but stay in control.
You can do this by focussing the mind on a single thing and letting thoughts pass through. usually, Using the breath or using one of the senses.
There are so many ways you can incorporate this into your daily routine. Whether it’s an app on your phone like: Headspace, Calm or Smiling mind you can use before bed or when you wake up.
Practising some mindful eating, a mindful walk using some listening or visual techniques. or even starting with a mindful hug with the kids in the morning Check out my blog. It’s really easy to get on board and many people are swearing by mindfulness as an essential part of their or self-care and daily routine.
A long slow out-breath can slow the heart rate forcing your body into of state of relaxation. Try breathing IN for the count of 4, hold for 2 then breath OUT for the sound of 6.
If you’ve been diagnosed with mental health issues by your GP you may be asked to do CBT with a mental health therapist.
It is a talking therapy that helps by changing the way you think and behave. It works on your thought process and how you view certain situations and it turns how you react to them. In my opinion, it’s a fantastic tool that should be available to everyone to build a good framework for mental health in general.
The process teaches you how your thoughts, feelings and actions are connected and impact on each other.
You’ll learn how to keep perspective avoid judgement when dealing with difficult issues.
If you are feeling low your thoughts and feelings about a situation have a very different impact than if you are feeling content. With this, you can work with your fixed mindset to gain a more growth mindset. Create a more productive and resilient way of thinking and break negative cycles.
The phrases “laughter is the best medicine” and ” If I don’t laugh I’ll cry” didn’t come from nowhere.
Laughter if a powerful remedy for the body and soul.
You’ll boost your immune system. Dulls pain. Relaxes muscles in the body to relieve stress and releases endorphins- in a similar way to exercise.
A few years ago worked in an office with a group of my closest friends. We laughed constantly, at everything. I changed my job to one that turned out to be a hard lonely slog with relatively little human interaction. I noticed that I missed the laughter. The therapy I was getting every day from laughing with my friends had a huge impact on my mental health. I became down and low. I had no-one to laugh off difficult situations or make light of common problems. Magnifying them to the point where I was feeling unable to cope.
This, naturally, is where your social interaction plays a huge role. Humans are social animals. In fact, it’s one of the most important things in our lives.
People who have good quality friendships and relationships are scientifically proven to be happier and healthier and actually live longer.
Finding high-value friendships is a really important aspect of our lives. It’s not about the number of friends and how many followers you have on the gram’ or how many people you can say hello to in the local pub.
Real connections and relationships with likeminded people who bring a positive element and enhance your life are paramount for good health. Those who live a more solitary lifestyle are more likely to suffer from poor mental health.
Studies show that people who have a craft related hobby are decidedly more mentally healthy than those without.
There are so many crafts available now from baking, knitting, pottery, decoupage, crochet( a personal favourite). With Christmas and Halloween just around the corner, the possibilities are endless.
If you haven’t crafted before you can take the course online or at a local venue. YouTube is brilliant for learning new crafts, especially if you are completely new to it thee is no pressure to succeed. just start and pause when necessary.
Without it, our bodies don’t function but often I think people take its importance for granted.
The simple fact is poor sleep will cause you to struggle to deal with daily life. Thoughts can become distorted. Perspective can be lost. Your self-esteem lowers, we worry more when we are sleep deprived.
Have you ever been out for the evening without drinking and found you still feel as though you’ve woken up with a hangover? This is because the sleep deprivation on the body will have very similar effects?
Setting an evening routine is a really good way to trigger the brain to expect that sleep will be coming soon. Some actions in the day that will calm the mind start to transition into night increase melatonin.
My routine is very consistent. My children also have a bedtime routine because they can sometimes struggle to sleep. I set my routine to lead on from theirs.
I have to try harder to boost my melatonin before bed because I do my workout in the evening.
Before my children head upstairs I nip up close all the curtains. I turn the lights off, switch on the lamps so there is enough light to continue to get stuff done.
I switch on some meditation or yoga music on Spotify. Fill the bath, light some candles (unless the kids are alone upstairs). You can invest in some battery operated candles which we also have. Aromatherapy candles lead nicely to my next step.
Add a few drops of a relaxing essential oil as the bath runs. This infuses the house with a relaxing smell a really effective way to create those e triggers in the brain The children have a bath, I read a story while they have a snack and do a guided meditation. When they are nicely tucked up I head downstairs and create the same routine for myself.
I Switch off the lights and turn on lamps. Light some scented candles then clear up after the day – I’m sure this is something everyone does buts its actually a really important step. It creates an end to the day. A full stop. Everything is put away until the following day, this day is over now. Also, it helps for a peaceful morning too. waking up to mess and disorganisation is starting your day with stress almost as soon as you’ve opened your eyes.
I do my work out sometimes some yoga depending on my workout routine for that week. Brew a bedtime or herbal tea, go about my evening and head to bed around 10 pm to get ready and do some meditation to be ready for sleep at 10.30
Here are some things you can include in your routine
We already discussed caffeine is going to severely disrupt your sleep pattern. I recommend cutting the caffeinated drinks or switching to herbal from around 12 – 3 pm depending on ho your body response.
Don’t forget decaf coffee still contains some caffeine so go easy.
Herbal teas for bedtime such as Sleep tea, Camomile, chai, work well. Yorkshire decaf is great if you are a fan of an English breakfast brew. Pretty much any of the Herbals teas used to boost mood and relax you are a must.
Essential oil – These have a powerful effect on the brain. The head straight into the memory and emotions part of the brain ( don’t ask me what its called). That’s why certain smells will remind you of significant experience, person or possession. Good or bad. Similar scents at the same time every night will eventually trigger the brain to remember sleep mode. Along with adding a range of holistic benefits.
You can use them in products you might use in the evening. Essential oils in the bath or even bath products with the scents in. Oil burners. Scented candles or even a room spray.
Pure essential oils will have a far more beneficial effect on the mind and body than a perfume or fragrance.
Choose scents like Lavender, vanilla, sandalwood, jasmine, geranium, ylang-ylang cedarwood, chamomile and clary sage.
Warm bath – everybody loves a warm bath, don’t they? I actually don’t! I hate baths but I’m well aware I’m in the minority.
If your an evening bath-er you can incorporate a few steps all at once here. Light some candles in the room. Throw in some essential oils. Dim the lights. Play some meditation music and drinks a herbal tea. While you relax in the tub.
You could even have a pen and paper with you so you can jot down that thoughts or things to do empty your mind. Or lie peacefully in the warm water as it relaxes the physical you do your meditation while you soak.
Exercise and yoga – The perfect exercise routine would be a more vigorous exercise in the morning to wake you up and yoga in the evening. However, there are not a lot of people who have this much time on their hands. I sure as hell don’t have time for 2 woks outs a day. If you do great. Studies show that those who exercise anywhere in your day will still to burn energy better at night.
Dim the lights too much light before bed can alter the body’s natural sleep clock. We sleep at night because it’s dark.
Lights on bright will counteract the natural need for darkness. dimming the lights in the evening will help to ease into the seep transition.
Avoiding blue lights is also an important step. Blue lights from screens, energy bulbs, reduce melatonin production – the sleep hormone and increase cortisol – the stress hormone. This is pretty much self-explanatory really, isn’t it?
Go to bed the same time and get up at the same time to tune in your body clock or sleep clock. Your body will be used to needing sleep at those times of and it will l be easier to transition into sleep. Especially when eased into this with a good sleep routine. Check out the Happy Pear sleep tips
keep the room cooler. The bedroom should be around 16-18 degrees when you go to sleep. The body temperature naturally rises in sleep. A room that is too hot may cause you to feel stuffy and struggle to fall asleep. A cold room may also make you feel uncomfora]table and more alert.
Have a pen and paper next to the bed for jotting down thoughts, feelings and lists.
Journaling is a really good way to clear the mind of worries stresses and sits you may be creating.
The mind is working for us 24 hours a day. There is no off button and even when we sleep it can be working overtime.
Journalling your thoughts can be a powerful outlet. Many of us make lists to relieve our mind from the worry or trying to remember things have to do.
Try to keep them all in one place like a diary, note pad or even post its but all stuck in the same place
Journaling can help you organise and prioritise your thoughts. It’s as good as talking it out sometimes. Especially if it’s something you might be embarrassed about or struggle to speak about out loud. Often when you write it down it doesn’t sound as silly as you thought or you can organise your word. to enable you to vocalise.
Putting the contents of your mind on a piece of paper. Phone or laptop can transfer it from your mind to the exterior.
If you are worried about a consistent low or anxious mood You can use it to track your symptoms on a daily basis. If your mood its constantly low for more than two weeks without a break you could consider visiting the GP.
Add in affirmations, goals, grievances you can look back and gain perspective on the relevance of those thoughts. Take a look at unhealthy thought patterns
Or just put them all in a book like a morning journal to empty your brain and not look back.