Posted in Weekly Blog

Safe Cards

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safe card

Several years ago in the group we developed a safe card.  This was a tool for people to draw on in moments that felt difficult, overwhelming or unmanageable.  The idea is to fill it in when feeling in a more positive place.  First of all in the group we thought about the types of situations where it may be helpful; times of crisis, or being very down and self-critical of oneself.  Sometimes when we fall into a very negative place it can be hard in those moments to bring to mind a more positive outlook or a different possibility of how things might turn out.  It may be that in those moments we can’t get there at all by ourselves so we might be reminded of someone we can go to who is able to remind us which is  why there is a space for a supportive person’s number and crisis phone line numbers.  The kind of things that the group knew to do to look after themselves were to go for a walk, eat something, exercise, talk to someone.  People found quotes that were helpful to them too, that made them feel better, things that reminded them to embrace the vitality of life and that troubled times change and pass.  People cited the serenity prayer:

serenity prayerWe chatted about the value of acceptance of situations we can’t change rather than fighting against them, because we have power to change our feelings, thoughts and actions.

What we can also find sometimes too is that we have ‘paralysis in pursuit of perfection’ in that we don’t even try new things or new ways because they may not go perfectly but that’s ok!!

other serenityThere seems to be a power of writing important reminders down and then sticking them up. Remember that our brains and thoughts default to the negative, and we need ways to remind ourselves of the other ways of thinking, a different story and other possible outcomes.  So this is where a safe card can come in useful.  We also chatted a bit about the last section of the safe card; a vision for the future.  For some people this was about identifying and realising things they had maybe not put into words before, and others at different stages in life were ready to start looking for a new journey to find a new passion.

When you are feeling anxious it is so important to have strategies to cope. To this end using a safe card can provide a safety net to hold and ground you.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Strengths

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“I don’t see what others see in me”.  This is a saying that we can hear a lot of in society throughout all walks of life. Is this a default position we go to or are there cultural reasons for it? Certainly here in Scotland and the rest of the U.K. there does seem to be more of a tendency to play down our strengths as to do otherwise could leave you feeling uncomfortable. Is there a fear that by acknowledging our strengths we may be seen by others as ‘getting too big for your boots’ or ‘playing your own trumpet’. Does finding the fine line between confidence and arrogance play a part in our fear? You only have to look at celebrities who are universally loved by people all over the world who also can struggle and use self-depreciating comments such as; “What if I get found out, and am not as good as people seem to think I am?” This may seem like a silly thing to say given all the evidence to the contrary, but it does show that  they are only human and can have insecurities like anyone.

Group members shared their own experiences of how they found acknowledging their strengths. Some people actually felt that it would be much easier to list their short comings.  We then did an exercise where we asked people to write down the strengths and qualities they saw in one other and pass it back to the person so they could see the qualities others saw in them.  While people found it nice doing this they still found it a challenge to take in and believe what people saw in them.

Today’s subject felt very relevant as this group is very much based on helping people build up their sense of worth.  The hope being that through doing this it can play a part in being able to acknowledge their strengths without totally dismissing them.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Fear Of Failure

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At today’s group we looked at the fear of failure.  Although our fears come from a protective place they can ultimately leave us feeling stuck and unfulfilled in parts of our life. If you’ve suffered disappointments in life it feel such a risk to try something new and it not working out. To avoid these disappointing feelings people may decide it safer to stay in the situation they know. In this case the fear of failure can feel more powerful than the possibility of success. It can feel so scary to take that leap of faith into the unknown. Group members gave examples of how they overcame fears and how it became the making of them. The thing to remember is that even if you try something and it does not work out you can always try something else. This of course does not take away the feelings of disappointment but it certainly does not make you a failure. We are learning all the time, particularly in the hard times.  If we think back to being a toddler and learning to walk we do fall at times but we get back up and gradually learn to walk. Below is an inspiring video of people who have faced disappointments but managed to keep on trying new things.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Nostalgia and Sentimentality

Today we looked at things that are sentimental to us. It dis not have to just be a physical object it could a time or a place. Some things people chose were;

  • Letters from loved ones
  • Jewellery from loved ones
  • Music
  • 90’s ‘curtains’ hair style and flares
  • 80’s hot pants
  • 70’s Bell-bottoms and ‘New wave’ styles

It was an interesting and emotional experience to hear the reasons behind the sentimentality even if we do look back now and cringe at some of our fashion sense!

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Posted in Weekly Blog

Having fun increases our well-being

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While preparing for our group programme in advance we are always mindful of the need to make sure it is finely balanced between light topics and others that are a bit heavier. After having a few deeper sessions it felt nice to mix it up today having a session on fun!  It’s something that is so important for our well-being which sadly at times we can all too readily dismiss as un-important.

We did an exercise using spiritual cards and asked group members to choose a card that meant something to them. People found this useful as it provided an outlet to communicate how they felt. After this we played the card game adaption of the popular game show, ‘Catchphrase’. By the end of the game the scores between the two teams were fairly equal!

We finished with a look at what people’s favourite movies where and why. This evoked a discussion about the emotional attachment certain films held for people. Some of the films chosen were, ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’, ‘Back To The Future’, ‘Riding In Cars With Boys’, E.T., ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’, ‘Mary and Max’ and ‘The Godfather’ It was so nice to feel the passion and energy this brought to the conclusion of todays’ group!

Pop corn with soda and movie shows

Posted in Weekly Blog

Exploring Mental Health Diagnoses

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We posed the question to people in the group as to whether receiving a mental health diagnosis had been a helpful experience. For those who had experienced a correct diagnosis and accessed the right treatment, this was extremely helpful as they could now understand what was happening and what to do to best look after themselves.  For people where it had taken a bit of a journey to make a correct diagnosis, and where treatment for a condition which was not theirs was given, this was unhelpful and distressing and in some cases caused more damage.  We talked a little about the diagnosis of  BPD-Borderline Personality Disorder, this is a bit of a controversial diagnosis; it suggests that there is something wrong with a person’s personality. Using the term ‘disorder’ can leave people feeling upset and stigmatised.  The diagnosis is confusing and little understood; it is a clinical diagnosis based on a collection of symptoms, which are often parallel to the effects of trauma.  However, it is not an actual defined disease or condition, more possibly a reaction to adverse life events, and therefore not a permanent condition or state of being.  

We talked a bit more about how people sometimes felt stigmatised or defined by some of the words used to describe some mental health conditions:

Mental health words

People felt that some of these were quite descriptive, sometimes in an unhelpful way leading to assumptions and stigma and a lack of understanding.  Others felt that the not so descriptive terms could be helpful as they had experienced that if someone genuinely cared and was interested they would ask about the persons mental health condition in a way as to understand how it actually affected them.

Receiving a diagnosis can feel helpful and liberating for some while for others it may be another way of keeping stigma and unhelpful terms used in society alive.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Coping With Anxiety

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Anxiety is part of our make-up as people, it’s built deeply into our brains to protect us.  At appropriate times and in the right measure it is necessary and helpful to us.  But it can get stuck, leaving us feeling uncomfortable and overwhelmed with life.  In recent groups we have looked at some practical ways of managing difficult feelings with self-compassion and managing stress .

Today we looked at some other ideas to combat anxiety, or at least to feel calmer.  Starting with our senses, specifically we looked into, or rather had a good inhale of some essential oils.  Top of the recommended list for anxiety is Lavender, there is some small-scale research finding that lavender lowered anxiety levels for people at the dentist and for watching scary movies. Also recommended for anxiety are Rose,  Vetiver, Ylang Ylang, Bergamot, Chamomile and Frankincense.  We also tried smelling Geranium, Peppermint, Citrus and interestingly Thyme-not an immediate go to for anxiety, but because it helps to open up respiratory functions which become restricted in anxiety, this can help.

Following the sensual start, we turned again to self-compassion meditative exercises.  Focusing on deeper breathing is immediately helpful for calming anxiety.  But a new practise we are learning is how to sit with uncomfortable feelings.  Our default reaction to feeling horrible is to kick against the feeling, get rid of the thought and just get out of feeling uncomfortable.  However, in this exercise, in a hopefully slightly more relaxed state of deeper breathing, we felt where the anxiety maybe sitting in us, we may feel it in our stomach, or rising to our chest, even blocking our throat, in our heads, behind our eyes or in a generalised tense state of tight muscles and high shoulders. So we paid attention to it, focused on where it was, visualised it, could we start to soften the shape of it?  Conversely,  focusing on it did seem to have a calming effect!  Maybe we do feel a little bit braver and able to handle things better when we find the courage to face them head on.

The other huge assistance which group members reported in being able to manage anxiety was the friendship and support of the group.  Knowing that people are there for you, understanding how you feel without judgement is a huge support for people, knowing that this group very much holds people who face regular challenges in life.

This is an interesting article on anxiety from huffington Post

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