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The group had chosen to talk about protesting for this session. Since the beginning of the pandemic a number of prominent protests were brought to our attention via media and social media coverage. Whilst we may or may not agree with a particular issue being protested there is a right for people to make their feelings of injustice known.

Firstly we considered examples throughout history of creative and effective protest, citing the 411 B.C play Lysistrata about a Greek woman who mobilises the women of Greece to protest against the long and bloody Peloponnesian war. The women went on a sex strike and denied the men until they lay down their arms. Although this account is largely fictional, group members believed that sex strikes have been used effectively to obtain women’s rights and end conflict at other points in history.

Group members discussed whether violence and disruption were justified measures to be heard and seek just political and social change. It was generally agreed that disruption certainly seems required in some form to effect change, though there were mixed feelings about violence. It was considered how anger is a momentum for change and how raw anger demanding law change around homosexuality initially sparked riots. However, LGBTQ have become peaceful demonstrations of visibility and presence through the now much celebrated Pride marches and events.

It was argued that without the measures of the suffragettes the vote for women and working class men may not have been secured.

It was discussed that the downside of activism and protest was that the original message could become lost if the method was unpopular, for example through violence or extreme disruption. Another downside is that protests can be hijacked by people or groups not interested in the cause but just looking to be destructive. Also, as we have seen over the last year, a protest for a cause can attract a counter protest against that same cause resulting in clashes.

When such things as above occur protests can backfire with negative media coverage. We discussed the role of media in protest. Sometimes the media and social media is the main vehicle for education, awareness and sympathy for a cause, at other times destructive, false and dehumanising propaganda may be disseminated. It was poignantly suggested that the democratic right to protest does not equate with the right to hate. This is reflected in hate laws.

It was suggested that sometimes the route to politicians ears is through media coverage of disruption-a bottom up approach. It was also noted that sometimes change comes top down and things are approved in government which the population of the time may not have chosen or supported such as the change in law in England in 1967 (1981 in Scotland) allowing homosexuality, and the abolition of slavery in 1834.

Some group members felt it was unfair when protestors passionate for a cause were imprisoned.

Passion alone may make a lot of noise and become unpopular as knowledge alone without a way to spread the message becomes impotent. It may be argued that passion for a cause and an intimate working knowledge of the issue together with just the right amount of disruption and helpful media coverage can create the most effective means for change.

The Impact of Stress

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This week’s group looked at stress.  Some people are stressed because of the situations that are going on around them and how they respond to try and cope with these.  Some people are stressed because of the unrelenting mind chatter or ‘washing machine heid’ where it feels difficult to switch the thoughts off.  Others feel stressed due to sensations or emotions that just seem to come unbidden which makes merely functioning feel like a struggle.  Feeling overwhelmed can be a sign you are stressed.  Gabor Maté says stress has 3 components; the first, the stressor is the event, physical or emotional interpreted as threatening.  The second, our process of that event interpreting what the event means.  The third is our stress response which are the bodily and behavioural responses we make to the perceived threat.  The bodily responses affect our hormonal system, immune system and digestive system (MATE, 2019).

“The word stress was originally an engineering term.  It referred to how much pressure a building could take before it collapsed.  These days a lot more people are collapsing from stress than buildings” (Joyce Meyer).

Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.

Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope. People have different ways of reacting to stress, so a situation that feels stressful to one person may be motivating to someone else.

The group discussed how they noticed stress in themselves and others and shared things which help to reduce stress.  Group members noted that when they felt stressed, they could feel quite invisible and unheard and unable to speak.  Stress can manifest in feeling agitated, irritated, skin rashes or feeling sick.

Short term stress is useful and protective for us while becoming stuck in stress can impact the body through such ailments as more regular illness due to lowered immunity, digestive issues and bodily stiffness or aches related to tension and stress can exacerbate existing conditions.

The American Psychological Association reports that “Back in the early 1980s, psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and immunologist Ronald Glaser, PhD, of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, were intrigued by animal studies that linked stress and infection. From 1982 through 1992, these pioneer researchers studied medical students. Among other things, they found that the students’ immunity went down every year under the simple stress of the three-day exam period. Test takers had fewer natural killer cells, which fight tumors and viral infections. They almost stopped producing immunity-boosting gamma interferon and infection-fighting T-cells responded only weakly to test-tube stimulation.

Those findings opened the floodgates of research. By 2004, Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, of the University of Kentucky, and Gregory Miller, PhD, of the University of British Columbia, had nearly 300 studies on stress and health to review. Their meta-analysis discerned intriguing patterns. Lab studies that stressed people for a few minutes found a burst of one type of “first responder” activity mixed with other signs of weakening. For stress of any significant duration – from a few days to a few months or years, as happens in real life – all aspects of immunity went downhill. Thus long-term or chronic stress, through too much wear and tear, can ravage the immune system” (The American Psychological Association).

For this reason then it is good to have a few techniques to lower stress.  The group spoke about meditating-mentioning that the more stressed and busy you feel the more benefit you will feel from meditating longer.

It’s also good to know when to get off the treadmill-when feeling overwhelmed by tasks and demands we can ramp up the speed, or turn it off.  Stop and have a breather, say no to a few things recognising it is not possible to do everything. 

Stress can also be caused by the way we stick to our own ‘rules for living’ these can often be rigid and originate from our core beliefs.

For example, ‘I can’t let anyone down’ (and then I won’t be rejected).

‘I need to worry about everything’ (and then I’ll be prepared and able to prevent anything bad from happening).

‘I need to email that person for Granny, make those two phone calls about school as the kids are not doing it, home bake a complex Delia dessert for the in-laws visit on Sunday and complete the month long basket of ironing, take the car to the garage for the MOT and collect my wife’s dry cleaning.  By 10am.  Today.’ (and then I’ll be seen as good enough).

The group spoke about the importance of awareness of feeling stressed because once aware you can do something about it.  Perhaps the next thing to be aware of are the rules for living which are causing a lot of pressure and demands and see if some of these can be changed.

The group also spoke about putting off tasks which feel uncomfortable, recognising that this behaviour leads to stress as all of a sudden it is required to do the task imminently which feels stressful. There are environmental, behavioural, cognitive and self-soothing approaches to reducing stress. More complex stress conditions may need a more targeted approach, however there are some general methods we can employ for stress reduction described by Van der Kolk as ‘housekeeping’. (Van der Kolk, 2019).


MATE, D., 2019. WHEN THE BODY SAYS NO. London: VERMILION, pp.31-32

Van der Kolk, B., 2019. The body keeps the score. Penguin Audio.

The American Psychological Association

The Importance of Sleep

In recent times quite a few group members expressed issues they were having with sleep. In light of this we wanted to give people the opportunity to explore this. There were a mixture of issues with some wondering if they were sleeping too much and others questioning whether they were getting enough sleep.

People felt that being in lockdown has massively contributed to the change in their sleeping patterns. People are having to radically change their daily routines from which they were used to Pre-COVID 19. A big thing we all agreed on was the importance of sleep and how it plays an important part in our mental health and well-being.

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*Below are some helpful tips on getting good sleep from the mental health foundation website at*

1. Tech-free bedtime

The bedroom should be somewhere that we associate with sleep. Where possible, you should try to remove distractions from you bedroom. It is better to watch TV, check social media and eat in another room. This will allow you to relax with no distractions in your bedroom. Be mindful of the presence of gadgets and electronics, such as computers, phones, tablets and TVs. The backlit ‘blue light’ displays suppress melatonin production – the hormone that helps you sleep; the suppression of melatonin causes sleep disruption. You should stop using these devices two hours before you go to sleep to reduce their impact on your sleeping.

2. Prioritise managing physical symptoms

As anyone who has tried to get to sleep with a blocked nose or headache knows, physical health problems can stop you from getting a good night’s sleep. It can be easy to forget with minor symptoms, but you will thank yourself when night falls if you prioritise speaking to a pharmacist about appropriate medication for symptom management.

3. Light, sound and temperature

It may sound common sense but too much light and background noise can prevent you from falling asleep or staying asleep. For light and noise sources that you can’t control, eye masks or ear plugs are wonderful investments. Temperature is also important, and if you share a bed with a partner with different temperature preferences, consider separate blankets or other solutions that make less of a sleep-compromise.

4. Dealing with worry

Thinking about sleep too much or trying to force yourself to sleep will only keep you awake. Learning how to relax both your body and mind instead will help you to get to sleep much more easily. Progressive relaxation techniques can help you to relax and unwind at these times.

5. Foods that help and hinder

Eating rice, oats and dairy products can produce chemicals that increase our desire to sleep. As well as the obvious caffeine, in terms of food and drink to avoid, things high in sugar can keep you awake if consumed late in the day. A big meal after mid-evening can also stop you from sleeping.

6. Alcohol alert

Although it can make you feel tired and can help you get to sleep, alcohol often impairs the quality of your sleep and makes you more likely to wake up during the night as the effects wear off, and you may need to go to the toilet frequently or wake up dehydrated to drink water.

7. Time your exercise

Exercising on a regular basis can help us sleep, helping to reduce anxiety and relieve stress. Exercising earlier in the day is better, as exercise increases the body’s adrenaline production, making it more difficult to sleep if done just before bedtime.

8. No napping!

If you have trouble sleeping, you may feel tempted to catch up on sleep by taking naps. However, unless you’re feeling dangerously sleepy (while driving or operating machinery, for instance), this usually does more harm than good as it makes it more difficult to sleep at night. If you feel tired during the day, get up and take a walk around, get some fresh air, or do something challenging for a short while, like a crossword or a sudoku.

9. If you’re not tired, get up

If you’re finding it difficult to get to sleep, don’t just lie there worrying. Get up for a while and get a drink (no sugar or caffeine, remember!) try reading for a little while and go back to bed when you’re feeling a bit sleepier.

10. Keep a sleep diary

Keeping a sleep diary to make a note of what the conditions were when you went to bed the night before can be useful for letting you look back and see what has and what hasn’t worked for you. It also helps you to see how your sleep varies from night to night, and might help you note patterns in your sleeping.

For further support please click on the below links;

Creating an online profile

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At the end of 2020 the group had some fun and creativity designing an online profile. Like the art of constructing a CV, it can be useful to have some ideas of how to present your best aspects online whether this is for work or business purposes such as linkedin, campaigning for a cause on social media or, of course, online dating.

We decided to make a group profile for the latter….it is a culmination of everyone’s responses, it gave us joy to create and much laughter to read, we hope you enjoy it too, but remember…we come as a package! Please note that the comments are an amalgamation of possible responses and not to be taken too seriously! These are not the direct opinion of the cartoon profiles pictures. We hope you enjoy!

The all important first line to make an impact and introduce yourself:

Hello, my starsign is cancer, I’m vegan, I am 26 and like playstation

Next up, you may or may not wish to outlay political views, this may be important for you in a potential partner if it is something you are passionate about:

I like Biden, am christian conservative, support independence for Scotland #freedom

Pets can be an important consideration, if you have allergies or are scared of snakes some pet lovers may not be the right match for you:

Don’t love dogs? Don’t bother. Do you love snakes? See, when we get our first house, what pet would you like?

It can be important to state how you feel about Children, potential daters can be in a myriad of family situations so it can be useful for harmony to discuss at the outset:

I have no comment-not for me at the minute. I am child free, I would really like to have children, I come as a package with two children, I’d like to see how it goes.

Smoking can be a very controversial lifestyle choice on which potential partners may have very strong feelings, so once again, it may be wise to put it out there:

I am a social smoker, a holiday smoker, I smoke when stressed, I don’t like smoke, I really enjoy smoking, I’m trying to quit, our children will be called Benson & Hedges…I’m just smokin’

Similarly people may have a very different attitude to alcohol and whether or not it is a part of their social or dating life:

I’m a social drinker, I am tee total, I prefer coffee…and cake

Like political views, many dating websites may ask about faith or spirituality as these may be an important aspect of how people frame their worldview:

I enjoy wearing my star of David and a St Christopher-I might be ecumenical. It doesn’t matter what religion you are…be kind. I don’t appreciate others telling me what to think. I am open to all faiths and none. I’m not religious but it doesn’t bother me. Be what you want to be.

It can be helpful to have some shared Interests with a potential date, this can help with conversation topics and what to do if you choose to meet up. What are you passionate about?:

I am a passionate Heart of Midlothian supporter, I like knitting, reading and literature, Radio 4, listening, swimming, BOXING-our children will be called Rocky, coffee and cake, saving the planet and maintaining Scotland’s place as part of the United Kingdom.

So as we start to get more specific-What’s your ideal date?

One with a book! A sense of humour, a classical concert, coffee and cake, cinema trip, watching boxing in the pub, and going for a dog walk.

Allowing your personality to come out now, what verb or phrase would you use to describe yourself?

I’m raj, awkward, unpredictable, studious, crazy in a good way, I’m emotional, sensitive and take things to heart.

The 5 Languages of Love

Do you feel love or express love and appreciation primarily through words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, spending quality time or physical touch? The group session looked at each of these in more detail, from Gary Chapman’s book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ to start understanding how we and others close to us, give and receive expressions of love.

Affirming words are those which are positive, encouraging, appreciative, complimentary, have a sense of togetherness, ie ‘We’, words of praise and kindness.
If you grew up with cold critical condemning words you can start learning this love language from where you are-being active to phone or text, or create an opportunity to talk, make strategies of when to do this, and to plan words and phrases to use.

It became apparent that receiving words of affirmation was more difficult to receive for the majority in this group. This has been a previous group topic; exploring why it can be difficult to receive compliments. Some people felt comfortable speaking words of affirmation, but overall this was not the primary love language of this group.

Gifts say, ‘I was thinking of you, I want you to have this’ they communicate emotional love. They are not given conditionally nor to make up for a lack or to say sorry. They are just given. A person whose primary love language is gifts can tell you the story of a relationship and love behind each gift, and they will be thoughtfully on the lookout for things that their person might need or enjoy. This idea started to resonate with some group members who recognised that this is a way they like to express their thought and love to others, especially where verbally expressing love feels difficult.
Gifts can be simple and home made or lavish-sometimes we have to pitch it right-the 6 foot teddy bear, red roses and heart shaped chocolates on a 2nd date may feel quite hard to receive, especially by someone whose love language is not gifts.
If receiving or trying to think of a gift feels stressful this is probably not your primary love language.

Acts of Service is a love language demonstrated by being available to help out or fix practical things such as hospitality, technical support, advice, DIY and chores.  These are served in freedom not in fear, not as a response to ‘if you loved me you would e.g….fix those shelves’. Again this idea resonated among the group who identified different ways that they like to help out where they can such as doing the ironing, helping to decorate, child care and baking.

Quality time; this love language is about being together, focused and undivided attention whilst not looking at a phone! This may be uninterrupted conversation focused on communicating and listening, or a shared activity; enjoying something together and being willing to enter another’s interests and trying these with them.

The group strongly identified with this love language and suggested that it is the primary love language of the collected group. Individually, group members were aware that time spent with family in really listening and enjoying being together was important to them. If this is your love language you may notice how time spent with others like this energises you. We thought about our current context and how this quality time transfers online. We agreed that our weekly online group was such a slice of quality time.

Physical Touch can communicate love, warmth, care and presence. It can also communicate the opposite.  This love language can be complicated, misinterpreted and may invoke bad previous experiences.  To learn it, we may need to read or check with others how they want to receive it. Some people shared how receiving a hug from someone they knew well was comfortable but uncomfortable with a stranger. We discussed how we might ask first ‘Can I give you a hug?’ or ‘Would you like a hug’. Some communities or cultures are naturally more tactile which is not necessarily always the case in Scottish culture, although the group wondered if the younger generation were more comfortable with touch in general.
It may be useful to ask yourself what kind of touch feels affirming and what feels uncomfortable?
We thought about how we are finding lack of proximity and touch at this time. It was acknowledged how good it is to be able to meet up online, but we are missing being able physically sit together in a room.

When thinking about what your love language might be, we can work this out by looking at our own behaviour towards others, how do we typically express appreciation to someone? What do we request of others, what do we ask them for or like to plan for? It can also be helpful to think about what you complain about, for example; not being thanked, or feeling that someone is too busy to make time, or someone forgetting your birthday! Another way to discover it is to think about what it is that you most like about the people you married, or dated or are friends with-what do they do that makes you feel loved; do you feel loved when they spot a task that needs doing and do it or when they ask to put a date in the diary to spend time together, perhaps it is when they turn up with your favourite biscuits, tell you how special you are to them, or give you a hug.

While I was writing this, there was a knock at my door. Although the person had gone by the time I opened it, they had left a bar of chocolate on my doormat. Chocolate does not have a love language of it’s own, however this confirmed my suspicion that gifts are my love language-I realised I feel loved at the idea someone thought of me and had taken note of what I like and given it to me….What’s yours?

A Better And Fairer Society Post-Pandemic

The group had wanted to discuss how society could emerge from this pandemic better and fairer from the lessons learned. So we spent this session imagining suggested changes and improvements.

Our discussion was set within the six topics of the ‘Post-Covid Compassion Wheel’. It was suggested that within an increasingly technological world we maybe need to rethink traditional jobs and economic systems altogether. Potentially there is a lot of scope for ‘Green Jobs’; for research, invention, creation and development of doing everything greener! From travel, to deliveries, food production and fuel. For example the cement making industries who are looking to reabsorb CO2 emissions from the cement making process and use waste products from other industries, such as steel, to reduce waste and further reduce CO2 emissions.

Whilst the economy is struggling it was discussed that capitalism has perhaps transgressed from it’s original ideas, that accumulated wealth is not being redistributed or trickling down anywhere but is just sitting which is not helping the economy if money does not get reinvested. This brought up the topic of taxes as a way to fairly redistribute wealth if large co-operations did not have loopholes around which to avoid fair taxation. If a few people are sitting on most of the money the economy will stagnate, whereas if people had more access to disposable cash they would spend it.

We asked why is it that a careworker is valued so differently than a CEO. The monetary recognition is low for careworkers and keyworkers but dis-proportionally high for large corporations. For example, one co-operative CEO was valued at the equivalent of 3 top lawyers, 7 top accountants and 150 ordinary wage earners (Collier and Kay, 2020). Perhaps the balance could be tilted slightly.

We are aware that different generations are suffering in different ways from the impact of the pandemic. Older generations are more likely to face very worrying health issues from the virus itself whilst younger people are struggling more financially and seeing education and employment prospects severely disrupted. Very young children are affected by not being able to attend school in the traditional way and separation from extended family-which of course is also a loss for grandparents. There is also a greater risk for elderly people to become very isolated and cut off from care and support. The group suggested that it would be helpful to not blame different generations; we have heard of older people blaming young people for spreading the virus, and young people blaming older people for ruining their lives because they have to stay home. Where generations can be understanding of each other’s fears and worries this could lead to great benefits. The group gave examples of how perhaps young people could assist older people with becoming digitally connected so that they did not have to feel so isolated. This led us onto the idea of community; this pandemic has seen some communities really pull together and in other places a more individualist approach -such as buying all the toilet rolls has increased fear and isolation and anger. The group suggested that community spaces are very important and to look to increasing these. They noted that in their neighbourhoods they often saw community buildings become renovated into flats, and green spaces where they used to play football sold to developers. When communities have shared spaces and arts projects and combined purposes in an area this promotes a collective community identity rather than an individualistic outlook.

Poetry Week

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In this group we had invited members to bring poems they liked, or to write a poem they would like to share. We ended up with a very enjoyable mix of poems sharing deeply felt emotion, fun, humour and even song! Some pieces were an observation and narrative of life in lockdown and others beckoned to the interests and comforts of life such as cinema and cups of tea. Some group members expressed feeling nervous about reading their poems and we discussed how poetry can be an intimate expression of our inner selves and therefore requires vulnerability to share. People also spoke about their poetry writing process; some write it raw and then refine it over coming weeks and months whilst others write line by line, fully forming each part as they go, different styles reflecting each person’s individuality and creative flair. We are very thankful for permission to share some of the poems here:

This person said their poem may change with edits over coming weeks, so we look forward to a matured version also in the future.

THE YEAR 2020 (To be continued…)

In the year 2020, week melted into week.
No fun or adventures, no matter how hard you’d seek,
COVID-19 had come out to play,
Worldwide people had to go home and stay.

As the numbers of deaths rose,
Lockdown measures were imposed,
Shops and pubs closed for their last time,
Their ex-staff spending hours on the dole phone-line.

The people who still had work, tried to work from home,
School kids struggled to learn on their computer all alone,
Friends and family only able to video call,
Everyone’s mood began to fall.

When summer arrived, the virus seemed to slow down,
Lockdown restrictions loosened around town,
People could meet outside, at a distance, of course,
Only small groups, that the police would need to enforce.

More weeks like that, the amount of deaths kept on falling,
More restrictions were lifted, normality seemed to be calling,
Non-essential businesses and shops could open once more,
Schools were opened, with safety measures, not quite like before.

Slowly small pockets of cases appeared,
Instantly people thought about, the second wave, we all feared,
Masks on buses, and in shops,
We wonder if this virus will ever stop!!

Our home above the pub,warm,safe,fun,laughter,singing…Dancing with my mum round the jukebox to the Beatles. Riding round the bar on my wee trike before opening, then the locals giving me coke and crisps. My Beautiful Mum,23, small and pretty, funny and kind.  My Nan, my Grandad and my Uncle.

Then Ambulance men-a stretcher-taking her away, a sheet covering her, screaming, crying.  I wanted the Black and White television on. I was only four, they said no.
Six weeks later taken away from my family-confusion-fear-pain-Grief-Anger-Hatred…… Apart from …the memories, the night my mum died,my Nan and me at the window, in my lovely home above the pub, she showed me a red sky, that red sky has stayed with me, when I look up and see it, I know my mum,my Nan,my Grandad,my Uncle are with me …always.

Finally we discussed the poem ‘Certainty’ by 17th Century Indian poet Tukaram:

Certainty undermines one’s power, and turns happiness
into a long shot. Certainty confines.

Dears, there is nothing in your life that will
not change – especially your ideas of God.

Look what the insanity of righteous knowledge can do:
crusade and maim thousands
in wanting to convert that which
is already gold
into gold.

Certainty can become an illness
that creates hate and

God once said to Tuka,

“Even I am ever changing –
I am ever beyond

what I may have once put my seal upon,
may no longer be
the greatest

Although we often discuss our intolerance uncertainty as creating anxiety and worry, today we considered that absolute certainty isn’t good for us, as the poet says being certain of theories or ideologies can be very harmful. Also if we are inflexible in our views or trust we are likely to be disappointed or hurt.

The poetry in this session was a lovely way for people to share their inner and thoughts, feelings and responses in this difficult time and connecting us in our shared experiences.

Please check our poetry page for more poems by group members.

Media; friend or foe?

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In today’s group we wanted to look at parts of the media which people found helpful along side the parts which people found to be emotionally damaging. Of course there are many forms of media we gain access from; newspapers, news bulletins, TV/radio shows which brings us up to the latest form of media which is widely used ; social media. Below are the examples given for friend or foe;

Friend of media; Facebook allows people to have fun and catch up with old friends or family who may live in different locations around the world. Twitter allows people to follow other people of interest and find out what is going on in their lives. Through online streaming services like Spotify and Apple music we are able to support and share emerging artists. Most websites now provide access to helpful forums which allow people to chat and leave comments on certain topics. Having these forms of media can help people feel less alone with a question or issue. Media can provide a great vehicle to raise awareness for things like mental health and suicide prevention.

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Foe; Targeted advertising after visiting a website can feel intrusive. The dis-inhibition online effect where people can become ‘Keyboard warriors’ and be abusive to others. Conspiracy theories and fake news promoted at large can provoke feelings of fear in people. Using electronic devices all the time can make it hard to maintain contact with people who are physically beside you. People can find that positive affirmations they receive on social media can become addictive and feel disappointed if subsequent posts do not reach the same level of ‘likes’. The way photos are posted using certain art effects or Photoshop tools can give a false presentation of someone who feels that they have to strive for perfectionism. Some media is set up to fit a certain narrative which does not allow people to have any dialogue or discussion. Echo chambers with a hatred for different opinions can grow which can lead to examples of ‘trolling’ and other dehumanising behaviour.

In conclusion It is important to remember as human beings we very much rely on connection with others for a healthy well-being, but as the above examples show we need to do so in a way which feels safe.

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