I hope Easter provided an opportunity for some rest and relaxation, but if even with days off you’re still feeling tired or stressed, or wonder when was the last time you genuinely smiled, then there’s a chance you could be heading for burnout.
There’s so much pressure on us all at the moment with the cost of living crisis, COVID still lurking around, on top of the usual family demands, and of course working to pay those ever increasing bills. It’s not surprising then that sometimes we reach a tipping point.
If you can recognise the signs of reaching burnout early, then it is possible to nip it in the bud and ensure you ride the wave keeping you’re mental health on an even keel.
Signs to be aware of:
If you recognise yourself in any of these signs, the time to take action is now. Try and work out what is triggering these harmful behaviours, and undertake to change into healthier ones. This in turn will help you cope with whatever life throws at you.
If you can, take some time out. Talk to family, friends or indeed a Counsellor about what you’re feeling to help gain perspective, and support.
Nurture a social life, take up a new activity or explore new interests away from home and work. Friendships take time and effort but the potential rewards of emotional connection with the right people and support are boundless.
Review your current friendships - spending time with people who make you feel bad about yourself is draining. Is there a reason you are friends? Can the relationship be refreshed?
Reflect on your work life, why did you choose this job or career in the first place? If you can’t make changes, how can you change your attitude towards it? Again Counselling can help re-assess life decisions.
Eating healthily And taking even simple exercise, like walking in nature every day - even for 30 minutes - can help lift your mood and help you stay connected with the world.
Finally, speak to a Counsellor. Reviewing your relationships, work-life balance, sense of safety and connection, re-assess your life decisions, can all help pull you back from the brink of crisis.
You don’t have to go through this on your own.
March has arrived - the meteorological first day of Spring!
Looking out of the window and reflecting on the gloomy rain, it’s a little hard to believe.
However, in a world where we are currently watching the appalling events unfold in Ukraine, still dealing with COVID and the impending effects of climate change, the weather doesn’t feel too important.
I’ve found it particularly hard not be caught up in the television coverage of the Russian invasion. The everyday courage of the Ukrainian people and the inspiring speeches of their President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been hard to ignore when trying to get on with everyday life. Apart from donating to Support charities and rummaging through wardrobes for anything which might help, it’s hard not to feel powerless.
I find journaling a great way of letting go of pent up emotions, and making sense of those thoughts and feelings, it also stops me becoming overwhelmed and keep a sense of perspective.
I then give myself permission to return to the everyday events happening for me in the here and now, even being grateful that yes Spring is here, and acknowledging that that’s ok.
Sending love to all those affected.
So 2022 has arrived - how are we feeling about it?
For some, a new year brings hope and excitement, for others it can seem like nothing has changed and will bring sadness and even dread.
The first step to change is just the acknowledgment that you are not coping very well, the next is giving yourself permission to ask for help.
We live in a society that expects everyone to stay strong, cope, be resilient, however depression and anxiety are not signs of weakness, they’re signs of staying strong for too long.
Staying strong is utterly exhausting, but it’s what we sometimes have to do to get through life. Counselling is there to help you unload the burden that’s weighing you down, so you can look to the future with hope and excitement.
December 2021. Finding a Moment of Peace in the Holiday Season
The Christmas holiday season is traditionally time of fun and thanksgiving - enjoying food and gifts with family and friends. However, sadly it can also be a time when discord and stresses come to the surface, causing anxiety and overwhelm. Particularly as we’ve all faced such a challenging 2 years.
If you start to feel that stresses and negative thoughts are beginning to overwhelm you, then this simple grounding technique is really effective at bringing you back to the present and stepping off the repeated cycle of anxious thoughts. This technique encourages you to use all your five senses to help you to be more present in the moment.
Firstly, find a chair and sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees. Close your eyes and taking a couple of deep breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth.
Now open your eyes and look around you. Name out loud:
5 – things you can see – eg pictures, furniture, walls, flowers etc
4 – things you can feel – eg the texture of the material on your chair or your clothing, temperature in the room. Is there something in front of you that you can touch?
3 – things you can hear – eg traffic noise or birds outside, or even just the sound of yourself breathing,
2 – things you can smell – eg your perfume, coffee, food
1 – thing you can taste - it might be a good idea to keep a piece of chocolate or a mint handy - let it sit on your tongue for a couple of seconds, really savouring the flavour.
Pull your shoulders back and continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth getting extra oxygen into your blood stream. Repeat above if necessary, until you feel calmer and present in the room.
I can take as little as 2 minutes to go through this process, and if you can develop a habit of running through it as soon as anxious feelings start, it can prevent those overwhelming feelings taking hold.
I sincerely wish everyone a peaceful Christmas with some moments of joy, remember to be kind to others and particularly yourself.
If you are dreading this time of year, remember it is only 1 day - do what gives you comfort and joy if you can, and be kind to yourself.
Well, I have some exciting news - I have been nominated and indeed won an award!
I'm so fortunate to do a job I love and feel so passionately about, and to receive recognition for that is very humbling.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery (or indeed anything), with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.
It is also a philosophy - the break represents the most vulnerable points in our lives. The repairs to the cracks are highlighted, rather than disguised to signify strength and healing.
This is a wonderful metaphor for embracing the struggle, emphasising that what we learn along the way can change us for the better, leading to a more fullfilling and meaningful life.
Feeling creative? An introduction to Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP)
Many years ago, whilst assisting with an Adult Literacy class, my Mother developed a friendship with a large bear of a man called *Sam. Sam was a dustman in his 40’s who struggled with acute shyness and a lack of confidence and self-esteem, so it was a big step for him to enrol in this class. His grasp of reading and writing grew slowly, and she gradually introduced longer texts for him to try. Whilst frustrated and a little bored with the level of the content, he seemed overwhelmed by the longer pieces, so she introduced him to poetry, something she had loved since childhood.
Together they explored her favourite poems, from Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’ to Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan.’ He blossomed. His enthusiasm and vocabulary grew quickly, until one day he arrived clutching several crumpled pieces of paper, and he nervously presented her with several self-penned poems. With tears in her eyes, she read free-form contemporary style poems describing Sam’s life, relationships, hopes and dreams – he had been liberated. Over subsequent weeks many more followed. He had opened a connection with his emotions, his feelings, relationships and the outside world, which enriched both their lives, and impacted mine.
Whilst training as a Counsellor I was introduced to the idea of thinking creatively as a way of exploring and making sense of emotions, thoughts and feelings with clients. Many people feel anxious and depressed without really understanding why, or just get stuck in a pattern of behaviour.
Creativity can help unlock the vocabulary to express those feelings, and explore issues such as identity, sexuality, bereavement, relationships, trauma, well in fact just about any issue.
As a qualified CWTP Practitioner, I introduce my clients to objects, pictures, poetry, prose, and many other forms to stimulate connections and thoughts, together with simple exercises to explore language, writing in whatever form they feel most comfortable. I encourage free writing, thought journals, music, drawings – any form of creative expression with which they feel a connection.
CWTP is for everyone - grammar, spelling etc are completely irrelevant, in fact it doesn’t even have to make sense to anyone else – it’s just a place to find and express your voice in an environment of non-judgement and total confidentiality.
This speech by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Robert Ebert in 2005, was originally about film, but films are visual representations of words, and it sums up for me how creativity can not only foster self-exploration and offer comfort, but also facilitate understanding and connections to others.
“We are all born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We are kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathise a little bit with other people, find out what makes them tick, what they care about. For me, …writing is … like a machine that generates empathy. If it’s a great …piece of writing…, it lets you understand a little bit more about what it’s like to be a different gender, a different race, a different age, a different economic class, a different nationality, a different profession, different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us….”
Sam found his voice and identity through creativity, and so can you.
*Please note ‘Sam’ is a pseudonym to protect his confidentiality.
Spring is in the air...
It may be just wishful thinking on my part, but on my morning walk yesterday the signs of spring were definitely in the air. It was brilliant to see the first signs of leaves becoming greener, a few flowers brave enough to go into bud, feeling the sun on my face and the sounds of birds announcing their return home. One of the blessings of this last year for me has been getting out into nature, and more than ever before I’ve felt a connection with the changing of the seasons. Who would have thought a simple thing like going for a walk could provide such a wonderful distraction from the challenges we’ve all had to face.
Never before has there been such a collective acknowledgement in the country for the need for good mental health. It’s not just about recognising how our past experiences and relationships affect our wellbeing in the here and now, that is often the first step to take, but in that recognition reflecting on how we can protect ourselves and be more resilient looking forward into the future.
One of my favourite metaphors is that of the oxygen mask on an aeroplane – in the safety announcement we are told to put our own mask on first before helping others. We can’t hope to support our friends and family, or deal with the stresses and strains of a career, if we’re not mentally strong ourselves.
So how can we do that. Well, just acknowledging that you are struggling is a great first step. Checking in with how you’re feeling and coping on a regular basis will help you identify whether you need to take action.
Some people find mindfulness a good place to start dealing with the difficult thoughts and believe it or not, that simple walk in nature is a form of mindfulness. Replacing negative rumination even for a few minutes and acknowledging the beauty of your surroundings distracts and gives your mind a rest. Believe me it is exhausting to worry all the time and giving yourself permission to take a break is important, in fact a vital move towards self-care.
There are several Apps available to help you if you struggle to manage negative thoughts and feelings including, Headspace, Calm, Buddify, Mindfulness and many more. Most offer 10 minute exercises and it is easy to add these into your everyday routine. We can all find 10 minutes - 10 minutes which could help get you through a challenging day. I often incorporate grounding and mindfulness techniques into therapy sessions.
Acknowledging to friends or family that you are struggling is also an important step, allowing yourself to be vulnerable with others when you’ve stayed strong for so long is difficult for some, but can open a gateway to the human connection which is a basic need in all of us.
Next, reflecting on what you can and cannot change in your life. Accepting that you need to make changes can be hard and Counselling can help you explore a way forward to achieve this.
Finally, be kind to yourself and others, it’s been a bruising year for everyone - what with one thing and another – and there are still challenges ahead, but there is every hope that these experiences have forced many of us to reflect on our lives and make changes for the better. Who knows many could be change for the better and lead us to better more fulfilling lives.
For my ‘in person’ clients attending the Guildford Clinic. Firstly, please be assured I will do everything I can to ensure your safety as my first priority, and that there are no interruptions to your therapy.
I am happy to say we are able to remain open during this latest lockdown as we offer front line mental health support. Anyone who would prefer to transfer ‘online’ please let me know and this can easily be arranged.
If you would like to keep attending the clinic ‘in person’ we have restrictions in place. We ask that masks are worn in all communal areas. Unfortunately, we have had to close the reception area so please arrive just before your appointment, sanitise your hands using the dispenser at the entrance and make your way direct to my consulting room.
The rooms are sanitised and aired between clients, glasses washed and chairs socially distanced. If the weather permits the windows will remain open. I may tweak the start/finish times slightly to ensure there is sufficient time to do this but will let you know individually if that’s the case.
New clients are welcome as ever and I will talk you through procedures at the clinic before our first session.
©2022 Jacqui Hames
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