How would you know if you were being emotionally abused?

Although we don’t always realise it, emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse but most people don’t realise that they’re affected in one way or another. Maybe this is because, it builds up over time and the victim often becomes desensitised to it. Even if it’s not intentional, insults, threats, humiliation are all parts of abuse and it’s often used to control another person.

 

Another aspect of such abuse is that it’s often minimised and although most of us learnt this adage in childhood which said, “sticks and stones my break my bones, but names will never hurt me”, this isn’t true. This abuse gets right to the core of another person and attacks their sense of self.

 

It may include a pattern of one or more of the following abuses: insults, criticisms, aggressive demands or expectations, threats, rejection, neglect, blame, emotional manipulation and control, isolation, punishment, terrorizing, ignoring, or teasing.

Harassment, physical and sexual abuse, and witnessing abuse of others are also forms of emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse can take place anywhere: at home, at school, in relationships, and in the workplace. Contrary to popular beliefs that bullies are only found in the school yard, many bullies also exist in the workplace and in the home. People who appear happy and shiny on the outside can be very different on the inside. First of all, there’s –

  • The passive-aggressive colleague or partner – this is someone who passively expresses anger. This can be by repeatedly keeping you waiting or by constantly changing arrangements. The underlying message is that their life is more important than yours but there can also be a denial of feelings, back-handed compliments or sarcasm. If you live with someone like that, it’s easy to imagine that you’ve done something to upset your partner or colleague but, if questioned, they’ll say that they’re fine or “I’m not annoyed in any way”. You can spend many hours mulling this over, trying to work out what the other person is thinking or feeling.

If a person can’t communicate in a straightforward way or uses sarcasm a lot, you might be dealing with someone who’s passive-aggressive.

  • The critic – criticism isn’t the same as advice and when you feel judged, no matter what you say or do, it usually has a big impact on your personal or working life. Someone who’s very critical often criticises the person rather than their actions. Although they may not call you names, they often insult your values and opinions, making disparaging remarks about what you say and feel, often because they want to have some control. The person may criticise your every move – for instance, by saying “Why don’t you ever…..?” or “Are you really going to wear that….?”. Does this ring a bell?
  • The refuser – this is someone who refuses to communicate, engage in conversation or discuss feelings. They often refuse to admit that there’s a problem. This leads to negative feelings and it can seem as if there’s a barrier between you but it also often leads to you feeling guilt and maybe resentment. If the other person refuses to be honest and open with you, you may wonder why you’re in the relationship at all as it’s easy to become angry and frustrated.
  •  The narcissist – this is the person who behaves as if they know everything, is best at everything and usually tells you just how good they are. You can never measure up to this person as they put themselves above others and often lack insight and empathy. They might turn this around to you, saying that you ‘overthink’ things but who can make that judgement about you? They can easily jeopardise special occasions which include any anniversary or special day for you and if they feel hurt or rejected, they are capable of destroying everything around them.

 

So, how can you handle this sort of abuse? One helpful thing can be to step back from the situation and trust your instincts and feelings about people. This is very hard if the person behaving like this is your partner because you’ve built up a life with them. However, it’s easy to minimise emotional abuse and think that the other person will change. They won’t – you will have to be the one to change as they won’t see the need to do so.

If you feel that there’s a chance for the relationship/friendship, try writing down what you feel and what they’ve said and give them one last opportunity to address it. If they still refuse to accept that there’s a problem, it may be time to step away for good.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this blog.

It may be that you’re struggling with happiness or have other issues that you’re finding difficult to cope with. If you would like to discuss how counselling could help, please phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com

 

 

“If only I could feel happy again…….”

Have you been feeling a bit ‘low’ lately, as if happiness is eluding you and has been for a while now? It’s tempting to think that everyone else is joyful and full of love all of the time which can make your own feelings seem even harder to understand.  If you’ve been feeling like that for a while, try some of these tips below to help you through:

  • Recognise that really, truly – the best things in life are mostly free. Little things like someone phoning you or finally finding something on Netflix that you’ve been searching for are treats that really happy people know are the icing on the cake of normal, mundane everyday things.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others. Constantly comparing ourselves just makes us dissatisfied with what we have and highlights things that we don’t have
  • Forgive and try to forget – holding a grudge holds us back and it’s forgiveness that allows us to move on.
  • Don’t save things for ‘best’ – if you have something new in your wardrobe, wear it! It’s important to enjoy the ‘here and now’.
  • This brings me onto living in the present – when bad things happen, it’s hard not to dwell on them and it’s sometimes difficult not to worry about the future but we have little control over it so sometimes it’s better to ‘go with it’.
  • See your friends and family as much as you can – as long as they’re supportive and kind, spending time with them will reinforce that meeting up with people and valuing their love for you, will help you to feel happier. If they’re not kind and supportive, think again about why you actually spend time with them……
  • Get outside – research shows that people who live near green, open spaces have higher life satisfaction than those who spend more time outdoors. You don’t have to live in the country to get those feelings – get out there, walk in parks and see if it helps. I can almost guarantee that it will!
  • Learn to like yourself more – you will never be perfect to look at or as a human being, but accepting yourself, particularly physically, is a great start to feeling happier.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this blog.

It may be that you’re struggling with happiness or have other issues that you’re finding difficult to cope with. If you would like to discuss how counselling could help, please phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com

Why are we always arguing about money?

When you first get together with someone, it’s easy to forget about possible future issues about money but when you spend more time as a couple, different attitudes often show up and can cause arguments. Why is that?

  • Different past experiences – some people grow up in households where arguments about money happen on a regular basis. It’s almost as if they’re ‘wired’ to listen to this from a young age. Because of that, they might have developed an ‘attitude’ about it by the time they become adults themselves.
  • Learning about money – if you grew up in a house where one or both of your parents budgeted and talked about how to spend any spare income, it’s a good basis for the future. However, that doesn’t happen with everyone and so they haven’t learned how to resolve disagreements about spending.
  • Money means different things to different people – for some people, putting on a good ‘show’ to the outside world is very important. They feel judged by others and their self-worth depends on how much they own, even if that means getting into debt.
  • In a lot of partnerships, typically, one person will take charge of the finances, meaning that the other one doesn’t really know what’s going on or how much goes out on bills. The second person can often feel resentful about this but finds it difficult to say so, especially if the money-organiser takes the view that they’re doing it to save any hassle and their way is the ‘right way’.
  • Secrets about spending or saving can be very detrimental, especially if a credit card bill turns up or someone stashes clothes away without telling the other person. This may seem harmless but why are they doing that? Maybe there’s guilt involved…..

So, if one of you is a ‘spender’ (often called a “squanderer” or “compulsive shopper”) and the other one is a ‘saver’ (thought of as “awkward” or a “miser”), what can you do?

First of all, talk about it and why your view is the one you feel is right. What does money represent for both of you? Do you think it’s better to live for the day or save for the future?

The most important thing is to try to respect your partner’s viewpoint, even if you don’t agree with it. Keep an open mind and remember that it’s not about winning a battle but trying to find a compromise so that both of you feel you’re getting something out of the discussion.

Recognise that if you grew up with different attitudes towards money, this will have influenced both of you, even if you don’t recognise that at first.

Try to come to an agreement about a budget, make a plan and try to stick to it for three months. After that, review it to see how it’s working for both of you. This will help you to feel as if you’re working as a team, rather than in conflict.

If you can’t work it out between you, it could be the time to try relationship counselling to enable both of you to look at the money situation more objectively.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, please like and share it with your friends on Facebook and if you would like to discuss counselling, please e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com or phone me on 07956 986 693.

 

Letting go of a toxic relationship

Sometimes it seems as if we’re programmed keeps to desire love – for a lot of people, it’s almost as important to them as food and water. Is that why, even if we know that we’re with the wrong person, we blind ourselves to seeing that? Even when every part of us tells us that someone is wrong for us, we stay.

So why is that? What keeps us in a relationship, or friendship, even when it seems so difficult?

Maybe you’ve already experienced this with a prospective partner – you meet, you like each other, you meet for drinks or coffee, share a meal and before you know where you are, you’re a couple. You meet each other’s families, you know each other’s friends and to everyone else you seem like a perfect couple.

But underneath, it’s different – you don’t feel it’s at all perfect. They always have their phone with them but never reply to your texts, you make plans but they’re not followed through, you never know where they are and although they refer to you as their girl/boyfriend it doesn’t seem like that. They’re physical, you’re emotional; you like talking, they stay silent. If you challenge them, they say things like “well, I’m not really a texter. I prefer face-to-face conversations”. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, you can sense the dishonesty lurking there.

They only talk about themselves and aren’t interested in you most of the time…..and so it goes on with you always making the effort to be there for them but it rarely being reciprocated.

You tell yourself that you deserve better but do you really believe it? It takes courage to break off this sort of relationship that you may have become dependent upon in some ways and it may be that you’re not ready for that step yet. It could be one of the following as well:

  • Change is difficult and means doing things differently. If you break up, it will mean not having someone special in your life; there will be no phone calls, no-one to wake up next to and no-one to share the rent. These things can seem very daunting.
  • Most of us are quite emotional creatures – we’re complex and can often feel love and hate at the same time. This can happen when someone breaks your heart – you hate what they’ve done but you still love them and they will always have a special place in your heart.
  • We hate the idea of failure – we don’t want to give up on something that seemed so important and want to stick it out so that we don’t have to say that the relationship failed. Somehow, that seems to indicate that we made a poor choice of partner/friend in the first place and that’s hard to face up to.
  • Some people thrive on the drama of it – the yelling and screaming or the day-long sulking. There’s also something to complain about to friends – toxic relationships provide a lot to talk/complain about.
  • We think that we can somehow fix it, or fix the other person, but in reality it’s hard to ‘rescue’ someone, especially if they don’t want to be rescued. In reality, it’s often easier to be with someone who isn’t quite so complicated and who wants a more equal relationship.

So, it seems that we stay for a lot of reasons that are difficult to understand but some of those reasons are bound up with our lack of self-esteem, not wanting to be alone or the desire to feel needed by someone.

If you feel that some of the reasons you put up with less than you really want, it’s time to look at your own feelings of self-worth and discover how you can feel better about yourself. Once you’ve achieved that, you’ll be able to look at your relationship in a different light and judge whether you get enough out of it to stay.

Remember – “Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it’s better to leave them broken than hurt yourself trying to put it back together”. Anon.

Counselling can help with low self-esteem as well as other similar issues – if you’re interested in finding out more, please phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com.

It’s coming up to holiday time again……….

There are very few people who don’t like holidays because, apart from those who hate the hassle of packing up and living somewhere else for a week or two, almost everyone likes to relax and see new things. Holidays are great in lots of ways but before booking, most of us have to decide whether it’s best to go alone, as a couple, with family or with friends.

Although holidays with family can be cheaper (shared transport and/or free accommodation if parents pay or even have a villa abroad), they can also be hard work. Some families manage to fall out before their flight has been called and maybe that’s because the old dynamics immediately come into play. Mum always wants to go shopping, Dad prefers going to a museum and the children want to go to the beach all day, every day. If you’re a family that’s used to resolving any differences with discussion that’s fine, but if differences in ideas and opinions result in arguments and sulks, it’s unlikely to be any different on holiday! Be warned – those old dynamics, whatever they were, are likely to rear their heads pretty quickly!

Going on holiday with friends is different again – you’ve chosen to go away with these people whom you mix with a lot at home anyway. However, what seemed a good idea over a bottle of Pinot Grigio in January, may not pan out as well when you’re sharing an apartment in Marbella in August. That’s because no matter how well you know your friends, you don’t really know them until you’ve lived under the same roof for a week or two. A week is usually how long it takes to realise that your friend is really a hypochondriac (how come that didn’t seem the case during a wet, cold English winter?) and his/her partner drinks far more than you’d every realized, which means that they don’t surface until after lunch when the sun’s at its hottest.

If one couple has children and the other hasn’t, this in itself can cause problems. Your lifestyles are now different from when you were all child-free and there are probably going to be lots of compromises ahead. For most people, if they have a small child there’s a lot more luggage involved plus stops for nappy-changing and, the biggest difference of all, less ability/desire to go out late at night. This is never as appealing when you know you’re going to be awake at 6a.m. the next day when your baby decides that it’s the start of a new day.

Even if both couples have children, different ways of interacting on holiday can cause a big gulf – you like yours to keep to some sort of routine, whereas they think that it’s fine for their little ones to stay up late, practically bouncing off the ceiling, until they finally drop asleep. Mealtimes, days out – they can all become big issues if they’re not discussed before the actual holiday.

If you’re still single and are thinking of going on holiday with a friend, try to talk about what you both want from the break before you book. For some people, lying on the beach reading with an occasional dip in the sea is what their holiday is about; for others, they like getting up early, looking at the local sights and maybe hiring a car to see more of the area which may well include an old building of some sort. In addition, one of you might want to go out every night, whilst the other one wants to stay in, at least part of the time.

Money is also a factor in some of this – if one of you has a lot more spending money than the other one (or other couple), it means that there will have to be compromises to allow for different budgets. Also, some peoples’ idea of having a kitty or going halves on expenses and eating out can come under scrutiny if one person chooses five courses and orders several bottles of wine, whereas only another eats two courses and drinks lime and soda all evening. Splitting the bill equally is actually not at all equal! You’d think that these things would be apparent before the holiday but often they’re not because people behave differently at home. Once away, they can seem to develop totally different habits and attitudes!

However, to finish on a positive note, travelling and holidaying with friends can be a huge amount of fun and is a good way to learn more about yourself as well as them. It can be a great way to strengthen a friendship and see positive aspects of other people that you hadn’t really noticed before. If it turns out that you hate it, there’s always next year to go it alone…

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog and found it interesting, please like and share with your friends on FB as well.

Coping with heartbreak

It’s one of the hardest things to overcome when you thought you’d be together for the long-term, possibly forever, and then you find that your partner doesn’t want to be with you any longer.  There may not even be another person involved but he/she wants out and there’s no persuading them otherwise.

Here are a few things that may help on a day-to-day basis – they won’t solve the awful feelings of loss that you’re experiencing but they will hopefully get you from day to day until eventually you feel slightly better.

  1. Accept that your feelings of anger, uncertainty, agitation, fear and shock are normal. There’s no right or wrong about feelings and you’ll be on a roller-coaster of emotions for a long time.
  2. Tears are healthy – you may actually feel numb for some time but it’s important to allow yourself to cry too.
  3. Write a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings your partner’s behaviour and why it feels so painful.
  4. It’s still alright to laugh. Try watching a funny film or TV show and, if you can bear it, spend some time with people who make you smile.
  5. Ask all the questions you want to – however, be aware that you may not get the answers you want or even any answers at all. You can’t make someone give you reasons, frustrating though that is.
  6. Do not make any major decisions about how you want things to be – this is the time for reflection and recognising that even though you thought things were okay some things maybe needed to be dealt with.
  7. Your children need to know that you are going to be okay. You can’t hide the fact that you are going through serious stress or trauma. Being honest with your children might be the best approach depending upon their age, but don’t weigh them down with details. Also, don’t make promises that you can’t keep.
  8. Take it one day at a time and try not to look too far into the future.
  9. It takes time to get beyond the pain of having break-up. Don’t expect the mixture of feelings, the sense of confusion and limbo, and the mistrust to go away immediately. There are stages to loss (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and hopefully acceptance at some point) – you can’t fast-forward through these, much as you’d like to.
  10. Think about practical things – look at your finances, housing situation, transportation, etc. Make sure you have thought out where you will live, if you have enough money to pay for your essentials, etc.
  11. Only confide in people that you can trust – it’s good to talk but be careful that you only open your heart to people who can keep things confidentially.
  12. Seek counselling if you’re struggling too much to cope – it can really help to talk to a professional who can listen and give strategies for the future.

 

 

Are you being made redundant?

In today’s climate, redundancy is being talked about and experienced by a lot of people and living through the process and the aftermath can take a huge toll on you emotionally.  You may feel anxious, fearful or angry and there can be a sense of shame for some people whilst others might feel relief.  Even laidback and self-contained people can experience emotions that seem strange and unsettling and a lot of us haven’t had to cope with the emotional stresses and strains of this situation before.  So, learning how to cope with all the emotional stresses and strains that come with letting go of the old and ushering in the new is a big part of rebuilding a new life.

What your job means to you and what it gives you could include:

  • Daily structure/framework
  • Identity
  • Salary
  • Status
  • Standing in community/partner/friends/family
  • Friendships
  • Confidence

It is likely that your job provides you with most, or all, of the above and therefore being made redundant can have a lot of knock-on effects including putting a strain on relationships within the home.  Understanding this process, recognising that it is quite normal, and accepting that it affects everyone can help us to come to terms with this situation.  It also gives us valuable empathy and insight into the feelings of others around us too.

As with any other loss, redundancy means that we often experience similar symptoms to those experienced with a bereavement and because of that, most people need to grieve which can be a useful process – it helps us to recover from events that are too overwhelming to deal with all at once.

There are usually six stages to the process of grief and how quickly we move through the stages will depend upon our individual circumstances but the seven stages are quite distinct. Sometimes these are given slightly different labels but essentially they are: shock, denial, anger/resistance, emotionality, acceptance, exploration and challenge.

We don’t move through these stages in a straight line and it’s quite common to have little relapses just when we think all is going well. A knock back like being rejected for a new job can bruise us all over again, so it’s important to be easy on ourselves.

Stage 1 – Shock In a similar style to a grief reaction, people may take some time to address the reality of what has just occurred.  You can’t really do much at this stage but try to get to grips with what the new situation entails.

Stage 2 – Denial A common reaction may be to deny the impact of the redundancy “This isn’t (or can’t be) happening to me!”  There can be refusal to believe what is being said i.e. ‘you can’t mean it’, ‘after everything I’ve done for this place’.  Questioning of the facts i.e. ‘are you sure it’s me?’, ‘what about that project I’m working on?’  There may be denial or avoidance of uncomfortable facts.

Stage 3 – Anger/Resistance It is important to openly deal with what angers us. “Why did this have to happen to me?”  Anger and resentment can build up because a person may feel that they had seen disaster looming and done their best to prevent this.  However, if their job was lost, in spite of all their efforts to prevent this situation happening, they could feel angry and let down.  It’s natural to feel angry and work needs to done to pass onto a more positive frame of mind.  Anger de-skills us but it can also create a mood of self-preservation.’

Some people will also experience bitterness and there can be thoughts of revenge and ‘getting even’ and these feelings can often arise as a combination of issues.

Step 4 – Feeling very emotional. This can include crying openly, becoming very withdrawn and undergoing mood swings, being up one day and down the next. There is often despair and a sense of loss and inadequacy. The person’s self-esteem often dips and they question their own worth.

Stage 5- Acceptance Eventually, there starts to be some acceptance that the way things are done has indeed changed and that the old ways are in fact gone.  “I suppose if I have to deal with this, I might as well get on with it”  By this time the person has accepted at least one of the facts, faced up to the anger and fear and started missing some of the things that will never be the same again.  This realisation can often bring out new facts which have to be accepted i.e. plans for holidays, children house, etc.  Then the whole process starts again.  This may happen many times before grieving is complete.

 Stage 6 – Exploration This will include a willingness to look at options to move forward from redundancy.  “How do I actually go forward from here?”  This is the point at which you might start to look at re-training, find a new job, thinking of setting up your own business. It will be important to understand how you will support yourself and your family whilst you develop an alternative income stream.  Sorting out your finances is an essential first step as it’s much harder to rebuild your life if you are constantly beset by money worries.

Stage 7 – Challenge. This is where you can actually move forward.  If you are a job hunter, have you prepared a CV that is geared to the kind of job you want and demonstrates to recruiters and employers that you have what it takes to do it well?  If you have that CV written, have you researched/registered with all the employers, recruiters and websites appropriate to the type of new job you are looking for?  Have you networked with friends, family, colleagues, professional associations etc to look for additional leads?  If you have interviews, have you brushed up your interview skills?  Are you taking good care of yourself both mentally and physically because job hunting itself can be pretty hard work?  Are you pursuing your plan rigorously?

If you have been used to the routine of regular work suddenly not having that structure after you have been made redundant can be a mixed blessing. Common reactions can range from panic to paralysis!  During your period of redundancy-driven leisure, providing some structure to your days as soon as possible is vital. Job searching needs to be systematic so have times when you will look for work.  Don’t forget to factor in some time to relax, de-stress and consider options that might take you down a ‘new life route’.  Many people report that engaging in some form of sport or exercise especially running and swimming helps to keep us fit but also to release our ‘feel good’ hormones. It keeps us on the straight and narrow road to recovery, and depression at bay.  Being busy in a constructive way enables the healing process.

All in all, take each day as it comes.  Don’t expect too much, too quickly, from either your partner or yourself. For family and friends, it helps to:

  • Accept the person for how they are feeling
  • Keep listening to them – the person may well repeat the same story again and again. It may get boring but keep listening anyway. This is how people process what’s happened.
  • Be patient and remember that hopefully this is a temporary situation.
  • Don’t be surprised if they’re angry – this can be not only about the job but about almost anything. It’s very common to be irritable.
  • Don’t use humour to avoid the emotions – value the person and do what you can to boost their confidence.
  • Don’t resort to platitudes such as “it could be worse……” or “it happens to a lot of people……” or even “this could be a turning point for you”. Whilst they may all be true, none of them are helpful for the person concerned.

It’s good to talk – sometimes if we can’t or don’t want to talk to people we know about our feelings and anxieties, we need to talk to someone who is independent and that’s where counselling can help. If this is how you’re feeling, please contact me on 07956986693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com.

No-one’s perfect

For some people, the desire to be perfect is so great that it’s a burden to them and often makes them unhappy. Although seeking perfection might seem achievable, it can’t be because we’re all human and as such, we make mistakes at times.

In our culture we move almost relentlessly towards a greater emphasis on achievements, especially where our careers are concerned. This can cause such a lot of stress and stops people living in the moment (something that I wrote about in my Facebook post of 24th May).

Sometimes, the quest for perfection is really a disguise for something else – peoples’ own insecurities. It says “I’m just not good enough as I am” and people start judging themselves because of that. This can sometimes start at school if people are bullied there – the feeling of never being good enough can often start in those circumstances, or in a home where things are very regimented and there’s a ‘right way to do things’ which doesn’t allow for any other way. People in those circumstances often grow up feeling that if they can be perfect, they’ll be beyond reproach.

There is sometimes an element of ‘bargaining’ going on too – believing that bad things will happen if we’re not perfect. This can be particularly pronounced if a child grew up with a parent who was ill and somehow the child felt responsible for the mother or father. There can be an element of ‘if I’m perfect, Mum will get better and everything will be alright’. A lot of perfectionists have their own variation on this theme and try to hang onto some sort of control even in later life.

Love and acceptance are the basic emotional needs of every human being but if these needs weren’t met when you were growing up or you learned that love was conditional upon what you can do for others or upon your performance, then the concept of unconditional love is quite possibly an alien concept for you and you’ll feel that you have to ‘jump through hoops’ to earn love from another person. The impossible task of trying to please everyone leaves people physically and emotionally exhausted and is the basis for anxiety and depression.

So, if this sounds like you and you’re finding it all too much, try the following to help you realise that it’s alright to be you, a complete human being with the same frailties as everyone else.

  • Be more realistic in your thinking – perfectionists are often very critical of themselves. One of the most effective ways to overcome perfectionism is to replace self-critical or perfectionistic thoughts with more realistic statements. Practice them regularly like “even if it’s not exactly how I’d like it, I’ll manage fine”.
  • Tell other people when you’re feeling tired or low (or other feelings that you’d usually consider being ‘weak’). In other words, it’s alright to show some vulnerability.
  • Remember that it’s alright if some people don’t like you – it doesn’t make you a bad person and you may not like them much either! It’s impossible to be liked by everyone and that’s alright.
  • Try more ‘grey’ thinking – if you only see things in black and white, both for yourself and other people, it limits more creative thinking.
  • Look at the bigger picture – people who are perfectionists tend to get bogged down in details and worry about little things that don’t really matter. Ask yourself ‘in a year’s time, how much will this really matter?’.
  • Limit repeating behaviours – if you continually check documents/emails to make sure they’re absolutely correct and perfect, limit yourself to one check and then send it.
  • People who seek perfection are often very sensitive to other peoples’ judgements although sometimes these judgements are imagined. Everyone has an opinion but no-one can be your judge unless you elevate them to that position.
  • Don’t worry if the above take some practice – they won’t come easily at first but over time they will get easier.

Maybe you’re struggling with controlling your worries or other issues in your life at the moment and are considering coming for counselling. If you’d like to discuss this, please contact me by phone on 07956986693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com

 

Have you heard about ‘Mindfulness’?

You may have heard ‘mindfulness’ being spoken about or read about it in a magazine and wondered what it’s really about. Hopefully, this post will explain a bit more about it.

Basically, in this busy world, our minds are constantly pulled from pillar to post, scattering our thoughts and emotions and leaving us feeling stressed, highly-strung and at times quite anxious. Most of us don’t have five minutes to sit down and relax, let alone 30 minutes or more for a meditation session. But it is essential for our wellbeing to take a few minutes each day to cultivate mental spaciousness and achieve a positive mind-body balance.

So if you are running around, finding it hard to cope, try using these simple mindfulness exercises to empty your mind and find some much-needed calm amidst the madness of your hectic day.

Mindful Breathing – this exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. All you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute.

Start by breathing in and out slowly. One cycle should last for approximately 6 seconds. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body. Let go of your thoughts for a minute. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let yourself be still for one minute.

If you are someone who thought they’d never be able to meditate, guess what? You are half way there already! If you enjoyed one minute of this mind-calming exercise, why not try two or three?

Mindful Observation – this exercise is simple but incredibly powerful. It is designed to connect us with the beauty of the natural environment, something that is easily missed when we are rushing around in the car or hopping on and off trains on the way to work.

Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower or an insect, or even the clouds or the moon.

Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax into a harmony for as long as your concentration allows. Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time.

Mindful Awareness – this exercise is designed to cultivate a heightened awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks and the results they achieve.

Think of something that happens every day more than once; something you take for granted, like opening a door, for example. These touch point cues don’t have to be physical ones. For example: each time you think a negative thought you might choose to take a moment to stop, label the thought as unhelpful and release the negativity. Or, perhaps each time you smell food, you take a moment to stop and appreciate how lucky you are to have good food to eat and share with your family and friends.

Choose a touch point that resonates with you today. Instead of going through your daily motions on autopilot, take occasional moments to stop and cultivate purposeful awareness of what you are doing and the blessings it brings your life.

Mindful Listening – this exercise is designed to open your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way. Select a piece of music you have never heard before. You may have something in your own collection that you have never listened to, or you might choose to turn the radio dial until something catches your ear.

Close your eyes and put on your headphones. Try not to get drawn into judging the music by its genre, title or artist name before it has begun playing. Instead, ignore any labels and neutrally allow yourself to get lost in the journey of sound for the duration of the song. Allow yourself to explore every aspect of track. Even if the music isn’t to your liking at first, let go of your dislike and give your awareness full permission to climb inside the track and dance among the sound waves.The idea is to just listen, to become fully entwined with the composition without preconception or judgment of the genre, artist, lyrics or instrumentation.

Mindful Immersion – the intention of this exercise is to cultivate contentment in the moment and escape the persistent striving we find ourselves caught up in on a daily basis. Rather than anxiously wanting to finish an everyday routine task in order to get on with doing something else, take that regular routine and fully experience it like never before.

For example: if you are cleaning your house, pay attention to every detail of the activity. Rather than treat this as a regular chore, create an entirely new experience by noticing every aspect of your actions: Feel and become the motion when sweeping the floor, sense the muscles you use when scrubbing the dishes, develop a more efficient way of wiping the windows clean. The idea is to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar routine task.

Instead of labouring through and constantly thinking about finishing the task, become aware of every step and fully immerse yourself in the progress. Take the activity beyond a routine by aligning yourself with it physically, mentally and spiritually. Who knows, you might even enjoy the cleaning for once!

Mindful Appreciation – in this last exercise, all you have to do is notice 5 things in your day that usually go unappreciated. These things can be objects or people – it’s up to you. Use a notepad to check off 5 by the end of the day.

The point of this exercise is to simply give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life; the things that support our existence but rarely get a second thought amidst our desire for bigger and better things.

For example: electricity powers your kettle, the postman delivers your mail, your clothes provide you warmth, your nose lets you smell the flowers in the park, your ears let you hear the birds in the tree by the bus stop, but…

  • Do you know how these things/processes came to exist, or how they really work?
  • Have you ever properly acknowledged how these things benefit your life and the lives of others?
  • Have you ever thought about what life might be like without these things?
  • Have you ever stopped to notice their finer, more intricate details?
  • Have you ever sat down and thought about the relationships between these things and how together they play an interconnected role in the functioning of the earth?

Once you have identified your 5 things, try to find out everything you can about them and their purpose to truly appreciate the way in which they support your life.

In Summary – the cultivation of moment-by-moment awareness of our surrounding environment is a practice that helps us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in everyday life.

With regular practice of mindfulness exercises, rather than being led on auto-pilot by emotions influenced by negative past experiences and fears of future occurrences, we harness the ability to root the mind in the present moment and deal with life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm, assertive way.

You may be struggling with living in the moment, dwelling on the past and finding the future difficult to look forward to. If that’s the case, counselling may help – if you’d like to discuss this further, please phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com.

Coping with debt

Finding that you can’t cope financially can be absolutely devastating, especially if you’ve never found yourself in this position before. You may have prided yourself on managing to save money, ‘pay your way’ and probably providing ‘treats’ for your family and friends.

When you realise that things have to change it may be too late – you’re in too deep and things look bad. Actually telling your partner or friends may well be one of the most difficult parts of this. It’s hard to admit that we haven’t been able to manage things as well as we’d hoped. In this financial climate, it’s easier than ever to get into debt and if you’ve been made redundant, this in itself can be devastating. The emotional impact of redundancy is often huge anyway, let alone the financial consequences, even if you’ve received some compensation.

There can be a temptation to spend, spend, spend and not think about the consequences but this is ignoring the issues. A budget needs to be drawn up and this needs to be realistic – rent/mortgage, food and bills need to be paid before anything else. If you have children you may have to explain that you can no longer pay for some of the things they used to have but be positive in the way you tell them – they will take their lead from you and if you can make it seem as if you’re all going to cope and be fine, it’s a good life-lesson. Where you are concerned, it may mean that you can no longer go out for meals with friends or socialise in the same ways. Try to explain to them that things are tight right now and you can only go for a coffee at the moment. They may want to help you but this can make it worse – try to put down some boundaries, say that you’re going to be fine and that a bit of budgeting won’t hurt you.

Regarding the practicalities of debts mounting up, the worst thing you can do is to ignore the problem and hope it will go away on its own – it will not.  Here are some steps to deal with your debt right now:

  • Make a list of how much you owe and whom you owe it to.  Mortgage and rent payments are most important, to avoid eviction so tackle them first.
  • Speak to your lenders – they may agree to you stopping payments for a couple of months if your problem is a temporary one or they could arrange an IVA (Indidual Voluntary Arrangement iva.co.uk to pay off the debt at an affordable rate for you.
  • Find out how else you can make money.  Is there a skill you have that could help you with a second job from home in the evenings?
  • Can other family members lend you money instead of a bank or finance company? If you are able to borrow from within your family or from friends it’s vital to make sure that you agree on a regular method of realistic repayments with an end date for both parties. If you don’t do this resentment can build up and spoil the relationship.
  • Sell possessions to pay off debt.  Online auction sites are a great way to make cash which can then be used to pay off your bills.
  • Bankruptcy is the final straw for those in debt but while it seems an easy way out, those declared bankrupt find it very difficult to get credit afterwards.  You also lose control of your assets, including your home.
  • For advice and help, contact the Citizens Advice Service at www.citizensadvice.org.uk, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service on 0800 1380 1111 or National Debtline on 0808 808 4000.

If you’re struggling with this or other issues, please contact me to discuss counselling. You can phone me on 07956 986 693 or e.mail me at annhogancounselling@gmail.com