The Worry Mental Health Map is a structured self-care plan containing straightforward exercises and interventions built into a daily routine to help alleviate worry.
Worry is a state of mind that causes us to feel uneasy or anxious. We all worry from time to time but worries can mount up and become overwhelming, getting in the way of all aspects of our lives from spending quality time with our families to getting a good night’s sleep.
The resources contain breathing exercises to reduce anxiety, mindfulness practices around being in the present moment and techniques teaching us how to respond skilfully to thoughts and stop one negative thought leading into another.
Download the Worry Mental Health Map PDF's HERE
JUST LET IT GO
A morning routine to help let go of worries and start the day with a clear head and positive attitude.
When? - As soon as you wake up or shortly after.
How? - This exercise provides an opportunity to let go of those worries, negative thoughts and concerns that can become all-consuming. We acknowledge our worries by first writing them down on a piece of paper and then screwing it up or tearing it into tiny pieces and throwing it away!
Why? - The physical process of ‘writing down and then throwing away’ symbolises letting go of our worries once and for all. This can be far more effective than the fruitless and exhausting task of holding onto our worries, mistakingly thinking we can somehow control them which just makes them worse.
So no matter how big or small your worry might be, write it down, tear it up and let it go.
Setting a daily intention helps focus our mind and energy for the day.
When? - When you wake up or shortly after. Perhaps set intentions the night before so you are ready for when your days begins.
How? - When choosing an intention it should have focus and evoke emotion, be attainable, relevant and aligned with your beliefs and values.
Some intentions you might like to try:
I will try something new today
I will do something that makes me happy
I will celebrate the day by embracing all of its challenges
I will believe in myself and my abilities and will bring that to my work throughout the day
Why? - Words have incredible power and energy. Setting daily intentions, for example just trying to be 5% more positive, can dramatically change the direction of our day and be the compass we set for the weeks, months and years ahead. Perhaps ‘check in’ with your intention during the day to help keep it in mind.
Worry can make us feel anxious and low. ‘Food is mood’ and when time is short we can find ourselves reaching for the unhealthy option. Take time to nourish!
When? - Find one meal or snack a day to nourish yourself with a healthier option.
How? - Nourish is not about reinventing your diet but making a few simple changes to what you eat.
Making time for breakfast even if this means preparing it the night before
Replacing sugary and processed foods with healthier snack options
Drinking more water
Why? - Worrying is exhausting. The temptation to reach for sugary snacks to give us the energy we need only leads to a sugar high followed by that all too familiar low. Taking time to nourish ourselves with healthier foods will improve our brain function and help stabilise our mood.
ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
A nasal breathing technique to help soothe a worried mind.
When? - If you are worried about a conversation you are about to have, feeling emotional or generally stressed, a few rounds of this breathing exercise can quickly help you find centre and restore calm.
How? - Alternate Nostril Breathing is an exercise where we cover our nostrils with our thumb and ring finger in turn whilst breathing.
Click HERE to play the guided practice.
Why? - Using Alternate Nostril Breathing, even for a few minutes, can restore balance and settle the mind and body. Other benefits include - improves attention and performance harmonising the left and right hemispheres of the brain resulting in a balance in all aspects of mental and physical well-being.
LEAVES ON THE STREAM
A calm, peaceful exercise where we practise letting go of our worries like leaves drifting by on a stream.
When? - Try this 15-minute exercise at lunchtime. Find a place where you wont be disturbed and practise this relaxing cognitive distancing exercise.
How? - As we sit by an imaginary stream we put our thoughts, good or bad, onto leaves, allowing them to float away rather than holding onto them.
Why? - When it comes to our thoughts we can easily find ourselves not being able to see the wood from the trees. This exercise helps us notice our thoughts from a distance instead of getting stuck in our usual patterns of worry.
We will never be able to stop thoughts arising but cognitive distancing techniques like this teach us that thoughts are not facts, just mental events we can view, accept and let go.
CONNECT WITH NATURE
Immersing ourselves in nature can help us disconnect from worries and help us reconnect with the present moment, encouraging a less busy and more peaceful mind.
When? - Being in nature for just one minute can have a positive effect on our mood. Try and step into the natural world as often as you can.
Why? - There is more and more evidence emerging that being in nature is good for our mental health. As humans we have evolved in nature, hence why we feel a deep sense of connection when we are surrounded by it. The day-to-day stressors that can trigger our worries and anxieties are absent, encouraging our minds to find peace, calm and tranquility.
How? - It sounds obvious but it isn’t always that easy. If you can access some green space, whether a local park or your own garden, try to spend some time there as often as you can. Look around, notice the colours, the textures, the smells, the temperature. Enrich your senses. Notice how you are feeling when you do this. If you don’t have a garden you can still enjoy the benefits of nature. Open a window and just listen, perhaps to the bird song or feel the breeze on your face. Alternatively there are many live nature webcams online that can be accessed and, of course, a sea of documentaries.
FLOW (IN THE ZONE)
Why? - All the noise and chatter that generally clouds our mind, such as stress and worry, fall into the background when we achieve a flow state. Our happiest moments are normally when we are doing something we really love - time just flies by often without us even noticing.
How? - We all have our favourite things to do - something we get lost in and time just flies by. This could be reading a novel, playing a musical instrument, learning something new, cooking, drawing or gardening.
When? - Perhaps as soon as you get home, on a break or any time you can carve out for yourself. It only need be five to ten minutes to reap the benefits of this act of self-kindness.
By doing something we enjoy in the present moment our attention is focussed on a pleasurable and fulfilling activity not worrying. Flow state is colloquially known as being ‘in the zone’.
Gratitude diaries remind us of all the good things in our life.
When? - At the end of the day as you get ready for bed.
How? - Get yourself a notepad and a pen that feels good. Reflect on your day and write five things you are really grateful for. This could be a person, the sunshine, a fond memory or something that makes you unique that you’re grateful for - be really specific. Perhaps expand on the idea and take one of your five and really explore why you are grateful for it in particular, noting how it makes you feel emotionally.
Why? - We all have things to be happy about like good friends, a roof over our head and a satisfying job. However, when we get caught up in worry it is easy to focus on the negatives letting the positives fall into the background and vanish from our awareness.
Setting aside a few minutes each day to reflect on what we are grateful for can illuminate all the good things we have in our life and bring them to the forefront, leading to a happier and more positive outlook on life. Done before bedtime, it helps the mind rest on the positives, resulting in a more restorative and refreshing night’s sleep.
The benefits of gratitude practices include lower stress levels, a greater sense of calm, improved self-esteem and mental resilience. As you continue this journaling exercise you might also gain a fresh perspective and deeper understanding of what really makes you happy. With this insight you will be able to focus you time and energy on what is truly important to you.
We count our breaths to anchor us in the present moment - helping us to relax.
When? - After a busy, long day although we are ready for bed sometimes our minds are unable to switch off. As we lay there, trying to wind down thoughts about the day, ideas about the future and worries we may have can spin around and around preventing us from getting a well deserved night’s rest.
How? - We count our breath to 10 and start again. The moment we become distracted by thoughts, we note where our mind has been and then gently escort our attention back to the breath and counting.
Click HERE for Mindful Noting.
Why? - Mindful Noting is a useful way to help us drift off to sleep and work with our thoughts in a more helpful and compassionate way.
This exercise takes us out of the busy ‘thinking mode’ of the mind into the calmer ‘being mode’ where we can find a space to relax and rest.