Posted in Weekly Blog

Coping With Anxiety

Anxiety-

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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Posted in Weekly Blog

Favourite places

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Today was the first part of the new programme.  As with every programme we try to make it varied with a wide mixture of content. For today’s group we did an exercise where everyone was asked to write down places that meant something for them. These places did not necessarily have to be holiday destinations, they could be any place which hold an emotional attachment.  Some of the destinations chosen by group members were; Japan, Arthur Seat (Edinburgh), Arizona, Spain, Italy, Jersey,  Alaska, Texas, North Wales, Portobello (Edinburgh), Tibet and former Czechoslovakia just to name a few.

One of the most fascinating things about doing the exercise were the emotions that were invoked . It was really nice to feel the positive energy and passion shown throughout the room. The exercise seemed to help facilitate group members into have a different perspective on ways to deal with things which they find challenging.

Posted in Weekly Blog

What Musical Pieces Mean For Me

 

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Today at the group we returned to a popular group topic ‘music’.  We have mentioned many times in the past how music can provide an outlet for our emotions.  We wanted to do something a wee bit different this time by focussing on four different emotions and the music pieces people felt appropriate to that emotion. Below is an example;

BE942CF5-E0D6-4EEF-BCEF-B946EDC7220F.jpeg From the songs that make us happy, to the songs that make us sad people realised that indeed some songs could easily overlap into the other categories depending on how they felt.  Most people had quite eclectic tastes which was fascinating to see. This proved to be an emotional experience for all concerned!   Below are some songs that were chosen;

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

A letter to my younger-self

A-letter-to-my-younger-self

Today we asked group members to write a letter to their younger-self.   We were very aware of the emotions that this could bring up for people. The benefit in doing this is that it can help us to develop more self-compassion. This can be really useful for people who attach self-criticism to themselves for things happened in the past.  We did not want this to excercise to be a ‘If only I knew then what I know now’ type. It was to focus on a challenging time from your life. When we feel anxious we more often than not go into ‘child’ mode and feel fear which can then manifest itself into irrational thoughts. We all have the inner ‘child’ but we must learn to love it and comfort it just like we would any other child.

In our younger years we deal with life through the viewpoint of our learned experiences. Due to not having a lot of life experience we can grow up blaming ourselves for the way we handled situations but forget that we were only working with what we knew at the time. Sadly people who have been the victims of abuse can often incorrectly attach the blame to themselves and somehow believe they deserved it. It’s worth remembering that nobody can possibly know what it’s like to walk in your shoes and deal with the challenges encountered.

By the end of the exercise we all felt quite emotional but immensely touched by the bravery shown by all involved. Being in ‘adult’ mode had allowed people to show more compassion for their inner child and gave the opportunity to look from the outside-in to see things a bit more objectively.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Words Of Encouragement

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We did an exercise in the group last week which we have not done for a while whereby each group member will write down positive qualities and skills that they see in each of the others. This is an exercise that from the outset requires trust amongst the group that the relationships are connected enough for this to feel ok.  People were very genuine and truly able to express what they thought about each other.  People then read out their list of strengths if they felt comfortable to do so.  This can feel like a strange thing to do in a culture where saying positive things about yourself can sometimes be seen quite negatively as ‘blowing your own trumpet’.  However, people’s experience of this was that it was actually moving and encouraging, although for some it was quite difficult to hear or accept positive words, but even then there was still somethings uplifting it was for them.  Group members who have done this before have kept the lists of their strengths, and at times have found it really helpful when they have been having a bad day, or are hearing a critical voice, whether that is their own, or somebody elses, to be reminded that these are their strengths and good qualities. Somehow seeing positive feedback written down in black and white can feel easier to believe than relying on our thought processes which can often turn to negative and dismissing the positive

People also found that it was really nice to be able to say how they felt, because again it is a bit alien in our culture so say super nice things to each other!  One comment in this session was that ‘I have never known a group where people are so genuinely encouraging of each others successes’.

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Do more of what makes you smile

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Sometimes when in the middle of difficulties and life’s storms it can be helpful to remember the wee things that make you smile, and can actually change a moment or even your day.  A few people cited how nice it is when a random stranger smiles at you and can really brighten your day.  Dogs can make us smile and make us feel better, its very nice to be met by a waggy tail, and to see how dogs are naturally friendly to one another, or the way they cosy in with us, or how they are just so happy to chase a ball relentlessly all day long. Most people will connect to some kind of animal affectionately, whether that’s thinking a sloth is cute or funny or enjoying YouTube videos of kittens!

For some people getting outside and connecting with nature caused a smile, noticing flowers, birds and sunshine. And when back in the hubbub of people, overhearing snippets of conversation or seeing someone be kind to another makes us smile; or meeting up with and being able to chat to friends.  Children can be very humourous when they just say it as it is with no filter or have us play games and do things their way.  We watched the funny clip from the news last year when the children interrupted a live interview.

Sometimes doing something which feels like an achievement can feel very pleasing to us.  That can be getting through the door of ‘A Life Worth Living’ on days where it just feels really hard to do so, but the benefit of being with others and connecting makes people feel better and leave with a smile.  One person had pushed through a particularly hard time and had taken themselves on a trip and felt so much better for it.

Music and humour are other elements which make us smile…different comedy for different people, and as we certainly discovered last time, people definitely had different musical preferences.  The smiley music cited for this week was the sound of the sixties on Radio 2.

While we are going through tough times we may find it hard to raise a smile, but if we can,  it can act as a stepping stone to making you feel a bit better.

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Planting for Spring

spring flowers

 

From March back through November landscapes draped in black and white
As knife-like shadows in the forests pierced the dimming light
And even mighty rivers disappeared under the strain
Of crushing flows of ice after a night of freezing rain

For now the only sounds that crackle out through winter’s hush
Are frozen pods of snow which to the ground from treetops rush
Exploding on the forest floor as from a fearsome hoard
Of Norsemen fighting wildly for their own wintry warlord

And so it is that through the coldest season of the year
We sequester deep within the halls that we hold dear
Waiting for the sunrise and the promise it will bring
That the stranglehold of winter will be broken by the spring

Then finally it happens; ice flows melt and streams cascade
Flowers bloom and fruit trees blossom while the pall of winter fades
Black and white are all forgotten as a rainbow now appears
And the cycle reinvigorates the passing of the years

This poem very much reflects what our group is about, planting seeds which we hope will bear fruit.