Wednesday, 29 March 2017

In praise of our electric blanket

I’ve been worrying quite a bit recently – partly about family problems and work pressures, which I can do something about; and partly about the corrosive effects of Brexit and Trump, which I can’t do anything much about.  And then I’ve found myself worrying about worrying, which is more worrying still - and definitely not to be recommended.
So after discussing all this with my daughter Anna, I decided it’s time to look up my old wellbeing recipes, dust them off and see if they need any updating.
For those of you who don’t know, a wellbeing recipe is a list – a set of ingredients – of things which give you pleasure and help you feel better about yourself.  It’s not a fixed list. Wellbeing recipes vary from one person to the next, and for each person they can change over time.
My old recipe included some ingredients, like walking in the mountains and diving through waves in the ocean, which are great but not immediately practical for me at the moment. So I’ve worked out a new recipe, composed of ingredients I can use easily and often.
Here are some of the main ingredients:
·        A few minutes of mindfulness meditation every morning, using the Headspace app on my i-phone.  I’m following a set about anxiety at the moment, which is helping me to explore my sensations of stress without feeling I’m being swallowed up by them – imagining, instead of being caught outside in in a storm, that I’m safe inside a house watching the storm through a window.
·        The parkrun at Croxteth Hall on a Saturday morning gives me a great sense of wellbeing, especially now that I’ve managed to stop stressing about how fast I’m going and can enjoy the run for its own sake. There’s one section of the course, when sunlight glistens through woodland onto some ponds, which is magical. And running with my daughters is a huge bonus. 
  • My afternoon siesta, which I’ve built into my routine since my cycling accident, is a must-do these days. It stops me from wearing myself out, restores my energy, my memory and my creativity. Highly recommended!    
·        Watching detective programmes on TV with Sue has been in my wellbeing recipe for ages, and it still helps me unwind of an evening. Elementary and Inspector Lynley are our current favourites.
·        At the end of the day, I’ve started reminding myself of three things I’ve been grateful for - and one thing I’ve done well - during that day. They can be small or big things, it really doesn’t matter. This simple exercise, focusing on what’s gone well for me, does a great job of settling my mind down.
·        And finally, sliding under the duvet and into bed, with our double electric blanket turned on to full heat.  A wonderful, warm, comforting cocoon to snuggle into. Blissful, utterly blissful. Thank you, and good night.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Conducting an orchestra

A few months ago, I was elected Chair of the World Organisation of Family Doctors' (WONCA) Working Party for Mental Health.  

Yes I know, that is rather a mouthful!

But what it means in reality is this:  I now have the privilege of working with family doctors and their colleagues around the world, to help to improve the mental health of their patients. 

And it really is a privilege.... it's like being the conductor of a high quality symphony orchestra. There are so many excellent family doctors, doing so many important things in the field of primary mental health care -  it is exciting to hear them all, and to help people to work more effectively together.  

For example, in Brazil we are arranging a series of mental health training programmes for family doctors, based on the World Health Organisation's mhGAP programme.  In the Eastern Mediterranean region, we are working with many others to develop comprehensive community based mental health systems.  And in China and Eastern Europe we are finding new ways to help family doctors gain more confidence and skill in diagnosing common mental health problems. 

We are also acting as advocates for vulnerable groups in our communities, including people with severe mental illness, and asylum seekers traumatized by their experiences.

You can read more about us, and keep in touch with our activities and progress, through this link to the WONCA website