Posted in Weekly Blog

Dealing With The Benefits System

job-centre-plus-sign

Today’s group focussed on how people deal with the benefit system and more specifically, ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interviews. At group sessions we often hear of how the current system invokes strong feelings of anxiety and  sheer terror. With this in mind we thought it would be good to have a look at the different processes involved and the options people have.

Below is an example of the different stages involved upon receiving assessment letter; 

  1. Attend ‘Work Capability Assessment’ interview
  2. You receive a letter from the DWP* informing you that you are not being awarded benefit.
  3. You disagree with their decision so respond by sending a ‘Mandatory consideration letter’ to inform the DWP* of your reasons for disagreeing with their decision to see if they will reconsider.
  4. If the response from the DWP* is that they are upholding their original decision you then have the option to appeal it and have your case taken to at an independent tribunal.                                                       

If you are feeling anxious it is so important to seek support.

Some of the suggested supports were,

Group members felt that having someone to help support them in filling in forms was extremely beneficial and relievied some of their anxiety. With no support it can literally feel like a real life or death situation with the looming uncertainty of having no income to survive. That is why it is so useful to have supportive people around you to help provide some hope for your future.

 

 

*’The Department of Work and Pensions* 

 

 

Posted in Weekly Blog

Thinking about our Inner Child

Below is a small snap shot of how we used with Russian dolls to help us develop a better understand the dynamics of our ‘Inner child’

1. Inside the grown-up deep inside is the child just like these Russian dolls.
You might feel it a positive when you are playing with children. For example I feel it while playing football with my young nephews.

2. You might feel it in a negative way if you are waiting to go in for formal appointment and you start to feel as if you did when you were called to the headmaster’s office. (Or maybe you were all good kids and were never sent to the headmaster’s office!)

3. (Using an elastic band)
Like this band we are all big and stretched out, but certain events, circumstances or people could make us feel small again.

4. (Imagining all our younger selves)
Thinking about when you were at primary school what 3 words would you use to describe the wee person you were then?

5. (Pick an age between 5-10 years old)
– Thinking about you at the age you have chosen  we will ask a few questions if that is OK to that part of you, be it 5 or 7 or 10 years old- whatever age you have picked.
– Think about who was your teacher, your favourite toy or who were your friends then.
Ok so we are all focused in on an age and who we were then.
QUESTIONS-
If that child had something to say, to be heard what might it say?
What did it need?
What would you like to say to it?
How might you soothe it? (Note: Demonstrate by putting the little one in the big one.

6. We end by putting all the dolls back inside each other so there is just one big one. It demonstrates we are back in our adult place.

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

The Impact of Mental Illness

Mental health symbol conceptual design isolated on white backgroundAt today’s group we looked at the different ways in which mental health can affect us. We looked at it from two different perspectives. Below are the group findings;

1.Someone who is struggling with poor mental health.

  • I feel people don’t want to talk about problems especially ‘deep’ things
  • I feel isolated
  • There is a lack of understanding from others
  • I have lost friends 
  • I socialise less
  • Acceptance can be hard
  • I feel irritable
  • Being around like minded people helps me
  • Once I felt better I gained a better understanding and now have more compassion for others and feel a better person because of my experience

2. People who are affected by someone else’s poor mental health e.g. loved on, carer

  • My friend struggles to look after himself
  • He can ‘snap’ at me
  • I need support myself while caring for my friend
  • Sometimes I feel helpless
  • I feel so tired caring for my friend
  • While I can give my friend some leeway due to his poor health I have to remember not to constantly accept bad behaviour.

In conclusion today was a ‘deep’ group but was very helpful for people to look at these issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are the group members thoughts on this:

  

Posted in Weekly Blog

Journeys (John Arthur as guest)

johnjourney-06

It was a real pleasure to welcome John Arthur to the group today as guest. John is well-known around Edinburgh for the work he does in the recovery community. People who know John find him to be an inspiring and caring figure who likes to help and stand up for disadvantaged people in society. With this in mind we thought it would be really interesting to hear about John’s own life journey and what lead him to where he is today.

Upon listening to John’s story it made us realise how different situations in our lives create different paths of which we can choose to take. A good example of this is the film ‘sliding doors’ where it captures the life analogy of one door closing and another opening.  While we are living in the present we are not aware of these things and perhaps only become aware when we look back with hindsight. Due to John’s life experiences he has developed a passion for helping others. Below is a list of just some of the things John has achieved;

  • Director and forming the group Recovering Justice
  • working with young people to involve them in changing services for other young folk
  • Founding member of the Serenity Cafe in Edinburgh
  • National Director of CREW which is in the field of substance use and harm prevention
  • Trustee on the board of the Scottish Drugs Recovery Consortium
  • Managing recovery coach training
  • Senior Associate working with an Expert Witness Team
  • Helping create the first SMART recovery group in Edinburgh

John talked fondly of his recent around the world trip and of the many amazing people he met along the way.  From his life journey to his world travel journey it was a fascinating listening experience and made us think about our own journeys and the paths we take in life. we would like to thank him John for giving us his time and passing on his hope and inspiration!