Every day should be a mental health day, but while we have the chance for global recognition of the importance of mental health, we should take it. The World Health Organisation recognises the importance of mental health each year with a day dedicated to spreading recognition and education.
Wellbeing is an active, participant led experience. We can’t passively wait for wellbeing to improve (although time may help), instead, when we have the opportunity, we can make small changes and take small steps to improve mental health and all-round wellbeing.
What should you be doing on World Mental Health Day? You will see lots of campaigns all with different mental health themes highlighting action, education and impact studies on mental health. Here, I’d like to highlight some small things that you can do for yourself or with someone who may be experiencing mental health struggles to make a difference today.
If you don’t feel ready for practical action, remember to show yourself kindness and compassion. We are good at looking after ourselves when we have the flu or a broken bone, but often berate ourselves internally when our thoughts or negative states of mind get the better of us. Mental health needs as much care and compassion as physical health. Try to reconnect with the moment through breathing meditation and allow yourself to ‘be’ rather than constantly trying to ‘do’. It’s ok to not be ok…
Try going outside
We have been lucky that the weather this WMHD is sunny and warm. Try sitting outside and taking a few moments in mindfulness. Tune into what you can hear (whether you are in the city or countryside) in the moment. Are the sounds near or far? Loud or soft? Natural or man-made? Next try noticing what you can feel – the sun on your face; breeze in your hair. Just being outside for a few moments can bring an appreciation for the beauty of life that is often lost when your mental health is affected.
Read a good book
It’s often hard to focus the mind or hold down thoughts when our mental health is suffering. Starting a simple task like reading a book can help relax the entire body and direct your thoughts into the present instead of the negative or ruminative thoughts that can occupy our minds. If you don’t enjoy reading, try mindful sketching or colouring, listening to music or playing an instrument. Even activities like baking can really bring you back to now, where your mind and body can rest.
Talk it over or write it down
Easier said than done I know, but when you are experiencing mental ill health, it’s important to maintain contact with family and friends. If you are experiencing difficulties, it’s important that you don’t try to struggle through on your own. It’s easy to stay at home alone under the duvet, but as I said at the start, wellbeing is an active process. Even a few words spoken in the gym or the shops can help you feel better. If you’re not ready to speak in person, try journalling your thoughts. Writing down your thoughts helps to rationalise them and gives context. What you may have spent all day worrying about could take on a new perspective when it’s before you in black and white. Writing or talking about how you feel helps you to let go of the grasp that we sometimes have when rumination kicks in. Turning thoughts into words can be a great release.
I’ve done a lot of ‘gratitude diaries’ over the years and I admit to being skeptical almost every time. However, they are a very useful activity for changing negative or unhelpful thought patterns. We can tend to get lost in our struggles or feel like we have a mountain to climb every day. If you spend a few moments throughout each day to list everything that you are grateful for, you will start to see that there are many things that can lift your mood each day: the sunlight coming through the curtains, the sound of birdsong, a good night’s sleep, an excellent cup of coffee on the way to work, the laughter of colleagues, a small kindness from a stranger, a good news story in the press, a good movie on TV, a long soak in the bath.
When your mood is low or life feels like a struggle, it often seems that when you wake up in the morning, the day seems to loom over you like an insurmountable obstacle. Try to break your day up into smaller sections so you can tackle each one with more energy and a lighter mood. Try to stay focused on the immediate activities that you are doing instead of casting your mind ahead with what-ifs and rumination. Stay present and let go of the weight of the future and the past.
As the nights get longer and colder and the days get damper, the inevitable cold and flu season approaches. Chances are we will all suffer from a seasonal cold; whether it’s a head cold that lasts a few days or something a little more persistent that knocks you back for a few weeks, it’s good to know how you can help yourself to recover.
Waging war on the common cold often seems like a lost cause with most of us resorting to over the counter remedies that allow us to ‘soldier on’ at home and at work. Keeping warm and drinking fluids is good advice, but what if there was something more you could do?
Essential oils have some powerful properties to fight the common cold and can be used as part of a self-care routine that in itself can help you feel much better. Although I wouldn’t recommend casting aside medical advice in favour of home remedies, there are things you could try to complement medical advice that could help you feel better physically and mentally and get you back on your feet sooner.
So what can you do? There are a number of essential oils that have been used for centuries (and proven in modern trials) to combat the symptoms of colds.
Oils you might like to have in your basic care kit:
Cinnamon, clove or rosemary – if mixed with warm water, can be effective as a surface cleanser or room mist to combat bacteria, viruses and fungus
Chamomile (Roman)– excellent at relieving cold and flu symptoms as it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It also has calming and sedative properties
Eucalyptus (Radiata) – Excellent in fighting respiratory tract infections
Lavender – Excellent calming effects and helps with sleep. Can also be used to treat headaches
Lemon – Has stimulating effects on the digestive system and is great at relieving headaches. Is generally good at uplifting mood and has antiseptic properties (making it great for room mist)
Peppermint – A wonder oil with analgesic, antiseptic, cooling and anti-inflammatory properties. Can relieve mucus and catarrh and relieve headaches
Tea Tree – An all-rounder for cold fighting; antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal. If you find the scent too antiseptic, it can be easily blended with lemon to disguise it.
Thyme (Linalol) – Great at fighting infections or contagious conditions and also at stimulating the immune system.
How to use the oils:
Steam – add up to 4 drops to a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam (placing a towel over the head). This is particularly useful for mucus, catarrh and headache relief. Alternatively, to get the benefits of steam and topical application, add a blend to the bath and soak yourself until you feel relief.
Topical application – a foot or hand massage is a great way to get the benefit of the oils and the relaxation of a massage. Add an oil blend to a carrier oil (such as coconut or grapeseed) and massage into hands and feet before bed. Blend the oils in the following quantity: 5 ml carrier oil, 1 drop of essential oil. 10 ml of carrier oil, 5 drops of essential oil.
Room mist or surface cleanser – Adding drops of a blend (up to 6 drops to 500 ml water, test on surfaces before full use) to warm water and shaking well (in a misting spray bottle) can make for an effective surface cleanser or room mist to clear away infectious microbes or bacteria.
Oil burner – get the benefits of the oils while relaxing in front of the TV or a good book. Add drops of essential oil (up to 5 drops) to 10ml of water and heat in an oil burner (over a candle). The room will be cleansed as well as your airways.
Experiment with blends that appeal to you as fragrances as well as for their cold and flu fighting properties and you will find something that works well for your mind as well as your body. Instead of fighting through and carrying on as normal, take some time to care for yourself through bathing with essential oils, giving yourself a massage or relaxing in a candle-lit room with an oil burner. Colds need not be the struggle that they usually are.
I’m a big fan of the Om Yoga Show; this must be the eighth or ninth time I’ve been to the show over the years and the third time visiting the ‘Northern version’ up in Manchester. I enjoyed the show last year and generally find it a much more enjoyable experience than the London version of the show.
Travelling to Manchester is pretty easy from the Midlands by train or car and helpfully, the organisers had kept the venue the same as last year; Event City, right next door to the Trafford Centre (and with free parking woohoo!). I went up on the first day of the show (Friday) and arrived at about 11.30 am and was surprised to see a giant queue to get in, stretching all the way into the car park. I got chatting to a fellow yogi in the queue and she agreed that it hadn’t seemed this busy last year. luckily the queue moved quickly and we got inside to find the hold-up had been due to staff trying to fill and hand out goody bags right in the doorway. Just as we got to the front of the queue we were told the goody bag area was causing a hold-up (no kidding) and so we would have to come back later to collect ours. No problem, as I didn’t fancy carrying the massive paper bag round the show with me.
As it turned out, I could have done with the massive bag to carry all my purchases – I still forget that nobody gives you a carrier bag anymore! The freebies inside this year included samples from BIO-Extracts of face cream, anti-oxidant boost and anti-wrinkle boost and some NOUGHTY leave in conditioner. I gently turned down the free sample of cider vinegar (even though I heard a lively discussion about how it can be effective if applied to acne – not sure which is worse; spots or smelling like vinegar??)
What was on
There was a good variety of stands on offer again this year – about 100 to choose from. This included food and drink, equipment, books, music, clothing, retreats and teacher training, meditation aids, and my personal favourites singing bowls and gongs. I played lots if different singing bowls and had a good chat to the owner of the Moon Karma stand (who was also an ashtangi running yoga retreats in Nepal…that went straight on the to do list). There were also three open classes and two workshop areas and a meditation area. The ticket price of £7.50 for one day entry was a bargain as usual as this allowed access to the show and free entry to all the classes in the open and meditation areas. It also included free entry to Vegan Life Live and the Mind Body Soul Experience.
What to do
I started with my usual quick circuit of the stands to find out what was where and who/what I’d like to revisit. Despite the big queues to get in, the show was not overcrowded and it was always easy to see and speak to any of the exhibitors. It was great to see the open classes so well attended. It’s never necessary to queue for more than 5 minutes at the Manchester show to take part in a free class, whereas I have been known to spend 30 minutes waiting at the London show only to be told the class is full.
The open classes this year included traditional Hatha yoga, inversions, singing bowl meditation, chair yoga, crystals, alignment, how to flow, yoga for MS, Kundalini, Kriya yoga, and vinyasa flow to name but a few. There was also a children’s yoga open area. I didn’t have chance to try and open class this year as I had two workshop bookings, but I did stop to watch a few. The Kundalini open class run by KYTA was fascinating; they played some fantastic music which really did help to connect mind and body (and I was only observing!). That one is going on my list for next year. The classes were full, but I didn’t see anyone get turned away so even if you don’t have a workshop booking, it’s worth coming to the show to try a new style of yoga for free. The DRU Yoga area had loads of free taster sessions going on all day as well – I’ve participated in these before and they are well worth the experience. I always think DRU would be the perfect yoga class to get you going in the morning.
The workshop areas were easy to find and the cost of these longer, intensive classes ranged from £5 – £10 for between 60 and 90 minutes – another great value way to try new things with national or international teachers.
Vegan Life and Mind Body Soul Experience
I briefly popped into Vegan Life Live because I know the food on offer is far superior to any of my own creations. As usual there was a great variety of food on offer as well as clothing, books and workshops to look at. I didn’t spend long in the show, but it was busy inside. I visited Home Kitchen Vegan again for the finest Asian food I have ever tasted!
The MBS Experience looked noticeably depleted this year. There were some familiar stands and faces from previous years, but none of the more interesting meditation, sound experiences and alternative therapies that have previously featured. I’d only recommend a visit to this show if there is a particular Tarot card reader or MBS practitioner that you want to see; otherwise it doesn’t have much to entertain you past the 30 minute mark.
Would I recommend the Om Yoga Show?
Definitely! This show remains a real bargain to visit and with all the free experience areas you can make a full day of it without spending more. If you do want a longer workshop, you can see world leading teachers for a bargain price. There is enough to entertain you for a morning or afternoon if you’re not doing an additional workshop or easily a full day with the extras. I noticed that the variety of clothing stands wasn’t quite as diverse this year but I loved the new additions of gongs and stands with a charitable or education focus.
The show desperately needs more areas for meditation and mindfulness and this should be a focus for next year as it was noticeably absent. The noisy atmosphere of the show means that people are often drawn to the quiet areas; and whilst there were places to sit, there were few places to enjoy a peaceful experience and try something new.
The Om Yoga Show is back next in London on 19th – 21st October 2018.
This was my first visit to the Holistic Health Show which is held at the NEC in Birmingham in May each year.
The venue is ideal for this kind of thing so not much needs to be said – lots of space, lots of parking. The parking charge remains scandalous at a £12 flat fee but with free show entry when you pre-register online, you can’t really complain.
Once inside there were goody bags available but it was an immediate bun-fight to grab one before the meagre supplies ran out. As it turns out, it was just a massive paper bag with a cosmetics catalogue inside. I ditched mine as soon as possible as it was a hindrance rather than an help when navigating the very busy show.
The Holistic Health show shares a hall with Hair & Beauty UK. Unfortunately about 80% of the space is hair and beauty with the Holistic Health Show taking up a very small proportion of the event. That said, there were lots of useful stands and exhibitors offering advice, products and workshops. I enjoyed a free meditation session; difficult in the hustle and bustle but worthwhile. There were some great product stands and retailers for aromatherapy in particular.
There was also a free presentation area where speakers delivered sessions throughout the day. I enjoyed a very enlightening session with Cain Leathem of GB Fitness on nutrition and the importance of real ‘personal’ training plan to develop real physical and mental strengths. This appealed to me as I’ve always struggled to gain weight in a health way. I found Cain’s presentation to be genuine and enjoyable.
There was also a large CPD area where sessions could be booked prior to the show and paid for online. A lot of the CPD was very specialised and focused; as a student, I didn’t find this particularly appealing and so didn’t part with my money on this occasion. It might be more worthwhile as a practitioner. Sessions were priced at £15 each but were wide-ranging from therapy for pregnant clients to using essential oils for cancer therapy.
Hair and Beauty UK was an eye-opening experience and was about as far removed from holistic therapy as you could find. I enjoyed looking at some of the bizarre and fantastic treatments in action, but there wasn’t anything that appealed to me in that part of the show.
Unfortunately the holistic side of the show was limited and only took up about 2 hours of my time including the workshop and meditation so it wasn’t a day out. I would go again utilising the free online registration and possibly doing some CPD in the future. It’s not a show that would induce me to part with the £10-£20 on-the-door ticket price however.
The Holistic Health Show is back at the NEC on 20 -21 May 2018