We all need hope in 2014.

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As Michael Schumacher lies in his bed in intensive care, the surgeons, the nurses, his wife and family all hope he will come through and make a full recovery. We are all behind them, listening to every news bulletin hoping to hear that his situation is improving.

Yet there are those who look on dispassionately, some, perhaps jealous of his motor racing success, might say that if you indulge in dangerous sports you deserve all you get. Whether motor racing, skiing or partaking in any sport where there is risk, each of us know that accidents might happen. The girl (or boy) who gets attacked by a gang walking home from a New Year’s Eve party,because they have not been able to tolerate the alcohol they have drunk, do they deserve it?

The reality is that we are human beings who deserve the love and kindness of others, not to be judged by the circumstances that led us into trouble. Love, kindness, compassion and hope are what we want for 2014.

Yes, there are many reasons for us to feel that we have had enough of migrants coming to our shores, scare stories abound about the latest group of economic refugees due to hit our shores, but that should not stop us offering hope to some individuals for a better life. Indeed, whether or not we should be open to all, is a vexed question and one I am not qualified to answer. However, perhaps offering the hand of kindness to a few people from war torn Syria is another matter. Would you turn away the boy or girl at your doorstep, injured by thugs because you were having a dinner party and your house was full?

We all need hope, hope that others will be there for us when we need it. When the chief anaesthetist, Professor Jean-Francois Payen who is treating Michael Schumacher, stated that medical literature suggest he has a 40-45 per cent likelihood of recovery from his injuries, he added, “I don’t work with statistics, I work with patients.” That is the point, we all need hope, whether it is the recovering alcoholic, the person breaking free from a bad relationship or someone recovering from a bout of mental ill health, hope and well wishes from others is what we all need.

Just as anyone recovering from a brain injury will need everyone around them to believe in the possibility of recovery, however remote, and to work tirelessly to put every ounce of energy into treating them, helping them to get better, the same must be said of the person with mental illness in that every one involved works tirelessly for their recovery. There is no excuse for sloppy mental healthcare any more than there is for sloppy physical healthcare ( not that the two should be separated anyway!) but the person tormented by voices, just as the person wracked with physical pain deserves the same high standards of treatment.

It is fitting that the two “whistle blowers” in the Staffordshire hospital scandal should get recognition. More people need to speak out. As I write this I can be sure that someone, somewhere is being treated cruelly. Whether it is the boy or girl with learning disabilities or the elderly person in a residential care.

We all need hope. Hope that someone will be there and will listen to us in our hour of need. That a Good Samaritan will stop and offer us help when we are in need. Hope that someone will take the time and trouble to comfort our family when we are not able to, to explain to them what is going on when they feel alone and helpless, not understanding what is going on. We need hope that this year will be a better one and that simple acts of kindness will replace harsh words, judgemental minds and rudeness. That health professionals will listen and not assume they know best.

Whatever any of us do, we need to speak out to get the highest standards of care for those less able to speak out for themselves. People need hope, love and care, patents are people after all, not statistics in medical literature.

Let us support each other in 2014.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

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Ten tips for less Stress in 2014

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Most of the stress we experience in life is self-inflicted. We can’t do much to change the weather and traffic jams will still be an inevitable part of the daily commute in 2014. We will still have the same twenty-four hours in a day and bills will still need to be paid. However, by making a few small changes to our outlook, combined with some practical tweaks along the way and the stress can be reduced by as much as 50% in some cases.

Tip 1. Get up an hour earlier. No, this isn’t my sadistic suggestion number one! Having a bit of quiet time for you before the family gets up can really allow you to have quiet time for reflection, meditation, a leisurely shower or bath. Starting the day on “slow, gentle and peaceful” setting rather than ” hurried, rushed and late” mode will really make a difference to your outlook for the rest of the day.

Tip 2. Go to bed earlier (combine this with getting up an hour earlier). Before you do, spend just a few minutes “putting the day to rest”. Get a pen and paper (not computer screen and keypad!) and mentally replay the day. Think back and make a note of all the positives, the little successes of the day. It is very easy to focus on the negatives and this is where you do things differently. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, in 2014 we are going to focus on what went well, give ourselves a pat on the back and really begin to enhance our self esteem. Now finally make a note of what needs to be attended to tomorrow.

Tip 3. Having started the day an hour earlier, you can now allow plenty of time for your daily commute, whether that is to work, school and dropping off the children, the shops or wherever. The important thing is to allow sufficient time to ensure this is an unhurried journey. Hospital or medical appointments can become leisurely affairs with time to enjoy your favourite book, traffic jams can be places to listen to your favourite music or perhaps an audio book or a business podcast.

Tip 4. Slow down and respect others. This means listening to people without rushing to interject, no longer finishing people’s sentences. Instead respect and take time to listen, really listen and then consider your response before jumping in. Try it for an hour and you will see the difference it makes immediately to your stress levels.

Tip 5. Prioritise. At the start of each day write a list with the key things you need to attend to. Accept that there will always be more coming in than going out. You have a finite amount of time to do a finite amount of things.

Tip 6. Accept. There is no such thing as perfection.  No one is perfect, so do not expect perfection from yourself or others. Focusing on perfection takes us away from “inner peace and calm.” Try to be a “good enough” person and accept that the need for perfection is a losing battle that will only leave you feeling frustrated, stressed and dissatisfied.

Tip 7. From January 1st start to say “No.” Be realistic, do not take on everything, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Let 2014 be “the year of the human being,” not the “human doing.” Set yourself realistic goals so that you do not find yourself becoming overwhelmed.

Tip 8. You do not always have to be right. It is ok to give in occasionally. Competing and battling all the time can be a major source of stress. Allow yourself to be flexible and to learn compromise. meeting others halfway.  Of course you will want to stand your ground if your right, but don’t take every opportunity to criticise and put others down.

Tip 9. Get active. Begin in a small way, taking the stairs instead of the lift. Washing your car instead of taking it top a car wash, going for a walk at the weekend with your family. Getting some regular exercise is a powerful way to reduce stress. It is a great tonic for the body as well as the mind.

Tip 10. In direct contrast to tip 9, slow down! Take time to relax, meditate and have time for quiet reflection. At the end of the day before you go home stop somewhere to take in nature, just five minutes will make all the difference. Promise yourself that you will read a book this year (A real one, made of paper, one of those things with pages that you turn by hand!) Take up a hobby and bring some good old fashioned fun back in your life in 2014.

Extra Tip – Find someone to talk to and give you some support while you make the changes you need to de-stress your life – Best wishes for 2014.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image ref: [[File:2014 and fireworks.jpg|thumb|2014 and fireworks]]

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                          Like us @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                      Tweet us @ cbt4you