An ongoing series of informal entries
An ongoing series of informational entries
January 5th 2019
Life can be unpredictable, are you struggling to cope?
If you feel you need to see a counsellor but are burdened by the prospect of weeks or sometimes months on a waiting list or face the additional stress and worry of funding counselling support, i can offer fast track access and reduced fees to:
An ongoing series of informational entries
Ways to cope with depression
July 5th 2018
Empty nest syndrome
August 16th 2018
In the simplest of terms, empty nest syndrome is grief and loneliness caused when someone moves out of your home. This can occur when a child leaves their parent’s household, or a spouse loses their partner to death or divorce. It can also take place when seniors enter retirement. This type of empty nest syndrome is the result of a change in one’s everyday environment. They are feeling a void caused when they are no longer spending most of their time in a workplace where they have social connections with coworkers and a daily routine. Empty nest syndrome is not a mental health disorder. Therefore, you cannot receive a clinical diagnosis for this condition. That does not mean empty nest syndrome is not a real condition that can be diagnosed by a therapist, social worker, or caregiver. Symptoms of empty nest syndrome to look for include:
Being more sad than usual after a life-changing event, particularly one involving a change in living arrangements
Feeling distressed or easily aggravated
Suffering a loss of one’s meaning in life
Avoidance of social interaction or activities that were once enjoyable
Change in weight, either excessive weight loss or weight gain
If you are experiencing these symptoms in association with a change in your household, then continue reading to learn how to treat empty nest syndrome. Once you understand that you are suffering from empty nest syndrome, it puts a name on your feelings. This is a huge help in overcoming this condition. From there you will want to build up your social network. This helps you replace those social connections you lost, which lead to the condition. If you are an active senior, pick up old hobbies or start new activities, such as going to a senior centre, joining a community book club, or volunteering with a local organisation.
If you are struggling with health issues that prevent you from being active, or have become depressed, seek professional help through therapy or counselling. Counselling support can provide you with resources, such as reading materials or online support groups, that can benefit you.
The science of Sad: Understanding the causes of ‘winter depression’
September 22nd 2018
The darker days and colder weather can bring with them a feeling of low spirits. So, what makes people susceptible to seasonal affective disorder, and what are the best ways to treat it?
Putting the clocks back for daylight saving time can be accompanied by a distinct feeling of winter blues.
Around 80% of Sad sufferers are women, particularly those in early adulthood.
For many of us in the UK, the annual ritual of putting the clocks back for daylight saving time can be accompanied by a distinct feeling of winter blues as autumn well and truly beds in. This might be felt as a lack of energy, reduced enjoyment in activities and a need for more sleep than normal. But for around 6% of the UK population and between 2-8% of people in other higher latitude countries such as Canada, Denmark and Sweden, these symptoms are so severe that these people are unable to work or function normally. They suffer from a particular form of major depression, triggered by changes in the seasons, called seasonal affective disorder or Sad.
In addition to depressive episodes, Sad is characterised by various symptoms including chronic oversleeping and extreme carbohydrate cravings that lead to weight gain. As this is the opposite to major depressive disorder where patients suffer from disrupted sleep and loss of appetite, Sad has sometimes been mistakenly thought of as a “lighter” version of depression, but in reality it is simply a different version of the same illness.
“People who truly have Sad are just as ill as people with major depressive disorder,”
says Brenda McMahon, a psychiatry researcher at the University of Copenhagen.
“They will have non-seasonal depressive episodes, but the seasonal trigger is the most common. However it’s important to remember that this condition is a spectrum and there are a lot more people who have what we call sub-syndromal Sad.”
Around 10-15% of the population has sub-syndromal Sad. These individuals struggle through autumn and winter and suffer from many of the same symptoms but they do not have clinical depression. And in the northern hemisphere, as many as one in three of us may suffer from “winter blues” where we feel flat or uninterested in things and regularly fatigued.
One theory for why this condition exists is related to evolution. Around 80% of Sad sufferers are women, particularly those in early adulthood. In older women, the prevalence of Sad goes down and some researchers believe that this pattern is linked to the behavioural cycles of our ancient ancestors.
“Because it affects such a large proportion of the population in a mild to moderate form, a lot of people in the field do feel that Sad is a remnant from our past, relating to energy conservation,”
says Robert Levitan, a professor at the University of Toronto.
“Ten thousand years ago, during the ice age, this biological tendency to slow down during the wintertime was useful, especially for women of reproductive age because pregnancy is very energy-intensive. But now we have a 24-hour society, we’re expected to be active all the time and it’s a nuisance. However, as to why a small proportion of people experience it so severely that it’s completely disabling, we don’t know.”
Counselling can help with SAD. Learn ways to manage your symptoms and reduce the severity.
If we are to learn lessons from the First World War and better acknowledge the sacrifices of those who served, we must also acknowledge the impact of psychological trauma
15th November 2018
Benjamin Russell Butterworth
People often experience trauma during war. Over time, this can develop into a condition we now recognise as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Sufferers can experience severe anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia and anger, among other symptoms.
It has a long history. Cases of PTSD have been identified from descriptions in ancient Greek history of people experiencing persistent nightmares. Other symptoms, such as feeling anxious and constantly on edge, were described as “soldier’s heart” during the American Civil War. But this history took a sharp turn a hundred years ago, during World War I, when the prevalence of what was then known as “shell-shock” meant that a formal treatment for psychological trauma was needed.
Psychological trauma experienced during the war had an unprecedented toll on veterans, many of whom suffered symptoms for the rest of their lives. These ranged from distressing memories that veterans found difficult to forget, to extreme episodes of catatonia and terror when reminded of their trauma. The sheer scale of veterans experiencing such symptoms after World War I led to the definition of “combat stress reaction”, informing our modern concept of PTSD.
The public perception of PTSD is still rooted in this past, and some of the problems discovered during the First World War regarding psychological trauma have not yet been answered. Though much has changed, many principles and challenges of PTSD treatment were first identified during the First World War. If we are to learn lessons from the war and better acknowledge the sacrifices of those who served, we must also acknowledge the impact of psychological trauma, both then and now.
Soldiers described the effects of trauma as “shell-shock” because they believed them to be caused by exposure to artillery bombardments. As early as 1915, army hospitals became inundated with soldiers requiring treatment for “wounded minds”, tremors, blurred vision and fits, taking the military establishment entirely by surprise. An army psychiatrist, Charles Myers, subsequently published observations in the Lancet, coining the term shell-shock. Approximately 80,000 British soldiers were treated for shell-shock over the course of the war. Despite its prevalence, experiencing shell-shock was often attributed to moral failings and weaknesses, with some soldiers even being accused of cowardice.
Centenary of Armistice – in pictures
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But the concept of shell-shock had its limitations. Despite coining the term, Charles Myers noted that shell-shock implied that one had to be directly exposed to combat, even though many suffering from the condition had been exposed to non-combat related trauma (such as the threat of injury and death). Cognitive and behavioural symptoms of trauma, such as nightmares, hyper-vigilance and avoiding triggering situations, were also overlooked compared to physical symptoms.
Today, it is these cognitive and behavioural symptoms that define PTSD. The physical symptoms that defined shell-shock are often consequences of these nonphysical symptoms.
Treatments were harsh. As depicted in Pat Barker’s novel Regeneration, shell-shock patients could receive courses of electroshock therapy and physical conditioning, with the aim of alleviating physical symptoms quickly.
Not only were such treatments brutal, they were typically ineffective, with 80 per cent of those treated unable to serve again. They were very commonly used to treat physical symptoms such as fits and tremors.
Due to the ineffectiveness of prescribed treatments, many soldiers who had witnessed trauma or experienced shell-shock attempted to self-medicate their symptoms. Alcohol and drug use were common methods to treat immediate symptoms, much like Captain Stanhope’s use of alcohol to cope with the onset of anxiety in the novel Journey’s End. While prevalent, self-medication undoubtedly exacerbated untreated cognitive symptoms, such as flashbacks and nightmares, as is commonly found with PTSD today.
But some shell-shock treatments were highly effective: those that focused on the cognitive and behavioural symptoms now associated with PTSD. One army physician, Arthur Hurst, went to great lengths to encourage shell-shock patients to reconstruct their traumatic experiences, using films and simulations to help confront their traumatic memories. These “talking cures”, which emphasised the cognitive and behavioural symptoms of trauma, had a much better success rate. Although used rarely during the war, many modern PTSD treatments can trace their development to these talking therapies, moving away from only treating physical symptoms and targeting psychological issues, such as distress caused by traumatic memories.
Though the concept of shell-shock shares many features with PTSD, ideas of what constitutes trauma and treatments have since changed dramatically. The focus towards treating underlying cognitive and behavioural symptoms has shown a great reduction in the physical consequences of trauma observed during the First World War. Service personnel are routinely screened for symptoms of trauma before and after deployment; identifying issues early reduces the risk of developing PTSD, whereas shell-shock treatment focused on treating symptoms once they became severe.
Nevertheless, many of the same challenges observed a century ago are equally relevant today. The stigma attached to mental illness still obstructs people from receiving treatment, causing many to self-medicate with alcohol to ease their symptoms instead. Such challenges are not unique to veterans either; refugees and sexual assault survivors are also deeply affected by trauma, but often face barriers to receiving proper treatment, exacerbating their PTSD.
Overall, we have a better understanding of what trauma is because of the First World War. Although modern treatments for PTSD are more effective than those for shell-shock, issues such as social stigma and alcohol misuse remain. These are lessons from the war we are still learning. We must not forget the challenges facing service personnel exposed to trauma, both today and a century ago.
Benjamin Russell Butterworth is a PhD researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University. This article was originally published in The Conversation.
The Spiritual significance of the December Solstice
21st December 2018
There is so much ritual and history associated with the December Solstice.
This time of year has been celebrated for centuries in many different ways and across many different cultures, and there is no denying that even today, there is a magic that ensues this time of year.
You can feel it in the air, see it in the people, hear it in the music. This time of year evokes strong feelings for many and these feelings likely go all the way back in time.
There are two Solstices every year, one in June and one in December. Both of these represent a critical turning point in the cycle of the year.
The word Solstice means Sun standing still, as on this day we have the longest or shortest hours of light depending on whether we are in the Southern or Northern Hemisphere.
It is at this point that we enter into a new direction of energy and start moving towards a phase of completion.
It is at this time that we begin wrapping up the year. It is at this point that we start reflecting on the lessons that the cycle of the year has brought us. It is at this time that we begin shifting.
Even though we may experience a different expression of this energy depending which end of the earth we live in, the message is the same.
The December Solstice is about honouring both light and dark, celebrating the life-giving Sun, and celebrating the full expression of who we really are.
The way in which we celebrate it however, will be different depending on the signs and clues that Mother Nature brings us.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the December Solstice is a time to go within and reflect. It is a time to honour the darkness and to know that light will rise once again.
It is a time to allow the Sun, the very essence of who we are to sleep, to rest, to recharge, and to restore. It is about honouring that for the light to shine brightest, we have to venture into the dark and make peace with what we find there.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the December Solstice is very much the dark night of the soul and we experience the longest night of the year.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the December Solstice brings the longest day of the year, and is a time to let yourself shine. It is a time to express your full potential and allow your inner light to light up the world around you.
Even though these two expressions may be different, they are all helping to achieve the same purpose.
The December Solstice is about honouring that although we may experience the longest day, the darkness will come again, and although we may experience the longest night, the light will come again.
Although we see duality, everything is one and the same. We cannot perceive light unless we have seen the darkness, we cannot understand summer unless we have seen the winter. Both of these concepts need one another to be real.
There is really only one state, all else is an illusion. We are one. Light and dark are one. We are everything and nothing all at the same time.
On this 2018 December Solstice, we are reminded that no matter how dark the night, the light will always return. And no matter how light the day, the darkness will always return.
We live in a world where we can be happy one moment and sad the next. In an instant, your life can change. In an instant, you can be faced with death and pain or birth and pleasure.
We live in a world where all of these shades exists. The highs. The lows. The struggles and the victories.
And although they may appear to be separate states of being, they are part of something bigger. They are a part of wholeness.
For we come into this human state to experience all shades, all colours, and all expressions of our emotional rainbow.
We come into this human life to suffer, to thrive, to find joy, and to find pain. We come to experience it all because we know it is what makes us whole.
Honour the cycles. And know that it is not about how often you venture into the darkness or into the light, but how you allow these states to move you, to change you, to soften you, and to awaken you to wholeness, that resides within and all around.
On this Solstice find your wholeness, and know that the light and the dark are one and the same. Don’t regret the moments spent in darkness, and don’t hold on too tightly to the light. There is no dark or light, there just is. It is just one. It is just a whole. Don’t fight the darkness. Don’t fight the light. Just make peace with both these states and see them as part of something bigger and more infinite. See them as simply labels that our mind uses to make sense of the world. They are nothing more. No labels. Just be. Just be as you are and accept whatever comes your way. Use it to make you whole.
Author : Tanaaz 'Forever Conscious'
An ongoing series of informational entries
June 6th, 2018
Emmy van Deurzen talks about 'Existential Crisis'.
Existential therapy is a unique form of psychotherapy that looks to explore difficulties from a philosophical perspective, rather than taking a technique-based approach. Focusing on the human condition as a whole, existential therapy applauds human capacities and encourages individuals to take responsibility for their successes.
May 8th 2018
If you ever feel so overwhelmed that you just want to escape life, there’s a way to stave that off in advance by learning the best strategies to implement daily self-care.
Self-care can be many things, but today, I want to share a couple reasons why I choose to spend time in nature.
1. A Calm Mind & Steady Mood
Being in nature is proven to help reduce stress. It can help you heal more deeply, more quickly.
It helps to feel more connected as you can get away from all the pressures of the busy world around and focus.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better,” Albert Einstein.
2. A Fully Alive Body
Sitting at the computer all day, commuting to work, and being stuck indoors, can takes a toll on your body.
Getting out into nature and moving around helps you in so many ways. Reducing stress can benefit your sleep, your hormones, and your mood. It also helps your energy levels and increases your cardiovascular health.
Walking is a great gentle weight bearing exercise that most people can tolerate.
Getting out into nature is an opportunity for you to create self-care, clear your mind, improve your mood, and rejuvenate your whole body so you can flourish.