GROW's step 7 - we took care and control of our bodies - is a key element in our recovery and an essential part of this is cultivating positive habits.
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Step 7 - We took care and control of our bodies

This month, we look at Step 7 of the GROW 12 Step Program - we took care and control of our bodies. A group of GROWers from Kilkenny have put together some of their thoughts and tips in relation to sleep, exercise, diet and healthcare.  Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers blogger, Fiona Kennedy, gives us a very personal account on the range of tools which help her to stay well.  Derry O'Malley, a Limerick therapist, who helps out on GROW's National Program Team and who has his own Headspace Show on Limerick City Community Radio, looks under the bonnet of stress and anxiety, so to speak, and gives us his take on what positive steps we can take to combat symptoms.  We look at what has been going on in the GROW regions during June and what is coming up in July.  Finally, we also remember Con Keogh, GROW's visionary founder, who was born on 13th July 1921, and who passed away in 2011.

So this summer, the message is:  Take action, take that first step and make some positive changes in your life, especially in relation to exercise, to knock those problems on the head and to establish some good habits to get you through the winter months! There are many wonderful walks in Ireland and they are all free.  As Derry puts it:  "So as we say in GROW 'The easiest way to make a task seem impossible is to keep putting it off'. So why not give it a go? You may be pleasantly surprised primarily with yourself and secondly with the results."

The GROW in Ireland Newsletter Team
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GROW 12 Step Program - Step 7

Some GROWers from Kilkenny share their tips on step 7.

Sleep: I have learned two important lessons regarding sleep. Firstly, the only thing that will keep me awake the whole night is the fear of not sleeping. Once I accept that I may not sleep and stop trying to make myself do so, invariably I get 3-6 hours sleep. It is a paradox that I have no right to expect sleep. Yet accepting that I may not get sleep means I will be gifted it. The second lesson is that I do not need 6-8 hours sleep every night in order to get through life. I admit that surviving several nights on 3-4 hours sleep does lead to feeling like a zombie. But I can still function in society.

Physical Exercise: We all know physical exercise is good for our heart and helps maintain muscle tone into old age. However we often view such advice as being ‘boring’, and see exercise as being a chore (best avoided). However the shared experience in GROW is that exercise has a very positive impact on our mental health. The reasons are numerous – it helps us sleep better and lifts our mood. But some benefits are less obvious: Strengthening our heart and lungs means that when we find ourselves in stressful situations we have the ability to breathe deeply and keep going (resilience); and, exercise gets us out of the house. We are applying GROW's Rules for Objective Thinking – breaking out of isolation and keeping in friendly touch with others.

Diet: I have no proof, but I suspect that a lot of people with depression are very sensitive to what their bodies consume. Apart from drugs/alcohol our bodies can also be sensitive to excess caffeine, foods laden with additives and sugar. Eating a healthy diet (ie food with a low Glycemic Index) can help keep our mood on an even keel. Drinking plenty of water means we won’t have poor concentration caused by dehydration. The best advice on food I heard was to eat what our grandparents ate – as we just don’t yet fully know what damage processed foods do to us. I have even learned to love porridge (by adding fruit!).

Mary and Mark also share the other side of Step 7 - that it is our responsibility to look after our health.

Mary: It’s so easy to say “some things we have control over . . .” But it is true. My story is about Cancer. When I was told I had Cancer of the Uterus, in 2009, it was not a shock [Mary had been having regular check ups and then had a hysterectomy]. Where am I now: I do suffer health glitches – I just go to my Doctor . . . Worry only exaggerates problems.  Finally, it’s up to me to “take care & control” of me.

Mark: Reading Mary’s story made me reflect on my own attitude towards seeking help from doctors. Mary’s approach is practical and matter of fact – while for many years my approach was based on suspicion which bordered on complete mistrust. I am learning to take responsibility for my health. Being able to relate to my doctor in a mature way means that I must learn to think by reason, not feelings and imagination. Going into the waiting room always seems to drag up old fears and hang-ups. But GROW is all about change of thinking, talk, ways and relationships. My physical health is too important to let old irrational fears take over. Read full article...

Sunny Spells Ahead?

Fiona Kennedy, See Change ambassador and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers blogger, has been kind enough to share an article with us on some of her experiences (which will resonate with many GROWers) and she describes some of the things she does to keep the Black Dog at bay...

"I have a long and reasonably complex history with depression. I’ve been hospitalised twice, tried many and varying medications, had two extended periods of sick leave from work, and been attending therapy for over five years. I’ve been suicidal more than once, and have gone through several phases of self harm. As an added bonus, I was also recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which may go some way towards explaining why it was so hard to get my depression under control".

"Thankfully, right now, I’m well, possibly better than I’ve ever been. It’s taken a lot of work to get this far. Over the years, as well as medication and therapy, there have been other things that I have been able to use to either keep myself well, or help me recover from a difficult period. The one that has stood to me the most is yoga, which I’ve been practising since I was 17. That said, I’ve walked away from it many, many times, often for long periods of time. In fact, one of the most significant signs that things are starting to slip a little for me is that my practice will begin to lapse"...

..."I’m slowly beginning to reconcile with the fact that I’m likely to have to be extremely mindful of my mental health for the rest of my life. I’d rather that wasn’t the case, but I can’t change it. What I can change is how I approach it. I can be defeated and overwhelmed, or I can try and look back, see how far I’ve come, and appreciate the lengths I’ve gone to get myself well. I can also reap the benefits of the mindfulness, exercise and self awareness that comes with managing mental health problems. In this moment, as I write this, I can see all of that. That’s incentive enough for me. I’ll keep going."

Read Fiona's full article...

Derry O'Malley on Step 7

Many of you might have heard Derry, either on his Headspace programme on Limerick City Community Radio (Sundays, 4pm) or at one of his talks on Stress & Anxiety (as part of GROW's Understanding and Minding your Mental Health community education courses). He shares some insights into these topics...

What I would like to look at is the physical care of our bodies, because part of the process of mental health is how we mind our physical health. If you think about it physical and mental health goes hand in hand.

Many people show up at their doctors worried about physical symptoms like low back pain, or stomach pain, or headaches, “and by the way I’m not sleeping very well either”. They then have all the appropriate tests done only to be told that nothing significant has showed up. Yet the symptoms are real and the discomfort is genuine. So then the doctor may go down the stress anxiety route, and for the patient it may be the first time that they consider that there may be a mental component to their “unwellness”...

...We all know that if we are anxious or stressed or depressed it can be hard to do regular and ordinary things. The hardest thing when it comes to regular daily activities is taking that first step. But also many of us have had the experience of putting off a chore like gardening or car washing or a walk, or a swim and then being half way through it and suddenly realising that we are enjoying it and wondering why we were putting it off. The reason that we are enjoying it is partly because consistent physical movement over time releases endorphins and other neuro chemicals that have been proven to both lift mood and at the same time act as pain killers, and that includes the pain of mental distress. Two hours exercise spread over a week has been proven to lift mild to moderate depression.

Read Derry's full article...

Eastern Region

In mid-June, GROW CEO, Michele Kerrigan, talked in detail about GROW's new Soul Survivors 3 book to Dil Wickremasinghe on her Global Village Show on Newstalk. The show is on every Saturday 7-9pm and is well worth a listen. You can listen to the podcast here (from about 23 mins in).

The young adult group had a summer outing to the Botanic gardens on June 3rd, this was enjoyed by all, the sun came out and a lovely walk around the gardens was followed by a nice cup of tea in the tea rooms. The young adult group began in Artane in 2013 with a ten week introduction to the GROW program. Each week the group of 14 young adults spent time discussing parts of the GROW program, developing a good understanding of the program which helped members to find and use their own personal resources and improve their mental health and well being. 

In August 2013 the group moved from the Artane day hospital to a community room in Artane, Dublin 5. The organiser Fiona has shown great leadership in the group.  Fiona turns up each week to open the room and welcome any new members. The group has had its ups and downs, but we endured and the group is still going. The Artane young adult group is the only GROW young adult group in Dublin. The group meets each Tuesday at 4.30pm and caters for those aged from 18 to 35 years.

The Monday night Artane group has moved to St. Pauls College, Raheny, Dublin 5. The group now meets on Thursday evenings at 7pm. The group moved on June 26th and is looking forward to a fresh start and all members feel very positive about the move.

Anyone not living in the Dublin area who may be visiting the city over the summer please do not hesitate to come along to a GROW meeting in Dublin. We would love to hear a testimony or just to have you join the group for the evening.

Midwestern Region

A number of volunteers were out in the sunshine last weekend at a collection at the main churches in Limerick City. Many thanks to all those who helped and to the city parishioners who generously donated over €1,150. There was an opportunity afterwards to catch up with tea and sandwiches back at the regional GROW office in Henry Street. On 22nd June, GROW had a stand at the Desmond Complex Summer Fair, Newcastlewest, where GROW has a Thursday night group. We look forward to more support at collections in Raheen/Dooradoyle and Nenagh on 19-20 July.

The next regional Organisers and Recorders (O&R) Meeting takes place in the McCauley Centre, Templemore on Fri 11th July. All GROWers in the region are invited to attend as some training will take place on the night. The Templemore group, which was re-established following the Templemore Community Education course earlier in the year, meets on Wednesday nights.

We are encouraging all Ladies in the region to consider taking part in the Limerick Women's Mini-Marathon which takes place on Sun 26th Oct. T-shirts and sponsorship cards are available from the office (061-318813). The registration fee is great value at €15 (till 9th Sept).

North Western Region

Up in Co. Donegal, collections took place in Stranorlar (€400) and Killybegs (€700). Many thanks to the volunteers who participated. GROW Meetings take place all over the North West including Stranorlar (7:30pm Tuesdays) and Killybegs (7:30pm Thursdays). Not only do Church Gate collections provide a means to raise much needed funds, they also provide a way for GROW to engage with people within the communities in which we operate - e.g. by handing out information leaflets or by taking time to chat to those passing by.

South Eastern Region

Karen Whelan, of Karen's Operation Transformation, hosted her annual Fashion Show in aid of GROW in Dillon's Bar, Dungarvan, on 21st June. Up in Kilkenny, there was a nice piece in the Kilkenny People about the unveiling of a new granite bench outside the Kilkenny GROW Office in honour of the late Lizzie O'Farrell, who in spite of her illness and six liver transplants, lifted the spirits of many GROWers in Kilkenny over the years. Over in Enniscorthy, the group there had a small party celebrate one year of growth and recovery - here's to many more years Enniscorthy.


Western Region

It was a case of back to basics at GROW’s Western Regional Weekend, held in Esker Retreat Centre recently. The theme of the weekend was, “Mental health cannot be taught, it has to be learned together”. Why was this theme picked? Well it came directly from the GROWers in the West. Suggestion forms were sent out to GROWers in February for ideas for our regional get-together, and this was the most chosen topic.

So why was it ‘back to basics’? The answer comes from the origins of GROW regional weekends in the early days. Originally they were called ‘Leaders weekends’, and were essentially an opportunity for GROWers to share ideas and learn from one another. There were an integral part in formulating what is now known as ‘the GROW Program’. With this in mind there was a strong emphasis on encouraging GROWers to contribute material for the weekend.

The Western Region staff are also now gearing up to host the National Weekend & AGM which is on in 26-28 Sept in Clayton Hotel Galway, Ballybrit, Galway. Booking forms are available at all GROW offices nationwide.

Read full article by Paul Clabby...

Cycle Against Suicide SpinOffs

Although the Cycle Against Suicide is an annual event (late April, early May each year), this year, Jim Breen and his team are promoting local "SpinOff" events. As it says on their website, these "..give local clubs and communities an opportunity to host a typical Cycle Against Suicide event in their town. This event is locally owned and organised to help raise awareness for positive mental health in communities around Ireland and to continue to promote the message that ‘it’s ok not to feel ok and absolutely ok to ask for help.’".

The first of these took place in sunny Gorey in mid June and area co-ordinator, Ellen Ryle, with volunteers & GROWers from the area, joined a number of other mental health organisations to help raise awareness and promote the work of GROW. We hope similar 12th Step work will be a feature at the remaining SpinOff events scheduled for 2014.  The ones scheduled for the summer are: -
  • 12th July: Donegal Town.
  • 19th July: Kilkenny, with TriGrandPrix.
  • 16th August: North Wicklow.


Other Interesting Links, News and Upcoming Events 

And Finally...

Remember the 3rd Practical Point for Control from GROW's "Blue Book"? 
Remember that free wills become strong wills only through aquired habits – that is the repetition of many acts, and time.
Sow a thought and reap an act
Sow an act and reap a habit
Sow a habit and reap a character
Sow a character and reap a destiny.

Or, as Bengali Poet, Rabindranath Tagore, once said: "I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument, while the song I came to sing remains unsung".

Enjoy your summer holidays.
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