Counselling & Supervision with Jacqui Bird

Registered MBACP (Acred) Counsellor
07775 794 130

Jacqui Bird Counselling and Supervision in Thirsk, York, Leeds and the surrounding areas

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Mindfulness Can Support Cancer and Critical Illness

• 26th May, 15 •

How can it help me?

When an individual, family member or friend has been diagnosed with cancer or critical illness the emotional impact leaves you feeling as though your world has been turned upside down, like you have been suddenly thrown into a whirl pool of grief, feelings of shock, denial, anger, bargaining and depression are all very normal and necessary emotions to be experiencing.

Our mind begins to work in a very active way and thoughts begin to ruminate, the mind is not our best friend at this time as it begins to have a "field day" with negative thoughts which begin to impact on our body sensations and our actions. Talking to someone other than a family member or friend can be a very beneficial source of support.

It is during these difficult times that choosing to speak to a counsellor either individually or with your family can help you to work together with these confusing, intrusive thoughts and difficult, upsetting emotions..

Sometimes negative thoughts and feelings can affect your everyday activities and behaviour. Therefore working with a counsellor can help you with therapies such as mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioural therapy aiming to help you break cycles of negative thought. Counselling uses techniques that aim to change your thought patterns to leave you feeling more positive. It helps the family to communicate together effectively, enabling everyone to be heard and understood and helping them unite together in a supportive way.

What is Mindfulness?

"Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges when we pay attention to experience in a particular way: on purpose in the present moment and non-judgementally." - Jon Kabat-Zinn(1994) Rebecca Crane

Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.

Professor Williams says that mindfulness can be an antidote to the "tunnel vision" that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired.

"It's easy to stop noticing the world around us. It's also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living 'in our heads' - caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour," he says.

"An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.

"Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.

"Awareness of this kind doesn't start by trying to change or fix anything. It's about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives."

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a doctor in Switzerland she spent a lot of time with dying people, and those diagnosed with a critical illness, both comforting and studying them. She wrote a book, called 'On Death and Dying' which included a cycle of emotional states that is often referred to (but not exclusively called) the Grief Cycle.

In the ensuing years, it was noticed that this emotional cycle was not exclusive just to the terminally ill, but also other people who were affected by bad news, such as losing their jobs or otherwise being negatively affected by change. The important factor is not that the change is good or bad, but that they perceive it as a significantly negative event.

The Extended Grief Cycle

The Extended Grief Cycle can be shown as in the chart below, indicating the roller-coaster ride of activity and passivity as the person wriggles and turns in their desperate efforts to avoid the change.

The initial state before the cycle is received is stable, at least in terms of the subsequent reaction on hearing the bad news. Compared with the ups and downs to come, even if there is some variation, this is indeed a stable state. And then, into the calm of this relative paradise, a bombshell bursts...

  • Shock stage: When the initial paralysis at hearing the bad news.
  • Denial stage: When we try to avoid the inevitable.
  • Anger stage: When we feel Frustrated and there is an outpouring of bottled-up emotion.
  • Bargaining stage: When we seek in vain for a way out.
  • Depression Stage: A Final realisation of the inevitable.
  • Testing Stage: When we begin to seek a realistic solutions.
  • Acceptance Stage: When we begin to look at a way forward.

This model is extended slightly from the original Kubler-Ross model, which does not explicitly include the Shock and Testing stages. These stages however are often useful to understand and facilitating change.

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Walking and Talking for Better Wellbeing

Walking and talking in a calming outside environment offers the client a space to feel relaxed and mindful. Not all clients feel comfortable talking in a counseling room, some appreciate being outside and connecting with nature, surrounding colours and fresh air.

Walking and talking therapy is when the client and therapist…