Are You carrying mental weight?
This year has been crazy to say the very least. 2020 will not be a year we forget very easily.
As we are starting to emerge from lock-down and life is starting to resume to a new kind of normal, I have had a lot of conversations with people about how much weight they have put on during lock-down. Socially distanced takeaways were still an option for most of us and as time has gone on, it's almost become a habit for us to have a few too many nibbles and snacks as well as far too many drinks.
Many of us have been furloughed which has meant that we haven't needed to worry about getting up for work the following day. A few extra lie-ins have meant that a few extra drinks have almost felt acceptable. With restaurants and pubs now starting to reopen there may also be a feeling of making up for lost time.
We tend to all be relatively conscious about putting on physical weight, it's something we can all see so it's easier for us to notice when we need to reign things in.
But what about mental weight?
Our mental and physical health are connected to each other and this year may of caused many of us to feel weighed down, not just physically but also mentally. I for one, have certainly been struggling with a head full of crazy thoughts and feelings.
There have been extra pressure for lots of people so far this year. This could be from being in lock-down in general or from having to work harder or maybe working less, being away from loved ones, a lack of routine to the awful possibility that some of us have lost family and friends.
My question is, are You carrying extra mental weight from the lock-down?
If you are, it can make you feel pretty much the same as carrying extra physical weight.
Maybe you have been feeling sluggish or tired, lack of energy, declining mood or mood swings and negative thoughts hanging over you.
First lets begin by understanding what may have got us here......
What makes us put on mental weight and what is it?
Mental weight and worries can be triggered by lots of different factors:
Past mistakes - this is often something that niggles us continually. Thinking that we could have done something better than we did or differently to how we did
Past failures - you make look around you and see how much people have achieved in their life and this can make you feel like you could have done something more
Emotional baggage - loss of someone or something
Long term baggage - your upbringing,childhood issues and challenges, childhood traumas, schools, relationships and parenting
These are all things we need to work through. So many of us decide not to push these worries aside that eventually we are carrying so much that it seems impossible to even begin to try and manage.
When you have constant thoughts about past failures for instance, you may have statements like "I should have done this or I could have done that differently". When these negative thoughts repeat themselves in your head it almost becomes like a tape recording that plays over and over again. As this repetition continues it becomes somewhat normal.
We need to find a way we can break the cycle to begin some positive steps to move forward.
Below are 4 steps on how we can to shake off this extra mental weight.
1. Create a diary
If we wanted to get rid of physical weight and didn't know where we were going wrong, it is likely that we would be asked to write a food diary. This would include what you ate for breakfast, what you ate for lunch, what you ate for dinner and what you snacked on in-between.
We can do this for our minds too.
Each day our mind is consuming things, most of the time we are unaware of what we are taking in, let alone what we are actually processing. Statistics show that we have a round 60,000 thoughts per day and approximately 80% of them are negative.
By using a tracking system we can start to notice patterns. This can clearly show us days when we have been feeling good and days when we have struggled.
Start to track your daily activities. This activities may include running, walking, cooking, cleaning, work meetings and social events. After each activity write down what felt good and what you would do differently to improve it.
As you track the activities and your feelings you may start to notice patterns.
For me, after I have been for a run I feel strong, empowered, focused and confident, almost like I could do anything. Once I noticed this it made getting up and going out for a run easier. I knew that although it felt like a chore when I first woke up at the end of it I would feel great.
The feeling of greatness can make it easier to start activities. All to often we may just find it easier to wake up and not bother to get up and go out for that run or walk because we haven't recognised the positive feelings it brings afterwards.
Noticing your thoughts too as you track your activities can also be helpful. For instance, are there any major thoughts that come up for you when you are doing certain activities? If there are, where do they stem from?
In the past I have noticed that when I browse through Instagram I have felt myself become jealous of someone who can do a "perfect" yoga pose. My thoughts have then spiralled into "I am a failure because I cannot do this or do that as well as this person".
By reflecting, observing and acknowledging our thoughts and feelings throughout different activities we are giving ourselves attention. By giving ourselves attention we are validating and becoming more attentive and curious about our needs. This can rapidly improve our mental wellness.
2. Know your ingredients
What do you need to do everyday to feel your best or your most productive self?
I love to make homemade pizza. For me the perfect homemade pizza would have a puff pastry base coated in tomato puree and topped with red onions, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, red, green and yellow peppers, sweetcorn and loads of lovely cheese.
If I made my perfect pizza and missed out the cheese then my pizza would no longer be perfect for me.
Its the same thought process when we think about ourselves. If we don't have all the ingredients and the things that could make our day perfect then our day will not feel okay.
So, what ingredients do you need everyday to make your day perfect?
By knowing your ingredients you will start to see what you need to make things better for you.
The ingredients I need everyday to make my life good are:
A yoga practice with meditation and breathwork
Quality time with my children
Time outside walking or running
Space to process my thoughts
I see a huge difference in myself when I practice yoga and meditate, I feel a huge difference when my time has been spent making beautiful memories with my children, I feel a huge difference when I have had fresh air in my lungs and I feel a huge difference when I have had time to understand and process my thoughts.
There are 4 things that have a major impact on your daily life.
These are what you listen to everyday, what you watch everyday, what you read everyday and who you talk to everyday.
Try and listen to something positive each day. This could be an inspiring podcast or some music.
Before you go to sleep do not watch anything that may make you feel stressed, nervous or anxious. By keeping ourselves "on edge" our quality of sleep can be ruined. If our quality of sleep is ruined our quality of digestion is ruined. If our quality of digestion is ruined our quality of energy is ruined. If our quality of energy is ruined, our day is ruined.
We are always told not to eat too late at night as our food will not digest this is the same for our brain, if we watch something that makes our heart race our brain will still be trying to process this when we are trying to fall asleep.
Find a quote each week that resonates with you. Try to apply the quote in a different way each day. I heard this quote a few months back and it's one I love to think about.
"When the right people hug you it's like medicine"
On one day talk about the quote to a friend, on another day, repeat the quote in your head in the morning and the evening, on another day maybe write it down in between meetings and focus your thought on it.
By repeating positive thoughts you will start to believe them and create them and put them into reality. Don't just read a quote each week - apply it.
Who you talk to
Do the people you talk to drain you or drive you? Do they stress you or calm you? Do they make you feel empowered or like you have failed?
Its important to know and recognise what energy you are getting and what energy you are giving.
When do people get positive energy from you? When are you sending out negative energy? Who do you speak to that this happens with?
3. Mental workout
These are mental exercises you can do to lose mental weight. Just like we do HIIT workouts and Ab workouts we can do mental exercises too. Why not give these a go.
Practising being mentally present
A lot of our mental weight comes from thinking too much about the future or comes from living in the past. There is no mental weight in the present. There is only action.
With your hand placed on your heart, repeat the following affirmation to yourself 5 times:
"I am exactly where I need to be, I am not ahead, I am not behind, I am exactly where I need to be"
Pain comes from wanting to be somewhere we are not. We often think, "I should be here" or "I should have a 500 followers" or "I should be the parent that's getting it right".
By repeating the above affirmation we are being mentally present.
Practising being physically present
Using the following tool you can become physically grounded which in turn brings you physically present.
Spend a few moments noticing each of the following:
5 things you can see
4 things you can touch
3 things you can hear
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste
Noticing the breath
Breathing intentionally is a great way to bring you into the present moment.
Try this exercise and see how you feel after:
Place your hands on your tummy and breathe consciously into the hands allowing the tummy to rise and fall. Do not try and change the breath, just notice and observe however it is. On each inhale repeat in your head "I am breathing in" and on each exhale repeat in your head "I am breathing out" Practice this for 2 minutes.
This reduces mental weight significantly as you begin to slow down the breathe which will in turn calm the mind.
Check in with yourself
Each day ask yourself some basic questions:
How do you feel? How does your mind feel? How can you feel better? Is there anything you need to stop doing? Is there anything you need to start doing?
4. Stay mentally active
Learn something new every single day. No matter how small or insignificant it may seem, this will have a positive effect on keeping your mind alert.
Last night before going to sleep my 6 year old daughter asked me what time of day baby turtles hatch. In my mind I thought it was in the morning. After a quick google search, I found out it's actually at night. I didn't know this and I continued to read numerous facts about turtles and their egg laying and hatching protocols.
I could actually feel my mind absorbing all these new bits of information and found myself researching other facts about the subject.
Learning new things keeps our brain active, we don't need to sit and immerse ourselves in hours of study, we can learn super simple things like a new fact, a new word, a new quote or we can learn something new about the place we live in, nature, or the wonderful world we live in. The list is endless.
We can ask ourselves questions like what am I grateful for today? or what would I do if I found a million pound in a suitcase? These are basic things we can do or incorporate into our lives with family and friends to keep our minds alive.
So there we have it, 4 things you can do to get rid of mental weight.
Even if you only try one of the activities above, hopefully you will find a little more space is created in your mind.
Our minds are no different to our bodies, they need to be looked after and loved. Always be kind to your body and kind to your mind, love yourself unconditionally and be proud of who you are.
Love Zara x
There is always information and support available if you know someone that may be suffering with their mental health or if you yourself need some help.