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Maintaining Mental Illness

When managing serious mental illness (SMI), the recovery journey can be long and challenging. It often requires creative and prolonged efforts to build and maintain a full life, but many people do reach recovery. In fact, up to 65% of people living with SMI experience partial to full recovery over time.

The term “recovery” refers to the process of learning how to minimize the symptoms associated with SMI. Note that recovery does not mean symptoms stop entirely or that deficit disappear.

Ultimately, recovery is not synonymous with “cured.” Rather, it means reaching a place where you can pursue a safe, dignified and meaningful life.

The cornerstones of recovery are self-determination, treatment, engagement with family and friends, work and hope. Loved ones play a critical role in a person’s recovery, especially when well-intentioned caregivers listen to and respect their loved one’s goals. Additionally, the guidance of competent, experienced and compassionate mental health practitioners can also be invaluable.

While recovery may look different for different people, several basic strategies can serve anyone looking to manage their illness. These basics may help you reach recovery more quickly and easily.

Maintaining Hope
Recovery is rarely achieved in the absence of hope. Its power cannot be overestimated.

You must always try to maintain hope despite the challenges (including loss, stigma, discrimination) you face.

Hope doesn’t have to come solely from internal strength; it can come from caregivers, friends, peers, people outside of a mental health context, and even animals or faith. Feeling supported, accepted and loved as a person of value and worth can foster and nurture hope.

Practising Self-Determination
Recovery has to be pursued; it does not simply occur in response to medication or other treatments. That is why it is so important to make your own decisions and actively use treatment, services, supports or other resources.

For example, preparing a Psychiatric Advance Directive, which states your treatment preferences in the event of a mental health crisis, can allow you to retain control over care even if you become impaired.

As with any illness, you may have to self-advocate to ensure everyone in your care team respects your right to have a say in your care.

Do not give up on your dreams. Identifying your life pursuits, such as living, working, learning and participating fully in the community, is an important recovery goal. After establishing these objectives, you can work with your providers and caregivers to make those goals a part of your care plan.

Starting Now
You should not delay the pursuit of recovery in the hopes that your symptoms will go away on their own. Progress typically occurs through a series of small steps, which may involve considerable effort, patience and persistence over time.

These accomplishments become possible and noticeable if you set and achieve realistic and short-term, if not immediate, personal goals.

Small, incremental steps can build on each other, positioning you to address more ambitious goals further down the line. Celebrating achievements, no matter how seemingly mundane, is an important part of the recovery process.

Finding the Right Care
Finding caring, trusting, supportive relationships with a practitioner is critical for recovery.

Practitioners should encourage and support your hopes, interests, assets, talents, energies, efforts and goals.

To achieve these, you should discuss calculated risk-taking with your practitioner. A calculated risk is a carefully considered decision that could be beneficial but includes some degree of risk. For example, deciding to change your treatment plan or medication regimen.

Care should be person-centred and you should hold an active role in your care. Accordingly, practitioners should engage your participation using a strengths-based approach. This approach, known as shared decision-making, is evidence-based and has been shown to improve outcomes.

Care should also be grounded in your “life context,” which acknowledges, builds on and appreciates your unique history, experiences, situations, developmental trajectory and aspirations.

Care plans should be based on individualized, culturally sensitive, holistic and multidisciplinary considerations and developed in collaboration with you and your supporters each step of the way. Your care should focus on helping you live the life you want and choose.

Gathering Information on Community Factors
Practitioners should have adequate knowledge of community factors that may impact care, including opportunities, resources and potential barriers. These may relate to access to employment opportunities as well as employment disincentives that are built into programs for access to affordable housing and medical care.

If practitioners cannot offer you guidance on these subjects, they should at least be able to share resources and provide referrals to people who can.

Coping with Stigma
Stigma is widespread, even among friends and family and within the mental health care system, including from practitioners themselves. The detrimental impact of stigma can be greater than that of the illness itself. Thus, you may need to develop coping strategies to manage stigma, particularly if you are experiencing self-stigma.

You might consider discussing how you are impacted by insensitive statements with those who use them. You could also consider limiting interaction, if possible, with people who may continue to stigmatize you.

Talking to peers can also be helpful to process the way stigma affects you.

Engaging with Peer Support
Peer support can be invaluable. People living with a similar condition can help you normalize SMI, address loneliness and isolation, and offer acceptance and support.

They also can provide insights based on their own struggles and achievements, and they can help take away some of the uncertainty of living with SMI by helping you understand what to expect. They can offer hope as a mentor who is a living example of the reality of recovery.

The recovery journey is never easy, but it is always worth it. When a person with SMI reaches recovery, they often regain their self-love, self-worth and self-esteem.

Recovery can then free a person from stigma, shame and embarrassment. Perhaps most importantly, it can stop them from defining themselves merely by their illness.

Some people with SMI have to recognize that the greatest barrier to reaching recovery may be their own mindset. People who refuse to take back control of their lives (including their care) and refuse to take responsibility for their illness will find it more difficult to reach recovery.

It is a great tragedy that so many never reach recovery because it is possible for so many more.

Ultimately, we all need more visible and promoted examples of everyday people living in recovery.

The promise of eliminating stigma does offer hope, but recovery offers so much more.

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Others can be useful, listen to them

I never felt as alone when I had bad panic attacks. When your brain suddenly goes nuts and you feel like you can’t control anything within yourself and outside anymore,

your ears have this tendency to shut themselves down automatically to what anyone else could be saying.

You just focus on how feel, on how bad you feel, and on how you are probably going to die in the next few minutes.

In reality, things don’t always have to be like that. With time, I learned that when other people

I knew were around me, I could count on them, and I was certainly not alone.

Of course, what we are going through when a panic attack comes out is usually very hard, sometimes even impossible to understand for someone who has never experienced it.

However, that is far from meaning they cannot help us.

Personally, I have always been shy when it comes to talking about my anxiety condition.

I have always seen it as something I should hide, someone I was ashamed of because I didn’t know how to control it.

I didn’t realize that, by talking about it to others, I could find a way out. I could pace myself during the worst attacks.

My father was the one who really started to help.

I didn’t have to say anything to him, and in that regard, I was very lucky, he just looked at me and knew what to do.

Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t work from the first time, and the beginning was rough.

When I was having a crisis, it was hard for him to understand why I was acting like that, ignoring him and everything else.

He didn’t get that I couldn’t actually control myself.

However, once he got the extent of what I was going through, everything changed. He was there to make me feel safe, to pace me up, to make me come out of the panic attack.

How? Well, through a very simple process, that can be applied to everyone. I’m sure you probably heard that a hundred times already, but it all comes to one thing: breathing.

During my worst panic attacks, my father used to take me outside, in a quiet place and had me lie down.

I always felt like I was about to die like I couldn’t breathe anymore, and I was screaming.

To reassure me, he used to say that everything was alright, that I was in my normal environment, that nothing had changed. It was just a panic attack.

Now, that is a key thing you have to keep in mind.

When you get those symptoms, repeat to yourself that it is only a panic attack, that it is not dangerous and that nothing will happen to you.

If someone is with you at that moment, have them say that to you too.

Then, he made me focus on my breathing. Only that.

Focus on the movements of your chest going up and down.

If you are not alone and experience focusing all by yourself, ask this person to say out loud ‘breathe in, breathe out.

Feel the air coming in and out of your body, and put all your thoughts on that. This will have two effects.

First, it will take your mind off the panic attack itself and will prevent you to work yourself up into an even worse state. Unconsciously, without even realizing it, you will be calming down.

Second, controlling the rhythm of your breathing, will regulate your oxygen flux and also bring the attack to an end.

A good way to start on the way to eradicates those nasty panics…!

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How a Simple Morning Routine Helped Me Heal from PTSD and Grief

In an eighteen-month window, I had a landslide of firsts that I would not wish on my worst enemy.

I ended my first long-term relationship with someone I deeply cared for but did not love.

She had borderline personality disorder, and I was not mentally strong enough nor mature enough to be what she needed in a partner. Within five minutes of me saying our relationship was over, she slit her wrist as we sat there in bed.

This was the beginning of it all.

Drug overdoses, online personal attacks, physically beating me, calling and texting sixty-plus times a day, coming to my work, breaking into my home to steal and trash the place, and general emotional abuse followed over the next ten months.

Day after day, week after week, month after month.

My heart started racing, and my breathing spiked every time my phone went off, and I mean EVERY time.

I woke each morning to multiple alerts that someone had tried to hack my social media and bank accounts and people I barely knew messaging me saying, “Hey, don’t know if you saw this, but your ex is…”

In the midst of this, my parents called a family meeting, and that’s when they told us that dad’s doctor thought he might be showing the first signs of Parkinson’s disease.

I didn’t know at the time what this news would mean long-term for him and us as a family, but I soon found out.

Dad slowly started deteriorating mentally and physically.

Within a year, he had aged twenty years and wasn’t able to be left alone.

The man I had once known to be the picture of health and courage was gone.

I, too, was changing for the worse.

Happiness was a feeling I couldn’t relate to anymore. I was constantly in a state of duress, from twitching fingers to a tightness in my chest. The most notable change in my life was the constant breaking down as I would shower in the morning.

After I woke, I would kneel, resting my head on my shoulders and cry, in fear for what the day ahead had in store and disbelief that my life had come to this.

Even as I huddled there under the warm stream of water, I would feel my eyes shifting back and forth, a mile a minute, it seemed. The effects of my anxiety, depression, and PTSD were touching all areas of my body.

I did not know what to do.

I couldn’t believe my life had turned out like this.

How could this be happening to me?

But the scariest thought that came to mind, as I knelt in the shower each morning, was how do I stop this?

No one had taught this in school.

I remember staring at my ceiling one afternoon (as I often did, not having any desire to do anything that I once loved or cared about) and saying to myself, “If I don’t take action, I’ll be like this till I’m fifty.”

And this was the truth; I knew it wasn’t going to go away without consistent work to better myself.

Over the following weeks to months, I started working on my morning routine, something that had never been part of my life before this. Most mornings had me showering and getting dressed as I scrolled through the gram, looking at negative posts, adding more unhealthy thoughts to my already full mind.

It was a slow process.

Most days I only lasted five minutes before I gave up and went back to bed, but slowly, over time, with two steps forward then five steps back, I created a routine that felt comfortable and achievable each day.

The routine went like this:

  • Wake up at the same time each day, no matter weekday or weekend.
  • Hop into the shower right away and finish off the last thirty seconds with a full blast of cold water.
  • Make my bed after I get changed.
  • Make a glass of hot lemon water.
  • Sit and drink the lemon water in silence as I look out the window.
  • Finish the time on the chair by saying five things that I am grateful for, no matter how small—”I am grateful for this tree outside my window.”
  • Put on a pot of coffee.
  • Write in my journal as the coffee brews, exploring how I am feeling at the moment or how I felt yesterday and why.

Not until I had my coffee in my hand, around forty-five minutes after waking up, would I get my phone and flick it open to see what I had missed overnight.

I had created a morning routine that put me ahead of everything else going on in life.

There were no sudden jolts of unease or stress from outside sources like a text message, email, or social media post. 

I was in control of my life for at least forty-five minutes every morning.

I would use that confidence to extend those positive vibes further and further into my days.

At first, they didn’t last very long, but over time I was able to look at the clock and see mid-day was here, and I hadn’t given up on being productive.

My morning routine saved me. It gave me the confidence to add other tools to my mental health toolbox.

I started eating healthier foods, working out more often, reading in bed instead of watching TV, and going to therapy. All of these things aided me in battling my mental health struggles.

I’ve learned that sometimes, when our challenges feel daunting and unbeatable, we need to think big and act small, taking it one day at a time, or one morning at a time, or one breath at a time.

Sometimes one small positive choice can have a massive ripple effect and change everything—especially when it enables us to tune out the noise of the world and reconnect with ourselves.

Life will always be chaotic; if we want calm in our lives we have to consciously choose to create it.

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Food for the soul : walking

I have always loved walking. I am not able to really explain why, but the simple act of walking, of putting one foot in front of another and thus creating a movement of motion, has always made me feel good, giving me a sense of freedom. I remember that summer especially, when I decided to go for a week long hike on the way to Santiago, in Spain. My bag was a little bit too heavy, and my feet were hurting me, but I felt like I was liberated.

For me, it has always been easier to talk while walking. On that trip, I was alone with a friend, and our adventure, our sharing of something only us could see, made communication much easier.

My anxious mind started to soothe. Walking along the sea shore, and the mountain, and the eucalyptus forests calmed me down.

I was focused on my goal for each day ; I had to reach that town, or this village, and it was the biggest thing on my mind – maybe sharing a little bit of space with the food breaks ! Every day, I could say that I had achieved something, I had accomplished the aim I had set for myself in the morning.

It may sound trivial, but it is actually quite important. Having something to be satisfied of – even proud of if I may say – at the end of each day is crucial to boost your self-esteem and feel better about yourself.

Personally, it makes me feel like I am worthy of something, that I can still accomplish things in my life.

It’s all in the little things, as the saying goes. Even if I am at home all day with nothing in particular to do, I now try to go out and take a little stroll.

If anything, I have managed to get myself out of the house for a few minutes, to get dressed and make myself look acceptable for the outside world. This simple gesture makes me feel like my day was not completely wasted and keeps me from losing grip completely.

 Being outside, looking at life going by, the animals, the people, the sea, has some kind of magical relaxing effect. I stop thinking about how miserable I may feel, or how anxious I am. I start acknowleging the world can be pleasant.

I close my eyes and I soak the sun in, or I feel the cold wind on my face, and somehow I feel  rejuvenated.

Almost like a new beginning. 

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Women and the lack of confidence

For days now, I have been reading that scientific evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men, women lack confidence compared to men, and that hinders their performances on the way to success. In a word, women, because of their natural lack of confidence, would be less successful than men. Is this true? And if so, how can this be possible? Finally, maybe most importantly, what can we do about it?

Today, in the United States, women earn more college degrees than men do. The same trend can be observed in Europe. Several studies, conducted by organisms such as Goldman Sachs and Columbia University, have shown that companies employing large numbers of women out perform their competitors.

And women resources are not scarce, as they make half of the world’s workforce. Still, women remain largely absent from the higher positions, and most of the world’s influent companies are still men.

The world of politics is still largely dominated by men. Furthermore, women still earn less money than men on average. Why is that so? To some, confidence would be the key.

When you ask powerful women how they made it to where they are today, the answer is usually the same: “I got lucky”, “I was just at the right place at the right time”. Others, like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, sometimes feel like they should not even be where they are: “There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am”. As bizarre as it may sound, it appears that there is a confidence gap separating the sexes.

Women tend to underestimate themselves more, and doubt more of their abilities to succeed than men. The main problem here being that success depends as much on competences than on confidence. In reality, women perform on average as well as men do. In that regard, women would just be partly refraining themselves from making it to the top.

When it comes to scientific facts, it appears that men and women do not display significant enough differences in the brain that could explain such a confidence gap.

However, studies have shown that women tend to activate their amygdalae quicker and more easily than men – amygdalae are sometimes described as the brain’s primitive fear centers. Furthermore, the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the rain helping recognize errors and weigh options, is larger in women.

As a consequence, women are more likely to recognize and respond to threat. In addition, it appears that higher levels of testosterone can be linked to a greater taste for risk taking – testosterone levels are 10 times higher in men than women. Winning yields even more testosterone and keeps the cycle going. Yet, these physical features are not enough to explain the confidence gap existing between men and women.

Our environments have a lot to do with our futures as well. As early as primary school, girls are rewarded for being ‘good girls’, to have good grades and behave properly, not to be energetic or pushy. Young girls usually have longer attention spans and more advanced verbal skills than boys, allowing them to earn better grades.

This tends to lead to situations where girls are being rewarded for being perfect, and that is what they will be looking for later in life. However, it also leads to situations where girls learn to avoid taking risks and making mistakes.

The problem being that many psychologists believe that risk taking and failure are an important part of confidence-building. Boys, on the contrary, by being scolded more, learn to fail and in the process, build up their levels of confidence.

When girls switch the playground for an office desk, they do not realize immediately that the rules haves changed. While they look forward to being rewarded for their perfect work and their flawless manners, the actual reward actually comes from something different. The realization of this often hits their confidence a little bit more.

The other consequence is that, let us be honest, women are not expected to behave assertively and might be badly considered for doing so. The problem is stuck on both sides.

Yet, the fact that the only thing holding women back is their level of confidence and self-esteem has been heavily criticized. Indeed, some argue that if women lack self-esteem it is only because the way society is built is making them so, and even when they are confident, women are all but helped to progress.

Take as an example the recent Paycheck Fairness Act, which was defeated by Republicans arguing that women actually prefer lower-paying jobs. In toy stores, engineering and electronics is only made for boys, while girls have to stick with Barbie’s dream house and horse. I have read that “women’s lack of confidence could actually just be a keen understanding of just how little American society values them”.

To make women feel more self-confident, the first thing to be changed would then be society and the value given to women and what they do. We need to truly start valuing self-assured women instead of calling them ‘bitchy’ or ‘bossy’. This is the way to success.

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Bad Apples on the Family Tree

The news that a child in the family is autistic is most often met with a number of reactions. While all family members, even extended, would be supportive in an ideal world, the sad truth is that many are disgusted or disappointed.

Does a family member scold the autistic child often? Does he or she look at your autistic child unfairly? Does this family member insist on treating your autistic child the same way he or she treats all the other children in your family, even when it is inappropriate? These are signs that this relative is not receptive to either your autistic child or the situation. This may often be the case when discovering a child is autistic, so as a parent, be aware and prepared for this to happen.

Often, unreceptive relatives simply do not understand what autism is or what it means for your child and your immediate family. Though many see autism as a mental retardation, many autistic children and adults are highly intelligent; they are just unable to communicate this in the same ways that others would.

Try explaining what autism means to this family member, and have him or her spend some time with you and your autistic child. Allow them to see the effects of autism and the methods you can use to cope.

If the family member continues to be unsupportive or refuses your explanation, ask why this family member is so unreceptive to the situation. Are they scared of hurting the child? Are they worried about the added responsibility when spending time with the child? Perhaps they feel guilty or are embarrassed.

If you can pinpoint why a family member is unreceptive, you can better address the issue and hopefully help him or her overcome their original perceptions.

Perhaps no amount of talking or spending time together will help this family member overcome their prejudice. If this person has stubbornly made up his or her mind, you will never be able to show him or her how beautiful your son or daughter is-autism and all.

If this is the case, eliminating this person from your life may be difficult, but it will also rid you and your child of this family member’s negative energy and personality. In this developing situation, you need the best positive support available.

 Remember that other family members have been supportive; that your children are adjusting well and are a source of strength for you. Strengthen your support network by participating in parent support groups for autistic children. And remember that you can surround yourself with those who do accept and love your child-family or not.

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Anger Management for Teens & Success

As a teen, it must be rather difficult to always be positive in every situation. Growing up in society today is challenging and teenagers are often compelled to be defensive. Teenagers are not usually compassionate individuals. They are constantly in competition and jealousy is a huge factor.

The fight to always be number one is very common in the teenage world. It is unfortunate and sad since these years ought to be the best years of their lives.

Teenage children are forced to grow up long before their time because of the daily challenges and obstacles they are faced with. Some young people can handle adversity very well while others are quick to build a defensive wall.

When faced with confrontation, many teens lash out and become reckless, often to the point of violence and nowadays, death.

Developing an anger management plan for teens could be difficult since teens are quick to resist advice and not always compliant with instructions. In order for anger management for teens to be successful, a program must be designed that will reach the targeted teen without being overbearing.

Convincing a teenager that they have behavioral issues which need attention may be a challenge but it is essential to make them understand the importance of making a change.

If anger is not controlled, it can control the life of the individual affected.

This is unfortunate in any life including that of a teenager. Teenagers with anger issues tend to yell and scream, say hurtful things, punch walls, push other people around and even hurt themselves. It may be difficult but important to convince these teenagers that everyone can change. With effective anger management for teens, they can be a success.

They can make positive changes in their lives which will ultimately make their life easier and more enjoyable. Learning to control their anger is definitely a positive change.

Anger management for teens should teach teenagers to be self-aware, to evaluate their feelings in an attempt to understand the reasons for their anger. They should also learn to practice self-control, to pause a few seconds and think about the repercussions of their reactions to situations.

After thinking about their options regarding reactions, they are taught to make a choice, pick an option which will bring about effective results.

After acting on their feelings, teenagers are taught through anger management for teens, to review their progress, see what the outcome of the choice was. These steps might be considered an effective lesson plan for anger management in teens. If using this plan each time they are confronted with irritating situations, eventually the teenager will be capable of dealing with confrontations much better.

Teenagers have their own minds with their likes and dislikes. Suggesting techniques like exercising, listening to music or journaling might be good anger management for teens. Success will only be achieved when the teenager is able to accept responsibility for their actions and realize they need to make changes.

Using their likes as distractions may be a good tool in anger management.

These may be techniques which they are willing to try when they feel angry or threatened. Helping a teenager be successful in anger management may require hours of hard work and tears, but realizing that individual is being spared from a future of recklessness and avoidable challenges is worth every second.

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An introduction to stress

Stress is, unfortunately, a common experience. We all know that this should not be the case, but many of us seem unable to avoid it – the modern world seems to put us under more and more pressure.

Stress can affect both our mental and physical wellbeing. It is not, in itself, a medical condition, but can lead to anxiety, low mood or depression

There are several ways to describe stress, including:

  • Positive stress
  • Negative stress
  • Acute or short-term stress
  • Chronic or long-term stress

All of these lead to the same physiological response in our body and the release of stress chemicals such as adrenalin into our bloodstream. The purpose of these chemicals is to make our minds more alert and prepare our bodies for action.

This is known as the ‘fight or flight’ reaction and is one of the primitive reflexes we have left over from our cavemen days. Back then, stress came about when we faced a large animal – we had to make the decision whether to run away from it or fight it so that our family could eat for a few days.

What causes stress

Today, we feel stressed because of a wide variety of different reasons including:

  • Work
  • Exams
  • Relationships
  • Illness or death
  • Money problems

Stress can also be caused or exacerbated by the menopause. If you are going through this time of life and feeling more stressed than usual, this may be because the hormonal changes in your body have altered the chemical activities in your brain, making you less able to cope with stress.

Identifying the cause of your stress is the first step towards helping you find a solution. You can do this by examining your life to determine exactly what is putting you under so much pressure.

Symptoms of stress

Symptoms of stress can be physical or emotional.

  • Physical symptoms include a feeling of heat rising up inside you, feelings of panic, trembling or shaking, heart pounding in your chest and shallow, quick breathing. These occur because of the stress chemicals being released into your blood as you prepare to fight or run
  • Stress also gives rise to emotional symptoms. These include feeling tired, drained, irritable and unable to switch off. In general, these can take a bigger toll on your life and those around you than physical symptoms.

If you are worried about your symptoms, especially if they are affecting the way you think, feel and act, seek medical attention.

Effects of stress

Stress experienced over a period of time can lead to more long-term effects on the mind, altering the way you act, react, think, feel and respond to everyday situations.

Common emotional effects of chronic stress include:

  • Emotional effects – this is the way you feel (eg. do you feel low in mood)
  • Cognitive effects – this is the way that you think (eg. are you feeling positive?)
  • Behavioural effects – this is the way that you respond and react to those around you

Stress can also give rise to a number of illnesses.

On top of unpleasant emotional symptoms, stress can have a negative impact on your physical health and is a major factor in many of our modern day illnesses including:

  • Skin problems and rashes
  • Sleep problems and insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Cardiovascular disease (eg. heart problems, strokes)
  • Digestive problems
  • Cancer

Many of these are minor health complaints, but some such as cancer and heart problems, can have serious consequences.

Managing and coping with stress

Two groups of factors determine how well we cope with stress – these are known as external and internal factors, and are also sometimes referred to as ‘stressors’.

  • External factors generally lie within our environment and the people around us. If work, relationships, friends and home life are making us feel happy and secure, we are able to cope with stress better
  • Internal factors are what we are born with, otherwise known as our personality.
  • This determines how we react to the stresses we face. We know looking around us, that some people just appear to cope with stress better than others.

How well each person reacts to stress can vary from one day to the next.

This is because factors such as our general health and fitness levels, emotional state, nutritional balance and the amount of rest and sleep we are getting have a major influence on how we cope with stress.

People under stress find that they cope better after mastering a number of stress management techniques.

In addition, you may find that herbal remedies can be effective in helping you manage your stress symptoms.

These are generally preferred to conventional medicines as they are not associated with the same level of side effects. 

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Accepting yourself.

Some people change their behavior to suit their surroundings and company; they are chameleon-like and tailor themselves to be acceptable to their peers. They present their inauthentic self.

People alter themselves from their authentic selves by a need not to be rejected or judged unfavourably. They morph in to someone different because their insecurities tell their minds, sometimes relentlessly, that they aren’t good enough as they are.

However, acting against to your innate personality has the opposite effect because it makes it more likely that you’ll be judged or rejected. As you pretend and hope to kid people, they sense that their version of the “real” you is insincere, inconsistent and that they don’t know you.

People instinctively know when something is not quite right and it makes them feel uncomfortable. From this discomfort comes avoidance and dislike. Ouch. 

Note to self:

You are unique and you are great, you are good enough. As acting is exhausting so give yourself a break and accept you, it’s not easy but it offers freedom.  

Look deep inside you and recognize the situations and people that make you, the real you, disappear and your actor take to the stage and by being more self aware of your actions, behavior and emotions you’ll meet yourself, and a lot of us don’t know who we are because we are too busy worrying, so when you do meet yourself chances are that you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  

Make friends with yourself. You’re lovely and you don’t need to be perfect, no one else is.

Using the array of social networking sites to connect with people around the world is a hugely popular method of interaction; however, as it is not true interaction you can feel lonely and isolated.

After all, it’s you and a screen wherever you are, it’s not as though the other participant is sitting on your sofa with a cup of tea.

Did you know that year on year a higher percentage of people are seeking therapy and counselling for social media related issues, like being unfollowed or defriended or if they were made fun of about their weight or appearance in an image they placed on their page?

You might think that could never be you but just ask yourself if you measure your popularity, self worth and acceptability to others through social media.

Social media is a great concept but it has a downside.

People’s confidence, happiness and mental wellbeing can be decimated via this medium.

So, this could be you.

If you think that this is already you then please contact us, attend a support group or join our closed Facebook community. You don’t need to be alone with negativity.

We don’t have waiting lists or time limits and you don’t need to be referred to connect with us, we’re friendly, encouraging people who are walking the same path towards mental health. You’ll grow stronger with us and we think you’re great already. What have you got to lose?

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Mindfulness Meditation

Mediation is good for the soul. This is a statement many of us heard before. However, did you know that meditation can be good, even excellent to the body as well? This technique can actually have stunning results after a while of having been practiced regularly and could have effects on the immune system.

Recently, more and more studies have proven that meditation, notably in the form of mindfulness, can have an impact on DNA and the immune system. Let us first take a look at what mindfulness exactly is. Mindfulness implies to experience every moment during a given time, to fully embrace what is happening at the level of our thoughts, feelings, sensations in our bodies and what is happening in our environment. The things that happen during those moments should be accepted without judgment. Nothing is right nor wrong, we are just tuning in to the present moment and experiencing what it is offering to us. Things should not be put in perspective in comparison to the past, or to what we expect to happen in the future.

At first, mindfulness finds its roots in Buddhism. There, it serves three distinct purposes: knowing the mind, training the mind and freeing the mind. With the usual speed of time in our daily lives, we easily get lost and end up having trouble identifying what is really motivating us, what is the nature of our feelings and reactions. It has become hard to be fully aware of the mechanisms that operate us, deep within. Mindfulness will help us in the process of discovery, as the latter emerges better in stillness. When we stand still, it instantaneously becomes easier to notice what is going on both around us and within us. It becomes clear whether your mind is agitated and thoughts are rushing in at a crazy pace. The difficulty here will be to look at your thoughts without judging them, just taking note of what they are. What emotions are present? What is the mind? What thoughts and beliefs am I experiencing? These are the kind of questions you should be asking yourself when practicing mindfulness. When you learn that way, the benefits are doubled. Not only do you know something new, but you also know that you know, you are aware of this newly acquired knowledge. When you are learning just for the sake of knowing, you will not try to change things. You will only see them and notice that they happen.

Still, the mind is something that can be shaped. It is not set in stone, static, but is instead malleable. In that regard, the mind needs to be trained, as if we cannot take responsibility for it, some external forces will. Those can be the media, advertisement and other people, may they want the best or the worst for us. Taking responsibility for your own mind is an important part of the Buddhist practice. So now, how do you train your mind? For many, a good starting point can be found in kindness and compassion. Indeed, when experiencing mindfulness, you will soon find yourself surrounded with conflict in the form of aversion, anger, despair or confusion. Of course, the solution is not to answer with more conflict. As you will have guessed, one of the solution is to answer with kindness and compassion. Training our minds to be kinder and more forgiving with ourselves will help with being more at ease with how things are. Day after day, what will happen is that we will not try to change the world, to swim desperately against the current anymore but we will accept what is happening. This is the first step in being able to make the best out of our situation. Once your mind is properly trained, you will be more relaxed and take things coming at you more easily. This will trigger more and more success as you will not rush into things with a blind eye anymore. One of the most efficient way of reaching that stage is to focus on one quality at a time. We can take as examples here courage, ethical virtue, concentration or the capacity to release clinging.

Once the mind is known and has been trained, it is time for it to be freed. All the previous steps are meant to lead to this final one/ knowing you mind will help you realize and accept that you are clinging to certain things in your life, and training your mind will help you release the clinging. Ultimately, when you free your mind, your heart, so that there are no barriers left to its freedom. When the heart and the mind are freed, they are at peace. Complete freedom though, is hard to reach. A lot of learning and training will be required. The freeing of the mind can only be accomplished by taking small steps, by not rushing in.

To stay that way, the mind will have to be taken care of regularly. The training has to be constant. If you follow those simple steps of mindfulness, you will soon get free of all suffering. Take a deep breath and jump in!

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