Tired or just plain exhausted?


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With Christmas all but a fading memory, it not unusual for people to feel fed up and fatigued at this time of the year. In Britain it is estimated that at any one time 1in 5 people feel unusually tired and 1in 10 have prolonged fatigue, according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Essentially, there are two main types of tiredness. There is the type of tiredness that is like a solitary grey raincloud. This is the type of tiredness that is transient. It might seem like it is with us for a while, but it will pass and usually it is the result of a busier than usual few days, several bad nights in a row or as a result of a stressful event you have just passed through.

The other type of tiredness is more like a grey oppressive sky, heavy and unmoving. It is typified by of a chronic loss of energy that accumulates over months. It may not always feel like tiredness or physical exhaustion but it doesn’t seem to shift.

Often the signs are subtle, perhaps hidden behind behaviour traits that might easily be missed such as:

1) Finding yourself constantly checking your texts, emails and phone messages.
2) Difficulty relaxing or switching off.
3) Forgetting about tea breaks or unable to relax over a meal.
4) Piles of unread magazines with articles you must read.
5) Having too much to do that you can’t take a day off.
6) “Switching off,” by eating, drinking or spending too much.
7) Losing yourself in mindless TV.
8) Working harder and harder just to stand still.

All these types of behaviours are signs that you need to stop and take a break. Powerful indicators that you need to take time out and really look at what is important. It is as if you have “over- ridden” the “over-ride” switch. This type of behaviour, whilst aimed at improving our lot, simply puts the rest of our life at risk of failure and leads to what psychologists call ” burnout.”

So what can be done to address the balance?

Here are a few pointers:

1) Start the day with a relaxing activity such as yoga, meditation or a fifteen minute walk.
2) drink more water, adopt healthy eating, exercising and sleeping habits.
3) Set “boundaries”- learn to say “no.”
4) Take time to disconnect from technology, put away your phone, lap-top or tablet.
5) Discover your creative side, take up a hobby or other activity that has nothing to do with work.
6) Finally, slow down, get support and re-evaluate your goals and priorities.

Make this the time to put the spring back in your step.

Until next time, Steve



Twitter @cbt4you

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

Image:By Evgeny Galkovsky aka ZheGal (vk.com/limon_kiosk) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Are you struggling to sleep?

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Many people find themselves struggling to sleep.  It may only be the occasional night, but for some, night after night is a struggle. Here are a few tips that may make a big difference. It’s not a case of picking the ones you favour, you really need to put as many in place as you can.

* Keep a fixed bedtime and getting up time even if your sleep has been awful.

* No reading, listening to the radio, watching television in bed.

*No computers, tablets, smart phones (the light omitted disrupts the release of melatonin, a hormone required to sleep)  – the bed is strictly for sleep and sex only.

* Put your watch and alarm clock completely out of sight.

* Use ear plugs and an eye shade in bed to keep avoid exposure to sound or light during the night.

* Avoid caffeine (tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and chocolate) and nicotine from 2PM.

*Avoid exercise in the hour or so before bed.

* Eat a small snack several hours before bed.

* Spend no more than 20 minutes lying in bed trying to sleep.

If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and go to another room. This room should be warm and dimly lit.  Then perform a relaxing activity (not doing daytime tasks which act as a ‘reward’ for staying awake).

When you start to feel sleepy, go back to bed.  If you are still awake about 20 minutes later, repeat the process.

* Absolutely no naps during the day at all.

* Just prior to going to bed perform a relaxing activity.

* Once in bed switch off the light immediately.

* Always remember that sleep will come to you naturally and that different people need different amounts of sleep.

* Remember difficulty sleeping is very common, it is not as harmful as you believe.  Getting upset about it will only make it worse.

Good luck in putting these strategies in place.

Remember, sleep is a passive process, the harder you try to sleep the harder it will be.

Contact me if you wish to book an appointment to look closer at any sleeping difficulties you may have. Alternatively visit www.insomnia-treatment.co.uk

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:



Twitter @cbt4you

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

Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFree_College_Pathology_Student_Sleeping_Creative_Commons_(6961676525).jpg

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.

Image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AChronic_fatigue_syndrome.JPG                                                                                                                             

Ten tips for a more peaceful life

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Is your life spent dashing around, endlessly playing catch up, rushing and doing one thing after the other? Is the daily task list an endless one? Do you find yourself hurrying to finish one task while contemplating the next? Is your time spent taking phone calls, checking emails and organizing others? Is lunch a quick bite on the go and the home run punctuated with a stop off at the supermarket to grab some groceries? Finally, do you crack open that bottle of wine or can of lager pretty much as soon as you get indoors, in order to bring yourself down from 40,000 feet to 20,000 feet? If so, join the club, you and millions like you, are on this relentless treadmill, ticking off the days until the weekend only to start again like Sisyphus first thing Monday morning.

What kind of a life is this? Is this really what living is all about?

How does a life of peaceful simplicity sound? A life where you can really enjoy every activity and where you can feel a state of contentment in all you do. How is such a life possible I hear you say. Well, let me tell you how.

In essence, it entails a change in your attitude.

It doesn’t mean giving up all the things that you love. Just taking the time to make a few small changes can really enhance your quality of life. This in turn can really benefit both your physical and mental well- being. Don’t wait until you are at your final destination before you make such changes.

Here are ten suggestions to start you on your way. See this as the “long game,” where, little by little, you will be letting go of stress and replacing it with peace and contentment.

1. Decide what is really important to you. The things that are really important in your life. Consider what it is you want to achieve, how you want to spend your time, who do you want to spend your time with, what do you want to accomplish at work. Make a short list, say, 4-5 things you want to achieve (forget the 50 item bucket list!), 4-5 people important to you, that you want to spend your life with, 4-5 things you want to accomplish at work, etc…

2. Look at all the things you commit yourself to. You can’t possibly do everything that you have committed to doing. If you’re reading this, it is probably because your life is way too full in any case. Once you accept that you can’t do everything
then you have started to make change. They say, ” If you want something done, ask a busy person.” Don’t let this person be you.

3. Start by letting go of some things. Is there anything you can leave off your to do list? Anything you do out of “duty” perhaps that you can let go of. Anything you don’t like that you can pass over to another, or at least another day. If your daily list consists of 8 items, try cutting it to six and ultimately aim for 4. Failing to complete items on a daily list frequently leads to a sense of frustration. Do less, succeed more.

4. Space things out. Leave gaps in between tasks, that way if things take longer you don’t end up feeling rushed and stressed out. Instead, your aim should be to adopt a more leisurely pace. I recall my accountant suggesting I put my fees up just a little. What this meant was that I did not need to see so many people, thus I was less rushed, had more energy for those clients I saw, and the quality of my therapy improved.

5. Slow down and do things mindfully. Whatever you are doing, whether it is taking a shower or preparing a cup of tea. Take time to perform each action deliberately with thought, instead of going through the motions like you were on automatic pilot.

6. Forget about multitasking, it is so passé anyway. Do just one thing at a time and do it well. It is impossible to multi-task anyway. People may think they are, but they are not. What they are actually doing is one thing then the next in rapid succession, paying attention to one thing and then the other. To prove my point look at both the black and the white image below at exactly the same time. You will see that your attention shifts first one way and then the other, and then back again.

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7. Create time each day for solitude. It is all very well slowing down, enjoying the tasks we do, doing less of them but you really need time for yourself. I get up an hour earlier than my family and this gives me quite time for quiet contemplation, writing, checking mail and planning my day.  Sometimes I suggest people stop the car by some trees on the way home from work, taking 10 minutes just to listen to the birds and take in nature. I like to think this serve as a “de-compression chamber” in between work and home.

8. Incorporate mindful breathing into your day. Use a cue, such as the chiming of a church bell, sound of an emergency vehicle siren in the distance, someone coughing or walking by with a drink of coffee to remind you to practice being present and focus on your breathing for a minute.

9. De-clutter your world. Look at everything around your workstation or place you reside in. Is there anything that can go? We often get used to things and keep them long after their “sell by date.” People often hate throwing things away, whether it is that old cardigan with the holes in or ornaments gathering dust on the mantelpiece.

10. Finally, look across your life at all the things that are a source of stress. Start eliminating them now. This should be a “work in progress,” an ongoing commitment to change. I started “de-stressing” my life twenty years ago by starting my working day an hour later. What this meant was that each morning I took my little dog for a walk in the woods before I left for the office. It gave us some quality time with nature before venturing into the hustle and bustle of daily life. My commute both to and from work was less stressful as I now missed the rush hour. Checking emails twice only, morning and end of day, leaving my phone on voicemail, simple things but things that gave me a sense of control and order. Above all, simple stress reducers.

Good luck with your aspirations to make your life more peaceful. If you have any tips you wish to share please comment or email.

Until next time, Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Visit our health blog – www.stevecliffordcbt.com                                                  Like us @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                      Tweet us @ cbt4you

Image refs:                                                                                                                  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALey_figura_fondo.gif                   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APagan_meditation2.jpg

Main ref: Thich Nhat Hanh – “Peaceful Simplicity: How to live a life of Contentment.” Zen habits.net [Accessed 21/02/12]