Tag Archives: counselling

What are the ways we can boost our emotional wellness?

October is ‘Emotional Wellness Month’ – and you can find a lot more information about that on my ‘Emotional Wellness’ page.

In this post I want to share some of the ways I know can help you to manage your own emotional wellness, and improve your emotional wellness when you are struggling – which a great many of us are right now.

Sources of wellness

Having a purpose

This could be family oriented, it could be an educational programme, a professional environment or a goal you are working towards in some way; having a purpose, a reason to get out of bed and do things each day is hugely rewarding, and it will improve not only your emotional wellness but your overall physical health in the long term too.

Hobbies and stress relieving activities

Having something that you enjoy and which you commit time to and derive pleasure from is incredibly important. Hobbies may be seen as frivolous by some, but they are actually vital in giving our lives some shape, colour and variety, and a series of small achievements which bring you joy. This could be something artistic, an exercise, a class or club, creative pursuits, meditation, even simply meeting friends regularly for a chat and a gossip!

Factoring activities which bring you pleasure, which give you chance to try new things or to meet new people, or which take you outside of your ‘ordinary’ routine are guaranteed to improve your emotional wellness.

Physical activity

This doesn’t mean you should join a gym and start training for a power lifting championship – it depends very much on the lifestyle you already live and your physical health. For some, it does mean running a marathon – for others it means climbing the stairs rather than taking the lift, walking to the corner shop, a bike ride with the children, playing in the park with a dog – but any kind of activity, anything which gets your body moving, raises your heartrate a little, perhaps has you breathing heavier, will not only mean you maintain a higher standard of physical health, it will also release endorphins in your body which give you a mental and emotional boost. It literally makes you happier, because you receive a boost of happy hormones – and exercise outdoors is even better, as it gives you a connection to the outside world, a chance to see some nature and wildlife, all of which increase those endorphins.

Spend time with others

When we are struggling emotionally it is common that we withdraw; we make excuses to avoid friends and gatherings, we stop texting or calling people, and we even stop posting on social media. Sometimes this is simply that we feel too tired or overwhelmed, and sometimes it is because we are comparing how we feel to what we are seeing of other people’s lives on platforms like Instagram or Facebook.

Remember that what you see on social media is a very heavily edited version of someone’s life, and you aren’t getting the full picture – so you can’t compare fairly.

As the pandemic has impacted how much time we can spend with people physically it’s even more important than ever before to reach out by other methods; the connection we have with our friends and family, the communication with loved ones, is proven to be a significant factor in our wellbeing – and when we are struggling it’s easy to feel like we are a burden or weight on them – but remember that your thoughts may not be reflective of the truth, and that people care for you and want to help. Text someone if you don’t feel ready to call, and let someone who loves you know that you are struggling. Remember that if the roles were reversed and you knew that someone you cared for was feeling overwhelmed, you would want to help, and that people won’t want you to struggle alone.

Sleep, rest and heal

Sleep is one of the most powerful ways in which we can heal ourselves, body and mind. Disrupted sleep is a huge indicator of emotional and mental ill health, so try to give yourself a healthy routine for sleep. Perhaps speak to a GP if you have been struggling for some time with poor sleep, but there are ways to help yourself naturally.

Stick to a regular schedule; try to go to bed at a similar time each night and wake at a similar time each morning; your body will come to expect sleep in those times and be ready for it. Avoid caffeine or alcohol, which are stimulants, and for at least an hour before you go to bed avoid any electronic screens – the blue light disrupts sleep patterns. Have a warm drink (herbal tea or your favourite decaf option), perhaps a bath or shower, read a book somewhere dimly lit and comfortable, and if you find yourself getting anxious about anything you need to do, write a list in a notebook beside your bed so that you have an action plan for the morning; there is nothing so urgent that it can’t wait until then.

Meditation

You can see in this image the benefits of meditating – this is another incredibly powerful way to boost your emotional and mental wellness – as well as your physical wellness; stress and anxiety have a physical impact on our bodies – so meditation and mindfulness will limit and reduce the damage that these fears and stress are causing, and help to protect you against them long-term.

There are a great many resources online for guided meditations if you aren’t familiar with the process; YouTube has many videos which are free to access; one of my favourites is ‘Great Meditation’ where you can find a lot of videos for different meditation goals. (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN4vyryy6O4GlIXcXTIuZQQ )

Seeking help and support

If you feel that your emotional wellness is struggling at the moment, you don’t need to struggle alone – there are many ways that you can access help and support. I offer talking therapy for people who have suffered trauma or abuse, or who are simply feeling overwhelmed by the weight of what has been a very difficult year. You can contact me to discuss the things you’re struggling with, and I can help you to find coping strategies and protect yourself from the damage that stress and anxiety have on your long term health.

Email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com call me or message via WhatsApp on 07849 037095, contact me via this website or chat to me on Facebook 

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.

 

Your personal boundaries are so important

An area that many people struggle with is setting personal boundaries, and with maintaining those boundaries in their relationships, day to day without letting others influence them.

If you have no boundaries in place, it could stem from never having learned how, never being enabled to, or being afraid to. It could be because your self-worth has been eroded through neglect, control or abuse, or that you never had the emotional support needed to value your needs.

How does losing – or not having – boundaries impact us?

 First and foremost – it’s painful. It’s painful, because we are always giving too much of ourselves away, with no regard for our limits, and people take without giving in return.

It is also exhausting, draining – emotionally, mentally and – as a result – often physically too. All of the energy and drive we have is poured from us into others, or taken from us by others, and we have nothing left in reserve for caring for ourselves or meeting our own needs.

If you keep finding that an environment is leaving you feeling drained, emotionally bruised and demotivated, it’s likely that it’s because your boundaries aren’t in place in that environment, so your energy and emotional health are being depleted by those around you.

 Your boundaries are personal to you – and they may change or move over time

 We all grow and change in time, and that’s a normal and healthy part of life.

What is also normal and healthy is to have views, values and emotional responses which determine our personal boundaries, and what we are and are not comfortable doing.

If you have been subjected to any kind of controlling behaviour, oppression or abuse then it can be even more challenging to identify your own boundaries, outside of that environment – and all the more difficult to enforce them with the people within that environment. Even once you have left those situations or environments behind, establishing and maintaining your boundaries is difficult, because you’ve not had an opportunity to build and live with them before – so you are unsure even how to start.

 Enforcing your boundaries is important

 It can be challenging and daunting enforcing your boundaries. Saying “no” to someone who is used to only hearing “yes” from you, and standing firm despite their reaction, is hard – and they may push back and be angry. If they are, that shows that they have been taking advantage of you, and that they are willing to override your wellbeing for their own benefit.

Sometimes when we begin to enforce our boundaries we find that some relationships may be lost – and that can be terribly sad. Unfortunately, some relationships have to be a learning experience for us, and be left behind as we build on our own self-worth and growth – and if someone can’t learn to respect and value your boundaries, and grow with you, then you may need to let them go in order to protect yourself.

I can help you to identify, establish and reinforce your personal boundaries

If you would like some support with boundaries – whether you simply need to build your resilience in order to stand more, or whether you need to start from the beginning by identifying what your boundaries might be, I can help you with the process.

You can also read more about personal boundaries – how they could be eroded, what situations show whether you are being taken advantage of, how to begin to identify and build your own boundaries, and whether it’s ever ok to change your mind (it is!) – on my boundaries website page, where you can also find resources and activities which might help you.

Get in touch with me – you can contact me through this website, on my Facebook page, on my phone number – 07849 037 095 – either as a phone call or via WhatsApp video – or email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com   – and let me help you to be a happier, more confident self who believes in their own value.

United Nations/WHO World Drug Day – June 26th

 

 

There has been immense focus in the media on the fears around the Covid-19 virus and the immediate impact of people being isolated in their homes – but today, with the United Nations/WHO World Drug Day awareness campaign, I want to talk a little about the unseen impact that this enforced isolation and ‘lockdown’ have been having in tens of thousands of homes across the country.

Whilst the media is talking about the challenges of working from home, or home-schooling children, of getting groceries or being lonely without family to visit, most stories have glossed over the realities of what many people are turning to, to ‘cope’ with these pressures.

Behind closed doors, drug and alcohol use have increased on an enormous scale – and those who were battling with sobriety may have fallen off the wagon. People are slipping into dependence on substances which numb them to the pressure and anxiety of the situation we are living in, and that dependence is impacting their lives in other ways.

With increased drug and alcohol use we see huge pressure within homes and relationships – families are fighting, couples are hurting, children are witnessing and being subjected to abuses, and as the virus continues to spread the services which would usually be in place to protect these vulnerable victims of addiction and substance abuse simply can’t provide the support that is needed.

The UK is in crisis – with mental health services more stretched than ever, and experts predicting that the lasting impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health will be significant – and those turning to drugs and alcohol are already in need of help that this stretched service may never be able to provide.

Though the statistics for deaths caused directly by the Coronavirus are slowing, experts believe that the lockdown designed to prevent the spread of disease may cause more deaths than the virus itself.

Negative coping methods – alcohol, drugs, tobacco – are seeing the emergence of new addictive behaviours, and increased numbers of those displaying these behaviours – which is very concerning, and likely to continue increasing.

A phenomenon which is being called “Deaths of despair” – deaths from overdoses, alcohol related incidents and illnesses, suicide and abuse – are skyrocketing alongside deaths caused directly by the Coronavirus.

It’s vital that access to mental health care is improved and that people are able to receive the help and support that they need without the long waiting lists and barriers that people are seeing at the moment.

Though the mental health provisions in the UK have been under pressure for many years, with reductions in budgets and access being limited in many areas, the impact of the current situation will be seen across all health and social services for years to come, and is causing significant harm both to those dealing with drug and addiction issues, and to their families – and this crisis absolutely must be faced and managed, before it leads to more avoidable deaths.

I am an experienced specialist, and have worked with those living with addiction and substance issues – and I know that it’s a complex and multi-faceted situation which needs to be carefully managed, with support to face the pain and trauma behind the addictive behaviours, as well as those behaviours themselves.

I am here to help – and available to offer counselling support to anyone who is struggling with any drug or substance abuse, or who is impacted by the addictive behaviours of others. I can offer video calls to give counselling whilst you are unable to meet face to face, and to support you even during the continued lockdown restrictions.

 

 

Don’t suffer alone – call me today for some support.

You can contact me through this website, on my Facebook page, on my phone number – 07849 037 095 – either as a phone call or via WhatsApp video – or email me on amandaburbidge-counselling@outlook.com

Grief vs Loss

Grief and loss – particularly now – need to be treated as equals.

Often the words grief and loss are used interchangeably – people use both when they speak about the grief of losing a loved one, a family member, a friend and even a pet – but there are some differences between the two which mean they should be approached differently.

Grief is what we feel when there is a bereavement – when someone or something dies, and we are left reeling with a sequence of different emotions and reactions, varying states, which take us from the initial shock through to, eventually, acceptance, and the state where we are able to continue with our lives bearing the scars of this grief.

Loss is different – and applies to far more than reacting to a death. Loss is a similar sequence of emotions, of reactions, of processes – but for different events.

One clear example currently is the loss of our freedom and social lives, as we are all encouraged to remain at home during the Coronavirus situation.

The impact of this ‘lockdown’ means that we are, as a nation – as a world population – facing significant losses. Of work, of income, of routine, of social interaction and confidence in our lives. Of education and training. Of comfort and security.

We are seeing overwhelming news reports, feeling fear and anxiety, and limited to interacting only with the people within our homes – which, for a great many, is just them alone – or, for some, is with people who are controlling or abusive – meaning that they have also lost their opportunities to escape those dangers or recover outside of the home from the traumatic environment.

Where ‘loss’ is disregarded is when people begin to compare their loss with those of others. For some, the loss of routine means they can relax, sit back and indulge in whatever whim takes their fancy. For others, the loss of routine creates enormous anxiety and pain.

For some, the loss of freedom to leave the house is merely inconvenient, and for others it means they are incredibly isolated, or even in danger.

Loss – no matter what it is you are losing – is not something which can be compared. Pain and loss aren’t weighed on a scale – and if we always compare, there will always be someone who has experienced something ‘worse’ or who hasn’t experienced a reality as damaging as ours – which is why we ought never to dismiss the responses to loss that another feels.

The truth of pain is that the worst pain you have ever experienced is the worst pain you have ever experienced. The greatest loss that has impacted you is your greatest loss. These are not things we should ever compare to those of others – because dismissing or disregarding other people’s pain, or allowing people to do the same to ours, prevents us from being able to find coping mechanisms in a healthy way.

Loss – whether on a global scale, or of a small, domestic routine which brings you peace – is painful – and the only way that we are able to move through it, process it, and take the steps through the stages of emotional response is by voicing our struggles, supporting one another in difficult times, and reaching out for support when we need it.

Grief is what we experience in response to a death – but loss is no less significant, and the pain we feel in response to loss can be overwhelming and can impact the shape of our lives permanently, particularly if we somehow believe that our pain is insignificant, or if it is belittled by others.

Remember that now is not a time to increase the pressure on yourself to do or be anything more than who you are; a global pandemic is a time to give yourself space to just be – to survive, to focus on your needs – physically and emotionally – without worrying about achieving more, setting goals, growing or creating.

Now is a time to simply meet your basic needs, and to let other concerns take a back seat: this graphic is a great reminder.

If you are struggling with the losses I’ve discussed here, or are in need of a safe place to speak about worries and fears, or the current situation has brought previous trauma to the surface, please don’t suffer alone.

You can speak to me any time – simply fill in the contact form or send me a message on Facebook or via call or text on 07849 037095; I am doing all of my counselling sessions via WhatsApp video calls, so that you can still speak ‘face to face’ and receive support, and don’t have to sit with your head full of concerns you have nowhere to voice.

 

Safer Internet Day

The internet is a wonder – a tool which has been in our lives for such a brief period, by many measures, but which has so quickly become absolutely vital to so many areas of our lives.

It connects people globally, meaning that we can build relationships and friendships, that we can explore other cultures, experience events on other continents, share news and current events. The internet has allowed isolated people to reach out, has made it easy for us to shop for our groceries without leaving the comfort of our homes, to build businesses with lower overheads – there are so many ways in which it enriches our lives.

But – because it has grown so quickly – the internet has also grown more rapidly than the security measures and safety provisions could match. And, whilst so many of us simply benefit from the entertainment, networking and opportunities that a global network can offer, it also gives the darker underworld that human life has always come with an untouchable place to pedal their wares.

For every fun forum where like-minded people can talk about their favourite author, there’s a dark web listing for illegal weapons or drugs, for every dating site where we can seek a soulmate there’s a hidden world where innocent lives are traded like a commodity.

For lots of us the internet still feels quite new and modern – and our learning has been gradual, embracing it in some parts of our lives but ignoring the parts that mean nothing to us. We still remember the world pre-world wide web, and the ways we experienced the world (and coped with being out of touch with people!) but for the younger generation, the internet has been an every day part of their lives the way that TVs have been a part of mine, but were new to the recent generations before me!

This means that navigating raising our next generations safely, with this untameable beast, can be quite the challenge – and that parents often don’t know a great deal about what their children can access online – either knowingly or not. It’s astonishing how much of the very extreme content on the internet can be found with just a couple of clicks – and that it’s deliberately designed to be that way, so that people can accidentally happen across it and be sucked in.

Though many people might be embarrassed to speak about it, looking for porn is very, very common – particularly with the curiosity of youth, and the accessibility of a handheld device in a quiet bedroom – and though there’s nothing damaging or dangerous about a healthy sexual curiosity, these free sites are also host to a terrifying number of ads and links to the dark web, where it’s frighteningly easy to get sucked down a web of increasingly extreme content. Addiction to these forms of content is a growing issue, and it isn’t just the younger generation being exposed to it – those who once would have struggled to find a source for their darkest thoughts to be fed are now just the tap of a screen away from like-minded people.

With Safer Internet Day the campaign to educate and protect people from this dark underbelly sees Governments worldwide being petitioned to have better controls and regulations, better policing and response to online crime. The biggest social networks are currently not held accountable for the actions of their users, absolving themselves of any responsibility or refusing to cooperate with criminal investigations in a timely manner, meaning that more people escape justice, more victims suffer, and more innocents are exposed to content which can cause lifelong difficulties or damage.

As a tool, as a way to communicate, as a wealth of experiences, the internet can be a wonderland, and has truly changed the way the world works in just a few short decades – but more must be done to protect users, and those shaping the way that it is used, from harm – whether it’s intentional or as a result of blundering into the wrong corners of the web.

Today, think about the content that you consume – and the information about your private life that you so confidently share with a world full of strangers, not all of whom will want to be your friend.

Limit the amount of information you share, be careful about updating your location in real time, or telling the internet at large that you’ll be away from home when your address hasn’t been well protected. Protect your children and their private lives by limiting how much you show of them and remember that, without their consent, you may even be breaking laws in sharing too much about them. In particular, remember that there may be some people looking who don’t have your own innocent view of your children, and who may have ulterior motives for wanting images or information about them – or about you. Don’t share your financial information, don’t agree to meet with strangers without building trust and letting friends and family know what your plans are, and please do be wary of letting your young people explore the internet unsupervised; though they may be making good choices, there are still others who may expose them to inappropriate material. Secure your settings, and if you’re unsure how to do this, visit the safer internet day website for some great resources and information.

If you have found your life impacted by the darker side of the internet, or perhaps you’re worried that you or someone you love have travelled further than you ever planned to down the rabbit hole of dark web content, please do give me a call; my services offer you a safe place to talk honestly, without judgement, and to find ways to control your own impulses, to process your experiences, and to heal from the hurt of being exposed to traumatic experiences.

Call me now on 07849 037095 or email me on cnslng@outlook.com and I can help you.

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.

World Mental Health Awareness.

If you were on any social networks, or saw any news, on Thursday October 10th, you can’t have missed the wash of images, stories and personal moments being shared to raise awareness for World Mental Health Day.

Of all the awareness days, this is the one that gives me the most mixed of feelings.

Of course, being a professional counsellor, working with those who have vulnerabilities, have survived difficult situations and events, who continue to face challenges with bravery and with support, I think it’s vital to have an open and honest dialogue about mental health.

I see, and am happy to see, the changes in how openly mental health, crises of mental health, and the depression and anxiety conditions which impact so many lives are being spoken about. We have celebrity – and even Royal – voices telling their own stories, making speaking about these issues more commonplace, making it easier for people to admit when they are struggling, and erasing the stigma and shame that always used to be paired with mental ill health.

These changes are superb to witness – and to be a part of. To be a service provider, helping those who come forward to say “I am not ok, and I need help” – but equally, I know that speaking openly on social media may not be helpful for some. It may open their vulnerabilities to more dangers, to strangers and trolls, to those who take advantage, and those who dismiss their pain and challenges. This can make a person who is already struggling yet more vulnerable, putting them at risk.

I also know that speaking more openly about the mental health crisis the country is currently facing won’t improve the availability of crisis services, which are already stretched far beyond their capabilities in every county throughout the UK.

Crisis counselling services have huge waiting lists, funding to provide more availability, to train and provide experience and support for those who can, and want to, help, and ongoing support beyond the initial mental health crisis an individual might suffer is scant, and a tidal wave of people speaking openly on social media may be helping to remove the stigma and embarrassment around speaking about our challenges – but it does little to provide actionable solutions which can help people in crisis.

I don’t know what the solution is, and I know that – as the country lurches towards yet more uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the political imbalances in the UK – the issues of the NHS, mental health provision and funding for supporting the most vulnerable in our society is going to remain a problem that we don’t know how to solve.

I may not be able to help every person in crisis, but I and the kind, beautiful, compassionate people I have the pleasure of working alongside know that every moment we commit to supporting those who are battling their own struggles eases some of their personal crisis – and every person we help is incredibly important to me, and to my colleagues.

If you are struggling, if you are looking for a safe space to speak and process your fears, anxieties and events which have impacted your life, I can help. Call me or contact me with your name and contact information, and I will respond as soon as possible – and we can arrange a time where you can tell me more about yourself, and discuss how I can help you with your challenges.

Somerset and Wessex Eating Disorders Association

The SWEDA Support Group takes place on the first Wednesday of every month between 7.00pm & 8.30pm at our comfy meeting room in Shepton Mallet.

We have two qualified group facilitators, both with years of experience in eating disorders.

The next group will be on Wednesday 4th September at
The Coach House, Harvest Court, Park Road, Shepton Mallet, BA4 5BS.

Please feel free to bring along a friend (they are welcome to join in the group or wait in our waiting area for you).

Our self-help group is user led, so in each session the discussion will vary depending on who is attending and what they are bringing to the session. You will always have an opportunity to discuss what is important to you. This will allow you to talk about things you might not be able to discuss with others. We are not here to judge you. You might just want to ask for information or for some advice. You may just need to off load (whatever is important and beneficial to you). We want to give you the feeling of empowerment, a sense of community, letting you know you are not alone. Our members have found this form of support helpful when used on a regular basis; there is no obligation to attend every month. It is completely up to you.

SWEDA has always recognised the value of peer support – people coming together to support one another, share their successes and challenges and to encourage each other along the journey to recovery.

We hope to see you there.

For more information (including how to find us and where to park) please visit our website: https://www.swedauk.org/services/self-help-support-group