Staying Afloat

2019 Festival of Creative Learning: Staying Afloat: Anxiety and the Winding Way to Peace of Mind

by Daphne Loads

You may have noticed some colourful ducks in Levels café earlier in the month. They were making a guest appearance as part of “Staying Afloat: Anxiety and The Winding Way to Peace of Mind” on Wednesday 22nd May.

Part of the University of Edinburgh’s Festival of Creative Learning, this interactive talk brought together 15 students and staff from all over the university to talk about anxiety over coffee and cake. It was facilitated by Annie Lee, an experienced trainer and facilitator who promotes good mental health and wellbeing. The ducks are her mascot and trademark! Annie, like many others, has experienced anxiety. She uses her knowledge and experience to encourage us to look at it from a different point of view. She has worked with lots of different people in different circumstances, including those experiencing domestic abuse, asylum seekers and people who are unemployed.

So what learning did people take from this event?

  • Anxiety has its benefits

Annie posed a challenging question: if it were possible, would we eliminate anxiety from our lives altogether? Or does it have some positive aspects?

As one person said, “There are things about anxiety to keep and even treasure.” Some felt that their anxiety motivated them to work to a high standard. Others acknowledged that sometimes if it weren’t for anxiety, they would have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

  • We’re not alone

People took comfort from the fact that others had similar experiences, and felt the benefits of sharing and being open.

  • There are ways of coping

We each put together a personal toolkit of our current strategies, and new ideas based on how other people manage their anxiety.

  • Kintsugi

Annie introduced the idea of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics with precious materials, so that the mending is not only visible but beautiful.  This can be a metaphor for healing.

  • We can share our learning with others

 “ Don’t confine yourself in your own sorrow or space; be open minded.”  “If I have ways of dealing with it, I can help others find ways as well.”

  • Many agreed that they would like more of these spaces and opportunities to share.

“It would be great to have a series of these workshops or something like a community meet up at the University.”

“It’s great that the uni offers this support for STAFF!” ·

“It was wonderful! I would like to do this at least once a month regularly.”

“Thanks, it was amazing.”

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