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Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week aims to address the fact that approximately one in ten people in the UK will, at some point in their life, experience depression. Mental Health Awareness Week aims to  increase consciousness of and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

We are all waking up to the fact that mental health needs to be discussed openly. If you know someone who is struggling you may feel unable or unequipped to help or offer your support, causing feelings of powerlessness, frustration, confusion and anxiety. Helping someone to recognise symptoms and seek professional help involves trust, patience and understanding.

Depression isn’t the same for everyone and varies from person to person.

Indicators can include

  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Preferring to spend time alone
  • Making excuses to not see friends
  • Showing less interest in things that have previously been a source of joy
  • Problems with concentration and focus
  • Increased irritability
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increase in anger or short temper
  • Changes in sleeping habit

The list isn’t exhaustive and everyone can have bad days or a low period in their life. Depression isn’t feeling fed up or a bit down; depression is more than this and can carry on for weeks or months.

In Mental Health Awareness Week, encouraging a friend to visit their GP is a good place to start, if they don’t have a regular GP who they feel that they can talk to, a recommended and trusted therapist is another option worth seeking out.

Therapy is a process, it offers a safe space to talk, helps with understanding where problems come from and with developing strategies and tools for feeling better. Change doesn’t happen overnight and your support may be needed during the process. Therapy isn’t a quick fix, but it does work.

Learning More

It’s worthwhile reading official NHS advice and MIND is a brilliant resource, both for those wanting to help and those suffering with depression.

Being there

This is the main thing you can do. Ask how you can help; there will be times when gentle encouragement to talk is needed and times when your friend needs solitude. You may need to remind them to take care of themselves, to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep.

Depression is very real and not something that someone can ‘snap out of’, in the same way you wouldn’t tell someone who has a broken ankle to go for a run.

The simplest way to help someone with mental health issues

It’s important not to pressure someone suffering from depression or make them feel inadequate. Ask them how they’re feeling, listen with empathy and encourage them to seek professional help, but understand that someone suffering from depression may not want to do this or even be able to.

Psychotherapy is a resource for helping those suffering from depression, so seek help if you or someone you know needs it.

 

Anxious thoughts

Anxious thoughts can be a problem when self-reflection gets out of hand and becomes negative rumination.

As a health professional I accept that the Mental Health Foundation place this issue as a cause of anxiety and depression.

In 2013 the University of Liverpool published a study that  said that rumination (a word for constant repetitive thinking or dwelling that comes from the action in cows of chewing the cud) far from being a player in the most common mental health issues, is the largest predictor.

So what does this mean for us? It means that when we dwell on things, not only do our thoughts tend to spiral downwards but that can lead us to poor mental health.

This will come as no surprise to therapists, but the extent may. Most therapists see the link between persistent negative thought and self-blame and anxiety and depression, but as a causative factor?

It also means that psychological issues can lead to problems at a mental health level. Replaying thoughts over and over again makes us sad and anxious.

There is also evidence that rumination is at play in OCD and eating disorders, in fact anywhere our negative thoughts are stuck on repeat, we find the potential for problems.

So… what can we do about it?

Well firstly, we can learn to relax. Relaxation is often the key in early therapy to opening up the space into which the client can grow and change can be made.

Think about the amount of time that anxious thoughts or worried thoughts take up, or as some say, the amount of space they rent in your head. With all that time and energy freed up, what would you be able to do?

After that, we can look at the sense of threat that generally underpins anxiety, often being able to identify that threat can help us move forward to explore it and perhaps re-frame it or find ways to cope with it.

Please don’t think that anxious thoughts, constant thought repetition or rumination are something that you have to ‘put up with’ or suffer. If you need help to overcome these patterns, then please reach out to a professional.

 

 

Money worries

Money worries and financial insecurity are another often hidden issue. There can be links to self-esteem and the need to be very careful about how money is spent.

While this is a different situation to someone who may have heavy debts or spend too much, it is still an issue. I see in clients that often anxiety can stretch to include worrying about security or even begin there. Constant checking, planning and looking to the future.

The fear of losing a job.

Many people see money as security but it can also be many other things.

Money can be a reward, a replacement for love, a punishment, a tool to inflict pain, the list goes on….

It’s also important to realise that how we feel in relation to money can have nothing to do with how much we have in the bank. Some very wealthy people can concern themselves with money, money, money.

Decisions about money can also cause anxiety, and therefore add to it. It can be a battleground in the mind that is constant, which is the right way to go? Can I spend on this treat?

Sometimes the opposite, ‘I deserve it’ and then regret buying it afterwards.

Viktor Frankl saw the will to money as a basic form of the will to power, caused by an existential vacuum.

We live in a society that sees shopping as a form of therapy, but is it…?

Often money worries as a source of anxiety and depression go unspoken. Sufferers don’t tell partners, parents, GPs and the worry is turned inward which increases the sense of isolation and stress.

All I suggest is that we don’t discount money from the discussion about anxious thinking and suffering.

The ‘if I win the lottery’ fantasy keeps clients deeply rooted in the future, ignoring the mindfulness of today.

In therapy, we can look at what money means to you, and then start to look at what the threat is that is driving the anxiety. Re-framing is very important, challenging the rigid black and white thinking.

Most importantly, let’s not let money worries become money anxiety…

 

Bolton mental health update

Bolton mental health update is a quick look back over the last 5 years since I moved back to Bolton.

Although not from there, I went to Bolton School so I made friends and connections in the town. When Talking Cure was set up it was my aim to provide specialist expert psychotherapy and hypnotherapy based in the town.

As a UKCP psychotherapist, CNHC hypnotherapist and psychologist, I take self-referrals, GP referrals and clients from BUPA and other major insurers. It’s been an interesting and enjoyable five years and I think it’s interesting to take a snapshot as to what Boltonians seem to struggle with most, hence the idea for a Bolton mental health update came about.

As you might expect worry, anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic attack issues are high on the list. It isn’t surprising, we live ever more frantic lives, ever faster, more information and more pressure.

When perceived demands are greater than perceived ability to cope then we can slip into anxious thought patterns. If left untreated, these can worsen and may lead to depression. Many of the clients I see need some help to re-frame their lives or challenges.

Teaching them to relax and building self-esteem and emotional resilience lie at the heart of treatment. The interesting thing about anxiety is that it is impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time.

If you can learn to switch on relaxation you can switch off anxiety.

From there, in therapy, we work to examine the reasons behind the negative thought patterns in the first place. Using a selection of techniques and psychological interventions, often with hypnosis, a change happens.

So, if I was asked to give you one thing that troubles the mental health of Bolton, I would say anxiety underpins most issues.

My own experience with panic attacks and anxiety is what led me to learn to help others. Now I specialise in anxiety and offer therapy face to face and online, partnering with some charities to improve reach.

I’ll keep you posted as to how things develop.

Best

Stuart

 

 

 

 

self-esteem

Future Anxiety

Future Anxiety – do you live in the future?

I do. Sometimes. We all do, sometimes.

I used to live there much more, with all of the things I would have as well as all the places I would visit, the houses I would live in. There was a big long list in my head. 

I was very ambitious; I still am truth be told, but I had a slowly dawning realisation that I was almost solely focused on the future.

What I would do there? What things would I have there? 

The more plans I made and goals I set, I realised that my overall feeling was future anxiety:

This is future anxiety – ‘Today, this hour, this minute, is not good enough. I have none of the things I want and am working towards, therefore I’m not happy. Also I won’t be happy until I achieve a long (and possibly never ending) list of ‘wants’

You can see that I was blind to everything that I already have.

Can we be happy with what we already have?

Making a conscious effort in addition to realise just how beautiful life already is, bringing awareness to the ‘little things’ helped me become happier.

Five Minutes to Happiness” (Maxwell Maltz) was first published in 1962. A book written to help us learn the art of being happy.

Since then, many pages have been written about how we can be happier.  

The main gist is focusing on the good stuff, appreciating that which you have and being grateful for it. 

Making a list of just five things you’re grateful for may seem an odd way to help future anxiety. It’s not about what’s on the list, don’t judge yourself. It could be chocolate ice-cream, it could also be knowing that you’re family is fit and well. 

Just come up with five things

A nice meal maybe – it might’ve been a great salad or an enormous burger- remember not to judge.

No rain today.

Walking through the park first thing this morning perhaps.

Meeting a friend, for a particularly great cup of coffee.

Your health – even if you have a bad cold, perhaps you can be grateful that it’s not worse!

In addition, studies have shown that after making a nightly list for just one week happiness grows.

By doing this small, simple exercise you are retraining your brain to notice the good things, the positives. 

You start to look out for them as well as register them when they happen. 

Then you can enjoy and appreciate them all over again when you add them to your list. 

Caffeine panic

Caffeine panic – about 10 years ago now I cut caffeine from my diet.

Apart from a three day headache there seemed little effect at the time but I did it because I believed it would make things calmer in the long run, and on reflection, it did.

Although I can’t remember the hour or the day things felt different, they do.

It’s conspicuous by its absence caffeine.

Most people ingest a couple of hundred milligrams of this stimulant each day. The jury is out on what are the best levels, but as with many things, I think it depends on the individual.

For the anxious, it can make things a lot worse, and the anxious individual’s sensitivity is heightened.

This happens because caffeine mimics panic symptoms, it can make you jittery, nervous, filled with dread, irritable and restless. Caffeine can actually induce panic attacks.

Caffeine panic – It was this feeling of empty uneasiness and restlessness that I wondered about, and what had been causing it.

That’s the feeling that years later I no longer carry around with me.

Some symptoms of a Panic Attack include sweating, fast or irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, digestive issues. Also, it can bring on a feeling of dread, unreality, pins and needles, even chest pain. (APA, 2014)

Guess what? Caffeine can cause fast or irregular heartbeat, diarrhoea, racing thoughts, fast breathing, nausea, sweating… you get the picture, I’m sure.

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. This is why we pay so much for it in Starbucks. It makes you alert, keeps you awake.

It can be natural or synthetic and is found in some unlikely foods and drinks, so if you are worried about caffeine panic and are anxious, then perhaps look at your consumption of chocolate, coffee, cola, tea and medicines and start to see where it is (Lucozade anyone?).

Are you struggling with anxiety, panic or stress levels?

Maybe have a look at whether that pick-me-up little helper is actually a part of the issue

 

Perfectionism or excellence

Perfectionism or excellence, that is the question….

Perfectionism or excellence is a choice.

While perfectionism can drive you towards fantastic achievements. Perfectionism can help to provide you with the motivation to keep going until you attain your goal:
Giving the perfect presentation
Doing the perfect job
Baking the perfect birthday cake
Perfectionism can really help you sustain the energy levels you need to reach your own personal challenge.

But pressure and anxiety all build when you try to be the perfect person.

Perfectionism is within you and therefore under your control.
Striving for perfectionism within yourself can lead to anxiety as you try to live up to your own expectations or how you perceive others’ expectations of you.
You will always be not quite there, not quite good enough, simply because the perfect person doesn’t exist.

Cakes, jobs and presentations are all measurable, people aren’t.

People make mistakes
People have imperfections

It’s part of what makes us human. Mistakes help us to learn.

Perfectionism, pressure, anxiety can take an enormous toll on you and your life in general.

You fear success because of the fear of maintaining success.
Fearing mistakes can be due to the fear of losing respect from others as well as yourself.
Fear of failure can mean that you never set yourself goals. Or setting goals so high as to be unattainable.
Being constantly aware and reminding yourself of your weaknesses, imperfections and failures.

Be Excellent Instead Of Perfect
Improving yourself can be an enjoyable journey.
Being great at something is an enormous achievement.
Take yourself (and life) a little less seriously, forgive yourself, be gentle with yourself.

Set small, achievable goals.
Reward yourself.
Be aware of the influence of social programming – social media, TV programmes, magazine articles.
Making the effort to change is an achievement in itself.
Just by being born, you literally won the race!

Therapy Ethics

 Therapy Ethics is a wide subject.

In the last post from my presentation at the NCHP conference we were talking about memory. Memory is not some ethereal concept, but is made up of specific neurons in the brain.

I work with a particularly scientific client, and  this principle opens up the idea that she is not stuck with a memory for life.

Memories change, re-frame.

Memory is malleable.

This introduces a sense of possibility and with unhelpful memories.

If things haven’t gone the way the client hoped, you’re often dealing with their attachment to how ‘it should have been’ .

Breaking the attachment to the memory (because it may not be entirely accurate) attaches the problem to the memory and not the client.

I’m not blind to the juxtaposition here with the person centred concept of self-actualisation and that the client is the expert in their problem.

I believe both these principles entirely but as with all things sometimes a perspective doesn’t work, and we need more creative solutions.

It’s strange to me too, that in therapy the idea of intervention against natural process is such a minefield

There is this idea that any sense of change in the client that they didn’t initiate themselves is somehow unethical. We do however change everything around us all the time.

We make different types of plants and foods by modification. .

It’s a complex ethical issue, and we will all have our standpoints. Putting male cells into a female body however is a different story when you’re doing it in the context of a bone marrow transplant to save someone’s life from cancer.

There always consequences to acting and there are always consequences to not doing anything.

All I am suggesting here is let’s not be hypocritical. Therapy Ethics is a lens.

Therapy Ethics are important when clients come to us as therapists to change, for us to help them change.

We work in an idiographic way of course, but change is nevertheless the brief. People will always be self-organising, adjusting to minimise discomfort but there are times when that isn’t enough on its own.

In Western medicine, we celebrate advancements and ways of changing things. One day we will beat cancer.

Will anybody be saying that we should have left that process to nature?

All I am suggesting is that we fit the methodology to the client.

 

Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying.

The impact of workplace bullying increases stress, anxiety and depression. It can have a major effect on home life and take a toll on relationships too.

Bullying in the workplace and uncomfortable work situations can cause upset and turbulence at home. As a result stress levels rise, sleep is disturbed, symptoms of anxiety and depression increase.

Maybe it’s difficult to discuss work related issues at home because:

  • You may convince yourself that you can hide your feelings from your partner.
  • The bully has made you feel responsible for the situation and you don’t want to share your experiences.
  • You feel that your partner will not be supportive and as a result will probably blame you for bringing the situation on yourself.

It is very likely that increased stress and anxiety from workplace bullying will bring about a noticeable personality change and your partner will realise that something is wrong.

  • Frayed temper due to worry and bottled up feelings may mean that bullying in the workplace causes you to lash out at those around you.
  • There may be financial worries hence making you feel lucky to have a job at all.

Your partner could be incredibly supportive and help fight with you end the bullying. Finding out that a loved one is suffering bullying in the workplace is upsetting, especially if it has been kept secret.

Emotional health and personal relationships may be under enormous strain due to bullying in the workplace increased stress, anxiety and depression.

It’s really important to look after you

  • Keeping a diary will serve as a written account of events and also help you express how you’re feeling.
  • Taking some time off work may help you feel calmer. Don’t feel guilty about doing this; bullying in the workplace is not acceptable.
  • Listen to your body, it is speaking to you. It may be worthwhile booking a check-up with your GP.
  • Exercise is proven to release stress and anxiety and need not be expensive. A swim, walk or bike ride are all great stress relievers
  • Talk to a UKCP therapist (had to slip it in somewhere)

Relaxation Ease Depression

Relaxation ease depression and make yourself feel better.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that sadness and depression are one and the same.

Sadness is a natural, normal emotion that comes and goes.

Although feeling sad and cheerless is an unhappy state, it usually passes.

Depression isn’t sadness.

Depression is constant.

It can last for a period of weeks, months or even years.

Willpower alone won’t overcome depression, however, there are a number of ways that the methods of relaxation ease depression symptoms and hopeless feelings.

Connection – resist isolating yourself and talk to a trusted person like a family member, friend or therapist This can help make problems feel easier.

Exercise – the link between exercise and feeling good is well established. Exercise doesn’t have to mean joining a gym; a brisk walk has been shown to improve mood and positively affect symptoms of mild to moderate depression.

Relaxation – Anything that makes you unwind and feel good will benefit your emotional health

Again – for many of us relaxing may simply mean flopping on the sofa and maybe watching the TV, that may feel relaxing, but it doesn’t reduce the effects of stress.

These techniques can all help to relieve stress because they make you feel relaxed and hopeful.

  • Deep breathingand here’s how.
  • Guided imagery – remember imagination is stronger than will.
  • Yoga– Exercise and connection – maybe take a class

Find techniques that suit you, a massage or pedicure may be good for some but stressful for others.

Make a little time each day for something that you look forward to – like a bubble bath or a walk

These are useful ways to show how exercise and relaxation ease depression, of course, a therapist will help you to improve your symptoms and you should seek out a suitable therapist through UKCP.