When we’re recovering from a health problem there are three key factors that must be taken into account; nutrition, exercise, and emotional wellbeing (or the mind, if you like), but what happens when one of those three is not paid enough attention? This week’s blogs explores the emotional wellbeing factor.
Having worked in the NHS for over 12 years the focus is often around physical recovery, with little to no emphasis on emotional recovery. I acknowledge that this isn’t the case for all services, and I’m certainly not blaming the NHS when it is the case, they do an unbelievable job under constant financial and demand pressure. There is, however, more scope for independent therapists and charities to be signposted, and where necessary funded, for patients.
In this blog I want to uncover why including emotional wellbeing is so important to successful recovery (and for life in general); how the three wellbeing factors compliment each other, and the types of alternative therapies that are gaining popularity.
What does emotional wellbeing mean to you? It could mean different things depending on where you are in your life and what situation(s) you’re facing, for example your emotional wellbeing needs after a divorce may be different from those when you’re recovering from surgery or an injury, right? Well, not really. I’m happy to be challenged on this view point, as always, but first let me explain why I don’t think it’s different. Emotional wellbeing is about feeling safe, steady, at peace, with yourself and the world around you. It’s about being able to get back on track if something gives us an emotional knock, it’s about how we process and internalise what’s happening to us, and around us. It’s about resilience and strength. That doesn’t change. We always need that, to maintain good emotional wellbeing, and to regain it if we experience emotional trauma*.
*Emotional trauma can happen for a multitude of reasons. It could be due to an injury, divorce, childbirth, death, redundancy, war, homelessness, childhood issues, or any significant change in your life.
When our emotional wellbeing is not taken into account this can manifest itself in issues with our mental health (anxiety, anger, depression, hopelessness and helplessness) and also our physical health (aches, pains, weight loss or gain). When one is impacted, so is the other. You simply cannot separate them out. The cycle continues, one affecting the other. When I have my coaching and psychotherapy hat on, I work with clients on all three aspects; nutrition, exercise and mental wellbeing. Here’s how they fit together:
Neuroscience research has proved that our brain patterns change through relaxation practices. Using relaxation techniques, controlled breathing, mindfulness, meditation and yoga, you can harness a stronger, calmer mind with a more peaceful disposition. When your mind is in the right place, you’re truly ready for recovery.
Food impacts on our brain functioning and mood; the wrong food induces extreme highs and lows, and mood swings. When we nourish ourselves with good food, it works on both a mental and physical level. The right foods not only give us fuel, they keep our immune system healthy, support the functioning of our organs, and keep our metabolism in check. The programme helps you to understand the basics about fuelling your body properly to reduce or remove symptoms of ill health as well as hooking you up with lots of resources to support you on your journey.
Exercise not only contributes to our overall physical health and wellbeing but is essential for our mental wellbeing too; stimulating the formation of new brain cells and releasing mood enhancing endorphins, which promotes a sense of wellbeing and keeps depression at bay. This is particularly important for people with long term conditions who can be prone to depression. Exercise also boosts our central nervous system, reduces illness relapses, and improves cognitive performance.
Emotional wellbeing in head injuries
This week I met with the brains behind ‘brain works well‘ nutritional bars, Rich McWatt. As we walked around one of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trusts reserves, we shared stories and our passion for holistic wellbeing. We met to talk about recovery after head injuries, and discussed how the nutritional and emotional recovery is often under funded or, in some cases, the emotional recovery is barely a factor. We know from research that one of the most common effects of any brain injury is the impact on the patient’s’ mental health, due to the brain’s neural pathways being damaged. This may be experienced in one or more ways, such as overwhelming emotions, drastic alterations in mood (anger, anxiousness, anxiety, depression), memory function, tolerance to noise or stressful environments, loss of motivation, impulse control and other aspects of emotional intelligence.
There is growing evidence (and popularity) for the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, which can make a significant difference to ones recovery after head injury. Anyone who reads my blogs will know I’m a huge fan of mindfulness and meditation; as well as offering these services through my holistic therapy business, I also practice both regularly myself. It has, without doubt, made a huge difference to my mental wellbeing.
A medium sized pilot study, looking into ‘mindfulness-based stress reduction‘, found clinically meaningful improvements on measures of quality of life, perceived self-efficacy, working memory and regulation of attention. A study published in the journal Brain Injury showed that mindfulness training supported head trauma patients to maintain their focus on the present moment, and hence help them become more aware of their environment and respond more appropriately in the moment.
One patient commented in their blog that meditation allowed them to lose themselves in thought and find peace during recovery. Indeed combining mindfulness with meditation provides a powerful tool with which to support patients to connect with thoughts, feelings, and environment in a calm and peaceful manner, not judging, just being.
Research also shows that exercise that integrates personal awareness, such as tai chi, can improve recovery outcomes (think mindfulness of breath, environment, movement, feeling). For me it’s more than just the personal awareness, coordination, and balance required, it’s also about working with the energy within and around the body to balance, unblock and repair. I do that through my own body movement routine MoGaChi, and reiki healing.
Beyond meditation and mindfulness, talking therapy, psychotherapy and coaching are an essential part of recovery from emotional trauma. It’s so important to be able to freely express what we’re going through to someone who won’t judge us, and is not emotionally involved in our lives. Coming to terms with how you and your life is post injury takes purposeful guidance, and time. Combining the three provides an all encompassing platform for patients to feel safe, listened to, and supported in their recovery.
I combine all of the things I’ve discussed above in my Live Well – Health Recovery programme, which I hope to be working on further with Rich in relation to brain injury recovery.
Craft your own wellbeing lifestyle
As well as blogging about wellbeing, I spent time last year bringing together a life time of learning into a short book that shares lots of practical advice, tips and strategies for a wellbeing lifestyle.
The book cost only covers the cost of printing and is on sale at £6.49. You can grab a copy on Amazon here – if you buy it I’d love to hear what you think in the form of a book review on Amazon. Thank you.
Supporting you to be your best and happiest self
If you want a treatment or therapy to heal, de-stress and relax, or regain balance, you can work with Alison in a number of ways:
- View the Flourish wellbeing centre
- ‘Live Well’ programmes for Health Recovery and Transform your Life
- Talking Therapy, psychotherapy & Coaching
- Get online support through our clinic on call service
- Check out forthcoming events and classes, including MoGaChi and Meditation
- Explore the workplace wellbeing
Shop for beautiful organic products, from Neal’s Yard Remedies
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