Category Archives: Stress

Shut Down Your Mind, it needs to Rest

In this century, we have seen an overload of devices and appliances to keep ourselves mentally occupied. It is clear that we have to live with this and our new ‘normal’ consists of devices which tell us how to ‘shut off’ too.

The eyes tell us when it is all too much. By the end of the day, my eyes begin to water if I have been looking at the screen for too long. People complain of flashing images from the day when they are trying to sleep. As a professional, it tells me that this person has had too much exposure to stimuli and needs to take a break and repair the self. A break needs to incorporate play and peace. Beach holidays, mountains etc provide us with those precious spaces which take us away from everyday hassle. But simple things can help:

  1. If your eyes and head are beginning to ache, just make the room dark and close your eyes. If you are outside of your home, carry an eye mask like the one you get on flights.
  2. Take a walk. Look at the things around you. If I walk in London, I look at people’s front gardens, how they have made little landscapes. There are lovely little old places to look at. Let your mind wander and think about these things in the present. Try not to think of your problems. If you are looking at the things (in a seeing but unseeing manner) around you but thinking of your problems, it is not being mindful.
  3. If you have a garden, take a little walk and weed it, tend it, put in some fresh soil, fertiliser. The natural world helps to ease the troubles of the artificial one. Just as a phone, a watch, a clock needs to be recharged every now and then, we need recharging. Sounds cliched, but it needs emphasis.
  4. We are just as hardworking even though we are not machines. Children too need to rest and be allowed to do their own thing. Parents who become restless if their child is ‘just playing’ have not understood the great achievements of play which children are achieving. They are learning to master their confusion about separation and loss when they throw away and find their toys. They are venting their anger on unsuspecting teddy bears when they break and soil them-grappling with their own despair and frustration.

If they seem to languidly lie down and doodle away, it is their way of soothing themselves tand recharging. If they are troubling each other, they need something to do. That is the one time when a parent’s intervention is necessary.

Migration, Displacement, Stress

Increasingly, people find themselves having to migrate to other areas of the UK or from one country to another, in order to find jobs that are suitable for them. This migration has a history and goes back to the beginning of the human race and the wandering, nomad that some of us might identify within ourselves has long term ancestors.

Milton Keynes can feel ‘modern’ to the newcomer

Moving to a new city may be an exciting venture. Milton Keynes, for example, attracts quite a migrant population, not just from other countries but from different parts of the country. It has a good success rate in employment and seems on the surface to be a buzzing city with lots to offer to someone who is new here.

The underlying issues that accompany a migration is the loss of a secure base (if there was one before). However big the reward for such movements, the human cost is high. Separation and loss cause the human to regress to some of his/her earliest experiences of loss and the response to such losses.

Our infancy is like this pic. Someone familiar is ‘holding’ us

If you observe a baby who is still at the very earliest stages of life, the eyes constantly find its mother/caregiver because that is how he/she finds an emotional and psychic anchor in the aftermath of the loss of the womb life.

If you observe yourself in a new place, you may find yourself searching in a similar way for familiar things – a McDonalds’ sign, familiar landmarks, a nice smile from someone to make you feel welcome etc. I have often heard talk in the local gym of how friendly everyone is here and how they would not want to be in that other place where no one smiles at the other. 

These are the things which bring relief to the soul that searches for a home where it can feel safe. With the relative feelings of safety come the need to perform and make one’s mark on the environment. The healthy normal human will make a seemingly unfamiliar, even hostile environment into a place they begin to feel at home in.

An ethnic word can bring relief to the homesick

Some people may never make a new place their home because all the goodness is left behind in the place they left to come here.
This is called splitting and projecting goofy shopdness into an idealised place.
Such splitting can occur with people as well. You may often hear stories of how good the previous boyfriend/girlfriend/mother/father/brother/sister/teacher etc was and how no one can ever take their place now.

Such a splitting harms the experience of the present and the potential to live and enjoy something new in the present.

Counselling/therapy can help to work through the idealised lost experience of someone or something and open up the capacity to live life more deeply and fully.

But the bottomline sometimes is that no two things are the same and we, as living organisms, require some amount of sameness and familiarity in order to feel secure and grow. Letting go of things one cannot have anymore and ushering in the new is an art that may enrich one’s experience of life’s constantly changing parameters.

Anxiety-Simple Things to do

Anxiety is a symptom which tells us that something is feeling out of control and/or feeling unsafe. It feels unpleasant and puts brakes on things we would like to do or think about.  The body, mind and heart feel at odds with each other. You can ask yourself three questions:

1.Why am I feeling anxious today? Why do I feel anxious when this or that happens? Just these simple questions can lead to some form of self reflection, a key ‘skill’ in overcoming overwhelming feelings. Starting a dialogue with oneself is one of life’s great achievements. 

2. Is it affecting my body-stomach, head…?

3. Is it affecting my relationships?  

Normal anxiety is inevitable in all our lives, and trying to understand yourself in your own time is a good habit to cultivate. However, too much anxiety begins to cramp your lifestyle. You may find yourself taking lesser risks and avoiding anxiety provoking situations. Some of it is good as it shows a certain sobering self awareness-of what one can do and not do and what to avoid ! 

But if you find your circle of life shrinking and the list of things you can do becoming too restricted, seek help. Talking to a professional or engaging in a group activity where there is a considerate facilitator can be helpful.  At times, anxiety can lead to substance misuse -a false bravado further incited by peer acceptance, can take away anxious feelings for some time. Such debilitating habits may threaten your financial security and from thereon, the fall can be damaging and at times, irretrievable.

Restricting your temptations and not gratifying cravings is something of a ‘muscle’ one builds through life.  Bodies are great things. They adapt to you not having cake just as much as they will adapt to you eating only cake so we do have control !

Taking pleasure in simple things which don’t cost money- a walk in the park, a friendly chat with the neighbour down the road, and having time for a little thought to cherish the interactions you have, even if it is  a small one with the corner shop till worker, can add incrementally to one’s ‘muscle’ for reduction of anxiety. 

In other cases, anxiety is provoked in situations like a much awaited job interview; a driving test; meeting a difficult boss; having difficult relations. Anxiety is not all bad, and with a little care it can be understood and limited. On one hand, increased anxiety tells us that something needs doing; you may be anxious before a driving test, but it may help you to prepare more, see it through and, in fact, make you proportionally elated. On the other hand, your increased anxiety may be telling you that something unpleasant is going to happen. It is a signal to say that we are ‘charged up’ with something, because either the situation demands it or we have ‘sussed out’ internally that we cannot cope with it. For example, people in a fragile state (like those who are convalescing or have been bullied) may find it difficult to even shop in the local market. Everything might feel too much because the mind needs to recover just as much as the body. At times, removing yourself from an unbearable and unbeatable situation can be the only, and perhaps the best, resort.

People come for therapy with anxious symptoms and have not thought of the various links to issues which seem apparently random. The job of the therapist is to find these links and facilitate perspective. Maybe in the past one was not ready for an extraordinary situation (illness, bereavement etc), or that it was of such proportions that it bypassed any skills one had to deal with it at the time (for example recession, bereavement, fatal disease, earthquakes). Clients seek therapy for a number of issues that seem sometimes to happen all at once: for eg, father passed away; redundancy; break up of relationship. Such experiences can make you anxious and timid about forthcoming events for a long time. All anticipation of events is experienced with anxiety. 

The death of important figures in one’s life can create grief for years, coupled with anxiety about leaving that internal self isolation. One can never prepare for the loss of someone who you communicated with often and shared your world and took guidance from. One can carry that grievance for a long time, a grievance against life’s treacherous acts of taking away what you cherished the most. 

Facing the prospect of dealing with people (in workplace or socially) who are like the ones who have triggered our anger, despair and helplessness in the past will trigger anxiety in the present. It could be a bullying school mate, a dominant family member, even an abusive person from the past. Not being in touch with such links may create confusion. Sometimes clients say, “I am anxious, but it cannot be just because of …”.  This is a sign of not being in touch with and therefore feeling ‘cut off’ from important but unbearable feelings.  Let your therapist aid you with it.  Friends and family may not be trained for the job.

We are so used to coping with unbearable situations that we don’t realise at times that we are just coping! Last but not least, our health and any negative variance in it, will trigger our deepest anxiety. Google searching helps and hinders this heightened preoccupation with one’s health in the last decade.  It helps to allay silly fears for the healthy and it hinders living life without having to be anxious about silly fears. 

Summing it up, 

1.Grieve well for those who were important but put a boundary and start living again.

2.Complete that driving test but you don’t have to bungy jump (really not very important and certainly not a sample of bravery). 

3.Increase the muscle not to eat cake. The body will adapt.

4. Walk to the corner shop and chat with someone when you are eft by yourself for too long. Cherish the encounter and walk back home with a smile, don’t go in and buy another bottle.

5. Try not to google too much when you have a headache and don’t self diagnose BPD either. Instead, get some fresh air. 

6. And yes, breathe deeply…it does help.

Anxiety ! Workshop

Anxiety and fear affect daily life. To say that we live in the grip of fear and anxiety and have brief phases of contentment and leisure, would not be an exaggeration. Development and growth are that great and rare human achievement in the face of such difficult and debilitating emotions. This workshop gets to grips with fear and anxiety, primal emotions, through a psychoanalytic lens. In the therapeutic space of group and individual work, you will be able to understand the enormity of the task you do as a human being and practitioner, in helping people manage their anxiety.

“While she was in a state of great anxiety, she had attempted to pray but could find no words. At last a few words of a child’s prayer in English occurred to her.” (p.10) – Josef Breuer and Sigmund Freud (1956). On the psychical mechanism of hysterical phenomena (1893) in International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 37:8-13.

“After all, the reason which brings patients into analysis is fundamentally that they cannot manage anxiety. Though it does not, of course, mean that the patient is consciously aware of this.” – Joseph, B.(1978). Different types of anxiety and their handling in the analytic situation in International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. 59: 223-228.

This workshop will help participants to understand anxiety as explained by psychoanalytic thinkers, and it’s function in normal and abnormal conditions. This workshop will cover the effect of fear and anxiety on possibilities of growth and development and understand how one helps/does not help clients become less anxious and more contained.

There will be a workshop leader presentation on anxiety and theory from a psychodynamic perspective, as well as clinical discussion of its presentation in the consulting room. This will include some exploration of anxiety both within a historical context and its modern manifestations. There will be a discussion of case studies and use of social dreaming exercises to explore anxiety. The workshop leader will also use clips from films to illustrate the material and ideas.

This workshop is suitable for qualified and training psychotherapists and counsellors and mental health practitioners. The primary theoretical focus of the workshop will be psychodynamic, but practitioners of other modalities are welcome to atten