On Monday 10th September a group of us, from The Stress Project, gathered to attend the annual Islington In Bloom awards ceremony. The Stress Project had a special reason for being there, as we were due to collect a silver prize from the Mayor, in the Best Community Centre Garden category!
Originally set up by the Islington Gardeners Association, the awards ceremony, now in its 15th year, took place at the Islington Assembly Hall. The hall had gotten a bit of a green fingered make-over, with all the tables decked out with potted plants and some rather tall foliage providing the backdrop for the photos. A few people had gotten into the spirit of things with flowery shirts including Bob Gilbert, former Director of Sustainability for Islington, who was presenting the ceremony.
We started with an important warm up for our hands, for all the clapping we would be doing, as there were so many entries this year. Councillor Claudia Webbe, the Executive Member for Environment and Transport for Islington, then came forward to speak to us. Reminding us that considering Islington is the borough with the smallest amount of open space in London, it is incredible what was has been accomplished by residents and those that look after the green spaces we have.
I loved watching the pictures of all the winning gardens and green spaces flash up on the screen and seeing how creative people had gotten. The categories didn’t just cover community gardens and local businesses. We saw lots of colourful and imaginative entries from the children’s poster competition – these were announced first so they weren’t kept up too late on a school night. There was even a new category for people who had gotten creative with tree pits. I noticed a few pretty ones myself wondering around Islington, so it was nice to see the people involved being recognised for their contribution.
When it came to The Stress Project collecting their award, there were some great comments from the judges. The fact that they grew lemon verbena and used it for tea got a special mention. I have yet to try and I love herbal tea. Anyone who has visited the garden will have seen first-hand all the hard work, love and care that has gone into achieving so much within a small space.
It was a great evening and difficult to leave without feeling inspired to do some gardening. A big congratulations to all the gardeners and volunteers at The Stress Project for a well-deserved win! If you would like to experience the award-winning garden for yourself, there are two drop-in therapeutic gardening sessions run on a Tuesday and Thursday between 11am-1pm, alongside other therapies. You are, of course, more than welcome to drop by and admire the garden – you may even get some freshly brewed herbal tea! Please contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more details.
For anyone that’s curious the basic idea of mindfulness is about focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and sensations without judgement. So what can you expect in a class? How can it benefit you? I recently spoke to Paul, one of the service users at The Stress Project, about his experience of both the drop-in class and the eight week course.
What attracted you to the mindfulness course? For the first few weeks I just came there (The Stress Project) and relaxed. I thought it was a nice space and felt comfortable in the surroundings and with the people. It wasn’t really about the mindfulness to start with. Then I started learning things from the drop-in class. I put mindfulness meditations on my phone and started using it at home. It just started working for me. A guy who was in the class had been on the eight week course and recommended it.
How does the course differ to the drop-in class? The drop-in is one hour and the course is a two hour session. With the course you do a meditation and discuss it afterwards and you get handouts. There was subject matter like letting go and there was loads of meditations for different things. The course is quite structured, it gave a bit more understanding and was very thorough basically. It’s quite deep but you can take what you like out of it.
How have you incorporated it into your life? Usually, I do it about twice a day. The other day I decided to do a 3 minute breathing meditation. I just did it to relax but I realised a bit later that it set me up nicely for the day. Rather than the idea of I’m stressed let’s meditate. The breathing meditation is the one that really works for me. I’ve done that one at the bus stop. There’s no set pattern just do what you need to do when you need to do it. It’s quite freeing really.
How has it benefited you? I can feel the changes, I wasn’t sleeping and was constantly stressed. I’ve made a definite decision that it works for me, therefore I make the effort and make the time. One of the basic concepts is about living in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future, I found that very useful. I can do a meditation and live in the moment, I’m quite happy doing that.
If you would like to experience mindfulness for yourself, There are 3 courses per year. In Autumn, Spring and New Year. The next eight week Mindfulness Course coming up from the 19th September to the 7th November. Please contact us |email@example.com for more details.
Great news – we’ve just found out the our garden has been awarded a prize by Islington in Bloom, in the Best Community Garden category! This is thanks to all the volunteers that make it such a special place.
The award ceremony is on 10th September – so will post about this again after the event with more details.
Last week was an eventful week for The Stress Project, as they joined in with the Community Centre Week celebrations. For those of you that aren’t aware, Community Centre Week is an annual event run by the Octopus Community Network. It’s all about everyone who runs, works in and volunteers at the centres in Islington, coming together and sharing what they do and love about their communities. The event is now in it’s 5th year and this year’s theme was all about being neighbourly.
What better way to be neighbourly and take full advantage of the sunshine than to have a BBQ! Which is exactly what The Stress Project held on Tuesday 24th July. It was a fun and entertaining afternoon, with staff and volunteers providing a warm (literally) welcome to regular service users and local residents. Everything was generously provided for and it was really nice to see everyone come together to relax in the well-loved garden over some yummy burgers and live music. There was even a raffle. Passers by dropped in to join us in singing along to some Beatle’s and Elvis classics - I’m sure they were partly enticed in by the wafting smells of the BBQ.
When the heat got a bit much there was always the coolness of inside to retreat to. This gave me an opportunity to chat to some of the regulars who have been going for a while, about their experience. It was interesting to hear how it wasn’t just the services and treatments available that they valued. It was being able to come to the drop-in sessions to have a chat and get a bit of break from everything and the difference this has made in their lives.
The following day there was a celebration of Community Centre Week at Islington Assembly Hall. Several of the community centres were there with loads of info about what they offer. Carol, The Stress Project Centre Manager, gave a short presentation on how they’d been working together with Octopus to reach out to young people, helping to break down the stigma of mental health. Afterwards, we were given a mini mindfulness taster session, taking some lovely deep breaths and getting present to our surroundings. I definitely felt a lot calmer and more peaceful after. I have tried mindfulness in the past and know from experience this is just some of the many benefits. Things then got quite a bit more active, with chairs being moved to the side for some disco dancing, zumba and line dancing. I’d definitely underestimated my coordination skills when it came to the line dancing but it was a lot of fun. Everyone got really into it and the instructors were great. The activities didn’t stop there, there was a performance from the Nags Head Community Choir and stalls for watercolour painting, Henna, face painting and chair massages. It was great to see all the community centres getting to connect with people who are just discovering what is actually going on in their area. I had no idea there were so many different classes, events and support available.
There seemed to be quite a few who’d come in support of the centres they attend. The Stress Project had previously conducted an interview with people to find out what they most valued in their community centre. The feedback was that the people were the most important, being able to come together and it feeling like home. That was definitely the feeling I got the past few days.
A bit of extra news: we've some new therapies at the Tuesday drop-in (10.30am to 1pm). We've now got Reiki, Massage and Reflexology.
Carers Week runs from Monday 11th to Sunday 17th June this year. As usual, on Monday, the Stress Project outreach team will have a stall at the opening event to answer any of your questions and queries. It's being held at Islington Town Hall. As part of Carer's week, the Stress Project a free Mindfulness drop-in class from 4pm-5pm on Thursday. For more information visit www.stressproject.org.uk/mindfulness. Both activities are free, and all carer's welcome. For more information visit Carers Week website- www.carersweek.org
Last week we said goodbye to Jonathan, who at 80 years of age has decided to move on. Typically, Jonathan will not be standing still and is planning on doing some travelling.
Jonathan volunteered at the Stress Project for 3 years and he ran our very popular Mindfulness drop-in class. His enthusiasm and passion for Mindfulness shone though and he will be sorely missed by many. We give him a huge thank-you from the whole Stress Project team.
We also said welcome to Mansfield, who will be taking over the Mindfulness class from 26th April 2018. The time is also changing. The class will run from 4-5pm.
On Saturday 3rd March, the Stress Project provided a free Mindfulness session as part of a Young People’s Wellbeing Event. We had a great turn out of young people, approximately 45, at our session – which is amazing considering it had been snowing all week.
If you’d like us to come and run a Mindfulness session - aimed at young people - at your centre or event, please do contact us.
On Saturday 3rd March, the Stress Project is providing a free Mindfulness session as part of a Young People’s Wellbeing Event held at the Peel Centre. The session, aimed at young people, is part of an event that runs from 2pm-5pm this Saturday.
The event, will also include Hip-Hop workshops and motivational speakers – and will feature information about local organisations that help young people to reduce their stress levels.