April 2020 -staying well and calm in uncertain times

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Hello and welcome to my newsletter for April 2020. 
I hope you are managing to get some fresh air and work or retreat at home if you are not a key worker-for those of you who are I wish you well and safe and am deeply grateful for your service.
These are challenging times and I am putting some helpful links that I hope bring some comfort during the days and weeks ahead.

A gift for you -I have attached an MP3 download of the Compassionate friend meditation here  recorded during an MSC course session that I hope you will enjoy. it is a Paul Gilbert visualisation that is offered on the mindful self compassion programme and I hope it brings some comfort.
The centre for mindful self compassion are offering meditation sessions that you can join and I have put a link here – you can also join the online core skills programme offered by Kristin Neff and Chris germer and you can find details here

Managing stress and anxiety in the weeks ahead
Most of us at some time in our lives will have experienced anxiety, either in a mild form. For example, exam nerves or more serious levels that can lead to panic attacks. Ongoing stress without relief will lead to psychological distress and anxiety or depressive symptoms.
However, globally, today we find ourselves under a prolonged period of stress from the corona virus pandemic, physically, emotionally, financially, we are all managing some form of change and uncertainty at this moment in time-this is a natural human response and is not a sign of weakness-alongside this is also a grieving for things that were so very different only a few short months ago and we might be forgiven for wondering when this period of suffering will end.
This situation we find ourselves in heightens already debilitating forms of anxiety for some, such as health anxiety, and OCD . It has also led to a rise in sleeping problems – check out my sleeping well page here and get in touch if you would like help in restoring your sleep patterns with a one to one video therapy session -further details are given below 🙂

I think some of the ideas that have been shared on social media have been helpful and are worth considering along side some anxiety management practices. 

  • Practicing mindfulness and self-compassion
  • taking one day at a time and not thinking too far ahead
  • limiting time on social media and watching the news
  • Doing as the government guidelines ask -this will lessen the time we have to be at home and it will save lives.
  • Some of the humorous and good-natured videos can be uplifting but remember that not everyone has the same sense of humour so be mindful be fore you share 🙂
  • Having a regular routine and plan each day – we are creatures of habit and this can be helpful in maintaining a sense of control where there is much are not in control of.
  • Exercise – there are plenty of routines on tv and you tube if you have no outside space
  • meditation and prayer can be helpful
  • be creative -draw, journal, write prose or poetry, learn a new skill
  • connect with friends and family by phone and video link
  • keep a journal
  • Eat as healthily as possible
  • Limit alcohol intake as this can ramp anxiety up and lower your mood significantly.
  • Meet yourself with compassion and practice self-compassion
  • And remember, to reframe- you are not stuck at home- you are safe at home this wont last forever, and there is common humanity around the globe with our own suffering.
  • Reach out and connect with online resources such as Anxiety UK

Here is a bit more information about anxiety :
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a term used to describe fight, flight, or freeze when we feel under threat – externally – from actual events that are happening such as diagnosis of serious illness, bereavement, divorce, big changes such as new job, moving house, having children, the list is endless, also, quite often worrying about future events that haven’t happened, “what if?” when we then predict future outcomes and scenarios based on present and past events and experience and internally- from our thoughts and fears and the ‘inner critic’.

An evolutionary perspective
Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, founder of the compassionate mind foundation and author of the best- selling ‘Compassionate Mind’   carried out research into the evolutionary design of the brain and how we can adapt to enable our systems to work more effectively and in harmony– he identified 3 main emotional systems or drivers in the brain that work together to bring about homeostasis-well-being- all of which we need for our survival.
We all have different life experience and view of the world, but when we consider our emotional life and our biological make up all human beings experience the felt sense of an emotion in the same way- we all feel the same with fear, love, anger –  we have an inbuilt set of systems or motivational drivers in our brain. Professor Gilbert identified 3 main operating systems which enables us to survive and flourish: threat- fight, flight or freeze, seeking, that enables us to seek out food, a mate, and a care giving system that soothes us and increases our ability to be kind towards ourselves and each-other –  it is the soothing system that mindfulness and self- compassion develops and at work we function better when this system is activated.
The ‘threat or ‘fear system stems from the oldest part of the brain nearest the brain stem – the reptilian brain- designed for our survival when being hunted by wild animals- these days we have new threats to consider- paying bills, keeping a roof over our heads, meeting deadlines, and the onslaught of social media- we have overload – the threat system is innate and instinctive and is most highly active when we are feeling anxious. To counteract the effects of this we are encouraged to activate the least well- developed part of the brain in evolutionary terms- the soothing system.
The brain has a major default mode which has a negativity bias- it is designed for our survival not our happiness –  so it’s not our fault when we go ‘looking for trouble’ or go straight into fight flight or freeze mode when we feel under threat- but as neuroscientist Rick Hanson points out- we can so activating the soothing system and focusing more intently on the good can increase our redress the balance with the negativity bias using the brains own ability to change- neuroplasticity – levels of happiness and make us more emotionally resilient when faced with difficulties.

Symptoms are often distressing and can mimic heart attack. They can include increased heart rate, dizziness, palpitations, hot flushes, tension headaches, feeling sick, hyperventilation, GERD, feeling faint, dry mouth, butterflies in the stomach- IBS, sweating, rapid breathing etc.
Research shows that by applying some simple mindful self-compassion strategies you can reduce anxiety and related symptoms.
There is a large and growing body of research (including my own) supporting the health and wellness benefits of self-compassion. It is strongly associated with fewer negative states like depression, anxiety, stress, shame, and negative body image, and it is strongly linked to more positive states like happiness, life satisfaction, and optimism.
According to Professor Kristin Neff , the world’s leading research authority on self-compassion and co-founder of the mindful self- compassion programme:
“The three key components of self-compassion are self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and balanced, mindful awareness. Kindness opens our hearts to suffering, so we can give ourselves what we need. Common humanity opens us to our essential interrelatedness, so that we know we aren’t alone. Mindfulness opens us to the present moment, so we can accept our experience with greater ease. Together they comprise a state of warm-hearted, connected presence.

Self-compassion is the antidote to anxiety “and can be learned by anyone, even those who didn’t receive enough affection in childhood or who feel uncomfortable when they are good to themselves. It’s a courageous attitude that stands up to harm, including the harm that we unwittingly inflict on ourselves through self-criticism, self-isolation, or self-absorption. Self-compassion provides emotional strength and resilience, allowing us to admit our shortcomings, motivate ourselves with kindness, forgive ourselves when needed, relate wholeheartedly to others, and be more authentically ourselves.
MSC combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion, providing a powerful tool for emotional resilience. Mindfulness is the first step in emotional healing—being able to turn toward and acknowledge our difficult thoughts and feelings (such as inadequacy, sadness, anger, confusion) with a spirit of openness and curiosity. Self-compassion involves responding to these difficult thoughts and feelings with kindness, sympathy and understanding so that we soothe and comfort ourselves when we’re hurting. Research has shown that self-compassion greatly enhances emotional wellbeing. It boosts happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, and can even help maintain healthy lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise. Being both mindful, and compassionate leads to greater ease and well-being in our daily lives.”
Exert taken from the official course information © Centre for Mindful self-compassion. For a full review of the programme you can visit the centre’s website at http://www.centerformsc.org/
For further information regarding the official Mindful self-compassion programme you can visit my MSC page here 

I am also offering weekly relaxation classes with discount-see below 🙂

NEW online Relaxation classes

Due to these unprecedented times I am   now offering my relaxation class Online.

A weekly session of deep relaxation with mindfulness, self-compassion, and guided visualisation.

The online version will run via the Zoom meeting platform which means we will be able to see eachother and I can facilitate the class via video link-so you can enjoy it from the comfort of your own home ?

I am offering 6 sessions at a reduced rate so if you pay for all six sessions upfront the cost will be just £20 and payable via bacs if you do online banking or £23 if you choose the paypal option. If you wish to attend ad hoc then I am also reducing the weekly session to £5 payable in advance of the session. I will also offer some handouts and downloads as part of this package to keep everyone going during the physical isolating period.

You can opt for sound only also so that you can lie down on your bed at home if you wish or you can attend with full video and audio sitting on a comfortable chair.

At the first session you sign up for there will be meet and greet and time allowed for logging on and any difficulties to be ironed out ?

Please get in touch here for further information so that I can email you the meeting ID and password for the zoom sessions. Or call me in the first instance on 07753 957371

I look forward to welcoming you on Wednesday 8 April at 6.30pm until 7.15pm

Wishing you all safe and well?

NB: I  am offering my online relaxation class with a discount for everyone and to NHS staff  for FREE so please email here directly to obtain the zoom meeting ID and password. 

Clinical therapy sessions and workshops

From March 23 2020, following government advice regarding the Corona virus, I  moved my clinical practice online for the foreseeable future, and at least for 12 weeks.

This includes relaxation classes and MSC courses, and some retreats.  I can offer to a larger number online via the Zoom platform which you can access with an ID and Password following the booking procedure which will be via phone and/or email, and receipt of payment via bacs or paypal via my online shop web page which will be updated as soon as possible.

I will update accordingly if this changes as I do have a clinical room in Knutsford.

Many people run therapy practices solely online and it does work very well. I have offered skype and online therapy sessions alongside my face to face clinical practice for many years now for those unable to attend face to face due to travelling distance and my international clients.

I also offer face time and zoom platforms for therapy that work well also.

My fees are £60 and have not increased for the last five years or more and I am postponing my planned April increase until September when my fees will go up to £65.

For further information/ to book a session/class/course Please do get in touch as I have some slots available this week and they are run from my own secure and confidential office. Or call me on 07753 957371.

I look forward to continuing to serve you and help you with many issues including stress and anxiety management, building emotional resilience etc. For full details of my services and the issues I provide help with you can learn more here

Assuring you of my best professional intentions at all times as I wish you well, safe, and happy and look forward to working with you.


At this point I would like to share again my esteemed colleague Karin Siegar’s article on ‘coping with coronavirus fear’ . As I write my news letter today March 4 we are hearing of more cases daily, so it is important that we follow the advice given but also keep things in perspective – if you suffer from Anxiety, Health anxiety, OCD, or other anxiety related conditions then do get in touch to see how I can support you through one to one psychotherapy and do check out Anxiety UK’s website for lots of practical help and advice on managing anxiety and panic.

So, what new offerings do I have this March?

Relaxation and mindfulness

Relaxation classes will be offered as an online version asap-please get in touch  for further details or call me on 07753 957371.

Mindful self-compassion and resilience training

If you would like to explore emotional resilience further through the mindful self-compassion programme for life-long benefits then why not join me this Spring as I facilitate the first programme of 2020-there are still places available for the Spring intake starting on May 23 but places are limited as I work with small groups and so there are a maximum of 10 places on offer with some already filled. The course teaches how cultivate a daily mindfulness and self-compassionate approach to yourself.NB: Following government advice regarding the corona virus, the Spring dates will be offered online via zoom. This means you can still actively participate and see the other participants.

 The benefits of mindful self-compassion – an interview with Lauren McQuade

I always think of mindful self compassion as a saving grace for me and am passionate about sharing the benefits. So I was thrilled to be invited to talk on radio Stirling online last week with the lovely Lauren McQuade.

The conversation covered many aspects of Mindful self-compassion and we also focused on the inner critic and how self-compassion helps us to discover the ‘wise voice within ‘ which motivates us for healthy lifestyle changes and letting go of old unwanted habits.

I have put the link here for you to have a listen to https://www.mixcloud.com/SOULKRAFTRADIO/82b-breaking-habits-self-compassion-with-special-guest-annette-boden/

Please don’t hesitate, as always, to get in touch, if you would like to know more about Mindful self-compassion and the latest course dates  I am offering in 2020!