Something that crops up again and again in counselling sessions is the debilitating effect that anxiety and unwanted thoughts can have on clients’ ability to sleep. And of course, most of us have been there…. At the end of the day, we climb into bed, hoping to drift into a deep and peaceful sleep, when our minds decide that now would be a good time to start thinking about everything that’s going on in our lives just now, and we lay tossing and turning for hours instead.
So here are a few ideas that may help you fall into that seemingly elusive sleep when anxiety and unwanted thoughts seem determined to keep you awake.
So there you go… A few suggestions to help you get to sleep and allow your mind to rest.
Let me know if you have any suggestions of your own, by commenting below.
Next time, we’ll look at how to make it easier to get up in the mornings.
Because counselling happens behind closed doors, it can seem to be shrouded in mystery, so in this blog, we’re going to do some counselling myth-busting!
By addressing common misconceptions associated with counselling and therapy, I hope to take away some of the mystique and leave you feeling more informed and enlightened!
So here we go….
There must be something wrong with me if I have to see a counsellor
Not at all. Counselling is really good self-care. It’s a way of helping yourself when you’re starting to struggle, and putting it off could mean you will struggle for longer. In fact, nothing has to be ‘wrong’ with you to see a counsellor. Counselling can be one of the most positive things you can do, and if you want to feel better, why wouldn’t you go to counselling? Counselling is the ultimate in self-care for those of you who want a better life.
I have to be at rock bottom to seek counselling
Quite often, clients will contact me when they’ve reached crisis point, when they can’t take any more, but as is the case with most things, prevention is better than cure. Counselling can stop you getting to rock bottom, as I explain in a previous blog post: https://bit.ly/2Y10Z7n.
It may seem expensive, but think of it as an investment in yourself. How much do you spend each year on your car, or haircuts, or getting your nails done? What if you spent the same amount on your mental health? Counselling has the power to change your life, if you are willing to invest in it. Seeing a private counsellor isn’t cheap, but imagine in a year’s time when you feel better and/or have overcome your struggles… you’ll be so glad you invested in yourself.
Counselling is available free on the NHS, but I know that there are long waiting lists, but there are also counselling agencies that offer low-cost or income-based counselling sessions for those who really can’t afford to commit to regular sessions with a private counsellor.
I don’t need a counsellor – I just talk to my friends
It’s great that you have such supportive friends, but a counsellor won’t interrupt you to tell you their own anecdote, or judge you, or offer you advice, which is what your well-meaning friends may be inclined to do. A counsellor will focus 100% on you - listening to you and understanding your thoughts and feelings from your own point of view, to enable you to find the best way forward for you.
My counselling sessions will appear on my medical records
If you seek counselling from a private counsellor or a counselling agency, it won’t appear on your medical records. Your counsellor will most likely keep notes of the sessions as an aide memoire, but these will not be shared with anyone else.
What if I don’t like my counsellor?
The relationship between you and your counsellor is key. To get the most out of your counselling sessions, you need to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with your counsellor. If, after a few sessions, you feel you’re not gelling with your counsellor, it’s a good idea to discuss this with your counsellor in the first instance so you can both have a conversation about what’s working and what isn’t - but don’t be afraid to meet/speak to several different counsellors to find the one that best suits you (although always check that your counsellor is fully qualified and registered with a recognised body (such as the BACP) to ensure they meet high standards of proficiency, professionalism and ethical practice).
My counsellor will tell someone else what I’ve said
All fully-qualified, registered counsellors are bound by confidentiality, so will not share what you have spoken about, or reveal your identity to anyone else. The only reason a counsellor will break confidentiality is for the following reasons, and even then, they will inform you of this beforehand:
Will a counsellor tell me what to do?
No they won’t. A lot of people come to counselling with the expectation that the counsellor has all the answers, but unfortunately we don’t! Because everyone is unique, what works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else, so although a counsellor may offer suggestions, they will never tell you what to do. Instead, by attempting to understand your experience from your personal perspective, they will support you to find your own solutions. However, if advice is what you want, your counsellor may be able to provide you with details of organisations that may help.
It’s not working - I should feel better after every session
Unfortunately, not all counselling sessions may be comfortable. Your counsellor will gently invite you to share and explore your feelings, thoughts and experiences, which may feel difficult and painful – but it is only through processing these emotions that growth and development can happen. However, your counsellor will provide you with a safe space for you to express yourself freely, and will sensitively end sessions so you are not left sitting with unmanageable feelings.
Hopefully that’s busted some myths surrounding counselling, but if you still have a question that hasn’t been answered here, then feel free to comment below, or send me a message on my contact me page. You can also find more information relating specifically to the counselling sessions I offer, by looking at my Counselling and Psychotherapy page.
There are so many things in the world that we can’t control, such as the weather, and the thoughts and actions of others. But there are more things that you do have control over in your life, even if you think you don’t.
You may be in a job you hate and think you have no choice but to stay in it.
“But I can’t leave my job – if I do, I won’t be able to pay the bills”
It may not seem like it, but you are still making a choice - you are choosing financial security over financial insecurity.
It may seem a small consolation when you really dislike your job, but just that simple shift in thinking can help you be more accepting of your job and feel more in control of your life, and it can also open up different possibilities available to you, rather than leaving you feeling stuck.
One way to help you notice the (often subconscious) choices you are making in your life, is to look at the language you are using.
Pay particular attention to sentences that include ‘I have to’, ‘I need to’, ‘I must’, and ‘I should’.
These phrases tend to suggest you don’t have control - they sound like obligations rather than choices.
But do you really ‘have to’, ‘need to’ ‘must’, or ‘should’?
If so, why?
And what are the consequences if you don’t?
Some of these obligations can come from habitual thinking or the expectations of others, so it’s worth taking some time to identify where your ‘haves’, ‘needs’, musts’ and ‘shoulds’ come from, and thinking about whether they still serve you.
A simple way of identifying control and choice can come from reframing these sentences by changing the words ‘have to’ ‘need to’, ‘must’ or ‘should’, to ‘could’.
Try changing, “I need to finish writing that report tonight”
to, “I could finish writing that report tonight”
Notice how changing the wording implies choice – it allows you to weigh up the pros and cons so you get to make an informed decision on whether to finish writing the report tonight or not. You are now in control which, in itself, can help to lessen pressure and stress.
And if the guilt of letting other people down is leaving you feeling that you have no choice, take a look at my vlog, 'How to say 'no' without feeling guilty'.
Of course, there are going to be some things over which you really do have no control, but even then, you can still choose how to respond or react which can help put you more in control of your feelings.
So what choices are you going to make to take back control over your life? Let me know if the comments below, or drop me a line on my contact me page.
In my last blog, we looked at the signs of work-related stress, but what are the causes?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) outlines six areas which can cause stress in the workplace:
Health & Safety Executive. 2019. Work-related stress and how to tackle it. [Online.] http://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/what-to-do.htm (accessed 6th October 2020).
Let’s look at these in more detail...
What are the demands of your job or your employer? Are they unrealistic?
Do you have skills and experience to carry out your job?
How much control do you have over the work you do?
Are you allowed to manage your own workload or is it dictated to you?
Are you able to choose when to take a break or have a say in your working pattern?
Are you given an input into any decisions that are made about your job?
Do you receive adequate training and support to carry out your job?
Do you receive support and constructive input at an annual appraisal?
Do you receive support and understanding regarding any problems outside of work which could affect your ability to do your job?
Can you communicate openly and honestly with your manager and other employers?
Are there opportunities for social interaction with your colleagues, or, if you work alone, are you given sufficient support to avoid feeling isolated?
Are you being bullied or harassed by your manager or any of your colleagues?
Do you have a clear outline of what your job involves (e.g. a job description or work objectives)?
Were you given a comprehensive induction when you joined the organisation or changed roles within it?
Does your role mean you have to deal with competing demands?
Has something changed within your job or organisation that you’re not comfortable with?
Were you involved in the planning process of any potential changes?
Have any changes been explained to you properly?
Quite a list, eh?!
So, you’ve recognised that you have signs of work-related stress, and hopefully you are now able to identify exactly what it is about your job that is causing you to feel stressed, so you’re now well on your way to do something about it.
Maybe you can already see where changes can be made to reduce your stress levels, but we’ll start looking at possible ways to reduce work-related stress in the next blog.
Feel free to add any comments about what you’ve learned, or you can send me a message on my contact me page.
A bit of stress at work can be motivating – a little pressure can make you more productive and give you a sense of achievement. But what happens when that stress gets too much?
Here are 5 indicators that work-related stress may have become a problem:
1. Having negative thoughts
You feel unhappy, sad, or even depressed, the majority of the time and find it difficult to see the positives in a situation, both in and out of work.
2. Trouble sleeping or sleeping more
You’re finding it hard to get to sleep and thoughts and worries go round and round your head, or you wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep. Conversely, you could be sleeping more, but wake up feeling tired and groggy.
3. Feeling irritable
You’re snappy with family and friends, or find it hard to relax or sit still for any period of time.
4. Change in eating/drinking habits
You’re eating too much (comfort eating) or eating very little because you’re feeling too sad or irritable, or you may be drinking alcohol more than usual.
5. Physical health symptoms
You’re experiencing headaches or feeling sick, or maybe experiencing dizziness, or feeling so run down you catch every cough/cold going.
This list is far from exhaustive, but if you are experiencing any of these, then it’s time to do something about it… This could be talking to your manager about your workload, finding ways to switch off after work (see my blogs on self-care and anxiety), or seeking professional help such as consulting a doctor or seeing a counsellor.
Remember, experiencing work-related stress is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone is unique and has different responses to pressure and stress. You deserve to happy and healthy at work, both physically and mentally.
If you would like to talk more about how work-related stress is affecting you and find out how counselling could help, then drop me a wee line via my contact me page.
3/8/2020 0 Comments
If your car exhaust was rattling, would you take it to the garage, or would you wait until it fell off before getting it repaired?
Most people would want to take it to the garage as soon as possible as they know that if they left it, it might lead to more damage and a higher bill.
And yet a lot of people only think of coming to counselling when they’ve reached rock bottom. It’s seen as a last resort.
But you don’t have to reach a certain level of struggle for it to be ‘ok’ to have counselling.
Counselling is really good self-care. It’s a way of helping yourself when you’re starting to struggle, and putting it off could mean you will struggle for longer.
As with the car exhaust analogy, counselling can be about prevention - nipping it in the bud before things get too bad.
In fact, nothing has to be ‘wrong’ with you to see a counsellor. Counselling can be one of the most positive things you can do, and if you want to feel better, why wouldn’t you go to counselling?
The cost is sometimes seen as a stumbling block, but think about it as an investment in yourself. You’d pay for your car to be serviced, so why not pay for yourself to have a mental health MOT? I know it’s not cheap, and only you know what you can afford, but imagine being free from what is troubling you and how much difference that would make to your happiness.
Counselling can help you to:
Improve your confidence Improve your relationships
Silence your inner critic Create better boundaries
Overcome anxiety Process a traumatic experience
Understand yourself better Feel calmer
Sleep better Feel less stress
Improve your communication Learn to say no
Make positive changes Have a better work/life balance
Laugh more Relax more
Increase your self care Be more assertive
Be kinder to yourself Understand your needs
Eat/drink less Improve your libido
Counselling is the ultimate self-care for those of you who want a better life.
So what’s stopping you coming for counselling? Let me know in the comments below, or if you’d like to ask me more about how counselling could help you, visit my Contact Me page and send me a message.
“I’m just not good enough”
How often have you said that to yourself when you’ve struggled with a task or things haven’t gone your way? Or maybe it’s a label you carry around with you every day?
But what is it to be good enough?
You may have had a productive day yesterday, and so you ‘reward’ yourself for being ‘good enough’, but today was a different story…. You didn’t get much sleep last night, the kids were playing up this morning, you burnt the toast for breakfast… all of this meant you were cranky and tired and didn’t get as much done as you’d have liked, so you ‘punish’ yourself for not being ‘good enough’.
The outcome of both days may have been different, but if you take into account all the things that happened today, you were ‘good enough’, just as you were yesterday – it’s just the circumstances that were different.
Maybe all you could do yesterday was get out of bed and sit on the couch – that was your ‘good enough’ for yesterday. But maybe today, even getting out of bed was too much to manage – that was your ‘good enough’ for today.
This time, the differing circumstances could have been anything from being in physical pain, feeling emotionally drained, or just generally not being in the mood to get up!
‘Good enough’ doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. It’s a non-judgemental acceptance that what you do, or who you are, is ‘enough’, whatever the circumstances.
And, as we’ve seen in the examples above, one day’s ‘good enough’ may be different to another day’s ‘good enough’.
Our concept of being good enough (or not) comes from judging ourselves against a set of criteria based on expectations (either our own or other people’s). It’s like we have a checklist in our head, and it’s only if we can tick off all the boxes on the list, that we deem ourselves to be good enough. If not, then we declare ourselves to be not good enough.
But what if you feel you’re not ticking any of the ‘good enough’ boxes?
Then it’s time to closely examine what is on your checklist (a counsellor can help you do this, if it feels too much to do by yourself). Ask yourself:
This can be a long, and sometimes painful, process, so take your time with it, and remember to look after yourself and offer yourself kindness, forgiveness and understanding throughout – and always ask for support if it feels too much.
It may not always feel like it, but whoever you are, whatever you look like, whatever the situation, you are good enough. No exceptions!
If you have any comments on this post, I’d love to hear from you, either by posting a comment below or by contacting me privately via the contact page.
Self–care – everyone is talking about it, but what actually is it?
Self-care is anything that allows us to switch off, relax, and recharge our batteries (mentally or physically).
We wouldn’t let our mobile phone run out of charge, and yet how often do we ourselves function on empty? We run around trying to juggle a million different things, often trying to be everything to everyone, and yet, even if we do manage to tick off everything on our to-do list, we’re left feeling exhausted – and then start all over again the next day.
You may be reading this and thinking you don’t have a choice, and self-care feels like another thing to add to the list of things to do today. But you do have a choice, and even taking 5-10 minutes for yourself can make all the difference.
It’s so easy to put others first and forget to look after ourselves, or maybe think we are being selfish if we do. But I always think about the safety message on aeroplanes which asks us to put on our own oxygen mask before we help others with theirs. Basically, if we don't put ourselves first, we're in no position to help others!
Remember, self-care is never selfish – you can’t pour from an empty cup!
Taking time for yourself, whatever that looks like, is a priority, not a luxury.
What does your self-care look like? (For me, it’s a long walk, a cheesy feel-good film, or singing along to my favourite songs). Let me know in the comments below.
And if you have any specific questions about self-care and how to make it work for you, head over to my contact page and send me a message: Contact Me
We’ve all felt anxiety at some point – the sweaty palms before a job interview, the butterflies before a first date, the dry mouth before making an important phone call, but for some of us, anxiety can be something we live with every day and can be so debilitating if can stop us from living the life we want to.
I have anxiety myself – not a claim you’d expect a counsellor to make, but I’ll telling you this to let you know that it can affect anyone at any time, and there is no shame in it. It’s not a guilty little secret we need to keep hidden. In fact, the more we talk about it, the more normal it becomes, because it is a normal response when we are unsure, uncertain, or not feeling in control.
As I write this, in May 2020, we are currently in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we knew it has changed for the vast majority of us, and if there was any time to be unsure, uncertain or not in control, then this is it! So it should come to no surprise that a lot of us are feeling anxious at the moment.
So, we’ve acknowledged we’re feeling anxious, now what can we do about it?
Well, as anxiety can occur when we feel we’re not in control, we can help lessen the effects of anxiety by finding things in our lives that we can control.
Here are some things you could try:*
*Disclaimer alert! This is by no means a definitive list, and I’m not saying that if you do all the things on the list, you will be ‘cured’ of your anxiety! It is merely a list of suggestions that may help reduce your feelings of anxiety to a more manageable level.
As I said in my disclaimer earlier, this isn’t a ‘do this and your anxiety will disappear’ type of list, and if you really are struggling with your anxiety, then I recommend seeking help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
And if you are in crisis, call NHS 24 (111), the Samaritans (116 123), or Breathing Space (0800 83 85 87).
So, have any of these things on the list helped you? Or maybe you have your own suggestion to add? Leave a comment and let me know.
And if you have a more specific/personal question to ask, head over to my contact page and drop me a line: https://www.beckystokes-counsellor.co.uk/contact-me.html