Birthdays - a time of reflection, self compassion and celebration

Birthday cake and card

Birthday's are a strange time, some people love them, some hate them. They mark another year and sometimes that's difficult if life hasn't quite turned out how you wanted it to. This is my birthday cake and card from my children from a few months ago, my birthday this year was one of my favourite, not because I got the most expensive presents, not because I was winded and dined in fancy restaurants, or had a surprise party, or anything big actually at all. It was my favourite birthday because I was able to take time to reflect on my life, and that made me smile. My day started with a catapillar cake with my 2 daughters, lots of laughter and I spent the next few days with friends and family I love, having picnics, BBQ's and generally chilling out. When I think about my weekend (and yes in my life birthdays last at least a weekend!) I still smile 6 weeks later. I smile because it was exactly what I needed it to be, an affirmation that I am surrounded by love.

I am always honest when people ask if I have had therapy. My answer is yes absolutely and I still do. As a therapist I have learned that I need to take care of my emotional health just as much as my mental health, so I work with a personal trainer, a nutritionist and a therapist/mentor to ensure that I am in the best possible physical and mental health. This year I have upped my support team, and I believe that this is why my birthday was the best ever. Delving even deeper into my own psyche, looking after myself, investing in myself and really taking care of myself has meant that I am able to be the best version of me. It has meant that I don't need expensive jewellery (not that I'm adverse to it you understand, I like a diamond as much as the next person), I don't need fancy restaurants (I admit to slight social anxiety so a picnic is more my style).

Some tools to help you use your birthday to feel good about yourself:

  • Before the day take time out to think about what you have achieved in the past year
  • Think about who you want to spend your birthday with, who makes you genuinely feel good and loved, and warm and fluffy
  • Think carefully about what you want to do, plan your birthday around what you enjoy, not what you think you should do
  • Buy yourself a birthday present (I do this every year, sometimes its big other times its small, but its always something I really want that makes me feel good inside)
  • If you're really up for embracing the self love, go one step further and write yourself a lovely card or note, you could do this in preparation for next year too so you have something lovely to look forward to
  • Take some time out either on your birthday or the day after to journal about what you want your life to look like on your next birthday, this might be what you want to achieve, where you want to be living, what job you want etc, or keep it simple and focus on how you want to feel this time next year and make a commitment and plan around how you are going to do this.

As you make know, we now have centres in Welwyn Garden City and Hoddesdon. If you would like support with anything mentioned in this article, or your emotional wellbeing in general, please get in touch on 01707 527990 or contact@hertfordshiretherapy.org

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How to realise your dreams - the one thing you must do

She believed she could quote

The other day I was on my way to the centre, I had spent the morning with my clinical mentor and had probably the best session with him I've ever had, I was feeling full of energy and positive about my work.

I decided that what I really wanted was Nero's coffee, so knowing that Welwyn Garden City town centre parking can be difficult at the best of times, especially when its wet and dark I decided that I would test my manifesting skills and so I started to visualise my parking space outside the coffee shop. I've done this before but not with a massive amount of conviction I have to be honest, but I decided that on this day it was going to work.

So I pulled into the road and saw further down, almost directly outside Nero's not one but two parking spaces!

As you can imagine I became very excited! Not only did it mean that I didn't have to walk far in the rain, but I had actually succeeded in creating 2 parking spaces.

In my excitement however I became distracted. The car in front of me was taking ages to parallel park and I began to feel irritated, I began to doubt that the spaces were mine, forgetting that there were 2 and that 1 was most certainly mine. So I did what we do when we are irritated, I called the person in front of me a horrid name and tried to squeeze past her car.

Well, let's just say that I now have to buy a new tyre and, when I come to return my car at the end of the lease, very likely a new alloy wheel as well. I cursed myself, cursed the woman in front of me, felt very silly. Even more so because the two  spaces were still there when I got to them.

This incident made me think about a conversation with a client earlier in the week. We talk a lot about Gabby Bernstein and Denise Duffield Thomas and making dreams become a  reality. We talk about trusting the universe and listening to the lessons that we need to learn in order to achieve those dreams.

In our most recent session she said to me "I keep getting so close, I know where I want to go, but I feel as though the goal posts are repeatedly being moved." I asked her what action she was taking to achieve her dreams. She said "Well I'm visualising, manifesting, I've created a vision board, I'm talking about what I want".

"Ahh" I said, "so what action have you taken?" 

"Well, I have manifested, visualised, made a vision board, talked to the universe..... "

And this is where we fall down, yes all of this is a very important step to realising your dreams, but there is one step that she was missing, and that was actually taking action!

I asked her how many calls she had made to set up the meeting she wanted to happen that would help her to realise her dreams? Well none, she answered! Just like my experience with my parking spaces there was as step missing here. Mine was faith, hers was action and to quote another awesome mentor of mine Suzy Ashworth faith + action = miracles.

So you see, when either the belief in ourselves, or the action is missing it can feel as though the goal posts are changing, or that we are failing when really we are so almost there. 

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Life as an Autism Mother

Heart

Today on the blog, our children's therapist Laura, speaks openly and from the heart about her life  as an Autism mother (written last month)......

 

It has been a while since I sat down and wrote a blog post. Client work has become increasingly busy, and between this and my work within the NHS , I have not really thought about it. Of course life just simply gets in the way sometimes. 


The main reason I am writing this post now is because , ironically, tonight I am killing time. My youngest, Noah is going through an intense separation anxiety phase and has also stopped sleeping, mainly through to being without his sleep meds for almost a month..however tonight we attempting to give them to him , and low and behold - he now won't take them. 


Noah has begun to refuse food, drink and meds through fear of being sick. I'm not worried regarding food and drink - mainly because I know he won't starve himself. But the meds...I had high hopes for a night sleep after a month of surviving on 3-4 hours. The seperation anxiety means that if he wakes and I am not there he has intense panic attacks and meltdowns lasting for hours through the night; so I have been sleeping on his floor for the past 3 weeks. My back aches and stings daily now. I recently turned 30 and my husband suprised me with a trip to NYC and this week I realised that its a pipe dream to consider Noah managing me being away from him for 5 days ..so we cancelled the trip. So I needed a good nights sleep to bounce back. 
 

Without meaning too I began to compile a list of all the things that I have struggled with since I started on this journey as an Autism mother and then with it, things I learnt to combat these or the little things that make it worth it. And then, I thought I would share it with you...

My health
The stress, lack of sleep, (uncomfortable floor sleeping), and zero time to cook and eat dinner like an average person really take its toll on my health. I find myself with more colds, more aches and more headaches. So I recently signed up at my local GP surgery as a carer. This means flu shots, appointments on time and a full health check up annually.

I also started going to the gym again and making the most of times when both me and my husband are actually in the house together long enough for me to take a nap!

Time for myself
I had found myself toward the middle of the year losing myself to work and being a mum. I work in the Autism field so I was living and breathing ASD 24/7. I love my work and I love my kids but sometimes I was looking back at pictures of my younger self and it was like looking at a completely different person.

So (slowly at first) I started making time for myself. It can be 60 minutes time out to have a hot bath , a nap, dinner with friends for a few hours one evening or 45 minutes in the gym. Even just taking the time to call that friend back and have a chat. Me time. It's important. 

My Mental Health
This is a difficult one to admit. Bare with me.

As my job encompasses me having the answers, and as a mother I should know what's best for my children I found myself shying away when I needed help and support. I am incredibly lucky to have a wealth of family around me and some close friends , but when I was exhausted, or Noah was melting down and attacking me or his brother, or when he was having a panic attack if I left the room; I refused to accept help. I could do this. I know how to do this. The thing is, its different when you’re the one going through it.

As a therapist, you are removed and have no emotional attachment to the situations. As a parent you do. I couldn't do it all. And by refusing help my own mental health began to suffer. I began experiencing anxiety and rumination.

So I asked for help...although I admit this is something I still need to work on as I'm not very good at it. But every now and again I will now admit I'm struggling...and then enters the me time and then I'm back ready to fight another battle. 

Work / Life balance
This one feeds nicely into taking time to myself. As the company grew this year I found myself working more and more. I love my work and enjoy every second , but between working, and home I was not taking care of myself. I didn't even have the time to take time for myself! So I implemented some boundaries for myself - something I teach parents about in relation to home life and their children.

So I practiced what I preached and did the same to me. I gave myself strict work hours. I stopped working all weekend, every weekend. I even devised a timetable , penciling in admin, client hours, jobs around the house and then make sure I had significant time just to be at home, being a mum and being me. 

My Marriage
After you have children, long gone are the days that your marriage is ever about just you two. But after we had Noah and then Noah presented with his difficulties mine and my husband relationship became more a tag team, ships passing in the night relationship. And neither of us wanted that.

So now, regardless of how tired we are, how much work we have to do, or how much we just want to appreciate the silence..we take the time to talk. Ask each other about our days, have a joke, eat dinner (even if we have to wait till about 9pm) and sometimes we even go out for an afternoon / evening together to see a gig or have dinner (like adults in a restaurant!!)

My Son
As Noah's needs become more challenging, and the sleep becomes less he requires more time and energy.

We all know the drill so I don't need to explain.

But I also have a bright, caring beautiful 8 year old boy that , because of this, his time can be limited. The realisation of this was one that did not sit comfortably with me, so me and my husband set a plan to combat this.

Once a week, Joshua and I have an afternoon to ourselves to spend 1:1 time, going places we can't go with Noah. We go to golf, the cinema, trampolining. Or sometimes we head to pizza hut, order food and play UNO. I also, once Joshua turned 8 signed him up to young carers; so that he can meet other children who experience a home life like his. 


So now as I write this , its just turned 1.30am and Noah is happily watching Bing Bunny whilst the Christmas tree lights twinkle and he is at peace, He is cuddled into me, and has told me he is smiling because he is happy (he is a therapist's son after all so we practice lots of emotion recognition!) and that makes all of the above worth it.

Knowing that I, and I alone am his anchor , in turn gives me peace. We're a team Noah and I. As we drove to the hospital today to pick up his medication I played Christmas songs loudly and sang along, Joshua and I did some great duets and talked about what Joshua is excited for, which made Joshua happy.

Tomorrow it is my day off , as I am on annual leave from NHS for Christmas. I have arrangements to collect Christmas treats from a local bakery, I will make gingerbread houses with Joshua like I promised and put Christmas lights around our front door because it will make the kids smile. And that's worth it. And that makes me happy.

I will take time when my husband gets home to lock myself in the bathroom and have a hot bath and watch Netflix for an hour. I may take the time, when the kids are sitting quietly to call a friend and talk about our weeks for 20 minutes. I may even look into getting someone to treat my back pain. 

We lose a lot of ourselves as SEN parents, as working parents, as parents in general. But its important to ensure that your doing little things to make it work. To balance the scale. So that we can still find the peace and happiness in the little things. 

Useful links mentioned in this post:
Young Carers Information:
http://www.carersinherts.org.uk/how-we-can-help/young-carers

Register as a carer at your GP:
https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/services/adult-social-services/care-and-carers/carers/carers.aspx

If you are struggling with your mental health: 
http://www.hpft.nhs.uk/services/community-services/wellbeing-service/referrals/self-referral/

 

 

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6 Signs of Depression

Heart

In today's blog, our therapist, Lizandra, looks at how to recognise the signs of depression.

 

It is reported that 1 in 4 people will suffer from anxiety and depression each year. Thanks to public campaigns such as rethink mental health, we are now becoming more aware and open to talking about this common mental health problem.

Depression is a word too commonly used in everyday language to describe feeling down or having a bad day or two – but clinical depression goes far deeper than this. We all have the odd bad day, but what happens when a bad day or two turns into weeks, months or years?

Below are just a few of the signs associated with depression. If you are concerned for the safety and welfare of yourself or somebody else, do seek professional help.

1. Mood changes

Feeling low and tearful for long periods of time can be a warning sign of identifying depression. This might be followed with feelings of emptiness, feeling hopeless, helpless and worthless.

Sufferers of depression tend to have low self-esteem, can be overly judgemental of themselves and filled with feelings of guilt and shame. This can lead to increasingly becoming withdrawn from others, dramatically impact relationships, social interactions and work commitments.

2. Sleep and appetite

We all need an appropriate amount of sleep to be able to cognitively function -once sleep pattern is significantly disturbed it can lead to lethargy, irritability and difficulty in concentrating. Difficulty in getting out of bed and wanting to sleep the day away is also a common symptom.

Depression can also affect the ability to speak properly and everyday tasks begin to feel like a struggle and uphill battle.

3. Unhealthy coping

The internalisation of difficult feelings, low mood and apathy can lead to looking for external sources to self soothe and provide short-term relief from the intensity of negative feelings. This can result in a number of maladaptive behavioural patterns such as self-harm i.e. cutting, the use of alcohol and drugs, over eating or controlled eating.

These short-term solutions may feel helpful at the time, but this unhealthy way of coping leads to further isolation and feelings of guilt and shame.   

4. Anxiety

Depression and anxiety are often interrelated and having racing and worrying thoughts throughout the day and night can be extremely exhausting. The feeling of impending doom and constantly feeling on edge is both physically and mentally draining.

A constant fear of danger disproportionate to reality can lead to further avoidance and isolation from others’.

5. Physical symptoms

Unexplained physical symptoms can be caused by feelings of depression and unresolved trauma. This can include muscle aches and pains and an increase in headaches or migraines, nausea, digestive problems and other physical conditions.

6. Suicidal thoughts

During depression, it is not uncommon to have suicidal thoughts, which can be alarming and extremely frightening. This is closely related to feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness.

Suicidal thoughts may be fleeting where you have no intentional plans or they can become more persistent and dominant in everyday thinking. There are people who have persistent suicidal thoughts and do not act on these thoughts. However, it is important to take suicide ideation very seriously as it is possible to act on these feelings without much warning.

If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of somebody else, seek professional help immediately.

 

For mild to moderate cases of depression the NHS recommend talking therapy such as counselling and psychotherapy which can help you to talk through your feelings in a non-judgemental, confidential space. The aim is to help you to understand your problems and find better ways of coping with life difficulties.

 

 

For more information about how we can support you through this or other areas that are causing you emotional unrest, please contact me on rebecca@hertfordshiretherapy.org to book a complimentary 15 minute clarity call.

 

 

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Dealing with Loss at Christmas

Lady thinking by Christmas tree

In today's blog, therapist Lizandra talks about dealing with loss at Christmas

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – or is it? Many of us take for granted the festive period and the meaning of Christmas. The endless advertising of Christmas paraphernalia before the Halloween stock has even left the shelves. The usual Christmas pop songs playing on repeat.

We become bombarded with advertising campaigns of harmonious families coming together for the all-important overindulgent Christmas meal.

Christmas can be an amazing and festive time to be with those you love – but for those dealing with loss and bereavement it can also be a painful reminder and a heart wrenching time of year.

Grief and loss is one of the most difficult life experiences anybody could go through, irrespective of the time of year. Dealing with this loss at a time where the majority are feeling celebratory and merry can feel extremely isolating. This sense of loss, missing somebody or a strong part of our identity can be acutely unbearable and at odds with what is going on around us. This sense of coming to terms with inevitable and unwanted change can be enough to want to cancel Christmas altogether. There is a stark realisation of how this once joyous festive period will never be the same, the reality of a first Christmas with something or someone profoundly missing.

For the most part, people around you may want to help and offer advice. Others’ might find it difficult in knowing what to say and avoid bringing up the subject of your loss.

It may come as an unwelcome fact to those around you that you are not in the mood to acknowledge or celebrate this time of year. It might go against what they think is best for you and however misguided, their intentions are well meaning.

What is important to remember is that it is completely normal and understandable that after the loss of a loved one there is no motivation to celebrate and join in with the festivities.

The fact is, nobody can dictate to you how you should spend Christmas, if you choose to celebrate or not is a personal choice.  

There is no right or wrong way to grieve at Christmas. Give yourself permission to make your needs clear, whether it’s a quiet celebration, a full on Christmas spread, or just another day. You could use this time for creating and establishing new traditions. Ultimately, the decision is yours.

During the grieving process there are ways of managing, coping and seeking additional support.

The following links offer further advice:

Cruse Bereavement
Mind
Grief Encounter

 

For more information about how we can support you through this or other areas that are causing you emotional unrest, please contact me on rebecca@hertfordshiretherapy.org to book a complimentary 15 minute clarity call.

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