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"... on the Mind"

By modefor, Jul 28 2020 09:03AM

Hi everyone, welcome to my first post at Mode for… I have to admit it is somewhat daunting that people might be reading my stuff further afield from my own little website but at the same time I'm quite excited.


Lockdown: The trials of practising at home


Lockdown. Where do I start? I imagine a lot of you can relate to what I'm about to go into, whether you're a brass player or not. As a brass player particularly, I have been struggling with a certain situation that people like to refer to as practise. My stunning silver Geneva cornet, named Roxy by a dear friend (it stuck), is looking at me from her case in disappointment. Yes, it is open, in my attempt to persuade myself to pick her up and actually play. Yet, there's always something else to do. "She can wait I have to make a snack, I'm hungry". "Well I can't play her now; I've just eaten." Any excuse to leave her there. This brings up the question, why? I've played my whole life, I love playing. Why don't I want to lift her out of that case and make some beautiful music?


Well, I don't know about you but I've always struggled with practising at home. My main musical outlet was always in groups. Now I can only play at home, like actual home practise? Oh, the horror!


Yes, the thought makes me shudder. I think, for me, it's largely down to the fact practising meant focusing on the things I didn't like doing so much, like scales. I attach this negative association with scales to practise. I'll put my hatred for scales into perspective for you. My poor teacher was probably near to a nervous breakdown getting me to learn the scales I needed for my Grade 8 because I was absolutely shocking at them (still am). There was a point where we'd put my grade 8 off so long due to this failing of mine that the pieces changed and I literally learned three new pieces in something like 3-4 months; may have been less. Of course, my sight-reading was pretty good from all the playing I was doing daily in different groups but scales were something I just didn't do. I also built a complex as many of us do. In the end I went for the exam anyway, hoping for the best. It's actually quite funny, if you look at the feedback; I was practically full marks in everything, then you get to scales. I failed those.


When I say I failed them, it isn't an exaggeration. I actually did. I mean, they really did not go well. Just ask Paul, my amazing accompanist and Band Conductor at the time who was sitting in the waiting room. He heard the disaster that followed. The examiner was lovely, I swear he was trying to make it all as easy as possible so I could get full marks. "Can you play me A minor harmonic?" he asks. Sure, I think cockily. Then it happened... A, B, C, D E flat (oh no! that's not right.) E natural F sharp (what are you doing? Hang on, what scale was it? Did he want melodic or harmonic?). The look on the examiner's face said it all. "Ok." he says awkwardly. "Why don't we try G chromatic?" Ok, good, I can do this one. I start and off I go right up to top G and then find I am now on a B. Too far stupid. And I awkwardly make my way down.

What else can I say?


Perhaps we can see why scales have a slightly frightening ring in my ears. To be honest this was an exam, a long time ago. I put it into perspective now and actually take away the best part of the experience; the almost full marks in everything else. I'm happy being the way I am and the story amuses me.

That did seem like a random little segway, but I think it identifies how important home practise is to musicians and why some of us struggle, when it comes to picking up our instrument at home. It is hard to bring ourselves to do something we don't like doing, especially when it's connected to something we apparently enjoy. We all have our demons to face, particularly when it's something we also want to do well at. We're often our own worst enemies. It doesn't mean we should give up; we just need to find a different perspective and a new way around the problem that suits us (perhaps something I should do with scales. - We need to pick our battles).


The first step, I decided, was to sort out my attitude towards practise. I decided to be proactive (one of Tabby's Three Ps. If you haven't read it yet put it on your reading list). Realising that I prefer to play in groups was key. This meant that online band recordings for general enjoyment and the Whit Friday March competition was a godsend for me. It gave me a new motivation to play and something to work towards. When they started to calm down, I was at a loose end again. Then it occurred to me; why not do my own? I've learned so many new skills from sitting at my computer, with Garageband open and a microphone next to me. Anyone who did music tech with me as a teen would laugh at the idea of me doing my own music videos. I was considered to have a poltergeist that followed me around the room and shut down all the computers I touched. But I have done three and intend to do more. I really enjoy it. Who knew technology could provide so much opportunity?


What I'm getting at is, lockdown has been a real struggle for many of us in a number of ways. However, look at what has come out of it. I certainly feel that I have grown because I decided to do something about these feelings, exacerbated by the confinement of

Lockdown.


With musicians, our social outlets for musical creativity has been seriously restricted. However, I want to be positive here. I like to think that out of adversity comes creativity. We have to find a way to do what makes us happy. In the process of the journey we gain something beautiful; new knowledge. Who knows where that will lead us?


I find more and more, as we continue through lockdown, that my view on the situation of Roxy and practise has changed for the better. Now I look at her and think, 'what's our next project?' Then she finds she is no longer in her case.


Georgie x



By modefor, May 19 2020 08:35AM

We all have feelings of anxiety at some point in our life. We can feel anxious about going to the doctors, dentists, learning to drive, giving a musical performance or sitting an exam. These worries and anxieties are perfectly normal, but for some people it’s difficult to control the worry and their feelings start to consume them and get in the way of daily life.


Anxiety becomes a mental health problem if it impacts on our ability to live our life fully, as we want to.


For example, if feelings of anxiety last a long time, if they’re out of proportion to the situation you are faced with, you avoid situations that might make you feel anxious or you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety which could include panic attacks.


Anxiety can be experienced in lots of different ways, mentally and physically and dependent on experiences meeting certain criteria, doctors can diagnose specific anxiety disorders, such as (but not limited to) Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).


Symptoms include, but are not limited to:


• a churning feeling in your stomach

• feeling light-headed or dizzy

• feeling restless

• headaches, backache or other aches and pains

• faster breathing

• a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat

• sweating or hot flushes

• Sleep issues

• nausea (feeling sick)

• changes in sex drive

• Panic attacks


It’s also perfectly possible to experience anxiety problems without an official diagnosis.


Since 2007 I have experienced and lived on-and-off with anxiety; for me it was a general anxiety that then led to social anxiety. One of my worst anxiety attacks came as a surprise to me in 2017 as I’d felt so fit and well in my mind for many years, but something had triggered me in the form of words and judgement from some people I knew.


After several years of being fit, well and happy I hadn’t realised my mental health was starting to spiral downwards again until one Saturday in September 2017. I walked into a pub full of musical friends, many I hadn’t seen for a while and there in front of me were the group of people that I knew had passed some uninvited judgement on the lives of me and my husband.


All it took was seeing them and within seconds I started to shake. I had to put my drink down as it was so obvious and I headed to the bathroom where I started to be sick, feeling all the physical signs of anxiety combined with the negative thoughts and emotions. It was terrifying and had hit me so suddenly.


This spiral continued over the course of the next four months and with the anxiety came another period of depression; sometimes they like to work hand-in-hand.


Anxiety sucks like a big sucky thing. It seems to have its own set of rules and guidelines and whilst it’s very common, we each feel the symptoms in slightly different ways and for different reasons.


I have a handle on it now. Don’t get me wrong, it still tests me, but these days I own reins and drive my own mind and life.


When anxiety hits though, whether it’s an old familiar unliked family member or a new infiltrator wading into your life, you can and must support yourself.


Some of the ways you can do that is by having a conversation with someone you trust. Talking to a friend, family member, colleague, peer group or trained professional is a really good first line of defence and combat for anxiety. It helps us to rationalise our fears and mind and talking helps reduce the feelings of stigma and shame.


You can also try to manage your worries with helpful coping strategies such as meditation and journaling and of course, looking after your physical health and wellbeing will have massive positive effects on your mind and mental health.


Self-help resources such as books, journals and computer and app-based CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) programmes can be a help too.


Yes, of course there are medications but I went from severe anxiety to no anxiety without the aid of drugs. For me, treating the cause of the issues through continually learning and developing myself and keeping myself healthy gave me a better chance of long-term management of my anxiety. Sometimes I think we are too quick to treat the symptoms of an issue through medication rather than treating the cause of the issue through hard personal work and lifestyle changes. My thoughts, not a health professional’s.


Please always seek appropriate professional advice if you are experiencing mental health related issues, but please, also make the effort to help yourself with good lifestyle and health choices.


Are you worried about someone who is feeling anxious or showing signs of anxiety? Well, if so, there are things you can do to help.


It’s always tough to see someone we care about go through something like this, so don’t pressure them. Just be there. Try to understand and encourage some open conversation, setting aside your thoughts and understandings to truly listen to them.


Worried about someone specifically during lockdown in the Global Pandemic that is COVID-19? Drop them a message; check in on them with an open question asking ‘how they are’ or ‘have they seen something’; anything that opens up a conversation.


Point them in the direction of some support, be that an online group, a podcast, a website such as ‘Mind’ (www.mind.org.uk) or Anxiety UK (www.anxietyuk.org.uk). Both have a vast library of resources and advice to help signpost people to the appropriate help they may need.


This booklet produced by the charity Mind is a great starting point so have this on hand to circulate in your friendship circle, workplace, community group or family: https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/2963/anxiety-2017.pdf


You can also develop your own skills through taking a mental health awareness course such as my new downloadable course launching on 22nd May which you can do in the privacy of your own home: Mode for... mental Health Awareness Course sign-up here


The best thing you can do though is to simply be there; without pressure or judgement, just be the friend they need for when they need it. But make sure you look after yourself if you’re going to support someone else.


Sometimes, people just have difficult days and just need someone to be there; not do anything, just be the listening ear and the shoulder of support.


I’m going to pass over to one of the wisest philosophers in the world, Winnie the Pooh in an extract from the writer A.A. Milne.



"Today was a Difficult Day," said Pooh.


There was a pause.


"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Piglet.


"No," said Pooh after a bit. "No, I don't think I do."


"That's okay," said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.


"What are you doing?" asked Pooh.


"Nothing, really," said Piglet. "Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don't feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.


"But goodness," continued Piglet, "Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you've got someone there for you. And I'll always be here for you, Pooh."


And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs...he thought that his best friend had never been more right."


***

For more information on mental health awareness and support, sign-up HERE


Much Love

Tabby xxx



By modefor, May 19 2020 08:35AM

We all have feelings of anxiety at some point in our life. We can feel anxious about going to the doctors, dentists, learning to drive, giving a musical performance or sitting an exam. These worries and anxieties are perfectly normal, but for some people it’s difficult to control the worry and their feelings start to consume them and get in the way of daily life.


Anxiety becomes a mental health problem if it impacts on our ability to live our life fully, as we want to.


For example, if feelings of anxiety last a long time, if they’re out of proportion to the situation you are faced with, you avoid situations that might make you feel anxious or you regularly experience symptoms of anxiety which could include panic attacks.


Anxiety can be experienced in lots of different ways, mentally and physically and dependent on experiences meeting certain criteria, doctors can diagnose specific anxiety disorders, such as (but not limited to) Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Phobias, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).


Symptoms include, but are not limited to:


• a churning feeling in your stomach

• feeling light-headed or dizzy

• feeling restless

• headaches, backache or other aches and pains

• faster breathing

• a fast, thumping or irregular heartbeat

• sweating or hot flushes

• Sleep issues

• nausea (feeling sick)

• changes in sex drive

• Panic attacks


It’s also perfectly possible to experience anxiety problems without an official diagnosis.


Since 2007 I have experienced and lived on-and-off with anxiety; for me it was a general anxiety that then led to social anxiety. One of my worst anxiety attacks came as a surprise to me in 2017 as I’d felt so fit and well in my mind for many years, but something had triggered me in the form of words and judgement from some people I knew.


After several years of being fit, well and happy I hadn’t realised my mental health was starting to spiral downwards again until one Saturday in September 2017. I walked into a pub full of musical friends, many I hadn’t seen for a while and there in front of me were the group of people that I knew had passed some uninvited judgement on the lives of me and my husband.


All it took was seeing them and within seconds I started to shake. I had to put my drink down as it was so obvious and I headed to the bathroom where I started to be sick, feeling all the physical signs of anxiety combined with the negative thoughts and emotions. It was terrifying and had hit me so suddenly.


This spiral continued over the course of the next four months and with the anxiety came another period of depression; sometimes they like to work hand-in-hand.


Anxiety sucks like a big sucky thing. It seems to have its own set of rules and guidelines and whilst it’s very common, we each feel the symptoms in slightly different ways and for different reasons.


I have a handle on it now. Don’t get me wrong, it still tests me, but these days I own reins and drive my own mind and life.


When anxiety hits though, whether it’s an old familiar unliked family member or a new infiltrator wading into your life, you can and must support yourself.


Some of the ways you can do that is by having a conversation with someone you trust. Talking to a friend, family member, colleague, peer group or trained professional is a really good first line of defence and combat for anxiety. It helps us to rationalise our fears and mind and talking helps reduce the feelings of stigma and shame.


You can also try to manage your worries with helpful coping strategies such as meditation and journaling and of course, looking after your physical health and wellbeing will have massive positive effects on your mind and mental health.


Self-help resources such as books, journals and computer and app-based CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) programmes can be a help too.


Yes, of course there are medications but I went from severe anxiety to no anxiety without the aid of drugs. For me, treating the cause of the issues through continually learning and developing myself and keeping myself healthy gave me a better chance of long-term management of my anxiety. Sometimes I think we are too quick to treat the symptoms of an issue through medication rather than treating the cause of the issue through hard personal work and lifestyle changes. My thoughts, not a health professional’s.


Please always seek appropriate professional advice if you are experiencing mental health related issues, but please, also make the effort to help yourself with good lifestyle and health choices.


Are you worried about someone who is feeling anxious or showing signs of anxiety? Well, if so, there are things you can do to help.


It’s always tough to see someone we care about go through something like this, so don’t pressure them. Just be there. Try to understand and encourage some open conversation, setting aside your thoughts and understandings to truly listen to them.


Worried about someone specifically during lockdown in the Global Pandemic that is COVID-19? Drop them a message; check in on them with an open question asking ‘how they are’ or ‘have they seen something’; anything that opens up a conversation.


Point them in the direction of some support, be that an online group, a podcast, a website such as ‘Mind’ (www.mind.org.uk) or Anxiety UK (www.anxietyuk.org.uk). Both have a vast library of resources and advice to help signpost people to the appropriate help they may need.


This booklet produced by the charity Mind is a great starting point so have this on hand to circulate in your friendship circle, workplace, community group or family: https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/2963/anxiety-2017.pdf


You can also develop your own skills through taking a mental health awareness course such as my new downloadable course launching on 22nd May which you can do in the privacy of your own home: Mode for... mental Health Awareness Course sign-up here


The best thing you can do though is to simply be there; without pressure or judgement, just be the friend they need for when they need it. But make sure you look after yourself if you’re going to support someone else.


Sometimes, people just have difficult days and just need someone to be there; not do anything, just be the listening ear and the shoulder of support.


I’m going to pass over to one of the wisest philosophers in the world, Winnie the Pooh in an extract from the writer A.A. Milne.



"Today was a Difficult Day," said Pooh.


There was a pause.


"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Piglet.


"No," said Pooh after a bit. "No, I don't think I do."


"That's okay," said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.


"What are you doing?" asked Pooh.


"Nothing, really," said Piglet. "Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don't feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.


"But goodness," continued Piglet, "Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you've got someone there for you. And I'll always be here for you, Pooh."


And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs...he thought that his best friend had never been more right."


***

For more information on mental health awareness and support, sign-up HERE


Much Love

Tabby xxx



By modefor, Apr 24 2020 10:11AM

Do you even know?


I know exactly how big my bucket is and I pay special attention to it!


Have you ever thought about the importance of the size of your bucket compared to the size of what goes into it?


OK, smutty people, heads out of gutter now please! I’m not talking about that bucket…


… I’m talking about your stress bucket!


Yes, stress bucket is a thing thanks to the clever science-minded people Professor Alison Brabban & Dr. Douglas Turkington, who in 2002 said that the level of vulnerability a person carries is represented by a bucket into which every day stresses flow (check below for the Stress bucket visual!).


People with higher levels of vulnerability (based on life experiences, pressures of work, finance, family, trauma, grief, health, socio-economic factors and more) are more likely to develop mental health issues when stress levels rise. Conversely, those with lower vulnerability levels can withstand a higher level of stress. (check below for a visual of the Stress Vulnerability Model proposed by Joseph Zubin and Bonnie Spring in 1977).


This is why we need to know

a) how big our bucket is; and

b) how we can manage our buckets


… a little self-loving and awareness is everything after all! (yes, you can have that inuendo for free!).


So, to our buckets…


In the Stress Bucket Model the level of vulnerability a person carries is represented by a bucket into which every day stresses flow. The lower a person’s vulnerability to stress, the bigger their bucket.


The size of bucket is dependent on our vulnerability level. The more difficult issues there are, the smaller the bucket so it will overflow more quickly than someone with a larger bucket. When the bucket overflows, is when difficulties develop.


How do we stop our bucket overflowing?

Through helpful coping methods, such as rest, nutrition, recovery, positivity and asking for help. These helpful coping mechanisms function as a tap to let stress out of your bucket.


Unhelpful coping methods, such as working long hours, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, lack of sleep, excess pressure etc can become additional stressors to fill the bucket and block the tap.


You see, we all have stress, but you have control of the tap on your bucket and you can manage the level of stress in your bucket.


Your stress levels will be different to someone else’s because your bucket is a different size.


Your vulnerability level is different to someone else’s because of your personal experiences and how you manage them.


Get it?


By using the Stress Bucket Model we can use the visual to help us manage our stress.


So, get investigating your bucket and see how big it is… and feel free to report back!


For more free gems of enlightenment like this straight to your box, fill this in: https://forms.gle/X4gPFhfKvMppPXMq5


Much love

Tabby xxx



By modefor, Apr 6 2020 09:57AM

I’ve written about the importance of resilience a lot… and I will continue to do so! But today I thought I’d give you a quick Resilience High-5.


Resilience is not just strength, but the ability to be stretched and then return to form… (think Elastigirl from The Incredibles – one of my heroes because she is resilient AF!)


Resilience is the ability to be flexible, to bounce back, to manage stress, to cope positively and to keep going regardless of what you’re faced with. It is buoyancy (I guess with an ass like Elastigirl’s you’d be particularly buoyant?!).


Resilience is the power to return to form after being bent, compressed and stretched, mentally and physically.


The more resilient you become, the stronger you feel and vice versa.


But the form you bounce back too doesn't have to be the old shape, it can be a new form.


Resilience is about accepting and moving forwards.


This is why working on your mental (and physical) resilience is so important for your health and wellbeing. Being mentally resilient, flexible, stretchy, malleable, whatever word, you want to use, will stand you in good stead. You will deal with personal, financial and professional issues much better.


Being resilient will help you learn and flourish from situations and not be broken by them.


Being resilient will help with your mental health and help you be stronger for others.


You can read about more ways to develop your resilience in my article “Coping Strategies for Anxiety” on my “… On the Mind” blog, but for now, here’s my Resilience High-5.


• Reflect

• Time-out

• Focus

• Create

• Move


Reflect

Look at what you’ve got through already in your life; if you’re reading this now then that means you’ve got through some stuff so you are already resilient. Appreciate that and be grateful for all you’ve achieved.

Once you look back at things you can change the narrative going forwards; in effect you can choose not only how to live your life, but choose your mindset and how you respond and act to situations without reacting.

You can face your fears, release regrets, cultivate forgiveness of yourself and others you feel may have done wrong to you and you can learn the lessons to help you develop your strength and resilience.


Time-out

Taking time-out from the busy world, both online and physically, is a good thing. Don’t keep doing things out of habit or impulse.

It is OK and great to do nothing sometimes; we don’t always have to be striving forwards. Being mindful of what’s going on right now and slowing down is good for your mind, body and spirit.

Take time-out for your mental and physical health and to digest what you have learned from your reflection. If things aren’t always working for you, taking a break can really help and don’t be afraid to make changes.


Focus

Reflection done, time-out taken, now it’s time to focus on how you have got through the tough things so far and how you can develop those skills.

Show yourself plenty of self-compassion and pass that empathy and self-compassion on to others.

Focus on yourself and what you need for your optimum mental and physical health and wellbeing. This is about you and what works for you. Don’t be afraid if it’s different to the needs of others. This is about you and doing the things you love and that make you feel good.

From walking to meditating, cooking to music, finding new and old things you love to do are therapy for the soul.


Create

Creating and being creative are important for confidence, flexibility and happiness to name just a few reasons.

You have the means to create yourself, your life, what and how you do things and you shouldn’t be shy of ‘re-doing’ you at any time. Passions and values change as we learn and grow, so create yourself as you go along.

Create a plan of what you want, what you need and how you can implement that and combined with an element of letting things ‘be’ and ‘happen’, you can really bump up your resilience levels.

Having a creative outlet will also help you gain confidence to be the best version of you which you can love.


Move

With your armoury of developed skills, it’s time to move.

Literal physical movement will help to give your mind clarity, improve your wellbeing and mental and physical health but it’s also time to move in a different way; forwards with your life.

There is no speed guidance for this, as long as the direction is forwards, you do you and move at your speed to achieve the satisfaction that you need and want.


It’s your life on your terms. Work on your resilience and you can navigate life and all its ups and downs with a little more confidence and ease.


Want to chat about your resilience more? Message me for a short 1-2-1 power call.


Much Love

Tabby xxx





The Blog written by Tabby Kerwin and members of the Mode for... team focussing on possibility, productivity &  performance, with a focus on resilience, creativity & mental health.