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Intentions

It is the 31st of December and for me a time of reflection and setting new intentions for the new year.  It is a time 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 ruined/spoilt 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. Furthermore,  we do this to ourselves in what may be one of the trickiest times of the year (we might be struggling financially, 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? Promising instead to be more caring to ourselves.

For me, I do a reflection list on New Year’s Eve as I cannot think of a change of direction unless I know where I’ve been, and then I think of affirmative resolutions (intentions). Last year I set an intention to drink more water and take more walks. See my blog titled ‘January’. The drinking more water definitely happened, the walks less so. I would like to keep both of these as they are kind things I can do for myself, but changing the walking to a more general ‘move more’.  And a new one, to find time to meditate as part of my self care routine.

So what are your intentions for the new year? I’ve told you mine! I’ll let you know in December 2020 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

Xmas tips for maintaining good mental health

This blog explores some ideas of surviving the Xmas period, and I have borrowed heavily from my blog of last year ‘December’.  Whether Xmas is your favourite time of the year or you despise it with a passion, this blog might help you.

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

If you do love all things Xmas, some things to watch out for are, spending too much money on presents/decorations/food/attractions/theatre/pantos etc, it is easy to get carried away and then end up starting a new year in debt. Partying too hard, too many late nights and hangover mornings can play havoc with your relationship with your boss and could in the long term damage your prospects. And too much overindulgence, in particular, alcohol, will damage your health. Keeping up some kind of routine (which includes some form of daily exercise) and maintaining balance in your life can enable you to have fun but not burn out.

If Xmas is one big turn off for you, it may seem 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 and this can lead to feelings of resentment.

If this is the case for you then..maybe it is time to try doing it differently this time.

For instance, 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 starts 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.

So …try limiting the time you spend with others who you don’t enjoy relating to this time of year, so perhaps leaving the office party earlier than normal. There really is no brownie points for being the last man (or woman) standing.  And finding more time to lean into connecting with others who you can be authentically you with, all of your wonderful, human, imperfect self with. Furthermore, try practising being more in line with your feelings and so if you don’t feel jolly, don’t act jolly.

For people who have alcohol dependence or addiction, it can be a really difficult time of year, temptation is everywhere, the supermarkets at every turn have endless offers of alcoholic beverages of every description. And we can risk 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.

If this resonates with you then there are ways to protect yourself. Eg. make use of home delivery of groceries from your local supermarket to deliver your food so you are not tempted by ‘in store’ alcohol offers, and turn down any party/Xmas drinks invitations that you believe will put you and your recovery at risk. Those who really respect you will understand. Remember, not drinking doesn’t equal no fun. And when you do go out to socialise, there are an increasing choice of alcohol-free (AF) alternatives to experiment with such as AF mulled wine and mocktails.

If for any reason this season isn’t for you, try to find soothing/relaxing/joyful activities that you do 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, a counsellor can help you offload, and work with you to identify ways to manage and find the resilience to cope through the next few weeks.

So I wish you a Xmas in which you can be genuine, authentic and feel the love. Warm wishes x

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

hope

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

Image result for january

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

nature red forest leaves
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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..