Archive for the ‘Health & Wellbeing’ Category

Counselling Level 2

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019 | Health & Wellbeing

I’m a psychologist rather than a counsellor. However, I thought my work with Anxiety Leeds and Leeds Anxiety Clinic, and my life, in general, would benefit from a deeper exploration of the theories around talking therapy and person-centred. So, I enrolled on a course with Leeds City College.

Studying has been fun. In terms of academic theory, the textbooks I have been reading have gone deeper than the course does. However, getting to do the interactive practise sessions to allow us to apply the theory have been invaluable. It already feels like it has been translating into better delivery at our group sessions.

And, I’m now formally qualified as a Level 2 Counsellor, which is nice.

Mindfulness for Productivity

Thursday, August 15th, 2019 | Health & Wellbeing, News

I’m pleased to announce my new course is now live! Here is the blurb:

Do you ever feel stressed about how productive you are? Are you hard on yourself for not getting enough done? Do you feel tired and struggle to focus on the more important things?

If so, Mindfulness for Productivity is the course for you. It gives you ten guided mindfulness practices you can follow along with to make you more productive, and maybe even a little happier, too.

It will help you:

  • Feel more motivated about your goals
  • Reduce stress around feeling unproductive
  • Focus on the things that are important
  • Carrying on when obstacles fall in your way
  • Starting and ending your day positively

This course is suitable for all levels: we’ll jump straight into the practice videos that you can follow along with, but we’ll also cover how to mindfully meditate and the science behind it.

You can preview the course on Udemy.

Is being overweight good for you?

Saturday, August 11th, 2018 | Health & Wellbeing, Science

The idea that being overweight is bad for you is well established. Being overweight takes years off your life, so it’s important to eat right and exercise to keep your weight under control. More recent evidence, however, has challenged this.

For example, a 2013 paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight people had a lower level of all-cause mortality than people of a healthy weight. The paper was not well-received, but nobody seems to have been able to poke any holes in it, either.

Similarly, a 2009 systematic review published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International concluded that:

The prevailing notion that overweight increases morbidity and mortality, as compared to so-called normal weight, is in need of further specification.

So, should we give up with the diets and let our waistlines expand a little? Maybe. But even if more evidence goes on to support these findings, there are some good reasons for sticking with the current line on what a healthy BMI is.

Overweight vs obese

Something that all the studies agree on is that people have worse health outcomes, including death, if they are obese. Overweight is one thing, but being obese is bad for you in any study.

And you might be surprised how easy it is to reach the category of obese. Consider that my BMI hovers around 24. 25 is the line between healthy weight and overweight. So, I’m nearly in the overweight category. And I look like this:

Not the buffest individual, that’s for sure, but I don’t look like I’m carrying around any extra weight either. And you only have to move up to a BMI of 30 to go into the obese category.

All-cause morality

As the NHS points out, these studies typically look at all-cause mortality, which means people dying of anything. The problem is that this contradicts individual studies of any topic. For example, if we look at heart disease or diabetes. Whenever we look at the individual causes, we find it is better to be a healthy weight.

There is a huge amount of evidence to support this, so in order for us to accept an alternative view, it would ideally need to explain this discrepancy.

Quality of life

The second problem is that these studies just look at mortality. But that is never the way that NICE or Public Health England have looked at how to provide the most efficient healthcare system.

We measure outcomes in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs). It’s not enough just to be alive. Modern medicine allows us to keep pretty much anybody alive indefinitely. But sitting in a medically induced coma on a ventilator isn’t a life that any of us would choose.

As a study in Nature points out, being overweight is associated with fewer years of disease-free life. In short, you might experience a longer life, but it won’t be a happier or more fulfilling one.

Indeed, this could help explain the findings. If people are already inside the medical system because they’re having to be treated for obesity-related illnesses, we may be better at spotting other diseases. Or it may be that carrying around some extra weight will reduce your quality of life but also help you to stick around for an extra week when you become seriously ill because you have larger fat reserves.

Conclusion

There is genuine evidence that you will live longer if you are a little overweight (but not obese). However, so far we have been unable to explain why this is. And, more importantly, you will also have a reduced quality of life. Therefore, the current guidelines on maintaining a healthy BMI are still relevant.

Good reads for Mental Health Awareness Week

Sunday, May 20th, 2018 | Health & Wellbeing

Below, I’ve collated a bunch of my blog posts on mental health into a list of interesting stuff to read. It’s all been published here or over on the Worfolk Anxiety blog.

Does social media damage your mental health?

In May, Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement published a report on the impact of social media on mental health. The TL;DR is that yes, social media can be harmful. But it also has its uses, so when used in moderation, like most things in life, can be a useful tool.

Things you should know about antidepressants

This is a pretty old article now, and if I wrote it today I would probably say way more. But it highlights a few key things to think about when deciding to go down the antidepressant route or not, and more widely, what opinion you hold of them.

Things to do when you’re well, according to people with anxiety

Mental hygiene is the things you regularly do to keep yourself mentally healthy. Just like we have a daily routine for physical hygiene and dental hygiene, there are things we can do to keep our mental health on the right track. But what actually helps? We asked people who live with anxiety.

Things to tell yourself when you’re not well, according to people with anxiety

In last week’s blog post, we looked at some good things to do when you are feeling well. But what about when you are having a rough patch and can’t find the energy to do anything? What should you tell yourself?

Will suicide nets stop jumpers at the Golden Gate Bridge?

When it comes to stopping people throwing themselves off the bridge, the question is, can a one-time intervention really save lives? Turns out the answer is yes.

We don’t need more money for mental health

You regularly hear politicians talking about how the NHS needs more money for mental health. In today’s post, I want to challenge this idea and offer a very different explanation and very different solution.

What would a mental health workout look like?

If you want to improve your physical fitness, you might work out. Maybe you would eat a high protein breakfast, hit the gym, do a warm-up followed by some intervals and then take a warm bath to recover afterwards. But what about mental wellness? What would a training session look like? What specifically would you do?

Announcing Mindfulness for Social Anxiety

Saturday, November 11th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

After much hard work, I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new course, Mindfulness for Social Anxiety. It follows on from the free 5-Day Mindfulness for Anxiety that already has thousands of students registered.

Does social media damage your mental health?

Friday, July 28th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

In May, Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and Young Health Movement published a report on the impact of social media on mental health. We wrote about it extensively on Worfolk Anxiety and you can read the full write-up over there.

The infographic was too good not to re-post, though. The TL;DR is that yes, social media can be harmful. But it also has its uses, so when used in moderation, like most things in life, can be a useful tool.

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Mindfulness for anxiety course

Thursday, July 27th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and increasing our enjoyment of life. Practising it allows us to re-train our minds to focus on the present, rather than wandering off into worry-land.

Which is why during the 30-Day Challenge I ran in April, we did two mindfulness meditations.

They were really popular. So, I have expanded them out into a full course. It’s called 5-Day Mindfulness for Anxiety and provides you with an introduction to what mindfulness is and how it works, before giving you five guided meditations, one for each day.

Best of all, it’s free. It’s hosted by Udemy, and you can preview the course here.

It has already proved a hit with the Udemy community. Nearly 500 people have enrolled and it has an average star rating of 4.8/5.

That slightly beats out the 30-Day Challenge, also available on Udemy, which has an average rating of 4.6/5. Though the challenge has over 1,500 students enrolled.

They’re both awesome. Give them a go.

In defence of gardening

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

Gardening is not the most glamorous of topics. For many, it belongs in the same category as golf, filed under things you should only do when you retire, or at very least become a middle-aged adult.

But gardening has some great benefits.

It happens outside

You can garden inside, but you probably won’t want to. Apart from the soil that will end up on your carpet, there will not be enough daylight for your plants. Therefore it is a great motivation to get yourself outside and enjoying the fresh air.

You can watch things grow

It is satisfying to see plants spring to life out of nowhere. You can do the same thing with children of course, but that is massively time-consuming. Plants just require some sunlight and some water, and you’re done.

You can eat some of them

Week after week I could get a bag parsley from the supermarket and end up having to throw some away because I could not use all of it. Having a herb garden is much more cost effective.

You can do it anywhere

Any outside space will do. I started gardening on my fourth-floor balcony. You can have window baskets, flower pots, or even a pop-up greenhouse. No space is too small to grow something.

It’s low maintenance

You need to water your plants every few days if they are undercover. If not, you can often get away with doing literally nothing. You can go away on holiday without putting them into kennels, and you can away with just not bothering for a week if you are ill. Or you can spend time lavishing them with love, the choice is yours. Plants are resilient organisms and either will probably keep them alive.

Will suicide nets stop jumpers at the Golden Gate Bridge?

Sunday, February 26th, 2017 | Health & Wellbeing

When it comes to stopping people throwing themselves off the bridge, the question is, can a one-time intervention really save lives?

When thinking of iconic places to take a suicidal jump from, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has to come pretty high up that list. In fact, 1,6000 have jumped to their death from the bridge since it opened. It is a fairly reliable way to do it. In that time 26 people have survived, a 98.4% “success” rate.

Now the Golden Gate Bridge are spending nearly £60,000 on installing suicide prevention nets. These wire nets will hang below the bridge, in an attempt to mostly hide them from public view, and be made of steel. It is not going to be a pleasant fall, but should at least save the life of the jumper.

But will it actually work?

According to The Bridge Rail Foundation, a group that has long been campaigning for suicide deterrents to be installed, there is no question that they will help the situation.

They argue that it is simply not the case that once someone has decided to take their own life, nothing can be done to stop them. In fact, most people who fail to take their own life do not try again. 90% of those who are stopped before they can jump go on to live our their remaining lives without suicide. This is a high suicide rate compared with the general population but suggests that intervening once is overwhelmingly successful in keeping people alive.

Experience from around the world suggests they will be effective as well. A similar scheme in Bern, Switzerland was put into place for bridges and city cathedral. Since the nets were installed at the later, nobody has decided to risk the jump. Since 1998 the only creatures to be pulled out of the nets were two dogs. Presumably, they ran over the ledge by accident.

New book, Technical Anxiety

Saturday, October 29th, 2016 | Books, Health & Wellbeing, News

I have a new book coming out. It’s called Technical Anxiety: the complete guide to what is anxiety and what to do about it. If you have read books about anxiety, you might have noticed that a lot of them seem to be written by people who do not really seem to know what it is like to have anxiety or how it makes you feel.

Technical Anxiety cuts through all of that. It covers things like talking to your friends and family (and work), being less self-critical, coping strategies, health anxiety, social anxiety, building a lifestyle that improves anxiety and loads more. To be honest, there is too much in it.

It is available for pre-order on iBooks and Kindle.

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