‘Mindfulness is an integrative, mind body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings.’
Mental Health Foundation
In an effort to stay ‘mindful’ of the influx of information out there about this very topic, I have decided to get straight to the point and perhaps be a little more pro active with this particular blog!
On looking online at the mountains of research there is on mindfulness as a recovery tool, I felt totally overwhelmed, I literally didn’t know where to start, so in an effort to save you guys the same (ever so mild!) panic attack, which of course would completely defeat the point, I thought I would blog a list of the mindful apps/books and courses that one can dip in and out of but that can also genuinely aid healing and recovery, especially after cancer treatment, without requiring a trip to a monastery in deepest darkest Tibet!
I’m going to dive in with the mobile option! I have to admit that when it comes to mindfulness apps, there are a lot out there! I could write a list an arms length but the one that has totally rocked it for me and actually has me practicing for three minutes at least, every night, is Calm: Meditation techniques for stress reduction.
I love the choice of scenes that fill your screen and their matching soothing sound affects. I have been known to simply have that playing in the background while working – this lot have ‘calm’ down!
The choice of meditations are inspiring and very practical, such as nine seven day programmes on topics such as managing stress or seven days of gratitude as well as a selection of times for various individual meditations on themes including loving kindness or deep sleep. There is also a kids option too (which my nearly six year old loves, though I cant promise that she keeps still through them!) Some are guided while others are not, but I have found this app to be the most affective in keeping me in a mindful routine.
Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to whatever is happening in your life, a way of taking charge of your life, of doing something for yourself
I did this eight week course four years ago and loved it. I had to commute from Surrey to Fulham but it was worth the journey, even while undergoing seven weeks of radiotherapy! It is a very thorough course, exploring all the different forms of mindful practice and the theory and study behind it all. I loved finishing every two hour class with a mindful exercise, mostly lying down under blankets and listening to Caroline Hoffman, the leader of the course, guide us through body scans.
The homework is the key to the effectiveness of the course. They say it takes thirty two days to form a new habit so you are encouraged to practice every day and are given the appropriate CD’s and reading to help you. I found the homework a real distraction while waiting for my daily radiotherapy and it helped me feel less anxious and give the exercises a really realistic framework to practice them in.
We explored mindful eating, mindful walking, sitting and even speaking. From a post cancer point of view, it was the perfect course for me at that time, as everyone there had been affected by cancer so making for a very bonding and sharing environment.
My only negative feedback of a mindful course like this was that it merely felt I had scratched the surface of mindfulness and I felt like I needed to do another course to explore some of the themes more fully.
‘I love my clients and the process of teaching mindfulness – although, in reality, there is no ‘teacher’ and we discover the ‘learning’ together.’
– Gill Johnson, Mindful Elephant
For those based more around the Surrey area, there is a fantastic mindfulness course based in Godalming called Mindful Elephant (chosen because the name was quirky and memorable!)
Gill Johnson is a mindfulness teacher and facilitator for MBSR/MBCT group courses for the general public, schools, hospitals and workplaces. After a chronic pain condition Gill found herself attracted to the work of the famous Jon Kabat-Zinn and discovered links that helped her deal with her own physical pain. She started to share them with hospital patients as a volunteer and she found the improvements so dramatic that she enrolled on a training course.
Making mindfulness accessible to everybody is something Gill feels very passionately about and she is involved in a number of other initiatives though as she admits, it is difficult to keep up with the ever evolving research that is coming out of the rapidly growing area.
NEWS FLASH! Gill is offering a •• discount •• to any Samspace readers who might like to enrol on her course starting OCTOBER 12th so if you are interested please feel free to contact Gill; www.mindfulelephant.com
Tel: 07785 921 950
‘It is a real honour to hold a safe space and offer guidance for people to explore mindfulness’
I came across Shelila and her amazing Lollipop Wellbeing a few years ago, through social media. Sheila has a huge presence on twitter and runs courses in the Manchester area and occasionally Brighton. Her tips and posts on social media are a brilliant way of continuing a mindful approach to life while not on a course or afterwards.
Sheila set up Lollipop to provide accessible support for people who want to reduce stress and improve their wellbeing when it saved her life after approaching burnout from work related stress. For those who are not local she provides as many free resources as possible via her website including audio meditations and a monthly practice plan combining ideas for mindful living.
Shelia’s main focus within her mindful teaching is around self kindness, which of course, is something we are all in a little need of! Her recent blog ‘Everyday Mindfulness’ will resonate with a lot of us; http://www.everyday-mindfulness.org/growing-fearless-mindfulness-public-speaking-and-performance-anxiety/
Sheila discovered the self kindness area of mindfulness by accident. The more she deepened her practice the more it helped her with things like anxiety, grief and self criticism. When she attended a Breathworks Mindfulness for Stress course after experiencing a lot of stress at work and in her personal life, she realised she wanted to teach because it felt like paying it forward. She is now a Breathwork associate as well as a Mindfulness teacher and as well as being a qualified personal coach working one to one with clients too, she is incredible active.
Believe it not, I was given this book my (very mindful) mum in law! I love the title!
Written by the man himself, Jon Kabat-Zinn, this explores all the ways we can include mindfulness in our lives, whether we be a beginner or professional! It maps out the ways of cultivating a more personal mindful frame of mind where we can appreciate each moment at a time and help make moments for rich and full.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is also the founding director of the renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in various venues around the world and has written a zillion books on it all (but this one, in my opinion, is one of the easiest reads!)
BOOK – Mindfulness; A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in A Frantic World
‘This is precisely focused to help ordinary people boost their happiness and confidence levels whilst also reducing anxiety, stress and irritability.’
Another good read, this book gives a fantastic background to all things Mindful with a focus on more mindful based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) This means that the practice is more about doing a little every day for there to be any sort of effect and they help you out with a little CD in the back of the book to guide you through setting out a new mindful routine. It is a great one to have to hand if doing any mindfulness courses.
It is specifically for people who just want to include mindful practice in their daily life for their own wellbeing rather than for depression or a specific problem and it is recommended by the UK’s very own National Institute of Clinical Excellence – in other words, it works!!
A mindfulness course may not be your thing but if getting creative is, have a go at this. Easy to find, easy to do and perfect at helping you tune into that tiny, undiscovered space that might be waiting for liberation (and a little clarity!)
There are umpteen colouring books on the market at the moment. I have seen a huge selection at supermarkets as well as bookshops such as Waterstones but whether you sit down and do it for five minutes or an hour, alone or with your child, it is a very easy and effective way of getting some space and mindful time into your day.
There is so much out there on this topic but I hope these ideas may be useful. I have to admit that I do not always find it easy to come back to my breathe and focus on the now but I have also learnt that the practice of mindfulness is exactly that, practice. It doesn’t need to be hours and hours every day but whether you prefer to find encouragement alone with an app or with a group in a class, it is definitely having a positive impact on many of us on many levels and if we can connect with that breathe on a regular basis and oxygenate our bodies and minds, healing has no limits.
“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
In this months guest blog, I want to introduce the lovely Jaelithe. Jaelithe runs a website MrsMojo.co.uk, helping busy mums feel less frazzled and more fabulous (Details at the bottom of the blog) We haven’t met but we have spoken over email a few months ago and I wanted to share her story and spread the word on Bowen Therapy which has helped her own recovery on a huge scale and helped her listen to her body and feel more confident and empowered.
“When you are going through hell, keep on going. Never never never give up.” Winston Churchill
I’m Jaelithe Leigh-Brown. In the last two years I’ve had a personal bereavement, a breast cancer scare, major damage to my knees – so much so that the consultant told me that I would end up in a wheelchair by the time I’m 45 – I’m 38 and this last year I’ve had pins and needles and numbness in my hands so bad that I struggled to hold a toothbrush and get my kids ready for school. The diagnosis appeared to be lupus, but fortunately I’ve just had it confirmed that I’ve got carpal tunnel syndrome.
Throughout this challenge I’ve learned a major lesson which has reshaped my life and my business. I’ve learned that I need to be kind to myself and love myself. As a coach I always taught this to women and I thought I was being kind to myself, but the constant high impact exercise and non-stop work ethic has certainly had a part in my ailments and feeling of overwhelm.
I’ve learned to listen to my body, to meditate every day, walk, cycle or do my yoga and to take time out to have fun. With this new attitude I have redesigned my online Fabulously Fit Bootcamp for women. Instead of being another health and fitness course, it now focuses on loving you.
As I listened to my body I realised I was still suffering from a car crash that I had had as a teenager. An old man had driven into the back of me, causing me to have whiplash. I’ve had a bad neck ever since and I’m sure that the symptoms in my knees and wrists are linked. My posture is always iffy and the noises my joints can make going up and downstairs are cringe-worthy.
My search for an alternative therapy while I was waiting for test results took me to our local beauty room where I asked about reflexology. I’d had this when I was pregnant with baby number one and had really enjoyed it. The therapist said to try Bowen therapy as she had suffered from muscle spasms for years, had three sessions of Bowen therapy and has never had a muscle spasm since. She warned me that it felt like nothing was happening during the session and that the day after her treatment she felt like she had been hit by a car.I made an appointment with the Bowen therapist and was lucky to get a session within two days of calling.
So what is the Bowen Technique and how can it help you? It all started in Australia with a man called Tom Bowen who wanted to be a doctor. He developed Bowen therapy and by the sixties he was treating 13,000 patients a year. The theory is that the light pressure and rolling over your muscles and connective tissue sends a message to the brain which then starts to heal the parts of the body that need to be healed. It’s just like flicking on the switch that needs to be flicked for you to get better. The Bowen Technique can work well for most joint issues or sports injuries including frozen shoulder, backache, whiplash injuries, sciatica, knee and ankle pain and hamstring injuries. It can also work for those of you suffering from migraines, asthma, hay fever and arthritis. It even works for infant colic and for bed wetting in older kids as it can encourage the stimulation of the hormones needed to help stop bed wetting. Sessions cost from £30 depending on where you are and some GPs can refer you for treatment.
According to www.thebowentechnique.com cancer patients are able to have Bowen therapy. The website states ‘there are some ideas that you shouldn’t do lymphatic work with cancer patients, but this is not borne out by evidence or by the many lymphoedema nurses and physios working with cancer patients day in day out.’ Bowen therapy can treat issues that don’t relate to cancer such as sleeping problems, back ache, mental fatigue etc. The website suggests to ‘try not to focus on the cancer, but instead what the problem is that is being presented instead. “What’s the problem?” is always the question; “cancer” is never an answer which we can realistically progress to treatment from.’
My therapist, Kerry Cassells agrees that Bowen Therapy can be beneficial for anyone with cancer as it helps to reset/reboot the nervous system, encouraging it to switch off the fight/flight nervous system and switch on the relaxing part of the nervous system (parasympathetic nervous system). Some moves can also affect the lymphatic system too. She advises to seek medical guidance to determine whether or not it’s for you.
So, how was it for me?
The day before my treatment I met up with a friend who I hadn’t seen for a few months and we chatted about what was happening in our lives. I happened to mention that I was going to have Bowen therapy and my friend admitted that she had had it after her second pregnancy as her hips and back ached as she breastfed. She described it exactly as the therapist had and said that it felt like the Bowen therapist just flicked you and waited, then flicked you and waited. She too said that the next day she felt like she had been hit by a bus and after just three sessions her aches and pains had vanished.
I was really excited to try Bowen therapy and the therapist, Kerry chatted to me about my issues and then looked at how I stood, lay down and sat, as well as the movement I had in my neck and shoulders. Then I lay on a massage table and Kerry applied a light pressure and rolling movement to each of my main acupressure points. As she did this I felt like there was a hot water bottle all over my body. She said that some people feel nothing, others feel warmth and others feel an energy around them. She laughed as she said this because she is a registered nurse and is used to science and concrete evidence for everything she does, but says it’s as if she can see the energy around people. The warmth I felt was such an amazing feeling to feel.
When it came to working on my neck and shoulders my neck was so stiff, especially on the right hand side. Kerry described it as a metal coil. She had to work on it more than in the other areas and said my body was holding on to a lot of trauma. She discovered too that my pelvis was misaligned, which probably explains part of the trouble I’ve had with my knees which has passed onto my hips and she said that my left shoulder was lower than my right, which made my head and neck hold more tension in them. Again, this would have been from the car crash I had as a teenager.
I left feeling very chilled out and the warm feeling stayed with me for most of the day. I was advised to carry on with my exercise as normal, drink lots of water and not have any other treatments for seven days.
I slept quite well that night, but when I woke up the next day it felt like I had been in a car crash all over again. It was funny, as it was all in my left side, whereas after the first crash I had it was all in my right side. I couldn’t turn my neck or head fully and my lower back hurt like mad. This lasted for a day or two and gradually I felt fine again. After that first session my pins and needles and the numbness had improved.
My second session was exactly the same. I lay down and Kerry applied a small amount of pressure and flicking to the key acupressure points of my body. Again I felt a lovely warm sensation. The following day I ached all over again, but not as bad as the day after my first session. The aches and pains gradually disappeared over the next few days and the pins and needles were nowhere near as bad as they had been. In fact, they almost disappeared.
I did want to have a final session with Kerry, but my husband’s job took us away from Scotland to Yorkshire. Had I not have had the sessions, I believe that my symptoms would have been unmanageable. I had been packing and lifting boxes on a daily basis and the numbness had got so bad I couldn’t even hold the parcel tape and scissors, never mind lift anything heavy. Thanks to the Bowen Therapy I managed to get all the packing and heavy lifting done and I stayed calm throughout the move!
With all of this in mind I have stayed committed to being healthy, happy and confident. It has been tempting to drown my sorrows in chocolate and wine, but instead I’ve thought about this experience as my body’s way of telling me that it’s not happy. I’ve continued to give it the best food that I can and have continued with my exercise program that doesn’t punish my body. I’ve stayed happy by learning to live in the moment. I’ve talked about this for years, but have never set aside time to do it properly. I’m one of those people who work through their ‘to do’ list at full pelt and then settle down about half an hour before bed to do something for me. Yesterday I had lots of work to do, but I really wanted to snuggle up on the couch and watch a film with my three young kids. They normally just get half an hour of TV each day, so they jumped at the chance. We snuggled up and watched ‘Enchanted’ and it was bliss. Yes, my jobs are still there to do, but I feel so much happier and more fulfilled for the time I had with my kids. Finally, I feel more confident as I am learning to give up my need to control everything and am trusting that things will work out fine. That’s made me more confident with my business too – I will achieve my goals at the perfect time. I also believe that the right treatment will turn up at the right time for me and so far it has. My knees are much better, my posture is getting there and my pins and needles are being managed by wrist splints at night. This belief may sound a bit ‘far out’ there, but the option of worrying and living in fear is not going to do me, my body, my family, my friends or my business any good.
I hope that by sharing this experience I have helped you in your outlook. You can feel bogged down by what’s going on in your life or by what you have to do. For the week ahead really try to live in the moment and just chill out and do something that makes you feel happy. If you feel like not doing housework for one day to have coffee with a friend, then do it. None of us know what lies around the corner, so let’s make the most of today.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Bowen therapy then check out www.bowen-technique.co.uk I’d also like to say a big thank you to Kerry who worked her magic on me. Check out her Facebook page kerrysbowenbodyworks or contact her on 07775982426.
About Jaelithe Leigh-Brown
Jaelithe helps mums like you be healthy, happy and confident that you’re doing a great job. You don’t need to be unhappy with your body, or feel pressure to lose weight or be a certain size. You don’t need to get bogged down with housework or dealing with squabbling kids. You don’t need to wish for more hours in the day to get through your ‘to do’ list and you don’t need to doubt your skills as a mum, or judge yourself every day. You don’t have to be a Supermum to be a super mum.
Jaelithe shows you how to enjoy everything being a mum entails with tips, advice and online Bootcamps that help frazzled mums become fabulous. Check out www.mrsmojo.co.uk.
My mission is to empower women to be…
·Motivated to be all that they can
·In love with the life they have
My goal for this year is to help frazzled mums who have a never-ending ‘to do’ list feel fabulous, so that you can be healthy, happy and confident, so that you can have quality ‘me time’, time with your kids and time with your partners. Get started with my FREE meal planner for busy mums. http://www.mrsmojo.co.uk/busymumsmealplanner
If you have ever considered EFT as a form of therapy, have a read of this fab guest blog by my friend and fellow survivor Emily Hodge. Emily has had an amazing experience with EFT herself and is now trained as a Life Coach, helping others after challenging times including cancer. Read here how EFT helped her and how it works.
By Emily Hodge, NLP Life Coach (MSc Health Psychology)
If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be tapping on parts of my body to ‘release energy’ and repeating funny phrases whilst I was doing it, I’d have probably laughed in your face. If you’d have then said I’d go on to use this technique with other people in coaching sessions (where they want to!), I’d have told you to shut the front door. Yet, here I am, doing both these things.
I first found out about Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT, also known as Tapping) not when the Daily Mail reported that Lily Allen used it to quit smoking but when I was beginning to understand more about the tools and techniques that would help me recover emotionally from my cancer experience. During it, I had all the traditional works (surgeries, chemo and other drugs) and also complementary support from acupuncture, massage and reflexology to help with sleep, stress and general wellbeing.
This is no miracle healing story, I wanted and needed all the conventional drugs I could get my hands on but also knew that my mind needed holistic support. When it was all over, even a few years later, I knew I had some thinking patterns that were stuck and weren’t helping me, and wanted to venture further than the traditional coaching and therapy type support I was finding.
So when I saw a friend’s EFT video, whilst it looked a little strange, I was open to trying and engaging with it. I was particularly drawn to the idea that it combines the physical and emotional aspects of our experiences, helping us to re-programme memories and thoughts that are destructive, by using both the body and words. I also liked how, once I’d learnt the technique, I could use it independently any time I liked, unlike other talking or body therapies like acupuncture.
Finding EFT videos online and then a practitioner, I realised it was something I responded to really well. It allowed me to focus on specific parts of a memory or thoughts that were troubling me, and to pick it apart gently without ‘flooding’ into the whole event. I loved it so much, and felt so much better – for me, lighter, brighter and calmer – that I went on to train in it and use it as a tool within my coaching practice with others.
What is EFT?
EFT is a form of non-needle acupuncture deriving from a Chinese medicine background of understanding the meridian energy points in the body. Tapping along these in particular sequences is said to bring about energy shifts, resulting in difficult memories or feelings being experienced differently e.g. a reduction in anxious thoughts or a change in an experience of pain. EFT can be done with a trained practitioner and also on your own once you’ve learnt the technique. The points you tap on are shown below:
The words spoken during the tapping are as important as the tapping itself. The set-up phrase leads the topic of what will be tapped on. There are two parts to this phrase. Part 1 is an acknowledgement of the issue you’re facing. It should be as specific as possible, so rather than ‘even though I have anxiety’ being more specific is preferable, such as ‘even though I have anxiety about going back to hospital’. Part 2 is the acceptance of this feeling. This isn’t trying to make you be OK with the feeling, nor is it to cause you guilt that you don’t already. Rather, it’s a way of giving yourself kindness in acknowledging you feel this way. This is usually ‘I deeply and completely accept myself’ or ‘I accept this anyway’ or even ‘I’m OK’ – whatever feels right at the time.
The set up phrase is completed three times whilst tapping on the karate chop point (see to the EFT diagram above), to focus the session. The full tapping sequence is then completed using key words from the set up phrase. You tap on the points at the speed and strength that feels comfortable. Before we start, we also rate the intensity of the identified issue on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most intense, to understand the level before starting tapping.
What’s the outcome?
Most people report feeling differently about their issue after a few rounds of tapping and talking. It may be that the feeling or emotion sits physically somewhere different in the body, or a pain they had before feels different, or is even gone.
If you’re working with a practitioner, they would continue to ask questions and further look at the detail of the issue, doing more rounds of tapping until the intensity has changed significantly.
This isn’t about a cure – I practice EFT and use it with others not claiming that it will cure an anxiety disorder, acne, arthritis or cancer (and I personally would run a mile if someone had these claims). This is about managing thoughts and feelings that we also experience in our body, in order to feel differently and hopefully better about them.
What’s the evidence it works?
Empirical evidence supporting EFT is available but thin on the ground, which isn’t surprising – as an alternative therapy there is little incentive to fund research to test its efficacy. But the way I see it, using EFT, along with other complementary therapies, is a personal choice. If you discover something you’re interested in and benefit from it in some way, I encourage you to go with that, rather than questioning it or having it questioned by others.
Why do we think it works?
Repetition – repeating out loud the issue that’s troubling you, especially with a practitioner, takes the pressure off of it being stuck in your head and equally starts to numb the intensity of it. It may be the first time you’ve acknowledged this is an issue and that can also bring relief.
Acceptance – In being honest with ourselves that we feel something we don’t like but we’re alright anyway it bring a strength to our thinking. – there’s an element of forgiveness and understanding that we don’t often allow ourselves.
Adjusting energy – tapping on the points in sequence does produce shifts. It will be different for each person and EFT may not be for some people but it does have funny, interesting, results. I usually laugh or yawn a lot when I do my own rounds and for me that’s a sign that something is moving around. I equally might feel quite teary for a day or so and whilst I don’t want to feel sad, I know it’s moving things in my mind that needed to be released and that’s super important for me.
There are many ways to use and interpret EFT, and likewise a range of practitioners. I trained with the EFT Centre in North London which offers good online resources for different areas of EFT use and you can also find great videos from practitioners like Brad Yates. I’ve also created a video specially for SamSpaces followers as well as a written tapping sequence below, both of which cover the topic of anxiety about returning to hospital (and are slightly different from each other)
So if your interest is peaked, try it out and see how it feels. Like it? Great, find more videos that resonate with you, or feel free to get in touch with me to find out more. A cancer experience is tough enough and we should take full advantage of all the support, during and after, that we can get…err tap!…our hands on.
Watch the unique SamSpaces EFT video here!
Example EFT tapping sequence
This written sequence focuses specifically on the issue of anxiety about a scan. You can replace these words with others words that are pertinent to you at any time.
Rate the intensity of the anxiety about your scan on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the least intense and 10 being the most. Remember this number for later.
Say the set up phrase whilst tapping on the karate chop point:
Even through I’m feeling anxious about going for my scan, I accept myself anyway
Even though I have anxiety about my scan, I accept I have it
Even though my anxiety about my scan is high, I deeply and completely accept myself anyway, and I’m OK
Tap on each of the following nine points with these phrases:
In between eyebrows point: “anxiety about my scan”
Side of the eye: “anxiety about scan”
Under eye/cheekbone – lots of anxiety about my scan
Under nose – feels high
Under bottom lip – thinking about this a lot
Sternum – distracted about my scan coming up
Under arm – don’t want to think about my scan but I am
Top of the head – anxiety about the scan
Repeat Step 3
Bring your hands to a rest and close your eyes. Take two deep breaths. Then rate the intensity of the anxiety again. Observe whether it has stayed the same, increased or decreased. If increased you may want to take further breaths and just tap around on the points without the words before checking the intensity level again. If it is the same or decreased, notice what words or thoughts came up for you in the last round and begin to use these words in a new set up phrase and tapping sequence. Continue until the number has reduced sufficiently for you. Close the session with further deep breaths.
Please note that in carrying out this technique on your own you are taking full responsibility for your own health. Thanks ☺
You can email me at email@example.com and find out more at coachingemily.com
In the blog below, Freddie will tell her amazing story of how she overcame immense grief after her father died of cancer, through tapping into her creative passion for design, namely out of climbing rope!
Samspaces is so excited to announce a collaboration with Freddie and we now have our own bracelet (picture above!) It was important to me to create something visible to represent Samspaces and emphasise an awareness for After Cancer support and highlight this profile and the importance of patient to patient solidarity within our community. To me, the threads represent all the many threads of recovery and healing all wrapped around a strong piece of climbing rope representing the strength, courage and resilience of the person wearing it, all in the healing blue colour of the Samspaces logo. The charms speak for themselves but are a reminder that if we believe in ourselves we will always succeed and we are always being looked after.
If you would like to purchase one of these gorgeous bracelets, they are priced at £11.99 plus P&P. Just send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org with your wrist size and address and I will get back to you with more details. Over to Fred……….
When asked where the inspiration for my business came from, it put a smile on my face and brought a tear to my eye. My story is a simple one, inspiration came from tragedy.
On February 26th 2015 I lost my wonderful dad to Cancer. Like so many of you out there this disease invaded my life and changed it forever, this is the story of how I used my grief to change my life in a positive way and create what I hope to be a lasting legacy.
Maybe I should start at the beginning, and introduce myself? Hello, I am Freddie, and I am the owner of a small fledgling business called Hanging by a Fred, yes I am ‘the’ Fred and here is the biggest surprise for many…I am actually a woman!
Before February 2015, I was simply a loving daughter caring for her wonderful dad whilst that disease took hold and ravaged his body in 6 short months. It may have changed his appearance but it never dulled his spirit, and I am grateful to have been there every minute to share each precious moment til the last.
My dad was a climber, a lifelong, committed, dedicated and rather talented climber and mountaineer. I grew up watching him and his passion for this sport, but never quite brave enough to join him until sadly it was too late. It was his life blood, his true love and his source of happiness. Climbing embodied everything about him, he even requested his favourite mug (which said ‘I’d rather be climbing’) and book (of routes in Northumberland, where we live) be on his coffin, and be cremated with him.
After he died, I suffered a deep period of grief. I had already suffered a great loss and was trying to deal with that, then I lost my dad, my friend, my confident. I had been so strong for so long, trying to look after my mum and sort out all of the legalities…the aftermath, I lost myself. I felt so alone and utterly bereft. The grief took hold, and I became a shell of my former self. Friends said I had ‘lost my sparkle’ and even looked ‘dead in the eyes’.
Writing these words, remembering this time, the tears aren’t far away, but there is also catharsis. I want to share my story, as I want you to know you are not alone in how you feel, what you are going through, and that, although it does not feel like it right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel and you WILL be ok.
The idea for HBAF came to me in June 2015, as moments of inspiration often do, through a random conversation with a friend about wool. We were trying to organise a relaxing day of craft to get me out of the house and back into society, in a calming and relaxing environment. Unfortunately, after a few years of unemployment, I could not afford the course fee. Not a problem! She had wool, and I had…well I had rope, climbing rope, and lots of it! We never did have that craft day, but by the end of the week I had put together a PowerPoint presentation with ideas, competition assessment, sources of equipment, materials needed, outlets for sales and much more. I took this to my unemployment advisor, who referred me to the Pinetree Trust, who support new business start-ups and those who have experienced particular difficulties. Paul Redpath came into my life, saw my ideas and the few products I had made and the information I had gathered, straight away he loved the unique idea and my journey really began.
My idea was to upcycle retired climbing rope into the beautiful and useful ‘for him, for her and for the home’ to quote my business strap line. I make real statement jewellery, woven rope mats, coiled rope bowls, mug cosies, pet accessories and so much more.
I knew Christmas was looming, with that the crucial period of the all-important Christmas market season, so working on my business plan and start-up loan began in earnest. The details of this work aren’t important, but the fact that this idea gave me renewed focus and purpose in life, that I found my drive and ambition again, that my sparkle began to return, that is what is important here. I was, I am sure, making my dad proud. I was honouring his memory, creating a new life and building a future, and every day he was at the heart of it. What better way to deal with loss and grief?
Today I am five months in to my new adventure, I am steadily booked at a variety of arts and crafts markets through to 2017, I have just had a photoshoot on Hadrian’s Wall for my forthcoming website, and I am supplying an ever growing range of galleries and shops with my unique products…not a bad start!
I have met and worked with amazing people, and made wonderful connections. I can’t lie, it is incredibly hard work and not everything works as well as I would like, but I love it. I am happy again. I have direction, and more importantly I have dreams for the future. Losing my dad has, in actual fact, given me life again.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, or my business, but I know that there is one, and as long as I don’t give up it will be a bright and sparkly one. That is essentially my message to you all, never give up! Never surrender! Thank you for taking the time to read my little story, and good luck to you all. Xx
‘Most people walk through the world in a trance of disempowerment. Our work is to transform that into a trance of empowerment’
– Dr Milton H Erikson
Over the next few weeks I want to post some blogs about four areas of wellbeing that have been a huge influence on me during my cancer journey over the last eight or so years; hypnotherapy, mindfulness, meditation and NLP.
All three of these therapies have so many benefits but I wanted to break them down so we can get a better understanding of what they all do in their own space. When someone asked me what the differences were the other day, I started stuttering and feeling like a total fraud, realising I actually didn’t have a defined answer, so I decided to do a little homework!
If the word hypnotherapy conjures up images of a line of chairs on a stage with seven or so innocent members of a studio audience desperately wanting to grab their moment of fame while being hypnotised to do weird and embarrassing things that they wont remember when they ‘are back in the room’ at the click of a finger, then think again!
Having met Nicky Anstey a few years ago, for a reason totally unrelated to my wellbeing, our paths recently crossed again when I found out she was doing a new Stress Reduction course in my area. Any course name that mentions the word ‘stress’ usually lures me in like a magnet and since I seem to be able to sniff out a relaxation course from a mile away post cancer, I thought this would be the perfect thing to compliment the mindfulness course I have done (blog coming soon) as well as my sporadic meditation practice and growing knowledge of mind based therapies.
Nicky is very knowledgeable about this area and her expertise and background are commendable. I have been fascinated in hypnotherapy and how it can help our wellbeing; through weightloss, smoking, improved confidence, assertiveness, relaxing and generally being able to switch off and give ourselves permission for Me Time. To be able to work in a smaller group environment and have a class every other week was way more convenient than other courses I had considered, so I signed up with a friend.
Nicky trained as a registered nutritionist in 1997 but felt she wanted to expand her practice by studying hypnotherapy and NLP as there was little point giving clients advice on what diet to follow if there were not in the right mindset to follow it.
‘Once the root cause of the problem is worked on and removed we will stop self sabotaging ourselves and can achieve any goal we set of ourselves, in a relaxed, happy and balanced way.’
– Nicky Anstey
Hypnotherapy is a process where we can remove the emotional rubbish and limiting beliefs that manifest over our lifetimes that tend to throw us off course. If guided properly we can set new positive beliefs and values that are in line with our goals to be and feel the best we can. As soon as I read the course description I realised quickly that this would be a course that would include homework. As with many cognitive behavioural courses, we are encouraged to practice daily as according to some sources it takes sixty six days to form a new habit. Society today is a stress pressure cooker and it is manifesting itself through disease, bad mental health, physical breakdowns and poor wellbeing.
‘I believe any ways to help the mind stay resilient and strong is key in life as they pressures and stresses of life are ever increasing.’
– Nicky Anstey
The first word scribbled in my notebook on the first day of the course is ‘Tools!’ This was exactly why I was there, to find new tools for dealing with stress. My tool box is ever growing and they don’t always work at the right time but I don’t think you can ever too many! I am not going to make out that I am some high flying career hungry working mum who is juggling everything and the kitchen sink, but I am naturally a very anxious person and the irony is that I struggle more with the everyday stresses than the big scary ones. Weird right?! Like some new twenty-first century robot, I needed new programming!
The first session introduced the cause and effect equation and I started to feel empowered straight away. Just recognising that I could take control of these situations and ‘buttons’ that were sending me into overdrive, was a gem in itself and I have gradually become more aware of introducing my own filters and strategies to overcome those knee jerk reactions of panic, fear and negativity that so often circle overhead like vultures, ready to dive for the kill!
Throughout the course I loved learning about how our minds actually worked. I am no biologist but learning ways of tapping into my unconscious mind and starting to build an interactive link between the conscious and the unconscious, is gradually opening up pathways and a totally different type of healing process for me.
I have to admit though that my favourite part of the course was the last fifteen minutes of each class! We would all lie down or sit, and Nicky would perform an exercise of hypnotherapy, talking us through a visualisation to deeply relax and generally emphasise how important Me Time was. I found these minutes precious. I could lie there and listen to Nicky’s soft, slow voice and drift off, letting her words sink deep into my subconscious while sniffing a gorgeous aromatherapy scent on a tissue placed nearby.
I enjoyed the course so much that when it was over I met with Nicky to ask her about putting together a specific meditation for Samspaces and I am so excited to be able to share a link to it below. Many of you are familiar with my focus on recovery and healing after cancer treatment and this was a wonderful way of collaborating to bring together my fears, anxieties and worries that I had felt (and still do feel) during this period post treatment, with Nicky’s skill and professional tools to create a therapy to help at this vulnerable and sometimes lonely time.
(Click on the Moving On box, then go to Membership details, log in with Username; Movingon and password; Movingon)
Hypnotherapy is a very powerful tool in stress reduction and has been a huge stepping stone in my developing a more mindful lifestyle. It sounds mad but sometimes I am even grateful to cancer, for simply making me more aware of all these mind based therapies, as they have definitely changed my life! I might not have started a life long habit of tuning my mind out every day and being Mrs So Relaxed I Might Fall Over, but even if just for five minutes three times a week, I have started a life long habit of trying! If I can follow a visualisation where i am guided and I can focus on a voice that is calm and talks me through deep breathing, I am away with the hypno-fairies!!!
Being in a group environment and sharing stories, while learning so much about how our memories and experiences have trained and shaped our minds, forming habits that may not be so helpful to us now, is so empowering. Nothing is right or wrong. It is hugely personal and can be massively beneficial for some and maybe only moderately for others. It does take time and it does need to be worked at, but to have started exploring these areas of the mind, has been like opening a window for me and letting in a beautiful breeze that lifts and calms the soul.
I am no runner! The image of me running in any shape or form is not worth thinking about but I know what a good exercise and headspace it is for so many people. I wanted to put the spot light on this form of exercise and in my third guest blog for Samspaces, Jo Taylor of ABC Diagnosis, tells me in a Q&A style why running has been such a focus for her wellbeing during cancer treatment and what she loves about it.
1. What do you love about running and why?
I love the freedom running gives you, to walk out of your home and run. No monthly payments and no ties to times of classes. You can do it whenever you want to suit your life. Getting out in the fresh air, summer, winter, even in the rain can be exhilarating.
2. How long have you been running and how did you discover it?
I started running 6 months after my son was born 11 years ago with my sister in law to help loose the baby weight and was regularly running 8 miles. I stopped when I was pregnant with my daughter and was planning to go back to running after 4 months, but was then diagnosed with primary breast cancer when she was 5 months old so all plans went on hold for a good year.
3 Do you think that having goals for this particular exercise is important and if so why? What goals have you had?
The only goals I have is to try to run 2 or 3 runs a week, usually 5/6 miles a time (I also cycle once a week too) I’m not competitive. I’d love to run a 1/2 or full marathon but it’s not a big goal. Knowing I can run every week at the level I run with secondary breast cancer is a huge achievement. Many cant even do exercise let alone run at the level I run so I know I’m lucky. I’m on new drugs which give a good remission (I’m currently in remission) but I know things can change with my diagnosis. I exercise to keep my fitness up in case of these changes so I’m in the best possible physical state to deal with this.
4. Why do you think running is good for people having cancer treatment or for those patients moving forward with life after a diagnosis?
It helps physically and mentally through the treatment. It helps you to loose weight if you have put some on due to chemo and tablets. I blamed the tamoxifen for excess weight. I just needed to up my running, which I did, and it worked. I think diet and exercise is very important for anyone whether they have cancer or not. It is the only thing that you can control and help yourself with with a diagnosis. It does give people a focus and as I said it doesn’t have to cost much. You have to find what’s right for you.
5. What do you think are the disadvantages to running?
It can be hard on the knees and joints especially if you are on drugs for cancer and it is easy not to be motivated if you run alone. It’s good to join a group or get out with friends. Like any exercise you have to commit yourself and results don’t happen overnight but you will run a mile, then two, then three and before you know it able to do a 5K and maybe a 10K!
6. How important do you think exercise is during cancer treatment generally and why?
I think exercise is massively important like I said for the reasons of mental and physical wellbeing. Also there are reports that it can help to increase the benefits of chemotherapy and I do think that it helps to get the toxins out of your body quicker. Exercise is very important – lots of studies show this in cancer patients. Macmillan call it a ‘wonder drug’ and promote it in their ‘move it’ campaign.
ABC Diagnosis supports primary and secondary breast cancer patients make informed choices with information and up to date news on treatments, breast surgeries, consultants, hospital and useful links.