New Year, New me (and you)

The new year is for many a time of change.  All around us people are trying to reinvent themselves.  Dry January, diet plans, renewed gym memberships and people making all sorts of resolutions for the year ahead. I personally really dislike the phrase "new year new me".  It makes me feel sad.  As the delightful Dr Seuss said "Today you are you.  That is truer than true.  There is no-one alive who is youer than you".  I love this.  I love the fact that we are all unique.  So whilst we can perhaps all make changes which would make us happier, this does not have to involve changing who you are. The start of a new year can be a great time to take stock.  We can think about what has been unhelpful for us.  We can think about what is effectively a new chapter in our lives and this can often make us feel hopeful.  The first consideration before making any changes should...
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‘Tis the season to be jolly…. but it’s ok not to be

Here we are again in December. For many of us that means Christmas. Whilst there are no decorations in my office, (there are some mince pies in my drawer), Christmas is very much part of the work with my clients at the moment. Christmas is everywhere we turn. There are decorations, lights, music, adverts,  shops brimming with gift suggestions and food. This year in particular it feels to me that it started even earlier than usual.  I’ve overheard several flustered parents warning their offspring that “Santa is watching”. For many, Christmas is an opportunity to take a break from work, spend time with family and can be a happy time with loved ones. This is perhaps an expectation that we have about how Christmas “should” be. So what about when it doesn’t  meet that expectation?  Christmas is often a difficult time. Many people have financial worries and the expectations around Christmas create additional anxiety or worry. Not all families are happy and harmonious...
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Self Harm – the secret pain

Self harm is something that many people feel uncomfortable talking about. It’s not Fight Club... we can talk about it. Talking about it may be the first step in finding alternative ways to cope. When we hear the term self-harm we often think about someone deliberately cutting themselves. We also often think about this being a teenage girl issue. My experience is that boys, girls, men and women from all walks of life turn to self-harming behaviours as a way to cope. Self harm isn’t just cutting but can range from not taking care of yourself, risky behaviour, binge drinking, smoking, drugs, scratching, burning, scalding, hitting or punching yourself or objects. People self harm for many different reasons and in many different ways. One person’s experience is likely to be very different to another’s. Self harming behaviours can be a way of trying to manage overwhelming emotions. Most of us know how to take care of a physical wound but emotional wounds can...
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Living with Anxiety

"I have anxiety". This is something I hear frequently from clients. Many people would describe themselves as an "anxious person". This does not however need to be a label which we wear as a badge, something to define ourselves by or a life sentence to living in an anxious state. We need anxiety. It is a normal emotion. Without it, we would walk outside and get hit by a car. It is there to protect us from danger. We all have a "fight or flight" response to perceived danger or threat. There is some science to explain this response and the unpleasant feelings which we experience. If we perceive some danger, our sympathetic nervous system kicks in preparing for us to fight or flee. Our brain sends signals from our amygdala (the part which deals with emotions) and hormones are released. This results in physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, bladder relaxation, tunnel vision, shaking, dilated pupils, flushed...
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Social media, Russian dolls, onions and the dark side

"Don't compare where you are with the heavily filtered snapshots of a single moment in time that you see on social media. They're never the full picture". (Image credit The Blurt Foundation www.blurtitout.org) This was a fantastic quote which I recently saw, on social media, from The Blurt Foundation. It struck a chord both with me personally and with me as a therapist. So many of us compare ourselves to others and often find ourselves lacking. We are all used to seeing friends and family who seemingly lead exciting fulfilling, busy lives on Facebook. We see beautifully groomed friends, always laughing, always having fun on Instagram. We may look enviously at numerous holiday pictures from glamorous locations we can only dream of. If social media is to be believed, everyone is in happy relationships, has a great job, and hundreds of "friends" and everyone is so much funnier on Twitter. So many people appear to have everything sorted. You know, the...
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Tears- I’m just leaking

I have been thinking a lot about crying and tears. I hope to do some in depth research so will probably blog a lot more about this subject over the coming months. We all have different relationships with crying. Some of us cry easily and for some, tears simply cannot be allowed to fall. We can cry because we are sad, angry, frustrated, frightened or even happy. We cry silently or with huge gut wrenching sobs. Sometimes a lone tear trickles down our faces or we are “misty eyed”, sometimes we “burst” into tears and it can feel uncontrollable. Have you ever noticed the other physical sensations which occur if we stop ourselves from crying? I think it’s no coincidence that this is often referred to as “fighting back tears” because it certainly can feel like a fight. Many of you will recognise the feeing of being “choked” if we resist the urge to cry. Have you ever noticed the negative (and unkind) language...
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What is your body trying to tell you?

Do you consider your mind and body as separate things? If you had asked me this a couple of years ago I would probably have said “yes”. Having spent a few months doing some additional training in body psychotherapy, I came to see that we could all benefit from paying more attention to our bodies and considering it as one whole package, being wholly embodied. In therapy, the focus is often on talking about and trying to understand our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Sometimes we just don't have the words to explain these, especially if we are holding some deep rooted issues. Often we don't pay enough attention to, or even hear, what our bodies may have to say. I often ask clients to notice their body sensations, both in our sessions whilst we are talking through issues, and outside of the sessions in their day to day lives. Body sensations can tell us so much when we cannot find the...
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Why does my therapist not tell me much about herself?

Your relationship with your therapist is likely to be different to your relationship with anyone else. For a start, there are boundaries. This might feel strange at first but they are there to keep you and the relationship safe. Whilst being a close relationship, it is not a friendship. Boundaries are the “rules” of the relationship and will include things such as time of appointments, payment for sessions, contact between sessions, and social media interactions. These rules make sure that everyone knows where they stand in the relationship and therefore create a safe environment within which to explore difficult issues. Blurred boundaries can be confusing and result in lack of trust. If boundaries are maintained, you know that your therapist is there for you at an agreed time where you have undivided attention to talk about whatever you want. A therapy relationship is unique in that it is unlikely you will get to know much about your therapist. This might feel a...
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Mother’s Day isn’t always easy.

Mother’s Day isn’t always easy.

Like Christmas and other celebration days, it is impossible not to notice that Mother's Day is approaching. There are constant reminders in shops, online and on TV. I’ve been bombarded with emails and adverts with various suggestions of what might be the “perfect Mother’s Day gift”. I am noticing in my therapy room that this approaching “celebration” is causing upset and anxiety for many. I’ve heard more than one client say that they are “dreading” it and it seems that there is a huge amount of pressure being felt by many. Mother’s Day can of course be a lovely day for many people. It can be a celebration or a chance for family to come together. It is often portrayed as an opportunity for us to thank mums for all they have done/do for us. I think however it is important to remember that not all families are the same. My thoughts are with those who find the day difficult. It...
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How do you speak to yourself?

How do you speak to yourself?

Recently I was running around in the morning, trying to do paperwork before leaving for work, unable to find my keys and my mood deteriorated.  I noticed that I was berating myself.. "oh for gods sake", "you are stupid", "you are useless".  These angry and frustrated words were going round my head.  When I opened the washing machine to find a dark wash covered in tiny bits of tissue, once again I caught myself “oh you idiot, why didn’t you check the pockets?”.  Why was I talking to myself like this? As soon as I noticed what I was doing, it reminded me of many sessions with clients where it is clear that they have an unkind voice in their heads.  I often notice with clients how they speak to themselves. They are often unaware that they are even doing it. Clients sometimes say things like “it’s pathetic but....” or “I know it’s stupid but...”. We talk to ourselves (in our heads...
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