Switch off the email notifications, switch off the stress….

_85489389_85489384Do you ever switch off? REALLY switch off?

Many of us take a break by going for a walk, chilling on the sofa with a box set of our favourite programme, or having a meal out with friends. But is it really relaxation if we take our phones with us and allow it to make endless ‘ping’ ‘ring’ and ‘whoosh’ noises at us?

We would say no. Turning off a mobile phone whilst in a therapy room is a must, but it should be silent at any time we like to call ‘ours’, otherwise that time can be eaten into by a relentless stream of updates.

So we were glad to see reports in the press today, highlighting a study undertaken by psychologists at the London-based Future Work Centre, exploring email pressure’ and how it affects work-life balance.

The study found that emails, although a brilliant way to communicate, are equally good at causing our stress levels to rise. Researchers found that the two most stressful habits were leaving email alerts on all day and checking emails as soon as one gets up or lay down to sleep at night. We would add the stress of notifications from social media accounts too – Facebook and twitter streams can contact us 24 hours of the day if we let them.

The study found that turning off email updates on mobiles and laptops (and tablets too surely) will help reduce stress levels. It can also affect our perceptions of stress, as it feels as if we never get a break, when actually we have control over how we interact with our technology.

The study also found, perhaps predictably, that those in managerial positions felt higher levels of email pressure than non-managers.

Figures given by Ofcom suggest there are 2.5 billion email users worldwide, with adults spending an average of over an hour of each day on emails.

So perhaps, as we head into another year, almost certainly offering us means of communication in easier and quicker ways, we take a step back and analyse, honestly, how our lives are affected by those endless little noises we seem so reluctant to ignore….

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Coping with the stress of Christmas

Guinea-Pig-in-lightsThis is the third Christmas on the ‘let’s talk!’ blog and here at The Terrace we like to share our hints and tips for coping with the stress and strain of the season. However one celebrates at this time of year, it is impossible to avoid the crush in the shops, the inflated prices and the temptations of food and alcohol that can lead to those ‘morning after’ feelings and affect our overall well-being at this  time of year. Coughs, colds and other bugs adore the warm, wet weather we have had so far and the last thing we want is illness to drag us down when so much needs doing. We are at risk of scuttling round like this gorgeous guinea pig, ending up under the duvet and desperate to avoid all the trials and tinsel.

Jane Gotto has come up with some wonderful ideas over the years, and here we offer more of her thoughts on how to cope over the coming weeks. Today we focus on that awkward moment when you are making final arrangements for the days over the holiday:

Think about what you would like to do for Christmas

If final plans are not yet made, and you dread some of the options open to you, take time to make sure days are, as far as is possible, arranged in the way you would like them to be. If necessary, come up with alternatives and check with family and friends if you are concerned that changes may affect them.
Do NOT allow yourself to be pulled into an arrangement which you know is
not going to work for you. It IS just a few days in the year, and the temptation is to think only about making others happy (that is what we all hope to do at this time of year after all) but the anxiety and stress can be present  for weeks in the lead up and can effect health, sleep and general well-being for a long period. 

Come back early next week for some more wise words from Jane, who has years of experience in supporting individuals and couples through testing times. Christmas can be great fun, but it can also put a strain on the closest bonds….

If you fancy a pre Christmas massage, our therapist Sarah Sellick still has a few appointments available at a reduced rate. Or why not buy a loved one a relaxing massage for Christmas? Contact us about gift vouchers on 01823 338968.

The Mindfulness challenge – how can we just ‘Allow’ ? It is no quick fix…..

TaraHealy-490x350On May the 5th and 6th (can you believe it is already nearly May?!) our mindfulness specialist Miranda Bevis is starting her latest Mindfulness course, lasting eight weeks and offering in-depth knowledge of its benefits and hours of practice. Courses like this have literally changed the lives of many who are facing challenges of all kinds – work, relationships, health – but it does require some hard work to master mindfulness properly. Too often recently the press has highlighted it as the next ‘cure all’ for anxiety and depression, detailing how corporations are recognising it as a means of increasing productivity and reducing stress on employees. But mindfulness isn’t all about a 20 minute break taking deep breaths in the staff canteen. It can open up a whole world of new experiences and, if taught properly, offers meaningful and deep-rooted strategies to deal with the challenges life throws at us. But it isn’t always easy, and can throw up challenges that can be hard to meet in the first days of practice.

So when we saw this poem by Danna Faulds, it seemed to sum up the realities of mindfulness and the joys of simply ‘bearing the truth’…..

Allow

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes
By: Danna Faulds

“When loss rips off the doors of/the heart, or sadness veils your/vision with despair…” – this is mindfulness as support in times of the greatest sorrow, and long before the recent rise in the popularity of the practice many had found peace in the joy of the only moment we truly have – the present one.

Of course we would love you to book on to Miranda Bevis’s courses, if not those starting next week then her autumn dates in September and October, but this isn’t about advertising.  We know the benefits of mindfulness go far deeper than the ‘quick fix’ options being discussed in the press. It isn’t ‘meditation lite’ as it was recently described, and the whole industry that has recently built up around it – phone apps, books etc – can result in a waste of time and money if the practice is not put in. Everything truly worthwhile requires work and patience. Finding a teacher who can guide you and support you is vital, especailly as Danna Faulds says, you  are letting in the fear, the failure and the fantasies….

On the attraction of the inspirational quote…..

Here at The TIt is the chiefest point of happiness,errace we have recently been experimenting with creating images alongside some of our favourite quotations. This is not only an interesting creative experience, but apparently, when trying to get noticed on social media, an image grabs the attention more effectively than a simple text update. In our fast paced world it is all about the visuals; a shame perhaps but looking at a peaceful, meditative image can be a calming start to a morning so we thought it was worth a try, especially as we have recently taken the plunge into Pinterest, where the image is everything.

Inspirational quotes abound on social media. Some are sickly sweet, some inappropriate or distinctly lacking in artistic impact. Others are genuinely eyecatching, heartstopping and with the ability to stay with you all day. But you can be overloaded with them if you are not careful.

Anyway, we thought our regular blog readers might like to see some of our most recent creations, and we would love to know what you think. Do you find inspirational quotes on social media a positive way to stop for a moment and meditate on the message? Do they help you to be mindful? To be still for a moment? Or are they simply fillers on your news feed? Do get in touch!

And the darkness shall be the lightOne should take good care All men's miseries derive from not being Remember, when life's path is steep, to There is enormous happiness to be found Though my soul may set in darkness, it When you sit, let it be.When you walk,

‘let’s talk! about mental health – #Take5 on the 5th February to discuss mental health

logoToday is Time to Talk Day, when the charity Time to Change asks us to all to spend five minutes discussing mental health issues. The aim is to raise awareness, reduce stigma and encourage people to open up about a subject which is still taboo for many.

So here on let’s talk! we thought we should do just that, and have asked our regular contributor, Suzie Grogan, to start a conversation about how mental health issues affect her, and what raising awareness means to her.

My name is Suzie and I have experienced mental illness. There I have said it.

This is actually how I began my first ever post about mental health, four years ago, on my blog over at No wriggling out of writing and the response to it was overwhelming. It led to my offering a monthly guest post slot to someone else who wanted to say something about how depression and anxiety had affected their lives, and a book – dandelions and Bad Hair Days – followed. It proved to me that there are millions of people out there who are longing to be open about their feelings and find support in others; but the possible stigma that attached to the declaration was a significant concern. What will my friends and family think? What will happen at work?

I can’t remember when I experienced my first real bout of depression. I was an anxious child, and terrified teenager. I had a loving and secure childhood, with two younger siblings but with a father poorly with Parkinson’s from his mid-40s onwards perhaps I took on some of his anxious nature. He was certainly incredibly superstitious and convinced the worst would always happen. I later discovered he had lost his first wife and child, and saw his mother fall dead in front of him. 

After I had my own children I was diagnosed with a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). All parents are anxious but I took it to extremes, convinced that if I didn’t follow certain rituals (such as making the beds properly, or laying the table with matching cutlery) some terrible accident would befall my family. I developed an eating disorder as a means of introducing some control into my life and was eventually desperate enough to approach my GP. I was lucky to be offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and the OCD became manageable, but the lingering thought that something I did, or failed to do, would bring some disaster on us all remained.

Unluckily for me this feeling seemed to be confirmed when, only in my early 40s, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. All my fears having come true, and despite coming through all the treatment successfully, I became swallowed up with anxiety about my health and I felt terrified of everything the future held for me. It is nearly nine years since my cancer diagnosis but the anxiety remains, and occasionally it is unbearable. My life is consumed by it,and the black dog of depression snaps at my heals.

As a mother I knew I was supposed to bring up my son and daughter to be confident, caring people with a proper sense of who they were and what their place in the world might be. I was meant to give them all the opportunities I could to equip them for a future with choice and the ability to forge happy relationships with their peers. How was I supposed to do that when I had no sense of myself, no confidence that I had anything to offer anyone? I thought I was bound to be abandoned if I was not the ‘best’ mother, wife, friend, person I knew and my desperation to please, to make everyone happy, inevitably failed in the hurly burly of life with little ones, simply reinforcing my view of myself as a bad parent. But despite all this pain, all the unhappiness I have put myself and my family through, my children have turned out to be confident, and caring and I am incredibly proud of them. And after four years of counselling I can be proud of myself – for being a ‘good enough’ parent. And person.

Book Cover resize (2)Dandelions and Bad Hair Days raises money for the mental health charity SANE, and it is full of poetry and prose by more than twenty people who were keen to keep the conversation going. And that is what we must all do – on the 5th February and beyond.

It’s official – hugging a tree is good for your health…..

CLF - Olmstead ParksHere at The Terrace we are always keen to promote green business and are committed to being as environmentally aware as possible. We monitor our carbon footprint and source any products we use from ethically sound companies.

But being environmentally aware is about more than the business. It is, literally, at the root of what we do and how we seek to support the well being of our clients. We regularly run mindfulness taster sessions and longer courses and other therapies are based on a stillness and calm that takes us deep within our selves.

So it was with great interest that we read yesterday that researchers at the University of Exeter have found that those living in parts of London populated with a greater number of trees take fewer antidepressants than those who survive away from leafy lined roads and parkland.

It was a simple piece of analysis – data was gathered on the number of antidepressant prescriptions issued across London in 2009-2010 and then compared to the number of trees on the streets in the same area.The places with higher tree densities had lower prescription rates and although some of this might be explained by the greater affluence of some of these areas, and the reduction in respiratory illness in areas where pollution is filtered via the greenery, there is little doubt that being in touch with the seasons and with nature through the life cycle of the trees has a calming influence.

This news reminded us of a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver. Called In Blackwater Woods the rich imagery the poet uses takes the trees and turns them into a life force, energising and reminding us of the power of nature to heal. It also, I think, stresses the limits of the mortal life and the connection we have with the natural cycle of the world we are lucky enough to live in.

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it
go, to let it go.

There is a sense here of literally clinging to the tree trunks as pillars of light and life. What do trees mean to you? Do you notice them as part of the landscape, or see in them the spirit of life itself? They are, after all, our very breath…..