“During Covid-19, with its lockdowns, restrictions, physical distancing, and self-isolation, connecting to each other and the people we care about is more important than ever. Yet our forms of connection and community have turned upside down.”
This is the thought that sparked Dr Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, and Reverend Geoffrey Baines, Associate Chaplain, to embark on a new project to connect the University community last December. Why Don’t You Write Me is a rolling six-month project from the Chaplaincy for both the University community and your own families and friends, to help connect us to ourselves and each other during this time. Kitty shares more about the project.
Last October the Chaplaincy launched the Abundant Academy as an opportunity for our staff and students to safeguard their mental wellbeing over the winter months. After a highly successful first course, this semester sees the project begin the second session, focused on reflection.
Here Reverend Dr Harriet Harris, University Chaplain and Head of the Chaplaincy Service, shares more about what it will entail.
Although we’ve been working from home for a while now, that doesn’t mean that it has gotten any easier. Bringing work into your personal, private space can take a while to balance. Before we sign off for the winter break Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, reminds us how important it is to pack away the work part of our homes, to properly enjoy a restful break.
The past few weeks have seen a huge step forward in the search for a vaccine against Covid-19. This week, Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, explains how to deal with the news after a long and incredibly difficult year.
The past few weeks have seen more and more details emerge about an effective vaccine against coronavirus. Pfizer and BioNTech’s RNA vaccine, one of 11 in the final stages of testing, has a 90 per cent success rate in preventing the illness. The UK government has already purchased 40 million doses – enough to vaccinate up to one third of the population. There is the possibility of ‘normal life’ – whatever that means – from the spring. Those of us who are shielding, or have vulnerable family, are breathing easier. Nor is it the only good news of the last few weeks: the multi-day limbo of the US election has resolved, and our American members of the University are getting some sleep.
This week, Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, explains how to recognise when our preserves are low, and how to combat those times of low mood and greyness .
The American writer Tara Westover, whose bestselling memoir Educated chronicles her journey from home-schooled rural Idaho to a PhD at Cambridge, grew up in a family preparing for the End of Days. “My family always spent the warm months bottling fruit for storage, which Dad said we’d need in the Days of Abomination,” she writes. Each summer they canned dozens of jars of peaches, and buried them in the ground. Their escape plan, when the End came, entailed disappearing into the mountains with the bayonets that her father had bought off the internet. But Tara wondered: how would they haul a thousand Mason jars of peaches up there?
This week, Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, explains how stepping out of clock-time can work wonders for our mental health.
One of the things people who come to a mindfulness class say is how mindfulness exposes their experience of time. ‘How long was that?’ they ask at the end of a thirty minute body scan, surprised to hear that they have spent a whole half-hour attending to the ebb and flow of breathing, the flux of sensation in the body. Or: ‘how long was that?’, said with frustration, the tight face betraying how every minute was grimly suffered, the meditation only completed for the sake of it.
This week, Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, helps us recognise information overload, and shares ways to deal with it.
Your inbox is full of emails. All the emails contain links. You are supposed to follow the links, which will take you to webpages. You have to read, and sometimes watch, the webpages. There is stuff in them that you are meant to know. There is even some stuff that you could be quite interested in, were it not Week 1 of semester, in the brave new world of education in a pandemic. Then there are more links, and you have to go to your third meeting or class of the day with some disembodied faces. They are pixels, with little capital letters that spell out their names. In real life, they might actually be people. But for several months, ‘people’ have been moving blobs of light on this flat surface in front of your face. You don’t feel much when you look at them apart from boredom, although sometimes, you want to cry. Now your phone screen lights up. Someone has sent you a news article. Another news article. You are supposed to read it and think about it and Whatsapp your thoughts back. You don’t want to do this, yet you also very much want to swipe and look at the news article, and maybe check Twitter. You pick up your phone. No-one will notice. They’re probably looking at their phones too. You swipe to open, and it’s a coronavirus update. Suddenly, overwhelmingly, you want to scream.
Have you noticed that sometimes you can be moving along, getting things done, looking after yourself, meeting deadlines when suddenly, you’re not anymore? The balance tips and things you didn’t have to think about now take much more effort. Here Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, talks us through how to recognise the impact of stress on our day-to-day lives, and how to deal with it.
How are you sitting as you read this? Are you hunched forward? Is your neck sore, your jaw clenched? Are your eyes squinting at the screen?
Take a deep breath.
We’ve been through a lot this year, and the strain of working through an international pandemic has been challenging in so many ways. Month after month of living like this can really start to take its toll.
Many of us have found the outdoors a soothing balm to the stresses and strains of the past months. Here Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, explores the importance of nature in regards to our mental health.
NHS Scotland has launched a free, mobile phone app called Protect Scotland which is to designed identify people who may be at risk from Covid-19 because they were in close contact with someone who has the virus.
The app alerts users if they have been in close contact with another app user who tests positive. And if a user tests positive, it can help determine contacts that they may have otherwise missed while keeping personal information private and anonymous.
Have you noticed yourself pulled to the ground recently? Do you find it easier to work from the floor? Do you even feel yourself wishing you were horizontal? Here Kitty Wheater, Mindfulness Chaplain, talks us through the importance of the ground beneath us.
A few weeks ago, on a morning walk, I came across a spectacular carpet of morning glories. Otherwise known as bindweed, these marshmallow pink flowers grow rapaciously on scrubby ground in the summer months. True to their name, they are open and most glorious first thing, when the sun is up; by the afternoon they have folded in a tight pink whorl, waiting for the next beams of morning light. In gardens they are often uprooted, but if left undisturbed in farmland and hedgerows, they will roam over the ground without limit, like a green and pink web of delights for visiting bees and butterflies.