Tag Archives: anxiety

Action for Happiness – Optimistic October

October already! This year seems simultaneously to be flying past and endless – but somehow we are in October, nights are getting longer, weather colder, and it’s time to start thinking about cosy fires and hearty soup!

The Action For Happiness calendar this month focusses on Optimism – and there are, as always, some wonderful suggestions;

 

Should you disclose Mental Health issues at work?

Statistics are showing that more people than ever before are struggling with their mental health at the moment. The pressures of a global pandemic, lockdowns lifting and lowering, employment uncertain and family members lost or sick, it’s all taken a toll.

That toll sees people battling depression, anxiety, an increase in eating disorders or behavioural issues, the usual balance between our routines and our emotional needs disrupted with an uncertain end point.

It’s been traumatic, and challenging, and it’s no surprise that so many are battling their demons – some for the first time, others in a way they’d perhaps already worked hard to beat, and the slide back into a darker frame of mind can feel like a failure when you’ve been doing so well for so long.

Paper man surrounded by Coronavirus and economy news headlines

There is no shame in battling your mental health – there is no shame in admitting that you need support, and in reaching out for it. In taking time for yourself and your own needs, rather than constantly being on the go or giving your energy to others around you.

Or, rather, there should be no shame. But for many people, there still is. The stigma around mental health issues is still prevalent in many environments – and the place where that’s the biggest concern is in the workplace.

Though employers legally can’t challenge or dismiss their staff for needing mental health support, many still feel that disclosing mental health issues will impact their future in the role, or risk them losing their position, prevent their path to promotion or negatively impact the potential they had with the company.

You aren’t legally obliged to disclose any mental health considerations to your employer – but, if you do find that you are discriminated against at a later date, it is important to have evidence that they knew and have used that knowledge to negatively impact your employment.

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance have created a very useful pros and cons document for whether or not you should disclose any mental health issues to employers; I know that it is deeply personal, and something you can only decide when you weigh up your own personal circumstances.

No matter what those circumstances are, the more of us who speak openly, honestly and powerfully about our experiences, the challenges we face and any mental health issues which have impacted our lives, the easier it becomes to do so. This means we benefit ourselves, able to relieve some of the pressure, and gain support from those around us. It also means we help others who may be struggling alone to see that it is more common than they thought, and that they can access and deserve help and support too.

That help and support comes in many forms – and your employer can, and should, help you to access some of them, whether through their own internal support or by allowing you to work more flexibly so that you can access support more readily.

If you are seeking one-to-one support, and you are looking for a Counsellor who can help you to work through the challenges you’re currently facing, or moving beyond past trauma or mental health concerns which are limiting your life today, please reach out to me; I can help you to leave that weight behind, and step into your best future with confidence.

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.

 

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

 

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.

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.

Anxious about the new term, and life outside of lockdown

This has been a very peculiar year, hasn’t it?

Families across the world have been impacted, and have had to deal with all kinds of changes, challenges and routines which are so far from what we are used to – and I know that most of us are still processing all of those changes. Now it’s time to start processing some more, as children across the UK return to school, students back to colleges and universities, and those who have been working from home for the last six months make plans to return to offices.

Don’t think that you’re alone in being anxious about these changes, and about the safety and well-being of your families and loved ones as they go back out into the world and mix with their peers again.

Whilst there are many practical steps being taken in all of these environments to protect people (increased cleaning, social distancing, one way systems, hand sanitising stations) and we can reassure ourselves with these practical acts – which we know are going to do a lot to protect many people from any risk of infection or harm – I know that anxiety doesn’t always care about practicalities or facts.

Those little voices that whisper at the back of our mind about the dangers, the risks, the fears we are carrying, don’t go quiet simply because we have facts to shout back at them!

So what can we do to challenge those anxieties, and to support our own mental well-being and that of our loved ones and families as life moves into the next phase of the Coronavirus pandemic, and how we function through it?

Reminding ourselves of those practical steps is a good first step. For example; “I am worried about my child being in a class with other children” can be challenged with “but they will be in one seat at a sterilised, safe desk, distanced from others; the will have their own hand sanitiser and know how to properly wash their hands.”

“I am worried about travelling to work on public transport” can be met with “but I have my own mask, I can maintain a physical distance between myself and others and, where that is difficult, our masks will reduce the risk. I have sanitiser in my pocket and contactless payment for my journey.”

When anxiety builds and you begin to feel panic or overwhelm, try to find coping techniques to get you through that moment:

  • Breathing exercises can calm your heart rate
  • Grounding techniques can stop your mind spiralling into negative thoughts
  • Remove yourself from any crowded or busy public space for a few minutes
  • Wear headphones to reduce external sensory input
  • Wear a mask in public areas
  • Carry your own wipes and alcohol gel so that you can protect yourself from germs
  • Remind yourself that you have remained safe so far, and will remain safe because you have taken the right steps

Many people are finding that they coped well during lockdown, because they had the focus of their family and were busy throughout. Now that life is returning to some semblance of ‘normal’ and we are under less pressure, the need to ‘cope’ well is reduced – and we are actually struggling more without that constant need.

This is entirely normal, and very common; crisis brings crisis management techniques, and only once the crisis has passed do we feel the fear and overwhelm of the situation we just lived through.

This is a great time to reach out to your support networks; family and friends, occupational health, your GP and professional counselling, which can help you to process that trauma in a healthy way and move through the stages of what is, essentially, grief and fear.

Small acts of self care can help you to re-centre and reduce anxiety, and give you some inner reserves to get through the next weeks. Never underestimate the power of small kindnesses – for yourself or for those you love.

I can help you with the anxieties of moving back into the world, and I can help you to find coping methods for those moments of overwhelm. I can also  give you tools to support those you love with their own worries, without harming yourself by taking on the weight of other people’s emotional well-being and need.

Contact me through this website, on the phone on 07849 037095 (as a call, a text or via WhatsApp) or by email on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com – you don’t need to struggle alone with your worries; I can help.

 

Calm your breathing – and your mind

This moving graphic is a fabulous little tool I’ve found recently, and which is a great help in controlling your breathing and focusing your mind – which is very helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious.

Give it a try, and let me know what you think, and if it has helped you to calm your breathing – and your thoughts.