Mindful Monkey.

Look after your sleep and your sleep will look after you

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It is time of us to reclaim our right to a full night of sleep. In doing so, we can be reunited with that most powerful elixir of wellness and vitality. Then we may remember what it feels like to be truly awake during the day.

Matthew Walker – Why We Sleep

Research shows that sleep plays a vital role in pretty much every system in the body. This includes cognitive functioning and our emotional state. So, when life seems to be throwing everything at you, one thing you can do to increase resilience and maximise your performance is to get enough sleep (and yes that is 8 hours).

It’s so easy to sacrifice sleep when you’ve got a lot to do, or when a good party or staying up late chatting with friends beckons. However, the impacts of sleep deprivation soon build up, so it is highly recommended to catch up with sleep and get back into a routine as soon as you can. For now, I will let the evidence (Walker, 2017) speak for itself and focus on what you might do to improve sleep.

When we’re struggling with stress, worry or low mood, often this shows up as disrupted sleep: struggling to get to sleep, or waking up during the night, or waking up too early (or all of these!). Then the lack of sleep exacerbates the problems we were struggling with. So for example, you’re worrying about an assignment and you can’t sleep, then the lack of sleep hinders concentration, focus, memory, cognitive functioning, emotional balance etc. Which then makes it even harder to get the work done. So you get even more stressed out. Sound familiar?

So clearly, it’s important to do our best to break out of this vicious cycle. The rest of this article focuses on tips to improve sleep so keep reading. And here is a guided meditation to help you settle for sleep, give it a try and let us know what you think.

A Bodyscan Meditation to Help Prepare for Sleep

Things to avoid or reduce:

  • Cut out caffeine from 6:00 pm onwards
  • Avoid computer games that get lots of adrenaline going, close to bedtime
  • Bed is for sleeping (or sex) don’t work in bed or watch telly and
  • It is best to avoid all screen based devices, so put away your laptop, tablet or phone
  • Turn off the phone, or put it on airplane mode and a few feet away from the bed
  • Alcohol seems to help at the time because of it’s temporary sedative effects, but later on it causes all sorts of rebound problems, and disrupts the sleep rhythms.
  • It is likely that alcohol interferes with a range of essential psychophysiological processes that happen in our sleep, so make sure you have enough nights of sleep without alcohol to catch up with essential REM sleep etc.
  • Nicotine is a stimulant, smoking close to bedtime will make it harder to settle
  • Avoid a heavy meal close to bedtime

Things that help with sleep

  • During the day, getting some exercise and exposure to some daylight is a good idea
  • Get bedding, duvet and pillow to suit you, if possible arrange the room so it feels ‘right’ to you
  • A nice warm herb tea is comforting (there are lots to choose from, try Camomile)
  • Have a good sleep routine, waking up and going to bed at the same time every day
  • A good bedtime routine helps, do things that are calming: reading, bath/shower, brush teeth, getting makeup off, changing into comfortable sleep clothes, listening to music, meditating, very gentle stretching
  • Reading in bed or listening to music or guided meditations is good
  • Have enough water during the evening, have some water beside the bed and have a sip before settling, have a sip if you wake up in the night (tea, coffee and alcohol will make you want to pee in the night, but water doesn’t irritate the bladder so works just fine)
  • The room should not be too hot, in particular cool your feet, try sticking them out of the covers, try and get some good ventilation
  • Get the room as dark as you can
  • If the environment is noisy you could try earplugs, or headphones to play ambeint sounds or ‘white noise’
  • There are lots of aromatherapy herbs worth exploring, Lavender is worth a try, just put a few drops on a tissue somewhere in the room

Strategies for when the mind is overactive, when we’re trying to switch off for sleep

  • Reduce the adrenalin in the system, here are a few more ideas to turn down the ‘activation dial’: This calming breath exercise, guided safe place visualisation, think of 5 things you are grateful for, remembering a time when you felt safe and relaxed
  • If there is a persistent thought of something you have to do, it is probably trying to remind you of something important. Acknowledge it and write it down on your list of important things to consider the next day. Out of your mind and on to your list.
  • Step back from ruminative thinking, learning to let go. This might not be easy but is one of the most important mental skills we can learn. Mindfulness teaches us to get better at this; here’s an introduction

The guided meditation above has been specifically designed to help you settle for sleep, listen to it in bed so that you can fall to sleep without having to get up. You can also play it if you wake up in the night. We can’t force ourselves to go to sleep, so be gentle with yourself. And if you don’t always fall asleep then you’ve got a win-win, because you’ve done you daily meditation instead.


Rest and Recharge as you Sleep Peacefully

Sources:

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-to-get-to-sleep/

Walker, M., 2017. Why We Sleep. Allen Lane.


A conversation worth having – you’re not alone

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I really like this band and while listening to their stuff I came across this interview. As well has being in a band that write great songs, and having an amazing voice, the lead singer Conor is really articulate about mental health. I’ll let him speak for himself…

We need to move on from stigma associated with mental health struggles

We need to talk and connect with others to get through hard times. This space is all about the various ways we can improve our wellbeing. Mindfulness is a great way to increase resilience. Feel free to check out our downloads.


World Mental Health Day – 10th October

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The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day on 10 October every year. This year’s theme set by the World Federation for Mental Health is ‘mental health for all’ (Mental Health Foundation)

“Mental health problems can affect anyone, any day of the year, but 10 October is a great day to show your support for better mental health and start looking after your own wellbeing” (Mind)

In the articles below here you will find advice around lots of different ways to look after your wellbeing. Maybe mark World Mental Health day by a small act of kindness to another person? Perhaps start by being kind to yourself by trying out this compassion meditation.


Surviving and Thriving in your First Year at University

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Between us, our team has about a hundred years of experience of supporting students (slight exaggeration maybe 😊!).

Here we’ve collected together the main things we’ve found that might be helpful to you as you begin your journey here at University.

We’re also drawing on things that final year students have told us they wished they’d known when they started.  Things they wished they could’ve gone back and told their younger self. So now you get the benefit of that too.

It’s natural and OK to be nervous: don’t get caught up in thinking everyone else is confident, that they know what they are doing. Most of us came to university terrified! Just let it be. Be curious, explore, get to know the person next to you, and your tutor, the person in the café/shop/local pub. Explore the nearest fell, learn to meditate, and before you know it, you’ll start to relax and get into the flow of university life.

There’s so much to do! Starting University often brings with it a lot of things that need to be done.  Registration, student finance, preparing for lectures etc. Making a list of everything that needs to be done can help you to prepare and makes sure you don’t forget anything important.

While it’s a busy, exciting time, it can be easy to get swept up with all the things that need to be done. Remember to take some time for self-care that allows you to rest and recharge both physically and mentally. Don’t feel that you need to spend all your time being busy, you need some time to yourself.

You won’t be the first person coming to university to feel homesick: It might be frightening or upsetting if you’ve moved away from home for the first time, and your parents/family/loved ones have left after dropping you off. Feeling this way is perfectly normal and will soon pass.

Getting involved in an activity or socialising will help to give you something else to focus on. Living independently might feel overwhelming for the first days or weeks; adding a routine and some structure to your day will help you to settle in.

If the weather’s nice (or if you’ve got some bracing Cumbria weather then put on some warm clothes), and you’ve got some free time, a walk around campus is good exercise, which usually improves mood. It also allows you a chance to familiarise yourself with the campus, which helps to avoid trying to find your lecture or meeting on the day.

Balance: Although your university work is of course important, try not to lose perspective when it comes to your studies; remember you are more than a grade and it does not define you.

If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by deadlines and exams, get organised! Create a revision/essay timetable, breaking down your work into smaller, digestible chunks. That way you know what you need to complete and when.

Don’t overdo it. Try not to study any longer than you would if you were doing an average working day (around 7 hours). Allow for plenty of breaks and be boundaried. For example, if you have a lot of work, then study 9am to 6pm (with several breaks), and then mark the end of study time by doing a self-care activity, whether that be coffee with a friend, a walk or gym session or your favourite hobby.

Routines and Self-Care: When we feel worried or stressed, we might struggle to relax or sleep, which can then lead to getting more tired. We can start to lose touch with things we used to enjoy or give us pleasure, things that sustain us, eating and sleeping properly, getting some exercise. And all this makes it harder to concentrate, which then creates more stress. So, what can we do to help ourselves out of this cycle? 

  • Get into a routine with sleep, preparing meals, and exercise
  • Make time to do things you enjoy, chatting with people, a hobby…
  • Stay ‘connected’ with others, especially spending time around positive and supportive people
  • Doing something that gives you a sense of achievement for example, learning something new or completing a piece of work
  • Time to pause, relax and reflect. Check in with yourself at the end of the day, reflect on what you have achieved and what gave you a sense of pleasure and closeness
  • These things help to nourish both our mind and body
Light at the end of the tunnel

Try something new: Coming to University can be a time to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Although we are constrained by Covid, where possible, maybe it’s time to try something new. Take a fresh look at the societies and clubs available. It’s a good way to meet new people and have some fun.

Some useful maxims to live by: (We like the cheeky positivity of NLP and would like to share some of this wisdom with you)

‘There is no such thing as failure only feedback’. Such a great way to approach life! It supports me every time I get things ‘wrong’. For example, applying this to a situation where maybe I got a disappointing grade. Rather than thinking this is evidence that I am not good enough, to remind myself that it is now a great opportunity to learn how not to repeat the same mistakes and approach my work differently next time. It’s an opportunity to identify needs, tap into the available resources at the university and get skilled up.

‘If it’s possible in the world its possible for me, it’s just a matter of how’. There are many examples in the world of people achieving amazing things and reaching their personal goals.  Sometimes we forget what drives us to where we want to be. If we refocus our attention of why our chosen topic is important to us, we can then access what is valuable and meaningful to us. Once we reconnect to our life purpose we can continue driving forward and stay positive.

A useful tip for people who are worried about worrying. Sometimes overthinking can be a problem because having too many choices prevents us from making a choice and we remain inert. It can be useful to reframe this ‘The person with the greatest flexibility of thought and behaviour will have the greatest influence in any interaction (Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety). The things we think of are often limited by our own life experiences, thoughts and feelings. By listening, learning, and maintaining our curiosity, we can start to think beyond what we know. This leads to richer understandings, and a greater number of thoughts, feelings, behaviours and choices available to us.

People make the best choice available to them, given their model of the world and resources available to them at the time. This helps us to stop beating ourselves up over the mistakes that we make. Remembering this can also help us to develop patience when dealing with others, as we learn to accept that other people’s ideas and feelings are as important to them as ours are to us.

If you’re struggling just ask for help, your university will have support services in place.

Student Minds have also produced some good information about coping with the transition to student life in the time of Covid.

Many thanks to the Mental Health and Wellbeing team for their contributions to this blog.


A simple summer treat

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Chop:
Red onion
Vine tomatoes
Cucumber
Greek Kalamata Olives
Feta cheese

Sprinkle:
Salt
Oregano

Then add
Extra virgin olive oil
Red wine vinegar

Works fine just on its own, or you could have it with bread (or rye bread). The cost will depend on where you get the ingredients from. Remember to slow down when you make this; and then try to slow down to engage with the colours, smell, texture and taste.


Mindfulness & Somatic Based Approaches: An Experiential Workshop

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I will be facilitating a workshop at Leicester University on the 11th and 12th of April 2018.

This workshop is part of the course for the 2015 (Foundation Degree in Drug and Alcohol Counselling and Treatment) Distance Learning students. As there are a few spare spaces we are making it available to other students and graduates of the course (free of charge).

This will be a strongly experiential workshop. The first day will mainly focus on mindfulness practice interspersed with some discussion. The second day will build on this to develop skills in using mindfulness and embodied approaches in counselling (particpants need to attend both days).

Numbers are limited so you will need to book a place. If you would like to attend then please email Shehzad on sam99@le.ac.uk.


Mindfulness: 10 Week Course – Starting in Coalville

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There is growing evidence to suggest that mindfulness can bring about a wide range of improvements in physical, psychological and emotional well-being. Typically these benefits build up over a number of weeks of sustained practice.

The West Leicestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group have enabled us to deliver mindfulness courses around Leicestershire during 2016 and 2017. Our next journey into mindfulness will be starting on in September and will take place in Coalville at Marlene Reid Centre. Is this the right time for you to join us?

There will be a taster session on Sunday 14.1.18. This is an opportunity for you to come and find out more about the course before signing up.

The course will then run every Sunday 1:00 to 4:00 pm over a period of 10 weeks. The course is free, if you would like to come along or refer someone else then contact:

Jit Singh
Project Manager
Mindful Mentoring
Phone: 07939 199 549
Email: info@go-getta.org.uk

Venue: Marlene Reid Centre, 85 Belvoir Road, Coalville, LE67 3PH

Dates: Tater Session: 14.1.18 – 1:00 to 3:00 pm

Course Start Date: 21.1.18

A bit more about the course

If you want to learn how to cultivate mindfulness and are willing to do some daily practice between course meetings, then this course is for you. With a small group of people we will be guiding you through a set of mindfulness practices; starting with the breath through to mindfulness of body, thoughts emotions and self-acceptance. You will be given recordings and instructions on how to practice in between the meetings. What you learn on the course can become a resource that you can carry into the rest of your life.

The course is run in partnership with Go-Getta CIC, a social enterprise established in 2012 that works with communities to improve outcomes for young people and vulnerable adults.

This 10 week mindfulness course is combined with additional support to form Mindful Mentoring which aims to help people improve their emotional wellbeing, mental health and social functioning.

We look forward to seeing you there.


A child’s view…

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While out with my 9 year old boy, out of the blue he says: if I was president I would give all homeless children in the world somewhere to live, money, and good things they need…

I felt tears well up: how come a child can know this is right, while the grown ups in charge of things have lost sight of it…


Mindfulness: 10 Week Course – Starting in Loughborough

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There is growing evidence to suggest that mindfulness can bring about a wide range of improvements in physical, psychological and emotional well-being. Typically these benefits build up over a number of weeks of sustained practice.

The West Leicestershire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group have enabled us to deliver mindfulness courses around Leicestershire during 2016 and 2017. Our next journey into mindfulness will be starting on in September and will take place at Loughborough Leisure Centre. Is this the right time for you to join us?

There will be a taster session on Sunday 10.9.17. This is an opportunity for you to come and find out more about the course before signing up.

The course will then run every Sunday 1:00 to 4:00 pm over a period of 10 weeks. The course is free, if you would like to come along or refer someone else then contact:

Jit Singh
Project Manager
Mindful Mentoring
Phone: 07939 199 549
Email: info@go-getta.org.uk

Venue: Loughborough Leisure Centre, Browns Lane, Loughborough, LE11 3HE

Dates: Tater Session: 10.9.17 – 1:00 to 3:00 pm

Course Start Date: 17.9.17

A bit more about the course

If you want to explore mindfulness at a deeper level and are willing to do some daily practice between course meetings, then this course is for you. With a small group of people we will be guiding you through a set of mindfulness practices; starting with the breath through to cultivating self-acceptance. You will be given recordings and instructions on how to practice in between the meetings. What you learn on the course can become a resource that you can carry into the rest of your life.

The course is run in partnership with Go-Getta CIC, a social enterprise established in 2012 that works with communities to improve outcomes for young people and vulnerable adults.

This 10 week mindfulness course is combined with additional support to form Mindful Mentoring which aims to help people improve their emotional wellbeing, mental health and social functioning.

We look forward to seeing you there.


Can Magic Mushrooms Unlock Depression?

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This is well worth watching.

A clinical psychologist from Imperial College describes how Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybin), when used in a therapeutic setting, have been found to be a very effective treatment for depression. In this talk she draws on her experiences as working as a therapist on the groundbreaking Psilocybin for Depression study, and introduces us to some of the patients and their stories of transformation.


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