Stop the silence.

Abuse.

The worst thing a person can endure.

The most horrific thing a person can live with it.

The hardest battle a person can fight internally.

The total confusion left in a person’s head.

The self loathing that develops.

The self-hatred that grows.

The lack of trust that takes over.

The sense of security that is lost.

The sense of safely that is taken away.

The identity that is shattered.

Abuse.

So much damage.

Yet so much silence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abuse comes in all forms – verbal, physical, sexual, financial, emotional, neglect, grooming – the list is endless.

The damage done is also endless.

Yet why as a society do we hardly ever mention it? Do we hide it? Even when a person is brave enough to speak up – we still avoid it. Often the attitude is – its better not to talk about it. Its better to move forward and move on. Its better to forget the past.

Not only is that simply not possible. But can you imagine what that’s like if you’re the person that’s been abused ??

This horrific and horrendous thing happens to you. You have spent all this time keeping it to yourself – often being threatened into silence.
You finally find the courage to speak up. And the general reaction is to quickly move things forward, to help you move on, to encourage you to put it all behind you as fast as possible? To not talk about it all the time.

What message does that send???

We need to stop the silence……….

Whatever age, whatever gender, whatever type – abuse does serious damage. A person is left feeling confused, upset, angry, worthless, devastated, scared, alone, not good enough, violated and totally lost.

The hardest part of all is that there is a tendency for self-blame. People tend to think that somehow they did something wrong or that they were not good enough in some way. This is the most disturbing part of abuse. The use of power – to dominate, to take control, to manipulate and to create so much fear – that often a person Is left feeling as though they cannot speak up.

If people finally do find the courage to speak and the ability to use their voice, then there is often so much shame. So much embarrassment. And so much hurt. There is a tendency to not want to tell too many people, to keep it hidden still. Sometimes people are so fearful of what the abuser may do that they even find it hard to speak to the police / authorities about what has been happening. The power of abuse continues – and so the cycle goes on.

If someone you know reaches out and finds a way to speak up. It is really important to hear them. To truly listen and to be as understanding as possible. Be patient. It isn’t easy to break the cycle of abuse. As they tell you, remind them – that none of this is their fault and encourage them to be kind to themselves. As well as seeking professional help they also need to know that they can reach out to loved ones. To family and friends. And they need to know that they don’t have to keep it all to themselves.

Part of supporting someone that is going through abuse or has gone through abuse is normalising the conversation for them. Allowing them to talk about things whenever they need too. Let them know that subjects are not taboo and that any time they can speak about anything.

It is often very hard to hear the details of the abuse someone has suffered or is suffering. Especially when it is someone we love and care about. We can feel helpless. However part of their healing is being able to talk about those experiences and to let out the pain that they have experienced.

Always recommend that they go for professional help – as therapy is the right place to work through abuse and to contain it in a therapeutic way. But as friends and family – don’t shut the subject down. Allow it space. Let the thoughts and the feelings come out whenever they need too. Let someone know that they aren’t alone, that they have nothing to be ashamed of. That they have done nothing wrong and that they can speak about it at any time.

Break the silence. Silence only gives abusers more power.

Restoring your balance.

When was the last time you took half an hour for yourself? Can you remember what it feels like to sit and be comfortable in silence ? Or does your world constantly feel like a busy noisy whirlwind ?

Life is hectic. There is no doubting that. Juggling things like work, family, friends and fitness. It all takes time and it can often be all consuming. Running a household, keeping on top of a home, finances, running a car and even looking after your health. It all leads to very busy days and very busy weeks. And ultimately to feeling as though there is no head space. Or as though there is no time for you.

The reality is that if we try to make sure we cover all of the above, and we do our best to do them well, then we can feel stretched in too many directions. And sometimes as though we are doing a lot, but achieving very little. It can also feel that while we are spending time with people, we aren’t fully present. Because the heads too full and there is very little to give.

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If you recognise this then your currently struggling to strike the balance. You will know the signs. Perhaps your feeling exhausted, run down, or maybe you keep getting ill. Perhaps you find yourself turning to food or alcohol as a coping mechanism for your stress. Maybe the smallest of things are upsetting you. You might be feeling tense and anxious a lot of the time. If this is the case then you are in the world of burn out. And your balance definitely needs restoring.

Stop. Pause. Think about your life. What does it look like? If I asked you to draw a circle and then split it into the sections of your life. What would that image look like? How large would each section be? What colour would it be shaded? What feeling would come from each section?

For some people too much for the circle might be taken up with work, for others family or children. Some on the other hand might be all consumed with health issues, money worries or addictive behaviours. Everyone is different. What does your life circle look like? And what does it say about you?

Reflect on what you see, and evaluate what you feel. What would you like to be different ? How could you achieve more of a balance? Is there something you could give more time too or something you do less of. It’s important to restore balance and it’s equally important to do what makes you happy and what makes you feel good.

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To live a balanced life we need time for ourselves. Even if it is half an hour a day. We need some time to reflect, to pause and slow down. Some people find me time when they are in the bath, or walking, reading, writing, drawing or perhaps listening to music. There are many distractions to fill time. Such as social media, television, food, company, alcohol etc. But the most valuable time is spent slowing down, and taking care of ourselves. Try and create a window in your day for you. Block it out in your diary if you need too. Make it happen.

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Achieving balance means keeping fit and healthy. But it doesn’t mean taking this to extremes. There is no need to spend your life exercising or worrying about what you eat. Try to head for the place of moderation. It does exist. Aim to exercise a few times a week and to eat balanced diet. This means having things like salad, fruit and vegetables. But it also means having things like pizza, chocolate and wine. There are no rules. There are no good or bad foods. Work towards balance.

The same goes the other way. Try to avoid drinking or eating to excess. It’s good to have a night out and off steam. But if it becomes dependency then there is an issue. And if it’s something your turning to all the time, especially during stressful periods, then it’s not good for you. Think about your relationship with alcohol and food. Or even drugs if that’s an issue for you. Look at the amount you are using things and think about how you might like to do things differently. Work out a balance that suits you.

RBLOG4Maintaining a healthy balance also extends to areas of our life like work, finance, and running our homes. We need and have to devote time to these areas. But none of them should be extreme. Never get too busy making a life that you forget to make a living. Ensure that you don’t spend all your time working. Create some down time, even if it is small windows. Money is an issue for many people, there is no doubting that. Try to organise your finances in a way that they don’t cause you extreme stress or worry. Remember to try and find enjoyment in the small things.

It doesn’t have to be extreme. The same goes for running a home, taking care of a family etc. Yes it’s important to have things clean and tidy, but there is no need to spend all day trying to create perfection. And yes it’s important to spend quality time with loved ones, including children. But it is equally important to spend quality time with you. Never let any one area of your life dictate or take over. Step back. Evaluate and make a plan. A plan the includes you. A plan that makes time for you. And a plan that ensures your head doesn’t feel so over loaded it can’t take any more.

Life is like learning to ride a bike. You need your balance to do it. Without our balance we are wobbly, lost and unfocused. Get back on your bike. Focus and find your way.

Today.

A negative relationship with alcohol.

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?

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

Sometimes alcohol can be used socially. Sometimes it can be used when having a good time, or on special occasions. There are times it is associated with fun and laughter.

However, sadly, a lot of the time, people’s relationship with alcohol can take a very negative turn. And before they know it, it becomes a crux that they lean on. Something they use to get through the day, to manage the week, and to cope with the everyday stress of life.

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. They numb the things that they are feeling – they block them out. And before they know it they are dependent on it to survive. And the thought of a night off – well it becomes unmanageable.

At first there is a lot of denial – 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 – before you go out or meet up with other people. 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 – ‘one more drink’ or lets have ‘one last round’. You have become the person that never wants the night to end – you even find your taking a glass to bed with you. Waking up in the morning and wondering what happened last night.

Sometimes alcohol can lead to black outs and forgetting part of the night. People can try to gloss over this – with funny stories of what you did. You become well equipped at laughing at yourself. And at justifying yourself. There are reasons – you haven’t slept well, you haven’t been out in a while, you didn’t eat enough. The list goes on. But if you were truly honest with yourself and with them. You had already drunk a large amount before they even saw you.

 

Being that intoxicated also leaves your vulnerable and in dangerous situations. You may be fortunate that you have good friends who will make sure you get home ok – or a partner that ensures you are safely in bed. If someone is looking out for you that helps – but what about looking out for yourself? Taking care of yourself ? And what happens if you lose the people you are with? If you someone spikes your drink or takes you somewhere? You are so vulnerable when you are that drunk. It’s not funny anymore – its dangerous.

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.

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. 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

When the mirror lies to you

Many people will often speak negatively about the way that they look. Being critical of our appearance seems to be something that comes far more naturally then speaking positively about ourselves.

But what happens when it becomes something more serious? When it starts to take over a persons life? And when what was once a negative comment turns into a full blown destructive thought process?

Body dysmorphia. A very serious and debilitating thing to live with. Can you imagine the pain of seeing yourself in the mirror and hating what you see? Day in and day out?? Can you imagine what it feels like to get ready and to actual believe that you are larger then you were the day before? To compare pictures all the time and convince yourself that you have grown in size? To find the smallest flaw in your appearance and to focus on it obsessively? To scrutinise your face in the mirror all the time? To examine photos in depth and always conclude things negatively ? To feel as though your clothes are tighter all the time? To be convinced your stomach, or your thighs, or arms are growing consistently ? To see your face as larger and larger every day ?? Torture. Non stop – the voices whirl around and around in your head.

It makes no sense to everyone else. How can it ???

What your seeing isn’t real. What your feeling isn’t real. Yes – to you it is. Right in that moment – you see yourself exactly that way. It takes over – it pulls you in. You feel like you might break at any moment.

 

Yet everyone around you tells you how great you look. How amazing you are. People give you attention and comment on how attractive you are, or how lovely your outfit or hair is. Yet you don’t feel it. Any of it. Deep inside your consumed. Your thought process is raging. Your emotions are taking over. You feel awful. The voice is loud. It’s taking over. And you hate it.

It isn’t easy at all – but remember – that voice – it’s lying to you. It’s putting you down. It’s telling you things that aren’t true. It wants to keep you in a low place. It wants to drag you down and convince you that you aren’t good enough. It wants to point out every slight possible negative thing about you – so that you feel worthless. So that you feel disempowered. So that you hate yourself and feel so low you can’t even begin to start the day.

It’s like a controlling partner – who wants to dominate your life and to take away your power. Its like an abusive relationship or toxic friendship – where your constantly kept in this vulnerable position – feeling not good enough. Feeling empty, low and worthless. Body dysmorphia – it wants to take you down. It wants to destroy you. Any chance of happiness you might have – it wants to take it away. Anything good – it wants to sabotage. That’s the irony – things might be going well, something positive might happen. You might be feeling happy with something – and there it is – ready to pounce. Ready to destroy. ‘You don’t deserve this’ it whispers. ‘This won’t last’ – it says. ‘You can’t be happy’ it repeats quietly in the background. And instead of allowing these vulnerabilities to be explored, it focuses on the physical – pointing out the negatives and drawing your into a world of self-hatred.

Its also there when your very stressed, when your run down, tired and overwhelmed. Things might be getting on top of you – you can’t cope with it all. BOOM – there it is. Telling you how awful you look. How massive you are, how disgusting your body and face are. Its ready – it wants to take you down. You feel awful – it wants to make you feel worse.

Fight back!!!! Try not to listen. Talk about it. It’s so hard. But say it out loud. The voice doesn’t want you too. But say it. Then it loses its power. Tell someone close to you what you are feeling. Articulate your worries and concerns. They can help to reassure you – and while they can’t take it all away, they can focus on grounding you.

 

Write your feelings down – get them out of your head. Don’t let them take over. You can beat this. You don’t have to listen to every negative thought in there. Your worth more – write and write until you can tell yourself that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look after yourself – simplistic but true. Good positive self-care makes it all easier to manage. If you are eating properly, sleeping well, getting enough down time and calm time – then you will feel so much better in general. And the voice won’t have such a chance to take over.

If you feel your self-care is lacking at the moment, then step back – evaluate. Think about what you need more of – as well as what you may need less of. Sometimes people turn to things like alcohol or drugs to stop the voice from being so loud – but this in turn makes everything more difficult to manage. Addictive behaviours only exaggerate negative thought processes.

Spend time with those that make you feel calm and at ease. Be around those that make you feel good in yourself. Limit your time with toxic people or those that drain your energy and take from you. There is only so much of you to go around. You need to focus on what is good for you.

Look at your use of social media. Unfollow anything that is triggering for you. Try to limit the time you spend using social media – but also be very careful about who you follow and what you spend your time looking at.

And don’t forget – there is also therapy. Counselling can really help when it comes to fighting the battles of body dysmorphia. It helps people to understand the root causes of what is going on and change day to day behaviours. It helps to put coping strategies in place and to move forward in a more positive way.

When its hard to see in colour.

There are times in life when things feel so dark. When we find ourselves consumed with negativity and we stop noticing any of the positive things around us.

There are times in life when a darkness starts to take over. When it creeps in and begins to eat us up. When we feel so low that the smallest of things become so big. When we feel so confused that the simple things get forgotten, and when we feel so afraid that everything suddenly feels unsafe or scary.

Depression sets in. Bleakness takes over. Colour no longer exits.

Dark thoughts can be scary. They can be overwhelming. Suddenly it becomes hard to sleep, to eat, to focus – people find themselves feeling anxious in places they once found easy to be in. People find themselves feeling overwhelmed with the most basic things. And before you know it energy starts to fade. Moods start to sink. A fragility exists that wasn’t there once before.

Some people find that they can’t stop eating, while others don’t eat at all. Some find themselves wanting to sleep all of the time. While others develop severe insomnia. There is no set description of depression – it impacts everyone differently.

Many people become extreme when it comes to the use of alcohol or drugs. Addiction kicks in. Some people feel like they can’t do anything at all or face anyone. While others become obsessive about things like exercise or extreme cleaning. All of this behaviour is exiting. Exiting your reality. A reality that feels black and heavy. Avoiding pain and moving more and more in themselves.

The reality is however, that all of this makes everything so much worse. Isolation creeps in. Loneliness takes over. Paranoia starts. Confidence decreases. Suddenly small things feel huge. A person starts to lose their sparkle. And where you once saw an aliveness in someone you now she a deadness. Depression. It’s there. And it can take over.

The key to living with depression is to start by acknowledging that you are going through a very difficult time. Name it. Say it. Own it. Right now. I am really struggling. It doesn’t take the pain away or make everything better. But it can make people feel calmer – and start to allow themselves to feel the way that they feel.

Give yourself permission to be – right here. Right now. However you are feeling. It is ok. And it is natural. Allow your thoughts and feelings to come to the surface. Sit with them. Experience them. Have faith that they will pass. As will this challenging time in your life. But know that it is ok to feel down sometimes. It is ok to feel overwhelmed sometimes. And it’s ok to be who you are. At any given moment.

Fighting depression isn’t easy. Because that darkness is exhausting in itself. It is however possible. It isn’t easy but its doable. Make sure you start with genuine self-care and self-love. Be kind to yourself always. Start with the simple things. Make sure you are winding down before bed and trying to get as much as sleep as you can. Give your body a chance to recover and to deal with things. Eat. Again it sounds simplistic but eat. Try to stick to a basic plan of three meals a day and three snacks in between. Keep in mind moderation – everything is ok when its balanced. You need energy to fight depression off. Not eating makes everything harder.

Keeping with the theme of moderation. Apply this to other areas of life such as exercise, alcohol, socialising etc. It’s easy to turn to extremes when you are in a dark place. To find yourself drinking more, or turning to fitness obsessively. Either way these things won’t help or do you any good. The same goes for going out all of the time and avoiding things or for throwing yourself into work all the time and again avoiding things. The key is creating balance in your life. And ultimately facing up to the things that are pulling you down and challenging you.

Expressing emotions and dealing with them can really help. Therapy is a great place to do this – counselling has a huge benefit when your feeling low. In addition to this things like yoga can really help the mind to feel calmer too. Talking is a great thing to do. Letting your feelings and emotions out is so therapeutic and positive. So think about your support network. Reach out when you can and talk to people. Never suffer alone or in silence. As hard as it can be. Take that step to ask for help when you need. If people can they will.

Take the time that you need for you. Whether that is going for a walk, reading a book, keeping a journal – it can all help. Work on your ability to be mindful and keeping present in the moment. Focusing on the here and now can really help. Surround yourself with those that bring out the best in you – not the stress in you.

Finally above all say no. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself. Don’t feel you have to say yes to everything. It is ok to put boundaries in place, and it is ok to say no. If you are exhausted and overwhelmed don’t attend things. Give yourself the time that you need to rest and recover. The people that really love you and care about you will totally understand.

Fundamentally it is all about being kind to yourself. So start right now. Do what’s right for you and the rest will follow. You can beat this. Slowly, bit by bit, colour will return.

A part of me died

Sometimes pain is so huge it leaves us feeling numb.

Sometimes we hurt so much that we lose sight of who we are.

Sometimes loss is so huge that it feels unbearable.

Sometimes devastation hits us – and its though a part of us dies.

Life throws hurdles our way. Life sends curve balls when we least expect it. Life challenges us. Life breaks us. Life confuses us and at times it totally overwhelms us.

While there is so much positivity in the world – there is also so much pain. And while there are so many good things that can happen – there are also tragedies that hit. And they hit any of us at any given time.

 

Pain is manageable – to an extent. Loss is bearable – to an extent. Darkness is beatable – to an extent. You can live with depression – for a while.

But what happens when the magnitude of what you have experienced totally takes over? When you feel so lost that you don’t know who you are anymore?

Suddenly you find yourself anxious doing the things you once loved. You feel like you can’t breathe being around those you love. You have a sense that you can’t trust anyone – paranoia takes over.

You find yourself lashing out at people and not even knowing why. Tears come frequently. Everything hurts – and nothing seems to take the pain away. Your functioning – just. But you are not truly living.

There are moments in life when the world totally changes. Sometimes we hear something and we know things will never be the same again. Sometimes we lose someone so close to us or something so precious gets taken from us.

A defining moment happens – one that is so painful. So unbearable. And before we know it our sparkle has gone. That ‘thing’ that makes us who we are. That bit that makes us who we are. Its missing. The smiles faded. The laughter’s gone. The hope has vanished. The pain has taken over. Part of us has died. And life suddenly now feels empty, vacant, painful and we remain a shadow of who we once were.

Some people notice – others don’t. Perhaps the mask we wear is very good. Maybe it hides the scars. There are many ways of hiding. You find yourself going about your day – existing. But deep down there always feels this deep sense of emptiness. A hole that can never be filled. Direction seems to impossible to find.

What would it be like to stop looking? To stop trying to find a way though it all? To end your search for an answer or a solution. To stop trying to fix the things that can’t be fixed.

What would it be like to accept the here and now? That doesn’t mean accepting exactly what happened – but it means trying to let go of the pain attached to it. And allowing yourself to be in the moment.

Maybe the moment won’t feel as good as life once felt. Maybe today doesn’t feel as full as life felt before this happened to you. But if you keep looking back you will never be happy with today.

Of course you want things the way they once were – of course you want to be able to go back to a time when things felt good, when they felt easier, fuller, brighter, happier – you name it. But if you spend all your time and energy looking back you will never allow yourself to move forward.

There are things that happen that mean life will never be ‘exactly’ the same. They do change things to such an extent that they leave deep pain and heartache. But while we can’t fix these things, we can learn to live with what has happened and to heal. Healing is a huge part of the process – and enables us to let go. If we don’t heal, we remain stuck.

Today – right now. That’s what’s currently important. It might not be as things once were – and you might not be as you once were. However it is your reality now – and the important thing is finding peace, clarity and enjoyment in the here and now.

Yes part of you may well have died. But there are still many other parts of you that are living. And if you think about it you can learn to live with the fact that you have lost that part of yourself. And you can heal and embrace the way you are now. You may never go back to being ‘exactly’ as you once were. But that’s ok – you can be you, as you are now. And start to recognize the beauty that is in that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take some time to embrace who you are now. Take some time to work on your life as it is today and invest in learning how to enjoy the way things now are. They don’t have to be the same to be positive and full. You don’t have to be the same to be happy. And whilst part of you may have gone – the other parts of you can come together to create a new way of being. A way that Is you – a way that brings laugher again. That allows enjoyment and happiness in. That reduces anxiety, worries and stress. And all the time encourages you to be ‘you’ again. Not exactly as you once were. But exactly as you are right now.

The Pressure of New Year

The New Year is upon us which means people are making resolutions. Save money, exercise more, follow a new life plan, drink less alcohol, contemplate a career change, save more money….the list goes on. There Is a temptation to spend January overwhelming yourself with thoughts of change, rules, regulations and also a tendency to lean towards restrictions and limitations.

A lot of the time changes and goals are based upon the expectations of others and we are often driven by a need to conform to societal norms. The problem is we end up feeling disappointed and down on ourselves when we fail to stick to the rules we have set and this perpetuates feelings of failure and inadequacy.

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New Year’s Day has become symbolic as the day to clean the slate. A time to look behind and see what we may have done wrong and now to change it. A time to look ahead and try and change things for the better.  A time to make new promises. But far too often we put too much pressure on ourselves to pull it all together for the New Year.

For many the New Year brings a sense of hope for a better future. It can represent a chance to start something new and to leave unwanted memories behind.  It can also be a difficult time for many people. When it comes to New Year’s Eve people everywhere appear to be happy, smiling and laughing.  This picture often reflects how people think things should be.  But take away the fireworks, the celebrations, the countdowns and the half-hearted resolutions – then what are we left with…ourselves and our thoughts.

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The New Year can be a trigger for what is lost, not just what is surrounding us. It can bring up painful and complex emotions and make us miss those who aren’t with us anymore and reminisce about how things used to be which can be very difficult to deal with.

For people suffering with depression, anxiety or mental health problems New Year can bring up feelings of loneliness, stress and anxiety. Images of other people enjoying themselves, either in day to day life or on social media can create a sense of emptiness. Resolution season can also be particularly hard for someone living with an eating disorder. With so many people pledging to lose weight and eat healthier eating disorder sufferers can feel pressured to do the same. But a seemingly simple resolve to become healthier or lose a bit of weight can quickly become a downward spiral if taken to extreme measures.

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The reality is there are no shortcuts and we can’t escape our feelings or our emotions. It’s ok to find the New Year difficult and it’s ok not to have it all together every minute of every day. Making mistakes means we are learning and living and that is what makes us human. If you are struggling with how you are feeling then try to talk to someone you trust, and seek counselling if it feels right. Finding someone with who you can say how you feel and just be heard without being judged can be very comforting.

So how about for this year you allow you to be you? Let go of the expectations and try to be encouraged by who you are today. Focus on a one step at a time approach and do what YOU want and what makes YOU happy, and above all….. be kind to yourself.

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A negative relationship with alcohol

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?

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes alcohol can be used socially. Sometimes it can be used when having a good time, or on special occasions. There are times it is associated with fun and laughter.

However, sadly, a lot of the time, peoples relationship with alcohol can take a very negative turn. And before they know it, it becomes a crux that they lean on. Something they use to get through the day, to manage the week, and to cope with the every day stress of life.

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. They numb the things that they are feeling – they block them out. And before they know it they are dependent on it to survive. And the thought of a night off – well it becomes unmanageable.

At first there is a lot of denial – 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 – before you go out or meet up with other people. 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 – ‘one more drink’ or lets have ‘one last round’. You have become the person that never wants the night to end – you even find your taking a glass to bed with you. Waking up in the morning and wondering what happened last night.

Sometimes alcohol can lead to black outs and forgetting part of the night. People can try to gloss over this – with funny stories of what you did. You become well equipped at laughing at yourself. And at justifying yourself. There are reasons – you haven’t slept well, you haven’t been out in a while, you didn’t eat enough. The list goes on. But if you were truly honest with yourself and with them. You had already drunk a large amount before they even saw you.

Being that intoxicated also leaves your vulnerable and in dangerous situations. You may be fortunate that you have good friends who will make sure you get home ok – or a partner that ensures you are safely in bed. If someone is looking out for you that helps – but what about looking out for yourself? Taking care of yourself ? And what happens if you lose the people you are with? If you someone spikes your drink or takes you somewhere? You are so vulnerable when you are that drunk. Its not funny anymore – its dangerous.

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 cant 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. Its 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 wont be easy. But once you do it – it will be life changing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 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

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.

As a result people can often feel very run down at this time of year, struggle with sleeping, or perhaps coming down with various illnesses.  It depends how people cope with stress. More extreme versions can even be depression, sadness, anxiety, lack of motivation etc.

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Eating and drinking can also be a very difficult thing for people to manage during this 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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It is 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 a yoga class, 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 Christmas time, and so we run our counselling service during this difficult period.  Our counselling 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.

Fighting the darkness

Many people don’t understand what it means to be depressed. At times they may feel frustrated with those that are. Not understanding they aren’t getting daily tasks done. Feeling frustrated because they think people are ‘not helping themselves’ or ‘trying to get better’. At times those that don’t understand depression can be dismissive and take a ‘pull yourself together’ approach.

Can you imagine how painful that is if you are literally drowning????

 

 

 

 

 

Depression is real. It is all consuming. It is powerful and it is lethal. It takes away a person’s self-confidence. It destroys their self-worth and self-esteem. It tells them daily– that they aren’t good enough. They aren’t loved or cared about. And on top of that – it tells them they are weak. It shouts at them. Screams at them even. What is wrong with you? You should be able to handle this. Why are you so weak?

Depression is cruel. It isolates people and it cuts them off from friends and family. Before they know it, they stop talking. They become more and more inward. And when they do engage, they lash out. Angry, frustrated and hurt. Depression makes people feel unwanted and unloved and cared about. It causes paranoia to increase and insecurities to rise. It makes people doubt those they once never did. It causes arguments, stress and tension.

Depression impacts enjoyment – its loves to steal joy. What people once got pleasure out of – they now find a huge chore. What they once enjoyed doing – they suddenly can’t face or make time for. The smallest of tasks feel huge. Being around people feels too much. Being with people feels exhausting. Depression is exhausting. Its relentless. It tires you in a way you can never explain – yet you cannot sleep. Because when you try – the thoughts don’t stop. The chatter is never quiet. The self-doubt rises. The insecurities creep in – your head won’t let you rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depression leads people into dark places – and those dark places include addictions – alcohol, drugs, nicotine, eating disorders – they all get worse with depression. They begin to spiral out of control and take away a person’s personality. Bit by bit that person becomes lost and they also become dependent. Dependent on the substance of choice. And in turn that makes depression ten times worse.

Depression impacts people’s ability to work, to perform, to be productive. It takes away the ability to do things well. It leads to mistakes being made; things being overlooked. It causes people to feel inadequate and to often miss what is right in front of them. Forgetfulness, lateness, absent mindedness, a struggle to concentrate. It is all real. It is all happening – you see. Depression. Not so easy to just get over is it???

The biggest thing with depression is patience. Be patient with someone who is fighting that battle. Be kind, be compassionate and understanding. They don’t mean to lash out, or forget, or dismiss. They don’t mean to be critical or absent minded or to not be able to do things. They are hurting. They are lost and they are overwhelmed. It may seem simple to you – but to them it is so complicated.

There are things however that can help. So if you or someone you know is struggling with depression – try to slow down and make some time for these –

• Talking – simplistic but true. As hard as It can be – share your feelings. No matter how irrational they may feel or seem. Talk about what’s going on.

• Write things down – from small manageable to do lists- to a keeping a journal of thoughts and feelings. Its amazing the difference it makes.

• Wind down – take a bath, light candles, read a book. Slow down and make some time for you.

• Exercise – moderately of course. At first it can feel so hard to make that change. But introducing exercise – even a couple of times a week – can make a huge difference to emotional wellbeing.

• Make sure you are eating properly. Even if you don’t feel like it – implement the structure of three meals and three snacks a day. Ensure your body is getting the right fuel that it needs.

• Work towards getting enough sleep – its easier said than done – but wind down before bed. Relax as much as possible. Journal if you wake up at night.

• Stay away from electronic devices as much as possible

• Limit your time on social media – it isn’t a healthy place to be when your feeling down. It can make you feel even lower at times.

• Find space for creativity – drawing, colouring, painting, making things – whatever suits you. It calms the mind, its very therapeutic an improves mindfulness.

• Work on mindfulness in general – being in the moment is such an important thing to be able to work towards and achieve. We get stressed and anxious when we worry about the past or the future. Focus on the here and now and things will feel so much easier.

• Slow down – rest when you need too. Take time for you when you need too.

• Make sure you are working to stay away from any additive behaviours. Things like alcohol will only make you feel lower and more down.

• Say no when you need too – you don’t have to agree to every commitment or say yes to every social event. Take some time out from the world. Things can wait.

• Take things step by step – bit by bit. Work through them gradually – one step at a time. The key is not letting things build up.

• Start seeing a therapist – counselling can really make a positive difference.

• Above all – remember you are not alone and remind yourself that you can get through this.