As OTs, you will be used to discussing both physical and mental health with those you are caring for. Reiterating the importance of looking after themselves on a physical and emotional level, and supporting them to do so through varying occupations that align with their likes, beliefs and goals, ensuring they take time for themselves and find joy in their day-to-day.
However, how many of you are guilty of not following any of this advice yourself. It is often the case that OTs are simply too busy caring for others to take time for themselves, but this year why not make a pledge to take care of yourself for a change.
Everyone replenishes their mental wellbeing differently, some like to exercise or go for a run, others like to take a long soak in the bath, and some people like to curl up and watch a movie with a cup of tea and no interruptions. Whatever it is, ensure that in 2024 you try to weave it into your everyday life. We are all so busy, that it can be easy to forget to take five minutes to recharge each day, or to make time for a run, but if you consciously try to create these windows for yourself, it will help your mental wellbeing in the long run, leaving you energised and ready to take on the world – or at least make it through the day with a newfound spring in your step!
You may be set in your ways and know what helps restore your balance in mind and soul already, but some of you may still be searching for an activity that resonates with you and fits into your life. We have come up with a few ideas to help you find your balance for 2024, we hope they help.
Mindfulness The publication Mindful defines mindfulness in the following way: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
It is a simple practice that can be undertaken in a number of ways, and there have been many studies into the positive impact that practising mindfulness can have. It has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, reduce feelings of depression and help with emotional regulation, as well as improving sleep and lowering blood pressure in some cases.
Mindfulness helps you to be more present to experience feelings and sensations, and it encourages you to pay attention to your thoughts, your actions and your body. This can help reduce feelings of overwhelm in busy lives, and can help promote a sense of calm into your daily life.
Try downloading a mindfulness app to get you started.
Exercise We all know the benefits of exercise on both our physical and mental health. The release of natural endorphins when you exercise can make you feel uplifted and energised – even though you may feel sweaty and tired! It doesn’t take a lot either, you do not have to take on a half marathon each night after walk, try simply jogging round your block or talking a brisk walk through a local park. Or opt for a living room workout – Joe Wickes has many work out videos on YouTube that are free to access and will give you a 15-20 minute workout without leaving your home.
Equally good for you is the practice of yoga or pilates. Again, this is one that can be done from the comfort of your own home, by accessing free online videos to follow. The restorative practice of yoga or pilates will work your mind and your body at the same time, leaving you feeling refreshed and recharged.
Nature Getting out into nature can have a very positive impact on your mental wellbeing. Fresh air, natural light, calming colours of trees and plants, and natural aromas, are just some of the benefits of immersing yourself in the outdoors. If you live near a forest or wooded area make sure you take the time to plan a walk, or if you work near any green spaces or parks take your lunch break there.
Find a bench and sit down for 10 minutes taking in the sounds of nature, escaping the hustle and bustle of your workplace can be restorative. Immersing yourself in the natural world has been shown to have a positive effect on physical and emotional wellbeing, so make sure you factor it in where you can.
The increasingly popular act of wild swimming, or open water swimming, has been shown to have amazing health benefits. You may think it is only for the brave few, to dive into the icy cold waters of the UK in all seasons, but more and more people are being converted to the physical, emotional, and social benefits that wild swimming offers.
University of Brighton’s Dr Catherine Kelly, is a leading voice in the benefits of wild swimming and being next to bodies of water. Dr Kelly is leading the charge in advocating for the recognition of “blue spaces” – the term now used for “outdoor environments – either natural or manmade – that prominently feature water and are accessible to people.”
Dr Kelly highlights the increase in dopamine and serotonin levels from swimming in open water, as well as the increase in white blood cells, reduction in blood pressure, and improved sleep patterns. The social aspect of wild swimming is another great opportunity to boost individual’s feelings of togetherness and camaraderie, being with like-minded individuals and sharing an exhilarating experience regularly has an incredibly positive impact.
Sometimes we keep our feelings pent up inside and don’t feel like we have an outlet to let them flood out. We all need to talk, it’s important to share our feelings and it’s important to feel like we have a safe space to do so. Keeping a journal can be a great way to take some time for yourself to work through what you are feeling, to get your feelings out, and to take time to process things that have happened, no matter how big or small they are.
Journals can be used as a way to record your mood and feelings, allowing you to track any triggers that may lead you to feeling sad, angry or upset. Equally, this can help you to recognise the things in your life that uplift you and bring joy to your life, allowing you to ensure you weave more of this into the fabric of your day.
You do not have to be a wordsmith, a journal is just for you, and the therapeutic act of simply writing, pen to paper, can have a soothing affect on your mood too.