‘Being able to “switch off” and clear your mind of worries isn’t something that comes naturally to most of us’, says Dr Meg Arroll, a chartered psychologist working with Healthspan. It can take a bit of work to master doing it but as she points out, ‘Like most skills it requires practise but can offer huge rewards if you do it and keep it up.’
So, the million-dollar question is what can furnish us with the ability to not only ‘switch off’ when we need to, but also achieve increased strength of mind and more emotional equilibrium?
A new poll commissioned by vitamin and wellness brand Healthspan revealed 62% of people say their mind is constantly running ‘a mile a minute’. And 83% feel like they constantly have too much currently going on in their head with the current news landscape.
Three quarters in the poll have so much on their minds they struggle to switch off and many say they don’t sleep well for at least three nights out of seven, because they can’t stop their mind racing. Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of those polled feel less able to handle whatever is on their mind when they haven’t slept well.
‘Shifting your mindset from critical to curious is one way to increase your chances’, says Dr Arroll. ’We often berate ourselves for not being able to cope with life’s daily hassles, but this negative mindset only drains us of mental strength. So, rather than beating yourself up for feeling stressed or angry look at the signs and symptoms, you’re experiencing with interest and curiosity to see what they are telling you. Even “bad” or ambivalent emotions are useful information which is why it is important to attend to these emotional warning signals. It could be you need to prioritise certain things more effectively, manage technology more efficiently or simply take a break.’
Expanding on this theme Thor A Rain, who set up The Helpful Clinic to help people to develop their own unique ‘First Aid for Feelings’ kit, explains how we can cope more helpfully and effectively, with often uncomfortable and intense feelings like worry, stress, anger and anxiety. As Thor points out, ‘uncomfortable feelings are designed to make us feel uncomfortable for a reason – to take action’. The action Thor suggests includes:
Take a step back and acknowledge what you are feeling. When we are in the grip of strong feelings, we tend not to do this and as such, we continue down our familiar emotional response route, even if it has been shown not to work well for us. This tends to lead to unhelpful ‘solutions’ to numb the feelings and/or deny or suppress them (by overeating, drinking too much, smoking, working and/or exercising excessively) and this can lead to tensions in your relationships.
Think about the language you use to describe how you are feeling. Be especially mindful of the way you might put yourself down or criticise yourself (either out loud or in your head) when faced with a difficult emotion (‘I am so stupid to get angry so quickly’/ ‘I am such an idiot to get upset about everything’ etc). You wouldn’t speak to other people like this so why do it to yourself?
Build an ‘emotional first aid kit’ that you can whip out to help you manage uncomfortable feelings. This will be personal to you and draw on all five senses – smell, touch, taste, sound, sight – and act as kind of sensory ‘selection box’. For example, you could keep something to hand that ‘smells’ of a time when you felt good, energised and happy like coconut oil that reminds you of holidays, say, or frankincense oil that smells of churches and gives you a feeling of inner peace. Put on a piece of soothing or uplifting music, go outside and tune into the sound of birdsong or call up a supportive person in your life: whatever reminds you of what it ‘sounds’ like to feel good. To ‘hold onto’ a sense of calm keep a smooth pebble, shell or other keepsake you can touch and which reminds you of a time and place where and when you felt relaxed or wrap a big blanket or cardigan around you to feel it ‘hugging’ you better!
You don’t need to do all of these things, but you get the picture – this ‘emotional first aid kit’ can give you the personal props to make you more self-aware of how you feel and what motivates those feelings.
Over time as your needs change so might your emotional first aid kit but the point is it is getting you to focus more on your feelings and understand them. This should help you to become mentally stronger, more resilient and less likely to be at the mercy of feelings that keep you awake at night.
Practising the strategies outlined above should also go some way to clear your head for bed and help you to a sounder night’s sleep but there are other practical steps you can take too. Sleep experts say probably the most important thing you can do is to get into the habit of going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day in order to establish your personal sleep-wake cycle. Rob Hobson, nutritionist and author of The Art of Sleeping* agrees adding, ‘Exercising good sleep hygiene habits while eating a balanced diet is key and supplements like Valerian* and 5-HTP* may be useful in your quest for better sleep.’ To add to this Dr Sarah Brewer, Healthspan Medical Director says, ‘CBD is a popular treatment for insomnia and promotes refreshing Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which reduces daytime sleepiness. I personally take Healthspan’s Night Time CBD Oil to help me sleep at night.’
The key then to taking a load off your racing mind is keep yourself generally physically healthy by eating a balanced and varied diet, taking nutritional supplements if needed, getting quality sleep and doing regular exercise along with a little emotional TLC. Often, we instinctively know what to do to help ourselves – like the four in 10 in the Healthspan poll who take a walk to ‘switch off’. Walking not only improves blood flow to the brain and helps to clear the cobwebs, physical exercise will also help improve your mood and sleep and reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. Dr Arroll sums it up like this, ‘The mind and body are all part of one system that is “you” so nurturing both will benefit you as a whole.’
Healthspan Night Time CBD Oil Oral Drops* £22.95 also contains hops, chamomile, honey and lemon balm. You are advised to take between one-24 drops before bed.