Coping with the Stress of Parenthood

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Stress and parenthood go hand in hand.  Coping with lively children, not to mention running a home and holding down a job and all the other myriad demands on us, creates tension.  The seemingly unrelenting pressures which we face on a daily basis can conspire to push us over the edge – headaches, sleeplessness, excess alcohol, unhappiness, panic attacks, anxiety and depression – all commonly experienced and often the result of physical and psychological stress.

Creating excitement in our lives can be very productive and can brighten up a dull routine. While a certain amount of stress is actually a very positive thing – too much stress, however, is not.

The moment a child is conceived the balance shifts from a world where, by and large, we alone dictate the pace of life to the demands of another.  The worry of pregnancy and stress of childbirth, to crying babies, bedtime tantrums, the “terrible twos”, school problems and teenage rebelliousness – each state of growing up places different demands on parents.  Even mealtimes can be a source of stress and tension.

The warning signs of stress are personal to each of us and these vary from headaches, aches and pains, skin rashes and upset stomach.  Very often we will be prone to certain ailments that have been troubling us for a long time.  Strange as it may sound, I tell clients to “make friends” with these ailments and view them as the body telling the mind that it needs to look around and make some changes.  Often they will have battled with these ailments for years, seeing them as the enemy, but simply by shifting perspective, we can begin to help ourselves.  By becoming aware of our emotional reactions and noticing increases in tension, mood swings and shortness of temper, we can take remedial action early.  We may not always be aware of our mood state and so it can be helpful if our partner or someone close to us can tell us if we are unusually irritable or grumpy (they will of course need to do so in a very loving way so as not to appear critical then become the target of a sharp tongue!)

When we are stressed even the smallest of irritations can seem monumental,  such as the children spilling drinks, or the saucepan boiling dry and even trips to the supermarket and pre-planned visits to friends can seem like major expeditions.  Often we become fretful and the list of things to do builds up to the point where we do not know which way to turn or which task to do next.  This is the point to stop and draw breath.  If not…then stress is likely to manifest in more extreme ways, for example, obsessive checking that the door is shut, or the cooker is switched off, inability to make even simple decisions such as what to cook the family for supper, drinking alcohol during the day or consuming painkillers excessively.  Mood dips may manifest as depression with increased lethargy and inability to copy with the normal everyday routine.  When under stress, the behaviour of people might change quite considerably – gregarious people may become withdrawn, laughter and smiles can be replaced with tearfulness, insecurity and worry.  The quiet, gentle person you know may disappear and in their place an aggressive, moody spectre.  Closeness and decreased interest in sex may be noticed, or similarly desire for gratification in ways that are out of character for that person.  The signs and symptoms of stress are all there, we just don’t recognise them.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • In the past six months have you been noticing changes in yourself or the world around you?
  • Do you lack energy and feel tired more easily?
  • Are people around you increasingly annoying you?
  • Do you seem to be working harder and harder and accomplishing less?
  • Are you often overwhelmed with sadness you cannot explain?
  • Do you find it difficult to make decisions?
  • Are you forgetful?
  • Do you feel irritable and short-tempered?
  • Are you shouting more?
  • Have you stopped seeing friends and going out and having fun?
  • Are you suffering from aches and minor ailments?
  • Are you unable to laugh and joke…is joy elusive?
  • Does sex seem more trouble than it is worth?
  • Does playing with the children or having conversations seem too much?

Stress is reversible – start by stopping.  Next, think about how you can be kind to yourself.  Have an evening to pamper yourself; buy some bath oils and give yourself time to reflect; plan an evening out or do something you have not been able to do for a while.  Sit down with a piece of paper and firstly make a note of all the physical symptoms of stress, e.g. difficulty relaxing, increased irritability, tearfulness, irrational fears, feeling constantly under pressure, frustration and anger, sadness and withdrawal etc.

Let these be your markers:  score 0 – 10 beside each and at weekly intervals review your scores.  Next, look at your life and write down all the possible causes of stress.  Look for major life events such as a recent house move or bereavement.  Note worries such as trouble with teenagers, or concerns such as redundancy or disputes with neighbours, relationship difficulties, money worries etc.  Some of these areas will just need time to settle while others such as children’s homework problems may be resolved by a word with the child’s class teacher.

Next, look at your life and what you can change.  For example, ironing as you wear clothes might be preferable to a whole evening stood ironing.  Look at prioritising jobs into “musts”, “shoulds” and can waits”.  Talk to your partner, friends and family or find yourself a good therapist – share your concerns.  Try to make gradual changes to make your life easier – trying to change everything at once will only create more stress.  The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone – there are many people feeling the same way as you do, but you can make changes to your life, however seemingly simple, which can make a great deal of difference.  Start by listening to what your mind and body are telling you.

Until next time, Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @

Visit our facebook sites:

Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.                                                               Registered Mental Nurse.                                                                                                     Registered Nurse for Learning Disabilities.


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Restore your calm with Mindfulness Meditation



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If you thought meditation was just about shaven headed monks sitting cross legged with incense wafting about, you would be wrong. Sure, you can sit cross legged and burn incense if you wish, (I often do) but mindfulness meditation is more than this.

Mindfulness meditation was developed by Jon Kabut-Zinn in the late 1970’s. With its roots in the ancient art of meditation (as practised by shaven headed monks), he took it a step further, teaching people how to access their own internal resources for balance and healing through the cultivation of moment by moment awareness.

Being mindful is about being present in the moment, without judgement, in the here and now. You might think this is easy, but you would be wrong. To illustrate, try this. Sit with your eyes closed just focusing on the present moment. Just allow the thoughts to be there and just be aware of them. What do you notice? Well most probably you will find that your mind leaps continuously from thought to thought, from the comment somebody said earlier today, to what you need to buy at the shops. A constant mix of past and future thoughts, worries and concerns…it is no wonder most of us feel stressed.

Learning to let go of the past and not get caught up in the future can really help.

The key to mindfulness is to learn to simply watch the thoughts that drift in to your mind. Like clouds in the sky, acknowledge them without getting caught up or entering a dialogue with them, then let them pass away as you would clouds in the sky. Another way of looking at this is to imagine the thoughts were adverts on a radio between songs or on television between programmes. Just leave them to play without buying into them.

Mindfulness meditation does take regular practice to really master. But it is a whole lot easier than learning a musical instrument or learning how to dance.No chords to learn or partners needed. Just incense and the ability to sit cross legged, no seriously. Just a few minutes each day or when you have time and you will soon notice the benefits.

Mindfulness practice is really worthwhile and has many health benefits including: Lasting decreases in both physiological and psychological arousal. increased ability to relax, greater energy and enthusiasm for life, improved self esteem, improved relationships, more creative capacity to cope with stress and improved concentration.

Here is a good mindfulness technique to get you started. It is known as mindfulness breathing. Remember the aim of this exercise is to cultivate a state of calm, non-judgemental awareness. Simply allow thoughts and feelings to come and go, bringing your awareness back to the rise and fall of your tummy as breath comes in and out. Initially you may have to consciously bring your awareness back to the breath many times. This is fine, even those who very experienced at meditation might have days when they find letting go a struggle. Being aware of getting caught up in your thoughts and then letting them go, is absolutely fine and shows that you are doing it just right.

Letting go with mindful breathing.

Find yourself somewhere quiet to sit, where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes and bring your attention to your breathing.

Focus your mind on your tummy and imagine that you have a balloon in your tummy. Become aware of the gentle in and out as you inhale and exhale. You might find that placing a hand on your tummy helps if you have difficulty feeling the movement.

Notice the sensations as your tummy inflates and deflates. Your tummy getting larger as the imaginary balloon inflates and smaller as it deflates.

Allow thoughts to come into your mind, that is fine, because that is perfectly normal. Simply notice them with a sort of mildly interested curiousness. Say to yourself, “they are not important” then simply let them drift away as other thoughts take their place.

Now just bring your attention back to your breathing.

Likewise, you may notice feelings, emotions, images or hear sounds near or far. Just notice them, then let them go. Notice how your body relaxes. Then bring your attention gently back to your breathing.

With all thoughts, feelings or whatever, don’t judge them, try not to get caught up with them. It’s OK for them to come and go. Just notice them and let them drift away.

Whenever you notice yourself and your attention getting caught up with them, just gently bring your attention back to your breathing. No matter how many times it happens, just bring your attention back to your breathing.

Try this for two minutes at first, then five minutes and then gradually increase the time as you become more proficient. This is the art of mindfulness meditation. If you do no more than master this technique you will notice huge benefits to your life.

If you would like to learn more about mindfulness meditation contact us at or for more on mindfulness look at or

A good book on mindfulness meditation is: “Full catastrophe living; How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation” by Jon Kabat-Zinn


Until next time, Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @

Visit our facebook sites:

Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.                                                               Registered Mental Nurse.                                                                                                     Registered Nurse for Learning Disabilities.

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“Skypeotherapy” – how internet therapy can help you


Have you ever considered Skype therapy?

These days when you need to talk to someone about your problems you can do so from the comfort of your armchair. The benefits of on-line therapy mean that you can access therapy anywhere in the world at a time that suits you. No more having to miss time off work, arrange for child care or spend half an hour each way travelling. Many people now enjoy the convenience of talking to their personal therapist and getting support in their own homes and offices where they feel most comfortable.

For mental health difficulties such as depression, anxiety and panic; or conditions such as agoraphobia, Skype can offer that first step to getting help. In my own practice I have been providing Skype therapy to people all over the world for some time. Over time little glitches like time delay have been ironed out and with a delivery system close to traditional therapy, Skype can afford all the intimacy of the consulting room with the bonus of internet flexibility.

For the on the move business person where “time is money,” cutting out the journey to and from the consulting room can mean an hour or so, is not wasted travelling. For those in far off countries without access to therapy, Skype really comes into its own. Internet therapy or Skypeotherapy as it is also known, has really hit it off with the younger generation. To be able to talk to your therapist on your mobile in the privacy of your bedroom with no one asking you where you are off to and pay on-line has many advantages. Many men, who traditionally have avoided talking about their problems are nowadays much more likely to access this type of help.

If you would like to learn more about Skypeotherapy or book up an introductory taster session why not contact me via my website:

Until next time, Steve

We would be delighted if you visit our facebook sites:

Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.


Ref: “Depressed patients turn to the internet for Skypotherapy” The Telegraph, 24/12/14

2015 – it’s time to ditch your “inner critic”




Have you got an inner critic that keeps putting you down? That little voice that undermines you at every opportunity?

Self-critical thoughts, or, for want of a more apt description, “stinking thinking” has the potential to undermine all good feelings, lower self-esteem and chip away at self-worth. This inner critic can get in the way of close relationships and achieving life goals. Negative self-evaluations such as, “I’m not as good as others,” or “I couldn’t possibly do that,” very often limit the things we try, because we do not feel good enough and expect to fail. In my work as a therapist I see many people with deep insecurity stemming from childhood, perhaps, driven to overcompensate with a need to succeed in order to placate the inner critic. The voice that constantly tells them they are not good enough or need to do better.drives them to strive for perfectionism, an impossible task which will ultimately see them fail. In so doing, reinforcing the belief that they are not quite up to it or should try harder.Many are deeply unhappy, knowing that life could be so much better if only they could cast this critical inner voice aside.

The roots of self-criticism very often go back to childhood, perhaps we were subjected to a critical parent or overly harsh teacher, maybe we were told we were not good enough or had strong moral or religious teaching that shaped our outlook. Wherever the seeds were sown, you can bet that self -critical thoughts surface when you don’t want them, probably when you are feeling vulnerable, low in mood or insecure.

So how can you overcome self-critical thinking? Well, it won’t happen overnight, firstly you need to be more compassionate towards yourself, more accepting. Then with a detached non-judgemental stance begin to listen for themes and identify the messages. Ask yourself, “Who do these voices or statements remind me of?” Respond and quietly challenge, for example saying, “Its OK to make mistakes, that’s how people learn.” Resist all temptation to chastise yourself, don’t say things like, “Don’t be stupid.” Try to understand how such messages shape your behaviour and then try to change self-limiting behaviours. Learn to ignore the negative inner voice, just let it chatter away as if it was an advert on a radio station in between songs, just let it go.

Most psychotherapists can help with self-criticism and low self-esteem. Contact the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies – for details of CBT practitioners in your area or you can contact us on –

Here are ten tips to help you to overcome self-criticism:

  1. Never, never, put yourself down. Instead talk to yourself with compassion as you would to a child.
  2. Ask yourself, “Have I had similar thoughts before? What happened then? Is there anything different this time? What can I learn from previous occasions?”
  3. Try to focus on your strengths not your shortcomings.
  4. Build your self-esteem and worth by reading books on positive thinking daily.
  5. Don’t mock yourself, don’t ever call yourself “stupid” or similar again. Mocking this way will erode your self-esteem and worth.
  6. Look for evidence that disproves your thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is there an alternative explanation. Are there facts that I am overlooking?”
  7. Ask yourself, “If my best friend had this thought what would they do?”
  8. Forgive yourself, you are human after all. Being human means that you will make mistakes. Celebrate your the fact that you are human and embrace your mistakes for mistakes are part of the human condition and it is only through them that we learn.
  9. Free yourself from “should’s, musts and ought’s,” replace them with “could, might and maybe.”
  10. When you hear that critical inner voice, say to yourself, “There is that voice again, I don’t have to listen to you, you are the voice of yesterday, not today.”

Until next time, Steve

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype Please contact us through our website @

Visit our facebook sites:

Steve Clifford Senior Accredited Integrative Psychotherapist.                                           Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

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