Ordinary People Helping Ordinary People in Extraordinary circumstances!


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Blue Monday – Debunking the Myth??


I have heard about Blue Monday before and to be totally honest I have never paid much attention to it at all for a few reasons. Firstly, I just don’t understand how we are all meant to be feeling the same way on this one specific Monday and secondly as I have aged I have found each Winter more and more depressing, so by January I am generally blue all week, not just on the Monday. So, I thought I would do a little research into where this saying has come from, who it has come from and why are we OK agreeing with Blue Monday really being a thing??


This year Blue Monday falls on the 16th of January. Now before we all set our alarms for the worst day of our year I will just give you a basic description of what I found online to be the cause for Blue Monday. Apparently it happens because of an overindulgence over the festive period, a feeling of guilt that we haven’t stuck to our new year’s resolutions already and a lot of
us have unpaid credit card bills from trying to buy gifts etc (or in our current climate just trying to keep our families warm and fed). This was just a general search, there could be more reasons, but after I read about not sticking to new years resolutions I wondered why it wasn’t called the Blue 2nd of January, but that’s probably my lack of will power talking.


Here is where my research really started to both interest and annoy me at the same time. I never recalled there being a Blue Monday when I was a child, I thought possibly my parents has sheltered me from this horrible Monday. It turns out that the term was only released in 2005 in what I can only say in my opinion was nothing but a PR stunt by a well known travel company!

A psychologist coined the phrase the year earlier in 2004 when he was asked to come up with a “scientific formula” for the January blues. I think what annoyed me the most is that nothing was mentioned about the lack of daylight and so our vitamin D levels by January can be rather depleted and many people suffer with things like seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D) and this could well be contributing to why people feel a bit lower at this time of year. Anyway, personal annoyance put to the side, there really isn’t such a thing as Blue Monday in terms of scientific proof.


So, now that we have found out where this phrase has come from but a lot of people will still be feeling a little blue, whether it be a Monday or any other day of the week I thought I would write up a short list of suggestions of things we could try. I will include things I will never try, things I already love and things I am not completely opposed to trying because we are all so different,
some of these suggestions might just not be for you and that’s absolutely fine.

  • Call a friend. It could be someone you haven’t spoken to for ages or someone you talk to every day, heating a comforting voice can make a difference.
  • Meditate. Even just sit and concentrate on your breath for a little while to slow things down. Sometimes we can get more agitated and down when we aren’t breathing properly so just slow down, 5 or 10 mins is enough or take as long as you need.
  • Physical activity. This one divides people. Some people love to get moving and some people when they see that phrase think they have to run 5 miles, seriously physical activity could be something like get up and cook your favourite meal from scratch, go for a short walk with the dog if you have one, or with a friend that has one, do the ironing. When I say physical activity this by no means implies getting to the gym and sweating for an hour or two, I would be a hypocrite to suggest this, the last gym I was in I was in high school, and even then I was unhappy.
  • Set realistic resolutions. This means that we can avoid the guilt of not sticking to the big ones that we have made. So if you like to have 5 sweets or chocolates after your dinner as a treat, can we cut it down by one a day? If the long term goal (this is mine) is to really get on top of tidying the house , start by making the bed every morning. It’s more about the mindset than the resolution, stop giving yourself things to feel guilty about.
  • Get creative. This could be drawing, planting new colourful things in the garden, It could be buying a cheap bunch of flowers and arranging them beautifully in a vase to enjoy in our room. Why not try a new meal? Be creative in the kitchen, even chopping veg differently can make an everyday meal just feel different.
  • Eat well. We have all had months of overeating, sweets and chocolates are everywhere, give your body a treat and give it a vitamin boost it probably needs by now.
  • Make the most of natural light. Even on a dull day we can take 10 mins to just be outside, it really does make a difference. If you are not able to be outside, open some windows for a little while and breathe in some fresh air. Trust me it does make a
    difference.
  • Change your environment. Change the bed sheets, move the furniture, go visit a friend or a relative. There are so many ways we can change our environment. I could write a whole blog just about that, but our minds need things to change now and again.
  • If you have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder why not invest in a proper S.A.D lamp?
  • Quit a bad habit. I am not even going to give any suggestions here because we all know what we would like to change or quit, why not just try reducing it a little?
  • Learn something new. Nobody is too old or too young to learn something new. Even listen to an information packed audiobook while you go about your day, it’s surprising how much the mind can absorb even when we think we aren’t paying full attention.

These are all important questions. I must admit when my depression was really bad I had a compulsive spending habit II would go
to work and every day come home with at least one new item of clothing. I now have enough clothes to last me well into my 80’s as long as I don’t gain any weight or grow any taller which I’m sure won’t happen, so my money wise and attainable resolution this year will be to get rid of what I no longer need or use, declutter my space and only buy essential items (which isn’t easy for a compulsive spender).


I hope some of these tips help a little. And also the knowledge that Blue Monday is nothing to be feared, it’s not even really a thing alleviates some pressure. Have a fantastic week. I’ll be back soon with some more of my dorky research.

M

(Hope you enjoy our volunteers humorous take on Blue Monday…. 🙂 )


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Social Anxiety during the Festive Period

The perfect Christmas doesn’t look like the ones on TV, it looks like the one you enjoy. There’s so much pressure to be happy and to be part of a big celebration but I’ve found that finding downtime, solitude and space to simply feel however I feel makes the holidays easier to manage. 

Whether it’s a whole day of peace and quiet or locking yourself in the loo for a few minutes of meditation, being able to recharge can make a world of difference. It gives me the ability to truly enjoy time with loved ones without burning myself out. 

A few of my favourite tricks to recharge my mental batteries are:

The dog is always happy to go out – fresh air and a bit of movement really does clear out the cobwebs. 

Meditation – taking time to be in the moment can stave off anxiety spirals before they become overwhelming. 

• Your phone is useful – text a friend, watch that video that always makes you laugh, look at pictures of chilled out capybaras. Distractions can really help

Low key alternatives – sometimes family can be too much, try coffee with a friend or visit a local community event for a change of scene.  (https://www.facebook.com/425132480881448/posts/pfbid02nvbNvTh4up2vKUYReWkcQEmPbcU3mvy7oRf24ccy7HHWSsjifrW3CoT1NdstM3iol/?app=fbl)

If social anxiety has taught me anything, it’s that people and relationships matter, the rest doesn’t. Celebrate with your loved ones in the way that works best for you and that will be a perfect Christmas.”

Thanks,

Katie S.

p.s. our thanks goes to Katie, one of volunteers peer workers for this article. Lived Experience proves to be very helpful.

Photo – The Old Packhorse Bridge – Carrbridge, Scotland. (Maggie Wright)


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Panic Attacks – Tip – Square Breathing

Why do we have panic attacks and how can we help to control them?

I know I usually write about food but this has come up in my family life and also heard about a few people suffering panic attacks so I thought I would love to give everyone a super simple way to deal with these horrible events. They really are events, because after you have had one you can be left completely exhausted, mentally and physically drained and worst of all for me was the knowledge that I might suffer these for a long time. However, “square breathing” is something I had to learn and want to share with you.

To give a little bit of background as to why this information was shared with me, I had to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital and I was assigned a relaxation therapist for a few weeks after I was discharged. She taught me this and when I had to take it to the real world, I must admit it worked for me.

So before I get into the thing that “worked for me” I did a wee bit of research because that’s how I roll and I was absolutely aware that my experience of a panic attack may differ from everyone else.

Signs of panic attack

Some of the signs you are having a panic attack (btw, everyone is different) you may get all or just a few. Sudden intense anxiety, shaking, crying, feeling disorientated, rapid and irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, chills, hot flashes, tightness in the throat, sense of impending doom or danger, fear of loss or control or even fear of death. .

Are panic and anxiety attacks the same?

This part of my research was actually a learning curve for me because I have always assumed a panic attack and an anxiety attack is the same thing. They aren’t and here is the difference and I absolutely wish I had known this years ago. An anxiety attack is a response to a perceived threat , like you saw an abusive ex or something, you already know the danger, your body responds with anxiety. The difference with a panic attack is it seems to come from nowhere, u don’t see the danger, you just cannot shake this.

Triggers for panic attacks

So triggers for a panic attack are things like over breathing (I researched this because I have never heard this term) so hyperventilation, when you breathe too quickly and you are not getting enough oxygen to the brain, hence the dizziness. Long periods of stress, physical changes after illness, change of environment and lets not forget our main ones, trauma, whatever kind – whether the death of  a loved one to….actually I wont even go there because I guess if you are reading this you know what has made u traumatized. But please be aware and hopeful because life after trauma and panic attacks doesn’t need to be terrifying. Feeling afraid after trauma is absolutely normal and panic attacks can happen when something or someone reminds you of the trauma. Like I said before though, your body is reacting and it is scary.

Square breathing

Here is one of my ways to deal with panic attacks, sorry for boring you with the research but I have never claimed to not be a research nerd.

Find something with 4 corners, anything, it could be a bus when you are waiting at a station, your tv when you feel overwhelmed, anything with 4 corners. What I love about this technique is that we generally all have phones so we are looking at something with 4 corners, or a tv, whatever it is, just find something you can count to 4 with. So focus on the top left hand corner and breathe in all the way along to the top right hand corner, then breathe out to the bottom right hand corner, them breathe back up to the beginning corner and repeat as long as you need.

Don’t even worry about how long it takes for you to get there either, people who think you can keep breathing out for longer than you have breath are not getting the point, your breathing will naturally slow down because your mind isn’t focused on panic. “Square breathing.” Genuinely hope this helps at least one person. Stay safe everyone

Why do we have panic attacks and how can we help to control them?

I know I usually write about food but this has come up in my family life and also heard about a few people suffering panic attacks so I thought I would love to give everyone a super simple way to deal with these horrible events. They really are events, because after you have had one you can be left completely exhausted, mentally and physically drained and worst of all for me was the knowledge that I might suffer these for a long time. However, “square breathing” is something I had to learn and want to share with you.

To give a little bit of background as to why this information was shared with me, I had to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital and I was assigned a relaxation therapist for a few weeks after I was discharged. She taught me this and when I had to take it to the real world, I must admit it worked for me.

So before I get into the thing that “worked for me” I did a wee bit of research because that’s how I roll and I was absolutely aware that my experience of a panic attack may differ from everyone else.

Signs of panic attack

Some of the signs you are having a panic attack (btw, everyone is different) you may get all or just a few. Sudden intense anxiety, shaking, crying, feeling disorientated, rapid and irregular heartbeats, dry mouth, breathlessness, sweating, dizziness, chills, hot flashes, tightness in the throat, sense of impending doom or danger, fear of loss or control or even fear of death. .

Are panic and anxiety attacks the same?

This part of my research was actually a learning curve for me because I have always assumed a panic attack and an anxiety attack is the same thing. They aren’t and here is the difference and I absolutely wish I had known this years ago. An anxiety attack is a response to a perceived threat , like you saw an abusive ex or something, you already know the danger, your body responds with anxiety. The difference with a panic attack is it seems to come from nowhere, u don’t see the danger, you just cannot shake this.

Triggers for panic attacks

So triggers for a panic attack are things like over breathing (I researched this because I have never heard this term) so hyperventilation, when you breathe too quickly and you are not getting enough oxygen to the brain, hence the dizziness. Long periods of stress, physical changes after illness, change of environment and lets not forget our main ones, trauma, whatever kind – whether the death of  a loved one to….actually I wont even go there because I guess if you are reading this you know what has made u traumatized. But please be aware and hopeful because life after trauma and panic attacks doesn’t need to be terrifying. Feeling afraid after trauma is absolutely normal and panic attacks can happen when something or someone reminds you of the trauma. Like I said before though, your body is reacting and it is scary.

Square breathing

Here is one of my ways to deal with panic attacks, sorry for boring you with the research but I have never claimed to not be a research nerd.

Find something with 4 corners, anything, it could be a bus when you are waiting at a station, your tv when you feel overwhelmed, anything with 4 corners. What I love about this technique is that we generally all have phones so we are looking at something with 4 corners, or a tv, whatever it is, just find something you can count to 4 with. So focus on the top left hand corner and breathe in all the way along to the top right hand corner, then breathe out to the bottom right hand corner, them breathe back up to the beginning corner and repeat as long as you need.

Don’t even worry about how long it takes for you to get there either, people who think you can keep breathing out for longer than you have breath are not getting the point, your breathing will naturally slow down because your mind isn’t focused on panic. “Square breathing.” Genuinely hope this helps at least one person. Stay safe everyone


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QUICK UPDATE FOR FAMILIES IN TRAUMA – JULY DURING COVID19

Three and a half months may have gone speedily for some but dragged out for others. For us here at Families in Trauma, it has gone very fast due to the upsurge of interest in our work – which I am glad from that point of view. However, sad also for those who have suffered and families who are mourning.

Our eLearning course is to be launched next week – which seems like it couldn’t be more needed – a leaning post – to get us through these really tough times. We have been getting feedback from a few who have trialed the course. Our first podcast, was released through our social media pages – a discussion around the very supportive method of eCPR – emotional CPR – so so sorely needed just now especially.

We have also been busy developing workshops online (yes we do have a bit of Zoom fatigue too 🙂 ) but it seems to be an ideal way to interact with people at this time. We have a number of podcast discussions arranged to discuss what the different services in Fife are offering during this extremely pressured time period for families on the ground.

And finally, please remember that as well as creating our own resources, we can also help signpost to other organisations who we have worked along with. This often is an unsung service, and yet we have personally spoken with a number of individuals from various services in Fife and Scotland – who just weren’t aware of the vital services in their midst. So please, contact us if you need to – and we can often do the legwork for you – or we may already know exactly who you need to speak to.

“Still I rise” Maya Angelou

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How could I possibly add anything or take anything away from this wonderful piece shared time and again, and which resonates even more strongly during this most difficult time the human race is facing. Needs no explanation.


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Suicide video at “Choose Life” Conference

I was recently asked to speak for 10 minutes at the “Choose Life” conference held in Kirkcaldy.  I was very humbled by many of the speakers and the work they are continuing to do, day in, day out!  It really is amazing to see individuals turn their trauma into something that helps other people.  And it is not done with ease – it is done often through a lot of pain and suffering.  But, it often get right to the heart of matters because it is coming from a place of experience.  Many of the organizations provide support at the most crucial moments in a person’s life – so is invaluable!!

We used the video on “Suicide of a Family Member”  and it certainly held the audience in suspense as they listened to 5 minutes of painful raw emotions, but also a message of courage from Jackie Easton of Curly Star Dream Foundation .  She has used the trauma of losing her daughter to set up a service which supports other families facing suicide of a family member.

This photo was taken at the conference while the video was being shown.

Curly Star Presentation film copy

 

For many people suicide is a word they don’t even want to utter, but it is a sad fact of daily life.  Statistics show there were 6,581 suicides in the Uk and Republic of Ireland in 2014 showing that many families and friends will be affected.  Even if you feel this is not something you have had to deal with, please share the information about the video whenever you can – because you might not even know which one of your friends or family who may need it.

 

http://www.famiiesintrauma.co.uk


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Gearing Up for our Launch – April 18th!

Before I go into the launch of our first 3 videos in April, I thought I’d share with you a little of where I visited in December as I haven’t done that yet.  It was touch and go as to whether we could actually get there, due to one thing and another – but finally we did.  Steve, my husband, had always wanted to get some lessons from a real flamenco guitar  maestro and in December that’s exactly what we did!  The rest and relaxation were just what we needed – and it reminded us also that we are still individuals, and that even if we are going through difficult times, it is essential to try to recharge our batteries.   We visited Malaga and all the other little villages and towns along the Costa Del Sol.  My favourite part was the weather as it was 25 degrees C – no one could complain at that!  Here goes:

 

2015-12-20 16.17.49

Up in Mijas – seems to be a favourite haunt for many visitors.

 

 

 

2015-12-24 17.35.28

Many people come from all over the world to see the lights in Malaga – we can see why!

 

The weather in Marbella was very obliging.  Steve, myself and our sister in law, Tina.

The weather in Marbella was very obliging. Steve, myself and our sister in law, Tina.

 

And finally - Steve and I enjoying a boat trip.  Apparently we look like  70's rockers here :)

And finally – Steve and I enjoying a boat trip. Apparently we look like 70’s rockers here 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that seems to be  the relaxation over for another few months as we gear up for the launch of the videos.  Just to refresh your memory the subjects of the 3 videos are:

“Suicide of a family Member”

“Stillbirth”

“Rare Genetic Disorders in children – Kabuki Syndrome”

As you can imagine, all families affected by any of the above go through very traumatic experiences trying to cope with the actual event, and the ensuing ripples that always surround these very painful situations.

The videos really highlight the ins and outs of these situations and could be extremely helpful to someone who is suffering – so please, please, please, share all information you can in the lead up to the launch and during the launch, as this is really a pilot project.  Hopefully we will get a good response from this, and it will convince funders to look favourably on the project and help us financially to be able to get out there and create many more and ultimately help families in a way that would never have been possible before social media.

We have a few really good high profile individuals who are keen to support families in Trauma, including Johnny Benjamin from the channel 4 documentary “Stranger on the Bridge” and the Twitter campaign “Find Mike” after a stranger stopped him from committing suicide on a bridge; Claire Baker MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife and also Margaret Hannah, Director of Public Health in Fife.

We have been able to get in a little help with the marketing of the  initial pilot from the social enterprise “Along Came Kirsty” who are based in Dundee and have been really excellent to work with so far.  I’ll keep you updated but was keen to use a local company that has the same type of social values as our own.

As we get closer to the launch – I will try to keep you informed as to what we are up to, but meantime – please share, share, and share again – and if you have any suggestions  on how to help us – by all means – get in touch !!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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New Year – New Families

 

FAMILIES IN TRAUMA IN 2016

Finally, I have managed to get back to writing my blog and will give you an update of where we are now and future plans for the new year.  I’ll keep it brief – as I know how hard it is to read all the information we are bombarded with every day, especially if you are going through tough times!!  So this should be short and sweet – I hope:)

2015-08-01 21.25.01

 

NEW OFFICE

During 2015 we managed to secure a tailored made office for ourselves down at Fife renewables innovation centre (the offices previously earmarked for the energy sector businesses – which sadly took a downturn).  We gladly received excellent conditioned furniture and board table from Havelock Europa plc who, fotuitously, were moving premises at the time and happily contributed to charities and non-profit organisations.   Their loss was our gain.  Glad to see larger businesses sharing with non-profits.  Thank you!!  Rent still being paid by myself – so hopefully funding should be on the horizon in next few months – eek!

fric-front-wide

fric-turbine

 

LAUNCH OCTOBER 2015

We were thrilled to be able to launch Families in Trauma at the end of October and enjoyed a good turn out and excellent publicity from our local newspapers .  Margaret Hannah,  recently appointed Director of Public Health in Fife kindly joined us at the end of a very busy day to find out more about Families in Trauma and also to share her insights into new ways of connecting and helping families who may need crucial support.

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PLANS FOR 2016 – PILOT PROJECT

ScottishEnterprise through Business Gateway have contributed a small fee to help with our pilot project which should be ready to launch at the end of January.  Along came Kirsty is the social enterprise who will be helping us with the initial pilot using our first 3 videos, covering suicide of family member,  kabuki syndrome, and  stillbirth initially , to test the results and hopefully be able to start heightening the profile of Families in Trauma.  We believe this is a sorely needed service and are really keen to get everyone involved in sharing the information, to help as many people as possible. Please do this whenever you can with any of FIT’s posts you feel will be helpful.

The initial test period for the pilot will be 30 days (as we can access the video platform we require for a 30 day free trial initially:)  )  So as soon as we have the results, we will share them with you.

Meanwhile please share, share and share again – you never know who you will be helping!!

sands logo              chooselife

kabuki

 

 

 

 

 


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Post Traumatic Stress

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Post Traumatic Stress

Post traumatic stress is a term which many trauma sufferers may identify with easily. Unfortunately it is also something that can creep up on us without even being fully aware of what is happening.

Shell shock and Battle Fatigue

Initially the term was associated with  the battlefield in other guises as “shell shock” and “battle fatigue” during the first and second world war.  However during the Vietnam war the term “post traumatic stress” came to the fore and many war veterans were diagnosed with the condition.

PTSD and Trauma

However, more recently the term PTSD can be used to describe the psychological conditions associated with any traumatic event.

Symptoms of PTSD

Some of the well known symptoms can be:

  • Panic attacks
  • Vivid flashbacks
  • Nightmares
  • very intense feelings when being reminded of the trauma
  • Avoidance of any reminders of trauma
  • Pain, sweating, nausea, feeling lightheaded
  • Being easily upset or angry
  • Lack of concentration
  • Self-destructive behaviours
  • Keeping constantly busy to avoid thinking
  • Angry and irritable
  • Feeling detached and emotionally numb
  • Feeling suicidal

Self-Help

It can be a very frightening experience for individuals with PTSD and often the sufferers can feel very isolated thinking that this is only happening to them.  There are various things which can help in time – but the biggest barrier to this can be impatience. The feelings are so frightening that an instant cure is sought, but sadly this approach is often very short lived.  So a more balanced, rounded approach can often last much longer and also help to make a person feel more confident once the strategies have been put in place.

  • Talk to someone close to you
  • Talk to people in similar situations
  • Give yourself time
  • Contact an organisation for support and educate yourself about PTSD
  • Contact your GP

Families in Trauma

I have found in the course of my work that many people suffer from PTSD and feel there will be no way through this – but eventually with time, patience and help – it can be possible.  Families in Trauma will also be interviewing people who have shared their experiences of PTSD and we hope that it will be a help for many people.  Please feel free to share this blog with others who may need it or to anyone who may want to share their experiences and be interviewed either through video or audio.