A fledging starling was in my garden this morning. The parent bird was busy collecting bugs, whilst the youngster sat helplessly on the patio unable to fly away if danger arrived. It reminded me of this quote attributed to Marcus Aurelius:
“Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?”
Most people expect to always be able to solve the problems life throws at them. I’ve worked with clients who worried about asking for help, believing they should be able to do it all on their own.
When we are born, we are all completely helpless and rely on others to help us grow and learn, just like that fledgling. It is ok to ask for help and you don’t have to face anything on your own. It doesn’t mean you are weak, or stupid or worthless and it is not something shameful. If you need support, then like the soldier who is injured, help is there for the asking.
“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth” Nietzsche
When did you last take a really enjoyable walk? This photo was taken at the weekend on a wonderful walk along the river in Berwick-upon-Tweed. I recommend walking to all my clients who are stressed, anxious and overwhelmed.
There’s something about being outside in the open, fresh air that nourishes your mind. Some of my best decisions are made when I’m out walking. The bilateral stimulation of walking seems to help with problem solving. Creativity seems to be boosted, along with motivation. Then, there’s the mindful experience of taking in the sights, sounds and smells that root you in an appreciation of the present moment. On top of that, the body benefits from the physical exercise.
Unlike stress that can come and go with the situation creating it (maybe work, study, relationship or money problems), anxiety is something that can persist whether or not the cause is clear to you.
Anxiety can make you imagine that things in your life are worse than they really are, and prevent you from confronting your fears. You may feel that you are going mad, or that some psychological imbalance is at the heart of your unhappiness. However, it is important to realize that anxiety is natural and normal and results as part of a process of bodily functions designed to help you. It is your body’s natural reaction to a challenging event or situation. Biologically the body is readying itself to either stand and fight the threat or to get out of the situation quickly – both of which require a physical response. This process gives you a boost of adrenaline that increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen going to your limbs known as the “fight or flight” response. The “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that many associate with anxiety is this mechanism kicking in, but instead of being used to avoid immediate danger, it is often inappropriately activated during normal, everyday situations when stress has built up, often without you realizing it is happening.
Common physical symptoms of anxiety include: increased heart rate, palpitations, muscle tension, “Jelly legs”, tingling in the hands and feet, hyperventilation (over breathing), dizziness, difficulty breathing, wanting to use the toilet more often, feeling sick, tightening across the chest area, headaches, hot flushes, perspiration, dry mouth, shaking, sensing a lump in the throat or choking sensations. You may experience some of the following thoughts: that you may lose control or go “mad”, have a heart attack/be sick/faint/die/have a brain tumour, feel people are looking at you and observing your anxiety, things seem to be speeding up/slowing down, feel detached from your environment and other people, wanting to escape from the situation or feel on edge and alert to everything around you.
Some people have a very identifiable cause for their anxiety; a traumatic incident, lots of stressors, or have undergone a significant life event (such as moving house, a separation, health worries). For others there is no identifiable cause for their anxiety and this creates distress. It can be helpful to think about your stress levels as being like a bucket of water. When you keep adding stressors to the bucket (even little ones like finding a parking space or commuting to work), over time it fills and fills until one day it overflows. This can be a good way of looking at anxiety as it explains how sometimes it can seem to come out of nowhere with no significant trigger. However, what has happened is that the trigger was just a very small stressor that tipped you over the edge and allowed your bucket to overflow. You really need a leaky bucket with lots of holes to reduce your overall stress levels. Each one of these holes could be something positive that you do to manage your anxiety, such as deep relaxation, exercise, reading, listening to music or spending time with friends or family.
The most common behaviour when you are anxious is avoidance. Although avoiding an anxiety-provoking situation can provide immediate relief, it is only a short-term solution. Although it may seem like the best thing to do at the time, the anxiety returns the next time the situation happens as avoidance has reinforced the message that there is a threat. When you start avoiding things you never get to find out whether your fear about the situation is justified or what would happen.
The common thread between most anxiety disorders is the panic attack. However, when panic attacks are experienced out of nowhere without an apparent trigger, this is classified as panic disorder. People with panic disorder often feel OK one minute, and the next may feel totally out of control and in the grips of a panic attack. Panic attacks produce very real physical symptoms, from a rapid increase in heartbeat to a churning stomach sensation. These physical symptoms are naturally unpleasant and the accompanying thoughts of terror can make a panic attack a scary experience. People start to dread the next attack, and quickly enter into a cycle of living in fear of fear.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is diagnosed by your doctor when you feel in a constant state of high anxiety and is also called ‘chronic worrying’ or a ‘free floating’ anxiety condition. People with GAD often describe how they can resolve an issue but as soon as this happens, another worry pops up. Everyone has worries from time to time, but GAD is different in that the worry can last for over 6 months, and the level of worry is out of proportion to the risk. For example, if a family member is an hour late getting home without calling, a person with GAD may think ‘they must have had an accident’, rather than any other explanation such as being delayed in traffic.
GAD is particularly difficult to live with as it is constantly on a person’s mind – there is no respite, as the anxiety is not tied to a specific situation or event. It can cause problems with sleep, maintaining a job and impact close relationships. If you feel you may have GAD or panic disorder then you are advised to seek further information and guidance from your doctor who will be able to make a formal diagnosis.
If you feel anxious all the time, for several weeks or if it feels like your anxiety is taking over your life, then it’s a good idea to ask for professional help. Prolonged anxiety, and the overthinking that accompanies it, interferes with sleeping patterns and can result in overwhelm and low mood. It may seem hard to admit to fears that most other people don’t appear to have, but asking for help is a sign of strength and the first step in getting better.
I specialize in helping people like you overcome anxiety. I draw on a comprehensive range of techniques and approaches to help you overcome your difficulties. If you’re interested in finding out more about the ways I can help, then get in touch.
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?
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
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
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
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
Sometimes I like those positivity memes we see scattered around the Internet and social media and I’ve even shared a few myself. However, the relentless message that you just need to be happy, or think positively, can be very frustrating -especially if you are really struggling with mental health problems right now.
Sometimes someone just needs you to sit and listen, to be there with them and acknowledge their difficulties. They may not be ready to see the bright side yet and seeing these supposedly uplifting comments, memes and quotations actually makes them feel worse, more of a failure, and wonder why they aren’t coping. This listening and sharing the shadows for a while, before encouraging someone to move forward, can be difficult, especially when it’s someone you love who is struggling.
As a professional therapist it’s my job to be that listening person. This week, I’ve spent several hours walking alongside people in the midst of their struggles. It’s my job to judge what approach is appropriate and when the time is right to support and gently guide someone to move forward along a new path.
If you are finding it difficult to support a loved one, you are not alone. I can provide efficient and effective help. I can help you to understand what is happening and how best to change things. As a psychologist, I have the knowledge and skills you need. As a hypnotherapist, EMDR and BWRT practitioner I have the techniques that will help. As a therapist I care about restoring your well being and it is a privilege to be asked to help you.
Your experience of Chronic Pain is not just about the physical sensations. There are many psychological aspects to pain including what you think about pain, and how you think about it – which I mentioned in my blog – Pain and the Power of Words https://yorkmindmakeover.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/pain-and-the-power-of-words/
The psychological aspect to your experience of pain is based on your own beliefs – the meaning you give to pain.
Do you believe you can control your experience of pain and manage how it affects your life? I use hypnotherapy to show people how they can learn to manage their own pain experience and gain control over it using self-hypnosis techniques. This gives you the power to change your perception of pain, lower the intensity of pain and lessen distress and depressive thinking
Helping people to explore their pain using mindfulness techniques is the first step in accepting that pain is only one component of your experience. Pain sensations are transient and can change. It is still possible to lead a satisfying life, and practising pain reduction is helpful but not necessarily central to this
When people believe they are disabled by pain they will necessarily behave that way. You need not be disabled by pain. Activity can reduce the experience of some pain (i.e. pain stimulated by physical damage) – despite common thinking that it will make the experience worse. For example, weak muscles are more likely to spasm so limiting activity only makes pain worse long term. Exercise to lengthen and strengthen muscles can stop pain getting worse
Fear of Harm
It seems common sense to believe that pain is a signal of physical damage so activity should be limited or avoided altogether. However, when pain becomes chronic, the intensity loses its association with the amount of physical damage. Gentle exercise such as stretching is in fact beneficial rather than causing harm
As you can see, your beliefs about pain guide your behaviour and therefore impact on your long-term health. Your beliefs will determine the strategies you use to cope. Maladaptive coping strategies include guarding yourself, resting and constantly asking for assistance to do things, believing these behaviours will help you avoid further possible harm. This limits your life and can lead to distress, withdrawal from society, anxiety and depression.
Adaptive coping strategies are the answer – including pacing yourself so you never get overwhelmed by pain, learning how to gain control over your perception of pain, learning ways of coping when pain flares, and encouraging regular gentle activity to encourage mobility.
Do you recognise any of your own beliefs about pain? Would you benefit from shifting your thinking?
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: www.mindmakeoveruk.com