Today’s spotlight focuses on Nyxie of Nyxie’s Nook. We spoke about her work, blog and how it helps with her mental wellbeing.
What is Nyxies Nook?
Nyxie’s Nook is a blog based largely on mental health and wellness. I began the blog as a way to progress my relapse into anorexia nervosa in 2019, and it’s since become a place for me to talk about recovery, among other mental health issues. I speak candidly about all things recovery, depression, anxiety, sexual health and various other topics, some more controversial than others. I’ve also been known to talk about the inequalities here in Northern Ireland in regards to sexuality, gender and gender norms.
1. Why were you drawn to blogging about self-care and illustrations initially?
I was drawn to blogging as a way to process and manage my own mental health issues. What started out as me simply writing, turned into writing about things that mattered and getting my voice heard. While I still write for pleasure, a lot of my writing is published either on my blog or elsewhere.
My love for illustrating has always been there, but it was smothered for years by persistent imposter system. While in lockdown in 2020 I picked up my sketch pad and fell in love again. Shortly after returning to my day job, a friend of mine announced she was working on a book. I was asked to illustrate and I haven’t looked back since.
2. When did you make the leap to dedicating more time to these avenues?
While I work part time serving food, my other part time job is writing and illustrating. It doesn’t bring in much, but it’s a great way to earn an extra bit of ‘pocket money’ for things to do with my blog, and even for various art supplies.
3. Can you recommend 3 of your favorite elements (products/activities) that you use as part of your self-care routine?
I frequently play video games to wind down in the evenings. At the moment I’m obsessed with my Nintendo Switch and the game, Stardew Valley.
I also highly recommend chilling out in bed with a good book of your choice. At the moment I’m living for all things true crime and I’m reading through various non-fiction books about serial killers. It’s a bit of a change from my usual ‘wellness’ material, but I’m really enjoying the change up.
Finally I can’t recommend the positive power of a feel good TV show more. When I’m feeling low or drained of all energy, I turn to sitcoms such as ‘Brooklyn Nine Nine’ or ‘New Girl.’ If I’m in need of an extra boost, ‘Queer Eye’ has never steered me wrong.
3. What does self-care mean to you?
“It’s about recharging my batteries”
I often asked myself this question. To me it personally means relaxing and doing what I want to do. What I consider to be relaxing, may be different from you, but there’s nothing better than laying in bed or on the couch, sketch pad or Nintendo Switch in hand, and a good TV show. It’s about recharging my batteries, not thinking too much and taking myself away from social media.
4. What would you like readers to know about self care?
Self-care is unique to everyone. It’s what you want it to be. While some of the generic things will apply, don’t be afraid to discover new things that make you feel good, relaxed and, above all else, happy.
5. Tell us your experience of being a blogger and illustrator.
It’s tough. Writing and illustrating is hit or miss, and while some months I might be busy, there are other times where I can’t get so much as a sale. That’s just how it is. You also have to feel like a failure, but to push through anyway.
6. Are there any tips that you can share with our readers about self care?
What you class as self-care may be different to someone else. While some enjoy sitting down to a 20 minute yoga session, you may prefer to bake or clean or play video games. No shame. You do you.
Self care is 100% necessary. Downtime is necessary. Without either, we run the risk of burnout.
Self-care isn’t about coming home day after day and going to bed. It’s alright in moderation, but if this is your daily routine, it may be time to look at other things. This sort of behaviour in my experience is self-soothing, which can only exacerbate mental illness symptoms.
From weight loss, to improving flexibility, strength, feeling a sense of community to reducing stress and alleviating the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
To improve mental well-being, we need to look at ourselves as a whole and also have a focus on physical movement. Improving diet (what we eat and drink- yogic diet) , moving our bodies (asana practice), practicing meditation and learning yoga philosophy. All these elements link together to improve our well-being and mental health.
The mind, body and spirit are all interconnected and cannot be separated. This is why a whole yoga practice both on and off the mat offers a wonderful holistic solution for helping mental wellbeing.
– What is Stress? –
To decide if we are stressed, we must first understand what stress is and how it affects us. The dictionary defines it as…
A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.“he’s obviously under a lot of stress“
strain, pressure, (nervous) tension, worry, anxiety, trouble, difficulty;informalhassle“he’s under a lot of stress”
However, it means something different to each and every one of us and affects us all in different ways. It takes toll on both our mental and physical wellbeing.
There are ways and means to change our lives and our mindsets to reduce stress and anxiety, having a regular Yoga & Meditation practice is one of them. If we incorporate a regular practice into our lives, we can start to make positive changes both on and off the mat. Even if its a little habitual change a day, like practicing the sun salutations and doing some gentle breathwork, you would be surprised how much of an impact and a difference it can make in your life.
– How Stress Affects Us –
We are designed to experience stress, it helps engage our natural reactions to deal with situations (such as fight or flight, or letting us know something is wrong or amiss in certain situations).
However, when things become too much for us, it affects both our mind and body. It affects the nervous system making us feel anxious, stressed and uncomfortable.
When our nervous system is out of balance, we feel stressed, depressed or anxious.
Our nervous system has two main branches: 1. Sympathetic – Fight or flight symptoms (Survival mode)
2. Parasympathetic – Resting/relaxed state
When we are feeling stressed, anxious or fearful, our body and nervous system operate in the sympathetic branch of the nervous system. This causes to body to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which, when released too often, takes a toll on the body both physically and mentally. Being in this over-active state makes our mind race and causes us to feel uncomfortable in our own bodies. Often, our heart rate increases and we feel we cannot switch off or relax.
On the converse, when we operate from the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, it over-rides the sympathetic leaving us feeling more rested and calmer.
When we feel stressed and anxious, it stops us from living our lives fully. Leaving us trapped and unable to function how we wish to. It keeps us caged in a bubble of fear and often people will not change and stay in situations because of this fear that stress and anxiety brings.
A majority of these symptoms are invisible to the eye.
Yoga and meditation can help alleviate the symptoms of stress and anxiety.
By having a regular practice, you can start to change your lifestyle to improve physical and mental wellbeing.
– How Yoga and Meditation can improve physical and mental well-being –
1. Practicing Yoga Routinely has a positive effect on body, mind and spirit.
Having a daily practice and devoting your time to learning meditation and philosophy will facilitate positive changes in your life. Find a teacher who doesn’t have a gym focus with body aesthetics in mind, but is focused on philosophy and meditation as well as asana practice, to guide you in developing a regular yoga practice. Ashtanga Yoga is good for this. A regular Mysore Ashtanga practice helps you to learn a sequence safely and well that you can practice on your own in your own time and rhythm.
Improving fitness, strength and flexibility is a bonus, but not the aim of the game. If you find a teacher who embraces all aspects of yoga, it can really have a positive influence on your life and help you to still your mind and de-stress.
2. Asana practice – Moving the body helps reduce stress and anxiety.
Asana is defined most commonly as the posture practice in Yoga, where we flow through poses or hold statically for a set time. Ideally, we should be moving consistently for 30 minutes minimum daily, or at least 5 days in a week. It is important for both our mental and physical health. Exercise releases endorphins, which help alleviate both mental and physical pain as well as having a calming effect on the mind. It keeps our minds, muscles, body and organs supple; plus it improves our cardio-vascular health.
Having a regular practice helps us attain this, working mindfully with the body also has a positive and meditative effect on the mind. However there are other ways of incorporating movement into our lives also:
Walking the dogs for 30 minutes a day, or cycling and swimming; anything that gets us moving is so beneficial. Co-blogger Sarah is often out in the mountains to combat anxiety and stress. If we practice mindfully and with awareness, any task we do can become a mindfulness practice.
3. Yoga helps us reflect on what we’re putting in our bodies
Alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, drugs (legal and otherwise), processed food and sugar.
All these will have an effect on our physical and mental well-being.
These things give you a quick boost, then a low. We know they are bad for us, but a lot of us reach out for them anyways.
We should be aiming for things that keep us constant. Not things that bring us up, to bring us crashing down, be it 20 mins, an hour, or a day later.
Can you cut/reduce any of these things out your diet? Try eating more fruit and vegetables and perhaps consider a more plant based diet.
It may be challenging at 1st, but you will feel the benefits later.
We literally are what we eat/drink and what we put into our bodies.
Our bodies use vitamins, minerals , proteins, carbohydrates and other compounds from our food to re-build our bodies from a cellular level. What we eat and what we drink is super important for our health, emotional and physical.
Both moving and diet are interlinked…
The more we exercise and move the body, or practice meditation and mindfulness, the more we tend to eat healthier and vice versa. When we eat healthier we tend to have more energy and feel like we want to be active.
On the converse,
the more we stay in, lounge around and are not active, the more likely we are to reach for food to match our mood.
When we are not exercising, we tend to reach for the processed and sugary food, or opt for takeaways. Both are important and go hand in hand.
4. We actively start to do things to Calm the Mind
We need to create space for ourselves. We owe it to ourselves to have calm periods of time in every day. Not only will we benefit, but others in our lives will too.
It is ESSENTIAL to create space to facilitate healing.
We need to stop being so busy, for our minds sake. One thing I and many others have found so crucial in reducing stress, is facilitating time into our days and into our lives to switch off and allow the mind to still.
Allow yourself some calming time, every day, with no phone, no laptop and no distractions. Just you, facilitating relaxation in your day.
It may be curling up on the sofa with your favourite book, having a nice relaxing bath or watching your favourite TV series with a cup of tea. Any time like this in your day is valuable. Cherish it and value it.
5. We reflect and start to meditate, hopefully making it a daily routine…
There are many useful guided meditation videos on YouTube that are great for beginners, or advanced alike. These will help you to reach a calm mind quite easily and with practice. It might take a few goes, but the mind is a tool that needs to be trained like any other muscle. We also cover a range of meditation practices in our Sunday Zoom Class.
I would also recommend a meditation teacher called Burgs.
5. We start to do things that make our soul happy
When we have a regular Yoga & Meditation practice, we naturally start to slow down and make time for ourselves.
Do Yoga, meditate, catch up with friends, cook inspiring healthy meals, buy a smoothie maker. Read a book with a cuppa. Cuddle lots. Spend time with children and with animals. Finish that DIY task you’ve been putting off, book a flight to somewhere you’ve dreamt of going, say ‘I love you’ to someone and mean it, smile at strangers, be polite to all, kill folk with kindness.
All these things are guaranteed to be good for your soul.
6. We start to incorporate positivity into out lives…
Surround yourself with positive people, positive music and positive hobbies.
If your workplace, friends or family members are negative, it can be difficult to escape. Try not to engage in negative talk and remove yourself from negative situations as best you can.
The more you do positive things, the more positive people will start to appear in your life. Be it starting a new class, going to yoga, the gym or joining a local running club.
Listening to positive music, reading and watching TV shows/documentaries with positive messages and doing positive hobbies will all have a benefit on stress and anxiety.
7. We look to improve the quality of our sleep
Aim for 8 hours of sleep a night. Make bed-time a priority, make it relaxing and an enjoyable peaceful time. If you struggle sleeping, sometimes sleep music can be a great aid to getting to sleep, or sleep hypnosis.
Make sure to switch off from technology atleast an hour before bedtime.
8. Engage more and listen to Relaxing Music
Some music I like to listen to are binaural beats. They really help with relaxation and have the following benefits (from medical news today):
It has been proven to aid relaxation and reduce stress, so listening to these whilst working, relaxing, or practicing Yoga and Meditation can help alleviate stress.
You must love and be of service of yourself before you can love and be of service to others.
How do you alleviate stress? Do you have a regular practice? I would love to hear from you!
Aimee is a Yoga and Meditation teacher in located in Middlesbrough, England, UK.
Find AMALAwellness yoga and meditation classes in Teesside and online.
*Some of these reasons Yoga and Meditation can help relieve stress are exceprts from a blog I wrote for my friend on stress management, which can be found here.