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Mental Health Awareness Week Blog Special

Blog post written by Dr Trevor Griffiths and Dr Marian Langsford, authors of Emotional Logic. Available for pre-order now, launches 27th May.

The authors of Emotional Logic: Harnessing your emotions into inner strength have been married for nearly forty years. Marian still practices medicine under her maiden name of Langsford. They both now teach internationally the Emotional Logic method of preventing stress-related mental and physical illnesses, which Trevor developed while in medical practice. The best compliment they have received, they say, was from a medical student in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, who stood up after a training session and said, “I have learnt today that it is really cool to be old, and married, and still together, ‘cos you get to travel the world and inspire people like us!” We don’t look very old; we received that as the honour it was intended to convey in that culture.

Learning to activate your inbuilt Emotional Logic helps to build more responsive relationships in any new situations you face. And it can be learnt at any age. An active schools programme in the UK has a wide range of age-appropriate materials, such that a five-year-old boy took an emotion leaf from a ‘Talking Together Tree’ they had made in the classroom, and took it to the teacher saying, “I would like to tell the class why I am feeling angry about something.” Imagine the difference that ability to talk sensibly about emotions rather than only act them out, or regulate them, might have.

In Chapter 1, Trevor comments on Marian’s story about a misunderstanding with a friend who had offered to help tidy her garden one autumn. She had told how understanding the emotional logic of her many loss reactions that followed helped to avoid a break-up. Here is an extract from Trevor:

As the eldest daughter in a Devon farming family, Marian grew up on a mixed dairy and horticulture farm overlooking rolling hills, surrounded by buckets of early flowers that needed bunching each evening for market the next day. They were not rich. She loved it. She has a wisdom from nature that I had missed, having been brought up in the London suburbs. For example, she once said, “Gardening isn’t all about pulling up weeds. You have to plant something in the earth in its place, and care for it.” A comment like that can leave me fixed into a garden chair for ages while I watch her getting her hands covered in earth and planting. Something simple like this can lead me to a lot of thinking, which I consider is my core skill.

So, what do I think about? I think a lot about human nature. I think things like, ‘Seemingly small things that break out on the surface of people’s lives can have deeper roots than we realise at first.’ It took me a few decades to realise that it did me a lot of good to listen to Marian. I think many men discover the same at some point in their married lives…

Emotional Logic was born out of years of experience in general medical practice, and out of a disrupted family background that Trevor experienced as traumatising. With a depth of emotional memories to draw upon, Emotional Logic harnesses the language of emotions into the inner strength needed to come through times of trouble stronger and healthier. Post-traumatic growth is encouraged as a way forward from post-traumatic stress. As a senior Community Psychiatric Nurse who uses Emotional Logic in her work said, “Emotional Logic heals the broken heart behind mental illness.”

Once learnt, people can share their new trauma-responsive conversational skills in their daily encounters with others. This prevents isolation following hurts. It reduces the risk of illness by building greater resilience and a realistic hope for recovery into relationships. Even if setbacks and disappointments occur, knowing how to activate one’s inbuilt Emotional Logic provides a world of constructive options to talk about. And where is there better to talk and to explore new ways forward than in nature, where the seeds of something beautiful in life can take root and grow.

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How not to be blue this Blue Monday

Blog post written by Lynn Crilly, author of the Hope with Mental Health series. 

The third Monday of every January has been named ‘Blue Monday’; the theory behind this is that this time of year is when it is cold, we find ourselves stuck with credit card bills and less money, our New Year’s resolutions (if we have made them) have often already failed or are not going to plan which creates an element of guilt and we are just not feeling our best. This year, in the UK we have the added anxiety of being in a lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I would like to help you to feel more positive and hopeful this January and to feel more optimistic about what the now has to offer and what the future holds. Below are some – I hope – helpful ways to change how you think and to turn some of the ‘blue’ negative thinking into positive.

At the moment we are all looking at updates on the news about the COVID-19 pandemic, which are often quite depressing and rarely the good news we are hoping for. Instead, try to look for the good news that is going on in the world. Whilst writing this blog I came across a website that focuses on good news only: Good News Network. Take some time to learn all the positives that are happening around us. Dwelling on the negative will keep you stuck in a dark place.

We all have a way of thinking we can predict the future; even though we have no idea what will happen tomorrow, we still like to predict the doom and gloom scenarios we think are going to happen. When we imagine negative scenarios, whether it is about the current pandemic or a work meeting, this negative ‘guessing game’ can turn into a self-fulfilling prediction if we are not careful. Focus on the now. If you want to look to the future, look at the positive scenarios that could happen rather than the negative.

This last tip might be the hardest to achieve but, once you nail it, it is the key to a more positive outlook, replacing negative with more realistic and motivating thoughts. This can inspire you to create the kind of life you want to live. For example, instead of thinking to yourself, ‘at this rate I will never be able to afford my own place’, this negative thought could be replaced with, ‘I am unsure of what the future holds, but if I make a clear savings plan, it is possible I may be able to afford my own place.’

I do hope these simple but effective changes can help to create a more optimistic mindset, for you or someone you know who may be struggling with Anxiety or Depression. You can learn more about these mental illnesses and ways to cope in my books Hope with Anxiety and Hope with Depression.

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How The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity was co-produced

Blog post written by authors of The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity, Erica Crompton and Professor Stephen Lawrie. The Beginner’s Guide to Sanity has been shortlisted in the Non-Fiction category of The People’s Book Prize 2020/21. Click here to give it your vote. 

Our self-help guide for people with psychosis is, we believe, the first written by a doctor and a patient. In a review in Therapy Today our book is described as ‘the epitome of co-production’. Unlike some accounts of co-production in clinical or academic settings, we’ve come together on an even footing to write this – and even shared the advance equally. Here’s how we got started and created something we feel is equal in every way.

How we met

Erica: Stephen and I met at a conference in London titled ‘Schizophrenia: new routes to better outcomes’ in March 2014 where we were both speaking about our areas of interest regarding schizophrenia. It was my first conference and I attended in glittery tights.

I’d been invited to the event by a speaking agent in Sweden who approached me on Twitter. What made me stand out to her was my pro-medical stance on treatment for schizophrenia and my journalism about my experiences with this. I jumped at the chance to present at the conference and pre-recorded an interview with Elyn Saks for this too. It was while this was showing on a big screen to the packed auditorium, that Stephen came over to my table and introduced himself. He asked if maybe he could tempt me to give a lecture on the stigma I’d experienced as a result of my illness at the University of Edinburgh, where at the time he was Head of Psychiatry.

Stephen: We do a regular external speaker ‘Special Lecture’ slot in Psychiatry in Edinburgh and are always looking out for new speakers and topics. I have always admired Elyn Saks and the account of schizophrenia in her book The Centre Cannot Hold and remember Erica doing a great job of interviewing her.

How we got started

Erica: It’s been a life-goal of mine to write a book for as long as I can remember but a few things were holding me back – my inexperience writing long-form copy, and ‘getting it right’. I wanted to write about my experiences of psychosis but felt another voice (in particular a ‘sane voice’) would add weight to all that I could say.

There are a lot of other voices from people with experience of psychosis I could include too. Every piece I write about my own journey with illness usually means someone gets in touch on email or via social media who can relate. I hoped to include these people’s thoughts in a book, too.

It was his mix of seriously impressive clinical expertise but also approachability that inspired me to ask Stephen if he’d be interested in working with me on a book.

He’d already helped with many articles I’d written for newspapers and Stephen is always an utter pleasure to work with.

Stephen: Thanks and ditto! I had been wanting to write an accessible book about schizophrenia for a general audience for many years but hadn’t really appreciated the importance of getting the voice of lived experience until around the time I met Erica – and when I also attended an event for pitching ideas to agents, who told me the same thing.

The write-up

Erica: We used a shared Google Doc to write the book and both added content, and notes over the course of a year. During this time I learnt so much from Stephen that is helpful for me in managing my psychosis. As I get very little time with my own care team, reading everything Stephen thinks we should know about psychosis has answered many of the questions I’m left with after an appointment with my own psychiatrist.

Stephen: The writing was a shared and fairly dynamic process. I put in everything that I thought someone with schizophrenia or any other psychotic condition, and those who care for them, might want to know. I tried to keep it as simple as possible – and then had to make it even more so and easier to digest after feedback from Erica and others.  Erica brought the text to life with quotes from others and was remarkably open about her own experiences.

Twitter trashing

Erica: One thing that unnerved both of us was a potentially negative reception from the latter-day anti-psychiatry and anti-meds brigade on Twitter. However, we’ve been lucky enough to avoid that so far. I do think some of these prolific ‘pill shamers’ on Twitter – many with fancy psychology doctorates – may have some unpacked attention seeking issues of their own.

Stephen: Yes, I remember saying to a friend that Erica would probably ‘get shit’ for co-authoring a book with a psychiatrist which is unashamedly pro-diagnosis and pro-medication – and him being appalled to hear that. Maybe we have got away lightly so far  because we are also pro-many other ways of handing psychosis – or maybe it’s because it was genuinely co-produced – or maybe the abuse will kick off later on. Even if that happens, the positive feedback we’ve had from people who have been helped by our book is hugely encouraging.

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Welcome to Society by Samantha Crilly

In honour of National Poetry Day, Samantha Crilly has provided a moving poem from her debut book Hope through Poetry. Launches 10th October, available for presale now.

Welcome to Society

Hello and welcome to society, we hope you enjoy your stay

We will make it as relaxing as possible as long as you do things our way

First of all and most importantly, make sure you fix up your exterior

If you slack at any point we will soon make you feel inferior

Secondly your life will be controlled by pieces of paper,

We will count it up and decide how important you are later

Thirdly, we want you to make your time here look as perfect as possible

Even if you’re having a bad day this is not optional

Fourthly make sure you post everyday on social media

One is fine at first, but we’ll soon get needier

In fact we can guarantee we’ll be getting greedier and greedier

Oh and In terms of your meals

We tend to advertise things to make you ill

Keeps our drug company’s going if you will

Trust us the more pills you pop, the better you’ll feel ……..

Lastly, just so you know, our planet is on its way out

But it has to keep up with our needs so that’s not something we talk about

So good luck and we hope everything is clear

Oh and don’t smile too much, people will think you’re weird.

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Trying to provide the best environment for someone with dementia in the present crisis: the three ‘Ss’

Dementia

It’s a difficult time for all of us – and particularly so for anyone with dementia. We are all being urged to stay at home and people in care homes are no longer allowed even to see visitors. How can those of us caring for people with dementia provide an environment that gives them the best experience in these circumstances?

First, it is important that the environment is supportive. Life does not always run smoothly and those of us who still have plentiful cognitive reserves learn to cope with that fact. We can acknowledge the need to limit our social contacts and our outings in the present circumstances. We can accept that we may feel anxious, bored and annoyed and we all hope to ‘come out the other side’ when life resumes its normal path.. Someone who has little cognitive reserve, for whom even following a routine is difficult, will find any change or complication doubly difficult. People with dementia need support. They need support from those around them and it is doubly important that those they rely on for support continue to give calm and consistent care.

As much as possible carers should keep to the habitual routine. There is no need to force the person with dementia to stay indoors, for example. If the rest of us are allowed outdoor exercise then so are they. ‘Social distancing’ can easily be maintained simply by walking in quieter areas or gently directing the person you care for in the right direction.

Secondly, the environment should feel safe. Note that I am not saying here that the environment should be safe but that it should feel safe to the person with dementia. Naturally, we should aim for a clean home environment – but becoming over-protective about touching surfaces or cleaning areas is not going to help someone with dementia to feel more safe and secure. It is more likely to cause extra stress as they cannot understand the need for such precautions. And bear in mind that most people with dementia confronted with a person wearing a mask and gloves are likely to feel terrified rather than safe.

Thirdly, the preferred environment for people with dementia should be stimulating to the senses and provide an opportunity for social interaction. Now that day centres and dementia cafes have been forced to close many carers are finding it quite challenging to provide activities for people with dementia and even more challenging to provide social interaction.

The fact is that without stimulation any of us may become bored and doze off. How often has this happened to you whilst watching a boring TV programme? People with dementia are frequently bored because many of the occupations with which they passed the time previously are now closed to them. Boredom can lead to difficult behaviour and restlessness, but often it just results in sleepiness. Simple tasks can be enjoyed – think sorting books by size, pairing socks, ‘tidying’ shelves, dusting and polishing. And remember that an impaired memory can be an advantage. If you ask someone to dust a piece of furniture more than once they are unlikely to remember that they have just completed the task. Outdoor jobs like watering plants, raking up leaves, and carrying trimmings to the compost heap combine fresh air and exercise as well as passing the time and ‘tidying the shed’ can occupy a good few hours even if the result doesn’t live up to the job description! Watching visitors to a bird table can be absorbing and this can be done through a window if the weather is not so good.

Providing social interaction is more challenging. Today we are being urged to use technology and social media to keep in touch with others but this is not an acceptable alternative for people with dementia who progressively lose the ability to work even simple devices such as a remote control. Many people with a cognitive difficulty will also be unable to associate screen pictures with the ‘real thing’ and may even find them frightening.

Telephone calls are often still acceptable as this is a method of communication that is still familiar so ask your relatives and friends to use the telephone to make contact.

You can also talk to neighbours ‘over the fence’ or whilst keeping an acceptable distance on a walk. Carers from care agencies are still allowed to visit to provide personal care or companionship if this is necessary so don’t cancel your regular care and remember to give them tips about chatting to the one you care for.

Blog post written by Mary Jordan, author of The Essential Carer’s Guide to Dementia

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Coping with loneliness and depression if someone has to self-isolate

Lonliness

The word ‘isolation’ can also be described as ‘the condition of being alone’, so it is no surprise that many of us are struggling with being lonely, low mood and depression. This is especially worrying for those who are over 70. In the younger generation, the term ‘self-isolate’ means staying at home with family, for those who are older, they may already live on their own, and their only human connection is when they go out and visit friends.

If you have an elderly loved one, or neighbor who is self-isolating, check up on them as often as you can, it need only be a short phone call, but you may be the only person they have spoken to that day. If you are the person who is struggling with the loneliness whilst having to self-isolate, there are many help lines who can offer support and a friendly voice when in times of need, such as The Silver Line, who offer a confidential, free helpline or telephone friendship for the elderly; call them on 0800 470 80 90.

Encourage your loved one or neighbor to limit their intake of the news. The more you hear, the more you buy into the panic. This only adds to the current anxiety. Instead, encourage them to watch a lighthearted TV programme or film.  You can even watch it alongside them whilst chatting on the phone so it gives them the feeling of company.

Encourage them to stay in touch with the outside world via Skype, WhatsApp or other messaging apps. Many of the elderly now have smartphones and will be aware of these forms of contact, even though it might not be their instinct to use them.

I hope some of these tips will help to keep our loved ones and neighbours in a positive state of mental wellbeing, after all…..self-isolation does not have to mean mental isolation.

Blog post written by Hammersmith author, Lynn Crilly, author of Hope with Depression, Hope with OCD and Hope with Eating Disorders

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Coping with anxiety in this time of crisis

anxiety in a time of crisis

As we are all already aware, this is a very distressing and unsteady time for many. I would like to offer some hope to those who are suffering from anxiety and anxious feelings, whether you are  or have been a sufferer of anxiety in the past, or whether the unsteadiness of this current time has caused the feelings of anxiousness and unease, I hope some of the strategies below will be able to help you cope.

  1. If you have read any of my ‘Hope’ books, you will be very aware that I am a great advocate for positive exercise and mental well-being. Many of us would leave the house on a regular basis, whether it was walking to work, or walking to drop the children at school, or a regular member of the gym, we are finding ourselves suddenly cooped up with our regular activities on hold. Making sure you are still getting regular exercise is paramount to our mental health, there are so many exercise videos on YouTube and online from beginner HIT sessions to yoga and Pilates. If you are able to leave the house, taking a brisk walk whilst getting fresh air will be invaluable. A good nights sleep and eating a balanced diet also complement exercise for their benefits on the mind.
  2. Onto my next topic….the media….whilst it is extremely important that we are all keeping up to date with the current situation, it is also important that we take our minds off it for our own sanity. Having a ‘media free’ or ‘tech free’ time each day will help us to focus on other topics and calm our minds. I love doing puzzles and find them very therapeutic. Other activities could include, reading a book, or even cooking a nice dinner.
  3. Spending more time at home is probably on most people’s wish lists, however, when it is suddenly thrown on us, we don’t know what to do with ourselves. The risk of not being able to socialize as we usually would could lead to a low mood slowly setting in. Getting up each day and giving yourselves a little self-care will go a long way to keep our minds positive and fresh.Wash your hair, shower regularly, put on fresh clothes, and you will feel ready to face the day.

Blog post written by Hammersmith author, Lynn Crilly, author of Hope with Depression, Hope with OCD and Hope with Eating Disorders

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Blue Monday: The Most Depressing Day of the Year

Blue Monday

Since 2005 ‘Blue Monday’ is the name given to the third Monday in January, also known as ‘the most depressing day of the year’. The day was first publicised by the travel company Sky Travel, who claimed to have used an equation including many factors such as weather conditions, debt levels, time since Christmas, low motivation levels and many more, in order to boost holiday sales.

Whilst it is true that January can be a depressing time for many, waving goodbye to the ‘festive spirit’, work parties and family time. For others, it can be a time of relief that the busy Christmas period is over, with the new year in play bringing new beginnings.

Some of those who feel depressed and low in January can attribute their symptoms to a depressive disorder, known as, ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ this can also be known as the Winter Blues, which can be caused by a lack of sunlight and being stuck indoors. In my upcoming book I cover the signs and symptoms associated with this type of depression, as well as some ways in which the mood can be lifted through the most depressive seasons.

It all sounds pretty depressing doesn’t it….however, according to an article in The Independent in 2018, ‘Blue Monday’ was not meant to have a negative impact, but actually the opposite, it was meant to encourage and inspire people to take a positive action within their own lives. I chose this date (January 20th 2020) for the release of my new book ‘Hope with Depression’, for the latter reason. To encourage those suffering from depression to open up and seek help, and for those caring for a loved one with depression to gain the strength and understanding about this deeply debilitating and destructive mental illness.

I have put together some tips on how to stay mentally positive this January:

  • Make small, doable resolutions that are achievable
  • Make time for your mental health – self-care is a necessity, NOT selfish
  • Plan some time with friends or family so you have something to look forward to
  • Switch off – put time aside to be phone, internet and technology free
  • Put time aside to exercise, even if it is a small amount, a little goes a long way

‘Blue Monday’ may be somewhat of a myth, however, it is important to remember people can feel depressed and possibly suicidal at any time of the year. We know that most of those who are suicidal do not actually want to die, they just want their pain to stop. For anyone struggling with mental illness please contact the SANEline for emotional support, guidance and information, 0300 304 7000.

Hope with Depression, a new  book by Lynn Crilly, will be available from Hammersmith Health Books on 20th January. 

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A Carer’s Christmas

Carer's at Christmas

The festive season is approaching and many of us look forward to enjoying this time. But for those caring for a loved one, Christmas can add an extra layer of stress, on top of everything else they are contending with.

Whilst caring for my husband, I still loved Christmas time, but immediately after, I always fell ill. I then spent January recovering, which made caring even more difficult.

So with this in mind, here is some useful advice to help you enjoy the season as you continue to care, so as not find yourself completely exhausted by the end of it!

  1. Spend a few moments planning the next three weeks. What do you really have to do and what do you not have to do? For example, do you always make the Christmas cake? Why not buy in this year and save yourself the time and energy? Just by making a few simple choices, can help to relieve us of any unwanted stress.
  2. We can find ourselves writing Christmas cards into the night! I know I certainly have. Then there’s the expense, plus the thought of climate change and all those trees. Why not write just a handful of cards to your nearest and dearest, and send an email or text to friends, letting them know you will be donating a bit of money to charity instead of sending them a card?
  3. We want to say yes to all things! But if you are caring, you only have so much energy, plus limited time and money. So instead of trying to cram in and see everyone over the next few weeks, why not suggest meeting some folk in the New Year to spread it out? This will give you a bit more space and give you something to look forward to in January.
  4. All that Christmas shopping can leave anyone frazzled. If you don’t have a problem with shopping online, this can certainly take the pressure off, avoiding the crowds and shops. Also, you may get some better deals online, as well as having your gifts delivered to your door, without leaving the house.
  5. Listen to your body. If you’re already feeling exhausted, and you have planned to go out and see friends or family, let them know how you really feel. Take the time to rest and recoup. If you try to do too much, and become completely depleted, your immune system may become low, leaving you susceptible to picking up a bug. The last thing you or your loved one needs. We just can’t please everyone all of the time. I know. I’ve tried! Let others know how you feel and if they really care, they will understand.
  6. Enjoy the simple pleasures. I love the fairy lights going up in the living room and having the candles on. Why not invite friends and family over instead of going out for an evening? Even though you will then be hosting, it can still help to save money and the energy,or getting your loved one out to a destination in the winter months.

Finally, we want to make the most of this special time, because for many of us, we know we may only have limited time with our loved one. This is why caring can be so very difficult. So be kind to yourself, ensure you take regular breaks and rest, so that you can make the most and enjoy the festive season.

Blog post written by Sara Challice, Who Cares? How to care for yourself whilst caring for a loved one. Available from Hammersmith Health Books, April 2020. 

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Q&A with Alex Wu, author of A User’s Manual for the Human Body

Alex Wu’s new book, A User’s Manual for the Human Body is a transformative guide to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The book shows how Traditional Chinese Medicines differ from Western medicine and what that means in practice. It also illustrates how we can help our bodies to heal themselves and thereby achieve a longer, healthier life. Here, Alex answers a few questions about his lifestyle, which is the basis for his book.

Alex Wu
Alex Wu, author of A User’s Manual for the Human Body

Can you describe your current lifestyle? How many hours per night do you sleep?

I am 66 years old so my regime might not be the same as people in different age groups. I sleep at 10pm and I wake up normally around 6am. I do the pericardium massage when I wake up in the morning and at night time, I practice the bladder meridian massage (Both the hair combing and back massage). I do the gallbladder massage (leg) after dinner. I try to walk at least an hour a day during the day time and I pay attention to the amount of clothes that I wear to avoid getting a cold.

Describe your diet. What do you eat? Are there any foods that you avoid?

There is no specific food that I eat or avoid but the general rule is I try to eat as little processed food as possible. To avoid cold energy, I do not eat anything raw except for fruits. The fruits that I eat are the ones that are in season.

What exercise do you do?

I exercise mainly through walking and I practice Tai-Chi occasionally.

What was your life like before you started practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine? What aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine that was most impactful?

Before I was ill, I worked well over 60 hours a week under high pressure. I was an investment banker in China back in the 1990s. I wouldn’t say that my regime was changed because of TCM but rather TCM concepts let me understand what type of harm this regime was causing to my body. I quit my job and it changed everything.

In your book, you talk about the Qi and the TCM concept of blood. How would you explain that to a Western audience?

An analogy I often use when describing qi to those who do not have a deep cultural understanding of the concept is that the body is a battery. Blood is the equivalent of the battery’s capacity and qi is the amount of energy currently stored in the battery. It would logically follow that the amount of qi you can have is limited by the amount of blood you have. This relationship between blood and qi is important if we are to understand how to improve our health. Because the quantity of qi a person can have is determined by the amount of blood the person has, the focus of healthy living should be to increase the amount of blood in the body.

To learn more about A User’s Manual for the Human Body, watch Alex Wu’s explanation video on YouTube here and here.

You can purchase the book from Hammersmith Health Books. The paperback is now on special offer for £9.99 and the ebook is £5.99.

A User's Manual for the Human Body