Category Archives: Good Mental Health

One as part of a greater Whole

I feel exhausted.
You see I’ve just had a session with my counsellor. Yes, even counsellors have counsellors.

You see, we are all human and we all have things happening in our lives. The biggest thing I have learned is that accepting help and support from others is part of self care. Where do we get this idea from that we have to do it all on our own anyway?

It is exhausting talking about your inner most feelings and fears but after the exhaustion comes a sense of relief and a feeling of lightness from sharing the load.

As a counsellor myself, I can hear what I’m saying and I can logically see what I need to do. As a person though, I have accepted there is an emotional side of me that needs to be heard.

And seeing someone who is trained gives me the safety and confidence to know nothing hurtful will be said, especially about my depression like ‘you’re being too sensitive’ or ‘your just wanting attention’. Or my favourite, ‘how can you be a counsellor if you have depression’.

Receiving help and support is a tough step to take but trust me, having the help and support there is helping me be the person I’m meant to be, unapologetically and is giving me the strength and ability to support others.

Quite beautiful when you see it that way, supporting each other to be our true selves. Being human and being part of humanity as we were meant to be <3

PS I love you…but do you love yourself?

Have you seen the movie, PS I love you? You will need a whole box of tissues if you do watch it. For me, the movie is amazing and very relevant to all our lives.

In the movie, the husband, who dies from cancer, has written letters to his widow and organised for her to get them after he has died. The letters are so moving but they are his way of making sure she starts living again after he has gone.

With days like Valentine’s Day, the shop full of red roses, adverts on what to buy for your loved one, the pressures is being put on.

Pressure on those in relationships; ‘Oh I must remember to do something romantic’ and pressure on those who are single; ‘I’m unworthy because I have no one to share Valentines with’…what pressures are you feeling about Valentines?

Can I share something with you? I’ve been with Iain since I was 17, that’s 23 years of my life with the same guy. He has loved me when I was skinny, when I had body image issues, when I hated myself, when I had my numerous breakdowns, when I got fat, when I had my kids, when I’m happy, when I’m ill…yes, I’m really luck to have him in my life and feel deep gratitude.

Want to know a big secret? It didn’t matter that I had someone who loved me unconditionally. It didn’t matter because I didn’t love myself and not matter what he said, I couldn’t believe it because I knew my own personal truth.

Since doing all my counselling studies, I have learnt to show myself unconditional love, to be self aware and self compassionate. I have learnt that even though I don’t belong or fit in, it’s ok because I am me and I’m ok.

I AM.

By the end of the movie, PS, I love you, by the end of all the letters, the husband had given his wife, Holly the best gift ever; he gave her the chance to find herself again, to remember who she was, to remember her dreams and to remember what made her happy and feel alive.

So on Valentine’s day, or on any day, show appreciation for those who have loved you, but first and foremost, sit down with yourself and say, ‘I love you’.

I love you, just as you are, perfect in your imperfections <3

What would you say to your younger self?

When I look at old photos, I think to myself if I met me then, what advice would I give me?

The primary school me? The teenage me? The new mum me?

Talking from the heart, these things are what I know now and would say:
• Play more with your friends and dogs
• Play more outside; climb just one more mango tree (and eat just one more mango)
• Just because someone says something, it doesn’t make it true
• Keep smiling and spreading the light
• Friends come and go
• Have patience
• It is difficult leaving places your heart calls home but you are gifted with having a memory and having photos
• Stay kind and giving
• Trust your instincts more, you know what you want and what you need
• Be creative, try new creative things
• It’s ok to make mistakes
• Don’t put people on pedestals, we’re all just human
• When things get dark, just hold on, it will pass
• Time flies so treasure every moment
• Everything happens for a reason and a lesson
• Keep the hope
• You are unique, you belong to the world, you are loved and you have a purpose in life

What would you say to your younger self?

You can be the person you needed at the time you felt no one was there.

Take some time out now, remember a moment you needed support, and talk to the younger version of yourself, comfort them, love them, love yourself x

Photos never taken

Isn’t it funny how we are always smiling in our photos? When someone brings out a camera and points it at you, the most natural reaction is to Smile!

It is interesting that we have this need to record only happy moments. We want to look back and see our photo albums full of joy, closeness and love.

It’s not always the case though, is it? We have moments when we have huge emotions covered by a smile. Do we even acknowledge half the emotions we have? Or do we brush them under the carpet and sit on them because we are not ready to face them?

There are so many things thrown at us in life and I wonder how many of these things we actually deal with? Our feelings are not just in our minds, they are all of us, physical and mental. Positive emotions have great effects on our bodies just as the negative ones have negative effects.

So how about, as you go through your day observe what emotions you are feeling. Give it a week. Just observe without comment or judgement.

Then as you observe more, move into recording. If you feel sad, take a self portrait. If you feel angry, take a self portrait. If you feel happy, tired, grumpy…you get the picture. (excuse the pun)

You don’t have to look at these straight away but in time, set aside some alone time and put the photos together. You can create a collage, write the emotions you are feeling over the photos, display them as you want.

Have a think as you look at the photos:
What caused you to feel that particular emotion?
Was it because what was happening at the time, or did it remind you of a similar situation it the past?
How does it feel looking at yourself having different emotions?
What do you want to offer the YOU in the image during the emotion? (Words, hugs? etc)

Learning what we are and who we are is an important step to learning how to love ourselves. These photos of learning our emotions can help you learn the triggers and causes of emotions and in turn help you cope through the hard times and enjoy the good times.

Good luck and let me know how you get on x

The need to change old beliefs

Talking about changing old beliefs and thinking for your own.

Just watched the good karma hospital where there was an Indian couple who had just given birth to a girl which was devastating for them. The cost of having a daughter is huge especially when there is a dowry involved.

I remember when I was quite young being told by my parents they were disappointed I wasn’t a boy, being the 3rd daughter. Mum went on to tell me that in her village in India having 3 girls us seen as a curse and hardship and when she or her mum told people of us, it was commiserations not celebrations.

I could kind of understand them wanting a boy after 2 girls but the way this belief was related to me made me feel so u worthy for being a girl and I used to be a tomboy, perhaps to feel more validated.

After my daughter was born my mum started with the ‘oh dear it’s a girl’ and it took me ages to pick up the courage and stand up for my beliefs and for my daughter. I didn’t want her growing up hearing she was less than a man or that she was a disappointment in any way.
When my son was born, there is a huge Indian tradition of giving out sweets and holding 3 day prayers to celebrate. Again I said no to this tradition. And no to putting sons on a pedestal with the girls serving them.

I do forget my roots and old beliefs now because 18 years on we’ve created our own. It isn’t always wise to carry on beliefs and habits from where you came from. Starting your family is a great place to start your own beliefs and traditions.

In a small way, we’ve tried our best to instill gender equality and worthiness in our home.

What new belief or tradition would you like to start??

Zoning out

Image may contain: 1 person, textHas this ever happened to you?
Doing something without thinking consciously about it?
You’d be surprised at how many things you can do without thinking of every single action.
But at the moment perhaps with your mental health, change in family dynamics, or learning how to be with a new baby, you’re having to think of things. Every little thing maybe.
That’s tiring right!
As a mum with grown up kids, I find a lot of things I had to think about come as second nature but it has taken 16/18 years to get to this point.
Learning to sit with uncertainty and change as the kids grow and each age brings it’s own challenges.
Learning to manage the household chores without thinking.
Learning to create pockets of rest in the chaos that is family life.
Learning to be my true self so I am proud of the reflection of me I see in my kids and proud of them
There is no rush, it’s not a race. We will get to where we want to be, sometimes we think of every step sometimes we get there zoned out <3

Highs

largeI watched a movie, “Story of Us” with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer a while ago. I won’t go into the movie but one thing stuck with me from when I watched it.

Every night, when the family in the movie would get together for dinner, they would talk about “High, Low”.

Such a simple conversation starter that really can help with connections and getting to know each other better. I also feel, this can help change your perception of how well your life is going.

Now I know in the 5 a day I just mention Highs. If you are feeling very low, do you really want to think about the lows in your day?

Just thinking of the Highs can help counter balance the Lows. And this can be a family activity – with everyone talking about their high/low in their day.

Why not give it a try?

 

Going up a rung

The hardest thing about becoming a mother is the realisation that you have gone up a rung.
What do I mean by that?

Well, we are children first with parents and perhaps grandparents. Then grandparents start to die and we start to have children…so we are now the parents and our parents are the grandparents.

For some of us, this new identity can be quite overwhelming, especially if we start to care for our parents. There is such a mix of emotions and we need to process. Suddenly, we can find ourselves in the middle of everything and everyone, supporting those around us whilst also working and keeping the house.

No wonder we disappear and lose our identity!

We are not children anymore and have this huge responsibility looking after another person
We are not parents yet as we are just starting out and learning
We have to learn to cope with seeing our parents getting older and their mortality coming to the foreground
We become parents to our parents which is very strange and takes a while to get used to
We are still children within but we don’t play anymore because we are drowning with all our new obligations
We try and keep everyone happy
We try and do everything, perhaps the job of 3 or more people
We don’t take time out for ourselves
We are exhausted
We are not who we used to be…

That’s a lot for one person. A hell of a lot.

Be kind to yourself and take it a step at a time. Thank you for looking after everyone else, please make time to look after yourself too x

 

Mind pregnancy

I’ve been toying with this idea for a while and feel it is worth sharing to see what you think.

The body is put under a lot of pressure when pregnant to a point where you find it difficult to walk, can’t bend over…you know the drill ladies! Then there comes a time when baby has to be born because your body can not take it.

Stating the obvious, it doesn’t stop there though does it. Birth is just the beginning and I believe you stay pregnant until the kids leave home. Maybe.

You see, my daughter has gone to University and I am realising how much of my headspace she actually has been taking up. I know once you become a mum, that you stay one for the rest of your life but I have been thinking about ’empty nesters’.

Why is it so difficult when you have a baby, then it’s difficult when they leave home. It’s because you’re still pregnant, but in the mind. Just as a baby takes up space in your belly as it grows, a child takes up headspace and sometimes the ending is not as obvious and eventful as giving birth.

So even when your baby is born, you are still pregnant. The energy used up in physical pregnancy simply moves more to mental and emotional pregnancy. So, as in physical pregnancy, you still need to look after yourself, rest but at the same time also learn how to care for your new baby.

And with each year that goes by, as your baby grows and learns to stand on their own – physically, emotionally and mentally, you eventually have a mind labour and birth.

What do you think?

 

The Washing Machine

When I did my Samaritans training, there was a fab example we were given to actually learn to see what is going on.

The trainer did a role play in front of the class. She picked up a cardboard washing machine and started talking.

She started by complaining about the washing machine and how she has had it for so many years and it’s the first time it’s broken.

“Of course Stan used to maintain it when he was alive, bless his soul” and then went on to complain about the washing machine.

Out of a 10 minute speech, Stan was only mentioned once, the rest of the conversation was about the washing machine.

We then went on to discuss if that was a caller and they just talked about the washing machine. A few picked up she was recently widowed and might be lonely and some suggested that she was lonely, scared and trying to figure how to do things without her husband, maybe struggling and still grieving.

This really made me think of the times clients talk about weight, or a messy house – what is actually behind this? I believe when we work on what is within, the outside world (washing machines, chores etc) all fall into place.

So, the next time you find yourself unhappy with a situation, check in with yourself and see what is behind the unhappiness and what is really going on x

Admitting how you feel

Image result for admitting depression

The first step to any change is awareness. If you don’t know that something is happening in you, then how do you know where to start?

If you are aware that you have postnatal depression, that is the first step. Then comes the most difficult step – admitting it to yourself!

For many of us once we realise we have depression, it can take a while to admit it to ourselves. Admitting it means we are telling the world we are not coping, we have failed, we are not good enough – right?

Not at all! Admitting you have depression is realising that your whole world has changed and that you need support. You haven’t failed and you are good enough.

We get training in everything else we do. What training have you had as a mother? And why is it assumed you will know what to do?

Depression is a signal to yourself that something needs to change somewhere, so by admitting it to yourself, and others, you can then start to receive the correct support you need and hopefully start on the road to recovery.

We don’t hesitate to seek help for cancer or diabetes – depression is no different. You have been through so much with the pregnancy, birth and dealing with a new baby. It is all a lot to take on and process and how are you meant to know how to do it if you’ve never been shown?

 

Depression is good for you

Image result for depression is good for youSo I am spending time training my black dog and getting things under control.

What do I mean by that?

I have been in my ‘cave’, removing all external stimulation and sitting quietly, listening to what is going on internally.

I have been looking at all areas of my life and seeing what needs to change which is an interesting activity, highlighting areas that need change what ever that may mean in each situation: more protection, a different approach, more support, more compassion and care or walking away.

The feelings I have had are: Anxiety, Stress, Guilt, Grief, Relief, Happiness, Joy, Humility, Awe, Amazement, Sadness, Fear…and loads more. No wonder my black dog is telling me to stop for a while to take my time to process everything and check myself.

You see, for many years I have lived with the stigma of depression and even today I am judged by close family members for having it. It has taken an extremely long time to come to terms with that fact that I live with it – much longer that necessary, much longer because of the constant judgement.

Now, although emotionally I still get tired from processing and dealing with the effects, I see depression as a good thing.
If you were walking from a lovely soft grassy patch onto sharp gravel barefoot, you would notice, right? Perhaps you would stop because it was too painful and maybe think of other ways you could get across?

For me, that is what depression is. Part of me telling myself to STOP!! I could hurt myself, this is a time to slow right down and rethink my priorities and put things in place – like putting on boots on the sharp gravel.

By looking at each area of my life, reviewing connections, my feelings, my actions and reactions, I am able to identify what emotions lie there and ask each emotion what it’s trying to tell me and what is actually happening behind that emotion.

Each have different meaning in different situations, and it is different for different people.

So, maybe we ought to reframe our thinking about depression – it is just our way of telling us something needs to change or we are going through change, redefining everything we thought we knew, recreating who we are and what we do.

What do you guys think? Are you able to make friends with your depression or does it still feel like a scary monster under the bed?

This talk might be helpful Depression is good for you 

Change in the Seasons

4-seasons-1-treeBrrr…is it just me or is it getting colder in the UK? I can smell the change in the air, see the colours change in the trees, it’s getting darker earlier and the heating is coming on. All these signs point to us entering Autumn. To be honest, we have been really lucky with some great warm weather and sunshine, very out of season but now, we seem to be back on track.

Funny how we seem so aware of changes in the weather and we adjust accordingly; warmer clothes, lights on, comforting food – take a moment to think about what you do when the seasons change?

We’re very good at being aware of some things but what of the things happening right inside us? How aware are you about your emotions? Feelings? Mental Health?

The first step to becoming happier is AWARENESS.

If you’re not aware of the signs that something is about to happen or that you need to take appropriate action, then how can you prepare or adjust?

So with this in mind, I have ONE question for you:

WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOU NEED MORE AWARENESS ABOUT?

Do you keep finding yourself in situations and think, “How did I get here, again??!!”
Do you find yourself getting low without any actual reasons you can put your finger on?
Do you cry at the drop of a hat and you don’t know where it has come from?

What area do you feel you need more awareness?

5-a-day

5 a Day for Good Mental Health

“I don’t know how to deal with mental health”

Hands up who feels like this? Mental health is scary, right? We hear of stories of someone with Mental health issues shooting people, maybe stabbing their partners, or suffocating their babies.

These are extremes but these are also the examples we are given of what Mental health is. So when we are faced with anything concerning Mental health, for many of us, there is a stigma attached, from society and from ourselves.

We’re not as bad as the stories we hear, so we don’t seek support or help. I have to say, awareness is growing and part of my work is to raise this awareness.

First step is to be aware that we ALL have mental health, just as we have physical health. And just like physical health, we can have good and bad mental health.

We know a lot about physical health; what to eat, how to look after ourselves and we do things everyday to keep our physical health good like brushing our teeth. Look around you though, not everyone is at their peak physical health are they? There are differences, because we are all different. There are different levels because we all have different abilities. The same can be said for mental health.

We are all at different places with our mental health; some of us can bounce back from a crisis, some cope under pressure, some take changes in their stride, some are very positive. The majority of us though, I suspect, struggle a little every day but do not feel the need for support because this is how it’s always been.

For healthier Mental Health, let’s start doing a little bit everyday; just like we do with our physical health (brushing our teeth, combing our hair, showering etc). I want us to start looking after our mental health.

The way I see it, if we found a lump; we’d be straight at the doctors. We wouldn’t wait until it was stage 4 cancer, would we? So why do we do this with our mental health? We wait until we are at crisis point before we seek help. This does not have to happen and we can start by simply getting into good daily practices.

As part of raising awareness and improving your mental health, I have put together a chart, just for mental health: Your 5 a Day for Good Mental Health. Please feel free to download your very own copy and start filling it in today – you can write a word a day, or use it as a guide for your journaling.

Please share with friends and family and help improve everyone’s Mental health 🙂

 

5-a-day

 

Reflective journalling

When starting my counselling studies 5 years ago, this was the first thing I was told to do. Write down what you think and feel, write a page, write a book, just write.

For this to really work, your journal needs to be private and for your eyes only so you can fully open up and be completely honest.

As I write, I find something quite magical starts to happen, I lose myself and the writing seems to come from elsewhere. I find my own answers to things, I comfort myself, I find options, relief and gain clarity. And loving stationary, I get to indulge myself with pretty journals giving me a little treat each time I write in them.

Journaling is a good start to having a relationship with yourself. You quickly realise what you don’t want in your life and realise what you do want and how to get it. It helps release feelings because they are being acknowledged and this can stop the feelings eating you up inside. It helps you objectively see any actions you need to take from an honest place and a very safe place.

Doesn’t that sound like a lot of benefits for a bit of writing?

Why dependency is not a bad thing

There is so much information out there about how it’s bad to rely on anything to get by in life. Alcohol, drugs, sugar, fat…it’s all bad for us and our health.

But when you go out in society, junk food is advertised everywhere, there is sugar in most foods you buy, there is a culture where drinking is acceptable and encouraged and drugs, doctors prescribe every chance they get and we’ve become a species of pill poppers.

Is it all bad – Really?

Talking to some people who have recovered from addiction, the main theme seems to be that being dependent on something actually helped them deal with the traumas experienced in life. The addiction helped them to live a ‘normal’ life. Normal being that no one could tell they had experienced trauma.

I think we all have a dependency on something to help us get by in life and who are we to say to someone if it’s good or bad? We all have different experiences and deal with them in our own ways. Beating ourselves up and judging an addiction does not help.

Offering unconditional positive regard, not judging and actually caring can help us realise there is a dependency in the first place. We can then look at why that dependency is needed; what is it helping us to cope with? Then and only then can someone start moving on from the dependency, replacing it with more fulfilling and satisfying things.

From my experiences working with clients, dependency is like a crutch needed to walk after a broken leg. We can’t just take the crutch away and expect someone to walk. The leg needs to be pinned first, put in a cast, heal, gain strength and THEN the crutch can be taken away.

So the next time you see someone who is relying on something to get them through their day, I hope you will also begin to see the unseen within them and be more understanding and compassionate.

Basic Health Info

1S4C3846Good health makes an active and enjoyable life possible as well as achieving what you want in life.

The World Health Authority defines health as:

“ a state of complete physical, mental, emotional and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”

Physical health is the one we all know about; Good physical health can be achieved from exercise and eating well and the signs can be healthy skin, sleeping well, able to exercise, maintaining a healthy weight

Mental health is now becoming more into our awareness. Good mental health is a state of positive psychological well being where individuals are able to use their cognitive capabilities, function in society and cope with everyday life demands.

Signs of good mental health are optimism, self esteem, life purpose, belonging, feeling in control and feeling supported. Sometimes aspects of our lives can have effects on our thoughts and feelings, leading us to experience difficulties and problems which can affect your mental wellbeing such as bereavement, money worries, relationship problems and stress.

Note:  Mental illness:  refers to a diagnosable condition that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities e.g. depression, anxiety, schizophrenia.

Emotional health is the ability to express all emotions appropriately, and to maintain a balance of positive and negative emotions. Signs of good emotional health are being able to keep things in perspective, connecting with others, self confidence,  aware of and can manage emotions, being content, able to make good choices…etc

Having good emotional health doesn’t mean you’ll never feel bad. It means being able to recover from the downs and find your emotional balance. Life can be challenging and we may get upset .  We have our ups and downs…but by being resilient we can find ways to cope with, and overcome those challenges is good for our  emotional well being.

Getting to know yourself and how you feel will help you notice the warning signs when you’re not well, such as feeling out of energy, tired, tearful, restless and agitated, anxious, not wanting to talk or be with people, not wanting to do things you usually enjoy, eating, drinking or sleeping more or less than usual.

Absolute warning signs that show you need to get some support are things like; using substances to help you cope with feelings, finding it hard to cope in your day to day life, not liking or taking care of yourself, feeling like you don’t matter – any of these warning signs, it is time to seek support.

You can get support in many different ways; talking to someone you trust can help like a counsellor, support worker, doctor, friend, family or Samaritans.

 

Understanding growth

“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed.

It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before.

Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening.

Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”


— Alice Walker, Living By The Word

YOU are good enough

We are made up of our experiences and we look to others to reflect how and who we are.
Saying that though, what if those around us are clouded by their judgement and perceptions of others?
What they say can not be seen as a reflection of us, surely?
We would not let someone take the wheel of the car when we are driving so why do we seek others’ approval to determine our worth and our identity?
You are good enough just as you are <3to live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.