Tag Archives: mental health

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 

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.

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 

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.

 

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.