There’s no denying that our minds are a powerful influence on our health and quality of life. Yet, when life gets overwhelming, we tend to forget to take care of our mental health and happiness. However, once you're equipped with a few mindful practices and supportive products, you can create a ‘Mental Wellbeing Toolkit’ that helps to restore inner calm and cultivate peace of mind.
How to Build Your Own Mental Wellbeing Toolkit
Here’s how to fill your Mental Wellbeing Toolkit with practices and products that will help you to alleviate the mental chaos induced by stress (and let’s face it, who doesn’t let stress get the best of them from time to time?).
These practices and products will help you look inward and foster a sense of calm and balance throughout your entire being. When life becomes overwhelming, turn to your Mental Wellbeing Toolkit and select one (or several) of these options to restore your peace of mind.
The tools of your Mental Wellbeing Kit:
1. Mindful Breathing Techniques
When feeling stressed, it’s a natural reaction, especially for women, to stop breathing properly. But full, deep breaths enhance good health in so many ways and increase the abilities to concentrate, learn and relax.
There are all sorts of different breathing techniques that calm a body feeling stressed and a mind spiraling out of control. A wonderful one to know and add to your Mental Wellbeing Kit is Counted Breaths.
Counted breaths help to dial up your parasympathetic nervous system (which manages rest, relaxation and digestion) and dial down your sympathetic nervous system (which triggers the “fight or flight” stress response — a major hormonal disruptor).
The goal is to make your exhalation longer than your inhalation. Start by choosing your count (such as 2 and 4), then inhale for a count of 2, pause for a count of 1, then exhale for a count of 4 and pause for another count of 1 before repeating.
If space and time allow, set a timer for 1 minute (or more), close your eyes, and focus on your counted breaths. But without the timer and with your eyes open, this is a great one to practice when smack dab in the middle of a stressful situation—no one except you will know that you’ve consciously altered your breathing.
2. Practice aromatherapy
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy defines aromatherapy as
the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize and promote the health of body, mind and spirit. It seeks to unify physiological, psychological and spiritual processes to enhance an individual’s innate healing process.
The idea is that certain scents trigger certain responses in the body, compelling us to relax, sleep, focus, pep-up...there's a multitude of possible responses. Aromatherapy is even showing up in conventional medical settings; doctors and surgeons have reported its effectiveness with pain management among patients recuperating from surgery and with nausea among patients undergoing treatment for disease.
If you’re not sure how your body will react to essential oils, of if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to check with your doctor to ensure essential oils are safe for you.
Aromatherapy at home:
It can be as simple as lighting a fragrant candle. We find Emma's So Natural Eco-Soy Candle in Lavender to be particularly soothing and calming.
Atlantic Aromatics Rose Absolute Oil in 7% coconut oil helps facilitate a soothing and comforting experience, especially when emotions or negative thoughts feel as if they’re out of control.
Atlantic Aromatics Sandalwood Oil 15% in coconut oil aids relaxation and calmness, particularly during stressful periods.
The Absolute Aroma diffuser offers one of the easiest ways to disperse aromatherapeutic fragrances throughout the rooms in your home. This diffuser also includes an optional mood lighting feature.
Pop Tisserand’s De-Stress Roller Ball into your bag and you’ll always have at your fingertips a perfectly proportioned blend of calming and centering essential oils, ready for instant application. When the moment becomes hectic, take some time to massage your pulse points with the roller ball while taking deep breaths to nurture a fresh perspective.
3. Laugh everyday
Do you feel better after a good laugh? If you said yes, there’s a scientific explanation for why. Research confirms that laughter is great for health. It helps to:
- Release physical and emotional tension
- Improve your mood
- Increase blood circulation
- Boost the immune system
- Facilitate cognitive functioning
Suddenly, those funny cat videos seem a lot more important to your daily wellbeing.
4. Tend to your body
Take a bath:
Relaxing in a bath helps to balance and calm the central nervous system, soothe muscles by easing muscular tension and pain, and bring solace to an overactive mind. We especially love (West Cork’s own) Ocean Bloom Healing, Beautifying Seaweed Bath. The bath helps to reduce the stress in the body while the natural seaweed ingredients naturally detoxify.
In studies examining the link between massage and mental health, massage has been shown to have a positive effect on anxiety, depression and stress. It’s believed that massage can boost the neurotransmitters that decrease anxiety and also subdue the hormones that increase anxiety.
Even if you can’t see a massage therapist on a regular basis, you have the ability to practice self-massage and reap the same benefits. There are countless online guides to self-massage techniques such as this and this, (all just a Google search away). But if all you can manage is a few minutes before bed, simply rubbing your feet with something that feels and smells nice— you’ll be able to unwind mentally and emotionally through a generous, loving act of self-care.
Massage oils to try:
Weleda Massage Balm with Arnica glides easily over skin and features arnica, traditionally used as a plant-based pain reliever. Soothing lavender oil and detoxifying rosemary oil round out this oil that soothes a tired, stressed body and relaxes sore muscles.
The clary sage in this massage blend from Atlantic Aromatics is associated with stress reduction, antibacterial and antidepressant properties, as well as the alleviation of menopausal symptoms and menstrual cramps.
5. Get outdoors
Spending time outdoors on a regular basis (even if that’s just 5 minutes gazing at the trees growing adjacent to your office carpark) helps to calm and clear the mind and elevate the spirit. And studies show that people who spend lots of time in natural green spaces are at less risk of developing type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and depression, and they also enjoy better sleep.
An easy (and often fun) way to receive the health benefits offered by nature is through the practice of ‘earthing’. It’s as simple as taking a barefoot walk outside to promote a connection to the earth’s electrons which restore your own natural charge and inner balance (Hannah wrote a great overview of the process here).
6. Ingest relaxation
Take a tea break:
A quiet moment to yourself with a steaming cup of tea can often settle the nerves and quiet the mind in an instant. The blend of basil, chamomile and mint in Peppermint Farm’s (hand-blended in West Cork) Organic Relaxing Tea is particularly appropriate for offering comfort in a stressful moment.
Try a tincture:
Irish Botanica’s Peace & Calm valerian tincture (to be taken nightly before bed) aids in the relief of mild anxiety to make falling asleep easier. Valerian is also associated with the alleviation of irritability and nervous tension to foster a better mindset.
Fortify with a supplement:
Wild Nutrition’s Food-Grown Magnesium helps to balance the nervous system to sustain energy levels during the days and make unwinding easier in the evenings, thanks to its soothing and calming properties. Magnesium supports healthy bones and teeth and (importantly) a positive mood.
7. Make journaling a hobby
Expressing your thoughts and recording your daily activities in a journal is believed to be a valuable practice for promoting mental health. Journaling has helped people to manage their anxiety, reduce their stress, and deal with the effects of depression. It’s also a wonderful way to introduce a bit of calmness, meaning and mindfulness into each day.
Mental Wellbeing Starts with You
Remember, no one is as capable of taking care of your mental wellbeing as you are. With a Mental Wellbeing Toolkit within reach, you’ll always be equipped to tend to the needs of your internal state of being. Whether you’re experiencing a stressful situation or a period of calm and contentment, you deserve to devote time and practice each day to taking care of your mental wellbeing.