Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword and that is for good reason. With practice, mindfulness can change the way our brains work and instill a sense of calm. Far from its roots in traditional Buddhist practice, mindfulness of today is about taking your focus out from the past which we can’t change and the future which is yet to happen and putting it firmly in the present. This can be done in a number of ways from focusing on the body to the external senses.
Forgive others and ourselves
Holding on to grudges and past hurts has been likened to ‘putting your hand into a fire but expecting it to burn the other person’. It might feel like the right thing to do, but what does it really accomplish? Forgiveness is surprisingly seldom about the other person but about the feelings and beliefs that we carry with us from the precipitating event. Forgiveness is a private decision and it is not necessary to tell the other person that we have forgiven them. Of course, forgiveness of the self is just as important, as feelings of shame can be overwhelming, we are human after all and everyone makes mistakes.
Use positive affirmations
It’s easy to fall into a rut of negative talk, but by changing the wording it can have a transformative effect on how we feel about ourselves. Remember that coach from school or any other supportive and encouraging role model you have had the joy of spending time with? Be your own cheerleader – ‘you can do it, you are worthy and you are loveable’.
Set small goals and complete them
By setting ourselves small achievable goals throughout the week we can begin to see that we can do the things we set our minds to. Whether it is finishing that book, learning to crochet, phoning an old friend or putting time aside for self-care, it shows ourselves and others that we care for and value ourselves.
Keep a gratefulness journal
Log three things you are grateful for every other day, they don’t have to be big things. A smile from the lady in the newsagents, a bird on the windowsill or simply an hour of your favourite TV show. By feeling and acknowledging the small moments in our life that we often take for granted, we can start to build a more accurate model of what our life is really like rather than focusing on the negative parts.
Last week, MS-UK Counsellor Louise Willis looked at what self-esteem is, this week she will look at how we can help to build a healthy level of self-esteem
Stop negative self-talk
We have all done this, whether it’s how we speak to ourselves when we make a mistake or our general internal narrative. When we talk to ourselves in a negative way we have no filter to say ‘hey, that is not true’ or even to question it as we may to a friend if they were to say it. Would you expect someone who is being spoken to negatively to have high self-esteem?
Step up the self-care
You are a valid and unique person like everyone else. Treat yourself with the respect you need and others will too. Spending time doing your favourite hobby, getting a massage, reading a good book, enjoying time outside or a long relaxing bath are all ways to show ourselves that we care.
Being assertive is not about taking control or being aggressive or forceful, but about kindly and calmly stating your needs or wants with respect to both yourself and others. Assertive communication uses ‘I’ statements as a way of owning thoughts and feelings and always calmly listening to and acknowledging the other person. Practicing saying ‘No’, planning conversations in advance and offering alternatives is also helpful in assertive communication.
Develop healthy boundaries
Having stable and reliable boundaries affords us and others the security to know where we stand in relationships. For those with low self-esteem, boundaries can often be weak and the more we allow others to cross them, the more out of control we can feel. Developing boundaries is not only healthy for us but is essential for healthy relationships.
Challenge negative beliefs
We can often adopt negative ‘core’ beliefs about ourselves. These can rear their ugly heads in times of hardship and illness. When challenged, these beliefs are rarely true but because they have been there since early life, we often don’t even realise we have them. When we view our life through the lens of a negative belief, we will see mostly negative outcomes. Happily, these beliefs can be challenged and changed for new, more helpful ones which in turn will begin to build self-esteem.
Check back on the MS-UK blog next Thursday to read the final instalment of this three-part blog series. Click here to read the first instalment if you missed it.
MS-UK Counsellor Louise Willis discusses how MS can affect your self-esteem and how you can make improvements in the first of three blogs
What is Self Esteem?
How we feel about and perceive ourselves is often termed as our ‘self-esteem’.
As the psychologist and once close friend of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung once said; ‘the most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely’. This is often at the heart of why some of us can find it incredibly difficult to hold ourselves in the same high regard that we do others.
Far from being a stable idea of a sense of self, our self-esteem can be fragile and mercurial by nature, a reaction to our perceived successes and failures. How we view ourselves is an often intangible feeling that has its roots firmly planted in our past experiences and early life.
For some, when self-esteem is unconsciously associated with a particular role that we play or physical or mental attribute, finding ourselves with a chronic illness which can affect this part of our identity can have a huge impact on our sense of self-worth. By putting a value on the part of our being which we believe to have been compromised while ignoring the rest of our attributes, our sense of self or self-esteem can be hugely rocked.
Self-esteem can be knocked or damaged at any point in our lives, from our first beliefs about who we are and what we mean to others and our place in the world to the loss of a partner or an illness in old age.
What can we do about it?
Understanding and accepting that we as humans are never going to be ‘perfect’ is always the first step, but there are some tips that can help us to understand the process of regaining a feeling of self-worth and to build some new strong and healthy self-esteem building habits. These tips are all backed by scientific studies centered on neuroplasticity which is the fancy term for our amazing brain's ability to adapt and change. It is now widely accepted that the brain’s capacity for regeneration and growth never stops no matter our age, so there really is no excuse!
In the next instalment of this three-part blog series we will look into helpful tips to start you on your way to feeling better about yourself.
Far from being a substitute for therapy, mental health apps have gained a place in today’s culture of wanting help here and now. They are often seen as an adjunct to counselling and an introduction or a ‘step in the right direction’. People with multiple sclerosis (MS) can experience a range of issues and may not be ready to engage with counselling, but still require a level of help, here is where apps can come into their own. We asked MS-UK Counsellor Louise Willis for some of the best tried and tested apps on the market.
Possibly one of the most popular apps for mindfulness. It offers 10 free sessions that you can use over and over. If you wish to continue and progress with your mindfulness practice there is a one-year membership for £70, giving you access to hundreds of themed, guided meditations and mindfulness exercises although they often have price reduction offers.
A great free app from Mind, the mental health charity. This app features a ‘news feed’ style interactive main page where you can comment, read, or share your own thoughts and feelings with other like-minded users. There is also a private message facility.
This free app is chock full of tools to enable you to manage anxiety and calm an anxious mind and body, as well as objective help and advice on subjects such as anger, depression, self-esteem and stress. There is also an area to keep track of moods and new habits as you make them.
‘Check in with yourself’ with this comprehensive app from Oz, which enables you to track your mood along with hundreds of targeted mindfulness practices for young and old alike. Oh yes, and it’s free!
If interacting with humans is not your thing, MyPossibleSelf might be for you. Bloopy the assistant bot guides you through a free, and rather in depth eight week cognitive behavioral therapy based course. MyPossibleSelf offers the potential to help you work through your issues in the format of a text conversation.
This AI driven app has the option to subscribe and unlock a wealth of personalised mindfulness exercises. From improving mood to lessening anxiety, Aura’s narrators have a dignified sense of calm and the app has an outstanding amount of choice in the paid version.
Another great mindfulness app which you can access both paid and unpaid. A vast amount of exercises and options to choose from for all levels of ability. There is also a handy sound setting option where you can adjust the background volume or turn it off if you prefer.
This app is aimed at Young adults, older teens or anyone new to managing their anxiety. Using a comprehensive mix of CBT tools and interventions to retrain the mind, there is also a space to log the new changes and to do behavioural and mind ‘experiments’.
Endorsed by the NHS, this free app promises to be a helpfully concise addition to the mental health app scene. It gives the user the opportunity to log their mood, check the mood and ultimately change their mood. There are options for depression, anxiety, anger, relaxation, confusion and happiness using CBT.
Action For Happiness
If you can’t commit to either the investment of time or cash, Action For Happiness may be for you. It offers a ‘newsfeed’ of positive affirmations, memes and scientifically proven small daily tasks to improve your mood and sense of well being. There is also a ‘comment’ section under each post to share your successes with other users!
A very gentle free app for everyone. The app focuses on a game in which you navigate a panda around a virtual world. The app uses your phone's camera to take your heart rate, and with both breathing and yoga stretching and gentle exercise, this simple app really does live up to its name.
This week is national Volunteers' Week and we are celebrating by saying a big thank you to our amazing volunteers. Last year over 130 people volunteered with MS-UK in all sorts of ways. Together you donated 500 hours of time to MS-UK and helped us be here for people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). We literally couldn't do it without you, thank you!
This year we have lots of opportunities to get involved. You could join our fantastic cheer squad and support our fundraisers to make it over the finish line at a national event. Or you could come into our offices in Essex and get stuck in behind the scenes. We are also currently looking for volunteer counsellors to help us offer telephone counselling to more people who may need it across the UK.
Whatever you decide to do, we'll be here every step of the way to support you. You can share your skills and develop new ones, gain some experience working with a national charity and we provide you with a full induction and ongoing support.
In the mean time, you can find out more about Volunteers' Week across the country on the NCVO website. If you already support MS-UK, don't forget to download our Twibbon to show the world you are part of #TeamPurple.
Best wishes and happy volunteering!
Sarah Wright, General Manager
MS-UK will be closed on the bank holiday following this weekend, so just to remind you of the times:
Friday 24 May - open from 9am - 5pm
Monday 27 May - closed
Thank you all and do have a lovely bank holiday!
Best wishes, The MS-UK team
This week, 13-19 May, is Mental Health Awareness week. People affected by MS can often experience associating effects on their mental health too. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what somebody means when they talk about mental health issues, and this is why Mental Health Awareness week exists. They aim to make discussions of mental health clearer and a foundation stronger support networks. By supporting Mental Health Awareness week, we can pave the way for greater openness when it comes to mental health, and strive to help those that are further affected by other conditions too.
We can all experience guilt, like any other emotion within our daily lives. Some people experience it occasionally, whilst others may experience it more frequently. Guilt can be a difficult emotion to identify and can often be disguised by feelings of anger or resentment. The feeling can often rear its head when we identify and perceive we have caused ourselves or somebody else a wrongdoing or harm. Guilt can leave us feeling pretty rubbish!
People living with a long-term health condition can experience the grieving process, which is not linked to the death of a loved one. Guilt can be a part of the grieving process where the person is seeking to try and find the answers to their questions of why something is happening to them and the impact that has on others.
People living with MS may experience this feeling for a number of reasons, some of which are discussed below
Most people will experience feelings of guilt at some point in their life. However, if you notice that you are constantly apologising to yourself or others this could be a telling sign that you may be experiencing feelings of guilt. Communication is key to challenging these feelings. Communicating with somebody you trust such as a family member, friend, colleague or health professional can help you to start alleviating these feelings.
If we do not recognise and process feelings of guilt this can potentially affect our mental health and wellbeing. Sometimes people may want to talk with an experienced mental health professional about their feelings of guilt in a safe, supportive and non-judgemental setting. This could be through:
Counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
This can provide space for the person to explore and examine their thoughts and feelings. Counselling can help the person identify new ways of thinking and behaving which can improve the way they feel.
Relationship or family therapy
The whole family may want to access counselling. This may help family members understand when it might be MS that they perceive to be the ‘problem’ or ‘worry’ and when it is something else.
Mindfulness and meditation
Can help the person to be aware of the present moment where they can calmly recognise and accept their thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without judgement. This can be a very powerful tool in helping to alleviate feelings of guilt.
You may have read this article and relate to some of what was shared. Others may be thinking that it isn’t relevant at all. As individuals we respond differently to feelings of guilt but what is important to remember is that one of the best ways to cope with feelings of guilt is to try and be as compassionate towards yourself as you would be to somebody else.
This extract was taken from issue 113 of New Pathways magazine, the MS magazine for people with MS, by people with MS.
I wanted to let you know about a new volunteering opportunity here at MS-UK.
We are looking for Volunteer Counsellors to join our team to provide telephone counselling sessions to those affected by multiple sclerosis. If you have experience of delivering person centred and telephone counselling please get in touch. The role is based at our office in Colchester and full training will be provided on 28 and 29 May 2019.
You can find out all about this opportunity on our volunteering web page, and the closing date is 10 May.
MS-UK Counselling is the only service of its kind available to people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the UK, so you will be joining a dedicated team that really makes a difference.
'I was inspired to run for MS-UK by my Aunt Karen who was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) in 2012. Despite how much of a change her diagnosis has brought to her life and the daily challenges it now presents to her, I find myself in awe with how she hasn’t let it hold her back. I was drawn to MS-UK in particular due to the great services they offer to those affected, such as the helpline, counselling service and wellness centre facility. Services like these were so valuable and essential to helping my aunt, so raising money to ensure they are provided to others who need them means a lot.
'The main challenge I faced when I found out I had a charity place last June was that I had never run before and it didn’t come very naturally to me. My main support came through joining a local running group, which has really helped me through the winter training runs and longer runs recently.
'To fundraise for MS-UK I utilised my job as a Makeup Artist in order to hold a luxury beauty raffle. I was very lucky to be gifted items after asking various colleagues for contributions to the prizes. I managed to gather together enough items for three large prizes and decided to sell tickets for £5 each. I posted about the raffle on social media, as well as my local running group’s Facebook page. I sold 109 tickets and raised a total of £545. After the success and popularity of the first raffle I’m looking to hold a second one!
'Make sure to put yourself out there, whether it be on social media or in your work place. I’ve posted regular updates of my training onto Facebook and Instagram to let people know about my progression and to let them know about why I’m running for MS-UK. Also not being afraid to reach out to local businesses or friends to see if they would be willing to donate items as prizes, if you decide to do a raffle. I was really overwhelmed by people’s generosity, so it’s always worth asking!
'I feel extremely lucky and proud to be able to run the London Marathon for my aunt and to be able to raise money for MS-UK. I’ve recently completed my longest training run (20 miles), which I never could have imagined myself doing! Knowing I’m running for such a great cause has really helped to motivate and keep me going with my training, and although I’m nervous, I can’t wait for start-line of the marathon!'
Next week will mark MS Awareness Week 2019. This year we’re very excited to be working alongside the MS Trust and the National MS Therapy Centres to raise awareness of the benefits of exercise.
We have developed a free booklet all about exercise which includes some seated exercises to help you get started. We hope you find this useful and it includes first-hand quotes from other people who have been in your position - people who can truly understand and empathise with your feelings about exercise.
The MS-UK Helpline team