Massage and Emotional Wellbeing

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When we are physically well and our body is in good shape the impact of the stress upon us will be far less than it would if we were unfit.  With a well-tuned body we are better able to handle the demands of life, express ourselves and project our personality and needs.  Indeed, it could be said that the body is a barometer, measuring the degree to which we are functioning effectively.  When we are unfit this not only makes it more difficult to cope with the many pressures upon us, but it also adds to the levels of stress we experience.

When we hold onto external stress, whether physical or psychological, it is manifested as “tension” in the body.  Its impact upon us may be imperceptible.  We may not even be aware that we are holding on to stress at all.  Sometimes, the first sign that indicates an accumulation of internalised stress is a noticeable increase in clumsiness and poor           co-ordination.  At a more subtle level, rigidity is present and the free flow of movement is inhibited.  Energy levels, too, may be noticeably impeded, as we may feel lethargic (slowed) or agitated (hyper-arousal).

If we are unable to release the build up of internalised tension this can result in headaches, tightness (often neck and shoulders), aches and pains (commonly stomach or lower back), the immune system can become deficient and we are more susceptible to colds and illness.  Likewise, even symptoms such as dry hair, skin rashes and poor sleep patterns frequently result from internalised stress and tension.

Stress is such a common feature of everyday life as to be regarded as “normal” and while this is true to some extent, stress levels are definitely up and the demands on us now are far greater than ever before in human history.  Most of us can adapt to moderate levels of stress, particularly short-term, but so often though, the result is ill-health.  Anything from colds and flu, to Angina, heart attack, conditions like depression, even cancer, has been linked to stress.

Underpinning the symptoms of stress can be unresolved trauma, or sudden shock, and similarly there may have been a build up or accumulation of stress over a long period.  Stress can arise as the result of internalised emotion such as anger, guilt or worry.  Whatever the cause, the important thing to do is to listen to the body and identify causative factors and then work to release the excess stress which gives rise to muscular tension.  The body can then begin to return to a more harmonious and balanced state.

Touch is something which is often absent from many peoples lives and it can be very healing. We actively need to be touched for our emotional health. This need is more than   simply a desire. It is a physiological necessity that, if unsatisfied can have profound            psychological effects. Research has shown that even a 30 minute neck and back massage can reduce depression. It can lower levels of stress related hormones and make people more alert, less restless and able to enjoy deeper, more  restful sleep.

The mode of body therapy that I practise is known as pulsing. In my opinion it is particularly well suited to promoting emotional well-being.  It is a very effective and gentle mode of bodywork with its emphasis on listening to the body and working directly with the natural rhythms and movement; assisting the free flow of energy and working to restore the natural resting state which occurs when the body is at ease.  Pulsing utilises gentle, rhythmic rocking movements to facilitate the release of stress, either on the physical, psychological or emotional level.  Amid continual rhythmic rocking the client is transported to a place of blissful peace and tranquillity, reminiscent, perhaps, of the womb or being rocked in a parent’s arms.  The ebb and flow of the breath is mirrored in purposeful movements, sometimes subtle and barely perceptible, other times lively and bold.  With no strain whatsoever, the body is moved gently through natural pathways, promoting mobility and encouraging relaxation and openness.  The wave-like movements bring about very deep relaxation as muscular tension is eased.

Clients learn how to recognise physical tension and how to let it go.  Often in so doing, emotional pain will be released and equilibrium will be restored along with a deepened sense of vitality and peace.  At the hands of an experienced practitioner, the gentle rhythmic movement can leave you feeling like you are dancing on a cushion or air.  As you learn to let go of bodily stress you will be better prepared to move forward and face life’s challenges.

For more information or to book a taster session please contact us.

Until next time.

With best wishes, Steve.

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to

Steve Clifford, Psychotherapist and body worker.

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Ask us your mental health questions anytime @

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Alexander J. (2001) Mind, Body ,Spirit, Carlton Books, London.

Kirsta A. (1987) The book of stress survival,  Gaia Books Ltd, London.

Remember the Positives – Beat #Depression


Tip 6 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s very easy when you are feeling down to lose sight of the positives.  One facet of depression is the way the depressed outlook shapes thinking.  The depressed person tends to ruminate on the negative things people say, and hears only critical comments. This is called “filtering out” and is a particular type of unhelpful thinking trait that often goes hand in hand with depression.  Instead of noticing things in a balanced way, we only notice things that “fit” our negative mind-set and we dismiss the positives. This in turn serves to reinforce low self-esteem and a negative outlook.

One way to turn this around is to create a positive book (see tip 25).  Buy a small exercise book, and if you are creative, cover it with a bright paper cover or positive images from magazines.  Use this book to jot down positive things that happen, positive things people say and positive things that you have achieved during the day.  Slowly you will begin to notice more and more positives as you learn to hear them and not dismiss them from your radar.

Consultant Psychologist Rick Norris, in his excellent book, “The Promised Land,” recommends compiling a list of 20 positive memories.  He acknowledges that this can be somewhat overwhelming, as depressed people get out of the habit of playing memories that make them happy, because their mental filter tends to screen these out of their conscious mind.  He suggests recalling three positive memories each day for a week. He tells us the benefit of doing this exercise last thing at night is because it can be a pleasant way to drop off to sleep and also that we tend to be more in tune with our sub-conscious mind during sleep, perhaps  leading to sweeter dreams!

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to                                                                                               Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

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Make a Comfort Box – Beat #Depression


Tip 3 – Extract from “50 Tips to Beat Depression” available on Amazon

It’s often hard to remember the good things in life when you are feeling low in mood.  At such times happiness and positive memories can seem far away.  Stimulating positive memories and associations can be invaluable in helping to keep us grounded in the real world and help lift the spirit.  Creating a “capsule” containing mementoes from the past can help to evoke feelings of comfort, warmth and personal security during difficult times.

A shoebox, biscuit tin or similar can be used to house objects to inspire hope.  I have a comfort box and mine includes a variety of objects: photographs and even “thank you cards” which I can use as “evidence” to support my being a worthwhile person.  I recommend any of the following:

CD, LP, MP3 of favourite music, chill-out, relaxation, etc.

DVD of favourite film with uplifting, or feel good theme, etc.

Photograph of a loved one or of something or somewhere of importance

Memento of a holiday, postcard, seashell, souvenir, foreign money, flight ticket stubs, booklet or programme from places visited

A note, card or letter from a loved one or write a letter to yourself when feeling well, offering encouragement and re-assurance that you will come through this difficult time

A favourite poem, statement, prayer or article that inspires hope

A favourite book, magazine or colourful picture

A favourite object, i.e. a small stone, crystal, lucky charm or something that is tactile

A sketchpad with crayons or watercolour paints

Aromatic oils for massage, scented candles, bath bombs or bath oils/salts

Herbal teas such as Chamomile, known for its calming properties

Favourite item of clothing, warm jumper or a blanket

A hot water bottle

Vouchers for a massage or beauty treatment

A list of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses of family or friends to whom you can turn for support (try to look for support from more than one person).

A list of national help lines e.g. Samaritans, Sane, MIND, etc. .

Any object associated with feeling happy and well.

With best wishes, Steve

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to                                                                                                Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

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Write for Your Mental Health Matters

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Your Mental Health Matters was founded in 2013 as a community committed to promoting mental health, ending stigma and supporting people affected by mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and other mental health related difficulties.

It is also aimed at promoting mental health in general, for example where individuals might be experiencing conditions such as stress and worry. It also embraces the wider context of improving well-being by highlighting global concerns such as rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, risks of violence and physical ill-health and human rights violations.

It is intended to be a forum in which like-minded people can contribute and share experiences within a supportive community through blogs, daily news and mental health information. It supports all other communities, organisations, charities and forums. It does not discriminate between voluntary, charitable, NHS or private providers of mental health care or mental health promotion.

We welcome guest blog submissions and encourage you to write about mental health in all its shapes and forms to share on our facebook site.

 We would like to request that when you submit your blog article that you avoid the following:

  • Use of language which could cause distress
  • Advertising or commercial promotion
  • Requests for financial support
  • Being disrespectful to others
  • Rudeness or badmouthing others

We reserve the right to edit blogs or not publish. We reserve the right to do so without explanation. We hope that we can help you to have your say and will endeavour to use appropriate images to support your blog or include your photographs where desirable.

With all good wishes Steve

Please email your submission posts to 

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How to become more resilient in 2014

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Resilience is the term used to describe a person’s capacity to cope with changes, face challenges and bounce back during difficult times. Most of you reading this will know someone who always manages to smile despite adversity. Indeed, you too will at times have demonstrated resilience in the face of difficulties. Look back to a time when you faced problems in your life and somehow managed to cope using your own resources? How did you manage it? What kept you going?

What I aim to convey in this piece is how to shore up and galvanise your resources to help you develop greater resilience. It may be that you are doing this already, then well done. What better to time to give it some thought though than the beginning of 2014.

Here is a description of the qualities of resilience we are aspiring for:

“The person who is resilient will be able to recognise and manage their own emotions, and acknowledge that others too have feelings and understand what they are going through. The person who is resilient will be able to stand alone, with a strong sense of self and self-worth. They will be able to make decisions, solve problems and be able to rely on their own resources to do so. They will have a clear sense of direction and purpose in life.”

Does this sound like a tall order? Well, this is something to aspire to, and should be viewed as “work in progress.” If you understand the principals it will be a set of skills you can aim to master (a bit like learning to ride a bicycle or driving a car).

Here are ten tips:

1. Even in the face of setbacks try to develop a “positive mental attitude”. Step back and look at the bigger picture if possible. Is there another way of looking at this? Can you see any other way of looking at this setback so as to draw some positive from it?

2. Believe in your own abilities and trust your own judgement. Be open and honest with others.

3. Communicate with others whenever you can and try to give positive feedback and encouragement. Try not to be critical, harsh or judgemental. Remember, they too are trying to do their best and just like us, they might get it wrong sometimes.

4. Work to build, maintain and develop support networks. Find someone you can turn to who can become a role model or mentor. Find someone to trust and confide in. Support those around you and allow them to support you.

5. Aim to foster mutual respect between those around you and the wider world. Recognise the pressures and outside influences on others. Take time out to explore new places and meet new people.

6. Take every opportunity to learn and develop yourself. Assist in the learning and development of others.

7. Strive to foster inclusion and belonging. Involve others in decision making wherever possible, celebrate diversity and promote mental well-being in your community.

8. Take time to have fun and be fun. Learn to laugh at yourself and see the funny side of things. Try to take life “less seriously” when you don’t have to.

9. Involve yourself in community projects and activities to help others. Seek opportunities to think and act in enterprising ways.

10. Remember, above all, you are “good enough” just as you are. Expect that some days won’t be great. Stop comparing yourself and embrace your failures as opportunities to learn, we all have to.

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.

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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.

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