Mental health week 2021: Managing stress with wellness coach Libby Rainger
Whether you like it or not mental health is something each and every one of us will struggle with at some stage in our lives. Mental health can come in many shapes and forms, and for some of us, it’s a constant battle.
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and although it’s something we should all be actively striving to educate ourselves on every week, it’s a timely reminder to check in with your friends and family for support, and of course, yourself.
Remix had the opportunity to talk to wellbeing coach Libby Rainger and partake in a wellness workshop about combating stress in order to enable a healthy brain and body. Sparking from a passion for wellness and health, Libby started The Wellness Platform in 2017 after graduating with a Diploma in Clinical Hypnotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Life Coaching from the Phil Parker Institute in London. She now runs courses for clients needing insight and coordinates the wellness tent at Rhythm & Vines with a focus on mindfulness, health and relaxation.
What is the stress response?
The fight-or-flight (stress) response causes your body to prioritise heart, lungs and limbs, so that you can literally run (flight) away from a predator, or fight it. While we don't have wild animals in our modern world, we have modern animals such as deadlines, traffic, social media, house prices, and a pandemic. Having our stress response switched on is fine and helpful in the short term, but if you create this response a lot, your body has to actively steal energy from other systems (such as digestion, immunity, hormone balance, detox organs and reproductive organs), in order to generate enough fuel to fire your stress response. This can lead to many chronic illnesses over time and feeling depleted, burnt out and worn down.
There are many things we can do to manage our stress holistically. Chronic stress needs consistent activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and long term change.
This ability of your brain to adapt to your thoughts and environment is called “neuroplasticity”. Your brain can change its automatic habits, and whatever you do consistently will become automatic behaviours and thoughts. An example of this is if you were to say your phone number backwards. This should be quite hard to do, but after you do it a few times, it will soon roll off the tongue. We have an incredible ability to rewire our brains, and we have the choice to take some steps to create pathways in the brain that are useful and healthy for us.
Turning off the stress response is vital for enabling healthy brain wiring and a healthy body.
9 ways to manage stress holistically
With friends, emails, family and social media.
Change your posture
A straight spine creates instant mental clarity, free flow of breath and energy.
Shake off the stress like wild animals do. Walk, stretch, run, sweat, dance!
Tune into your five senses in a stressful moment, to bring you back to the present moment.
To slow brain waves down and activate calm feelings quickly.
Walk in nature
Get outside! Referred to as a ‘nature pill’, when the brain sees vast nature, horizons or the ocean, it innately knows it is safe. Walking also calms the nervous system.
We are designed for connection, it makes us feel safe. Leave a friend a loving voice note, FaceTime an overseas friend or call a grandparent.
Watch your language
Saying, "I am just an anxious person" is different from saying "I am experiencing anxiety." You can choose the labels that you want to subscribe to so that they empower you and change the narrative over time. The brain listens to everything that we say.
Eight deep stomach inhalations and exhalations can start to switch off those stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline). Yoga is great to get you into the habit of this.
If you or someone you know needs help below is a list of some services available which offer support, information and help:
0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) –- for counselling and support
0800 726 666 – for confidential support for anyone who is lonely or in emotional distress
0800 111 757 or free text 4202 – to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions
0800 611 116 – for advice from trained registered nurses
www.depression.org.nz – includes The Journal free online self-help tool
0800 358 5453 – for Covid-19 health advice and information