Mindfulness Monday – Week Five

Since starting my mindfulness journey I have come across a lot of very useful information and resources. I fully believe in the Margaret Fuller quote “If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it”, which is why rather than share a mindfulness activity today, I am going to share a selection of mindfulness resources. I have used some of these and have found them incredibly helpful. Others I haven’t used personally, but they have come highly recommended to me. All the resources I’m sharing include mindfulness exercises which can be listened to online or downloaded.

 

Free Phone Apps

 

Headspace

Teaches you how to meditate, breathe and live mindfully. There are exercises on topics including managing anxiety, stress relief, breathing, happiness and focus. There’s a free Basics course that will teach you the essentials of meditation and mindfulness. There is also a Sleep experience, which provides sleep meditations, sleep sounds and specially designed sleepcasts to guide you to a place of rest.

 

Conscious

Provides a daily mindfulness “challenge” to be practiced throughout the day, for example “Be aware of the soles of your feet at various points throughout the day”. In the evening, you mark the challenge as finished and add a daily journal entry to keep track of your progress and share your insights with others.

 

 

Websites

 

http://www.freemindfulness.org

Guided exercises to download of various lengths from 3-45 minutes. A useful page if you want to try several different types and lengths of exercise.

 

http://livemindfully.blogspot.com

This page includes a collection of different exercises from many sources.

 

https://www.uclahealth.org/marc/body.cfm

Offers a range of exercises and a link to free downloadable podcasts of mindfulness exercises.

 

http://stillmind.com.au/mindfulnessandrelaxation.htm

A selection of mindfulness and relaxation exercises.

The site also provides a downloadable free 45-page book introducing the practice and benefits of mindfulness.

 

http://www.mindfulness-solution.com

Complete page of downloadable audio – with some interesting noises e.g. the reader eating a raisin!

 

I hope you find some of these apps and links as useful as I have. I will be continuing to share mindfulness content every Monday, so if you are interested in reading more, please click the ‘Follow’ button. If you like this post click the ‘Like’ button and leave a comment. I am also on Facebook and Instagram @frommissjtomrsp and Twitter @frommissjtomrs1.

 

Thank you for reading.

Mrs P x x x

 

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This Morning (An Honest Mental Health Post)

I was intending to write this post as a Wellness Wednesday about my self-care routine, but as you can see it is now Thursday and I am only just posting. If I’m being completely honest my self-care this week has not been the best, to be frank I’ve felt pretty crap. At the weekend DB2 was ill and by the start of the week so was I. This has slowly down spiralled to the point where I actually did not think I would be able to get out of bed this morning. Since having an anxiety and depression relapse last year, being unwell physically also now really affects me mentally. Sometimes I can fight through this, but this week I have really struggled. This morning I found it hard to wake up anyway, but then once awake the thought of getting out of bed felt overwhelming. I felt that I had no energy or drive to get on with the day. Everything felt too much and it’s funny because I don’t actually know why, but it did. You can try to rationalise anxiety and depression, but it is not rational and it can strike at the most unexpected times. Now, having been ill means I have a bit more understanding why I felt this way, but I think that can make me beat myself up even more. I become angry because I’m fed up of being restricted physically. I hate that dark, negative thoughts manage to creep in and that I become fearful of imaginary situations that I am catastrophising, to the point of feeling hopeless. Being aware of my mental health much more now means I have developed tools to intervene when I start to feel this way. Sometimes they are more successful than others, but today I was able to utilise them, get out of bed and turn that negativity into something positive by writing what I consider to be an incredibly honest post.

So, what did I do? I started by acknowledging my toxic thoughts. I recognised what I was doing. I was being bias against myself, making everything seem negative, thinking nothing good could happen in the future, caring what others thought of me, taking all the responsibility for situations and having extreme thoughts. I was probably utilising every unhelpful thinking style possible all at once. Once I could see that I was doing this, I started using the techniques to challenge all these thoughts. When I started CBT, I would have to write out this thought journal by splitting the page into two and providing evidence for my thoughts on one side and evidence against on the other. Usually, I would end up ruling out all of the evidence for, with the evidence against and be able to create healthier, more accurate, alternate thoughts. Due to using the processes so much, I no longer need to write down this method and can do it mentally, but it has taken time. I can’t say it happened overly quickly this morning and I was triggered into pushing through negativity by DB2 running into my room and pulling the cold, untouched cup of coffee next to my bed all over the floor (sometimes little ones do the wrong thing, but at the right time).

After being forced out of bed and continuing to challenge thoughts and feelings, I took a few moments to breathe. Practising mindfulness and meditation has taught me the importance of breathing, especially when feeling sucked into a darker space. This morning it did help and encouraged me to move forward with more positive intentions. I then chose to focus on something I enjoy doing, which was choosing a recipe to bake and the dinner I would make this evening. By doing this I gave my day more of a focus and some energy started to return.

Next, I continued to be positive by spreading some positivity. When I feel in a darker place, social media is usually the worst thing for me. I look at how wonderful other people’s lives are, at how happy they appear and compare myself to them, so I’ve learnt to avoid it in those situations. This morning, after starting to feel better, I went on Instagram and rather than comparison and self-deprecation, I felt joy for those posts I saw. I saw new mums sharing their postpartum yoga routines as a source of empowerment and help. People enjoying the school break as wonderful memory making. Weight loss stories and images as motivation. So, I double tapped and filled in that little heart knowing that my enjoyment would resonate with the post sharers.

Sometimes our outlook affects how external sources influence us and this morning I made a conscious decision, after fighting through feeling extremely negative, to only be affected positively. This isn’t always possible, but I was able to make it happen this morning and feel inspired and brave enough to write this post. Will I feel this way tomorrow? Who knows. I have to take each day at a time and I now know that worrying about tomorrow prevents me from being present today. How I got out of bed and out of my dark space is unique to me and there have been days when I haven’t been able to move forward, but thankfully they are fewer and far between at the moment. I apologise for the length of this post, as once I got going I couldn’t stop, but as part of my decision to choose positivity today I wanted to write a truthful post, coming from a real place in the hope that it could be utilised in a positive way. I know I am not alone in how I have felt and still feel at times and knowing that has helped me greatly. If someone else can read this and know that too, then this post will have done its job.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Mrs P x x x

Mindfulness Monday – Week Four

My CBT therapist introduced me to mindfulness with an audio CD. I had done some reading around the area previously, but I found being guided through activities vocally much more focusing at times than reading about them. The activity I share today, is a very short version of the first exercise I practised when listening to this CD.

With this meditation, particular emphasis is placed on the sensations of breathing as you guide your awareness around your whole body.

The website http://www.verywellmind.com says,

‘The body scan meditation is effective in relieving stress not only because of the mind-clearing aspects present in all forms of meditation but because of the physical component as well. Research shows that there are physical and psychological benefits to relaxing the body and relieving tension.’

I do find this activity incredibly relaxing both mentally and physically, but it also helps me to become more in tune with my body. I have not always had the healthiest relationship when it comes to how I regard my body. I often view it as imperfect and not as I would wish, but this activity has helped me to appreciate and accept it for the wonderful thing that it is, by enabling me to take time to explore and connect with it.

 

The Body Scan

  • Sit in a chair in a comfortable position, allowing your head to float lightly upwards and your eyes to close gently.
  • Take a few moments to get in touch with the movement of your breath and the sensations in the body.
  • Now bring your awareness to the physical sensations in your body. Especially to the sensations of touch and pressure where your body makes contact with the floor or the chair.
  • On each out breath allow yourself to look down and sink a little deeper into the chair.
  • Move your attention to the whole of your left leg, experience a letting go with the out breath. Repeat this by becoming aware of the whole of your right leg. Then move your attention and breathing in to the whole of your pelvis – top and bottom, back and front, hip to hip. Move to the abdomen, the small of your back and your upper back and chest. Become aware of breathing into the whole of your left arm allow the tension to release as you breathe out. Continue this with the whole of your right arm, then your neck and shoulders. Next, become aware of the whole of your head, breathe into it and allow a release.
  • Now become aware of your head, neck and shoulders, right arm, left arm, upper chest and back, solar plexus, small of the back, pelvis, right leg and left leg. Spend a few minutes being aware of a sense of the body as a whole, and of breath flowing freely in and out of your body.
  • In your own time, return to the sounds and experiences of the room you are in.

 

Like me, you might find it suits you better to perform this activity when listening to someone guide you through it. If this is the case, the website www.freemindfulness.org/download is very useful. There are guided exercises to download, which vary in length from 3-45 minutes.

 

I post mindfulness related content every Monday, so if you are interested in reading more, please click the ‘Follow’ button. If you like this post click the ‘Like’ button and leave a comment. I am also on Facebook and Instagram @frommissjtomrsp and Twitter @frommissjtomrs1.

 

Thank you for reading.

Mrs P x x x

Mindfulness Monday – Week Three

The past week has been incredibly busy with going away to the beautiful venue pictured above for Mr P’s birthday and then coming home to the realities of ill children. This means mindfulness has taken a bit of a back seat as has writing blog posts. So, it is quite nice now to sit down and zone back into some real mindfulness practice and be able to write about some of it.

This week’s activity is actually the first one I tried when starting to explore mindfulness. I found once I started, I could not stop and it really did allow me to begin to develop a new way of thinking and being.

Dr Patrizia Collard says, ‘In this exercise, the invitation is to pick as a focus of awareness a new aspect of life.’ When I first did this activity, the season had changed from winter to spring, so as I was walking down the street, I stopped and focused on the leaf of a newly blossoming flower. I thought about where that leaf had come from, how it grew to become what it was as I was looking at it. I then went further and inspected every vein and pattern within the leaf, thinking about the complexities that made up something we see every day and the beauty of it. There are so many different options of focus with this exercise. I have thought about flowers, trees, furniture, decorations, clouds, etc. If it interests you or you enjoy looking at it, choose it as your focus.

This activity really gave me a new appreciation for my surroundings and was an important step towards developing a much healthier mind-set. It does not surprise me that Dr Collard discusses how studies have shown that ‘mindfulness practices such as this may not only be responsible for structural changes in the brain, but also extend our life,’ for I can vouch for its positive effect on me.

If you are interested in reading more like this, please click the ‘Follow’ button. If you like this post click the ‘Like’ button and leave a comment. I am also on Facebook and Instagram @frommissjtomrsp and Twitter @frommissjtomrs1.

Thank you for reading.

Mrs P x x x

Mindfulness Monday – Week Two

This week has been a bit of a trickier week for me, as my shoulder, neck and back injury started to play up again. This has caused several problems: I have not been able to be as active, I have been unable to look after my children as I would wish and this has triggered feelings of guilt, which have led to anxiety. Mindfulness activities have been important to keep harmful thoughts of blame and self-deprecation at bay. I have found this week’s activity very useful as a way to help manage this. It has helped me stay present and calm and avoid slipping into over thinking mode.

Listen Mindfully

The website www.mindfulnessexercises.com says,

“One of the simplest, most direct ways to connect with the present moment and further cultivate our awareness is to become aware of the many sounds that are constantly arising around us. Intentionally paying attention to the sounds filling our ears can not only help us to come back to the present but can also stabilize the mind and further refine our sense of hearing and deep listening.”

 

There are a number of ways to complete this task. I have been taking 5-10 minutes at a time to practice this activity in the following way:

 

  • Sit down, making sure you are comfortable. Gently close your eyes.
  • Allow sounds to enter your awareness and let them pass over you. Listen to sounds from near and far, coming and going. Try not to label the sounds – a car, a bird and so on – as we do not want to get involved with thoughts or stories associated with them. We want to be present to the sound.
  • Your hearing may become more focused allowing other brain activities to move to the background of your awareness. If thoughts arise, which is natural, gently and without judgement return your awareness to simply listening.

 

It did take me a while to tune out my thoughts at times, but eventually I found I focussed my awareness on the sounds around me much more successfully. Every time I undertake this activity there is a slightly different outcome and there are times I find it easier than others. I have found that my breathing changes when I perform this by becoming deeper, but this may not be the effect it has on you. We are all unique so everyone will experience this activity in different ways and as so many professionals say, there is no right or wrong way of practising mindfulness.

 

If you are interested in reading more like this, please click the ‘Follow’ button. If you like this post click the ‘Like’ button and leave a comment. I am also on Facebook and Instagram @frommissjtomrsp and Twitter @frommissjtomrs1.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Mrs P x x x

Mindfulness Monday – Week One

Mindfulness has been very important to me during this past year. It has helped me feel less overwhelmed, positively changed the way I think and feel about experiences, increased my ability to manage difficult situations, reduced levels of anxiety, depression and stress, helped me to control over thinking and given me greater self-compassion. Now, that sounds like quite a list of benefits, which is why I would think mindfulness is so highly spoken of and promoted in mental health circles. It was my CBT therapist that advised I try some mindfulness techniques, and from there I was able to incorporate them into my day-to-day life and routine.

Many mindfulness activities can be utilised at various points during your day or in different situations, but as with any skill it takes time and practice. This is why I try to start each day with a quick mindfulness task. I find it helps me focus and start my day in a positive head space.

Because I have found this so beneficial and I’m wanting my blog to be a space of positivity, I thought I would share a 5-10 minute mindfulness activity on my blog once a week every Monday. Being a lover of alliteration, I have decided to call these posts ‘Mindfulness Monday’ (sorry for the lack of originality). I am by no means an expert and have only been practising for a short time, but I wish to start the week with positive, mindful vibes. If you wish to do the same, I hope you enjoy reading this and get as much out of these activities as I do.

 

Awakening Breath

This is a 5-minute activity, taken from The Little Book of Mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard, to help us ‘be in the now’.

Dr Patrizia Collard says ‘Living moment by moment, and seeing everything afresh without judgement and worry lets us experience life rather than simply get through it.’ She continues that ‘This exercise helps us to breathe more fully, and strengthens and awakens us to face the day with confidence and calm.’

The activity can be done standing or sitting if need be.

  • Stand in Mountain Pose (see below for more details), with the spine lengthened upwards and the legs and feet hip-width apart. Position the arms by your sides, palms to the front, so the thumbs face outwards.

 

  • Inhale and sweep/lift your arms slowly up and overhead until the hands meet above the head, palms touching. Exhale slowly as you lower the arms back down to your sides, moving slowly with your breathing. See if you can deepen and lengthen your breathing, and try to feel the pause after each breath.

 

  • Repeat 5-8 times.

Although simple, this is one of my favourite activities. I find focussing on breathing linked with the movement of the arms incredibly calming and I always feel mentally lighter after performing it. This is an activity I always try to start my morning with.

Note: 

Mountain Pose – This is a yoga pose that helps you feel connected to the earth, letting your body and mind exist in the here and now. It strengthens legs and improves posture. For more information on how to perform this pose go to: https://www.yogaoutlet.com/guides/how-to-do-mountain-pose-in-yoga.

 

If you are interested in reading more like this, please click the ‘Follow’ button. If you like this post click the ‘Like’ button and leave a comment. I am also on Facebook and Instagram @frommissjtomrsp and Twitter @frommissjtomrs1.

 

Thank you for reading.

Mrs P x x x

 

If you wish to read about mindfulness in more detail, the document below has a lot of very useful information:

https://www.mind.org.uk/media/23908255/mindfulness-2018.pdf
Continue reading “Mindfulness Monday – Week One”

Ten Things I’m Grateful For – Mental Well Being Challenge

I’ve decided to take part in the PANDAS Foundation Mental Well Being #20daychallenge. I thought Day 2’s challenge of journaling ‘10 things you’re grateful for’, would be perfect to use as this week’s blog post. So, here are my 10 things I feel grateful for:

 

  1. My children – DB1 and DB2

My children are my everything. Since I found out I was pregnant with DB1, all I have wanted is to do my best for them. I am so grateful for both of them. They have given me so much purpose and joy. When I have struggled most with depression and anxiety, they were the stimulus that made me feel I needed to keep fighting to get through. They make me feel truly blessed and I couldn’t ask for more.

 

  1. My husband – Mr P

This man puts up with a lot. I admit I am not easy, but he manages and deals with me without a complaint. I honestly could not have done and got through everything I have without him. When I have been studying, working and healing, he has been there as a constant support and carer. He tries to understand and help when I have struggles with my mental health and is an incredible father. I do not think anyone could do better.

 

  1. My Parents – Grandma J and Grandad G

Again, they have put up with a lot, but have been nothing but supportive in every way. I don’t know where and what I would be without them. They are still the people I go to no matter what and I know they will always try to help and give me the best advice. They do so much for us and without them we would not be the family we are now or have been able to do all that we have.

 

  1. Family and Friends

We have amazing family and friends around us, who are always willing and wanting to help. During the past few years there have been those that have been a real and understanding support. Whether it’s helping with childcare, calling round for a brew and a chat, being on the end of the phone or checking in via emails or letters, I am so lucky to have these people in my life. They are my cheerleaders and are always there to encourage me.

 

  1. My Health

This year particularly, has tested my physical and mental health. After being in two accidents within the space of two months, which left me with back, shoulder and neck injuries, as well as leading to major problems with anxiety and depression, I can say I have a real appreciation for my health. It has taken a while to recover and I may never completely heal both physically and mentally, but I am in a much better place and I am very thankful.

 

  1. Time

I have been lucky enough to be in a position where I don’t need to work at this moment in time. That may not be the case forever, but I am making the most of it right now. This means I am able to stay at home with my children and really immerse myself in their growth and development. This is something I feel I really missed out on with my first son, because I was so busy studying for a degree and eventually working. I feel so fortunate I get this time now with my second son and I get to be there for my eldest as he goes through his final year in primary school and moves on to secondary school. I have realised that work and money are great, but they are no replacement for this time as it does just go so quickly, and you cannot get it back.

 

  1. My Faith

This is something incredibly important to me and something that has helped me and continues to help me daily. I think faith is very personal to every individual, but I honestly think whatever your faith (not necessarily just religious faith either), belief in something is vital.

 

  1. My Journey

Although it has not always been easy, I am so glad I have gone through everything I have. Without the bad and the good, I would not be the person I am now or in the place I am. I feel I am the most content, comfortable and assured I have ever been, and I know that would not be the case if everything that has happened had not.

 

  1. The people who inspire me

There are people that have been brave and strong enough to share their thoughts, choices and beliefs openly in order to influence and inform others. They are not always treated or acknowledged fairly, as unfortunately we live in a world where many do not like to admit their wrongs or feel the need to change their actions. I have been incredibly influenced in my life choices by certain people and I am very grateful that they have shared all they have and continue to share, in order to educate and change the planet for the better.

 

  1. This World

I am so glad I have reached a point in my life where I wake up every day grateful for the world around me. Thanks to my new outlook, I see the beauty of this world and the people within it daily and this not only makes me feel better, it makes me want to be better. I believe we are the caretakers of this planet. The Earth is not here for us, but rather we are here for it. Therefore, it is our duty to do the best we can in order to help it survive and the life within it. I find the concept of life a miracle as it is and so I am grateful to just be here and I believe I have a role to do as much for this world as possible. Even if that, for now, is just in simple actions such as changing my diet, buying more economically and ecologically friendly products and giving of myself to causes I feel I can be of use. I want to display my gratitude to this world as much as I can, so I know my actions will start to mirror these feelings even more.

 

I know this post may have become very deep and there may be those rolling their eyes at the over sentimentalism within it, but I have had some tough years, and this is the first time I have ever written about what I’m grateful for. It has been an incredibly beneficial exercise, as it has really made me stop and think of all the wonderful things I have around me. In day to day life we rarely give ourselves time to do this, I know I never actually have before, but as self-care is so important, I advise you to follow PANDAS lead and try to take some time to write about what you’re grateful for because it has really helped me today.

 

 

If you are interested in reading more of my blog posts, please click the ‘Follow’ button on my blog page. If you like this post click the ‘Like’ button and leave a comment. I am also on Facebook and Instagram @frommissjtomrsp and Twitter @frommissjtomrs1.

 

Thank you for your support.

 

Mrs P x x x