Positive Stress and Anxiety: Use them to your advantage

Looking From a More Positive Angle

Recent research highlights how viewing stress and anxiety from an alternative perspective can be beneficial. Positive stress and anxiety can change a person’s outlook on life. Typically, stress and anxiety are viewed as negative concepts, from events that are generally accepted as negative. Examples are something like the loss of a job or family bereavement.

A picture of someone biting their nails - not positive stress and anxiety!

The research, which is summarised by Science Daily here, points out that positive events can also bring on stress and anxiety. Bringing a newborn baby home for the first time is cited as an example. A very positive part of a person’s life but it can come with much stress and anxiety as the new parents work out how to provide for the infant.

Anxiety: Positive early warning

Considering anxiety alone for a moment, it can be useful to view it as an early warning system. As a therapist, I often point out to clients to listen to what their body is telling them. For example, if someone notices tension in their body, it can be a sign they are experiencing an increased level of anxiety. By paying attention to physical sensations in the body, raising awareness, gives control back to clients. For example, noticing a tightness in your chest may be a sign that you are anxious about an upcoming exam. At this point, using relaxation tools such as breathing, meditation or grounding can help to arrive at the exam in a more positive, calm mental state.

Listen to Your Body

However, if stress and anxiety go ignored for too long, that is when more serious problems occur. There is only so long that the body can continue to function in an extremely stressed state. Stress increases cortisol levels, which if maintained for a sustained time can lead to auto-immune conditions such as chronic fatigue or fibromialgia. Therefore, it is very important to listen to what our bodies are telling us. Notice the tension, energy levels and unexplained pains. They are there for a reason – to use as a positive sign that our bodies have been functioning near their limits for too long. If we do not take action, our bodies will – by beginning to shut down!

Viewing events from the alternative perspectives outlined above is a part of counselling. Many times the alternative perspectives can change our view to a more positive one. Stress and anxiety are givens in modern life, so learning to use them positively is a great skill.

To find out if I can help you do just that, please get in touch.

Mental Health Problems: The Media is Raising Awareness

I am an advocate of raising awareness of mental health problems. As such, I like to write about positive stories that further reduce the stigma of reaching out for help. This one, click here, from the charity Mind, is the latest to have caught my attention. In short, they have conducted a brief study looking into traffic to various pages of their website. They have uncovered a link between an increase to specific pages around the time a mental health documentary or drama was aired.

Mental health problems supported by portrayal in the media

Mind observed for several major TV shows that page views to related pages of their website had doubled. The inference here is that people are trying to find out more, potentially with a view to getting help. As a counsellor, I find that clients are often in search of answers. From the answers come understanding and this often starts the empowerment process, enabling people to gain back control. Essentially, it is knowing why things happen that can start the tide turning. When things makes sense, we can start to see choices and can begin to make changes.

Therefore, by watching a good quality program on TV, people are wanting to find out more. They start to research on the internet and discover that there are resources and help available. After all, some mental health problems are such that people are too embarrassed to get help or feel that their self-worth prohibits reaching out. So, anything that reduces stigma and promotes the acceptance of mental health problems should be acknowledged very positively indeed. As such, Mind themselves promote the Mind Media Awards, which recognises significant achievements across many media categories.

One option available to people with mental health problems is counselling. If you would like to find out more about the services I offer, please contact me.

Could a New Idea Be Changing Counselling in Bristol?

Is There a Need for Changing Therapy in Modern Bristol?

The modern day causes us to re-evaluate many aspects of our life. Looking at the big picture one begins to realise that our journey though life is dynamic. As such, it feels fitting that the world around us adapts (or indeed prompts us to respond, depending on your viewpoint…). For example, I think most people would agree that the invention of smartphones has revolutionised our lives. Just think how easy it is to navigate unknown roads with a ‘sat nav’ app. You may ask though, how this links to changing counselling in Bristol – read on…

Changing counselling in Bristol by booking online

Therefore, it would only be right to have an open mind to how the talking therapies can better fit in with ever changing lives. Things are already quite different to the days when clients (or patients, as they were known) where expected to lie on a couch. The therapist provided minimal input. Now, we have Skype, SMS and phone counselling, to name a few. These forms of therapy are well established. As an article (click here), in The Guardian newspaper suggests, another evolution aims to make counselling as normal and easy to access as the gym.

The New Idea

The article talks about a company set up in London that aims to do just that. Therapy is bought in a bundle, ahead of time. You book sessions online at a regular time or as it suits. I agree that this sounds very convenient. However, I believe in the importance of building a strong relationship with my clients. Gaps in therapy are noticeable. It then takes a little longer to work closely and effectively.

Can This Work at a Deep Relational Level?

When a session is booked with the company, you can even select a different therapist. On one hand it’s great that it is so easy to change. If you feel as though your current counsellor isn’t right, there are no awkward conversations. Once again though, going back to the counsellor-client relationship, there can be a great deal of learning to be had. For example, discussing why things aren’t working can reveal a lot about the client. Or being allowed/encouraged to have an awkward conversation without consequences or argument can be cathartic.

Further Reducing Stigma

Nevertheless, I applaud the ethos of the idea. Some of the ways clients can use the service don’t agree with my relational way of working. However, it will suit many people, especially in a large city such as London. Furthermore, anything that helps to further reduce any remaining stigma of reaching out for mental health support is welcomed! Not only that but the online nature of initiating the service really helps integrate therapy into today’s modern lifestyle.

However, are we likely to see changing counselling in Bristol? In my opinion, Bristol isn’t quite ready. Bristol already embraces counselling. As a city, we seem to prefer not to be anonymous service users but value knowing and recognising people. This aligns with my belief in the power of building a healing relationship through personal interaction. Please leave a comment or contact me if you would like to find out more.

Balance in Mental Health – The Elixir of Life?

Working Out the Balance in Mental Health

In so much of the work I do as a counsellor, I find that one word comes up time and time again. It’s a simple word but one with incredible meaning and a number of different applications. Balance. It might make you think of riding a bicycle, walking on uneven ground or a ballerina. Of course, these are all relevant but balance in mental health and counselling has many applications.

Balance in mental health - like walking a tightrope.

With clients, I often talk about the tightrope of mental health. By that I infer that the client is walking the tightrope holding one of those long poles to aid balance. On the end of the stick are two buckets, one containing things that replenish their mental health. An example of this would be self-care. On the other end are the things that deplete their mental health, for example doing things to help others. It is often the case that one bucket is heavier than the other – you guessed it – mostly the depleting one. Subsequently, life has become difficult to manage. This visual image alone can be enough to highlight the importance of balance.

Understanding Why Life is Hard

When people forget or cannot find the time to replenish themselves, they can lose sight of what is healthy and good. Whilst specific activities are very unique to the individual, there are often patterns and generalisations that help. For example, being outside doing something is gathering increasing evidence. Our eyes are designed (evolved!) to be more sensitive to shades of green than any other colour. As supported here, the time doesn’t need to be great, just time outside!

Recovering the Balance

Exercise and a healthy diet are other generalisations. I believe in having a balance between mental and physical exercise in order to promote good sleep. Furthermore, a healthy diet does change the way our minds operate and our bodies function. For inspiration watch this video. Time travelling back a few decades in my life, I am reminded of my mother saying ‘everything in moderation’. Now I understand what she meant and see how it fits with a balance in mental health.

If this post resonates with you in any way, please get in touch to find out about counselling sessions in Bristol. I work at a pace to suit you and aim to recover lost balances through a trusting, open relationship. Contact me here.

Social Media and Teenage Suicide

How Social Media and Teenage Suicide are Linked

Previously, I have written about the use of screens. My concern is how they can negatively influence the mental health of all of us, especially teenagers. Recently, it has been revealed that this is becoming a matter of life and death. More specifically, how social media and teenage suicide are being linked.

Image of a meadow on a summer's day

Alarmingly, around 200 British schoolchildren take their own lives each year. At a rate of more than one every other day, I was shocked to read this on the BBC website in this article. Another stand-out piece of information from the BBC is as follows. Due to the private nature of mobile phone use, parents are not up-to-date with the online persona of their children. As such, the type of content they are viewing is unknown. The video on the above BBC web page makes the point that disturbing self-harm or suicidal content is still freely and easily available to all.

Therefore, in some cases parents and friends of suicidal teenagers have no idea of deteriorating mental health. One cannot begin to the imagine the shock of discovering a dead child. So what can be done? How can we understand social media and teenage suicide?

Ways to Approach the Problem

To me there seem to be a number of different corners to the problem to smooth off in order make some headway. Initial thoughts might be to blame the social media companies – we live in a blame culture after all! Yes, there is definitely much they can do to improve the way in which harmful material is so readily available. As an optimist, I am sure there is plenty of work behind the scenes but it needs to be quicker and more effective. With all of today’s technology, how is it that a 14 year old can access suicidal images? Unacceptable.

However, can a teenager’s mental health deteriorate that quickly that parents and friends have no idea? Despite the confusing whirlpool of hormones that swish frequently through a young person’s body, we must regularly keep maintaining contact. By that I mean face-to-face interaction – let them know we are available to listen. Try to understand. It might appear to fall on deaf ears or is received with a grunt but on some level it will go in. Furthermore, there are always ways to connect with a teenager. As unlikely as this may seem, each personality will have a unique way in. This could be a board game, eating pizza in the car on the way home or buying an ice cream on a snowy day.

Conclusion, with Extra Awareness

Finally, by reading this article you are now hopefully a little bit more aware of the potential issue. Just this information will likely start-up your radar for signs of problems at home. Furthermore, if things seem unmanageable it is important to address issues through an open, sensitive and non-judgmental discussion with your teenager.

More help is available through the BBC Action Line, the Samaritans or personal counselling, please get in touch here.

‘If I can do it, anybody can’ – Fury’s message on mental health

‘If I can do it’…

If you have been reading my recent blog posts, you will have gathered that I am keen to raise awareness of good mental health. Furthermore, how important it is that people feel comfortable to reach out when they need help. As such I was full of admiration for Tyson Fury and his message during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2018, which you can read about here.

Tyson Fury speaks out about mental health

Boxers are viewed as the hard men of sport. Tyson Fury is no exception, especially because he stands at six foot nine and eighteen stone. However, he has had the courage to speak out about his personal issues, at an important public event.

Whatever your views of boxing and sports in general, it cannot be argued that Fury makes a good point. The BBC quote him as saying that [sports] ‘people are still living in darkness and are too afraid to come out and speak about it’. However, I believe that this extends far further than sports and into the general population. Therefore, when a celebrity comments publicly about their own mental health, bravery is a word that comes to mind. For many of us, asking for help with mental health is a big and scary step to take. Tyson Fury has helped to normalise this feeling. He is evidence that improvements can be successfully be made to ones own mental health.

 

…’anybody can’

Fury goes on to say ‘no matter what you’re going through, you must always continue to get back up and keep going forward and fight back’. Clearly, he is referring to a boxing match. However, this struck me as a valid metaphor for life in general. As we live our lives, there are constant setbacks and obstacles to overcome. Our ability to deal with these and manage their successful navigation is an indication of our mental health. If the obstacles that knock us down or out become too frequent or too large, things may seem too dark, foreboding or overwhelming.

This is the when counselling can help. It is OK and normal for this to happen. It is OK to ask for help. Even the big tough guys are doing it, without shame or worry about the impact on their image.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out about counselling in Bristol or read more about me.