Let’s talk! about Mindfulness…

Meditation-garden-mindfulness-imageMindfulness is very much in the news these days as a means of finding tranquility in our increasingly stressful world. Big business too is beginning to take it seriously as a way to ensure the well-being of their staff (although it is to be hoped that they are approaching it from altruistic motives, rather than as a way to add even more to their frenetic daily life).  The idea is very simple: Mindfulness means merely to be present in the here and now, paying full attention to whatever is happening around you and within you, free from distractions or judgement, with a soft and open mind.

In our modern lives we are subjected to many pressures; work, relationships, money, heath worries and information overload to name but a few. And it is not only what happens outside that causes problems. Merely thinking about what’s happening to us can cause stress. Ruminating about our circumstances, regretting the past and worrying about the future inevitably makes us feel worse.

The result of these internal and external pressures is that the brain’s reaction to real danger, the “fight and flight” mechanism, can be switched on all of the time. This isn’t good for us, and can lead to stress related illnesses, both physical and psychological. Once we become stressed, ruminations can become even more negative, and stress ends up producing yet more stress.

Mindfulness gives us a way of breaking out of this vicious cycle, by repeatedly turning gently away from thinking, and towards our sensory experience. Research show that these simple techniques dampen down the reaction to stress, and enhance activity in areas associated with well-being.

Evidence over more than three decades supports Mindfulness. It has been shown to have a positive effect on physical and psychological health, and to enhance focus, memory, creativity and compassion. It decreases the impact of living in a stressful world and helps us to be the best we can be.

Miranda Bevis Mindfulness GroupsWhy not try mindfulness for yourself, at the taster sessions we hold here at The Terrace? Dr Miranda Bevis  offers a mindfulness stress reduction programme (MBSR) which is designed to help you learn new ways of managing difficult physical sensations, feelings and moods and to live life more in the present moment.

Taster Sessions (£5):

Tues 14th Oct 6.30pm – 8pm or
Weds 15th Oct 9.30am – 1pm

8 week course dates will run from Tues 21st October 6.30pm-8pm and Weds 22nd October 9.15am – 11.30am, costing £225.

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Dealing with anger in angry times (2)

angerIn a previous post we looked at the ways in which we can cope with feelings of anger in a society that is increasingly prone to focus on the negative; stereotyping and reporting on issues that can make our blood boil. We looked at how we can focus on those issues that we can influence, and how certain coping strategies can increase our chances of remaining calm and ensuring relationships are not damaged by unexpressed, or hastily expressed, anger.

We mentioned at the end of the last post that this time we would examine who is responsible for our personal response to anger. Of course, the answer is ourselves. We can choose whether to act hastily or with a more measured tone. But we acknowledge that in some situations this is difficult, or impossible. So why do we get angry?

There are obvious causes: a threat to ourselves or the ones we love, being actually assaulted – verbally or physically, losing money, finding our property has been damaged. Then there are less obvious ones: hearing someone has acted against a principle we hold dear, being interrupted when something is important to us, feeling undermined or humiliated among our peers. If it seems we have been hurt deliberately it can make matters worse.

If we are in imminent danger, the anger can be productive and protective, but if the causes are less obvious, then our responses can affect the outcome for our health, and for our relationships.  If we are living in a state of constant tension we might snap, regretting it later when we find we have over-reacted and must build bridges. Or we might repress  our anger, only for it to surface days, weeks, months or years later.

Some anger can drive change for the better, lead us to campaign for what we believe to be right. But repressed anger, or long-term anger that is not expressed in a constructive way can lead to depression, anxiety and self-harm, alongside physical ill-health, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and gastric problems.

The Mental Health Foundation offers some great advice for those of us faced with a situation where we sense our blood is up. Where in our last post we offered some general advice, here are some specific exercises to adopt:

Count to ten before you act.
Drop your shoulders and breathe deeply to help you relax – your instincts may be telling your body to get ready to fight, but your rational self can reverse this message by telling your body to chill out.
If you feel the urge to throw something or hit out, remove yourself from the situation and try taking it out on something soft like a cushion that you won’t damage and which won’t hurt you.
Try screaming if it won’t disturb people near you or scream into a pillow to release your tension.
Talk yourself down – imagine what your calmest friend would say to you and give yourself the same advice
Imagine yourself in a relaxing scene.
Distract yourself or take yourself out of the situation that made you angry – read a magazine, do a crossword, listen to soothing music, go for a walk.
Pour out how you feel in writing or redirect your energy into another creative activity.
Offload to a friend who will help you get perspective on the situation.

We know it is not easy to deal with anger, but most of us can learn to respond in a healthy way. Next time we will look at triggers; if we know in advance what ‘sets us off’ it can make us better able to cope with a situation before that moment of no return…..

The Terrace is hosting a ‘Shaping Anger’ workshop on 25th and 26th October. For more details go to What’s On.

So what is ’empty nest syndrome’? ‘let’s talk!’ on how to cope…

740_empty_nesters3It is that time of year again. Autumn, when many of our children fledge, leaving their homes to start a life apart from their parents at college or university. They will experience all sorts of new things; challenges aplenty and excitement, as well as the inevitable hangovers.

But what about the parents and carers they leave behind? Their lives go on, on the surface at least the same as before, but there will be something missing….

‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ can be defined as ‘feelings of depression, sadness, and even grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes.’ (Psychology Today). It is an inevitable step that we want our youngsters to take but that does not always help. For women, other life changes are often happening at the same time – the menopause can itself cause depression and feelings of loss so the lowering of mood is exacerbated and they may re-evaluate their relationship with a spouse or partner. Women are now likely to be working, rather than staying at home with a nurturing role, but that does not always help. Men are not immune, as they too feel a loss.  Even the knowledge that many young people return home for financial reasons doesn’t offer solace, as they come home changed, more independent and with the potential to cause greater friction in a household no longer run to suit their needs.

So is there anything we can do to avoid the grief at the gap the fledging of our children leaves in our lives? The answer is, of course, ‘yes’, but we must acknowledge first that it requires some effort from everyone involved. In this post we will look at how to make the step itself easier, and in the next post we will start looking forward and noticing how we can appreciate the benefits without losing that bond with our offspring.

Firstly, make the whole event something of an adventure. Acknowledge that the young person may be nervous and the parents worried, but that doesn’t mean the preparation can’t be fun. Shopping trips, preparing meals, washing, budgeting – all can involve the young person in those weeks up to the leaving date. There may not always be enthusiasm for the tasks, but having at least a rudimentary knowledge of how to look after themselves will help a child in the first weeks way and offer a crumb of comfort to a parent.

Then, if a child is unhappy at first, do not make it too easy to run home. This is a tough one, as secretly (and we have to admit this) many of us might be pleased to feel our child needs us again. But what they need is our support and encouragement, to know that they have our love; not the feeling that they needn’t try to manage for themselves. Home is always there for them, but not as a base to escape from responsibilities they have taken on.

kitThirdly, do have a strategy for keeping in touch. Mobile communication is so much easier now, and Skype allows us to keep in touch face to face. Arrange to chat once a week perhaps, with texts or emails as a stop-gap in between. If money allows, you can offer a decent Smart phone contract. Brief text chats can keep the emotion out of discussions and offer the opportunity just to send a quick tip to solve what might seem an insurmountable problem at the other end (the ‘Mum I put red pants in with my white t shirt’ call perhaps!)

Finally, recognise that you might feel teary and low, but if depression starts to affect your day-to-day living you should seek professional help, or at the very least open up to friends about how you are feeling. Similarly, you might also have to admit to feeling a little envy at the new opportunities opening up to your child, who may be posting lots of excited Facebook updates, making new mates and seemingly having the time of their lives away from home.

So next time, we will offer a few tips on how to make sure it is not only the kids who can take on a new stage in life and have a great time!