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    These 3 Mental Exercises Can Help You Find Your Purpose In Life At Any Age

    From the outside, it looked as if Tenise Hordge, 39, had it all. After spending 18 years climbing the corporate ladder, the engineer had the impressive title, big salary and corner office. But she wasn’t happy.

    After her daughter was born prematurely in 2017, she began to feel adrift at work. Who cares about this title I have? she remembers thinking. It didn’t help her carry her baby to full term. The money was not helping her daughter come home from the hospital sooner. Then came 2020. Hordge was exhausted, in so many ways. “I didn’t want to continue being this person I no longer was,” she says.

    You might call it an identity crisis, but psychologists would describe what Hordge was going through as a crisis of purpose.

    What does that actually mean?

    Purpose is a driving force in your life that connects you to values and ideals bigger than yourself, says psychologist Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a WH advisor and the author of Nervous Energy. Some prioritise crushing it in their careers. Excellence is a value, “so the drive to be excellent as a professional can be a purpose,” says Carmichael. But purpose can also take other forms—you may be motivated to devote yourself to religion, create art, or advocate for a social cause.

    “You can create meaning in your life no matter your circumstances.”

    All this may seem a bit abstract, but research shows purposeful living has a real impact on our well-being. Not only are those who move through life with a defined purpose more likely to stay happy in their jobs, but they are also better at keeping up with regular health screenings and less likely to have anxiety and depression. A strong sense of purpose has been linked to greater longevity too.

    It can be good to intentionally rethink and renew your purpose periodically throughout your life. This helps you stay in tune with what’s important to you at different points in time. FYI: Adults are more likely to feel happy with their life if they have a purpose and concrete strategies to carry out that purpose, a study in Frontiers in Psychology found.

    On that note, let us introduce you to a process called “life crafting.” It involves actively reflecting on your life via writing and thinking exercises—then setting goals to make changes so that how you spend your time aligns with what you value most, says Michaéla Schippers, a professor of behaviour and performance management at Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, who coined the term.

    You’re prompted to take an honest look at your passions, skills and even social life. “For a lot of people, without realising it, they find they are working a certain job or living in a way their parents wanted for them or what they think society demands of them,” says Schippers.

    Life crafting involves actively reflecting on your life—then setting goals to make changes.

    In Hordge’s case, it definitely took time—and a lot of planning—to figure out her next steps. Hordge wanted to help new moms navigate the challenges she faced, especially in breastfeeding. When her daughter was in the NICU, having a lactation consultant made a huge difference. She decided that was what she wanted to do and nailed down the specifics of how to turn it into reality. First, she used her bonus to cover a year’s worth of expenses. She and her husband paid off their car loans and debts. She found a certification program near her family so she could complete her clinical hours and have help with her two children. She found a lawyer and set up an LLC. Hordge now runs her own business helping new moms.

    “You can create meaning in your life no matter your circumstances,” Schippers says. “But what’s really important is that you have to set aside time to focus on it. It’s something you create for yourself. You’re the only one who can do it.”

    The good news is anyone willing to put in the effort can reap the benefits of life crafting. Keep reading for a step-by-step guide with exercises from experts to find your spark, design your future and set a unique and fulfilling vision in motion.

    READ MORE: 18 Mental Health Books For Anxiety, People-Pleasing And More

    1. Get to Know Yourself

    The first step is clarifying your values. “My biggest piece of advice is to relearn yourself,” Hordge says. “Once you understand who you are, you’ll know what’s important to you.” The cultural obsession with status or achievement drives many to go after the next pay raise or better title versus something truly meaningful to them. “For high-achieving women and especially women of colour, we’re valued and judged by what we do and not who we are,” says Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo, MD, founder of Melanin and Medicine. “That allows people to do all these things because of positive reinforcement from others without asking, ‘Is this what I really want?’”

    Explore Your Values

    Organising your thoughts in writing is key, per research. Ideally, you want to identify a passion that aligns with your values. So, from the two prompts below, pick one that speaks to you and write a short essay to discover where you stand:

    Look to the past. Your past experiences shape you, sure—but they can also teach you a lot about your purpose. “Look back at the moments in your life that have been meaningful to you,” Dr. Uwemedimo says. “That can help you find what brings joy and lead you to where you should put your focus.”

    Look to the future. Think about what kinds of relationships you’d like to have in your private and professional lives and what kind of career you want. Also, become aware of your current habits and skills while reflecting on the ones you adore or want to develop. That’s the first step toward breaking old patterns and building new routines.

    2. Set Goals

    Research shows that goals that are aligned with values are better for overall well-being. So, once you clarify your values, you’re already halfway there. Now give some thought to how you might turn them into action. For Hordge, that meant a career change. But finding your purpose can also mean simply creating space in your life to do more of what brings you meaning. For example, if it’s being a parent, a goal may be to find a way to delegate more tasks so you can spend time with your family.

    Imagine the Alternate Universe…

    Fantasise what your life will look like if you don’t take any actions. This actually motivates you to follow through because you’re confronted with the consequences of doing the opposite. Ask yourself, “What would my future look like five to 10 years down the road if nothing changes?”

    …Then Prioritise

    Write a passage laying out your ideal life. How would you spend your days if there were no limits of any kind? When Schippers started assigning first-year students this exercise, the university saw a 22 percent decrease in dropout rates among those who wrote it. List specific goals that will help you achieve your ideal life, then prioritise them. Identify the stumbling blocks that could get in your way and write down how you might work through them.

    READ MORE: Can Manifesting Really Help You Smash Your Goals?

    3. Open Up

    Finally, announce your plans to the world, Schippers says. Sharing your goals increases accountability and makes it more likely you will achieve them. Post your goals on Instagram, or simply talk through them with your partner or friend.

    It’s also important to start a new conversation with yourself. Life crafting can help you cultivate what’s known as an “internal locus of control.” With it, you believe it’s within your control to shape and affect the outcome and experience you have in life.

    Visualise Your Success

    Once you get the ball rolling, spend a few minutes each day or week picturing yourself living the ideal life you wrote about in your essay. If your goal is to travel the world, you might imagine looking up at the northern lights or chatting with the locals in Rome. Then envision yourself messaging your 2023 self to let her know you’re proud of her. “This can help you feel connected to the person you aspire to be,” Carmichael says. “This way, your aspirational self feels more attainable.”

    This article by Amelia Harnish originally appeared in the March 2023 issue of Women’s Health. More

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    4 Proudly South African Apps For Mental Health Support

    There are very few things in life that we can never tire of talking about. And mental health should top that list. This, in a country where the stigma surrounding mental health challenges is still met with nonchalant responses such as, “you’re being lazy” or “just keep pushing”, therefore making it harder for people to ask for help. At around a R1000 and more for a consultation, quality mental health care has become the reserve of those with deep pockets! 

    South Africa’s mental health culture still sees many people choosing to suffer in silence and embarrassment instead of speaking out. Other than private mental health specialists, there aren’t many free or affordable mental health resources to cater to the population. 

    A 2022 research paper published by the Wits/Medical Research Council Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit found that “South Africans suffer higher rates of probable depression and anxiety than other countries”. This was also a finding recorded by the Mental Health of the World report 2021 which, through the lowest mental health quotient score in the world, concluded that South Africa had a masked mental health crisis. To help you along on your mental health journey, we have compiled a list of apps and social media platforms to lean on when hard times strike. 

    READ MORE: 5 Morning Routines That Actually Work, According To Science

    Fee: Free for individualsAvailable: Android and iOS usersPanda is on a serious mission: to empower people to be proactive with their mental health battles. The user-friendly mobile app features tailored content, assessments, one-on-one therapy sessions as well as anonymous group sessions where you learn on topics ranging from anxiety to depression (and everything in between). The app offers three care packages for individuals, employees and insurers. 

    Fee: R185 per consultation or R120 for an express consultationAvailable: Android and iOS usersWith guaranteed quality healthcare at your fingertips, Kena Health has made it easy to consult a doctor or mental health professional directly. The app connects patients to qualified healthcare practitioners for advice, diagnoses, prescriptions and referrals to specialists or another place of care. Their aim: to make quality health care accessible at a steal.

    READ MORE: It’s Official: Stress Makes Us Crave Junk Food

    Fee: FreeAvailable: Android and iOS users Developed by medical doctors, WHOLE empowers users with ongoing self-care focused on holistic wellness in its entirety. How do they do this? Through a fun way to build healthy habits that can help improve mental health. Experiment with over 100 science-backed activities to boost your happiness. Plus, useful tips that keep you balanced all day and measure your progress. 

    READ MORE: “Social media had me romanticising my mental illness and put me in a hole.”

    Fee: FreeAvailability: Not available as an app yetDeveloped by IT entrepreneur Pieter Oosthuizen, this online support group helps you achieve your mental health and greater self-awareness through sharing and conversations. “The benefit of joining a support group has been widely recognised by mental health professionals around the world,” says Oosthuizen, who was inspired to launch the platform by his own sister’s battle with depression and anxiety.

    “Working with my sister, we started developing a platform that would enable anyone wanting to join any type of support group for a mental health condition or for life coaching generally to do so in a way that’s convenient, secure and affordable. It has also been designed to protect their privacy by allowing them to hide their identity from the host and other group members should they choose to do so.”

    READ MORE: Actress Shannon Esra On Learning To Trust Her Intuition

    More habits to hone

    Over some past few years, several studies have deduced that being constantly plugged into social media increased anxiety and depression. Taking a social media break is helpful for our mental health, as per the research findings of study by the Penn State University, USA and Jinan University, China. If you’re able to silence your mind for a few minutes a day (or more), then meditation also comes highly recommended. Several studies have, in the past, found that practising mindfulness and meditation ultimately leads to decreased stress levels. To get you started, we suggest downloading Insight Timer, Breathe2Relax or Smiling Mind for some guided meditation and breathwork. 

    Click here for some mental health resources and support if you’re in South Africa.  More

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    Actress Shannon Esra On Learning To Trust Her Intuition

    The South African actress, best known for her impressive catalogue of local and international productions such as I Dreamed of Africa, The Queen, The Gamechangers, The River, Still Breathing and, more recently, season 2 of M-Net’s Lioness, is finally allowing her intuition to take centre stage.

    “I’ve spent a great deal of time not listening to my intuition and it’s because I hadn’t understood the voice that was speaking to me,” she says.

    Recently, she’s become conscious of where her intuition resides in her body. “For the most part of my life, I liked bouncing things off of people that I trust. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve known people or how close you are to them, they will only understand certain dimensions. Whatever message comes from your own intuition is for you alone,” muses Shannon.

    Staying Connected

    READ MORE: Banesa Tseki On How Yoga Gave Her A New Lease On Life

    The truest way to connect to herself? Tapping into what’s happening whenever her intuition nudges her. We spend much time receiving the bulk of our feedback from the outside world. And sometimes, we do so while ignoring our primal and instinctual knowledge of self – also forgetting that the brain and body are built for survival – notes Shannon.

    ”Clichéd as it may sound, what I know is that our instincts are never wrong.” Along with relying on her instincts more, Shannon is also invested in healing her past traumas through therapy. She has a Netflix feature Do Your Worst film that was released in March. The movie’s about a failing actress about to turn 40, who’s dealing with some seriously bad decisions.

    READ MORE: Why Toxic Positivity Is Harmful And What To Say Instead

    Shannon didn’t particularly resonate with the character much, apart from the very real fear of being an out-of-work actor. “The character, Sondra, is a complete dits but the reason I bring her up is because when I’m in the midst of a project, I kind of become the person that I’m playing,” she explains.

    “I think, in this very strange way, every character that crosses my path comes to inevitably teach and open me up to something in myself that might not have presented itself without their influence. Every character comes at exactly the right time – it’s as if acting is its own type of wonderful healing and evolving experience,” she explains.

    Closed Off

    Shannon goes on to explain that in her world, embracing a character has been much easier than being her true self. Therapy, she acknowledges, helped her realise that she’d been a shutdown human. She cites two events, in particular, that led to her being closed off. Number one: Her love-filled childhood where she never learnt how to process her feelings, nor establish her own boundaries.

    “This created a perfectionist mentality in me, something that has troubled me for a large part of my life.”

    READ MORE: 10 South African TikTok Fitness Accounts That’ll Give You ALL The Motivation You Need

    The second event was a six-year relationship that she recently got out of. “I didn’t realise the extent of how its trauma had affected me because I grew up with that ‘if it doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t hurt’ mentality, which created space for me to keep shoving things under the rug.” Right now, Shannon only cares about being real, flawed and engaging in authentic conversations.

    Going Forward

    Her goal going forward? “…To be as self-aware and present as I can possibly be and, of course, listen to my intuition when something doesn’t feel quite right.” More

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    “Social media had me romanticising my mental illness and put me in a hole”

    Mental illness, once maligned and stigmatised, is now in a new era, with people proudly opening up about their struggles. But have we gone too far and romanticised mental illness to the point of making it desirable? WH investigates. 

    It started with a giggle. One post that really felt like it saw me. Saw my depression in ways I had never even considered. Before I knew it, I was scrolling through the entire feed, liking and commiserating with this shadowy account choc-o-block full of memes detailing my battle with depression with such levity, I felt that it might be all ok. Everyone struggles to get out of bed, right? None of us feel good about getting dressed? Doing the dishes? Going out?

    Mental illness, destigmatised

    That’s not to say that all social media use is detrimental to your mental health. Fairuz Gaibie, a clinical psychologist, notes it can be helpful. “Social media and mental health-related posts or information can serve an incredibly important and positive purpose,” she says. “Many individuals have finally recognised in themselves that they may be struggling with more than just the everyday struggles through identifying with a post and therefore realising that something more serious might be at play.” It’s also helped immensely with destigmatising mental illness. “Many feel incredibly heard and seen through posts that convey to them their very own experiences and struggles,” Gaibie says. 

    Bolstered by feeling like I was being seen, my scrolls through Instagram pages were endless. Instead of getting up and walking my dog, I found myself in a veritable scroll hole. I was looking for any sign that other people were struggling like me. They became bastions of my stance on my deteriorating mental health. That yeah, it was ok to lie around and stew about my lack of motivation to complete basic tasks like washing or going outside for a bit.

    I didn’t realise there was a problem until it was too late and I had imbibed the personality of the memes I was constantly digesting. I’d self-isolated for weeks and foregone my weekly workouts in favour of downing glasses of wine after getting through a tough workday. My texts to friends became darker, more worrying. When I sent memes to friends, the laughing emojis were lacklustre, with some even commenting, “Everything ok?”.

    What romanticising mental illness looks like 

    Turns out, romanticising mental illness is a well-established trend, not only on social media, but in movies and TV, too. Like how Elle Woods in Legally Blonde snaps out of her breakup-induced depression so fast? And becomes fabulous overnight? A girl can dream. Or how Lana Del Rey’s music makes depression seem romantic, beautiful and desirable. 

    One study notes the proliferation of mental illness online and how it forms part of creating an entire identity. “The presentation of the self, performed by a popular creator on TikTok, often implies that a mental illness diagnosis adds to their attractiveness and popularity,” the author notes. 

    Mental illness, but make it #trendy

    “Glamourising [or romanticising] mental illness is the move from what would otherwise be described as a life-altering and impacting condition into a ‘trend,” explains Zahraa Surtee, psychologist. “Many people use terms such as ‘anxiety,’ ‘depression’ and ‘bipolar’ freely on social media, stripping these terms of their true importance and disregarding the importance of considering it an illness, rather than a mere phase one experiences.”

    It’s a double-edged sword, notes Gaibie. “The comfort of seeing yourself and your struggles in a meme or article and knowing that many others go through similar experiences can be incredibly comforting and helpful,” she says. “Beginning to normalise these experiences to the extent of no longer realising the need to address and work on the struggles, however, is deeply problematic.”

    Compounding this, people with mental health disorders are drawn to social media at higher rates, per one study. “Studies have reported that individuals living with a range of mental disorders, including depression, psychotic disorders, or other severe mental illnesses, use social media platforms at comparable rates as the general population, with use ranging from about 70% among middle-age and older individuals to upwards of 97% among younger individuals,” the authors note. What we’re looking for? Community, encouragement; a sense of belonging. But the community can fast become something ‘trendy’ and dangerous instead of helpful. 

    What trivialising mental illness looks like 

    You might find yourself laughing off the serious side effects of your mental illness when you should seriously evaluate what’s going on. This could be taking stock of all the patterns and habits that are pointing to something bigger. “Due to the romanticisation of mental illness, especially in the online sphere, many tend to look at it as something trendy to label themselves with, without the informed opinion of a mental health professional,” says Surtee. It’s something echoed in many responses from friends. I asked them about the rising trend and whether or not it’s affected them at all. One friend texted back, “OMG ME AS A 15-year-old being obsessed with Jeffree Star and wanting to be emo and shit.”

    The side-effects 

    For context, Jefree Starr, in his early days, struggled with self-harm and this encouraged other people to do the same; made it seem cool. “He basically was a walking advertisement for self-harm and shit back in his early days,” my friend texted me. “Seeing that as a kid was confusing because on one hand, he was openly gay so that was nice to see, but then the other stuff…” It’s a slippery slope to a dark place.

    Romanticising mental illness can lead to trivialisation of the problem, says Kerry Rudman, founder of Brain Harmonics International and neurofeedback practitioner, who works with people struggling with mental illness. “This can take many forms, such as romanticizing the struggles of people with mental illness or portraying it as an essential part of a creative or artistic lifestyle,” she says. “It can also involve promoting harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about mental illness or portraying it as something that is easily overcome with quick solutions.”

    Prime example: me, thinking it’s totally ok to lie about all day and do nothing at all fed my unrealistic idea of life as something perpetually depressing, without getting help for what was an untreated depressive episode. “We run the risk of getting far too comfortable with mental illness or psychological distress; perhaps equating the fact that many have these struggles with it being the way things kind of just are and that this is acceptable. Just because something is very common (of which struggles like depression and anxiety are), does not mean that it is healthy to accept it,” explains Gaibie. 

    The way out 

    Psychologists see the rising trendiness of trivialised mental illness, too. “Ever since I joined social media, roughly about 10 years ago, I have witnessed only an increase in the ‘trending’ of mental illness online,” says Surtee. “Social media is not a guarded space and we don’t always have control over what we’re exposed to, leading many to gather false information about mental illness and causing them to wrongly self-diagnose. Hashtags like #broken, #thinspo, and #depressingquotes are largely popular and followed by millions on social media.”

    It’s also a catch-22 since people reach out to social media for mental health support, per one study.

    But it’s hard to control the kinds of content you’re fed, especially on Explore and For You Pages. From that study, respondents noted that they often felt overwhelmed by content and felt ‘out of control’ when it came to picking what they wanted (and maybe needed) to see on social media. The study also noted that once your algorithm starts feeding you the content you’re looking for (mental health content), it’s hard to stop that or opt-out, barring quitting the app altogether. 

    So how do we break out of doom-scrolling our way into another episode? 

    The pendulum can swing too far to the other end of the spectrum, from destigmatising mental illness to romanticising it. But there are steps that can be taken to ease your way into prime mental health. 

    Minimise screen time

    First, you might want to step away from the screens. “Social media is not a space to seek therapy or holistically educate ourselves about illness,” cautions Surtee. “It speaks largely in generalities and not to us an individuals.”  Digital detox, anyone? 

    Get professional help

    Are the memes you’re turning to getting darker? Are you using them as a crutch instead of engaging in real self-care? A therapist can help. “Seeking professional help can help you gain a more realistic understanding of the challenges,” says Rudman.

    Practise self-reflection

    “Check in with yourself and your thoughts about mental health,” says Rudman. “Check if your beliefs or attitudes about it are based on accurate information or if they are influenced by media or societal messages.”

    Clean up your feed 

    Notice how certain accounts make you feel. Do they make you feel uncertain about yourself, make you feel down? Unfollow those accounts and make space for positivity and upliftment rather than comparison. More

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    Here’s How To Actually Do A Digital Detox, According To Experts

    It’s 7 am. Your phone alarm goes off and, after snoozing for twenty minutes, you grab your phone. Inevitably, you’re littered with notifications: Uber Eats, that workout app you never open, WhatsApps from while you were asleep and some viral tweets are all demanding your attention. Of course, you open one and before you know it, it’s 8:30 am and you’ve got 30 minutes to be at your desk.  

    Like it or not, we’re humans enslaved to our digital devices. Come evening, mindlessly scrolling TikTok on mute while simultaneously watching Netflix is the norm. It feels impossible to just ignore every ping and vibration. It stands to reason, then, that our interests pique when someone says they’re taking on a digital detox. The international practice, used by celebrities, CEOs and regular people alike, allow us some distance from our devices.

    “It’s a period of time where you intentionally disconnect from technology, including phones, laptops, tablets, and social media, yes, that means even a quick WhatsApp,” says Melissa Lain, health coach.  

    But there’s more to it than that. Every time you open your phone, your brain is flooded with dopamine, the body’s innate reward hormone. It’s the same thing that makes you feel so satisfied after eating chocolate or winning an arm wrestle. But being exposed to it 24/7? That’s flooding our brains with the stuff, making us addicted to our tech. And, per a new survey, South Africans are spending upwards of three hours a day on social media alone. A digital detox, also called a dopamine detox, can help. “The idea is to take a break from the constant stream of information and stimulation that comes with being connected all the time,” says Lainn.

    How to tell when it’s time for a digital detox

    There are various signs that it’s time to shut down those reward centres for a while. First, if you’re spending excessive periods of time in a scroll hole, it’s time to put the phone down. Zahraa Surtee, counselling psychologist, notes that sleep disruptions – and checking your phone in the middle of the night – is also a tell-tale sign.

    Also, pay attention to how you’re feeling when you’re not on your devices, notes Melissa. “If you feel like you can never switch off, are constantly checking your phone or emails, even when there aren’t notifications buzzing, and feel overwhelmed by the amount of information you are consuming, it might be time for a digital detox,” she says. Zahraa agrees. Are you feeling anxiety when your phone’s not within reach? You’re likely in a dopamine rut. You might even find a feeling of disconnect with the real world, says Melissa. “If you find yourself spending more time online or watching other people live life rather than creating and experiencing your own, it’s a sign that you need to intentionally disconnect for a while and re-engage with the present moment.”

    Then there’s the physical ramifications: “Spending long periods of time in front of a screen can cause eye strain, tension headaches, neck and back pain, and other physical symptoms,” says Melissa.

    How to detox, digitally

    Zahraa sees digital detoxes as a way to carefully curate what you’re exposed to. “It’s not about giving up screen time completely,” she says. “Rather, it’s firstly about recognising that the media we consume DOES affect our mental health and the way we choose to show up in the world.” Spend some time curating your phone. Go through your apps and disable those notifications that annoy you, or that cause you to scroll endlessly. Do you really need a notification every time someone likes your Reel? “Just as we get to choose the type of foods we ideally want to nourish our bodies with, so we do get to choose the type of content we’d like to nourish our minds with,” says Zahraa. “Digital detoxes are ideally about spending screen time more mindfully and in moderation.”

    To Melissa, the digital detox you embark on can be individualised to you. “It can be as short as a few hours or as long as a week, or even more,” she says. “During this time, you commit to disconnecting from digital devices and focusing on other activities that promote stillness and well-being. Don’t overcomplicate it, an hour or two a day is a perfect way to start, especially when there’s load shedding.”

    Keen to try? Instead of using the time to stare into space, itching to check your phone or Netflix, try scheduling a tech-free activity. Maybe that’s a bubble bath, some colouring in time or just some tea and time with your thoughts. More

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    A Therapist Answers 6 of Your Questions Around Feeling Lonely at Christmas

    Whatever your typical set-up around December the 25th – perhaps a chunky get-together with the extended family, a little celebration with a few key friends and fizz or a firmly ‘non-traditional’ takeaway from your local Chinese restaurant, Christmas can feel a little strained and sometimes lonely.

    The festive period is a core cause of the feeling, even though we’re allowed to all be together again this year, after the global pandemic. While covid might be largely gone, loneliness manifests in different ways, pandemic or not.

    To help you through, WH asked leading psychotherapist and author of This Too Shall Pass, Julia Samuel, to respond to some of your questions, musings and comments on feeling alone, this Christmas.

    READ MORE:Mindful Drinking: How More And More People Are Becoming ‘Sober Curious’

    How should I deal with Christmas loneliness?

    But first, there is some universal advice to root yourself in. Regardless of your situation, the below is likely to be a tonic, to some degree, in this bizarre time.

    Keep a routine

    ‘It helps to have regular routines that you can rely on that give you some certainty, so it might be structural routine of exercise before breakfast, or meditate after work,’ says Samuel.

    Just breathe

    ‘Both exercise and any breathing technique also reduce the anxiety caused by uncertainty, so you get double benefit. Intentionally choosing to do things that give you joy also helps manage uncertainty, so it might be listening to wonderful music as you cook.’

    Know what you can control

    ‘Recognising and jotting down the things you can change and influence and those you can’t is worth sticking on your fridge door,’ Samuel details.

    Remember that, even amid wild uncertainty, you are in control of some aspects of your life. ‘It is important to be proactive, make times for online connection and if possible real connection through walks together, even taking hot drinks that you can stop and drink together,’ she adds.

    ‘We need connection to others more than anything else. People need people and love in every form is vital medicine right now, we have to commit and work to have it, not wait for someone else to connect with us.’

    Scroll on for her response to WH readers who are feeling a little stuck, sad or solitary, at this time.

    READ MORE: How To Manifest Something From Start To Finish

    6 of your Christmas loneliness questions, answered

    1. ‘I feel sick about Christmas! I am alone and dreading seeing people with their families on Instagram. What should I do?’

    ‘I can understand that living alone is heightened over Christmas when you both imagine and see on Instagram families being together,’ says Samuel. ‘I wonder if you might contact an organisation that connects people in communities, young and old online and in person.

    ‘Another thing to note is that using our skill and agency to make something through painting or any kind of craft gives us both purpose and satisfaction, there are also many online craft meet-ups that you can join to discuss your area of interest.’

    READ MORE: If The Festive Season Stresses You Out, Try These Psychologist-Backed Coping Strategies

    2. ‘I am struggling with uncertainty. It looks as if Christmas will be very miserable this year and there’s a shortage of money through no work…’

    ‘The uncertainty and shortage of money make celebrating anything worrying. I wonder if you can schedule virtual meet-up with, say, four good friends to wish each other a happy Christmas.

    ‘I have been pleasantly surprised how meeting with a small number of close friends can feel intimate and enriching.’

    3. ‘My main concern is my 94-year-old mom, who lives alone, abroad. My sister is nearby and sees her a couple of times a day, but if there’s a bad snowstorm, she might not see anyone.’

    ‘I imagine not being with your mom on Christmas day is particularly hard, when the number of Christmases you are likely to have together in the future is uncertain.

    ‘Could you perhaps create a Plan B for your mother if there is a snowstorm – does she have a next door neighbour who she could ring and would agree to drop in, and could you agree a time you will telephone each other on Christmas day whatever the weather?

    ‘I would write and send her a card with a message of all that you feel about her, and memories of your happy Christmases of the past that she could open on Christmas Day.’

    4. ‘I lost my mom four years ago and she made Christmas magical. It’s not ever been the same again.’

    ‘Having memories of those very Happy Christmases with your beloved mom must be bittersweet.

    ‘I would create an annual Christmas ritual which reflects your mom and your love of her, maybe light a candle with flowers and a photograph of her that you can turn to at particular times or do something that connects you to her over Christmas.

    ‘Touchstones to memory are a way of expressing the love of the person who has died, for our love for them never dies.’

    5. ‘I think I will get depressed as I alone am expected to carry out all household chores. I used to have my friends as support, but, because I’ve not been in touch with them regularly through lockdown, they have left me.’

    ‘I can hear how hurt you are not being in touch with your friends, but I would suggest you draw on your courage and contact them and agree to reconnect. I am sure they would welcome hearing from you as they might well be feeling left and lonely too.

    ‘Partly it is about just daring, taking the leap to text or call and it is also cognitively recognising that the feeling of fear doesn’t in anyway match the reality of fear – feelings are not facts.

    ‘The worst that can happen is the status quo, they don’t respond, so you have lost nothing and may gain a friend so it is definitely worth the jump.’

    READ MORE: 21 Best Self-Care Gifts For Her That Go Way Beyond Face Masks

    6. ‘I have no family anyway and I think Christmas is over-amped as a time of togetherness – and that itself is the key cause of the seasonal loneliness.’

    ‘I wonder if you would find some sense of enrichment over a time that feels over-amped by volunteering on Christmas Day or around it? Helping others is both good for those that receive but also the giver.’

    *This article was originally published on Women’s Health UK More

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    Could Intermittent Resting Be The Key To Your Fatigue Problems?

    Ever randomly left your desk mid-morning to bask in the sun, head buried in a racy novel? Or taken a quick post-run nap on your lawn? You’re in tune with your body’s needs and on the right track, according to experts. There’s a term for these regular breaks — Intermittent Resting.
    You’re probably already familiar with the term Intermittent Fasting — cycling between eating what you like and restricting your food intake via techniques like the 5:2 and 16:8. For the uninitiated, the theory goes like this: by giving your body a break from food you can not only lose weight, but potentially improve your metabolism and reduce your risk of certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
    Now, health and fitness experts are talking about Intermittent Resting, the idea that the body also needs to cycle through small bursts of inactivity (activity fasting, if you will) in order to perform at its best. So, can scheduling rest with the enthusiasm you usually reserve for scheduling workouts really support your health and fitness goals?
    Nahid de Belgeonne, a former fashion industry employee and owner of a London-based fitness studio Good Vibes started creating deliberate pockets of rest throughout the day — a kind of deliberate down time — once she discovered the power of rest.
    That she felt happier, healthier and more productive as a result of her new regime will come as news to nobody. But she also credits intermittent resting with making her fitter, stronger and improving her quality of movement. She now trains others in the art of snacking on rest via her yoga-meets-meditation technique, The Human Method.
    READ MORE: The 16 Best Mental Health Podcasts To Help You Cope With Anxiety, Depression, And More
    Nahid explains that her theory is based on the body’s ultradian rhythms. The sister science of circadian rhythms – which control your 24 hour sleep-wake cycle – ultradian rhythms refers to the cycles that the systems in your body move through during the waking day. The concept is nothing new; it was proposed in the 1950s by sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman, whose contribution of the field of shut-eye is such that he’s often referred to as the ‘father of sleep’.
    That the wellness industry is finally sitting up and taking notice doesn’t surprise Dr Kat Lederle, chronobiologist and sleep coach at the sleep education platform Somnia. “We’ve seen significant scientific interest and progress in nutrition, fitness and sleep — circadian health is the next big topic,” she explains.
    While much of the focus in recent years has been on how your behaviour impacts your ability to fall – and stay – asleep, your behaviour impacts your waking function, too. “The body clock is made up of two clusters of 50,000 cells in the hypothalamus and we refer to that as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN),” Dr Lederle explains. “The SCN is like a conductor, setting the timings for everything else that happens in your body, so while your ultradian rhythms vary from system to system, your body clock ensures they’re working in harmony together. If your internal rhythms become misaligned, that can lead to all sorts of problems.”
    It’s thanks to a raft of circadian rhythm research that we now understand that the repercussions of this ‘misalignment’ extend far beyond a night spent tossing and turning. A disrupted body clock has been shown to interfere with everything from your appetite to your co-ordination and mood. Extreme disruption, the likes experienced by shift workers, has even been linked with depression.
    But if the behaviour that contributes to a broken body clock sits on a sliding scale, with the shift workers whose livelihoods depend on keeping variable hours at one end. On the other, you’ll find the kind of habits you know you shouldn’t do, but you probably do anyway — working through your lunchbreak, doing a HIIT session when your body is begging for yoga and reading the internet instead of your book come bedtime.
    It’s these everyday behaviours, Dr Lederle explains, that present an opportunity to optimise your circadian health. “By becoming more aware of your body clock and adopting behaviours that supports its optimal functioning, as opposed to railing against it, you can not only reduce your risk of various diseases, but improve your day to day functioning.”
    Essentially, it’s about practising sleep hygiene, but for the waking day, too. And among the tools in Dr Lederle’s ‘wake hygiene’ toolkit is a habit that sounds a lot like Intermittent Resting. Regular rest, it transpires, is the backbone of good body clock behaviour.
    “I call them ‘mini breaks’, but they amount to the same thing — taking a break of up to 20 minutes every 90 minutes or so. For me, it’s sitting back for a moment and bringing an awareness to my breaths. But I think the key is doing something in that time that you enjoy. It’s not paying your bills or contacting your accountant — it’s something you’ve chosen to do.”
    READ MORE: Struggle to Get to Sleep? Try These 5 Breathing Techniques
    What seems to elevate Intermittent Resting from your average work break is its intuitive nature; the idea that tapping into the times when your body is best primed for activity and rest could be a useful tool for those in the business of incremental gains. “Mini breaks are just one example of how aligning your schedule with your body clock can support your health goals,” adds Dr Lederle, who gives the example of planning when you exercise.
    If the idea of taking a 20-minute break every 90 minutes makes your heart race (not the goal), even breaking for five or 10 minutes can help. “I’m a huge believer in doing your own experiments and seeing for yourself what works for you,” adds Dr Lederle. “If you’re truly free to plan your life in the way that suits you, the repercussions on your health and wellbeing could be huge.”
    READ MORE: How To Get Better Quality Sleep
    Make Intermittent Resting Work For You
    Take a chronotype holiday
    Dr Lederle suggests taking a five-day trip with the goal of tuning into your natural waking and sleeping hours. Go to sleep when you feel tired, rise when you’re ready and avoid sleep saboteurs like screens. “By day five, you should know what your natural sleep timings are, and ideally you’ll start sleeping in that time window every night.”
    Find out your MEQ
    By now you’ll already known what hours you like to sleep, but for a more scientific approach, take the Morning-Evening questionnaire. There are 19 questions designed to tell you where you sit on the sliding scale of morning person and evening person.
    Keep an energy diary
    You’ll know intuitively when your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day by the times you usually reach for a coffee or a snack. Start consciously tuning into your feelings, and noting them down. Look out for the obvious signs, like yawning, as well as how engaged you feel in a task. Keep it up for a week and see what patterns you notice. This will guide you to your own Intermittent Resting breaks.
    Make it stick
    Your body clock is like a baby – it loves routine. “Anything you do that’s part of a routine will help your body clock to know what to expect, be that the time you do a workout or when you eat your lunch,” adds Dr Lederle. Once you’ve identified your energy peaks and troughs, schedule your breaks accordingly, and stick with it.

    The article Can Intermittent Resting Help You Reach Your Goals? was originally published on Women’s Health UK.

    READ MORE ON: Activity Fasting Health Advice Intermittent Resting Mental Health mental health advice More

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    The 16 Best Mental Health Podcasts To Help You Cope With Anxiety, Depression, And More

    Podcasts are incredibly popular these days, and there are so many to choose from. From politics to pop culture this type of audio entertainment covers almost everything you can think of and is a great way to pass the time and learn something new. But that’s not all it’s good for – mental health podcasts, in particular, can boost your emotional wellness and be an effective form of self-care.
    Shelby John, a clinical social worker who specialises in addiction, anxiety, and trauma, loves mental health podcasts because they are not only extremely accessible for most people, but they are also free. “The freedom to be able to listen to episodes whenever and wherever you want is incredible,” she says. “This allows people who maybe otherwise would not go to therapy or hire a coach to access knowledge and practical skills from professionals.”
    READ MORE: 12 Bonnie Mbuli Wellness Quotes
    The information you consume has a direct impact on how you behave, feel, and think, says Amy Morin, a therapist and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. “If you listen to podcasts that share stories, strategies, and tips that can improve your mental health, you can learn how to improve your psychological well-being,” she explains. “A podcast might affirm the information you already know, which can reassure you that you are on the right path. A podcast might also help you feel less alone. This is especially true if you hear stories and interviews with guests you can relate to. You might also learn new things or discover strategies you can try to reduce your anxiety or boost your mood.”
    Most mental health podcasts feature experts in a specific field, such as behavioral scientists, psychologists, therapists, or other types of pros with unique and helpful insights to share.
    How To Choose A Mental Health Podcast That Is Right For You
    The host will be your constant companion, so look for one whose personality and voice mesh well with you. You should also make sure the podcast you’re listening to is produced by a licensed and legitimate mental health care provider, advises Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Master Social Worker Kayleigh Parent. “Even then, just because someone is licensed does not mean they are competent or using evidence-based practices,” she says.
    Another factor to consider is whether you are part of the target audience. Of course, anyone can listen to any podcast, but you may be able to benefit more if you tune into ones that you feel a kinship with, whether it is because of the age group, ethnicity, gender identity, or mental health issue they address.
    READ MORE: Why You Need Boundaries ASAP
    Know that many of the conversations that take place on podcasts are based on personal experience. The host and guests may touch on sensitive topics that trigger you. If you’re not comfortable with what will be discussed on a podcast (read those episode blurbs beforehand!), it may not be right for you.
    Remember: Podcasts are not a replacement for therapy. If you struggle with issues such as addiction, eating disorders, domestic violence, self-harm, suicide, or trauma, seek help from a medical professional.
    Ready to jump in? Here are the 16 best mental health podcasts recommended by experts. More