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.

Well-being for students – University isn’t all party, party, party…

images (6)We have recently reposted our piece about ‘empty-nesting’ and the anxiety of parents as their children head off to University and college for the first time. This time of year can be tough for the whole family, and it is important for everyone to acknowledge the emotional and physical stress involved in this new phase of family life.

So – today we focus on those young people taking what might be their first steps to independence. Along with the natural excitement of organising accommodation, buying any equipment and books necessary and packing carefully, there is also a natural level of anxiety – it is the body’s natural reaction to the anticipation of the unknown.Will I like my course? Will I make friends? Will I have enough money? It may not feel like it but everyone has these concerns, even the most confident prospective student. It is a time when you need to take your mate’s bravado with a pinch of salt – inside they will have their own worries, guaranteed.

But sometimes anxiety can become overwhelming. You may find you have work to do before you even start your course. There will be the expectations of parents and teachers and of course, the importance of your course to your future hopes and ambitions. This is the time to notice your body, and any physical symptoms that you may experience that can be attributed to this anxiety. You may not even see them coming, as they gradually creep up on you.

  • You may be less able to sleep…
  • You may lose your appetite…
  • You may feel tired and drained…
  • You could be irritable and prone to mood swings…

Sometimes these symptoms can actually affect your life on a day-to-day basis. Panic attacks, when you feel you can’t breathe, that your heart is pounding, that you will be sick and that you need to run, or are rooted to the spot  can stop you doing those things you would normally enjoy for fear of breaking down in front of friends, or being unable to cope in stressful situations.

First of all, don’t be too hard on yourself – moving home for anyone is difficult and for you it will mean new town, new people, and new responsibilities. If you find anxiety levels rising try to remember that they won’t last forever – as you settle in to your new life the initial worries will fade to the background. Day-to-day worries will come and go, that is life. But if you can maintain some control over your life – especially when it comes to things like money, alcohol, getting exercise and eating healthily – you will find things easier to cope with.

Secondly, remember to talk about how you are feeling. This isn’t always easy, but if you can open up you will find you are not alone and hiding your feelings can simply store up more trouble for later. There is always support available at University or college. Student Support, the local GP, your lecturers and tutors…they are all trained to watch out for signs that their students are experiencing difficulties. And of course your parents and family at home need to know how you really feel. Don’t be afraid to approach someone. The longer you leave it the more cut off and hopeless you might feel.

images (7)To find out more about anxiety, stress and depression see the NHS website HERE. If you are reluctant to take that first step, you can approach someone anonymously – there is help at the end of a telephone. Call Samaritans, or Mind for example. Non-judgemental, they will listen and support you. Alternatively there is a great service that has been set up specially to support students. It is called Nightline and if your University or college is linked up there will be someone to help you. See their website at http://nightline.ac.uk/ . They have a useful list of other contacts HERE.

Remember – this is an exciting time, one that can be the very best time of your life. But you need to take care of yourself and always be certain that there is someone who can help you if you are struggling.

Also, see The Terrace website for details of the skilled therapists who work with us to support young people and their families.

Beating the stress of exams with the NSPCC

CaptureEach year we nominate a charity to benefit from our fundraising events and because of our commitment to ending of child abuse and the need to support the mental health of children and young adults we have, for the past three years, supported the NSPCC. Their campaigns are always targeted and committed to the prevention of cruelty to children and the support they offer in practical terms is fantastic. So, as we were looking to add to the previous posts we have written on dealing with the stress of exams we were pleased to see that the NSPCC has produced a leaflet for young people facing a tough few weeks of GCSEs and A Levels, as well as University examinations.

‘Beat Exam Stress ‘ is a colourful brochure filled with top tips to get anyone through May and June as healthily and successfully as possible. It is also brilliant for parents, who can watch out for signs of overload and perhaps take steps to intervene if things get tough.

Of course it includes the obvious (so much easier to swallow from the NSPCC that from a parent one suspects!) – don’t leave revision to the last minute, don’t cram the night before, don’t avoid subjects you find tough and so on. But there are some less obvious hints which need support from the adults in the household:

‘Try to talk to your family about how they can make studying a little easier for you – for example, by agreeing times when you can have your own space, when they will try to be a little quieter around the house and when you’d rather not be disturbed (except perhaps for the occasional treat,such as a drink or snack)’

This is so important  – many adults forget how worried they were when they took their own qualifications and a little thought can make the environment for revision so much more positive. As can avoiding confrontation – it is likely that exam stress will shorten fuses and as an adult, stepping back and remembering that exams are over in a few short weeks can be the best thing you can do for a child.

The leaflet also offers hints for the big days themselves, with checklists of things to remember and strategies for ensuring you can answer the questions on the paper to the best of your ability. Tips for dealing with anxiety sit alongside healthy eating and learning to pace yourself.

So we think this leaflet is terrific, covering all the practicalities without ignoring the emotional impact of exam time. The last page offers websites and helplines if further support is needed.

Here at The Terrace we have written about ensuring you pamper yourself, take a break and eat healthily over the next few weeks, as well as dealing healthily with the end of exams, when it is tempting to adopt destructive behaviours in the name of celebration.

The best thing to remember is, however, that exams don’t last forever!

Guest post: A Little Play (dough) Goes a Long Way

imagesHere at the The Terrace we are always keen to promote ways to relieve stress and aid our general feeling of well-being. Play therapy is something we usually think of in relation to supporting vulnerable children, but in this guest post, written today by Sarah Cruickshank, we can see there is value in play for adults too. Her suggestions are mindful, her practice thoughtful, yet not overthought. It reminds us of the new ‘craze’ for adult colouring in – something French women in particular have done for years to relieve stress and take the mind on flights of fancy, offering release from tension and refreshing the spirit…

Here I am sharing something that makes me happy and relaxes me and as I am (almost) 47 years old it’s going to be something unexpected –  playdough. Not just playing with it, but making it and then playing with it.

I love thinking about what colour it should be (what season are we in, how am I feeling today, what might I make with it?) How it should smell (do I just want the smell of dough or do I want to add lemon or peppermint or lavender?) Am I feeling sparkly enough to add glitter? Do I want to make two different colours and explore mixing them together?

Playing with playdough is very much about the process and not the end product. Sometimes I make intricate little flowers or quite detailed little sculptures, and sometimes I just roll and flatten and make worms. I really like plaiting two different colours together and then making balls and sausages again and again to watch the colours marble and eventually blend together to create a third colour. Sometimes I see how I can make a blob by pressing it between my finger and thumb again and again until I can almost see through it (like perfect filo pastry).

I never keep my creations, I always crush them when I’ve finished, the end product doesn’t really matter, it’s just the feeling of the dough and exploring where my mind and my hands take me on a particular day.

The great thing about playdough is that you have to take your time with it, you have to knead it and get it nice and warm and you can’t work with too big a bit at a time because otherwise it just doesn’t get to that nice warm, flexible consistency you need to really be able to work it.

I recently discovered the perfect recipe, which I share with you here. Cheap ingredients are the best:

1 cup flour

½ cup salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

1 tablespoon oil

1 Cup boiling water

1 tablespoon poster paint (you can use food colouring but paint gives a much more vibrant colour)

flavourings (lemon, peppermint essence, etc)

Glitter

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and mix well with a spoon. It will look really sloppy to start with, but keep going and it will magically turn into a ball in the bowl.

Knead the mixture well.

Play with it to your heart’s content.

The mixture will keep for a few days in an airtight container of a sealed plastic bag.

You don’t necessarily need a purpose in mind when you start, just play and see where the experience takes you. If you really find yourself wanting to keep something you’ve made, the dough will dry out quite quickly, but it will be brittle.

Most important of all… Have fun!

Sarah

Sarah

Our thanks to Sarah, a Nursery Practitioner and Freelance Writer on family and well-being . Find out more at her website http://www.alifemorelived.co.uk/.

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….

‘Boys don’t cry’ – Will the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation help men open up?

Clarke Carlisle

Clarke Carlisle

The Guardian newspaper reported today that former star of the Premier League, Clarke Carlisle, has said he felt “no shame” about his suicide attempt in December 2014, when he was ‘incredibly unwell’. The former Burnley and Leeds United  footballer  stepped in front of a 12-ton lorry on the A64 near York and was seriously injured.

Isn’t it strange, how a high-profile male sports personality needs to say that he does not feel ashamed of his attempt to take his own life? Why should it be shameful? Carlisle was at The Oval cricket ground, alongside Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, to help launch a new programme to tackle the stigma of mental health issues in sport.  The Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation has already received endorsement from The Football Association, the Rugby Football Union, the Lawn Tennis Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Carlisle is becoming a very high-profile advocate of the need for sports stars – particularly male stars in a variety of sports – to open up about the stresses of life at the top and the need for support at times of crisis. Many find it particularly difficult at retirement from sport, especially if their career has been cut short by injury.

““People are very delicate stepping around it – there’s no shame invested in it for me….I stand here today with a very different perspective of what it means to be alive in this world. There’s a great expectation that once you come out of a psychiatric hospital you’re cured. You’re not cured – you just have more tools, a greater awareness of self and a greater understanding of how to manage your illness and that’s exactly where I’m at. ….I’m managing my illness on a daily basis and I can tell you today I’m very well.”

The Guardian gives figures from the Professional Players Federation which offers counselling to footballers. It has seen a significant increase in need over the past three years, supporting 143 current and former sports stars last year.

Will this charter make any difference though? Will young people, particularly young men, feel better able to express their mental health needs when sports personalities are open about their struggles? Certainly, taking part in sport can have a positive impact on physical and mental health but the huge financial rewards and pressure involved in remaining at the top of any game can make anyone vulnerable. Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, known for his love of a party and apparently bullish attitude to life surprised many when he came out as suffering with depression, and the number of cricketers experiencing mental health issues has doubled in the past couple of years.

BCMJ_53Vol10_suicide_depressed_manSuicide in men has been described by the British Medical Journal as a “silent epidemic”; the lack of public awareness and the high incidence amongst men requiring urgent action. It is not only theworld of sport that stigmatises mental health issues, but it surely has a significant role to play in the challenges men face. We will watch to see whether the Charter is more than a piece of paper and a media opportunity for politicians who have neglected mental health service provision over the past five years and are only now recognising how deep-rooted the issues are.

More mindfulness practice: Jumping in puddles – cultivating a ‘beginner’s mind’

imagesMany of you will have read our mindfulness posts in the past, perhaps learning some tips to try, or some poetry to focus on as you work to stay in the present moment. It isn’t always easy to make the necessary space and time in our busy lives, but the medical profession has at last recognised that for many, the ever-increasing pace of 21st century life is impossible to maintain.

Our own Miranda Bevis, an expert mindfulness practitioner, runs regular workshops and courses to support anyone wanting to learn mindfulness techniques. She has also written widely on the subject, and she has shared the following piece with us. I found it deeply moving, remembering watching my own children experience the joy of something simple for the first time, and wanting to enjoy that feeling over and over again. As adults, Miranda points out, we rarely do this and. perhaps, need to get in touch with our inner child just a little more often……

When my kids were little, they were drawn, like magnets, to puddles. Many a walk ground to a halt as a puddle had to be inspected. Stood in. Jumped up and down in. Delighted in. But not just one puddle. Every single one they came across. Oblivious of cold and wind, for them, each puddle was a fresh and new excitement, and needed to be explored and reveled in.

At first I could delight in their happiness, their squeals of joy. But inevitably, my mind would stray and become bored. How many times do we have to do this? We’ve got to get on, let’s find some thing new. I’m afraid there were times when I gritted my teeth in frustration,

Small children are very good at being present. They can easily find magic in the mundane, and become completely absorbed in each moment. As we grow up, we tend to lose this. It’s easy to become bored and cynical. “Seen one, seen them all”. We want to move on and find new distractions. So, as I sit now, looking at my rain washed spring garden, at first sight, I am aware it’s beautiful. Of course it doesn’t change, after one minute, five minutes, ten minutes. But what can change is the way I perceive it. I might only appreciate the beauty for an instant, before I get used to it, and become distracted. Instead of staying with the experience of my senses, thoughts to crowd in. Of things that need doing, of plans for the garden. And masses of non-garden related thoughts. The garden, and it’s beauty “disappear” from my awareness.

What we aim to do in mindfulness, is to cultivate something called a “beginner’s mind”. That means learning to see things as if this was the first time we’d ever noticed them. You can practice it on anything; perhaps try with a flower. As best you can, let go of thoughts about the flower, and keep on coming back, over and over, to the experience of your eyes. Let go of any thoughts about being bored and wanting to move on to something else. Rather, keep on “refreshing the screen”… this flower, and this flower, and this flower, so that, in each instant there is a new and wonderful flower in front of you. Or go and splash in puddles if you must!

Miranda Bevis - 226x316 (1 of 1)Dr Miranda Bevis’s original training was in medicine, and she worked as a GP in Somerset, with a special interest in psychological problems. She gained a diploma in Psychodynamic Counselling, and now works as a senior counsellor and EMDR practitioner at the Somerset Counselling Centre in Taunton. She is also a British Wheel of Yoga teacher.