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.

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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.

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

How to be a “good enough” parent.


It’ s not easy being a parent. Despite all your best efforts, the drip, drip, drip effect of  demanding children, babies crying, nappies and housework, to name but a few, all add up to ensure a steady rise in stress levels. Of course, there will be times when you feel you’ve done brilliantly, but there will also be times when you chastise yourself and feel you have failed abysmally. At times it may seem that the demands are endless, but it need not be like this.

Begin today by taking the pressure off yourself.

Here are thirteen tips that might be helpful.

1.If you find yourself feeling as if there are too many demands on your time, make a list and then prioritise by breaking your list down into 3 parts – Needs, Wants and “Oughts.” “Needs” are top priority, “Have-to-get-done-right-now-or-there-will-be-consequences” sort of things. “Wants” are things you would really like to do if you had the time. While, “Oughts” are things you feel you ought to do to please someone else or because you think others would do them, such as, “I ought to cook a big family dinner on Sunday, just as my Mother did.” – From today, take care of your “Needs” first, then move on to the “Wants” and then only attend to the “Oughts” if you have time. The “Oughts” are no longer on any priority list.

2. Take a tip from twentieth century American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, who in his “Serenity Prayer,” tells us to, “Accept the things we cannot change, have courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

3. When your children are misbehaving, remember they are not “bad” children. It is merely their behaviour that is “bad.”All behaviour means something. Step back and see if you can spot the meaning. In CBT circles we talk about “front stage” and “back stage.” Front stage is what the world sees and back stage is what is really going on behind what we see. Think of “attention seeking” behaviour as “attachment seeking” behaviour, in other words, they want to be with you. Praise them when they are demonstrating the type of behaviour you regard as “good” behaviour. Also give yourself some praise.

4. Find time to breathe. Get into the habit of taking five minutes out for reflection, breathing and contemplation. Just five minutes quiet breathing can restore, calm and promote inner peace. Learning to meditate will help you to develop patience and greater tolerance, so that when your children are demanding you will be less irritable and better able to react calmly. Daily meditation (five minutes only) is all it takes, to gain a better perspective on life, where you will feel more relaxed, less out-of-control and your day will seem more manageable (see my November 2012 blog on Mindfulness Meditation).

5. Teach your children to meditate. Silly as this may sound, teaching children the tools to manage emotions such as stress or anxiety can be a godsend. You know what it is like to see your child having a tantrum, out of control and at the mercy of major upset.It is distressing for them and you. Well, showing them how taking deep breaths, learning to visualise a nice calm safe place can really help, furthermore, it will stand them in good stead to cope with the stresses and pressure of young life. Teaching children and young people to learn controlled breathing and use affirmations and visualisations is a key facet of my work with children in my private practice.  Something I thoroughly recommended to all parents.

6.Remember that children and adults have different needs and expectations. Children are not “mini grown-ups.” They want different things. If you are entertaining aim to reduce stress by focusing on the needs of the smallest and youngest. Adults will be able to appreciate what you are doing and why you are doing it. Everything from how long a child can sit still, concentrate or be quiet, is so different from an adult. If you go out, choose child friendly places, do not expect a child to “fit in.”

7. Surround yourself with positive energy. Avoid those friends who are stressed, tense or negative. Avoid the ones who are always bitching about other friends or moaning about their partners or life. Instead, find some friends who are happy and smiling. Learn about positive self-talk ( see my October 2012 blog on self-criticism) as this is an important way to reduce stress and maintain a positive frame of mind.

8. When those around you, whether it is Mother-in-law or your partner are critical this can really undermine your confidence, which will in turn affect your parenting. Apply the following:

  • Stay focused on the present, don’t drag up the past, this will not help.
  • Listen, don’t interrupt, don’t become defensive. Hear the others point of view and remember it is only their opinion. Now reflect back to let them know you heard them.
  • Try to see their perspective, let them feel understood. Get them to explain in more detail if you do not understand and give you examples.
  • Now respond calmly and take responsibility. Accept what is right to accept. Remember, if you feel you are being attacked you are likely either to retreat in shame or lash out and attack..
  • Instead of trying to “win,”look to compromise and try to find a solution or resolution. Remember,It is OK to get it wrong.

9. Rigidity and inflexibility are major sources of stress. Keep your plans flexible, there are countless ways that plans can change. Make allowances for change, have a plan B. If you are more relaxed then those around you will also be more relaxed.

10. As a young parent it is very important to get out and join mother and baby or toddler groups. Being a parent can be very isolating and the friendship of others can a real help when things look tough and lots of fun can be had.

11. There is an old saying, “Choose your battles wisely.” Sometimes, letting  things go is so much better and far less stressful than having mini battles on all fronts. With your children it is so easy to find fault, point out their mistakes and “correct” them. Instead, look to build your children up,to make them feel better, You have plenty of time to demonstrate to your children the right way to do things. Model the behaviour you want your children to adopt. Being a critical parent should not be one of them.

12. Let go of “multi-tasking.” I am not referring to low-functioning activities such as listening to music while you play with your offspring or leafing through a magazine while the television is on. No, I mean doing several things at the same time with your attention split across different things. If you listen to your child when they are speaking to you, they will feel appreciated and respected. Driving while answering your phone and keeping one eye out for the children in the back is positively dangerous. Being present in what you are doing, whether it is playing with your child, washing dishes or eating ensures, you are fully present in the moment.

13. When you find yourself pulling your hair our and are tempted to throttle your little darlings, STOP. Instant fury is triggered by reflex action and responses come from a small part of the brain known as the “amygdala” located in the”limbic centre” of the brain. This is the part of the brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response when we sense danger or threat. In the case of instant anger, the thinking part or “central cortex” has been bypassed. This is known as an “amigdula hijack.” By simply lengthening the fuse and counting from one to ten slowly, it will allow the thinking part of the brain to engage.

Remember, pause, step back and breathe.

With best wishes, Steve

Steve Clifford, Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist

Please feel free to email your blog posts for “Your Mental Health Matters” to stevecliffordcbt@gmail.com

Visit us @  www.steveclifford.com                                                                                      Ask us your mental health questions anytime at: www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters                                                                  Tweet us @ cbt4you


Image ref: Elisa Franci Gonçalves, Wikimedia Commons images, Adults with children. www.en.wikipedia.org/commons:Categories:Images

Recommended reading: “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and its all small stuff” by Richard Carlson, published by Hodder & Stoughton. www.hodder.co.uk