Thursday, 19 March 2020

Spring into action

There are many reasons why spring is one of the most-loved seasons. Not only can we start to enjoy longer days and lighter evenings, it’s a time when nature comes to life once again. 

During the current health situation, the outdoors is more important than ever to protect our mental wellbeing. Find out why getting outside should be high on your list of priorities.

The benefits of spring

  • More hours of daylight provide us with vitamin D which promotes mental wellbeing, decreases risk of heart disease and regulates our mood.
  • Seeing new-born animals gives us a feeling of joy and hope.
  • Regrowth of plants and trees brings colour to our surroundings and produces oxygen, which can improve our mood and make us feel more relaxed.
  • Better weather encourages a more active lifestyle outdoors, reducing stress and anxiety.
  • More time spent outdoors can reduce the risk of depression, improve concentration and assist our quality of sleep.

When we take all of the above factors into consideration, the benefits of spring really do have a wonderful effect on our mental and physical health. As well as boosting our mood, it can also boost our self-confidence and self-esteem.

To get the most out of this magical season, there are many ways to get up close and personal with all forms of nature so that you start reaping the rewards of spring.

Nature activities

Make a concerted effort to become more active. By going on wildlife walks among nature trails, you’ll be getting exercise, and it’s a great way to practise mindfulness and appreciation for the natural beauty around you.

Take time to stop and watch the wildlife. Observing creatures in the wild can help to clear and focus the mind. By seeing the bigger picture and appreciating how incredible the world around us is, it can give us strength and the ability to deal with stressful situations in a more positive way.

Spend time in your garden. By creating colourful outdoor spaces with bedding plants or pots, we can create a sense of calm and help fight off depression. You can also bring wildlife into the space with plants that attract bees and butterflies or even buy a bird feeder. Bringing wildlife to your garden will give you a great sense of achievement and hours of pleasure.

Try growing your own. You might like to try growing your own herbs and fruit and vegetables. As well as saving money on your groceries, it’s a great stress reliever and you’ll be eating healthy too.

Have a picnic. While social activities may be discouraged at the moment, that doesn't stop you having a picnic in your garden, on your balcony or in the park or a local beauty spot with a family member. Just remember to take your hand gel and observe government advised protocols.

Get sporty! There are a whole host of sporting activities you can enjoy outside, from cycling and canoeing to rock climbing or surfing. Outdoor sports can considerably improve both your physical and mental health. An article by Harvard Health Publishing highlights the benefits of exercising outdoors and looks at how it can reduce stress.

If you’d like more information about nature and its mental health benefits, the mental health charity Mind has put together some helpful tips and ideas for outdoor activities.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Tackling eating disorders

Everybody has different eating habits and our outlook on food and our bodies can vary greatly from person to person. If you find that your diet is taking over your daily life, it might be time to seek support.

What are eating disorders?

There are several types of eating disorder, including bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa and binge eating. If you’re not sure whether you have an eating disorder, there are lots of symptoms to look out for:

  • Feelings of guilt after you’ve eaten.
  • Binge eating in secret.
  • Being obsessed with food and your weight.
  • Making yourself vomit after eating.
  • Over exercising.

There are many reasons why people adopt eating disorders, such as low self-esteem, being overweight or depression. Emotional and social issues can often be caused by the media and social media presenting unrealistic perceptions and images of what society expects us to look like.

When we become so obsessed with food and our weight, we might start to see our physical appearance in an unrealistic light, which is completely different to how others see us. This is called body dysmorphia and is very often linked to eating disorders.

Effects of eating disorders

Eating disorders are extremely damaging to our mental and physical health and can cause worrying problems such as: low blood pressure, irregular periods in women, low moods, anxiety, depression, tiredness, lack of energy, constipation and bloating. Over time, these symptoms can lead to more serious health concerns, including: heart failure, seizures, diabetes, hypothermia, kidney failure and, in some instances, even death.

The charity Beat Eating Disorders provides further information about eating disorders and offers advice and techniques to help make things better.

In order to tackle eating disorders, you must first recognise that you have an issue. Beat has a great page about the different eating disorders and their symptoms here as well as what you can do to get help.

However, in the meantime, there are ways in which you can help yourself if you're concerned you might have an eating disorder.

  • Talk to someone. Whether it’s a close friend or family member, don’t keep it to yourself. Eating disorders can bring about feelings of guilt and shame but remember, it is an illness and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Asking for help is a brave thing to do and there are lots of people who are willing to help without judging you.
  • Undertake a healthy amount of exercise as this releases endorphins and will help to make you feel good about yourself.
  • Try not to calorie count and avoid weighing yourself every day. Instead, plan a healthy balanced diet and try to stick to regular mealtimes to keep a healthy routine.
  • Avoid social media and any other forms of media that might encourage you to compare yourself to unnatural and digitally enhanced images of men and women.
  • Practise affirmation exercises that make you feel more positive about yourself. These types of exercises can quieten your inner critic and make you more appreciative of your good qualities.
  • Be kind and patient with yourself. Unfortunately, there isn’t an overnight cure for eating disorders and it can be a lengthy healing process where you might relapse from time to time. Remember, this is normal and try to focus on your positive achievements.
  • Recognise and make a list of any situations or emotions that might trigger thoughts and behaviours related to your eating disorder. Are there any ways you can avoid certain situations or are there coping mechanisms you can put into place that will help you overcome them?

By accepting you have a problem and by asking for help, you have already made a huge step forward and you should be proud of yourself. Make sure you have a strong support network around you and focus on your ongoing recovery.

For more about eating disorders and body image issues, visit our information page >