Nicola CharrettCounsellor & Psychotherapist
Leatherhead, Surrey

How to Help Someone Struggling With Anxiety

At times, we feel anxiety - a sense of unease or worry about something uncertain in the future - which is a good thing: A bit of performance anxiety, for example, which can manifest as apprehension or even dread, might motivate you to hunker down and prepare for a test or a speech.

But for those with anxiety disorders, these intense feelings rarely dissipate, and sufferers tend to feel ramped up anxiety more of the time and in more aspects of their everyday life.

The most common physical symptoms of anxiety include chronic stomach aches or abdominal pains, chest tightness, sweating, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

When it comes to supporting a loved one with anxiety, being empathetic is very important, but you don't want to step in and try to offer solutions or ‘fix' things outright. Most often, simply having someone check-in is more important. Just validating instead of trying to offer advice is a huge thing.

Here are some other ways you can be an ally:
• Practice empathetic listening: Taking time to listen to someone's concerns (without responding with judgmental statements or questions) is immensely helpful.
• Allow them to voice their concerns freely: Especially if you are a close family member or a friend, give the person with anxiety the space to speak about their anxiety or their triggers.
• Be flexible and lower the stakes when you can: Remind them that they can delegate some of her responsibilities to take time for themselves.
• Be watchful for signs of anxiety: Anxiety can generally be broken down into anxious thoughts, anxious behaviours or physical symptoms. These signs can be subtle, so be on the lookout for changes.
• Empower them to handle their own challenges: While it's important to provide support and encouragement when necessary, it can be easy to overstep. Encourage an anxiety sufferer to get professional help, especially if their main way of coping is avoiding all anxiety-inducing situations.

The COVID-19 crisis has made life more challenging for everyone—especially those who are struggling with a mental illness. Counsellors in Leatherhead are always on hand to help, so get in touch today.



3 Ways To Manage Sleep Anxiety

These unprecedented times are bound to cause mental health issues for many, whether you’ve suffered from anxiety issues in the past or not, From the global impact of coronavirus to the pressures of financial challenges and new learning curves around working from home, there are many scenarios that can keep us wide awake and worrying at night.

As anxiety charities report a surge in demand for their services during the lockdown, we wanted to look at trying to get a good nights sleep, which can often be an issue for many people. Sleep is meant to rejuvenate us for the next day, but the lack thereof can often leave us feeling drained, lethargic and lacking motivation.

1. Avoid reading the news before bed

Many of us like to keep up to date with the news and social media, checking our newsfeed before bed, but doing so will fill your mind with information, and will keep you awake and alert, and potentially more anxious.

Use the hour before you go to bed to have a digital detox: run yourself a hot bath, read a book, meditate, or do some yoga.

2. Keep to a consistent routine

Self-isolating and lockdown can play havoc with our daily routines, from balancing working at your kitchen table from home with home-schooling the kids, it isn’t easy to maintain a regular sleep routine when the lines between home and work become blurred.

Keeping a consistent wake-up routine will help you fall asleep and stay asleep at night time.

3. Try to stay active

Whether you're an early riser and like to squeeze in-home workouts before the day begins or prefer to run on your lunch break, making time for exercise will help to boost your mood, improve your health and help you to sleep better. Getting outside and exposing yourself to daylight when possible will also be a big help.

If you’re struggling and would like to talk to a counsellor in Surrey, then get in touch.



5 Hobbies To Keep Yourself Busy

If you’re adjusting to self-isolation, and already watched everything on Netflix, drank all your wine, and eaten all your snacks, it’s time to try a new approach before the rot of boredom can set in. Maybe you need to feel more productive during your extra free time, or perhaps getting yourself - and the kids if they’re restless - involved in a new hobby.

Investing time in a hobby can be very good for mental health, and reducing stress and anxiety, and while everyone is cooped up inside, it’s essential to prioritise our wellbeing.

From learning new skills to flexing your creative muscles, here are a few ideas for making the most of your downtime.

1. Painting

YouTube has plenty of tutorials on painting for beginners for learning the basics. You’ll need art supplies, brushes, paints, a palette, and something to paint on, but it can al be bought easily online.

Be adventurous and explore different techniques, maybe even have a go at creating your own take on the contemporary abstract and line work, which is immensely popular in interior design at the moment.

2. Learn a language

It’s possible that you’ve never attempted to learn another language since taking French or German at school, but that never means it’s too late to try now. There are some excellent smartphone apps, such as Babel and Duolingo, available to teach you a plethora of new languages at any level from beginners to those who simply want to fine-tune their skills.

3. Knitting

For a hobby that’s maybe a little more zen and sedate, knitting is maybe one of the most mindful pastimes going, thanks to its repetitive nature. YouTube is a treasure trove of content for beginner knitters, with tutorials from how to nail the essential knit stitch to switching up your designs with different colours and patterns.

4. Creative writing

There are many free online creative writing courses available that are built around getting your creative juices flowing. You’ll learn how to flesh out your ideas, develop your characters and you’ll get feedback on your stories from others taking part in the course too.

5. Yoga

Whether you’re looking to be more flexible, or progress to some impressive inversions, yoga is a great hobby to take up. There are so many ways to learn, from Yoga With Adriene on YouTube to apps like Glo.

Hopefully, a new pastime will help you relax and feel creative, but should you feel you need the services of a counsellor in Leatherhead then get in touch.



Tips To Take Care Of Your Mental Health During Isolation

With the whole of the UK now in lockdown, and people not able to leave their homes unless it’s absolutely necessary, you may be worrying about how to look after your mental health, especially if you live alone.

Speaking to the BBC recently, Linda Bauld, professor of public health at Edinburgh University, offered some advice on how to take care of your mental health while you’re isolating.

If you already have a mental health condition, it’s essential to stay in touch with your mental healthcare professional, she asserted. Other steps to take, whether you suffer from mental health issues or not, include setting a routine, which involves getting up at a set time in the morning.

Professor Bauld also highlighted the importance of having contact with someone else, even if that can’t be in person.

She recommended doing this early in the day, whether it’s online or even just using the telephone to have a chat to a friend or family member. Another tip is to do some exercise and, where it’s practical, to go outside and get some fresh air.

Buzzfeed recently shared advice on how to cope with self isolation from people who have already been doing it for a while. The tips range from making a plan for each day to learning a new language.

Another person recommended starting a gratitude journal to remind yourself of the good in your life, while another tip for those working from home while self isolating is to not feel guilty about taking a lunch break or finishing work at a reasonable time.

If you think you could benefit from speaking to a Leatherhead psychotherapist at this time, get in touch with us today.



The Mental Health Impact Of Covid-19

Everyone around the world is now aware of the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19), with the respiratory illness having spread all over the globe at an unprecedented rate over the last three months.

However, while advice on when and how to self-isolate has been well-publicised, there has been less media coverage on the emotional impact of Covid-19, whether you have contracted the illness or not.

Indeed, simply the act of self-isolating or social distancing could have an adverse effect on mental health, not to mention the repercussions that could come with the pandemic, including job losses, business closures and cancellation of important plans, such as weddings.

An article in the Psychiatric Times pointed out: “As concerns over the perceived threat grow, people may start to collect (and hoard) masks and other medical supplies. This is often followed by anxiety-related behaviours, sleep disturbances and overall lower perceived state of health. Individuals with mental illness may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of widespread panic and threat.”

While the impact of Covid-19 on mental health has not been studied so far, depression rates usually climb after infections. Therefore, it is likely coronavirus will have effects that last much longer than the illness itself.

This pandemic could result in stigmatisation of individuals, such as those of Chinese descent; a reduction of trust in medical care; anxiety about a lack of treatment; obsessions about contamination and an incessant need to clean, wash and sterilise; and anxiety about future consequences of Covid-19 on food supplies, infrastructure, business and the economy.

To alleviate this potential crisis, the Mental Health Foundation has issued advice on how to look after emotional wellbeing during this difficult time.

Those who need more support should contact a counsellor in Leatherhead to talk through their anxieties and depressive feelings.



The Common Unnoticed Symptom Of Anxiety

Anxiety sensitivity is an often unnoticed, and misunderstood, symptom of anxiety, but it can be a much larger part of the condition that most of us realise.

In the UK, more than one in 10 people are likely to suffer from a disabling anxiety disorder at some point in their life, but thankfully, as the stigma towards the condition lessens, the conversations surrounding anxiety are more widespread than ever.

It’s also good to realise the differences between stress, worry, and anxiety, and to be able to recognise the symptoms as they occur. However, there are some aspects of anxiety that remain a mystery, one of which is anxiety sensitivity.

It’s a term used to describe the fear that people with anxiety disorders develop towards their anxiety symptoms, in particular the physical manifestations they develop as part of their anxiety. They can fear that these bodily sensations will make their anxiety more visible to others, or be the signs of a more serious physical or mental illness.

Anxiety symptoms that can trigger the sensitivity include irregular breathing, heart palpitations, trembling, and sweating. These are common indicators of the body’s fight-or-flight response, but for those dealing with anxiety sensitivity, these symptoms could trigger further anxiety, exacerbating their bodily symptoms and leading them into a negative cycle.

While anxiety sensitivity is something mostly experienced by those with anxiety disorders, it can happen to anyone at any time. For example, the nervousness felt before having to give a work presentation may lead to fears that people will notice you trembling, or that your voice might crack in the middle of your speech, which leads to further anxiety.

The good news, however, is that being aware of this, and recognising and understanding the anxiety sensitivity can be very helpful in reducing its impact on us.

If you have concerns about anxiety, or anxiety sensitivity, and would like to talk to a professional counsellor in Leatherhead, then get in touch today.



Farming Industry in a “Mental Health Crisis”

Anyone working in the farming industry at the moment concerned with their mental health and wellbeing should perhaps consider going to see a professional counsellor to help them work through their feelings, given the assertion that the sector is now facing a “mental health crisis”.

This year’s Mind Your Head survey, carried out by the Farm Safety Foundation, found that 81 per cent of young farmers agree that mental health is in fact the biggest hidden danger that the industry faces today.

And 85 per cent agree that there is definitely a link between mental health and farm safety, something that will be the focus of the third annual Mind Your Head campaign, which is running this week (February 10th).

It was observed that there is now “no point beating about the bush … we are in a mental health crisis. Levels of depression are thought to be increasing, stress-related calls to farming charity helplines are increasing and, in 2018, 83 suicides were registered among people working in agricultural and related trades in England and Wales”.

In addition, it was noted that there is still stigma around mental health and seeking help for problems - and farmers may well be culturally ill-equipped to discuss their mental health.

Counselling can be very helpful when it comes to gaining insights in your feelings and behaviours, helping you to make any necessary changes. It can also offer you the emotional support you need to help you start living a happier and healthier life.

Looking for a Surrey psychotherapist? Get in touch with us today.



A&E Nurse: NHS Staff Need More Mental Health Support

The NHS needs to provide better mental health support for its members of staff, or it risks losing good employees who cannot cope with the stresses of their job, according to a nurse who has worked in an A&E department for the last five years.

Kirsty Brewerton spoke to Nursing Times about her experience in a busy emergency unit, saying it often felt like a “war zone”.

While she had always wanted a job in nursing, staffing shortages, as well as trying to juggle work and doing extra study for a master’s degree in advanced practice, has seen her consider walking away from her career.

She described how her mental health deteriorated as the pressure got too much, and she felt she could not give patients the care they needed.

“I would get really overwhelmed doing a canula or taking someone’s blood – things I could have done with my eyes closed before,” Ms Brewerton stated, adding: “I was shaking, sweating and getting really panicky and wanted to get out of the room.”
The nurse, who had also been chosen to embark on a master’s course but had not been given extra time to pursue the degree and had to use annual leave to get assignments done, reached such a low point, she felt suicidal.

As a result, she was signed off sick and referred herself for therapy via her GP, as her referral through the occupational health department never amounted to anything.

Ms Brewerton acknowledged that it is unlikely staffing problems are going to improve, which is why better mental health support for employees is necessary. This would enable new nurses to have someone to talk to and equip senior staff with counselling strategies, as well as offer instant access to counselling services for all NHS workers.

In their election manifesto, the Conservatives pledged to provide funding for 50,000 more nurses; however, this included retaining 19,000 who would, otherwise, have left.

Ms Brewerton argues that providing mental health services could be one way to encourage those considering leaving the profession to stay in nursing.

For more support with a stressful occupation, consider counselling in Surrey.



Brits Battle Through ‘Blue Monday’

January is a notoriously difficult month, with temperatures dropping outside, lots of Brits feeling the financial strain of Christmas, and dark nights and short days likely to continue for some time.

In fact, the third Monday of the month has been named Blue Monday, and has become known as the most depressing day of the year.

This is because Brits typically feel low after the festive period has come to an end; pay day after Christmas has not come yet for most people, which means debt levels are at their peak; the weather is typically at its worst; and many have failed their New Year’s Resolutions by now, making them feel disheartened and demotivated.

While many people believe Blue Monday does not really exist, these reasons could certainly make people feel down.

Information content manager at Mind Rosie Weatherly said: “The winter months can cause us to feel low, particularly as a result of shorter days, changes in weather or money worries. These things might contribute to some people’s depression, but not others, and people with depression will be affected for more than one day.”

The charity recommended certain things that might boost people’s mood this January, including making sure you get some daylight even though the days are short. It also suggested doing some exercise, although it is important not to be demoralised if you do not manage to fulfil hardcore fitness goals and weight loss ambitions.

Taking up a hobby could be a good idea as this can “give us an enjoyable break from day to day pressures”.

It is not just adults that struggle with their emotions, as 59 per cent of young people aged between 11 and 19 have had a mental health problem themselves or is close to someone who has.

Whether Blue Monday, January or life in general is making you feel depressed, get in touch with a Leatherhead counsellor who can talk through your problems with you.



Can Dry January Help Alcohol Addiction?

If you are looking for counselling in Leatherhead to help with addiction issues then we are here to help.

Some people may have found that abstaining from alcohol during January has flagged up some of their own issues around alcohol. Some people may have found the Christmas period a struggle and be thinking about whether they need to address some issues that have arisen around their alcohol consumption.

Dry January has been growing in popularity in recent years and some people abstain from alcohol for their physical health, or even to promote weight loss. Others may be interested to learn more about their relationship with alcohol from it.

But can abstaining from alcohol for a month actually help people to deal with addiction issues?

Not really is the result of research by psychologist Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex who surveyed 857 participants of Dry January 2019 before and after their month of abstinence.

The findings were promising for physical health benefits, 71 per cent slept better and 54 per cent lost weight. However, while in a follow up study in August that year the vast majority had cut back it was not by much and they were still, on average, drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol per drinking session and per week.

The number of days they drank alcohol fell from an average 4.3 times a week to 3.3 a week, the units consumed had fallen from 8.6 per session to 7.1 per session, which still counts as binge drinking. They were still drinking an average of 23 units a week, Wired reported.

This indicates that while dry January can reduce consumption there is no evidence that it can help those with addiction issues.



The Importance Of Good Sleep For Our Mental Health

In 2020, from 18 - 24 May, the Mental Health Foundation will be hosting Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year, the focus will be on sleep. There is a very strong correlation between sleep, or the lack of it, and our mental health. Being able to switch off and the end of the day is vital, not only to our mental health, but physical health and general wellbeing.

The week is a great opportunity for people to be able to talk and discuss all aspects of mental health, with the aim of also providing support and advice for those who are struggling. Also not to forget that Thursday 6 February is Time To Talk Day 2020, encouraging everyone to openly talk about their mental health, to listen, and help change the lives of those who need it.

There are many ways we can boost our mood with exercise and diet, but little is more critical than getting a good nights sleep to maintain positive mental health. We can all feel irritable, impatient, and feel a lack of concentration when we’ve had a restless night. However long term sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety, depression, and many other serious mental health issues.

Should you have trouble sleeping, try these simple tips to help get the rest you need. Keep regular hours, and a routine, heading to bed at the same time each night. Program your body to sleep better, and you body and mind will thank you for it.

Alcohol may help you get to sleep, but it is also a depressant, and will disturb your sleep during the night. Similarly, avoid caffeine in the evenings, or even from mid afternoon onwards. Turn off your digital screens an hour before bed, social media can stimulate the mind, and cause anxiety. Head to bed, and read a book before sleep instead.

A gentle walk a few times a week will clear you mind, and the fresh air will do wonders. It’s important to recognise when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, so you can seek out the help you need. Get in touch today, if you’re struggling with your mental health, and our trained counsellors will help you.



Teenage Girls Experience Mental Health Problems Due To Social Media And Poverty

Poverty and social media have been identified as two of the biggest causes of mental health problems among teenage girls, which result in more girls self harming than boys of the same age group.

The Independent shared the research carried out by the University of Warwick, which surveyed more than 11,000 14 year olds. The report found that girls tend to spend more time on social media than boys.

It also revealed that, while 15 per cent of all the teenagers questioned said they had self harmed in the last year, twice as many girls reported resorting to self harm as boys. Gender inequality, sexism and body image pressures were identified as some of the other driving forces behind this trend.

Lead author of the report Dr Dimitra Hartas said that there’s inequality in how resources and opportunities are distributed, and that this helps boys more than girls.

“This study is different because it looks at the wide variety of ways girls are experiencing mental health problems. It is not only moods, but also self worth, self image and satisfaction with life,” she asserted.

Dr Hartas also called for “wider systemic changes” to tackle mental ill health among young people, noting that there need to be changes on a societal level to address gender inequality and poverty.

Earlier last month, the Metro shared the findings of a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which revealed that only 52.5 per cent of 15 year olds in the UK gave their life satisfaction a score of seven or higher out of ten.

In the other 37 countries included in the survey, the average was 67 per cent giving a score of seven or higher out of ten, indicating that British teenagers are more unhappy than others around the world.

If you think sessions with a Leatherhead psychotherapist would help your teenager, get in touch with us today.



Tips for Well Being and Mental Health at Christmas.

Christmas can be a celebration, but it can also be incredibly stressful. Whatever the festive period means to you, it’s important to be able to manage your mental health. Getting in touch with your Surrey counsellor can help, as can some of these tips.

Talking to someone can daunting, but sharing your concerns and worries can help with those feelings of being overwhelmed or under pressure. Mental health charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) has been urging people to share their stressful festive season stories on Twitter, encouraging conversations about the pressures of Christmas.

It’s very much a season of overindulgence, but be mindful of over doing it, especially with alcohol. It’s easy to have a few drinks to feel relaxed, in particular for those with social anxieties and all those festive parties. But alcohol is a depressant, and will make you feel easily irritable, and low. And avoid those Christmas hangovers.

By all means enjoy all that festive food, but everything in moderation. Look after your body, and do eat healthily as well. Get some exercise, and stretch your legs, and it’s equally as important to sleep well, and get rested.

Plan ahead and avoid any last minute panics for the holiday. Try not to take on too much, especially if you’re preparing a large family gathering. Remember to say ‘no’ if a request is going to be too much, and always ask for help if you need it. Plan and take time for yourself too, book yourself at least one day to do whatever you want to do.

If the pressures to meet everyones expectations gets too much, then talk to a Surrey based counsellor in a safe environment today.



When Did You Last Reach Boiling Point?

Life is hard, this cannot be denied - and the older we get, the harder it usually becomes. Which is why it’s so important to come up with coping mechanisms to deal with issues as they arise, whether that’s simple breathing techniques, calling your Leatherhead counsellor for a chat, getting some exercise or doing some mindfulness meditation.

Of course, this is often easier said than done and a new study from wellbeing charity CABA has just revealed that adults in the UK reach boiling point an average of three times each and every week - which is 156 times every year, HR News reports.

Physical symptoms like getting hot and sweaty, starting to shake, headaches, a feeling of actual physical weight on their shoulders, heart palpitations, wanting to scream and wanting to pull their hair out are all experienced by many who do reach this boiling point where their anger becomes too much.

Interestingly, it was also found that it takes 35 minutes at a time to try and cool off and reduce the pressure you’re under. And given that 45 per cent of those asked admit they take their frustrations out on their partner and 14 per cent say the same of their friends, finding more effective ways to cope would perhaps be advisable.

“The symptoms of building pressure and long-lasting stress have a significant impact on a person’s wellbeing and over a long period can lead to burn out. Recognising when you are reaching ‘boiling point’ is key to making positive changes to managing your mental wellbeing,” spokesman for the CABA Richard Jenkins said.

If you are going through a difficult time, talking to someone can help as it can help give you the time and space to explore your feelings in a safe environment, one that’s free from judgement. Get in touch with us today to find out more.

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