Leaning on alcohol….

This challenging and anxiety provoking time can lead to a lot of people developing some very self-destructive behaviour. It can become hard to focus on moderation when managing lockdown, the anxiety as we come out of it and all of the struggles that come with managing it. One of the things that many people are leaning on very heavily right now is alcohol.

But when is it really too much ??

If your reading this then its for a reason – ask yourself the following questions.

Do you find yourself thinking about alcohol a lot?
Do you crave having a drink?
Do you see alcohol as a reward when something has gone well?
Do you turn to alcohol when you are stressed?
Do you use alcohol to suppress feelings?
Do you drink when you are upset?
Do you get very down or angry when you drink alcohol?
Do you find that you black out or cant remember things?
Do you spend a lot of your time hungover?
Do you find that your work is suffering due to your alcohol use?
Do you feel lethargic and tired a lot of the time?
Do you find that your day to day life is suffering?
Do you find that you forget things regularly?
Do you feel like things are slipping out of control?
Do you feel as though alcohol is taking over?
Do you find that you cant sleep?
Do you see alcohol as a way of coping with lockdown?
Do you find yourself withdrawing from friends and family?

If your answer is yes to some or most of these questions, then you currently have a negative relationship with alcohol.

Alcohol can become very addictive – and like any addiction, that cycle is very hard to break. Often when people feel low, stressed, overwhelmed etc – they use alcohol to self-medicate. Perhaps that’s what you are doing right now? Using alcohol to numb your feelings – to even block them out. Maybe you now feel dependent on it to survive. And the thought of a night off – well it becomes unmanageable.

I’m sure there is a lot of denial for you at the moment – no one ever wants to admit that something is becoming a problem for them. It is hard to be honest with yourself – or with anyone else. It is easier to try and pretend you have it all under control.

Perhaps you are having a few glasses alone. Perhaps half a bottle has turned into a bottle every night. And before you know it – your opening a second one. Maybe you are drinking at a much faster pace then you ever did before. And your need to keep going is getting stronger. You may be finding it hard to ever stop.

Sometimes alcohol can lead to black outs and forgetting part of the night. People can try to gloss over this. You become well equipped at laughing at yourself. And at justifying yourself. There are reasons – you haven’t slept well or you didn’t eat enough. The list goes on.

There is such dangerous side to this relationship with alcohol – not only can it lead to emotional outbursts – anger, upset, frustration etc. It can be very destructive for relationships. It can also pull you down into a dark place – depression creeps in. You can’t sleep. Your exhausted all the time and may fall asleep in front of the tv. But when you go to bed – you are awake all night. It’s hard to switch off. The alcohol might knock you out for a bit but before you know it your awake and your feeling horrendous.

On top of that it can have a huge impact on your health – your liver first and foremost. But how about your memory too, your cognition, your skin, your weight, your energy levels. You name it – your physical health suffers as much as your mental wellbeing. And before you know it your looking in a mirror seeing a pale version of yourself. A tired version of yourself. A bloated version of yourself. A depressed version of yourself. You feel low, you feel down and you realise you have been neglecting yourself for quite some time.

I often say to my clients – you have to hit rock bottom before you can climb back up again. And this really is true. One day you make wake up and be so upset and realise what have I been doing to myself? One day you may think what has happened to me? One day you may go so far and then realise how out of control things have got. And on that day you make a decision – you make a decision to sober up.

To take real actual care of yourself and to change things. That’s the hardest decision in the world – putting alcohol down. It means facing up to everything around you – it means dealing with all that stresses you out and addressing it. It means facing up to the things that are hard and it won’t be easy. But once you do it – it will be life changing.

Many people will say they will wait until lockdown is totally over before they make the changes. They will tell themselves that now is not the time to turn things around. They will convince themselves that isolation is too stressful.

However maybe now is the ideal time to start taking real care of yourself. Perhaps it’s the time to really focus on what you need. Working towards a healthier lifestyle – physically and mentally. Emotionally getting on a better path – that’s not easy. Not easy at all. But remaining the same is destroying you – you become a shadow of who you once were.

Use this time – take the steps….

The following is a useful list of how to try and change things.

• Talk to the people closest to you about your feelings
• Ask them to help you as you work towards changes
• Find some useful and positive distraction techniques
• Make time for exercise – in moderation
• Work on a way of de stressing – breathing techniques, mindfulness practice, yoga etc
• Improve your self-care – make time for a walk, a bath, a book
• Keep a journal
• Get to bed at a decent time each night
• Try to wind down before going to bed
• Start seeing a therapist
• Write a list of all the positives without overusing alcohol
• Set yourself realistic targets – certain nights off, certain amounts etc
• Put away the money you were spending on alcohol each day – for something positive
• Invest in things for you instead of alcohol
• Find other activities to do that don’t involve alcohol
• Do things with your friends / partner / family that don’t involve alcohol
• Realise you are worth so much more
• Learn to love and respect yourself
• Work on the relationship you have with yourself
• Slow down and focus on what’s in front of you

Remember you have got this – you can do this. The power for change is with you.

Light at the end of the tunnel

A phrase I am hearing more and more at the moment is, – ‘there is light at the end of the tunnel’.

As we reach a year of being on and off in lockdown, it marks something quite significant for all of us. A year of battles, emotional, physical, and psychological. A year of resilience being pushed to the limit. A year of isolation and ongoing frustration. A year of missing those we love and care about. A year of our routines and norms being challenged and changed so much. A year of survival. A year of somehow digging deep and pulling through. The ups, the downs, the highs, the lows. You name it. We made it to this point – and still here we are, in lockdown. It is not easy. It is not something we ever though we would go through in our lifetime. But it is our reality. This pandemic is pushing us all to the edge.

But hold on. Look deep. Somewhere in all of this – there is hope. Somewhere in all this there is the knowledge that something, somehow, will shift. Somewhere in all of this we can all see a tiny glimpse – a small ray – a little sparkle – somewhere, deep down in the darkness – there is light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Sometimes when we are faced with so much darkness, it is hard to see and believe that things will improve. It is hard to comprehend that they will get better. It is hard to hold on to our sense of hope. And it is hard to trust that things will at some point end. When faced with daily struggles and battles it is almost impossible at times to keep going. But we are all stronger than we think. We all have more resilience than we actually are aware of.  And we are all capable of more then we know. When we put our minds to it, when we focus, when we change our outlook or approach, we are capable – we can do this. We can focus on the light and we can survive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There has been so much uncertainty in the last year and the goal posts have changed so many times. It is hard to always trust the process and it is hard to have faith in the possibilities that could be ahead. Of course, it is important to remain grounded and to not get our hopes up too much. But if we do not allow ourselves to believe. If we do not hold on to the hope that things will change – then we will never be able to move forward. We will remain stuck. We will remain lost. And we will remain in a bleak place. To struggle and battle right now is natural – but more then ever we need to try and see that light.

There is hope. Things will improve. Things will get easier. Vaccinations are happening. Things are changing. Restrictions will lift. We will see those we care about again. Things will move forward. We will be able to hug and be close to one another again. We will be able to live life as we once did in a social and connected way. We will be able to work in the way we once did. Things will adjust. Things will adapt. Things will come back to us.

Perhaps it is important to recognise and acknowledge that things might not go back to being the same. After something as significant and life changing as this, how could they? But that change does not have to be negative. We can take forward with us the things that we have learnt, the things that we have developed, the things that have changed us – and we can implement a different way of being. Perhaps one that is important to us. Perhaps one that is true to who we are. Perhaps one that means more to us. We can make it happen. We have the power.

The last year will have changed us all. Of course, it will. So much has happened. But we can all adapt, learn, grow, and develop as a result and we can all move forward in a different way together. Right now, more then ever, we need to hold on. We need to keep the end in sight. To believe and then we can achieve. Keep going – we have got this. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Being in the moment.

One of the hardest skills to develop is the ability to be in the moment.

How often do you see people walking whilst on their phone? How many people do you know that scroll through social media whilst sitting next to someone they care about? How many times do you find yourself doing more then one thing at once?

Human beings – the masters of mindlessness. So often seen rushing from one thing to another, or trying to do several things at once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But how about mastering the ability to be mindful??

Being truly mindful provides us with a greater sense of connection. In many ways it can feel as though you are truly waking up. Feeling alive even. Coming back from a place where you existed – but did not really feel. You functioned but you did not notice. A place where you found it hard to question or challenge your thought processes and often felt absorbed in negativity.

Mindfulness is something that we often hear about. But what does it truly mean?? How does it feel? And how do we go about learning to practice it??

Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and environment in every moment – without passing any kind of judgement. This means hearing, experiencing, recognising – but not responding. As a result, any negativity can be let go of.

To develop our ability to be present in the moment, we need to learn how to focus on the here and now. This can be done by paying attention to our breathing and to our body. If we focus on our breath and slowing it down, then we are truly connecting to ourselves. This enables us to be still.

Mindful breathing mediation is something that all of us can incorporate into our everyday life. Whether we are walking, sat, or lying down. We can all take just a few moments to refocus. Eyes open or eyes closed – it does not matter.  For some people it can be done through yoga, for others through focusing on an object such as a candle. The key is slowing the breath, calming the thought’s, and engaging with yourself. Right in the current moment.

In turn we can learn how to send away the thoughts that come into our heads and to focus entirely on being present in the moment. It is important to note that thoughts and feelings will always come up. Especially when we first try and practice being mindful.  They key is to hear them, recognise them and feel them – without any judgement. And to then work towards letting them go. Sending them away – metaphorically perhaps seeing them float out to sea. They key is finding a method and visualisation that works for you.

We can’t avoid or suppress our thoughts and feelings – that will only lead to things like stress, depression, addiction, insomnia, illness etc. If however we learn to sit with them, to recognise them and to then let them go, we will in turn be healthier, happier, calmer and in a much more positive place.

 

The art of being in the moment. It may sound more complex than it is. What it really means is removing distractions such as the phone, music, television etc. It means stopping in the day and being still. It means taking some time (no matter how small) to focus on being silent, to focus on breathing, and to focus on yourself.  It means being able to totally be. Can you picture that?

It is not easy to do at first – it takes time and patience. It requires trust in the process and the ability to work towards letting things go. It means putting effort into accepting things as they are. Moving away from trying to change things and moving towards a compassionate experience of the present moment. Being truly mindful means to move towards a place of observation and away from a place of analysis, judgement, and an attempt to change things. If we can master this – then we can enjoy things so much more. We can become more connected, more present, and more engaged. As a result, our relationships will be more positive, we will be healthier and happier, our creativity and productivity will flourish, and we will suffer less from anxiety and depression.

What would it be like to go for a mindful walk? A slow pace where you truly take in all your surroundings? Where you are not rushing and not thinking about what you are doing next. On that walk could you imagine hearing the birds sing, truly looking at the leaves, taking in the view etc. How calm would you feel if you could do that? How would your breathing be? How still would your mind be?

What would it be like to eat mindfully? To slow down and enjoy the food you are having. To appreciate the taste, the smell etc. To be thankful for what you are having and aware of how you are nurturing your body.

There are many more examples of when you could be more mindful. Just think – how would it be if you were working more mindfully, parenting more mindfully, socially being mindful. Imagine how focused you would be with someone if you were totally 110% with them. You might hear or notice things that you had never noticed before.

Ultimately being mindful is about clearing your mind of all distractions and fully being present. By doing this you will be so much more appreciative and grateful of what and who you have around you. Instead of focusing on the past or worrying about the future, you will be able to embrace the present. And instead of getting absorbed in negativity you will be able to radiate positivity. This will have such an impact on your life. After all the energy we put out directly relates to the energy we get back.

 

Feeling calm when faced with the unknown.

The unknown is something that can be very scary and unsettling for a lot of people. Human beings are programmed to like structure, routine, to plan and have a sense of predictability in life. When that is not possible, they can often feel overwhelmed.

Very young children can often embrace the unknown with excitement and enjoyment. They can find the magic in uncertain moments and be open to new adventures all the time. It is as they get older that this begins to change – usually as insecurities develop, as outside judgements creep in and often as confidence tends to get knocked.

 

Watching very young children in the moment is so magical. That sense of ease, of being, that joy and the way they embrace life is something we would all love to hold on to and to treasure. The unknown to them is not scary or anxiety provoking – that comes with age. And it makes things far more challenging.

As we grow up we become far more aware of what might happen. We develop a sense of fear. What if things go wrong? What if we can’t do it? We also become acutely aware of what others are thinking – we worry about judgement, we develop insecurities and we start to feel unsure about taking new steps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We begin to question our abilities and we wonder if we are good enough or if we are capable. Suddenly what once seemed exciting when we were young, feels unsettling as we get older. A sense of predictability makes us feel safe, a sense of knowing what is coming next makes us feel calm. Our security comes from knowing what the next stages are. When that is taking away from us, we can feel lost.

Many people for example love the fun and excitement of a holiday, but they often crave coming back to routine and structure. Many people love weekends and days off work / education, but they crave the routine of the week.  Human beings are creatures of habit, and while we can challenge and push ourselves to try new things, we generally like to know where we are at on a day-to-day basis.

Now this is all stripped away from us – the last year has massively changed our lives. All our routines have altered, and so much structure has been lost. Whether its home schooling, working from home, changes in the workplace – there has been so much that has altered. Families and friends cannot meet, all of our social outlets have closed, the leisure industry has shut down. Everything that was once so familiar now feels like so far away. Things are always changing, and we are all having to adapt as we go. As a result, we sit her today facing so much uncertainty and dealing with so much unknown.

We all hold on the positives that are out there – the hope that comes with vaccinations, and with new announcements coming our way. We all hope that life will lift and come back to some version of what feels familiar. But the truth is we do not know for sure. We do not have the answers and we are all sitting here faced with such a huge sense of the ’unknown’.

So – without our usual routines and structure, without our usual planning, without the things that we normally look forward too – how do we all remain calm?? How do we all keep a sense of clarity when faced with so much unknown.

Perhaps it is about how we view the unknown. Perhaps it is also about how we embrace it. Maybe it is about how we cope with it. And maybe it is also about how we let go of what was. If you are struggling with not knowing how things are going to be in your future, then below is a list of suggestions that might help –

  • Hold on to the fact that life is not repetitive – things are always changing – even if we do not always see it.
  • Think about times in your life when the unknown has been powerful – and because of that positive changes have taken place.
  • Remember that it is through our greatest challenges that we often have our greatest growth.
  • Although we may face difficulties, try to hold on to the fact that while we cannot always see it – change is always beautiful in the end.
  • Remember that while navigating your way through scary moments – it is important to try and find some joy along the way. Even if those windows are small.
  • Try not to focus on what others think – when you break it down it does not really matter.
  • Focus on the here and now as much as possible – being mindful and in the moment will instantly bring you a sense of calmness and clarity.
  • Create positive mantras for yourself – that help you to get through the day as calmly and clearly as possible.
  • Imagine how you might like the future to look – but do not put too much emphasis on your visualisations. Know that while you may have an idea of how you would like things to be – its ok for our vision to change.
  • Set yourself a daily goal – no matter how small. Giving each day a sense of purpose will make you feel better and enable things to be more manageable.
  • Do not put yourself under too much pressure – now is not the time for adding pressure to your life. You have not got to do everything right now. Remember its ok to simply ‘be’.
  • As simplistic as it may sound – remind yourself that ‘this will pass’. It can be impossible to hold on to that at times. Especially with the length of time that things have gone on for. But if you can keep telling yourself – it will make things easier to manage.
  • When you find yourself feeling stressed or on edge, try to take a step back and ask yourself does it really matter? Is the thing you are worrying about or focusing on important right now?
  • If you find yourself feeling anxious then it can be useful to work on breathing techniques, to implement things like exercise, walking, reading and yoga into your life. It can help to take time out with things like a bath, meditation etc. And it can also help to write down your worries and imagine how different they might look in a year’s time. Sometimes this is very grounding and settling.
  • Make your self-care total priority and do not feel guilty or bad for doing so. It is so important right now. Whatever you need to do for yourself now – make it a priority and make it happen.
  • Reach out to your support network if you need too. Its ok to ask for help. If you need time and support from your friends and loved ones, then do not be afraid to ask for it. And if you find that you need more support then reach out to the helplines available and embark on the path of therapy if you feel you can. While it may feel scary to do so – it can really make a difference.
  • Finally – learn to expect the unexpected. The more emphasis we put on a plan or focus on how we think our day ‘should’ look – the more unsettled we become when things change. If we are open to change, if we are aware that the unexpected can happen at any given time – then we are far more equipped to cope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are all suggestions and ways to help us all to cope and manage in this uncertain time. It really is not easy for anyone right now – but if work hard to put these things in place then we can find our way back to a place of clarity and calm with more certainty. We can feel more equipped and able to cope with the challenges that life is currently throwing at us. If we are in a calmer head space, if we are taking better care of ourselves, if we are focused on the philosophy of ‘just for today’, then we are far more prepared and able to feel calm as we face the ‘unknown’.

There is no right way.

Right now, all of our normality has been thrown up in the air. There is no set routine, no structure, no regular work patterns, no specific educational systems. Everything is so different, and consequently many people are feeling unsure, at times anxious and experiencing a loss of control.

We have been given many sets of rules and different sets of guidelines, and we have been asked to adhere to them. And so we are all doing our best to keep safe and healthy, but also to keep others safe and healthy. Stay at home, work from home, learn from home, social distancing, masks, no social life – and so it goes on. The list is endless – and we are all doing our best to keep to it every single day.

Right now, is not the time for any kind of judgement. Everyone we meet or know is facing a battle. Everyone is more stressed then usual and coping with many different factors. There are challenges everywhere. It is not easy for anyone. And as everyone finds their own way through this all – it is important that we remember that there is no right way of doing things.

 

By this I do not mean the rules or following the guidelines. I mean with the way that people cope. While some will exercise more, others will exercise less. While some will walk every day, others will remain indoors. Some will drink more alcohol, and some will detox. Some will start cooking more and some will develop unhealthy eating patterns. Some people will use it as a time to academically develop or learn. Some will take up new hobbies or interests. While others will watch box sets and films. Many will paint and decorate while others will follow social media more. There is not a right or wrong way of doing this. Lockdown does not have to be all about achievement and it also does not have to be all about not achieving. There is a balance. There is somewhere in the middle. It is important that we appreciate that – but it’s also important that we understand what that really means.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many people swing from posting photos about the blissful walks and quality time with their family – to then feeling so low and emotional that they haven’t see friends and extended family for so long. Many go from being super proactive and communicating online with others – to then feeling very reclusive and not reaching out. Lots of people range from being super healthy to drinking and eating then they usually would. And this range can happen all within the space of a week.

If you think about it – this is like a roller coaster for all of us. There are ups, there are downs, there are highs and there are lows. And in all honesty the roller coaster keeps going around and around. We are unsure right now about when this will stop or when this will end. We are waiting, we are uneasy, and we are all being very patient in the process. These are difficult times. The challenges are real, and they are tough. During the process all we can do is be kind to ourselves and look after ourselves as best we can.

There is a whole box of self-care that we can throw at ourselves right now – something I often write about in my blogs. Think about what that means to you and start applying it. Give yourself the time and space that you need right now to be ok. Look after yourself. Focus on what it is that you need to do.

 

Just remember in the process that what works for you –doesn’t always work for other people. What you apply to yourself is not necessarily the best thing for anyone else. And while what you do to cope is right for you – for someone else it might be something totally different.

So slow down sometimes, press pause sometimes, take the pressure off at times, and remember above all – there is no right way to cope. There are things that help us all – but each one of us has very different needs. Remember to always show compassion – and to always suspend any judgement.

In a world where you can be anything – be kind.

Survival

Right now we are surrounded by so much fear and uncertainty. Life doesn’t offer anything predictable at the moment. Despite our best efforts to carve out some kind of structure and routine, curve balls can hit as at any given moment. To be fair – they already are.

Everywhere you look people are adjusting. Working from home. Exercising from home. Teaching from home. Socialising from home. Shopping from home. Self-care from home. Life is being lived via a screen. Our only outlets are daily walks or runs.

So much change. So much adjustment. And every week it changes. We are continually told new information. We are constantly waiting for the next set of instructions. We all know why we are doing it, and we are all committed to keeping ourselves and others safe.  Yet that doesn’t take away the challenges we face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now, there is so much isolation. There is such an impact on psychological wellbeing. There is so much fear and uncertainty around us. People have lost their outlets. There sense of human connection. The ability to touch, to hug, and to be close to loved ones. That sense of belonging. The essence of community. Its all changed. Its all been taken. There is so much overwhelming loss.

 

So what if right now all we need to do is survive??

Therapeutically we often talk about keeping it in the day. We focus particularly in recovery on taking things one day at a time. This is so important – now more then ever.

Right now we cant plan too far ahead. We can’t make decisions about social events, holidays etc. We can’t plan when we will see our friends or family. There is so much distance and so much sadness. We do not know when we will be able to do these things. And as Christmas showed us all. It is too painful to plan and then have those plans taken away from you.

 

Even day-to-day things can change. While we may try to put routine and structure in place the rules and guidelines are constantly changing. As are the lives of those around us. Nothing is certain, nothing is set in stone and that is leaving people with an overwhelming sense of vulnerability.

  • Maybe now is not the time to set yourself new goals.
  • Maybe now is not the time to put immense pressure on yourself around things like food, drink or exercise.
  • Maybe now is not the time to plan too far ahead.
  • Maybe now is not the time to stress about the things you cannot control.
  • Maybe now is not the time to set new targets.
  • Maybe now is not the time to say yes to everything.
  • Maybe now is not the time to work to excess
  • Maybe now is not the time to worry about not getting it right

Maybe now IS the time to focus on your survival.

Take it day by day. Slow it right down. Focus just on today. Think about what it is that you need today. What would help you right now? What would make things more challenging right now. Remove as much stress as you can. Strip it back the basics.

  • Make sure you eat regularly.
  • Listen to your body and give it what it needs – everything in moderation.
  • Take time for yourself – even half an hour can make such a difference.
  • Slow down where possible.
  • Switch off from social media when you can.
  • Switch off from the news when you can.
  • Communicate when you want too – but be quiet when you want too.
  • Be still when you can.
  • Get outside and take in nature.
  • Remember to breathe. Even If your sick of hearing that. Its so important to focus on it.
  • It isn’t always that easy to sleep. But try to create a routine that enables you to rest and re charge as much as possible.
  • Focus on the things you are grateful for.
  • Reach out when you need support.
  • Do something that makes you smile every day.
  • Re charge those batteries as much as you can.
  • Above all – be kind to yourself.

And remember – right now, life is about survival. It isn’t about excelling. It isn’t about perfection or achievement. It is simply about surviving.

We can’t calm the storm. But we can calm the way we respond to it.

The stressful side of Christmas….

It is the time of year when Christmas is approaching.  Christmas can be a very exciting and happy time for people.  It can be something to look forward to and something that families enjoy and cherish.

However, it can also be an incredibly stressful time for people. The pressure that people often put on themselves can be immense.  This can include things like buying presents, seeing people, hosting or equally isolation and loneliness. Stresses such as money, bringing families together, managing expectations as well as time with loved ones, can all bring about their own difficulties.

On top of this there is even more stress to contend with this year – as we negotiate our way through social bubbles, which households to see, the tiers we are in and the anxiety of the pandemic that we are all trying to currently cope with.

As a result many people are feeling very run down.  It has been a very long and draining year.  As Christmas approaches many people are faced with insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns. Others are coming down with various illnesses and some with Covid19 itself. Many are facing isolation as a result of positive tests. Others are isolating to protect others. We are surrounded by uncertainty and worry.  This comes out differently depending on how people cope with stress. For many this can include things like depression, sadness, anxiety, lack of motivation etc.

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Generally eating and drinking can also be a very difficult thing for people to manage at this time of year. And it is also something that people have struggled with throughout this year. Lockdown for example left many people eating and drinking in a different way to usual.  Many struggled to regulate and moderate, and extremes often lead to low mood, low self worth and at times depression and anxiety.

At Christmas time people often find that they can over indulge and this can bring about its own difficulties and emotional ups and downs.  But in addition to this for those in recovery it can be really hard to cope with Christmas.  Imagine if your living with anorexia, and being faced with the prospect of a full Christmas dinner, or if your bulimic and surrounded by loads of food.  Or contemplate what it feels like to be an alcoholic facing so many social functions where alcohol is the focus.  All of this is incredibly challenging.

It can also be a time when people can feel sad, upset  or alone.  If people have lost someone they love, or were close to, then a void is apparent and the pain of the person not being there can be extreme. Sadness can take over the happiness that people feel they ‘should’ be experiencing.

Grief can be really painful during this festive period.  Grief can also apply to relationships that have broken down, or perhaps those that are breaking down.

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Throughout this year many relationships have undergone extreme strain. Many families have struggled emotionally and financially. The pressure has been huge. And now as we enter Christmas time there are even more challenges around us.

It is so important to think about how you can support yourself during this period.  Self-care is crucial during this time. Try and put some healthy boundaries in place. This can mean not saying yes to everything, or not putting too much pressure on yourself to keep everyone happy or to be ‘perfect’.

Keep an eye on how much you are doing, and try to slow down when possible. Take some quality time for yourself, when you need to.  Do the things that make you relax.  This is different for everyone. It could include reading a book, going for a walk or taking a hot bath. However you relax, make it happen.

Try to remember the word moderation. Apply this to food, to drink, to sleep, etc.  Aim for a balance in your life.  You don’t want to be exercising every day but then you also don’t want to never exercise.  Work for somewhere in the middle.  It is achievable.

Make sure you don’t bottle everything up.  Speak up and let people know when you are feeling anxious, stressed or when things feel too much.  Other people can help you, and they can support you.  In addition to this, don’t try and do everything by yourself.  You don’t have to do it all, and you certainly don’t have to stress yourself trying to do it all.  Remember how important you are, and value yourself.

Here at your counselling service we recognise the stresses and strains of this year, as well as those at Christmas time. Our service doesn’t stop for the holidays.  So if things feel too much and you would like someone to talk to then please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or drop us an e mail.

(07590 663938 or info@yourcounsellingservice.co.uk)

December can be a difficult and challenging time, as well as a wonderful and exciting one.  We are hear to help if you need us.

I am good enough.

Knowing you are good enough.

Sounds relatively simple doesn’t it??

Being able to believe in yourself.

Goes without saying doesn’t it??

Seeing your own value.

That comes easily doesn’t it?

If only…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

For many individuals, the ability to see themselves positively doesn’t come easily. The viewpoint that they matter is not one that comes naturally. The image of themselves as good enough – well that is not an image that they frequently have of themselves.

It could be. But knowing you are good enough is a skill. And like anything we have to learn it.

When we are born into the world, we have no idea of what to expect. We do not know what the path ahead has to offer. We do not know what opportunities and challenges are coming our way. We have not formed our sense of self or identity yet – all of that grows and develops over time. And it does not happen quickly or easily.

As we grow and develop, we rely on those around us to help us. We look to our parents, extended families and friends for guidance. We don’t know as young infants or even as young people the art of liking or loving ourselves. In fact the world feels pretty confusing and at times quite scary. So how can we even begin to know these things. We have to learn. We need to be taught. Guided and shown. As we grow up it isn’t just about learning academically or developing a skillset. It isn’t just about passing tests or excelling at different subjects. We also need to develop emotionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We need to learn about our own emotional needs and how to take care of them. We also need to learn how to respond to them. We need to know that it is ok to be ourselves and to have all the different feelings that we have. Fundamentally we also need to learn that we are ok – just the way we are. And consequently we need to learn that – we ‘are good enough’.

This is of course something that some of us do learn from a young age and are able to take forward with us throughout our life. However for a lot of people this is something that they never really learnt. This is something they never really developed. And this is something that they weren’t always shown. Consequently this leaves what we call in therapy the ‘not good enough’ button. Something that can easily be pressed.

Whether that be through issues with friends, challenges at work, dynamics in relationships, conflict within the family etc. It doesn’t specifically apply to one area of life. It can come up at different times and in different places and points throughout someone’s life. They may find themselves feeling less then, as they have failed in some way, as though they aren’t good enough in comparison to others. The list is endless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course human beings don’t mean to have this impact or effect on any one else. Most of the time they don’t set out to cause any upset.  It can however happen. And when it does people can be left with that really vulnerable uncertain feeling – where they just don’t feel good enough.

The key here is that it is never too late to work on this. It is never too late to try and chance our inner monologue. We have the ability and the power to turn things around. We have the capability to improve the way we feel about ourselves. It may feel like climbing a mountain at first. It may seem overwhelming at first. But change is always possible. Taking that leap of faith isn’t easy at all. But once we start -it gets a lot easier.

It starts with self care – the way we nurture and take care of ourselves. It begins with the time and investment that we put into ourselves and into our own life. The ‘you’ time. Learning to value who you are and the time you give yourself is so important. Slowing down and making the relationship that you have with yourself the most important one. That’s where real change can take place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It moves on to doing the things that make you happy in your life. Striking the balance. The balance between work, friends, family, partners, exercise, down time etc. Finding that happy medium – so that you are doing the things in life that you want to do. And none of them are to excess or not done enough.

It moves on to learning to know who you truly are. Taking the time to understand yourself more. And investing the time in working out how you came to feel the way you do about yourself. Therapy can really help with that. It unpicks unhelpful and destructive patterns. It helps makes sense of why you feel the way that you do and why certain things have then gone on to happen. It’s a great opportunity to learn about yourself. But also to change the parts of yourself that are damaging. The parts that aren’t working for you and the parts that aren’t serving you well. Understanding behavior and changing patterns. They go hand in hand to make things easier to manage in life.

Finally you reach a place where you can start to like yourself. And maybe even one day love yourself. Your automatic response is not beat yourself up instantly. You don’t spend your time putting yourself down in some way or immediately blaming yourself for the things that have gone wrong. Instead you start to talk to yourself in a kinder and more compassionate way. You are able to show love and care towards yourself. You are able to listen to what it is that your body and mind needs. Instead of that ‘not good enough’ button being pressed so easily – you are able see where other peoples stuff comes from and in turn to understand that not everything can be your fault.

You reach a place where you can say I am ok. I have got this. You may not feel it every single day. But your there most of the time. And that is what really matters.

 

 

 

Clarity.

It is amazing what a bit of clarity does for us.

Sometimes we get so caught up in everything we ‘need’ to do, that we lose our sense of perspective.

Sometimes we are so busy achieving or doing that we do not make the time to stop and evaluate.

Sometimes life happens on auto pilot. And consequently, things never change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When was the last time you stopped and truly looked around you? When did you last make the time to think about the way you are living? To ask yourself if you are truly happy and to ask yourself if you are ok with the way that things are going? For many people it becomes more common to not stop. It becomes more common to keep going and never question. It becomes the norm to go round and round in circles.

As a result, stress builds. As a result, anxiety starts to rise. As a result, low mood and even depression can creep in. If as individual’s we are not fulfilled, then everything will start to build up and get on top of us. If as individual’s we do not make time for ourselves or for the things that we need – then we will never truly be content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clarity. That moment of clarity. Is so important and so significant. Slow down. Make some space. Pause. Reflect. And in doing so you will be able to think about what it is that you truly need.

Are you a person that loves to read? If so when did you last read a book?

Are you a person that loves to study? If so when did you last learn something new?

Are you a person that loves to be outdoors? If so, are you making time for walks?

Are you a person that thrives on keeping fit? If so, are you making time to exercise?

Are you a person that enjoys socialising? If so. are you making the time to connect?

The list goes on….

Currently there are many restrictions for all of us. But there are still ways of getting these needs met. For example, we can still walk outside with a friend or family member. We can still exercise with another outside or by ourselves at home. We can still study, we can still make phone calls, video calls etc to connect. We can still read etc.

Lockdown can feel like a barrier in so many ways. It can create this mental block – or lead to the phrase ‘we can’t do that’. But how about thinking about what you can do?? How about thinking of positive ways to use this current lockdown. How about trying to reframe things? To use your time differently. To make some space for you and the things that you need?

How is your self-care for example? Are you making time to run that bath? Watch that program? Get that sleep? Are you eating moderately and keeping alcohol to a moderate amount? These things all have a massive impact on us. And when they start to slip that is when we begin to truly suffer.

 

Many people have struggled with sleep during lockdown. Or with the amount they are drinking or eating. Perhaps this lockdown is an opportunity to change that. Perhaps it is a chance to do things differently. Do not look back at what has been. No good can come from beating yourself up about the way things were before. At that moment you were surviving. You were doing the best you could in the given moment. But maybe now its time to learn from that. To take away the things you do not want to do again and to look at the things that you would like to do differently.

Clarity – once you find it. You will feel calmer and clearer all around.

Press pause today. Think about your life balance. What is working for you? What is not? What would you like to do differently? How would you like to move forward?

If I asked you to draw a circle that represented your life – how much of it would be taken up with work? With you time? With family time? With exercise? Self-care? Socialising? How is that balance looking?? Do you need to change something?? Its worth reflecting on. Its worth finding a better balance for yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes we need that moment of clarity. Maybe we need to slow right down to find it. To be less busy with work. Or to have fewer social commitments. Maybe we need to drink less alcohol or moderate our eating to have a clearer head space. Maybe we need to make more time to be outdoors to clear our thoughts. However, you find it, however you reach it, however you create it – finding clarity it so important. Once you have it – hold on to it tightly. Start to make the changes you need to live a more fulfilled and happy life. Once you do – you will be amazed at how differently you feel in yourself.

Facing another lockdown.

Lockdown….

Not a word we all wanted to hear again. Inevitable many say. Bound to happen others comment. Much needed some say. While some people accept it. Some people rebel against it. There are people that doubt it. And there are others that do not question it all.  Bigger picture – we all know why this is happening. We all know the awful reality of the virus we are living with. We have all been trying to manage our lives the best we can. In the meantime – all around us – people are discussing lockdown. And the impact of it.

Ask yourself the following questions….

How do you feel about lockdown happening again?

What emotions does it bring up for you?

How does it impact on your day to day life?

What are you worried about?

Think about these questions. What the answers bring up for you and reflect on the key things that matter the most to you. How your feeling right now is important. It cannot be ignored. It matters. It cannot be avoided. Its there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now ask yourself these questions…

What did I learn from the last lockdown?

What worked well for me?

What raised my anxiety levels?

What causes me worry or stress?

When you evaluate what did not work last time and think about what didn’t go well for you. You can then start to think about the things that you want to do differently this time. You can start to plan how you are going to manage this lockdown. You can start to put things in place to make it easier for yourself. You can start to work on what it is that you need this time. You can put in place a plan that works for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, it is not possible to control this situation – but it is possible to control the way that you respond to it.

Think about the last time we were locked down. And focus on the parts that did go well for you and did work. Think about the things that made you feel better and the things that made you feel calmer. Identify those things and make space for them going forward over the next month.

Here are some examples to consider –

If a lot of time spent online talking to friends/family didn’t work for you last time. Perhaps this time you need to make sure you arrange walks in your week with a friend or family member. Get outside and catch up face to face – rather than online.

If you found that you did not exercise last time and it pulled you down. Then put a plan in place to do some work outs this time. Plan a run, a bike ride, or meet up with another friend outside and do something together. It will make you feel better.  Likewise if you went the other way and exercised excessively last time – then make a plan to limit the amount you do this time round.

If you found that you drank too much alcohol last time then make a positive commitment this time round – to not get drawn into that again. Focus on the difference between the weekend and the week. Plan days off alcohol. Work out a plan that suits you.

If last time around your eating was affected – in either direction. Then this time focus on keeping to a routine. Plan your shopping, plan your meals – eat regularly and take care of yourself. Make it fun if you can – cooking different things. Approach it differently and as calmly as you can. Of course if you are struggling with an eating disorder then make sure you continue with your therapy and your commitment to recovery during this time.

Fundamentally if you didn’t take care of yourself properly last time – then focus on self-care. Know when you need to rest – to stop and slow down. Take that bath if you need too. Watch that program. Read that book. Invest some time in you. You matter – and you will feel so much better if you take care of yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Think about your routine last time – whether that was in relation to childcare, education, work, loved ones etc. Recognise the parts that you need to work on and do differently this time.  Sit down calmly and think about your approach to this next lockdown. What is it that you need to do?? Do you need to create an office space? Do you need to think of a project to focus on? Do you need to think of some activities to do? Focus on what it is that you need right now. As soon as you identify what it is that you need. You will feel so much better.

Remember – you have got this.