Sunday, 23 December 2018

The gift of relaxation

Learning ways to relax your mind and body is vital to good mental and physical health and wellbeing. While short-term stress is a natural process designed to protect us from harm, longer-term stress can have a negative impact on our mental and physical wellbeing and lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as physical conditions too.

Why not have a go at our relaxation quiz and see if you know how to relax. All the answers to these questions can be found in the advice and resources section of our website >

Relaxation quiz and competition

1. Which of the following is an example of immobile relaxation?

  • A  Sleeping  
  • B  Meditation

2. How do physical relaxation methods work?

  • A  They occupy the mind so that it is temporarily relieved from stressors.
  • B  They tire us out so that we're too tired to think about our worries.

3.  Which of the following is an example of physical relaxation?

  • A  Tai chi  
  • B  Competitive sport

4. Which of following statements is based on mindfulness practices?

  • A  Happiness lies in the present.
  • B  It is is important to reflect on past experiences to become more mindful.

5. Mindfulness is a practice that can help you feel less stressed. Where does mindfulness stem from?

  • A  It was developed by psychologists a decade ago as an antidote to modern day life.
  • B  It stems from ancient Buddhist practices.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Learning lessons from top sports people

Those of the less sporty among us, may have distant memories of being made to run four laps around the school sports field as a warm up before embarking on the sport for the day. It's not surprising then that these memories may have been pushed to the backs of our minds - sport isn't for us and we are glad we no longer have to do it. But wait, are we throwing the baby out with the bath water? Can we learn lessons from sport that are useful in our lives more generally, and if so what are they?

While many people struggle to manage pressure in their everyday lives and perhaps fail to achieve their goals as a result of this, elite sports people manage to achieve their goals despite the pressure. So what can we 'steal' from the way top athletes do things that we can use in our own lives?

Five lessons we can learn from top sports people

1. Keep motivated

if you have one specific goal to achieve, set yourself a range of related goals to keep you motivated along the way and reward yourself when you achieve each goal.

2. Follow a routine

Work out what steps you need to follow to achieve your goal. Plan a routine and follow it. Being successful takes a great deal of commitment so be prepared to work hard.

3. Believe in your ability

To succeed in something, you need to believe you are capable of doing it. Think about whether you truly believe in what you are trying to achieve. If not, think why not and challenge your thought processes. Replace your unhelpful thoughts "I can't do this" with helpful and realistic ones "I am going to find this very hard, but there is nothing suggesting I can't do this".

4. Manage your anxiety and adopt helpful behaviours

When you challenge yourself, you are likely to feel anxious and fearful. Learn to manage these feelings and you will be able to achieve more.

5. Look after yourself

Look after yourself physically and mentally to ensure you are in the best frame of mind to achieve your goals. Don't overload your schedule and plan in time to relax.

And don't forget that keeping fit and healthy is vital for a happy, healthy life. Your body is designed to move. There are so many things you can do to keep mentally and physically fit. Find something that works for you and stick to it!

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Quick ways to keep your family connected over the festive period

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – but for many of us, it’s also the time when we do lots of things for other people and can easily lose sight of what is good for us and our closest friends and family. As we are pulled in different directions and have many things to do, what is meant to be valuable family time can get railroaded, leaving us feeling stressed and short tempered.

So what can we do to avoid Christmas burnout and ensure that we spend quality time with our nearest and dearest over the festive period?

Set time aside to share

At no other point in the year is a calendar more important than December. There are places to be, things to do and the demands on our time are all encompassing. Make sure that you schedule in quality time with your family. We don’t mean sat in front of the TV (though you can schedule time in for that too!). We really mean being mindful about how you spend your time together. Even in very close families, Christmas will mean different things for each individual, especially when we often have different interests and priorities. Set time aside to sit down together and share your thoughts and opinions. Opening up to others is the way to create a deeper connection.

Focus on presence – not presents

We all know what it’s like to be somewhere though our mind is actually a million miles away. There are so many things to fit in and only a short window of time. In an ideal world, we’d be focused at every single event, but the reality is that we can't do it all. Give yourself a break and choose one or two events during the season when you will be truly present. Turn off your phone, soak up the atmosphere, and take in the joy on your family’s faces. Laugh. Sing. Breathe. Take the opportunity to step off the treadmill and find the true meaning of Christmas in just a couple of Christmas events. Your family will thank you for it.

Make memories

It won’t take long for your family to forget what you have bought them for Christmas, but they won’t forget how you make them feel. The time you spend with people and the thought that you put into your gifts is not measured in money – or at least it shouldn’t be. Christmas is a time for making memories that will last for years to come. Often our Christmas as adults is shaped by what we ourselves have experienced as a child – and the same will be true of your family. Time and time again, research has shown that experiences bring more happiness to people than things do, so spend time thinking about what you can do for – and with – your family, rather than what you can buy them. Share some of your old family traditions with your own children and don’t be afraid to start some new ones too. Sharing experiences are key to keeping connected.

All families thrive on routine – they’re the patterns we all fall into during our usual day to day life. It doesn’t take much for these patterns to become compromised – especially over the holidays, so it’s important that we focus as much on the things we need to do to make sure our loved ones continue to feel loved and respected as we do on the need for everyone to have a ‘perfect Christmas’.

You can read more about family dynamics and how to create a positive environment in this Psychology Today article.