And the greedy eyes of the Uber surge price robot light up
We’ve already covered some of the inherently long things about living in London. Unfortunately the delay, (arguably the Uhr form of longness), is not only a London-centric experience. It is fundamentally coded into the matrix of modern existence. Perhaps, in a bucolic past, there were no delays. The seasons turned up when they were supposed to, your sheep were never tardy grazers, and your butter remained without rancidity for about as long as you expected it to (plus, when it did go smelly, you could just order some more from your cows).
No such luck these days. Stuff gets delayed, and things often take ages. However, rather than bemoaning an annoying wait, try to see it as a quotidian opportunity to practice a mindfulness exercise. Here’s a few opportunities:
- When your work computer is taking ages to wake up.
- When your kettle seems to be taking ages to boil.
- When you are put on hold on the phone.
- When you’re waiting for a petrol pump to become free.
- When your’re six people deep in a tube queue.
Have a go at filling these, otherwise underused moments, with proactive thinking. It’s a great way to eliminate those little surges of stress ad impatience that negatively punctuate your day.
Great little article from Ellen Scott about the difficulty of getting over that first hurdle and admitting to your doctor that you need some help. Read the Metro article here.
CAVEAT. If the earthquakes are real then you, like Pierce in Dante’s Peak, may have discovered that a local volcano is about to blow up. This is bad.
A very wise man once told PD that depression was like seismic activity: it always falls somewhere on the Richter scale. He was wise because he realised, unlike many of the societal misunderstandings about depression, that there is no singular, magical cure for it. These kind of false expectations can back sufferers into a corner on inflated expectations and self-criticism. This guru had watched people straddle the mental health fault-line and had observed the inevitable recurrence of shifting tectonic plates. His advice to people suffering with depression was not to aim for an idealised state of perfect health, but to work consistently and unself-critically to reach a point where the magnitude 9 quakes have been replaced by the sort of minor tremors that might, at worst, knock your coffee off the table.
Be kind to yourself and try to recognise that progress is often two-steps-forward-one-step-back, but is always positive, however modest it is. Ups and downs are as hard-wired into our psychology as seismic activity is to the Earth’s geology.
Mandy Stevens shares a stark and arresting selfie at her lowest point.
Mandy Stevens shares her personal experience of suffering a mental health break down, and discusses openly and frankly how this can affect anyone, regardless of their experiences. Read the article in The Huffington Post.
Icky bit of Conservative propaganda, but the sentiment is spot on. Credit where it’s due.
Delivering her speech at the Charity Commission annual lecture earlier this week, the prime minister spoke about building a “shared society” which “overcome[s] division…ensuring everyone has the chance to share in the wealth and opportunity on offer in Britain today.” One element of this is to improve mental health support in schools, workplaces and communities.
The prime minister announced a package of measures to transform mental health support and for schools in particular, such measures include:
- Offering mental health first aid training for secondary school teachers and staff to help them identify and help those children experiencing mental health problems. Education secretary Justine Greening has suggested a target for every school to train a member of staff in mental health by the end of 2019.
- Trialling approaches to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.
- Undertaking a major thematic review of existing services available to young people.
- This review will, in turn, help to inform how the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted’s joint inspections programme can ensure that child and adolescent mental health services are adequately held to account.
- A green paper on children and young people’s mental health to transform services in education and for families.
(Info taken from the NGA Newsletter 13/01/17)
Read more about Mental Health First Aid plans in The Telegraph.
Public figures continue the positive trend of speaking out about mental health conditions
Frank, well worded article in The Scotsman today as journalist David Walsh shares his experience of depression. Read the article here.
Before we begin we should start by saying that this is a pro-booze blog. The need to have a couple of bevvies is old-school: seriously old-school. Archaeologists have unearthed jugs from the late Stone Age (c.10,000 BC) that contain evidence of intentionally fermented drinks. The Ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Egyptians were all civilisations on the lash, and so, despite all the complex trappings of modernity, are we. We all need a drink at some point or other and, frankly, the last place you ever want to find yourself is sat at home alone whilst your friends are living it up in the pub.
“Ah, Nefertiti, the 3000 BC vintage. You spoil me!”
However, here comes the cautionary note that we all already know. Booze, despite it’s international, cross-cultural ability to make us feel good can also make us feel pretty bad. Unfortunately there is a real, often ignored relationship between alcohol and depression: the depressed amongst us are most likely to be heavy drinkers, and the heavy drinkers amongst us are most likely to be depressed. Alcohol interferes with the work of neurotransmitters in the brain and leads to a reduction of serotonin production (serotonin is one of the chemicals that regulates our moods). There are also a number of collateral effects of drinking that can adversely impact how we are feeling, particularly if you suffer from depression:
- Poor sleep: booze interferes with our sleep cycle, particularly with the REM phase. And by this we don’t mean the period in the early 90’s when you got obsessed with ‘Losing my Religion’. REM is the part of sleep that proceeds ‘deep sleep’ (the bit where the body repairs and restores itself). If you have a drink and then go to bed your body tends to skip the first bit (REM), go straight to deep sleep, and then quickly come back to the REM phase. This is when it’s easiest for you to wake up. I’m sure we’re all familiar with having a few, conking out, and waking up at 3am feeling rotten.
- Irrational guilt: in addition to the usual worries that you might have kissed best mate’s girlfriend or called you boss a wanker, booze can lead to the release of stress hormones. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is part of your body’s defense system, and as you dehydrate and generally bamboozle yourself it is released by your body as part of cruel, but highly evolutionary process of self-protection.
- Hangover functionality: the worst thing about a hangover (in addition to a cracking headache and lurking sense that you might chuck-up at any moment) is that fact we are often required to function whilst in the its foreboding grip. If you’re feeling depressed you are probably already fighting to keep everything ticking over in your personal and professional life. Throw a hangover into this mix and things can start to get really unmanageable.
- Poor eating: no-one has ever ended a night out with a salad or cured a hangover with a lentil bake. Kebabs and a Full English are the only dishes that can be called upon in these desperate moments. All very tasty, but a bit self-sabotaging if you’re trying to keep on a roll with health eating. If you end the night/ start the day eating rubbish then you are more likely to excuse culinary sins for the rest of the day too.
- Self-fulfilling prophesy: this is probably the most serious bit of collateral. If you’re depressed and drinking, particularly if you are drinking regularly and heavily, then you’re quite probably doing it to try and evade the underlying issues that are making you feel down. Very quickly, it can all start to get a bit self-fulfilling. Drinking becomes a hard to control cycle. Less coping mechanism, and more downward spiral.
How then, as someone suffering from depression, can you drink safely? Try Practical Depression’s top five boozing tips:
- Question yourself. Ask yourself why you’re drinking. Is it really because Jemima from the office turned 30 on Tuesday? We’re not even that sure you like her that much anyway. Might it actually be because you’ve been feeling a little blue recently? If it’s the former then fair play. Make sure you buy her drink. If it’s the latter then forget Jemima and try to be a little more honest with yourself. Try to fight the urge to block it out, congratulate yourself for being brave enough to recognise your motivations, and take yourself off somewhere else. Maybe call for a friend, or just go home, get a takeaway, and relax with a film.
- Stage-manage your intake. We all know that after the Rubicon that is the third drink no-one really knows what’s going on. It is post drink number three that you admit things like your secret crush on Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake Off. Use this general booze blindness to your advantage and substitute every second or third drink for a glass of water. This will help you stay hydrated and a little more sober.
- Sober-up before bed As mentioned above, a big problem with booze is its propensity to interfere with your sleep (and specifically the REM phase of your slumber). Try and allow a couple of hours to have a snack and plenty of fluids before you go to bed. This will keep you hydrated and will prevent the instant alcohol crash-out: out like a light and awake again at 3am. Try and get yourself into a vaguely competent state before you hit the sack.
- Take a rest weekend. If you know you’re boozing schedule is going to be heavy then factor in time for a rest weekend. Two weekend on the trot is better than three! Decide which weekend you aren’t going out on and try to stick to it. Use the time to ensure that your life admin list hasn’t got too long, that you’ve taken a rest, and that you have enough clean undies to last you for the week.
- Plan the hangover. It is going to happen. Whatever your Bacardi befuddled mind is telling you a hangover is hurtling your way. As with the asteroid in Deep Impact, you can take the edge of it, but you can’t halt its approach. You do know that you are going to feel headachey, dehydrated, a bit sick, a bit blue, and generally knackered. Try buying a bottle of an isotonic drink (like Lucozade Sport), a big bottle of water, and a pack of decent painkillers. Leave these on your bedside table before you go out. This way you can wake up and start curing the hangover straight away. If you know that you’re likely to feel down then you should plan to be in company the next day. Make plans with a friend or agree to have a duvet day with your flatmates. Keep calm, you’ll be doing alright by the afternoon!
Progamme your internal clock to maximise your sleep.
A great article on sleep tips. Practical Depression agrees with them all. Plus, you can find out if your sleep type is Lion, Bear, Dolphin, or Wolf. Click here to read.
Some things just can’t be rushed.
The clever people at mbct.co.uk have summarised the benefits of practicing mindfulness into the following five points:
- To become familiar with the workings of your mind.
- To put you in touch with a different way of knowing yourself and the world.
- To notice small beauties and pleasure in the world around you instead of living in your head.
- To be kind to yourself instead of wishing things were different all the time, or driving yourself to meet impossible goals.
- To accept yourself as you are, rather than judging yourself all the time.
Some of the above ideas may sound a little abstract, but when you put them into practice you begin to realise that they are highly practical attitudes. Some of you, (and here Practical Depression is particularly casting a glance at the blokes reading this), might find the notion of inner mental workings and worldly beauties a little woolly. Well, you’d be wrong. Or at least you’d be wrong to dismiss them out of hand.
With the above pointers, and indeed with mindfulness in general, it is about making the attitudes and ways of thinking relevant to you. Trying to rethink your walk to work as pleasant and full of possibilities is as good as marveling at the beauty of a spring daffodil, and saying ‘it doesn’t really matter’ rather than ‘I am twat’ when you mess up an Excel formula is as good as a reevaluation of your relationship with time and space. It’s all about practical, measurable, and manageable changes to the way you think. If you do have some kind of Faustian anagnorisis along the way then that’s all good. Otherwise just get cracking with trying to think more positively and being nicer to yourself.
Her plans are admirable, but do the figures add up?
More detail from the BBC on the PM’s plans for mental health care overhaul. Interesting comment at the end of the article from Laura Kuenssberg highlighting the discrepancy between policy proposals and central government funding. Read the article here.