Gareth Prior

I'm Awesome : )

If Mental Health was as easy as a one day course, no one would have any issues

It is great to see so many people now taking mental health seriously, but we are alarmed at the explosion of those advertising themselves or being handed a role in a workplace as a mental health support person after only a couple of hours in a group workshop or even just by completing an online course. To then say they are able to deal with another’s mental health, is in itself insane, because if it was that easy, everyone would go on a course for an afternoon and then no one would require any support with their mental health.

With figures of depression skyrocketing, the growth of alcoholism and food disorders together with the increase in suicide and attempted suicide rates, it clearly shows the sadly stark state that our country’s mental health is currently in and that it does require additional support, to the already overwhelmed and underfunded NHS system. With this recognition we are witnessing a massive growth within the mental health industry, with a growing variety of courses available to choose from. Such as a child psychology course available online for £12 and lasting only 7.5 hours, a nutritional coaching course, available free online and only taking 15 hours. There are now even mental health first aid courses available for people in the workplace and these range from online courses, through to a two day course costing around £300. Unfortunately it doesn’t end there, we have even seen online courses for £49 which allegedly qualifies the participant to be an addiction specialist.  

These are examples of the thousands of courses that many people are taking in order to promote themselves as mental health professionals. Worryingly none of these courses require any previous knowledge, understanding, experience or qualifications. Many of these courses are accessible completely online with no human interaction and if there is a tutor, many are only teaching the course and have no experience, qualifications or understanding themselves of the subject matter. Now ask yourself, do you think or feel that someone who has completed one of these courses, would be adequately equipped to assist you or one of your loved ones, through what may be one of the most challenging times of life?

Unfortunately this ever increasing ‘give it a go’ approach, can and often is incredibly detrimental to the mental health of the person offering their services; In many cases they themselves have not learned to deal with or even to begin to recognise their own issues, let alone differentiate between those of the client and their own. This lack of one of the most fundamental skills can and does inevitably lead to a further deterioration of issues for both provider and the receiver.

In contrast, a typically qualified counsellor progresses through many stages and years of developmental training, including personal elements whereby the trainee goes through their own counselling before they are approved to work with clients and to safeguard this further, these counselling sessions are initially undertaken with supervision for as long as 450 hours. This is to ascertain whether they are able to safely work on their own with clients. To work safely with a client is to be comprehensively trained to recognise the vulnerability of the client, even when the client does not necessarily recognise this within themselves and It would only require a poorly or inadequately trained person to miss very small details, for a situation to spiral downwards into something far, far worse. 

Not only are these easily accessed, inadequate courses insulting to those that have invested many years of training in the fields of mental health, it is equally insulting and quite often dangerous for those on the receiving end of this approach because, no matter how well intentioned it may be, it will often lead to the deepening of issues rather than there resolution. 

Working with a good coach, counsellor or psychologist can have amazingly positive and enlightening results and can lead to the cessation and even the resolution of many issues leading towards a happier and more fulfilled life. On the flip side, the wrong counselling can potentially cause damage that could lead to a worsening of the overall situation and a further decline in the mental health of the very people it was intended to support.

If you are considering any form of mental and emotional support services we would suggest you talk to any provider beforehand, much like you would interview someone for an important role. Ask them about how they work and what experience they have. It is important that they are able to explain themselves clearly and that you are able to understand what they mean easily and clearly.

All this said, do not be put off from seeking help when you require it. There are lots of fantastic professionals out there. Just ensure they have more than a day course behind them before you place the wellness of your mental health in their hands.

Post Covid Studies in Our Schools and Colleges 

Alarmingly a study way back in April of 2021 shows that “One in 50 teachers have self-harmed amid Covid stress” and also “Shocking data shows 23% of teachers are on medication and 12% have sought counselling to help deal with work stress” (https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/one-50-teachers-has-self-harmed-amid-covid-stress), but why have these studies, and others like them, not made it to headline news?

Ofsted have begun to review its impact on teacher wellbeing during their inspections and are now looking to also include the health and wellness of staff as part of their inspection criteria. The government has also now implemented an Education staff wellbeing charter, which is a declaration that schools and colleges are invited to sign up to, as a commitment to protect, promote and enhance the wellbeing of their staff, including temporary and support staff.

What does this really mean though and how does any place of work effectively implement such a commitment and to stop it becoming simply a well intentioned idea or worse still a box ticking exercise? Even with the best intentions of an educational organisation to deliver on the implementation of a healthier working environment, there are some real world obstacles to navigate, even for the most well intentioned and determined of organisations. 

The pure intention of why we send our children to school is all about education through learning and experience, but as so many teachers will no doubt share, if the pupils receiving this training do not have the desire to receive it, it will simply fall on deaf ears. There is a saying that education is wasted on the young, but what if they understood why the lessons were being shared and the value they could acquire from them; would they engage with it more readily? Or is it that the pupils have little or no concept of the advantages they can gain, because it is currently outside their frame of experience, so are unintentionally unaware of its benefits. This could be the same for any member of staff within a school or college during the introduction of any new scheme, including that of a health and wellness program designed for their benefit.

These are real world considerations and can be why change does not progress much further than the initial idea. There are three milestones to be implemented to significantly increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. Acknowledgement, Agreement and Action. Acknowledgement is essential because unless you acknowledge at some level that there is something to change, things will seldom progress. Agreement, because unless you agree to do something about what has been acknowledged, things will more often than not stop here. Action, such as implementing a plan within the organisation. The major issue we have seen is that the resources are rarely made available for an educational organisation for the purposes of an effective wellness program. Without the professional knowledge and expertise from a third party, who are experienced and qualified to action such programs, effective change seldom happens. 

Unfortunately, what tends to happen in a bid to operate within the restraints of little funding and over-stretched time, is that the task of implementing wellness within the workplace falls to an existing member of staff. They are then burdened with the responsibilities along-side their already busy workload and this is where any successful and meaningful action often comes to a stop.

Furthermore, the disillusionment felt by the staff of any real help being received from such a poorly run wellness program leads to an undermining of staff morale. Because of the disappointment of lack of fulfilment from the original “promises” and the installed scepticism that this will happen again then further undermines any future programs that are later implemented as their confidence in such systems have been eroded.

The problem faced with seeking professional support is that it does come with a financial investment and as is commonly known and understood, funding for schools is limited. The question is then, how can an effective wellness program be affordable by a school? It is the classic case of chicken or the egg; if teachers are not supported in their overall health their subsequent absence from work will be more costly to a school and its performance, which has a direct impact on the following years funding for the school. Increase the funding to allow for a staff wellness program and the staff become more effective in their roles.

If funding were to be available, a school would now have the ability to bring in a health and wellness company who would deliver all aspects of the fundamental physical and mental support through their reservoir of experience. Using a company whose role is to improve the wellness within a workplace means that all who take part will then benefit from a program that is delivered more effectively and efficiently thus leaving the teachers free to teach and in turn the pupils in a better environment to learn.

Chickpea Tikka Masala

Chickpea Tikka Masala – Dinner is on with this flavourful & saucy Indian-inspired tikka masala recipe! It is lusciously creamy and easy to make right at home in one pan with simple ingredients

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 40 min

Total Time: 45 min

Time to have fun

Prepping the onions, ginger, and garlic is the hardest part, the rest is easy, requiring stirring occasionally and then a nice simmer.

Remove the skins and ends from the onions and slice into thin strips.

Remove the skins and ends from the garlic and finely chop or use a garlic press.

Remove the skin from the ginger and grate or finely chop. 

In a large pot, heat the oil or water over medium heat, add onions and cumin  and cook for 5 – 7 minute, until onions are browning around the edges.

Add the ginger and garlic, cook 1 to 2 minutes more.

Add the garam masala, turmeric, ground coriander seed and Smocked paprika and cook for 1 – 2 two minutes, or until nice and fragrant.

Add tomatoes and cook for 4 minutes, until they breakdown a bit.

Add tomato paste, chickpeas and coconut milk, stir to combine and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.

Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Now you’re ready to serve with a grain of choice.

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil 2 Tbsp

    or 1/4 cup water

  • Onion 1 large
  • Cumin 2 tsp
  • Ginger 2 Tbsp

    Grated

  • Crushed Garlic 4 cloves

    You can use more or less if you prefer

  • Garam Masala 1 Tbsp
  • Turmeric 2 tsp
  • Ground Coriander Seed 2 tsp
  • Smoked Paprika 2 tsp
  • Chopped Tomato 2 Cans

    or 4 – 5 ripe tomatoes that have been diced.

  • Tomato Paste 2 Tbsp
  • Chickpeas 2 Cans

    Drained or 3 cups freshly cooked

  • Coconut Milk 1 can

5 Wellness Questions To Ask Yourself

Taking a moment to pause and reflect is a great habit to include in your routine. As our comprehension of health evolves and we learn to understand that our health includes our mental and emotional state as well as our physical and nutritional habits, it is important for each of us to survey our wellness holistically, to ensure we are headed in the right direction in our entirety.

To understand your health and wellness, means asking yourself a range of questions on topics that society is only just beginning to understand;  It wasn’t too long ago that health and wellness focused exclusively on nutrition and exercise and on a societal level, weight loss was the only concrete measure of our health. As a result of this, or maybe because of this, we have endured almost a century of diet crazes, dangerous FADS and expensive exercise classes over-promising on their results without explaining the commitment required from their attendees. Thankfully, the UK’s health and fitness industry has come a long way since this. Although there is still a long way to go with many ‘qualified’ fitness trainers and organisations still overlooking fundamental aspects of health and wellness, the health and fitness industry is now beginning to acknowledge that there is so much more to understanding our personal health.

Being healthy still includes exercising and eating nutritional food but those measures alone are not enough to ensure our overall wellness. Our bodies are a series of complex integrated systems that do not stand alone. Science has opened the door to a greater understanding of the importance of stress management, hormonal balance, depth of sleep, food choices, and mental and emotional health. Singular approaches to health do not work. So it is important that we ask ourselves questions from multiple angles to determine if we are in balance, and therefore, truly well.

To help you to understand your current wellbeing, ask yourself these 5 wellness questions…

1) DO YOU EVER STOP AND TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT?

Do you ever just stop what you are doing and take a breath. To take a moment to notice what emotions you are feeling? To acknowledge the thoughts you are thinking? To see where your energy level is? To check that your posture is good? How many times can you honestly say that you are truly in the moment and really enjoying the task you are doing?

Do you ever stop to ask yourself, are you doing what you want to be doing at this very moment?

In our fast paced day-to-day regime of “doing”, it is easy to forget to check in with ourselves. Our minds are hardwired to create routines and habitual behaviors that we grow up with and continue to cement into our daily lives and before we realise what has happened, we are living the same routine, day after day after day, completely oblivious to the repetition of our routine as we mindlessly perform our tasks without a second thought to any dreams or aspirations we have about what we really want to be doing. This state of mind is a perfect stage to get lost in as you continue in a loop while your to-do list, doubts and anxieties dictate your life and blind you to the fact that you do have choices and every morning when you wake up, you choose what you do with your day.

Each time you stop and reflect, it allows you that moment to remind yourself that you do have choices. We all have choices. Some choices are easier to make than others, such as where you would like to go on holiday as opposed to whether to leave your 9 to 5 job to pursue your real passion as a career?

By stopping periodically to take a moment to yourself, to look at what you are doing versus what you want to be doing, you will find yourself better placed to identify what it is that you really want to be doing with your days and what you want out of your life overall. By mindfully invoking these pauses and encouraging your curiosity, eventually as your realisation grows, you will start to take steps towards realising your dreams.

This process does not happen easily and it requires you to remain mindful. This is why we practice mindfulness and integrate it as a foundational principle in our LIFE Fit Programme 

2) ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR LIFE AT THIS VERY MOMENT?

The word happiness is often associated with fleeting moments of pleasure. It is often a misunderstood emotion believed to be felt because of the actions of another towards us. The problem with this is that, if you have placed the responsibility of your happiness in the hands of another to fulfill, not only have you unfairly burdened someone with something that is not theirs to carry but you will ultimately be chasing a feeling that will never truly be quenched.

We have been led to believe that happiness is something to chase and that we will find happiness through materialistic objects. That we will be happy if we buy that perfect new outfit, or own that little sports car, or once we have lost some weight or moved into the dream house. It is the classic ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome. The fact is, the grass will be greener on the side that is tended to the most. No amount of items purchased, or weight lossed will change the person we are within and until you are truly happy with yourself and who you are, you will not find happiness through any other attempts.

We all understand how good it feels to do something that helps another person feel good but this is not to be confused with thinking that any one person can make any other person happy. You are not responsible for anybody else’s happiness and nobody else is responsible for yours. Happiness is something that only you can create within you. 

Once you have accepted your past, are confident and joyful with who you are now and are excited about who you are growing into then you will start to feel happiness within you. You will learn that you are not reliant on anybody else for happiness and you will understand that while a sports car may be nice to have, your happiness doesn’t depend on it because you are already happy with yourself and this is the only place where happiness can be found.

This can be a long, confusing and sometimes painful journey to take and this is why we incorporate it in our LIFE Fit Programme 

3) DOES YOUR ENERGY-IN MATCH YOUR ENERGY-OUT?

Think of yourself as a rechargeable battery. Every day, you perform actions that both charge your energy and drain your energy. Eating nutritional food at the right times, drinking enough water throughout the day, having a regular exercise regime, moving periodically throughout the day and getting enough sleep each night are all fundamental elements for your health and wellness.

Your brain and your body are constantly working, even while you sleep, they are using energy; lots of energy. Your energy comes from good food sources and your energy levels will be at their optimum if you are being fuelled with complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats at the correct quantities.

Your energy is used by the activities you perform throughout the day. The more active you are, the more energy you use.

This sounds like a simple calculation to live by but it is very common to get the balance between energy-in and energy-out completely wrong, in either direction. Whether you are taking in too much energy by eating too much compared to the activity level you perform each day or not taking in enough energy by not eating enough while trying to complete high daily activity levels, either imbalance can be devastating on your health both physically and mentally.

Energy when discussed in this context is measured in calories. Food and drink contain carbohydrates, proteins and fats and the amount of each will determine how many calories are in that food or drink. Your body uses the energy from the food you feed it to function and to perform the tasks you ask of it. The more active you are, the more calories you will use. So to put simply, if you eat more calories than you use each day, you will gain body fat. This overtime can lead to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol. On the flip-side, if you are not consuming enough calories to support the activities you are performing each day, you will lose body fat. This too can lead to health issues if continued over a period of time.

Both methods are used when trying to gain weight or lose weight and when done under controlled limitations, this is not necessarily a concern. The problems arise when these methods are used obsessively by someone desperately seeking a certain body image or mindlessly by someone who is unaware of the consequences of their eating versus activity levels and therefore continues with this energy-in versus energy-out imbalance, completely unaware that this could well be the reason for any physical or mental ill-health they are suffering with.

To find your balance with your energy-in versus energy-out can be tricky and will vary from person to person. It is a vitally important aspect of your overall health and this is why this is a fundamental aspect within the LIFE Fit Programme. 

4) ARE YOU WORKING TOWARDS A BETTER VERSION OF YOURSELF?

Do you have a plan for your future? This could be anything that is important to you. Whether you want to learn a new skill, visit a new country, retire and travel the world, build your own house in the country, learn to meditate every day, master a headstand or run a marathon, it is a very good idea to harvest and nurture these dreams. It is all too easy to allow each day to pass by in a flurry of repetitive tasks and before you know it the weeks, months and years have passed by and you are no closer to achieving your dream. If you have any goals and dreams it is important to put a plan in place to help you to achieve them.

Without a plan, how are you to know how to get to where you want to go and if you don’t know how to get to where you want to go, how will you ever get there? Any goal is achieved successfully with a series of small, incremental steps. Each step, no matter how small or seemingly trivial, will be a step closer to your goal. Learn how to achieve your goals by reading 6 Steps on How To Create Real Change

If you do not have any goals that you are currently pursuing, perhaps now is a good time to review your passions. Write yourself a list of 5 things that you would love to do each day. Then write yourself a list of 5 things that you do everyday. Now compare the two lists. If the lists do not match, perhaps now is a good time to review what it is that you want from your life and start making a plan to see that you get there.

These are not necessarily easy steps to follow, especially as we live our lives through busy days of home, work, social and family commitments. As John Lennon said “life is what happens while you are busy making other plans” This is why we incorporate goal setting, planning and actioning into our LIFE Fit Programme 

5) DO YOU FEEL ABLE TO ASK FOR HELP?

Asking for help can often be the bravest thing you can do? It can also be the one thing you do that could accelerate you to progress further than you had even imagined.

Sometimes the smartest way of getting to where you want to go is by asking someone who knows how to get there. This isn’t a sign of weakness, it is an acknowledgement of your own growth and the recognition that someone can assist in your development without diminishing your efforts.

We each have our strengths and weaknesses and the world is a better place for it as it allows people to grow by both sharing and accepting knowledge, skills, passions and expertise with and from others.

We have a wealth of knowledge, passion and expertise at LIFE Fit and love nothing more than sharing this with as many people as we can. If you feel you would benefit from this, there is a quick form below to make it even easier for you to get in touch with us. Simply complete the form and we will be in touch with you, ready to help you achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.

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