Positivity Plan Point 7 – Take Time For Yourself

[Recorded on 23/11/20 – Read the transcript below]

Hi there. I’m Dr. Courtney Raspin with Altum Health and you have joined me for our weekly deep dive into one point of the Altum Viral Positivity Plan. Now, I don’t know about you, but I am tired. This girl is tired and I feel like this is the time of year where we are crawling towards the holiday break and we’re all just trying to get there, get through our work, get through to the holiday break.

And what better time to really turn the focus inward? Yeah? What better time to really ensure that we are taking small steps? And it doesn’t take a lot to make sure that we get through to that holiday break, which I hope we’re all getting here. Yeah? So we get through and we just keep our mental health afloat.

That’s what this plan is about. It’s about giving you small things to do every single week to ensure that during this really difficult period, that you can improve your mental health with these small things, but based in psychological research and science, that you can try on your own in your own time to help boost your mental health, and hopefully, that can generate a bit of positivity because that’s what this plan is about. Remember, we’re trying to stop the spread of the virus. We’re almost at the end of this lockdown, but hopefully in the meantime, we can focus on our mental health, spread a little bit of positivity.

We’ve got some new faces tonight, which is great. So for those of you who are joining us for the first time, you can download the entire plan if you’ve missed the first seven weeks or the first six weeks, because we are on week seven. You can go to altumhealth.co.uk/positivityplan.

Now, last week we talked all about the healing powers of nature and we had the most marvellous Nicole Worrica, who is training to be a nature allied psychotherapist, talk to us all about the science as to why nature is so healing. And I would really love to hear how all of you got on this week in getting out into nature. Now I’ve been for walks, definitely been for walks more with my dog, Luna, who you know I love. But the one thing I really did do in anticipation of last week is I got back into house plants. Bringing nature inside, which is something that Nicole recommended that you do as well.

Now, I used to have plants a long, long time ago, but I had two kids and I found I couldn’t keep everything alive at once. So I decided to triage and choose the kids over the plants, which I defend that position to this day, but now that my kids are a bit older now and they don’t need quite the feeding and watering that they used to, I’ve decided to bring plants back into the house. I’m a little scared. So if anybody has some good tips as to how I might take care of my house plants, I think over-watering is bad, so I’m trying not to do that. I got a little mister, but please let me know in the comments because I could use all the help I can get. But I am enjoying them and they do lift me by having them in the house.

So please do let me know how you guys are getting on with getting out into nature. I really do want to hear about it. And if you have any questions about how nature helps you improve your mental health, then let me know, we can recap that as well.

Now this week, the theme is taking time for yourself. Taking time for yourself. You hear this all of the time, yeah? But it’s easier said than done. So I think in this modern world, and I’m sure keep them busy mom would agree with me here that we’re running around taking care of everybody else all of the time, trying to get things done, and working towards the holiday season. And we find that we are just empty. Yeah? And this is a sure-fire way to head down to burnout and is very dangerous for our mental health.

So it’s really, really important that you do take a bit of extra time for yourself, so you have the resources to then connect with the people that you love and help them along. Now, what does this mean, to take time for yourself? Well, it means different things for different people. So for example, if you’re feeling particularly anxious, it may help you to spend some time on your own and do things that settle and recalibrate your nervous system to come out of that hyper aroused state and into a place of safety and settledness where you can make better decisions. Because when you’re in that hyper aroused place, and even when you’re shut down because sometimes we go too high and sometimes we just shut down, our frontal lobe turns off. Yeah? That’s the decision-making lobe.

So we say things we don’t mean and we make bad decisions. And so when you feel that in your body, it’s really important to press the pause button. One of my favourite expressions. Yeah? And just take some time for yourself. So if you’ve been working with a therapist or you’ve been involved in a self-improvement over time, you will have tried a number of things. But if you haven’t tried these things, I would recommend doing some journaling, some breathing exercises, some guided meditations maybe, maybe a warm bath or a walk, try different things and see what works for you.

Now, tonight, I wanted to point out two things you might try that maybe you haven’t heard so much about, things that I try with my clients and they find really, really useful. And the first thing is to create what I call a calm box. And in a way, this is a bit like an emotional emergency toolkit. Yeah? One of those first aid kits that you can break open in case of emergency. And you can make this box, it can be a literal box at home and in it, you might put things that calm you down. Things like stress balls, a cooling eye mask, an oil field spiral perhaps. It could be just some pieces of paper folded up with lovely things people have said to you. It could be a favourite song that always makes you feel good.

It doesn’t really matter what’s in there. The important thing… I mean, it could be photographs of people that you love, things that will help bring your nervous system back into balance. So this calm box, have it ready and there for when you feel overwhelmed and dysregulated.

The other thing that you might try is to do something with food and eating. People always talk about how you shouldn’t comfort eat, but I say that’s not right at all. Food is extremely comforting. And as long as you don’t only use food as a way of comforting yourself, if it’s just one little tool in your toolbox, then occasionally having a little something to help regulate you, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you have a variety of tools in your toolkit.

Now specifically around food and eating, I want you to think about sensations. Yeah? Sucking things out of a straw, like a smoothie, something thick out of a straw, it can be very, very regulating, very, very calming, because it triggers an innate calming reflex. Just think about babies sucking on dummies or sucking on their thumbs. That movement is very calming for many people. So give that a go.

Or perhaps, you’re somebody who shuts down and shuts off and you need some mobilization to bring your nervous system back into balance. So why not, chewing on crisps, that crunch of pretzels and crisps? That can help relieve jaw tension, can take your mind off stressors, and can mobilize you and get you out of that very, very low place. So try different things and see what works for you. There are no rights and no wrongs. It’s whatever helps you personally and make sure that you have it close to hand and readily available in times of need.

Now, many of my clients, they also find guided meditations really helpful. Now mindfulness is very popular right now and I think everybody should give it a go and see what it’s about. There are many different ways to do it. But if you’re interested in learning about mindfulness, there’s a fantastic app and it’s called One Giant Mind. And their tagline is, “Teaching the world to meditate.” And apparently in 12 steps, 15 minutes each, you could really get a sense of how to meditate. And it’s non-judging, it talks to you about the little mistakes people make or that they think they’re making. Oftentimes you’re not making a mistake, you just haven’t been taught correctly that actually the mind wandering is what it does. You’re doing it right. So this is great for that.

And the other thing that I’d like to point your attention to is a website called self-compassion.org. The wonderful Kristin Neff. She is a professor in Educational Psychology, but I always call her my compassion guru. And she just knows everything about self-compassion and has these beautiful meditations, they’re not very long, that really focus on helping you to develop your own sense of compassion, your own self-compassion. And it’s only when we’re compassionate to ourselves that we can really take care of ourselves and take that time for ourselves.

So I can’t put those links in the comments here, they won’t be live, but I’ve put them in my main bio. The one to self-compassion.org and also to One Giant Mind. So please do have a look if you’re interested. And I would love to hear what it is that you do to take care of yourself this week. Please share with the #positivityplan. I might be sharing myself some things that I try from my list. I might make my own calm box and I’d love to see yours, if you’re going to do that yourself. Just share your favourite techniques. Tag me @drcourtneyraspin and don’t forget, like I said, to use the #positivityplan.

So that’s really it from me. I hope that you have a lovely, lovely week. Any questions, just let me know. And I’ll see you next week where we will be talking about faking it until you make it. Really, really powerful thing to do for your mental health. Take care, everyone and see you next week. Bye bye.

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