This past week has been national self-care week. As we approach the busy and somewhat stressful time of Christmas, I'd like to share some self-care tips to make sure you don't burn yourself out this festive season.
Many people suffer from some form of mental health issues, 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience some form of mental illness every year. This is a very broad scale of what this could cover from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, OCD and many more, a lot of these can be exacerbated by everyday stresses such as money problems or difficulties in work or family life. Especially during this time of year, with Christmas approaching, many people find it to be a stressful time concerning money and pressure to find the right gifts, a lot of people struggle with feeling lonely around this time also. Furthermore, as the nights are now significantly longer, many people suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder, when depression symptoms are more severe and recur during the winter months. These issues people are experiencing all year round but perhaps moreso this time of year, may be left untreated and sufferers aren't taking action to self-care and seek the help they need or the steps to look after themselves.
As this week (14th - 20th November) is self-care awareness week lead by the Self-Care Forum, I wanted to share a few of my simple tips below. Self-care is empowering and educating people to look after themselves, and to recognise when more serious intervention is needed for themselves. Self-care is accepting the responsibility to care for yourself in simple everyday tasks such as brushing your teeth, personal hygiene etc, and also in treating yourself for minor physical ailments such as a cough or cold and finding the right treatment by yourself. I focus a lot on self-care through this blog generally by providing recipes and natural home remedies, but this post will be specifically aimed towards helping your mental health by knowing when to switch off and look after yourself to prevent a burnout or nervous breakdown.
1 // Do something for you. Take time out to watch your favourite film or tv show and make yourself your favourite meal/drink. Run yourself a big, bubbly bath surrounded by candles and pamper yourself for an hour, tell your family 'do not disturb' for just one hour, put your phone on silent - they will survive an hour without you. You deserve a treat and to do some TLC for yourself.
2 // Immerse yourself in nature. Find out where your nearest park or public footpath is even just a field will do and go for a gentle walk (some gentle exercise in itself will do a world of good!), appreciate the sounds and sights and observe the season at this moment in time - kick the leaves or splash around in a puddle, stare at the stars in the night sky, sit and watch the tides move back and forth. The world is such a vast and incredible place we completely take for granted when too wrapped in our own day-to-day problems! If you are unable to make it outside, listen to sounds of the ocean or a rainy thunderstorm they are surprisingly incredibly relaxing and soothing.
3 // Speak to a close friend or family member. They care about you too! Have a giggle, remicinisce on old times, catch up on the present, make plans for the future over a glass of wine or a hot chocolate! Don't forget the other man's best friend, if you have a pet at home (or borrow a pet from a friend/family member!), give them a cuddle, you care for and treat your lil furbaby so well and should do the same for yourself!
4 // Mindfulness. I'm sure you must've heard people banging on about this and getting bored of hearing about mindfulness by now, but it is because it's such a wonderfool tool to have under your belt whenever you need to calm down/unwind anytime of the day. Mindfulness is essentially meditation but is a lot easier and less pressure (and there are no chants!), there are some great apps such as Headspace and Take A Break, or search for 'mindfulness exercises' on Youtube and you can choose which video length for how long you want to meditate for. So then you can access the exercises from your phone and you can play through a mindfulness technique for just 10 minutes if that's all the time you have spare, first thing in the morning, last thing at night or in between meetings at work to help you stay calm and focused.
5 // Do a random act of kindness. I know this about self-care but helping others is the biggest boost, making someone else smile will make you smile! It doesn't have to be huge just sending a friend a postcard that makes you laugh, popping round to your elderly neighbour's house for a cup of tea, baking your family a cake - one small part of your day could make someone else's entire day turn around for the better and knowing that makes you feel great too!
There are many herbs that can treat a wide range of disorders affecting the nervous system for conditions such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and mild depression. Some herbal examples are: Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is used mainly to treat anxiety and onset insomnia, Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and Passionflower (Passiflora officinalis) are great for reducing nervous tension and uplifting the spirit, German Chamomile (Matricaria officinale) sedates the nervous system. St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a well-known herb typically used to treat mild depressive states. Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera) is an Ayurvedic adaptogenic herb which means it will boost your energy whilst bringing stress levels down and can help with sleep also. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is one of my favourites as a relaxing essential oil, you can add a few drops to an oil burner or mist over your pillow to relax before bed. Of course, as always please do make an appointment with your herbalist to ensure you are taking the correct dose and the herbs aren't interacting with any other medicines or supplements.
If you are experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, low mood, urge to self-harm, low energy or lack of motivation; please contact a health professional, your local GP or Medical Herbalist will be able to refer you or give you appropriate treatment needed. If you need to speak to somebody right away follow this link to find a list of crisis hotline numbers so you can ring the most relevant one to how you are feeling now.
My name is Helen Davison and I'm a NIMH registered practising Medical Herbalist based in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. I've had a keen interest in herbal remedies since my early teens and would experiment creating my own balms and bath bombs using natural ingredients, which prompted me in discovering and pursuing a career in Western Herbal Medicine.