aAh! Magazine Editor Kerry Power shares her tips to inspire you on your journey to wellness
Most people have heard the expression: ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination.’ You may consider it a cliché, yet it is often more accurate than you could imagine when it comes to health and well-being. Our mental and physical health is an ever-evolving process that is difficult to get completely right.
There are studies, books, documentaries, wellness gurus, and health professionals who tell us completely different things. While some things are widely accepted as universal truths, most people have their own opinions or beliefs.
Health has become a focus for many people during the past 18 months since the pandemic began. During the national lockdown, many people decided to focus on their own health, but this means very different things to different people. For some it may have meant focusing on physical health, perhaps by creating a fitness regime, a weight loss diet, going vegan or veggie, eating ‘clean,’ or embracing those daily walks.
For others there may have been more of a focus on the understanding of personal mental health, which may have included mindfulness, getting more closely acquainted with nature, resting more, developing a sleep routine, making more time for loved ones or even simply learning to say no to additional tasks that may be detrimental to their wellbeing.
While this article is not intended to be expert advice, I hope that some of the ideas featured can inspire you on your own journey wellness. Here are some thoughts to consider…
It might be less processed food, organic food, more fruit and veg, cooking from scratch. Choose whatever makes your body and mind feel good. Your choices might allow you to develop a love of cooking with fresh ingredients, to have fun experimenting in the kitchen, to enjoy your meals fully and have more energy as a result. I highly recommend Bosh! TV and cookery books for incredible vegan meals – the Sri Lankan Curry is delicious.
A structured bedtime routine at its best includes; time to unwind after work has ended (and any children are sleeping), no caffeine after 2pm, no technology for three hours before bed, no hot baths or exercise for three hours before bed, clean well-fitting sheets and a light duvet, a cool bedroom, no alcohol, no snacking after 8 pm. These tips have been gathered through a combination of podcasts, books and a very informative ‘sleep story’ on the Calm app presented by Dr Steve Orma. Sleeping well at night allows you greater productivity during the day, can help with eating healthier (with less ‘junk food’ cravings) and allows you to enjoy the tasks that you’re undertaking because your focus is so much better.
Prioritise and keep a diary
What’s important to you? What makes you happy? Plan something that matters into your day, every day. For me, time with my children has become a priority (with no phones allowed!) as well as, one to one time with my husband where we talk rather than just watch Netflix! I set a monthly lunch date with the girls (in the months that this was allowed) and made time to call people rather than just text. I love to plan everything, including days without plans. Time is our most valuable commodity because it allows us to create our lives in the way we want them to be, so make it count! I put everything on my calendar and then use a whiteboard to plan for the week, it’s never set in stone but it helps me to prioritise the important things.
Talking to health professionals
If you’re feeling unwell, physically or mentally, talk to your doctor. They did all that medical training for a reason. If you disagree with their advice, you can always ask for a second opinion. Make the most of our incredible NHS, book that smear, check that mole, attend your mammogram, find out why you’re feeling the way you are right now and how you can get the treatment you need to feel better. Take the opportunity to get any tests due, including smear tests, eye tests, sexual health screenings and always speak to your doctor about any changes or concerns. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Good quality, filtered, cool drinking water is good for your body, your skin, your cognitive processing and your physical health. Hydration helps us to regulate our hunger and helps prevent headaches and other symptoms of dehydration. We are lucky enough to have easily accessible, good quality drinking water and we shouldn’t take this for granted.
In all its forms! Many people discovered audiobooks during lockdown. This allows you to listen to books while you’re exercising, walking the dog, cooking, lying in the bath, driving, on the train. When a book is more challenging, the audio experience takes away one element of processing, which allows us to focus on the content. For dyslexic people, it stops the issue of the words seemingly moving around the page and for those who struggle to read, it allows them to access literature in its purest form.
Yoga, tai chi, pebble painting, cooking, listening to podcasts, bike riding, book clubs, quiz nights, dancing or anything that you think you might enjoy. Find something that you love to do that relaxes you, makes you smile, provides some escapism, and make time for it.
This will look different for different people and for some people, it may feel impossible. If you’re a parent who is with your children constantly, you may be thinking – can anyone help? Can you afford any childcare? Can they go to bed slightly earlier? If you work full time, do you take the breaks, holidays, weekends off that you’re entitled to? If you have housemates/a partner/older children/ family – can they help in any way? Giving yourself some time to relax may look like half an hour in the garden, a bubble bath, a walk, a night out, a long shower, an hour at the gym, a day under the duvet. Schedule it in if you need to, but make time for it. It could be half an hour in the garden, lying on a blanket and reading your favourite book. Half an hour of ‘downtime’ can have a positive impact on not only your whole day but your overall health too.
You might write a poem, a book, a short story, a journal or a sentence every evening about something good that happened that day; maybe something funny your two-year-old niece said? Writing is an outlet, even if nobody else will ever read it. It may also help you to rest better if you empty your thoughts or worries onto a page before bed.
It’s hard to look out at the sea, walk through a forest or stand at the top (or even the foot!) of a mountain and not wonder at the incredible forces of nature. Being part of nature, witnessing it and experiencing it, is one of the most incredible ways to ground ourselves, put our problems into perspective and see ourselves for what we are a tiny piece in this incredible jigsaw puzzle of the earth right now.
If you’re coming to the end of a degree, you may feel that you’ve learned enough to last you a lifetime but I promise that this isn’t true. As the world evolves, so must we. We are lucky that we live in a time and place that. For those of us based in the UK (and much of the Western world), quality education is not only possible but there is a legal duty upon our government to provide it. As we get older, we have more autonomy in what we learn and how we learn it. In the age of the internet, we really do have the world at our fingertips. Education at its core isn’t about knowledge though, it’s about learning how to know, how to think, how to challenge and question. Only when we stop learning, do we stop growing.
This doesn’t mean running every day or completing triathlons (unless they are your thing, in which case go for it!) I’ve discovered that the best way to get fit and keep fit is to find something that you actually enjoy. There are so many different forms of exercise and they all come with benefits that surpass their ability to just make you fitter! Exercise can be social, it can be an escape, it can make you smile, improve your strength.
Have friends who make you smile, who genuinely care about you, who you trust completely. Check-in with those friends, whether weekly or monthly, real friends are precious and worth cherishing.
Regardless of your religion or beliefs, the faith you have can help you through even the darkest times. Whether specific to a religion or not, our faith journeys can be very personal ones or can be a journey where we are embraced and held up by those on the same path.
What do you care about? Whilst the world tried to fight Covid last year, millions of people found activism. Whether it’s women’s rights or personal safety, racial justice, The LGBTQ+ community, climate change, the BLM movement or something else – if you want to see positive change in the world, knowing that you’re contributing towards it can give you a sense of purpose like no other.
Forgiveness and letting go
Hatred will never heal. It doesn’t mean that what they (or you) did was the right thing, it just means that you refuse to let that action continue to hurt you. By letting go of the pain and choosing not to let it hurt you any longer, you can use that time and energy on areas that will make you feel happier and healthier. This isn’t always easy, it may take support and even work, but in my own opinion, it is worth work doing. This isn’t just relevant in terms of forgiveness, whilst holding on may often seem the easiest thing to do, letting go can transform your life. It might be a toxic relationship, a friendship that continues to hurt you, shame or guilt, past pain or trauma, excess weight that makes you miserable, unhealthy habits or coping mechanisms, a job that makes you unhappy or even something as menial as clutter. If these things, feelings or people aren’t positively serving your life, letting them go can be the kindest thing to do.
Massage, reiki, emotional freedom technique, mindfulness, vision boards, gratitude, visualisation, acupuncture, essential oils – whatever the practice, approach it with an open mind and see if it fits into your life. Manchester Metropolitan University offers courses in Emotional Freedom Technique and weekly mindfulness sessions, to name two! Massages and reiki sessions are now available again in many places and often universities and colleges will offer these at a significantly subsidised rate if you’re happy for it to be performed by somebody who’s still training.
A professional counsellor has the skills and education to help you to become, or remain emotionally and mentally well. Whether you’re dealing with addiction, recovering from trauma or just dealing with the ups and downs of life, counsellors can make a significant difference to your mental and physical wellbeing. It might find some time to find the right one, or the correct branch of counselling, but it will be worth it. You can find out more about the counselling and other wellbeing services that Manchester Metropolitan University offer through the ‘Wellbeing’ section of the ‘MY MMU’ app.
|Counselling, Mental Health and Wellbeing at Manchester Met|
|From time to time, life can be a challenge and you may need support.Manchester Met’s Counselling, Mental Health and Wellbeing team have a wealth of expertise and are here to listen and help. They provide one-to-one support, make referrals and liaise with other services.If you are feeling anxious or worried, or just need someone to talk to in confidence, please get in touch today.|