We welcomed Rachel Browne, a member of the support group and a professional counsellor and hypnotherapist to lead the discussion. Rachel described how looking after your body for any reason, not just diabetes, should include food, exercise and mental health. Low-level stress, anxiety and/or depression for long periods may just seem to be part of life but can have effects further along.
Increasingly the NHS recognises the value in coupling physical and mental support. There is a local NHS Physiological Wellbeing Service (see links at the end) and Rona Hardy, senior clinician and lead for the Cambridge and Fenland Integrated Pathway for that service has offered to speak to the group at a future meeting.
We are hardwired to be negative – we talk about what a terrible day we’ve had despite many good things also happening. Mindfulness, which originated from Buddhism, is being mindful of the moment, taking time to pay attention to how you are feeling right now, and capturing small pleasures out of the day.
Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques all recognise the importance of breath. It takes 9 breaths to regain control. Focusing on breathing for just 2 minutes a day will reduce stress. A good pattern is to focus on breathing, timing the steps of intake, holding and the exhaling in the rations of 3/4/5.
Yoga takes the breathing further, inhaling through one nostril and exhaling from the other. Guided meditation (there are apps you can download and use) for 10 minutes per day can help reduce blood pressure and stress levels. Think of it as a “reset” time for the body. Beyond focusing on breathing you relax, feel the weight of your body on the chair and your feet on the floor, hear the background sounds.
We tell ourselves we “must, “need”, “should” do things. Much better to change to “really want”, “would like”, “can” do things. We can benefit from taking time out in the day to do something for ourselves. Silence is also good; we spend so much of our lives with radio, TV, ipads etc. – just relax for 2 minutes a day in silence.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by everything in life and all the things we should do to improve ourselves. There is no need to make one huge change, much better to make small steps. After all, no one becomes an expert in something or a top sportsman overnight.
You don’t need full blown depression before doing things to feel better. 3 out of 5 suffer stress, perhaps better thought of as “emotional distress”. In the USA some doctors are prescribing dogs to patients, as stroking dogs and cats is well known to be relaxing.
There’s no need to label food as “good” or “bad”, its all food, just make decisions rather than take strong views and emotions.
We finished up discussing sleep, or rather the inability to sleep. If thoughts keep you awake Rachel suggests discarding them by writing them down, or letting them enter your mind then flow out again to be considered at another time. If you can’t sleep then get up, as this helps train the brain to associate bed with sleep, rather than tossing and turning.
Rachel has provided links to follow up if anyone is interested – see at the end of the meeting notes.
Jon Kaba-Zinn mindfulness including meditations
Cambridge Buddhist Centre for mindfulness, meditations and yoga
Counselling Directory to find a counsellor
Cambridge and Peterborough NHS for Mental Health – usually self-referred and may only offer online
Find mindfulness and managing stress apps for example through google
Other guided meditations and relaxations can be found on You Tube