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The Power of Story

The Power of Story

Story has been a theme throughout my life. 

As a child I loved to read. Once I could read to myself, I used to hide under the covers reading “The Folk of the Faraway Tree” when I should be asleep. I have memories of reading Famous Five books in our caravan on wet days and getting all the Dr Dolittle books and the Chronicles of Narnia out of the local library. These were special books because they were big and hard backed, they felt grown up. There are so many books that have shaped my life, I’m not sure I could even begin to list them all. 

Not many people know that I wanted to be a librarian as a child as much as I wanted to be a teacher. I made little library cards and pockets for all my comics (Bunty and Beano) and would lend them to other children round the street. 

I spent 40 hours working in our local library when I did my Service Flash badge at Guides and I loved every minute; finding people’s cards when they returned books, putting the books back on the shelves, carefully using the Dewey decimal system, replacing damaged plastic covers… I loved everything about it. When it was time to make decisions about career paths in Y10 we did a strange exercise which involved colouring in tiny lozenge shapes with an HB pencil. We had to answer a wide range of questions about what we enjoyed and it would give us our perfect career choice. Mine came back with Librarian and Museum Curator. By then though I had discovered drama and neither seemed quite as exciting as working in a theatre. Once I had decided that the theatre wasn’t for me, teaching seemed like the obvious choice. I love children, I could stand confidently and present and most of my family were in education. 

Longing for stories

As the years have gone on though, I have realised how much I need writing and stories in my life. I still love reading, and recently started reading fiction again, after years of psychology textbooks and self help titles. I have also realised how important it is to me to write. Whether it is a social media post, blog, newsletter or the book I am currently writing, sharing stories is a huge part of who I am. I studied Theology for my degree and as part of the course we did Theology through film and literature. We learned about the importance of symbolism in stories and of course Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I was fascinated by how this story arch fit every popular story I knew. If you haven’t looked into the concept of the hero’s journey please do, it is fascinating, especially if you enjoy reading or films.

Sharing stories is a practice as old as language. As soon as we could communicate we began telling stories to explain things we didn’t understand and creating myths around creation, the weather and the seasons. We tell stories to make sense of the world, how we are feeling and reassure ourselves that everything will be ok. 

This is the power of story. 

Last week I shared that I was having a diffidult day on social media. It was far from the most difficult day I have ever had, but I had had a few disappointments and I needed a good cry. Without fail it was the most responded to post on any of my social media platforms last week and probably this year. When we read about other people’s lives, but particularly their challenges, we feel connected to that person. We feel reassured that we aren’t alone when we have struggles.

Library

My author’s journey

Recently I started writing my first book. It is going to be a memoir and, even though I am only a little more than half way through the first draft, it is proving to be cathartic. I am having to relive some very difficult times and am sharing things that even some of my family don’t know about. I have cried a lot while writing but I know that if my story is having that effect on me, when I lived through it and know what happens in the end, then it is going to be a powerful read – well, I hope so anyway!

Kate retreat

At the start of the month I went away for a few days to make a start on writing my first draft. I knew that to really get a good start I needed to remove any distractions; housework, work for Calmer Classrooms, etc. My in-laws have a static caravan in Devon so I asked whether I could go for a few days to write and do some planning. They were a little worried about me going by myself but I reassured them that I would be super sensible and, honestly I hardly left the caravan. I popped into Okehampton a couple of times to visit a beautiful bookshop I discovered, Dogberry and Finch, and apart from that I went for a walk to find this beautiful secluded church (St Michaels, Brentor) but other than that, I wrote. I wrote and wrote and when I came home I had completed five chapters and had the framework for the whole book mapped out.

Since I got home I have set aside time every week to write a little more. One day it will be finished and then who knows what will happen next. I believe it is a powerful story, but then I would, it’s my story. Whatever happens to it though I will always be so glad that I had the opportunity to write it all out. It has been really therapeutic. 

Writing in all its forms is incredibly healing. If you have ever written a diary, filled in a gratitude journal or written morning pages you will know how deeply cleansing this form of writing can be. I have been journaling and writing in my gratitude journal for many years now and writing my articles and blogs is also therapeutic for me. I will definitely be consciously incorporating more writing and word work into my work with clients, and my own daily practice, from now on. Do you have something you need to write out today? Perhaps something you need to tell someone or something you need to work out. Grab a pen and some paper and start writing. You won’t regret it!

Journaling

Everyday Reiki

Everyday Reiki

Reiki is an ancient healing modality which involves the person giving the treatment acting as a conduit and channeling universal energy into the person recieving the healing. 

That isn’t the important thing though. 

That is what you would tell a scientist who was asking for an explanation.

What is important really is that it is an incredibly relaxing, natural treatment which can assist with anything from healing broken bones to mending a broken heart. It is a powerful but gentle way of recharging your batteries when your body is run down either because of physical illness or doing too much, or because of emotional trauma. 

Very few treatments are as holistic as Reiki.

When yhave an appointment with a therapist for a treatment you will lie on a treatment table possibly under a blanket and, depending on the practitioner, they will either gently place their hands on your body in a series of positions, or they may hover their hands just abover your body.

Personally I prefer to gently place my hands on the person recieving the treatment as I feel that caring, human contact is healing in itself and this only adds to the teatment.

If you have a friend or family member who offers to give you a treatment they may just sit next to you on the sofa or ask you to sit on a dining chair. 

The wonderful thing about Reiki is that you don’t need any equipment with you, as long as you have your hands then you can help someone. I have stood behing my Mum in the services on the way back from London and relieved her migraine and eased a friend’s backache while standing at the side of the playground on the school run.

I have been a Reiki Master for 12 years now, and it is one of the best things I have ever learned. When my children were little I could help them sleep and take the pain out of their bumps and bruises. As they grew I was able to help alleviate growing pains and menstrual cramps and now it calms their anxieties, especially in the light of the last 18 months. Reiki is so gentle you can use it on everyone from newborn babies to the very elderly. 

Reiki

I can also use my healing hands on myself. This is actually what prompted me to learn it in the first place as I was searching for natural ways to ease the fatigue, joint pain and occasional headaches that accompany my acromegaly.

How I have used my Reiki for my benefit

I use Reiki at least once a day on myself. I will attempt to list some of things I have used Reiki to help over the years: 

  • headache
  • toothache (including extraction and a filling)
  • joint pain
  • backache
  • pulled muscles
  • menstrual cramps
  • bruises
  • tummy bugs
  • insomnia
  • cramps
  • grief
  • anxiety
  • insect bites
  • breathing difficulties
  • and so many more…

I know it seems crazy that just placing your hands on yourself can ease all of these issues, but honestly it works. Often you don’t even realise how effective it has been until you stop and realise that you haven’t had any pain for a few hours.

Reiki and the NHS

When I did my Reiki training there was still controversy about its effectiveness. Over the last decade though many NHS trusts have begun to employ Reiki practitioners in their hospitals and there is increasing evidence of the impact it can have for a range of medical conditions. You may find these articles helpful if you want to learn more about how the NHS is now using Reiki and other holistic therapies.

Reiki

Would you like to learn?

If this sounds like something you would like to learn, I will be running some Reiki classes over the next few months. The first of which is being held on the Sunday 17th October 2021 from 10-4pm at my home in Stafford, UK. I will be running more classes to accommodate the times people need. 

I am even able to run the sessions via Zoom so if you are interested in learning but you are too far away to attend in person don’t let that stop you getting in touch.

If you are interested in attending on the 17th just contact me and I can book your place. 

If you are unable to attend on the 17th but would like to be notified about future dates or Zoom courses let me know and I will be sure to get in touch as more dates are added.

I love running Reiki classes because it is such a magical and intimate day. We discover so much about each other and share a home cooked meal (prepared by me to suit everyone’s dietary requirements). It really is a wonderful day. 

I will be running Reiki II classes in 2022 for anyone who wants to take the next step so if you are already attuned to Reiki I and would like to take the next step I will be scheduling those sessions for early in 2022. I also run Reiki Master classes but they are usually done 1:1 as and when people feel ready.

I would be honoured to be your teacher and guide you on this wonderful new stage of your life. 

What’s your mountain?

What's your mountain

Mountains can be physical or psychological. 

Last week I climbed Blencathra. I never thought when I was being told I had acromegaly 14 years ago that I would be able to walk 8 miles, never mind 8 miles up a mountain and back. You see the most obvious, lasting symptoms of my condition is that my joints are damaged. Particularly my knees, hips, elbows and hands and feet.

Three of those are essential for climbing mountains. Having been told many times over the years that if I put too much pressure on my knee joints I would need a knee replacement I have been scared to push myself. 

It’s so easy to tell ourselves we can’t do something, isn’t it?

When I was first diagnosed with acromegaly I was scared. My daughter was only 2 years old and I couldn’t see what my future would look like. I was in pain and couldn’t imagine how long life would continue like that. When my surgery was so successful I was filled with gratitude. I cried and vowed I would always be grateful for this second chance I had been given. 

I don’t believe it is possible to always be grateful, all day every day. We are human and sometimes we feel frustrated and angry. I try though.

Over the years I have had days when my limitations have caused me so much frustration I have sat and cried. I can’t knit any more. When I sew for more than a few minutes my fingers cease up and that frustrates me. I know that I am a 45 year old with much older joints, but I have decided to modify my life so that I don’t feel limited. 

It works for the most part. Most days I am just grateful and I feel as normal as anyone can. 

Some days though I am reminded that my body is not in any way the body of an average 45 year old. This was the case when we were climbing the mountain. There were 11 of us walking, ranging from my 6 year old niece to my 69 year old Mum. Despite working really hard on my fitness and muscle strength recently, I struggled the most. This photo is one of many we could have taken of me sitting mopping my brow while quietly weeping in frustration. My lovely Mum held back with me to support me and keep me going, but it wasn’t easy. 

mountain

Did I make it to the top?

Hell yes! I was not going to let a little think like frustration and worrying about letting people down stop me.

Did the whole thing remind me over and over again that my body can’t do everything my head thinks it can? Oh yeah! 

You might think that this is a negative thing but it really isn’t. I made it to the top of a mountain, and not an easy mountain. Everyone found it challenging and my stepson, who climbed Snowdon a couple of years ago, said it was harder than Snowdon. (He may have been humouring me, I don’t care, I’m taking it!). 

Mountain summit

Challenges aren’t supposed to be easy 

They are supposed to push us to our limits. Your limit will be very different to mine. When I was first recovering from my surgery being able to walk to the kitchen was an achievement. Now I have climbed a 868m mountain! 

A challenge for you might be running 12 marathons in 12 days. You might be able to run one easily. 

Your challenge might be to learn to read or to swim or to show someone a painting you have done. 

What is challenging for you will change many times throughout your life. But whether you are 6 or 66 years old it is important to keep growing and pushing those boundaries, while at the same time being immensely grateful for what you achieve. 

You are amazing!

Some days achieving something might be getting out of bed and having a shower. (You will only understand the energy it takes to have a shower if you have truly been ill and struggled with fatigue, it is not as easy as you might think!). It might be climbing a mountain or being brave enough to talk to your boss about a pay rise. Whatever your challenge, believe in yourself and celebrate when you achieve it. 

How did I celebrate? Well, I cried a lot. I allowed myself to feel truly proud of myself. I hugged a lot of loved ones, oh and my Dad bought me a badge to show that I have conquered Blencathra which I will be sewing onto my new rucksack when it arrives. You see, I have decided that this is something I really enjoy so I am going to be doing much more walking and mountain climbing. Not all as big as this challenge, but I will be setting myself lots of walking challenges over coming months and what makes it even better, is that my family are going to join me on them.

Quality time with my loved ones and a physical challenge, nothing better. 

 

Life is a Rollercoaster

Life is a Rollercoaster

Do you sometimes feel as though you are on a rollercoaster and you can’t get off?

Life is so full of ups and downs that sometimes we feel dizzy. I know I have often wondered when I can get off the ride. 

This is life. 

Life is a glorious mix of good times and challenges. Without the challenges we don’t learn and without the good times we might just give up all together.

In the words of Ronan Keating: “Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it!”.

Why is it though that the difficult times always seem to last so much longer than the good times?

Well, it is due to a simple evolutionary process which is designed to keep us safe but which can, if we don’t learn to control it, lead to the feeling that life is just one long pit that we are trying to climb out of.

Over many centuries our brains learned to remember the challenges and dangers we faced more vividly than the fun times. This is for the very sensible reason that very few people die or are seriously impacted by laughing or enjoying themselves. It is vital for our survival that we are able to remember when something causes us hurt, either physical or emotional though. Psychologists call this the negativity bias.

As a result we become more alert and take in every detail of the dips in the ride in an attempt to avoid that part of the ride if we see it ahead in the future. 

If only it was that easy.

Of course any pain always makes us more present and more likely to be on high alert, when we are soaring high and enjoying life we just go with the flow and don’t pay anything like as much attention to the things happening around us. 

rollercoaster

We are pre-programmed to feel that it can’t last, when life is good, and that “life is always hard” when we are struggling. 

I remember buying a new car a few years ago and within hours of buying it everything started going wrong. The two weeks it took to get everything sorted (the garage bought it back and I replaced it with a reliable alternative!) felt like the longest two weeks of my life. It’s the same when we are ill, time stands still. Yet when we are on holiday or having fun with our friends the time passes so quickly we wonder if it ever happened.

 Apparently the majority of parents have feared that something bad will happen to their child, while watching them sleep peacefully in their bed. It’s the way most people are wired. Statistically though less than 9% of the things we worry about ever happen. I’d play those odds with almost any situation. So what can we do to allow ourselves some mental freedom and ease our feeling that we are riding a never ending emotional rollercoaster.

 

Is there anything we can do to help us appreciate the good times more and diminidh the darker days? 

Mindfulness

Well, it won’t surprise you to hear that mindfulness is a great start. 

Ensuring that you are fully present whatever you are doing will help you to remember the good times more and you will start to balance the scales a little. (Read  Can being mindful ease anxiety? for more information)

Cut down your screen time

Spending less time on screens avoiding “real life” will also help. When we are going through difficult times we often reach for our devices and either get lost in social media or play games to distract our brains from what is going on. This may be an effective short term strategy, but if you’re not careful you then miss all the good things happening around you too. You have to participate in the whole of the rollercoaster ride to really be living your life. 

Gratitude

Focusing on feeling thankful, whether it is by writing down the things you are grateful for, or saying them outloud, will begin to teach your brain to look out for all the good things in your life. This will, over time, shift your focus from the upsetting, or depressing aspects of life, and you will learn to pay more attention to all the joy and blessings. Make sure you work your gratitude into your daily routine. 

Eat well

We know that our stomachs act as a second brain as far as mindset and mental health and what we eat really impacts our mood. If you are consuming lots of sugar, processed food, caffeine, and alcohol, you will find it harder to see the positives because you will feel tired, anxious and lacking in energy. When you feel this way it is much harder to find the joy in life. We comfort eat for the instant gratification but long term it just adds to the rollercoaster feelings and is really damaging to our wellbeing.

 

So, the next time you are going through some rollercoaster times in your life, stop and think about all the positives you can find. It may only be that you have a roof over your head and something to eat, but that is more than many people have. 

Remember:

This too shall pass.

 

 

Writing for Wellbeing

I have been writing to support my wellbeing for as long as I have been able to write. From innocent stories typed on my Mums typewriter to grown up journalling I have always used writing things down as a way to process my emotions and work through any challenges I might be facing.

As a teenager I fear my many penfriends often got a deeper, more soul searching letter than they were anticipating as the confused ramblings of my adolescent brain spilled forth uncontrollably onto the paper. Little did I realise at the time, just how important this was for me in organising my thoughts and feelings. 

Now as an adult I fully understand the benefits of writing for wellbeing. Whether it is getting things out into a blog or article, or journalling in a notebook until I have worked through whatever it is that is holding me back.

How does it work?

Well, when we write we access a different part of our brain to when we talk. This is particularly true for handwriting over typing. When we write, we are fully focused on what we are writing which allows our brains to calm down in the same way mindful breathing or meditation might. We relax and emerse ourselves in the process.

By writing freely, as we might when journalling our mind takes us on a journey. It allows us to discover ideas that we may not have thought of in any other context, to discover solutions to problems and gain clarity. It increases our self awareness and provides insights which are ours and ours alone, where a conversation may help us to find solutions but they may be directed by the person we are talking to. 

 

How do I write for wellbeing?

Well, put simply, you just start writing. 

You can use a pen or pencil, notebook or scrap of paper, desk of the back of a book on your knee, and just start writing. 

 

You might have something on your mind that you want to try to work out; a relationship that is troubling you or a challenge at work, or you might just want to start writing and see what comes up. 

Some people find it easier to start with a writing prompt, others prefer to flow freely. 

You may choose to give yourself a time limit and to make yourself write until the time is up. This can be helpful because you often find that the really important things come up after you think you have written everything you possibly can!

The important thing is that you write.

Writing for wellbeing

Writing is the therapy that you can do all by yourself. 

It is the perfect excuse to buy a new notebook, even a new pen… ooh stationery! But, more important than being an excuse to buy new stationery (and there aren’t many things more important than that believe me!), it is so incredibly good for you!

You don’t have to find hours and hours to sit writing in a summer house. You can literally sit for five minutes in the morning or evening, or whenever you get chance, and write. 

journaling

As humans we need words, we need stories, that is how we document our lives, how we learn and most importantly, how we impart wisdom. We have always told stories as a way to share knowledge and folklore. We tell our children stories of when we were younger to demonstrate why we are asking them to behave in a certain way and the consequences if they stray from the path. 

We are narrative beings. We make sense of our lives and the things we go through by sharing stories.

Have you ever noticed that you may have different favourite stories, films or TV series depending not just on your mood but your age and what is happening in your life. We do one of two things, we use stories to escape or to learn from someone else’s life experience. We may look up to certain characters in our teens and find them un-relatable in our forties because we have grown past them and we now need to find the wise characters in their sixties and seventies in order to learn from their lives.

We need stories, including our own, to live happy, contented lives. 

 

What are you waiting for? 

Grab a writing implement and something to scrawl on and get writing. Start writing your story or just whatever is in your head today. But write, just write. Every single day. It will honestly change your life. 

Writing

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