For decades I thought that having less-than-perfect mental health was somehow a sign I was an inadequate human- I was so wrong. But even with all that I know now, the stigma is so strong, I sit here with a lump in my throat as I attempt to share this rather vulnerable note with you.
As many of you know I am passionate about de-stigmatizing mental health, and I want to make it clear that we all have "mental health" and where we sit on that spectrum of mental health may shift day to day... depending on how well we slept, what we have eaten, how much activity we have done and the situations and people we find ourselves interacting with.
In an effort to keep smashing the stigma, today I am sharing...
3 things I am not ashamed to admit about my mental health.
1. I experience low-level anxiety almost every week. There was a time when I experienced it daily, but with a consistent yoga practice, a high dose of magnesium and limiting my coffee intake, I keep it mostly under control. The early signs are - a racing mind, stressful thoughts, feelings of panic, rising tension in my body, tightness in chest, unable to breathe deeply (like my diaphragm gets stuck) and nausea.
2. I experience low-level depression almost every week. This one I am still trying to "figure out". I wake up in a really low mood about once a week at the moment. Sometimes it lasts just the morning, sometimes it lasts up to 2 days. I feel sad, low energy, like nothing I do matters and I just can't get happy. It seems random and for months I have been paying attention to see what may be causing it. I thought it was related to my very occasional alcohol consumption or my menstrual cycle, but it's not.
For now, I'm taking the low-level A&D as it comes. Wobbly mental health is not unfamiliar to me (I remember occasionally being depressed/anxious ever since I was a teen) and it peaked in early motherhood- what holy, soul-stretching mayhem that was! Now I can accept these strong, uncomfortable feeling as a visitors in my life, who stop by unannounced (a bit annoying, but acceptance is key) to teach me and build my inner resource. I do what I can with the tools I have- my yoga and mindfulness practices, so these unannounced visitors don't negatively impact my life too much. After all, I am still a fairly high functioning, powerhouse of a woman... always doing, creating, dreaming and striving to make a difference in the world.
3. Without my daily yoga, I KNOW things would be much worse! I often wonder where I would be without yoga, likely living an untenable, chaotic life. Being a practitioner of yoga doesn't automatically eliminate mental health challenges, but there is a significant body of evidence out there now to show exactly how it helps us to manage/cope with the symptoms, and ultimately feel calmer and happier. My life is proof yoga works and I see again and again the positive impact it has in the lives of my clients. I want to be honest with you about this stuff. I am far from perfect. I have hard, sad, stressful, gritty days like the rest of us. I am a work in progress, just like you. And even when I am in the role of "teacher" I really feel that I am walking this path with you; beside you, not in front of you.
When I ran the Yoga for Mental Health workshop last month EVERYONE who came experienced anxiety. It is SO common because it's a side effect of the pace and intensity of modern life. And... it is one of the easiest mental health challenged to turn around.
Here are 5 things you can do right now, to help soothe feelings of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.
1. Conscious breathing - counting breaths down from 10.
2. Finger tapping- tap thumb to each of the four fingers, one at a time, counting 1,2,3,4 or chanting Sa-Ta-Na-Ma
3. Extended Exhale Breath - inhale for 4 exhale for 8
4. Hang upside down in a standing forward fold and take 10 breaths exhaling with the sound "Maaaaa"
5. Lay down on the ground and put your legs up the wall. Put binaural beats or yoga nidra in your ears and chill.
Yoga is booming and most people are aware that it has positive benefits for the mind as well as the body.
But, you'd be wrong to think that going to a general class once a week will radically transform your mental health.
Yoga works best when it is tailored to the individual and when it is practiced consistently, over a long time "little and often". This is especially true for yoga for mental health. I practice some kind of yoga every day, whether it's 10minutes of asana to start the day, palming over my eyes if I feel a headache coming one, practicing box breath when I am anxious, or doing an invigorating supported back bending practice to shift a low mood... it's all yoga and I can pick and chose what I need in the moment.
If you are interested in finding out more about how yoga can support your mental health, I would love to work with you to create your own personalised yoga practice.
We can meet in person or via Skype/Zoom. I will get to know your unique situation (but it's not therapy, so we won't be 'unpacking' the issues in the way you would with a counsellor) and from there I will design a customised yoga practice for you that supports your mental health.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING:
"I always feel so much better after our sessions, I actually feel good. I pretty much float out of there" R.D, who while recovering from severe anxiety attended weekly private classes. She has now come off some of her stronger medications, is working towards being off them entirely and integrates yoga into her weekly routine.
"Katie, you are better than drugs" D.H. my private client of 3 years who has made incredible breakthroughs in the way she now manages her stress or "electricity" as she calls it.
"If felt really special, like I was giving myself a precious gift" K.F sharing about how it feels to bring her attention and awareness back to her body, such a profound act of self-care.
I am offering a FREE 10 minute discovery call, for anyone who would like to find out how private yoga can help you manage your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Find more ease, joy and calm. Reduce overwhelm, stress and anxiety. Learn specific yoga techniques to suit your unique situation.
I look forward to helping you thrive!