Welcome to the first story of our Wellness Wednesdays series. Meet Iona Russell. Iona is a certified Life Coach, NLP Practicioner, and author of Making Waves. In our interview, Iona discusses her own struggles with mental health, the transformative experience of becoming a life coach, and offers us tips to encorporate wellness practices into our daily routines.

How has being a life coach transformed the way you view mental health and wellbeing?

I now have a holistic view of mental health, having struggled with my own issues over the years including clinical depression, my own teenage suicidal behaviours, eating disorders, postnatal depression, alcohol and drug misuse. I have found from personally undergoing a number of different therapeutic modalities, some that were helpful and others that weren’t so much, I get it and I have no judgement. Now as a coach myself I can combine my personal experiences both, highs and lows, along with my professional training in a way that’s relatable to my clients. It really is about looking at the whole person and listening to them. I don’t for a moment say my way is the only way, because I get that not one size fits all. It has been on my personal and professional journey that I know, that I believe wholeheartedly that all of us are amazing, beautiful and confident. That we all have a special place in this world. We are born with this knowledge, but life trains this out of us as we adapt to fit in and become part of society. It is my philosophy that we can all reinvent ourselves, no matter who we are or where we come from,  and we basically get to reboot back to our magnificent selves kinda like an iPhone, we can hit factory reset. We all have this beautiful spark within waiting to be re-ignited. I know this to be true, because I have done this myself and as a life coach I believe all my clients, I believe everyone can do this, they maybe just need a little guidance.

I feel I took the long way round to healthy mental wellbeing and this is why I have written my book, ‘Making Waves’-it’s the shortcut of what I know works for me and my clients. It’s a book to dip in and out of so that people can just open to a page and find something short and easy to do that day. That’s it. It isn’t a heavy manual. I wanted to make this all accessible to everyone. 

“To be in my own power is to be fully accepting of myself, flaws and all, to love myself as I am.”

What are some of the benefits of hypnotherapy?

I love hypnotherapy because as a technique I can get to the root cause of the issue and guide the client to release whatever has been holding them back. Be it an outdated limiting beliefs, lack of confidence, sadness, lack of self worth. Our minds are amazing and we are basically living from our unconscious patterns and programming which accounts for 80% of our mind. This programming is hard to rewire by working with regular talk therapy, and the advantage of hypnotherapy is we don’t need to keep hashing over the issues which are like prodding a bruise with a stick, it just won’t heal will it. Talk therapy deals with the consounsiou part of our minds, the 20% of our reasoning, which we can compare to an iceberg where this is just the tip of the iceberg and by working on the tip, we aren’t getting to the root cause. Hypnotherapy can also be done content free which can be reassuring for the clients. 

I liken hypnotherapy to basically mediation with a destination, and it is my job to guide my client on the most appropriate path for them. It’s quicker and easier than you might think because we are working with the unconscious which is the 80% hidden part of the iceberg to continue with the analogy. There is some amazing research into this if you want to look up Dr Joe Dispenza, and also wonderful well proven methods such as those used by Marisa Peers, and Dr Joe Vitalie.

Do you have tips on how to incorporate practices that prioritize mental health into our every-day routines?

It’s important to make any practises easy and not chore, not a thing you have to do. It’s important to find practices that fit in with your life. I love mediation, but I’m not about to suggest you go sit on top of a mountain and meditate for an hour, this is the real world. 

Conscious breathing is amazing, on waking take a deep inhale in through your nose and our through your mouth three times, and you can do this at any point in the day. These ‘moments’ add up. And you can increase the time you focus on your breath this is mediation. 

Now when we talk about mediation people say but what about my thoughts, I can’t stop them. Well that’s for sure, one thought pops in and I can guarantee you something, there will be another one along shortly.

So the key is to not get attached to the thought or follow it down a rabbit hole. Basically don’t get attached to it, just let it be, because the observer and let it float past like a cloud. It gets easier with practice. Mediation can be done anywhere, you can do it walking, drawing, when you’re on the bus, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s about being present with yourself and your breath. 

On waking after your conscious breaths, think about what you are grateful for, ideally 3 things, and really FEEL the gratitude. Don’t just say it. FEEL it. It can be as simple as these clean sheets, the sun shining etc…. and for people who are struggling with this, it really does get easier and easier. Find something to be grateful for, no matter how small it is. This will grow and will become easier.

Get outside! Move! BE in nature. Nature is the best medicine. I love to stand barefoot on the grass weather permitting, and soak up the earth’s energies. 

So everyday be sure to pause. Breathe, meditate, show gratitude and get out in nature. This is a great start, but if this is all too much just start with what’s easy for you and build from there. 

You spoke about the pillars of Alignment, Mindset, Acceptance, Breadcrumbs, and Create during your presentation at the Edinburgh Wellbeing Festival. How do those five core steps relate to wellbeing, and which one do you find to be the most crucial part of maintaining positive mental health?

To be honest they are all important, and they all combine to create the results and life we want. However if we aren’t present with ourselves, if we are focused on external factors, external needs or seeking approval from others, if we are worrying about the past or anxious about the future well we aren’t present. So we need to be Aligned with our own core essence, our true north, which starts with the breath, being present in the moment, basically being in our own body, heart and soul. 

As they say, go within or go without. 

In all my own struggles with mental health I certainly wasn’t present with myself, I was worried about what had passed, or anxious about the future, I was always looking outside myself for approval, external gratification, external satisfaction, and trying to fill a void which is left on the inside, and can’t be filled with these things. It’s like trying to satisfy a hungry ghost. 

What are some of your favourite wellness products?

I love nourishing foods, and eat mostly a plant based diet, just because that’s what makes me feel good. 

Essential oils (therapeutic grade) are magic in a bottle and can be used to help you feel better, to prevent illness and to lighten the mood. I have been using my diffuser and EO for over 8 years now. I have a magic potion for everything. A great diffuser is essential too. 

And a good bed for a good night’s sleep!

What does it mean for you to be powerful?

To be in my own power is to be fully accepting of myself, flaws and all, to love myself as I am. To be confident and comfortable in my own skin. And with this power to inspire and lead others to love themselves too. To share my message that we can all live a life of purpose. This kind of power is peaceful too, it is strong, peaceful and kind.