2nd January, 2014

The Times Online – Survive and Thrive: Eight Steps To Mental Wellbeing

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The Times Online

Equip yourself with the right mental tools and you can take back control of your thoughts and your actions. This will help you to achieve your goals and survive this difficult financial climate. These are the qualities I’ll help you to build on this week.

Relentless commitment: Whatever the setbacks, you’re not going to give up. You’re going to confront what’s going on and become stronger.

Motivation: Stop procrastinating, move forward. You don’t have to rush, just focus on what you need to do today.

Self-belief: You know that you’re a survivor. You learn from everything, even your mistakes.

Pragmatism: You can suffer short-term discomfort for long-term gain.

Responsibility: For your thoughts, emotions and actions. Forget the blame culture. You’re not a victim because you’re in control.

Flexibility: When things around you are in flux, having fixed ideas and practices won’t help. Adapt to unexpected twists and turns, and you are evolving to survive.

Resilience: No matter what happens, you can cope and thrive. If you get knocked over, you bounce back stronger.

Persistence: You’re in this for the long haul.

Coming up for air

Deep breathing puts extra oxygen into the blood and stimulates the body to release endorphins. It’s my No 1 fixer for coping with anxiety and, by combining it with a visualisation technique, you’ll be able to deal with the fear that can stop you functioning.

What is a deep breath?

Sit up straight. As you breathe in, push your stomach forwards. While you are still breathing in, push your ribs sideways – your stomach will contract – and then lift your chest. Do this as a continuous movement. To exhale, allow your chest and ribs to relax and the air will be released automatically. To expel any air remaining in the lungs, draw your stomach in slightly.

Your essential fear-fighter

Sit down somewhere quiet and undisturbed. Straighten your spine. Close your eyes. Remember a time when you felt happy. Go into the memory so you’re seeing what you saw, hearing what you heard, feeling what you felt. Intensify the memory by turning up the brightness, the sound, the smells, the tactile quality – whatever senses most appeal to you. Breathe in that good feeling, hold the breath for eight seconds. Then let it go. Open your eyes.

That’s your first resource. Practise it. Later you’ll stack on another resource: a memory of a time when you felt strong, when you stood up for something you believed in, when you knew you were doing the right thing. If you’ve never felt that way, think of someone who is strong and imagine what it’s like to be them. Focus on that, breathe into it, hold it, let go.

Your third resource is confidence: repeat the process and stack the feeling of confidence on to happiness and strength. Your fourth resource is a memory of being entirely in the moment, perhaps doing sport or on holiday – a time when your focus was contained in the present alone. Stack that on to the other memories with deep breathing.

Practise this every day and you’ll find that you associate feelings of being calm and positive and strong with deep breathing. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel anxious, a few deep breaths will make you feel less frightened and more resilient. This is about finding qualities within yourself now and being the best you can be at this moment.