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October

The autumn can be a time to desire to start anew, we can align our thinking with the traditional new academic year, even if it was many years since we studied, something stored deeply in our unconscious is telling us to seek out new beginnings.

So maybe it is time to seek out new ways of thinking about how to monitor and protect your mental health. Are there any changes that you could put in place to feel better about yourself? I am going to form this blog around how we can take better care of ourselves using the word October.

O – opportunities. Sometimes it is hard to try new things, go to new places, meet new people. The comfort zone is comfortable, but not much grows there. Human beings have an actualising tendency, which means we have an innate drive to improve ourselves to meet our potential. This drive can become stifled if we don’t pay attention to our needs or let fear stop us learning new skills. Maybe it is time to say yes when opportunities arise?

C – cognitive. In particular monitoring our thoughts. And giving ourselves permission to take a pause and to acknowledge, but not necessarily act, on thoughts. Remembering they are not commands, just thoughts and you are in control of how you respond to them.

T – Therapy. If you are not feeling okay then finding a therapist who will listen with empathy and help you to untangle thoughts and release feelings in a confidential non judgemental space could make all the difference.

O- overwhelm. That uncomfortable feeling that everything is too much for you. Talking to someone can help to release some of the tension. Try not to bottle up your feelings, acknowledge them, sit with them, and notice how they slowly pass. Feelings are temporary states.

B- breathe. Our breath is such a powerful tool that we can use to ground ourselves and bring us into the present moment. Learning breathing exercises such as the 478 technique can relax and de-stress.

E – excitement. When was the last time you got really excited over anything? Like a small child at Xmas time seeing Santa? Let me tell you something – You are not too much! It’s okay and necessary to have times of joy and excitement. Don’t stay in the shade, let your free child out to play and revel in the fun that can be had when you do !

R- rest. Life can be busy, hectic and demanding. Listen to your body if it is tired. And rest and recover as necessary. It’s not lazy, it is stepping off the mouse wheel and looking after the needs of the most precious thing in your life, you.

With my warmest wishes as always, Sue x

Hope

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I wanted to write this blog on hope, because I think the idea of holding hope for another person is one of the reasons why I became a therapist. But I was struggling to describe what ‘hope’ meant to me. So I asked google for help and it came up with 3 definitions.  The first one was ‘a feeling of expectation or desire for a particular thing to happen’.  Hmm… I don’t have expectations for my clients to do anything that they don’t discover ultimately for themselves, although I would like to think they will find counselling beneficial. The next definition is ‘a feeling of trust’, well this is a little closer..I do trust that counselling, within a strong therapeutic relationship can be so healing. But it was still not quite there. Or how about this definition ‘to want something to happen or be the case’, hmmm..not quite.. what I want is irrelevant in my counselling, it is about the agenda the client puts forward as their goals/dreams/inspirations. Although, I guess I would like the client to feel that they were listened to, heard and understood in a way that was helpful to them.

So I was no closer to my sense of what it means to hold hope for my clients, other than I think it is fundamental to my work. Then it dawned on me that I could get closer to its meaning for me when I look at its opposite meaning, hopelessness. The sense of hopelessness is a feeling that I have certainly had expressed to me in my work. That somehow someone’s situation was meant to be, that it was pre determined that a person would struggle and that they would not be able to escape whatever was going on for them. So  a sense that they are trapped in their pain. So when I hold hope for my clients, for me it means that there are other possibilities and nothing is set in stone.  I offer my clients a space where things are not pre determined, where possibilities and opportunities can be explored, where our early conditioning and expectation from others can be suspended for 50 minutes. And then other, new ways of being can be safety explored with curiosity without judgement or resistance.

I also hold hope that my clients will find the courage to seek the right way for them and that they will find meaning in their lives whatever that may look like for them.

So what does hope mean to you, do you have hope for yourself and for others?  Perhaps for me it is ultimately about being open and curious to possibility. To be able to be aware and accepting of our feelings and be able to deeply feel them, yet know that they will pass. To be excited for our future, utilise our choices, maybe take some risks, take some tiny steps outside of our comfort zone without knowing what the outcome will be, but having hope that it will be okay.

January

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How are you this January? What do you think about the tradition of saying ‘Happy New Year’. A greeting, 3 words we should say to each other in the first week in January? Does it have meaning for you? Have you ever said it and not really meant it? Sometimes we can really be on autopilot, other times just caught up in what we think we should say (even to a total stranger). Alternatively, have you ever said HNY and really, really meant it, perhaps to a lover or your best friend. Someone you really do wish to have a wonderful new year. My curiosity is how do we differentiate our true meaning if we say it to all the people we come across. Or should we just do it because it is polite and we ‘should’. What do you think?

It is a month where many of us make new year resolutions, yet the odds of us keeping them longer than January are stacked against us. Why? Well one reason might be that many of them are based in the negative (so starting with ‘I won’t’/or ‘I’ll stop’..) which can mean one small slip into action and we think we have blown it. And we often choose to remove from our lives one of our coping strategies, a thing that soothes us, emotionally regulates us, something we might associate with enhancing our happiness. And.. we do this to ourselves in what may be one of the trickiest times of the year (we might be low on money, think we have nothing much to look forward to, dark and cold days, less socialising, perhaps less time with family, etc). Perhaps we almost punish ourselves for the excesses of December. What if we were kinder to ourselves and more forgiving to ourselves at this time of year?

For me, I do a reflection list on New Years Eve as I cannot think of a change of direction unless I know where I’ve been, and then I think of an affirmative resolution (intention). So this year I aim to drink more water and take more walks. Limiting my possibility of failure to a minimum, prolonging my chances of making it past January. What are your resolutions for the year? I’ve told you mine! I’ll let you know in December if I kept them.

If the new year leaves you feeling down, with a low mood you can’t shake or you feel overly anxious for the year ahead talking it through with a counsellor can really help you to see through the clouds to brighter skies just ahead. Keep warm Sue x

December

 

Now we are into December,  I thought I would write about something that is not often talked about, or if it is, we might open ourselves to being targeted by others with words like Scrooge. That’s right.. what does it really mean if we dislike the winter holiday season?

Do we always have to be happy at holiday time? For some of us it can sound like an instruction, even a rule.  

It seems that we may feel we have to be quiet or whisper about our discomfort with the whole event. That our true feelings would not be accepted by others, or that we might ‘bring them down’.  However, for some people it really is a horrible time of the year, a time that reminds them of loss, grief, loneliness, of all the things they might desire but do not have. A time of rush and anxiety and panic and bustle and noise. Perhaps in that desire to fit in or maybe just to be liked, we can spend money on gifts that we can’t really afford so ending the year in debt.

It can feel like a time of pretence. Perhaps we feel it most at the office party, putting on a smile and having  drinks with colleagues we don’t really like.  Or spending a lot of time with relatives who after a sherry or two start to relate to us in ways which damage our sense of wellbeing and worth and yet we are meant to carry on and smile through it. To deny the impact that it has on us. It’s the season to be jolly after all.  If we try to go along with it and fake it, then sooner or later it will take its toll – it is exhausting to wear a mask all the time! It is little wonder the body collapses under the stress of it all and we end up a reduced immune system and colds/flu etc.

For people who have an alcohol dependence or addiction, it can be a really difficult time of year, temptation everywhere, the supermarkets at every turn have endless offers of alcohol of every description. And we can risk of  being labelled the party pooper by friends and family because we won’t join in the ‘fun’ and choose to stay sober and protect our recovery.

So if for any reason this season isn’t jolly for you, try to find calm and relaxing activities that you enjoy. Find and claim some time away from the chaos of it all. It isn’t selfish to take some time for you and listen to your needs. And like all things, it shall soon pass and it will be time to welcome in a new year, a fresh start and new beginnings.

If you are finding the holiday season too much to bear, a counsellor can help you off load, help you to identify ways to manage the stress and will accept unconditionally how you really feel so that you can lower the mask and be seen. It can also help you find the resilience to cope through the next few weeks.

So to answer my initial question about what it means about us if we don’t like the winter holiday period? Well it  certainly doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you and you are not Scrooge (unless you choose to be). It is a genuine and authentic response. Warm wishes x

Autumn leaves

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I saw a post on Facebook recently which said something like ‘thank the autumn leaves for showing us how to let go..’

This really touched me so I thought I’d use this blog to explore this a little further. Letting go can be really tricky as there is often at least one reason why we tell ourselves that we need to hang onto something (or someone). And we can tell ourselves that if we let go..we might never get that thing or person back. We tell ourselves that it will be final. Which may or not be true yet it can seem very scary to us.  What may be more important  is if we ask ourselves ‘does this benefit me anymore?’ or ‘how much does this benefit me anymore?’ as life is rarely linear or straightforward, there may well be positives as well as negatives about the thing or person we are considering letting go of. It may be worth considering  ‘What do I gain by holding onto this?’ and leading on from this ‘what might I gain if I free up some space for something or someone else?’

As a constantly growing and evolving human being, what is good for us and what works for us is not static, it changes as we do throughout our life stages, which is why looking at what and who we have around us and what we do is something we can choose to be curious about and question. Does this job/hobby/activity give me what I need as I am now? And if not, what would it be like for me to let it go? Is it possible to let it go, is it a responsibility or is it something I need to keep for now but with a view to move on when I can. It is all very well to ditch a job that we hate but we need to plan what is going to replace it and consider our financial and security needs first. We all have autonomy to a certain degree, but there are limits in life that we might need to accept.

However, if we can let it go…what is stopping us? What is the resistance and what thoughts and feelings does it tap within us. How resistant to change and the uncertain are we? What does spontaneity and risk really mean to you? Does it feel like a threat to our status quo and/or do we feel fear? What would it be like to take a risk and let go of something that doesn’t feel right anymore and make changes which might enable us to feel happier? Just like the Autumn leaves that leave the tree that has sustained them, they detach and float away. How about you…is it time to let go?

A counsellor can help you consider and explore your feelings about change, resistance to change and taking risks/making positive changes. Greater self awareness of what you really want awaits..

This hot summer…

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How are you doing?

It certainly has been a hot summer so far and changes such as weather conditions can have an effect on our mood and energy levels. What emotional, physical or spiritual changes have you picked up upon, that you have been experiencing, since the weather has been unusually hot? Perhaps you have had trouble sleeping in this weather and this has left you feeling drained, tired and maybe irritable.

Noticing differences between ourselves and the image of summer that is portrayed in the media of happy smiley people at the beach eating ice lollies, we can start to compare ourselves and despair. Why don’t I feel/or look like that? Which can lead to the even worse negative thought of ‘What is wrong with me?’ It is important to hold onto a realistic view of ourselves, and make time to notice our positive attributes.  If, like the majority of people, our life does not revolve around bikini wearing days in the sun, but perhaps instead long days at work and hot sticky journeys home on public transport, then it is important to hold these differences in perspective and acknowledge that life can be challenging but our resilience to this is where our power can lay. Perhaps building into our day, every day, at least one thing that brings us joy can be useful in enabling us to keep our mood out of the low zone.

Maybe, you haven’t been able to exercise as much in the heat as you would have liked to. If exercise is one of the ways you use to ‘feel good’ than this can be a frustrating time and negatively effect our mood  Perhaps, like me, much of your exercise comes about by walking the dog and in this heat that has had to be curtailed. If getting outside for fresh air is important to your mental wellbeing, it may be an idea to find time for a 10/15 minute stroll in the evening, even if all you feel capable of is sitting in front of a fan drinking a cool drink. And talking of drinks, hot weather can easily lead to over consumption of alcoholic drinks. That extra trip or two to the beer garden, or that BBQ where the ice cold beer and/or prosecco flows can be lots of fun, but overdo it and it can lead to dehydration and a much worse hangover than normal..and if you add to this a heightened state of irritability caused by disrupted sleep then this could lead to difficulties in how we manage ourselves, our work and our personal relationships. Re-hydrating ourselves with water can be great self care and make us feel more alert and alive.

Perhaps you have been loving this hot sunny weather, it boosts your mood and you don’t want it to end. Your vitamin D levels are all topped up and you feel raring to go. I’m happy for you and do cherish all those gorgeous memories made in the sun!

For those who wish the hot summer to end, remember that it is a temporary state and it will change. Before you know it, those cosy cardigans with be coming out of your wardrobe and Christmas jingles will be playing in the shops. And then there is the snow.. sometimes we do have to be careful what we wish for!

Wishing you all well this week, Sue x

 

 

 

 

Decisions

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How are you at making decisions? What does the word decision mean to you? What sensations does it create (do you feel) in your body when you think of making a decision, particularly if it is going to involve making changes in your life. Does the idea of change create unease, or resistance or excitement? Or even all these feelings at once. Little wonder it can feel overwhelming at times.

Questioning our decision making ability is something that can be very common, as humans seeking connection with others, we can want to feel ‘significant others’ value our choices. For me also, I want to make decisions that are sound and thought through and based on all the information and experience I have at hand at this moment in my life. But I, like everyone else I know, do not possess a ‘magic ball’ that can predict whether my decision will be the best choice/right/most productive in the future. Essentially many decisions are based on a punt/a risk/a gut instinct yet I will have to take ownership if it doesn’t go to plan and leads to disappointment. It seems understandable that it can seem paralysing and create a climate for  procrastination. And in a fast moving world, it is often not the case that there is the time for deep reflection, sometimes being asked for an instant decision can seem very stressful indeed.

The missing ingredient to being able to make decision making less painful  is often self compassion. Can I accept that I can only make a decision based on the information I have (or have gathered), my learnt experiences, my own felt sense of the situation and what my gut instinct is telling me. To accept that an element of risk is always present and that I cannot 100% predict nor control the outcome. Then I can make a decision knowing,  whether it goes well or not, that I have done all I can with the resources that I have available to me and that is all I can do as a human being. Thus setting myself up to be kind and forgiving to myself if the outcome is less than I would have wanted.

Making decisions can lead to positive changes in our lives and can be an exciting experience. Whilst taking a risk can feel incredibly difficult at times,  to duck important decisions or to avoid change (at all costs) in order to avoid disappointment/failure or disapproval from others, can be stifling for our growth and potential.

Go well this week, Sue