It seems that the list of things we need to get done is never ending, and the call on our time and resources is relentless.
There seems to be an expectation that we are constantly on call, ready to accept the next request or demand - and whether those demands come from family, friends or work - in these increasingly uncertain times there is a belief that if we don't meet every deadline or answer every call then we are falling behind or failing in some way.
Now, this is not a piece extolling the virtues and benefits of self care (although I wholeheartedly support a robust approach to looking after yourself) - this is about taking a slightly different approach to the inevitable tasks we HAVE to undertake, and how we can give ourselves permission to actively choose to change the way we think about these things.
To start this exercise, first we must identify the vocabulary we use. Very often if we have the day stretching out ahead of us and with it a long list of things to get done and achieved we will use GOT TO, MUST, SHOULD, OUGHT...
* I've got to finish my presentation for work
* I must go food shopping
* I should go to the gym
* I ought to phone my Mum
All of that vocabulary brings about associated guilt and shame - its a requirement that we may or may not feel like undertaking. And along with every got to, should and must, if we don't get any or all of those things done, we inevitably feel that we have failed.
So - how about this....how about you replace each got to, should, must and ought with....
I GET TO....
How expansive does life become when we give ourselves permission to enjoy the mundane? To find the benefit in the smallest of jobs and appreciate how wonderful the details are....
* I get to complete a presentation about something I believe in for a job that I get paid to do
* I get to go food shopping to choose the things I will cook and eat to nourish myself and my family
* I get to go to the gym and strengthen my body and take time for myself
* I get to phone my Mum and appreciate the fact that she is alive and in my life
I have written before about Little Golden Bubbles and how noticing and appreciating the small things in life can make a difference - this is similar. But giving yourself permission to consciously acknowledge the freedoms, relationships and opportunities you have every day turns the mundane into the precious.
I am not suggesting that we ignore difficult feelings and suppress painful emotion - but when we are able to give ourselves permission to acknowledge the potential for positivity it can provide a useful balance to the stress and pressure of our everyday lives. You have endless opportunity to acknowledge the good stuff - let yourself.
Over the years as a therapist one of the most pervasive myths that many clients bring to their first session is that somehow they have failed. By admitting that they need support they believe that they are weak, unable to cope and therapy is the last stop before finally giving it all up and admitting defeat.
However – and this is a big one – therapy is hard.
The very act of being strong enough to put your hand up and ask for help takes huge courage. Then there is the nerve-jangling process of selecting a therapist and arranging an assessment appointment. All this to be endured before you have even taken the brave step of knocking on a stranger’s door, sitting in their chair and telling them some of the darkest secrets that perhaps no one has been witness to before.
Being in therapy requires the client to be prepared to look at their own part in things, to be open to the therapist offering a hypothesis even an appropriate challenge. And of course, the scariest part of all – entering into a therapeutic relationship and being prepared to expose those carefully concealed parts that we would prefer no one saw.
The most wonderful part of therapy for me is the development of that relationship. It is like no other because this is the one place where if you are brave enough to embrace it, you will find acceptance, compassion, honesty and unbiased focus.
Your therapist has no axe to grind, no ulterior motive and no agenda other than your empowerment, enrichment and wellness.
So I am full of admiration for anyone who comes into therapy. It is an act of courage that demonstrates a willingness to try and make sense of chaos, heal the pain of the past and move forward hopefully and with better understanding and acceptance.
Therapy may be for the courageous but the rewards are many and can be life changing. So for anyone thinking that asking for help is weak, or that by seeking therapy you have failed – I would encourage you to pick up the phone. Make this a New Year to remember. BE BRAVE!
For all my exuberance and unbridled enthusiasm for Autumn being the trumpeting herald for the Winter – I am aware that there are plenty of others who do not share my sense of cold weather wonder.
Indeed it is no coincidence that Mental Health Services see an increase in referral rates as daylight hours shorten. For many the prospect of seemingly endless winter brings a darkness to their very core. Going to work in the dark, coming homing in the dark and finding little opportunity for some respite from the relentless gloom can bring about low mood, a lack of motivation, increased anxiety and depression.
There has been an increasing amount written about Seasonal Affective Disorder and with our growing knowledge and awareness so we are able to take steps to counter and prepare for the seemingly inevitable mental discomfort that comes about.
I have seen at first hand the benefit of a light box. This high wattage lamp was put on for 15-20 minutes whilst breakfast was prepared, coffee drunk and plans for the day checked. This provided a sufficient boost in melatonin and serotonin to take the edge off the gloom.
Further studies have shown that taking Vitamin D supplements and endeavouring to get outside as much as is practicable all helps. Eating well, maintaining regular exercise and keeping a check on alcohol intake are also important.
So whilst there are those of us who welcome the opportunity to light our homes with candles and mess about with combinations of root veg in soups – for others it can be a period of very real distress. Coupled with the ludicrous expectations of the impending festive season it can be a bleak time.
If you or someone you know suffers from SAD – start to prepare NOW. Get your light box on order, buy your supplements and check out these websites for more excellent advice and support.
Please check with your GP before taking supplements or starting any course of treatment.
I love John Keats. He nailed romantic poetry for me in the way that no one else quite does. And his oft quoted Ode to Autumn (actually, too oft quoted which is a shame because now it’s a bit of a cliché) encompasses everything that I feel about the most magical of seasons.
For some it’s the New Year that marks the start of resolutions, promises for change and a sense of keen anticipation. Not for me. For me it is and has always been the Autumn. After a long (and this year, very hot) summer, there is an excitement about a new beginning, a new start, a chance to do things differently with renewed vigour. With the cooler weather comes the opportunity of fresher weather and a fresh start.
Undoubtedly this harks back to school holidays coming to an end and the joy of new pencils, shiny shoes and uniform that is eversoslightly too big (but you’ll grow into it so it’s fine). But its not just the allure of a shiny ink pen and cartridges full of unwritten promise. There is something deeper, something about being a better version of myself when the hedonistic heat of summer is done.
And that is why I welcome the turning of the leaves and herald the autumn with an enthusiasm that I don’t feel for any other season. For me it feels transitional, full of promise and excitement. Because in the Autumn I prepare. I have the resolve to be more organised, to manage my time more effectively and to get ready for the long dark months ahead. And perhaps this is why Autumn holds such a special place for me – its my chance to do something different this year. Rather than bemoan the shorter days and the inevitable challenges of enforced jollity over the festive season in the coming months – this is the time to re-stock the logs in preparation for the winter, put the garden to sleep, change the beds and add an extra blanket folded at the bottom, consign my flipflops to the back of the cupboard and welcome back my boots. I welcome back the cold weather me – the me that takes long walks in the golden sunshine, the me that sits with the dog by the fire, the me that decides that this year I will endeavour to be a little bit kinder, a little bit calmer and little bit more like the me I want to be.
I won’t always be successful – experience has taught me that much. But that’s the joy of transformation, it is an on going process. The point is – there is always a chance to do things differently and improve on what went before.
So I embrace the Autumn like a childhood friend. A friend that I know well and one that brings endless possibilities with them, and one with whom I am happy to share my newly sharpened pencil…
In an increasingly busy and stressful world it seems that one of the things it is most difficult to do is stay present. It is all too easy to stay locked in the past - to relive relationships that left us broken and lonely - or re-imagine conversations that rendered us mute and helpless (generally accompanied by a generous helping of self loathing and frustration as we think of all the things we should have said or done) - or re-experience traumatic events that coloured our view of the work and the people we have in our lives.
This living in the past is not the kind of warm rose tinted reminiscing that provides us with a soft glow of warm memories. Rather, it is full of regret, anger and loss. It leaves us with a sense of painful weight that burdens us.
Alternatively we can spend our time projecting forward into the future. And when we do it is rarely with a sense of positivity and keen anticipation. More often than not our future is worrisome, anxiety provoking and sad - littered with failed attempt at life or love. Relationships will fail, jobs will be lost, loved ones will leave, diets and promises will be broken. Basically whatever your own particular vulnerability is, it will be exposed and come to pass in the imaginary future we create for ourselves in our own minds.
Now the issue with expending so much physical and mental energy on a past that you cannot change or a future that you cannot predict is that it is wasted. How much time do you spend either living in the past or projecting forward? And all the while you stay stuck either in the past or the future or vacillate between the two, you miss out on the only thing that you actually have - THE PRESENT.
It's a tall order to only live in the here and now, but it can be an effective way of getting back in touch with what is really going on in your world and taking back some control when all seems chaotic and difficult to handle.
Very often I will talk to clients about noticing and acknowledging the details of the present - bringing them back to the here and now. I call these moments Little Golden Bubbles, because just like the iridescent bubbles that a child blows in the garden, these moments are with us and then gone before we know it. So we need to be fully conscious and present so that we may acknowledge and fully appreciate them.
It could be the smell of freshly cut grass, the first sip of cup of coffee, the sound of children laughing, the touch of your lover's hand in yours, the feeling of getting into a clean bed - all these tiny fragments make up our lives and they are GLORIOUS! These are the moments to be celebrated. These are all we have, in the now, this is what we are.
So when things feel bleak or overwhelming - just for a few moments in the the day - pay attention. Be present. Be grateful for these Little Golden Bubbles. They will not last long but they are all around us, all the time. We just need to see them.