Blogs and items of interest

January 12, 2019
nick

A Dying Flame in January, Why is This Time of Year so Hard?

This is an article about some of the low feelings we can feel about this time of year, along with some suggestions about how we can support ourselves. The days are greyer than any other time of the year, the wind lashes with its own arctic kiss. The light seems to never fully arrive on a day to day basis and those that work a 9-5 barely see any light at all. The shivering temperatures and the cold of the dampness seem to penetrate right to the bones. Somehow this time of year everything feels like it is done as though we are stuck in tar. The anticipation of the festive period along with the New Year’s celebrations are now a mere memory, the high has now gone low. This can be a low time of year for reasons related to the festive period, people may be lonely or have experienced bad family relationships at a time where the television makes out, everyone’s festive period is perfect. As I have written in a previous blog, perfection is at the core of failure and feelings of inadequacy. More people die at this time of year than at any other time of the year. Statistics have shown that in the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in some years has seen an increase of people dying rising by up to 31%. The reasons for this are unknown but it’s thought cold alone is not the defining factor. According to the Independent the third Monday of every year is considered to be the most miserable day of the year, it is dubbed ‘Blue Monday’. Whilst some mental health organisations feel it is not helpful to have a day considered the most depressing of the year, I feel it would be hard to overlook the fact that there are factors that lead to this time of year being not the jolliest! For example like I have said, the grey weather, a battered bank balance from Christmas, not to mention the excess pounds gained from over indulging over the festive period. Then there is the possibility that you may have failed your New Year’s Resolutions, I think you get the jest of where I am going, on top of these possibilities, there is the day to day norms which can be enough to get us down. I myself I am not immune to this, at this time of year getting out of bed and waking up feels harder somehow. (Macmillan, 2011, p. 505) Writes in ‘The Little Book of Life’, ‘In winter everything dies back in the ground, but in spring, everything comes alive again. Year in year out. But there is nothing magical about this, nor superstitious, it is a natural process controlled by our friend in relationship, the sun.’ Some might argue about the magical and superstitious part but for me the sun is what breathes life into everything. Plants use the process of photosynthesises to turn sun light into food, the sun gives the earth energy by offering its radiant warmth to the seas which in turn determines our weather cycles. The sun gives us vitamin D which according to science is vital for our bones, immune system and our mental health. Apparently 10 million of us in the UK about 1 in 6 of us are lacking vitamin D! We live in the UK and lack vitamin D and we have very little sunshine, coincidence I think not! So how can we get more vitamin D? Well rumour has it Portobello mushrooms are a great source of Vitamin D, I have also heard if you leave them in the sun for a couple of hours before consuming them the amount of Vitamin D is dramatically increased. As for feeling grey and glum at this time of year? For me the key to mental well-being is holding healthy relationships with our friends, family and colleagues. I also believe being in a healthy counselling relationship can be a way to finding out what lies under our greyness and get closer to who we are. I believe at the bottom of every Mental Well-Being Kit Bag there should be a person you can talk to, someone to be there to hear your thoughts out loud (please note this is not advice to put someone in a kit bag!!). I also believe that internalising our unhappy feelings is the way to perpetuate them. Therefore accessing someone to hear you out in times of need is vital to mental well-being, so reach out, talk to your friends, family members, your work colleagues and where this is not possible seeking counselling could be an option. If you are affected by any of the things mentioned and would like to find out more about counselling you can find out more here www.brighter-pathways.co.uk
October 28, 2018
nick

How to Move Forward When You Have Experienced Romantic Heart Break

This blog was inspired after being approached by the Counselling Directory to write an article for a third party magazine. This got me thinking about the complexed emotions someone can experience after a break up. In this blog I am going to talk about some of those emotions and how we can move on from them when we have accepted they are there.

Self Care.

In the early stages of a break up, self-care is important, what that looks like for you will vary from person to person. It might be the duvet and hot chocolates on the sofa, getting in touch with your creative side, it could be time with your family, or reconnecting with friends.

I think sometimes our friends around us see the cracks in a relationship long before we do, therefore when the inevitable break up happens they are at a different stage of the change process than you are. This can make it hard for a common empathetic path to exist with the people around us. Friends can be understanding to start with but then fail to see why you can’t ‘get over it’ and move on. I don’t believe this is out of selfishness but more out of they didn’t experience the powerful emotions you experienced in the relationship because it was your journey not theirs.

Should I feel this way?

The question, how long a relationship is before justifying feelings of loss at the end? May seem relevant, but if the relationship offered all the excitement a new relationship often can, I think it is possible and justified to feel the emotions of loss, even if the relationship wasn’t that long. Some of us love easier than others, we have all heard of that expression ‘love at first sight’.

 

The youthfulness of a relationship.

Falling in love evokes feelings of feeling young again, which let’s face it, can feel great and be a welcome distraction from the normal day to day ‘run of the mill’ existence. The act of ‘falling’ in love is a suggestion we have no control over it, I for one have no control if I fall anywhere!

The feelings of youthfulness may be a welcome distraction from our own inevitable mortality. To explain that a little further, love meets in a youthful place, for example ‘happily ever after’ or giggles and blushes. I feel an add on to this is when we share our existence closely with another this makes our lives seem bigger as you have someone to share our fondest memories with. It is in the break up of such a relationship that loneliness seems somewhat bigger.

When a relationship ends.

Romantic heart break for me is a loss, like literally a grieving process and should be given the due care and attention needed. There is not only the loss of relationship and the person you were in relationship with, but also the loss of one’s own identity within that relationship.

There can be the loss of dreams, possible destinations you were going to visit, or loss of plans of big white weddings. It could also be the loss of future aspirations such as a starting a family or planning to move in together.

One should acknowledge the feelings that come up around these losses.

Feelings of sadness, anger, hurt, loneliness or feelings of being lost could all be typical. One may feel them all at once or one at a time. Some people may not experience any feelings at all in the early stages and experience a period of denial.

When experiencing the breakup of a relationship it may feel like your life is completely consumed with thoughts around the break up. It might feel like it does not seem possible to focus or think about anything else. 

As time goes on.

Over time, after a loss like this our lives grow around the all-consuming feelings. It is then we can reevaluate, heal, recognise the parts we played in the break up, evolve and identify the lessons learned.

It is when we get to compassion for ourselves in the parts we played and perhaps even offer it to the person we have broken up with, that the wounds experienced can start to feel healed. Maybe we might be able to find some resolution in the thoughts that some of the events we may never be fully at resolution with. 

Maybe some comfort can be taken from the fact that that person you loved so dearly may shape you in some way in your life moving forward. Whether it be because you have learned a valuable lesson in your evolving with this person, or you valued something within your relationship that you will take forward into the next one.

In time I hope you heal and learn you can love again.

How counselling can help?

Counselling can help you work through this process by talking to someone that has no agenda other than helping you work through what your experience was for you. It can be a way of exploring your feelings in a non-judgemental way, a counsellor won’t tell you to ‘get over’ your feelings but help you acknowledge them explore what is underneath them and identify the drivers that fuel them. It can also be a way of recognising the parts you played in the relationship and together with your counsellor you can work towards finding compassion for the drivers that serve these parts of you. Counselling is a place we learn to acknowledge and accept all parts of us, so we can make active choices in our lives going forward.

Thanks for reading, please share with someone who you think this might be relevant to. You can find out more about counselling services and a range of other blogs similar to this by clicking the link below.

www.brighter-pathways.co.uk

October 14, 2018
nick

Do High Profile Suicides Hold Clues to its Prevalence in Society Today

Do High Profile Suicides Hold Clues to its Prevalence in Society Today

Its been a while since I have blogged my creative flair has left me a bit in recent times as it so often does. A topic that shows clear in my mind right now is the rising cases of suicide that are either on the news or shared on social media.

The statistics

I have written a blog before where I have highlighted some statistics, but these statistics are vitally important, so I will present them again. These statistics I have easily turned out with a google search and www.samaritans.org says;

In 2017 there were 5,821 suicides in the UK

Men are 3 times more likely to take their own lives than women

The highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 45-49

Whilst two of these statistics are directly related to men I don’t want to deter thoughts about female suicides as they happen too. I also want to highlight that nearly 6000 suicides a year is more than 3 times the amount of people that die from road accidents each year.

Changing attitudes to suicide

I remember as a young boy hearing about suicide on the news a couple of times and having a grand curiosity to its meaning. I had a great resistance to asking my mum its meaning, I thought it was perhaps a word a young person shouldn’t know, or I might get into trouble for saying it. I find this interesting as I wonder what behaviours I had seen to influence such thinking.

My later thoughts towards the subject were later awakened with Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. I was a fan of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and I also share a birthday with Kurt Cobain, information I learned from a girl who used to live across the road from me.

There is an ever-growing list of musicians that have taken their own lives, ‘Queen of the Night’ singer and ‘The Bodyguard’ actress Whitney Houston, ‘Linkin Park’ singer Chester Bennington, ‘Sound Garden’ front man Chris Cornell, Swedish DJ Avicii, this really is just a handful of a pool of names within the music industry who have taken their own lives.

I wonder if the ever-rising amount of names from the music industry whom chose this tragic route out of life hold clues to why the number of suicides is ever growing.

Why?

Studies have shown that there could be a link between suicides being shown on the television or via other media outlets or written literature, and people taking their own lives. This theory is believed enough that there are guidelines in media as to how they can portray suicides. Have you ever wondered why when there is a high-profile end of life via suicide that the media is not clear on the cause of death? That is because they must withhold that information due to the media guidelines set. Here are some of these guidelines;

‘Detailed descriptions of methods of committing suicide or deliberate self-harm should not be given, nor shown in fictional portrayals, since these will demonstrate possible means for those who are suicidal.’

‘Simplistic psychological notions, such as ‘pressure’, should not be used. Many people have such pressure, but few commit suicide, and such references belittle the complexity of the situation. Similarly, simple motives such as ‘getting even’ or ‘becoming famous’ should be avoided.’

‘Extensive or unnecessary repeated coverage of such episodes should be avoided.’

Whilst I can see some relevance to these guidelines, there are more but I picked out the most poignant, I cant help but feel there is something cold about them. Do we really believe that if someone wanted to end their life they could not figure out a means of doing so? This also sounds like, ‘we will talk about suicide a bit, but not much!’

I believe reasons behind the rise in suicide rates is down to the ‘pressures’ that the media said was not allowed to be mentioned in their guidelines. That the pressure of being the best versions of our selves that we can be, is detrimental to our mental health. We need to be the best son/daughter we can be, the best student, get the best grades we can, then be the best friend, the best boyfriend/ girlfriend or husband/wife, the best employee. Then we need to have the best online profile, our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all need to represent that we are living ‘our best life’. The pressure is immense and if we don’t meet these pressures to the standards of our inner perfectionist this can bring up feelings of ‘not being good enough’ or failure, and these feelings lead to feelings of shame. When you consider the watchful eye musicians are under I think this could be a real point in to the direction of what lies underneath the problem.

Shame is a powerful emotion that ties into embarrassment and translates too in simple terms I don’t want to exist! We go into ourselves and would prefer not to be seen. Underneath shame and embarrassment is a driver of wanting to fit in, to be accepted as another human. The stress response involvement to feeling shame and embarrassment is an alarm system to the individual that there is a risk of being singled out. This, in the era of the hunter gatherer would have offered very grave dangers that pointed to life and death.

What can we do to change this?

First, we need to move away from jargon that tries to shut down how we feel. Examples of this are ‘get over it’, ‘man up’, ‘cheer up’ and ‘stop being silly’. I also believe that conversations should be held by GP’s with patients who seek anti-depressants that medication will help you suppress a feeling you are avoiding but is not a permanent fix.

If you know of somebody that has tried to take their own life, stay in touch. I believe a saving grace can be the connection that we have with others. Give them a call out the blue, tell them you can be there for a coffee or a chat, stay connected.

In recent times a young lad who lived about 10 doors up from me took his own life. I could not move away from feeling how tragic this really was. I never saw the lad but I knew it happened. This got me thinking that young people need to be shown problem solving skills when it comes to their mental health in schools. A mental health awareness week is not enough. As a teacher and a counsellor, I believe mental health and well-being, needs to be a core part of curriculum in schools. I believe by doing this we set young people up with the skills for life about coping with mental illness.

(Williams, 2014) Offers some statistics about how many people visit their GP before committing suicide and up to 40% of people who commit suicide visit their GP in the month before death. I have witnessed the massive loop holes within our mental health care system. This is not a swipe at GP’s but it is a call for more adequate mental health services to be readily available, this responsibility lies with the conservative government in office now. I am not talking being put on a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist 6 month waiting list. We need to be offering people choices about therapeutic services that are available there and then. I can usually fit someone in within a few days, because I recognise when someone is accessing support they want it as soon as possible.

We as people are expected to live up to the pressures of living in today’s society but there is not adequate support to help us cope with these pressures when they become too much.

What Can be learned from these high profile event?

I believe the pressures of being in the public eye are highlighted and perhaps more under the microscopic eye with high profile musicians. The need to generate enough material to keep a fan base interested, the pressures that come with promoting this creative material which include being in the public eye and touring to promote music via music events and this combined with, these humans have families and normal lives to lead as well. This sounds like a tremendous amount of work life balance that needs to be orchestrated accordingly.

How does this compare to my life for example, I remember when I was studying, trying to earn a living as a teacher which is a very high-pressure job. This combined with trying to lead a normal life as a father and a partner as well as trying to satisfy my own recreational needs which for me around this time was learning to play the guitar, I remember it being hard, really hard and at times all these areas of my life suffered, which left me with my own feelings of failure.

This has gone down for me now as life experience and I remember from my own counselling and support from people around me, I got through. In counselling I got to

‘You cant be everything to everything.’

‘My experience is what my experience is for me, regardless of what other people’s misfortune is.’

‘You can only do the best you can do at that time’.

I can say that this time of my life was tough, but I grew and evolved and today I can safely say I work hard at my work life/family balance. I remind myself that my own self care is of paramount importance and talking about my struggles is crucial.

I would just like to round up here by saying, I can categorically state that in my experience of working with suicidal clients as a counsellor. Talking therapy has always helped people move away from wanting to take their own life. The connected-ness that a therapeutic counselling relationship offers, a space to be heard, a place to discover the drivers of the pressures that sit on top of our thinking. I believe doing this offers the best chance of relieving the pressures of a suicidal mind.

I would like to just finish up here by offering the three points I offered in my last blog on this topic and that is;

Suicide is forever

Thoughts are temporary

Life can change in an instant.

www.brighter-pathways.co.uk

 

October 6, 2018
nick

How to Make Ends Meet While You’re in Recovery and Between Jobs

Here is a guest blog from Rufus Carter, offering some inspiring ideas about ways of earning money whilst in recovery. That being said I think there are some inspiring ideas for anybody who is looking to earn an extra bit of money or put their creative talents to good use. I would just like to say a massive thank you Rufus, I hope everyone enjoys what I found a thoroughly good read.

Everyone deserves a second chance, and this is the case for many addicts in recovery. It takes a great deal of strength to get sober and commit to a life of recovery. The process involves making amends for past wrongs, seeking forgiveness from others and yourself and getting back into a normal life while trying to fight the urge to use or drink again.

For many addicts, finding a normal life means getting back into the workforce. The right career for your new life might not land in your lap right away, but as you search for that next opportunity, you’ll still need to make an income. Here are a few ways to make ends meet while you’re in a job transition.

Pet Sitting

Pet sitting is an easy way for animal lovers to make money. You can set your own rates, select which types of animals you’re willing to work with, work flexible hours, and choose whether to run a pet sitting service at home or make house calls. Clients might ask for drop-in services to feed their cats, a short dog walk during the middle of the day, doggy daycare, overnight care, or boarding.

There are many pet owners who don’t have the time to walk their dogs frequently or who need a sitter while they travel, and they would prefer individualised care instead of a boarding facility. You can be the one that cares for their beloved pets while giving yourself the benefit of an animal’s company. It’s the next best thing to owning your own pet.

Driving

With ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft taking over as the modern taxicab, you can earn an income by driving passengers in your own car. But driving on your own time in your own car isn’t only limited to ride-sharing anymore. With companies like Postmates and Doordash, you can make grocery and meal deliveries to customers’ homes.

Being a delivery driver allows you the same perks as driving passengers, but without the safety concerns about having strangers in your car. You get to set your own hours and work as much as or as little as you want, but the downside is that you still have to pay for your own gas and car maintenance.

Selling on Etsy

If you’re a crafty person or if you enjoy thrift shopping and turning those purchases around for a profit, an Etsy shop might be for you. Etsy is the biggest online marketplace for hocking handmade and vintage goods. The shop template and shopping cart are built into the site, and you can set up payments and invoicing through PayPal. Before you go into this, understand that it takes hard work to have a successful Etsy shop amidst all the competition. Your product and photos need to stand out, and you have to promote your work.

Teach Musical Instruments

Many of you are skilled musicians who might be struggling to get your EP out there or to get streams. And let’s not kid ourselves about how much money those streaming services even pay the artists. However, musicians don’t necessarily have to struggle to make a living. You can earn an income with your talents by teaching music lessons to kids. You don’t even need a workspace to teach. Give instructions online through Skype, offer in-home lessons to your students or apply to teach for a music school.

While these gigs might not be long-term solutions, they can provide a fulfilling way to earn an income while you get back on the horse. Who knows? Maybe your Etsy shop will become a huge success and you’ll be able to craft from home full-time. Maybe you’ll have so many pet clients that you’ll be able to open up your own doggy daycare facility. Maybe your list of music students will grow and you’ll become the owner of a music school. Give your second chance a chance to flourish, and you’ll be another step ahead in your recovery.

Thanks again Rufus. I would just like to put out there that if you feel like you may have a blog of interest for www.brighter-pathways.co.uk do get in touch at brighterpathwayz@gmail.com to see if you can get your blog posted.

Photo Credit: Pexels

June 24, 2018
nick

Confronting Loneliness

Confronting loneliness, existential, self help blog, counselling Bristol

It has been a little while since I have blogged, I apologise for this, but in recent times I have been very busy. I hope you enjoy this counselling blog. If it is interesting to you I would be very grateful if you would share with anyone else that might be interested. 

I sit here alone as I write this, this is one of a few ways I put my own individual creative stamp on the world. Whilst writing this I am being distracted from the ultimate loneliness of my existence. Yes, I have a family, I have hundreds of friends on my Facebook friends list, I have work colleagues, neighbours, I also make a point of making my existence known to the people I encounter daily. I smile and make conversation with the people that work in my local shop I always make my friendly presence felt and this morally boosts my existence in the world when I am greeted with a friendly response when I encounter these people on a daily basis when I go to buy my necessities.

This part of me most likely exists because my ancestors were hunter-gatherers. You stood a better chance of survival if you stayed in a pack making you less easy to pick off by other hunter-gatherers or say dinosaurs. To avoid being lonely is an in-built survival mechanism to elaborate further on this part of ourselves.

Why Can Loneliness feel so uncomfortable?

Will Storr explores this concept in his recent book ‘Selfie’ a guy who just happens to be a clinical psychologist is sat in a park eating his lunch on a summers day. 2 other guys are playing Frisbee near him when suddenly the Frisbee lands near the clinical psychologist. So, the clinical psychologist picks up the Frisbee and throws it to one of the two guys. Then the two guys start throwing the Frisbee back and forth including the clinical psychologist in their game.

Then without warning the two Frisbee guys stopped throwing the Frisbee to the psychologist. The psychologist sat with the feeling of rejection, why did they cut me off? And why does this hurt so much? The conclusion the clinical psychologist came to was this; when we were hunter-gatherers our survival relied upon staying part of a group. If you were cut off from the group as I suggested earlier, you would either get picked off by let’s say a dinosaur or you would starve to death. Staying in your group was life and death, being ostracised from the group was a life and death problem. Hence the big response internally when rejection happens.

Here is another example of the efforts we go to in order to fit in. Have you ever moved to a different district and notice you quite quickly start using local lingo? Or you start spending time with somebody new and you say something that sounds like them? This is your brain working hard to help you fit in so you don’t get looked at as an outsider, your brain wants you to fit in because it has primitive instincts to survive.

Do you feel lonely in a room full of people? Do you feel like something is missing even when you should feel contented?

Does any of this ring true to you? What if I said there is another side of loneliness that you may not have put much thought into. A something that culturally is not shouted about or looked at in any great detail unless we tainted with its brush. The thing I am talking about is a deliberate attempt to look at the ultimate mortality of our existence, that there is an ending of our life and it could well have and most likely will have a different end time to all the people I mentioned earlier ie friends, family etc.

This loneliness cannot be cured by surrounding yourself with people as whilst this at times might serve as a distraction, it can cause more alarm when you start to feel lonely in the presence of others. Unfulfilling, empty and purposelessness are just the surface of how this loneliness can feel. I think in this loneliness we get close to an expression such as ‘No one actually knows what it is like to be me………..’

I don’t think we can get to that either, coming to terms with that, ‘no one knows what it’s like to be me’ is the first steps into recognising that one’s existence is a unique experience. When we get close to what that experience if for ourselves, it is then that we learn that everyone has this battle to fight. It is when we get closer to ourselves we can be around others more fulfilled and less lonely.

Irvine Yalom says “I should have become an “I” before I became a “we”.” If we can get closer to who that “I” is then we are more fulfilled and fulfilling in a “we” relationship.

For me, I believe that when we look at life as a period of time where this very much could be all that your existence is. This temporary feeling of existence is all that we have as a measure that one has lived, then I believe we are more likely to sit up and take notice.

I know there are religious beliefs of life after death etc and whilst this might or might not be the case. For me, I am going to live my life more fully if I do not put that down to chance. If I look at my existence as temporary and I have one attempt at it then I am going to live my life fully. If I am in a room feeling lonely, I will choose to either stay in the loneliness or think what have I got to lose, I will be dead in 50 years (optimistic maybe)

My belief is, by building meaningful relationships with the people around us we stand the best chance of making it through to the end of our lives without regret. If I spent my life chasing possessions, at the end of my life when those possessions are long gone, I would question was it worth it!? If I have built meaningful relationships with people the absence of me may ultimately pain those I have touched, but my being will live on through their memories of me.

Do I have the answers? I am thinking no! but I know where to start looking.

Counselling can be a great place to explore what your existence means to you. What decisions do you make on a daily basis based upon what others life meanings are? For example, if dad had a strong work ethic does that mean you have ultimately taken on that ethic because it is all you have known. I personally don’t believe in working a 5 day week, I choose to work a 4 day week and spend the 5th day working on my relationships.

Counselling is a place where you can get to know yourself better and figure yourself out. Whilst I recognise this might sound cliché of the counselling experience. I am humbled by the number of people that get closer to themselves within their counselling journey. They then go on to springboard into their lives with more meaning and clarity.

If you would like to embark on the self-exploration process and need someone to help facilitate that, please do get in touch. Nick 07903319318 or find out more about me here www.brighter-pathways.co.uk

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