Football Tackles Stigma

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The Football Association (F.A) is at the forefront of leading sports bodies tackling mental health issues both on and off the pitch. Professional footballers, so long seen as heroes and often afforded almost God like status, are, when it comes to it, mere mortals like the rest of us. They too suffer from stress, insecurities, anxiety and depression. Footballers such as Stan Collymore, Paul Gascoigne, Gary Speed and Clarke Carlisle have all battled mental health problems.

In the space of just a few years with high level players coming forward there is a shift happening. No longer is the stigma such, that sports personalities have to stay silent for the sake of their careers.  However, until such time that we can all be open in every walk of life to talk openly about our mental health difficulties, I am afraid many will choose to suffer in silence because they are afraid it will affect their careers.

It is a really positive thing that across sport itself, mental health issues and stigma are being addressed. This will really help to shape the views of young people, who are themselves the future of sport and ambassadors for change.

The F.A is developing educational forums with workshops aimed at coaches, referees, players and others involved in the game at all levels; while the Professional Footballers Association provides a 24 hour mental health helpline staffed by trained counsellors.

The pressures of playing at a high level, risk of injury and the emotional highs and lows all contribute to emotional stress. A study by the World Players Union (FIFPro), indicated that 38% of professional footballers suffer symptoms of depression and anxiety.

It’s not only football that has taken a lead in tackling stigma and mental health problems. The Sport and Recreation Alliance along with other sports bodies in partnership with MIND, the mental health charity, have developed a mental health charter for sport and recreation.

Rugby has launched its “state of mind” programme to raise awareness of mental health issues. Ambassadors for mental health include Great Britain and England international player Adrian Morley and super league clubs all have indroduced player welfare managers. Other sports such as cricket have mental health ambassador Andrew Flintoff and Monty Panesar championing the cause.

Source: “Sport Fights Stigma” by Pennie Taylor, Benenden members magazine: Be healthy, Spring 2017, Issue 38.

Image Reference: By Andre Kiwitz (originally posted to Flickr as olympics-soccer-11) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Time to welcome in the Spring

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This is probably my favourite time of the year. Lengthening days and the promise of things to come. April is a wonderful time of renewal. Sunshine and showers feed the earth, and all around the plant world is coming to life. Humans too can take their cue from nature and begin to take on new projects, looking ahead to the summer.

As you go about your day to day activities take time look at all the buds emerging and tiny leaves beginning to unfurl. Almost minute by minute it would seem that nature is bringing about incredible changes. Now is a really good time for each of us to think about changes. Spring really is a good time to bring about some positive lifestyle tweaks.

Here are a few tips that I will be endeavouring to bring into my life and which you too you might find helpful.

Strive to create a more balanced life. Stop being a slave to work, whether that be in the office or at home. Instead look to relaxation and rejuvination as primary goals to bild into life, not luxury “add ons.”

Get out for more walks. There is nothing better than a daily dose of fresh air to awaken the senses.  Take some time to enjoy a walk in the woods or by a tranquil stream, the peace allows us to re-charge and let go of stress.

Take time to nurture your friendships. Just like plants, our friends need a little TLC if they are to develop into lasting relationships and not wither away. As humans we are a social species and we need companionship and to feel valued and to value others. People who do not have friends often experience loneliness and isolation, a pre-cursor to low mood, sadness and depression.

Everyday tell at least one person something you like and appreciate about them. As I mentioned, above we all need to feel valued and appreciated. The opposite is to feel “taken for granted,” a not very nice feeling.

Try to reduce you “to do” list and cut yourself some slack. Space things out and slow. As the old saying goes, “take time to smell the flowers.”

Here’s one of my “notes to self,” Aim to get a little healthier and Cut out the “CRAP” – Reduce your consumption of Caffeine, Refined sugars, Alcohol and Processed food.

Behave towards yourself as you would a friend you care about. Listen to your inner comassionate voice and not your inner critic.

Choose being kind over being right. Stop bying into all that is negative in the world and all the badness. Make it your mission to look around at all that is good and right in the world. Look for the simple acts of human kindness and see if you can contribute in your own little way towards the greater good.

Finally, take time for fun and be fun, learn to laugh at yourself and see the funny side of things. Try to take life less seriously, have a laugh and smile more, after all, its proven to make you happier.

Until next time, take care.

Steve.

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Suicidal Feelings – How to get help

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Sometimes painful feelings lead people to contemplate suicide. The pain can seem unbearable and life can seems pointless. Feelings of self loathing may make you think that you are useless, and that everyone would be better off without you.

You may be filled with thoughts of anger, guilt or shame. Sometime painful feelings such as loss can leave you feeling empty and that life is not worth living. Maybe you feel you are to blame and that there is no alternative but to end your life.

You may feel that suicide is the only solution, the only way you can take control. Perhaps feelings of anger, guilt or shame overwhelm you. You may start to think that suicide is the only way out.

Even if you don’t know why you feel the way you do, suicidal thoughts simply may just be so overwhelming that you can see no way out.

Please don’t despair. You may think that no one can help you, perhaps you are actively avoiding people and planning how you can take your life. Maybe you feel so deeply hurt or are filled with rage and turning your feelings inside, or perhaps so angry with another that you want to punish them and suicide seems a good option.

Please seek help. You are not alone, many people with suicidal thoughts do not go on to kill themselves. If you are reading this, you have already taken that important first step in getting help.

You may be filled with shame and think you are beyond help, but please reach out. Your doctor will be used to helping people in your situation. They will be able to get you the help you need.

There are a number of treatment options from medication to talking treatments, including counselling and psychotherapy to help you come to terms with your feelings and explore your thoughts. The aim of which is to enable you to make sense of what is going on, to help you to find a solution to your problems.

If you are reading this and are concerned about someone you know:

Make sure you tell them that you want to help them.

Make sure you tell them that you will help them seek help.

Don’t promise that you will be able to help them by yourself or without telling others. This is too big an issue for you to bear on your own.

Whether you may like it or not, the person that threatens suicide is responsible as to what they do with their life.

Tell them that you do not want them to do it.

Ask if they are angry with you or want to hurt you? Tell them that they do not need to act it out this way.

Enabling the other person to talk about their feelings can be a great relief to them, it will help diffuse some of the tension and is likely to give them “permission” to tell you if thoughts turn to intent.

When actual suicide intent is expressed, ask them how they plan to do it and if they can picture themselves doing it.

Remember, at this stage where the person may see no future, suicidal thoughts may appear perfectly logical and they may see no reason to live at all.

Try to get them to hold on, negotiate a window or time frame that they will hold off until.

Remove or hide all dangerous drugs or other implements that they may have expressed a desire to use in the act.

Get help straight away.

With best wishes,Steve

Other sources of help:

Your local hospital A & E Department.

Samaritans – Offer 24 hours support on 08457 90 90 90 or email: jo@samaritans.org.

Papyrus – Offer advice for young people at risk of suicide and can be contacted on 0800 068 41 41.

MIND – Can provide information and help can be contacted via the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or via email at info@mind.org.uk or via their website: http://www.mind.org.uk

Saneline – Offer advice and practical information and can be contacted on 0845 767 8000.

turn2me.org – Offer free online counselling.

Maytree Suicide Respite Centre – Registered charity supporting people in suicidal crisis in a non-medical setting. If you, or someone you know, could benefit from a one-off stay in a safe and confidential space, please call – 020 8038 3588 or email maytree@maytree.org.uk.

Main references:

“How to Cope with Suicidal Feelings”(2007) Mind information booklet.
“Overcoming Depression” 1987) Dr Richard Gilllett, Dorling Kindersley

Image: By Baker131313 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How to Manage Obsessive Worry

Obsessive worry can really feel overwhelming. It can feel as if there is simply no escape from constant ruminations and can be like a mental battle. It is as if the more you try to stop it, the more it persists. Well, the good news is that it can be controlled and overcome.

Obsessive worry often goes round and round like a negative loop. Like “thought suppression” the more you try to push it away the more it fights back. It’s rather like trying to hold a beach ball underwater, futile, because as soon as you relax your hold, it pops right up to the surface again. Over time obsessive worry can become habitual. The longer you spend ruminating the deeper into you get. It’s rather like going into a “trance”where you have lost the ability to “undo the spell.”

The only way to overcome it is by deliberately “applying your will” and “changing your behaviour.” In other words, you need to “get out if your head” by shifting your mindset, switching to another modality of experience, such as bodily activity, sensory distraction, ritual, expressing your emotions, interpersonal communication, or learning to detach from your thoughts. Sometimes people with obsessive worry will find they have let go of a specific worry, but will become aware that they are now caught up in a different worry. Sometimes this can afford temporary relief, but the emphasis is on the word “temporary!”

One of the reasons we get so caught up in obsessive worry is that it is in our nature to “problem solve,” if you like, it’s an “evolutionary trait ” something that ensured our ancestors survived, but the seductive pull of an obsessive loop can be very compelling. Often the things we worry about are irrational, or “what if’s” with no answer as such. As we follow the path of least resistance we simply go round and round in a negative spiral. Someone once said, worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere!

Deliberately breaking out of obsessive thinking can appear difficult at first (especially if your highly anxious) but with practice it can be done.

Here are a number of strategies to help you break free from obsessive worry:

1. Engage in physical exercise like running, swimming or something that you will get absorbed in like rock climbing, paint balling or ab-sailing.

2. Practice mindfulness meditation and learn how this discipline can effectively teach you how to let go and disengage. Mindful drawing and colouring can be a great escape.

3. Play powerful and evocative music to release repressed emotions ( emotions such as sadness and anger often underpin or drive obsessive thinking) dance or sing loudly.

4. Engage in discussion with someone about things other than your worries, alternatively confide in someone (sharing your concerns can sometimes lighten the load or help get things in perspective) alternatively find yourself a therapist who can help you manage your worries.

5. Find a distraction that is absorbing such as learning to play the guitar, watch a film or playing a computer game.

6. Turn to sensory motor stimulation by absorbing yourself in activities such as crafts, gardening or even a spot of “retail therapy.”

7. Absorb yourself in a jigsaw puzzle, crossword or word search.

8. Finally, engage in healthy rituals, for example combing abdominal breathing with a chant or positive affirmation that you can repeat, visualise and dwell on to bring about a positive trance induction to dispel the negative trance enforced by the obsessive worry.

Examples of affirmations:

“Let it go”

“These are just thoughts”

“I am relaxed and free from worry”

Until next time

Steve Clifford Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

http://www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Image ref:By Alex (Flickr: [1]) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Source: The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (2005) by Edmund J. Bourne, PH.D. Appendix 4, How to stop obsessive worry. P428-9, New Harbinger Publications

12 Tips to Improve Mental Wellbeing

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When we are talking about mental wellbeing what we are really referring to, is how we are feeling and coping on a day to day basis. For most of us this tends to vary from day to day. If we are feeling unhappy, overwhelmed and struggling with the demands of day to day life, it could be said that our mental wellbeing is not so good. On the other hand if we feel happy, confident, productive and engaged with the world we live in, this is a sign that our mental wellbeing is good. This also tends to suggest that our overall mental health is also good.

Many things can affect our mental wellbeing and such things as loss, relationship difficulties, money worries, work stress and even loneliness. There are also a number of things that may predispose and make us more vulnerable to poor mental health and wellbeing. These include childhood abuse or trauma, social isolation or discrimination, homelessness, poor housing or social isolation or discrimination. Caring for a sick relative or friend, unemployment, long term physical health difficulties and even being the victim of some kind of crime or accident. It could be said that if mental wellbeing is poor over a long period of time this is more likely to result in mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

 

There are however, a number of things that we can do to stay mentally well and build our mental wellbeing. These include:

 

1. Taking time to talk to others about our feelings. There really is some truth in the old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved,” Just talking something through can help us feel lighter. Sometimes another person may be able to offer advice or a different perspective and this can help. It need not necessary be a mental health professional, a caring friend or family member can provide the listening ear so often needed.

 

2. Building friendships and relationships with others is an important part of staying well. Choosing positive, supportive and happy people to be around, rather than negative people who are always moaning and critical is very important. Volunteering and helping others can really help to feel you are helping others and contributing to society.

 

3. Staying physically active is a cornerstone to wellbeing. Good diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise all promote good mental health. Reducing reliance on alcohol, recreational drugs  and cigarettes can also help us to feel better about ourselves as we take care of our bodies.

 

4. Taking up a hobby, interest or pastime is really helpful. Doing things we enjoy can help to express how we feel through activity in way that is similar to childhood play. Whether it’s cooking, gardening or DIY, or maybe something more creative such as joining a local drama group. What we do in between the more mundane activities of life can give us a boost.

 

5. Setting some kind of life goal, “bucket list,” or challenge gives us something to aim for. When we begin to reach our goals we can feel positive about our achievements.

 

6. Learn to recognise the sort of things that drag you down. Keeping a mood diary can help us identify triggers. These may be many and can include people, places and events. Sometimes things like lack of sleep, overwork or even eating certain foods can underpin mood changes. Try to be a detective and identify the villains that scupper your wellbeing.

 

7. Take care of yourself. Try substituting the term “selfish” with the term “self-caring.” In other words, looking after you. Take the pressure of yourself, take small steps towards your goals and learn to be accepting and compassionate towards yourself. In other words, speaking to yourself with kindness and understanding as you would a friend you cared about.

 

8. Learn to accept yourself, stop being critical and learn to take yourself and life a little less seriously. Little things like smiling and saying hello to people, as well as valuing the things you do, however small. Learn to be assertive and trust in yourself a bit more.

 

9. Make building your self esteem and confidence a long term aspiration. Appreciating that you are important and that you are, who you are, a unique human being. Stop comparing yourself with others, forget about striving for perfection, identify your positive traits, such as caring for others or loving your pets.

 

10. Take time to read self help books, websites and blogs (such as this one!) to help you build your mental wellbeing change negative beliefs and old unhelpful ways of thinking and behaving. Find yourself a therapist who can help you work on these areas, think of them as a mental wellbeing coach.

 

11. If you have mental health problems take an active part in your treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about your medication and learn to manage it in a way that helps you. Make sure you know about your medication, side effects and the best times of day to take it. Also if you wish to reduce or come off your medication, try to do it as a team with support from your therapist or healthcare provider. Take time to make a crisis plan and tell health professionals, family and others what helps and doesn’t help.

 

12. Finally join a support group or a group associated with a hobby or interest, such as a knitting, reading or art group. Join others for Pilates or other activities. Reach out to others, accept compliments and find time for you.

 

Until next time

 

Steve

 

 

Ref: How to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing – Mind                             info@mind.org.uk                                                                                                                                   mind.org.uk
Image:By Bart Everson – Flickr: The New Joy, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21362146

Can negative energy give you cancer?

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I believe passionately that mind and body cannot be separated and that one influences the other. As a body therapist as well as a talking therapist, I have seen how stress can manifest in bodily tension, headaches and all manner of ailments. I have witnessed how skin conditions can be exacerbated by worry and how pain can be eased through the power of thought. 
It is not rocket science, there is often a very logical explanation as to how the mind affects the body. For example, you have a job interview or a forthcoming exam and you find yourself experiencing stomach discomfort and you need to go to the toilet. You have a first date and find yourself feeling lightheaded and nauseous. The reason for this is simple, your body is reacting the way it has since prehistoric days. When you have an exam or about to face a new experience that is very important or in which there may be an element of risk, the stress triggers the “fight and flight” response. Your mind tells your body the there is a “threat” and your body responds by preparing you for danger.
At the first hint of trouble the brain sends out chemical messages signalling an impending threat.  The body responds by preparing the either to attack or flee. Nausea signals that the muscles in the stomach are activated to squeeze and relax. It tells the gastrointestinal tract to empty the bowel and we urinate to clear the bladder. We may also vomit and perspire thus ensuring that we have as little excess in our bodies as possible. No need for the body to attend to digesting food while its energies need to be attending to the perceived threat. Our light headed, tingly body and pounding heart all point to blood being diverted to the big muscles of the body preparing us to either fight to the death or run for our lives.
Mind and body working in perfect harmony. Now, the point of this post is really to highlight that while mind and body are one and thoughts do influence bodily reactions; negative thoughts alone cannot give you cancer. This week TV presenter Noel Edmunds claimed that he had developed prostate cancer as a result of stress. The notion that negative thoughts can cause cancer or that certain personality traits make people more susceptible to cancer, is quite frankly, hocus pocus.
Yes, a positive mental attitude and using approaches such as mindfulness to manage pain and discomfort caused by the condition, or to enable us to live a better quality of life while getting appropriate medical treatment is invaluable. Negative thinking would be better addressed through talking therapy and expression of emotions, rather than blaming our illness on our psychological state.
Dr Max, the Daily Mail’s resident psychiatrist in an article on the subject of negative thinking and cancer, goes as far as to say that, ” blaming a cancer sufferer for their own ‘negativity’ is very hateful.” He suggests that these kind of ‘quack’ theories make those with cancer vulnerable to crooks and charlatans who may prey on their misinformed beliefs.
I can really appreciate how people may cling to the hope that powerful thoughts can influence the process of healing. To an extent I subscribe to this view, however, I think we need to exercise a measure of caution. If orthodox medicine is shunned because we believe that our thinking caused our illness and therefore our thinking can cure the disease, then that is such a shame. Complimentary medicine can ‘compliment’ and shape the way we cope with illness and it may also support orthodox medicine, but negative energy and thought alone cannot ’cause’ illnesses such as cancer, however much Noel Edmunds and others would have us believe.
Until next time,

 

Steve Clifford, Psychotherapist

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

 

Image: By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Find your Self-belief

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How many times have you opted to stay in your comfort zone rather than try something new? How many things have you not done because you didn’t believe in yourself? Missing opportunities leaves us feeling regret and erodes our sense of self.

I really believe that all of us were born with infinite energy to achieve things. It takes courage to move out of our comfort zone, but growth happens right on the edge not in the middle. Yes, it may feel scary, but by gritting your teeth and facing your fears of not being good enough you can achieve great things.

There are a number of things you can do to begin to make changes and no better time than the present to do so.  Go out and do something with others, perhaps joining a local choir or club. Many organisations welcome volunteers no matter how little time or experience you have. Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do; it also makes us happier and healthier too.

Going for a walk or doing some other outdoor activity can help with self-esteem. Research shows that getting active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

Trying out new things or learning a new  skill can gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience.

Set yourself some goals for 2016. Something exciting, new, ambitious but realistic.  Setting goals  and having dreams gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

Stop comp airing yourself to others.  No-one’s perfect. Dwelling on our flaws, makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all is the key to improving our self-belief.

If you’ve ever felt there must be more to life? The answer is, there is!  Next time that negative inner voice tries to talk you out of something… say NO.

Make 2016 your year.

Until next time, Steve

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

Twitter @cbt4you

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                                                 Integrative Psychotherapist.                                                                                                                 Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image: By Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE (Colours) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons