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Teaching Mindfulness – Myths, Misconceptions, and the Right Approach

Mindfulness can have some wonderful benefits for everyone, but for many people who are so used to living their lives on autopilot, surrounded by distractions and worries, just learning how to ‘be’ and not react can be a difficult concept.

This is why it’s so important that people are introduced to mindfulness by teachers, therapists, coaches, and mentors who have the right skills, knowledge, experience and personal attributes.

The mistakes some mindfulness teachers make

Sometimes, with the best intentions, people make mistakes when teaching mindfulness to others, including:

  • Teaching people about mindfulness without actually using mindfulness.
  • Giving the impression that they know more about mindfulness than they actually do.
  • Promising ‘guaranteed’ or fast results.
  • Insisting that their approach to mindfulness is superior to other approaches.
  • Believing that mindfulness can be taught and learned as a concept, rather than practice.
  • Presenting the practice as magical or immediately life-changing in some way.
  • Telling you that practicing mindfulness means that you’re mindful by default.

Better ways to teach mindfulness

Practise what you preach: Demonstrate being mindful by being in the moment.

Be honest: Tell your learners about how much experience you have rather than claiming you know more about mindfulness than you do.

Realise that mindfulness is a practice: You don’t do eight or ten sessions and come away with the ability to be automatically mindful; becoming mindful is a way of life which gives you greater results over time with regular practice.

Trust your own path to mindfulness: No matter whether you learned mindfulness through at a Buddhist centre or you received more formal training, no one path to becoming mindful is better than the other. Encourage your learners to find the path that works best for them.

Realise the importance of knowing your own mind: Reading about mindfulness is not the same as knowing what’s going on in your own mind. Understanding your own thoughts and feelings and how you react to them is the first step to disciplining your own mind and becoming mindful.

Know that mindfulness can be uncomfortable at times: If you feel like your head is always spinning with thoughts, worries, and distractions, then paying attention to it in mindfulness sessions can be very uncomfortable and difficult. Doing the work to become mindful is not easy, but it’s so much easier if you have a good teacher supporting you through the process.

Remember that mindfulness is not magic: It’s a practical way to manage difficult emotions, reduce stress, build resilience, and improve physical and emotional health. You have to work at being mindful, it doesn’t just happen.

Better teacher training

Because we realise the importance of experienced and well-qualified mindfulness teachers, we are offering a Mindfulness Teacher Training Programme made up of 10 individual modules.

Flexible learning

We can offer the programme as:

A complete Teacher Training pathway

For people who have completed an 8 week course, practice mindfulness themselves and want to share mindfulness and its benefits with others.

Individual CPD Modules

For people who have completed their teacher training.

What does the programme involve?

Students will learn via E learning and teaching days which provide the opportunity to apply mindfulness through learning activities and reflection. Learners can also access telephone mentoring and this is encouraged, particularly where additional support needs have been identified. Course numbers are kept to a maximum of 10 so that every learner gets a high level of support.

Every module is linked with a real life work environment, and learners are encouraged to take responsibility for their own personal development, such as learning from other mindfulness practitioners and experts to reinforce their learning.

What makes our programme amazing?

All our tutors and assessors have mindfulness and teaching-related qualifications, and a minimum of five years’ experience of teaching and personal mindfulness practice.

There’s also an opportunity to become a member of a Mindfulness Teacher Support Network once you have completed the programme, which is a teaching community where you can contribute to online forums, access guided practice recordings, observe teaching, get valuable peer support and advice, and find courses and supervision to continue your personal development as a mindfulness teacher.

To find out more about our mindfulness teacher training, click here

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 www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

Reconnecting with Yourself – The Benefits of Going on a Retreat

Retreats give you the chance to have some time away from the constant demands and distractions of everyday life. They allow you to think about who you are, how you are, and most importantly, they give you the chance to just ‘be.’

This is so important for your mental and physical health. Retreats can help if you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, and burnt out; and you might just discover something about yourself that you never knew.

The benefits of going on a retreat

You get to focus on what matters

Getting away from the trials and tribulations of daily life allows you to focus on what inspires you, whether it’s your business, a hobby, or travelling. Inspiration can often motivate you to make positive changes in your life.

Less distractions equals more time

At home you might have family problems or money worries to deal with, and you might just not have the head space for thinking about your dreams, wishes, and goals. On a retreat, there’s no rushing, just plenty of time to allow inspiration to flow.

You get to really notice what’s around you

It’s amazing what you notice when you’re not running around after children, scrolling through social media, or mindlessly watching TV. You get to hear the sound of the wind, the birds singing, or even just the silence and experience truly being in the moment.

It gives you the chance to mentally detox

We all have so many stresses in our lives, and we’re bombarded with so much information that it’s not surprising that we just need time and space to mentally unwind every now and again. Going on a retreat is the perfect opportunity to clear your mind of clutter.

It reminds you of who you are

You may be a sister, wife, brother, husband, or friend, but don’t forget that you are YOU; an individual irrespective of societal labels. Going on a retreat allows you to just be you.

It helps you establish new habits

If your hectic life doesn’t allow you time to do what you love, or spend time on your hobbies, you can establish a routine of doing them on a retreat. Then you’ll be inspired to integrate your new way of being into your home life.

Our Mindfulness Retreats for Women

Whether you are hoping to feel more balanced and relaxed, or you want to experience a true sense of wellbeing, our retreats might be just what you need.

Our aim

We want to create a safe, supportive and non-judgemental space where you can just be, as well as giving you the practical tools to leave the retreat feeling inspired, renewed and energised.

Who is it for?

The retreat is open to all women, and it’s run by experienced mindfulness teachers who are able to support beginners and challenge more experienced mindfulness practitioners.

What does the retreat involve?

  • Each retreat programme is different, but retreats will usually include:
  • Gentle movement and relaxation techniques
  • Meditation practices
  • Opportunities to discover your innate creativity
  • Thoughtful, self-supporting lessons designed to improve your health and wellbeing
  • Opportunities to reset bad habits and introduce self-care strategies
  • Free time which you can use for rest and contemplation
  • For more information about our Mindfulness Retreats, click here

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 www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

June Newsletter

Stress can impact upon productivity, and even more importantly for employees, their physical and mental wellbeing. They might lose sleep, eat unhealthy foods, drink more, and smoke more, all of which increases the likelihood that they’ll become less productive, demotivated, and absent from work.

In this newsletter, I’m going to look at the importance of looking after the mental and physical wellbeing of employees, and why doing so is better for an organisation in the long run.

There are also some informative articles on stress, nutrition, and sleep; an EBook you can download on how to find the elusive work/life balance, and the latest workplace wellbeing research and news.

Let’s make our workplaces happier, healthier, and more productive places to be!

Maureen


How to manage workplace stress

If you’re a supervisor, manager, or HR officer, the first time you may become aware that an employee is stressed at work is when you see a fit note stating that the employee is absent from work due to a ‘stress-related illness.’ One in three fit notes given out by GPs are for mental health problems, and while stress in itself is not defined as a medical illness, if it is not addressed early, it can lead to anxiety, depression, behavioural disturbance, and physical illness.

How should you deal with workplace stress?

  1. Look at the reasons behind the stress, both in the workplace, and in the employee’s personal life. Invite the employee to discuss the root causes of the stress and if they’re identified, how you can work together to approach and resolve them.
  2. If it’s difficult to identify a particular cause, but work appears to be a contributing factor, consider using the Health and Safety Executive’s Stress Risk Assessment (hyp) questionnaire tool. This will help you identify the possible causes of workplace stress such as work relationships, lack of support, and change.
  3. Look at the organisation’s culture. If employees say they feel overworked and undervalued, what can you do to address this? Doing so may help prevent work-related stress problems before they even arise.
  4. A referral to Occupational Health is a good idea if the causes of stress are still not clear. An adviser can give their opinion on whether they believe the employee has a medical condition, and whether they need further support from a manager, counsellor, or therapist.

There is no quick fix or one size fits all approach that can be applied to mental health issues because people recover at different rates, and everyone has different levels of resilience. But if people are well supported at times of crisis, they are likely to recover quicker and become more resilient to stress in the future. Addressing mental health in a timely, thorough, and professional manner from a health and wellbeing and business perspective is crucial.

If you would like more guidance on managing stress in the workplace, our e-learning packages are an informative, valuable, and flexible learning option for you. We’re currently offering 10% off our Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace and Mindfulness in the Workplace packages.

My free EBook on Work-Life Balance is also available for download by clicking here.


The effects of work on our diet

Work-related stress can have a considerable effect on our eating behaviours too. Long working hours, our desk-bound culture, and a work culture that values getting the job done rather than focusing on wellbeing all contribute to poor eating behaviours and patterns. Here’s a fascinating interview with Dr Meg Arroll, a psychologist and author who has studied the relationship between stress, weight and fatigue. Click here to read more.

The importance of gut health

The health of your gut can be linked to many health issues, including poor mental health. Scientists even refer to the gut as the ‘second brain’ because it’s lined with 100 million nerve cells that control digestion. Having a healthy gut plays a key role in wellbeing, because ‘good’ bacteria in the digestive system affect many of the body’s functions like nutrient absorption, immune response, the ability to eliminate toxins and the production of hormones. If there is an imbalance of the bacteria in your gut, inflammation occurs in the digestive system and symptoms occur throughout the body.

Research has found that when the gut is irritated or inflamed, the nerves in the gut send messages to the central nervous system which can then trigger changes in mood.

So how can you improve your digestive health? Here are 10 tips for better digestion, courtesy of SuperWellness


Some reading material...

Managing stress

This is an informative article about what causes workplace stress and how it can be managed effectively. Click here to read more.

Sleeping better and productivity

Poor sleep can be disastrous for physical and mental health, not to mention productivity in the workplace. Click here to read about the problems that poor sleep can cause and what managers can do to help.

 


The importance of a health and wellbeing strategy

According to a survey by Aon Employee Benefits, the number of employers who have invested in workplace wellbeing initiatives has risen from 36% to 42% this year. Wellbeing apps, virtual GP services, weight loss support, smoking cessation and physical activity programmes are among the initiatives being considered to help employees become healthier and happier at work.

The key is for organisations to focus on taking preventative action rather than acting when employees are already experiencing issues.

Managers have an important role to play in creating a workplace culture that pays attention to wellbeing, especially when it comes to stress reduction. They can do this by encouraging a healthy work-life balance, listening to employees, building supportive teams, and giving employees some flexibility over where and when they work. Being able to recognise stress and other issues in the workplace and knowing how to support employees adequately is crucial in a healthy workplace.

Learning these skills is an investment in yourself, which will empower you to make the right choices for your organisation. E-learning is a fantastic way for busy managers to access high-quality education and resources, and the opportunity to build peer to peer support networks brings the benefit of being able to share experiences and learn from others.

There’s currently 10% off our Mental Wellbeing in the Workplace and Mindfulness in the Workplace e-learning packages which cover how to effectively support employees through difficulties related to their mental health, and how to communicate mindfully, share information, and facilitate change.

As well as being mindful of the wellbeing of your employees, it’s important that you check in with yourself too. If you manage or own a business, the chances are you don’t take enough time off or have much balance in your life. This can be true of any manager or business owner, but it rings particularly true for women, who as well as running their business, still have most of the childcare and household responsibilities. Burnout is common among women, and that’s why we hold Mindfulness Day Retreats for women, which are all about learning to relax, be mindful, and look after yourself. Click here for more information.


Beat Stress with a Mini Meditation

3-minute Breathing Space Meditation

When you’re stressed out, it can be difficult to remind yourself to stay calm, and when you’re busy, you might feel like you don’t have time to meditate. This is exactly why this short Breathing Space meditation was created. It’s designed to create a pause in your day so you can collect your thoughts, ground yourself, and keep perspective. Use this daily, anytime you feel like you need it.

Here’s what to do:

  • Sit or stand up straight and close your eyes if possible. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings and acknowledge any difficult feelings that arise. Can you feel any sensations in your body? Acknowledge that they’re there, but don’t try to change them.
  • Now concentrate on the breath. Focus on the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen; expanding as you breathe in, and relaxing as you breathe out. Ground yourself with each breath, and if your mind wanders, guide it gently back towards the breath.
  • Finally, expand your awareness to take in the body as a whole. Imagine the whole body is breathing. If you feel any discomfort in your body, imagine that you’re breathing in to these areas. Explore the sensations, but don’t try to change them in any way. Once they stop being the focus of your attention, become aware of the whole body again.

-adapted from Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.


Mindfulness Research

Practising mindfulness at work and at home can help employees to detach themselves from workplace problems and demands when they get home, according to a study. The study looked at mindfulness and the stressor-detachment model, which says that increasing emotional stress and a demanding workload at work should correspond with the inability to detach yourself from work when you get home. The inability to switch off is associated with lower wellbeing at bedtime. The study found that mindfulness could be a useful tool in helping people to psychologically detach themselves from work despite high job demands.

Haun VC et al. “Being mindful at work and at home: buffering effects in the stressor-detachment model”. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.


Wellbeing News

Drinking alcohol to cope

More than half of all adults who drink alcohol say they do so to cope with the pressures of daily life, according to a poll for the charity DrinkAware. More than one third of those questioned said they drank alcohol to forget about their problems. 47% of people reported having a drink to cheer themselves up and 41% of people said they felt it helped when they felt depressed or anxious.

Increase in referrals for mental health support

The nurse adviser service RedArc said it gets 30% more referrals for mental ill health in January than at any other time of the year. They have urged employers to remind employees about mental health support services in the workplace such as access to counselling.


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, promote workplace wellbeing, 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 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 you do not wish to receive further copies of the newsletter contact me and I will remove your details from our database.

Creating an Achievement Culture

The culture of a business has a huge impact on productivity and employee engagement. If there is a blame culture which penalises people for failure, employee engagement and morale will be low. But if there is a culture where achievements are celebrated, employees will feel more valued, be more committed and motivated to do well, which equals a more productive and successful business.

How can you create an achievement culture?

Recognise a job well done

If employees have performed well or gone the extra mile, recognising this and rewarding it is a form of positive reinforcement which is more likely to motivate employees, make them feel appreciated, and want to do well.

Set clear objectives

It can be difficult to keep employees motivated if they aren’t clear on the goals they’re working towards. If employees know exactly how their job role contributes to the overall success of the business, this will motivate them to achieve their targets.

Use incentives

When incentives are used appropriately, they can be used as a tool to encourage employees to collaborate and motivate each other.

Lead by example

Employees do take note of the behaviour of managers, so pay attention to what messages your behaviour gives them. This will impact on employee performance and what they think is expected of them.

Be visible

If employees feel far removed from managers, this can create feelings of mistrust. If however managers are seen to be visible and accessible, it builds trust and a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together.’

Be clear about standards

Be open and honest with employees about what you expect from them in terms of performance. If there is evidence of poor performance, deal with it sooner rather than later as this can undermine your authority and perceived leadership abilities.

Commit to learning and development

Employees should have the chance to develop within their role, for their benefit and for the benefit of the business. The world of business is constantly changing, and competitors will always spring up where you least expect it. Would you want to be in a position where you have stagnated or lack the expertise in your workforce because you had failed to encourage anyone to develop? Offer training in service standards and industry-specific training to keep employees’ skills up to date.

The culture of a business is often developed at the top but it pervades every level of an organisation. The culture will either motivate employees to do well for the good of the business, or it will make them feel undervalued and disengaged. Which do you think makes better business sense?

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 www.mocallaghan.co.uk or e mail maureen@mocallaghan.co.uk

The Role of the Manager in Preventing Stress

Many people would probably say they feel stressed at work from time to time, but while a little stress is motivating, there is a point when stress becomes detrimental to physical and mental health.

A study carried out by the British Heart Foundation found that two out of every five employees say that stress has affected their health to the point where it’s made them smoke more, drink more, eat poorly, and miss out on exercise.

What are the main causes of workplace stress?

  • Long working hours
  • Increasing workload
  • Difficult relationships with managers or co-workers
  • Poor working conditions
  • Lack of support from managers
  • Lack of control over job role

What can a manager do to prevent stress?

If employees are suffering from stress, it not only harms their health, it can harm the business. Employees who are burnt out will be less motivated and productive, and more likely to take time off work. Employers also have a statutory duty of care to look after the heath, safety, and welfare of employees, and if they don’t, they are leaving themselves open to litigation.

Managers can’t eliminate all stress but taking these steps can make the workplace a healthier, happier, and more productive place to be.

Set a good example

Managers play a big part in establishing a workplace culture, so if they work late every day and don’t take a proper lunch break, employees are likely to follow suit. Managers should actively promote a healthy work/life balance by taking breaks, using their holidays, and not working excessively long hours.

Encourage employees to take breaks

The law says that employees are allowed to have at least a 20-minute break for every 6 hours they work, and studies show that many people are more productive if they work for 90 minutes then have a 20-minute break. Managers should encourage regular breaks that will work for the business. They could encourage employees to take a short walk after lunch, have short periods of quiet time throughout the day, or have regular check ins with employees over a cup of tea or coffee.

Listen to employees

If employees feel that they can’t express their concerns openly to a manager, this will add to stress. Managers should commit to listening to concerns, suggestions, or complaints without judgment, and they should work with the employee to find a solution.

Build good teams

Employees can be a great source of support to each other, but if a team doesn’t work well together, it can increase overall stress levels in the workplace. Managers should aim to organise team building events regularly to help improve communication and build trust.

Allow for flexibility

While it’s not practical for all businesses, giving employees some flexibility with their working hours and where they work from can help to reduce stress. Many employees have responsibilities at home like caring for children or caring for a sick relative and trying to balance this with a gruelling work schedule can be a big source of stress. Managers can consider allowing employees to work from home regularly or allowing them to work flexible hours to keep stress levels low.

Losing good employees can harm a business in terms of the expenses that come with sick leave, and any litigation claim that might be made if work has contributed to a stress-related illness.

Managers should do everything they can to promote a supportive culture in the workplace and not treat adherence to policies like a tick box exercise. They must make sure that they are trained to recognise stress in the workplace, and that they know how to support employees adequately. Only then will employees be happier, more productive, and less stressed.

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

Tackling Mental Heath Stigma at Work

Mental health problems at work cost the UK economy billions each year, and they’re increasingly becoming one of the most common reasons for sickness absence.

Emergency services personnel face unique challenges at work which mean they are particularly prone to developing mental health problems because of their jobs. They have an increasing workload, they face ever increasing demands, and they have to deal with traumatic situations often on a daily basis.

All of this occurs in a culture where having time off is frowned upon and where workers believe that they’ll be discriminated against if they speak out about having poor mental health.

Culture in the emergency services

Emergency services personnel are often referred to as ‘heroes’ and there’s a perception that they are somehow superhuman and shouldn’t be affected by things that happen at work. This is of course, a fallacy. They are human beings, and they are just as prone to mental ill health as everyone else, if not more so.

Research from MIND has shown that even though they are more likely to experience mental ill health, they are less likely to take time off work than the general population. They’re twice as likely to identify work as the cause of their mental health problems, and they believe that they’d be treated less favourably at work if they disclosed that they were suffering.

Organisational factors and poor mental health

Exposure to traumatic incidents is not the only factor that causes poor mental health among emergency services personnel. Organisational factors like constant change that’s badly managed, poor leadership, and a blame culture can all contribute to mental ill health.

Tackling mental health stigma in the workplace

Creating a culture where mental wellbeing is given priority and people feel able to talk about their problems makes people feel supported, and creates opportunities for early intervention. Here are some practical steps that organisations can take to promote a mentally healthy workplace and tackle stigma:

Start from the top: Any change in culture needs to start with management. If managers lead by example, prioritise mental wellbeing, and promote a culture of empathy and understanding, employees are more likely to follow suit.

Create a mental health policy: This will reassure employees that an organisation is aware of the importance of mental wellbeing.

Create a culture of openness: This helps to increase awareness of mental health by encouraging people to talk about it.

Promote healthy working practices: Encourage a work/life balance by introducing programmes like mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, and exercise into the working day.

Communicate: Raise awareness of mental health using staff newsletters, posters, training sessions and meetings.

Introduce training: This helps to tackle mental health stigma by increasing awareness and understanding of mental ill health. It can also educate people on how to spot the signs that they, or a co-worker might be becoming ill, and empower them to talk about it.

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

Staying Well After a Traumatic Incident

Emergency services personnel witness more traumatic incidents in the course of their job role than many people see in a lifetime. The need to respond quickly, calmly, and rationally to incidents like serious road traffic accidents, infernos, and increasingly terrorist attacks means that they are at high risk of experiencing stress.

Symptoms of stress

These can fall into 4 main categories; physical symptoms, cognitive symptoms, emotional symptoms, and behavioural symptoms. Some symptoms might occur immediately after an incident, while some might appear weeks or even months later.

Physical symptoms

Symptoms of shock like shallow breathing, rapid pulse, shivering, pale and clammy skin, and dilated pupils.

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Thirst
  • Headaches
  • Visual disturbances
  • Body aches and pains

Cognitive symptoms

These can occur at the scene of an incident, which can have repercussions for a worker’s safety, the safety of their colleagues and the safety of those they’re trying to help. Symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Increased or reduced alertness
  • Poor concentration
  • Inability to solve problems or make decisions
  • Memory problems
  • Nightmares or flashbacks

Emotional symptoms

It’s normal to react emotionally to a traumatic situation. Emergency services personnel should have access to support from a mental health professional if they experience emotional distress after an incident, especially if it persists. Symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Denial
  • Grief
  • Fear
  • Irritability
  • Inability to control emotions
  • Depression
  • Feelings of failure
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Blaming others or self for events

Behavioural symptoms

Some personnel might notice that they, or their colleagues display some changes in behaviour following exposure to a traumatic incident, including:

  • Intense anger and emotional outbursts
  • Withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite, eating more or losing your appetite
  • Drinking more alcohol
  • Feeling restless
  • Sexual dysfunction

How to stay well after a traumatic incident

Everyone is different, so people will inevitably react differently after they have gone through a traumatic incident. But however resilient you consider yourself to be, you can take some steps to reduce stress and make sure that you stay well after exposure to trauma.

  • Reach out to others: don’t bottle things up. Having someone to talk to makes a big difference and it will help you to retain some perspective during difficult times.
  • Take time to do things you enjoy to help reduce stress and recharge your batteries.
  • Don’t worry about ‘getting back to normal’: This takes time. Gradually work back up to doing your normal routine and don’t be hard on yourself.
  • Don’t feel guilty for being happy: It’s okay to laugh and feel grateful for what you have.
  • Let your family in: Your loved ones will be there with you after the incident. They’ll see how it’s affected you and you need to talk to them. Mutual understanding and patience will help you to make sense of how you feel, and it will help them to understand how they can best support you.
  • Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol: You might think that they are a way of escaping how you feel but relying on them to cope will bring a new set of problems.
  • Look after yourself: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eat well, and take regular exercise. Practicing mindfulness and meditating can help to reduce stress, calm the mind, and help you to deal with difficult feelings in a more emotionally balanced way.

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

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