Mental space on Ilkley Moor

On Sunday I went up Ilkley Moor, alone. I brought with me my headphones, a laminated map, a smartphone (with a waning battery – eek! ), water and some dark chocolate. I was in search of something, a feeling, a deep whole body breath, maybe something I can’t put into words. I needed nature and to walk. I needed air in my face.

Until that point I’d had a strange weekend, hadn’t slept too well the night before, I instinctively felt I needed to move and ‘get out of the flat’. En route, I popped into Booth’s cafĂ©, Ilkley’s posh supermarket, for a cuppa, a map read, and a pause. I was feeling slightly apprehensive, as I was going to be walking alone and I don’t have the greatest sense of direction and of course, I was lacking Zzz’s from the night before, but, still, I was enthusiastic.

I parked at the Cow and Calf, which are the rocks on Ilkley Moor, there is a free carpark here. The Calf rock is a stand-alone boulder next to the larger formation, and I knew I needed to walk to the right of that. The thing is I walked WAY to the right of that. Before I knew it, I was lost. I wasn’t too anxious as at this point it was only early afternoon, I had plenty of hours to go before I needed to set off the flares (which I didn’t have) and panic about spending a night on the Moor. Eventually I asked some fellow hikers to point out my location on the map. Somehow I’d walked right over to Keighley Road, which was in the opposite direction of my planned route! At least I now knew where I was, which was a big relief.

It was a beautiful walk from there on, with the anxiety of being lost now clearing from my mind, I started to really appreciate my surroundings. I walked alongside purple heather, with birds flying around, dipping in and out of the flora, under a big cloudy and blue sky. Hardly anyone there, just me, and the odd person running.

I arrived at the 12 Apostles, the remains of a stone circle, and took a breather. It was refreshing and the huge space seemed to help soothe something inside of me, and also give me a feeling of mental space, I felt peaceful and at one with something. It felt like a big refreshing cleansing breath.

I realised that perhaps, now, it wasn’t too sensible to continue on with the original route, I had lost time by taking the ‘detour’ which meant there was less time to complete it. I was alone, had little mobile battery, and couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t get lost again and it was nearing 6pm. So I headed back to the carpark and arrived safely.

We are lucky in Leeds, we have many places to walk nearby. I can’t rely on my sense of direction, but I factor this into my decision-making, I know my weaknesses. If you have a map and set off early enough with some safety supplies the risks should be minimal. It’s empowering to walk alone but it’s also nice to have company, and if you have a dog, well that’s a no-brainer! 🙂

I’m really glad I went.

Coming out of Lockdown, a double-edged sword.

We have our roadmap, the schools have opened, we can meet another person for a picnic, there is even a bit of sunshine energising the crocuses and daffodils which have sprouted in Meanwood Park, so why do I feel anxious about the return to ‘normal’?

During this last year I have spent much time at home, sometimes feeling okay, sometimes quite happy, sometimes not so great and sometimes floundering in a hole without the helping hand of optimism to pull me out. So the return of spring and the promise of bars, shops, hairdressers and holidays should provide that helping hand. But if the truth be known, for me, lockdown did take some pressure away, big life decisions could wait for a while and the amount of decisions I needed to make on a daily basis were reduced. The world had slowed down and part of me slowed down too, less options and choices had a remarkably peaceful affect on my brain.

I am remembering the rush-hour traffic on Otley Road prior to the pandemic? Wasn’t it crazy? What a contrast was spring of 2020, the traffic flow barely existent and the bird song, loud and clear. Though the traffic has slowly built back up it is yet to reach the weary polluting-pumping proportions of before. Remember those bus journeys?

Part of me wants my freedom back, to visit York for a day, drink a latte in a café and to visit friends. I hope to take small steps and come out of lockdown at my own pace, steadily.

I know I won’t be the only one who feels apprehensive after a year of living a different kind of life, and yet I know others may well be raring to go. How do you feel?

It’s Blue Monday, how can we lift ourselves?

It’s Monday the 18th January, apparently it’s the most depressing day of the year with the festivities over and the weather gloomy. Not to mention, this year’s added extra of a global pandemic with lockdown restrictions. How do we get through the day?

The Samaritans have cleverly changed the name to ‘Brew Monday’ rather than Blue Monday, encouraging a chat and a cuppa, which can be a tonic especially if one is spending too much time alone, stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, or just feeling a bit meh! I guess they mean a virtual chat and cuppa this year.

It takes a real conscious effort for me to identify my needs, they are often obscured by lots of inner talk about what I should be doing. How is it for you? What I need is often buried yet can be so simple, such as today I feel the need to connect with someone, have a bit of light relief, a chatty phone call and a laugh. I feel quite positive whilst I’m writing this, maybe because I’m tapping into my needs. Reading about Blue Monday or Brew Monday has encouraged me to check myself. Acknowledging that today is renowned for its difficulty gives me pause for thought, what do I need today? Some fun ! 80’s music? 🙂

What do you need? What do you want?

We’d love your comments, whether it’s on the blog or out Facebook page.

Thanks for reading x

Christmas Star brings awe to Leeds, if it’s not overcast!

The heavens have decided we need some entertainment down here in Leeds, Planet Earth. So on the 21st December 2020, they’ve kindly scheduled a show for us. Saturn and Jupiter, the two largest planets in our solar system are coming together to create, the poetically dubbed, Christmas Star. The last time this phenomena occurred was 800 years ago!

Witnessing planetary events such as this can help to create a feeling of awe within us, research finds that some people are more sensitive to this than others. For me, this feeling of wonder changes me both physiologically and psychologically, momentarily I forget my problems as I look out into a starry sky, watch birds at the feeder, visit a place of outstanding natural beauty or watch a river flow ferociously after a storm.

What is happening when we feel like this? Studies have found that a feeling of awe can diminish our sense of self in that moment and give people a perception that they have more available time, can increase feelings of connectedness, enhance mood and also interestingly, decrease materialistic feelings. I mean, that’s pretty awesome in itself! I guess these sights are a reminder of who we are and what we are part of. For me they can help me put things into perspective.

Leeds is urban and so does have quite a lot of light pollution, and so it may help to find a pocket of Leeds that has less light pollution to view the Christmas Star, here is a map with a postcode finder search tool, you can check out the amount of light pollution where you live.

So if it’s not overcast, I may try and venture somewhere close by that has a little less light pollution and create a little awe.

Maybe on that evening we should all ‘wish upon a star’

or even two planets!

Will you try to see it? Please feel free to comment. Fingers crossed it’s not cloudy.

My Sober October 2020

So it’s the year that didn’t happen. A year of cancellations. A year of staying in and for me this meant alone in my flat, which could be a recipe for disaster. I felt my alcohol intake was creeping back up. So I decided to do Sober October.

I can’t drink much, I’ve experienced periods of really difficult mental health and alcohol tends to make this worse. When drinking I don’t sleep well, I tend to overeat and feel low. There was a time where it was a real crutch for me, it was a coping mechanism but one which led me further down a downward spiral.

I had history when it came to abstaining, I gave up alcohol for 6 months a few years ago, and have completed numerous Dry Januarys and always feel so much better. Having an alcohol-free month this October has given my mind and body a chance to replenish. I’ve been more self-caring, I’ve practised yoga in the morning with my light box on and I’m just about managing the elusive morning routine. I’ve also had more energy in the evenings to do things instead of slumping on the sofa, OKAY I’ve still sometimes slumped on the sofa!! My thinking has been clearer and my mood steadier. It’s been good for me, I’m not going to rush back to alcohol.

Image by B Ban from Pixabay

There are loads of Sober Facebook groups out there, I joined one the first time around and it helped. It was great as people were so committed to being alcohol free, for some people it was and is a necessity.

I would recommend the following book if you are interested in reducing/giving up alcohol, This Naked Mind, Control Alcohol by Annie Grace. In it she talks about the power of the subconscious; how we take messages in from society which bypass our thinking brain, such messages include the regular occurring Facebook meme ‘Wine O’clock.’ Drinking is seen as fun and normal – it’s WHAT YOU DO ! In fact it’s the only drug that people/society will openly pressure you to take!

I’d love to hear any stories about alcohol and mental health if you would like to share..

Thanks for reading, Tori. x

Disclaimer, it can be dangerous to give up alcohol if you have a physical dependency without medical supervision. Also it can be really tricky if you are struggling without much support. If you feel you need more support with alcohol contact your GP or Forward Leeds.

Meanwood Valley Trail, the view of Almscliffe Crag and an Owl.

Since Lockdown began, ironically,  I think I have walked more in North Leeds then ever before.  I’ve also been adventurous in finding new routes.  I do wonder why I wasn’t doing this before? Maybe life was too fast – at least in my head, as fast as the cars on Otley road – which also seem to have slowed down.

I live close to the Meanwood Valley Trail, yet had not really explored it that well, until now.  The trail starts at Woodhouse Moor and meanders through Meanwood Park, alongside the beck and small waterfalls, meeting Seven Arches and ending at Golden Acre Park. It’s a 7 mile linear walk, though you can walk it in little sections and create your own route.


Image: Seven Arches aqueduct which was built in 1840 to carry water from the Eccup Reservoir to the City Centre via Adel Beck.  Leodis Photographic Archive of Leeds.

The trail is absolutely stunning, especially at this time of year along with lovely weather, clear blue skies and chirpy bird song.  I’m still amazed that countryside and woods, so beautiful,  are so close to a city. I moved back ‘up north’ from London years ago and still don’t take for granted how green some parts of Leeds are.   The scenic journey to Otley from North Leeds, provides a stunning vista which includes the iconic Almscliffe Crag, it’s a favourite of mine and it never fails to take my breath away.

Yesterday, when walking back I heard a ‘screeching’ sound coming from a tree, it was so loud and piercing, almost human-like.   I peered up into the tree and to my delight I saw an Owl looking back at me!  This, in the middle of the day.   I felt in awe. Wow.  I mean WOW!   I am wondering if something had disturbed him? Another bird perhaps?  I have never heard a sound like that before, it wasn’t the ‘twit twoo ing’ I sometimes have heard at night.

I’ve had a look on the internet for ‘owls’ and I think it may have been a ‘Little Owl?’    Could this be?  Any bird spotters out there?

I think I am living ‘in the moment’  a bit more,  in lockdown.   I’m noticing more, and paying more attention to nature.

I know we can’t all access the trail, but nature can be found everywhere.   My friend saw a fox in Armely last night by the light of the moon!

Waterfall in Meanwood Valley Trail, taken in 2016 by me! 

Five weeks in lockdown

It’s been over 5 weeks since we entered Lockdown on March 23rd, and ever since  I’ve been living in what seems like a little bubble,  alone in North Leeds.

If I’m honest it’s not been all bad,  at times it’s almost felt like a relief for the world to slow down, that is if I  forget about the horrors of the situation for a while.   As someone who struggles with anxiety and at times depression, I have have often wanted the world to stop.  Let me take a breath.  Though, of course,  I would never have traded this for our current,  sad situation.

I’ve looked out of my window more often than ever and was amazed and delighted to watch the trees sprout their leaves overnight. I have never ever noticed this so precisely before! Usually I walk or run around with a foggy brain and can’t pinpoint the timing of these changes, so I feel happy about that!   I’ve also been enjoying watching a homely-looking visitor sun himself in the tree opposite, basking in the beautiful weather that April brought – a plump wood pigeon.

 

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I’ve been forced to live in the moment a bit more, and pay more attention to nature.  And this I like, I am wondering how I can hold on to this when things eventually return to normal?

Though sometimes it’s felt more of a struggle.  I’m guessing I won’t be alone in having good days and bad days.  I’m acutely aware that for some people times are really hard right now.   At times I’ve felt guilty about not doing more,  but I’m determined not to let these thoughts and feelings linger.    I try to exercise a bit of self-compassion on tricky days, and I find fresh air helps to clear my mind.   I remind myself that by staying at home, I am doing my bit, as we all are.  I hope you are all okay! 

The times they are a’changin

Tock-tick!

& miraculously!… (actually mechanically) with a quick flick of the wrist. Hey Presto we’ve turned back time. To find we’ve earlier darker evenings.

No matter that the turning back time ritual takes place  each year in UK it makes many people disorientated. That’s hardly surprising for it occurs when nature is already heralding a change for the colder seasons. And we’re humans not machines, unlike time pieces, we’re not so easily adjusted.

One of my time pieces depicted here, doesn’t keep time anymore. With it’s zany numbering it never accurately told time. Always Dylanesque. It’s a keepsake, reminding me of its maker and also I guess that measuring time needs the occasional disruptive and zany take.

In my ‘Songs of Praise’ blog I suggested the darker evenings were an atmospheric time to reflect and write. The return to longer hours conjures memories of crafts done by the fireside at home. There’s no doubt writing is a craft and not the easiest for some!

Those of us old enough to remember using (and making) coal fires will know that as a focal point of our homes, fireplaces served both practical and symbolical uses. Images of sitting near a radiator just  don’t comfort in quite the same way.

Mother Nature would have got us to the darker evenings in her own sweet, slower way, but that’s humans for you always manipulating nature. Not that I think that’s all bad.

So at least for a week or two ‘she’ allows us a lighter hour in the morning. And what  spectacular Autumn mornings we’ve had.

November already! And just a short sprint to mid-winter festivals.

Because this is a blog about wellbeing, and I referred in my earlier blog about simple pastimes that aid my wellbeing; good friends, songs and how a dissenting religous upbringing gave me much to be happy about..

…bear with me while I tie those two notions; ‘wellbeing’ and ‘dissent’ together, as I relate a recent experience in my quest to remain well.

In my desire to reduce use of medication I’ve been prescribed for many years I agreed for my GP to refer me to a psychiatrist for advice how to do that. I was 99% confident I was mentally well and therefore not intent on seeking assessment for that.**(check footnote)

The 1%  doubt?…. I do think having once been acutely mentally distressed and receiving a diagnosis does even though well, allow self-doubt to creep in. It does for me especially when I encounter things that seriously test my sense of perception, at those times I can quickly become emotionally aroused, filled with self-doubt, distressed, and disorientated because I can’t match thought with feeling…..

Feelings like….stomach churning, dizziness, forgetfulness, a pounding head…and then feeling ‘down’, emotionally, drained; wrung out like a wet cloth.
That’s how ‘stepping’ in, and then out of the psychiatrists office on this occasion left me. And with a prescription for increased medication!

I’d been discharged from  CMHT for years but I’ve visited the same building for different services in the interim.CAB etc but it’s not been triggering. Although seeing people in the waiting area there who are acutely unwell is never a pleasant experience.

So what has a dissenting religious upbringing got to do with that? For me its because it helped me develop an inner strength when stigmatized for my core beliefs. Alert to other similar instances when ‘gaslighting’ occurs. And a drive to voice any injustice in creative ways. Experience shows that addressing them directly at ‘source’ is not always a safe option or wise when mental health is in doubt.

Time will tell how this current assault on personal truth pans out. It did knock me off course but the reassurance of friends, very much appreciated, helped me regain composure sufficiently well to draw upon my inner wellspring of self belief, to declare I am mentally well.

Lily.P

** my view on psychiatry are personal and I know many do excellent work, I’ve experienced some good practice.  Medication has it’s place and I do not ‘pill shame’ or advocate anyone stopping medication without appropriate support. I was however recently able to attend the relaunch of Sorteria in Bradford and the Soteria Network  are a useful resource for anyone who does seek support reducing or coming off.

 

Songs of praise

 

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So, in among the Autumn season, with all it’s mellow vibes and vistas, the slow turning of Summer hues edging into Fall’s more glorious gold and amber tinged days.
Blood red & burnt orange berries (so plump and plentiful this year), the rustling leaves, and blustery days,… I get the ‘call’ to go to church.

I hasten to add I’m no longer a Christian nor was I ever a traditional church goer. My upbringing though firmly of Christian tradition was the dissenting kind.
I am pleased that it was!
(But that’s another blog story) to be told when turned back clocks will suddenly make our daylight hours much shorter.

So why or what ‘called’ me to church earlier this Autumn? … I’m not sure. Maybe the memory of the harvest hymn with it reassurance….”all is safely gathered in”. The gathering together of people for other than material needs?

I went to a faith school as a child, and there learned to love many of the things which at home I’d been told I ought abstain from! But I loved Harvest Festival, I loved the old hymns, and songs of praise in daily assembly. And so did my parents when I sang hymns for them at home possibly reasoning that ‘true’ Christians saints could well have written them…”For all the saints…”

Church buildings? …I was a little fearful of them when young especially the gargoyles but not these days, now I embrace the iconography of dark and light, the cherabim, seraphim and gargoyles alike.
I like the musk or myrrh incense, polished wood pews, mosaic stained glass windows and that rather musty smell.

At the start of Autumn I attended church and though none of the old hymns were sung it was lovely to have a live music  trio to play the newer ones. New tunes, a newer dogma for a different era of belief. The sermon was more like a public talk, and the prayers led by a young female member not clergy. I liked the fellowship that happened halfway through the service when everyone circulated and greeted each other, “peace be with you” and shook hands.

I’ve a regular visitor who comes to my home after attending their Sunday morning church service, and we do sometimes lapse into songs of praise or …nursery rhyme after our hastily assembled corner shop lunch offering.

Mr Kipling still does ‘fancies’, and Del Monte, their fruit cocktail, which probably aren’t full of vitamins, or health giving but they seem to aid the snooze factor, because soon after eating we doze off in our respective chairs! We are after all well over a certain age.

And then on waking a sing-song before we bid farewell.

It happened this last Sunday, I’d thought to cancel the visit as I wasn’t too well, but low and behold a dose of “Love divine all love excelling”…and other old hymns, together with an interchange of simple pleasantries with “my good friend”,* perked me up.

A ‘taste’ of former days when sans landline, gadgets & digi devices people popped by, and ‘entertainment’ was spontaneous….often accompanied by corner shop bought fodder. Angel Delight! Anyone remember that? Or Spam…when spam only came in cans with a key! None of your ring pull modernisation..

I love many of the advances we’ve made technically and gastronomically!
…but I hope we can still hang on to enjoying face-to-face times with good friends along the way.

Lily.P

* “my good friend”.My visitor who I’ve known 30+ years  (we were only on “good morning” terms back then, as part of our respective daily commutes) always greets me this way.
Most other friendships don’t need this kind of affirmation, for it’s taken as read, but I still find it pleasant, and one of an earlier era where quaint was welcome.

Creativity

Five words that I feel capture the essence of creativity most are: spontaneity, catalyst, commitment, expression, and relief. You can contribute your own words here.

The explanation for my choices is
.

Spontaneity
Creative ideas can occur to us unexpectedly.

Catalyst
Like a photograph our initial creative thoughts develop quickly.

Commitment
No matter how long it takes, we should pursue our creative idea to completion.

Expression
Creativity has to reflect our individuality.

Relief
Like the painter who draws their best portrait, you can feel fulfilled with your creative output.

With respect to my creativity, my chosen words become most relevant under certain ‘conditions’.  I am at my most creative when I’m; getting positive feedback, in the company of friends and family, when seeing the creative work of others, and when refreshed after a walk.

Motivated by these ‘conditions’, my creativity is channelled in the following ways…

Writing
My creative ‘vice’ is writing. My ideas come from anywhere. I see my body of writing as a continuous record of my emotions. I feel that writing frees me from the ‘responsibility’ for my ideas, for then I can think about new things. I try to use language creatively when writing.

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Media
I creatively express myself, by choosing to absorb media products (like DVDs and books) that are distinctly ‘me’. Some media products profoundly, and positively, alter me. I am amazed when I find other people have given them to charity, because these products (like the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime) gave me different perspectives.

 

Clothes
Being able to choose my own style of clothing at college, meant I could express myself through fashion. I often chose to wear layers, a poncho, and odd socks. I like buying clothes. When I wear clothes from charity shops, where items are not donated in bulk, I like feeling “unique”.

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Tidiness
“A place for everything
”. As a lecturer of mine once said: humans tend to scatter things behind them. Where something ‘lives’ might therefore, kangaroo-like, ‘hop’ about. In my living space, all of my belongings have their ‘place’. I like being organised because I get a cathartic sense of achievement, and I like the space that materialises when I’ve uncluttered.

 

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Social Media
I customise the look of my social media pages, for instance WordPress. My Facebook activity log, and wall, have links to internet articles of personal interest. I get a creative high from compressing a small section, of the internet’s large field of digital content.

Socialmedia-pm

Making others laugh
I enjoy using my verbal skills to make others laugh. I try to emulate the comedians that I admire, such as Jim Carrey and Tommy Cooper. I frequently experiment with word play, and create jokes, as I have done for years. Making people laugh this way is uplifting.

 

In view of the fact that this article is for a website that discusses well-being, I will now explore the link between my creativity and well-being.

My creative impulses spontaneously compel me to do creative things, like cutting my own hair or colouring in. When I do have an urge to be creative, which is similar to an innate ‘drive’, I just have to follow the impulse before I can do anything else. Doing creative activities makes me feel that I am being positive and constructive.

People seem to like the feeling of being spiritually ‘freed’, as well as feeling productive, when they do something that expresses who they are. I think these are the traits of creativity, that most benefit well-being.

Thank you for reading – I hope you enjoyed it.

By A

Sources:

social media image – social media icons: Ibrahim.ID (author): 03/01/06 – found on https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Socialmedia-pm.png (accessed 22/06/2018)(Attribution) By Ibrahim.ID [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

comedy stage image – Empty stage for a stand-up comedy show: Carlos Delgado (author) – found on https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stand-up_comedy_-_Stage.jpg (accessed 22/06/2018) …  (Attribution) Carlos Delgado [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

comedy mask image – A Comedy icon, based on the Drama Icon: Abu badli~commonswiki (user author) – found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Comedyicon.svg (accessed 22/06/2018)