Winter blues, Depression and Social anxiety by Eleanor

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(image : http://www.caring-crate.com)

In the past few weeks, I have found that all I want to do is stay inside, under a cosy blanket in my little nook on the couch, reading lots of good books or watching something good on TV (by good I mean my favourite reality shows at this time of year!). I have been practising a lot of self care activities as I havn’t been feeling at my strongest or happiest this week. I think I may have seasonal depression but I am not sure if its the winter blues – probably the winter lack of light combined with my bipolar brain chemistry.

Sometimes I  will phone or whatsapp my friends, I will take long bubble baths and sing in the tub (feeling like some kind of surreal movie like Amelie) , I have discovered a new love for the Body Shop seaweed clay facial mask (it leaves my skin so soft and moisturised and helps my spots). I have wrapped myself in my pink, Beauty and the Beast blanket (without make up on) and just enjoyed the freedom of being. Of resting and being in the moment. Of being more mindful.

There have been times when this has become a bad thing. I’ve spent several nights this week on my own and there have been days where my anxiety has increased and I havn’t wanted to go outside. This is because its cold and dark (winter here in England), I don’t want to interact with random people or I just don’t want to be out in this weather when I could be warm and cosy at home.  I am an introvert (who also loves people). My introvert side craves time on my own but this is also part of my social anxiety.

However, every anxiety win.. like going to a gig in Holborn with my Dad and using the Tube (I forgot about the lack of personal space) or hanging out with my fiance or friends without cancelling on them, has been good. In truth though, I have had to cancel a lot of plans this week and luckily have very understanding people in my life. I hate letting people down but sometimes I can’t cope- the adrenaline pumps and things feel too much for me, too overwhelming.

I have felt overwhelmed and mildly depressed this week. However, I am coming to the slow realisation that this is OK. Its alright to struggle and to want human contact but also to find it overwhelming too.

I do need to get more fresh air though, exercise more and be healthier. Part of the lure of being inside is that its relaxing and ‘safer’ but the outside world is not as scary as my head decides it is when its cold and dark in winter.

I think I have mild seasonal depression- so its really important I do all I can to work with that and go outside my comfort zone- when all I really want is to be a doormouse surrounded by those I love and sometimes curled up on my own!

I am going to start talking therapy again soon as theres been a lot of stressful things going on, so hopefully that will help too.

How do you help your seasonal depression?

  Eleanor x

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Anti Bullying Week and the Diana Award partnering with Everybody’s Talking about Jamie Musical: Guest post

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(image: Diana Award)

This week is Anti Bullying work and here in London, England, The Diana Award is partnering with the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

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(image: Everybodys Talking about Jamie)

The charity is partnering with the West-End show ‘Everybody’s Talking about Jamie’ to highlight that every young person should feel accepted and find a place where they belong in their school community.

New research reveals:

Nearly half (43%) of young people have heard their friends use language that is discriminatory or negative towards being LGBTQ+

Nearly half (45%) of young people have heard their friends use language that is discriminatory or negative about race or skin colour.

Over a third (35%) of young people have been called gay or lesbian as an insult

Over half (58%) of young people say their school has never taught LGBTQ+ focused lessons.

A new Survation Survey, commissioned by The Diana Award and ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’, reveals that nearly half of young people (43%) have heard their friends use language that is discriminatory or negative towards being LGBTQ+ and 45% of young people have heard their friends use discriminatory language about race or skin colour. Over a third (35%) of young people have been called gay or lesbian as an insult.

The Diana Award is urging schools to celebrate what makes pupils unique during Anti-Bullying Week (12-17 Nov). 

A special gala night will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 12 November at Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.

In advance of the night gala, to kick-off Anti-Bullying Week on Monday 12 November at Alexandra Palace, London: Over 600 young Anti-Bullying Ambassadors aged 5-18 from across the UK are coming together to participate in a hands on event designed to inspire young people to creatively explore bullying issues through drama, singing, photography, rap, graffiti art, and public speaking – all led by celebrity talent.  Cast members of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will run a workshop at the event which is sponsored by Department for Education, Twitter and Trutex.  

The Diana Award runs the leading Anti-Bullying Campaign in the UK and Ireland giving young people, professionals and parents the skills, confidence and training to tackle all forms of bullying as Anti-Bullying Ambassadors.

 Alex Holmes, Deputy CEO, The Diana Award: “Nearly half of secondary school students have heard their friends use language that is discriminatory or negative towards being LGBTQ+ which is why during Anti-Bullying Week we are delighted to kick off a year long partnership with hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. The play encourages everyone, particularly young people, to be themselves and educates the audience about the power of language and the need to celebrate difference. This is at the heart of our work training young people to be Anti-Bullying Ambassadors.

Sadly, we know at the charity The Diana Award that school can be a place where young people don’t feel accepted and are targeted for their identity.  We are calling on schools to do more this Anti-Bullying Week to tackle all forms of bullying, particularly in light of this research”. 

Jamie Campbell, the inspiration for hit musical said: “We shouldn’t have to live in a world where bullying exists and the best way to tackle it is through education. Charities like The Diana Award and their Anti-Bullying programme and campaign do great work in raising the self-esteem of individuals and it is an honour to be working with this charity”.

The Diana Award was set up in memory of The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, and her belief that young people have the power to change the world for the better. The charity fosters, develops and inspires positive change in the lives of young people through three key programmes which include; a mentoring programme for young people at risk, a youth-led anti-bullying ambassadors campaign and a prestigious award which publicly recognises young people – The Diana Award.

The Diana Award is a core member of the Anti-Bullying Alliance. The Anti-Bullying Alliance coordinates Anti-Bullying week and focuses on tacking bullying whether it is happening to them or someone else, face to face or online #AntiBullyingWeek

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, is based on the true story of Jamie Campbell, a 16 year old school boy who wanted to attend his high school prom in a dress. It is a tale of unconditional love between a mother and a son, and their fight to overcome prejudice, beat the bullies and Jamie’s fight to be accepted for himself. All proceeds from the gala night will go towards The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Programme, which empowers young people like Jamie and his peers to tackle bullying, whilst giving them the skills and confidence to change the culture of their schools and communities.

Learn more here: https://diana-award.org.uk/anti-bullying/

Coping with the lows and Celebrating the highs by Eleanor

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(image: the chic life)

I have been wanting to write about everything for the past week but felt like I have been swept up into a hurricane. There has been a lot going on- some good, but a lot of bad in my life and I have been trying to process it all.

As most of you know, my article on bipolar was published in the Telegraph with thanks to an amazing editor who believed in my story. The Telegraph is a high profile newspaper here in the UK and this was a big platform for my story to be given. So I am grateful. I will put the link to it in the articles tab soon.

I received many positive messages from people with bipolar and psychosis- who could see themselves in my experience and were pleased and appreciative that I shared it. Also those who are carers for people with it got in touch too. I had a lot of support from friends and family, which was important because I started to feel quite vulnerable in revealing so much of what had happened back in 2014 when I was hospitalised. It isn’t easy- even though I want to share it to help people.

As well as the positives, I did receive a few unwanted and negative messages- mainly from ignorant people who don’t know me. I don’t want to give the Trolls any air time here, except to say that the Telegraph were fantastic and stepped in. The comments that were sent weren’t nice but it is a risk when  revealing such a complex mental illness to the world- its an emotive topic and some people can be cruel too. However, the positives outweighed the negatives.

My article was published when I was in Portugal visiting my grandparents with my Dad, Aunt and Uncle so having them  around to process it all was really helpful. Portugal was lovely to have the family time but hard to see my Grandpa unwell, though I was so pleased I got to see him. We also went to a very beautiful beach at Sesimbra, near Lisbon which was good to get some sun in November!

I have two close family members who are unwell at the moment with serious illnesses. As such with all the pressure of it all, I am finding that my mood is dipping and I have to practise a lot of self care- sleeping, reading, pacing myself. It could be that its approaching winter and less light, but I am feeling mildly depressed at times and sleeping more in the mornings, so I am watching my mood and trying to cope as best I can.

If it continues for a long period, I may see the doctor or my counsellor but I think its a reaction to everything happening.

Yesterday I received some really good news– which I will share in a few weeks time. I am so grateful for all the good happening and still planning for my wedding which is something positive to focus on too. Thank you to everyone who has been and continues to be there.

If you are feeling like me right now, a bit low/ depressed, tell people you trust. Don’t keep it in. Remember it can pass. And get support and help if you need it. My fiance, friends and family are helpful to me- confide in someone you can talk too.

I am trying to focus on the positives and celebrate the highs, while dealing with the lows. Thats life I think. Its not always easy but I will get there and so will you if you feel the same.

Eleanor x 

 

My story of recovery from Alcoholism and Mental illness: Guest blog by Allen

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(image: https://www.rehab-recovery.co.uk)

My name is Allen and this is my recovery journey from alcoholism and mental illness.

On 12th October 2005 I had my last drink of alcohol and the following morning I was admitted to a psychiatric unit.  On reflection I didn’t know what was happening and had no clue what was happening emotionally, physically or mentally just that I was going into hospital for a short stay to get better.

Better from what? Whats happening to me? When can I go home? It was like a constant conversation in my head and I couldn’t turn it off.  Little did I know that I had been admitted because I was a risk to myself and others and I was going to be detoxed from alcohol and drugs.

I was never the world’s greatest drinker but I loved everything about alcohol and now know that since my teenage years,  alcohol was a constant in my life at home, in pubs, on the train to work, in the park, in the toilet, in secret or in the open and it had been that way since teenage life.

So I stayed in that psychiatric unit for 6 ½ months and I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 (a mood disorder) and prescribed medication to deal with that.  Since that time, I have experienced two courses of electro convulsive therapy, Cognitive behavioural therapy, one to one counselling, 12 step programmes for drugs and alcohol,  taken anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and  read numerous self help books.

This week I will reach 13 years of sobriety- a great achievement considering I couldn’t go a day without alcohol. However,  2018 has seen me admitted into another psychiatric unit, following numerous suicide attempts and thoughts.

I received an additional diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and a dawning realisation that I need to go way back to my early years to start to really understand me. Childhood / teenage trauma, bullying, substance and alcohol misuse, relationship problems, low self-esteem and lack of confidence, financial woes and debts mounted up.

The past 13 years have enabled me with the help of a twelve step programme to manage life, be as good a father as possible, to be a son, brother and uncle, and a friend.

I have been able to hold down a job and  study a degree in Psychology and Counselling,. I became a Mental health first aider and I suppose now I need to look at me and listen to others as to how I can manage my mental health and addiction. I can learn to be the best father I can be to my son and daughter, and focus on what I need to do to alter the cycle of mental illness that has plagued me for so long.  

Long term therapy seems to be the best option and I hopefully begin this process with an assessment very soon. I am so proud to be miles away from where I was in early 2018. Then, I asked a member of the Home Treatment Team (for crisis care) if I could go into hospital. I also shared for the first time that I have heard a voice for most of my life and the voice has made me harm myself.

I am now doing so much better and hope that therapy helps me to heal even more.

Allen is a writer, mental health first aider and mental health worker.

Mental health, work and the realities of freelancing: by Eleanor

 

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This article was voted for on my Facebook group last month but as always, there has been a lot going on and I wanted to give this one the time it deserved.

Mental health and work is a huge topic. Mental ill health affects peoples ability to work at times- depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other symptoms can stop us from working and disrupt careers. It is one of the biggest causes of sickness, with people being signed off work by their doctors- from stress or other mental health issues. However, some  people are able to manage their health symptoms and work through it. For me, and many others, I had to switch to self employment, in order to work more effectively.

I started off at uni studying English Literature and Drama at Goldsmiths here in London, got a 2:1 degree and then worked for a year as a teaching assistant in a primary school. I decided then that it may not be for me and I applied to study a masters degree in Applied Theatre at the Royal Central drama school. This was amazing and eye opening- but I was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks (possibly part of my bipolar disorder or just general..).

The anxiety attacks were debilitating for me at times- but I managed to get my Masters. However, I have often found that certain work places are far less forgiving of people with mental health issues- if they are still symptomatic.

I always thought that I would work as a teaching assistant and become a Reception teacher. I worked in several schools and I loved working with the children. I also tried working for a mental health charity. However, I found that my anxiety was getting worse and worse (despite taking medication and having therapy) and that the career just wasn’t working for my health.

So,  I decided to go self employed and become a freelance writer. The perils of freelancing can include: late payment of invoices from clients, having articles pulled at the last minute because the editor changes their mind, clients wanting you to write for free, waiting months for work to be published and some clients only paying on publication- so you don’t get a regular ‘salary’. Income is less stable, its harder to trust people and that you are often sending out pitch emails for writing work- only to get ignored, as editors are often busy with their in house team and work.

The pluses of freelancing: some regular gigs (Thank you Metro!), being featured in Glamour UK is a huge honour and in Happiful and Cosmopolitan/ Elle. I have written a lot this year and I am grateful every day for the editors who have taken a chance on me and commissioned my work.

However, its a balance. Yes working from home is great. Yes setting own hours is good. But, it means that income is less stable for sure. I have far less anxiety and panic working like this. Thats a major plus.

I often feel bad for not earning enough. Or because you have to develop a thick skin to deal with rejection.

In terms of mental health at work- there is SO much that needs to be done. Sickness records mean employees are still penalised, despite their genuine need for a mental health day. Each work place should be trained in signs to spot and have a mental health first aider. Some work places are disability friendly, but many just see you as a worker and if you have a mental illness, will only tolerate so much time off.

I don’t really know what to suggest if you are also in my position. In the UK, we have the benefits system which has been very important for me due to my illness. However, I would love to get to a stage where I can earn enough not to need it.

If you are struggling with your mental health at work, speak to a trusted colleague. HR will not always be supportive – it depends on the organisation, but don’t suffer alone. Just be aware that if you are off sick a lot, some companies will see you as unreliable. This may be 2018, but outdated attitudes at work still exist unfortunately.

There are positives and its important to know  there are good, wonderful people out there. I have met many. 

What is your experience?

Eleanor x

Copy of my Mask: (On Depression): Guest poem by ‘N’

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(image: Sweety Texts)

 

This is a poem/ thoughts written by a guest poster with depression who wanted to share their thoughts. Please read with care as it discusses exactly what depression is like 

 

When everyone sees rainbows and flowers, I am trapped, suffocating in the darkness, alone.

As everyone laughs and smiles, I pull my mask, over my face, over my soul, yet again.

My mask is what I hide behind, and shield everyone else from the unbearable dark cloud that follows me everywhere.

My hair hasn’t been washed in a week, and I don’t have the energy to shower. My teeth aren’t brushed and my house is a mess. Everyday, I sit, in the darkness, alone. This feeling is crippling.

It slowly sucks the life out of me, and I fear the day my eyes no longer open.

I hide behind my mask, because the truth is just too scary for most, that the demons haunt me all day and everyday, and suck my soul to shreds.

I hide behind my mask because it’s easier than hearing how I am in a rut, or mind over matter.

I hide behind my mask because it makes me the same as all the other moms. It makes me more relatable. It gives me the illusion that I am not alone.

I am careful to put my mask on each and everyday, and while I carefully balance it, I am being beaten down by the darkness that follows me.

My smile isn’t real, nor is my laugh.

Deep inside when I remove my mask, the clouds take over and it’s simply too much to bear.

Demons swirl around faster and faster, weighing heavily on my body, crippling me until I can no longer move.

I lay numb, soulless, and alone.

And my depression has won again.

 

N

How Meditation can improve our Mental health and wellbeing: Guest post by Jennifer Bennet

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(image: Erriko Boccia at Unsplash )

Ahead of tomorrows World Mental Health Day, we are publishing articles focusing on our mental health.

Meditation has long been a tool used in mental health counselling and it is one that has been proven to be highly effective with coping with stress and anxiety as well as depression and other mental health issues. Medication is often a vital treatment for mental health issues, but meditation is also an ideal practice to integrate into a daily routine to help as well and the benefits of meditation are outstanding.

A great deal of our lives in general are spent lost in our thoughts and dealing with our personal feelings. Why not use that time for meditation instead of dwelling on negative thoughts and behaviours?

Besides the fact that taking time for meditation opens your mind to a little peace and quiet, there are so many benefits of meditating that can help mental health issues. Here are five of the best reasons to start meditating today so you can have a happier mind to help with mental health issues.

 

  1. Meditation helps clear your mind so that you can sleep better at night. A well-rested mind is better equipped to handle the stresses of life and keep a good reign on emotions during the waking hours.
  2. Meditation helps manage unhealthy behaviors by helping a person focus on viable solutions to problems. When we focus on just one issue and take time to carefully think about it in a positive way, it is easier to find a solution than it would be to randomly try numerous things to no avail. Mindful meditation allows a person to take time to delve deeply into a situation while focusing on how to resolve an issue wisely.
  3. The production of the hormone cortisol, which is known to weaken the immune system in the body, can be slowed down through meditation. When you have a better immune system, it’s easier to feel less stressed and be able to enjoy life better.
  4. Sitting down to meditate at least once every day can lead to having a better grasp on emotions. When you focus on objective ways to solve problems and face things in life, it is easier to control anger, depression and other emotions.
  5. Meditation helps keep your mind in the present instead of revolving to the past where you may have faced a bad relationship or other hardships. When you let go of the negative things that have a grasp onto your thought process, it is easier to move forward and face life with a renewed sense of self. This can have a profound impact on every aspect of your life including work, relationships and home.

 

How to Meditate

Some people believe that you must have scented candles, incense and soft music to meditate and while those things can certainly help ease your mind to help you find a peaceful calm, they are not at all required to find your way to inner peace and meditation. Here are some simple steps provided by the Taylor Benefits Insurance blog that you can follow to begin your journey into meditation and a firmer grasp on your own mental health and well-being.

 

Set a time

Let’s face it, when we don’t set an alarm to wake up in the morning it’s easy to oversleep and miss out on work and other important things in life. The same goes for meditation. This is an important step to take and once you decide to start meditating, it’s a good idea to try to set a time to do so each day. If you need to set a physical alarm, then get that alarm set and plan to sit down to meditate for at least 10 minutes each day. Consistency is key when you are meditating and it’s a good idea to make time for it every day. This will help keep your mind focused, so you can find your inner peace and start focusing on your problem-solving skills to lower your stress and find a little happiness that you may have forgotten about.

 

Breathe

When you meditate, take time to breathe deeply. From a siting position, sit straight and tall and breathe slowly but deeply. Be sure to wear clothing that won’t restrict breathing, so you can breathe freely during your meditation time.

 

Comfort is Key

No matter where you choose to meditate, try to make it as comfortable as possible. Whether you have a little space in your bedroom or even in the kitchen, pile up some comfy pillows or sit in your favorite chair and let yourself relax completely.

 

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Before you sit down to meditate, take time to choose one thing and only one thing to focus on during your meditation time. Meditation is not the time to let your mind wander in circles. When we can face one issue at a time and clear them from our mind, its easier to take steps to move forward with life with a sense of peace.

 

Pick Your Mantra and Focus

Now this is where you are going to take a slight step back and say, “What?” Something common to chant as a mantra is simply, “Om” which sounds like you are saying “Oooooooommmmmm” repeatedly. If that one does not work for you, then find a different mantra to chant during your meditation time. What you choose should help you feel relaxed.

While chanting your mantra, find a spot to fixate your eyes upon so you can focus clearly. This can be a candle if you have one, a spot on a wall or even a tiny flower placed across from you. The key is to stay focused throughout the meditation time.

While chanting your mantra, think positive thoughts such as visualising yourself winning a marathon (if you run), earning a promotion at work, completing a major assignment or whatever you feel you need to accomplish in your personal life.

Some people choose CD’s that have been prerecorded with slow, relaxing music on them. A great choice if you want to hear soft sounds would be a nature CD playing sounds of the forest or the ocean. Others prefer silence during meditation. Make some positive affirmation cards to place in your meditation area to help motivate you. These can include simple poetic phrases or even small sentences to help bring your inner peace. You could even listen to a prerecorded meditation CD or a YouTube video to help guide you throughout your meditation.

There is no set way to meditate and what works for one may not work for another. The most important thing is that you take time to meditate, get to know your true inner self and as you move forward you will soon find your way onto the healing path of inner peace and renewal as you learn more about yourself, your feelings and the strength of your own mind.  

 

Jennifer Bennet is a writer on wellbeing and an expert on meditation.

How Physio/ Physical Therapy can help you manage Stress and Anxiety: Guest post by Ashley Smith

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(image: www.physiquemassagetherapy.com)

Stress and anxiety, which can lead to a large number of health problems, are common among people of all ages. The first step toward managing these problems is to change your attitude toward them. Most people think that these are common problems, so they do not pay much attention when it comes to managing them.

However, if you talk about long-term stress, it increases the risk of health conditions like obesity, memory impairment, trouble sleeping, autoimmune diseases, heart problems, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke, etc., so it’s essential to seek quality treatment to deal with them.

You can feel stressed due to several reasons including tough competition in the workplace, family problems, relationship issues, divorce, financial problems, and tiredness, etc. And if you fail to deal with it, you can face further complications.

 

Here are The Symptoms of Stress

-Mood swings and getting frustrated

-Difficulty in controlling your emotions

-The feeling of loneliness and low self-esteem

-Reduced energy levels

-Suffering from conditions like headaches, muscle tension, and chest pain

-Stomach problems like constipation or diarrhea

-Dry mouth and grinding teeth

-Difficulty focusing on your task

Experiencing negative thoughts

Loss of interest in the activities you used to love the most

Facing problem in relaxing and stabilizing your mood

 

A Brief Description of Anxiety

Anxiety, which is experienced by everyone at some point in their lives, can lead to a variety of other problems. When your anxiety progresses into an anxiety disorder, which is a mental health condition, it becomes harder to recover from it. Therefore, seeking quality treatment at the right time remains the only solution for you.

 

Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety

-Avoiding situations, places, and things linked to a horrific event

-Experiencing problems in concentrating at work

-Losing interest in the activities of daily living

-Sleep problems and difficulty in staying calm

-Cold and sweaty hands and feet

-Increased heart rate and feeling nervousness

-Dry mouth and tense muscles

 

So, if you are someone who is living with high-level of stress and anxiety, it’s necessary that you seek proper treatment. Experts believe that physical (physio) therapy is the best way to manage stress and anxiety.

It’s a drug-free treatment for stress and anxiety; therefore, anyone can seek it. It means whether you are an adult above 40 or a 15-year old child if you are struggling with any of these problems, physical (physio) therapy could be a suitable treatment.

 

Here’s how a physical/ physio therapist helps you recover from stress and anxiety.

The best part of consulting a physical/ physio therapist is that they devote their time and resources to identify the underlying cause of your problem so that they can address it with the right therapy techniques.

For figuring out the actual cause of your stress and anxiety, they check your medical history and symptoms. Besides, they may also ask a variety of questions linked to your daily routine to arrive at a reliable diagnosis.

The kind of techniques that physical therapists use show a quick result when it comes to managing stress and anxiety.

For example, if you are experiencing stress due to work pressure or tight deadlines, then they will create a treatment plan that will consist of exercises that promote relaxation.

Massage therapy or therapeutic massage is one of the most effective treatments for relieving stress and anxiety. It not only helps in reducing stress and anxiety, but also improves circulation and lymphatic drainage, boosts mood, cures pain, minimizes inflammation and swelling, and accelerates the healing process.

Physical/ physio therapists use different types of massage therapy techniques such as pressure point massage, Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and functional message to address individual problems.

According to Excel Sports & Physical Therapy, “Swedish massage is more gentle and targets more superficial tissues, perfect for anyone looking to relax and relieve mental as well as physical stress.

Your therapist may use a variety of aromatic oils while administering therapeutic massage to promote relaxation.

Apart from massage therapy, your physical therapist may also use manual therapy to address the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety.

A unique form of hands-on treatment, manual therapy helps in enhancing the ability of your body parts to function effectively. When your body parts work in harmony with each other, you naturally feel relaxed. While administering this technique, physical (physio) therapists apply pressure on your body through their hands, which feels quite relaxing.

It’s not only used by physical/ physio therapists but also by massage therapists, athletic trainers, and chiropractors, etc., to heal people struggling with pain, discomfort, stress, and anxiety.

So whether you are struggling with stress and anxiety or conditions like the neck, back, shoulder, and knee pain, etc., this therapy can bring a world of difference in your health.

This article was written by Ashley Smith, expert in this area of therapy.

Why Writing therapy helps : Guest Post by Amy Hutson, Counsellor

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(image: Amy Hutson)

I first started using writing therapy without really knowing what it was when I was having a tough time at school. There was something valuable about getting my thoughts down on to a page, instead of spinning around my head that helped to make sense of everything.

Since training as a counsellor many years later, I came across writing therapy and took some training in how to use it with clients. I’ve found it can be very powerful, alongside therapy or even on its own.

But what is writing therapy?

Writing therapy or expressive writing is basically writing as fast as you can without worrying about grammar or whether it makes sense. It might sound a bit odd, but it taps into your unconscious thoughts and can be cathartic writing things down, as well as helping to come up with answers to something you’ve been struggling with.

In the 1980s James W. Pennebaker was the first person to research how writing therapy helps and he set the challenge of asking people to write about their most traumatic experiences over four consecutive days. The results of the study were staggering, people felt much better both mentally and physically. So much so that people made less visits to the doctor at about half their usual rate, after the experiment.

So how can you use writing therapy?

There are lots of different techniques I use with clients, depending on what issue it is we’re discussing or what I think might be helpful to them. But here are a few things you could try at home and if it ever feels a bit too painful what you’re writing, you can stop at any time or write about something that feels safer.

Journalling

If you’ve never tried writing in a stream-of-conscious style of writing in a journal, I’d recommend starting here. Some people like to buy a lovely notebook and find a quiet space to write, sometimes at the beginning or at the end of the day. Then the idea is to write about whatever comes to mind. Even if you start by just writing ‘blah blah blah’, you will probably find something insightful will come up if you just keep writing and don’t stop to think. If writing every day feels too much, you could try writing whenever you feel you need to – it could be you’ve had a really rough day and want somewhere to vent or maybe something incredible happened and you want to record and remember it.

The unsent letter

The unsent letter can be powerful when you want to say something to someone but feel you can’t. It might be you’re angry or upset with someone and you’re holding on to those strong emotions, because you feel unable to share them. So, you simply write everything you want to say to this person in a letter without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings, because it’s not going to be sent. Writing it alone can really help, but it can also be used as a way of getting your thoughts together before confronting someone in a less emotional state.

If you want to take this one step further, you could write a letter back to yourself from the other person. The results can be surprising, as they can offer another perspective to the situation you might not have thought of.

Quick lists

Writing lists quickly and without editing them can be helpful and used in lots of different ways. Say you’re feeling anxious, you could start a list like:

I’m really anxious about:

  • My new job
  • Lack of sleep
  • Bad diet

Rather than just focusing on the anxiety, writing a list can sometimes help uncover what might be causing it, which you could then explore further in a journal, with a friend or a counsellor.

Another example of a quick list which can help if you’re feeling low is:

Three good things that happened today:

  • I got through the day at work despite little sleep
  • I met a friend for coffee
  • I went to the gym

Writing therapy really helps my clients and it could help you too!

 

Amy Hutson is a counsellor and writing therapist, who offers therapy in Hove and worldwide on Skype. For more details visit www.amyhutsoncounselling.co.uk

 

What’s Family therapy really like? Guest post by Christine H

Family therapy 1
(image: Christine H)

Therapy is growing more and more accepted as a mainstream practice, rather than a scary, stigmatised ordeal. After all, it’s important to take care of mental health, and sometimes, we could all use a little extra help.

However, when it comes to any kind of therapy, it can still be scary. We don’t know what to expect, and we worry that we’ll be forced into something that makes us too uncomfortable. This can especially true in the case of family therapy. Often, family therapy is utilised when one or more family member confronts a serious mental health challenge (such as, for example, bipolar disorder, addiction, or major behavioural issues) that affects the rest of the family.

So, in order to dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding family therapy, and to perhaps help people become more comfortable with it, here are some important things to know:

 

There May Be a Mix of Alone and Together Time

Contrary to popular belief, family therapy isn’t just going to be your family talking in a circle with a therapist the whole session. Well, maybe sometimes it will be. But other times, “family therapy” refers to a lot of different compilations of relationships within your family. Parents may talk with the counsellor separately, and then a child who has been the primary subject of therapy will talk with the therapist, and then perhaps the counselor will enable a conversation between the child and parents in order to share information that needs to be shared.

Additionally, family therapy is most effective when all family members are utilising therapeutic tools to get what they can out of the experience. For example, often in the case of addiction, support groups are available for both the person struggling with addiction, and for the family members who are affected by it. In these separate group therapies (which you can learn more about here) family members can gain new perspectives which will empower them to return to family therapy with the information they need to make it a productive venture.

 

Information that You Want Confidential Can Be Confidential

During all the mix-match of family therapy modules, many individuals are wary about sharing information with the counselor if they don’t want it to be shared with the whole group. And although this might sound kind of shady, it’s not just about keeping major secrets. Often, it’s about protecting family members’ feelings, or being embarrassed or worried about our own feelings.

Since family systems therapy is ultimately about repairing relationships and empowering healthy communication and cooperation, a counsellor can help individuals identify what information is important to share, and how to go about it in the best way. However, there are some challenges that are best talked out one on one with the therapist, and not in the group as a whole. It’s important for all parties involved to understand that they can still control the information that’s shared, and the way they choose to do it… or not.

 

It’s Not All Talk Therapy

Although sometimes all that’s needed in order to strengthen a family’s power to communicate and cooperate is an outsider guiding the conversation, other times talk therapy can be frustrating for families, as they’ll find themselves going around in the same old circles and arguments that they would on their own. That’s why most counsellors will utilise other techniques and approaches to achieve family goals.

For example, sometimes it’s useful to utilize experiential therapy, which could include anything from a cooperative ropes course, to role playing exercises. You can learn more about those options here.

 

Practicing Outside of Therapy Sessions Is Vital

One common assumption of family therapy is that the work will get done in therapy sessions, and it doesn’t have to change the way things are outside of therapy. Family therapy can only be successful when it creates changes to habits and systems within the family dynamic that aren’t serving individuals as well as they should.

Most of the time, a therapist will give family members assignments and goals that they can do–both by themselves, and as they interact with the rest of the family–in order to improve family relationships. Often, these are small habits in the way that we talk and the way we share duties in and out of the house.

 

This article was written by expert on family therapy Christine H:

christine

Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in any form. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon. She blogs about marketing here. Follow more of her writing on Twitter @readwritechill.