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Do you have an adrenaline habit?
A certain amount of adrenaline is healthy and helps us deal with the ups and downs of life. It is a source of readily available energy in emergency situations and we all need it. However, if you are spending your days rushing around becoming more and more anxious and irritable, always seeming to be under pressure, then you are likely to be living an 'adrenaline lifestyle'. If you are wondering if this applies to you, look at the following statements:
I leave things to the last minute to motivate myself
I often eat 'on the run', use caffeinated drinks or alcohol to keep going.
I believe that I work best 'under pressure'.
I feel guilty if I'm not busy.
I rarely take timeout to relax.
I become impatient when queuing or waiting.
I am often late for appointments.
I never get 'everything' done.
I often drive over the speed limit.
If you have answered 'yes' to five or more of these statements, then it is highly likely that the way you are living is having an impact on your wellbeing, health and relationships. You can change this. I will work with you to formulate a personal recovery plan and adopt strategies to bring about healthy change.
Small things can make all the difference
Time and again when talking to stressed clients I am aware of how difficult it can be for them to give themselves time to enjoy daily small pleasures. To maintain balanced emotional health in our busy information loaded lives, it is important to understand our need to give ourselves nourishing intervals,however small, as an essential element of self care. A weekly session of therapy on its own is not the answer to alleviating anxiety and stress symptoms if changes are not made on a day to day basis. Time during the day to enjoy simple pleasures such as savouring a healthy lunch instead of grabbing a quick sandwich at the desk, a short walk, putting flowers on the table or just taking moments to stop and look out of the window are all examples of small things we can do to give ourselves a break. Getting up from the desk moving around and taking a few deep breaths can also help to prevent stress symptoms. We are not physically and mentally designed to do things such as sitting at a computer for hours, so time out from stimulus overload is essential.
With this in mind, it is important to be aware of our basic need to allow our brain its natural ultradian rhythm. The human body and brain is hard wired to take time out from mental activity for about twenty minutes every ninety minutes or so in order to maintain optimum performance. When we override this, stress hormones are released into our system to keep us alert and help provide energy to keep going. Whereas in an emergency this is fine,if we continually do this we build up too much stress. The ability to 'stop and stare' isn't a waste of time or a luxury, it is a necessity.
The Examined Life - how we lose and find ourselves
I am currently reading Stephen Grosz's moving book about client case histories selected from over twenty five years of psychoanalytic practice. The stories in this collection are compelling and intimate accounts of his clients life experience and how insight into often contradictory behaviour reveals and illuminates understanding of themselves and their relationships.
He says that 'experience has taught me that our childhoods leave us stories - stories we never found a way to voice, because no one around us helped us to find the words. When we cannot find a way of telling our story, our story tells us. We dream these stories, we develop symptoms or find ourselves acting in ways we don't understand'
As a therapist, I feel that this description of human experience goes to the heart of what therapy is all about. We can change things that are troubling in our lives when we discover ways to understand ourselves better and feel understood. Although Stephen Grosz practises psychoanaysis and I do not, this principle of listening and genuinely giving full attention in order to understand the meaning of how the person sitting with me is thinking and feeling is the foundation of effective therapy.Many of us do not feelthat our stories are truly heard and our own way of seeing life remains unacknowleged leaving us feeling lonely, in loss and at loss. When we discover that someone else really wants to understand us, that in itself is profoundly healing.
The Examined Life is highly readable and jargon free. It is neither academic or self help, it is simply a compassionate and elegantly written account of human experience. I recommend it to anyone interested in understanding more about their own and others life experience.
16th october 2012
Making Sense Of Depression - dodging the Black Dog
In the Western World, depression is now the most prevalent psychological disorder. Half of all women and a quarter of all men will experience symptoms at some point in their lives. As more countries become westernised, the incidence of depression in the global population is rising rapidly. Our modern technological society brings many benefits, but the downside can be increasingly more stressful and demanding lives. This problem can make it more difficult to get our emotional needs met and the pace of life can at times seem overwhelming. In this country, access to effective treatment is readily available, but in some developing countries fewer than 10% of those who need help can receive it.(WHO statistics 2012)
Although on the increase, the symptoms of depression have been recognised throughout history. We call it depression, but in the past it was often referred to as melancholia. These feelings are not unique to humans, as animals too exhibit similar symptoms, especially when kept in captivity.
What does it feel like to be depressed?
Generally speaking, the feelings experienced when we are depressed are deeper and more profound than episodes of unhappiness we all go through at some time in our lives.
Symptoms can include:
Persistent sadness or low mood
Increased emotional sensitivity
Loss of interest in normal activity
Difficulty in decision making
Not coping with things that are normally manageable
Loss or increase in appetite
Loss of sex drive
Feelings of agitation
Thoughts of worthlessness/low confidence
14th September 2012
The Black Dog - a dark companion
Black Dog is a vividly expressive metaphor for depression. Winston Churchill notably referred to his cyclic periods of depression as the Black Dog returning. Although it is thought that this reference was his personal name for the low mood which affected him throughout his life, the term is much older in origin.
The idea of a black dog, a dark and menacing hound, has a long history in the folklore traditions of many cultures. Dreams of black dogs often represented death or dread and in the Middle Ages the expression was commonly used to indicate melancholy. The notion of being 'dogged' by feelings capable of overwhelming you with hopelessness,a lack of meaning and motivation together with complete exhaustion is to truly feel the breath of the Dog on the back of your neck. The expression also seems to suggest a kind of familiarity in the manner of a companion dog's habit of following you around.
In the 19th and 20th centuries the term was still in use to indicate a range of moods from 'sulkiness' to what we may these days call clinical depression. An interesting entry in Farmer and Henley's Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English (1905) defines the Black Dog as 'a figurative expression dialectically for the depression of spirits and melancholy'. A good description,I think, of the experience many of us will be affected by at some time in our lives.
20th October 2011
The Handless Maiden - a teaching tale
This summer I saw the wonderful Kneehigh Theatre's production of The Wild Bride. This is the story of The Handless Maiden, sometimes called Silver Hands or The Handless Bride and is told in different forms throughout Eastern and Middle Europe.It is a compelling account of the heroine's discovery of her strength and endurance from girlhood to mature womanhood.
I have told this story to my clients many times as it is rich in the symbolism associated with crucial stages in the development of ourselves as wise women. The making of bad bargains in relationships when we know no better (or perhaps should know better) loss of innocence, the danger of surrendering intuition and instinct and losing connection to creativity are explored and finally reclaimed in this story spanning a whole lifetime. Although this story is generally regarded as a teaching tale for women I have found that men too find a resonance with the messages in this tale.
Therapeutic Use of Storytelling
Stories can be powerful medicine and move us at our deepest levels.All we need to do is listen as we did once upon a time in childhood to heal and reclaim ourselves in so many ways. This may involve developing the ability to toughen up to deal with whatever life throws us as in the Handless Maiden's Tale or explore grief, secret longings or sadness,transforming these trials into real resources. Stories can be told casually and conversationally, in part or whole. They can be recounted within a hypnotic induction, performed on stage or contained within a simple metaphor.However we hear them their messages are signposts directing our concious attention to ourselves in a new or different light.