Unlocking the door to happiness

Michelle Watkins felt that she had hit rock bottom. “My confidence had taken such a battering,” she revealed. “I was struggling to come to terms with the end of a relationship and there seemed to be mounting stress from both the personal and professional sides of my life that was affecting my mental health.”

For the last four years Michelle has worked in a high profile role as a regional sales manager for a major UK lock supplier and had left friends behind to relocate to Lancashire to set up home with her then partner.

As the pressure began to escalate, eventually a family member alerted Michelle to the support provided by Able Futures that can offer up to nine months of free advice and guidance.

 “It came at just the right time,” she admitted. “I needed someone that I could talk to who would be objective.”

Safe environment

Able Futures is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. It enabled Michelle to access support at no charge and to arrange regular appointments with a vocational rehabilitation consultant who she could speak to about the issues that she was experiencing.

Michelle contacted Able Futures through its website and quickly received a response after completing an online assessment. She began her engagement in the spring of 2019 and soon developed a rapport with Laura Disley, her vocational rehabilitation consultant (VRC).

“I thought how lovely Laura was at our first meeting,” said Michelle. “I felt straight away that our discussions were occurring in a safe environment that empowered me to say what was on my mind. I knew I would not be judged or pigeon-holed.

“We started by considering how incorporating the practice of mindfulness into my daily routine would help me. The best way to describe my initial approach was learning to re-focus my attention on the moment and not dwell on worries.”

An approach to mindfulness

Michelle began by carrying out simple breathing techniques to help improve her powers of concentration. Gradually, she extended her observational approach by taking time to admire and appreciate her natural environment.

“I felt that mindfulness was the beginning of a process to reassess and re-start my approach to life,” explained Michelle. “I went back to yoga which helped with my meditation. In retrospect I realise that Laura was helping me to break down my misconceptions about myself and the current situation. She was gently offering guidance and support that enabled me to start making decisions and taking action.”

The power of words

As part of her new approach, Michelle has been participating in the six-minute diary project. Each diary page is divided into two parts. The first section enables the writer to describe the positive actions that are being planned for the day and the second part is completed in the evening when the writer is encouraged to detail three good things that have happened including undertaking a good deed for another person.

Fear of being alone

Michelle admits that part of her depression and low levels of confidence had been generated by the ending of her 15 year marriage and failed relationship with a new partner.

“I think I was terrified of being on my own,” added Michelle. “I didn’t even know what would make me happy, but now things have started to change. I am enjoying my work again and my social activities are improving.

“I truly feel that Able Futures was like a guiding light shining on the path that is leading you forward. Able Futures helps you to get where you want to be.”

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Access to Work Mental Health Support Service: Freephone 0800 321 3137