Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy Holidays!

Well it’s that time of year again where we gather with friends and family to share some quality time and show our love for one another by giving and receiving gifts. As you sit by your Christmas tree, with eggnog or mulled wine in hand and admire your new gifts I’d like to share a little story with you.


When I was five years old my mom planned a monumental birthday party for me. She invited all the neighbours and their children, organised countless party games and even ordered a ladybird cake especially made to order from a bakery. Even at five I knew my mom had gone to a great deal of effort and needless to say my expectations were at an all time high. When the day came I couldn’t wait, I was too excited for words. The grand finale was the ladybird cake – I absolutely adored ladybirds and I couldn’t think of anything better than mixing my adoration of ladybirds with my love of cake!!


The entire party all I could think about was the cake, what it would look like, how it would taste and how big it would be. Finally the time came and everyone started to sing Happy Birthday. I could hardly wait. And then something awful happened. When the cake arrived I began to cry. For some reason which I fail to remember I was disappointed by the cake and I felt absolutely awful for my mom because I knew how much love and trouble she had gone to and how excited she had been to give it to me. I was overwhelmed with an intense feeling of guilt and shame. I just couldn’t contain my tears, it was all too much for my five year old self. Even now I feel sad by my reaction to that ladybird cake all those years ago.


Of course now I’m older (yes, ok, quite a bit older) I don’t tend to have such strong reactions to presents. Looking back I realise that the reason why I was so sad was because I hadn’t yet mastered the ability to disguise when I was disappointed and I was hurt that my reaction possibly upset my mom. When we grow up we tend to become quite apt at hiding our disappointments, especially when it comes to gifts. What the experience has taught me though is to value the thoughtfulness and love that has gone into a gift above all else. At five years old I couldn’t hide my disappointment but now, as an adult, rather than hiding disappointment (not every gift will be on your list to Santa, after all) I have the ability to focus most on the love that went into that gift and genuinely show my joy at receiving it.


So this year, as you open your presents, my wish is for you to feel joy and be overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness and love shown to you by your very closest friends and family. Have a truly wonderful holiday season.


Happy Holidays Everyone!


x X x Jenny Leigh x X x

Review: Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 3 by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Guided Mindfulness Meditation Series 3 by Jon Kabat-ZinnIf you’re an Accessible Psychology regular it will come as no surprise to you that I am familiar with the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn – the pioneer of mindfulness and the man responsible for bringing it into the mainstream medical arena.


Mindfulness is a form of meditation which has gained great medical recognition and is designed to cultivate an experience of living in the moment. However, to stop there would be to sell mindfulness short. It serves to both heighten our perceptions and teach us to appreciate and see our environment anew. Jon Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as ‘The awareness that emerges when we learn to pay attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally to things as they are.’


Mindfulness can teach us to access states of openness, acceptance and immersion which we seldom find in our everyday lives. The sort of states one might experience on holiday. Think of mindfulness as a form of mental vacation, a way to connect with non-judgemental principles and a complete acceptance of what is, whatever that may be.


As soon as I learned that Jon had a new mindfulness series CD out I just had to get it, and, after going through the meditations (all four CD’s of them) I simply had to share my experience with you.


‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part Three

Last week we looked at decreasing our demands. This week we focus on the fun bit – how we can increase our resources. This is just as essential when tackling stress, as it helps us to gain a more objective and balanced perspective. When our resources are high we are more likely to see the situation for what it is and this can reduce our tendency to enter into a heightened fight, flight or freeze response. There are many positive ways we can actively increase our resources. For instance, if I am stressed at work an early nights sleep will greatly increase my resistance to stress the following day. Unsurprisingly, lack of sleep can significantly increase our stress levels and so it is vital that we make sleep a priority when we are stressed. An early night or a lay in over the weekend can make a vast difference and improve our resources tenfold.



‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part Two

The first and most important step is admitting to ourselves when we are stressed, hopefully last week’s exercises will have helped you to see more easily whether you are stressed. Admitting we are stressed can often be difficult in our society which promotes a busy lifestyle. How many programmes on TV have you seen featuring ‘essential’ festive events and activities we simply cannot, and should not, miss? When being busy is the norm, admitting we are stressed can seem like announcing we cannot cope with the demands of daily life, but this is not entirely the case. Usually those of us that suffer from stress have chosen to take on what others would not and, consequently, have been burdened with demands that are unmanageable given the resources available to us.



‘Tis the season to be stressed – How to leave stress behind you for good; Part One

It’s December and the festive season is upon us once again. Ahead of us lay hours of rushing through shops trying to mark off items from our seemingly endless shopping lists, barging through the crowds on our way. And then there are the party invites flooding into our inbox, several of these falling on the same night and all – without fail – impossible to decline less our friendships be strained forevermore. Add to this the torrent of cookery shows impressing upon us the urgent need to be a Michelin Star chef come Christmas day and no wonder the season fills us with an overwhelming sense of stress.


Recalling last Christmas it was clear I was stressed, I had just finished planning my parents honeymoon and was completely burnt out. At the time I was aware I wasn’t myself but, in the depths of my stress, I just saw a seemingly endless to do list which absolutely had to be done – whether I was up to it or not. It’s often so easy to recognise when we have been stressed in the past, but what do we do when we are in the midst of it? How can we learn to recognise what to look out for and react accordingly to reduce it?