There is a saying that “there is no health without mental health,” and how healthy we are mentally is usually determined by a number of factors, among them biology, our socio-economic statuses, and our environment – with the latter two having been severely tested over the past two years for many people.
“The average adult spends approximately one third of their lives at work,” health and wellness coach and yoga and mindfulness instructor Kaylan Bartholomew told WMN.
And as the lines between the work and home spaces became blurred for so many women because they have had to work from home, Bartholomew said the issue of mental health once again took prominence, with some companies even contracting her services to work with their employees.
“A lot of the anxiety, depression and other symptoms that come with poor mental health has become more prevalent during the pandemic. And it’s good that employers are acknowledging the importance of mental health and are bringing wellness programmes to their staff…It’s good that they are beginning to embrace the fact that people are struggling and that good mental health is part of our well-being, especially now. I think this is something they should continue doing even after this difficult period is behind us.”
Bartholomew, the founder of Spirited Natural Ltd, is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in the US, certified in hatha yoga through Bliss Yoga, Trinidad, and a licensed instructor for the Springboard Women’s Development Programme, a personal development programme for women based in the UK.
She offers individual, group and corporate programmes, all tailored to suit the needs of her clients’ specific health and wellness goals. She said she understands exactly what it feels like to be mentally and emotionally burnt out, which eventually leads to physical ailments such as high blood pressure and migraines.
“After 20-plus years in banking and finance,” having worked on Wall Street in New York, in Miami and the local banking sector, earning a six-figure salary, “I decided to walk away and make a career change doing something I love – health and wellness.”
Bartholomew said in trying to heal herself she wanted to learn more and understand what she was getting into. She had done yoga and meditation before and it had always helped her to manage her mood, but she wanted to understand why.
“Yoga is really the practice of the union of the mind, body and spirit, and it is just one of the ways to practice mindfulness. It strengthens the body, improves flexibility, and is known to reduce high blood pressure, improve heart conditions, and is useful in managing anxiety, stress, depression. I wanted to learn more about this ‘magic’ that left me so relaxed after I had gone into a session so stressed and anxious.”
Over time she had developed an interest in nutrition and diet, and after the mother of one found her healing, she began coaching others to find theirs. She said she teaches people how to be mindful of what is going on around them in the present, even simple things such as the sounds around them and focusing on their breathing, to keep them centred and grounded.
“You know how our minds tend to dwell on the past and to look to the future, always looking back and forward and missing out on present? The thing is, we can’t hold on to last breath we took and we can’t take future breaths. All we have is the present moment so we have to learn to appreciate it.”
As a person who understands that it is impossible to pour anything of substance from an empty cup, Bartholomew advises women to not be too hard on themselves when they find themselves struggling to find balance in their lives.
“Give yourself some grace because these are unprecedented times, filled with uncertainty. It’s okay for you to ask for help.”
And, she said, although there are so many things over which we have no control, there are some things that we can control, such as how we respond to different situations.
“You can choose how you can manage your internal system. In managing your household, job and everything else, prioritise your self-care. Carve out your time to fill your cup first, then you’ll have more time to give to anybody else.”
She said starting the day with a positive mindset helps, as it could determine how the rest of the day will go. She strongly advised against things like reading emails and checking social media first thing in the morning. Instead, she said, pray, meditate, exercise, or do whatever will mentally prepare you for what the day has in store.
Bartholomew said over the past two years, sanitising, wearing masks and keeping our distance has helped in keeping us relatively safe, “But we also want to take care of our immune system. We need to get back to eating food that are as close as possible to how it comes out of the ground.
"We need to consume lots of fruits and vegetables – five servings a day, minimum. Not a lot of added sugar and salt and deep-fried things, and remember to drink lots of water. If we want our bodies to work for us we need to make sure we working for it.”
And as time seems to be becoming more limited, Bartholomew suggests combining some activities so you won’t have to leave out one or the other.
“Preparing meals can be family time, exercise can be family time. Have the family prepare dinner together and catch up on the day’s events. Or, at the end of the workday, take a walk, get some sunlight and talk with your family. That way you’re filling your cup as well as spending time with your family.”
Another important cup-filler, she said, is being able to set boundaries, even with your own children.
“Sometimes the things on our plate don’t belong to us but we take it up anyway. People may ask us to do something and we just can’t say no…We need to know when to decline a request. We need to be intentional about how we spend the little free time we have.”
For more information follow Kaylan Bartholomew @spiritednatural on Facebook and Instagram.