It’s that time of year lots of us are taking a break. People are jetting off over the world now restrictions are gone – if they can get through the airport queues! Kids have finished the school year. Clubs and activities finish up for a while. Over the summer it is good for us to unwind.
It might seem obvious that this is good for our mental health. It is good for our mental health. But there’s more to it than just having a holiday in the summer. For me it comes down to how we spend our time before we get there.
Let me explain.
Here’s my tips on how to slow down so when we’re on holiday we’re not just thinking about the next one. Doing that means we miss the holiday we’re having.
Building to that holiday feeling
Every so often
There are long weekends scattered throughout the year that are ideal for putting into our calendars as times to take a break.
I get work schedules don’t always allow for these times. The important aspect is that this next instalment is longer than every week. Take a day, a weekend, or even a long weekend to do something for you.
This is the walls.
Each of these elements build on one another so that when our holiday comes we’re not trying to do everything all at once. We already have the basis there.
You are allowed to do this
We need to give ourselves permission to do this!
When we do this we are in a much better mental state to be able to engage with our holiday. And we are then more capable to connect with the day-to-day. The list will still be there when we get back. There will still be things on it if we spent the time doing items from it when we are not doing.
Let’s give ourselves permission.
When we do this we can enjoy our holidays, and life, so much more!
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
Did you know we can only go 36 hours without sleep before it starts to have drastic effects on our functionality as a human? Sleep is very important for us, yet something that we often neglect.
We need sleep
When we sleep our brain and our body do amazing things.
Our brains process the day that we’ve just had. it organises our memories and shuffle things around from short-term to long-term based on what we might need.
During sleep our body doesn’t need to function at the same level as when we’re awake because we are resting. Therefore, it can help to repair any damage done. When we sleep we can recover from illnesses and other ailments quicker than trying to stay awake.
If we don't sleep...
We need a certain amount of sleep each night for us to be at our best for the day ahead. This changes with age:
If we don’t get enough sleep then it can have a bad effect on how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.
A lack of sleep does not allow our brain to regulate moods efficiently. The knock-on effect of this is that we can easily find ourselves becoming depressed quicker and easier.
There have been studies carried out on adults and kids that show a lack of sleep leads to weight gain. When we sleep it balances or hormones that help us feel hungry and full.
There could easily be a domino effect because obesity can also cause increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and strokes. All of which is linked to our sleep!
As humans we are built with natural rhythms. Often we are good at enforcing that on kids because we see the importance of it. When we get to adulthood we lose this because we can do whatever we want. Whilst we can do anything we want it doesn’t mean that everything is good for us. So think about the sleep rhythms you keep. If you feel they might not be the best, we can always change our rhythm.
This is one of those things that are often given to kids but we don’t do as an adult. But in making a bedtime routine it helps our brain to adjust so it knows we are getting ready for bed. Whatever it looks like for you think about what you do before you go to bed.
It’s recommended that any shows/movies we’re watching we finish at least 30mins before we go to bed. That gives our brain the chance to absorb what we’ve been watching without it keeping us awake.
Not all screen use is bad and we use them for so much, it’s what we use them for. If we’re using it to read or play a game that activates our brain but doesn’t stimulate us visually then that’s ok. For example, it’s ok to read a book on an e-reader or do a crossword but it’s not great to be scrolling through social media or playing other games that have lots of visual effects.
Think about the drink you have or don’t have. Is your body ok with a coffee after dinner? Would a glass of warm milk help?
Eating a large meal before going to bed might not be helpful either due to the way our body breaks down what’s in the food. Try experimenting with dinner at lunch time and then something light in the evening if that fits with how life operates.
There are so many benefits to doing a bit of exercise (another topic for another day) and sleep is one of them. It doesn’t have to be much and whatever ability we have most of us can manage something. But doing something helps to use up the energy in our bodies so that we are more naturally and physically tired when it comes to the end of the day.
With all that said I’m off to bed.
A priest, a guru and a rabbit walk into a bar. That rabbit turns to the others and says, “I think I’m a typo!”
The saying goes that laughter is good for the soul. I don’t know what you think about that but the research is showing that this is truer than we might have thought. It’s not just a good pick-me-up line to excuse a good bit of a laugh.
Why we laugh
Benefits of laughing
There have been studies done that show laughing strengthens our immune system so can reduce us getting sick. And it can improve the function of our blood flow. This is never a bad thing and does wonders for our hearts.
When we laugh it releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone) into our brains. Endorphins can give a boost to our overall sense of worth and wellbeing. Other studies show that it can even temporarily relieve pain.
As we laugh we relax too! It doesn’t mean we let our guard down in that kind of relaxed way but the tension leaves our muscles. And we can stay relaxed like this for about 45 minutes.
It has also been shown that the effects of laughter work fast in bringing our mind back into balance whilst releasing anger and allowing us to forgive quicker. When we laugh we can gain a new or different perspective on the situation to move on from confrontation that could otherwise escalate.
It may seem obvious but it boosts our mood. We cannot stay grumpy if we’re laughing out loud. When our mood has been boosted we are better able to function and be more productive in the things that we put our minds to.
And as I mentioned in the previous blog it lowers our stress levels.
How we laugh
There are those that laugh silently. Those that laugh with loud guffaws. Some snort when they laugh. Some howl, some cry, some even sound like they might be crying. There were times when I had to listen really carefully to my kids to work out which was which if I couldn’t see them.
We laugh in different ways and that’s all good. The important thing is that we laugh.
So here are some tips to help us laugh more in our lives.
“Talk less. Smile more.” Well I don’t know about the talking less – that might have just been the better advice for Hamilton, but we can all smile more.
I know it’s been difficult to see with everyone wearing masks recently. Now that this has basically finished we can see each other’s smiles. Go ahead and smile at others. It doesn’t cost us anything to do it and it positions ourselves mentally to be more inclined to laugh. And it gives the receiver of our smile something positive too! It’s a win win.
Be with fun people
Some people drain our energy. Some people energise us and we know we’ll have a great time with them. Get out with these people! Hang out with those who will give you some laughs and a good time.
Schedule a laughing time
I know this one sounds a bit ridiculous (and maybe it even sets you off laughing at the thought of it). But like anything we do we need to put the effort in and when we put the effort in we can get the rewards from it. If something is important to us then we make the time for it. If we want to get fit we don’t just expect it to happen. We schedule in going to the gym or doing exercise and that’s the same with laughing too! We can schedule a time to laugh. There’s so much out there online we can find that will make us laugh, whatever our tastes so find something and watch it.
The more we do it the more natural it will become and we will even be able to see them more in our day-to-day so we can find that we are naturally laughing more and more.
Fake it till you make it
Don’t find anything funny?! Well then fake it. Make yourself laugh. It’s not just a knee-jerk reaction. We can simulate laughter and it can have the same benefits as when we do it naturally. And you might even find that even in faking it, this can change your disposition to a more laughable one.
When was the last time you laughed? And I mean really laughed? If you can’t think of a time recently put some of these things into practice and let the advantages be felt.
And if you’re willing to share some jokes with me, like and comment and let’s have a laugh together.
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
“I’m so stressed!” trips off the tongue with real ease. We say it all the time to everyone who’ll listen. It’s almost like a badge of honour! The busier we are, the more stressed we feel, the higher up the ladder we go.
But stress is not so good for us. It can harm us physically and mentally.
Then there are various ways that stress comes out in our emotions:
Irritability or anger
Lack of focus and motivation
When left unchecked these can lead to debilitating thought process that can take a long time to break out of.
What to do With it
One of the first things we can do is learn that stress is not good for us and that it’s ok to not be stressed! It’s ok to take time out and relax.
Take a Break
The chances are when we cross something off our to-do list then we add at least one more item to it. And that’ll still happen whether we’ve taken a break or not. So take a break! Have a rest.
Some people worry that if they stop they won’t get going again, but that’s not been my experience. Once we’ve had a break it often energise even more to do the things that need to be done. Or if we know our break is coming towards the end of the day we can look forward to it. And looking forward to it can motivate us to keep pressing on with those items we need to cross off.
Everything needs a break. Everyone needs a break. Otherwise, we break.
But I Perform Better Under Stress!
That might be so but it doesn’t change the fact that we need a break. There’s no problem with a bit of pressure. However, stopping will reduce the tension, give us space to breath and ease things out before jumping back in and give us the ability to last longer.
There have been studies carried out to show that with a little bit of stress we can perform at a higher level. The importance is that we try not to then stay at that level! The long-term damage it can create is more than likely going to outweigh the short-term productivity it can help with.
So help yourself by managing your stress.
If you are feeling like there is an area in life where stress is getting the better of you or even if you’re unsure, click on the link to arrange a counselling appointment where we’d be glad to help.
Counsellor and Psychotherapist
How To Do It?
Unplug, switch off, put away all your gadgets! (Not just on airplane mode…) And yes it’s all of them! It’s 24hrs from sundown to sundown. We can manage that right?!
Engage with what’s going on around you. Spend some time with family and friends. Go outside and take part in an activity. Explore your local area and see what’s out there. I’m sure there are lots of things you can be doing. (Whilst you have the internet do a little research if you have to!)
Why Do It?
There is lots of research showing us the amount of time we use screens. About 3 in every 10 adults in the US say they are constantly online. Kids are spending between 4-6 hours a day looking at screens and teens can be using tech for up to 9 hours a day!
When it’s light outside our bodies react to this making us more alert. So when it gets dark outside our bodies react to that too. We naturally become more sleepy. But we are keeping ourselves awake longer with our manmade lights and our devices. Long-time phone use has been linked to mental disturbances that can lead to the development of anxiety and depression.
The main impact is our eyes. There’s the glare from a screen. The different angles that the screen might be. Our eyes have to work harder in order to look at a screen in contrast to a printed page.
Also our neck and shoulders get effected too. The way we sit when using screens can have a big impact on us. There is such a thing now called Computer Vision Syndrome so we need to take it seriously!
And then there’s the hazard of looking down at our phones and walking into something! Ouch!
I’ve walked into a room where everyone was playing a board game – on their screens – with everyone in the room! Relationships: friend-to-friend, parent-to-kid, partner-to-partner, need more than communication through a device.
It’s great to be able to communicate all around the world. It’s great to be able to communicate with those who are around us too.
Use this an opportunity to revise how you use your tech. It’s useful for business and communicating and connections. But let’s put practices in place to help keep it in balance.
Here’s a few of my suggestions:
Don’t bring your phone to the table. We have a rule that no phones are allowed at the table during mealtimes. These are family times.
I’ve heard stories of friends going out for dinner. They put their phones in a box in the middle of the table and the first person to get theirs out has to pay. I’ve heard of restaurants do similar incentives if you can leave your phone alone for the meal.
Go for a walk and leave your phone behind. Make the most of the environment around you. Hear what’s going on whether it’s traffic or birds or construction or the wind in the trees.
If it’s possible leave your phone out of your room.
That might be a step too far. Phones often have the capability of being able to set up routines so you can turn the internet off at a certain time or disable apps when it might be distracting. Make the most of these.
Basically what we need to practice is how we can make the best use of these wonderful gadgets we have around us. Tech is there to help us. So let’s make sure that we are using it in a healthy way.
If you’d like to talk about how to manage your tech or would like counselling about anything else then please get in contact with us here.
Counsellor and Psychotherapist