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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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

 

 

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/

 

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/

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/