21-11-2016 | New course to help ease stress and anxiety

'21-11-2016 | New course to help ease stress and anxiety' image

Director of Services, Wendy Crampton explains INNERWISE...

During the summer of 2016, Epilepsy Ireland pioneered a new approach to supporting people with epilepsy. We designed, created and delivered on a pilot basis our new INNERWISE programme – (Inner Wisdom and Strength with Epilepsy). This new six session course combined a programme of personal development and meditation practices. This provides an innovative course which creates an opportunity for people to learn to positively manage their mental health and grow in self-belief and confidence. It is a common feature of people's experiences with epilepsy that they often suffer from reduced self-esteem and negative feelings, anxiety and depression due to the unpredictable nature of the condition and the stigma as well as the social isolation that can be experienced.

Having developed the new STEPS self-management programme and with over 150 people with epilepsy across Ireland completing the programme, participants told us that they would like a deeper programme addressing self-esteem and mental health. We set about creating a programme where real inner transformational change could occur.

Epilepsy Ireland has been one of the first disability organisations to develop a successful self-management programme (STEPS), and we have now taking the further step of providing a deeper approach to teaching self-management skills (INNERWISE) which will solidify and deepen the initial project. We believe innovative interventions are needed to help the mental health of people living of with epilepsy to deepen their experience of confidence and wellbeing in their lives.

Our facilitators include myself and Shay Moran, Meditation teacher and we created a programme which includes a variety of activities including transforming negative beliefs, learning about the inner self, creating new affirmations and learning to find and trust our own individual wisdom - the 'wisdom self'. The meditation aspect of the programme offers a set of tools to manage stress and anxiety including experiential activities like breathing meditation, body movement work, visualisation, light meditation, body scanning and relaxation, listening to nature and present moment awareness. The classes were fun and allowed the group to interact informally, and even involved some music, singing, colouring and a fire ceremony!

The results of this course were really transformational and very exciting for our future service. The participants gave fantastic feedback about the course, the improvements they felt in their experience of themselves and of coping with life with epilepsy. By the end of the course, people told us that they had experienced changes in their confidence, outlook & resilience, personal wellbeing, positive social interactions with each other, improved connection to their inner self and self-belief, and improved feelings about their epilepsy.

When asked what changes happened during the course, participants mentioned improved social skills; improved confidence and being brave; reduced headaches and migraines; improved ability to deal with epilepsy; better and improved sleep; belief in the power of meditation; and stepping back and using the tools that were learnt.

We asked participants how the course will impact on them in the future and they gave us answers which included helping to identify directions for the future, using the tools that were taught, knowing the importance of the inner self, being more confident, being able to self-manage better, knowing never to give up and to set goals, improved ability to control negative thoughts and using positive affirmations.

Due to the success of the INNERWISE Dublin pilot programme, in 2017, we will bring one and two day INNERWISE workshops to more locations across the country. Please contact your local CRO if you are interested in attending.