One of the key messages from the first Walled Garden Talks held in Reepham this week was that it is understandable to be not feeling OK as lockdown eases, and there are explanations and practical things that you can do to feel better.
“It’s really good to know that I’m not the only one feeling this way,” was a comment the end of the event.
The series of free short talks will run through July and August in the Bircham Centre garden off the Market Place on Tuesdays from 12 noon.
The idea comes from a shared concern that our community needs to reclaim the habit of being out and about among others, and that there is an opportunity to bring a friend and a drink to the safe and tranquil environment of the garden, and perhaps learn something of interest from local speakers.
The inaugural talk was led by Dr Ian Kenvyn of the Evexia Foundation; the main message was that there is a clear link between mental anxiety or apprehension and physical responses such as panic or anger.
Because there has been a constant background mood music of anxiety our minds and bodies will respond to this situation.
Weight gain, inflammation and sleep disturbance can all be triggered by our response to a perceived threat, explained Dr Kenvyn in the beautiful setting of the garden, accompanied by bird song and the mellow chimes of the church clock.
“I’ve been feeling really awful, sleeping badly and putting on weight,” said one attendee. “It was so helpful to hear the reasons why I’ve been feeling this way explained so clearly.”
Among a series of practical suggestions included finding a mindful practice that works for you, which might include physical activity, but also embraces becoming more aware of your surroundings and environment.
Such practice calms the mind and might help to quieten the “fight or flight” response triggered by apprehension, anxiety and fear.
The audience also had a chance to consider how regaining control of breathing when gripped by fear or anger can create the “headspace” for our rational and reasoning brain to regain control from our more primitive, response-led part of the brain.
A further “life hack” is to respond to flares of fear or anger with the mnemonic TIP, where T is for temperature – find a way to cool down, because your flight or fight mechanism is heating you up; I is for intensity – find an appropriate outlet for the tension that is another feature of the fight or flight response; and P is for present – being present and in this moment, not a captive of past events, nor a future that is yet to happen.
Other audience comments included: “Thank you, that was really interesting, and I learnt a lot.”
“Understanding the link between your mind and how you feel physically is so important. Now I can understand better why I’ve been feeling this way.”
Future talks in July include practical advice from life coach Sam James, and an opportunity to look up and really see the weather led by former Met Office and TV weatherman Andy Cutcher.
Talks in August will include birdwatching as therapy, the power of horticulture and the power of mindfulness.
Clare Kenvyn, Evexia Foundation