Mindfulness teacher Emma Fairclough offers employee mindfulness programmes through her business called Soulcy. Scroll to the end for details on her free online meditation session coming up on World Mental Health Day. Here, she shares five ways we can connect better with ourselves and others.
With Monday 10 October coming up very soon, we’ve got two very good reasons to celebrate with World Mental Health Day and World Porridge Day on the same day – one is easy to swallow and the other a bit less so! The theme for this year’s WMHD celebrations is ‘psychological first-aid’ and how more of us can be prepared to use it when necessary. But what exactly does that mean and how can we learn how to use it?
The sad truth is there isn’t a single person who isn't aware of struggles happening somewhere in the world, even if it’s within our own family. Grief, stress, anxiety and fear surround us all at some point and often, it's at these times when we pull away from everything, go inside and curl into a metaphorical ball.
So what exactly can we do about it? We have a plan for when someone falls down - we find them a plaster. When their knee swells up, we give them an ice-pack to ease the pain, but what can we offer when they, and we, have wounds we cannot see?
Here are five ways you can connect to yourself and those around you:
1 Practise acceptance
This, in my opinion, is the most important and the lack of it so often causes heartache and pain. When was the last time you judged yourself on your actions, your thinking, your non-actions, your non-thinking? It’s incessant, isn’t it?
This need to berate yourself each day and you wonder why you don’t always feel like jumping out of bed in the mornings! Try to imagine this inner voice is a person – a huge person sat on your shoulder weighing you down… no wonder it's hard to concentrate.
But what can you do about it? Well, when we take a mindful approach, instead of trying to ignore it and drown it out (often unsuccessfully) with happy thoughts, we approach it with acceptance and eventually, understanding. Not an acceptance of what's being said necessarily, but an acceptance that it needs to be heard. Almost immediately, this voice doesn't need to shout anymore - it's being listened to, being heard and eventually it will quieten to a whisper.
It's the same when you're there for your friends, family and loved ones who are suffering. When they say things that may seem irrational and they're speaking from a place of fear, give them the space to speak, the space to be heard, and in time, that voice for them will start to fade, too.
2 Ask for help
Asking for help used to have such a stigma attached to it, but thankfully that is changing now and the power of vulnerability is beginning to dominate the mainstream. One of most important psychological first-aid treatments we can give ourself and others is the power to ask for help and be open to receiving it. A friend, family member, doctor or helpline - all are there for us when we're ready to reach out and be supported.
3 Appreciate and celebrate
Did you know that when you appreciate someone, they get the same warm fuzzy feeling as when they know they are loved? For that reason alone, we need to be doing more of it. When we start appreciating ourselves and celebrating those tiny things we do well, or that we did better than yesterday, something magical happens and the good stuff keeps on coming and growing.
When we appreciate others; when we recognise how they're improving and demonstrate this to them, it has a huge impact on their healing and gives them the confidence to keep going too.
4 Spend time in nature
We may feel like the big buildings and corporations have been here forever, but they really haven't - it's been the trees, oceans and mountains that were here first! Get yourself out there into nature's garden and have a dose of her medicine by going for a walk, taking deep breaths and getting back into the moment.
The desire to stay inside can be strong, but the need to get outside is stronger. Take your friends and family with you too, as it's a good exercise for everyone involved.
5 Tune into your senses
The one thing that gets us out of our heads immediately is when we get into our bodies and our senses. That moment when your thoughts are ruminating out of control again is not a time to be positive – not yet anyway. It's a time to connect to your breath, feel your beating heart and the sensation of the cool wind against your face.
Take your friend outside and help them reconnect to what's real and what it means to be alive. Help them reconnect to who they truly are again.
Emma Fairclough is a mindfulness (at work) teacher; inspirational speaker; business development director EMEA and intuitive and communications specialist. Emma helps her clients become more present in their lives, building their resilience to stress at work and at home. Her company, Soulcy.com, offers weekly online meditations and is an invaluable mindfulness resource accessible to everyone.