I hope to start writing new posts but here are earlier posts that I have copied over.
This is a list of my past blogs that are available below to read below:
- 27/8/2018 Transformation and Wanting Change
- 2/8/2018 Resilience and How do we Build it?
- 21/6/2018 Being Yourself- Can we find a way?
- 7/6/2018 Living with Uncertainty.
- 17/5/2018 "I don't want to be a burden"- not wanting to bother others.
- 3/5/2018 When is it OK to worry?
- 14/4/2018 Being 'Good Enough' or the problem with perfectionism.
- 30/3/2018 Developing Circles of Support.
- 17/3/2018 We have different relationship styles.
- 12/3/2018 Learning from Wildlife.
- 9/3/2018 Deep Relaxation.
27/8/2018 Transformation and Wanting ChangeI am a keen gardener and I like to think I work with nature. I have been struggling with one well established patch which gets over grown so that I can’t get into it- but it is good for wildlife, teeming with birds and bees when in season. So every year I carried on with my hard work and struggled on for the sake of the wild life but always questioning my effort.
Then this year I suddenly decided 'I don’t have to do this anymore’. I can change things and make it work for me and the wildlife. Yes it does mean some hard work taking things out and clearing space, and it does mean letting go of some things I planted myself. But deciding on change has liberated me to feel energised and enthusiastic as I consider a number of choices in transforming this patch.
This solution seemed so simple I wondered about why I had not done this before. That got me thinking about transformation and change. Sometimes we know what we want but we are worried about making change. Sometimes we want change but we are not sure exactly what. Or maybe we just worry about consequences- change sometimes involves some level of risk.
However the real change has to come from within us. We have to be ready for change. Sometimes we may get a Eureka moment, but often it is a long drawn out process as we reflect about the issue. Maybe doing this repeatedly. This process is important as we carry responsibility for our decisions and taking time means we can pay attention to all the aspects of our issue.
It may seem slow as we delay making a decision, but in reality there are little subtle steps that take place as we consider our situation. Wanting change becomes a theme and by returning to it we create subtle changes in ourselves. Allowing for the possibility of change means we imagine what it might be like, we consider different possibilities, we think about the obstacles and the risks, and we consider about staying with the status quo. We may even try out smaller changes.
Over time this process builds up in momentum so that one day it seems like we know what to do. Transformation does not have to be big, it can be small moments of enlightenment and change as we learn to be open to the new. Trusting ourselves in this process that we will work it out one day enables us to keep going through difficulties and find our own way.
I needed my time to reflect but I also had to be ready for this change. Now I have the joy of transforming my overgrown patch into something that no longer feels difficult and can benefit both me and the wildlife.
02/08/2018 Resilience – How do we build it?When times get difficult how we cope depends on our resilience to take care of ourselves and manage the situation. How we learn about resilience is usually from our upbringing which hopefully gives us a good grounding and various techniques. We continue to develop our ability to deal with difficulties as we mature and grow older: Information about resilience
Resilience is not something we consciously learn as it is a combination of skills, knowledge and experiences we build up individually. But it is something we get to think about when times feel tough and we struggle to manage how we feel, to understand what has happened and to find a way through. Difficult times often lead us to self- question and reflect about our lives which can be positive and add to our learning experience.
Having helpful thought processes, self-care practices and supportive networks can be key to managing difficulties. But at challenging times we can sometimes be prone to self-criticism, neglect ourselves and not make use of available support. Switching off can be a stress response in itself as we try to cope with our emotions. Or maybe how we normally support ourselves is not enough.
There are some basic things to help:
- Relaxation- we need to practice this regularly in order to achieve it. Even if we can bring the tension down a few notches it helps us to feel a little more in control and able to cope better.
- Distraction - Find something worthwhile to do even if for a short while. This doesn’t have to be complex- it can be stroking the cat, going for a walk, calling a friend, doing some cleaning or cooking, watching a positive film. The idea is to take your mind in another direction and feel better. Put your efforts into things you can control and help you feel better even if only for a little while.
- Is there potential for positivity in the challenge?- Health problems may mean taking better care of yourself, relationship issues may mean trying to communicate better. Again this can help us to feel we can get back a measure of control if we can do something to help ourselves.
- Learning- Even if things don’t resolve as hoped, what can you learn from this experience that will help you in the future?
- Keep it in context-Even if you feel you have done something badly, don’t label everything in your life as wrong or everything you are as bad. It is human to make mistakes- keep hold of the whole you, and see yourself in the wider context of all the good things you do as well.
- Commit to keep going with all your relationships – don’t give up on them all if one or two relationships have difficulties.
- See bad events as just temporary- You do still have to get through them but eventually it will pass into memory.
Resilience is a lifelong learning and we all get tested at times. Recognising that there are things you can do to support yourself and get through the hard times is key to how you manage the situation. At the core of all this is how you look after yourself and support yourself. At difficult times we can learn to do this a little better and build our resilience further.
If you would like to check out your own resilience bwp have an online questionnaire and some guidance: bwp resilience
The Samaritans do an online course for young people around building resilience but this can be useful for anyone: Samaritans-resilience
21st June 2018 Being Yourself -Can we find a way?
Many of us talk about being ourselves and encourage others to be themselves. It’s a standard piece of advice yet at the same time it can feel hard to achieve. What does it mean to ‘be your self’? Authenticity, keeping to our values and standards, being true to what we really think or feel? Can we really be true to ourselves when we have so many different roles and responsibilities. And there is a truth that I cannot truly express everything I think and feel in certain roles such as at work or with small children. So what does it mean?
Being ourselves is not just about saying what we think and feel or behaving how we please. It does come with responsibility. It’s about knowing, understanding and accepting how we think and feel so we can make a mindful choice about how we express ourselves. It’s about coming from a place of knowing we are essentially Ok as a person and we can choose how and if to express ourselves (see psychcentral.com/blog/on-being-ourselves-what-this-really-means-what-it-might-look-like/)
If we are not true to ourselves it can be tiring and affect how we feel. It can be exhausting not being true to ourselves. It takes up so much time and energy if we have to keep changing ourselves, adapting how we present, censor ourselves (see psychologytoday- why-you-need-let-yourself-be-yourself ) There is some evidence that people who are more true to themselves feel happier (see psychologytoday what-doesnt-kill-us ). So finding our own authenticity is good for us.
Being ourselves is more about how we think and feel about ourselves. Too often we focus on how people see us or how we might be judged. We worry we will not be accepted or be criticised. And there may be some truth to these fears. If our past experience of being ourselves was we attracted ridicule or bullying, how can we trust other people again? And if these experiences were repeated we may not even need to wait for criticism from others- we do it to ourselves instead. So we censor ourselves, we pretend to be something other. This requires a lot of energy and effort. We are not helped by expectations from others or messages from social media or society to ‘ always get it right’. So we worry and we stop ourselves.
Being authentic and being ourselves does carry risks. It requires a certain level of resilience to understand that the world does not always receive us well or treat people fairly but we can still be ourselves. But resilience is not about being hard and battle ready- it’s about knowing and feeling that you are OK. That most of the time it will probably be Ok and when it is not you will get through. It’s about getting in touch with the core of who you are as a person and knowing that this does not really change unless you choose. The external world cannot change the central core of your being without you.
This involves finding a place of balance within you. The place where you can sit with your core self and not worry about any need to change. Some people were blessed with the right kind of support from childhood to know this from the beginning. Some people have had to learn this later in life. Some people find mindfulness or relaxation operates at this point and helps them to just be with themselves. Some people have used personal development or therapeutic methods to get to that balanced view of themselves. Whatever your chosen method it is possible to feel more accepting of yourself and be more your true self. The outside world stays outside and you can feel calm just being your natural self.
I liked what Caroline McHugh has to say about being yourself (see McHugh).
7th June 2018- Living with UncertaintyWorking with uncertainty requires that we support ourselves to tolerate the not-knowing. How we value ourselves and trust our abilities to make decisions affects how much we cope with uncertainty. Here are my list of tips :
First try to relax: We can make better decisions when we are more grounded and calm. If you are prone to anxiety, then learning self-help relaxation techniques could help you reduce tensions. Even being more aware of your breathing and slowing down may help.
Look for the positive: if we are consumed with the negative, it may be helpful to bring attention to the more positive alternatives rather than expect the worst. Focus on what you do know and what you can do. If we dwell on what we cannot do, we essentially disempower ourselves and keep us stuck. Sometimes just trying something may help. Thinking about the wider field of possibilities may reduce the power of a narrow negative focus.
Acceptance: Sometimes we just have to accept that we cannot know or control everything. Nor would this be desirable, as we would become overloaded. We also have to accept that both we and our world can never be perfect. Learning to accept our limitations is not always easy but does help us cope.
Value yourself: Trusting that you are an OK person who can cope with whatever life sends you is a valuable skill. If you know you will find a way to manage the uncertainty you are more likely to tolerate it. Building up your self-esteem can help cope with the questions.
Consider planning: If there is the possibility of something not working out, see if you can make a plan to cover possibilities- but don’t dwell on them, move on.
Avoid focusing on anxieties: There’s no need to dwell on our fears. Once we recognise them and accept their limitations, we can move on.
Get support: Ask friends, family and colleagues for advice. Check things out. There is a wealth of sites on the Internet where people also consult without getting involved. You don’t have to be alone with your issue.
Relax- Remember to look after yourself throughout the process. Self-care is an ongoing need to help us cope with life.
In my view, most people often have more skills and abilities than they realise to manage the ups and downs life sends us. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed and forget what we already know or what we can do. Taking care of ourselves, seeking support and advice, and taking stock is often what helps us get through.
You may find this useful:
17th May 2018 "I don't want to be a burden"- not wanting to bother others.
Having problems is a universal human experience. There is no one on this planet today not facing some problem or other. We all have to work out on a daily basis how to face the day but it is how we deal with our challenges that shows our individual differences.
Most people manage to get up, feed themselves and get dressed but even this can feel a challenge to some when feeling low. Facing a stressful job, family or relationship issues, money worries, dealing with loss or ill health can all present challenges to us. Some people may have long term difficulties with anxiety or depression as a result of past experiences that challenge them in everyday life. We all try to find ways to get through our difficulties.
People use a variety of techniques to support themselves when facing stressful issues- from relaxation, distraction, physical activities, even watching TV. My personal favourite is gardening and walking in natural habitats. Whatever works for you is a good starting point to build on when you need extra support.
In my view, the best self- support is to talk things over with others. If we have a good support network we may have different people we can talk to about different things. Or maybe we have a few close core friends with whom we can share our worries- and visa versa. Most people manage through this kind of support.
However, for some people or at certain times sharing problems becomes a concern in itself. Perhaps we are concerned about the problems and stress levels of our friend or family. If our problem seems unsolvable or has been ongoing for a long time, we may worry about overburdening people. Or maybe that people will not understand or could even criticise us. This makes it feel hard to share and we end up missing out on potential extra support.
There is no hard and fast rule here. Only you know what your support network is like, but in therapy and counselling we examine potential support and what gets in the way. Where people are concerned about being a burden we discuss what this looks like, any evidence for it and ways to manage it. We consider how to test out relationships by a step by step approach or maybe choosing one person to share with. In general most people find it was worth the effort to share with a friend.
In my experience as a Therapist, I find most people who care about us would like to help in some way when we face difficulties. Even with their own problems they can often offer some support even if it is just to listen sometimes. If we are concerned we can always just ask them how much support they can give us. We can also be responsible to monitor ourselves, or listen to advice, if our support needs become too great- maybe this is time for professional help such as consulting our GP.
Nowadays the Internet also provides us with a large choice of web sites and chat rooms to get information and support online or in the community. If friends and family are not helpful, or the problem is too complex for them to resolve, Counselling and Psychotherapy can be a useful tool. Or we may go to organisations that provide support for our particular problem. In the end, we focus on what is helpful to us. The important thing is that sharing with someone often does help us.
The following are examples of web sites that may be useful.
1)How we ask for help- although this is geared to care I thought it had useful tips. How we ask for help
2)Sometimes we may have to ‘educate’ our friends and family to understand more about how we feel. There is a lot of useful information on mind information-support
3)If friends and family are not always as supportive as we would like it is important that we do not turn inwards to criticise ourselves - verywellmind-unsupportive-friends-and-family
3rd May 2018 Anxiety – When is it OK to worry?Anxiety is a common theme for many people. It is one of those feelings that regularly occurs throughout our lives. It is actually a useful survival tool- our ancestors would have had to worry if that tiger was around the corner or where to get their next meal. That prompted them to take action to minimise risks. So a certain amount of anxiety is useful and understandable.
In modern times, it is normal to be anxious about an exam or a job interview and people have various techniques to help them cope. In my view, a certain amount of anxiety can be good for us in flagging up a need and prompting us to take care of ourselves. If we didn’t worry about crossing busy streets we might get knocked down!
There are times when our anxiety levels naturally rise eg at times of loss or major change, health problems, major events. Often recognising this is temporary and having some basic skills to help us cope gets us through. Knowing we will be OK in the end often helps.
At other times, coping with anxiety can feel difficult because we do not have an easy answer. Uncertainty , doubts, feeling overwhelmed can ramp up the anxiety so we do not feel we can manage it. We just want it to go away. At these times, our wellbeing is affected and we are not sure how to cope leading us to question our sense of ourselves. In extremes, it can trigger the stress responses of’ flight or fight’ leading to physical changes in our bodies- mind-information-support.
Coping with anxiety is a life skill that we all learn to varying degrees but events may get in the way of how we develop our skills. Difficult childhoods or past experiences may impact on how we learn to manage our anxieties and trust ourselves.
In therapy, we often start with looking at the issue of support- both self-support and from others. I am a great believer in people developing their own ‘toolkit’ of strategies. What works for some may not work for others. It is important we develop what works for us.
Most people have a range of strategies they already use to support themselves and we look at how any of these can be developed or strengthened. A lot of people learn new strategies such as ‘Mindfulness’ or may use sport to help them cope. I look at what people are drawn to and want to develop for themselves- as well as what gets in the way.
We often explore where tension is kept in the body and the breathing- so people can practice relaxing and become more aware when tension starts to build. Often this is a difficult one if people are used to holding a lot of tension so we explore this in manageable stages so relaxing can become more normalised.
We also look at triggers and how to take action before the anxiety escalates. Most people are aware of what makes them anxious so planning ahead can reduce tension and help us feel more in control.
We also look at support networks and who is available for support- this can be known people, agencies, online resources etc. Sometimes this can flag up a need to build our network or make better use of them.
Some strategies may not be healthy such as drugs or alcohol but until people find other ways to help them cope it can be difficult to give these up. Recognising that there are other options can support building alternatives into your life.
As we develop our ‘toolkit’ of techniques we also examine our thoughts and feelings. Learning strategies helps us contain thoughts and feelings but we may need to process ideas that escalate the anxiety so we can reduce them. Getting fears and anxieties into proportion is important to help us cope but may take repetition if it has become a pattern long established.
Anxiety is a normal part of life and can be useful to help us look after ourselves. We will never be worry free but we can learn how to deal with our anxieties. Knowing that we have techniques to help us cope, that there are people or places we can find support and understanding our own thought processes helps us find a way through. Life is never going to be worry free but we can learn to trust in our ability to cope and adapt to whatever happens.
14th April 2018 Being 'Good Enough' or the Problem with Perfectionism
A concept we work with in therapy is ‘good enough parenting’. This was an idea developed by an eminent Psychoanalyst Winnicott and later developed by others- a general summary was written by Gray in psychologytoday-the-good-enough-parent-is-the-best-parent.
Basically, the idea is that parents do not have to be perfect and accept their children as they are whilst supporting them to understand more about themselves and their world. Parents just need to be ‘good enough’ to support their children to find reasonable ways to deal with an imperfect world and the ups and downs of life. This is not about blaming parents but about recognising how important they are in supporting us to find our way in the world.
There is nothing wrong with aspiring to high standards and wanting to achieve the best results. In fact, wanting to improve enables us to develop and build our skills and knowledge. Some tasks need to be performed to a very high standard especially if risks are high. The problem comes when only perfection will do and how we feel when it is unattainable or comes at a high price to ourselves. This may be about not achieving something specific or it could be about not having the time to achieve the high standards we set ourselves. This may lead us to drive ourselves to a level of stress that affects our well-being and generates self-criticism and shame so we feel there is something wrong with us.
Part of the work of therapy is to support putting things in context and looking at issues holistically. In therapy, I try to explore what may be ‘good enough’ even if not perfect. Often this involves looking at a spectrum of choices and working out what would be disastrous and what would be acceptable. Is it achievable to always be close to perfect? What would be the consequences of allowing ourselves a little more slack? Of course there will always be things that should be carried out at high standards but can we take a more pragmatic approach to allow some tasks to be ‘good enough’.
Sometimes we find that messages have been internalised from childhood about expectations. This could be frequent criticisms and dissatisfactions that make children try harder or could be polarised attitudes about what is acceptable. If we have been taught only perfect or one specific thing will do, it is hard to consider anything else as good enough. This can lead to having our own ‘inner-critic’ ready to tell us how we are not good enough.
In therapy, we work with having a counter –balance to the situation by developing alternatives and challenging the inner-critic. Inner -critics can be useful but they do need to be balanced with a wider balanced view. Am I really such a bad person? Have I really done such a bad job? From looking at choices and considering a wider perspective, people then make their own choices about how they want to live and work. Considering flexibility and adaptability often supports managing the stress and finding what works for us.
Learning to accept ourselves as an ‘OK’ human being even when we do not always succeed as we would wish is important to cope with stress and difficulties. Seeing ourselves as having choices and being adaptable to life helps us to build resilience and supports us to look after ourselves when times are difficult. Being ‘good enough’ is part of being human even if we do aspire to higher things as well.
30th March 20182018 Developing Circles of SupportI often use ‘Circles of Support’ which is a person centred concept taken from supporting people with disabilities to be more independent and included in society. I like this way of looking at how we have different levels of support around us. It is a concept that has grown to be used in other spheres such as the workplace, life coaching, supporting vulnerable others. Another term that can be used is ‘Circle of Friends’ : circles-support
Imagine concentric circles and at the centre is yourself. How you support your self is the core of how you live and something we often talk about in therapy. Then you look at the people in your life and where you would place them on the circles. Some people may be close and very much on the inner circles. Others may be more on the outer circles. Some people may even move around the circles as we stay in and out of touch or maybe we get different types of support at certain times. The circles are not static as we adapt them throughout our lives.
There is no right or wrong in this. Some people have a few close friends or family clustered in the central circle. Some people have a spread across the circles, including people on the outer circles who are more superficial friends but still good to spend some time with. Each person has their place including work colleagues, family, and maybe even pets. Not forgetting that we may even contact professionals, helplines and information services to get support. It’s your circle and it is your choice. The question is- does it meet your needs when you need support? If this circle of support is not balanced for you, it is worth exploring what you can do to build it further.
At times of difficulty we often re-examine our circle of support but it is not only about having a social network but also how we use it. Of course, every person on the circle has their own strengths, weaknesses and difficulties which may affect how much and what type of support they can offer. We are also on their circle of support so may be wary of over-burdening them. Even if we have people willing to support us, we may stop ourselves from sharing a difficulty by thinking our issue is not serious enough or too difficult. Sometimes we can do ourselves a disservice by not making use of the support we have.
By thinking about who we have available for support and how we use it, we can better support ourselves at times of need. This is a theme that comes up often in therapy as we look at the messages we tell ourselves that may limit the support we get. By supporting ourselves, we can also better support others in our circle – a mutual benefit.
17th March 2018 We have Different Relationship Styles
I sometimes like to watch videos by other therapists to see how they describe interesting subjects- and of course to hopefully learn something myself. I was interested in this video that describes four types of communication styles in relationships: Relationship styles