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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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.

 

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