6 Top Tips for overwhelmed working mums


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If you have children and you’re also trying to hold down a working life outside the home, you will know how busy it feels – all the time! Before you know it, you’re experiencing stress, getting irritable and feeling overwhelmed with how much you have to do each day. Talk to any working mum and they will recognise this. For single mums it can especially difficult – and I know because I was one!

Now I’m no fairy godmother and there is no magic wand to make all this disappear, but there are ways to make it easier for yourself. I’m going to share the tips I used which helped me, and recommend some others that would have made things better for me at the time – had I known them.

Tip 1 – Recognise you can’t do everything and prioritise

Work out what is important. List everything on your mind and split the items into essentials and desirables. Essentials need to be top of your priority list – the desirables can wait

Tip 2 – Get a routine

When you’re busy, it’s helpful to have a schedule to guide you. Think of it like the timetable you used at school – that helped you know what was necessary that day, where to be and when, and what to be doing, as your time was broken down into manageable chunks

Tip 3 – Delegate

You may have a supportive partner who can share the load – so use them. Give them specific things to do, like a good manager does with a team at work. Get the children involved in tasks too – depending on their ages there is usually something they can do to help. Make others responsible for doing their bit! Things may not be done to your standards by the way, but learn to let that go – it’s better for you to get the help

Tip 4 – Back up team

We can all use a support team. Sometimes that doesn’t seem possible, but there are ways to develop one. Your children have friends and their parents are probably working too – perhaps there’s an opportunity to see if you can work out something between you, which allows everyone to take turns doing school drop offs or collecting for example. Rope in anyone in your wider family who might be willing to help when you are stuck

Tip 5 – Ask for help

Most parents are reluctant to ask for help because they believe they should be able to cope by themselves. The problem is, when things become too much you can suffer burnout. Once that happens, others will be saying – “if only I’d known, I could have helped you”. Families and friends can often help out, especially if you let them know you need some support. If you are noticing signs of overwhelm then ask for help. It feels good to know you have helped someone who is having problems, so don’t deny the people who care about you that opportunity

Tip 6 – Look after yourself

I bet you are last on your list of priorities – right? With everything else you have to do, how on earth can you spare the time to look after you! Step 1 is to slow down. Stop! When you take care of yourself, you are in a much better place to support your children. Once they are in bed, do something nice for you. Perhaps you enjoy a relaxing bath or time to watch your favourite TV programme. Perhaps you would benefit from catching up on some quality sleep. Whatever you choose, do something that makes you feel good. By looking after yourself, you are taking better care of your children too

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. Do the best you can, with what you have right now. As far as your children are concerned, that will always be good enough!

If you are really struggling with stress, anxiety or lack of sleep and would like some professional psychological help, then do what other overwhelmed parents have done and check out my website at http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com. There are lots of ways I can help you feel more in control and you don’t need to manage this on your own.

 

 

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Life can be hard – how do I build resilience?


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Resilience in action!

On holiday this year I spotted this tree at Loch Lomond. Despite the environment trying hard to uproot it and wash it away, that tree has found a way to stay steady and to thrive, even in a tough location. It prompted me to think about resilience and how people manage to survive and even thrive despite the world sometimes seeming to be against them. Perhaps you will recognise yourself or someone you know in what follows, and if you do then I hope you find this blog helpful.

Life throws us challenges continuously, and often problems happen one after another. When some people face difficulties, particularly when they become prolonged, all of their emotions become negative.  When life is good, they feel great, but when things turn bad, they feel terrible and don’t cope well.

Resilient people are able to find something positive in even the worst of circumstances. They definitely are aware of the bad stuff, but at the same time they find a way to also see the good. For instance, they will take the perspective that as bad as something may seem, at least they don’t have ‘such and such’ a problem. How do they do that?

How do you learn to become more resilient – more able to cope well with life’s problems?

Positive Mental Attitude

Oh I know, it sounds such a cliche – that PMA! However, it is helpful to recognise and acknowledge that the way you think affects the way you feel. In order to change unhelpful emotional patterns, you need to curb that habit of negative thinking and build up your positive thinking. You need to strengthen the neural pathways that support this more helpful way of looking at things, so that becomes your habit instead.

When you find yourself ruminating negatively, notice what’s happening and challenge your viewpoint –  ‘What’s the real evidence that things will never get any better?’ All people have memories of success and of failure. Thinking that things will ‘never’ improve is an example of extreme, black and white thinking and not accurate.

We experience this negative type of thinking because our brains are naturally wired to focus more attention on negative events than positive ones. We have evolved to watch out for things that threaten us, so we are attuned to spotting them. So, even though positive events are happening, we have a natural tendency to filter them out. When you take time to notice and appreciate the positive aspects of experiences, you begin to build up a more balanced evidence base and this allows you to make better judgements. A consequence of this, is developing your resilience and enjoying the good things in your life.

Learn from experience

All good and bad experiences provide opportunities for personal growth. When you see events from this perspective – life as a learning experience – the more resilient you become. Resilient people look at a problem and say – ‘What will solve this?’ and ‘What am I learning from this?’ Problems provide an opportunity to learn and problem-solve – developing these skills allows your resilience to develop. Ask yourself questions such as –  ‘What is useful in this?’ or ‘What available choices do I have?’, rather than focusing on ‘What’s going wrong?’ or ‘Who can I blame?’ It takes practice to shift your thinking in this way, but it is worth the effort.

This type of learning encourages you to think more broadly and to accept what is possible. Alternatively, focusing on the negative will impact on the way you communicate with others and possibly make problems even worse. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself?

Be kind

Being kind boosts the serotonin or feel good chemical in your brain. Practicing kindness to others and also appreciating kindness from others, and being grateful for the good things in life (and yes, everyone has something!) allows you to see any difficulties from a more balanced viewpoint. Think about this as filling up your very own reservoir of resilience. Having a reservoir of resilience you can draw on, means you will be able to cope well when difficult times come along.

Treat yourself well

Stay mentally and physically healthy by eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise. Spend time with people whose company you enjoy. Laugh and nurture the humour in situations – after all, gallows humour is a coping mechanism! Take time to relax – listen to your favourite music or go for a walk in nature. All these things relieve stress and allow you to top up your vital reservoir of resilience.

Finally, if all of this just seems too hard, then please do seek out expert, professional help. A good coach or therapist will help you – you are not alone.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Personal Development Specialist based in York. You can reach me at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

What 10 things made this a good year?


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It’s that time of year when many of us look back on the year that has passed and have a quick mental review of what sort of year it was. We all wish each other a ‘Happy New Year’ at the start of January, so how did your year go? Spend a moment now just looking back over the last 12 months of your life and see what your overall feeling is about this year.

Isn’t it strange how when we do this we tend to focus on the things that went wrong, were really bad, or disappointing? I noticed myself doing this, which prompted me to write this blog.

For many, this has been a particularly challenging year as things have shifted on the world stage. Perhaps you have experienced #anger, #anxiety or even #depression. Add in any personal, financial or emotional challenges and your review may be teetering on the edge of that negativity cliff! We all have this negativity bias as part of our human nature and it helps us to watch out for threats or danger in our everyday lives. However, we can become too focussed on what went wrong and fail to notice what went right! It is easy to become blinkered to the good stuff. So, I decided to write a list of the things that made it a good year…..

  • Love and support from close family
  • Good friends
  • Opportunities for meeting new people who enrich life
  • Exercise to feel good and improve health
  • Getting out in nature
  • Regular, healthy meals
  • Time to rest and recuperate
  • Helping others
  • Enjoying hobbies
  • Learning from a new challenge

The good news is that there are many more than 10 things on this list – this list goes on. So, my new view overall is – that was actually a great year full of challenges and opportunities that stretched old ways of thinking, increased learning and therefore enriched life! If you are feeling down about the last year perhaps your focus is in the wrong place. Take a step back and shift your focus onto what went well. What did you learn? How did you grow and develop emotionally? If you find this difficult, the easiest way to start is to think about what you can be grateful for this year – perhaps things, surroundings or people you have taken for granted? Get started now. I wonder how many you can write on your list?

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Personal Development Specialist based in York. You can reach me at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Grateful for the small things


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This is a little Amaretti biscuit. I like one with my morning coffee sometimes. It’s just a little thing but it makes me happy. I take tiny bites to make the sugary, almond delight last longer.

Being grateful for such small things feels good. I appreciate this little taste of luxury. Did you know that practising gratitude can make you happier? I regularly encourage my clients who are experiencing problems with low mood to make a note of the things they are grateful for.

Every day, pause and notice at least 3 things that you perhaps take for granted, but you are grateful for. For some, it is the smiling faces of their children, for others the unexpected sunshine, or seeing a beautiful flower or tree. For many people life is tough and every day is a struggle. Perhaps feeling thankful is far from the way you feel about your life? Even in difficult circumstances there is always something to be grateful for – fresh, clean water when you turn on a tap, the fact that you are here breathing and living when others without choice are not, the ability to read these words. Search and there is something.

So allow yourself to experience that feeling of gratitude. Try it out. Even if it’s just for a little thing – it makes you feel good.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

 

Cloud watching – Taking time out


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We all lead such hectic lives these days don’t we? Whether we are rushing around working, commuting, shopping, cleaning the house, caring for others or doing all the inevitable admin that maintaining a life brings, it’s all busy, busy, busy. When someone asks, “How’s things?” how many times do you answer, “Oh you know, busy!”

How often do you take time to be still and do nothing? I am still shocked but not surprised when clients tell me that they take work or laptops or work phones on holiday with them. Weekends and evenings also consist of checking emails and messages – just in case they miss something. Little wonder that these types of people often present with overwhelming stress, anxiety and feelings of depression.

Perhaps you make time for yourself to unwind and relax: maybe a peaceful half hour in the bath; or an evening walk; or listening to soothing music. When I ask my clients what they do to relax, most have to really think hard about it. Some can’t come up with an answer. Some think relaxing, which they equate with doing nothing, is wasted time.

However, we all need periods of purpose-free calm in our lives. Most of us are surrounded by human chatter or ringing phones or noisy traffic, which are all part of the competing demands and distractions of a busy life. We are on alert all the time, scanning for anything that might need our immediate attention. Tiring isn’t it?

Last weekend, on a beautiful summer’s afternoon in my garden, I looked up at the glorious blue sky and the fluffy white clouds passing by. I remembered lying on the grass as a child, and imagining the shapes the clouds were forming, and the stories I made up in my mind about them. Suddenly, I wanted to experience the joy of that again, so I got out of my chair and laid back on the grass and watched as the clouds floated by, transforming into wondrous shapes as they went. I found myself smiling as I recalled memories of carefree childhood days. The grass felt soft and warm against my back. The sunshine felt warm against my skin. The gentle breeze was cooling and refreshing. I could smell the fragrances of summer flowers and newly cut grass. Most of these sensations had gone unnoticed until I made the time to stop and take it all in. I took some long, slow deep breaths and felt my whole body and mind unwind and relax. I must have stayed there like that, just noticing, being mindful, for 20 minutes or so and when I stood up again I felt joyful, re-energised and grateful for the experience.

So how long is it since you took the time to allow yourself to be at one with the natural environment? When was the last time you stopped and stared and really noticed all the intricacies of something like a beautiful tree or flower, the sea or the clouds perhaps?

Put your busyness to one side and take time to try it out. Focus on all your senses. Notice the detail of what you can see, hear, smell, feel and perhaps even taste. Taking time to reconnect with the beauty of our natural world is never wasted time. It lifts the human spirit – which reminds me of the poem I learned as a child. Perhaps you remember it too?

Leisure by W.H.Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Why having friends is more important than you might think!

Why having friends is more important than you might think!


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There’s one thing you can be sure of in life – that things change – and that includes having friends or a lack of them! Many of us are lucky enough to go through school making new friends, who often go on to share our good times and bad and sometimes become a part of our lives for many years more. Later in life we make friendships at work. Often we find ourselves part of larger social circles of friends through interests or just going to the same places. If we have children there are often other parents we see every day, dropping off and picking up at nurseries and at the school gates perhaps, and we fall into easy friendships over the years.

So what happens when children are grown or away making new lives for themselves, we change jobs or get made redundant or retire, we move house or area, or marriages end and all those familiar social circles disappear? Those old reliable friendships change. Sometimes we are left without any friends close by and we wonder to ourselves, “How did that happen?” Without realising it, we can become disconnected and experience loneliness for the first time in our lives.

As human beings we all have a number of basic emotional needs, which are essential for our well being. Throughout life, these needs are usually met by our work, our life at home and the interests we have. As our lives change however, these needs can become neglected and before we know it there is an impact on our sense of well being. The good news is it is amazing how many of these emotional needs can be met by regularly seeing friends! Here is what I mean:

  • We need to give and receive attention. We have evolved as social animals and we need human contact to stay mentally healthy. This is why solitary confinement is used as a punishment in jails! This attention can come from regular contact with our friends and having a balanced social life
  • We need to notice our mind/body connection. We are not machines and need to pay attention to good nutrition, sleep, rest and exercise. We can go walking with friends, do an exercise class together or perhaps even swap healthy recipes
  • We need a sense of meaning and purpose and to feel that we contribute to the broader community. Friends can help us to set goals or work towards something that we would like to achieve. Friends can help each other with charity fund raising or volunteering opportunities
  • We need to feel challenged and express our creativity so we have a sense of competence and achievement. A friend can help us to try something new that we perhaps haven’t considered or thought we could do – a new class or hobby or even an outdoor pursuit. We continue to learn when we mix with other interesting people from different backgrounds and life experiences
  • We need a sense of autonomy and control. Sometimes we can feel that life is out of our control and we need to get a handle on at least part of it. Friends can remind us and help us to relax and provide a helpful perspective on what areas of life we can control
  • We need a sense of status within our social groups. This can come from work or doing something helpful in the community. It can simply mean being recognised for being a good parent, grandparent, son or daughter. It can also come from being a good friend
  • We need to have some privacy as well as feeling secure and safe in our environment so we can develop as fully rounded people. A good friend can help us to see how we can improve this area of our lives – whether we need to change where we live or cut ties with people who make us feel insecure in some way
  • We need friendships and close relationships where we can be ourselves, share our ideas and ask for help when we need it. Many people are without supportive families so good quality friendships are even more important. We need to be emotionally connected to other people

I work as a psychotherapist and see so many people who are struggling with anxiety and depression. When we explore what is happening in their lives there are always emotional needs that are not being met. Friendships can help to fulfil so many of these needs. Friendships are important. Social Media and Internet access means there are now new ways to make friends that perhaps you haven’t considered. Regular groups have sprung up where like-minded friends meet for coffee or lunch reflecting the need many of us feel for that human connection. I recommend checking them out to anyone who is beginning to feel lonely or isolated. New friends can be only a mouse click away!

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Hypnotherapist based in York. I specialise in helping people with depression and anxiety. You can contact me at http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

 

 

 

How can I help my loved one through Depression?


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I see many clients with depression in my therapy room. They bravely recognise that they need help and take those first tentative steps in coming along to see me, unsure whether anything can be done to help them. I always take time to explain what depression is and how it is maintained so they can begin to see a way forward, armed with a renewed sense of hope that this mind state can be beaten with the right help. I have also noticed that they get frustrated with well meaning loved ones who don’t understand what depression is, or the best way to help. I have been asked on many occasions if I have some information that they can share at home to help those around them understand and be supportive. I put some information together a few years ago, adapting things I have learned and useful tips I have read that worked for previous clients. As such I can’t remember all the original sources now, so apologies if I haven’t acknowledged any authors. In this blog I just wanted to share this information to help people. Perhaps you can share it to help someone you know.

What is depression?

When your loved one starts therapy for treating Depression you naturally want to support them in the best way you can. In order to do this effectively it can be helpful to gain an understanding of what Depression is, how it affects someone physically and mentally and what you can do to help.

General understanding of depression is confusingly coloured by many myths: it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain; it’s anger turned inward; it takes a long time to come out of; it stems from childhood events that have to be explored before progress can be made, etc.

The rapid increase in the incidence of depression is one of the reasons we know that depression isn’t a genetic disease. Over the last 30 years, a large body of research evidence shows that most depression is learned, brought about by the way we interact with our environment. We know that the majority of people exposed to adverse life events do not develop depression. So, we know it is not caused as a result of the specific events we experience, but by the way we respond to them.

Sleep and Depression

The role of dreaming is key to a full understanding of depression, and why practical therapies help. We all dream for about two hours a night, even though we often don’t recall it when we wake up. Evidence shows that the function of dreaming, which occurs predominantly during REM sleep, is the metaphorical acting out (not the resolving) of unexpressed, emotionally arousing concerns. Dreaming allows the arousal to be discharged and frees up the brain to deal with the concerns of the following day.

In depression, however, this process goes dramatically wrong. Instead of having about 25% REM sleep, and 75% slow wave sleep (which boosts energy levels in the brain), these proportions become inverted. A depressed person has far too much REM sleep and too little slow wave sleep. The prolonged negative self-examination and rumination, which depressed people experience, creates high levels of emotional arousal and a greater need for discharge during dreaming. This increased discharge activity also depresses and exhausts the brain, leaving the dreamer lacking energy and motivation next morning. Depressed people tell me in therapy that they wake up from sleep feeling exhausted.

Emotional Thinking

Depressed people spend too much time worrying and as such, they are misusing their own imagination. I call it negative self-hypnosis. All this emotionally arousing introspection also prevents them seeing their life situations objectively. High emotional arousal inhibits the logical part of the brain, and blocks rational thought. A depressed brain is a stressed brain.

To the emotional brain, everything is either black or white, good or bad, right or wrong, safe or dangerous. This is because high arousal locks you into a negative, confined viewpoint. It is only the rational part of the brain that can inject the shades of grey and see the bigger picture.

People who aren’t habitual black and white thinkers can snap out of this negative emotional state fairly quickly. People who have a tendency towards endlessly analysing the negative aspects of their lives, catastrophising every little setback and conjuring up more, are more likely to stay locked in their depressive mind state. People who tend to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong, applying a negative thinking style to everything, are the most likely to suffer from depression.

How does Depression feel for my loved one?

Winston Churchill used to refer to depression as like a Black Dog. Having a Black Dog in your life isn’t about feeling a bit down, or sad or blue. At it’s worst, it’s about being devoid of feeling altogether.

  • It can ruin your appetite
  • Anger may flare up at any provocation
  • It can be difficult not to take anger, criticism, negativity and apathy personally
  • It likes to wake you up with very repetitive, negative thinking
  • You may have noticed they’ve lost the sparkle in their eyes
  • Displays of love, affection and intimacy may be out of bounds
  • They may create endless lists of everything that is wrong with their life
  • They may hatch plans that they believe will fix everything
  • Laughter doesn’t come as easily as it used to
  • It makes them say negative things
  • They may have real difficulty firing up and getting going
  • They may have become ultra-sensitive and cry more than usual
  • Doing anything or going anywhere requires superhuman strength
  • It can make them irritable and difficult to be around
  • Activities that used to bring them pleasure may suddenly cease
  • Although exhausted they may not be able to sit still and relax
  • A tendency to find the negative in everything may become the norm
  • There may be signs of over-indulgence

How can I help my loved one?

You may well be right when you say. ‘It’s all in your head!’ but don’t say it. Never tell them they’re ‘just looking for attention’; it’s demeaning and hurtful. They’re not looking for attention but they are probably in need of it.

If you’re genuinely worried about someone, organize a group of close friends or family members to make some sort of contact each day. It can be to help out, have a coffee or simply to say hello.

Pointing out the lovely weather is annoying and pointless.

Don’t push them into things they don’t want to do and then make excuses for their behaviour. This only feeds the despair and keeps denial alive.

They can’t just ‘pull themselves together’. If people could just ‘snap out of it’, they would. No-one ever chooses to have depression.

Learn about the condition together; knowledge is power and validation is a great healer.

Help them to develop a strategy to simplify their life both at home and at work. Stress is one of the biggest drivers of depression.

Encourage any form of regular exercise.

Be sensitive about how you approach the subject; a lot of people aren’t used to talking about their mental health.

Being thoughtful and kind will never go amiss but don’t try and jolly them along, it can often make them feel worse.

If they’re old enough, inform any children about what’s going on. They need to know that the depression isn’t here to stay. Children often think it’s their fault so reassure them that it’s not.

Together, try and learn to recognize triggers and early warning signs. Also know when to give each other a bit of space.

Try not talking. Just listen. Really being there for someone without opinion or judgement is one of the best gifts you can ever give.

Agree to a course of action to get rid of the depression. Don’t just ignore it and consult a professional if you haven’t already.

As a care-giver, compassion, empathy and understanding are vital, but recognize that you alone don’t have the power to rescue your loved one. Professional help is often what’s needed.

Depression in any relationship can be confronting, frightening and frustrating but navigated together, your relationship can become deeper, richer and better for it.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Hypnotherapist based in York. I specialise in helping people with depression and anxiety. You can contact me at http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com