Feature: How to cope with stress and anxiety

Editorial image
Editorial image

Serious case of January blues? The worst month of the year is nearly over - but that’s not the point.

Because it’s not really about that - it’s about you. The fact that we’re about to go into February doesn’t change the fact you’re struggling to get excited about this New Year; which was supposed to be the birth of the New You.

Dr Mohammed Munawar at Insight Healthcare, Halifax.

Dr Mohammed Munawar at Insight Healthcare, Halifax.

Calls to Calderdale’s Insight Healthcare Talking Therapies more than doubled on the first Monday after the New Year.

The not-for-profit organisation, which provides services on behalf of the NHS, receives around 4,000 referrals annually.

Insight Healthcare offers coping strategies for people living with stresses and anxieties caused by modern-day living.

“People try to keep it together for the sake of Christmas - then it’s all over and people can often feel like there’s nothing to look forward to and harsh realities like being skint start to sink in,” said Dr Mohammed Munawar, Insight Healthcare’s principal clinical lead and psychologist.

The Carlton Street, Halifax, centre offers people dealing with mild-moderate mental health issues short group courses and one-to-one treatment - designed to empower service users with strategies and practical tools to deal with the difficulties of everyday life.

The centre runs workshops in Anxiety Management, Positive You, Living Well and Reading for Wellbeing workshops. Two hour weekly courses tend to run over six weeks at various times in the day and evening.

Trained practitioners run evidence-based treatments through group workshops and one-to-one sessions aimed at people struggling with anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, bereavement, relationship difficulties and other problems.

Insight Healthcare’s Anxiety Management workshop is for men and women struggling to manage stress, experiencing anxiety and excess worries, or suffering with phobias. Empowering the individual to understand why they are feeling the way they are, the course uses talking therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques to show how stress and anxiety is triggered in the brain and teaches an individual to alter the way they think and handle stressful situations.

Positive You workshops concentrate on tackling depression and developing a person’s confidence and compassion through mindful and relaxation techniques.

The Living Well Workshop is designed for those suffering with depression or anxiety due to long-term physical health conditions including arthritis, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, ME and chronic fatigue, diabetes, breathing difficulties, epilepsy, heart conditions and strokes.

The course addresses a person’s mental approach to their health and how this impacts their overall wellbeing and also focuses on acceptance, adjustment, mindfulness and self-compassion through presentations, activities, case studies, group discussions and self-help materials.

If someone needs further treatment after attending a group then, Dr Munawar says, Insight Healthcare can offer a range of treatment options such as one-to-one CBT or counselling.

“Treatment will always focus on the need of the individual,” said Dr Munawar.

Referrals can be self-made or via a GP. Insight Healthcare has specialist practitioners working in GP centres across Brighouse, Hebden Bridge, Central Halifax and Todmorden for people who cannot attend the Halifax centre.

“Traditionally, psychological referrals had to be made through a GP which can deter people from getting the treatment they need. Now, people can access psychological treatment for themselves - they can pick up the phone and give us a call confidentially; it’s that simple,” said Dr Munawar.

Counselling and coping strategies are also offered by Talking Therapies over the phone for those who cannot or would prefer not to attend workshops.

A more vocal public discussion of mental health through media, medical and celebrity campaigns has helped to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and publicise how it can affect each and every one of us - with one in four people suffering with mental health problems at some point.

“More discussion around mental health difficulties is helping reduce prejudices around the subject. But, there continues to be a stigma around mental health which accurate information and frank discussions will help to break down.

“Insight’s message is that it’s not uncommon to experience difficulties; to feel stressed or anxious - pick up the phone and give us a call and get better equipped with how to deal with the perils of modern-day life; don’t suffer alone,” said Dr Munawar.

Call Insight Healthcare Talking Therapies to arrange an over-the-phone or in-centre confidential assessment on 0300 555 0191, open from 8am - 8pm, Monday - Thursday, and 8am - 5pm, Friday, email admin.calderdale@insighthealthcare.org, or make a referral online www.insighthealthcare.org

Emma’s story...

Emma is a full-time Calderdale mum and a woman who has learnt to control stress and anxiety; rather than, she says, let it control her.

She was referred to Insight Healthcare by her GP after suffering panic attacks.

“I was apprehensive about going. I didn’t know what the course would be like and how and if it would help me,” said Emma.

“When I arrived, the women were friendly and the small group was not too intense and it was actually a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. By the second week, I felt much more relaxed - just because I knew what to expect and that my pre-conceptions about what it might be like were wrong.

“It was interesting to meet other people who were also suffering with stress and anxiety - it makes you realise you’re not the only one.

Emma says the six week anxiety management course was informative and learnt about recognising the signs of stress and anxiety and learnt tools to cope with these daily life factors such as breathing techniques, mindfulness - being aware of the present moment and your role in it.

“I learnt some useful information about how to conquer my everyday anxieties. I have learnt to be in control of my minds’ thoughts; rather than it control me. I’m learning compassion for myself; this has really boosted my confidence,” she said.

Emma says she practices the daily meditation and mindfulness practices she learnt on the course and refers to the course workbook for guidance.