We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday
Friday marked the busiest day of the year on our UK roads. (I hope you managed to avoid them).
Why? Well, it was the last day of term for many UK schools. In fact, The Mirror newspaper, referred to it as ‘Frantic Friday’. Millions of motorists hit the roads and airports. Summer holidays began.
As a child, the typical '6 weeks summer holiday' literally went on forever - and it was ALWAYS hot and sunny!☀️ 🌞 🍦 😎 (Do you remember that one?
But, bearing in mind rose tinted spectacles 👓 🌹, and moving into present times, what do the long holidays really mean for children?
For many the following would apply:
- A period of great relief – especially if exams are over
- No more early morning starts
- A break from schoolwork
- A break from homework
- Freedom to do your own thing
- Time to chill and hang out with friends
- Fun family holidays
But what if you (or your child) are not noticing these positive feelings?
It could simply be that your child misses school, the work and the structure. Some children do like to have their time very organised and enjoy the academic challenge of school work.
Or perhaps it is the social scene they miss; being at home for a long break is a big change that might need adjustment.
As a parent, we can feel worried if we notice changes in our children. But what kinds of changes should we be alert to?
If you have concerns about yourself or your child, what can you do?
Asking kids if they are ok, or ‘what’s wrong’, rarely yields results.
Here are some suggestions:
- Be observant, but don’t comment: keeping out a watchful eye will tell you quite a lot, and help you to build up a picture.
- It is important not to comment, as when a child felt judged, they are more likely to pull back from you.
- Try to be more tolerant of behaviour changes: Anger outbursts often mean the child is finding it difficult to cope.
- Don’t give up trying to include your child in family activities, but respect their wishes if they decline.
- Try not to fuss. Children pick up on parental anxiety and your attempts to cheer them up are probably not helpful.
- Remember, we are all emotional beings and a child has a right to their sadness.
Signs of Anxiety to look out for:
- nail biting
- nervous ticks
- temper outbursts
- hair pulling
- changes in toilet habits in younger children
- not sleeping well
- having nightmares
- worrying and being over-concerned
Signs of Depression to look out for:
- withdrawing more than normal; just be aware of changed patterns, but keep in mind withdrawing can also be normal adolescent behaviour. Please see my previous post Parenting Teens
- losing interest in things they used to enjoy, and especially losing contact with friends
- Changes in eating habits – overeating or under eating
- Being more moody/angry than normal
As a parent, these signs can be very worrying, but we can best help our children by not burdening them with our concerns.
Keep interested in what they are doing, using opportunities to connect where you can, but respect their need to not have you there, without burdening them with any rejection you feel.
Use empathy a lot. If your child feels understood they will be far more likely to trust you and share things with you.
Don’t force an anxious child to do anything they feel uncomfortable with, it will not help.
What can I do?
If you have concerns for yourself, or your chid, please remember taking to a trained therapist can really help.
Children can benefit greatly from age appropriate intervention, and it can make all the difference.
Parents too, can be helped by sharing their concerns, in a safe and non-judgemental environment, and learn ways to make positive family changes
If you would like to find out more about how I can help you, please get in touch for a chat, or an appointment. Summer Holidays are meant to be enjoyed.
31st March 2019
It’s hardly difficult to escape the fact that Mother’s Day is here. The supermarkets have been awash with flowers, gift boxes and chocolates over this last week; commercialism jumping on another marketing bandwagon.
But cynicism aside, I have enjoyed a more relaxed morning than usual, and a very agreeable breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, shared with …. well, one of my three daughters managed to make it (no cynicism intended).
Logging onto my Facebook account this morning, I was greeted with a myriad of posts depicting flowers, gifts and images of pleasantly presented breakfast treats, shared proudly by their grateful recipients.
Alongside these more upbeat posts were the more emotional, remembrance ones, from those expressing their love and gratitude for their lost mothers. I felt triggered, and remembered my own mother who I lost 3 years ago, then a pang of guilt, as I thought also of how I ought to be marking this day by visiting her grave with flowers.
More than anything, I am reminded, as a therapist, of the many difficult associations that can be attached to the subject of mothering. Loss and bereavement may be complicated if there has been a difficult relationship with one’s mother.
Estrangement from one’s family can cause deep feelings of unresolved grief. Childhood trauma and abuse from those who were supposed to care for us can have a lasting effect, and be at the root of many symptoms of depression and anxiety in later life. Difficulties in conceiving can cause intense worry, and place great strain on a relationship.
Childlessness may be a choice for some women, but for others, where it wasn’t a choice, there can be a sense of emptiness, failure and even despair, perhaps calling into question the purpose of one’s own life. Loss of a child, no matter at what age, whether through miscarriage, still-birth, illness, accident or suicide, changes parents’ lives for ever.
I have known churches that have attempted to circumvent this potentially painful time, ensuring that all females receive a posy of daffodils sensitively presented by the children in the congregation, but I also believe that covering up painful emotions is not always helpful, either.
If you find you are experiencing difficult feelings around today, I encourage you to be gentle on yourself. And if you believe you are experiencing more significant levels of distress, talking through difficult feelings with a trained therapist can help to gain a greater understanding of your pain, and may be the first step you take towards a pathway of self-reconciliation.
9th April 2019
Exam Time Anxiety
Outside in the parks the trees are bursting with pink blossom; the days are getting longer; and the birds are getting earlier with their dawn serenade. It could feel like nature is seducing you into a false sense of post-exam summer.
On campus, things have gone eerily quiet, but the silent study areas of the library are crammed with keen students tapping at keyboards, crunching crisps; swigging from cans anything to keep them awake. The stark absence of friends to hang out with is a reminder that the nights at the Students’ Union have been replaced with burning the midnight oil. Exam season is with us again.
Whether you are a student at university, in the sixth form, preparing for GCSE’s, or in Y6 preparing for SAT’s, there is one thing for certain, you are likely to be feeling the pressure.
Perhaps you are experiencing:
feelings of overwhelm
a fear of not coping
fear of failure
worry and anxiety
You may be able to add to this list. These feelings are real, and can be symptoms of anxiety.
It is important to remind yourself of is who it is you are doing these exams for. Quite often we are so swept up, that we can forget why we are doing exams in the first place.
Now might be the time to remind yourself (and others) that these are your exams – and you might need to gently let others know that as well!
Well-meaning parents can be a bit dim when it comes to understanding basic boundaries (I know this, because I am one!) and may unwittingly be adding to your feelings of stress by questioning your work regime, for example.
Remember, you are the best person to know what works best for you. Trust yourself.
In the meantime, do whatever you can to exercise good self-care:
take regular breaks
meet with a friend for coffee and a chat
have a night off
try and get some fresh air
make a list of your favourite treats for times when you most need them
Hopefully, this should help you to gain a greater sense of control, and get you through your exams in one piece, knowing that the pressure will pass, along with the exams.
If anything in this article has resonated with you and you would like to have a chat to see how I can help, please get in touch
16th April 2019
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference’ (Reinhold Niebuhr)
As a child, I remember believing if I could somehow manage to walk the road to school without stepping on the cracks in the paving stones, the day would go well. I’m not sure whether that was me trying to have some control over the unknown, or whether I was trying to abdicate control to a greater power, but either way, I imagine it came from a place of fear, or uncertainty.
As I puzzle on ‘fear of the unknown’, I am reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin:
‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes’ (1789).
With that in mind, I wonder why it might be that control is so difficult to relinquish?
Let’s take a look at some of the feelings that we may have experienced at times in our lives when frightening things happened which were out of our control:
loss of appetite
Looking at this quite hefty list, it would seem to make sense that we might want to avoid being reminded of the difficult and traumatic times that brought us to feel this way. Is this possibly where our desire to keep control comes from?
Whilst it would be totally unrealistic to expect to sail through life avoiding adversity, it seems some of us are able to live more care-freely, whilst others of us want to keep tighter reins on all that we can!
What makes us more or less inclined to want to try and keep control can be a combination of past and difficult life events, as well as our learned abilities to manage our emotions.
Whilst, as Franklin states, there is much in life which may be out of our control, I believe it is important to understand that there are things which we do have control over. Let’s take a look at some of these things:
Things I can control:
Doing my homework
The friends I choose to have
How I spend my free time
Asking for help
Studying for tests
How I respond to others
Doing my jobs
How I respond to challenges
Taking care of myself
Things I can’t control:
Someone else’s decisions
How others treat me
Others taking care of themselves
Others being kind
Who loves me
Who likes me
Others apologising to me
Others asking for help
Others forgiving me
Others being honest
Someone else’s efforts
If we want to try and embrace a more carefree life, perhaps we could try and let go of the things which are outside of our control. In doing so, we could strive to live more in the present moment; not worrying about stepping on those paving cracks; accepting ourselves, and others, as we are.
‘People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, ”Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.’ (Carl Rogers)
If anything in this article has left you wanting to explore things further, please feel free to get in touch.
20th April 2019
Escape the Stress Trap
Since April is National Stress Awareness Month, it feels like an appropriate time to take a look at how we are all susceptible to getting caught up in the stress trap, and have a look at some ways we might stop this happening before it’s too late.
And if you’re reading this thinking, ‘it’s already too late!’, what steps can you take to reclaim your life?
I think stress is one of those things that has a habit of creeping up on us when we are least expecting it. One minute it can feel like we are happily going along, filling our work and social lives with all the things we enjoy doing most, and wham, before we know it, we are experiencing burn-out.
What does ‘burn-out’ feel like?:
- not being able to get to sleep at night because your thoughts are racing
- having disturbed sleep, including nightmares.
- feeling guilty that you are letting people down if you can’t keep to an arrangement
- feeling cross with yourself for not being ‘stronger’ and more able to manage all the things you’d planned
- feeling confused – after all isn’t yoga/ the gym/ meeting up with friends / going on a night out, etc supposed to be relaxing?
- worried about letting others down – friends, colleagues, your boss, your partner – they need you after all.
- feeling panicky about stress affecting your physical or mental health, especially if you have experienced burn-out in the past.
- physical symptoms – such as headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, muscle tension, loss of appetite or comfort eating.
- exhaustion, not being able to get up in the mornings and feeling constantly tired, even after rest and breaks.
Sometimes it is only when we start experiencing symptoms of burn-out, that we realise we have to do something about it, but unfortunately, recognising the symptoms for what they are can be confusing.
Because of the high expectations we can have of ourselves, we might be less likely to attribute our symptoms of burnout to our life-style.
Some suggestions for becoming ‘stress aware’:
- Next time you feel badly under pressure, try setting a timer for ten of minutes and write down all you are feeling at that time, without worrying about spellings and grammar (no one is going to read it!). You could include all your emotional feelings as well as any physical symptoms you are experiencing. Try and write as freely as you can and without stopping to think.
- Write a list (I like lists!) of all the ‘demands’ that you are aware of having. Try not to judge these ‘demands’. (Sometimes, even taking a shower or making a cup of tea can feel too much).
- Looking at that list, which of the ‘demands’ do you have least choice over (these could include doing homework, attending college or work, caring for young children, etc).
- And now comes the more tricky task of deciding which ones you have most choice over. It’s here where you are likely to experience feelings of ‘I can’t let my friends down’, ‘the yoga classes are an important part of helping me to relax’, ‘I love my job, and I feel like I have to put in extra hours, even though my boss tells me I don’t have to’. I am sure you can add to these dilemmas!
- Now have a think about the last time you had some time totally to yourself, with no activities planned. What did you do – watch some trashy telly, read a book, newspaper, magazine, listen to music, have a long bath? How did you feel at that time? The chances are you relished that space.
- How much of your week do you actually have time totally to yourself? Do you feel like this is enough?
When we are in the middle of burn-out, especially if we are experiencing difficult symptoms and feelings, it is only natural that we want to find ways of stopping them.
You might recognise some of the following coping strategies in yourself:
- having an extra glass of wine to block out unwanted feelings
- rewarding yourself with junk food, or over-eating
- punishing yourself by depriving yourself of food
- ‘beating yourself up’, and telling yourself you should be able to cope with all you are doing, after all, everyone else is.
- zoning out, perhaps having too much screen-time, as a way of avoiding what needs to be done
If any of this is sounding familiar, learning to recognise when you are starting to feel the pressure, before it all starts to feel ‘too much’, is very important.
Once you are able to recognise you are doing too much, it is time to put some strategies in place!
- Be prepared to put into action standard self-care practice, e.g.. fresh air and moderate exercise, healthy eating, regular bedtimes, cutting down on caffeine.
- Practice Mindfulness. Here are several useful APPS, some of which are free: –Headspace; Calm; Calm-Harm; Chill Panda; ESC student; STOPP; Dare; PanicShield; Lite; Catch It; Pacifica.
- Try factoring more ‘me’ time into your daily and weekly schedule. If this feels difficult, start slowly and build it up.
- Recognise when you are comparing yourself to others, and remember you are a unique being; what is right for someone else may not work well for you.
- Listen to your symptoms. This one is really important – our emotions work as data sources for our lives. We are the masters of ourselves, a ‘negative’ emotion is our cue to act.
- Take a brutal look at the list you made earlier and see where you can make some changes and cut down on some of the demands in your life,
- Try and start work an hour later and finish an hour earlier if this is possible.
- Recognise when you feel guilty for saying no to someone, and tell yourself it’s ok to feel guilty, but you have a choice whether or not to allow it to affect your actions.
- If you feel under pressure for a deadline, speak to someone about how you feel. Remember universities will allow you extensions for extenuating circumstances, but if you don’t make contact, they have no way of finding out you are struggling.
- Remember, there is no shame in admitting you are struggling; on the contrary, it takes a lot of courage to speak out.
- And if you think you have to carry on and ‘be strong’ because others need you, remember the ‘oxygen mask on the aeroplane’ instructions: we need to make sure our own mask is in place, before we can assist others!
Hopefully, following some of these tips will start to help you to feel more in control of your stress-levels, and when you start to feel some positive benefits from the changes you make, it will inspire you to carry on and make further positive changes, as and when you need to.
If you are experiencing a lot of distress, it might be an idea to make an appointment with your GP. And remember, talking to a therapist will give you a chance to explore things more deeply and can be an important step towards living a more stress-free life. Please get in touch if you want to chat about this further:
27th April 2019
Parenting is a minefield generally, but our children hitting those adolescent years can add a whole new dimension to the meaning of extreme confusion! I can remember wondering why the successful guidebook to that phase didn’t exist.
The truth is, and my bookshelves will testify to this, there are zillions of helpful guides out there; but they all seem to provide conflicting advice!
Do I adopt a no-nonsense strict reign, with severe consequences for deviations; or does the answer lie in a more laissez-faire, non-interventional approach? And if you’re anything like me, you will have swung from one extreme to the other, doubting your own competence at every turn, and at worst, feeling like a complete failure!
But stop there. Find a quiet spot to sit down with a cup of tea, and believe me when I tell you, you are not a failure.
Let’s turn this issue away from you, and take a look at the bigger picture, where we might gain a greater understanding of what is happening when our little darlings decide we are no longer the centres of their universe and lose all ability to even engage, as Harry Enfield aptly depicted in his caricature of Kevin the Teenager.
Getting inside the head of a teen
Adolescence is roughly the period of time which spans from the ages of 11-18 (with wide variations, I hasten to add!). If we can try and understand the purpose of this phase of development, we may begin to see that it is an essential rite of passage all children have to go through, on their road to becoming an adult.
The PURPOSE of Adolescence is to acquire a PERSONAL IDENTITY
- So a person knows who they are in the world
- To give their life meaning and direction, through commitment, values and goals
- To provide a sense of free will and personal control
- To allow for consistency, coherence and harmony between their values, beliefs and commitments
- To be able to recognise their potential and a sense of their future possibilities and alternative choices
The main goal of an adolescent, is to go from being a dependent child, to an independent adult, defined according to who they are as a person, learned by their own unique valuing system designed to allow them to flourish in the world.
This might explain why adolescents are desperate to separate themselves from their parents, through their dress, their choice in music, their friends, etc.
Already, we can begin to see the areas of potential conflict. After all, don’t we as parents know what is best for our own children?
As parents, we need to try and lessen the areas of conflict by backing-off, and allowing teenagers the space to find their own identities.
Very well-meaning parents want their children to be happy, successful and make good life-choices. But, the conflict comes from us believing we as parents, know how to make that happen, when in fact, everyone of us is born programmed to knowing how to make it happen for ourselves!
Well, it all sounds like it could make sense, but I hear you asking, how?
How do you enable your child to be an INDIVIDUAL, when so much could go wrong?
What does your role as a parent look like in the teenage years?
And how do you provide support and help when your teens are unhappy or in trouble?
7 Tips for parenting teens
- Teens are notoriously bad communicators, but we need to remember, communication is two way – Hold off the Spanish Inquisition; ironically it is the quickest way to shut down communication!
- Become an expert at listening. Really listening means not interrupting, but listening to understand. Sometimes we can ‘listen’ to body language, even when there are no words. Being listened to helps us all to feel understood and valued
- Try not to pass judgement. None of us like to feel criticised. It can make us defensive and more likely to rebel – remember, your teen is desperately trying to discover his own identity – he needs support, not criticism.
- Decide on what your rules are and make them few. Natural consequences always work better than punishment or blackmail. When your child gets in trouble at school for not handing her homework in because she was up all night on her laptop, her consequence will be with the school and not you.
- Empathise with her anger/frustration, but don’t feel you have to fix it for your teen. Feelings are what make us human!
- Aside from keeping your teen safe, as far as is possible, ‘butt out’ of her life.
- Focusing on your own life, will help keep you sane!
Clearly, there will be times when parenting teens can bring greater concerns for which you will need outside support. Do not be afraid to seek help, and remember, things can and will get better!
If anything in this article has resonated with you, either as a parent or a young person, and you would like to have a chat about how I can help, please get in touch.
Boundaries, and Why We Need Them
I am certain we have all been there; agreeing to something we are not certain about, only to regret it later:
- At work do you take on extra responsibilities even though you are swamped?
- At home, do you volunteer to help a friend even though you you are exhausted?
- Or perhaps you find yourself agreeing to a family request out of a sense of guilt, duty or expectation?
Yes, that’s the one. You accept and go along with the request, but part of you, deep down inside, knows you don’t really want to be dong it.
Often it isn’t until after the event that we are able to truly acknowledge to ourselves that our first instincts were right. But by then, perhaps we are feeling more exhausted, resentful and possibly angry with ourselves for not exercising a boundary in the first place. And if it happens often enough, that we don’t act in a way that is true or kind to ourselves, it can start to affect our self-esteem.
But what, I hear you say, is a boundary?
Psychologists, Dr Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in their book Boundaries (1992), describe a boundary as ‘anything that helps to differentiate you from someone else, or shows where you begin and end‘ (p.33.).
Boundaries can be:
- Physical – helping us to determine who may touch us, how, and when
- Mental – giving us the freedom to have our own opinions
- Emotional – helping us to manage our own emotions and disengage from the harmful and manipulative emotions of others.
But what makes us say yes, when we really mean no?
- perhaps we worry that we won’t be liked if we don’t agree with someone else’s proposal – rejection is a powerful emotion.
- perhaps you say yes on moral grounds, believing you would want others to help you if you were in need
- or do you consider yourself as that person who is always there for others
- we might tell ourselves we haven’t got a good enough excuse to decline someone’s offer
- or maybe we are afraid of letting others down – often we can be conditioned to putting others’ needs before our own and we can act in a way that is self-deprecating
- or sometimes we live our lives with a strong desire to please other people
- or we may have a fear of conflict. Past associations of saying no may have caused arguments, leaving us wanting to avoid potential conflict.
Brene Brown, in her studies on shame and vulnerability, said, ‘we tend to imagine setting a boundary means being rude or pushy, but setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re being coldhearted’.
Let’s have a look at some of the ways we can say NO:
If you are finding anything in this article resonating with you, don’t wait for others to change, recognise that the changes will need to come from you.
It can help to start small. Once you start to feel the benefits of putting up some small boundaries, you should start to feel encouraged to carry on
If you believe a lack of boundaries is impacting in a bigger way on your life, remember it can help to talk things over with a trained therapist.
I have worked with many people who have been helped through counselling to make significant changes in their lives and regain a sense of control. Please get in touch if you would like to make an appointment and find out more about how I can help you:
28th May 2019
Who is affected by ‘Friendship Struggles’
You may be reading this because something in the title resonated with something going on in you own life.
- Perhaps you are a young person at university finding it difficult to find friends.
- Or perhaps the friends you have, seem to feel threatened or jealous about you.
- Or maybe you are at secondary school and feeling like the friends you have always hung around with are not being very friendly to you any more.
- Perhaps you have moved to a new school, or new area and are finding it difficult to find new friends
- Or maybe as a parent, you are naturally worried and concerned about your child being lonely, bullied, withdrawn or unhappy and don’t know where to turn to.
There can be many reasons why we, or our children, experience friendship struggles at certain times in our lives.
But What Can We Do When This is Happening to Us?
The first thing to remember is, you don’t have to suffer alone. And the best thing you can do is talk to someone about it.
This might be a trusted friend, a parent, teacher or counsellor.
Remember, whatever might be going on in your friendship circle, it is probably not your fault, and most likely comes from the insecurity of those who seem to be behaving in a rejecting or unkind way towards you.
There are all kinds of reasons which make other people behave unkindly towards others, and most of the time it springs from their own sense of insecurity, or they may feel threatened by you in some way.
Parents, if you are worried, you can:
- Keep a closer eye on your child
- Be a bit more understanding if they are ‘acting out’ through their behaviour – try and let them know you understand they are angry/irritable/upset.
- Asking direct and ‘closed’ questions is not always helpful, and often results in children telling you they are ‘fine’.
- Watch out for changes in their old behaviour – eating habits, time spent alone or increased time on computer games, withdrawing from meeting up with friends.
- If your child does confide in you about a friendship problem, it is better to try and stay calm and not get too angry on their part. Lots of understanding for the way they are feeling is usually the best way.
- Try and involve your child in finding a solution to their problem. This might be by agreeing to talk to a teacher at school, or perhaps gaining some counselling support, if you feel the problems might be a bit deeper.
If you are away from home for the first time, it is very common to experience struggles in the first few weeks, or at any time for that matter.
There a lots of new situations for you to get used to, and amidst all the social navigations, there are inevitably going to be academic pressures too.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or unhappy, it can feel like everyone else is having an amazing time, and this can add to your sense of misery.
Please be reassured, there will be many others who feel exactly like you, and there is no shame in admitting to yourself you need help.
Try to keep communication open with friends and family at home, as they will want to support you as you settle in.
If you have concerns about any aspect of your life at uni, including the other students, speak to a pastoral care, or personal tutor.
Remember, Student Support Services are used to handling enquiries and concerns that students have, and can point you in the right direction for support. Reach out for help.
And of course, the Student Counselling Services will be able to offer the right support if you go along and arrange an appointment.
Above all, Remember, things will get better.
If you have concerns for yourself, or your child about anything that has come up for you after reading this article, please feel free to get in touch. Counselling can support you in many ways, helping to understand yourself and others, and break free from difficult situations.
Click on the link below to find out more about how counselling can help you or your child.
Self-compassion is the way forward
How do I speak to myself when I make a mistake?
Ok, so I might not beat myself up when things are going smoothly, but what do I do when I accidentally forget to check the cakes I put in the oven? Or miss my appointment because I forgot to write it in my diary? Or forget to check the sign that tells me I can only park for an hour, and come back to a ticket on my car?
At times like that, am I more inclined to be cross with myself, call myself ‘stupid’, and/or continue to feel that way for some time…..
If responding to human error causes us to be quite unforgiving of ourselves, let’s face it, what is it doing to our sense of self-worth?
It’s a bit like, how would you feel if someone was telling you 24/7 how rubbish you were? In the end you would start to believe it – and that wouldn’t make you feel like you could go around with your head held high.
But, when we find ourselves harshly judging our ‘failings’ and human mistakes, in effect that is what is happening!
What does compassion look like?
One of the easiest ways to think about this, is imagining how you would speak to someone you cared about, like a close friend, if they told you about something they had ‘messed up’ – like an exam or an interview.
The chances are, you would feel very sad for them that this had happened. You would probably empathise with them, letting them know how you felt some of their sadness.
You might also want to speak to them in a caring, gentle way, telling them, it wasn’t their fault, it’s so easy to make mistakes, we all do it. We do it because we are human.
And you might try and cheer them up, perhaps suggesting you meet up for a coffee soon.
In fact it is highly unlikely you would sigh impatiently at them, blame them for what happened, and proceed to let them know how much of an idiot they are.
Why not? Well I am sure first of all because you just wouldn’t want to be so unkind to a friend who was already upset, and second of all, because they probably would’t be staying your friend for much longer if you treated them that way!
So, when we look at it that way, it is easy to see how we are able to be compassionate towards others, and how it is probably something you’re already good at!
There are many advantages to practising self-compassion, but if it is something you are not used to doing, don’t be discouraged if it takes a little practice.
Here are some ways you could start:
- The next time something goes ‘wrong’ for you, try and step back, for a moment, and catch yourself in that situation; what are you feeling now?
- Becoming aware of those feelings is a starting point – what are they: frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, sadness? It might take a little while getting used to naming them, but it is a helpful exercise.
- Sometimes it helps to see if there is a physical feeling that goes with the emotion: Can you describe it to yourself,; can you spot whereabouts in your body it is happening?
- Even if it doesn’t come easily to you (and it won’t at first), try speaking to yourself like you would to that friend who just experienced a disappointment.
- How did that feel?
- If you can persevere with this, it will get easier and you should soon start reaping the benefits that come from having SELF-COMPASSION.
The benefits of self-compassion:
SO, it has got to be worth a try!
Struggling with a sense of low self-worth can be:
- not believing you are ‘up to’ doing whatever it is you are doing;
- experiencing anxiety;
- feeling like a failure;
- believing somehow you are a fraud, and shouldn’t be doing the job you are doing;
- believing no matter how hard you try you can never be good enough,.
Living in this way can be exhausting, and can be a sign that you are not exercising self-compassion.
If it is something you believe is heavily impacting your everyday life, it could be that you would be helped by some support.
Counselling is a safe place to explore any issues that you may be struggling with. You can be helped to overcome self-doubt, leaving you free to live your life as you were made to.
Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about how I can help you, by clicking the link below:
Life Can be an Uphill Struggle
Life can feel hard, can’t it?
Sometimes this is due to difficulties we experience in our own lives:
- work stresses
- relationship or family difficulties
- difficult memories from the past
- our own health concerns
Or it can feel hard when we look at suffering in the world around us:
- natural disasters
- politics we don’t agree with
Or, even by acknowledging our own mortality.
So, what can we do, when these thoughts and concerns feel like they are intruding into our lives and upsetting our sense of equilibrium
Sometimes it is important that we do face these difficult thoughts, and
- not run away from them
- not ignore them
- not fight them
- not block them off
But this can be easier said than done ….
Understanding our need to block-off, run away from, ignore or fight our thoughts, is perhaps the place to start:
- it made sense, as a child, to respond to pain in a certain way
- our learned wisdom can help us to question our old responses, however.
- we can apply wisdom, and develop new responses to pain
Wisdom enables us to see our responses are learned from an early age, and are therefore not our fault.
We can re-learn old responses and stop blaming/criticising/judging ourselves for the responses which are not our fault in the first place.
How often have you caught yourself saying
- ‘I shouldn’t feel like this?’
- ‘if only I’d tried harder!’
- ‘What a stupid thing to do!’
By looking at things from a different perspective, we can start to let ourselves off the hook.
Once we can stop blaming ourselves, we make room for COMPASSION.
So, next time you are finding yourself drifting towards negative thoughts:
- notice this happening
- resist the temptation to move away from the thoughts
- become aware of your response – are you trying to move away, block, ignore or fight the thoughts?
Once you have done this a few times, you are ready to move on to the next step of offering yourself compassion.
I will be exploring more about self-compassion in my next blog post.
If you are interested in exploring more about your own thought patterns and tendencies, and ways in which you can learn to change old responses, counselling can be a place where we can work on this. Please feel free to get in touch and find out out more, by clicking the link below: