Managing Anxiety & Fear

The whole world is fearful at the moment. No one is immune from the epidemic of fear any more than the Coronavirus pandemic. Even as a therapist, I struggle to withstand the emotional impact of the spread of Covid-19. I feel more emotional and hold more tension than I usually do. Some of us will control our fear by pretending it is not happening and denying or diminishing the threat. Some of us will try to control the uncontrollable by panic buying or obsessively reaching for antibacterial products. But none of us can protect ourselves fully from this scale of fear. Here are some strategies that help me to support myself and manage my fears:

Breathe : Slowly breathe out until you have completely emptied your lungs. Then let the in-breath do it’s own thing. Repeat at least 3 times. 

Ground yourself : Bring your energy down into your body from your head. Feel your feet on the floor. Feel your connection with the ground. If standing, unlock your knees. If sitting, feel the support of the chair, push your bottom right back into the chair and use the arm rests. Take full support from the chair. Breathe as above. 

Self Soothing: try the butterfly hug, wrap your arms around yourself then squeeze, stroke or pat your arms. 

Self-Reflection, allow time for self reflection by practicing meditation or journaling about your feelings. Use any extra time to follow some of your passions or learn a new skill.

Keep in contact remotely with as many people as you can to maintain a level of social connection.

The Authentic Living Project.

Welcome to my Authentic living project. I have been aiming to live more authentically since 1998 when I first discovered Gestalt Therapy. Since then I have been encouraging people to embrace their own authenticity by working individually and in groups. My own path to authenticity came through increased self awareness and personal development. Through working on this, my life improved so much that I long to share what I have learned to help others.

I aim to use my creativity and authenticity to support and inspire people to live the life they want and connect with others in a kind, loving and joyful way.

When we are being inauthentic we feel tense, fatigued and suffer ill health. Conversely, when we are being authentic we feel well and full of energy. We feel free and in touch with who we are and our life purpose.

My Authentic Living project aims to bring people together to reconnect with their true selves and learn more effective ways of relating to the world. It is much easier to make changes as part of  a supportive community. As we connect we laugh and have fun together and learn to be open to our creativity,  personal growth and inner wisdom.

I offer this through:

  • One to one Gestalt Psychotherapy,
  • Gestalt Therapy / Personal Development Groups,
  • Regular Workshops and Retreats
  • The Authentic Living Project Blog
  • Monthly Authentic Women circles.

I am passionate about inspiring you to reconnect with your authenticity and ultimately to find a more joyful purpose.

Connect with us / Get Involved

What is Self Care?

The term self – care is used quite a lot these days but what does it mean? For many it means finding the right life- work balance. For me self -care starts with understanding my own needs and to do that I need to be able to tune into my body and listen to what it is telling me. Before I discovered Gestalt Psychotherapy back in 1998 I had no real understanding of my own needs beyond basic needs such as tiredness, hunger and thirst. My priorities were being a good student, a good employee, pleasing others and basically spending my time “doing” and keeping busy. I struggled to allow myself time to relax unless it happened to also please someone else. I pushed myself so hard that my body eventually fought back. I developed Fibromyalgia. Chronic pain and fatigue. My body said “ENOUGH!” I had no choice but to learn about self-care.

Which areas of our life does it cover?

Self-care is unique to everyone. It is not enough to say self -care is about learning to relax and take breaks from our busy lives it is more than that. It encompasses many areas of our lives such as:

  • Health and physical well being
  • Psychological well-being, self awareness and self reflection
  • Emotional well-being and self compassion
  • Spiritual well-being
  • Personal fulfilment, meeting our goals and desires
  • Professional / work well being

4 simple ways to increase your self-care:

  1. Start a “Happiness list” on your phone

This is a document where you start to list everything that makes you happy. Ranging from your favourite food or beverage or a soak in a bubble bath to rock climbing, water skiing, or planning a round the world trip. It should ideally include a whole range of price and time brackets so that there is always something you can do from your list no matter how short on time or money you are. The beauty of it is you can add to it anytime you find yourself laughing out loud or getting a warm glow.

2. Keep a journal

A journal is an excellent tool for self reflection and for getting to know yourself. It can also help sort out your priorities as you tap into your own inner wisdom.

3. Practice Self- awareness

Develop your self awareness of what exactly your needs are so that you can find ways of meeting them. It can also help you to recognise when your life is in balance and when you might be neglecting your needs and sliding towards depletion.

4. Find a retreat or join a group with others trying to do the same thing. Look here

Are you depleted?

In my opinion the biggest threat to mental health for this generation is depletion. Every person who walks through my door is suffering from depletion in one form or another. Regardless of what other issues a client is bringing to work on, this has to be worked on first.

What are the signs of depletion?

  • Tiredness
  • Irritability or a lack of patience
  • Low mood
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Reduced enjoyment of life
  • Increased reliance on alcohol, sugar, caffeine or drugs to keep you going

What are the causes of depletion?

The causes of depletion are everywhere we look. Here are some examples:

  • Work
  • Parenting/Grand-parenting
  • Caring for others
  • Body image
  • Social media
  • Relationship issues
  • Leisure time
  • Education or professional development

Look at the list, some of them will apply to you more than others but ultimately it is the quest for perfection that depletes us. It is worsened by the media-portrayed ideal which leaves us all feeling not enough. As a result, we all need to work harder to reach what we perceive to be, the level everyone else has already achieved. For some people the need to please is to prevent rejection. For some this can lead to profound levels of shame. When we experience shame we may believe that we are completely worthless, this can lead to destructive behaviours, such as  addictions and anger issues and a decline into depression and mental illness.

Every time we are doing something we “should”, be it chores, work or  pleasing others, we are depleting ourselves; and every time we do something which gives us joy and makes us feel alive, we are nourishing ourselves. The key is to get these outgoings and in-goings into balance. Most people spend all their time doing the “shoulds” and end up running on empty. By focusing on nourishing yourself you will make yourself more robust and you will cope better with unwanted or stressful life events.

What can I do about it?

The old airline analogy of the need to put on your own life jacket first is a good place to start. If you don’t start looking after yourself you won’t be any good to others. Make self -care a priority. You can do this by:

1. Blocking out times in your diary just for you,

2. Instead of filling your time with jobs on your to do list, put some fun or relaxing activities on there and check them off too,

3. Reading my blog on self-care.

Living Below the Line

Living Below the line: my spectacular failure

This is my experience of trying to accept the challenge by The Global Poverty Project. This involves trying to live for 5 days on only £1.00 per person per day. I tried to inflict this onto my reluctant husband and two children aged 7 and 9.

Day 1: Literally a few minutes after deciding to try living below the line, I realised  I had failed before I even got started. Partly because I had not pre-planned and agreed to it on the spur of the moment, and partly because instead of just doing it alone I involved the family. I wanted it to be a learning experience. I told the children about it and they were keen to have a go. Naively, my daughter said “If we have any money left at the end of the week, we can give it to charity”. I explained that there wouldn’t be any left and that it would be very hard to buy what we wanted with that amount of money. I then realised that the children have a hot meal at school. This almost certainly costs more than a £1.00 per head. However, I reasoned that we could still go ahead with the challenge at home. I would also feel less irresponsible as a parent, inflicting this on my children. They would be getting one nutritious meal a day. I also realised that there were quite a few items of perishable food in the fridge. While I was happy to tape up the cupboards of non-perishables, I couldn’t justify wasting food. So again, I re-planned. I decided that we could use just the perishables to feed us but that I would not buy anything else. I realised that we were not doing the challenge as it was meant to be done. Rather than give up and forget the whole thing, I reasoned there was learning for us all, in partially taking part in the challenge. That night, my husband arrived home with a bag of shopping in which he had spent half of the entire week’s budget! I confiscated the non-perishables. A pathetic gesture, given that we were left with salmon and asparagus. Hardly a reflection of the diet endured by people in poverty.

Day 2:  The next morning when the children got up, they were upset that Daddy had blown the budget. My 7 year old son was unperturbed and came up with a creative solution. “If we take Daddy out of the challenge we still have money left.” So, once again we fiddled with the challenge to make it fit to us. We didn’t buy anything else that day but still managed to live quite comfortably on what we had.

Day 3: As we walked to school today, my son asked if he could buy some chocolate with his £1.00. I tried to explain to him that if he really only had £1.00 to live on then there would never be any money for treats. He drinks a lot of milk so I said “If you bought a small bottle of milk that would use almost all of your day’s budget.” His response was “Yes, but if I lived in a poor country, milk would only cost 20p.” I explained that “even if it was cheaper you still would need to buy food and £1.00 wouldn’t be enough to fill your tummy” Also, that there are plenty of people in this country who can’t afford to buy milk or feed themselves. Today I spent £1.45 on a bunch of bananas.

Day 4: Our commitment to the challenge descended further today. We still didn’t buy anything but we started to include some of our existing non-perishables into our diet, and instead of meeting a friend for coffee, I persuaded her to come over to mine. That evening, I unthinkingly went out for a drink with some Mothers from school, and gave absolutely no thought to the challenge at all. Convenient and selective amnesia going on!

Day 5: We had almost completely given up on the challenge now. Still didn’t buy anything but had far from starved this week and also went out for a coffee with a friend.

As already stated, I knew I wouldn’t fulfil this challenge. I am sure that neither myself or my children really got any real sense of what it is like to live in poverty. However, as a family we did get a taste of what it might be like to suddenly have no income coming in and have to make do with what you already have. We learned how much we take for granted. We have so many different types of food to choose from and don’t really have to think about what food we put in the supermarket trolley. It was also an excellent talking point for the children, to be reminded that just because they don’t have something that a friend has, they are not poor. So although we failed the challenge I feel the spirit of the challenge still managed to permeate through, even without extreme hardship.

As a product of a capitalist society I also wondered about potential effects of the challenge. Would it effect the economy if too many people did this challenge at once, and there was a lack of money flowing for a week? Could it result in someone losing their job and being plunged into poverty? I’m not sure. It isn’t a comfortable thought though. Is it wise for people to play at being poor? Is this the only way to raise awareness?

January Detox

January is for many people the time to detox their bodies after the excesses of alcohol and rich food over the Christmas period. Almost everyone you speak to is attempting some kind of detox, most commonly for weight loss or health reasons This year the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign has made “dryathalon” a very popular term. When I saw this campaign I thought it was a great idea.

Personally, I find January is the worst month of the year to attempt a detox. For starters, I can’t bring myself to throw away the accumulated chocolates and biscuits left over from Christmas. I would consider that extremely wasteful. Therefore, if I was determined to begin a detox on January 1st, I would have to stuff myself with them over Christmas to ensure their was nothing left. Which defeats the purpose somewhat. Particularly as generally if I have them in the house I can manage to be moderate with them (or maybe I kid myself!). Also, for me the cold and dark of January is hard enough to get through without the added torture of forcing myself to eat cold salads when I want warming and comforting food and drink to sustain me.

Maybe, my idea of a detox is outdated and someone more organised than myself can easily whip up warming detox food but my guess is that even if I could it wouldn’t go down well with the rest of the family and I don’t want to be constantly cooking separate meals.

A mental detox is much more me. Reassessing my life and taking positive steps that will support my mind, body and soul. Making changes that are nourishing and supportive rather than restrictive or punishing. I want to nurture myself more not less and I want to make changes that I am not tempted to drop by February. If this sounds good to you, why not book with me for a Free Life assessment or ask about our bespoke Retreats designed to take into account your individual needs and life goals. Create your own perfect antidote to the post Christmas blues.