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...
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.
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.
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