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Counselling and your wellbeing

"Self Care - what does it mean"?

Do you think it is weak to say your are struggling or worse still ask for help?

Can you imagine being at work, falling over, getting up and seeing a big gash in your leg?  You are so embarrassed that you try to limp back to your desk in an attempt to pretend that there is nothing wrong. You get back to your desk and notice that there is a bone sticking out where your knee should be but you just get right back to work.

 The pain is getting really bad but you sit there smiling, 'being strong' and just get on with your work. You think to yourself, after work I will go for a quick drink, go home, it will be need to go to the hospital, that would be admitting I am hurting and I need help...

Most unlikely, that you would do this because that would be, dare I say, ridiculous.

However, how many of you will be worried and experiencing the symptoms of anxiety. Your chest feels tight, you feel edgy and wound up.   You are getting angry really quickly in situations that frustrate you when you know that you would normally just take a deep breath and sort things out. Maybe you are not sleeping at night because the thoughts of all the things that you need to do, how they could go wrong or that you won't be able to cope. So you are tired at work, feeling disconnected from others around you, but still trying to get things done.

 You worry about losing your job because you might make mistakes, or there is going to be 'cuts' and you are convinced that it will be you that the company is going to make redundant.

Many of you can imagine saying to yourself, ..."pull yourself together, stop being a wimp". 

Some of you might even think that if you went for a drink with mates, or even on your own, just relax it will all go away.  What do you do when it doesn't go away and you have a panic attack on the way to work, or you find yourself having a vicious row with your partner, and feel ashamed of your behaviour? 

You might even get to the stage where you are not sure if you want to break down and cry or shout out your rage and despair. You might ring in sick for a couple of days and stay at home trying to sort yourself out, but either way you know you need to suck it all in and get on with things.

Whether you have broken your leg or suffering from worry and anxiety, you do need help. Trying to ignore a broken leg doesn't get it fixed, and neither does ignoring how you feel. 

Each of us knows when we feel a bit down, or anxious about something coming up and what is normal for us. We also know when something is clearly wrong.  If how you feel is making you miserable, stopping you from doing the things you want and need to do, then getting help is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to ask for help when we feel vulnerable, so don't suffer in silence, take action to help you feel better.

I am a counsellor, so I would recommend that you seek therapy, but there are other things you can do to help yourself. Talk to family or friend. If your workplace has an employee assistance programme where you can talk confidentially about how you feel, make use of it. Go and see your GP. Whatever you do, please do something to take care of yourself.

(A published Linkedin article by Sylvia Cowell MBACP)

'Counselling can help you take care of yourself'



Does it really work?

"Talking Therapy Works"?

So you have survived Christmas and the holiday festivities. You have then survived the dreaded new year resolutions (diets, joining the gym, fixing the finance, thinking about getting a new job, car, relationship....the list goes on...).

Its February, oops...... no its Valentines Day! Whats not to like on the day that we are to get or give tokens of love to or from our 'special loved one'?

I am on my own, I have just managed to get over the fact that I find it difficult to be with my family to celebrate the holidays. NO...I don't have any kids yet, NO...I am not married yet, NO...I don't have a great job and NO...I am not planning to go on an expensive holiday!

In fact, I feel like crap.

I would love to feel good about myself, I would like to have that relationship that makes me want to get married, and have children, or not....just to have a choice would be nice. I do get it that Uncle's children all seem to be doing well, and that this makes you think that you (me) are failures, because we don't have the right house, the right job, the right friends, the right car etc.

But just so I don't forget, I have nobody to get or receive flowers, chocolates, or to enjoy a romantic meal with...along came February 14th! I turned to the internet and find that my favourite celebrity has just admitted that they too sometimes feel depressed or anxious and do not always cope. They got help and now think that perhaps more people should get 'talking therapy'too.

How does this 'talking therapy work?'

Will it make me feel better, will it get me a successful relationship, a new job, a car, or any of the things that I need to make my life better?

NO it won't, but what it WILLdo, is give you an opportunity to decide what you want, why you want it and help you get into a more positive frame of mind. Talking therapy, will help you to heal from your past wounds, help you to have some self-compassion and most of all with the support of another human being sort out what is important for you.

'Talking Therapy is not magic but it does work'

Sylvia's Blog

An ongoing series of informational entries




"New Year .....New You"?

Whether you enjoyed or endured the Christmas period, the festivities are over for another year.  This time of year many of us take the opportunity to reflect on where we are and make plans on what we would like to achieve in the coming year.

At this time of year, the usual suspects, are to lose weight and or to get healthy.  This usually translated into go on a diet and join a gym.  Some of us think about our careers and promise to look for a new job, perhaps reduce work related hours in favour of quality time with family and friends.  Some of us might have noticed that we have got a bit bored, or sedentary and we decide to take up a new hobby or start a new course.  Whatever is decided, the intended outcome is to improve ourselves and our lives in some positive way.

How can counselling or therapy help with your plans for a new you?

 Counselling can help you to fine tune your plans so that you put your efforts into achieving the goals that will help you grow into that new you.  Counselling can help you look at the quality of the relationships or communication you have with others and improve them to get your needs met.  Counselling can be  helpful in allowing you to make the important decisions you want to make without the discomfort of discussing them with family and friends before you are ready.

How do you improve yourself, when you are feeling, low, disconnected from others. Perhaps you have experienced your first Christmas without a loved one. It is possible that the stress of the festive season contributed to a breakdown in your relationship and you are facing the new year alone. Did you just spend yet another year on your own, with nobody to share your life events or special moments and feeling depressed and lacking motivation and energy.

 Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can help you reduce the symptoms of low mood so you can plan and get motivated.  Do you spend too much time worrying instead of planning or actually doing anything.  Do you suffer from fears, phobias and anxieties that stop you from enjoying your life or trying new things. A short course of CBT can make the difference you need to help you to become the 'New You'.

So this year, whilst making your new years resolution, perhaps add a few sessions of counselling or CBT to the list.  Those sessions could be the difference in doing what is needed to create the 'New You!'

This year, get some help to become the 'New You'



Planning for the holidays

"What are your plans for Christmas"?

At this time of year this is probably the most asked question.  This will be asked whether you celebrate Christmas or not.  For some this will be the opportunity to go into detail about who is coming for Christmas, or where they are going.

If you somehow manage to avoid this question, you will no doubt have noticed that from your favourite coffee shop, cafe, grocery store or supermarket, to your local high street, the Christmas lights, snowman or other festive symbolism has been let out of the cupboard, along with festive 'musak' of sleigh bells and Santa.

I even noticed that the BBC has already started advertising its festive programming, along with the Cinema's and of course the advertising from the larger chains and brands.

For some of us out there, the idea of cosy fires, gifts, parties, meeting up with friends and family is a welcome one.  However just imagine if you actually can't stand your relatives, you don't want to make the journey home to celebrate with people whom you have managed to leave behind the rest of the year.  

How about if you have just lost a loved one and can't bear the idea of spending the festive season without them, or that you have just broken up from a relationship and you are resentful of being reminded that you are on your own.

There are also those of us, who are lonely most of the year, but at this time it is brought home how alone we really are.  What if the inevitable argument at the family table fills you with dread, or worse still that you will sit their in humble silence when you are reminded by well meaning (or not) relatives how you have failed in their eyes.

Will you be the one, who is expected to have everyone in your home.  However, just for once, you would like to have someone notice you and make a fuss of you and invite you to their home.

Whatever, you are dreading, sometimes getting a little professional help could make all the difference.  Seeing a counsellor to talk about your bereavement to help  you cope this Christmas, or getting support to come to terms with that break-up.  Perhaps you can't say no, but talking to someone about how you feel about the dread in the pit of your stomach at the thought of the festive season and what it means to you may be helpful.

So the question that I am asking is:

"Can counselling help you this Christmas?"



Is it Ok to go to counselling?

"Who goes to counselling"?

I am often asked, "who goes to counselling"? I usually start off by saying "all kinds of people". This response is usually met with disbelief. The conversation usually goes like this:

"Well surely there must be something wrong with them."

"Don't they have any friends or family to talk to."

"They must have something terribly wrong with them..."

"They have too much money or just like hearing the sound of their own voice"

"Maybe they are just plain mad!"

Usually when I am met with such a response, I wait patiently for the person to finish. The list of what is wrong with someone who would seek out counselling of their own volition is much longer, but you get the point.  

Sometimes I even get an example of someone they know who went for counselling, and then left their job, fell out with their family members and thoroughly made a mess of their lives...according to the person telling the story.

To settle things down I give an example of an imaginary person called Dave.

Dave is good at his job, he has just finished a really good project and his boss is impressed. 'Dave', the boss says 'it would be really great if you could present your project at the next meeting of senior managers at the end of the month, I want everyone to know what good work you have done'.

Dave smiles stiffly and agrees. The rest of the day Dave is on edge and goes home early looking a bit drained. Dave finds it difficult to sleep that night, he is terrified of public speaking. Everyone will be looking at him, what if he makes a mistake or just can't speak. Everyone will be judging him and thinking what a prat! 

As the days go by, Dave worries more and more, he can't start the presentation, he isn't sleeping well and two weeks before the presentation Dave has a panic attack outside the tube station on his way to work so he returns home and calls in sick.

At this stage my listener is saying "poor Dave, I can just imagine how he feels".

I continue with my story as at this stage my listener wants to know more about Dave and his problem.

Dave's wife suggests that he goes to the doctor as he is sleeping poorly, having difficulty catching his breath and has a tight feeling in his chest.

Dave goes along to the doctors, and after the consultation the doctor does not prescribe sleeping pills or an appointment for a chest X-ray. The GP suggests that a few sessions of counselling may be beneficial. Not wanting to argue with the GP, Dave agrees and dutifully goes off to counselling.

Counselling helps Dave to understand that his physical symptoms are linked to his fear of giving the presentation. Dave talks through his fears that started in childhood, and by the end of the session Dave starts to feel that maybe he could give the presentation after all.

Over the next few days, Dave tells his wife and a few close colleagues of his fears about the presentation and with their encouragement and help he puts together the presentation.

Dave felt sweaty, a little nauseous before he started giving the presentation, but he knew it was just his anxiety. He was shocked to find that his audience loved it, they listened to every word. One of the senior managers even commented on how confident he looked.

My listener, then says, "counselling helped Dave to talk about what was bothering him, giving him the confidence to seek support and help from others and was able to cope with his anxiety...."

At this point I usually let it sink in for a bit, and then the person says "actually now that you mention it, I was thinking that I could get some counselling for......."

So the question that was really being asked is:

"Can someone like me go to counselling?"



Critical Self Talk

"I think therefore I am"...what does this mean in therapeutic terms?

I often come across individuals who say, what's important to them is what they think of themselves in their head. 

'What's wrong with that view?' ....Well it is often said by those who are aware that others do not experience them in the same way that they view themselves.  Its often a way of holding on to a damaging view of self that may drive a person to seek therapy.  What is it that such a person expects from therapy?

Do they expect that the therapist will agree with how they view themselves and therefore get validation?

Or perhaps they want help to find out why they think about themselves the way they do?

In such cases I am always curious as to how such an individual thinks that they are experienced by my surprise the individual can have a good picture of how others experience them, but will often say that it doesn't matter.  In a therapeutic relationship it is seductive to think with a client why they think of themselves in this way or that...

However, how we are experienced by others will significantly impact on how others relate to us, the opportunities that are offered and will  no doubt shape our experience of the world that we, friends, work, education etc.  

So...whilst it is comforting to have validation, and it can be a worthwhile journey to understand why we are the way we are, this can only be part of the picture.  Coming to terms with how others experience us, must also be a focus of our therapeutic journey.  Therefore as a client you may need to consider the idea that perhaps your therapist will help you use and value how others experience you as a way of helping you to amend what you think about yourself!

"I think therefore I can...."

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