Should I see a therapist?

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Well, that really depends on why you want to see a therapist. If you are going to see them with the hope that they will solve your problems, then perhaps not. If, however, you are going to them with the hope that they will help you to solve your problems, then that’s another matter. You see, the job of a therapist is not to “fix,” but instead to help you to mobilise your resources. A good therapist does not solve your problems, but helps you to develop the capacity to solve your own problems.

People often look to have therapy when they have a major life crisis, such as a death, the end of a relationship or the loss of a job. Sometimes people feel empty or inadequate inside, or they may feel that life is not going right and they may feel unfulfilled.

It can take courage to go and see a therapist, after all, firstly the person has to admit they have needs and then they have to face them. Fear of facing painful feelings can prevent people seeking help and many turn to work, alcohol or other coping strategies to push thoughts and feelings out of their consciousness. Therapy does require a commitment from you, but it is worthwhile and talking about difficult emotions in a safe space can be very liberating. Expressing your thoughts and feelings in such a way as to clarify your own situation, come to terms with painful emotions and see your difficulties with greater objectivity can really be helpful.

It is the therapist job to provide you with a space where you can talk without fear of judgement. In other words, a confidential place where you can feel held, secure and safe. For many, the therapy room is a refuge, a sanctuary. I like to think of it as your room, your space within my world. A place where you can return to at any time in your life should you need.

A good therapist will make you feel at ease, they may even feel more like a friend than a professional therapist, someone with whom you may feel you can tell anything. Whilst friendship and friendliness may be an important ingredient, along with warmth, genuineness and congruence they can never be a friend as such. You are seeking their help as a professional not as a chum, buddy, lover or any other relationship.  It is precisely because of the uniqueness of this relationship where warmth and friendship in the therapy space combined with professional integrity come together in the service of your difficulties. Next time you are telling a friend something notice how they will often come back and try to tell you a worse story, or perhaps they will tell you what to do or simply rubbish what you say. A good therapist won’t do this. Of course, there may be a value in the therapist sharing or disclosing something of themselves, they will only do so really if it is deemed to be helpful and supports the therapeutic endeavour. You can be sure of one thing though, unlike a friend or acquaintance, a good therapist won’t dump their garbage on your shoulders!

The term psychotherapist is one that I really like. Not because it is a lovely grandiose title… but because of the original Greek meaning of the word. Here the word therapist literally means “attendant” and the word psyche literally means “spirit” or “soul.” So a psychotherapist is literally a “Soul Attendant.”

One of the problems when deciding that you want to take up therapy is to find the right type of therapy for you. The problem is that there are just so many different types of therapy to choose from. Therapies vary from analytical laying on the couch type therapy, to body therapy, cognitive behavioural, transpersonal to neurolinguistic programming. The list is seemingly endless. I suggest you go to a good bookshop and look for books on therapy in the psychology section, alternatively contact a few therapists and ask them to tell you more about their particular approach.

Probably the best way to find a therapist is through personal recommendation. This may be from your doctor or a friend. The key thing is that the therapists approach has to feel right for you.

These days a lot is spoken about a type of therapy know as cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, which is my own speciality. This is an action-oriented as well as word-oriented therapy. It helps people understand what is happening and what they can do to change the way they feel and react. CBT looks at the way thoughts (cognitions) and beliefs affect our emotions and the meaning we give to events. This affects our emotions and our reactions (behaviours). Unlike some other approaches, CBT is a relatively short term psychotherapeutic approach. The length of therapy tends to depend on the complexity of the presenting problem. A block of sessions ( usually six) may often be enough for a noticeable difference to emerge. Improvement to “quality of life” is often the best measure of success. The goal of CBT could be said, to enable the client to learn ways to address problems and difficulties in order to become their own therapist.

If somebody asked me what do you do? I would reply that I do many things, but one of the most important things is”tilting the mirror.” In other words. Reflecting back in such a way as enable the client to glimpse a slightly different perspective. Helping the client gain insight and understanding. This may be helping the client to see how unhelpful thinking traits, such as catastrophizing mind reading, black and white thinking distort their view of reality. We may look at the meaning they give to events creates a huge emotional upheaval and how stepping back and distancing can help. Then together we look at the problem area and the way it impacts on the person’s life. We consider how life would be different if the problem was resolved. We look at what may need to happen or change, then we look at the emotions arising out of the event or situation and talk about them. Together we identify what needs to happen to bring about resolution of the problem area. Then we identify strategies and goals (or aspirations) to aim for. Working within a specific time frame, using measures and behavioural experiments to help us. Through the course of therapy the client and therapist walk “shoulder to shoulder,” addressing the difficulties In a collaborative way.

Some people say, “I felt worse after my first session,” for others, getting it out in the open can be a great relief. Problems rarely resolve themselves without action, and if they do so, it may not be in the way we desire. Having the opportunity to explore them with another person may help a great deal.

Don’t expect miracles, but don’t dismiss the possibility that resolution of difficulties can feel like a miracle. Therapists are not “miracle workers” and if they present themselves that way, don’t go anywhere near them! The therapist is there to guide you to achieve your goals, not to do the work for you or “make” you feel better. Every session you attend is one step closer to feeling better.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

visit us @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com
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2015 – it’s time to ditch your “inner critic”

 

 

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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 – babcp.com for details of CBT practitioners in your area or you can contact us on – stevecliffordcbt.com

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 @ www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

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

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Thought-Flipping

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All day long our minds are filled with constant chitter chatter. Most of it benign, some of it worry-some, and some of it down right troublesome.

Research suggests we have somewhere in the region of 65,000 thoughts every day and that on average our mental dialogue is in the region of 50 to 300 words per minute.

Much of this is self-talk, inwardly directed and a good deal of it is unhelpful. Because of the way it makes us feel, it is capable of raising our stress levels and bringing down our mood. In CBT circles we talk of NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) or ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts).

Such thoughts are:

AUTOMATIC              They just seem to come into your mind without any concious effort.

DISTORTED               They are not always supported by the things you know to be true.

UNHELPFUL             They are nearly always negative and make it difficult to change.

PLAUSIBLE               You accept them as facts without questioning them.

INVOLUNTARY         You do not choose to have them and they appear difficult to stop.

One of the problems is that we tend to be so identified with our thoughts that we often cannot see them for what they are…just thoughts. Instead, somehow we see them as us, and we feel we have no power over them. Often we give them power, believing them and that we are somehow at the mercy of them. Racing thoughts, obsessive ruminations and irrational fears take over.

How then can we learn to step back and take control? Well, let me introduce you to “thought flipping.”

I would like you to imagine that you are now going to install a “negative thought alarm.” As soon as a negative thought crosses your mind a silent alarm sounds. You then step in with absolute authority, grab hold of the thought and flip it on its head, by thinking the exact opposite.

Yes, expect a little battle at first, when your rational programmed mind tells you that such a practice is ridiculous and could not possibly be true. But like the Master you are, you use your authority and power to respond back in a direct and commanding way. The mind is reminded that it’s former thought was, at the very least, as lousy and ridiculous as the new flipped one. As you are the Master you will choose what is true.

Here is an example of thought flipping where we rewrite the negative mental script.
You find your mood dipping and you notice you are feeling angry with yourself. Your thoughts are as follows: “I am useless and have no sticking power, I missed an entire week at the gym.” By flipping the thought we create a different perspective and this can halt the negative mood slide. “I have been kind and listened
to my body and taken a break from the gym, so I am going to have a really good workout today, because I am truly committed to my goal of feeling good and honouring my mind and body.”

What you need to do is change the wording, in other words rewrite them. Which one do you want to be true? You choose?

It can be really helpful at first to get into the habit of writing down any serial negative thoughts that continue to pop into your mind. Do this when you notice the drain on your emotions and you start to feel down, depressed or anxious:

Write down your thoughts on paper and take a good look at it.

Do you know this thought is a fact, is it true?

Is this a helpful thought, does it serve you?

Write down a counter thought that opposes the negative thought

Change the wording of the thought to something more positive

Now each time the negative thought wants to dominate your thinking, assertively replace it with the new positive alternative.

So here we have it, thought flipping, tackling negative thoughts by re-creating positive alternatives with deliberate intent. Planting positive thoughts this way ensures that we take back control and create the reality we want.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.

 

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

Visit our facebook sites:

www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

www.facebook.com/bexhillmindfulnesscentre

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

 

Adapted from: “Thought-Flipping: A guide for Taking Charge of Your Mind-Stuff,” by Leigh Donovan, 30/06/12, Spirit-full, a personal transformational blog.

Ref: “Negative Automatic Thoughts,”  Central Manchester and Manchester Children’s University Hospitals NHS TRust, Clinical Psychology, 2002

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Food and Mood

 

Most people reading this will recognise that our state of mind and food are inextricably linked. Just as devouring a whole packet of biscuits or demolishing a chocolate bar is something many people crave when feeling tired or fed up, so too, using food to express their mental anguish is a common phenomenon.

These days, thanks to global media coverage, the awareness of conditions like obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia and binge eating are much better understood. Having said that, neither condition is more accepted in our society; however, with the diet and food industry seemingly bombarding us with subliminal messages telling us to eat this, or cut out that, it is no wonder many opt simply for denial.

The food and diet industry have a lot to answer for. Many will remember the advice to avoid butter, eggs and animal protein in meat and dairy, with spreads and low fat alternatives on every supermarket shelf. Yet today, “going to work on an egg” is once again acceptable and many shun spreads and the harmful trans fats they contain in favour of butter once again. Saturated fats are no longer seen as enemy number one. The years of confusing messages have literally turned us all off. Perhaps, Granny was right all along…”a little of what you fancy does you good.”

Diets too have come to be seen as fads that do not work. Remember these: the grapefruit diet, the cabbage diet, the Beverley Hills diet, the Atkins diet, the F-plan? I could go on.  There are the substitutes, too, where liquid meal replacements, biscuits, bars and all manner of alternatives take the place of food.

No wonder we are all confused. Look at the way the supplements industry pedal vitamins, minerals, capsules and powders of every description. All being heralded for their great health benefits. Elixir of life or youth capsules, take your pick, hand over your money and the choice is yours. Who said that snake oil remedies do not exist!

Whichever way we look at it, one thing is certain and that is, eating problems are psychological. With the very rare exception of a metabolic disorder, perhaps;  obesity, anorexia and many other food related conditions have nothing to do with hunger and everything to do with meeting an emotional need. Food is used as a “medicine” to dull down emotional pain, to soothe or to mask an emotional discomfort. Food is a comfort and we all seek to push away discomfort. Food is used to fill up, cover up, and build up a protective barrier.

Quite literally, food (and alcohol) is to the adult, the surrogate breast or bottle. Smoking too, while technically more of an obvious drug than food per se,often serves the same purpose. Yes, food can become addictive as can the hormones released when starving, or the soothing pain felt by an anorexic when they seek to feel “in control.”

To get to the bottom of our emotional discomfort and the role food plays in this really is the domain of the psychological health professional. We need someone to hold up the mirror and tell us what is really going on. We need to understand why it is that our search for the “magic potion” and a “quick fix” will bring us nothing but more suffering. Furthermore, changing eating habits is not easy, after all, making changes means altering our comfort level and most people naturally balk at that.

If you have a food issue seek out a health professional with expertise on eating disorders who has no emotional ties to you. Someone who will hold the mirror up and help you see the real picture and help you to make changes to the way you eat and your relationship to food.

Until next time, best wishes Steve.

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

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

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

Primary Ref: Sullivan, R (2009) “Reclaim your youth, growing younger after 40.” Montgomery Ewing Publishers.

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Eight ways to overcome fatigue and re-energise yourself.

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Are you tired and exhausted trying to do more and more in less and less time? Are you in an energy crisis, too busy to do anything about it or too tired to even realise it? If you are, then chances are, you are one of the many over-worked, over-stressed, over-extended and potentially overwhelmed folk out there trying your best to meet unrealistic demands.

Do I hear you say, “there are not enough hours in the day” or “can’t they see how much I am doing?” Well, chances are they don’t care! Sounds harsh, but the reality is, they are too busy to care. You know the mantra, “If you want something done ask a busy person.”

Accept that the only person who can change things is you.

When you feel tired, accept the fact that you are tired. You really have two choices, keep going and ignore your needs and like a battery you will pretty soon run out of juice. Before that happens you will experience fatigue, exhaustion and open yourself up for headaches, colds and all manner of stress related ills. Worse still your prolonged exhaustion may lead to depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue, burnout and pave the way for more serious health problems.

What can you do about it?

Here are eight changes you can make today that together will add up to a big difference to your energy levels and outlook.

1. Look at your diet, chances are that if you are overworked, exhausted and stressed you are either comfort eating and snacking, or worse still, neglecting to eat. Remember, food is your body’s fuel, the energy source to sustain your output. Eat small meals regularly, if you eat too much in one go your body will complain and your energy levels will simply crash. Eat good, “clean food”,  for example, snack on complex carbohydrates such as a wholemeal bread sandwich with peanut butter, a good source of protein to fuel you over an extended period of time. Add fruit when you need a sweet pick me up. Find time for yoghurt or cottage cheese a good source of calcium and vitamin D.

2. Ditch the fizzy drinks and the cups of caffeine and take on board more water. Dehydration is a real problem when you are stressed. You need to keep your cells and your brain hydrated. One of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. When you are dehydrated your blood volume is decreased, your heart has to work harder to pump your blood round your body, the cells in your brain constrict leading to headache and heaviness in your limbs. Furthermore, your ability to think clearly, move , stand, exercise, sleep, work, cook and even make love will diminish. So take time drink water, try keeping a glass of water on your desk and a bottle of water when you are out an about. Have a jug of water with your meals, you can add a slice to two of lemon or orange. In the summer mint and lemon balm make a refreshing herbal alternative.

3. Get fit! If you want to increase your energy levels engage in regular activity at least three times a week. Studies suggest that 30 minutes of activity at a pace where you have a light sweat will add 25 per cent more energy to every waking moment. Regular exercise has so many benefits and helps maintain muscle strength, mobility, increased metabolism, agility and boosts energy. No need to hit the gym or pound the pavements, just leave the car at home and walk to the shops and engage in regular outdoor activity such as cycling and gardening. Not only does exercise boost the system banishing fatigue but it also improves the mood, increasing serotonin and endorphin production. Furthermore, raised body temperature has a wonderful tranquillising effect, reducing depression and anxiety.

4. Get a good nights sleep. Don’t sacrifice sleep by staying up and watching television because you are too tired to move, or because you’re  finishing that report, ironing into the night or catching up with the washing. Sleep is vital if you want to beat fatigue. Look upon sleep as nature’s way of recharging your batteries with restorative energy. Sleep allows your body to repair damage, recover from stress, rejuvenate and restore balance. A good nights sleep sets you up for a good, productive day.

5. Step out into the great outdoors. Take time to surround yourself with natural energy. Sunshine and vitamin D, fresh air rather than fumes from car exhausts coupled with the sights and smells of nature can really pick you up. A nice walk enjoying the beauty of nature can be so invigorating. Switch off the computer and switch the paperwork for tree’s and fields, you will be surprised how the simple act of turning your back on work can lift the spirits and restore your energy levels. The fragrant scent of flowers, the earthy smell of the forest floor  or the salty breeze of the sea can revive and refresh as the olfactory nerve is stimulated. If you can’t get outdoors bring in some plants to detox the environment, pin up some pictures of country scenes and surround your workspace with a few natural objects such as a piece of driftwood, some stones or a crystal. Pick these objects up periodically to have a mindful moment. Nature is restorative, bring nature to you and harness it’s healing powers.

6. Be mindful. Take time to stop what you are doing and focus on your breath. As you do, check out how you are feeling in your body, scrunch your eyes up and let them go. Raise and lower your shoulders. Stand up if are sitting down, sit down if you are standing up. Have a stretch and smile. By purposefully stopping and focusing on the breath you are coming into the here and now. Running your hands under cold water and splashing your face can be so refreshing. Just letting go of stress momentarily will prevent you spinning round in circles. Stress is not good for us, it shrinks the brain, leads to weight gain due to the high levels of the hormone cortisol that the body produces when under stress, thins your hair and can fetch the reproductive system. Having a stretch and paying attention to your posture will help to eliminate bodily stress and prevent aches and pains. Take time to stop for lunch and find time for regular “pit stops,” this will ensure you keep your reserves of energy for when you need it.

7. Surround yourself with positive people. Isolation can be depressing and stressful, it may also contribute to exhaustion. A loving partner will stimulate your heart, a good role model will inspire you, a good friend will always be there for a hug and a loyal pet gives much and demands little. Avoid “vampires,” those people who literally drain your energy, instead, seek out “radiators,” those people who brim with energy, enthusiasm and life. Seek out sparkly eyed people and not those with dull listless complexions. Good energy is contagious, make sure you get your share.

8. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Better to be relaxed and good humoured rather than stiff and grumpy. Happiness doesn’t just happen, we have to make it happen. The more tired we are, the less likely we are to smile or have a laugh. By ensuring we have some things to look forward to, by engaging in activities, seeking out people, places and situations that bring a smile to our faces we can literally energise our soul. Too much work, feeling tired and worn down is a recipe for misery.

The key is to listen to your body. Don’t ignore tiredness. Our body is a sophisticated machine, where brain chemicals, hormones and blood supply  are all intimately involved in ensuring that we “feel” our fatigue, acknowledge it and then do something about it. Isn’t it time you worked with your body rather than against it?

 Until next time, best wishes Steve.

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

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

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

 

Adapted from an article “Solve your energy crisis” which appeared in You magazine (March 2001) from a book by dietitian Debra Waterhouse, titled ” Tired to Inspired,” published by Thorsons.

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Could there be an evolutionary explanation for depression?

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Could there be an evolutionary explanation for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression?

I have for a long time pondered over the hypothesis mooted by some that there may be an evolutionary explanation for both anxiety and depression. This explanation may also embrace seasonal affective disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Let’s start with anxiety. On the face of it, anxiety is fairly easy to categorise as an evolutionary response.

Imagine a tribe who live in mud huts next to a fast flowing river inhabited by crocodiles and surrounded by a dense jungle full of ferocious animals. This tribe have no fear whatsoever, and the children, just like their parents, take every opportunity to play in the fast flowing river and climb the trees in the jungle.

All, that is, but two people, a man and a woman who were born with this condition called anxiety. One by one the children and their parents get eaten either by the crocodiles or the ferocious animals inhabiting the forest. The couple with anxiety however, do not venture near the river or risk going into the jungle. Lo and behold they are saved because of their anxiety. In time they have children and so this condition us passed on and on through the generations.

Anxiety could be said to be one of the main motivating forces in much of human behaviour and provides a tremendous impetus to learning and adjusting throughout life. The earliest human remains that resemble us, is a female skeleton (Australopithecus) or should I say, several hundred bones known as AL- 288-1. She has been named Lucy” and she dates back some 3.2 million years and she is a hominid.

Lucy would not have fared very well when facing a huge wild beast; her nails could hardly be described as claws. Her hair, a little under her arms, between her legs and on her head could hardly be described as fur. Porcupines or their prehistoric equivalent had spikes that came up when they were scared. Lucy, on the other hand, had goose pimples and a few short hairs that stood up on end, hardly a match. She was not very strong and could not really outrun her enemies. So how then did she fare so well?

Well, she had two special gifts: a brain that could think and reason in a way that her enemies could not, and hands that had fingers and movement far more sophisticated than them. She soon learnt how to fashion weapons with her hands. This fantastic evolutionary condition called anxiety enabled her to identify threat.

If we were really being picky we might say that anxiety does not mean precisely the same as fear. Fear arises from threat, by some situation outside a person, that can be assessed and acted upon. Fear prompts us to either attack or run away. The sophisticated autonomic nervous system, ( the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system) in conjunction with the endocrine glands prepare the body for “fight or flight.”

There are several other states associated with fear and these include “freeze,” like a rabbit does when in a car headlight, and another we shall call “flop,”  – in this latter state, blood pressure, which is sky high when in the fight or flight state, literally drops in an instant causing us to faint. An example where this might come into play is where you are running away from your attacker and you are caught by a huge blow and a gaping wound prevents your escape. Unable to fight or flee, a message is sent to the brain in an instant and a rapid drop in blood pressure causes you to faint. Lying motionless, hopefully your pursuer just might think, ” ugh, dead meat, that’s it, I am not interested any more.” Another related state is known as “fawn,” – in this state, showing extreme affection and getting friendly with your attacker, you might be able to favourably influence your fate.

Coming back to anxiety, let us say that it is a feeling of unease or concern in relation to a perceived threat. This was the gift Lucy had. Her fairly small brain was programmed to look out for threat. That is why today we are fixated with the new bulletins and we gravitate towards news stories which have an element of shock and horror. Yes, Lucy could have been programmed to remember the kiss and cuddle she had with Freddie Flintstone, but no, she was programmed to look out for threat and danger. Today, we can be forgiven for being drawn towards gossip, after all it important for you to know if any dangerous predators are moving into our neighbourhood!

One could almost say that we are “over-engineered” to look out for danger; in other words, just like a car alarm that goes off with the slightest vibration from a lorry passing by, or a burglar alarm going off when a spider walks over it, we too are sensitive to all forms of imagined threat or danger. Hence we get “panic attacks” at the drop of a hat and our body kicks into “fight and flight.”

Depression too, could be viewed as a natural response to overwhelming odds or abnormal situations of stress. Imagine if you will, our prehistoric ancestors living in a   cave by a river, close to the plains populated by wild animals. The weather is particularly bad for a prolonged period, dark skies and rain cause the rivers to flood. As a consequence of the poor conditions the normally dry plains flood and the wild animals now are on the prowl for food.

Looking out for threat and danger, the dark oppressive skies signal to us that something is wrong and that we need to withdraw. Perhaps the modern day incidents of seasonal affective disorder hark back to this time? Chemical changes alert us that something is wrong. Could bipolar disorder signal to us to get hyperactive and gather what supplies we can before depression kicks in?

With danger imminent our body chemicals signal both brain and body to withdraw. With lowering of energy levels we do not feel like doing anything much, loss of libido means that we are no longer making babies, so no more extra mouths to feed! No need to go far to hunt as our appetite is diminished and our hastily gathered supplies will last us through this period of danger. With little energy to do anything, not even washing or dressing, we huddle up together under a pile of animal skins and hibernate, sleeping though until the spring and the nice weather arrives again. As it does, so the skies lighten, floods recede and the animals move back to the plains once again. Safety has returned and our mood is restored back to its former state.

Fanciful perhaps, but there may be a grain of truth in there somewhere, who knows?

Until next time, best wishes Steve.

 

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

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                             Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                   Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AEmmanuel_Benner_-_Prehistoric_Man_Hunting_Bears.jpg

 

 

Managing really upsetting thoughts and feelings

File:Glühwendel brennt durch.jpg

As a CBT practitioner I would be the first to point out that avoidance of upsetting thoughts and feelings only serves to perpetuate and strengthen the power they have over you. There are times however, when the sometimes overwhelming nature of these thoughts and feelings can simply be too much. Having intrusive and upsetting thoughts while your taking your child to school, or when faces around you become distorted, due to a painful flashbacks, is not to be recommended. I hope to give you a few tips to help you manage, so that you can go about your life with relative ease, until such time as you can address the causes of these upsetting thoughts and feelings safely in therapy.

The first technique I would like to share is adapted from the “Drop Anchor” exercise by Russ Harris (Harris, 2009).

This exercise will help you centre yourself and connect with the world around you.

1. Place your feet firmly on the ground.                                                                                   2. Now push them down firmly.                                                                                                 3. Become consciously aware of the floor beneath you, feel it supporting you.                       4.Notice the muscle tension in your legs as you push your feet down.                                 5. Become aware of your whole body, as if your whole body now is engaged in pushing.     6. NOw look around you, notice what you can see and hear.                                                  7. Notice where you are and what you are doing.                                                                     8. Breathe!

Grounding techniques

These are very helpful techniques to learn, particularly if you are prone to upsetting intrusive thoughts, memories and images. THey are also good to employ if you are feeling detached and unreal.  Rather like mindfulness, focusing all of your attention on sounds in the environment e.g. birds in the trees, waves on the beach or even the sound of your breathing can be very helpful.

There are many different grounding techniques and I have listed some of my favourite “sensory” grounding techniques below:

Visual: Select an object or perhaps a photo, picture or landscape to focus on.  Study it intently; describe what you see out loud or in your head.  You may choose to focus on something around you, like the wallpaper or even a spot on the carpet or ceiling. Really focus on the detail, shape, colour and pattern.  Counting the grain in wood or fabric will really heighten your “in the moment” awareness.  Use flashcards, with a message to yourself such as, “these dark days will pass” or “I can tolerate this.”

Touch: Carrying round a stone or crystal that you can get out of your pocket when you need to ground yourself is an easy way to bring yourself back to the present. Find yourself a special object to use at such times.Look at the colour, the shape, how solid it is, the temperature of the object and its texture, and whether it is rough or smooth.  You can even use foodstuff like a sultana, banana or mushroom.

Look to your environment, for example by feeling the grass under your feet or the bark of a tree. Take a shower and become aware of the stimulation of the water on your skin, or perhaps slap your hand on the surface of bathwater.  Pinging an elastic band on your wrist, rubbing a comb over your arm or an ice cube over your face can be helpful.  The latter are particularly helpful as an alternative to acts of self-harm.

Sound:  Use your voice, making different sounds and shapes with your mouth.  Select a piece of music, preferably something up-beat, and listen to the sound, in particular, paying attention to the beat, rhythm, the different instruments and vocal harmonies and become aware of any feelings evoked.  Listen to the sounds of birds, the ticking of a clock, or simply listen to the sounds around you, noticing how loud or soft they are.  Notice those in the foreground, mid-ground and distance – now categorise these into groups.

Scent: Scented candles, oil burners and incense are all good for grounding.  I burn incense before I see my first clients each day to help me to focus and put me in the “zone”, ready to attend to the issues they bring me.  It can be helpful to carry round a small bottle of perfume, or putting a dab on your wrist to smell.  A particular favourite of mine is the scent of patchouli, however, my Granny used to carry round a bottle of smelling salts to ward off the “vapours.”  I can only think that this latter, rather pungent scent would be good for managing panic attacks!

Taste: Take a glass of water (with or without ice cubes) and drink it very slowly, savouring the taste, imagining it cleansing and washing away your tension or distress.  A selection of herbal teas with different flavours can stimulate the taste buds.  Be aware, however, that herbal teas have certain therapeutic properties and so should be taken with this in mind.  If you want to find out about the beneficial effects of herbal teas consult your local health food store.

I hope you find these helpful.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com

Ask us your mental health questions anytime @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

 

Image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGl%C3%BChwendel_brennt_durch.jpg

Sources:

Russ Harris – “Simple Ways to Get Present” – 2009. www.actmadesimple.com 

Steve Clifford – “50 Tips to Beat Depression” – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tips-Beat-Depression-Steve-Clifford-ebook/dp/B00ILV965A