A healthy mood makes a healthy person - taking part in the Trust's LIfTS project
Beneficiary Geoff Adams-Spink knows what it’s like to feel a bit low sometimes, and how this can affect your general wellbeing.
When he heard about the Trust’s Low Mood Improvement for Thalidomide Survivors (LIfTS) project he thought, ‘Why not?’ and decided to do his bit, not only to help the Trust pilot the programme, but also to manage his occasional low moods – and stop them escalating.
The LIfTS project matches beneficiary volunteers with other beneficiaries to talk through the issues of low mood and devise simple ways to manage them. Using a helpful Workbook, the programme consists of six, telephone sessions, around six key issues or interventions, all designed to help you spot the symptoms of low mood, find ways to work around them and manage future low spells when they come up.
Geoff found the experience helpful on many levels and has incorporated some of the things he learnt into everyday life. Here's his story: -
Wanting to prevent low moods escalating
“You don’t sign up to a programme like LIfTS if you don’t have a problem.
I had long been aware of periods of low mood, anxiety and low self-esteem in my life and, whilst I didn’t have a diagnosed mental health condition or periods of crisis, I wanted to prevent my low periods becoming more than just low mood.
The thought of having a second perspective on how I was feeling, and some help with getting it sorted, was definitely appealing; but when I looked at the list of volunteers I didn’t want to work with someone I knew really well. I opted for someone I knew of, but didn’t know personally and have found her thoughtful, intelligent and reflective – a great travelling companion for my journey.
In our first session, we talked about our expectations and I came away with a feeling of confidence and hope. Since then we’ve talked through the different sections of the work book and I’ve been given ‘homework’ to help me reflect, and prepare for the next session. There’s no ‘telling off’ or criticism involved, just a gentle but persistent approach to talking about what motivates me (or doesn’t!), breaking down the barriers to feeling better about myself and the way life goes.
Understanding low moods and how to manage them
My volunteer has helped me understand what low mood is. At the beginning of my sessions I’m always asked whether I have any symptoms of acute mental health issues – like self-harm or suicidal thoughts. I know that they would ensure I got the right support if I was experiencing that kind of distress. I’ve learnt to see low mood for what it is – it’s like having ‘a bit of a cold’ rather than full blown flu, but still unpleasant and better nipped in the bud before it gets worse.
We’ve discussed simple activities to distract me from low mood – like having a coffee with a friend, a chat on the phone, a walk with the dog or a massage – the things that bring a sense of calm and help shift you from a bad place to a better place. During lockdown I’ve been largely ok, but have definitely had ‘low mood Mondays’ where things don’t seem so great. I’ve learnt to recognize that it’s just my mood, and that I can change it by acknowledging the feelings and doing those simple things to feel better. On Mondays, now, I’ve started working my way through my telephone contacts list, calling all the people that like hearing from me now and again, just to check in. And when I get to the end of the list, I start again.
Feeling the benefit of the LIfTS programme
The biggest change for me is that I’m no longer the prisoner of my ‘inner critic’. I used to think I had to work long hours or do things I didn’t want to do because I should. Now, I do things because I enjoy them and don’t feel guilty when I’m having that chat on the phone, or streaming that series I wanted to watch. I make myself get up and go out if I’m feeling low – it’s so easy to just sit on the sofa and scroll through your emails, but it doesn’t make you feel better.
I’m really glad I took part in LIfTS. It’s really shown me that the Trust isn’t just a grant giver but is there to really support me. We all feel alone in the world sometimes – but we’re really not. I’d tell any beneficiary in a bad place to call the Trust. They do want to help.
I’m hoping that LIfTS becomes part of the Health and Wellbeing service so that other people can benefit the way I have. In the future I know I’ll be able to use the techniques I’ve learnt to combat low mood, and can refer back to the workbook if I’m looking for inspiration. Taking positive action to improve your mood does so much for your general health. It’s definitely the way to go.”