Meditation & Mental Health

5 Apr

Yoga is not only used as exercise but has also been known to have a large positive impact on mental health wellbeing because of its calming, relaxing techniques and sense of community. It can help restore mind and body harmony.

Different poses in yoga can help different parts of the body with its focuses on breathing, physical and mental ability. Many people have been helped through depression, stress and anxiety because of the positive benefits of yoga.

When a person suffers from depression some of the common symptoms are lack of sleep so you feel tired a lot of the time, difficulty in concentration, negative thoughts and irritable. This can also then make you feel extremely stressed, uptight and tense, the depression and stress could then make a person feel anxious. Life can feel out of control causing fear and panic.

Yoga has both physical and mental disciplines. So much can happen in people’s lives throughout a day whether it is caring for family, health issues, and work stress. Yoga disciplines people to take time out, instead of thinking and worrying all the time. Dealing with depression, stress or anxiety can put your body under so much strain alone. Thinking constantly and worrying about situations before they occur, erratic breathing, feelings of tiredness and hopelessness, life these days can feel like you are on a rollercoaster that goes round constantly with no time to stop and think. This is where yoga can really work, by taking from 5 minutes as and when you get time up to over an hour a day depending on a person’s time and routine helps you to stop and solely focus.

One of the big things yoga concentrates on is breathing. It helps calm and focus the mind giving relief. If you are feeling very anxious usually your breathing will be quite erratic. Yoga will help regulate breathing and regulate tension by using various postures. One popular posture used is sitting down on the floor or lying flat, letting your body relax and take deep breaths through the nose, breathing slowly and deeply brings oxygen to the lowest part of your lungs and exercises your diaphragm. The yoga breathing teaches us to breathe through the nose, to lengthen our exhalation, increasing our physical and mental health. By concentrating solely on your breath as you inhale and exhale you learn to focus on the breathing and relax rather than on the feelings of anxiety and stress. Breathing exercises are something that can be practised anywhere, so if stress at work was a factor it can even be practised sitting in an office chair.

When a person is stressed some of the symptoms can be a faster heartbeat, increased blood pressure, difficulty relaxing and focusing the mind, headaches and tense muscles. Some episodes of the stress and the symptoms can then cause anxiety and depression. Yoga helps decrease physiological arousal – that’s the heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. In order to change exaggerated stress response it is necessary to become familiar with relaxation. Yoga practice provides the time and space to experience the sensations of the body, and to interpret them. Is the breath short, are the muscles tense?

By learning to relax in yoga this reduces production of stress hormone cortisol and improves the ability to manage stressful situations as well as other benefits which can come along with stress, anxiety and depression such as, greater energy and focus, improved muscle tone and cardiovascular health. Greater levels of happiness, self-confidence and an increase in job satisfaction.

Everyone suffers from anxiety at one point or another in their life but chronic anxiety can have quite an impact on the body after a while. When people have a lot of anxiety and do not exercise this causes tense muscles, constricted breathing and the mind never rests because of all the thoughts and feelings that come along with it. Yoga with music is great for anxiety, playing music that a person enjoys and finds particularly relaxing helps sooth the body. People with anxiety can try to keep busy to escape what they are feeling and thinking but it has been said that yoga helps the body to access an inner strength. This can help face the overwhelming thoughts, fears and frustrations of everyday life. By practising the exercises that yoga recommends daily this causes the body to release tensions from the large muscle groups and increase feelings of well-being, and encourage the body to breathe deeply.

In his book The Science of Yoga, writer William Broad assesses yoga’s ability to improve our mental health. He said:

*“The portrait that emerges from the decades of mood and metabolic studies is of a discipline that succeeds brilliants at smoothing the ups and downs of emotional life. It uses relaxation, breathing and postures to bring about an environment of inner bending and stretching. The current evidence seems to suggest that yoga can reduce despair and hopelessness to the point of saving lives”.* – The Science of Yoga, The risks & rewards by William J Broad – Page 87

A Journey Through Grief

23 Apr

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Because that is what grief is, a journey. If there is anything I have learnt through loss it is people can be there, and listen on our bad days, but ultimately we walk our own path at our own pace and the only way out of pain is to go through the pain, working through our feelings and emotions. I always felt after Dad’s funeral I had to get back to ‘normal life’ including behaving as if nothing had happened, but inside I have had so much to deal with.

It is nearly 10 months since my Dad passed away (see previous blog post), there are days when it just hits me out of nowhere and I am inconsolable and times where I plod along and feel absolutely fine, knowing in my sad times, better and brighter days will come. I am dreading one year, one year where I haven’t held my Dad’s hand, or been in his presence. I have learnt that grief is an ongoing journey where there will not be an ending as such, because I will never stop missing him.

I had my own notion of grief. I thought it was a sad time that followed the death of someone you love, and you had to push through it to get to the other side.

But I am learning there is no other side, there is no pushing through, but rather there is absorption, adjustment, acceptance.

And grief is not something that you complete, but rather that you endure. Grief is not a task to finish, and move on. But an element of yourself, an alteration of your being, a new way of seeing, a new definition of self. – Gwen Flowers

The journey of grief is a long lonely road, as for everyone else the grieving ends with the funeral service. I have been to many funeral services and don’t get me wrong, I have felt extremely sad and struggled at times, but life carries on. It isn’t until you are directly affected that you realise life does not just carry on after saying goodbye. It is a hard long slog of a journey, you are left to just get on with life as best you can.

People act as if you should be over losing someone close and carrying on. My dad was very poorly in the months leading up to his death, I almost felt sometimes that if I knew what was coming, why am I so sad. Other comments I found tough were:

  • “He is in a better place” – yes he is in, but he is no longer here, and I will never see him again.
  • “I know how you are feeling” – If you have been through loss, yes I believe you can empathise, but we all have different lives, relationships, so we can never understand exactly how someone feels.
  • “People insinuating that it is time to move on” – you never move on from loss, but you can move forwards.
  • “He is still with you and you can still talk to him” – But let’s be honest, it is completely different to having someone there in  your day to day life, having a conversation or laughing at the silliest of things, getting a response.

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Grief literally changes everything, and it wasn’t until after he died that I had to deal with all the suffering that I had watched him go through, watch him lose his strength bit by bit until his body finally gave up the fight, and I know no matter how many years pass I will ALWAYS miss him, there will be many special events in my life ahead that he will miss. I miss being round mum’s and the laughter we use to have, especially when we watched TV. I miss being able to ask him for simple advice.

But it wasn’t just the grief aspect, it was also the anxiety, the fear of what the future held, fear of the rest of my life without him, fear of my mum being on her own and worrying about her, which I still do. I knew grief was going to be painful. What I didn’t know was how lonely it would make me feel. As a family it is easy to talk about the happy memories, but actually discussing the deep and raw part of actual loss is something we all struggle with. We all have our individual feelings, different memories, different regrets maybe. 

I talk about Dad lots in my daily life, at work I bring up various memories. It is how I choose to keep his memory alive, but I don’t talk about the impact of his loss. It feels too painful and it feels too real. 

I finish with a couple of quotes on a recent article in The Guardian which sums it up perfectly:

“No one can entirely relate to the sadness and the ache caused by the loss of a loved one. They are lonely experiences. But the pain should not be compounded by society’s inability to deal with someone’s mourning. Most of us will acknowledge that mourning is a process which takes time. But few are actually ready to accept the responsibility that comes with it: people will not simply “get over it” with time, the experience of loss will change them deeply and forever.

As a society we have a responsibility to acknowledge the pain and help people adjust into society with their grief. We need to accept that it won’t always be that hard, yet it will never be the same.

Dark, awkward, depressing, sad, painful and uncomfortable; grief is all this. It is not something we want to think about. It is not something we wish on anyone. But it is something that will happen to all of us. We need to be here for each other when it does. And for this, we need to be prepared to deal with the bad and the ugly. We need to talk about death”.

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My Dad

7 Jan

 

June the 11th, the morning I woke up and my life changed forever.

Because that is what grief does, it changes everything…

June the 11th 2018, the day my Dad left this world.

My Dad was a fit, healthy, tall independent man until he started experiencing extremely high blood pressure and passing out as a result. We were all convinced this was down to Parkinson’s.

Unfortunately, my Dad was diagnosed with something much worse. In October 2014 he was diagnosed with Multiple system atrophy (MSA), also known as Shy–Drager syndrome, this a rare neurodegenerative disorder characterized by tremors, slow movement, muscle rigidity, and postural instability (collectively known as parkinsonism) due to dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, and ataxia. People typically live about seven to 10 years after multiple system atrophy symptoms first appear. However, the survival rate with MSA varies widely.

We suspect Dad had, had this a few years before he got his diagnosis. I remember the shock I felt that my caring, loving Dad had been dealt this awful card.

Deterioration seemed to feel quite slow at first but as time went on Dad was becoming wobblier on his legs and freezing regularly. He would sometimes hang in a doorway stuck for ages just trying to go into another room and eventually techniques we were given just didn’t seem to work. Going out became more stressful, although I am grateful we managed three more summer family holidays together making memories. Dad’s memory was also deteriorating, and cognitive ability began to decline, all the simple tasks he used to be able to do became a huge effort.

“One of the hardest things you will ever have to do, is to grieve the loss of a person who is still alive”.

Dad ended up having many falls, at first when he had more strength we were able to get him up, but as time went on this resulted in many calls to the emergency services to help us. Seeing my once fit Dad laying on the floor unable to get up was heartbreaking. The pain of watching a loved one just deteriorate before your eyes and being utterly helpless is one of the most painful experiences a person can through.

In the end we had various adaptions at home made, stairs lifts, extra rails, and eventually a bed downstairs. In February 2017 Dad was admitted to hospital after becoming too unsafe to be at home. We were adamant as a family it was either Dad was going to be at home or in a hospice, but we had determination he would not be in hospital or a care home at the end. Dad was in hospital three weeks such was the task of getting any care which another huge stress was. By the time he came out of hospital, he couldn’t feed himself, was completely incontinent and his speech had deteriorated. He made it out of bed one day before becoming permanently bed bound.

Over three months, I watched my Dad fade before my eyes, he became so weak he needed constant support. He couldn’t barely eat, drink or stay awake. He developed painful bed sores and we had a constant flow of professionals coming in to the house. We were grieving whilst Dad was alive. I felt angry that he was suffering in this way. In my mind I always wanted to do everything I could for Dad, to be there as much as possible so I knew in my heart one day when I no longer had him, I could say I had done my best. The one thing I will always be grateful for is he always knew who we were.

On 10th June I went out to an afternoon party, I said goodbye as I always did. I had a good day with friend’s, a rare occurrence to take my mind off things. In the morning when I looked as my phone as I always did, my heart always skipping a beat wondering if today, would be the day. I always had it in my mind we would all be with Dad, we would hold his hand as he went knowing how much he was loved. However, this was not to be. Mum told me the news I had dreaded for so long. “Sara, I am so sorry, but your Dad passed away this morning”. I suddenly felt this enormous wave crash over me. Dad is gone and thinking, but I was supposed to be there. I was meant to be with him, but Dad had other plans.

I went straight over to mum’s where my Dad was laying peacefully in his bed and as I entered the house, I just remember this wave of emptiness, I just knew he had gone. Watching him be taken from his home for the last time was almost too much to bear. When Dad had gone, I just looked at his empty bed, all the months of people coming through the house just stopped. It was silent. Our world just felt empty.

In the weeks leading, we were so busy as a family making arrangements. It was exactly four week’s to the day that we said goodbye. It was a beautiful service and a very private goodbye afterwards. People say grief doesn’t truly hit until after the funeral and I have to say this is true. Once you have officially said goodbye ‘true’ grief starts, your new chapter, a new life without that person in it. A whole life ahead now and the only way I could get through is by taking it a day at a time.

It has been exactly nearly six month’s since Dad passed and I have been on a huge rollercoaster. I cry every day. I miss my Dad. Not for what he was at the end, but for he WAS. My funny Dad who always had a joke to crack or a prank to play.

Grief doesn’t have a time limit. Six month’s on it is hard to believe he has gone, that I will never see him again. I get times when I plod along okay and there are days and hits me like a wave and it is painful, I am 32 and still have a whole life to live, but he won’t be there. He will never see me marry, or meet my children should I have any. I grieve for the future as well as the past.

“I think the hardest part of losing someone, isn’t having to say goodbye, but rather learning to live without them. Always trying to fill the void, the emptiness that’s left inside your heart when they go.

“My father is a man like no other. He gave me life,

nurtured me, taught me, dressed me, fought for me,

held me, shouted at me, kissed me, but most of all he loved me unconditionally.

There are not enough words I can say to describe just how important my father was to me, and what a powerful influence he continues to be”.

 

 

 

 

 

“The worst kind of sad is not being able to explain why”

29 May

“Depression is being scared of tomorrows and anxious of the todays. It’s looking for motivation with your eyes shut. It’s searching for answers, when no questions have been asked. It’s walking a path with no destination. Depression is being locked in your own mind without a key. It’s feeling everything, yet nothing. It’s losing your grip, because you can no longer hold on. It’s building walls for protecting, only to be closed off. Depression is dragging yourself through life because hope has vacated you”.

One of the most difficult things is pretending to be happy when inside you are falling apart, inside you feel nothing but emptiness. I am a very bubbly person a lot of the time so when an episode of depression comes over me it is very noticeable. When I am happy people know how to act around me, we joke, we make fun of each other and there are lots of laugh, but when sadness comes I am like a withdrawn shell in the corner and suddenly people don’t have a clue how to be with me, my body becomes numb and my thoughts become muddled. It is like something has come down and taken over me and there is absolutely nothing I can do. The first time I ever felt depressed at the age of 16 I had nothing to compare it to, it was hard to understand the feelings was swamped me, but over the years I have lost count of how many times I have battled through the darkness, but I cling on to the hope that although I’ve battled, I have ALWAYS made it THROUGH.

“On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t particularly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for getting through bad days so far is 100% and that’s pretty good”. 

Whether we suffer depression or not no one can be happy every single day, life has not made us that way. We must also remember that sadness is one of the most common natural human emotions, when we feel happy, we will also appreciate those moments much more. But there is sadness that comes when there is a particular situation or a disappointment and there is a sadness which is depression which feels like utter hopelessness and the worst reply from someone when you are feeling depressed is “I feel sad sometimes too”. 

“The worst part about depression, people who don’t have it, just don’t get it”.

And they probably never will…

 

 

 

 

“The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die”.

22 May

Life can be the most beautiful thing, but it can also be the most cruel. We all face crises or problems in our lives but for people who take their own lives their situation causes such pain and hopelessness, they cannot see another way out.

I know what it is like to be in the most beautiful places and yet inside be in complete darkness. I know what it is like to feel so hopelessly low that dark thoughts consume your mind.

People do not take their lives for selfish reasons, people take their lives because they are in severe emotional pain and aren’t able to see any other way out. When hope is lost it is difficult to see anything good in life at all. Often it is not planned and comes without warning.

It leaves question after question for those left behind:

What did I miss?

What could I have done?

And the answer often is nothing and nothing.

Many people intent on taking this approach will keep this completely hidden, therefore leaving it most difficult to save those in most need of help.

No one can predict the death of someone through suicide.

“Because sometimes people do feel that way. Sometimes your life feels like it is caving in on you. Sometimes people really do feel like they don’t want to exist, like they just want to curl up in a ball, and go into that place between life and death. Say “I don’t want to exist” isn’t saying: “I want to go die”. It’s saying: I wish that, for the time being, I could go somewhere and not have to feel”. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. And if you do not know how it feels to feel this way, then you have no place to judge anyone who does”.Anonymous 

Whilst some people have an identifiable mental health problem such as depression, other don’t. It may be a snapshot decision that comes to those left behind as a bolt out of the blue. When a person has a known illness or is their life is lost in an accident the grief is very different. With suicide there are sometimes no answers, this leads to feelings of guilt, rejection and anger and a rollercoaster of ups and downs.

“Suicide doesn’t end pain, it hands it to surviving loved ones”.

Not all suicides will be sudden, so here are some signs to watch out for:


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Never be afraid to ask someone if you suspect they may be having suicidal thoughts by making a pledge to:

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The only way is through it.

23 Apr

“Sometimes the only way around suffering is to go straight through it”.

At a recent funeral I went to the speaker used a very interest analogy from the children’s story ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’. It may seem an odd story to use at a funeral but the point she was trying to make was as hard as life can be, especially in times of grief is that processes we go through cannot be avoided, we cannot go over it, we cannot go under it, instead we have no choice but to go through it.

Life can be extremely hard, whether this is work, home, financial issues, bullying, grief, mental health issues or many more to mention we have no choice but to keep going.
I always used to feel privileged as an individual although I felt I had hardship with depression. I felt in terms of health and my family we were always very lucky. I used to hear of awful stories of what other people were going through whether it be ill health or loss and think how on earth do they wake up and go on.

In my other blog post called ‘A Journey with Pemphigus’ a rare disease I was diagnosed with in 2015. This was my first ever experience with physical bad health. I went through an awful time and three years on thankfully I am able to live with a full life with not too much limitation. In the same year my dad was diagnosed with an awful rare disease called Multi-System Atrophy. Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a combination of symptoms that affect both the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary action such as blood pressure or digestion) and movement. It has been so hard to watch my funny, independent and active dad slowly deteriorate over the last few years to now a bed bound man, barely able to communicate. It breaks my heart and each moment is precious as a family.

Life took a terrible turn on the morning of New Year’s Eve just gone when as a family we received the news of the loss of a young family member.
I never imagined myself to be a person who people came up to and say, “how on earth do you keep going”. The thing is you have two choices either you do, or you don’t because the truth is there is absolutely no way but through it.

“Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on, but you keep going anyway”.

 

 

Invitation to view photos from ‘All Photographs’

12 Jul

Hello,

I’d like to share photographs with you from my ‘All Photographs’ group.

http://saradunn.zenfolio.com/f525688558

Enjoy!

Toxic People

21 Apr

“Not all toxic people are cruel and uncaring. Some of them love us dearly. Many of them have good intentions. Most are toxic to our being simply because their needs and way of existing in the world force us to compromise ourselves and our happiness. They aren’t inherently bad people, but they aren’t the right the right people for us. And as hard as it is, we have to let them go.

Life is hard enough without being around people who bring you down, and as much as you care, you can’t destroy yourself for the sake of someone else. You have to make yourself a priority. Whether that means breaking up with someone you care about, loving a family member from a distance, letting go of a friend , or removing yourself from a situation that feels painful – you have every right to leave and create a safer space for yourself.”

Daniell Koepke