We are a Vuelio Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog! 2018 Award

Today I got an email from the lovely people at Vuelio to say they have listed us as Top 10 UK Mental Health Blog.

We are number 8, alongside some incredible blogs and organisations such as the Mental Elf and Mental Health Foundation as well as blogger friends of mine- check them all out .

Thanks so much Vuelio! This award is important as it is about being influential in our industry so am so happy to recieve it.

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See the list here: https://www.vuelio.com/uk/social-media-index/mental-health-blogs-uk-top-10/

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Womens Health Awareness and Taking Action: Guest post by Sarah Cardwell

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(image: Sarah Cardwell)

I remember wanting to start my periods when I began secondary school. I had no idea what to expect, but it just felt like it would be the first step in growing older, becoming an adult. Within 6 months of starting I hated it. I had horrifically heavy & painful periods since the age of 13 and my mum always suspected I had endometriosis, the same condition she had been diagnosed with.

I never struggled to get pregnant with either of my two children, but with a heavy first natural baby of 10lb 7oz, it was decided after many scans that I would have a planned caesarean with my second daughter. She was only 7lb 11oz. When my periods returned after my second baby, I knew I had to do something.

After months of pursuing issues, and aged just 30, I eventually took my mum along to my appointment  and was referred for a laparoscopy. It was then that my mums suspicions were confirmed & they found signs of endometriosis.

On average it takes 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis, according to Endometriosis UK (https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/endometriosis-facts-and-figures). It has taken almost 17 years for my diagnosis. The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.

It was then I asked for a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) & was rejected.

Hysterectomies are known to treat endometriosis well:

• With mild endometriosis, the chance of needing further treatment is 4 out of 100 women

• For severe endometriosis, the chance of needing further treatment is 13 out of 100 women within three years and 40 out of 100 women within five years.

https://www.endometriosis-uk.org/sites/default/files/files/Information/

And I’m in good company, with many celebrities having hysterectomies for many reasons, Angelina Jolie and Michelle Heaton to be two of them. Lena Dunham too had her hysterectomy due to endometriosis. 

I was told I was too young and was offered a range of treatments from the coil to the pill, I even was treated with hormones to replicate the feelings of the menopause to see how my body would react, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues.

After six months it reacted brilliantly, no periods, no pain. I thought I was cured, but they said I couldn’t continue on the treatment due to risks of osteoporosis . I was in pieces and soon back to having periods spending days of my month in bed unable to move.

It was another 2 years of trialling medications & eventually changing my gynaecologist, before I was finally booked to have a hysterectomy operation. I was ecstatic. It was booked in February for the June of 2015 following my family holiday, I couldn’t wait.

However, things were about to take a turn for the worse. In March (the following month), my mum was informed that they had found a tumour where her ovaries had previously been, and within six short weeks she had passed away. It was the most awful time of all our lives, although thankfully she was surrounded by her family as she passed away. She had made me promise to go through with the hysterectomy, but to request and ensure they removed both my ovaries, even though they were healthy. So I did. In June 2015 I had a Bilateral total hysterectomy.

I knew I was very young at 32 to lose everything that made me a woman, but this was more than pain relief now, it was about survival and securing my future with my children.

The procedure went well and I recovered quickly, I was back at work part-time within 2 weeks, probably due to being a younger patient, but it didn’t have the same impact on my menopause symptoms. I suffered and still do, with every possible symptom, night sweats, hot flushes, weight gain, moodiness, although I think those closest to me would say that had always been there it just worsened.

Whether it was connected, it was then that the rest of my health deteriorated. I was never super fit or thin since my teens, but over the next year I gained almost 3 stone, started with severe anxiety and following an asthma attack after a serious lower chest infection, I was finally diagnosed with adult onset asthma. These of all could also have contributed to my recent spiral in mental health illnesses, but I still believe it was the right decision.

At 35 years old, I am on HRT and more medication than most pensioners, but I’m still here. I’ll be on most of my medication for life, but my HRT for a minimum of 20 years until I’m the average age for a natural menopause.

I wish my mum was here, as she too went through early menopause after her hysterectomy and I’m sure she’d have some tips that beat ice cubes down my top and lining my bed with ice packs to keep me cool in the night.

She’d hopefully have some advice on last summers rare heatwave in the UK, but sadly she was only 54 when she passed away and she inevitably saved my life and helped preserve my life so I can live beyond that she and be there for my children. And this hysterectomy added another layer of protection!

For more information please check out the resources above.

This article was written by writer Sarah Cardwell- who also experiences anxiety alongside her other health conditions. Check out her blog here: www.sarahsthinkingagain.blog

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.

Lifestyle Changes: How to Combat your Eating Disorder: Guest Post by Lizzie Weakley

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Recognising you have an eating disorder is one of the biggest (and hardest) steps you can take to combat your disorder. It’s important to make sure you know how to combat the disorder so you don’t find yourself fighting a losing battle.

Don’t Expect Huge Changes

Just the idea of helping yourself get better from an eating disorder is important, but it won’t bring about the change you really need. You won’t get to see the results of the change until you start making changes. Be prepared for things to stay the same for a long time after you start trying to fight this battle.

Seek Professional Help

It’s almost always necessary to get professional help with eating disorders. There are many eating disorder center options you can choose from that have intensive processes. These centers can make things easier for you and can give you the specific tools you need to start getting better.

Try Something New

Not all eating disorders are the same. There may be differences from person to person so it’s important to keep that in mind when you start this battle. Your eating disorder probably won’t be like anyone else’s battle. Just like you are a unique person, the way you handle your eating disorder will be unique. You can try different things and new techniques to try and help yourself through the eating disorder. Things may change, but it’s important to keep trying new things that might help you.

Recognize Your Struggle

The struggle to combat an eating disorder can be one of the hardest things you do. You should recognize that struggle and work with it to help yourself. If you know it will be difficult to overcome the eating disorder, you’ll be better prepared to fight it when you’re dealing with issues that come from eating disorders.

Continue Fighting

Fighting an eating disorder is a battle you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life. Even when things do get easier for you, you might still struggle with the issues that come from the eating disorder. Keep that in mind before you start the process. It’s a good idea to know that you’ll be in this fight for the rest of your life, but it does get easier.

Eating disorders are hard. Trying to figure out how to combat one on your own can be even harder. It’s important to know what to expect and take the steps necessary to help yourself get better.

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. She went to college at The Ohio State University where she studied communications. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her Husky, Snowball, camping, and binging on Netflix.

Twitter: @LizzieWeakley

Facebook: facebook.com/lizzie.weakley

 

 

Flowers for wellness: Product Review on Posy and Posy

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(image: Eleanor Segall)

I am going to be starting to do Product reviews on the blog. I have always loved flowers, whether I am going out for a walk and spot them in gardens or whether I am receiving a bouquet from a friend or partner, they always lift my mood.

I was contacted by the wonderful Posy and Posy, a new monthly flower subscription box- ‘Creative Floral Recipe Box‘ where you can lose yourself in creativity in arranging different flowers. Each month has a different ‘flower recipe’ (different flowers) for you to enjoy and arrange.

I was sent the above posy, recipe 006, which contains stunning deep pink, yellow and orange roses, pink crysanthemums and beautiful hellebore greenery. The result feels very autumnal and beautiful to put together.

The flowers arrived individually wrapped in a special Posy ‘cocoon’ ( a cardboard box with compartments to keep the flowers at their best). Each flower recipe also comes with a little booklet to tell you how to take care of your flowers and encourage you to arrange them in your own way.

Posy and Posy say, ‘Flower arranging doesn’t need to be old fashioned, fussy or high end- it can be fun, freeing and inspiring.’ They see it as a creative art form- a floral service for the creative soul.

I really enjoyed getting creative and arranging my flowers (after cutting the stems and putting them in a low vase in water, with their plant food that comes in the Posy cocoon).

They are bright, work well together and truly brightened my day.

Posy and Posy deliver to home and work with delivery slots available via their website.

Each flower delivery is different and you can choose what you would like. You can
also send flowers as a gift to friends.

I was impressed by the way the flowers were cared for and delivered and the creative mission of its founders.

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(image: Eleanor Segall)

So I would recommend a posy from Posy and Posy. Its always lovely to receive fresh, beautiful flowers and lifted my mood. You can also get creative and style the flowers how you would want.
Prices start from £28 a box and available at http://www.posyandposy.com

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(This article was an unpaid product review)

 

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

Finding Purpose- my journey to survive Anorexia. Guest post for World Mental Health Day by Spela Kranjec

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(image: Spela Kranjec)


Please note; Trigger warning, this post discusses Anorexia and thoughts during it. Read with care.

Do you sometimes feel useless and unneeded? You wake up in the morning, lethargic with the thought that you truly don’t know why this upcoming day would be important? You watch other people, everyone with some task of their own, busy and running around with determination. How is it that the world is passing you by? “Is it my fault?” you ask yourself. You become bogged down with these thought, only making the situation worse. You unintentionally focus on the thought that you’re not worth anything! And you forget about everything that you’re good at, things that make life worth living.

You have destroyed yourself. You pushed yourself down into nothing. What’s worse is that you believe others see you as such, too. That’s why you need something that has a purpose, as otherwise you soon lose a will to live. The human mind is a very complex thing, and when it wants something it’s willing to take it by itself if you fail to provide it. But it takes the thing that it finds first. It doesn’t choose. As the whole body is surrounded by negativity, it latches on to that – and that’s how I developed anorexia.

Yes, I was a young girl who couldn’t find her way in this big world. I tried to fit in, but I was rejected. I thought I was intelligent, but I had to try much harder than others at school to get an A. I believed a good job was waiting for me, but was disappointed to discover that there are so many other people in greater need. I constantly trained, but never made the team. I looked at myself in the mirror, but I never became a beauty. I saved money when others were spending it, but they now probably have more than me.

In all my drive to become something, to be something, I started disappearing. And I wasn’t even aware of it. My mind convinced me that I would be appreciated, desired, only if I were thin. Very thin. As I was willing to do anything to be accepted, I started starving myself. Very quickly, scales become my only friend, and the only daily task was to exercise and reject food. The more I succeeded in this, the greater power I had over my own life. I was becoming something. Finally!

It didn’t take long before I heard the first comments, “Špela, you’re so thin!” My heart leaped! All my hunger and the dizziness during excessive exercise finally paid off. Obviously, it really was my own fault. Obviously, all I had to do was try harder. With this victory, I really couldn’t stop. So I kept going. I wanted to be even skinnier, just in case I ever gain back some weight, so that things didn’t change back to their old ways.

But as I never really defined this limit of losing weight, this “just in case”, I never knew when to stop. So I didn’t. There was one other boundary line. A sort of point of no return, before which I could still come back. Back to that old Špela, still knowing that I matter, that I belong somewhere. I’ve passed that point some time ago, and I wasn’t even sure that old Špela ever truly existed.

I was suddenly in a situation where everything was confusing and unclear. Before, I never belonged anywhere, then the world was in the palm of my hand, and now everything was falling apart, even more so than at the beginning. And I fell apart… Anorexia finally conquered me.

Now I faced a truly difficult task, which required from me a tremendous amount of mental and personality changes. A task that would be completed once the world stopped passing me by, and I would walk in step with the world. A task to find recovery.

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I wrote a book about my mission to save myself. And for this book, my brother and I are launching a Kickstarter campaign, NOTICE ME: My 9-Year Struggle against Anorexia.

Why? Because I know there are too many like me in this world, and this has to change. And because we want to show that we matter, that we have a mission in this world, even though I believed otherwise for many years.

Because I want to help you, I’m giving you opportunity, to start reading my book totally for free on this link: https://www.notice-me.net/free-chapter/.

Spela Kranjec is a mental health writer, documenting her 9 years of living with anorexia.

On Complex PTSD and my recovery: Guest post by Lydia for World Mental Health Day

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Hi there, I’m Lydia a 20-year-old youtuber and film maker, I’ve been battling my mental health conditions for a little over five years. This article is about C-PTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and how I’ve found recovery, but first, what is C-PTSD?

C-PTSD, is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder that stems from repetitive exposure to a traumatic experience, it is also commonly diagnosed alongside BPD (borderline personality disorder), I was diagnosed with C-PTSD around 3 years ago after witnessing a suicide and multiple suicide attempts, without going into too much detail it was really hard, and has taken me until this year (2018) to even begin to process what happened.

So, let’s talk about recovery, there a massive misconception that it isn’t possible to recover from any type of PTSD, however it totally is possible to  find recovery. My recovery really got started this year when I made the decision to privately access EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) which was without question the most beneficial type of therapy I’ve tried.

Following this there was a major incident in which my mental stability declined rapidly I was subsequently detained in a psychiatric hospital for a little under a month, following my release, I decided to take control of my mental health and help myself.

The first thing I did to help myself was cut off from everybody negative, which I realised I had to do, because I really was at a point where I could have reached crisis point if things didn’t change. I moved from one end of the country to the other, I blocked everybody’s number, Facebook and Twitter, it was a drastic move but so important and to anybody who struggling with their mental health I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing this, just cut yourself off from everybody negative, you don’t have to justify it, your health and welfare should be the most important thing in your life.

The next thing I did was go to my GP and re-start my medication. Sometimes you just need an extra push, psychiatric medication can’t change your life circumstances, but it can help you heal. This was a pretty big decision but it was one I needed to make.

The final thing I did was to take a break and find a hobby.  I went on holiday with my family, I started creating more positive content on YouTube while also documenting my recovery which has been one of the most helpful things I’ve done/ This is because I’m a part of a really supportive community on YouTube, and just reading comments like “you gave me hope” means so much.

The big move I made this year was to write and release my own book on the journey I’ve been on, and I wouldn’t change it because it’s made me who I am today.

After a few years of complete hell, I’ve turned my life around and I’m certainly in a much more positive place, things change and life changes for the better. My overall message for you all would be to never lose hope, just hold on because if you put in the time and work things will change, however don’t expect people to change things for you. Hold on and find recovery.

 

Lydia is a youtuber and film maker, talking about her mental health. You can see her channels here:

www.youtube.com/lydiisadinosaur

www.twitter.com/Lifewithlydia

 

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