Tag Archives: calming actions

National Stress Awareness Day

The phrase ‘Stress Awareness Day’ always makes me laugh a little; after all, who on earth is unaware of their stress? But that’s not what it really means; stress awareness day is more about being aware of the stress others might be experiencing – and how we can do small things to help alleviate it.

There is a wealth of advice online (and available from your Doctor, Counsellor or a mental health representative in your workplace, as well as via charities like Mind) about how to better manage and reduce stress – and some things work better than others, and for others, so the best advice I can give is to try a few different methods and keep doing what works for you.

The obvious first steps are to speak to someone you trust (a friend or loved one, your manager at work, a counsellor or your doctor, if things are really getting on top of you) and to make a plan for changing the things that are stressing you out. If you’re overworked, your manager could help you to move things around and get more down time. If you’re financially stretched, a partner could sit and do a new budget with you to reduce the pressure. If you’re just fizzing with anxiety, some exercise and a decent meal will go a long way.

Exercise is the one that usually annoys me; when I’m feeling overwhelmed and someone suggests I go for a walk, get some fresh air and get my body moving, my blood pumping, and just take a break from computer screens and work, it often irritates me. What’s more irritating is that when I do that, and get the fresh air and a good stomping walk through some woodland, it always helps. Every time. And whoever suggested it was right. How annoying!

The strange reluctance of the stressed to avoid the things we know will help is common – so don’t think you’re alone, or that you’re the only person who grumpily slips into a little bit of self-destruct when you’re overwhelmed. We’re all guilty of it to some extent – and that’s why it’s so important to be honest with how you’re feeling, and how you’re sometimes reluctant to change anything.

But stress can have a hugely negative impact on our health (mental and physical) and can have serious repercussions on our future success, health and potential for contentment. There are always steps we can take to reduce stress – and even when we don’t really want to admit it, we know they help and that we should be giving ourselves a little break.

Breaks, rest and down time

Too many of us are guilty of pushing ourselves too much, for too long. Working long hours, eating lunch at our desk, committing to too many things that burn us out.

It’s absolutely vital to take breaks, regularly and consistently. Take proper breaks, away from your desk, from your screens, from the bombardment of information we are subjected to in our everyday lives. Step outside, sit somewhere peaceful, breathe real air and give yourself chance to just exist outside of what you’re doing or achieving, and just be.

Exercise

I know. I KNOW. Ugh. But, as I said above, it really does help – even (if not especially) at the times we least want to do it. Now, I’m not saying you need to commit to a gym routine and build yourself a solid 6 pack with bulging biceps – but a ten minute stroll in the outdoors can make a huge difference in your mental wellbeing and your ability to manage stress.

Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and in our busy modern lives it can be hard to find a way to fit that in, but making your own needs a priority means that you’ve got more in the bank to give to everything else, so really there’s no good enough excuse.

Walk to work, walk the dog, get the couch to 5k app, buy a mini trampoline, follow a YouTube yoga video, join a dance class – whatever it is, pick  something that makes you smile, and try to make it a regular part of your routine so you are getting your heart pumping and boosting the happy hormones that keep your body and mind running smoothly.

Sleep

Hands up who has lain awake late into the night, thinking about mistakes made in the past, worrying about things we should have done and haven’t, or dreading tomorrow’s to-do list…? Yeah – me too, and it’s so damaging.

Sleep is the best ingredient for mental (and, again, physical) health – and it’s vital for our bodies to recover from the exertion of the day and heal small hurts, build new cells, process the general functions that keep things ticking along. It’s also vital for our minds to process everything we’ve been doing, store away memories, tidy up thoughts and organise everything we’ve experienced. Sleep deprivation is incredibly harmful, and over time consistently getting too little sleep increases the chances of heart disease, reduces our productivity and wellbeing, makes us irritable and disorganised, and causes all manner of problems.

Prioritising sleep means you might need to change your routine; avoid any kind of screen for an hour before bed, drink a warm herbal tea, spend some time reading a favourite book, have a warm bath, whatever it is that winds you down and gets your relaxation going so that your mind recognises that now is the time to switch off. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep, and maintain a similar schedule even if you’re tempted by a massive weekend lie in or a late night now and then.

It’s been a really difficult couple of years, and it’s no surprise that statistics show that stress levels have increased nationally, with more people than ever reporting that they are experiencing stress and struggling to manage it.

The more openly we can speak about the stress we are experiencing, and the more we can support each other with it, the better we will all cope, and the more likely we will be to thrive beyond this period of history.

If you would like me to write more articles on how to better manage stress send me a message or respond on my social media channels and I will create some downloadable content for you to use in your own lives.

If you are struggling with stress and need someone safe to speak with, please get in touch – 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)4rf  because I can help you to process the things you are feeling overwhelmed with and make a plan for moving through them, and building a more resilient tomorrow.

Trauma, bonding and grounding: what your diagnosis really means, and how to free yourself from past Trauma.

Through life we all experience trauma, and each of us is shaped by the things we experience – but what happens when we are faced with significant trauma, and find it impossible to move past it? How does it shape our future choices, our relationships, and can it ever really leave us?

What is PTSD?

PTSD means Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This means that experiencing a very traumatic event – and anything you find traumatic counts – leaves you with life altering stress and anxiety.

This isn’t just ‘being anxious’ and it isn’t just ‘having some bad memories’ – it’s far more significant. PTSD actually alters the brain, physically. There are marked and well known physical differences in areas of the brain which process memories, anxiety and emotional stimuli and responses.

Symptoms of PTSD include a high level of stress or anxiety – again, a physical change – with higher levels of cortisone, which can lead to heart problems, among other issues. Other symptoms are flashbacks, night terrors and audio or visual illusions. Any trigger which sparks a trauma response takes the sufferer straight back to the initial trauma event, reliving and re-traumatising. The brain cannot differentiate between the traumatic event and the trigger, so the physical and emotional response is the same.

Complex PTSD – or CPTSD – is when someone has suffered multiple traumatic events, and is more challenging to live with and to treat, as those who suffer struggle to differentiate between trauma and triggers, and to maintain emotional balance or form healthy relationships and routines.

What is Trauma Bonding?

Trauma bonding is a very complex issue – and is something we most commonly see in victims of abuse. Any emotional bond is influenced by kindness and intimacy. These become unhealthy, trauma bonds when that same source of intimacy is the person who abuses you.

Most abusive relationships – whether they are between romantic couples, children and their abusive caregivers, Cult leaders and their followers or even kidnappers and their victims – tend to follow the same patterns.

Initially there is intense attention, affection and interest – love bombing – where the abuser, or person with the most power in the dynamic, showers their victim with overwhelming attention, and makes them feel special.

When the victim is feeling happy, vulnerable and adoring, seeing their abuser in a wonderful, loving light, the painful treatment begins. It could be a withdrawal and rejection, a physical attack, a verbal assault. The abuse itself takes many forms – but the pattern is the same. This is a shock, and incredibly painful for the victim, but it’s often brief – and the abuser quickly says something like ‘look what you made me do’ and is very apologetic. The love bombing re-starts, and affection – usually extreme affection – makes the victim feel secure again.

This cycle repeats – and a trauma bond is formed where the abuser is the person most capable of hurting you, be it physically or psychological, but they are also the  person you most desperately want and need comfort from, and who any scrap of kindness from has the greatest impact.

This makes it very difficult to leave abusive relationships or situations, or to break that cycle and avoid repeating the pattern in new relationships (be it friendships, romantic relationships or even employment) because the familiarity makes it feel secure, even when it is incredibly painful.

Over time the bad days outweigh the good ones, but the victim – the person with the trauma bond – can’t leave because they still believe that if they can just love someone right, if they can just stop making mistakes, or upsetting their abuser, or stepping out of line, it will be as wonderful as it was in the beginning. They are chasing the reward of attention and love bombing, and will excuse and allow an enormous amount of cruelty to chase that feeling.

All of this is shaped by biological responses and the physical makeup of our brains, and as with PTSD it can literally alter the development of your brain – as well as forming the behaviours you exhibit.

Those who have never experienced it question why someone stays in an abusive relationship, but it’s an incredibly difficult thing to break, and to truly move away from and avoid repeating.

In that process, one of the most powerful therapeutic devices taught by psychotherapists and counsellors is grounding.

What is Grounding?

Grounding is when someone who is experiencing anxiety, fear, panic or heightened senses can reduce their stimulus and calm their body and mind. Some think specifically of just ‘calming down’ and focus on the exact moment and location that you are in – others link it to nature, and the individual connects to the physical world by taking off their shoes and standing on grass, or similar.

There are many different techniques, and I will include some links below to explore more, but the method I often teach first is the ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1’ technique, shown below.

Download a copy of this technique by clicking here – 5 4 3 2 1

This method distracts your thoughts from the traumatic event, the flashbacks or the worries which have heightened your body and mind, and re-focusses those energies on the immediate here and now of where you are and what you can sense.

This allows you to leave the trauma memory, and to re-enter your body right now, right here, focussed on your senses. This allows you to calm your racing thoughts and gain control over your emotional and physical being.

This kind of grounding is simple, powerful and effective, and can help you to divert or avoid panic attacks, to maintain equilibrium and avoid anger or aggression, and gives you time and opportunity to focus on where you are and what you need right now.

For more information on PTSD and how it causes physical changes in the brain

For more information on Trauma Bonds 

For other Grounding techniques 

If you are struggling with any of the issues I’ve discussed in this article, and are looking for someone to speak to, to process and overcome your own traumatic events, 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. I can help – you don’t have to struggle alone, and our work together is completely confidential.

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.

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.