Category Archives: Counselling

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.

Burnout and self care

Many people find that their mental health and mood dip through winter. The darker days and nights, less hours of light, gloomy weather and isolation can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.

 This year that impact is worse than usual, as so many of us have been stressed or isolated with lockdown, restricted time with family and friends, and the pressure of working through a pandemic or of losing work because of the virus.

 Self-care is never the first priority for many of us, but it’s more important than ever before that we find ways to care for our own needs, to protect our health and emotional wellbeing, but also to enable us to have reserves to continue supporting others.

What I am seeing a lot of, from clients, friends, family, from everyone to some extent – is burnout.

What is burnout?

 Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. (From HelpGuide)

In other words, burnout is what happens when you have been fighting for months to stay safe and keep your loved ones safe, to work in unusual circumstances, to pay bills with reduced income, to feed your family through a pandemic, to maintain happiness and health whilst home-schooling, working, social distancing, being isolated, separated from support networks – burnout is what happens when you live through a pandemic, economic collapse, political upheaval and the constant threat of harm.

Burnout is what you’re very likely experiencing when you stare at your to-do list and have no idea where or how to start, and are kicking yourself for not being able to achieve as much as usual.

This is normal – at least, it’s normal as a response to this very far from normal year you’ve lived through. It’s common, it’s expected, and it’s okay. You aren’t alone, and you need to reframe your expectations.

Managing burnout.

 The first thing to accept is that this is not normal – this year, this experience. So expecting a normal level of productivity, of activity, and of output is simply impossible.

Your body and mind aren’t in a productive mode; you aren’t in a place where creativity, action and future planning are really possible.

When you are under the kind of stress and pressure that we have all been experiencing, your mind is in defence mode. Your body and brain are finding ways to protect you, to survive, and to simply get through the day – not to achieve anything beyond simply surviving.

When your subconscious mind is working so hard on survival, there is little energy left for creativity or productivity. When your body is in survival mode, any focus you may ordinarily have for training, exercising, working towards goals, is almost impossible to tap into; your body doesn’t have the energy to fight, survive and keep you going and commit to new goals or targets – so if you’ve struggled to work towards any long-term health or exercise goals this year, that’s okay; it’s normal. Your body and mind simply can’t right now. So don’t be angry with yourself, or disappointed; forgive yourself for where you are, due to a situation that is completely outside of your control, and focus instead on what you can control; forgiveness, kindness and survival.

Steps to take

 Recognise and acknowledge the signs

  • Set smaller goals
  • Structure and routine in your day
  • Wind-down time
  • Self-care
  • Support network
  • Ask for help

 Recognise and acknowledge

 We are all great at berating ourselves and criticising ourselves for what we fail to achieve – but when did you last listen to your body, and acknowledge where you are and how you feel right now?

 Acknowledging the signs of burnout is the first and most important step in overcoming it.

Set smaller goals

 So perhaps you haven’t achieved what you dreamed of this year, but look at what you have achieved – and focus on the small wins. You have been subjected to enormous and very complex changes, completely outside of your control. The pandemic has robbed you of many freedoms and opportunities – but it hasn’t completely stalled every thing you are and do. So list the things you’ve achieved – and count even the smallest things as a success. Getting out of bed and dressed is the most you can do sometimes – so take that little win.

Structure and routine

 If you have lost your work or the activities you usually participate in, it’s easy to slip into a rut and to live in your pyjamas, with no shape to your day and time.

Create some structure; set an alarm and try to stick to a regular sleeping and waking schedule, get washed and dressed, keep meals at the same times each day, and start to add in more things over time – getting out for a walk, calling someone, applying for jobs, reading a book, anything which you feel is a proactive and positive use of time.

Wind down time

 Without structure and with less need to leave the house many fall into a habit of distraction; watching tv or films, gaming, scrolling through social media – but often these mindless blue screen activities keep your subconscious brain stimulated and agitated – so ensure that you get some time each day – at least a couple of hours – away from these devices, reading or outdoors in nature, meditating or finding another way to relax.

Self Care

 Personal hygiene, time doing something you enjoy, soaking in the bath, exercising, grooming, styling your hair, picking out an activity which you love to do – whatever it is that give you small moments of joy and which gives your mind and body some healthy nourishment is vital. Even small things – washing your hair, changing your bedding, replacing one pair of pyjamas with a fresh clean set – can make you feel better in small ways.

Support Network

 The isolation of lockdown and social distancing has made many of us very lonely. It’s a painful and frightening experience, so please do take time to reach out to your support network. Call family and friends, make time to video call when you can, and where you’re able to get out of your house to meet others again.

Ask for help

 None of us need to be alone. Nobody needs to fight on, without help and support, struggling and battling burnout and overwhelm; you deserve to be supported and find help, no matter what has happened in your life, and no matter how lost you feel.

If you think that having someone you can speak with in confidence could help, and you would like support in processing the trauma and stress you’ve experienced – whether that’s as a direct result of the pandemic or there’s other experiences you are struggling with – call me to arrange a 10 minute assessment call, where we can have a chat about what you need and whether I’m the right person to help you.

Call me on 07749 499783 or email amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com or you can message me via Facebook or this website. You can also speak to me on video call via WhatsApp, which is how most of my sessions have been carried out through the pandemic. You don’t need to struggle alone any more.