How To Survive Christmas

 

1.Communicate

Ask everyone what they want to do over Christmas. Including something of what everyone wants will make for a happier holiday and will show that everybody’s wishes are important. Decide what you can manage to do, how you can do it and where you can do it. Agree on who you want to spend time with and for how long.

 

2. Prioritise Your Relationship

If you are in a relationship give yourself time together away from the hectic run-up to Christmas. Boycott all Christmas talk and catch up with how you both are. Book a babysitter and have a meal out or buy a vat of popcorn and snuggle under the blanket on the sofa in front of a movie.

 

3. Pamper Yourself

Take some well deserved time out for you. We need to be ok with ourselves before we are able to give to others. Give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries amidst the ever-increasing excitement. Find a local yoga class, meditate, or just unwind in a hot bath with plenty of bubbles, candles and a glass of mulled wine.

 

4. Get Enough Sleep

As the big day approaches look after yourself. Neuroscience proves that sleep is the body’s way of repairing itself. Whilst asleep our brain restructures its connections making sense of the previous day’s information and storing it to memory. Go to bed at your usual time as often as possible. You will need all the rest you can get so that you can get everything done and still have energy left to enjoy yourself.

 

5. Reflect And Resolve

Reflect on 2018. What has gone well and not so well for you? Think about what you might do differently in 2019. What steps can you take to improve your lifestyle and happiness?

 

6. Give Something Back

Research shows that depression can be relieved by volunteering in the community. As Christmas is the season of goodwill why not invite an elderly neighbour round for coffee and a mince pie or encourage your children to choose a current toy they could give away to a charity shop to make some room for this year’s presents?

 

7. Be realistic

Aspiring to perfection will only lead to disappointment. Don’t be over-ambitious. Keep it simple and focus on what you have agreed to do.

 

8. Plan and delegate

Write lists. Spending some time thinking ahead about what you need will pay off. Work out your financial budget for Christmas and stick to it – this could mean deciding a maximum amount on Christmas presents or introducing a secret santa present system. Be organised and don’t wait until Christmas Eve to buy the turkey! If you are hosting ask all guests to contribute by bringing along something to eat and/or drink. If you are visiting offer to take something.

 

9. Old Fashioned Fun

Take the opportunity to switch off the technology for a few hours. Spend some quality time together, play board games, cards, go for a walk.

 

10. Try Something Different

Escape it all! Book a last minute holiday to learn diving in the Red Sea. Get rid of the need for washing up and book your Christmas dinner out or ring the changes and book a spicy Thai meal.

 

 

FOMO

 

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a term brought about by our digital age. It’s the feeling we have when we’re unable to attend a social engagement – a barbecue for example – because we’ve already accepted an invitation – say to the cinema – by other friends. In reality, we want to do them both for fear of missing something.

But the question is, why has FOMO become such a thing?
It might be useful to stop and ask ourselves next time we feel it, what is it we are actually feeling and what has triggered us to feel it?

Social media can intensify our FOMO. In our digital age, most of us have a smartphone or tablet nearby and check them often. Whilst we are busy doing one thing, we may check into a social media account and see others engaging in something else. Part of us may wish we could be doing that too or even instead of what we are currently doing.

FOMO can affect us in many ways. It can invoke feelings of envy…. we want to be doing what others are doing, or wish we could be involved in the alternative activity in case it may be ‘better’ than what we are currently doing… that our life is less interesting, or enjoyable or worthwhile somehow.

FOMO can minimise the enjoymènt we are currently experiencing by distracting us from the good time we are already having and evoking feelings of discontent and unease instead.

So what can we do about it?

The main antidote for FOMO is to practice being fully attentive to what we are doing. If we are able to live in the moment, be fully conscious of where we are and what we are doing, we will appreciate our choices and our current situation far more and not feel drawn to carry out distracting behaviours.

Being ‘in the moment’ is easier than it sounds. It can be difficult to concentrate on what we are doing and become fully engaged in whatever it is when there is so much technology to take our attention away. It takes practice and discipline, but a good start is to concentrate on ourselves and work out what fully engages us. What makes us smile? When do we feel alive and genuinely connected to others? What hobby or activity have we always wanted to do but haven’t been brave enough to attempt?
What nurtures us? Is it being outside? Snuggling with a book and our pet? Spending time with people who care about us?

It is up to us to spend some time exploring what makes us feel fully alive, in order to appreciate the choices we make and not feel we might be missing out.

 

 

 

What Is Psychodynamic Counselling?

 

Psychodynamic therapy is an in-depth way of working which gives you a space to explore your inner self.

The difference between psychodynamic counselling and most other types of counselling is that we work with the unconscious. The unconscious is around us all the time in our everyday life, for example, when we make a slip of the tongue and something pops out that we may have been trying to hide, but what has just popped out is actually what we think.

Psychodynamic counselling and psychotherapy work with this underneath layer of ourselves. It identifies unconscious recurring themes and patterns from the past which have become unhelpful and can feel inescapable. By talking about what is troubling us and what we are thinking and feeling with a professional therapist who can value and understand us, we can explore the issue and make more sense of it. This increase in self-awareness is a gradual process, so once we are aware of what we are doing we are able to do something about it, with subtle but permanent changes over time.

Dreams, daydreams and metaphor are also part of the unconscious. We explore these unconscious phenomena in the sessions and they often link to what we are talking about in the therapy. It’s fascinating how our unconscious communicates with us if we let it in.

Research has shown that the relationship between the therapist and client is very important in all types of therapy. What goes on in the relationship between the client and therapist can mirror other relationships the client has. If the client can tell the therapist how they feel in the room with them it gives us insight into how the client feels and behaves with other people in their life.

As a psychodynamic counsellor, my aim is to help each client discover their authentic self and fulfill their potential to become all they can be.

 

 

How To Choose A Therapist

 

Who And What Is The Therapy For?

As counselling becomes more popular an increasing number of people are going to their GPs for help and finding themselves on a very long waiting list for therapy. As a result more people are choosing to find a private therapist, but there are so many available that it can be confusing deciding who to choose.

It’s worth spending a little time thinking about who and what the therapy is for.

Is it just for you? We call that individual therapy. Or is it for you and your partner together? in which case you will probably want couples counselling. It may be for a young person or for the whole family? You will need to find an appropriate counsellor for the problem and the person or people who need it.

You may also want counselling or psychotherapy for a specific problem. You may be recently bereaved in which case you may need bereavement counseling. You may want help with an addiction or you may need support for a relationship which you are in. If that’s the case then there are specialist organisations and therapists who work in these areas and they may be a good place to start.

Here are some links to websites of organisations which may be useful:

Cruse for Bereavement

Relate for Couples

Help with Addiction

 

There Are So Many Therapists, Who Should I Choose?

There are many different types of models of therapy: psychodynamic and psychoanalytical, cognitive behavioural therapy, humanistic, person-centred, integrative and it’s difficult to know which to choose. The counselling directory which gives a good summary of each type of therapy available.

Research has shown that no matter what model of therapy, it is the relationship between the client and the therapist that is the most important aspect of the therapy and the one which makes the most difference in progress. It’s important to get a feel for a therapist before you start working with them. Take note of how you feel when you research the therapist, talk with them and meet them.

Is the therapist clear about what they offer and how they work?

Do you feel you could trust them and talk to them confidentially? Most importantly do you feel understood? Does it feel like they get you and understand your problem? Can you imagine yourself working with them?

What To Do Next

Make contact with them. Either email them or even better pick up the phone.

Book an initial session where you can meet. You can tell them a little about what is going on for you and why you are looking for counselling and they can tell you how they work.

Don’t worry that you may be nervous. We all know that starting counselling or psychotherapy is a big step into the unknown. It’s totally normal to feel anxious when you first make contact and when you go to your first session. Just reach out to them somehow and they will help you find your way to them.

 

 

10 Tips To Survive Christmas

 

 

1.Communicate.

Ask everyone what they want to do over Christmas. Including something of what everyone wants will make for a happier holiday and will show that everybody’s wishes are important. Decide what you can manage to do, how you can do it and where you can do it. Agree on who you want to spend time with and for how long.

 

2. Prioritise Your Relationship.

If you are in a relationship give yourself time together away from the hectic run up to Christmas. Boycott all Christmas talk and catch up with how you both are. Book a babysitter and have a meal out or buy a vat of popcorn and snuggle under the blanket on the sofa in front of a movie.

 

3. Pamper Yourself.

Take some well deserved time out for you. We need to be ok with ourselves before we are able to give to others. Give yourself a chance to recharge your batteries amidst the ever-increasing excitement. Find a local yoga class, meditate, or just unwind in a hot bath with plenty of bubbles, candles and a glass of mulled wine.

 

4. Get Enough Sleep.

As the big day approaches look after yourself. Neuroscience proves that sleep is the body’s way of repairing itself. Whilst asleep our brain restructures its connections making sense of the previous day’s information and storing it to memory. Go to bed at your usual time as often as possible. You will need all the rest you can get so that you can get everything done and still have energy left to enjoy yourself.

 

5. Reflect And Resolve.

Reflect on 2017. What has gone well and not so well for you? Think about what you might do differently in 2018. What steps can you take to improve your lifestyle and happiness?

 

6. Give Something Back.

Research shows that depression can be relieved by volunteering in the community. As Christmas is the season of goodwill why not invite an elderly neighbour round for coffee and a mince pie, encourage your children to choose a current toy they could give away to a charity shop to make some room for this year’s presents?

 

7. Be realistic.

Aspiring to perfection will only lead to disappointment. Don’t be over-ambitious. Keep it simple and focus on what you have agreed to do.

 

8. Plan and delegate.

Write lists. Spending some time thinking ahead about what you need will pay off. Work out your financial budget for Christmas and stick to it – this could mean deciding a maximum amount on Christmas presents or introducing a secret Santa present system. Be organised and don’t wait until Christmas Eve to buy the turkey! If you are hosting ask all guests to contribute by bringing along something to eat and/or drink. If you are visiting offer to take something.

 

9. Old Fashioned Fun.

Take the opportunity to switch off the technology for a few hours. Spend some quality time together, play board games, cards, go for a walk.

 

10. Try Something Different.

Escape it all! Book a last minute holiday to learn diving in the Red Sea. Get rid of the need for washing up and book your Christmas dinner out or ring the changes and book a spicy Thai meal.

 

 

Secretly Dreading Christmas?

 

The festive season can be difficult for many people. Plans are being made for the holiday season and whilst some of us spend time looking forward to them there are others of us who dread the question “What are you doing for Christmas?”

 

Expectations are high, but if we are honest maybe more than a few of us are not looking forward to the upcoming holiday period, especially family gatherings.

 

Are you or is someone you know:

  • living alone
  • in an unhappy relationship
  • a single parent
  • recovering from a breakup
  • bereaved
  • feel like your family doesn’t understand you?

These feelings are actually more common than we think and can be exacerbated at family celebrations.

 

Things We Can Do

 

We can start by allowing ourselves to become aware of how we feel. This is always the first step to change. This may take some time, especially for those of us who find getting in touch with our feelings difficult, but once we know how we feel we can do something about it.

 

Maybe we are currently suffering from:

  • depression
  • social anxiety
  • stress
  • feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • feeling sad and not wanting to face people

 

The next step is to work out what we really want to do. Do we want to go to the celebration? Or would we actually rather avoid it altogether?

 

If we don’t want to go at all, then can we work out why we want to avoid it?

 

For example: are we dreading the family celebrations because we don’t like some members of the family? If so would it be possible to talk to the person concerned about how they may have hurt us?

 

Or can we find a way to manage the situation so that we feel more comfortable? Maybe going for a shorter amount of time or taking someone else with us. Could we be strategic and spend as little time as possible near the people we find challenging?

 

If we have worked out that we really cannot bear to go at all, then having the courage to make the decision and tell others is the hard part. Especially if this is going to involve a break from the usual routine.

 

However, if we feel we are acting with integrity and choosing to do something different for our own mental health, then we need to have the courage of our convictions and tell others our plans and stick to them.

 

Our new plan does not need to be climbing Kilimanjaro, it could be helping others less fortunate than ourselves eg volunteering at the local homeless project. Or organising a friends’ Christmas day for others who may also be struggling with what to do.

 

The objective is to feel ok with who we are and what we do over the festive period. To strike a balance between doing what we want to do and doing what others want us to do. Our time off is precious and we need to be true to ourselves and honest about what we want to do and with whom we wish to do it.

 

 

 

When Therapy Gets Challenging

 

 

 

I often find myself telling clients that things may feel worse before they feel better.

 

Therapy isn’t easy to describe. It’s not like a manicure where the results are immediate. It’s more like a workout: requires effort to get there, hard work when you are in the room and takes commitment both personal and financial. Unlike a personal trainer, however, I can’t promise the client an endorphin rush after every session!

 

Recent research has shown it is mainly the relationship between the client and therapist which facilitates change. It takes time to develop trust. But once trust is established, change can happen at a deeper level. Even knowing that what we say is confidential it can still be difficult, to be honest at times.

 

It’s not easy to explore and share how we feel. At the beginning of the therapeutic relationship, the therapist can feel like the stranger they truly are. Why would we want to tell someone we don’t know our inner thoughts and feelings? It doesn’t feel natural, especially knowing very little about the therapist in such a one-sided relationship.

 

But counselling works as a result of the therapist maintaining their boundaries in the relationship ie keeping some distance so they do not feel like our friend but work professionally so that we feel safe and looked after objectively and competently.

 

There are periods during therapy when it can feel challenging. This is the tough part: becoming vulnerable in the consulting room is uncomfortable and can make us feel anxious, but if we are able to explore these difficult moments we can learn so much from them. If we are able to hang in there, and trust in the therapist and the process things will eventually shift.

 

Like fitness training, in psychodynamic therapy, things may need to feel worse before they get better. But we need to hold on to the fact that “this too shall pass” and that it is worth going through the challenging times to come out the other side with more awareness, understanding, and the ability to live a fulfilling life with more satisfying relationships.

 

 

Our Identity

 

 

In these digital times, we can create our own online identities.

 

We become the perfect tweeter, entrepreneur, online date or blogger. The internet is the perfect platform to try out our perfect online persona.

 

I’m sure we all know a friend who went on a first date with someone they met online only to find their picture and/or profile was a flattering version of the person they met. There’s even a new term for it: “kittenfishing”.

 

The virtual reality of the internet offers a perceived distance and anonymity. This can be useful eg I am able to blog without giving away too much personal detail.

 

There is something that feels “safe” about online personas. We can be who we want to be. This illusion of security may be down to feeling anonymous or being free to choose who we want to be.

 

The online screen acts as a barrier. We are able to keep in contact with people on our terms.

 

We have less face to face interactions but still feel connected. For example, we are aware of what’s going on with friends and family by social media eg via Facebook. But is this a genuine representation of what’s really going on? Are the fabulously loved- up holiday pictures the true story of our relationship? Or the image we wish to share with the outside world?

 

Digital contact keeps us connected, but at what level? There is a tendency in today’s manic world to text more and talk less. To have short catch-up interactions instead of quality time together.

 

Working with clients, I have often found, to begin with, they may find it strange to talk about themselves. To have the focus entirely on them for 50 minutes. In our world of super speedy interactions, it takes a while to become comfortable with sitting still for 50 minutes and concentrating on oneself.

 

However, the uncomfortableness does wear off, and the person usually comes to relish having two people think about their issues: exploring who they are, the personas they unconsciously put on in different situations with different people, the real and the not so real self…

 

Over time we gradually uncover who our authentic self is,

(that we are not so bad after-all) and discover the life we genuinely want.

 

Integrating Our Light and Shadow Sides

 

On a recent trip to Italy, I saw many works of art and was struck by the amount of Trompe L’oeil (a “trick of the eye” style where objects are painted to look real) in the interior design of buildings.

 

Looking closely I could see how important the shading was. On further research, I found out that the use of light and dark in the picture gives the clever perspective of the tromp l’oeil which deceives the viewer, allowing them to see the picture as the artist intended.

 

This led me to think of Carl Gustav Jung, the 20th Century psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and the importance he placed on our “shadow” side: those feelings which we may describe as negative eg jealousy, anger, hate. We are often uncomfortable when we experience these “negative” feelings.

 

Depending on our early childhood experiences eg being brought up in a family where anger was never overtly expressed safely, we may find these “shadow” feelings frightening or uncomfortable, to the extent where we don’t allow ourselves to feel them and so we unconsciously repress them, not liking to think of ourselves having these feelings.

 

Jung saw these shadow feelings as vital to our inner self. They are as important to us as positive feelings and provide us with useful information and signals.

 

It is hard to notice what is going on for us if we are not in touch with our feelings.

 

In the 1970s Eugene T Gendlin developed “Focusing” which is a forerunner of mindfulness and encourages sitting quietly and listening to our bodies – feeling what is going on for us in our bodies. Once we are able to do this in an intentional way we become more in tune with our bodies, as well as our feelings and are able to identify emotions more in our everyday lives.

 

The philosophy behind focusing, like mindfulness, is acceptance and being non-judgmental. Many of us are hard on ourselves. Focusing allows us to just notice what is going on in our body and accept our current state. This is the start of change.

 

As Jung suggested, over 100 years ago, if we accept all of our feelings, both negative and positive and are able to integrate them we are able to reach a better understanding of ourself and can work with all of our feelings for a more healthy life.

 

As the trompe l’oeil needs light and dark to exist as a fully functioning phenomenon -so do we need our shadow and light sides to exist together for the healthiest existence and fulfilling life possible.

 

 

10 Tips For The School Holidays

Are you dreading the summer holidays? Or excited for them to start? Perhaps it’s a mixture of the two but you’re not quite sure how to get through the next 6 weeks?

Here are some ideas that’ll help you to make the most of the break:

  1. Don’t over plan. Children need downtime as much as adults, especially at the beginning and end of the holidays. There is nothing wrong with letting them collapse in front of a DVD or leaving them to amuse themselves with their toys to reduce stress levels.
  2. Help them use their imaginations with you nearby but not necessarily joining in. Let them use the bed linen to make tents on bed-change day, combine watering the lawn with water play such as running through the spray of a sprinkler or hose. Children need to build their ability to play safely on their own with the company of adults in the background. This increases their confidence by making them feel safe as they move towards independence.
  3. Aim to leave the house every day: the beach, the park, a bike or scooter ride, a walk or just a visit to the shops will count. A change is as good as a rest and even a short injection of vitamin D and endorphins is healthy (and will help to tire them out too!) In wet weather make the most of the local library, museum, child-friendly cafe, ball-park, pottery cafe or cinema.
  4. Stock up on some arty crafty bits and pieces (Wilkinsons do an extensive cheap range) and keep old birthday cards, envelopes and scrap paper and card for easy, impromptu making sessions. Check out Scrapstore where you can buy cheap off-cut materials and attend family workshops.
  5. Use your supermarket vouchers cleverly (or hunt around on the internet for vouchers) for some special days out to theme parks and wildlife centres.
  6. Ask around at school, the local library, church or children’s centre for summer activities and book your children onto anything that looks like fun.
  7. Arrange play dates with parents of your children’s friends. Take it in turns to host so that you can get some chores done or have some quality child-free time.
  8. Contact your family early and organise visits to and from grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and family friends.
  9. Be easy on yourself and cut yourself some slack over the holidays. Term time is relentless. Now you can relax a bit on your daily routines and habits. Enjoy some family barbeques that run later than normal and follow up with a snuggly lie in the next day.
  10. Keep your sense of humour! As the saying goes: Those who laugh together stay together.