Managing Mental Health
Posted by Katie Brown, 07-Jul-2022
As we navigate the changing course of the pandemic it’s time to prioritise our mental health and wellbeing. Marg Riley will be presenting at TWO upcoming IYTA events. Here she shares her advice and thoughts…
Marg Riley is well qualified to give advice on mental health. She’s worked as a school psychologist and senior psychologist.
But how has she coped personally with the challenges of Covid?
She says: “I keep reminding myself that we are still in the midst of the pandemic although most of us are behaving as though this is not the case!”
She adds that she, like many, have found it a bit of a roller coaster ride.
She says: “Originally it was like occupying an extended liminal space and I approached that with curiosity.”
At this point, Marg did daily Gayatri Mantra chanting with Deva Premal and Mitten, but then as more yoga and meditation invites landed in her inbox, she became overwhelmed and swapped the mat for the garden.
She says: “I needed some really grounding activities and went out into my huge garden and undertook several big projects (thank goodness for Bunnings deliveries) which were a moving meditation and so exhausting that I couldn’t think by the end of the day!”
But as grounding as this was, it was still a huge challenge for Marg to be disconnected from friends and my family (based in both Canberra and Queensland).
Eventually Marg found herself homeschooling two of her grandchildren aged five and eight in the first lockdown. Home schooling was Equally rewarding and challenging!
It wasn’t until the second lockdown that Marg found herself embracing Zoom, teaching online classes and reconnecting with her students.
She says: “Throughout the whole time one way I’ve managed the stresses and challenges is to focus on the Niyamas: particularly santosha, tapas and svadhyaya. This has enabled me to maintain my equanimity most of the time. I’ve kept journals, focussed on acceptance of what is, worked hard on big projects and kept studying.
Once I was ready, I did a couple of Online courses: Befriending the nervous system- with Rachel Noakes, yoga teacher from Ray of Light and a course with Robbie Bosnak who is a Jungian psychotherapist. Robbie developed a technique called Embodied Imagination which I’ve studied previously and was a big feature of his teachings.
At the end of Robbie’s course, I was well and truly “ready to fall in love with the world again”
Marg’s SIX tips for healing and nourishing our mental health
Marg emphasises the value in managing our own nervous system, being aware of how regulated we are feeling, and having practices in place that allow us to restore personal equilibrium so that we can co-regulate others around us. There are so many circumstances that impact on our own mental health, but Marg particularly recommends:
#1: Get Support: Ensure you have some appropriate support whether it’s from family or friends or a professional.
#2: Find a routine: As much as you can maintain a steady routine as this can provide a stable base when things feel wobbly.
#3 Get the Basics in place: Prioritise basic things like attending to diet, exercise and sleep although all these can be challenged by mental health struggles.
#4: Soothing Practices: If you are a yogi reconnect with practices which you find soothing. Perhaps the Niyamas have some messages for you?
#5: Take time out: Consider whether you need to quarantine some time out for yourself?
#6: Reignite your Passion: If you have a passion that has fallen by the wayside, reignite it if you can as this can be the key to re-establishing vitality. And do this slowly and steadily as restarting activities can be super hard when your resources feel depleted.
Yoga practices to encourage thriving
Marg says: “For me that is slow mindful yoga that enables interoception (awareness of internal sensations) to allow you to get intimately acquainted with your nervous system. Be mindful of whether the system needs to be upregulated or down regulated.
“If you are feeling edgy or anxious and the system requires down regulating, start actively with things like bouncing and shaking it out, dynamic versions of asana, forward folds and twist. Moving gradually to stillness.
“If the system requires up regulating start with small gentle movements such as pawanmuktanasana, gentle limbering lying down and moving to gentle chest opening practices and then standing.”
If you are struggling to still a busy mind, then Marg recommends Mantra meditation, which she says can be helpful rather than focusing on thoughts.
She encourages rhythmic movement to help soothe the nervous system.
And adds that she generally incorporates practices where the movement will take care of the breath rather than focusing too much on the breath (which can be tricky).
Finally her go to practices for vagal toning (the Vagus nerve is the main part of the Parasympathetic nervous system) are chanting and humming.
Want to find out more!? Marg will be part of our panel of presenters for our Yoga for Mental Health Event on Saturday, July 16. She is also presenting an in-person workshop: From Surviving to Thriving in Canberra on Sunday, August 14 from 9am – 5pm. To find out more click HERE