Time to Change is a movement that aims to end mental health discrimination in all its forms. Thursday 7th February 2019 is Time to Talk Day, part of an initiative to get us talking more openly about our mental health, even if that just means a few minutes of honest talking and listening over a cup of tea with a friend or colleague.
While one in four of us are estimated to experience mental health problems at some point, many of us still find it taboo to talk about issues such as depression, anxiety & panic disorders and addiction. This can make it hard for those affected to recognise what is happening, reach out for support and engage with the many effective solutions that exist to help them get well and stay well. Talking more openly about how we think, feel and what we do is a key way to turn the tide.
Good mental health and well-being are core to our sense of connection, motivation to be who we are and drive to make a positive impact in the world. As a therapist with an interest in mind and body fitness and wellbeing I can see how valuable it is to look after and listen not only to the body but also the mind. My own passion for yoga, circus and meditation stem from this, much as I adore physical therapy and endless studying as well!
It struck me that the Five Ways to Wellbeing*, simple strategies to enhance mental and physical wellbeing, fit well with the Time to Change campaign and help show why Time to Talk is such a beneficial idea. The Five Ways to Wellbeing include:
Connecting and Giving to ourselves and to others can make a world of difference, especially when it comes to our mental health. This February 7th how about marking Time to Talk Day and joining the move towards better mental health awareness for all? There are plenty of ideas for how to bring Time to Talk Day to your workplace, sports club or community at the Time to Change website here.
May you find many ways to your own personal best mental and physical health!
* In 2008 the New Economics Foundation (NEF) on behalf of Foresight set out 5 strategies to improve personal wellbeing. These became known in the UK and other countries as the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Evidence suggests that small improvements in wellbeing can help decrease some mental health problems (e.g. anxiety and depression) and help people flourish, performing at their best.
With autumn turning wintry already I’ve done my best to rekindle some spacious, summery vibes in this latest post…
In August I went on a short camping trip to the rugged island of St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. I arrived at the end of my kids’ school summer holidays with an ‘introvert headache’. I left with a sense of gratitude for the healing power of solitude and taking a pause from the layers of complex thinking and doing that I can get tangled up in at home. St Agnes is a place to escape to: balm to the soul for introverts and a healthy reboot even for the most extroverted!
I had been longing to go to the Isles of Scilly since I moved to Cornwall in 2012. I love the idea of being near my Cornwall and at the same time cut off from everything, save for rocks that make geologists sigh, scenery that makes artists swoon and simplicity that makes frazzled parents heave a sigh of relief and smile.
In St Agnes I recaptured a felt sense of how powerful it can be to walk away from everything and just stare at the sea, wander in nature to nowhere in particular or sit and draw the wilderness without interruption. With the freedom to pause, mental space opens up and with it a feeling of compassionate perspective about the challenges of life. I work hard on my relationships, on my work, on everything really. It took being stranded on a rocky island with nowhere to go to remind me that the whole point of life is simply this moment, right now. To be who I am as truthfully as I can and then… let go.
How can I take this realisation into my every day? How can I keep learning what I have learned? The nearest thing I equate to the St Agnes Effect is what I find through ‘taking space’ in daily meditation. I meditate often at home, but in the Isles of Scilly, just being there was so meditative that I didn’t feel the need to stop and “do” meditation at all.
Meditation has become vital to me in the last year or so. It keeps me (relatively) sane, grounded and able to think clearly amid a chaotic life with small children, complex work conditions and demanding relationships to navigate. I’d like to say that I decided to get into meditation because all the evidence suggests it is a good thing for mental resilience and physical well-being. I have meditated on and off for those reasons, but I was virtually forced into a daily practice, as is so often the case, by reaching a breaking point. I started meditating regularly following emotional loss and turmoil that seemed beyond my ability to cope with using yoga, traditional relaxation or other methods that I value greatly such the Lightning Process (or BodyMind Programme) and NLP coaching. Early on, Headspace provided an accessible immersion in simple, effective daily meditation techniques, allowing me to recover a sense of wholeness, inner strength and clarity. These days I have a more settled practice, founded on meditation (with and without lovely Headspace), yoga nidra and restorative/yin yoga.
I recently re-read Kamal Sarma’s book Mental Resilience: The Power of Clarity, on “how to develop the focus of a warrior and and peace of a monk”. It includes a wonderful metaphor for what mediation give us. Imagine you are holding a box of chocolates in one hand with your arm outstretched. Over time it starts to feel really heavy and gives you all kinds of unbearable discomfort. If you let yourself put it down and take a pause, your arm rests, recovers and when you pick up the box again it is back to feeling light and easy. The box of chocolates is your thoughts. I like this idea. Sometimes our thoughts go round and round getting heavier and heavier, and all we may need to get perspective and clarity is to take a pause. Sam Thorogood of TinyPause promotes this same idea, wishing us all high quality rest and “a moment for you today”.
Another meditative book that makes me smile is Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh charmingly explains how we can be more present in each moment if we allow our lives just as they are, from red traffic lights to beeping phones, to call us back to ourselves; to breath and to being.
Maybe there really is hope that we can live in the moment without having to live in blissful isolation on a rock in the middle of the sea. I will keep meditating with that in mind… but I will also hope to see St Agnes again. I think a piece of me may still be there.
The interplay between the mind and body never ceases to amaze me. The effect of mindful breathing must be one of the most striking everyday examples of this: I notice in myself and in my clients how deep, abdominal breathing with long out-breaths can calm the mind and release pain from tense muscles.
I’m fortunate to have worked with therapists whose clinical and intuitive approaches provide mind and body therapy, delivering both physical and emotional healing. Inspired by this to develop my own bodywork skills, I’m currently training in Soft Tissue Therapy at the London School of Sports Massage. I aim to expand my professional knowledge and experience so that I can provide effective treatment for people (sporty or otherwise!) with injuries or chronic pain issues.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Physiotherapy, Sports Massage or even Remedial Massage, but not Soft Tissue Therapy? Soft Tissue Therapy is a clinical practice based primarily on hands-on physical therapy techniques and secondarily on provision of exercises and lifestyle advice. Modern physiotherapy is tending towards less hands-on treatment, and soft tissue therapy has evolved largely in response to this and other changes in national health care provision.
Mel Cash of the Institute of Sport & Remedial Massage sums up what soft tissue therapists do: “Soft Tissue Therapists can safely assess, treat, and rehabilitate acute or chronic minor soft tissue conditions caused by injury, sport, lifestyle stress or illness. As well as addressing the primary problem, they analyse a wide range of other contributing factors, enabling them to provide treatment and remedial/preventative exercise/lifestyle advice to help avert further injury, and improve physical and psychological wellbeing in the longer term.”
I enjoy offering my own unique approach, combining Soft Tissue Therapy and Massage with mind-body balancing techniques such as Reflexology. I am immensely grateful to those who are teaching me and allowing me to work on them while I am in student mode! Whilst I know I’ll always be learning, especially from my clients, I do look forward to completing my current studies and being a professionally qualified Soft Tissue Therapist by the end of June 2019.
“Without realising who you are, happiness cannot come to you.” So says my favourite Yogi tea bag label (inspiration certainly comes from unexpected places). I love the sentiment of this quotation, especially today, World Mental Health Day 2018.
One of the most empowering things we can ‘realise’ is that we are mind-and-body beings: we can take a walk to lift stuck thoughts or feelings, we can focus on our breath to find a sense of perspective or peace in all sorts of situations. While I do love yoga, running and mediation, my favourite mind-body activity is aerial circus training, where mental and physical balance come into play in a fun, demanding and liberating way!
World Mental Health day is a wonderful moment in which to recommit to the precious task of taking care of our minds as well as our bodies. I am thankful for the small acts of care that we can give to ourselves and others, come storm or shine, that keep us going on our journey.
Wishing you health and love on WMHD 2018.
Sam Thorogood of TinyPause has written a beautiful article for WMHD 2018 containing a simple list of wellbeing techniques, all based on the results of scientific studies. I am grateful to share his article here with you too. Please pass it on to any who might benefit…
This simple list of mental wellbeing techniques (all from scientific studies) came about because once I asked someone ‘how are you?‘ and they started crying (they tried to hold it in but you could see the tears). After taking a moment to listen it became clear that this person had been struggling for a while, they had known they could benefit from doing something differently, but there never seemed like there was any time.
This list is designed to make it feel easy to do one thing. Just one thing today. You could do it for yourself or someone else. Each of us deserves one moment today.
“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” – Brene Brown
1. For a moment of high quality rest at home you can stream or download a mini mindfulness practice here.
2. To improve sleep turn all screens off 30 mins before bed and do any kind of gentle stretching you know. Releasing physical tension helps release mental tension. (Plus test one day this week where you keep your phone out of your bedroom and use an alarm clock instead – be honest, do you really need your phone in bed? Studies show that just looking at our phone when its off can cause a spike in stress – why wake up to that?).
3. If you have an important piece of work to complete, book a 1 hour block in your calendar, label it as a meeting and go to another room to do it. Protect your time to do your most important work. Most people wont interrupt a meeting but they will interrupt you at your desk.
4. A simple moment (or if possible a walk) outside is the quickest and most accessible way to help you reframe. To release some tension and widen your perspective. The most effective way to reframe is to ask yourself a question. Popular reframing questions with our groups include:
If a friend was feeling the way I do now, what would I recommend to them?
What would my logical brain say about this thought/ situation?
5. Be a caring colleague and do active listening once per shift/day.Remember, you don’t need to give solutions, if you see someone is struggling (even if you don’t know them that well), take a moment to ask how they are and help them feel listened to. They might not tell you how they feel but this tiny action might give them the courage to confide in someone else.
6. Studies show that 80% of our peace of mind comes from internal events and 20% external events. But most of our effort only goes into the 20% (what we buy, where we go, who we see).
Bottom line: it’s really important to build into your day a High Quality Pause; a proper break away from your desk or family, a moment for you. And something that makes you smile. It’s not rocket science but it is highly effective and the benefits – better decisions, enhanced focus, less difficult thoughts – are proven by science.
Thank you for the effort you make. Wishing you a moment for you today.
– Sam Thorogood, TinyPause
Not easy to put into words what it was like to be part of the Hellys International Guitar Festival 2018. But I shall try, just a little:
Ben Salfield, Festival Director, welcomed me onto Team Hellys to provide massage and reflexology sessions for the superb performers and spectators at Hellys 2018. In return I spent several magical days absorbed in a world of extraordinary music, poetry, camaraderie and surprises. For example, I never imagined that joining in a Medieval Percussion Workshop could be so utterly uplifting: thanks to Ricardo de Novara and colleagues of Meridianum Ensemble for sharing their passion and their wild instruments with us.
It was a joy to work with guitarists, luthiers (guitar makers) and other team members, releasing a lot of tense muscles and helping people relax amid the ebb and flow of the Festival. My Reflexation Therapy zone was set up in the main performance hall, so I had the pleasure of listening in to interviews, poetry recitals and musical performances while working. From this special vantage point, two moments stand out in my mind:
First, while I was working with Graham Emes, luthier of Emes Guitars, the poet Bob Devereux was on stage reciting some of his poems, accompanied elegantly by Adrian O’Reilly on the guitar. The combination of spoken word and music was very powerful. Some of Bob’s words strike a deep chord, refreshing the soul and slowing reality right down to heart beat.
The second moment was one of pure electrification. While working in my tranquil zone, a relaxed interview was happening on stage with luthier Kid Wood. Pablo Rodriguez is handed one of the luthiers’ guitars to “try out” and all of a sudden an otherworldly rendition of a mazurka by Tárrega is sailing around the room, carrying me with it. Pablo you are amazing. Thank you for being at the Festival with us this year. In fact, my connection to Tárrega’s piece is through listening to the maestro Eduardo Fernandez, on the advice of arresting classical guitarist John Buzza (who performs mainly on Falmouth’s Prince of Wales Pier). Thank you too JB, for making such a perfect moment possible.
Needless to say, the plan is that Reflexation Therapy will be back for more music, massage and perfect moments at Hellys International Guitar Festival 2019. You’ll find more about Hellys 2018 on the HellysFestival Facebook page and Festival website.
Here is a little YouTube recap of Hellys International Guitar Festival 2018 filmed by Daniel Philbrooks of Shirt & Tie Productions: