Today I attended my first mental health expo, Exhale, at Gorse Hill Studios in Manchester. It was a free event with a number of fabulous speakers, stalls and hands-on sessions.
I was greeted by the event’s organiser, Molly, who explained all about the day and the various different talks and activities that were available, and given a lovely gift bag with numerous leaflets and a freebie! (Green tea in mine – it’s like they knew me!)
Molly then gave a fantastic talk on her personal experiences with her mental health and some tips on how to support others as well as how to support and look after yourself. Molly’s talk really hit home with some of the things she discussed and I almost found myself tearing up at a few parts. It was really inspiring to see someone who’s struggled, flourish and face their fears talking in front of people. It’s something I could never do!
I then had a go at a breathing workshop, run by the lovely Susi Wrenshaw at Yoga Therapy Manchester. We looked at various breathing techniques that are brilliant for calming the body and mind, but my favourite was definitely the bee breathing technique, also known as Bhramari pranayama. The practice is named for the humming sound that bees make.
Brahmari is practiced by first taking a few natural breaths and then closing your eyes. Then, keeping the lips sealed, inhale through the nostrils and exhale whilst making the sound of the letter ‘M’. This sound is sustained until you need to inhale. The sound is soothing for the mind and the practice allows you to exhale for longer without excessive strain.
I’ll be honest – I was a bit skeptical about how making a humming sound could possibly be relaxing, but I was surprised and how relaxed and calm I felt afterwards. I’ll definitely be putting this in to practice at home.
The last workshop I visited was EFT Tapping with Toni Mackenzie. EFT Tapping was something I was introduced to by my CBT therapist last year. She mentioned it in passing, and I was intrigued and researched it online.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) frequently referred to as ‘tapping’, is a practice that draws on various theories of alternative medicine such as acupuncture and Thought Field Therapy (TFT).
It involves the use of fingertips to tap on the end points of energy meridians that are situated just beneath the surface of the skin.
We started by thinking the phrase “even though” and then thinking about something we were worried about, anxious or scared of, and then began to tap on each meridian whilst channelling those negative thoughts. We started by tapping the inside of the eyebrow, followed by the outside of the eye, underneath the eye, underneath the nose, the crease above the chin, collarbone, underarm and the top of the head.
We then used the phrase “I choose to…” and thought about what positive feelings we wanted to feel, and repeated the above tapping points.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with tapping, but I found it fascinating and again, surprisingly relaxing. I’ll certainly be doing more research on this and will attempt to put it into practice when I’m feeling especially anxious or worried about something.
It was fantastic to see so many people at Exhale today and for us all to come together in a space where there was no judgement and no stigma.
A huge thank you to Molly for organising such a fabulous event and to all the great speakers, stalls and helpers. You all made the event what it was – fantastic!
Remember: it’s ok to not be ok.