Do You Have The January Blues?

Do You Have The January Blues?

Many people experience highs and lows throughout the year. For many, January is a tough month; following a time of celebration, a break from day to day life and the building frenzy around Christmas, January can feel flat. The usual things apply; the weather can be miserable; the mornings are dark and bank accounts can be decidedly empty. The 3rd Monday of the month is deemed the most miserable day of the year according to the media. Any New Year’s resolutions might be either starting to fail or becoming a weary struggle. We’re back into the routine and starting to feel tired again. For most people who feel this way, this feeling can be temporary and mild. However, for some who may be feeling more vulnerable anyway, perhaps those who were already struggling with low mood or anxiety, this time of year can compound difficulties significantly. So how can we manage this?

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Parenting Dilemmas: Managing Behaviour with Understanding and Empathy

Parenting Dilemmas: Managing Behaviour with Understanding and Empathy

Parenting styles have changed over the generations. The amount of parenting theories and approaches now publicised are mind-boggling for parents. The pros and cons of how you discipline a child are long debated. The ‘right’ way of doing things is sought after despite every child having different needs and every parent-child relationship having its own dynamic. As a parent, you will have an experience in mind of how you were parented. You will either work to replicate this (“it worked for me”) or you might actively try to be different; to correct for those things you found difficult from your parents as a child. Many parents report not feeling able to parent in the way they were parented because approaches have now moved on. Perhaps it worked at the time for you but this might not be the ‘norm’ today. Given this, it is no wonder parenting comes with so much second-guessing and self-doubt. So, what are the things to consider and hold in mind when parenting your child?

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Trauma, Traumatising and Post-Traumatic Stress….Do You Know The Difference?

Trauma, Traumatising and Post-Traumatic Stress….Do You Know The Difference?

The words trauma and post-traumatic stress are now part of most people’s vocabulary. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is now much more understood than it once was, often held in mind in the context of soldiers and war. However, there are many events that have the potential to be ‘traumatising’ to an individual, from significant life-altering events like terrorist incidents, to more frequent occurrences like car accidents. Not everyone who experiences a life-threatening or terror-inducing situation, will go on to develop PTSD symptoms. That is not to say that the event hasn’t had a significant impact on someone or that it has not been traumatic in some way. So, what’s the difference; what is different about a PTSD diagnosis, why do some people go on to develop these symptoms and what does it mean for treatment?

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When The Going Gets Tough: Do You Know How To Look After Yourself?

When The Going Gets Tough: Do You Know How To Look After Yourself?

Low mood and depression are difficulties encountered by most people over their lifetime, either directly or through a close friend or family member. The World Health Organisation states that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health difficulty over the course of a year. Most prevalent of these is anxiety and depression. When people think of depression, they might conjure up images in their mind; perhaps someone who is simply not functioning day to day, someone who is unkempt or perhaps someone who is coping by harming themselves. While of course these are associated with depression, what is perhaps less appreciated is the full spectrum of signs and symptoms of depression. Furthermore, it is easy to miss how many people might be managing low level symptoms day to day while continuing to work and do what they need to do. So, what are the signs of low mood; what are ‘normal’ fluctuations in mood and what can be done to ward off spirals into more entrenched difficulties?

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Back-to-School Anxiety: Help Your Child Manage the Transition

Back-to-School Anxiety: Help Your Child Manage the Transition

Any parents will know that September is a time of real transition and often anxiety, as children make their way back to a new term at school. A new year often means a new teacher, new routines, sometimes new peers and for some, a new school. The level of unknowns and uncertainty is high for some children to tolerate. If your child has a vulnerability to feeling worried or anxious, this could be a hurdle for them to manage. For some children, this tendency to worry is not a reflection of difficulties they encounter, but simply an anticipatory anxiety which many of us can empathise with. For others, coping with the school environment and the emotional, social and educational demands that come with it, is a significant ask. In comparison to their peers, children are often aware of what they struggle with. If not supported well with praise and opportunities for individual success and progression, a child’s sense of self and confidence can plummet quickly. Does your child struggle with any of the following? If so, they are liable to be vulnerable to anxiety and poor self-esteem.

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Workshop: Making Sense of Self-Harm in Children and Teenagers

Workshop: Making Sense of Self-Harm in Children and Teenagers

27th September at St Andrews Hall, Chesterton, 6.30-9.00pm

Self-harm amongst children and teenagers is increasing in both frequency and severity. It is now commonly seen in schools across broader age ranges and peer groups. The connotations around self-harm have changed in recent years with the function and expression of feeling behind self-harm varying a great deal. As a result, it can be so hard to make sense of the experience your child or teenager is going through. It can be a way of coping with overwhelming feelings; it can be a way of eliciting help from others or it can be a way of punishing or doing serious harm to themselves. For many, the self-harm itself is simply an outward expression of some other internal distress or psychological difficulty. So how can we know what is going on for young people and more importantly, how can we respond in a helpful and supportive way, while ensuring we keep them as safe as possible?

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Laying the Foundation for Good Mental Health in Infancy

Laying the Foundation for Good Mental Health in Infancy

Research tells us just how important the first 2 years of life is for infants. During this period, infant development is at its peak with brain connections being created at the rate of 1 million per second. The connections that are being formed are dependent upon the experiences and care they are being provided with. Infants learn more through their interactions with their parents or carers than any other activity. As such, having a parent or carer who can hold their baby’s mental state in mind is crucial. This ability of parents, to try and make sense of their child’s cues and behaviours in terms of their underlying needs, intentions, thoughts, beliefs and desires, has been shown to be a key mediator of child development. We also know that a strong healthy attachment to parents or carers has a lasting impact on a child throughout their later life. Secure attachment relationships are associated with higher levels of emotional resilience, reduced likelihood of mental health problems, healthier friendships and relationships, as well as a number of indicators of attainment and success. Sadly research, and my own work within the field of fostering and adoption, has also highlighted the lasting and traumatic impact of neglect and abuse on infant development. So, what are the key things to be holding in mind in parenting young infants?

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Are You Striving Towards Misery?

Are You Striving Towards Misery?

Are You Striving Towards Misery?

Whether it’s through self-help books, social media or the well-meaning advice of others, we are surrounded by the idea that we could be doing things better. There are so many things now that we are told we ‘should’ do for our health, for prosperity or for bettering ourselves in some way. We should eat well, sleep more, exercise, read more, save more, strive for that promotion or set out our 5-year-plan. At the same time, we should be going through life as mindfully as we can, ensure we keep our stress levels down, appreciate the small things in life, do more fun things and challenge ourselves to meet new people. How can we do it all? How can we live well, stay sane, work hard and ‘live in the moment’? If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves trying to do too much and striving on too many fronts. What started as an enthusiastic new plan becomes something we struggle to maintain, leaving us feeling as though we have failed. Alternatively, we do brilliantly in this specific area, but other parts of our life fall behind. So how can we be finding the right balance?

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Helping Children To Manage Difficult Feelings

Helping Children To Manage Difficult Feelings

Helping Children To Manage Difficult Feelings

Children and teenagers have a huge amount of demands and pressures to deal with from quite a young age. They are expected to manage an array of feelings day to day, with brain architecture designed to support emotion regulation only fully developing within teenage years. So how are we helping or guiding children to manage their feelings? How do you yourself manage difficult feelings? You might list a number of strategies you have learnt work for you over the years. Perhaps a few deep breaths, perhaps space to yourself or talking with someone over a cup of tea. For children, they may not have found what works for them yet, and may have less opportunity and autonomy to give different things a go. They will first look to you to see how you manage; children learn most from watching adults around them. However, with something as intangible as this, it is difficult to observe. We do a lot internally which is hard for children to learn from; we may have a bit of a mantra in mind, we may be organising our thoughts, or simply trying to calm our physiological reactions. So what can you be doing to help them learn what works for them?

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New Workshop: Challenging Worry and Anxiety Day to Day

New Workshop: Challenging Worry and Anxiety Day to Day

New Workshop: Challenging Worry and Anxiety Day to Day

26th July at St Andrews Hall, Chesterton, 6.30-9.00pm

Many of us will recognise the feeling of worry or anxiety which can creep in day to day. While sometimes this can be protective or helpful, it can also be preoccupying, draining and overwhelming. Negative and anxious thinking can dominate our minds, while physiological symptoms of anxiety can infiltrate our bodies. Most importantly, anxiety can have a significant impact on how we manage moment to moment; our response to situations, interactions or triggers. Is it only too easy to enter into a vicious cycle of anxious rumination, unhelpful thinking and subsequent ‘safety behaviours’ designed to quell the flood of panic. This can easily become a way of life, with worry becoming a daily occurrence which we learn to accommodate and work around.

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The Snowball Effect: Are Things As Bad As They Might Seem?

The Snowball Effect: Are Things As Bad As They Might Seem?

The Snowball Effect: Are Things As Bad As They Might Seem?

We will all recognise this. We have all been in the situation where one thing has gone a bit awry or we’ve had one difficult thing to face, and before we know it, we feel like we have a wave of anxiety, dread or despair come over us about all aspects of life. This is particularly prominent with anxiety, whereby we become anxious about one thing, and it quickly ‘snowballs’ into something much larger, something more catastrophic and often, irritational. Similarly, low mood can skilfully ‘filter’ our thinking to the point where we are only noticing the bad things; again our perceptions about ourselves, our lives and our ability to cope can snowball into a vicious cycle quite quickly. It is easy, in the face of this, to become overwhelmed and doubt our ability to get back out of this tailspin.

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Driving You Mad or Keeping You Sane…What Do Your Friends Do for You?

Driving You Mad or Keeping You Sane…What Do Your Friends Do for You?

Driving You Mad or Keeping You Sane…What Do Your Friends Do for You?

Most people, thankfully, could name someone in their life that they could call on if they were struggling. For some, this might be a partner or family. For many, its friends. If you’re lucky enough, you might have a network of people around you who are there for you for different things; whether that’s for a shared interest, for a chat, or for a laugh. You might have people who you have known for years who know the good, the bad and the ugly. You might have people who are in your life daily who know exactly what’s going on for you in the here and now. You might notice that there are those who you would have a heart to heart with, those that provide entertainment value on a night out, giving a good distraction when needed; those who give you a pep talk when you’re second guessing yourself, and those who manage to hold you in mind even when they’re a distance away. What seems clear is that we need these people in our lives; and that these friendships and relationships change and evolve over time. They might take the mick or wind you up at any opportunity…but they might also be the ones who keep you going when the going gets tough. Given this, it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking about how much time and energy you put into your social circle. Are you making use of those around you when you need to? Do you give as much as you take? Are there any friendships or relationships that are out of balance and don’t leave you feeling good? Is there more to be gained by investing in your friendships more? These might seem like odd questions, but for some, friendships don’t come as easy. For some, it’s hard to reach out when we do need support. For some, it’s hard to balance friendships alongside relationships and other commitments.

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New Workshop: Minimising Stress in a Stress-Inducing World

New Workshop: Minimising Stress in a Stress-Inducing World

Workshop: Minimising Stress in a Stress-Inducing World

31st May at St Andrews Hall, Chesterton, 6.30-9.00pm

Life today is stressful. Whether it’s working life, studying, balancing family with your career, or managing difficult life events, many of us experience stress in some form day to day. We need to develop a good level of resilience to tolerate high demands and highly charged emotions with limited time for reflection or respite. We are increasingly told about the negative impact stress can have on our physical health and well-being. And yet we also know that some level of stress is inevitable and unavoidable. So how can we realistically reduce stress and cope with the inevitable level of daily stress in the most helpful way?

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Social Media and Your Child: Thinking Beyond Stranger Danger

Social Media and Your Child: Thinking Beyond Stranger Danger

Social Media and Your Child: Thinking Beyond Stranger Danger

It is obvious to see that social media has drastically changed the landscape for children and teenagers today. It is an unprecedented part of teenage life and as such, a significant influencing factor in the development of friendships, identity and sense of self. It is a landscape changing so fast, it is hard to anticipate the risks and repercussions that might arise, let alone get ahead of them to help children keep themselves safe. Recent research has shown that more than 90% of 16-24 year olds use social media. Perhaps more surprising though, is that it also suggests 75% of 10-12 year olds have social media accounts, despite a minimum sign-up age of 13. Not only does this mean that children, who may not developmentally mature enough to understand the risks of social media, are using it, but it also suggests that, at least a proportion, are setting up accounts without parental supervision or guidance. This is a regular debate amongst parents I have worked with: do you support them if they are going to do it anyway or do you try your hardest to shelter them from this world as long as possible? Concerns such as these are not new to parents however. The impact of television and video games has long been a concern. The impact of online advertising has been a focus of psychological research for some years. No doubt there will be more technological advancements in coming years which will keep us on our toes. In the meantime, what is the likely psychological impact of social media today, and what can we do to protect and support children?

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Are You Working Towards Happiness?

Are You Working Towards Happiness?

Are You Working Towards Happiness?

What makes you happy? What brings you that feeling of being content? It seems a simple question but one that can be difficult to answer. How often do you find yourself feeling happy or satisfied with your lot in life? Many of us are working towards things in life which we hope will make us happy; a promotion, getting married, earning more money, achieving that fitness goal or sporting victory. Goals are good. A focus and a vision are good. However, it can be easy to pin your happiness on achieving these goals, on reaching the final destination. Of course the difficulty with this is that a) goals take time to reach fruition and b) life doesn't always work in the way we hope or plan for. So the question becomes; are you happy on the journey? If not, perhaps there’s some value in renegotiating your goals, or re-evaluating your journey. 

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Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

Some of you may recognise a tendency to be quite self-critical at times. Do you have that inner critic that knows exactly which raw nerves to target? The one that pipes up just as we’re about to face something challenging so as to really kick that self-doubt into gear? Do you find yourself setting unreasonable expectations and then beating yourself up when you don’t manage to live up to them? Surprisingly or not, this is incredibly common. It has featured to some degree in the majority of people I have worked with; those who might be struggling with anxiety, low mood or relationship difficulties. I recognise it in myself and despite knowing what an impact it can have, still have to catch myself and challenge myself from time to time. So why are we so skilled at putting ourselves down? And more importantly, how can we tackle it to ensure it doesn’t have a significant impact on our sense of self and mood day to day?

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New Workshop: Developing Emotional Resilience in Children and Teenagers

New Workshop: Developing Emotional Resilience in Children and Teenagers

New Workshop: Developing Emotional Resilience in Children and Teenagers

26th April at St Andrews Hall, Chesterton, 6.30-9.00pm

Do you have children or teenagers, or work closely with them? Particularly if your child shows some signs of struggling with worry, low self-esteem, poor confidence or stress, this workshop can help you. This workshop will help you feel confident in supporting them to be as resilient as they can be for managing the stress and strain of growing up today. It will provide you with proactive ideas for responding to your child in a way that builds up their emotional language and healthy ways of coping.

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Love it or Hate it? Staying Sane with Exercise

Love it or Hate it? Staying Sane with Exercise

Love it or Hate it? Staying Sane with Exercise

Exercise is a part of many people’s lives for different reasons; for some, exercise is an obligatory chore to fit in, for others it features as a key hobby which other things revolve around. For some, exercise is about burning calories or staying healthy. For others, exercise can provide a focus; a goal or a challenge to work towards. We know exercise provides all sorts of health benefits for our bodies. It reduces our risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. It burns fat, strengthens muscles and develops resilience. But what about our mental health? Strangely we often think of this as something separate. But inevitably our minds and our bodies are linked. Research now highlights the significant and enduring benefits of exercise on our emotional well-being and mental health. So what does exercise do for you?

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New: Psychological Workshops Running Locally

New: Psychological Workshops Running Locally

Come and join these psychological workshops run locally by an experienced Clinical Psychologist. Topics range from challenging anxiety and minimising stress, to parenting dilemmas and parent-infant attachment. These workshops will include an element of teaching alongside interactive exercises and discussions, ensuring you leave with some key ideas and tips to try out. 

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Self-Harm in Children and Young People

Self-Harm in Children and Young People

Self-Harm in Children and Young People

Deliberate self-harm has increased significantly in recent years amongst children and young people. Recent figures suggest 13% of young people may try to harm themselves between the ages of 11 and 16, with a 70% increase in the number of young people attending A&E because of self-harm. Examples of self-harm include cutting on the arms or other body parts, over-dosing or self-poisoning, burning, skin picking or hair pulling. In the time I have worked for local mental health services, I have seen an increase in the number and severity of self-harm incidents amongst young people. Sadly, this is alongside ever-increasing pressures on local mental health services, leaving many parents struggling to know where to turn for support. Despite a growing awareness of these difficulties, there remains a number of myths out there about self-harm. For example, many people worry that self-harm is always associated with a desire to seriously harm or end lives. This is not the case amongst many young people who self-harm. In addition, many consider self-harm to be “attention-seeking” in nature. Again, a significant number of people who self-harm are extremely secretive about this coping strategy and will go to great lengths to prevent those around them finding out. As a result, published figures are likely to massively under-represent the issue. If you are a parent or work with young people, it is worth knowing some key signs to look out for.

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