Katie Piper – What’s in My Head

Hello,

Lovely to check in with you all again.

Today I had the fantastic privilege of being able to watch Katie Piper’s new show ‘What’s in My Head’. Katie is touring the country with this show and we managed to catch the show in Kettering.

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So I’m not sure how many of you are aware of Katie Piper’s story, but in 2008 at the age of 24 years, she was attacked with acid and suffered pretty horrendous injuries.

Katie was a model and TV presenter and her face was damaged so much by the acid that most of her face was removed. She lost her sight and as a result of ingesting some of the acid she suffered internal injuries in the throat, oesophagus and stomach and had to undergo numerous procedures to rebuild her face and to open her throat and nostrils up, as it would close up due to the scar tissues from the burns contracting.

It is really scary to think that life and what we expect from our life path can change in an instant like this. This is something that I can relate to in my own life with my teeth and jaw issues and is something that I will be drawing upon in my upcoming presentation on chronic pain.

Here are some photo’s of Katie, before and after the acid attack:

Katie Piper shows just how far she has come as she wows in chocolate one-shoulder dress at TV Choice Awards 4

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This is what Katie Piper looks like more recently:

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I have always followed Katie’s story of recovery since seeing her documentary on channel 4 called ‘My Beautiful Face’.

I have always been inspired by how Katie has used such negative and devastating personal experiences and been able to use this to help others in such a positive way through her charity The Katie Piper Foundation: https://katiepiperfoundation.org.uk/ and some of the TV shows and documentaries that she has done for channel 4.

Here she is explaining her story on a Ted Ex talk:

 

In the show Katie shares really openly and honestly her struggles with losing her identity, as it was during that time, as a young lady in her twenties, who never even considered disability, or illness in herself, or other family members, and who considered herself to be ‘invincible’.

Katie talked of struggles of losing her looks and the struggles of not being able to eat due to her internal injuries and losing tremendous amounts of weight because of this. She also talks of struggles with anxiety and of not being able to make connections with others and struggles with agoraphobia following the attack. She also talks of using alcohol as a means of self-medicating and numbing the pain. Also losing most of her twenties to Hospital treatments for her various injuries.

All things that I think most of us would be able to relate to in one form, or another…

Katie also shared some lovely strategies that she has used in her own recovery. One that I really liked was the use of positive affirmations, which according to Wikipedia are:

“Affirmations in New Thought and New Age terminology refer primarily to the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment—fostering a belief that “a positive mental attitude supported by affirmations will achieve success in anything. More specifically, an affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should be repeated to one’s self and written down frequently. For affirmations to be effective, it is said that they need to be present tense, positive, personal and specific.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirmations_(New_Age)

What she does is collect positive affirmations and print them off, write them down and post them all over her downstairs bathroom. In the interval she had a mock up toilet in the foyer and asked the audience to write down their favorite affirmation and post them on the wall. Here are some pictures:

 

I like positive affirmations myself and tend to collect them on one of my Pinterest boards.

There are hundreds of affirmations that you could use, some examples I’ve found this evening are:

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Do you have a favorite positive affirmation/s that you have used and found to be helpful?

The key to making positive affirmations more likely to work seems to be making sure they are in the present tense, they contain positive words, they are relevant to what you are trying to achieve and you repeat them several times over the course of the day.

There’s no formula for how often or how many times you should repeat a positive affirmation.

Many people set a routine that works for them, like repeating the affirmation 20 times, 3 times a day.

The brain is able to rewire itself via a process called neuroplasticity. So similarly to a daily meditation practice, if you are focused when repeating your chosen affirmation, and you repeat it frequently, it is more likely to be successful. Imagine that your brain is like any other muscle that we would train in the gym. The more we train the stronger the muscle gets…

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There were many other strategies that Katie shared for recovery. Such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Writing
  • Spending time with family
  • Spending time with friends
  • More chocolate! 😉

I highly recommend catching the show if you get the opportunity, to learn more about Katie and see if some of these strategies would be helpful to you in your life.

If you can’t catch a show, Katie has written several books. One of the books that was at the show was this one:

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This is available on Amazon at the moment for £4: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confidence-Secret-Katie-Piper/dp/1784295205/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1524180529&sr=8-1&keywords=katie+piper+confidence

 

I’ll leave you with one of the slides that she shared on Anxiety Girl. I think this can be one of my super powers too…

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Please get in touch and share some of your own strategies for recovery, would be great to hear from you.

Warm wishes,

Mary

Why volunteer?

Hello and welcome to my latest blog post about volunteering.

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I have written this post for the reader who may have been interested in volunteering for a while and not known where to start. Or for someone who may be curious as to how volunteering could benefit them and the local community.

There are several areas in the community that offer volunteer opportunities. According to the Open University, there are several areas of work where you could volunteer and include:

  • Administration, IT, management and finance

Many organisations depend on volunteers to help them with a wide range of “office” type work – from photocopying and envelope “stuffing” right through to helping with more specialist areas such as School Governors and Organisation Trustees:

  • School governors

School governors form the largest volunteer workforce in the UK with around 350,000 governor places. Governors play a crucial role in the teams that run schools, helping to ensure that all pupils develop as individuals and receive a good quality education. Governors have responsibility for the strategic management of the school, working closely with the headteacher and staff. As a governor you will attend regular governing body meetings, visit the school to meet staff, see the children at work, participate in the life of the school and attend special events.

  • Trustees

Trustees, (also known as management committee members, or Board members) play an essential part in the running of voluntary organisations. They are responsible for ensuring that a voluntary organisation has a clear strategy, that it remains true to its original vision, and that it complies with all necessary rules and legal obligations.

  • Advice, information giving, counselling, listening and befriending

Many organisations also rely on volunteers to provide a wide range of support to individuals who are in difficulty or don’t know where to turn. They often provide training to enable their volunteers to undertake this sort of work and the knowledge and skills gained can often be used by the volunteers in other parts of their lives.

Organisations under this category could include the Citizens Advice Bureau, The Samaritans and various counselling, support agencies. Such as Mind, or Cruse Bereavement Care.

  • Event organising, fundraising, marketing, campaigning, public speaking

Many organisations rely on volunteers to support their work by undertaking a range of activities to promote their organisation and its work, to the wider community. Some but not all give training to help volunteers develop these skills but many welcome volunteer contributions to support the work of those who already have them.

  • Fundraising

All charitable organisations seek fundraising volunteers to help raise income levels and fund their work. One benefit of fundraising is that you can work for charities in which you have a strong belief. It may be as simple as rattling a collection bucket one weekend, or you could get involved in working in shops, developing new ideas, educational visits to schools and running events.

 

Other areas of volunteering could include working in conservation and wildlife projects and working in classrooms and schools to support the learning of children, for example by reading to children. I’m sure there are many more volunteer opportunities that I have missed out!

 

Benefits of volunteering:

According to Timebank there are a number of benefits to volunteering, including some of the following:

  • Giving your CV a boost

Whether you are looking to study a particular course, such as medicine. Or looking for a means of getting back into work, or changing career paths, volunteering in a relevant area to your dream job, or course, could give your application the boost it needs to get you noticed by recruiters.

  • Get back into work

Volunteering could be a valuable means of filling any gaps in your employment and getting a reference that could help you when applying for paid positions.

You could also try different areas of work as a volunteer in order to get a taster of the work and see if it is an area that you would be happy working in long-term.

This could be particularly helpful if you are currently looking for work, or wanting to change direction in your career.

  • Improve your confidence

Volunteering could help you improve your confidence, as you may get the opportunity to try something that you have never done before. You get to meet new like-minded people, who are likely to be as passionate about the same cause as you are.

You are likely to have the opportunity to develop new skills, which can also help to improve your confidence.

  • Improve your health

Now this is an interesting one. Whilst volunteering to help others, you could be improving your own physical and mental health.

The following research highlights some of the benefits of volunteering: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf

 

My own experiences of volunteering:

I have volunteered in some capacity since around the age of 17 years. At various stages in my life and for various reasons.

Following on from my Facebook Live video on my Facebook page BreathworksMK: Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling, I would like to share a couple examples of volunteer work that I have done in recent years and how they have benefitted me.

  • Inpatient Unit Assistant

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Now I know that working in a Hospice may not at first seem appealing, as they are often associated with death and dying. However in my experience a Hospice is a very positive place in which to be and in which to work.

I was first drawn into Hospice work after a family member with terminal cancer spent some time in a Hospice. I got to see first-hand how beautiful a Hospice setting is, how kind and compassionate the staff are and how peaceful a place like this can be when you are at the end-stage of a terminal illness.

I wanted to give something back and help to support the vital work that a Hospice does for both patients and their families.

Working on an In-Patient Unit such as the one at St Francis can involve many job tasks, a main part of the role being delivering food and drinks to patients and their family members, keeping the kitchen areas clean and tidy and restocking coffee and tea supplies!

One of my aspirations is to volunteer for the counselling service at a Hospice such as this one. I hope that my work on the Inpatient Unit if the first step towards achieving this.

 

  • Cruse Bereavement Care

Another volunteer position that I’ve had a really positive experience with is volunteering for Cruse Bereavement Care as a Bereavement Support Volunteer.

After completing the Awareness in Bereavement training with Cruse, I have worked with around 15 clients to date, all of whom have experienced bereavement, or a loss of some kind. Clients are offered up to six one hour sessions in the branch of Cruse where I work, as an opportunity to talk about the bereavement, or losses that they have experienced with a trained volunteer.

I find this work extremely rewarding and have received tremendous support in my work from my Supervisor and Manager at Cruse. The change in clients that you can witness in a relatively short period of time always amazes me and is a real privilege to be a part of 🙂

 

Some sources of further information:

 

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On this website you can type in where you live in the search function and it brings up a number of local volunteer vacancies.

 

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Here is a bit more information about the Hospice of St Francis:

The Hospice of St Francis provides free care and support when it matters most to over 2,000 people every year.

We do everything possible to help people living with a progressive, or life-limiting condition to live their life well and on their own terms, especially when times are tough. We also support families, carers and children affected by the illness of a loved one.

We have five volunteers to every paid member of staff and incredible supporters who help us raise over £5 million each year. We simply couldn’t provide our life-enriching, free care, without their dedication and commitment.

Here is a current list of volunteer vacancies at St Francis Hospice: http://www.stfrancis.org.uk/support-us/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities

 

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TimeBank is a national volunteering charity, started in 2000.

They recruit and train volunteers to deliver mentoring projects to tackle complex social problems. They also work with businesses to engage their staff in volunteering.

TimeBank believe that great volunteering can transform the lives of both volunteers and beneficiaries by building stronger, happier and more inclusive communities.

 

 

I hope that this blog has been useful if you have been considering volunteering. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Until next time,

 

Warm wishes,

Mary 🙂

Grief and chronic pain

Welcome 🙂

Hello again to the followers of my blog and Facebook page BreathworksMK – Mindfulness Meditation and Counselling.

I hope that you are enjoying the glorious sunshine this weekend. I have had some much needed rest and relaxation with my family following a hectic work period.

A key practice of Mindfulness in Daily life as presented in the 8-week Breathworks Mindfulness for Health program is the idea of pacing of daily activities as a means of avoiding tipping into the boom-and-bust cycle. I will give details of this later in this blog post.

Here’s me enjoying the sun in my garden and definitely enjoying pacing myself! 🙂

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I would like to share with you today some of the ideas from my presentation that I gave this week on ‘Creative Ways of Managing Chronic Pain’.

I had been excited to share this presentation for quite some time, as most of you who follow my page probably know.

I find it healing and motivating for me to be able to share my own experiences and what has helped me in my own chronic pain journey, in order to help others.

One of the key ideas from the presentation was linking the process of learning to live with a chronic pain, or other long-term heath condition to the process of grieving following the death of a loved one, as originally described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in 1969.

Kubler-Ross

 

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I originally heard this idea in a talk given by Vidyamala Burch (who is shown above) in January 2018 on the Sounds True Mindfulness Summit. Where she linked her life journey and coming to terms with her chronic pain in the stages: Denial, Bargaining, Acceptance and Flourishing.

This immediately resonated with my own life experiences and journey towards accepting my own chronic pain condition and I would like to share some of this with you today:grief 3

Denial

Denial for me was a stage of being cut off from my body, by ignoring my body and it’s pain signals. In order that I could continue with my work and my desire to exercise and keep fit.

There was a lot of losses associated with this stage, including losing jobs, losing relationships and losing independence, both physically and financially, when I could no longer continue to deny the pain.

Bargaining

Bargaining was an interesting and somewhat frustrating stage. This was a phase of my life where I was chasing a fantasy outcome, a magical cure for the pain. On the face of it I was doing lot’s of healthy activities, but I was always feeling like a failure during this time, as these activities didn’t cure my pain. Typical thoughts were:

‘If I do enough Yoga it can cure my pain’

 

‘If I meditate enough it can cure my pain’

 

 

Acceptance

 

Acceptance for me is a stage that took a long time. There wasn’t one thing that helped in this process.

It was a gradual turning towards my body and the experiencing of pain. Realising that I could experience pain, but I need not suffer. As via the process of a regular meditation practice you gradually learn that pain is an unpleasant sensory experience, that waxes and wanes moment-to-moment. Also that the pain I once felt was overwhelming my whole body, may actually only be a pain in my lower back and that I could broaden my experience to include the pleasant aspects of my experience, whilst also softening into the pain using my breath. Pleasant experiences could include, the warmth of the sun on my skin, a pleasant breeze, some relaxing music etc…

I’m not saying that acceptance is an easy process, nor that I feel accepting every day. Every person with chronic pain, or other long-term health condition will know that pain varies from day-to-day and that there are likely to be both good and bad pain days. However meditation for me has given me back control of my chronic pain and on the whole the good days for me now outnumber the bad.

Key to managing pain is the idea of pacing, as presented in the Mindfulness in Daily Life part of the Breathworks meditation program. A summary of the Boom and Bust cycle is summarised in the following document.

boom and bust

Flourishing

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flourishing

Flourishing as described by Vidyamala, sounds like an amazing stage of life to get to. I must admit that this is a stage that I am still working on.

Flourishing is an opening up to life and using your experiences to add value to the world and those around you. This is my exact motivations for wanting to train as a counsellor and mindfulness teacher. Using my life experiences and what I have learnt to benefit the life of others. It is this process of making meaning that is flourishing 🙂

I would love to hear what you think of this process of learning to live with pain and other long-term health conditions and whether it is something that resonates with your own experiences?

I will leave you with this video of Vidyamala talking to Rick Hanson about her experiences of learning to live with chronic pain and flourishing whilst doing so:

https://www.thefoundationsofwellbeing.com/FWBchronicpain

 

Until next time.

Warm wishes,

Mary 🙂

Chronic Pain resources

 

Good evening to my lovely page followers!

I hope that you are as well as you can be and having a great weekend.

I have been taking the much needed opportunity to rest and reconnect with my family, here is me and my husband on a walk around a local lake.

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I just wanted to check in with you all and offer you some resources that I have found this week during my preparations for my chronic pain presentation.

Firstly is a fantastic 5 minute video available on You Tube explaining about chronic pain and what to do about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_3phB93rvI

I highly recommend a watch if you have a spare 5 minutes.

Chronic pain is daily pain of 3 months or more in duration and this video explains how the brain still continues to produce pain even after tissue healing has occurred. It looks at a holistic way of treating pain.

  • Medication.
  • Surgical treatments.
  • Looking at thoughts and emotions. Reducing stress and unwinding the nervous system.
  • Diet.
  • Lifestyle factors. 
  • Exercise.
  • Looking at your story, what was happening in your life at the time when the chronic pain first occurred. Making links between the past and the present. 

 

If you haven’t checked out the NHS Choices website recently, there is a whole section on pain and self-management of pain: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Pain/Pages/Painhome.aspx

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I love Ted talks, there are a vast amount of TED talks available on You Tube on mindfulness, on the experiences of chronic pain.

Here is a really interesting talk on

A Different Approach To Pain Management: Mindfulness Meditation

by Fadel Zeidan.

 

Another useful mindfulness resource that I have come across is the Headspace app, available at https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app. There is a 10-day beginners course available for free and if you enjoy the meditations you could then choose to subscribe. There are a number of simple animations on the app which describes mindfulness really clearly which I really liked.

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Here is an example of one of the animations, enjoy:

 

If you have any resources that you want to share please get in touch, would be great to hear from you.

 

Warm wishes,

 

Mary

Chronic pain presentation

I am very excited to have the opportunity to present on a topic of my choice.

Of course it’s got to be on my main area of interest, which is chronic pain and how to use counselling and mindfulness meditation to manage the distressing symptoms associated with chronic pain and any other long-term health condition (such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, ME etc…).

I am especially interested in highlighting the individual unique experience of pain and have been asking people with chronic pain for a short written piece on their condition and how this affects them on a day-to-day basis.

An excerpt of one written piece I’ve received is:

Male with type 2 Diabetes.

“I suffer from headaches. Especially on front of head and around eyes. Annoying tension headache, to a full blown migraine. 

Migraine. Debilitating pain, can barely function. Wipes you out and all I want to do is lie down in a darkened room with an ice pack on my head. Also feel sick.

Joint pains. Mainly in legs and back. Stiffness, shooting pains from lower back down my left leg, stopping at the back and side of the knee.

Wrist issues. Feel like I have no strength in both wrists. Very difficult to pick anything up heavier than a couple of kg. Things feel heavier than they are in reality. My brain knows I could pick it up, but in reality I can’t. 

Skin condition. Get splits in my skin mainly tips of fingers and thumbs and around the knuckles. Makes holding things very difficult and can interfere with my work. I fix computers and often have to use screwdrivers and small components. Skin is dry and feels like I have constant paper cuts. 

Feet pain. Numbness, starts at toes and works back towards the heel. More like pins and needles rather than no sensation at all.

The joints in the feet feel like they lock up when I am waking. Lots of pain when this happens. Mainly a stabbing pain, makes me limp and then I would need to stop.

To manage the pain I try to manage without painkillers because of the side effects of taking painkillers. If the pain is really bad I will take ibuprofen. 

Some days are more difficult to manage than others.

If I feel really bad with the pain. I can get depressed. I can also be short-tempered towards everyone. This is normally unlike me as I normally have a long fuse and am laid back.” 

 

What is your unique pain story?

 

These pictures illustrate the wide variety of pain symptoms that can present in someone with Fibromyalgia:

Fibromyalgia-Signs-Causes-and-Treatment

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As you can see a wide variety of symptoms, as unique as the person is themselves. Symptoms that are likely to vary from day-to-day. As any person with a chronic condition is likely to tell you their pain and other symptoms will fluctuate on a day-to-day basis and can be influenced by many factors. Stress, lack of sleep, food, other illnesses are some of the factors that can have an impact on symptoms and could lead to pain flare ups.

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One way I’ve found useful when exploring with a client chronic pain symptoms is to work creatively and have an outline of the body in the centre of the page and using post it notes asking the client to write down their thoughts associated with the pain, or actual descriptions of their pain experience.

As shown by the following pictures:

1.

Start off with a blank sheet of paper and you might like to draw, or stick on an outline of a body in the centre. 

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2.

Then you can draw the pain on the body and write down the experiences of pain on post-it-notes around the body.

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Being specific about the pain, it’s intensity, it’s quality, i.e. sharp, dull, shooting, stabbing etc…, it’s specific location, can be helpful in assisting the client to learn about their unique experience and any patterns of the pain throughout the day.

As I’ve heard Vidylamala Burch say during a You Tube talk recently, mindfulness is a turning towards the pain (pain that the client has maybe identified using the above exercise). 

Being with what is actually happening in the present moment with curiosity, kindness and compassion, much as you would comfort, or embrace a loved one who was hurting.

 

A really useful talk I’ve been watching today on You Tube is:

Mindfulness and Chronic Pain – Vidyamala Burch

 

Please enjoy 🙂

 

Warm wishes,

 

Mary

Working creatively with anxiety CPD

I had the fantastic opportunity to attend a CPD with Nettie at Challenging-Behaviour Counselling Services in Dunstable on Saturday 17th March.

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As a trainee counsellor one of my interests is working creatively with some of the issues that clients bring to sessions. The CPD’s offered at Challenging-Behaviour are a good mix of psycho-education and creative exercises. Creative exercises that you can complete for yourself as an individual and then you can take these ideas away with you and apply them to client work.

One of the key ideas that I took from the day was asking the client to draw on an outline of a body whereabouts on the body they would normally notice symptoms of anxiety:

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Now for some people this might be really challenging to identify what exactly is anxiety and what the signs of anxiety might be in their body. Some examples that I might put could include shaky legs, pounding heart, or a tight chest. You could draw pictures on your gingerbread man, use different colours and of course use different words.

Anxiety for other people might also include increased physical pain, muscle tension, light-headedness, headache. A feeling of nausea, or butterflies in the tummy etc….  This is where this exercise is useful, as the client can begin to recognise their unique experience of anxiety.

Strategies for coping with anxiety: 

Once symptoms of anxiety arise, what can help?

Grounding yourself in the present moment can be helpful here. So looking around you, what can you see? What can you hear? What can you feel? Whether that be feeling your feet in contact with the floor, the touch of clothes on your skin, or having something soft and tactile to hold, for example a cuddly toy, stress ball etc…

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Using the senses of your body as a means of checking out that you are safe in the here-and-now. As anxiety can often lead to a spiral of negative thoughts, castastrophising, or even a sense of impending doom. Using your body senses might be a useful means of reducing anxiety responses and reactions in the body before it gets to this stage.

Another useful immediate technique could be some simple breathing exercises. At it’s simplest it could be slowly breathing in for a count of 3 or 4 and then trying to double the out breath. I find that doing this technique for three to four breaths before returning to a normal breathing pattern, relaxes my body and I start to feel calmer.

Another breathing technique is 4, 7, 8 breathing as detailed on this webpage: https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/4-7-8-breathing-stress-relief-techniques.

A similar idea with using breathing to calm down the nervous system. This time you breath in for 4, hold your breath for 7 counts and then breathe out for 8.

Maybe try both techniques and see which one works best for you.

breathing

 

Don’t Feed the Worry Bug

One of the ideas we looked at was a storybook app called “Don’t Feed the Worry Bug”, shown here on a You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8aA-MQbT5A

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Although this app is for children, I think some adults (including myself) will be very taken with this app. It is about a character called Wince, who feeds his worry bug with his anxieties until it becomes huge. On the app you can record your worries on there and then feed it to the bug who then eats them for you!!

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I’d be really interested to hear from you, what you think about anxiety and maybe what strategies have worked for you when managing anxiety. Please get in touch.

 

Warm wishes,

Mary

Bereavement and loss – Part two

The Dual Process Model

Continuing on from my first blog about bereavement and loss, today I would like to focus on The Dual Process Model.

This model is one of my favourites to use when thinking about the process of grieving, coping with and adjusting to a loss. The dual process model was developed by two researchers called Stroebe and Schut, who researched into the experiences of bereaved people and is shown below:

The-dual-process-model-of-coping-with-bereavement

I particularly like this model of coping with a bereavement, as it focuses not only on the experiences of the loss, the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that we might experience when bereaved, but it also focuses on the aspects of what we can do in order to adjust to the loss of a loved one.

Loss orientation

The loss orientation side of the dual model focuses on what the bereaved person does when processing some aspect of the  loss.

Traditional theories of grief work will sit in this side of the model. It is interesting when looking up the meaning of grief work that I came across the following account of Erich Lindemann’s work at: https://whatsyourgrief.com/grief-work-grief-theory-erich-lindemann/

I am including more details of grief work here because chances are, even if you know nothing about grief theory, that somewhere along the way you may have heard someone talk about ‘grief work’, ‘the work of grief’ or something similar. This term was coined by Erich Lindemann, dating way back in the 1940s.  Lindemann was a psychiatrist who studied grief, doing research working with grieving survivors of the Coconut Grove tragedy.

Lindemann’s understanding of how people progress through grief and ultimately reduce the symptoms of grief, is by doing ‘grief work’.  Lindemann explains that grief work will take different times for different people, but ultimately will require the same three tasks, as shown by the following picture:

lindemann-grief-3 1. Emancipation from bondage to the deceased  

Basically this means that we have strong attachments to the person we lost and those connections are linked to our incredible pain and negative reactions.  Lindemann explains that we need to move on (“emancipate from bondage”) in order to proceed with ‘normal’ grief and go on to form new relationships.

Lindemann does clarify that this is different than forgetting about the person we lost. However, the wording does suggest that we need to be released, or freed from the bond with our loved one.  A later grief theory called continuing bonds talks about being able to cherish the bonds with our loved one that has died and being able to continue with them as part of our lives and maybe develop this bond further after the person has died.  This has certainly been my experience of bereavement, I was able to further develop the bond I had with a significant person in my life that died. This process was facilitated through counselling.

2. Readjusting to a new environment in which the deceased is missing.

This stage is a bit more straightforward, and is one that you see in other grief theories.  After you lose someone the world is completely different, yet utterly the same.  We have to find a way to make sense of a world that our loved one is no longer physically a part of.

3. Form new relationships.

building-relationships

For Lindemann, letting go of the attachments in the first task is an important part of opening up to new relationships.

I am sure many grievers would agree that, as continuing bonds theory suggests, we can create a new type of relationship with the person who died, while forming new and meaningful relationships with others.

It is interesting to consider the term ‘grief work’.  Despite the fact that many people have heard the phrase, society generally does not want to give us the time and space we need to engage in ‘grief work’. Grieving is ‘work’ and we need to give it time and attention in order to cope. Counselling can give you the space that you need to process the grief and do the work of grief.

 

Coming back to the loss orientated side of the model. Intrusion of grief may involve yearning for the deceased – thinking about them continuously, looking at old pictures, or videos. Thinking about what the deceased may have said, or done in a certain situation and experiencing the sadness and the pain of the death of a loved one. Many may describe the hole that the loved one has left in their lives, or a feeling of emptiness, or of feeling lost.

Restoration Orientation

The loss of a loved one also brings changes to the life of the bereaved individual. These changes may involve having to learn to do tasks which the deceased used to do, which could include learning to pay bills and having to manage the household chores (DIY, cooking, cleaning etc…).

The bereaved individual may have a change in roles and relationships.

The bereaved person may try new things, or do things in memory of the loved one that they lost. This could include fundraising for charity in memory of their loved one, trying out a new hobby, changing careers. The list is endless…

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Dual process

The model is a dual process, as the bereaved person must work through both the loss orientation side and the restoration orientation side of the model. They cannot attend to both sides of the model simultaneously, so it is normal for them to oscillate between the two dimensions.

Different cultures may vary on how much the individual directly focuses on the experience of being bereaved and how much they avoid the memories of the bereaved person and distract themselves.

In my experience people will show signs of both loss orientation and restoration orientation in their thoughts, feelings and behaviours and move between the two.

Moving from loss orientated behaviours to restoration orientation behaviours may allow the bereaved individual to take a ‘break’ from confronting their grief, thereby helping them to enhance mental and physical well-being. As the bereaved individual has ‘doses’ of confronting and avoiding the death that can be managed healthily.

The dual process model suggests that counselling, or other interventions needs to support booth loss orientation and restoration orientation work, rather than solely focusing on grief work.

According to what I learnt on the Awareness in Bereavement course for Cruse Bereavement Care, if there is no oscillation between loss orientation and restoration orientation, there is a risk of pathology. Chronic grief is an example here there is no oscillation and the entire focus of the bereaved person is loss orientated. Similarly, when a person denies the reality of a death, there is no oscillation, but the entire focus is on restoration.

A complex, chronic grief may result in the grieving process being prolonged and the bereaved person may have difficulties re-engaging with their life.

 

I would welcome your thoughts on the Dual Process Model and as ever if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Best wishes,

Mary

Bereavement and loss

Bereavement counselling is one of the areas of counselling that I currently have a lot of experience in. Having volunteered with my local branch of Cruse Bereavement Care and seen several clients for one-to-one counselling and spoken to several more over the local helpline for Cruse. I am always struck by the variation in each clients grief, what it feels like for them in their body and their emotions, what happened to the person who died and how the clients have coped with each death that they have experienced. I am always deeply moved and inspired by the courage that clients show in telling me their stories about the loved one, or loved ones that they have lost.

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Firstly I would like to say that grief is a normal and natural process, it is a means of adjusting to the loss of the person that has died. It is my personal opinion that we never truly get over the death of a loved one and nor would we want to, however our lives can grow around the loss of the person and the grief and we can develop and grow from the loss. There are a number of models of grief that I would like to introduce over my next few blogs. I would encourage you if you are interested in bereavement to research them further.

Models of bereavement and grief are a good way of informing your knowledge as a counsellor and as an individual. Although every client and every bereavement that you will come across is unique- there are some commonalities in experiences of grief and models of grief can therefore help to start a conversation with a client and help to create shared meaning of what grief looks like and what is ‘normal’ to experience in grief. Some clients may know about models of grief already and ask you directly about them.

The idea of growing around grief is illustrated by the work of Lois Tonkin, as shown below:

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Here Tonkin is saying that our grief stays the same over time, but our life grows around it, we start to re-engage with life and find happiness. Grief can still be triggered, e.g. by smelling a certain smell, hearing a certain song on the radio, or an anniversary, be that Christmas, a birthday, or the anniversary of the death.

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

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The five-stages model of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1969) is probably one of the best known models for describing the stages of grief. She wrote a number of pioneering books on death and dying, including this one:

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The five stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost. They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. In my experience clients will already know about these five stages and will often ask me what stage of grief they should be on.

Through my Awareness in Bereavement training at Cruse I was taught that these emotions were not meant to be stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of the stages identified by Kübler-Ross, or in a prescribed order. The stages of grief hopefully help to increase the knowledge of grief’s terrain, making us better equipped to cope with life and loss. At times, people in grief may report different emotions to the ones in this model and it is important to remember that grief is as unique as you are and that there is no wrong, or right way in which to grieve.

Here is more information on the five stages of grief taken from https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/ 

Denial

Denial is the first of the five stages of grief. It helps us to survive the loss. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming. Life makes no sense. We are in a state of shock and denial. We go numb. We wonder how we can go on, if we can go on, why we should go on. We try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. Denial helps us to pace our feelings of grief. There is a grace in denial. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. As you accept the reality of the loss and start to ask yourself questions, you are unknowingly beginning the healing process. You are becoming stronger, and the denial is beginning to fade. But as you proceed, all the feelings you were denying begin to surface.

Anger

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Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. Be willing to feel your anger, even though it may seem endless. The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits. It can extend not only to your friends, the doctors, your family, yourself and your loved one who died, but also to God. You may ask, “Where is God in this? Underneath anger is pain, your pain. It is natural to feel deserted and abandoned, but we live in a society that fears anger. Anger is strength and it can be an anchor, giving temporary structure to the nothingness of loss. At first grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything. Then you get angry at someone, maybe a person who didn’t attend the funeral, maybe a person who isn’t around, maybe a person who is different now that your loved one has died. Suddenly you have a structure – – your anger toward them. The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from you to them. It is something to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than nothing.We usually know more about suppressing anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of your love.

Bargaining

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Before a loss, it seems like you will do anything if only your loved one would be spared. “Please God” you bargain, “I will never be angry at my wife again if you’ll just let her live.” After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others. Then can I wake up and realise this has all been a bad dream?” We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. We want life returned to what is was; we want our loved one restored. We want to go back in time: find the tumour sooner, recognise the illness more quickly, stop the accident from happening…if only, if only, if only. Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if only’s” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. We may even bargain with the pain. We will do anything not to feel the pain of this loss. We remain in the past, trying to negotiate our way out of the hurt. People often think of the stages as lasting weeks or months. They forget that the stages are responses to feelings that can last for minutes or hours as we flip in and out of one and then another. We do not enter and leave each individual stage in a linear fashion. We may feel one, then another and back again to the first one.

Depression

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After bargaining, our attention moves squarely into the present. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever. It’s important to understand that this depression is not a sign of mental illness. It is the appropriate response to a great loss. We withdraw from life, left in a fog of intense sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is any point in going on alone? Why go on at all? Depression after a loss is too often seen as unnatural: a state to be fixed, something to snap out of. The first question to ask yourself is whether or not the situation you’re in is actually depressing. The loss of a loved one is a very depressing situation, and depression is a normal and appropriate response. To not experience depression after a loved one dies would be unusual. When a loss fully settles in your soul, the realisation that your loved one didn’t get better this time and is not coming back is understandably depressing. If grief is a process of healing, then depression is one of the many necessary steps along the way.

Acceptance

Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognising that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganise roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.

The above stages of grief can be applied to any loss, whether that is a death, a loss of relationship, a loss of health etc…and whatever the loss is, in my experience the emotions experienced can be equally as intense.

The following loss cycle is another helpful way to look at loss.

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Any questions please leave a comment, or get in touch and lets get a conversation going. Depending upon how you were brought up and your family’s views and practices on death and dying, this is not an easy topic to talk about, so let’s help each other.

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Take care and warm wishes,

Mary

Happy snow day

Hello to my blog followers where ever you are in the country right now!

Now I’m not normally one for a snow day as I like to get out and about and get all of my appointments done (I’ve had three cancelled today). However, this day has turned out to be an unexpected joy. My children are off of school too and we plan to spend some quality time together and my husband is not working either. Sometimes when life is so busy we do not get to spend that much time enjoying life together – as we are all apart doing different things.

So definitely planning to slow the pace down today and enjoy whatever arises.

Hopefully the snow is not as deep for you as in this picture! 

I don’t know how you feel about the snow – but as I sat and watched it yesterday outside the window – it was actually quite meditative as the snow flakes danced up and down in the wind.

Winter weather Jan 21st 2018

Snow

I’m wondering what activities you would do when faced with an unexpected day, or days at home, freed from the usual routines of work, school, or college?

If it’s safe to do so, a short walk in the crisp snow could be a nice mindful walking meditation. If you do a practice like this be sure to wrap up warm! The cold can play havoc on chronic pain and pain levels.

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I managed a short walk around my local lake yesterday and the views were stunning 🙂

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If you can’t get outside, this calendar for mindful March has some really useful ideas for meditation practices that you could incorporate into each day:

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Finally, my ultimate favourite, as many who know me will vouch for. Wrapping up warm in a duvet on the sofa and putting on your favourite TV show, or DVD. Pure bliss!

 

Enjoy your snow day!

Until next time,

Warm wishes,

Mary 

How to Meditate day at Milton Keynes Meditation Association

It was with a sense of excitement and trepidation that I set out to the How to Meditate day held by the Milton Keynes Meditation Association.

The day was held at Simpson Village Hall and put on by the lovely members of the Buddhist group of Milton Keynes. I had a really friendly and wonderful welcome and it almost felt like a coming home for me, as I used to attend the Tuesday night sessions held by the group. However, and often as life goes, my schedule and commitments became such that I could no longer go.

There was a mixture of experienced meditators and new meditators in the group. The two main meditations as taught by the group were explored and practised in detail. They were the Mindfulness of Breathing Meditation and the Metta Bhavana.

The mindfulness of breathing meditation is most similar to the breathing anchor meditation as taught on the eight week Breathworks course and I would describe the Metta Bhavana meditation as being most similar to the Open Heart meditation, or the Connection meditation.

If you would like to listen to these particular meditations, please visit: https://soundcloud.com/hachetteaudiouk/sets/mindfulness-meditation/s-chcYB

Mindfulness of Breathing

The mindfulness of breathing meditation was taught in four stages and it was explained that this meditation is taught as a means of increasing self-awareness, knowing exactly what is going on for us at this moment in time and in this process developing wisdom.

Here is a breakdown of the stages:

1st Stage: Breathing naturally, count after each out breath 1, then after the next out-breath 2, the next out-breath 3 and so on, up to 10.

Then when you reach 10, start the process of counting again from 1, up to 10.

When your attention wanders away from the breath, as mine did several times today, you gently guide your awareness back to the breath and start counting again from 1.

 

2nd Stage: Instead of counting on the out-breath, during this stage you count on each in-breath. As with stage one you count the in-breaths from 1, to 10.

When you attention wanders away from the breath, as mine did, you gently guide your awareness back to the breath and start counting again from one. The noticing that your mind has wandered from the intended focus of your meditation, in this case the counting of your breath, is in itself an act of mindfulness and it absolutely a sign that you are doing it right!2012-12-14-825880_thumbnail

 

3rd stage: In this stage you drop the counting and attend to the sensations of breathing.

For me this would most vivid in my tummy and at the nostrils. At this stage I also felt more physically relaxed in my body and mentally calmer.

 

4th stage: In this stage you shift your attention to the point where the air enters and leaves the body.

For me this was noticing the cool air entering my nostrils on the in-breath.

 

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Metta Bhavana

Metta is an attitude of well-wishing, loving kindness and friendliness.

Metta Bhavana was described as a balancing meditation to the mindfulness of breathing, in the mindfulness of breathing we are working on ourselves and in the Metta Bhavana we are working on developing an attitude of loving kindness, first towards ourselves and then spreading these feelings out towards other people in our world. Like the mindfulness of breathing, the Metta Bhavana meditation is practised in stages.

1st stage: Self.

Contact and develop an attitude of loving-kindness in relation to yourself.

2nd stage: Friend.

Extend this attitude of loving-kindness towards someone you like, or appreciate.

3rd stage: Neutral person.

Now extend your well-wishing and loving kindness towards a ‘neutral’ person, preferably someone who you have contact with, but for who you have no particular feelings of like, or dislike.

For me this is the Cashier who often serves me in Sainsburys.

4th stage: Person you are currently having difficulties with.

Include in your loving-kindness a person who you dislike, or currently have difficulty with. Preferably not someone who you loathe as this may overwhelm your metta.

5th stage: Everyone.

In this final stage of the meditation we were encouraged to imagine ourselves, our friend, the neutral person and the person we are having difficulty with, all together. Then spreading metta equally between all four people.

Then gradually extending the well-wishing to include all beings, those in the same street, those in the same town and all those in England and beyond.

 

 

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this day if you are looking for an introduction to mindfulness meditation and a friendly group in which to practice.

Until next time,

Metta,

Mary