Mental Health Awareness week 2016

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This week is Mental Health Awareness week. For anyone who is often emotionally/mentally less than well, it’s a useful time to reflect on how the annual event might help.

Well acquainted since childhood of the shaky mental health of people close to me, and then subsequently my own brush with ‘breakdown’, I might as a result, claim to be ‘aware’. I try to remain mindful however ,that there is much to learn from the experience of others.

Disclosing aspects of my episodes of emotional/mental ill-at-easness feel like a risk ,but one I usually take. It’s also an opportunity to reaffirm that it’s just one aspect of my life experience, and one I’m not ashamed of.

Frequently, and especially this awareness week, I find myself still reflecting on the ‘language’ the ‘powers that be’ would label the experience of emotional/mental ill-ease, and I assert that is an appropriate response in a ‘world gone wrong’, not necessarily a treatable condition. It’s useful to remain aware!

The theme of this years awareness raising is relationships. The organisation Mental Health Foundation have a lovely set of free downloadable logos which highlight the different aspects of the value of our relationships, see here

May is also National Walking Month …..strolling with friends new or old is an ideal way to get to build on any existing relationships , or make new ones. Here is a site for some suggestions. Often times people with a common interest just meet up informally , and within our group we’ve been privileged to do that. You can read here about one such occasion.

I lead a sedentary life for most of the winter months but usually get motivated to restart some brisk walking in April. Spring was late this year so getting out seemed harder but May blossom was my wake up call to ‘move it’, as was my good neighbour’s invites to join with her for an occasional walk after work……a welcome gesture.

In an age when relationships appear to be increasingly carried out in cyberspace, and many irrespective of age report feeling isolated, I find the physical proximity of relationships ever more important. Perhaps this week is a good time to think over ways our relationships might be mutually rewarding.

Cheers, Sue

 

Can a digital app turn my life around?

Why I’m using a digital Android application called Colornote to help me become more organised, less stressed and have more control.

 

Firstly it’s important to know that I am a huge procrastinator. I avoid and forget things. I often catastrophise when faced with something stressful. I can become absent minded and I wonder if this has become a trait of mine.  I have self-diagnosed myself, especially the younger me,  with Attention Deficit Disorder on numerous occasions.  Or at least when I type the symptoms in Google that’s one of the options!

I do know that leaving things to the last minute or missing opportunities isn’t helpful for me.   In the past I tried to write lists on bits of paper and  I even bought a special to do list pad from Wilko’s.  However it didn’t work for me although I know it works for many.  In my case the Wilko’s pad  gradually became submerged under newspapers, paperwork and unopened mail.  I found it six months later and noticed that I was only half way through a to do list.  I had no chance with a scrap of paper!

My organisation skills are one of the first things to slip if my mood becomes low or if I become overly anxious.  This decline in organisation and my ability to manage time effectively can lead to a negative spiraling of my mood.  

Hello digital !

Moving forward a few years and I’m in a slightly different state of mind and my Smartphone is now attached to me like an umbilical cord.  So hey ho, why not try again with digital?  I am trialing Colornote which is an Android App for note taking, to do lists and general organising.  It is free to use,  at least for the basics.

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The verdict

It feels like it’s working and I feel like I need it.  I’ve had a very productive day and I doubt that I would have written a blog post for a while without it, at least not yet.    I also feel very satisfied after I tick things off as I watch a little line appear through the task relegating it to the bottom of the list.

Managing the overwhelming feeling that comes with some of the tasks

Many of us have to manage our mental or emotional health.  We may be less robust in certain areas.   I have to guard against feeling overwhelmed with stress, at least I do presently.   The words to do list immediately send me into a Flight, Fright and Fight response, so I alternate my tasks and soften my approach.   I complete one stressful task and then move on to a comfortable buffer task, I see this as a recovery phase.   For instance a difficult phone call may be followed by ten minutes of guitar practice and even the washing up can feel therapeutic at times.  The app is aesthetically pleasing and user friendly.

It is early days but I’m really hoping that I stick with this app and that it helps to keep me on my toes.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any  comments, maybe you feel the same way? Maybe you have some tips or questions?  An app you can recommend?  Maybe you feel the opposite ?

Please either leave a message on the blog, send us a tweet or a comment on Facebook. 

Many thanks XXX

Wellbeing of walking

 

I was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  One of the things I have to do to keep it under control is walk for half an hour day.  I’ve not been much of a walker for years and so this is a bit of a challenge for me!  My friend and fellow Leeds Wellbeing Webber Su is a big fan of walking, so I interviewed her about this. We sat outside the Abbey Inn pub that borders Horsforth and Bramley and took some photos of the area.

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Many people, if not most, get into a habit of not exercising and have little motivation to change this.  What would you suggest to overcome this Su?

I do struggle with motivation.  Sometimes arranging to go with someone else is enough to focus on doing it, or convincing myself that I’m really not fit and listening to my body. I need to just get on and do it and dedicate myself to it. A practical thing I do is to write a large memo as a prompt and place it somewhere prominent as a reminder that I want to get out of the house and walk.

People often say walking is the best exercise and can raise your mood.  What is your experience of this?

I think that is absolutely true. And there are benefits to walking with other people, for companionship and safety.  I did have a time where I dedicated myself to doing it everyday. I’d do it without headphones and music, take a notebook because solutions to problems that seemed insurmountable would kind of float to the surface as you’re walking. Kind of like meditation.  If you’re doing it by yourself, you can enter into that state.

Where and when do you like to walk?

Because there isn’t always someone to go with, it has to be local.  That’s Leeds 13, Bramley.  When I’ve felt fitter, I have walked from Bramley to Horsforth, across the boundary, the river and canal.  That’s a nice long walk.  I like Bramley Fall Woods and Bramley park.  There is a fabulous view from there.  I like Half  Mile Lane, which borders Bramley and Farsley.  Going further afield, Roundhay Park and Woodhouse Moor are pleasant.  I attend Leeds University and the campus is an enjoyable place to walk, it includes Saint George’s field.

Have you always enjoyed walking?

Yes it was very much part of my upbringing.  We always walked to school, I walked at least four miles a day, to and from Primary School. I always walked to work.  But I’m not a hiker or country rambler, I find that hard nowadays.  I walk to the shops and town.  I keep in mind it should be a daily activity.

To summarise then,  motivation can be improved by having a walking companion, using prompts to focus, walking can help you to think more clearly and gain insight into any problems, Walking is an opportunity to enjoy nature and it’s scenery, it is the best exercise and helps raise your mood.

Daniel Tavet

What Works

This is a workshop hosted by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing at the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Beckett University on Thursday, 10th September 2015 from 09:30 to 12:30 to examine how wellbeing evidence can be used to improve community wellbeing. The workshop is an opportunity for you to inform the early stages of a key evidence programme which will have national impact.

The What Works Centre for Wellbeing is a UK government-funded initiative recently launched by the What Works Network to enable a range of stakeholders to access independent, high quality, accessible evidence syntheses on wellbeing.

This workshop will explore how wellbeing evidence can be useful in the day-to-day work of those working in a range of sectors including local government, the voluntary and community sector, public health, housing and the private sector. It is aimed primarily at those in the Yorkshire region.

We will be focusing on policy areas related to place and community, including planning, housing, built environment, social capital, participation, public health, green space, transport, and community development. The issues the What Works Centre focusses on will be determined based on this stakeholder engagement, so these workshops represent an important early opportunity to influence the Centre’s work.

During the session we will be tackling questions such as:
•What ingredients are important for community wellbeing?
•How can your work enhance community wellbeing?
•What are the key challenges in our work for improving community wellbeing?
•How might wellbeing, a focus on wellbeing, wellbeing data, or effective wellbeing interventions, address these challenges?
•What gaps are there in wellbeing evidence?

There are just 12 tickets left so if you want one, sign up for What Works at:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leeds-what-works-wellbeing-stakeholder-engagement-workshop-tickets-17933870690

Ancient and modern methods to wellbeing

Daniel has been contributing his poems and blog posts to the Wellbeing Web for two years, we recently spoke together about the many things he does that aid his wellbeing. Our informal chats revealed the intriguing blend of ancient and modern techniques, and pastimes which Daniel uses to keep positive.

The first of our chats took place during our trip to buy essential oils and joss sticks that might help our respective current mood.  Among the blends we chose was myrrh, known from ancient times for its medicinal and spiritual healing properties. When we next met to conclude our discussion we burned the myrrh.

People have been orating and writing poetry from ancient times as their muse inspired. Daniel’s recent such musings, ‘Road of Joy’, was his latest blog post. Daniel combines poetry, the ancient means of expressing thought and feeling with the modern art of blogging. Previous discussions had us pondering how and in what way we considered thought and feeling.differed, hindered or helped us in our wellbeing. Lets see if of the things Daniel engages with give any hints if we reached a conclusion.

I like spending time with close friends, playing and listening to music, meditating, consulting the I Ching, reflecting on Zen,Tao and Buddhist philosophy. In addition I take part in a variety of skill based and healthy living courses at Inkwell and Swarthmore Education Centre,  this last twelve months it has included; creative writing; short stories, poetry writing, web design, group Alexander Technique sessions, and art classes. Workshops at Leeds Mind have also helped me with my confidence and to work on relaxation techniques.

Knowing very little about consulting the I Ching, I asked Daniel to describe the practice and how he feels this helps him.

The I Ching is an ancient Chinese book which traditionally is consulted by use of either throwing coins or willow sticks to determine which of its 64 hexagrams to read. It is similar to the way some Christians use bibliomancy when seeking guidance. After opening the bible  at random any text found there is taken as a guideline for resolving a particular issue that may be troubling the person.

I use coins when I consult the I Ching, I feel this works on the principle of synchronicity, enabling and revealing advice and information from the book in a way I find profound.

Daniels musical interests include his playing keyboard in the band Burning Skies Revolution

and he explained what about this is enjoyable, and how he deals with any ‘nerves’ when performing at gigs.

 I find playing a musical instrument raises my spirits, which is cathartic. Socializing with other band members during the nine years we’ve been together is beneficial, and it’s helped me not to watch too much telly.

As a kid I liked listening to electronic music and had a keyboard bought as a present. Earlier this year it was highly enjoyable to see the band Icebreaker, who play electronic music, at Howard Assembly Rooms, and I reviewed it for the Wellbeing Web see here,

I can read music  a bit but mostly play by ear.  Jamming at our weekly rehearsals or on other occasions when me and my mates are just relaxing is fun.

Public performance isn’t something I ever envisaged the band doing, it only happened because we stood in at short notice for another band. Although I get nervous before a gig, my confidence is helped by both the social support of the other band members, and by keeping in mind that I’ve done it sucessfully on previous occasions.

Daniel acknowledged that like most of us keeping active and remaining positive are beneficial for our wellbeing, but that it’s not always easy to remain upbeat. I asked Daniel when the ‘going gets tough’ which of the things he lists is he best able to hang on to.

I’d say it’s the things I can easily access at home, or close to home  that help me if I get down. Contact with my friends who live nearby, and the meditation on ancient philosophies and techniques which I can do at home are my mainstays. In recent years however access to modern technology via the internet and my smart phone have also  helped.

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Discussions with Daniel about wellbeing didn’t reveal a clear divide between thought and feeling, except perhaps that they are flip-sides of the same coin. We might sometimes find ourselves relying more on one side than the other but Daniels use of ancient and modern techniques shows he does much to keep them well balanced.

Sue Margaret

 

Road of Joy

Hello. This poem was inspired by a little place in Horsforth, Leeds, that me and my girlfriend visited a couple of months ago.

White pony’s happy

Trotting down

Road of Joy;

Leaves whisper

Communicating

With birds and bees

Shaded by wood

And clouds

By Daniel Tavet(c)

white pony