Mental Health Awareness Week: Kindness & Self-Compassion.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme is kindness.  While a lot of the focus will probably be aimed at being kind to other people, I would like to focus on Self-kindness and the positive effects it can have on our physical and mental wellbeing.

In my last blog, Why Now May be a Good Time to Start Meditating, I highlighted how dangerous negative thoughts and emotions, such as anxiety, can be for our health. 

The further we traverse into the uncharted territories that this pandemic is presenting to the world then the more important actions such as kindness are.  As people become more afraid and stress increases, words such as kindness, love and care seem to get forgotten, replaced by anger, frustration and an urge to find someone to blame.

Numerous studies have shown that emotions such as anger and hatred can be a significant cause of premature death.  Dr Redford Williams at Duke University, and Dr Robert Sapolsky at Stanford University have conducted studies that showed how anger, rage and hostility are particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system.  Read more

Strange Days….. Dealing With Self Isolation, Fear & Panic.

“Panic is a sudden desertion of us, and going over to the enemy of our imagination.” – Christian Nestell Bovee

The current situation with Coronavirus has probably given a lot of people an insight into panic, and how our brain and body reacts to situations of immense stress and fear.

The well used phrase ‘panic buying’ sums it up perfectly.  As soon as we are confronted with fear, we go into fight or flight; this is our primeval reaction that has been hardwired into our brains during prehistoric times (Understanding Anxiety, Panic & Depression: Part 1 – Anxiety).  This is just another example of where this built-in response isn’t really suited to the modern world.  It is natural to want to protect ourselves and our loved ones, hence why some people have turned to stockpiling food, but this has a negative effect on the communities that we live in. Read more

Time to Get Outdoors, Whatever the Weather….

I guess it is stating the obvious to say that the weather has a massive impact on our mood.  When the sun shines we generally feel better than when it is wet windy and grey.

Normally I don’t mind a bit of rain and wind; after all, us Brits are used to it (sniggers from my friends and relatives in South Africa) but the last couple of months have been a real struggle for me.  It seems as though every day I have had to battle through high winds, and wade through sticky, gooey mud.  I battle depression anyway, but I find that the worse the weather, the lower my mood.

One of my neighbours recently saw me walking down the road with Leo in the rain; he smiled and said “that’s why I have a cat….” can’t really argue with that.

This year the storms seem relentless, and the normal, cold crisp, frosty days of winter that I really love, have been very scarce. Read more

The Benefits Brick Wall.

For most of 2019 I have been fighting with the Department for Work and Pensions, trying to find out why they are persisting with a rubbish benefits system that simply doesn’t work for people with mental health disabilities.

Initially the fight was regarding Employment Support Allowance (ESA) benefits, in particular the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) they use to help determine if you are capable of working or not.  The fight has now gone onto a second front, this time regarding the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) benefit that they stopped awarding me in December 2019; in particular the assessment they used to decide that really there is nothing wrong with me.

The way I see it, the current system actually punishes those with mental health issues from trying to make an effort; the greater reward comes from actually not doing anything. Read more

Anxiously Stepping into 2020.

Usually I head into a new year with a level of optimism and hope, and 2019 was no exception.  While I was still struggling with my mental health I had plans and ideas that I thought would change things, especially financially.

The end of 2019 was bumpy to say the least; notably, I had started level 2 of the counselling course in September, but had to give it up after three weeks because I had a complete meltdown, and couldn’t do it.  I also lost my PIP benefit.  Both of these had a massive impact on my mood and self confidence.

While there were successes in 2019, my overriding feelings from the year were ones of increasing frustration and failure.  All the plans and goals had slipped away to nothing; I felt as though I had slipped down the mountain, past base camp and back to square one. Read more