A World Mental Health Day blog from Faye… ‘Feeling Vs Thinking’

Can we think our way out of our Anxiety and other emotions?

Often in Practice and especially during the Covid Pandemic, I’ve worked with clients who are feeling immense anxiety, among many other intense emotions and feelings, which they want to get rid of immediately. If you have ever felt the gut wrenching, impending doom of anxiety, then you will know that to want rid of this feeling is a pretty reasonable request. Though lately I have been wondering more so than before, if as a society we all too often try to think our way out of our feelings. How often do we allow ourselves and others, to sit with our feelings and receive the message that our bodies/senses/gut/instinct is relaying to our minds?

With CBT, or ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’, being a very popular choice of talking therapy at the moment, (and no wonder with its impressive recovery rates of over 50% and 67.4% showing reliable improvement[1]), it’s no surprise that thinking our way out of our emotions can sometimes seem the ‘rational’ choice. Is the rational choice the right choice when dealing with emotions that can be anything but rational?

When working with clients I often use a tool called the Hot Cross Bun[2], which was taught to me in Relate training. It is a CBT intervention, which means it’s about ‘thinking’ our way around this problem, right? Well not quite, as the cognitive element is only a quarter of this intervention, with the other 3 parts being made up of ‘behaviour, physiology and emotions’. Often clients will realise that a big part of their anxiety response is any one of these other elements, and this can be quite a revelation for somebody who believes their anxiety is ‘all in their head’. How could a person possibly consider what they physically or emotionally feel when there is a deafening inner narrative warning them all day long that the friend of theirs who they usually trust, actually hates them, or if they go to the supermarket today they will definitely be infected with Covid.

What might happen if we remember that we have more avenues to pursue to decode these non-linguistic signals, than what thoughts we have? I have found that some clients have realised that their bodies physically remember and signal information way before their brains have caught up and put it into the context of a thought. It may be a smell, a texture or being in a certain environment. Some clients default into a certain behaviour, i.e. withdrawing, even when the client wants to take part in what they are isolating themselves from. This causes confusion, as their head is telling them to do it but their body is saying ‘thanks, but no thanks!’ Then, there are emotions in themselves, begging to be acknowledged but often told they’re unwanted, unneeded and a bit of a pain in the backside to be honest; completely denying a part of themselves as a whole person.

It is important to remember that all of the above belong to us as whole human beings and are all as valid as one another. Our bodies work with us not against us, and though sometimes the signals can be faulty, for example in cases of C/PTSD, they are all messages to our being, that let us know what we need in that situation and when we might need to slow down and listen before making a hasty decision based on thought alone. So next time you have an emotion and you find yourself trying to think you way around it, feel what’s physically going on, pay attention to what you do and lean into those feelings that can’t be put into words and you may find you have a much better picture of what is going on within.


[1] https://digital.nhs.uk/news-and-events/news/iapt-2018-19

The Body Keeps The Score, Bessle Van Der Kolk, Penguin Books, 2014

[2] Relate YP Certificate Training Material, Relate Institute, 2019

Faye

Counsellor, Relate Bradford

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Resilience…

  • Acknowledge being overwhelmed – know that it will pass, that it is temporary, and that it does not define you. It is not permanent. Try to objectify the situation. 
  • Compartmentalise your mental load; do you need to attend that meeting, read that email, do that research? What is enough? 
  • Remind yourself  that mistakes and setbacks are part of living. People survive them and so will you. 
  • Put your energies where you have most impact; get to know the difference between what you can and what you can’t change. 
  • Choose your response. Cognitively, deliberately, knowingly, adjust your response from despair. 
  • Take small steps towards change. 
  • Whatever it is, GIVE IT A GO! 
  • Take detachment breaks from your circumstances.  Move away from them by reading, watching something, exercising, talking about something else with someone. It will be less stuck when you look again. 
  • Show yourself compassion. 
  • Keep that positive image of your future; research shows that those people who keep a healthy visualization are more successful. 

Tamara

Clinical Supervisor, Relate Bradford

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Still Here To Help

During COVID-19, we are still here to help and our clinicians are currently providing web counselling and telephone counselling, from 9.00am to 9.00pm Monday to Thursday and 9.00am to 3.00pm on Friday’s.

You can contact us by:

Email: Information@relatebradford.com

Telephone: 01274 726096

Due to the current situation, our telephones are staffed on reduced hours, on a two weekly rota. Due to holidays over the next two weeks, please see below:

Week commencing 2 November 2020

Monday: 10.00am – 5.00pm 

Tuesday: 10.00am – 2.00pm

Wednesday: 10.00am – 2.00pm

Week commencing 9 November 2020

Monday: 8.30am – 3.30pm 

Wednesday: 8.30am – 3.30pm 

Friday: 8.30am – 3.00pm

Thank you.

A new counselling offer to young people, families and couples from low income households, in Leeds…

Our Relate family are ending the week on a high. For the next 6 months we are providing free telephone/online counselling support to young people, families and couples from low income households across Leeds. Made possible by £32,000 from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund (thank you!)

WE ARE TAKING REFERRALS: information@relatebradford.com.

Please share widely – offer ends 31 March 2020 (subject to availability).

#CommunitiesCan #stillheretohelp #covid19support #relationshipsmatter #NeverMoreNeeded #TheDifferenceWeMake #RelateBradford

Hayley

Head of Service Delivery and Development, Relate Bradford

Communication…

If you go down to the woods today…you may notice how many acorns and seeds are about. That’s because 2020 is a “mast year” where the trees coordinate to produce bumper crops, which they do every few years.

They do this through communication, but how they communicate – across sometimes thousands of miles – is a bit of a mystery. It seems to be through a variety of cues of chemical signals, underground communications, and the right conditions. The theory of this incredible communication is they need, and accept, some help from the weather and from fungi: just the same as how humans may need a bit of help with their signals, communications and conditions from outside agencies, therapists or mediators, to get things just right.

Tabitha

Therapist, Relate Bradford

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Becky’s Blog – Parenthood…

(When it comes to parenthood) Get him involved as much as possible, or the resentment will fester… 

When I look back to when I first discovered I was pregnant, my husband and I were overjoyed, but deep down, I could sense my husband fear that he was soon to become second best to the baby.  

You see, my husband has two older children from a previous marriage so he had prior knowledge to how hard it can be to sustain a loving and strong relationship when children are involved.  

I was determined it would be different this time around though, and I would not let the baby affect our relationship.  

Of course that was not the reality of the situation… 

Once our baby boy was born, I went in to super mum, organisation mode, and always had to be two steps ahead of my game (i.e. attending to the baby, cleaning the house, cooking the dinner, working part time…etc).  

I wanted to prove to everyone that I had everything in order – and I wanted to do it all with a smile of my face!  

My husband moved further and further down my list of priorities.  

To make him happy, I told him to go out with his friends, attend as many football matches and drinking sessions down the pub as he wanted (something he hadn’t done for so many years).  

I thought I was being a relaxed wife, but behind closed doors, the cracks in our marriage were beginning to show.  

Fast forward a few years and we had lost that connection we once had, I’m not even sure we liked each other half the time.  

Everything just ran on auto pilot and once our little boy started having sleepovers and having more of an interest in seeing his friends at the weekend instead of days out with us – the reality of what our relationship had become really hit me.  

I was constantly being taken for granted.  

But who was I to complain – I helped to create this mess we were in! 

He on the other hand felt unloved, unwanted, and rejected – so just went about his daily life thinking about himself! 

That’s when the penny finally dropped… 

I was trying so hard not to be a nagging wife, but I had gone completely the other way and had implemented no boundaries whatsoever.  

With no boundaries there is no respect, and with no respect, there’s no love.  

There had to be a healthy middle ground where we both felt happy and content – and I was determined to find it!  

Fast forward another few years (our son is now 7), and I’d like to think we are in a pretty good place. 

It certainly hasn’t come overnight – and it’s taken us a good year or two to finally feel strong and united as a couple again.  

But it was worth the journey – and we have both learned so much and appreciate each other so much more now.  

So how did we get here… 

Well… 

It’s all about the small steps!   

i.e“Don’t run before you can walk” 

If I had my time over again, or I could give any advice to the new mothers out there – these are the three main points I would tell them 

  1. Never stop having date nights(just once a month or every two weeks if you can). 

This is so important because, this is where you finally get to be just you two again, and to fully communicate without the kids being around.  

Looking back, we should have never stopped having date nights, but I told myself that our relationship was fine, refusing to acknowledge the cracks that were beginning to surface.   

The reality is, if you constantly chose the kids over your relationship, your relationship will suffer, and once the kids are grown up, you may not even know where to begin to find some kind of connection again – so chose to part ways. 

Try and catch it early – don’t push the problems aside, hoping they will just get better on their own…NEWSFLASH – they never do!  

Never lose yourself in parenthood.  

  1. Have the difficult conversations.  

I know I know it’s scary – you are worried that they will react badly so you convince yourself it’s better to just keep the peace and not say anything at all. But this is exactly how resentment starts! 

And the thing to remember about resentment is that it festers, and will sit and reside within your body.  

Over time, the resentment will then affect the intimacy between you. 

If you have something to say or you feel hurt in some way by something your partner has said or done – it is so important that you speak up and release it.  

Women need to communicate and feel listened to, in order to feel loved.  

Men on the other hand need the physical touch in order to feel loved.  

One will not work without the other. 

What I found is…when I sat down to have the difficult conversations (i.e. I felt that he wasn’t doing enough around the house for example) – it’s best to always start a conversation with, “I feel.”  

“If you keep it in first person it will never be offensive. 

Also, acknowledge your part in it all– don’t just shift the blame onto the other person.  

Make sure the kids are not about when you have these conversations and try to sit down and discuss it properly (i.e. not just shouting at each other across the room for example). 

I found that the more and more we did this – the less stressed and tactile we became with each other.  

Keep confronting your fears and eventually they will disappear. 

We began to let our barriers down, and he finally understood how important it was for me to be able to communicate my anxieties to him without being shut down or being told I’m, “over sensitive.” 

Also explaining to your partner that you just need them to listen, they don’t need to rescue you or give you solutions or advice.  

My husband would often feel like he had to come up with all the answers and that just put more pressure on him. All I needed was for him to be the sounding board.  

  1. Don’t try and do it all. 

Make sure he is involved no matter how much you are both struggling at first.  

I remember when we first had our son, every single time I would get in the bath or lay my head down for half an hour’s sleep – our son would always start crying.  

This was brought on by my husband’s anxiety and fears that I wasn’t there to help him, so I would automatically jump up from my rest and rush to the baby. 

Try not to do this… 

He must learn to figure it out for himself. 

True happiness in life comes from knowing we can stand on our own two feet and work things out for ourselves  

If we try and take the responsibility away from another person they will never learn to cope on their own!    

Becky

Relate Bradford Counsellor

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Relationships Week Blog…

It’s Relationship Week and despite being a chatterbox and a therapist I’m going to tell you that sometimes talking isn’t enough – and sometimes it’s even too much!  One of the things that lockdown and continued social distancing has shown us is how important touch is, that human beings need more than words, that there’s things that Zoom can’t provide.

How can you connect with your loved ones physically today? Sometimes things come easily like hugging and sex…and sometimes they don’t. But there are other ways, even across physical distance, that we can communicate and bond in shared bodily experience. A teenager that may not want a parental cuddle may be up for a dance-off in the living room together, or a game of frisbee in a park.  A far away relative may be able to share a yoga video online together so you can breathe in sync, or cook the same meal together. A friend you go on a socially distanced walk with can still touch the bark of a beech tree together, or dip hands in a river. A partner exhausted from work may want a silent foot massage more than to talk it through.

Touch boosts the immune system, lowers stress and strengthens our attachment to each other: Let’s Get Physical! 

Tabitha

Therapist

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Relationships with having Autism…

Relationships Week 2020 #RelationshipRocks

This is my thoughts on relationships with Autism, as someone who has Autism.

Types of relationships

This is just to name a few:

  • Friendships
  • Toxic
  • Open
  • Unhappy
  • Long distance
  • Complicated

Do people with Autism find it far harder to date, or form relationships?

Adults with Autism do struggle with creating and maintaining relationships, as a lot of people struggle with turn taking, so forming relationships is hard. Dating is hard as well, people don’t know what Autism is and what types they are, but over the years it’s become more known to the world with how many children/adults who have been diagnosed with some type of Autism.

These are some quotes that people have said:

“I was always under the impression that if you didn’t understand something then ask for it to be reworded in a way it makes sense to them.”

Anon

“We can date people who aren’t on the autism spectrum.”

Anon

“If you go online before our date and find out we have Autism, don’t jump to conclusions.”

Anon

“If you’re shocked that we have Autism, don’t be.”

Anon

“Just because we may want to be by ourselves at times, doesn’t mean that we don’t care about you.”

Anon

Feeling emotions

“Many on the spectrum can feel emotions and empathy for others, more often than not, they just have difficulty identifying them.”

Love and affection

Autism Spectrum Disorder often experience difficulties understanding and expressing emotions. Especially emotions as confusing such as love.

Relationship and Autism

Initiating and maintaining a romantic relationship, and many other social relationships require the ability to interact socially, have good communications skills as well as having the ability to take the perspective of others – areas of which individuals on the spectrum often struggle with.

“Social relationships are an essential factor of quality of life for people with as well as without a diagnosis.”

Achieving a successful relationship

In order to achieve a successful relationship, that individuals on the spectrum both understands and respects themselves, as well as understands their own need, in order to see how they relate to others and achieve independence

“The ability to create friendships will improve self-esteem and greater maturity, reduce teasing or bullying, encourage teamwork abilities for both successful employment as well as laying the foundations for adult relationships.”

Michael
https://www.relate.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/videos/relationships-week-2020

Blog by Michael

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.

Becky’s Blog – Anxiety…

Anxiety is a reflection of our self-esteem 

As an aspiring therapist in my final year of training, and someone who had relied on anti-depressants (for anxiety) for over thirteen years, I was harshly awoken by my mother-in-law who finally sought me to do something about it.  

“How can you help people overcome their problems, if you can’t address your own,” she said to me.  

Was she right? After all these years of blissfully sailing through my calm stress free life was it finally time to come off my anti-depressants? 

My mantra had always been, “life’s too short to worry all the time.” 

So if I had found something that takes that away, surely it was a no brainer’? 

The problem was I was starting to see more and more clients who were struggling with anxiety and I couldn’t promote the anti-depressants – so I needed to get to the root cause of what anxiety really was before I could help other people address their own.  

After reducing my pills from 20mg every day to every other day, it was a fairly calm start. A few days where I would break down and cry or shout at my husband for not making the bed right but nothing too major that affected my day to day life.  

Finally when we were away on holiday for ten nights, I decided that this would be the time where I would finally come off them for good. I had reduced them to every three days for some time now, so really they were having little effect anyway.  

For weeks, I barely noticed a difference. But then all of a sudden bursts of anger would overcome me and emotions would over whelm me and I would cry nonstop for hours.  

Was this my body finally adjusting and getting back to the old me?  

I had forgotten just how sensitive of a person I used to be and just watching a sad advert these days can make me well up.  

That’s when the penny finally dropped. 

Anti-depressants don’t cure anxiety, they mask the problem. They numb your emotions and senses so you care less about what’s going on in the world around you.  

I had heard so many times how anxiety was a chemical imbalance or something you can’t control and even talking to the doctors to try and get a straight answer as to what anxiety really was, was proving pointless.  

The older generation of doctors would almost dismissed mental health and the younger GP’s promoted the anti-depressants.  

It was obvious (now that I look back) that they don’t want to tell people the truth.  

The real problem lies within.  

When I look back to when my anxiety began at 21 years old, I had just secured an insurance job and was living at home with my parents and 5 siblings.  

I shared a room with my sister and knew that we were both too old and too different to be able to share this cramped life style.  

Deep down I knew I wasn’t happy, but I was filled with fear of moving out of home by myself. I didn’t feel ready to fly the nest. I began to imagine the worst case scenario of every situation I was faced with.  

I also began to develop a habit of touching my head every time a bad thought entered it (i.e. touching wood).  I kept thinking if I didn’t do this – I would jinx myself and others.  

As I grew older my anxiety got worse. I began to worry about how my old school friends would view me or potential boyfriends I would meet if I told them I still lived at home with my parents.  

Eventually everything I did became a concern about how other people would view me.  

I never went to university and therefore I am not intelligent enough.  

My job wasn’t exciting enough and doesn’t pay enough.  

That man I met on Saturday night wasn’t good looking enough.  

I also constantly thought the grass was always greener elsewhere and would just envy people who were away traveling the world.  

Everything about being in your twenties is about image and how other people view you.  

My self-esteem was rock bottom but no-one told me how to fix this. Despite countless doctors’ appointments, I was just prescribed anti-depressants over and over again until eventually I caved. 

I took them because the over thinking and self-loathing got the better of me.  

Within a week I was a different person. Skipping to work I felt so happy, free from caring about other people’s opinions and free from obsessively trying to control every aspect of my life.  

For thirteen years this carried on until the strong words from my mother in law awoke me up to the harsh reality. I wasn’t cured from my anxiety problem I was just masking it. And now here I was trying to emphasise with people who were in the same position I was thirteen years ago.  

I guess the good thing about training to be a therapist whilst coming off anti-depressants was all the information we continue to learn within the classroom and from the clients and supervisors we see on a regular basis. We are also made to go and see a qualified therapist of our own so we can fully appreciate and understand how it feels to be in the client’s position.  

I always believed I was quite a grounded person, mature and also quite self-aware, however, I never realised just how badly I spoke to myself, how much I criticised and put myself down on a daily basis. That’s when I began to realise just how low my self-esteem really was, and how I had no confidence in myself or my abilities.  

Now my body was free from the anti-depressants, familiar patterns started resurfacing just as they were thirteen years ago. I started over analysing the way people spoke to me. We’re they angry with me? Had I said something offensive the day before at the school gates for example. I would chatter my teeth to the conversations I would play over and over in my head. I felt lost without my pills and so many times I contemplated about going back to them.  

I didn’t however, because something inside of me really wanted to get to the root cause of anxiety and improve it without medication.  

As the months passed by and the training and therapy I was receiving became more in-depth, I began to look deeper into my childhood and why I had such a low opinion of myself.   

What we fail to realise is that throughout our lives significant others will criticise us, belittle us and generally make us feel worthless about ourselves. This could be our parents, teachers, older siblings or other kids in the playground. Where ever these messages come from , they stay with us as we grow into adult hood and we continue telling ourselves these messages until we realise we have the power to break the cycle.  

People with higher self-esteem care less about other people’s opinions, so if I really wanted to overcome my obsessive thinking, over analysing and self-loathing -all I needed to do was work on my self- esteem.  

But how do you work on your self-esteem? 

Well here are some techniques and tips I have learned to help my self-esteem soar within just a few weeks. 

The first thing to remember despite what countless people may tell you is that you don’t have an anxiety problem. What you have are habits! 

For example; everyone is addicted to something –even if this is cleaning obsessively or exercising.  

These are habits that we have adopted along the way to help us feel safe, protected and in control of our lives.  

What’s important to remember (above all else) is that habits can be broken!  

Never forget that.  

It’s takes around 30 days to break a habit so it’s important to remember that it’s a gradual and repeated process that we must keep up every day until our brain finally adjusts to our new way of thinking.  

For example; if we continue to tell ourselves on a daily basis that we are fat, ugly and useless, our mind believes these messages and stores these messages in our brains just like a computer.  

So the first thing I started to do was change the messages I was repeating to myself every day.  

For example; as I previously mentioned – I would touch my head when I had a bad thought.  

Next time this happened however, I didn’t touch my head.  

At first I felt overwhelmed with anxiety but I started to tell myself that regardless of whether I touched my head or not  –  we cannot control what happens in the world so if something bad does happen,  it is not my fault and is out of my control.  

What you will usually find is that after 5 – 10 seconds, the anxiety starts to feel less and less.  

It’s the first 5-10 seconds of not doing your habit that feels intense but this lessens as we continue practicing our new thought process.   

When it comes to the negative self-talk and the critical comments we tell ourselves, it’s sometimes best to start off slowly.  

For example; I tell myself every day that I am a wonderful person and I love and value myself. 

However, when I tried to teach some family members this technique, some of them couldn’t even look at themselves in the mirror to utter the words.  

So maybe just starting with, “I like myself.” 

Or  

“I value and accept myself,” are great places to start.  

Eventually moving it up a notch when you feel more positive about yourself.  

i.e. I am beautiful or I am the perfect weight for me. 

What you will eventually see if you practice this technique every day is that the messages in your brain will eventually change and you will naturally begin to give yourself more positive messages.  

You basically adopt a new habit – but a much more positive one! 

My famous saying that I would tell myself especially before an interview or a presentation was, “I can’t do this.” 

But telling yourself this doesn’t help you overcome your fear.  

Our brains are developed to protect us, and therefore, if we tell ourselves we cannot do something; our brain will think we are in danger, and will set out to protect us.  

By changing the messages we give ourselves, we change the way we view and treat ourselves going forwards. This will then reflect on how other people treat us.  

If we value and love ourselves, other people will too.  

A second technique I embraced when overcoming my anxiety was breathing.  

Never under estimate the power of breathing!  

When we are anxious we forget to breathe properly and our bodies go into flight or fight mode.  

Our heart pumps faster and our minds race faster. 

I started watching you tube ‘meditation’ videos every time I felt like I was over thinking or over analysing a situation. Meditation videos always start by telling you to take big deep breaths. In through the nose and hold for 5 seconds and out through the mouth for five seconds.  

I would watch these videos for literally two minutes and just the breathing alone would be enough to adjust my mind and calm my irrational thinking down.  

I practiced this breathing technique every day for weeks (whenever I was overthinking) – in the car on the way to work or in bed at night when I was struggling to sleep. Eventually my brain could see that there was no danger and naturally learnt to calm itself down. I hardly ever have to use this technique anymore.  

Other ways in which we can help our self-esteem grow (as well as being nicer to ourselves) is to enhance your life in any way you possibly can.  

For example; surround yourself with positive people and let go of negative people that drain your energy.  

Read more and educate yourself more.  

I used to think I was never one with words or good in a debate – however the more you read, the more you expand your vocabulary.   

Exercise more (Just walking or even housework). 

Drink more water and herbal teas (your skin will glow). 

Join courses and groups (follow whatever energises you because this is where your true passion lies). 

I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life until I went back to college aged 25 to study English (A Levels). I chose English because I was good at it in high school and it led me to eventually become a counsellor.  

Follow whatever you are naturally good at and just watch where it leads you.  

Becky

Student Counsellor

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog and any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of Relate Bradford.