Have you ever experienced a pervasive sense of guilt or perhaps a tendency to take too much on? Perhaps you worry too much about how others are feeling? 

We can have a pattern of being strong or being the one that others turn to, yet this comes at the expense of being able to accept help from others. This can lead to feelings of resentment or anxiety and can contribute to overwhelm and burnout. Yet we can't stop ourselves.

kayaking-on-lake

“Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing.” Thoreau

It seems that I am in good company with my love of kayaking. Jeff Brown, Henry David Thoreau, Ray Mears all appreciate the power of this activity. After waking up today feeling down, I heard a little voice inside telling me I needed to go kayaking (a river and a canal run round the back of the housing estate I live on). After an hour or so on the water I felt so much better – energised,  settled and ready for a productive day. I started to wonder what paddling can teach us about life and even business.

The six steps to power, freedom and joy (that I learnt through kayaking):

resilience

Did you ever see in yourself, or another, a fear of power? Power has such negative connotations: anger, rage, aggression, controlling, authoritarian. Yet when we are genuinely powerful we are confident, both in our abilities and in our interpersonal relationships; we feel in control of the world around us, our lives and we are more in control of our emotional state. We have high levels of self esteem, we can be spontaneous, we are assertive: we are resilient.

Our fear of our own power stops us from owning our power. When we own our power we are more able to own our vulnerability. We can drop the mask and be fully ourselves. We can both give and receive, we can please ourselves instead of just pleasing others all the time. When we own our power we have healthy boundaries: we can say ‘no!’ so that others cannot transgress our boundaries and bully, abuse or manipulate us.

Ego self

A true sign of a weak ego self is when someone does not like confrontation or conflict. When we are secure in our self, we are less bothered about what others think, or less preoccupied with others liking us. Paradoxically this takes a strong ego, so we need to build the scaffolding of the ego self (false self) so that it is strong enough to take criticism, dislike and confrontation. But any strength becomes a weakness if it is over used. So at some point we begin the journey of shedding ego to find the authentic self inside.

I have noticed myself saying, these days, ‘I’m not that bothered whether or not someone likes me or not, or what they think of me: if they do, great, if they don’t, so be it.’ I am more comfortable being authentic. Sometimes that means that I upset others; and here I need to tread carefully.

This reminds me of Virginia Satir when she talks about the ‘5 Freedoms of becoming more fully human’:

Relax

For anyone in Stafford or surrounding area who needs to learn to relax and calm their anxiety, hypnotherapy can be a good way to start. Anxiety can have many origins. Often we think it is genetic but that is often far from the case. There is what can seem a surprising link between anxiety and anger. If you think about it, we are often afraid of anger - ours and others - so keeping it down, under control can cause anxiety.

Be-happy

Advice on being happy from a counsellor in Stafford

According to a 2017 article in The Independent we are happiest in our 50s, the 'nifty 50s' they call it.

It seems the over-50’s are happier, wealthier and more carefree than they ever have been. Personally I think that 'wealth' has a part to play, financial freedom can contribute much towards this chimerical notion of happiness.

The survey, which did look at 50,000 people, attributed the happiness of the over 50s to their taking up new hobbies, travelling and having a gratifying sex life. Which might explain why they also felt 10 years younger than their actual age.

The common theme was that they seemed to be having more time for personal/leisure activities.

depression

Depression has a range of meanings from a general sense of unhappiness and meaninglessness to persistent changes of mood and feelings, to psychosis (Hale & Davies, 2009). Depression is classed as an affective disorder involving a prolonged and fundamental disturbance of mood and emotions (Cross & McIlveen, 1996) which is associated with changes of behaviour and physical symptoms (somatisation) such as backache and headache (Hale & Davies, 2009). Whilst depression can have a deep impact on our lives, it can be helped with therapy.

Yoga-for-trauma

We can begin to see many ways in which a certain type of yoga with a sensitive teacher and some considerations for a trauma sensitive practise, can be helpful in trauma recovery. Effective treatment for trauma needs to involve:

We need men! On Sunday 12 November, I’m offering men the opportunity to learn how to listen to the wisdom of their bodies, change unhelpful, emotional states or patterns in their behaviour.

I will be running a free personal development workshop (What the Body Knows) which will help delegates understand what their bodies have to teach them, how to let go of the past and live a more fulfilling and happy future.

Have you ever realised what a crazy monkey your brain is? Have you ever been still enough to realise what tricks it gets up to and what considerable energy it uses? Constantly commenting on this or that.

Putting interpretations on things, making judgements – good or bad, right or wrong, like or dislike, nice or nasty. This constant need to comment, to judge is the default operation of our minds. It gives us a way to make sense of the world, gives us an illusion of control.

Our bodies know more about our experiences and the things that have happened to us in our lives, than our conscious minds are aware of. We may notice tension or tightness, and have no awareness of what's triggered it.

Our faces and other areas of our body hold onto negative experiences and emotions. Without knowing it our expression may show a subtle sadness, anger or fear. Certain areas of our bodies are more highly enervated than others: in particular the face (eyes, jaw, and throat), hands, abdomen (diaphragm), feet, and pelvic area. They are very quick to tense up and slow to release.

Many of us, from time to time, question who we really are. We may have moments where we feel we are truly being our ‘self’ and other times where we sense we are putting on a mask or a front. If we are more able to be true to our self we will generally feel less anxiety and more pleasure and peace in our lives.

Our bodies and our minds are intimately connected and how we use our bodies has an impact – positive or negative – on our mind. If we are suffering from anxiety, depression or symptoms of trauma such as numbness or dissociation, practising standing postures can help to ground us and bring us into our bodies in a way that is beneficial to the mind.

We’re made to be able to be happy, in an imperfect world, that is endlessly unfolding, and we on earth are the local agents of that cosmological unfolding“ ~ Al Pesso

Relationships are one of the most important things in a person’s life. As human beings, a sense of connection is one of the ‘fruits’ of a happy life, vitally important to our happiness. No matter how much we might try to kid ourselves that we want to be alone, we need contact and connection for our very survival.

The time of the year in which most people are happiest is summer, because of the brighter blue skies, warmer temperatures and longer days.

Back in 2015, nearly 150 adults aged 18 to 74 participated in a revealing study, which asked them to reflect on their own personal happiness over the course of the seasons and looked at times of the year when they were happier. Results showed that January and February were the least happy whilst summer months shot straight to the top of the scale.

addiction

I tend to think that we are living in a world that fosters addiction. We are addicted to our smart phones, to social media to TV, to exercise. Addiction serves a purpose: it keeps us out of our feelings, it keeps us safe. In addiction we are being controlled (by the substance or process) but we are out of control because we are at a loss to stop it. There is a stigma attached to much addictive behaviour that increases our tendency to deny it and not seek help. 

happy

I am fascinated by how, as humans, we make choices every day, some of which seem to defy logic and go against our wishes for health and happiness.

sleep

We sleep to restore and rest the body and mind. The brain organises and integrates memories during sleep. And dreaming sleep can be an important way for the unconscious to process events and difficult emotions. Lack of sleep can affect our daytime functioning, hormonal balance, appetite and immune system. 

It’s an old adage from neurolinguistic programming (NLP), and it was Richard Bandler, the co-founder of NLP, who said it: “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” It was controversial at the time; and of course we are entering the realms of magical thinking if we think we can change the past…

live the life

Have you ever watched ‘The Sound of Music’? I hadn’t. Until today. I had sat down to write a blog post and got completely absorbed in this wonderful film which, for years, I had avoided because I thought it would be a predictable Hollywood-esque love story with no depth…

I believe that psychotherapy is a key part of any transformational programme. It is not just for ‘clinical’ level of problems such as anxiety or depression. Anyone who wants to better themselves, to become the best person they can be, will benefit from psychotherapy.

Trauma and its symptoms are more prevalent in society than is often thought. Nearly half of us, that is about 6 of every 10 (or 60%) of men and 5 of every 10 (or 50%) of women experience at least one trauma in their lives. About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8 per cent of the population) will have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, the most full-blown grade of trauma), at some point in their lives. 

Abuse is more prevalent than we realise in our society. Parents abuse children, husbands abuse their wives, women bully and abuse other women at work and children abuse children.

Many of us have an unhealthy relationship with anger: we flip between occasionally or often blowing our top or being scared of our own anger and trying our best to suppress or avoid it. I call this Anger (capital 'A'), it either blows outward in 'hot rage' or goes deep inward, buried as 'cold rage'. We may not even be aware of it; tending to pride ourselves on our ability to stay calm and be quite a placid type of person. But the symptoms may speak to us.

People often come to therapy wanting help with low self worth or lack of self esteem. They might call it low self confidence and then look a little puzzled and say, ‘but I am confident in some areas’.

Self esteem and self confidence seem to be two separate, and often mutually exclusive, things. But the lack of clarity between them is the cause of a lot of our problems.

Depression, anxiety and stress are all interrelated. Perhaps it starts with stress. We get ‘stressed’. This may be chronic (long term consistent level), or acute (short term intense spike) or both (ie acute on top of chronic). This stress affects our breathing, compromises our immune system and puts our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) into overdrive. This results in many psychological, physiological and behavioural symptoms that reduce the quality of our life.

“Anxiety is the state of twentieth-century man.” ~ Norman Mailer

If this is true, perhaps panic disorder is its 21st century progeny? Panic attacks are horrible: they come on suddenly, for no apparent cause, characterised by a severe fear that can peak within 10 mins. This is accompanied by symptoms such as excessive sweating, nausea, disturbing thoughts about harming oneself or others, fear of loss of control or that you are becoming insane.

Recently I have been working alot with clients who have a high degree of anxiety. Their symptoms range from panic, over worrying, phobias, chest pains, blurred vision, impaired ability to think clearly, headaches, inability to focus, loss of memory, muscle pain, dizziness and sleep problems.

We know intuitively that emotional suffering can be experienced as physical pain, but many times it is difficult for a person to sort out how emotional distress plays a role in the experience of physical pain, and if it does, what to do about it.

“Attitude is very consequential stuff. It determines everything one does, from falling in love to voting for one candidate rather than another” ~ Anthony Grayling, philosoper

Many of us realise how important attitude is in determining our success and happiness in life. We may also realise that, with the wrong attitude, we can spend a lot of energy worrying. But when we say ‘he or she has a great attitiude’, what do we mean?