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mental health

We’ve all been there. It’s 1am. You’re lying in bed, the idea of sleep a distant dream because your mind is absolutely buzzing. You’re thinking about the stupid thing you said yesterday. The week before. A year ago. Why did you make that decision? What if that important thing doesn’t work out? What if someone hears about that thing that you said/did/caused?

It can feel impossible to surface from these thoughts, to gain perspective and clarity from your own over-thinking. But it’s so important to learn how to stop these thought processes in their tracks to protect our mental health. Our minds know the well-worn paths of these worries and jump from thought to thought if we don’t start to find ways to control them. The use of methods like mantras and sleepy teas have become increasingly popular as a method to slow down and focus our minds when they begin to spiral. But mantras are are usually short, grounding phrases, like ‘all is well’, ‘calm down’, ‘I am at peace’.

Sometimes we feel the need for longer-term methods that address the exact thought process our minds are going through. Sleep meditations are here to help. We have compiled some of our favourite meditations available on YouTube that can can help with sleep, anxiety, energy, grounding or anything you need in that moment. Here are our top picks:

Fall Asleep In Minutes…Sleep Talk-Down Guided Meditation Hypnosis for Sleeping – Jason Stephenson

Jason Stephenson is my absolute favourite meditation creator. With videos up every week addressing different themes, such as removing subconscious blockages, resetting the body and sleep talk downs, his channel has something for every situation, feeling and worry. His calming voice is great for the guided meditations where he speaks to you to aid your meditative journey and his sleep music creates deeply relaxing environments, ideal for study, relaxation, insomnia and to fall asleep fast.

 

Guided Meditation – Blissful Deep Relaxation – The Honest Guys

The Honest Guys have been writing and creating high quality guided meditations videos since 2009.

The meditations have one purpose: simply to try and help people. Every meditation is produced with genuine care for those people who use them because they too have needed the kind of help meditations are trying to offer others. They specialise in guided fantasy visualisations and relaxing meditation sleep music, all designed to work in harmony with your mind body and spirit to promote greater health. These ‘story’ meditations guide you on a relaxing journey to a beautiful fantasy location, designed to bring peace, positivity and sleep.

 

Deep sleep meditation for anxiety, stress reduction, peaceful deep sleep, deep fast sleep – Lauren Ostrowski Fenton

Would you like to fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and more easily? This guided sleep meditation is suited to adults, parents, children, students, and babies who are looking for help and guidance with achieving a night of deep sound sleep.

Lauren Ostrowski Fenton’s deep sleep guided meditations offer positive suggestions for encouraging a restorative, natural healing rest and sleep, together with a peaceful experience of total mind and body relaxation. Fall asleep fast at bedtime with this guided sleep meditation and wake up mindfully clear and focused ready to face your day. Suitable for all ages.

This guided meditation experience is recommended for repeated and ritualized listening. Develop a daily sleep ritualized practice and with regular listening this guided meditation will encourage positive sleep suggestion and positive cognitive sleep patterns. 

Lauren is an expert in her field and holds a Master’s in counselling at Monash University Clayton Australia. She has been teaching meditation for 30 years and is a qualified Personal trainer with certificate 3 and 4 in Fitness and has lectured in the fitness and wellbeing industry for over 25 years.

 

Relaxing Sleep Music • Deep Sleeping Music, Relaxing Music, Stress Relief, Meditation Music (Flying) – Soothing Relaxation

Soothing Relaxation specialize in relaxing sleep music for deep sleeping and stress relief. Fall asleep to their beautiful nature videos and use the relaxing music ("Flying" by Peder B. Helland in this video) as sleeping music, soothing meditation music, relaxation music, study music and more.

Peder B. Helland is a composer from Norway and started his channel with a simple vision: to create a place that people can visit whenever they want to sit down and relax. He composes music that can be labelled as for example: sleep music, calm music, yoga music, study music, peaceful music, beautiful music and relaxing music.

 

Sleep Music: Night Oasis – Headspace

Night Oasis: For when you can't sleep or when you need a little background noise. Relaxing music that helps you create conditions for deep sleep.

Headspace is guided meditation for everybody. Download our app from the App Store or Google Play and learn how to meditate, wherever you are, whenever you like. Relax with guided meditation sessions that will help you rest and reset after a long day, let go of worried thoughts with our Stress pack, or create the ideal conditions for healthy, restful sleep with our sleep meditations and sleep sounds. That's as well as mindfulness exercises for everyday situations like commuting or cooking, dozens of animations like the ones you see on this channel, and eight different meditation techniques, all taught by Headspace's co-founder, Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk. With hundreds of hours of content, Headspace is your personal meditation guide to just about anything.

 

Fall Asleep Fast, Clear the Clutter of Your Mind, and Release Thoughts and Worry / Sleep Meditation – The Mindful Movement

This meditation allows you to release any worries, let go of the day’s events, and allow sleep to quickly and easily come to you, by inviting relaxation into your body and mind.  Allow Sara's soothing voice to be your guide to effortlessly slow down the momentum from your day. 

This is a sleep version of one of their most popular practices and contains an elevator visualisations.  Together, these two meditations become a powerful practice to simplify and unclutter your mind and reduce anxiety and overthinking

Mindful Movement is an oasis where you can come to tap into your inner calm, develop a positive mindset and heal from the stress that’s blocking your fulfilment. They offer guided meditation, visualisations, and hypnosis as well as Yoga, Pilates and a variety of mindful movement practices to help you live mindfully, move well and feel great! They facilitate an environment to empower growth among a community of like-minded individuals who strive to live mindfully in all aspects of their lives. Guided meditation and movement videos published every week.

 

Deep Sleep Music, Insomnia, Sleep Meditation, Calm Music, Sleep Therapy, Study, Relax, Sleep, 1980 – Body Mind Zone

Body Mind Zone’s relaxing sleep music is specially created with binaural beats to help you feel sleepy and beat insomnia. Our ambient music makes use of binaural beats and delta waves to ensure that our music can be used for a variety of music genres, such as deep sleep music, healing music, peaceful music, soft music, stress relief music, spa music, yoga music, zen music, study music and more. We have a range of relaxing music for sleep meditation and lucid dreams that will help you achieve soothing relaxation and inspire a good night’s sleep and a state of zen during the trying times of lockdown. Our relaxing sleep music and healing music is beneficial, whether you want peaceful music for a power nap, calming music as sleep meditation music or soft music to study to.

Body Mind Zone’s sleep music is specially created to help you fall asleep. To fall asleep fast, our music for insomnia with its embedded delta waves is essential deep sleep music. Feeling sleepy? Use this sleeping music in the background for soothing relaxation or as meditation music after a busy day at work. Our beautiful music for sleeping is ideal relaxation music for stress relief.

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We pity the girl who sits in the cafe on her own, nursing a cup of coffee with nobody but herself for company, but news flash- people enjoy spending time on their own and it’s time for us to break down the stigma surrounding it.

As kids, we were fooled into thinking our self-worth was measured based on how many friends we had. You were a nerd if you spent lunchtime by yourself. You were sneered at when you were picked last for the basketball team. You were viewed as ‘unpopular’ if you celebrated your 14th birthday with five friends.

It is time for society to stop looking down on the guy who goes to the cinema by himself and give up addressing people as ‘loners’.

An army of wonderful people have shared why they love being on their own to help me beat this ridiculous notion.

Anna Keat said: “For a 19-year-old, I'm an extremely avid knitter and given how I also have anxiety, time to myself plus something as rhythmic as knitting really gets my head back in check.”

“I moved abroad and only had a handful of friends when I first moved over so I started doing some things alone and I found it SO peaceful. Not having to rely on others is a blessing at times,” said Shauna Kiely.

“I always love spending time with myself. For a myriad of reasons (not too draining, don’t have to make conversation, won’t panic about the way I behaved later on) but mostly because I’m the only person who won’t let me down,” Grace Latter shared.

“I found myself living alone suddenly after a relationship breakdown and was terrified but I had the time of my life!  I learnt to be happy in my own company & as a result I know myself so well now. We should all be our own one true love!” Penny revealed.

Victoria Teasdale, professional stress consultant and coach explained why we need to accept the fact that some people simply prefer time alone.

“Humans are made up of our own unique genetic code. When you realise that there are approximately 3 billion base pairs in the genome and that each of us can house variations of them that are infinitely unique, it’s about time that the word ‘normal’ is dropped from the vocabulary used to describe people.”

She explained: “While there is a benefit for us to be social, oxytocin release, problem-solving etc, some of us simply aren’t designed to be social people.”

“As a society, we do not teach people how to define their individuality.  In fact, it's better for corporations if we all aspire to be the same, we're easier to market to that way.

“What you're doing by saying 'it's unhealthy not to socialise' is pinning everyone as the same, discounting the fact that there's a LOT of variation in people who don't fall into the 'abnormal enough to be labelled' category."

So, what can we do to make a positive change? “What is needed is a shift towards teaching people how to discover their unique identities, their strengths, struggles, quirks and needs.

"To allow them to express themselves however they see fit. And if that means sitting at home with a book on a Friday night… That's ok by me!”

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No matter how much you might love your job, there are few among us who don't find ourselves struggling against those classic Sunday Night Blues as Monday morning creeps ever closer.

And such is the extent of our weekly woe, many of us fail to realise the true potential of a well-spent Sunday evening.

Relaxing and unwinding before diving back into the working week is essential, but so too is putting a little prep and planning into ensuring a successful week ahead.

From brisk walks and at-home manicures to goal checklists, reclaiming your Sunday with our simple P plan has never been so easy.

Press pause

There comes a point on Sunday evening when you have to accept that the weekend is coming to an end, and it's time to look ahead and stop clinging to the last vestige of the previous days' festivities.

While it sounds harsh, there is no point in dragging your Sunday Fear into Monday morning because you were unable to draw a line under your days off.

Telling yourself you're simply pressing pause on your down-time until next weekend is a simple way to focus your mind.

Plan your week

Much of the anxiety brought about by Sunday night stems from concern over commitments and responsibilities awaiting us in the week ahead.

Take 30 minutes to sit down and consider the next five days, so you have a clear idea of what is expected from you.

It sounds like a bummer to consider work-related events during time-off, but it really helps to alleviate stress.

Pamper yourself

After you've accepted the fact that work is looming, and dedicated some time to considering the week ahead, it's time to focus on treating yo'self!

Why not indulge your hands with an at-home manicure from Sally Hansen which guarantees a salon finish without the price tag? With an incredible array of products which protect, condition and strengthen your nails, Sally Hansen provides you with all the tools need for a high-quality treatment from the comfort of your own home.

Taking the time to pamper yourself on a Sunday evening is a guaranteed way to relax, and ease yourself into the next five days.

Pound the streets

It's rare you'll return from a brisk walk and not feel much better than when you left.

Shake off the cobwebs from the weekend's excesses by grabbing your runners and going for a 30 minute walk around your neighbourhood.

Not only will it help you sleep better (something that is absolutely vital on a Sunday night), but it will help clear your head if your planning hasn't quite done the job!

Prepare your outfit

A very simple way to rid yourself of Sunday night fear is to prepare an outfit (from underwear to accessories) for the following morning.

Take the time to iron your clothes, and tidy out your handbag so your Monday morning doesn't involve frantically rooting through your laundry bin or fighting your way through mountains of receipts in search of your Leap Card.

Covering the little things makes Monday mornings so much more doable.

Praise and preach

Now is the time to truly relax… because it is still the weekend, after all!

Praise yourself for getting ahead of the game by tending to vital tasks, give props to yourself for taking the time to treat yourself, and remind your friends to do the same by getting straight on WhatsApp and preaching the good word!

 

Brought to you by
Sally Hansen

When it comes to nail care, Sally Hansen’s wide range of products guarantees a salon-quality finish … at a snip of the price. From treatments to polishes, the range is exactly what you need when you want to make nailcare a priority without breaking the bank. Available in pharmacies and grocery stores nationwide with prices ranging from €6.99 to €10.99.

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Whether you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks or depression, dealing with the symptoms of a mental health issue is a daily struggle. 

Trying to keep your stress levels down can be a challenge in itself, especially when it stems from our normal routines. 

Here's some of the most common habits that could contribute to low mood levels. 

Drinking too much caffeine

Whether it's your go-to morning coffee or a relaxing cup of tea in the evening, a lot of us rely on caffeine to get us through the day.

However, it might be time to cut-back on the flat whites as studies have shown a link between excessive caffeine intake and depression, moodiness and anxiety.

Try replacing one cup a day with a caffeine free alternative. Your energy levels may still benefit from the placebo effect, but you'll be doing your mental health a huge favour.

Avoiding exercise

The amount of physical activity we get each day can have a huge impact on our mood.

Research has suggested that regular exercise could even ease the symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Start small. Set aside 20 minutes a day for a brisk walk and you'll be amazed at how quickly your mood will improve.

Constantly checking social media 

Comparing yourself to others on social media is a slippery slope that rarely leads anywhere good.

It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that all your school mates are living extraordinary lives, but guess what? They're not .

Sure, maybe Sarah from the Gaelteacht is off raising baby elephants in Thailand for a month, but just remember that social media posts are the 'highlight reel' of other people's lives.

Staying indoors

Underexposure to natural daylight can wreak havoc on our mental health.

Apart from the natural calming effect nature has on our minds, vitamin D, which is only produced when the body is exposed to sunlight, has been shown to protect against depression.

Overloading on carbs

Simple carbohydrates such as sugary, processed foods are broken down rapidly, providing the body with a quick source of energy.

Eating these types of foods on a regular basis can result in mood swings caused by fluctuating blood sugars.

Instead, try eating more complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and legumes.

Working too hard

This one is a bit of a no-brainer.

It's important to take a step back from your working life in order to focus on yourself.

So, turn off the work e-mails and go visit an old friend or family member – you'll be shocked at how relaxed you'll feel afterwards.

 

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Eleanor Segall has penned a book about what it is really like to live with bipolar disorder. The inspirational author’s book Bring Me To Light is bound to open your eyes about a disorder that affects so many people across the globe.

Eleanor spoke to Shemazing about mental illness, becoming a published author and opening up about her personal struggles and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16.

Having dreamed of being a writer since she was a kid, seeing her book for sale is a true pinch me moment for Eleanor. “I couldn't dream that I would write a book of my life story or its circumstances at 31. When I was ill in 2014, I knew I wanted to share my story to help people with bipolar disorder and mental health conditions. Helping others is the reason I have written the book and why I kept going with it. I want to break the stigma bipolar and particularly psychosis has. It is such an honour to be published and Trigger seemed like the perfect home for my book.”

In her book, Eleanor opens up about extremely personal moments in her life, including the manic episode that led to her being sectioned in 2014. The writer said being so open was the toughest part of the writing process, but she knows these stories will educate readers about mental illnesses.

“Mental illness can happen to anyone (there is no stereotype) and that it is not anyone's fault. I hope [the book] helps people in their own recovery, knowing you can achieve and recover despite chronic mental illness and you can do the things you want to do, even if its harder to do at times.

Eleanor stressed, “You can be brought to light again after darkness- illness or difficulty. Recovery is possible and you should never give up hope.”

One of the most difficult moments in Eleanor’s life was when she experienced mania and psychosis, “I was sectioned in 2014. I had to be restrained and injected with haloperidol (anti psychotic med) against my will, to calm me down. Living on a ward for four months wasn’t easy as everyone was so ill but it has all made me who I am and made me reach to be as well as possible.”

Despite the lows, Eleanor has always remained hopeful about her recovery, stressing that it is more than possible.

“Bipolar disorder is a chronic, serious and life threatening condition that can run in families but it also makes us more creative and determined to try harder. 

“Having bipolar is not the end if it can be managed well, but it does cause suicidal ideation and mania or hypomania and it can be a difficult one to treat at times. Never forget that recovery is possible.”

You can read more about Eleanor’s personal story in her debut novel Bring Me To Light. 

Bring Me To Light by Eleanor Segall is an eye-opening and beautifully honest read and is bound to become one of the most beloved books on your shelf.

Bring Me To Light is published by Trigger Publishing, part of the Shaw Mind Foundation.

You can order a copy here.

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I love a good cry every now and then. Sometimes all you need to do is sob to your heart's content when life gets a little overwhelming.

We may feel embarrassed or silly when we cry but fear not my friends, a new study has found that crying is actually good for you.

Researchers in Japan confirmed that crying can actually make you happier. The team of researchers explained that crying can help reduce stress meaning you live a happier and calmer life.

Basically, crying is an act of self-defence against accumulating stresses.

“The act of crying is more effective than laughing or sleeping in reducing stress. If you cry once a week, you can live a stress-free life," said Hidefumi Yoshida told the Japan Times.

Hidefumi Yoshida believes watching heart wrenching movies, listening to emotional songs or reading harrowing books can help make you feel better, even when you’re a blubbering, snotty nosed wreck.

So, next time you’re having a bad day fetch the tissues, watch The Fault In Our Stars and just let the tears roll.

Having a cry is good for the soul so don’t be afraid to let the tears out after a bad day at work, after arguing with your bestie or when you're watching a tear-jerker at the cinema.

Trust me, holding back the tears is no good for you. I tried to do so in a very quiet cinema whilst watching A Star Is Born and ended up with a headache for the remainder of the day, so when you gotta cry, cry.

Don’t be ashamed about it. If scientists say it’s good for you then let the tears fall.

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For any only children or owners of brothers out there, having a sister is truly epic, and now that statement is backed up by science. 

Okay, you may have clothes and makeup stolen from your room on the regular and you may have to be the gatekeeper of many a cover story to your parents, but having a sister to confide in scientifically makes women happier people. 

Findings by De Montfort University and Ulster University found that sisters encourage open communication about each others emotions, which leads to elevated moods and feelings of happiness.

'Sisters appear to encourage more open communication and cohesion in families,’ Professor Tony Cassidy explained to The Telegraph.

‘However, brothers seem to have the alternative effect.'

'Emotional expression is fundamental to good psychological health and having sisters promotes this in families.' 

Image result for sisters kardashian

'It could be that boys have a natural tendency not to talk about things.'

'With boys together it is about a conspiracy of silence not to talk. Girls tend to break that down.’

So that solves it – having sisters officially improves your quality of life (even if it doesn't always feel that way)

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Anxiety isn’t cute or trendy. It’s not about being shy or bashful. It’s not about being too sensitive or too nervous. It’s a serious mental illness that many people fail to treat with respect or care.

Speaking of his battle with depression, author Matt Haig wrote:

“Depression is also smaller than you. Always, it is smaller than you, even when it feels vast. It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can't exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”

I think this applies to anxiety too. Even when you are at your lowest, you are more powerful than it, because anxiety doesn’t exist without you.

That said, suffering from an anxiety disorder isn’t easy, but there are little ways to help soothe the disorder, which will make your life that little bit easier.

1: Music:

It’s simple but so effective. I know listening to a Spotify playlist isn’t going to magically cure your anxiety disorder, but it can help a lot. I found that listening to music from my early teens helps trigger positive memories.

I am a firm believer in the power of nostalgia, and experts have found that is helps increase your mood and energy levels.

2: Tell someone:

I know opening up about your disorder is one of the hardest things to do. There is a huge stigma surrounding mental health disorders, especially here in Ireland. However, telling my friends about my anxiety gave me access to a huge network of support. Talking about mental health is difficult, because a lot of people can be dismissive, but confiding in someone who deeply cares about you will make a massive difference.

3: Be organised:

This is the tip that has helped me more than anything. I have hugely benefited from becoming a more organised person as it eases my mind. Sticking to a schedule will keep your anxiety at bay because you will feel in control of the situation. Chanel your inner Monica Geller, but maybe leave your label maker at home if you’re heading out for cocktails with the girls.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major anxiety for millions around the world. Our mental health will take a serious hit due to self-isolation and social distancing, but one thing that will help is reading.

Studies have found that reading has a positive impact on your mental health. Natalie Phillips, who is an English scholar, teamed up with Stanford neurobiologists and radiologists to look at the benefits reading has on our mental health.

They found that reading increases the blood flow to certain parts of the brain. They asked participants to read a chapter of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park– both leisurely and analytically- as the participants read their brain was scanned by an MRI machine.

The team found that reading “requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions”, meaning reading exercises underworked parts of your brain.

I would never have thought reading an old copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby would keep my anxious thoughts away, but it did. Reading is one of the things that has helped ease my symptoms the most.

Pick up a book and dive into a new world, meet new characters and learn about their lives. Reading is a great way to push the anxiety away. It eases your mind when it is full of doubt and fear.

It is the perfect form of escapism. Pop into your local bookshop or order a book online; whether it’s a classic like Wuthering Heights or the latest Sally Rooney novel.

It may not work for everyone, but something as simple as channelling your inner Matilda may keep those dreaded symptoms at bay.

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Mindfulness is defined as ''a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.'' 

In this insanely busy world that we live in, life goes by fast.

Between social media meaning that we always have to be ''on'', the working day stretching into the evening, it's like we're in a permanent state of exhaustion.

So, it's more important than ever to take a few moments a day to gather your thoughts. 

To just be.

And that's where mindfulness comes in – so here are a few easy ways to grab a quiet moment and centre yourself before all the madness starts again. 

1. Essential Oils

Essential oils are amazing for a range of things. 

Not only do they smell delicious but they can help soothe the mind more than you think. 

So how do they help bring about a sense of instant calm when you're in a chaotic day?

Apply one to your wrists, temples, behind the ears and the soles of your feet. Enjoy the relaxing smell; breathe in and out slowly and deeply.

Notice your breathing and your posture. Be aware of your body and any thoughts just let them flow by you for a few minutes. 

2.Tea

Nothing beats a cuppa tea.

And now you can try a mindful tea-drinking ritual that will remind you to be conscious in the now.

Pour a cup of your choice and find a quiet place to sip it – and make sure to just sip it.

Taste each mouthful and close your eyes, challenging all your energy into you, sitting in the chair, enjoying how it tastes and smells.

Be aware of your sensations and if you have a thought, let it enter into and then pass through your mind without following it.

3. A Bath 

A bath is a pace of privacy, serenity, and relaxation – what better place to practice mindfulness?

make sure that you won't be interrupted, before filling the bath with bubble bath or salts.

Again, let go of all other thoughts and try to focus on the sensations you feel in your body – the warmth of the water on your skin, the bath against your back.

You won't want to get back to the real world – but when you do, you will feel reinvigorated and full of energy. 

4. Yoga

Some people adore yoga while others think it isn't for them.

To get a few moments of peaceful mindfulness, it is an ideal thing to try.

When sat on a mat, forget about wanting to be more flexible or losing weight and just take a deep breath in and out. 

Focus on every part of your body while you are doing each pose – empty your mind of anything but how your body is positioned and how the feelings in each muscle.

5. Breathe

Try this one technique known as The Stimulating Breath – it raises energy and increases alertness.

Inhale and exhale quickly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed. Your breaths in and out should as short as possible. 

Try three in-and-out breath cycles per second – this produces a quick movement of the diaphragm.

Breathe normally after each cycle and don't do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. 

6. Eat Lunch

It might sound stupid, but taking time to zone in on what you're actually doing can shift your whole mindset. 

With a small portion, take a minute or two to appreciate the healthy food on your plate. 

Then, while taking small bites, bring all of your sense to the meal.

Chew thoroughly and try to identify all of the flavours and seasonings. 

Eat your food slowly and you might find that you're enjoying the meal a lot more than you normally would…because you're present in the moment.  

7. Walk 

A breath of fresh air is always good for the mind – but you can actually go for a 10-15-minute stroll and practice mindfulness the whole way through. 

When you're out,  pay attention to each step you take – to the lifting and falling of your foot.

Notice movement in your legs, how your arms swing, how your back feels. 

We know our mind wanders, so try to bring it back to the present moment when it does. 

Shift your attention to the sounds around you – a bird crowing, someone mowing their grass.

Also, tune into the smells as you walk – flowers blooming, etc.

As you finish your stroll, bring your mind back to your body and the sensations in each part.  

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By Rachel O Neill

I was first diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder when I was 19 but really I’d been suffering from it for as long as I could remember. I thought it was normal to get obsessed with studying for exams and to cry if I got 85 out of 100 instead of 90. I thought it was completely normal to have your brain scream things at you that you would never dream of saying to another person. I thought it was normal to be sad all the time. In reality, getting my diagnosis was my first step to admitting that my normality wasn’t everyone else's.

I was prescribed antidepressants and started seeing a therapist. I was of the belief that I could cure myself by talking to someone and taking my pills. I didn’t understand that anxiety and depression need to be managed rather than cured. So I took myself out of therapy and weaned myself off my meds, convinced that I was fine. I would go on to have a breakdown a year later and would go back to therapy for nearly 15 months.

I’m very open about my struggles and my problems but that doesn’t make it easy to tell people about them. You don’t want to appear weak or vulnerable and most of all, you don’t want to be treated differently to anyone else. You just want to be seen as a colleague that works hard and does their best regardless. 

Telling my manager about my problems was hard. It’s something you have to prepare for. You rehearse in your head what you’ll say and how they might react. In reality, I had nothing to worry about. My manager was very understanding about my problems and has been incredibly supportive in managing workloads when I need it.

Our work lives are more hectic than they used to be. Ever-changing deadlines, longer commutes and increased pressure means that employees can often feel like they have nobody to talk to. I wanted to do something about it and was lucky enough to be  given the opportunity to help The Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI) and The Advertising Benevolent Society (TABS) launch SMASH, a campaign around their new employee assistance programme.

The programme which is run by Spectrum and offers 24/7 support for a range of different issues including mental health support, financial advice, legal advice and career advice. 

 SMASH is the first wellbeing programme of its kind for the advertising industry in Ireland and the programme will provide a variety of mental health supports and practical services, exclusively to IAPI’s two thousand members. The SMASH programme is funded by TABS, The Advertising Benevolent Society.

IAPI members, through the SMASH programme, will be able to avail of six professional consultation sessions on eight different concerns. The programme of up to 48 professional consultations will cover financial, legal, consumer, health, parenting and career advice as well as mediation and life coaching.

It’s a really good programme and I’m so proud to be involved in the launch because I believe that every employee should have access to it. 

More and more of us are taking days off work for mental health reasons. We don’t always say it’s mental health because there is still a stigma attached to taking time off for it. But with an EAP like Spectrum available, we can feel more comfortable in recognising and tackling our problems before they turn into a major crisis.

For those of us like me, who have been managing their conditions for longer, it’s comforting to know that there is a resource there for you if you need it. 

My mental health problems haven’t gone away. They are conditions that I have to manage closely. I’ve been on antidepressants for the last 18 months and I see a therapist regularly too. Even in doing all that, I can still struggle to get out of bed or to see my friends regularly, making my head a lonely place to be.

That being said, I’m optimistic that things always have the potential to get better and being able to share my story with my colleagues has shown that. Hopefully with a little more talk and a lot more action, more organisations will follow in IAPI’s footsteps and support their employees as much as they can.

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People throw the term self-care around a lot and it can lose it meaning when it’s solely associated with buying Lush bath bombs and painting your nails, but self-care isn't just about manicures and face masks.

There are so many things you can do to look after both your mental and physical health so I thought I’d put a list of my top self-care tips together that don’t revolve around you spending half a day's wages in Boots.

1. Book your smear test

2. Cleanse your skin twice

3. Take a multivitamin in the morning

4. Stop drinking caffeinated drinks after 6pm

5. Take your full lunch break

6. Delete take-away apps off your phone

7. Get off the bus a stop early and walk 

8. Listen to podcasts when you feel anxious

9. Use all of your annual leave

10. Don’t drink coffee when you’re due your period

11. Go to therapy

12. Eat some vegetables

13. Eat some chocolate

14. Buy yourself flowers

15. Drink 8 glasses of water a day

16. Stop comparing yourself to people on social media

17. Watch an old movie from your childhood 

18. Go to the dentist

19. Read at least ten pages of a book every day

20. Go to the cinema by yourself

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