Mindfulness & Mentoring

Dated Mar. 2011

The mentoring is arranged and paid for by the government under current guidelines for support for depressed students. I think most people either meet up with someone or get phone calls. Since I am a distance-learning student meeting -up is out and since I am utterly phobic about talking on the phone we elected to do it by email every other week. This has some positive and negative aspects. We don’t really cover very much, but on the other hand I can think out my answers and reword them if I feel that I’m not making sense and re-read responses so I don’t forget them as much. I can re-read previous sessions and remind myself about hints and tips and I can just re-read as I try to reply.

So far we have mostly been covering perfectionism and procrastination; both of these inter-related things are big issues for me. Basically though my plans boil down to trying to set smaller realistic goals. Physically I have to write some lists and and time myself. I need to try and let other people give me some (positive) perspective on my tasks and commit to my choices even though the consequences might not be perfect..

So this leads me to mindfulness (bear with me on this).

After 3 different therapists leading me through variations on counselling and CBT, it was suggested that I try Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy in addition to the medication. Luckily for me this is supported by the local NHS although I did wait some months for the 8 week course. It is recommended for those with long-standing recurrent depression to help minimise relapses.

The theory is to teach you to be aware of your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations; notice changes and accept things as they are without being (self-)judgmental. Practically it involves meditative-style exercises, physical and mental. These encourage you to practice paying attention and bringing focus to certain things (like breathing) but also to notice when you drift off and bringing yourself back and to recognise physical sensations that go with emotions or emotions that go with physical sensations.

I am hoping to:

  • Improve my concentration (by noticing my mind wandering)
  • Become better at noticing my physical limits and paying attention to pain and fatigue rather than trying to pretend its not there or getting upset
  • Learn to acknowledge things as they actually are and develop a level of acceptance (partially by noticing expectations and learning to relax, reduce or make them more realistic)

Ideally these things will counter some of the perfectionism and stop me from constantly exhausting and berating myself. The trick is committing to doing the practices long-term and accepting that they are not a ‘cure’.

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