A Guide to Mindfulness. A Forum for Discussion.
Emma Smith, PhD in Deep Ocean Ecosystems
It’s difficult to write a review for a show about mental health, mainly because it is difficult to talk about it. Even for those of us who may struggle from time to time, without any diagnosis, label, or accompanying medication, it’s still difficult to put down into words.
However, Ruby Wax has done just that, and summed up that overwhelming, stressed out feeling associated with modern life into just one word: Frazzled.
The Frazzle that Ruby aims to help us navigate is the noise of day-to-day life that we often cannot let go of, that leads to us lying in bed at night, replaying a situation or conversation over and over again. As we do this to ourselves, our brain releases the stress hormone cortisol, but it’s not in response to a physical fight or flight stress, it’s all in the mind. When we practice mindfulness by focussing our attention on a sense (a sound, the feeling of our butt on a chair, our feet against the sole of our shoes), it’s impossible for our brain to engage in the relentless chatter. As we start to let the chatter slide away our stress hormone levels begin to reduce, we become less frazzled, and can feel calmer and more rational.
Ruby advocates practicing these simple techniques, even for just for a few moments a day, so that we can train our minds to more easily find the calm amongst the traffic of modern life. Her dry sense of humour cuts through the hippy-dippy stigma that has attached itself to Mindfulness over the past decade, and brings it right back to what it really is: a time-long technique for calming the mind that is now being backed up by neuroscience.
People like Ruby and shows like Frazzled are so important, not only for breaking down the taboo of talking about mental health, but also for giving a fresh (and scientific) perspective on Mindfulness – a term that many people associate with thinking about avocados while sitting on a “gluten free cushion”.
Ruby’s perspective stems from her own mental health issues and the effects of her parents issues upon her, right through to gaining her Master’s degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from Oxford University. She is author of four books, is an active mental health campaigner, and is hilarious, warm, and wonderfully honest.
Her show takes you through a tangential tour of her life by way of self-interview, and includes some active mindfulness activities backed up by bite-sized chunks of science. Ruby’s ability to communicate academic terminology into something fun and easily understandable is testament to her intelligence and wit. The show culminates with an open forum where the audience can ask questions, recount personal experiences, and share in something that affects all of us.
My experience of mindfulness around six years ago helped me to change some of my own challenging mental narrative, and I still feel the benefits today. However, it had been at least two years since I had practiced any mindfulness techniques. Ruby’s passion and knowledge has re-ignited my thirst for a calmer, less frazzled life and has reminded me just how important it is to take care of our own mental health, wherever possible.
Ruby has also set up a charity called ‘Frazzled Café’ (https://www.frazzledcafe.org/) that offers a safe, non-judgemental space where people can meet and share their personal frazzled stories. As Ruby states, Frazzled Café is not just for the one in four people who will be diagnosed with a mental illness, but for the four in four who feel overwhelmed by the stress of modern life.
Don’t worry if you missed the show, LJMU are offering plenty of FREE de-stressers over the coming weeks, including their own mindfulness classes and even Guide Dog Therapy! To find out more click here