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Mental Health

Sleep and Mental Health

Good sleep is vital to good mental and physical health

Sleep is essential for maintaining good health.  The odd sleepless night may affect your whole day, but consistently not getting enough sleep can have a serious impact on your mental health.  It can affect your ability to concentrate and make good decisions.  It can make you irritable and impatient.  It can cause anxiety and depression and increase your chances of other mental health conditions.  Conversely, having poor mental health can lead to problems with sleep.  It can become a never ending cycle.

In my work as a yoga teacher and yoga therapist, one of the main ways I’ve been able to help people is by helping them to sleep and to sleep properly.

What do I mean by sleep properly?

It’s not just how much sleep we get, but the quality of that sleep.  Some of us need more sleep than others but generally most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per day.  It’s normal to wake in the night, maybe to go to the loo, but if you can’t get back to sleep quickly, then you may not get enough rest.  The golden rule is that you should awake feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

Many people, however, fall asleep exhausted and wake up feeling tired.  This means that they’re not nourished from their sleep and they may rely on coffee or other stimulants to get through the day.  Others may find it hard to get to sleep in the first place because of worry.  Then if they do sleep it may only be for a couple of hours and they wake unable to fall asleep again.  Some complain of grinding teeth, dental problems, headaches and pain in their jaw when they wake.

So how can you improve the quality of your sleep?

With my clients, I often use movement synchronised with the breath, most likely in a supine position.  I might combine this with long held (gentle) stretches.  After this I may use relaxation techniques such PMR (progressive muscle relaxation), conscious breathing (pranayama) and restorative yoga postures, followed by a long savasana (yoga relaxation pose) where I will give a guided relaxation technique called yoga nidra (sleep of the yogis).

Many people have never experienced such deep relaxation and when they do they want more of it.  It’s like they finally have permission to relax.

Try my yoga nidra for sleep. Do it for five consecutive days and see what difference it makes to your happiness, health and wellbeing.

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Mental Health

What is Self Harm?

The image that often comes to mind is of someone cutting themselves. But self harm can be any action that causes injury or pain to yourself. Over-eating, over-exercising, participating in unsafe activities, drinking too much are all just harmful to yourself as causing immediate physical injuries.

Many people think those that self harm are just attention seeking. If they were serious, they would attempt suicide, right? But in reality they will often do their best to keep their behaviour a secret. It is a coping strategy, a way of dealing with extremely difficult emotions and feeling some control over unmanageable emotions.

MHFA plenary speaker and self harm awareness trainer Satveer Nijjar discusses and explains more in this video.

According to a report published in the British Medical Journal, non-suicidal self harm has tripled in the UK in the last 10 years though people aren’t accessing services.

The co-author of the report Louis Appleby, from the University of Manchester, commented: “An increase in the prevalence of using self harm to cope with emotional stress could have serious long term implications. There is a risk that self harm will become normalised for young people, and individuals who start to self harm when young might adopt the behaviour as a long term coping strategy.”

Appleby warned, “Non-suicidal self harm may be associated with later suicide. As young people get older, reaching age groups that already have higher suicide rates, the self harm they have learned may become more serious and more likely to have a fatal outcome.”

Where to go for help

Self harm can be successfully treated when caught early and it’s important to get help as soon as possible.

Self Harm UK have launched a free online support group for 14-19 year olds called Alumina.

Young Minds are always an excellent resource for all mental health matters for younger people and they have some great pages around self harm. They also support parents of young people too.

The mental health charity Mind have useful contacts if self harm affects you or someone you know.If you’re in crisis contact The Samaritans on 116 123. In 2019, people discussed self-harm in calls with Samaritans once every two minutes.

In the Adult MHFA courses we learn about crisis first aid for self harm and positive coping strategies to help reduce stress.

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Uncategorized

2020: What a Year!

rollercoaster

A tremendously difficult year

What a rollercoaster the year has been. The number of people reporting poor mental health increased massively due to the coronavirus pandemic. The murder of George Floyd sparked protests around the world, causing many people to question their own biases. And Brexit is finally upon us!

the world is closed

Coronavirus and mental health

There have been so many extra reasons to stress this year. Concerns about health. Uncertainty about money, jobs and housing. Families juggling working from home with home schooling and entertaining children. The loneliness of people living on their own or shielding. The enormous strain on NHS staff and other key workers. Constantly changing lockdown rules and tier systems causing confusion about what you’re allowed to do or not. Gyms, leisure facilities and hospitality (and sadly some mental health support services) closing and being unable to meet with friends and family. A loss of freedom and, for many, a loss of loved ones. It’s no wonder that almost half of the UK population have felt anxious or worried.

Public Health England (PHE) have developed a new Covid-19 mental health and wellbeing surveillance report (HMW) which gathers data from academia and public and voluntary sector reports. Their aim is to have ‘near to real time’ data on the mental health and wellbeing of people and communities across the country.

It’s emerging findings are that some groups have been disproportionally including adults those with pre-existing mental health conditions and those out of work.

food bank

We need more help

At a time when people need more mental health support, it’s sad to see services cut. This is the activity room at The Bridge in Harrow, a purpose built centre for mental health run by Rethink. Up until the beginning of lockdown it was used for yoga and other activities to support the mental health of some of the most vulnerable in the community. As the pandemic took it’s toll on people’s jobs and finances, it is now used a food bank. There are regularly queues of over 100 people there.

For almost 8 years, I taught a restorative yoga for mental health class for CNWL NHS trust and Harrow council. For a long time the class was packed and I had a waiting list but over the years due to central government cuts and changes in the way those with mental health access services, I saw the numbers dwindle. The NHS didn’t have the staff to process the funding applications for service users. It’s a truly shocking state of affairs.

black lives matter

Black Lives Matter

The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted how very far we still are from being an equal society. This is particularly true in regards to mental health. Black people are twice as likely to be admitted to mental health inpatient wards than White. And they are more likely to be referred by the criminal justice system than by a GP.

I am very proud to have been asked by Mental Health First Aid England to become a plenary speaker on racism and it’s effect on mental health. I have much personal experience on this subject.

I have joined the faculty at Yogacampus to lecture on Race, Ethnicity & Yoga on their Yoga Therapy diploma. I have taught this module for YogaHub Dublin and London’s MoreYoga and will be teaching on several other yoga teacher trainings next year.

If you would like help in becoming an anti-racist organisation, please contact me.

goodbye 2020

Supporting your mental health in 2021

If you’re experiencing poor mental health, take a moment from your day to look at the NHS every mind matters campaign for some simple but useful tips and tools to help you manage your mental health.

Look for your local Mind or Rethink for services in your area. And Samaritans are always there if you’re in crisis.

A Mental Health First Aid course can teach you how to spot the signs of mental ill health and provide support, as well as looking after your own wellbeing. We offer both online and in person courses (covid19 restrictions permitting). Find out more and view our upcoming courses.

We wish you a happy, healthy and safe new year!

James & Sital.