What else is possible? – it’s more than just a mantra

Kate – Founder and Director of KMA, had the pleasure of being invited on BBC Radio Solent for world mental health day – on Thursday 10th October 2019.

Kate joined host Sam Fraser on her drivetime show as part of the Look! Listen! Learn! feature. It was a fantastic experience, and Kate answered a variety of questions such as what’s the best advice on how to look after yourself? What’s mindfulness all about? Are mental health conditions more prevalent now? And of course Kate finished up with her look, listen, learn recommendations.

We thought we’d share Kate’s answers with you! So make yourself a cuppa and enjoy…

Sam: What’s your best advice to look after yourself?

Kate: We have to slow down as a nation, we have to be kind to ourselves, even little things like giving ourselves permission to eat lunch away from our desks! We are often very good at making ourselves feel guilty if we take some time to relax. This isn’t helpful to our self esteem nor is it actually going to solve anything! We are starting to see this negative trend in the workplace, which is creating a culture of presenteeism – which is where someone is in the workplace but they are not being productive at all.

On another note, we certainly don’t drink enough water! We need at least 2 litres of water a day. A tip I give to my clients is to drink ice cold water, this is actually really good for aiding concentration, and can help to keep you alert.

Another tip I give to clients is to really take their time when waking up. In the mornings we all too often wake up to an alarm, snooze, then realise we are late, hop in the shower and get out the door. Now that’s not setting you up for a good day is it…

I believe that once you are awake, it’s important to wake up slowly, take your time to sit up and take a moment to sit at the end of your bed, and just stop…It’s important to give yourself some time to transition. I also recommend to have a drink of water first thing, to hydrate your body, especially before drinking tea or coffee.

Sam: How do you feel about mindfulness?

Kate: Bottom line with mindfulness is that it’s about being in the moment and stopping…

For example last week, I was on my way to a client, I was late, it was raining, my phone hadn’t stopped ringing, the traffic was terrible and I was extremely stressed out, but when I actually stopped for a second and looked up, I noticed that the leaves on the trees had started changing colour and it really shocked me how I hadn’t even noticed this before! Have you ever driven along and wonder how you got there? Yes? Scary isn’t it…it’s because your mind is so busy that it’s already thinking 10, 15, 20, minutes down the track and you miss where you’ve been! Mindfulness keeps you in the now and we could all do a bit more of that!

Mindfulness also encourages deep breathing, and that’s another thing most of us don’t do correctly, most people mouth breathe, which is gasping for air. If we are not getting enough oxygen in our systems, this will have an impact on the way we think and organise our thoughts, and that doesn’t help our productivity. It’s important to practice deep breathing, the easiest technique is to breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds and then out from your mouth for 4 seconds…Give it a go!

Sam: In your experience, do you think mental health issues have increased in recent years?

Kate: In my experience mental health issues have always been around, if I look back to my family history and the mental health issues they experienced, the issues were still very prevalent, but the difference is they didn’t have the same labels as we do today and their issues were very much kept within the home and not spoken about as freely as we do now. We are very quick to blame social media platforms as a big contributing factor in causing these issues, and yes to some degree, I agree with this, but in actual fact what social media platforms are also doing, is opening up a conversation. People are starting to not feel alone, and social media platforms can offer a sense of community and unity.

We as a nation are usually pretty happy to openly discuss physical symptoms we are experiencing, for example how many times have you heard someone say ‘ow my back aches’ or ‘ow my head hurts’? We are actually very good at talking about our physical symptoms, but in reality the physical symptoms might make up only a small part of the way we feel…our mood could also be very be low, and we could be feeling highly anxious, but we are much more discreet about the mental symptoms we could also be experiencing. I suppose this is very much down to the taboo and stigma still attached to ill mental health.

Sam: Can you explain what being dual trained means?

Kate: As Occupational Therapists, we are dual trained in mental and physical health. I can work with somebody who may have a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, a stroke, and has been diagnosed with depression –  all of which are extremely complex, my job will then be to tease out – the primary barriers, what’s preventing them from doing what they need to do? Then it’s what are the secondary barriers? And then it’s about working out what’s priority to the client and what strategies and techniques we can put in place to assist them. Now that could involve changing the environment – making suitable adaptations, or it could be teaching them a different way of doing something, it could also be restoring skills or even teaching them something completely new!

Sam: Is anxiety down to nature or nurture?

Kate: It can be a mixture of either. Anxiety manifests itself for all sorts of different reasons, I think what we need to be very aware of and what we need to work together to change, is those more prolonged feelings of stress. These can manifest themselves mentally, physically, behaviourally and psychologically.

Being anxious isn’t always a bad thing, it actually can be quite helpful as it’s all to do with that innate fight or flight response.

Typically if I saw a client with anxiety, I would be asking what triggers them, what symptoms do they experience? Then it’s about working together to find solutions. I usually find that anxiety can be recognised quite early on, particularly in the early teen years, if symptoms are picked up on. Some behavioural patterns to recognise could be, laying awake at night worrying about things, not sleeping or a big one could be feeling particularly anxious on Sunday nights (before school on Monday). If these behavioural patterns go unchanged, they can build up and become a trend in adult life.

When dealing with feelings of stress or anxiety, it’s about talking these feelings through with someone, and as the person listening, it’s so important to acknowledge how the other person is feeling and to not be dismissive.

Speaking as a mother, I can easily find myself saying to one of my kids ‘don’t be silly’ or ‘don’t be draft’ or even ‘you’ll be fine’, when actually if something is worrying them, I need to openly acknowledge this and consciously listen, instead of saying ‘don’t be silly’ we should be saying ‘I hear what you are saying and let’s work together on how things can be different.’

Look! Listen! Learn! Feature, Kates recommendations:

  • Look: Look at yourself and others, and actually look at what’s around you and there’s so much you can get pleasure from and feedback from and I would urge everyone to look.

  • Listen: Me personally, I now listen to peace! There’s a lot to be said from just listening. We are very quick to dismiss compliments, but we should listen to them, take them on board and own them. It’s about little acts of kindness, and that includes being kind to yourself.

  • Learn: My mantra is ‘what else is possible?’. I say that to myself, and other people every day.

    The meaning of what else is possible is to encourage you to break down barriers and be open to opportunities, opportunities which you might not have realised were there before. ‘What else is possible?’ is so powerful because it’s more than a mantra, it’s a choice. If you are faced with a problem, stop for a minute and say ‘what else is possible?’ I think you’ll be surprised…

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