Good Mental Health at Christmas

mental-health-and-christmas

The messages we see and hear leading up to Christmas from media and marketing campaigns can feel as if expectations are being imposed on us to enjoy ourselves and be happy in the holiday season.

But…

What if you are just about managing to get through each day at the moment….what if you are facing the Christmas period alone, grieving for someone who has died, or you are in the midst of family or relationship conflict?  Facing Christmas can then feel a very daunting prospect.

Family Difficulties:

Conflicts which exist all year around can often come to the surface at this time of year.  The expectation to gather the whole family together can result in anxiety, stress and pressure.  Accepting this may happen and being able to set grievances aside until a more appropriate time for discussion, may be helpful.

Bereavement:

Christmas can be a time of sadness, whether someone close to you has recently died, or you were bereaved a long time ago.  It is important to acknowledge to yourself that it is normal to feel sadness and grief.  You do not need to force yourself to be happy, just because it is the holiday season. Spending some time thinking in advance about arrangements over Christmas and what would be most helpful for you can be useful.

Loneliness:

There are many people for whom loneliness is a significant issue throughout the year, and particularly in the holiday season.  If you feel lonely or isolated, have a look at any local community or social events which may be taking place.  The organisation Mind has helpful information and practical suggestions to cope with loneliness.  See the link below.

Many elderly people do not look forward to Christmas because they will be on their own. This is the time of year to check on older neighbours, relatives and friends.  Perhaps tell them about ‘The Silver Line’ which is a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people.  It is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Telephone number 0800 4 70 80 90

Self-Care:

Physical tiredness and disruption of your normal routine can, in itself, be a cause for stress over the Christmas period.  With so many expectations and obligations, it is easy to forget to look after yourself.  Just being able to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating can be helpful.

Useful Links:

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/

https://www.thesilverline.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us

Please contact sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk  if you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this post, and would like an appointment to see a counsellor.

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The Metaphorical Path of Life

path-of-life

I  found this little piece of wisdom whilst I was reading articles on line, and wanted to share it with you.  It’s about the metaphorical path of life which we follow, and is taken from a writing by Laura Lee-Smith…

Instead of seeing our lives as an entity we cannot control, ruminate upon this well-known metaphor to the life we live:

Paths are full of twists, turns and thorny unmarked points, but where you go is up to you.  So, perhaps it is not only the feeling of losing control that eats at us, but the fear of setting down a path that we are unsure of.  What we fear is the inertia and momentum of a decision that will take us to a place unknown.  Without a doubt, our lives are made up of difficult decisions, highs and lows, missteps and dark places, but it is the people we choose to be during these moments that define us.

Thorns can get hacked through with the right tools, missteps conquered with the armour of a sound mind and self-confidence, and those dark unknown places can have light shed upon them with the right attitude and a large dash of courage. It is all a matter of using yet another metaphor, and digging deep within ourselves to find the will and the strength to make the difficult choices, to brave the unknown with only yourself as a net.  No matter what metaphor we choose, what path we take, we can always change direction and it is having the choice to do this that we must hold onto.

 

 

 

 

Depression self-help

Depression – The Prison in Our Minds

“…..in depression we can neither give nor receive comfort, for we are alone in a prison, and that prison is filled with fear, anger, guilt and despair…..” (Dorothy Rowe 1983)

Depression can be the greatest isolation that we can experience, and it can be very difficult to take the steps we need to take to feel better when feelings of hopelessness and lack of energy overwhelm us.  However, although overcoming depression is not easy, it is possible and it is important to recognise that you can have some level of control over your thoughts and your feelings.  The following self-help tips can help, either alongside any professional help you may be receiving or on their own.

  1. One day at a time

Small goals and small steps are the way forward.  Write down a list of 6 things that you can manage to do that can help you move to a different emotional space.  e.g. taking a bath, making yourself a cup of tea, walking outside and looking at the sky, taking a short walk down the road, phoning a friend.  Pick one of these things each day and reward yourself each time you accomplish one.

2.       Reach Out

The heavy fog of depression can be very difficult to lift on your own, and being isolated can make it worse.  Reaching out to others for support is a strength, and this is the time to do it.  Often, it may feel more comfortable to retreat into yourself, but being around other people can help lift your depression and improve your support network.

3.       Challenge your negative thoughts

It can feel a difficult task to “think positive” when you are depressed, but there are things you can do to challenge the negative thoughts you may be having, simply by offering yourself more balanced and realistic thoughts.  E.g. Ask yourself, are you being harsh on yourself with what you are thinking? Would you say what you are thinking about to someone else in the same position?  Is there a less harsh thought that you can offer yourself?

4.       Make a Self-Care Kit

A self-care Kit can support you in different ways when you feel depressed.  Collect together one item for each of the 5 senses that can help bring good feelings to the surface for you.  E.g. smell (coffee, incense, perfume);  taste (chocolate, sweets);  touch (crystal, stone, jewellery, teddy);  sight (photo, poem);  sound (CD, Ipod).  Place these items in a box, and dig into it to help you move to a different emotional space.  By choosing 2 or 3 items from the box, you can make it more portable and carry them around with you.

5.        Exercise and Diet

Although this is the last thing you may feel like doing, exercise can be a powerful tool to helping depression.  A 10 minute burst of exercise each day can be a good start e.g. walking up the stairs, walking down the road, and you can then progress to longer periods of exercise, e.g. swimming, yoga.

Aim for mood boosting foods including low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates and fresh fruit and vegetables.  Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives.

  1. Three things

Each evening, look back over your day and choose 3 things that have happened that may have made you smile or may have just helped you feel a little better, and write them down, however small.  This may seem like a struggle, but it is possible to start tuning in to notice these things, e.g. something nice or amusing somebody said or did, hearing a nice song on the radio; something nice that just caught your eye.

Whilst these tips can all be part of your treatment plan for recovery from depression, there may be other issues such as anxiety, trauma, loss, and anger underneath it all.  If you are finding that you are continuing to struggle, professional counselling can help by working with you to deal with the issues underlying the thoughts and feelings associated with your depression so that you can find a way out of the ‘prison’.

Please contact sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk for an initial consultation or telephone 07936 556314.

 

Fear of Flying

Plane

Do you have a fear of flying?  Does the thought of flying by plane cause you anxiety to a point where it puts a dark cloud over your holiday plans, affects your relationships, or inhibits your career?  The fear of flying, or aerophobia, can be successfully cured through hypnotherapy.  

When any phobia develops, it is generated by the subconscious part of our minds.  This part of our mind holds all our memories and experiences, and does not function by rational, conscious thinking….it functions on imagination.  As with other phobias, the subconscious mind has experienced an event that has conditioned it to fear.  Although you may be unable to recall any such event in your conscious mind, your subconscious remembers the experience.  Each time a similar event or experience occurs, the behaviour and response gets reinforced (e.g. through fear and anxiety) and this ends up strengthening the phobia.   This response can be changed quickly and effectively.  Through relaxation techniques and being shown how to change the direction of your thoughts, hypnotherapy can help you to achieve a state whereby you can think positively and calmly about flying. 

For those of you who just suffer from mild anxiety about flying, then the following Top Tips may help you manage your flight a little easier:

1.       Stay hydrated whilst on the plane, and stick to drinking water or juices.  Don’t use alcohol to help you cope with a flight.  It doesn’t tackle the problem and can actually intensify some anxiety symptoms.  Remember, alcohol has a different effect at altitude.

 2.        Distract yourself and don’t focus on your fears.  Watch a film, read a book, or have a conversation with someone. 

 3.       Calm your mind through breathing exercises.  Breathe in for the count of 4, hold it for the same amount of time and then breathe out slowly.  Continue to do this several times

4.       Talk to the cabin crew and let them know that you are an anxious flyer.  They are trained to support you.  Let them know how they can help you, e.g. by explaining unfamiliar noises in the plane.

5.       Visualise a positive flight and the positive reasons for taking your flight.  Challenge any negative thoughts e.g. turbulence is nothing to be alarmed about, it happens because of air currents and the plane’s structure is built to deal with this.  It isn’t going to fall apart.

Whilst the above tips may help you if you suffer from mild anxiety about flying, overcoming an actual phobia of flying is likely to need a different approach.  If the anxiety and fear you experience about flying is overwhelming and persistent, and your fear is extreme and irrational, it is likely that you are suffering from a phobia.    This is where hypnotherapy techniques can be helpful. 

If you would like help to overcome any phobia, please contact Sharon Convisser at Pace Counselling & Hypnotherapy on 07936 556314 or e-mail me at sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk

Managing Emotions

power of the mind 

Managing Emotions using the Power of your Mind

There are times when it can feel as if the thoughts and feelings that we experience are overwhelming in their intensity. In my counselling and hypnotherapy work, I have found that guiding people towards changing the modality of the thought or feeling in conjunction with exploring the underlying issues, can have the effect of helping them lessen the intensity of it.

We all represent our thoughts using different senses or modalities (e.g. visually, auditory, by feeling). By creating a mental image in our mind of the thought or feeling, such as giving it a shape, a colour, a size, we can mentally adjust these modalities and change the effect that the image has, and hence change the strength of the thought or feeling.

Next time you are experiencing anxiety, anger, or any other strong emotion try this technique.  It can also be used to help with pain, such as a headache.

  1. With your eyes closed, allow yourself to become aware of the area of your body where you are experiencing the emotion (e.g. stomach, chest) or pain (e.g. head) and visualise it as an image in your mind.
  2. As you focus on the image, visualise giving it a shape.
  3. As you continue to visualise it, give the shape a colour.
  4. Now visualise the background to the shape, and give that a colour as well.
  5. Then make the shape the same colour as the background and at the same time visualise making the shape smaller and smaller. Make it so small so it’s at the point just before it disappears.
  6. Then continue to make it smaller still….so when you look all over the background and try and find the shape, you see that it’s gone.
  7. Now imagine giving healing a colour. What colour would you give it? Visualise that healing colour flowing into the background….all over….until it flows into everywhere it needs to flow for the emotion or pain to disappear.
  8. You can also visualise changing the dimensional aspect of the shape, making it a still image if it is moving, and even visualise moving it around and out of your body.

Practise this as often as you can, when you are in a relaxed state and it will become easier to do.  Please contact sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk if you would like an initial consultation at Pace Counselling & Hypnotherapy or call  07936 556314

Recovery from Trauma

Restorative Yoga 

Restorative-Yoga-284x200

On a non-professional basis, I recently met Fiona, a woman who was overcoming acute trauma in her life following the tragic death of one of her children. She was inspirational in all that she had done and was continuing to do in the process of re-navigating her life and her emotinal recovery. Fiona told me that a vital part of her trauma recovery was through Restorative Yoga. This prompted me, with Fiona’s permission and some of her words, to write something about restorative yoga and her personal experience of how this had helped her. “Days and nights blurred into one another as I lay on my bedroom floor, fetal position, swaddled in a blanket of paralyzing grief and despair. This was two years ago when the worst thing that could ever happen to me happened, a precious child of mine died. That moment, that very second in time that I laid eyes upon my son’s lifeless body ‘I’ was no longer. Disorientated I could not find my way out of this horrible immobilizing fog until the day restorative yoga showed me the way.” Restorative Yoga uses props like yoga blocks, bolsters and blankets to allow your body to fully relax in each posture. This helps you achieve physical, emotional and mental relaxation. Some poses target specific areas of the body, and others work with the entire body. It promotes stillness, relaxation and a calmer state of mind perhaps more than other forms of yoga and is known to provide healing , reduce stress, and particularly help you overcome emotional distress and anxiety following traumatic events. “Restorative yoga threw me a life line that I grabbed and desperately hung on to. Gradually I began to have body and breath awareness and some days I could transfer this to my day which helped me to cope. Once I became connected to my breath my whole nervous system seemed to calm down and become quieter….” “This meditative style of yoga has given me the coping tools to go to in difficult times. I practice almost every day no matter where I am and most definitely use breath awareness every single day to keep me grounded and going forward. In the home I would use couch cushions, bed pillows, blankets, thick towels. The idea is to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible with no strain and the more fully supported your body is the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be to allow the nervous system to calm down and drop the deepest layers of tension. This allows the Parasympathetic nervous(relax and renew) system to take charge for a while which brings the body back to a state of equilibrium, slows down the heart rate, dilates blood vessels, activates digestion, and stores energy.” It is not unusual to feel disassociated or disconnected from yourself following a traumatic experience. Practices such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation, in addition to talking therapies such as counselling can help bring the body actively into the healing process , alongside the mind, so that you can feel whole again. “While lying on my mat in deep relaxation I became aware of my body, mind, and soul being connected as one riding on the ebb and flow of my natural breath. There was no past, no future, just in the now, in this place of complete stillness and ease. My head and body was so spacious-everything was one with my surroundings-no thoughts, only a profound relaxed feeling of peace….” Fiona trained and qualified as a Restorative Yoga teacher herself in 2013 Useful links: http://www.bwy.org.uk/ http://www.samaritans.org/ If you are struggling to overcome a traumatic experience, or suffering from anxiety, depression or stress, I am offering a free initial counselling session.  Please contact me on 07936 556314 or e-mail: sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk