April Newsletter

Welcome to our April Newsletter!

Spring is the perfect time to think about changes you might like to make in your personal and professional life, so that you live your life with joy and not in a perpetual state of stress, worry and anxiety. In this newsletter, I want to share a short mindfulness exercise you can do anywhere, some of the latest research on mindfulness, and a review of an excellent book that is an excellent introduction on being mindful in your everyday life. As well as that, I’ve included the links to some very informative mindfulness articles, where you’ll find plenty of hints and tips on being mindful and why it’s not just about meditating. I’m very excited to be introducing some comprehensive e-learning packages this year, which will help you to learn the fundamentals of mindfulness, and how to use it as a tool to change the way you think, react, and feel about life.

Top tips for using mindfulness in the workplace

Here’s an easy mindfulness exercise you can do at your desk, at any time of the day.

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing is a meditation technique that you can do while you’re sat at your desk. All you need to do is take a few minutes to focus on your breathing.

  • Inhale slowly, through your nose, and breathe out slowly, through your mouth. Breathe in for 3 seconds, and out for 3 seconds. Don’t think about anything else.
  • When thoughts come into your mind, acknowledge them, but let them go. Take your focus back to your breath.
  • Do 2-3 minutes at a time at the start, then work your way up to 5-10 minutes at a time.

 

Mindfulness research

There is an entire body of research that looks at how mindfulness affects the brain, how it can benefit people who suffer from chronic stress and depression, improves physiological health markers, and improves the chances of ageing in a healthy way. Here are some of the world’s leading mindfulness researchers, whose existing work is paving the way for some fascinating future studies.

 

Judson Brewer, MD, PHD, Psychiatrist and Chief, UMASS Medical School

He discovered how mindfulness can be used to beat addiction, by using brain imaging techniques to look at how mindfulness affects the brain. He used the information to develop mindfulness tools to help people give up smoking and beat food cravings.

His plans for future clinical trials include developing an app that will allow mindfulness to be delivered digitally, and studying how effectively it works.

 

Elissa Epel, PHD, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of California

She has done ground-breaking work, which looked at the benefits of meditation for people who suffer from chronic stress, particularly those who have never meditated before.

In the future, she plans to look at how meditation affects people who have suffered trauma or adversity in childhood.

 

Clifford Saron, PHD, Researcher, neuroscientist, Center for Mind and Brain; University of California

He led the Shamatha Project, which was research into the benefits of long-term, intensive meditation. During the project, numerous month-long retreats were held, and the findings showed that meditation improves the attention span, boosts wellbeing and empathy, and improves physiological health markers.

He wants to take this research even further, and plans to assess the wellbeing of the participants 7 years after they attended an initial retreat. In particular, he will examine markers of cellular ageing, stress, and inflammation.

 

Zindel Segal, PHD, Professor of brain and therapeutics, University of Toronto

He’s a leading researcher on Mindfulness and mood disorders, and was a founder of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which integrates meditation into psychotherapy. His work has shown that MBCT can prevent relapses in people who have depression.

He is currently conducting a study which is looking at whether adding a digital form of MBCT to standard depression treatment programmes can reduce symptoms, as well as a study that is examining brain changes in patients who have used MBCT and have recovered from depression.

 

David Creswell, PHD, Associate professor of psychology, Carnegie Mellon University

His work examined what makes people resilient to stress, and he also co-founded health neuroscience, which combines health psychology and neuroscience.

He has begun a trial, examining how Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction might improve social relationships and lead to healthier ageing in older adults.

His team is also looking at whether adding acceptance skills and training on how to keep calm and composed even in a stressful situation to mindfulness programmes can further reduce stress and improve health.

 

Mindfulness news

Something amazing happened in the House of Commons back in October. 40 Politicians sat in silence, practising mindfulness. Now if you have ever seen a Commons debate, or Prime Minister’s Questions, you’ll know that this is unusual!

UK Ministers joined colleagues from Israel, Sri Lanka, Croatia, and Sweden to consider how they could use mindfulness as a way to bring about positive change.

This was the world’s first ever congregation of mindfulness politicians, and they were discussing how mindfulness could become a matter of public policy.

Some ministers shared their experience of finding mindfulness after having suffered from depression, anxiety, serious illness, and injury.

The Sports Minister Tracy Crouch said that mindfulness has helped her to cope when receiving therapy was not appropriate in her case, and it led to her being an advocate of the use of mindfulness in professional environments, and being very keen to see how it could be integrated into policy.

Ministers were given information on the latest mindfulness news from the UK healthcare and criminal justice sectors, which included a testimony from a former prison inmate, who discovered the power of mindfulness after being in and out of prison over a 30-year period.

The event originated 18 months ago in a US Congressman’s office. Tim Ryan of Ohio, advocates mindfulness as a tool to stay sane when you’re surrounded by chaos. He promotes mindfulness as much as he can, and sees its value for everyone, not least war veterans.

After completing a mindfulness retreat, he discovered a new way of relating with the world around him, and he immediately wanted to tell people about it.

In October 2015, A Mindful Nation UK report was published, which suggested that access to mindfulness was high on the agenda in government policy, especially in the health service and the criminal justice system. How great it would be then, to establish an international commission of delegates who are both interested in, and advocates of, mindfulness. The hope was that this would help to not only promote the wider implementation and understanding of mindfulness, but that it would promote cooperation and a tolerance of different views that transcended politics.

In the UK, parties on all sides have demonstrated a willingness to accept that there is a need for mindfulness, and The Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group was developed from a mindfulness programme that was run for MPs and peers. Those who participated noted how it encouraged them to be more accepting of opposition colleagues and encouraged kinder and more mindful communication with each other. Their experience encouraged them to consider how mindfulness could be integrated into policy, which promises some exciting developments in the future. It seems that everyone can benefit from a little mindful contemplation.

 

Book recommendation and review

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World

Mark Williams, Danny Penman

This book is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which is an easy form of mindfulness meditation to grasp, and you can get the benefits from practising it for just a few minutes every day.

This form of mindfulness meditation has been shown to be as effective as medication for depression and it has been recommended by NICE, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as a treatment.

What’s important about MBCT is that everyone can benefit, it’s not just for people who struggle with depression. It’s about staying balanced and mentally healthy in an increasingly demanding world. It’s not about getting rid of unhappiness, it’s about increasing feelings of joy and confidence while reducing stress, anxiety, and feelings of irritability.

This book aims to teach people how to live in the moment, and how to deal with negative events or emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them or reacting emotionally. It also encourages people to accept their thoughts and feelings without judgement, all while explaining the foundations of mindfulness and how it plays a role in psychology.

Many self-help books often have a tone that makes you cringe, but this doesn’t. It takes a practical approach and provides you with simple tasks and meditations to complete. The book uses encouraging language and motivates you to work your way through the course with inspirational quotes.

For the mindfulness sceptics, there’s a considerable scientific element to the book. As well as information on how mindfulness works and how it can work for you, there’s some information on clinical studies of its effectiveness.

You can skip the introduction to mindfulness and go straight to the practical exercises, but it’s helpful to know why mindfulness can work for you, as you’ll be more likely to carry on with it.

The book includes guided meditations and practical exercises, which is a good mix, since meditation may take some time to grasp so you’re likely to notice more obvious changes with the practical exercises.

But if you’re looking for a quick solution to fixing feelings of overwhelm in your life, then this book is not for you. The entire course in the book needs to be worked through for the best results.

You can find the book here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mindfulness-practical-guide-finding-frantic/dp/074995308X

 

Some reading material for you:

In each newsletter, I’ll be including a few articles about mindfulness that really capture the essence of what it is and why it can work for you, whether it’s at work or in your personal life.

 

Why We Need Mindfulness at Work

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_we_need_mindfulness_at_work

Here’s a great article about the benefits of mindfulness at work. When people think about practising mindfulness at work, their first reaction is ‘how am I supposed to find the time?’ But setting aside that time can really help to ease the stress of a demanding working life.

 

Five Steps to Mindfulness

This is a simple, but very informative article that is a nice introduction to being mindful, whenever, and wherever you are.

https://www.mindful.org/five-steps-to-mindfulness/

 

Blue Light Support

We now host an initiative to provide mental health care for emergency services. Please visit http://mocallaghan.co.uk/bluelightsupport/ for more information.

How can I help you?

I can help you master mindfulness to enhance the wellbeing of individuals at work, and to help organisations build productive, successful teams of individuals who listen to, and support each other. Through face to face mentoring and mindfulness sessions, or via e-learning, we can work together to manage stress, deal with anxieties about job insecurity and organisational change, and develop effective leaders who’ll remain calm and make considered decisions even during volatile times. Find out more about what mindfulness can do for you here.

I hope you have found our first newsletter both interesting and useful.  If there are any topics that you would like us to include in our next newsletter please let me know.  If, for any reason, you do not want to receive further copies of the newsletter please let me know and I will remove your details from our database.

Strengthening Personal Resilience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from the challenges and adversity that we all face in life. Some people naturally face adversity and deal with it, but even if you feel like you don’t deal with life’s hard knocks very well, the good news is that resilience is something that can be taught and learned.

What makes someone resilient?

A resilient person understands that pain, failure, and discomfort are part of life. Along with happiness, they are just some of the vast array of emotions we experience at any given time.

If we strengthen our resilience, it will not only make us much more emotionally balanced, but it can benefit our physical health too.

A study of 99 men at Harvard University found that the way they viewed negative life events (fixed and unchangeable versus temporary and able to be influenced) predicted the state of their physical health up to 35 years later.

How to strengthen personal resilience

When bad things happen, look for meaning

If you’re resilient, you’ll be able to find good things even in difficult situations. Every difficulty has the potential to teach you a life lesson. Resilient people have the capacity to feel sad about negative events, but they are also able to see what the event has taught them and what they have to be grateful for. If you aren’t resilient, you’re likely to only feel terrible if something bad happens.

But you can change this and respond in a more emotionally balanced way. You can do this by challenging negative thoughts and any negative self-talk. So instead of telling yourself ‘There’s no way I’ll get this job’ when you go for an interview, challenge the thought. What evidence is there to suggest you won’t get the job? Is what you’re telling yourself realistic?

Build a good support network

Having the support of friends, family, and work colleagues is important if you want to be more resilient. Problems don’t seem as bad if you are able to talk about them and others can help you to keep perspective. And the effects of having a good support network don’t just benefit your mental health, they can boost your physical health too. A 2006 study found that having close friends can increase resilience against illness. The study of 3000 nurses with breast cancer found that those with 10 or more close friends were four times more likely to survive than those without close friends.

Be grateful

When you face adversity, being grateful for the good things in your life helps you keep some perspective. Try writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day for 30 days. You can also try drawing your attention to the things in your life that you might take for granted; a roof over your head, a loving partner, and a job you enjoy for example.

Expect change, and accept it

Change is a part of life, and so is sadness and loss. If you choose to move towards pain and cope with it instead of trying to eliminate or avoid it, you’ll be so much more resilient. Ask yourself how you can solve your problems and what you can learn along the way.

Look after yourself

If you’re physically well, your emotional health is likely to be a lot better and you’ll be more resilient. When you eat well, get enough sleep and deal with stress, you’re better able to bounce back from setbacks.

In terms of your emotional wellbeing, practicing mindfulness or meditating can help to lower stress levels and encourage clarity of thought.

Making time to do things you enjoy is another key to becoming more resilient. Choose active pursuits like going for a walk over sitting in front of the TV, because studies have shown that time spent in nature is good for the body and the mind.

 

Maureen O’Callaghan is a Member of the Chartered Management Institute and has an MSc in Mindfulness-Based Approaches. She works with organisations, teams, and individuals to create less stressful working environments, improve team working, enhance performance and productivity and develop leadership and management skills. For more information visit http://www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Promoting the Mental Health of Personnel in an Emergency Services Setting

 

Emergency services personnel are exposed to trauma sometimes on a daily basis. They also face constantly increasing demands and heavy workloads that even their famous culture of camaraderie can’t protect them from. All of this combines to make them more at risk of stress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD than the general population.

Personnel working in the emergency services might feel that they can’t speak about how they feel due to stigma, and don’t tend to take time off work even if they’re unwell because they feel they are letting their colleagues and the public down if they do.

Promoting mental health in the workplace

Investing in mental health not only makes for a healthier workforce, it makes good business sense. When organisations are proactive about mental health, productivity is higher, employees are more likely to remain with the organisation, there’s less absenteeism, and fewer problems with performance or morale.

Organisations must have mental health and wellbeing strategies in place. Some strategies will be more difficult to implement because of cost or other factors, but some can be introduced with minimal cost.

Promoting the mental health of emergency services: good practice

Be systematic with risk management

Each emergency service deals with a huge range of situations, and so personnel are exposed to a variety of risks that might affect their mental health and wellbeing. Having a risk assessment specific to each service is a good starting point for putting together an effective mental health strategy.

Introduce a mental health strategy

Having a strategy is great, but implementing it into work activities each day, reviewing the plan, and learning lessons from it is where it will really come into its own.

Develop leaders

The actions and behaviours of leaders and managers can influence how personnel might cope with the demands of their job. Good managers will know when someone is struggling, whether it’s with their mental health or something else. Providing training to managers to develop their confidence is essential; whether it’s the confidence to lead effectively in a crisis situation or having a difficult conversation with an employee.

Tackle stigma

This is an issue in the emergency services where personnel might feel they can’t talk about their mental health or how they feel without being judged or bullied in some way. Tackling stigma is not expensive to do; it just requires some understanding and courage to spread the message that it’s okay to not be okay.

Strategies for promoting mental health on the front line

Wellbeing programmes and practices should be integrated into the work routine, like mindfulness programmes, meditation and relaxation sessions, or exercise programmes. Access to mental health support should be promoted and wellbeing measures should be aimed at reducing stress and preventing mental ill health, not just treating it once it’s occurred.

As every emergency service worker is likely to have to deal with a crisis or a traumatic incident, they should be prepared as much as possible for how to manage the incident itself and they should be given support in the aftermath.

Mental health and wellbeing support should not only be offered while someone is in service. Many personnel will have encountered situations during their career that will continue to affect them even years later, so offering support and advice on a long-term basis may also be necessary.

How we can help

We use our expertise in workforce wellbeing, individual and organisational wellbeing, and performance and trauma management to help front-line emergency services staff become better equipped to manage the pressures and challenges they face. The services we offer include tailored support for personnel, their managers and their families, stress-relieving strategies, and therapeutic interventions.

For more information on our work with the emergency services, contact Maureen on 07939 845920 or via maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk , or contact Kirsty Knight on 07816 923789 or at kirsty@openmindstherapy.co.uk