A New School Year

 

Back to School Road Sign

Back to School

It’s the beginning of a new school year and this can bring with it a mixture of anticipation, excitement, anxiety and stress for parents and students alike.  Far away from what might have been a relaxed, unstructured Summer break for the students, the new school year brings new faces, homework, and structured, scheduled activities. 

Some tips for getting back into the school routine, physically and emotionally!

1.       The benefits of a good night’s sleep for all of us can help energise and focus us for the day ahead.  Sleep is also key to ensuring our memory consolidates, by helping different pieces of information we have learned in the day to come together.  Talking with your child about the benefits of sleep and how this can help them physically and emotionally may be useful, as will getting back into meal and bedtime routines at least a week before school starts.

 2.       With every new school year can come a fresh start.  A chance to take on new opportunities and set new goals.  Discussing and setting some goals with your child perhaps about activities they would like to be involved in, or how they would like to develop can be a helpful start to the school year.

 3.       For any anxious child, helping them get to know the setting of the school (if it is a new one) can help.  Even if it is not possible to visit inside the school beforehand, walking around the surrounding area can be reassuring. Visualise with your child the new classroom experience being successful, and encourage them to visualise themselves feeling calm and confident as they meet other students and new teachers.

It is not at all unusual for children to feel worried about the beginning of the new school year, particularly if he or she is also having to make a transition into a different school.  After a few days or weeks, any anxiety should lessen, but if it continues, then speaking to a form teacher can be a good first step to seeing how best to support your child.  Alternatively, seeing a counsellor within the school or externally can provide additional support. 

www.pacecounselling.co.uk

 

 

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Managing Anxiety

Anxiety

“Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Experiencing stress and anxiety is something that we all have from time to time, but it’s when feelings of anxiety stop you from doing things in your life and begin to feel overwhelming that it’s worth exploring ways of managing the feelings differently.

There are a number of physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that people can experience when they feel anxious, and Anxiety UK details some of these:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased muscle tension
  • “Jelly legs”
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Hyperventilation (over breathing)
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wanting to use the toilet more often
  • Feeling sick
  • Tight band across the chest area
  • Tension headaches
  • Hot flushes
  • Increased perspiration
  • Dry mouth
  • Shaking
  • Choking sensations
  • Palpitations

Some of the most common thoughts that people can have when they are experiencing anxiety are:

  • Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
  • Thinking that you might die
  • Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint
  • Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
  • Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
  • Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
  • Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
  • Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you

Sometimes it may be possible to identify a particular event or incident that has caused your anxiety, e.g. relationship problems; bereavement; job interview; moving house. Other times, it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what may have triggered the anxious or stressful feelings. There might also be a build up over time of different stresses.

Anxiety can put us into “fight or flight” mode, with our brain thinking that it needs to protect us from a threatening situation, even though there may not  be any real current threat. This is often a result of an outdated response linked to an event or experience in the past which may still be having an impact, and getting triggered in the present. E.g. a childhood experience of feeling embarrassed or humiliated at school when speaking out in class being linked to a fear of speaking out in a team meeting at work or delivering a presentation.

Counselling and hypnotherapy can be helpful in dealing with both the underlying causes of anxiety and in developing strategies for managing situations and feelings, so that they do not begin to overwhelm you.

Here are some of my top tips for reducing anxiety at difficult times:

  1. Focus on your breathing; slowly and deeply. Breathe in for the count of 4 and out for the count of 8
  2. Distract and occupy yourself with something else, e.g. make a cup of tea; take a bath;
  3. Take some gentle exercise, e.g. walk, yoga
  4. Talk to someone
  5. Visualise a calm peaceful place, perhaps somewhere you have been or would like to go, e.g. a beach, a lake, and imagine a bridge that you can cross in your mind that takes you there
  6. Use grounding techniques to distract yourself, such as using all your senses, e.g. noticing what is around you and saying to yourself, “The walls are white; there are four grey chairs; there is a wooden bookshelf against the wall…”
  7. Describe objects, sounds, textures, colours, smells, shapes, numbers, and the temperature. This is something you can do anywhere.
  8. Dig your heels into the floor-literally “grounding” them. Notice the tension centred in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself you are connected to the ground.
  9. Remember the words to an inspiring song, quote or poem.
  10. Play a categories game with yourself, e.g. think of types of animals, names of countries that begin with the letter ‘A’ etc. This form of mental grounding can help distract you from any overwhelming feeling.

If the feelings of anxiety or stress continue, or you have been experiencing these feelings for some time and are finding it difficult to manage them, a combination of self-help using the above top tips, and seeing a professional counsellor and/or hypnotherapist can help. By having a space to talk about and explore your feelings, you will be able to gain an understanding for yourself about what the underlying causes and issues may be, and develop lasting strategies for overcoming these.

If you would like further help in resolving and managing anxiety, please contact sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk for an initial discussion or telephone Sharon on 07936 556314

https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

(Anxiety Graphic by Adele Palmquist)

 

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.

 

Lifespan Integration and Trauma Recovery

LI

I am just back from some excellent training in Lifespan Integration, which is a relatively new therapeutic technique in the UK to help adults overcome the effects of early trauma and neglect. Lifespan Integration was developed in 2002 in the USA by Peggy Pace.  It utilises up to date neuroscience research of how our brain and memory are affected by trauma and attachment issues. 

It is already well known that traumatic experiences can impact children during their early development, and can have lasting effects into their adult lives, affecting how individuals view themselves and others in the world for the rest of their lives.  For example, as adults, we might find ourselves reacting very emotionally to other people or situations in a way that feels disproportionate for what is happening.  This can often be because we are being sub-consciously triggered by a past memory or feeling that has not been resolved for us.  Lifespan Integration works by helping the adult client enter into an internal dialogue with his or her ‘child state’ and using the client’s active imagination to repair early life experiences.  The client is then led through a Time Line of his or her memories which has the powerful effect of proving to his or her mind and body that life is different now and that whatever happened is well and truly in the past.  This brings about the integration of memories in a very gentle, non-traumatising way by joining up neural structures across the individual’s lifespan.  When memories are integrated in this way, we become less ‘triggered’ by past events, and it therefore becomes possible to respond to current situations and other people in more age appropriate ways.  Having participated in the technique myself during the training, both by being on the receiving end and also as a therapist, I experienced and saw that connections made were at a deep level but in a way that was non-traumatising.  Lifespan Integration is an invaluable therapeutic technique which enables us to gain a greater understanding and resolution of early memories. This in turn allows us to respond in more helpful ways to stressful situations in our current lives.

If you feel that past events in your life are continuing to affect how you view yourself and others, and you would like help to make changes, please contact Sharon Convisser at Pace Counselling & Hypnotherapy on 07936 556314 for an initial consultation. 

Useful Links:

http://lifespanintegration.com/

 

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

Counselling in Schools

School CounsellorWith the new school year starting, new routines, schedules, challenges, hopes and expectations all come with it.  Working as a counsellor in private practice and also with young people in a school setting, I see not only the pressures on young people of adjusting to these changes within school, but also their stress of managing emotional difficulties at home alongside their academic life.

Although there are a number of schools across the UK that provide a counselling service for their students, often with the assistance of a charitable organisation such as Place2be or the YMCA, there are unfortunately far too many schools that still do not have this provision.  There is a wealth of evidence that points to there being a need for mental health support in schools, as can be seen by the following statistics:

  • 1 in 10 children and young people (aged 5-16) suffer from a mental health disorder (i.e. around 3 children in every class) and many continue to have these problems into adulthood;
  • Between 1 in every 12 to 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm;
  • Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression. Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years;

(Sources: Green, H; McGinnit, A; Meltzer, H; et al. (2005) Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain 2004; Mental Health Foundation (2006) Truth Hurts)

There are times when it can be very confusing for a child to understand what is happening to them and express what they are feeling.  A school counselling service can play a vital role in providing young people with support to help them understand their emotions and develop ways of managing their difficulties at school and at home.   There is no doubt that if a child receives support for mental health distress at an early age, then they are less likely to suffer from serious mental health problems as they develop into adulthood.  In addition, from my own experience in working with young people, I can see clear indications of how promoting positive mental health can help improve attendance rates at school and reduce the level of student exclusion.

In the absence of a school counselling service, the next route for mental health support for a child or young person would be via the family General Practitioner, who can complete a referral to a specialist service such as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).  There are also several agencies which are committed to providing advice and support for the emotional well-being and mental health of children and young people, and some helpful links are at the bottom of this page.

One particular innovative organisation, Relax Kids, produces products and runs workshops for children to help them cope with stress.  The classes teach mindfulness and relaxation strategies for calming down and building their self-esteem.  Relax Kids is being used in some schools and private classes are run in various areas of the UK.

If you know of any child or young person who may benefit from emotional support for mental health difficulties, I would suggest a first step would be to see if any counselling provision is available within their school.  If not, contact via the GP or a referral to a private counsellor can help take things forward.

Sharon Convisser is a counsellor registered with the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy.  Telephone  07936 556314 to arrange a free initial consultation or   e-mail sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk

Useful Links:

http://www.nspcc.org.uk/

http://www.childline.org.uk/

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/

http://www.relaxkids.com/

http://www.bacp.co.uk/

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

Grounding Techniques

There are occasions when emotional pain can feel so overwhelming that it may be helpful to be able to detach from your feelings and stay safe.  In particular, if you have suffered trauma either in the past or recently, you may find yourself struggling with intrusive and disturbing memories of what happened, either feeling overwhelmed with emotions, or perhaps feeling numb and disconnected.  There are certain techniques called ‘Grounding’ which can help you regain a sense of safety and help you tolerate the emotions.  The strategies work by distracting your attention to what is going on externally around you, focussing you on the here and now.  The techniques can be a useful support alongside seeking professional counselling and/or hypnotherapy to help you deal with the underlying issues.

Grounding can be done anywhere at any time and it helps you stay in touch with the present, and not focus on the past or the future.  It is an active strategy and can help with extreme negative feelings.  Here are some grounding strategies which may be of help:

  • Look around your surroundings and focus on the detail around you. For example, observe to yourself, “The walls are cream; there are 4 green chairs etc….” “I am on the train; I am looking out of the windows and I can see gardens; I am on the Bakerloo line and the next station is……”
  • Find something around you that you can see and which appeals to you. Ask yourself what you like about it; what texture it is; what size it is; what shape it is; what colour it is.
  • Say a safety statement such as:  “My name is ………….; I am safe now.  I am in the present, not the past.  The date today is….. and I am standing in the supermarket/office/street etc………”
  • Focus on your breathing. Imagine as you breathe in a balloon inflating in your stomach, and as you breathe out, imagine the balloon deflating.
  • Play a categories game with yourself. For example, try to think of songs, animals, tv shows, countries that begin with A, B, C etc.
  • Eat something and describe the flavours to yourself in detail
  • Describe an everyday activity in detail to yourself. For example, a meal that you cook (“First I peel the onion and then slice it; then I peel some garlic; I fry the onion and garlic and then….etc”)
  • Dig your heels into the ground and feel yourself connected to the ground, or stamp your feet and notice the power in your legs as you do.

One or more of the techniques may suit you better than others and it is important to go with what works for you.  It can be useful to practise the technique(s) regularly, and you do not need to wait until you are feeling in crisis to do this.  The more frequently you can use the strategy when you are not in crisis, the more familiar you will be with it for the times when you feel overwhelmed.

If you are struggling with emotional difficulties and wish to explore the possibility of counselling and/or hypnotherapy, please e-mail sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk or telephone 07936 556314 to arrange an initial session.

Useful Contacts:

http://www.mind.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/