I guess I first started ‘journaling’ when I was a teenager… Inspired by my mum who kept a daily diary, I started to do the same, but found it soon turned from an account of the things I’d done that day to how the things that had happened that day made me feel.
It was something I continued on and off for most of my 20s and 30s, finding it a good way to offload, vent, celebrate achievements, and feel sorry for myself, all without involving anyone else. I found it very therapeutic, but didn’t really know why.
It was only when I started my counselling training in my late 30s that I realised how important journaling had become to me, and how beneficial it really was to my mental health.
And now I'm hoping to inspire you start writing too.
Staring at a blank piece of paper (or screen) can feel daunting though, so here are some tips to help you begin:
Remember, it’s not a test! Write as little or as much as you want.
It doesn’t have to go anywhere, it doesn’t have to be full sentences, and it doesn’t need to end of a positive note.
It’s not for everyone, but I invite you to give it a go and see how you get on. It isn't a substitute for professional counselling, if that's what you need, but it can be an invaluable when it comes to processing thoughts and feelings on a regular basis.
Until next time...
In my last blog, I talked about how your self-esteem can affect your love life, but of course if can affect every area of your life – so today I’m going to talk about your inner critic.
Your inner critic is that voice inside your head that tells you you’re worthless. It takes great pleasure in pointing out all the things you’ve done wrong, things you should (or should not) have done or said, and generally makes you feel rubbish.
But here’s the thing – we all have an inner critic (yes, even counsellors!), but its purpose is to keep us safe. We think it’s our enemy, but it’s actually our friend.
We’re not born with this critical voice, but over time, our experiences start to shape how we perceive and understand the world and our inner critic starts to develop based on these experiences, including societal values and expectations.
But, over time, it can start getting a bit too critical of things we do that it perceives as ‘wrong’, and starts treating ‘don’t step out into traffic because you’ll get run over’ with the same power as ‘don’t lie in bed all morning because you’ll waste the day’, and so we start beating ourselves up for having a lie-in on a Saturday morning. And often, it’s not too long before the critical voice turns from ‘you’ve wasted the day’ to ‘you’re not good enough’.
And of course, practice makes perfect, so before we know it, listening to the critical inner voice becomes our automatic default setting - and we believe every word it says.
But you can stop this by making a concerted effort to notice what you’re inner critic is saying.
Is what it’s saying true?
And if it is true, what evidence to you have?
Do have any evidence to counter this?
Remember to be kind to yourself when you do this. None of us are perfect and there are many times when we can look back and wish we had done things differently, but it’s worth remembering that we make decisions based on the information we have at the time – we didn’t have the benefit of hindsight to show us what we could have done differently. In these instances, we just need to treat them as lessons learned.
As I said earlier, our inner critic is there to keep us safe, so treat it as a well-meaning friend. You don’t have to believe everything it says, but you don’t have to be angry at it either. Just thank it for its input and move on in whatever way you see fit.
The more you notice the negative things your inner voice is saying, the greater the opportunity you have to challenge it, and eventually the critical part of your inner voice will have less power. You’ll feel more in control of your life, and feel more positive about yourself.
Your inner voice is your best friend. It will always be with you, so make sure you treat it with the love and kindness you deserve.
Until next time...
We're so good at giving love to others, but not always good at giving the same love to ourselves. But why?
I spent most of my teens and early 20s hating myself. I didn't believe I was worthy of love, or anything else for that matter - I didn't think I was pretty enough, I didn't feel I fitted in, and felt lucky, and grateful, if any boy looked at me twice. I had very few friends and my confidence was at an all-time low.
I'm sharing that so you know that I know what it feels like to not love yourself, and also how hard it can be to start loving yourself when you think you don't deserve it. But if you think you don’t deserve it, then you’re more likely to attract partners who treat you how you believe you deserve to be treated – like crap, to put it bluntly!
If a friend, or even a stranger, told you they hated themselves, would you tell them that they were right? That they were ugly or too shy and not worthy of being loved?
Of course you wouldn't!
You'd point out all the qualities they had that made them a loveable and worthwhile person.
And yet, we can find it so hard to accept and acknowledge the qualities we have ourselves that make us loveable and worthwhile.
As RuPaul (of Drag Race fame) says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?”. And, by the same token, how do you expect someone else to love you when you don’t feel like you deserve to be loved?
By recognising the loveable qualities that you have (and you do have some, I promise!) you begin to create a more positive image of yourself, and start a journey of self-acceptance in which you feel happy and confident in yourself, and worthy of being loved.
And when you feel happy, confident and relaxed in your own skin, you’ll start to attract people to you who recognise, and want to be with, people who are comfortable in who they are. It’s a very attractive quality! Plus, because you’ll have more respect for yourself, you’ll also become more discerning about who you want as a partner, rather than just being with someone because they have given you some attention.
Become your own best friend. Talk to yourself kindly and look for those loveable qualities that make you a worthwhile person, who is just as deserving of love as anyone else.
Until next time...
In my last blog I covered some ideas that may help you get to sleep at night, but sometimes the thought and effort of getting up in the morning to face another day can be difficult.
I’m not a morning person, so it is something I've personally struggled with – leaving getting out of bed until the last minute and then running round in a panic trying to get ready for work while, at the same time, giving myself a hard time for getting up late yet again! But the following things have helped me, so I’m hoping that they will also help you too.
These ideas can help you take back control of your mornings, instead of feeling like work, or other commitments, are dictating when you get up.
It’s time to reclaim your mornings!
What have you found helps you to rise and shine? Let me know in the comments below, or send me a message via my contact me page.
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.
© Becky Stokes 2021