SOS mental health issues - part one

Enhancing your spirituality, and calming your mind with meditation can help. Professional psychological support services are also available

Written by Kristina Petkova, edited by Mila Boshnakova, photos by Pixabay and Unsplash

Pandemic and mental health
Anxiety, fears, high stress levels, loneliness, sleep disorders, and panic attacks. Many people are experiencing some of these conditions, and restrictions, social distancing, isolation, and lack of physical contact intensify them. Do you recognize some of them as part of your life? Then this article is for you!

The world has drastically changed since March 2020. The COVID-19 vaccines were introduced in 2021, with the promise to cope with the pandemic. Or to be more precise, with the physical illness aspect of it. However, in this article, we would like to focus on the mental health issues that many people experience as a consequence of the pandemic and how spiritual practices can help.  

Primary sources of health
According to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, humans require all 4 sources of primary food in order to be healthy. These sources are career (or having a life mission and purpose, living with a meaning), relationships, physical activity, and spirituality. Did you notice we never mentioned food? Food is considered a secondary source and if we experience blockages, toxicity, or are lacking in any of the primary sources, it can affect our health in a negative way, this is despite the fact that we are nurturing ourselves with healthy food and supplements.

How can we improve our mental health through spiritual practices?
Being spiritual and being religious are different things. There are various definitions of what spirituality means, but we would use the one that presents the concept and recognition of a belief in something greater than the self. It doesn’t matter what we call it – God, the Universe, or Nature itself. The main idea is to remain in connection to this higher power and to honor it.

Spirituality in practice

There are so many ways to nurture spirituality and we can give you a glimpse into some of them. In this article, we focus on the meditation technique. Our advice is to try as many as you can and to choose the ones which best fit your personality.

Meditation
Meditation may sound very basic, but actually, the most efficient techniques are the simplest ones. Introducing meditation to your daily routine can have various benefits for your mental health including stress level reduction, calming your mind, and centering yourself. But how does it work?

A common misunderstanding about meditation is that we need to “get rid of'' our thoughts and empty our minds. The truth is that meditation is cultivating the ability to observe without judgment. The practice of meditation includes observing our thoughts, how they are coming and going, letting them fade away without developing them further. The cultivation of this ability can improve our well-being in our everyday lives later on. 

We can be much more efficient and centered if we can observe the reality around us. If we can observe our own reactions and emotions, and be able to detach ourselves from them, then every time we experience any kind of situation, we will have the choice to react in different ways. Meditation teaches us that we own our emotions and reactions but they don’t own us. 

Observing our thoughts can also help us recognize which of them truly belong to us and to our inner true self, and which of them belong to outer voices – those of our family and friends, or maybe the society we belong to. The more connected we are to our own voice and self, the more stable we would be feeling from the inside. If we can find that inner place of stability, we also would be much less dependent on outer circumstances. Regular meditative practices allow us to find this inner source of stability that can help us in any crisis situation.

I’m a beginner – where to start

Simple beginners meditation
If you have never practiced meditation in your life, we suggest that you begin with this simple way. You can find a quiet place where you can sit or lay down in a comfortable position; it can be in a natural place or you can listen to meditative music or natural sounds like the ocean, rain, singing birds, etc. Inhale and exhale several times deeply and focus on your breath. You may notice that your brain tends to get distracted by many thoughts. Don’t judge that process, just observe them coming and let them go. If you practice frequently, you will notice how letting go of your thoughts will become easier and easier every time. You can start with 5 minutes of practice and gradually increase the time every day.


Body scan meditation

The body scan meditation can be used on its own or as an introduction to a longer meditative practice. You can try it by yourself by sitting or laying down in a comfortable position, and with every breath, focus your attention and scan every part of your body from your toes to your head. By this type of meditation, you can also observe how your mind starts wandering, but when you notice distracting thoughts, you can simply bring your attention back to a specific body part.

The best way to see if meditative practices work for you is to try them and to observe if you experience improvement in your mental health. For this purpose, you can start journaling daily.

How can you practice in a healing center?
In our previous article, we introduced the story of the Mystery – Art and Healing Center and how it was created. The center is holding free online events and using the tools of guided meditations to get closer to our inner selves, live our full potential, and become more centered. As additional benefits of the practices, you will experience stress and anxiety relief, better sleep, overall relaxation.
You can receive more information about the upcoming events here.

I need professional psychological help - where can I go?
If you have tried different ways of coping by yourself, but you are still struggling to manage it on your own, check this article where we mention a few private centers providing psychological help in English.

Boryana Angelova is a psychologist practicing in Sofia. She most commonly works with clients who have difficulties in their relationships, separation or loss of a loved one, confidence and self-esteem, problems in the workplace with colleagues and/or the boss, and anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Boryana can be contacted here by filling in the form on the webpage.

You can also contact the Eirene Centre at [email protected] or by phone: Gisli at 0884378847 or Nora at 0884378852. You can ask them your questions and make an initial appointment.

I need immediate psychological help - who can I call?
Unfortunately, there is a very limited amount of mental health support services available in Bulgaria. If you are in an immediate mental crisis, please contact 112 and ask for the nearest hospital emergency department. ​

You can call these following services but they only speak Bulgarian:
- National emergency number(s): 112;
- National Sofia suicide hotline: 0035 9249 17 223;
- Bulgarian National Helpline for Children: 116 111;
- Ministry of Education and Science - Hotline for psychological support for students, parents, and teachers

  • Sofia: 0877183133
  • Plovdiv: 032/260152
  • Varna: 0882078085; 0882314686
  • Burgas: 056/825239; 0892212338
  • Veliko Tarnovo: 0888553601
  • Stara Zagora: 042/210089

- Bulgarian Red Cross Covid-19 Hotline: 0800 11 466 (free of charge);
- Sofia Regional Health Inspectorate: 02/813 04 75 (working hours: 8:30-10:00 and 15:00-17:00).

If you need immediate psychological support, but you don’t speak Bulgarian there are not many options available here. We would hence recommend that you call the numbers for crisis support in your country of birth, or if you like you can call services from other countries. Here is a list of services from around the world that you can call.

The bottom line
Spirituality can help us improve our mental health and help us be more resilient to crisis situations such as the global COVID-19 pandemic. Spiritual practices are various and meditation is just one of them, one which can help us relax our mind and body, reduce stress levels, but also teach us to be kind to ourselves; to accept our feelings and emotions as they are, and also to accept that we cannot change reality. We can only change the way we react to it. In our next articles, we will look at other types of spiritual practices, so stay tuned!