Kent Wellbeing Hub CIC 

Holistic Therapies, Healing, Counselling and Training Centre

Farthing Corner, Medway. ME8 8PQ - 01634 917110

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Its OK to be not OK

By Georgia, Clinical Director of Kent Wellbeing Hub 

Published 10th September 

There’s an old adage that if someone asks, “how are you?” they probably mean it as a greeting, not a question. I grew up believing this to be true – don’t bother others with your health niggles, illnesses and general malaise because they don’t really want to know. Well, times have changed, and I’ve certainly changed, so if I ask you how you are, I really, genuinely want to know. That possibly means I’m a bit of a nosey parker, but as an experienced counsellor and psychotherapist, its actually because I am genuinely interested in the people I meet.

So, now you’ve trudged through all that preamble, I’m asking: How are you? How are you feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally? I’m interested because after several months of lockdown, everyone I know is feeling slightly differently about their situation, and I find that fascinating. The fact is, how we deal with difficult or stressful situations is as individual as our fingerprints. We all have a unique lifetime of experiences, knowledge and influences that have led us to be the person we are today. My business partner here, Christine tells me that if we’d gone into lock-down three or four years ago, she wouldn’t have coped well. She wasn’t in good shape mentally, and had been through a series of emotionally traumatic, life changing events. The person she is now is stronger, more resilient, less anxious and much kinder to herself than she was then. I myself, have suffered the heartbreaking loss of a much loved family member to suicide; a situation that, tragically, more and more families are facing as anxiety and depression become magnified by pandemic control conditions.

So if your answer to “how are you?” is “I’m not OK”, then its absolutely OK to say so. It is absolutely fine to say “I’m not coping well”. Some of the strongest people I know have had days when they find it tough getting through the strangeness of this period of pandemic, often when they have tried to look too far ahead. Let’s be honest, no-one knows how this thing is going to pan out. Most of us don’t know what’s around the corner when life is “normal” so how can we possibly know what life has in store for us in these, very unusual, times? The world around us might still look the same on the surface, but we’re heading into a very uncertain future. I don’t know anyone who feels they have any real control over what happens next and that can be a very frightening prospect. The only way I can get my head around this is to just take each day as it comes. (Does that sound like a well-worn cliché? I can live with that!). Obviously, we have to make some plans for the future, but I’m treating mine as more of a wish-list at the moment and allowing myself to daydream that wishes do, sometimes come true.

If this blog was starting to read like a slightly depressing reflection on life, here comes the good bit. Some things we REALLY DO have control over, including the gradual opening up the Kent Wellbeing Hub. It may not yet, be the all- singing, all-dancing, jam packed programme that we had in mind at our open day in February, but we’re hugely optimistic and have lots of exciting activities starting in soon. When my passionate vision of a wellbeing umbrella, met with Christine’s enthusiam for writing lists and making plans, we were confident we had a pretty good recipe for success. Add to that, our colleague Robin’s ‘pop-corn’ brain, permanently popping with good ideas, and we’re up and running! Our objective has always been to have something for everyone, a fully holistic offering. We are keen to offer a safe place, a sense of belonging and a range of holistic therapies, learning opportunities and activities to suit all tastes and abilities.

Since the beginning of August, we’ve had counselling and hypnotherapy services back in the room, which feel are the most urgent services (serious point coming up …). We know, from the news media, from our families, friends and colleagues, and from professional bodies that we connect with, that there has been a huge surge in mental health problems. Anxiety, uncertainty, fear, depression and deaths from suicide are all on the increase. If this applies to you or someone you know, please get in touch with us now on 01634 917110. We have access to a network of experienced therapists and trained listeners who can help. Our training courses in counselling skills have continued (online) throughout lockdown and new courses are starting from the end of September.

As for the rest of our plans, there literally is something for everyone. I’m pretty sure there will be that one person who will now pipe up with “nope, nothing there for me”! But for the vast majority, we’ve got you covered. How about yoga, pilates or stretch-and-tone classes? If that’s not your thing there’s art and crafting workshops including a needlecraft skills group, photography, guided walks mindfulness, reiki healing, spiritual awareness, meditation, angel workshops, gong baths, crystal healing and workshops and …. Well, you get the picture, there’s a whole lot going on. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram and give us a call if there’s something you want to try out. It’s going to be a really busy few months, and by the time we get to our BIG WEEKEND in collaboration with Wellness Markets, we’ll be exhausted, but really happy to be back in business. 

Now what?   As lock-down eases up, we have big plans for reopening 

By Christine and Georgia, Directors of Kent Wellbeing Hub  
Published 10th July 2020

If you’ve spotted us on Facebook and Instagram, you’ll have noticed a recurring theme in our posts, the signpost. The thinking being, if you’ve been signposted to any wellbeing service, we are probably the destination. As you can imagine, the past few months we’ve felt like a bit of a dead end, having had to abruptly close the Hub in March.   We have, in the past couple of weeks been able to give limited and carefully controlled access to talking therapies. Increasingly, as the government guidelines seem to randomly open up various sectors, we’re starting to cautiously open up to other services. However, we’re not ones for sitting around twiddling our thumbs, so we’ve been in full on planning mode. We’ve been reaching out to like-minded souls and keeping in contact with everyone we’ve worked with in the past. We have everything crossed for a couple of small-group workshops in August, and sincerely hope to be fully open for business in September. You’re itching to know what we’ve got up our sleeves, right?

The Five Ways of Wellbeing is another theme that you’ll have noticed running through everything we do. We firmly believe that life is better if we connect with others, keep learning, stay active, are mindful of our actions and the world around us, and give generously of ourselves. So we gave ourselves a challenge, to set up as many different activities, events and experiences as we can, to appeal to as many different people as possible, all supporting the five ways of wellbeing. In a way, the lock-down has been helpful as its given us time to brainstorm and develop ideas. Here’s what we’ve got bubbling away ready for September (are we excited? You bet we are!).

On the Couch – Our regular therapists will continue to offer counselling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, massage treatments and reiki healing. In addition, we are delighted to announce the arrival of our very own Beauty Therapist, who will offer a full range of salon treatments. From December, we will also have a resident Reflexologist too. If you’re a therapist looking for a new home, give us a call. Our therapy room rental rates are very competitive.

Counselling Training – with two successful groups already completing their CPCAB (Counselling & Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body), Level 2 Counselling Skills training, we are running an extended programme from September, with training from Foundation level Listening Skills, to Level 3 Counselling skills. We’re also working with caring organisations offering tailored, in-house listening skills training for their staff. Get in touch if this is of interest to your team, or workplace.

Spiritual Work & Healing – those who remember the Hub in its former guise as the Centre, Mind Body and Spirit, will be aware of the previous emphasis on spiritual work and healing. When we re-branded as Kent Wellbeing Hub, it was always on the understanding that much of this work would continue. We continue to offer Reiki Healing, alongside Crystal Workshops, Reiki training, Angel Workshops, Spiritual Awareness Groups and monthly Gong Baths. For the time being, reiki will be by appointment only, as our COVID risk assessment shows this to be unsafe.

Life Through a Lens – photography workshops with a difference. These are aimed at all abilities, mainly based outdoors with the intention of learning photography skills, whilst connecting with nature. If you’ve seen our Umbrella photos on FB and Instagram, they are all the work of our resident creative guru, Robin Whitehead, who will co-host photography workshops with the equally talented Louise Hubbard.

Sew and So-on – monthly needlecraft group. You don’t need to be super talented, just bring along a project you’re working on – or wanting help with. There will be experienced sewers, knit-wits, crochet-hookers and all manner of stitchers. The idea is that we get together as a group, share skills and knowledge, and, most importantly, have fun together.

Get Moving – we’re working closely with some of our health favourite fitness people to offer fitness classes – particularly aimed at those who aren’t your regular gym-bunnies - low impact exercise, yoga, pilates and healthy eating. There will also be mindful walking groups at weekends, suitable for all ages.

Arts and Crafts – fancy having a go at something creative that isn’t stitching or camera snapping? Great! We’ll have just the thing. From one-off “how to” workshops, to on-going art and craft courses, there will be announcements popping up on Facebook and Instagram from August. Keep an eye on us!

Ethical Marketplace – We’re sorry to be the first to mention the dreaded “C” word … but the week before Christmas we do have an exciting weekend planned. We can’t give precise details until the T’s and C’s are all sorted, but we’re collaborating with some pretty awesome people to create a two day show-case for the people we love to work with, and for a whole host of ethical suppliers for last minute gift opportunities! There will also be mini treatments and taster sessions, and evening entertainment with a difference. More details coming soon.

Have we missed anything? If we have, please tell us! As we said at the start, we’re keen to offer something for everyone. So if you know of a wellbeing service, skills training or workshop that we haven’t thought of yet, we’d love to hear from you. There’s always room to squeeze in something new and fabulous, as long as it has wellbeing, sustainability and kindness at its core.

To get in touch, find us on Facebook and Instagram @kentwellbeinghub or email us at [email protected] 

All Change!

by Christine Fox, Kent Wellbeing Hub Director   (Published, 2nd June 2020)

Change is something we’ve become very used to over the past couple of months. First, it was the closing of pubs, clubs, theatres, restaurants, then the full lock down. We all got used to a new way of living our lives, staying at home, not going outside, living in fear and dread of an invisible and insidious enemy. Everyone’s circumstances were different but there did seem to be a collective feeling of “we’re all in this together”. Most of us adjusted the way we did things, started living our lives on-line and found ways to adapt. It may be just my personal perspective, but it was generally pretty cheerful, keep calm and carry on, for most people I know.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. (William Arthur Ward)

Yes, we adjusted our sails, and when the going got a bit rough, there was always the Great British Sense of Humour to cling to. Didn’t we have a giggle? There were endless memes, funny videos and Facebook photo challenges. We became a nation of compulsive quizzers, You-Tube exercisers and Tik-Tok clowns. We shifted mind-sets, gave ourselves a good, stern talking to when we felt a bit down and pulled up our collective socks and got on with it. I’m talking here in the past tense, as if it’s all over. It isn’t, but things are, gradually, changing again.

“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” (C.S. Lewis)

This isn’t the dramatic, sudden, batten down the hatches because everything-changes-overnight, like we felt at the beginning of the lockdown, but we are entering a new phase and working out what the new normal will be. I say “new normal” because that’s become the stock phrase when we talk about what happens next. I’m not really a fan of the word NORMAL at all because it means something different to everyone. We’re all navigating this in our own way, trying to stay safe and keep those we care for safe too. Normal for me, as a compulsive hugger, may never be the same again. I can’t begin to tell you the unbridled joy at meeting up last week for a socially distanced walk with my best friend. Two middle aged ladies, giddy with excitement, behaving more like two primary school kids, meeting up again after the six week summer holiday. I’d like to think that as we create our new normal, then maybe, just maybe, we can emerge a kinder, more thoughtful and considerate society. Whether that happens we’ll have to wait and see, but – and this is just a personal view - I sincerely hope we take note that Mother Earth has wagged a matronly finger at us and reminded us that mankind doesn’t hold all the cards.

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.” (Arnold Bennett)

So, what next? Let’s not kid ourselves that moving forward is going to be easy. At the moment, there’s no cure and no vaccine for Covid-19. As a business that exists to promote and support Wellbeing, we at the Kent Wellbeing Hub are very much aware of the anxiety being felt by many at the thought of coming out of a rather hermit like existence. Everything we did before, we are re-learning to do in a new way. Which means that the vast majority of us are going to have to become experts in day to day risk assessment. We’ve had a bit of practice; negotiating the supermarket shop, or a visit to the pharmacy has already been pretty challenging! Most of us will have to go back to work at some point and, depending on what we do for a living, there will be varying degrees of risk and challenge. Some of the work I do involves sitting at a computer, in the splendid isolation of my home office and that hasn’t changed at all – other than there’s been very little work to do. I suspect it will be a little while though, before I’m able to practice hands-on therapies like Indian Head Massage and Reiki, and clients will have to do their own, individual risk assessment when that time comes too. I’m working with colleagues on protocols to make it safe for clients to visit the Kent Wellbeing Hub, but it will be some time before we’re fully up and running. Every government announcement will be scrutinised, and every relaxation of a rule will be risk assessed by us, by the therapists we work with, and by the clients we serve.

A month, six months, or a year from now, who knows what the world will look like? So we’ll just take each day as the gift that it is, keep faith in the human spirit to adapt and overcome, and hope to welcome people through the doors of our Hub as soon as it’s safe to do so.  

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By Robin Whitehead, Caretaker of the Kent Wellbeing Hub, owner of ONiON Wellbeing. 

First published 17th June 2020

It's Men's Health Week.  I'm proud to be part of the Kent Wellbeing Hub "We're here for you" which includes us, Men!!, 

I'm a qualified Counsellor, Life Coach, CBT & Mindfulness Practitioner.  All our 1 to 1's, Group, Classes, Workshops, Events, & Seminars support the Five Ways to Wellbeing.  We are based at Kent Wellbeing Hub, Rainham, Kent & National Trust Woodland, Cobham, Kent.

I also Teach the CPCAB Foundation Level Counselling Skills here at the Hub, with Georgia.  See more information about this on our Training Centre page.

But I know many men find it hard enough to talk about their physical Health, let alone their Mental Health & Wellbeing.  For everyone, 2020 is proving to be a challenging year, where  traditional roles and expectations can't exist and a new normal is on our horizon. 

I've included some helpful information here to get us thinking about Men's Health and Wellbeing.  This includes some possible talking points - please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk.

As we reach the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, read how our bodies use hormones to help us find the feel-good factor.  (first published, 22 May 2020)

It’s Friday! Although every day has begun to look a bit that same for the past eight weeks of lock-down, we are heading into a long weekend, with a public holiday on Monday. With an extra day of (hopefu​lly) sunshine and relaxation, I thought I’d share with you some of the science behind wellbeing and happiness. Its all about the hormones …

Hormones are chemicals produced by different glands across your body. They travel through the bloodstream, acting as messengers and playing a part in many bodily processes. One of these important functions? Helping regulate your mood! Certain hormones are known to help promote positive feelings, including happiness, pleasure and joy. This is the medical evidence of how the Five Ways of Wellbeing Help your mood, and why we at Onion Wellbeing are so keen to promote the Five Ways.

These "happy hormones" include:

Dopamine. Also known as the "feel-good" hormone, dopamine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is an important part of your brain's reward system. Dopamine is associated with pleasurable sensations, along with learning, memory, motor system function, and more.

Serotonin. This hormone (and neurotransmitter) helps regulate your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability, and memory.

Oxytocin. Often called the "love hormone," oxytocin is essential for childbirth, breastfeeding, and strong parent-child bonding. This hormone can also help promote trust, empathy, and bonding in relationships, and oxytocin levels generally increase with physical affection like kissing, cuddling, and sex.

Endorphins. These are your body's natural pain reliever, which your body produces in response to stress or discomfort. Endorphin levels also tend to increase when you engage in reward-producing activities, such as eating, working out, or having sex.

Looking for ways to make the most of these natural mood-boosters? Here’s a few ideas:

Get outside, enjoy nature and exercise

Looking to boost your endorphins and serotonin levels? Spending time outdoors, in sunlight, is a great way to do this. Exposure to sunlight can increase production of both serotonin and endorphins.

Start with at least 10 to 15 minutes outside each day but really, the more time you can spend out-doors, the better. If you are tired of the same old sights, try exploring your neighbourhood mindfully. Set a theme for your walk such as watching for birds or looking at the flowers (just don't forget sunscreen!). Exercise has multiple physical health benefits. It can also have a positive impact on emotional wellbeing.

If you have heard of a "runner's high", you might already know about the link between exercise and endorphin release. But exercise doesn't just work on endorphins. Regular physical activity can also increase your dopamine and serotonin levels, making it a great option to boost your happy hormones.

In more normal times we host Woodland Walks based at our facilities in Cobham, and we’re hoping to be able to resume these over the coming months. But for the time being, any physical activity is better the none.

Laugh with a friend

Who hasn't heard the old saying, "Laughter is the best medicine"? Of course, laughter will not treat ongoing medical issues, but it can help relieve feelings of anxiety or stress, and improve a low mood by boosting dopamine and endorphin levels. When you’re feeling better emotionally, there’s evidence that your physical health does improve. Anxieties, and the fight or flight instinct cannot exist when you are laughing.

So, we at Kent Wellbeing Hub are closely associated with the Much Laughter Hub (normally based in Rochester High Street) that is offering Much Laughter - online and live on Facebook in the current lockdown. In the normal climate we support each other's activities with attendance to all our events. Do find their Facebook Live events @MuchLaughterHub. An added bonus? Bonding over something hilarious with a loved one might even trigger oxytocin release.

Cook (and enjoy) a favourite meal with a friend via video calls

This tip could — in theory — boost all four of your happy hormones. The enjoyment you get from eating something delicious can trigger the release of dopamine along with endorphins. Sharing the meal with someone you love, and bonding over meal preparation, can boost oxytocin levels. I cooked the same meals with friends remotely. We ate remotely and laughed together along the way, and all of us felt better for the experience.

Certain foods can also have an impact on hormone levels, so it’s useful to know the following, when meal planning for a happy hormone boost:

- Spicy foods may trigger endorphin release

- Yogurt, beans, almonds, eggs and meats (with low-fat content) are just a few foods linked to dopamine release

- Foods high in tryptophan have been linked to increased serotonin levels

- Foods containing probiotics, such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut can influence the release of hormones – gut health and mental health are now linked.

By Christine Fox, Kent Wellbeing Hub Director    

First published 7th May 2020

In this week leading up to the anniversary of VE day, my parents have been very much on my mind. Both were just old enough to be called up for service towards the end of World War 2. Mum loved the Army life so much, she stayed on in logistics for a further three years, whilst my Dad served for the required two years before walking happily down the gang plank of HMS Belfast for the very last time on 4th July 1946. Purely coincidentally, he died exactly 70 years later, having survived my mother, and my late brother for several years. The reason for my sharing these family memories is that the thing I remember most keenly about my father’s later years, was the crippling loneliness he felt. When he joined the Navy in 1943, he exited a cramped, bustling household of two parents, three noisy younger sisters, a dog, a cat and my grandad’s ever changing menagerie of chickens, rabbits and budgerigars. After two years living cheek-by-jowl with the rest of his crew on various warships, he returned to that same frantic household until, several years later, he married my mother and started his own family. So my Dad never, ever lived alone until he was almost 80 years old, and he hated it. His loneliness was almost physically painful to him. Despite having a busy social life, he felt the walls of his house closing in around him, echoing with the sound of loss, whenever he was home alone. Dad’s biggest worry at the end of his life was about me having taken the decision to live alone after over 20 years of marriage. I just couldn’t get him to understand that it was the right thing for me. Dad wasn’t the only person to worry, I’m still often asked if I’m lonely. And the answer is always the same; no, absolutely not. I never feel lonely. I do occasionally feel a sense of alone-ness, but to me that is a very different thing.

I’ll be honest, the conscious decision I made about five years ago, that I would be happier living on my own, was neither sudden nor easy. This isn’t the place to pick over the ending of a long relationship, but it is very much the right place to say that it was the right decision. Honestly, I’ve never be happier. The FAQs from friends, family and random people who express an interest (nosey!) are:

- Don’t you wish you had someone to eat out with, go on holiday with?

- Do you get bored stuck at home on your own in the evenings and at weekends?

- Be honest, do you talk to yourself when you’re on your own?

The answers to which are NO, NO and YES!

I DO have people to go out to eat and go on holiday with, I have friends, some of whom are, like me, happily single. But I’m equally happy going out to eat or on holiday on my own. Restaurants and bars, hotels and airports, they’re all great places for people-watching. One of my greatest pleasures in life is striking up a conversation with someone I’ve never met before, will probably never meet again, and creating a little memory that is just mine and no-one else’s.

Bored? Are you kidding? I’d be really bored if I had to constantly accommodate the whims and wishes of someone else. I eat when I’m hungry, I sleep when I’m tired and have total control of the TV remote. My little house and garden are great places to potter around doing whatever needs to be done and I’m never happier than with my nose in a good book. So no, never bored.

This will make you think – EVERYONE talks to themselves! It’s not just “sad” singles like me. The only difference is that whilst you have that little conversation with yourself inside your head, I say it out loud. Go on, admit it, I’m right! (Obviously, I’m always right, there’s no-one here to disagree with me).

I guess it’s a personal perspective that makes the difference in how we experience being alone, and its something very much in many people’s minds during the Covid-19 lockdown. Most of us are spending more time than we are used to at home, and that can mean spending more time than we are used to either completely on our own, or confined to our homes with our families. Some of us will be happier with our given situation than others; if I think about the people I care about the most, they’re all coping in their own way, in very different circumstances . I don’t usually give advice unless its asked for but I will offer one suggestion. Do check on all your friends and family, even those you may not have seen for a while, but that means EVERYONE. Please don’t assume that it’s just your single friends who are lonely; some of the loneliest people may be those who are surrounded by people they’d rather not be with; check in with them first.