Author Archives: amandaburbidge

May Mental Health Awareness: ideas and resources

Mental health awareness is something you know I’m passionate about – and I work in this area because I know that finding the right support and being able to speak about and move through, and past, our traumatic and life altering experiences is absolutely vital if we are to have any chance of recovering and being the happiest, most successful we can be.

May is a time when people are raising awareness and funds for various mental health causes – and you’ll see a lot of activity on your social media channels and in the news, on TV shows and in your community, focussing on various mental health conversations.

If you’re at a bit of a loss for ideas, but want to do your bit to raise awareness, share your own story, or support others with the challenges they face, I have brought some ideas and references together here to help you get off on the right foot.

May Action for Happiness

I share the action for happiness calendar every month, and as always May’s is full of lovely small, mindful ways to bring smiles – to your own face and to those of the people around you.

Mental health Foundation:

Lots of ideas for community, workplace and school activities are collated here – they have packs and downloadable content, so you can pull together your own activities, whether it’s a charity walk, a bake sale, a community outreach or something small scale with your family and friends.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/get-involved/ideas

Their take action, get active campaign is one I think is going to be particularly popular – I know the weather has been a little hit and miss in the past few days, but you know what they say: there’s no such thing as the wrong weather – just the wrong clothes! Rain or shine, kit yourself out and get active – it won’t just help the cause, it will benefit you enormously getting some endorphins and fresh air, and you’ll feel far better for moving your body, especially if it’s the last thing you want to do!

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/events/take-action-get-active

Mind have mapped out May 10th to 16th as their Mental Health Awareness Week, and you can donate, raise funds, share your own story and bring attention to their work – again, they’ve got downloadable content and packs to get you started:

https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/mental-health-awareness-week/

Perhaps things this public and organised aren’t your style – it might be more your thing to stay home, spend some time pondering your experiences; maybe put some energy into creating some art or craft work which you find relaxing and soothing. Use art as therapy, and get some bigger feelings out on canvas. Write some poetry or a story; not necessarily of your own life, but that can help hugely when you’re processing things. Journaling and scrapbooking are brilliant ways of remembering the things you have been enjoying and are looking forward to, and of keeping a record of your days.

If you aren’t sure where to start with that, sometimes I find prompts are a good beginning point: here are some suggestions you can use to journal, to create art, just to think about:

https://bulletjournalideas.com/bullet-journal-ideas-for-mental-health/

If you just want to keep track of your progress through a challenging time and focus on your mental health here are some smaller suggestions you can use to do so more quietly:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/annaborges/mental-health-trackers

I wrote an article about mental health awareness and the worrying growth of ‘toxic positivity’ – particularly on social media – which you can read here

Remember: your mental health is your experience – and sharing it, or choosing not to, is entirely a personal choice – but if you are struggling please remember that you don’t have to do that alone.

Reach out for support, and let me help you to process your challenges, to move through and past the hurt that you’re experiencing, and to build yourself into the whole, happy and content person you deserve to be, leaving your trauma and worry behind you as you work through them.

You can contact me through this website, through FacebookLinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person.

May mental health awareness month: toxic positivity

 

You have probably noticed more conversations around mental health in the media and on social media streams this week. That’s because May is Mental Health Awareness month – and all month (particularly the week of May 10th to 16th in the UK) people are raising funds to support mental health across the UK, and raising awareness with honest, open conversations around the mental health challenges we all face.

There are times when it seems like speaking about mental health is a bit trendy, and buzzwords fly around as people remind each other to be kind, to be mindful and to focus on their positives – but I’ve noticed, especially speaking with clients, that this relentless positivity can actually become very toxic too.

Toxic positivity seems like a contradiction; how can being positive be bad?

Let’s dive into that; what do I mean by toxic positivity?

It is the belief that people should put a positive spin on all experiences, even those that are profoundly tragic. Toxic positivity can silence negative emotions, demean grief, and make people feel under pressure to pretend to be happy even when they are struggling. In some cases, it may be self-imposed.

  • Medical News Today, March 2021

Basically, in pushing people to ‘find the silver lining’ in everything, it doesn’t allow us to grieve. To process. To experience and work through pain.

In truth, the only way to truly grow and move past trauma, anxiety and negative experiences is to move through them. Not to skirt them, to bury them, to dismiss them with ‘look on the bright side’ or to cancel them out with ‘focus on the positive things in your life’ – because in reality, the one cannot and does not cancel out the other.

In a month when we are being more open and raising awareness of mental health issues it’s vitally important to recognise that we have all been facing challenges. That we have all been living with stress, worry, fear. That many have lost people – lost loved ones or colleagues or neighbours. That our lives changed shape. That, since this time last year, life is not the way it was. And that it’s ok to say that absolutely sucks. It’s crap. It’s painful, difficult, utter rubbish.

We don’t have to just accept that it is different without feeling all of our feelings about that.

Living through historical events means we have stories to tell; stories which shape us. It means that, in years to come, those who follow us will have questions and we will know the answers, because we were there.

But right now we are here – and here isn’t always that great.

So please, when someone speaks to you about that, when someone opens up to you, when someone is vulnerable and trying to voice that vulnerability, bite back the temptation to smile and tell them to look on the bright side. Don’t brush off their feelings and point them at happiness. Don’t fall into the toxic positivity trap of always looking for a reason, a solution, a positive slant or something happy to distract from the pain.

Of course it’s important not to wallow – to move through into acceptance and happiness. But it’s just as important to acknowledge the hurt you might feel, to experience it and to understand what the hurt is for, and from, and how you work with it to heal.

There are so many ways to speak about your mental health; support groups, supportive friends and family, social media where you can perhaps find others who feel the same and speak with them about your shared experiences. It isn’t something we need to face alone, isolated with our pain.

But please don’t feel guilty for seeing the dark side. Don’t berate people, or respond with “others have had it worse” because all that does is add more difficulty onto the already heavy burden some are carrying, and make someone who is vulnerable feel guilty for feeling that way.

If you are looking for somewhere to speak about that burden, and to truly work through your hurt, to understand the root cause of the challenges you’re facing and your own behaviour in response to those challenges, and you’re ready to work through your experiences, you can contact me through this website, through Facebook, LinkedIn or email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com, or call me on 07849 037095 – you can also message or call via WhatsApp on the same number, and I offer video sessions for those who are still unable to meet in person.

Meaningful May – Action for Happiness

 

Meaningful May is a fantastic prompt – and as the sun shines and the days are longer, giving our space more colour and life we are also waking from our winter hibernation, our bodies and minds crave more outside time, more nature, more fresh produce and colourful food.

Follow what your body is telling you it needs, nourish yourself and your mind, and take time to be restful and attuned to your own thoughts. The prompts each day are great ways to build on that inner sense of wellbeing, and sharing that feeling with those who matter to us.

Anxiety as lockdown lifts in the UK

 The date is marked on our calendars, and social media channels are full of talk about ‘freedom’, about getting back to social lives, meeting friends in pubs and bars, hitting the shops and getting together with friends and family after many months of isolation.

Understandably a lot of people are very excited, and counting the days down until they can see people again and pick up the pieces of a life we had to drop so suddenly and unexpectedly when the pandemic first began to impact our lives.

But the past 12 months have seen a huge increase in reports of anxiety, depression, mental health difficulties and health problems unrelated to the virus. The pressure of worry about loved ones, about the outside world being rife with dangers, about an invisible enemy we needed to be on constant alert for, and the isolation of being forced to stay home alone will have a knock-on impact on people’s wellbeing for years to come.

It’s no surprise that a great many people are also reporting that leaving lockdown is making them more anxious than being locked down ever did. Stepping back into the world, entering crowded public spaces and being physically close to strangers in those spaces once again feels dangerous, and carries the weight of all the many warnings we’ve had to heed.

The worry that we are putting our health at risk, or that of the people we come into contact with, is one which will take longer to shake off than it took to pick up.

Living through a pandemic means that we have all been functioning in ‘survival mode’ – and our bodies have been running on a higher than usual level of adrenaline and cortisol – the ‘stress’ hormone. This is vital in emergency situations, giving us the clarity and quick responses that could save us from danger, and is a remnant of the prehistoric world we originated from. However, as a lasting and long-term situation this causes damage to our physical health, as well as keeping our brain functioning on a limited, reactive plane. That reactive state means that we aren’t able to be creative, relaxed free or engaged with the world around us in the way we ordinarily would. We are alert at all times, leaving us exhausted and irritable. We are shorter tempered, less patient, less able to enjoy the things that used to bring us peace and joy.

As you are preparing for the time you’ll leave lockdown, and make plans to see loved ones and meet in public places again, don’t feel pressured to jump right in (or out!) and to move fully from the life you’ve adjusted to, to the way things were before. Listen to your body and the instinctive reactions you have to each situation, and though I would never want you to ‘live in fear’ you can trust that you can take things slowly, adjust over time, and introduce new routines one at a time. Meeting some friends doesn’t have to mean a huge gathering, it can be coffee and a walk with one or two, somewhere secluded. Re-entering public spaces can be done carefully. Even the return to work can be managed gradually – and the proven success of remote working is likely to remain an option, at least part time, for most industries.

Frankly, nothing ever will be ‘the same it was before’ because the world has been changed permanently by the impact this pandemic has had on us.

Many of these changes are positive – the flexibility of remote working, the reduced pressure for face-to-face meetings which include travel, expense and high-stress timescales being switched for video conferencing, more autonomy in our working schedules and workloads.

I have also seen a massive public outpouring of kindness, community spirit and small gestures of love between strangers throughout the pandemic. These small moments – artwork in windows, applause on doorsteps, colourful painted stones in public parks – bring light to so many lives, and smiles to so very many faces. It has warmed my heart to see these little, thoughtful events over the past year, and I know that it has helped others too.

Kindness is a hugely important factor in any life – and it’s something I will remind you to treat yourself with as you ready yourself to leave lockdown.

Patience, kindness and love. Listen to your inner voice. Let your instinct for preservation guide and protect you, and remember the lessons we have all learned; take care of family and neighbours, protect your own needs, focus on the positives.

If you need support for any anxiety or negative thoughts that you’ve been battling in recent weeks and months, please don’t suffer or struggle alone. I can help. Contact me today to set up an initial consultation, and let’s discuss how I can help to make those burdens lighter, and open you up to the full potential of your best life.

You can contact me through my Facebook page, through this website, email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can call, message or WhatsApp me on my mobile on 07849 037095

 

Action For Happiness – Active April 2021

The prompt from Action for Happiness for April is activity. I know that when we feel low, or are struggling and feeling overwhelmed, it can be difficult to motivate our bodies into being active. I also know that the days I least feel like being active are the days I feel the most benefit from pushing myself to do something – even just a stroll around my garden, if I can’t face anything more.

Challenge yourself this month; try to add just a little more physical activity to your routines. You don’t need to go all-in and start training for a marathon, but being more active has a huge amount of benefits for body and mind. Now that some of the Covid restrictions are lifting and we are able to meet in small groups outdoors it’s the perfect time to meet a friend for a walk, or a bike ride with a loved one.

The importance of friendship when you’re struggling or isolated

Today – February 11th – is an international awareness day dubbed ‘Make a Friend day’ – and that’s something many of my clients have anxiety around, or negative experiences with. It can be hard to let your guard down with new people and trust that kindness is simply given as intended, with no catch, when we have experienced negative or imbalanced friendships before.

The world we are in right now, however – a world with an extended lockdown, with 12 months of a global pandemic still ongoing, and isolated from our usual routines and the contact we may be used to having with others – means that more of us than ever are feeling the impact of loneliness, of isolation, and the pressure of dealing with the anxiety and worries of that isolation and the pandemic itself, the impact on our work, on our families, on our entire lives means that a lot of people are reluctant to ‘burden’ others with their worries, because they have worries of their own.

The wonderful thing about healthy friendships is that you can love and support people through their struggles without either taking the burden onto your own shoulders or expecting a friend to carry the weight of our own. Sharing problems is a great way to relieve the weight of them, even when no practical action is taken – just speaking about issues, voicing concerns, sharing feelings, all help.

But if you’re isolated, and find that you pass days at a time with absolutely no contact with others, even remotely or virtually, how can you begin to find a new friend, or re-establish contact with an old one? How – when you have friends – can you ensure that your boundaries aren’t crossed, and that the friendship is healthy and balanced so that both parties benefit from the relationship?

Energy levels

Healthy friendships don’t need you to ‘psych yourself up’ for time together. You shouldn’t feel that you need to take some deep breaths and brace yourself before you speak with or spend time with your ‘friend’ – if someone is exhausting to be with, or takes more emotional and mental energy than you feel comfortable giving, there’s an imbalance in the friendship. If someone – knowingly or not – saps you of energy, you aren’t getting what you need from that friendship.

That doesn’t mean you need to end it – it could be remedied with some forthright conversation, and it may just be that the friend is having a hard time and hasn’t considered their impact on you.

It may, however, be that this was a transitory friendship; one which has fulfilled its role in your life – and the time has come for it to fade away. There doesn’t need to be any falling out or grand event – you are allowed to distance yourself from people who don’t fulfil your needs, and who can also benefit from more independence from your support.

A healthy friendship is one where, no matter how bad you were feeling before, time with them or spent speaking to them lifts you. You can talk, cry, laugh, share your experiences and worries, and still find time to make each other smile and reassure each other. Simply unburdening can make life easier – and a good friend isn’t one who is just there for the good times, but who is able to support you when times are hard. A good friend is one who, when you see them, you soak in the energy created between you, and both come away feeling happier and better for shared time.

You are not a burden

 Think about a friend you adore; about a time when they needed you, and had nothing much to give in return, but you love them and knew it was ok to give them what they needed, because it’s a healthy, loving friendship. Do you begrudge what you gave? The energy and love that you so willingly and happily gave, knowing they would benefit? Do you regret sending gifts, cards or messages of love?

Of course you don’t!

So why, in this same friendship, would that person feel resentful of you? Of supporting or listening to your needs? Of helping you or giving you gifts in return?

If you can feel the love and benefit of giving in a friendship, allow your friend that same joy in giving back.

You are not a burden on people – not even when  you ask for help and are struggling – you are simply a human in need – an experience each and every one of us has had.

New friends in difficult times

It isn’t an easy time to go out and meet new people, so if you have found yourself isolated and struggling alone, wanting friends but unsure how to find them in lockdown, there are still opportunities to reach out to people and to find friends.

Many people are making better use of online communication – using their internet access to chat to people, joining groups on Facebook for those with a shared interest in a hobby – there are groups for book clubs, for crafting, for TV or movie fans. There are groups for most towns, villages and cities, even housing estates, where you can chat to those who live very locally, and where you could even arrange to go on a socially distanced walk with someone from the next street!

If you struggle online, or haven’t got access to those kinds of groups, why not leave a message in a local shop or on a bulletin board looking for someone to walk with, or offer to help a neighbour with shopping and extend some help where you can, and make new relationships that way?

Friendships are priceless

None of us can thrive in isolation – we are, at our very inner nature, pack animals, and we need to interact with others and engage in conversation, shared experiences and share our passions in order to feel fulfilled and happy.

Friendships can seem difficult to find, and especially so when we have low self esteem or tend to lean towards alone time, shying away from busy spaces and group activities. But even those of us who thrive in our own company still need time with others, and a small group  who share interest in the things we love.

The health benefits – physically and mentally – of friendships are immense, and no person is unworthy of that interaction and of the benefits which come from having a trusted, loving friend.

There are a great many articles available which offer more advice on making friends in adulthood – I’ll include the links for those below.

If you are struggling with other issues, and anxieties and trauma which have impacted your friendships, leaving you isolated or feeling trapped in unhealthy and imbalanced friendships or relationships, I can help you. I can help you to process those traumas, to discover your inner core strength, to build boundaries and enforce them to protect your emotional wellbeing, and to thrive in healthier, happier friendships forever. You can contact me through my Facebook page, through this website, email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can call, message or WhatsApp me on my mobile on 07849 037095

 

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/apr/30/how-to-make-new-friends-adult-lonely-leap-of-faith

https://personalexcellence.co/blog/new-friends/

https://www.scienceofpeople.com/how-to-make-friends/

https://www.oprahmag.com/life/relationships-love/a26962744/how-to-make-friends-as-an-adult/

Holocaust Memorial Day

January 27th is internationally recognised as Holocaust Memorial Day – and it is, for myself as well as so many others, a day of deep reflection, of remembering those loved and lost, and of the many cruelties humanity have carried out against others for simply being ‘other’.

Six million Jewish people – men, women, children – were erased, snuffed out by the Nazi party, generations of hatred and xenophobia leading to mass murders and atrocities.

This is a piece of world history which we all remember – there are still living survivors and their families who hold dear the memories of those they lost, and who vividly recall the horrors of the camps, the cruelties of their captors, the fear that they lived in. Each November we wear poppies, we wave our flags, and we swear by “Lest we forget” – but across the UK, and the wider world, anti-Semitism is rife, and is still a leading topic in the media.

Year on year the reports of antisemitic views and behaviours are rising, and persecution and segregation are again sliding into ‘the norm’ as right-wing world leaders preach intolerance.

The impact on people – on those who didn’t forget, on those being pushed aside, on those once again living in fear – is immeasurable, and at a time when the world is facing uncertainty and fear we need to remember to come together, to love and support others, and to behave with kindness and compassion, rather than pulling into tribes which alienate and threaten anyone different to ourselves.

With the increase of technology and social media we are more able than ever before to find like minded people to communicate with – but still we see people leaning towards bubbles of those who share their views, and feeding intolerance in those bubbles. This has to stop, and we have to consciously work to explore other views, other cultures, other experiences to build a healthy, full picture of people’s experiences which we can use to shape our own.

The world is a rich tapestry of different cultures, with varied and fascinating histories, and humans are curious creatures. Often what we think of as fear – fear of anything different to our own lived experience – is actually curiosity, and rather than rejecting it we should encourage one another to explore it safely. To reach out to people, to be kind and tolerant, curious and keen.

Remember detail of a war memorial. An expression of faith, hope, and disbelief of what lies behind us

Kindness is the thing which makes us most human. Sharing, caring and supporting others, particularly when we have little to give ourselves, creates community and compassion – and those are the traits which can save us from sliding further into segregation and pain.

Nobody could have believed, as the atrocities of the Holocaust were first realised, and the truths about the murder and torture of millions of people, people who had committed no crimes, were released, that antisemitism would still be an issue nearly one hundred years later.

We learned so many lessons in the wake of the world wars – and yet still we see people being persecuted.

Today, take time to reflect. To truly assess your own treatment of others, and the behaviour of those around you. Of those casual ‘jokes’ which build a society rife with unkindness, segregation and separatism.

Think what you can do to challenge those moments, and how you can influence the world around you with kindness, compassion and love.

If you have faced persecution, have been mistreated because of your religion, your culture, your race or your sexual preference or gender identity, please don’t carry the burden of that hurt alone.

Reach out to your friends and loved ones, build a community around yourself of love and protection – and if you would like more support, contact me via this website, on Facebook, via email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or call or WhatsApp 07749 499783 to arrange counselling to work through the issues you’ve faced, and step into a happier, lighter future.

Shame; how to process it, move past it and use it to your advantage

As an individual you experience a wide range of feelings, emotions, reactions and responses day to day – even minute by minute – and riding the rollercoaster of these emotions is something that I help people to cope with in my work as a counsellor.

One of the most maligned and misunderstood emotions that most of us face is shame; shame is a response to things we have done or said, or those done or said to or around us, which our innermost self regrets or has been hurt by.

Shame is our innermost self, informing us that something is ‘not quite right’ or that it is going against our instinctive moral code. Without shame, without that sense of disquiet, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to avoid, change or repair whatever has happened that ‘feels wrong’ – which is why I argue that shame isn’t always a negative response or experience.

Though it is often linked to a feeling, deep within, of not being good enough, or of letting ourselves or others down, shame is simply an alarm system – and one which we can work with to move past negative experiences and create healthier boundaries.

Often the first response to feeling shame is withdrawal; withdrawing into ourselves, diminishing our voice, gaze and stature, shrinking to avoid being witnessed and responded to by others who may witness our shame. Perhaps this is familiar to you? Perhaps you’ve noticed this behaviour in others? There is a commonality in shame; the dropping of our head, avoiding eye contact, embarrassment and shame giving rise to the ‘flight’ response which makes us want to leave the room or situation and avoid it.

This is a natural – and important – response, and one which we can use to form healthier coping mechanisms; rather than complete withdrawal, a quite time of introspection and reflection can help us to identify why we feel this shame or embarrassment, and address what changes we can make to avoid repeating the experience.

When we feel shame in the presence of others the impact – and damage – of these big emotions can be profound, and can have long-lasting repercussions on the way we feel and function. The good news, however, is that shame – whilst thriving on the presence of others – can also be healed by interacting with others.

You are in control of your emotional responses and behaviour – these aren’t dependent on others, though we can measure our own responses by theirs, and we can moderate ours by communicating and sharing with the people around us.

One of the best and healthiest ways to understand, and thus to overcome, feelings of shame is to find a safe place to discuss and challenge the situations and experiences which the shame is linked to, and to find balance in how we view those experiences, and our own behaviours.

Though shame can be a useful tool, it can also be a heavy burden – and it’s only in examining and processing those feelings that we can move past them, and leave that burden behind.

Talking therapies and counselling are not just a way to understand events which have happened to us but also to understand things we have done ourselves, and the behaviours which may have protected us or defended us in challenging times, or been coping mechanisms, but which ultimately haven’t served us well, or have left us carrying shame.

When you examine and understand these behaviours as part of a bigger picture, working hand in hand with someone who can help you to move through, discuss and challenge those experiences, it is easier to understand – and to forgive – the person we once were.

Shame, when understood, can then shrink, can be left in the past, and can stop being such a burden in your current situation, and you can, with the help of a counsellor or therapist, truly forgive the self you were, and accept the self that you now are, free of that burden of shame.

The best way to diminish the power that shame holds over us is to engage with it. To explore the origin and myth of shame. Working together with you I can support you and collaborate with you to move through and beyond your shame, and to gain mastery over the destructive emotions and feelings which it brings.

Patience, support and self-acceptance are vital when mastering both your conscious and your subconscious feelings and responses to any shame that you’ve experienced – and the more that you are able to talk about those experiences, the more power you harness over them – and the less power they have over you.

 If you are ready to extinguish the shame you carry, and wishing to embrace a happier, freer contented self, I can help. You don’t need to carry this burden alone. Contact me through this website, on my Facebook page,  email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or call/WhatsApp me on 07849 037095 today and let’s start your first steps to freedom.

January 2021 Action for Happiness

Each month I will share the Action for Happiness calendar because I know how important it is to take a little time where you can to focus on the positives and to give yourself a little kindness.

The announcement that we are in another Lockdown in the UK has left people reeling once again, and there is a lot of anxiety and anger. If you are struggling, remember that you don’t need to face these feelings alone, and that I can help you to find your feet and feel more able to face the challenges.

Contact me through this website, on my Facebook page, email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or call me, on phone or WhatsApp, on 07849 037095