Posted in Weekly Blog

Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

We began last week’s group by watching the black dog video about depression which people found quite a helpful analogy and contained hope.  People also liked that in the video, depression was described as being devoid of feeling which felt a more accurate description for some than low feelings.

This group session’s focus was on ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD), something that we have looked at before on occasion, and with the seasons changing it was worth looking at again as people get ready for the new autumn season and potentially changing mood and emotional state.  SAD is typically defined by symptoms of depression triggered by the season, typically winter (although some people are affected by the change into spring).  A change in body clock and reduced access to sunlight as the days grow shorter are some of the main components causing changes in the brains hormones e.g reduced serotonin and melatonin. (More information here)

So as a group we looked at what helped at this time of year.  With less and less sunlight and therefore less vitamin D it is good to maximise natural light where possible and this is best done in the morning, when blue light is available from the sun (this light isn’t so helpful to us at night from our screens), so time in the morning sun is helpful.  Light boxes are also recommended and there is some evidence that using them can reduce depression.  Additional intake of vitamin D may also help, some group members have a spray, but opinion as to whether it helps is so far inconclusive…maybe we will get a better idea tracking this as we go into winter.

For some people at this time of year stress could come crashing in with a overwhelm of ‘the to-do list!’ so the group talked about the importance of being able to relax which would probably ultimately increase productivity if we go at it from a rested place rather than a stressed out place.

Some people found that making a physical or symbolic change in the home helped, like moving the furniture to reflect a change in season, having more curtains drawn and different soft furnishings around.cosy

We also had a chat around what people’s preferred climate would be to live in.  This varied from places with very distinct seasons and with a bright winter rather than a grey one, to tropical, to a comfortable 24 degrees to liking Scotland!

People also spoke about how miserable, grey, dreich weather does contribute to feelings of being lonely, so it is important to keep up connections with others at these times.

Click here to see previous group blogs and tips about this topic.

Posted in Weekly Blog

“Thank-you for the Music!”

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This weeks group was focused around what music means to us, from childhood, through teens and adult life.  As children it seemed to be that for most people, what we listened to was very much influenced by what we heard in our homes, the music our parents, grandparents and siblings were playing.  In the group this ranged from Country and Western to Scottish Country music to The Doors, from songs played on Children’s favourites to Queen.

In teenage years people in the group talked about forming their identity through the music they listened to, following a genre, the music, attitudes, protest in some cases and the theatre of the clothing styles.  For example, punk, goth, heavy metal, and bands and artists such as Bob Dylan, the Sex Pistols and ACDC.  Music, it seemed was very important at this age in forming political and cultural ideas and individual stylising showing who and what we identified with though fashion.  This led to a bit of a discussion as to whether teenagers currently find this sense of identification and expression through music or whether this has now transferred to other platforms such as social media.

We touched on the music of the 1980’s, people related to music in a different way during this era, although they enjoyed listening, it didn’t seem to have quite the same power of expression as the previous decade; think Bananarama, New Kids on the Block!!

The music of the 1990’s seemed to resonate with quite a few group members, with bands such as Oasis, Radiohead and the Verve, bringing a particular mood to the decade before the millenium.

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People spoke about how the music they listened to sometimes spoke to loss, or pain so they would listen to feel, or music related to anger and it could be a helpful way to express and shut out the world; with heavy metal for example.  People also shared about the music they listened to at exciting times in life and partying.  We also spoke about times when it felt too raw, too emotional to listen to any music, because music can be so evocative, and so associated with memory that it can feel too much, at these times people may listen to chat radio instead which distracts from sad thoughts rather than engaging with all the emotions through music.

People talked about enjoying jazz and the pure talent of it, and of going to classical music as a source for something soothing, and choral music as often being uplifting such as gospel.

So we will leave you with this from Beethoven.

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Food – friend or foe?

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Today we looked at what food meant to us. To assist us in this we used the questions below as a guide;

  • What is your favourite food and how does it make you feel?.
  • Do you cope with your emotions by using foods? If yes, what kind of foods do you
    consume at such a time?
  •  Do you know what you are trying to fill? (FILLING A VOID E.g Feeling lonely/
    disappointed or empty. SELF-MEDICATING)
  • How do you feel after consuming food to cope with emotions?
  • E.g. Guilty, know it is not good for my health….)
  • Do you cope with emotions by not eating and by depriving yourself of food?
    Is food your friend or foe?
  • Do you know when you have had enough to eat and stop?
  • How else might we listen to and cope with our emotional hunger?

Some people talked about pleasant associations with food in a nostalgic way, like family gatherings with sunday roast or mince and tatties. For others food has become a coping mechanism providing some comfort whether it be eating too much or too little. Of course, both over a period of time can be equally damaging to our health. If people feel they have no control in their lives this may be the one place they feel they do.  Unlike others dependencies we cannot avoid food- so we need to be informed, relearn
our physical hunger because then we can trust ourselves to make good choices
and to attend to emotional hunger in other ways.

INTERESTING FOOD FACTS
Foodie Fact 1-
Do you know that some foods (like Pringles) are engineered to keep us eating and wanting
more and to ignore signals our brain is sending that we are full. Sugar, Salt, fat, additives,
combined in a snack/nibble or a sweet treat. Such foods actually light up the pleasure
centres in our brains as much as taking cocaine would! So neurologically we
become addicted to them and we ignore that we have had enough.

Foodie Fact 2-
If we consume lots of calorie dense foods which lack good nutrients such as; a
McDonalds, pizza or fish and chips our body might well be signalling it is starving and
needs more grub, because it is needing some vitamins and minerals not in fast foods. So
we want to eat more and often we will deride ourselves for being greedy or lacking will
power.

Foodie Fact 3-
Food information is so confusing and conflicting it is hard to work out what we should be eating. So here’s what ‘experts’ agree on-
• Reduce or stop eating processed foods (white bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes & fast food.
• Eat your greens! Fruit and vegetables.
• Be loving and compassionate to yourself as you make some alterations. Start small
with little changes, over time they all add up.

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Lifestyle Balance

Lifestyle balance pie

The group had requested a session on lifestyle balance.  As we chatted together at the beginning of the group today it was clear to see how stress or anxiety in one part of life can impact on other parts.  So it was helpful to fill in the above chart showing levels of satisfaction with each area of life.  People could see which areas were struggling and how this impacted on other areas; for example, if relationships are struggling, this may impact on social life, health, home environment and joy.  If career is struggling this can impacts on creativity, joy and finances etc.  By being able to see which area needs attention or a different approach we can figure out what to do and this will hopefully have a positive effect on other areas.  Stress felt prevalent for people at the moment, so we stopped and did a mindful breathing focusing exercise aimed at reducing stress.  This was helpful as part of the exercise was to see if you could notice a particular word, feeling or sensation.  Just taking the time to stop and think about this did allow people to be able to pinpoint a root which then enabled us to look at how particular issues could be addressed.  For example, this may be safeguarding an area of time to do something for your well-being which you enjoy, even if that is only one or two hours a week.  It maybe a particular conversation that you need to have with someone, or maybe its saying no, or yes! to something.

rest and self care

Posted in Weekly Blog

What books mean to me

books

So not quite a book group today! We chatted about what we like about reading books and what we get from them.  Books are great for escapism and people talked about enjoying being able to get absorbed into another world, another place, and how amazing it is that all these typed words on a page can so transport us.  We can switch off from everything and not notice the time passing as we can almost experience other smells, sounds and sights and feel strong emotions for and about the characters with whom we travel for as long as it takes us to read a book!

People appreciated a well written book, and sometimes a writing style which is quite minimal and stripped back, leaving aside lavish description, focusing on the raw emotion of the characters which could make for an intensely emotional read.  The group liked books about humanity, coming through adversity and finding hope.  Also important is humour, and at times an easier book, when life is challenging enough sometimes its good to be able to have as someone described it; ‘chewing-gum for the eyes!’

People in the group enjoyed a mix of genres; fantasy, history, romance, inspirational biographies and learning about our deeper selves in the spirit, soul and intuitive places.

We chatted about some of our biggest learning in life that has come from a book, such as realising that you can’t change the world, but you can take action right where you are; to trust intuition; someone had seen a quote that said something like;

“Everyone behaves according to their world as they are experiencing it”.

This generated a bit of discussion about how we tell ourselves a story, in this group we are mindful that we all tell ourselves stories about what’s happening, about who we are, what’s happening to us and what other people think about us.  For the most part our initial thoughts on these subjects default to the negative.  However, we can learn to be aware of this and better manage our own minds and behaviours.  Group members had active experiences of doing this and have managed to move themselves from very troublesome anxiety, dread and doom to taking power and control back from those destructive thoughts by noticing the thought, acknowledging the emotions but then making a decision to behave in a self-caring way.  We won’t get rid of negative thought processes and it’s not as simple as thinking positive thoughts instead, but our awareness and subsequent decisions about what to do next can dramatically improve our experience of life and our mindset.

Another book which generated a bit of discussion for it’s concept was about a spy who put out a lot of propaganda during the war.  Although the spy did not believe it himself or agree with it, he had to do this to maintain his role.  However the propaganda he disseminated caused a lot of destruction and incited hurt to many people.  So the discussion ensued that values and beliefs are very important but mean nothing if our actions or deeds don’t follow.  If we act in an opposite way, that is what is visible, not our inner beliefs.

People in the group maintained a fondness for the classics; The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice.  Interestingly Enid Blyton may not have stood the test of time in the same way as only those of a particular, ahem, generation had heard of her.

Mr. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice was noted for his observational quotes:

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”-Jane Austen.

books2

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

What’s Funny?

giggles

We very often come back to laughter in this group. We know that laughter helps us on many levels physically, socially, emotionally and mentally, hence the saying; ‘Laughter is the best medicine’.

So, we had a more playful group today, actively thinking about things that make us laugh. Group members amused each other with funny stories and the re-telling of favourite comedians jokes.  It worked; we laughed!  We worked our way through the following questions which a group member had kindly brought in as an exercise we could do:

Funniest thing that’s happened to you?

Funniest thing that’s happened to your best friend?

Funniest person you know?

What they do or say that makes you laugh?

Favourite comedian, your favourite comedy thing they do?

Maybe as you consider some of these it may provoke a smile.  People seemed to find themselves funny in some of the more slapstick calamities which sometimes occur in life; like going to the toilet in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar place, only to discover in the morning that it was not the bathroom that had been visited at all, falling into water unexpectedly or turning up to the wrong wedding, or funeral.  There was a range of tastes of comedians, Leslie Nielson, Monty Python, Lee Mack, Michael MacIntyre, and Russell Brand amongst others.  People were remembering Airplane quotes:

From “Airplane!” (1980):

Dr. Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?

Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.

Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley!

Rumack: You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.

Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?

Rumack: It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.

Lee Mack [Not going out]

Lucy: “Have you been snooping in my wardrobe?”

Lee: “I was looking for a lion and a witch.”

Lucy: “I don’t want to hear your crappy jokes, Lee, it’s none of your business.”

Lee: “Actually it’s Narnia business.”

And to finish, as we about to head into the 2018 Edinburgh Festival, here are the jokes rated funniest last year:

The top 15 funniest jokes from the Fringe

1. “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change” – Ken Cheng

2. “Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book” – Frankie Boyle

3. “I’ve given up asking rhetorical questions. What’s the point?” – Alexei Sayle

4. “I’m looking for the girl next door type. I’m just gonna keep moving house till I find her” – Lew Fitz

5. “I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it the ‘brella’. But he hesitated” – Andy Field

6. “Combine Harvesters. And you’ll have a really big restaurant” – Mark Simmons

7. “I’m rubbish with names. It’s not my fault, it’s a condition. There’s a name for it…” – Jimeoin

8. “I have two boys, 5 and 6. We’re no good at naming things in our house” – Ed Byrne

9. “I wasn’t particularly close to my dad before he died… which was lucky, because he trod on a land mine” – Olaf Falafel

10. “Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t believe in coincidences.’ I say, ‘Oh my God, me neither!”‘ – Alasdair Beckett-King

11. “A friend tricked me into going to Wimbledon by telling me it was a men’s singles event” – Angela Barnes

12. “As a vegan, I think people who sell meat are disgusting; but apparently people who sell fruit and veg are grocer” – Adele Cliff

13. “For me dying is a lot like going camping. I don’t want to do it” – Phil Wang

14. “I wonder how many chameleons snuck onto the Ark” – Adam Hess

15. “I went to a Pretenders gig. It was a tribute act” – Tim Vine

(From BBC Website)

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.