Chloe posts

Sleep

Sleep is important for our mental health. Studies have shown that without sleep, it can be difficult for us to learn, be attentive and form new memories. Poor sleep has been linked to difficulties with information processing and concentration, and it can make us feel agitated and restless. When we are sleep deprived, it may also be harder for us to regulate our emotions and rationalize our thoughts. Sleep is so crucial because it gives our brain time to recharge, and it allows us to restore our energy.

Here are some ideas for improving sleep:

  1. Get into a routine

Though it is often a lot easier said than done, it can be useful to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This is helpful because it allows us to get into a pattern where we get tired at roughly the same time each night.

  1. Avoid using electrical devices before bed

Studies have shown that it is unhelpful to use screens with bright lights before sleeping, because light inhibits the production of melatonin (a hormone we need for sleep). I have found that it is helpful to keep my phone in a different room/away from my bed, so that I’m not tempted to look at it at night.

  1. Meditation and focusing on your breathing

It can be a good idea to do breathing, relaxation, or meditation exercises to calm yourself down before bed. Thinking of pleasant memories and calming thoughts can also be useful. I really like the Calm channel on YouTube for guided meditations, and the headspace app.

  1. Do something relaxing before sleeping

It can be helpful to read a book, have a hot bath, listen to relaxing music, or write in a journal before bed. I find that jotting down unresolved worries and anxieties before bed is useful because it gets them ‘out of my system’, and it helps me to stop worrying whilst I’m trying to sleep.

  1. Talk to someone

Sometimes poor sleep can be a sign of an underlying issue, such as stress at work, low mood, or a medical problem. It can be a good idea to talk to a friend you trust or your GP, as they might be able to offer advice, prescribe medication or figure out whether there may be an underlying condition that is affecting your sleep.

Healthy bedtime habits

Chloe posts

Everyday self-care

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When we are busy or stressed, it can seem impossible to fit everything in. When we are constantly faced with work pressures, deadlines, commitments and social events to attend, it can seem like our to-do list is never-ending. Life can be chaotic, and it can often feel like there is barely time to breathe. During these times, it’s important to remember that self-care isn’t always something that we always need to set big chunks of time aside for, but something that we can build into our everyday lives.

Self-care is so important because it helps us to stay mentally well. It is crucial to take regular breaks because they allow us to calm down and re-charge so that we can go back to our work with a clearer head. Here are some self-care ideas:

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Chloe posts

Mindfulness

I am a notoriously unobservant person. My friends and family often laugh at me, for failing to remember the route to a new place, notice a new shop that has sprouted on our street, or realise that the layout of our living room has completely changed. To many people this might seem crazy, but I know that I’m not alone in my unobservant tendencies. Many of us drift off into our own worlds much of the time, where we choose to over-analyse the past, or worry uncontrollably about the future, rather than live in the present. For this reason, being “off in our own world!” for a large chunk of time, might not be ideal for our mental health.

Have you ever travelled a familiar route on the bus or in the car, but felt completely oblivious to your surroundings throughout the trip? Or have you ever ventured on a long walk to ‘clear your head’, only to end up ruminating over the same thoughts, and failing to enjoy your surroundings? Mindfulness seeks to put an end to this. It is all about remaining in the present moment and enjoying and appreciating everything in it.

There are a variety of ways we can use mindfulness in our everyday lives. Mindfulness can be concentrating on each step of your morning routine, and noticing the sights, smells, tastes, and noises around you as you do this. For example, rather than thinking about your itinerary for the day while getting ready, you stop to observe how the shower water feels on your skin, the cute design on your coffee cup, and the texture of buttered toast in your mouth. You can also use mindfulness on the commute to work – rather than worrying about the argument you had with your housemate that morning, take time to really notice your surroundings. Look at the sky, the weather, listen to music, look at the people around you, and try to avoid going into ‘automatic pilot’, and getting lost in your thoughts.

There are mindfulness meditation tapes, books about mindfulness, apps for smartphones, mindfulness courses, and much more. Mindfulness meditation is particularly useful for relaxation and breathing exercises. It helps us to see thoughts and feelings as things that come and go, like a train passing through a station, rather than viewing thoughts as things that are fixed and constant in our minds. When our heads are swarming with negative thoughts, it can be seriously overwhelming, and it’s easy to think that we will feel this way forever. In these moments, it’s helpful to remember that thoughts and feelings are temporary, and the way we are feeling right now, is not permanent.

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Establishing a routine: Approaching big life changes with stability and mindfulness.

It’s no secret that major life changes can be a struggle for our mind to process. These changes can come in many shapes and sizes: moving to a new country, a bereavement, changing jobs, graduating from university, or even something as minor as taking on a new hobby, project or interest.

When changes like this happen, it’s important to be aware and conscious of the potential toll it can take on our mental health. With a mindful attitude, we can gently introduce these changes into our routines so that they don’t put our coping mechanisms out of whack.

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of this somewhat abstract idea. Take graduating University as an example – this is a major shift in day to day life: moving back home, often back in with parents/family members, and most importantly no longer having something to work towards, deadlines to meet or a routined lecture timetable to follow.

While on the surface this freedom is exciting, our minds can struggle with the lack of purpose that we feel in this limbo between education and working life. The same goes for the feeling of being in between jobs, or in a brand new place – the well practiced and deeply internalised routines and daily goals that we are used to are totally shifted.

It can take some time for this to sync in and for us to start to feel a little lost, which is why whilst our routines and norms are changing, it is important that they are not lost altogether. Being mindful of the changes we are going through can go a long way towards benefitting the way in which we cope with them.

To go back to the University example, upon graduation, despite not needing to wake up at a good time, get dressed and go to class, it is important to establish a different routine. For example, we must still maintain a healthy sleep schedule, wake up at a good time to start the day and set daily goals, whether it be go for a walk, read a chapter of a book or apply to one job per day.

What must not be lost is the determination to accomplish something every day, no matter how small. If you’re feeling a bit lost and unsure of what your daily goals are, try making a to do list for each day, ticking things off it can give a sense of achievement and purpose for the day.

Overall, it’s important to be fully aware of the impacts that big changes can have on a smaller scale, if we become capable of acknowledging these impacts, we also become capable of changing our behaviours so we are better prepared to cope with them.