The past year has seen people forced to cope with an epochal threat that the world, in comparable nature, has not witnessed for a century. The Covid-19 blight has had and will continue to have a profound effect on the wellbeing of millions across the globe. In this blog we look at the scale of the challenges and also some simple steps that anyone can take immediately (and consistently)to help with some of the most common wellbeing challenges such as anxiety worry and fear.
VIRUS, VACCINES AND “VICTORY”
Even before the pandemic there was substantial evidence of the deep costs – human and economic- of mental health challenges across the world. According to “Our World in Data, 2018” there were some 970million people worldwide who had a mental health or substance disorder. The same source also affirmed that anxiety was the most common mental illness in the world affecting almost 300million people.
In the US, to look at just one nation, the “Our World in Data, 2018” source referred to more than a quarter of US adults (aged between 18 to 25) had a mental illness in 2018 with anxiety disorders affecting 40 million adults according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Yet according to the World Health Organisation, countries around the world on average spent only 2% of their health budgets on mental health. This in the face of evidence, according to the WHO, that for every $1 invested in treatment for common mental health challenges (such as depression and anxiety) there is a 5 fold return in improved health and productivity.
The pandemic has undoubtedly affected people globally and added to mental health challenges. In the UK the Mental Health Foundation ( in its “The Coronavirus: Mental Health in the Pandemic Study) has documented the negative effects of the covid blight and the disproportionate effect on some segments of the population.
The UK has rightly praised its NHS workers (and indeed all within the wider healthcare landscape)who have fought this disease; yet its effect on this workforce has been so severe that the House and Social Care Committee in the UK Parliament launched an inquiry into “workforce burnout” in the summer of 2020.
Fortunately hope is now upon the horizon with the roll out of vaccines around the world; perhaps we are on the cusp of a “post Covid” world.
Yet the evidence from other recent “disasters” tell us that mental health recovery is likely to take a long time and potentially many years.
While Government-lead and other initiatives are developed it is also incumbent upon us each to take steps to recognise and address wellbeing challenges we may be facing ; and furthermore to help those we can, as far as we are able to do so, to address their challenges.
One of the great privileges of my working life has been, over the course of the last year in particular, to act as an inner wellness coach and advisor to individuals, private businesses within the staffing and wider sectors as well as the NHS. This has included delivering webinars to groups, individual coaching and also advising on organisation’s wellness and health strategy.
A PERSONAL JOURNEY
My inner wellness coaching takes a whole-person approach to address Mind, Body and Spirit. It draws on my own journey from the depths of darkness some years ago which took me across the globe, immerse myself in hundreds of books and research articles and to meet some great teachers and guides.
I developed my WISDOM model of coaching and this draws on all of the above. It also takes inspiration from recent developments in the fields of multicultural psychology and Positive Psychology, the latter being prominent in popular culture through the books of Daniel Goleman.
Aligned to multicultural psychology (which honours the Traditional “Psychologies” across the world and their world-views or “cosmology” ) has been my taking inspiration from the growing evidence showing the positive effects of practices of the “Spirit” from the likes of Professor Herbert Benson (of Harvard Medical school) and scholars such Dr Rupert Sheldrake, Fellow of Clare College Cambridge and Research Fellow of the Royal Society.
Combining these approaches with other well known “models” of psychology such as that set out in the work of Abraham Maslow and completing my training with Tony Robbins and Chloe Madanes as a coach has been a transformative journey. Thus allowing me to share steps that draw on personal experience (from my own journey and those whom i have coached) that can help , in a few minutes each day, to transform inner wellness.
Certainly i can attest that the above journey and taking these steps (some of which i share below) has coincided with my inner transformation from a place of despair and darkness to hope and inner peace; and also the discarding of destructive behaviours that have blighted parts of my life for decades.
PRACTICAL PRACTICES TO PROMOTE PERSONAL WELLNESS
There are many steps one can take to enhance “mind, body and Spirit” and some of these can be combined into “rituals” that can enhance their potency to help inner transformation and daily wellbeing.
For present purposes i will share three steps that have made a significant difference to me and those i have coached:
The magic of “meditation”
Here i am using the word “meditation” as a synonym for prayer or contemplation and can be undertaken in a “spiritual” context or secular one too. The key elements here are to keep it simple and get started and over time let your comfort with the practice develop.
- begin with 5 minutes three times a day; morning noon and evening
- find a quiet place and sit in silence and observe your thoughts
- this will be challenging initially but be an observer of your mind’s narrative
- focus on breathing cycles of inhalation and exhalation as you observe
- it can help to use a word that has deep meaning (“love”, “Aum” etc)as you breath
Inspiration of Imagination
In addition to cultivating our intellect and rational faculties we must tap the Imagination of the heart as co-creators of our reality. This process can be called “visualisation” or in the words of Professor Brent Bauer (Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic whose course on “Integrative Medicine” i have been fortunate enough to complete). Again the key is to keep it simple:
- we need to see beyond the present and inspire hope and lift our vision
- spend 2 minutes at least 3 times a day imagining where we want to be in our lives
- in three months or 12 months or 5 years…..as feels comfortable
- open your heart and see “with the eye of the heart” with images and emotion
- this can help overcome any current confusion or fear or uncertainty
Often in times of fear we focus on lack; that which is absent or missing in all or some areas of our lives. Scarcity can be scary. Yet within, we carry the ceaseless riches of our humanity and ultimately the priceless treasure of Love.
We need to unveil this again in simple achievable steps:
- each day strive to undertake at least three random acts of kindness
- Such acts being unconditional ie not in expectation of any reciprocity
- this can be as simple as offering a smile or kind word to those we know well or little
- it can be picking up the phone to tell someone how much they mean to us
- it can be of course “supererogatory” acts where we go the extra mile to help someone in especial need
- at the end of the day record or make a note of the emotions you felt when undertaking these acts
- and finally reflect back on these notes at the end of the week
It should be noted that each of the above are described as “simple” yet this not be treated as a synonym for “easy”. Some of them will be far from easy; sitting in quiet observation of my inner narrative was a challenge for me!
Combined the above steps can ask as little as 25 or 30 minutes in a day; surely we can each find such space in our day if it can lead to greatly helping us battle with anxiety, stress or fear?
Try the above for 21 days in a row and it would be wonderful to hear what differences you observe within your experience of daily emotions.
FAITH IN THE FUTURE
There are many lessons to be learned from the global encounter with the Covid blight which has taken a profound toll economically and most tragically in the number of lives; now heading toward 3million according to Johns Hopkins.
It is salient to recall that the “Spanish Flu” approximately a century ago (costing over 50million lives according to some estimates) also coincided with the prominence of the “Vienna Circle” in the West; a group of intellectuals confident (even hubristic)in their attempt to confirm a de facto atomised disconnected view of reality. Pitiless and purposeless.
A century later that view is crumbling according to many including the likes of Dr Rupert sheldrake as evidence grows of the essential unity and connectedness of human and non human. The role of the Spirit and practices to cultivate it are perhaps reaching an apotheosis through the growing evidence showing the wellbeing benefits of such practices.
It is an exciting time and i hope that the above steps will add value in your own journey and i look forward to sharing more in a future blog. If I may I will leave the final words with Rupert Sheldrake from his 2017 book Science and Spiritual Practices:
“Spiritual practices are being investigated scientifically as never before. We are on the threshold of a new era of the exploration of consciousness , both through a revival of spiritual practices and also through the scientific study of them.”