Exploring Feelings by Writing a Journal

February 23, 2018

Keeping a Journal – for Self-care and reflective healing

When we are struggling with something difficult in life and feeling depressed or anxious; we can often be so caught up with feelings and thoughts in our mind, it can feel like a churning washing machine going round and round with no formulation of clear ideas. Writing a journal can help disrupt this cycle of thoughts.

journalI often suggest journalling to my clients when they are finding it difficult to process painful emotions and thoughts and when dealing with anxiety. The very act of getting some of these thoughts onto a page can allow structure to form and release us from the inner repeating thoughts. It can effectively provide some freedom from the noise and the pain. It can allow us to begin to explore the ideas more succinctly and clearly and extrapolate important relevant feelings from negative ways of thinking. This in turn helps the healing process to begin.

How to Start Writing your Journal

how to start writing a journalThere is no right way or wrong way to do this.
You might want to set aside as little as ten minutes or more than thirty minutes a day, possibly at the same time or when you are pulled to do so. It generally helps to write a little every day to keep the momentum going.

You may choose to write by hand on paper – and therefore unable to edit and change your initial thoughts – a kind of ‘stream of consciousness’. It’s important to be able to freely write without your ‘internal critic’ rubbishing your writing. Brainstorming or mind-mapping ideas can be a useful way to link ideas and thoughts if it feels a bit too much to write on a blank sheet of paper. If you very much prefer to write on a computer, then switch the grammar autocorrect off and resist the urge to read and edit as you go along – this might not be easy as we are so used to this editing process when using a keyboard. It’s important for you to recognise that all your ideas and thoughts have value. If you haven’t written by hand for some time, experiment and try it that way – you might surprise yourself and find enjoyment in a new experience.

What to Write in the Journal

What to write in the journalThis is the opportunity to write about anything that comes to mind. You may have jotted a few words down earlier or have a few thoughts that have been repeating throughout the day. This is your chance to explore more and expand on the thoughts and feelings. You could write about feelings from conversations had during the day, emotions you felt, things people have said to you. Give yourself permission to be honest. You may find it difficult to be honest with yourself or with others at times and this is an opportunity not to self-censure.

You might find it helpful to write to a particular person (without necessarily wanting or needing to send or give it to them). It could be something you find extremely difficult to say to someone and writing it down may help you to deal with the pain. It could be that the person is no longer with you or you’re unable to talk to them. Try not to plan or think too much about what you are writing, just allow the words to flow. Don’t worry about spellings, grammar or meaning – this is private unless you choose to show someone else. Editing and considering sentence construction will stop the flow and block the emotions. Consider using drawings if you are able to communicate easily that way.

Allow Time to Reflect on your Writing

Reading and reflecting on what you have written allows you to revisit, remember and see your journey forwards.

Write a date on your entries for when you return and reflect.

  • Do you still feel the same way about the issue/decision/feelings etc?
  • Do you need to challenge your original thoughts?
  • Are you able to look back and analyse whether your thinking was accurate/ misguided or biased for example?
  • Can you identify particular triggers for certain behaviours or ways of thinking?

Perhaps a little time to move on from the thoughts allows you to reconsider and feel differently.

Writing a Journal when ‘Everything is Ok’

Writing a journal provides an opportunity to explore thoughts and feelings even when it feels nothing much is an issue, everything is moving along smoothly. If you know you are the type of person who bottles up emotions to enable to you cope and carry on, you may find that writing about current or past painful feelings and troubles can allow you to move the pain from somewhere deep inside you, to outside of you and can also help with the healing process.
journal

Some people like to buy a special book to use and like to find a place where it can be kept private.

Journalling should also be an enjoyable process. If it is causing you more pain, perhaps discussing this further with a counsellor or psychotherapist may be useful.

If you would like to get in contact with Claire at Insight Counselling, you may use the Contact Form or email info@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk

 

Mental health apps – daily tools for stress and anxiety

August 22, 2017

Are you the kind of person who uses their mobile phone to organise, keep notes, sync calendars and even check step count? You might find using a mobile phone app to support your mental health journey could also be beneficial.

Mental Health Apps

There are lots of different types of apps that you could try. At Insight Counselling, the mental health app Pacifica has been trialled over the last six months with some really good results. Clients find it easy to use, helpful to record moods and feelings and to carry out CBT thought experiments. There are also audio mindfulness meditations and self-help CBT advice.

It’s free unless you wish to delve deeper, so worth taking a look.

How can therapy help me and my anxiety?

February 25, 2017

fear-1940184_1280

Anxiety is a word that gets thrown around a lot and can mean different things to different people. Essentially, it’s used to describe feeling uneasy, worried and afraid and the mental and physical effects this can cause. For example, before sitting an exam it’s natural to feel scared, worried, sick, have stomach cramps, etc.

So when does anxiety stop being a natural response to a stressful event and turn into something more significant?

Anxiety is caused by the ‘fight or flight response’. A normal biological reaction to when we feel threatened, and something that has been with us since the dawn of man. When your body feels under threat it automatically releases hormones that physically prepare you to fight the danger, or run away from it.

mammoth-1127772_1920

Although we don’t have much use for the fight or flight response anymore – we’re unlikely to be charged at by a woolly mammoth any time soon, our biological reactions to it remains.


Anxiety becomes a problem when the fight or flight response stays switched on and the physical and mental symptoms have an impact on your quality of life.

Long term anxiety can be extremely difficult, and is often experienced alongside other illnesses such as depression and chronic pain. One of the key difficulties is that anxiety can lead to you feeling trapped within a ‘vicious circle’. When you’re feeling low and run down you tend to avoid activity because you don’t have the energy for it, or just can’t muster the motivation. This can lead to you feeling guilty and that you haven’t achieved as much as the ‘healthy’ you would have – you don’t feel like the person you used to be anymore. This makes you feel worse and you avoid more activity and you seem stuck in this never ending circle.

As anxiety can affect your health and wellbeing in numerous ways it is important to figure out the causes and find a way of resolving the anxiety whilst managing the symptoms. Although self-help and medication are useful in reducing symptoms, research has shown that therapy is usually the most effective option when it comes to treating anxiety.

Therapy looks at the causes of triggers and any underlying issues that might aggravate it rather than just treating the symptoms.
One starting point to be used in combination with other therapeutic approaches is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT uses the basis that it’s the way you think and react to a situation that’s causing the anxiety, rather than the situation itself. CBT challenges the way you think in a process called ‘cognitive restructuring’.

It’s a three step process that involves:

  1. Identifying the negative thought processes
  2. Challenging the negative thoughts
  3. Replacing the negative thoughts with realistic thoughts

CBT may also include learning to recognise when you’re anxious and what that feels like for you – often there are some signs that anxiety is going to kick in that when you learn to recognise what they feel like, can help you prevent the anxiety from kicking in.

Therapy gives you the tools to be able to manage the symptoms of anxiety and employ coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques to lessen its impact on you and your life.

Whilst self-help alone may not be effective in treating your anxiety, it is useful when combined with therapy. From writing a journal or diary to help figure out patterns of thinking, or even identifying triggers; through to mindfulness and breathing exercises that can help you through a panic attack. For some great tips and ideas for self-help visit the Mind website


CBT is best used as a ‘holding approach’– it’s useful for managing the anxiety and lessen its impact with a supportive counsellor guiding you through and challenging the negative thinking, but often there are deep rooted issues causing or aggravating your anxiety. So in the long term, it’s important that these issues are resolved through exploration and discussion with an experienced counsellor.

There are various kinds of therapeutic approaches that can be used to discover these causes which are tailored to your needs, problems and requirements ensuring that you get what you really need out of therapy.

room3Having an open mind is important when starting therapy as the process can be a difficult one with long-term thoughts that have to be challenged and adjusted. However, it is effective in treating anxiety and can mean the difference between coping with your anxiety and living your life how you want to.

 

Claire ScottFor a more in-depth discussion about how therapy can help you contact Claire at claire@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk to arrange your initial consultation.

 

In the meantime, check out these YouTube videos that you may find useful.

“Sorry for your loss”… Coping with grief and bereavement

January 30, 2017

bereavement
Losing someone in your life can lead to huge changes and make you feel differently about much that you used to take for granted. Grief and bereavement can take you by surprise and mess with your head.

Bereavement can cause confusing emotions

How long you take coping and adjusting to the loss is not dependent on anyone else’s timetable and there is no right way to grieve. People feel intense emotions or sometimes don’t feel the strong emotions they might have expected. We don’t always react in the way we might have imagined or we can be hijacked by powerful distressing emotions that are confusing even though they might have been expected. Sometimes grief can take you by surprise after a period of time – a kick in the stomach triggered by a word, a feeling or thought, a piece of music or the smell of a familiar scent.

grief aloneIt can feel desperately lonely dealing with loss and grief. Friends don’t always understand what to say and often say nothing at all – perhaps feeling scared they will say the wrong thing or can’t cope with their own fear of death. Others say what they think should help “move you on”. Perhaps you won’t be ready to move on and their well-meaning comments will feel inappropriate or ill timed.

Family members might be going through a similar or totally different set of feelings from the same loss of family member. How do you address it within the family? Can you cope with the differences? Or are they ignored? Are there unresolved conflicts? Or is there anger that the deceased is no longer there for the ones that remain? Many of these things can lead to you to feeling lost and alone.


I don’t have anyone to talk to about my loss

Sometimes you may want someone to listen to you talk about your loss, other times you don’t want to talk at all. Friends and family can often be an amazing help, listening empathetically when they share understanding, being there on the end of the phone when you most need it – keep these people close. Sadly, some of your friends may not be able to support in the way you would like. They may be emotionally unavailable to cope with your loss on top of their own difficulties in life. At times it can feel like people call or text less often and you can feel neglected and disappointed in friends you had felt were close to you. Death and grief scares some people and often their tactic is to avoid an awkward situation, rather than considering your feelings above their own.

talking to the dogRather than talking to the dog (or perhaps in addition to), you might wish to consider contacting a counsellor to help you through your bereavement. Talking about loss and letting your feelings out can help you begin to adjust to life and to consider what the relationship with the person meant to you. Bottling up or repressing difficult feelings can maintain the grief and make
coping with bereavement much harder.


When does bereavement end?

You may have read about the stages of bereavement. While it is common for grief to move through stages, for example denial and anger initially, we don’t always stick to textbook approaches in life and you might find that your personal experience of grief differs from what you read about on the Internet – and this is normal. We might not grieve in ways we have seen others grieve, or might spend far longer in certain stages than we might expect. If you are coping alone or feeling alone with your grief, you can find yourself feeling overwhelmed with difficult feelings or perhaps feel numb and lacking in feeling. When feelings are unprocessed in this way, it can sometimes lead to complicated grief or even depression.


Acceptance

Accepting a loss is complicated. There is often shock initially, even when the person has been quite unwell and death is expected. It is common to go through a period of disbelief and confusion. The range of emotions experienced when grieving can also be confusing. Despair and sorrow are expected and are common, but guilt and anger can overwhelm if you are not expecting to feel that way. You may feel nothing at all, numbness or emptiness taking over instead. You can be left with questions as well as emotions – why am I feeling this way? You might find yourself reacting to people in your life in challenging ways as a response to the grief you are experiencing.

bereavement memoriesGrief can also allow your mind to focus on the person and your relationship at a much deeper level than perhaps you were used to when they are alive. Unanswered questions may arise, never to be answered. Unresolved issues that you had successfully buried, may be unearthed and leave you with new emotions or thoughts.


Coping with grief

Sometimes grief feels so bad, it can completely stop you in your tracks. It feels almost impossible to carry on with normal life. Relationships may suffer and it could be difficult to cope with work assignments or even to get out of bed. These are normal reactions and part of the bereavement process, but if you feel it is going on for longer than you would expect, you may need extra support. If you are coping by self-medicating, drinking more alcohol or drugs, eating erratically, behaving recklessly or becoming violent or are having suicidal thoughts, talking to both your GP and/or a counsellor would be a important step forward. If grief has moved into a general feeling of worthlessness, it could be helpful to speak to someone to prevent it developing into depression.


Moving on

moving onA few months after my mother’s death I mentioned my feelings of sadness to a friend. His response, by text said, “time to move on”. It was an ill-timed, and perhaps thoughtless reaction of someone unable to empathise with my situation. Fortunately I had others around me who were more understanding.

I did adjust and over time I found I wasn’t thinking about my mum quite as much as when I was first bereaved. I would still have my moments where I felt the loss deeply, seemingly at random moments, but often triggered by something. Fifteen years later, her life and personality have more meaning to me than her death.

Other losses may be more difficult to deal with and take longer or be a bigger part of our life after. The loss of a baby or child can be incomparable and difficult for others to relate to, leaving the sufferer more alone with their confusing feelings.

therapy roomSpeaking to a counsellor about grief and feelings may help you adjust and begin to accept the loss and help you to live your life again. You are always likely to miss and think about the person and some feelings of grief may stay with you. It changes who you are, but you can go on.

If you would like to speak to Claire about bereavement or issues surrounding grief, you can email claire@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk or call 07967 611736 or use the Contact form.


Helpful information

Cruse Bereavement Care National helpline – http://www.cruse.org.uk/

Child Bereavement UK – http://childbereavementuk.org/

Bereavement Advice Centre – https://bereavementadvice.org

Samaritans 116 123 (UK)http://www.samaritans.org/

 

Coping with Christmas

December 21, 2016

How do you feel about the holiday period coming up?

ball-65825_1280Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this time of year is often difficult for many people. Many people suffer with depression over a prolonged holiday period. Some people find themselves alone for much longer, businesses are often closed, leaving people without regular places to be. Preparing for the time on one’s own can be anxiety making and difficult for those who may already be lonely at times.

 


Why do some people find themselves depressed during the holiday time?

blur-1867322_1280For some, there is simply so much to do, relatives arriving, gifts to purchase, house to clean and not enough time. Stress can make the preparations harder. For others, it might be the opposite and anticipating the empty days over the holidays can be distressing.

xmas-660694_1280It is sometimes difficult to not compare our lives with others. It might look like people are having happy, amazing times, when we are not so full of joy. Television and social media bombard us with images showing families celebrating together with happy smiling faces. This can severely affect self-esteem and confidence – are we good enough?

We might look back on previous years when times were different, grieve and mull over difficult times in our lives. Having extra time on our hands provides opportunities for rumination and thinking about what is not going right in our lives.

Loneliness can be terribly hard at Christmas. Spending time alone over the few days when other people are apparently with family and friends, can feel very isolating. Even when surrounded by people, this feeling of loneliness can be much worse than normal if the connection with the people with you isn’t strong.

 


How can you help look after yourself?

winter-575101_1280Be aware of how you are feeling. Try to consider ways you can help yourself – exercise, eating well, drinking alcohol wisely rather than to excess. Don’t let go of your normal routine, continue to exercise or do extra if you don’t regularly exercise. Self-care is important. Try to avoid slumping in front of the television and get outside – even just for a walk.
If you do have people around you and can talk about how you are feeling, give it a go – people can sometimes surprise us by being supportive, empathising or just listening. Sometimes people push our buttons over the holiday -we might be spending much more time with people we wouldn’t normally or old family feuds resurface. Taking a step back might be the best option, rather than responding with anger.

reading-1246520_1280Find a good book to get engrossed in instead of getting involved in the disagreements.

 

 

Mindfulness

ice-846733_1280Whether you have tried mindfulness or meditation before or not, it might be a good time to start. Is there five or ten minutes where you could find some quiet time just for yourself? Focus on your breath and sit quietly for a few minutes. Don’t worry if you can hear noise or can’t concentrate for very long. A few minutes time out may help you manage your stress levels.

However you spend your time, look after yourself as best you can.


If you feel you need help or would like to talk to a counsellor about feelings of loneliness or anything else contact Insight Counselling at info@insightcounsellingbrighton.co.uk or use the Contact Page.