Recently, I have felt like I have been ‘peeling the onion layers’ for so long that there couldn’t be much of the onion left to peel?! I have shared before that my childhood, particularly my teenage years, was not ideal. Over the years, I recognised how the turmoil had impacted and continued to impact my life. It initially became more apparent as I had children and they were growing up. Our relationship was so different from what I had had with my parents. There also came a point in our marriage where I had to question where we were and where we were going. I considered all these things even more as a teacher and head teacher, particularly when I was working with young people who were finding school a tricky place to be, and yes, I was considering my own children, as I worked with those young people. I fully accept that our four beautiful children were affected by our marriage splitting up and the possible impact now on our grandchildren. Our past informs decisions we make along the way and I know that my past fed into the success and subsequent ending of our marriage. Would things have turned out differently had I done the work I now have? We will never know, and it isn’t helpful to stew about what might have been. The driving force, as I personally heal, is that my healing can be passed on through future generations, helping them to heal too. That is also why it is so important to me to work with others, supporting them through their story. If we all work on our own healing, it will ripple out, throughout our families and into our wider families and communities. What a wonderful world it could be!
Every moment is an opportunity. An opportunity for a new beginning. From the moment we take our first breath to the moment we take our last breath we can change. There is so much science behind this. In schools, I share how we are programmed to survive, and how this can become a problem. Our amygdala reacts to a situation, as if we are in mortal danger. We experience ‘fight’, ‘flight’ or ‘freeze’. This was, and can still be, very useful, but most of the time now it can work against us. Being negatively programmed can be exhausting and lead to stress, anxiety and illness. Learning to take a step back by taking that mindful breath/moment/minute/or more (!), we can notice that we were about to react and instead take time to consider other options and respond, as opposed to rect. The tools that I use daily, enables me to get to that point, but it takes practise! It’s like anything. We can’t run a marathon without putting in the miles, we can’t score a goal in the World cup without years of practising our ball skills and we definitely can’t play a concerto with a leading orchestra without thousands of hours of playing scales and exercises. So why do we expect to be able to be mindful just because we have read about it and dabbled for a few months? It is a lifelong skill that will need to be practised and used regularly, so that when we REALLY need it, it will be a natural response.
Going back to peeling the never-ending onion, I did peel quite a chunk this week! Throughout a large part of my life I have not had the healthiest relationship with food. I have attempted several times to figure out exactly why, although I did have a fairly good idea. I have previously tapped with a colleague, but we didn’t hit the exact spot, then a few months ago I bought a book called ‘Tap, Taste, Heal’ by Marcella Friel. I have scanned bits of the book now and again, but hadn’t looked properly at it till last week, when I came upon the chapter on ‘The Secret Wisdom of Sabotage’. This chapter talked about how we have our self-identified ‘roles’ in life, with reasons and stories about who we are and why. We might be ‘the good one’, ‘the bad one’, ‘the fat one’, ‘the thin one’, ‘the rebel’, ‘the crazy one’ and so on. By now I am quite sure, your role will have popped into your head! I had a few!! I tapped on this, which seemed to start the ball rolling again. I then had a session with a fellow practitioner (practitioners regularly get together to discuss, share and practise EFT/Tapping). The session very quickly identified a meal when I had been asked to eat olives in a salad, when I was about 15years of age. This was a very vivid memory. I was a ‘good eater’ but at that time in my life I HATED olives. It was not so much the olives, but the controlling element, the adult involved and the ongoing situation at that time, that had been the main cause of distress. As I tapped, we revisited parts of my life that I had buried for many years. WOW! What a difference I felt, as we delved deeper. It seems that the more we deal with the past, the further back we go, and we can keep going (if we want to), until we are at peace. How does that sound to you? The ‘lightness’ I have felt this week has been fantastic, even though I was quite unwell for a couple of days after the EFT session (it has been noted that this can happen when a big shift has occurred). I am having another session in a few weeks and am looking forward to it. It feels very liberating to be finally tackling, what I believe to be the core of my onion.
Everything happens for a reason....
How many times have you heard that before?! I often repeat that mantra, maybe not always wholeheartedly buying into it at the time but deep down I do believe it completely. All the catastrophes and challenges in my life have led me to this place and without them I would not be the person I am right now, and I am very happy to be the person I am right now!
However, I digress. Yesterday I sat down to write my blog for February. TBH I was weary after a hectic week, unfocussed and striving rather than inspired, but being the thrawn (one of my favourite Scots words!) person that I am, continued to pull words from the depths of my being until I had a fairly (?!) interesting, but, in my humble opinion, uninspiring blog. As I went to 'publish' it, the text disappeared! Internet here is not very reliable, so I am usually very canny about saving as I go, but in my autopilot state I had not done this. After a momentary reaction of disappointment, I quickly appreciated that fate had played its hand well yet again. Maybe there wouldn't be a blog in February and that was ok.
Fast forward to this morning. This morning is the beginning of me having AndBreathe appointments at my studio just outside Insch, on the first Saturday of every month. My first client was a Reiki client. I value all my clients and prepare for each one in a different way. However, there is something about the preparation for my Reiki clients that encourages me to take more time and more care. I take more time to look after me. I also take more time preparing the room and by the time the client walks through the door, I know we are completely where we are meant to be. All clients place trust in me when they mae that appointment. I never take that granted. I have been invited into the most private corners of their lives, sharing thoughts and emotions that have often never been shared before and the bravery it takes, is not missed by me. May they know that I will never break that trust. To be there with 'Love', 'Hope' and 'Faith' in all their forms creates a very special, unique opportunity to support someone on their lifelong journey.
Part of my preparation for this morning was to draw my guideline for the day. Today's card was 'Forgiveness'. Forgiveness is a card that appears only now and again but when it does, I always have a sense of apprehension and intrigue. I often feel like the child about to be guided to 'do the right thing'! How was forgiveness going to encourage me to think and approach the day differently? Best thing was to read about how the 16 Guidelines perceives 'Forgiveness':
"Forgiveness is the capacity to reclaim our peace of mind when something has happened to disturb us. As we go through life it is inevitable that we are going to hurt one another. In fact, as our world becomes more complex and interconnected, the opportunities for conflict increase. We have the choice whether to respond to these hurts and conflicts with anger and bitterness, or with forgiveness.
Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. It does not mean that we gloss over the harm that has taken place, or pretend that it never happened. What it does is to allow us to let go of the destructive attitudes towards the past that imprison us and the person who harmed us in a cycle of recrimination and guilt. When our desire for reconciliation and peace is stronger than our anger, disappointment or pain, then forgiveness offers the opportunity to make a new start.
Forgiveness can seem insurmountable, and has vast consequences, but in essence it is nothing more than a shift of mind. The motivation to forgive has to come from a genuine wish deep inside to relieve the pain and discomfort of ourselves and of others. It cannot be forced. Does everyone have the capacity to forgive? Can everything be forgiven? Is forgiveness something we can learn?"
I will leave 'Forgiveness' with you to ponder over the next few days. Each of us will take something different from the text and at another point in our lives, it will be different again. For me, it has given me a wonderful opportunity to contemplate several current situations in my life and with the framework of 16 Guidelines I feel safer, as I do so.
Every blessing to you for the month of February!
Welcome to our next chapter! Yesterday, I randomly picked the AndBreathe guideline for the month of January 2020 and it was 'Courage'. Many of you will know by now that I use 16 Guidelines in my every day life, both personally and professionally ( https://www.andbreathe123.com/16-guidelines.html ). It will never cease to amaze me that the randomly chosen 16G card is always the 'right' one for where I am. More about that later.
The title of this chapter is '2020'. Each and every previous chapter has led to this point. Although we don't want to dwell in the past, we don't want to forget what has gone before either. I for one, want to remember the lessons learned and hold close the precious memories. In the past I have set new year's goals, targets and aspirations, berating myself for not achieving the previous year's 'resolutions' and proceeding to do the same again in a repetitive cycle! It began to feel like a negative process, setting myself up to fail every year. There was also a feeling of turning my back on the previous year and starting afresh, a feeling of wanting to dismiss the blunders along the way! In my life, I have been a very focused, driven person, always wanting to do better, go that one step further. I was never 'good enough'.
However, over many years, but especially the last few years, I have grown to realise that maybe I am 'good enough', maybe I don't need to always look for that next challenge, that next goal. I have grown to realise that what I need to do is get to know 'me' better, get to like 'me' and most importantly begin to love 'me' for who I am. It's taken a long time but I cannot emphasise enough how good it feels to be on that path.
Instead of looking to change myself, I now look at what I have learned from the previous year, what I enjoyed, what made me laugh, what I want to do more of and then take it from there. It hasn't been straightforward getting to where I am and I am grateful for all the tools I have at my disposal now. 'I'm not good enough' was a very long EFT/Tapping session just over a year ago, where I tapped on every single aspect of my life where I felt that I wasn't good enough. I can share with you that it was a very, very long session!!! It also involved a big box of tissues, especially when I tapped on 'young Gillian' and how hard she had tried to do her best in very challenging times. The change that came after that afternoon was massive and has lasted within me.
Take time to reflect on the past year and begin to recognise areas of your life you would like to nurture and develop. Take a few days to mull it over. Search for the positives of 2019 and how you would like to manifest more of the same in 2020. There will be positives, even if it is just that you have got this far.
Now, let's return to the 16 Guidelines focus for January, 2020, which is Courage, and how it can apply to the month ahead.
A 16 Guidelines view on courage: "Courage is about stretch. It’s about seeing, feeling or realising that something more or different can be done, developing the determination to do it, and then carrying through despite all obstacles. We know in our bodies when we’ve been courageous. There is a glow of satisfaction and relief. Something has shifted, and we have grown in size.
Courage is not defined by what we do, but what we overcome within ourselves. It comes in many forms. It is found in a steady approach to everyday difficulties as well as in the single spontaneous gesture. It is happening quietly all around us as well as in the news.
Courage involves acknowledging our fears, but not being deterred from offering something that goes beyond our own immediate needs and comfort. Most courageous people have decided that the well-being of others is more important than their own, and have allowed this decision to drive their actions and the way they live. Invariably, they seem to find their own happiness in the process."
I think you will agree with me that Courage is a perfect guideline for the beginning of the year?!
Time for reflection:
1. Set aside some time in a quiet space.
2. Choose a couple of areas you would like to nurture/develop.
3. Focus on the process not the outcome.
4. Make it something you enjoy.
5. Research and plan e.g. Does the swimming pool timetable fit with your timetable?
6. Find a support network – go with a friend?
7. Tell someone close to you (or on the AndBreathe posts!) what you are going to do and write it down or create a vision board.
8. Learn to deal with set backs (Remember the 16 Guidelines focus - Courage!) .
9. Take a few seconds at the beginning of each day to remind yourself why it’s important to you.
You are not alone! Follow AndBreathe (andbreathe123) posts on Social Media or join AndBreathe Membership ( patreon.com/andbreathe123 ). Being with like minded people can get us through the tricky times and challenges. It is also good to be able to share the celebrations with us too!
Please let me know what you have decided to nurture in your life in 2020. I will share too!
December 2019: "We're really looking for something that's not there!" I was recently at an evening for women, run by women with a fellow entrepreneur sharing her expertise, focused on how to use social media to increase engagement in our businesses. In recent months I have been stepping out of my comfort zone and attending networking events, making new business contacts and this event came from an invitation from one of those new contacts. I find that I always learn something by meeting other people on a similar journey. Although our businesses are very diverse, we all experience ups and downs and it's good to share! It was at this event that I heard the statement, "We're really looking for something that's not there!" It was in response to the fact that so many of us mindlessly scroll through our phones many, many times a day without real purpose.
It got me to thinking. My excuse to myself is that I use my phone for work, booking in appointments, updating social media (work of course ;) ) and reading and responding to emails but, if I am honest, I know that I am guilty of mindless scrolling. It IS like I am looking for something that's not there! It's something that I've discussed with various family members. I have begun to turn on airplane mode when I am out walking and have contemplated assigning myself specific windows of time time to engage with social media (yes, I think I am that bad!). The camera on my phone is so much better than my camera that I prefer to use, which is why I don't just leave the phone at home.
But it's not just social media that the statement applies to. I won't drag you down with me but I know there have been so many times in my life when I didn't truly appreciate what I had. I was often looking for more. One path I could never quite get to the end of was education and job satisfaction. I was always striving to do better, gain another qualification, climb up the ladder, take on more responsibility and so on. The irony came when I felt I had finally 'arrived', it was all whipped away by Sepsis!
Fast forward 4 1/2 years, I believe that Sepsis was given to me as a 'wake up call'. Sepsis made me stop. My body fought back but, most importantly, my mind dug deep, as it had done in half-ironman and half-marathon races when I thought I was running out of energy and the challenge was too great. Since then, I have learned so much about myself. First, as I tried my damndest to get back to where I had been pre-sepsis but then it dawned on me that the lesson was to find a new way of being and a new way of living. I am still on that journey. There have been lots of small steps alongside the massive shifts. Nowadays, I share what I have learned, hopefully encouraging others to make positive changes in their lives.
So, as we approach 2020, let's look up from our phones and appreciate life moment by moment, savouring ever second!
I have found that children of all ages respond very well to EFT/Tapping. I am a relatively new EFT Practitioner but my background is in education and I have a growing gaggle of grandchildren, so I have had quite a few opportunities to try it out! It's all about making it accessible and relevant. My very first experience of EFT was when a parent suggested that I might be interested in bringing it into school. At the time I was a teaching head teacher of a small, rural school and mental health and wellbeing was at the heart of every decision I made (both of pupils and staff). If you don't have happy children and/or adults, worthwhile, high quality learning is just not going to happen. I invited the parent into school to introduce EFT to everyone and she visited every class. At the time I was in the early stages class, so we learned the Tapping points singing along to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! Very quickly, we began to include a Tapping session into our daily routine. We would talk about what was going on and how we were feeling. The more opportunities children have to recognise and talk about their emotions, the more chance they have of becoming emotionally literate adults. It was this experience that led me to attending a Level One EFT course, followed by Level Two and now, here I am, a fully qualified EFT Practitioner!
As AndBreathe, I visit schools delivering the Pawsb and .b Mindfulness programmes to year groups, as well as sharing mental health and wellbeing skills and strategies to small groups or individual pupils, who are finding life tricky. EFT is always part of these sessions and I usually introduce the year groups to EFT at the end of the Pawsb Mindfulness programmes. In the younger classes and for pre-school schildren, I share EFT/Tapping by singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, as I first experienced, but I now also include singing a song along to the tune of Frere Jacques:
(at the crown) I am Tapping, Tapping, Tapping,
(top of nose) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap ,Tap,
(temple) Tapping little fingers, Tapping little fingers,
(under eye) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap.
(Under nose) I am Tapping, I am Tapping,
(Under lip) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap,
(collarbone) Tapping little fingers, Tapping little fingers,
(under arms like a gorilla) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap.
After some discussion on feelings, we then replace the 'I am Tapping' phrase with 'I am Angry/Sad/Yucky' or any other emotions/words that suit.
I am gradually finding more EFT texts for reading to children and for the adults who are supporting them. One of those books is 'Happy Tapping with Mia and Charlie', by Paula Kennedy. I have also used 'I Love Me' and 'I Still Love Me' by Hilary Ahluwalia. I used Hilary's books when I visited Kenya earlier this year and was introducing EFT to Kenyan schoolchildren. Many Kenyan children have experienced significant trauma and Tapping has been very effective. In Kenya I also used a video that can be found on YouTube, which was very useful for overcoming language challenges. The message was powerful, as well as the video being fun and accessible: Two Finger Tapping - (TTT) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl0AkZfRGNE
In the outdoor work I am now doing, I also use EFT in 'Outdoor Wellbeing for Teens' sessions. These are very relaxed sessions when we Tap on all sorts of challenges that the teenagers might be facing, either at school or at home. The teenagers bring back many examples of when they have gone on to use Tapping by themselves, often for situations linked to anxiety in school. Teenagers experience very strong feelings/sensations within their bodies when they are anxious or upset and it is very empowering when they experience the body sensations dissolving in a Tapping round.
In Family Wellbeing sessions, I also share EFT with good success, especially with children who are anxious about going to school or being in social situations. It is heartwarming to witness the change when they realise that they now have a tool they can use all on their own.
I'm going to close with an example of how effective EFT can be with children after just a quick introduction. I had visited all the classes of a small school just before the summer holidays. It was break and someone brought in a very young pupil who was beside herself because she thought a wasp was in her ear. There was definitely something in there and we all knew there were a lot of wasps around, so she assumed it was a wasp. School staff contacted mum and began to wait for mum to arrive (staff are not allowed to do any more than that in this sort of situation). It came to me that I could encourage her to Tap. I spoke to her and reminded her of what we had just talked about and said it might help her breathing (she was breathing very rapidly through the sobs) if we tried it. She was too upset to do any Tapping herself so I asked if she minded if I tapped on her face like we had done. This was all very spontaneous on my part, but I went with my gut instinct, which is usually pretty reliable. She nodded and I began to Tap, talking about the situation. In a very short space of time her breathing began to settle, and by the time her mum arrived, she was calm, so much so in fact, that her mum was not overly concerned! Staff were amazed at the transformation of the young girl, resulting from the Tapping and TBH so was I!
November 2019: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!”
The current focus for the AndBreathe membership is ‘Self-Care in Winter’ and I found myself in mid-October drained and exhausted. The irony was glaring!!! I love what I am doing now but I had to recognise that I have NOT been looking after ME very well. Although I have the tools and do use them most of the time, I do slip up. Self-care really is an ongoing, lifelong process and I share this to remind myself, as well as all of you! In past blogs, I have shared that the lack of daylight in winter can be an issue and I thought I had been keeping up with that, using my special light and getting outside as much as possible. I have a ‘clean’ diet and by that, I mean I cook from scratch, avoiding packaged food. I felt that I had been doing that too. I did recognise that exercise has not been a priority recently, so I signed up for a challenge with ‘Choclates at Home’ (check Choc’s FB page out: Pilates, Choc’s way!) and went to my first Insch Trail Runners sessions (hill reps at the Back O Bennachie). I definitely did NOT run the whole time, but it felt good to be there. However, I knew I needed more than that. I needed to take a step back from EVERYTHING, so I checked into the Samye Ling Monastery & Tibetan Centre for a couple of days. My first ever visit!
At its depth, mixed with tiredness & exhaustion overdoing things, the fatigue that hovers constantly in the background can drag me down both physically and mentally. The other week, I heard of someone who is currently in HDU with Sepsis and my first thought was “Would it have been easier if I hadn’t made it?” I appreciate that is a shocking thing to say but that is the thought I had. On my journey down to Samye Ling (it took a very long time, so I had plenty time to think!!), I explored that thought and by the time I arrived at Samye Ling, I knew what I have felt all along, which is that I was spared for a purpose. Yes, my life is very different to what I anticipated it would be at this point in my life, but I AM ALIVE! I have so much to be grateful for and there are so many people who have overcome far greater challenges. I was nearly back on track. And yes, I had used tools as my storytelling mind went into overdrive! I came back to the breath several times and at one point tapped on the deeper emotions.
In tricky times (all the time actually, but in tricky times I pick one specifically for whatever challenge I am facing) I pick a 16Guidelines card to help me see things differently, so when I arrived at Samye Ling I did just that! The card drawn was ‘Loyalty’. The chapter on Loyalty, begins with: “To live a full life, one must have the courage to bear responsibility for the needs of others.” I had been looking for sympathy or some reassuring words, so I was not overly happy to read this!! What about ME?! It was tempting to put the book down but I persevered and continued to read. Later in the text I came to this passage: “If we know a friend or colleague will be loyal to us no matter what happens, then we will explore how to live with greater reassurance and can take more risks. When our back is covered, it becomes far easier to face outwards with confidence and a sense of freedom.” It was a timely reminder that I do have quite a few people who ‘have my back’ and that helped.
The next day’s 16Guidelines card at Samye Ling was ‘Gratitude’. Again, it was another reminder to acknowledge the positives and not wallow in self-pity! Towards the end of the explanation of gratitude, as understood by 16 Guidelines, there is the following paragraph: “Gratitude is grounded in the wisdom which accepts that we are neither independent nor self-sufficient, but part of an extraordinary continuum of events and beings on this planet. It encourages us to welcome reality, rather than fight it – both what seems good and what seems bad. Learning to appreciate every single thing that happens as a potential source of insight and growth is one of the key ingredients for a happy life.”
Experiencing Samye Ling for the first time was special. I attended hour long silent meditations morning and afternoon, as well as other ceremonies. I have huge respect for many faiths, and it was humbling to be part of Samye Ling for a few days. I look forward to returning there.
On my return from Samye Ling I launched into a very hectic week (had I learned ANYTHING?!) and my body reminded me once more that it was needing a break, I was needing to build a stronger foundation! I felt the beginnings of a virus, so cancelled as much as I could and battened down the hatches. I had recently watched the Netflix documentary, HEAL (watch it!), which focused on the power of the mind in the healing process. It popped into my head to say out loud “I am healing!”, “I am getting better.” As soon as I said it, I felt a significant change in my body. Not sure about you, but when people ask how I am and if my answer is “I’m ill, I’m not well”, I feel a heavy weight across my shoulders and chest. It doesn’t really help! By saying that I was healing, it meant I didn’t have that heavy feeling, instead there was a lightness, a sense of optimism. I am working with someone just now, who is overcoming several challenges and I would say that he has this optimistic attitude and I see the benefits in all sorts of ways. Try it and let me know how you get on!
Post-Sepsis life is often like a tightrope walk but, yet again, I’ve survived the wobble and am grateful for all the tools at my disposal. So remember, ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’
What a whirl September has been! I am very fortunate to have been blessed by an ever-growing gaggle of grandkids over the past seven and a half years, and in September I spent twelve days in Las Vegas, getting to know my newest grandson. Twelve days of being a mum to my daughter and granny to my grandson, which involved morning walks with the buggy, allowing my daughter to catch up on a little sleep and giving me the gift of one to one time with my adorable new bundle! A colleague messaged me when I was there and made a comment about margaritas by the pool, but I replied saying it was more like nappy/diaper changes and burping a baby!! It was such a lovely visit. My son has also been home over the past few weeks and, as he works all over the world, it has been so good spending time with him. To complete the family update, one daughter is expecting her second baby in January and my third daughter has just returned to university to become a paediatric nurse. It is a joy watching them all, as they make their own paths in life. I am so grateful to be part of it all.
Back to business! October sees an exciting new chapter for AndBreathe, as I launch AndBreathe membership. I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS!!
As a patron of the AndBreathe Mental Wellbeing Toolkit you will receive:
1. Monthly email.
2. Mindfulness/16Guidelines/EFT Videos
3. Opportunity to win a 1:1 session,
4. 15-20minute 'live' weekly workshops
5. Access to me for support and questions.
6. Opportunity to request the topic for live session/additional sessions.
6. Access to the 'Online AndBreathe Mental Wellbeing Toolkit' FB page.
7. You will be part of a supportive community to share success stories, challenges, information and tips on all things health and wellness related e.g. recipes, wellbeing holidays.
8. All for £10/$15 per month
I am looking forward to sharing my skills and tools on this forum. It will go live in early October.
Another ‘first’ in October is the first ‘Level One, Finding Your Happy: 16 Guidelines for Life’ course being run by myself and Lorna, from ‘Finding-Qi-In-Me’. The 5 week block begins on Wednesday, 30th October at 7pm. For more info and booking, go to the ‘Workshops & Events’ page at www.andbreathe123.com .
I also now have a 4-6 session programme for businesses. These sessions are to support mental health and wellbeing and to guide staff towards a healthier life-work balance. There is also ongoing contact offered through Zoom Wellbeing sessions. Please spread the word about these programmes.
Outdoor Wellbeing sessions are winding down for now. In the future, I would love to think we will continue through the winter months. Will you join us?!
Hope you are well and using the strategies I shared in September’s blog! As they say in these parts, “The nichts are fair dra’in in” (trans: The nights are fairly drawing in)!
September is the month when I become acutely aware that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting darker. Living in the NE of Scotland this is increasingly significant, as we head towards December. It is time for me to be pro-active and prepare for the months ahead.
Over 25 years ago I went to my GP armed with a written list of symptoms indicating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Initially, he wasn't very interested but by the time I got to the end of the list, he was on board and shared with me that the medical centre had just invested in three SAD lights and I could be the first person to have a light on a three month 'prescription'. But I get ahead of myself.....
At that time I had four children aged 2yrs - 7yrs, was working part-time as a flute tutor and was co-owner of a music shop/music school. Every winter I struggled significantly with energy (lethargy) and emotions (low mood). I had lost my dad earlier that year so initially my GP used that as a reason for my struggle. Although I agreed this was still affecting me, I knew it was only part of the story.
A week after that GP appointment, I was setting up my first SAD light and the rest is history. Within just three or four days, I felt like a completely different person. The awful lethargy and lack of enthusiasm for life had gone. For me, it really was miraculous. After that first three month loan, I invested in a light and have had at least one SAD light in my life ever since. It is worth trying one to see if it works for you.
There are several other self-help strategies that I put into action every September:
2. SAD light - Regular use of the SAD light is essential.
3. Exercise - Exercise of any sort is helpful. If it takes place outside, then it is even better! I also practise Yoga, which is helpful physically and mentally.
4. Mental health - Mindfulness, meditation and reiki have all been helpful. I am also part of a women's circle which meets regularly. I have always found this a nurturing, supportive, safe space to share my experiences, which has helped me enormously.
5. Diet - There is a craving for carbohydrates with SAD, often leading to weight gain, so it is important to ensure that I plan a well balanced diet and avoid the temptation. There has been scientific evidence revealing that a vegetarian diet leads to being more susceptible to SAD. I eat a mainly vegetarian diet but do eat meat when my body asks for it.
6. Sleep - There is a desire to hibernate and I don't battle against this the way I used to. I allow myself a longer sleep in the winter time (I don't need nearly as much sleep in the summer). It is one of the kindnesses I give to myself. Our ancestors would have gone into some sort of hibernation, I am sure!
7. Natural Oils - Sandalwood, Tea tree, Lavender and Lemon oils are all helpful.
8. NEW!!! Floatation therapy - I have recently been introduced to the Float Room, which has also been shown to improve low mood/depression caused by SAD. I don't really need an excuse to use the Float Room but glad I have one!
9. Medication - In some cases, people might be prescribed medication for SAD but I have managed to avoid this.
For more information about SAD:
Personal update: It has been an exciting, exhilarating, exhausting and scary few months! The biggest lesson I am learning is that being a ‘Wellbeing Facilitator’ can be very challenging to one’s own wellbeing! I say that with a touch of humour but I have been taking a long look at how important (even more important?) it is now to look after myself. Starting up a new business can be terrifying, at times! I began with dreams, enthusiasm and a huge desire to share the tools that have helped me so much over the years. However, the reality of paying the mortgage and bills recently brought me to a cycle of work – life imbalance (definitely NOT life-work balance), not respecting my own wellbeing. I have taken time over the past few weeks to identify days and times when I DO NOT think about work. I know that my mind will not have read this blog, so I realise that work thoughts will undoubtedly pop up, but I have promised to pop all those thoughts into my ‘basket’ until the next workday! I do also see the irony of me writing this on a Sunday!
So, what am I going to do to get back some of that balance? Make sure that I am exercising in some way every day; a Yoga with Adriene session, one of Choc’s vidoes (see below for more info!), a cycle ride, a long walk or a swim. More music must also figure highly in my balanced life too. I love doing all those things but have not been creating the space, so that needs to change. I also recognise that I have not been seeing friends as much and intend to change that as well! Living on my own means I can become a bit of a hermit (which I quite like to be honest!) but I know it is so good for me when I get out and about. It goes without saying that spending time with my family is a massive part of looking after my wellbeing. I do love being a mum and granny (number 6 grandchild arrived just a few days ago)! BUT, all of that is ‘doing’ something! More than anything, I need to ‘be’. My sitting cushion has not been sat upon so much recently, so a special time will be set aside to sit, as well as quiet time in the outdoors.
Better time management has to come back into my life!
Venues: Number One, Scott Skinner Square, Banchory/Urban Wellness Hub, Balgownie Drive, Bridge of Don/Insch Podiatry, Rannes Street, Insch/Elemental Crystals, High Street, Inverurie
I am now in each of my four different venues, twice a month. One to One appointments are gradually picking up. The EFT appointments have been especially rewarding. As well as mental and physical health issues, I have worked with clients on the emotions associated with getting back to competition after injury, loneliness, grief, divorce and the challenges of overcoming life-changing health issues. The EFT for Animal appointments are also a highlight in the week for me. Even I find it hard to understand (yes, I keep telling clients not to try to understand EFT!!) how EFT for animals works, but it most certainly does! I am so grateful that my life has always included animals.
Online: AndBreathe Online Mental Wellbeing Toolkit Pilot: This is an exciting new venture for AndBreathe. I am very aware that many people following AndBreathe on Social Media live outwith Aberdeenshire with many much further away than that, so this pilot has been running through August testing the waters. I have been introducing the volunteers to the AndBreathe tools and offering more in-depth information than is on the general AndBreathe pages on Social Media.
My plan is to continue the AndBreathe toolkit and offer a variety of practices, activities and information through videos and articles, using the AndBreathe tools in a weekly post. I want it to be accessible for everyone, so the charge will be minimal at £10 per month. I am very aware that not all AndBreathe clients are on Social Media, so the pilot has also been running via email for a few volunteers and I would like to continue this when the toolkit is up and running. One email a week will be sent, which will include the week ahead and any additional posts from the preceding week on Social Media.
Online EFT – Clients can book online EFT sessions through the AndBreathe website, or by emailing me direct. I conduct the sessions through Zoom and email a link to the client before the day/time of the appointment. These sessions are very helpful for people who live too far away, or who have mobility issues.
Collaborations with Wellbeing with Agnes, Finding Qi in Me and Choclates – Pilates with Choc: I have always enjoyed collaborating with other people, so I feel very fortunate to be working with Agnes, Lorna and Choc in a variety of projects.
Finding Your Happy: 16 Guidelines for Life: Lorna (Finding Qi in Me) and I have now completed training to become 16G facilitators and look forward to introducing 16 Guidelines to people across the North East of Scotland and beyond! We have 4 taster sessions through September and October, followed by a Level One course throughout October and November.
Finding Your Happy: 16 Guidelines for Life gives people practical tools to help them live a life like that: a life where they better understand themselves and get happier as a result. But it’s more than that; happier people make a happier world.
These workshops are for anyone who knows their life could be better than it is; and not by getting the newest phone, or more money, or a bigger house. If you’re feeling like there’s something missing, if you know that there’s more to life, and if you want practical tools to discover all of this and more, you need just 16 Guidelines. We look forward to seeing you there!
Enrich Your Spirit: Time to look after you!
We aim to create a very special atmosphere during these events. Lorna is an experienced QiGong practitioner and opens the day with an hour-long QiGong session. QiGong is a form of gentle exercise, designed to enable strengthening and stretching of the body to enhance balance, reduce stress and support deep relaxation.
From there we move gently into a mindfulness session, influenced by 16 Guidelines. The 16 Guidelines programme provides a simple and flexible framework for developing empathy, compassion and resilience in daily life.
After lunch, participants settle on their mats and snuggle down in their blankets ready for the Soundbath meditation. We use a variety of instruments to support your personal healing journey. A very special day because you deserve it!
Outdoor Wellbeing for Teens & Adults: Agnes, Wellbeing with Agnes, and I team up for Outdoor Wellbeing events. We currently have sessions for teens running in Kemnay and Haddo,as well as sessions for adults.
Outdoor Wellbeing for Teens: Mindfulness and woodland skills in the wilderness to help build confidence and resilience in teenagers.
Being a teenager is hard, with so many expectations and social pressures but very little life experience or coping mechanisms to deal with myriad situations. These sessions are great for young people to just be who they are without worrying about school, friendship groups or lack thereof, looking a certain way, saying the right thing or judgement (from others or of self). A chance to be part of a social group with no expectations and the freedom to choose and be empowered.
For young people currently in S1-S6.
Cost per session: £10 - £5 (sliding scale based on ability to pay). Discounts available for sibling groups.
To book Haddo sessions email Suzanna on email@example.com
To book Kemnay sessions www.andbreathe123.com
Wellbeing in the Outdoors – Adults @Haddo
This is mindfulness for both the experienced practitioner and newbys alike. In this two hour adult only session you can move towards a more mindful life, and learn how to be fully present in any given moment. It is said this is the key to better mental health: the past is gone, the future not yet written. We can only live in this very moment, so we must learn how to appreciate it.There will be various mindfulness and meditative activities to participate in. A lovely way to ease the mind after a busy day.
The session costs £15, but a reduced fee may be possible for people who struggle to pay the full amount. We want to include as many people as possible, so please don't be embarrassed to ask if you can pay a little less if you feel £15 is beyond your budget. Email Suzanna on firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Choc at Home: Choc’s online ‘at home’ programme was the inspiration for the AndBreathe Mental Wellbeing Toolkit. Choclates or Choc(‘s Pi)lates is based on the principals of Pilates and helps busy people get fitter and stronger safely, without spending hours in the gym.
I was delighted recently, when Choc asked me to make a series of 8 videos on mental wellbeing for ‘Choc at Home’, to work alongside her physical wellbeing programme.
Choc also runs Choclates beginners-intermediate and intermediate-advanced classes in Huntly, as well as Postnatal mum and baby classes in Huntly and Insch.
I have a huge favour to ask if you have attended any of the AndBreathe workshops, collaborations or had a one to one appointment.
If you feel able, please leave a review on Google
Thank you for reading this far! AndBreathe... is a very exciting venture and I am glad you have joined me on the journey!