Tag Archives: counsellors in training

A BRIDGE OF WISDOM – FOR GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE

A BRIDGE OF WISDOM

MADE UP OF INDIVIDUAL BLOCKS OF:

COMPASSION

        POWER      STRENGTH                                  GRATITUDE      HUMILITY

 

A Round Arch Bridge at the London Science Museum. Visitors can  build an arch bridge out of individual angled blocks that vividly illustrate the stability of such structures. Once the keystone is placed in, you can take away the wooden framework and the bridge is very strong.

The inspiration of what each block contains is inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela during and after his experience of prison. He used the time to enrich himself which led to him becoming one of the greatest and most compassionate leaders of our time.

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POSITIVE STATEMENTS FOR GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE AND FOR MEDITATIONS

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These are statements which can be cut up and placed on a table so that participants can select the most appropriate one for them to focus on during a meditation.  I found group members also wanted to take several of them home to use as affirmations.

I RESOLVE TO TREAT MYSELF AS MY BEST FRIEND

I LISTEN TO MYSELF AND TALK KINDLY TO MYSELF

I AM LIVING MORE AND MORE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

EACH DAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO TO CHANGE YOUR WORLD IS TO CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK

I ALLOW MY MIND TO RELAX AND BE QUIET

I KNOW MY OWN STRENGTHS AND SKILLS

I CAN HANDLE ANYTHING THAT COMES MY WAY

MISTAKES ARE HOW WE MOVE FORWARD IN OUR LIVES

I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY OWN LIFE

I AM TAKING CHARGE OF MY LIFE

I AM MAKING EACH DAY COUNT

I TRUST AND BELIEVE IN MYSELF

I TRUST AND BELIEVE IN MYSELF AND IN THE PROCESS OF LIFE

FEEL THE FEAR …AND DO IT ANYWAY (Susan Jeffers)

I BELONG IN THE WORLD

I DESERVE TO BE LOVED AND ACCEPTED BY MYSELF AND OTHER PEOPLE

I AM A GOOD PERSON

I HAVE MANY GIFTS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORLD

I AM SAFE IN THE WORLD

I CAN BECAUSE I THINK I CAN

I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY

MY CONFIDENCE IS GROWING EVERY DAY

I AM BUILDING A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH MYSELF EVERY DAY

IT IS TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE FOR ME TO SAY NO

IT IS A GIFT TO THE WORLD WHEN I EXPRESS MYSELF AND MY TRUTH

I AM ABLE TO EXPRESS MYSELF CREATIVELY AND WISELY

I AM POWERFUL, VULNERABLE AND WISE

I CREATE PEACE OF MIND AND EASE FOR MYSELF

I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MY OWN COMFORT

I PROTECT MYSELF AND KEEP MYSELF SAFE

ALL IS WELL-BEING

I AM ABLE TO EXPRESS MYSELF CREATIVELY AND WISELY

I AM AT ONE WITH MYSELF AND WITH THE UNIVERSE

I DESERVE TO SUPPORT MYSELF AND I DESERVE TO BE SUPPORTED IN THE WORLD

I HONOUR MY JOURNEY AND I HONOUR MYSELF

I HAVE POWER, STRENGTH, GRATITUDE, HUMILITY AND COMPASSION, THAT IS MY WISDOM

I AM MAKING ROOM FOR LOVE, HAPPINESS, PLAY, PEACE AND JOY.

I USE QUIET AND STILLNESS TO RECHARGE MY POWER AND STRENGTH

ALL IS WELL

I HAVE CREATED MY OWN SAFETY

I AM NOW POSITIVELY CREATING MY OWN LIFE

I EMBRACE A FUTURE OF JOY, PEACE, HAPPINESS, LOVE AND PLAY

I CAN DO………  I CAN HAVE………  I AM………

(Complete with positive messages)

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GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES, NUTRITION AND EXERCISE

TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES

IT IS VITAL THAT WE MAKE TIME TO RELAX, HAVE FUN AND TAKE CARE OF OURSELVES, THIS IS WHAT HELPS US TO WORK AND LIVE MORE EFFECTIVELY

  • MEDITATION, RELAXATION OR JUST QUIET TIME WITH OURSELVES.

  • CREATE AN ATTRACTIVE WORKING/LIVING SPACE WITH MEANINGFUL OBJECTS, PICTURES, COLOURS THAT ENERGISE US. POSTCARDS ARE INEXPENSIVE, CHOOSE ONE THAT MAKES YOU SMILE. BUY OR PICK SOME FLOWERS, EVEN ONE SINGLE FLOWER. CHOOSE WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?

  • LISTEN TO MUSIC, SING, DANCE, ENJOY SPORT OR WALKING IN NATURE.

  • FRESH AIR IS IMPORTANT WHEN WE ARE WORKING AND SLEEPING. WE NEED TO TAKE REGULAR BREAKS OUTSIDE WHEN WE CAN.

  • LEARN A NEW SKILL, A NEW LANGUAGE, GAIN A NEW QUALIFICATION.

  • TAKE PROPER BREAKS, WHETHER THIS IS A FIVE MINUTE BREAK TO STRETCH AND WALK AROUND, A WEEKEND AWAY OR A PROPER HOLIDAY. RECOGNISING WHEN WE NEED A BREAK IS VITAL FOR WELL BEING.

  • VISIT A PLACE THAT YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN BEFORE AND NOTICE HOW YOU ENJOY SPENDING TIME WITH YOURSELF. THIS CAN BE FUN.

  • SLEEP IS IMPORTANT AND IT IS ALL TOO EASY TO STAY UP TOO LATE, TOO OFTEN. WE NEED TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP WHEN OUR ENERGY IS DEPLETED. IT IS REGENERATIVE AND DREAMS ARE THE BEST WAY TO CLEANSE OUR SUBCONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS. OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM IS STRENGTHENED BY SLEEP. IF YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE ABLE TO TAKE SHORT NAPS WHEN YOU NEED TO, THAT IS VERY HEALTHY.

  • CREATIVE PURSUITS ARE CHALLENGING, RELAXING AND INSPIRING:PAINTING, SCULPTING, SEWING, COOKING, DRAWING, DRAMA, MAKING MUSIC, PHOTOGRAPHY, DANCING, GARDENING, POTTERY, CREATIVE WRITING OR WRITING A DIARY, COLOURFUL DOODLING OR COLOURING. ALL OF THESE CAN BE ABSORBING AND ENERGISING WAYS FOR US TO EXPRESS OURSELVES EVEN IF WE ARE A BEGINNER.

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  • PLAYING GAMES WITH FRIENDS: CARDS, BOARD GAMES OR COMPUTER GAMES CAN GIVE US ENERGY.

  • PURSUING A PASSION, AN INTEREST, AN IDEA, A DREAM, A LONGING, A GOAL CAN ALSO GIVE US ENERGY.

  • A MASSAGE, ANY KIND OF MASSAGE, IS WONDERFULLY RELAXING. YOU COULD DO A FOOT/HAND MASSAGE SWAP WITH A FRIEND OR PARTNER.

  • SOAKING IN A HOT BATH CAN BE RELAXING, IF YOU HAVE A BATH. ADD THE TO EXPERIENCE WITH A CANDLE, BUBBLE BATH, INCENSE AND/OR MUSIC.

  • WALKING IN A LABYRINTH…FIND ONE IN YOUR AREA…CAN BE HEALING AND RELAXING. THERE IS NORMALLY ONE PATH IN AND ONE PATH OUT. THE OBJECT IS TO ENJOY A WALK AT YOUR OWN PACE. YOU CAN FOCUS ON RELEASING SOMETHING NO LONGER HELPFUL TO YOU (AN OUTDATED BELIEF OR HABIT, A NEGATIVE PATTERN OF BEHAVIOUR OR OUTDATED THINKING OR A LIMITING ATTACHMENT) ON THE INWARD WALK; IMAGINE RECEIVING A STRENGTH YOU MAY NEED AT THE CENTRE; AND RETURNING WITH THAT ON YOUR OUTWARD WALK. SEARCH FOR A LABYRINTH IN YOUR AREA ON THE VERIDITAS LABYRINTH FINDER WEBSITE MENTIONED IN THE SECTION ON LABYRINTHS IN THIS BLOG.

  • CONTACT WITH PEOPLE, PLACES AND BELIEFS THAT ENERGISE OR RELAX YOU. NOTICE WHO AND WHAT GIVES YOU ENERGY AND WHO OR WHAT DRAINS YOU!

  • LAUGHTER IS ONE OF THE GREATEST SOURCES OF ENERGY!

  • DOING SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE HELPS US TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES.
  • IT CAN HELP WHEN WE BUY OURSELVES A TREAT, ESPECIALLY WHEN WE ARE PARTICULARLY BUSY OR STRESSED. ALSO, IT IS HONOURING OURSELVES WHEN WE REWARD OURSELVES FOR REACHING A PARTICULAR GOAL.WE ALL NEED TO PRIORITISE NURTURING OURSELVES IN ORDER TO BECOME OUR OWN BEST FRIEND……

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NUTRITION

  • Notice whether you feel more energised by eating a number of smaller meals spread over a day or whether you feel better to have two substantial meals and a larger gap, (daily fasting of 16 hours), before eating the next day, or something inbetween these two There are trends as to what creates healthy bodies and you are the best judge of what works best for you. It does seem helpful to most people to have your last meal of the day at least three hours before you go to bed.

  • EATING MORE REAL FOOD is certainly a healthier option. This means more fruit, salad, fresh herbs, nuts, seeds, grains, pulses and vegetables. These foods are comparatively cheap, easy to prepare and SO MUCH BETTER FOR US. Where possible, if we eat meat, it helps to choose organic meat which has less additives and less hormones.

  • LIMIT CIGARETTES, TEA, COFFEE, ALCOHOL, COLA AND COCOA DRINKS, SUGAR, SWEETNERS, PROCESSED/FAST AND OTHER ‘CHEMICALLY RICH’ FOODS. Caffeine, sugar, alcohol and nicotine add enormously to our stress and toxin levels in the body and foster a physical as well as a psychological addiction – this does not seem like relaxation or a freedom!

  • We can make small changes that are healthier: using sea-salt; cooking in coconut oil which can add an interesting taste to many meals and you don’t need a lot, a teaspoon goes a long way and heats up at lower temperatures; using walnut and other nut oils as part of salad dressings; adding fermented bean sprouts to any salad; using a good pro-biotic to fight off infections or enjoy yogurt or Kefir which are reputed to be an energising and healthy way of doing the same thing.

  • There are many good milk substitutes for dairy, which often has a variety of additives including hormones and anti-biotics. We can also benefit from using organic milk. It is now easier to buy a variety of different nut milks, oat milk, soya milk and others. Goat and sheep cheeses are a healthy alternative to cow’s cheese. Haloumi is a good example of this.

  • A good quality honey is a very healthy and nourishing alternative to sugar and a little goes a long way. You can now buy a halva which just includes honey and no sugar if you want something sweet and nutritious.

  • Fruit and nuts, especially dried fruits, are an ideal snack food if you want some energy inbetween meals.

  • When we are really thirsty, there is nothing quite like a fresh glass of water and if we are detoxing after an illness, operation or a ‘heavy night out’ water helps us to detox and can sometimes top headaches caused by dehydration.

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EXERCISE

  • EXERCISE DOES US GOOD PHYSICALLY BUT IT ALSO MAKES US FEEL BETTER MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY, CONTRIBUTING TO A GENERAL FEELING OF WELL BEING. GOOD EXERCISE IMPROVES OUR ABILITY TO SLEEP AND IS AN EXCELLENT WAY TO REDUCE ANXIETY, DEPRESSION AND STRESS. IT INCREASES MENTAL AGILITY AND CLARITY OF MIND AND THEREFORE IS VITAL AS A TOOL TO COMBAT STRESS.

  • It is important for us to do some form of exercise that we can easily build into a daily routine and most important of all is that we choose something that we ENJOY doing!

  • WALKING IS ONE OF THE BEST FORMS OF EXERCISE. IS THERE ANYWHERE YOU COULD WALK INSTEAD OF USING CAR OR PUBLIC TRANSPORT, AND SAVE MONEY TOO?

  • Is there any sport which you would enjoy doing on your own or as part of your social life? What sport did you most enjoy doing as a child?  Could you just take time out to dance to your favourite music?

  • SWIMMING, GARDENING OR WALKING CAN BE RELAXING AND A GOOD WAY OF TAKING A BREAK FROM WORKING. TIME OUT ALLOWS THINKING TIME AND ALSO ALLOWS OUR BRAIN TO PROCESS INFORMATION SO THAT IT CAN BE BETTER ABSORBED AND ‘MATURE’ LIKE A GOOD WINE! IT IS DURING OR AFTER SUCH A BREAK THAT CREATIVE IDEAS AND SOLUTIONS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BUBBLE TO THE SURFACE.

  • When you listen to music, try moving/dancing on your own and see how your energy changes.

  • TAKING A WALK INTO OR AROUND ANY COUNTRYSIDE OR BEAUTIFUL PARKS/GARDENS AROUND WHERE YOU LIVE. THIS IS DUAL PURPOSE BECAUSE YOU CAN ALSO TAKE IN AND ENJOY NATURE WHICH IS A NATURAL ‘STRESS EATER’!

  • The most important thing is that we do something that we ENJOY and that we don’t turn it into a punishment!

DO YOU NEED TO ADD EXERCISE TO YOUR WEEKLY SCHEDULE?

IF SO, WHAT NEW EXERCISE WOULD YOU CONSIDER?

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GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: QUESTIONS TO HELP US INCREASE OUR ENERGY

DSC_0389QUESTIONS TO HELP US INCREASE OUR ENERGY

Are we giving ourselves enough time out – time to do something for ourselves? (entertainment/exercise/creativity/fun/play/friends/relaxation).

Are we having enough breaks? – breaks give us more energy and hence time to do the things we have to do. (real lunch breaks; a change of scene; time to talk to others) (even short breaks help: get up/walk about/stretch/take a few deep breaths)

Are we tackling the most demanding tasks when we’re tired? (wait until we’re fresh for the most difficult things to do) Are we bottling anything up?(need to talk to someone)

Is it hard to get started? (an affirmation may help: I can do this…)

Do we recognise when we need help?

Are we pacing ourselves? (we need to stop just before we get too tired; if we are saying to ourselves, ‘one more thing’ –it may be time to stop NOW!)

Are we prioritising and planning our time AND allowing for interruptions? (we can do things that give us energy first – put them top of the list)

Are we carrying responsibilities for other people’s work and responsibilities? (we may need to let go)

Are we attached to aiming to be perfect?  This will slow us down, better to get it done and be effective. (70% is a good enough!)

Are we going too fast?  (slowing down gives us time to think more clearly and take stock)

Are we too reactive to things that wind us up? (work at not reacting; distract ourselves even use a mantra/colour/image to STOP reacting. We could design for ourselves a STOP sign!)  What would be a better response? (it is powerful when we take time to choose to respond differently)

Are we setting realistic expectations?

Are we using our imagination to worry or pile work/the future on our heads?(change what we are imagining to something productive and creative)

Are our beliefs/feelings/thoughts weighing us down?  (change our focus to half full glass not half empty especially about ourselves) (can do rather than can’t; positive self talk rather than negative self talk)

Are we too easily distracted? (we can imagine putting all negative distractions outside our office door/at home or if they are really intruding – we may need to prioritise them first/take a break)

Do we give ourselves time for a ‘well done’? (rewarding ourselves in some way is vital for inner motivation)

Are we working too long on one task/getting bored? (take a break and come back renewed or do something else for a while) (we may want to mix up activities – balance again!)

Are we laughing enough? (laughter and smiling changes our body chemistry and gives us lots of energy)

GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: ASSERTIVENESS

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BEING ASSERTIVE

Being assertive means balancing a concern for others with a concern for ourselves. This is a skill that makes our communication clear and effective. It means we respect the rights of others and ourselves to say NO; to receive respect; to express views, thoughts and feelings in a manner which does no harm to anyone else or ourselves; the right to make mistakes; the ability to take responsibility for our actions; the right of all of us to set priorities and boundaries for ourselves; the right of all of us to consider our own needs to be as important as those of others; the right not to feel guilty when being assertive!

SOMEONE WHO IS ASSERTIVE IS COMING FROM A PLACE OF I’M OKAY AND YOU’RE OKAY

One way for us to achieve this position is to build up a positive relationship with ourselves and especially to speak to ourselves in a kind and loving way. It is easier to be assertive if we change some of our self criticisms to self encouragement and self support. Remember that we deserve to be able to express ourselves honestly, openly and assertively.

DIFFERENT COMMUNICATION:

In order to accurately assess what is assertive communication, it might be useful to focus on the extremes of passive and aggressive communication, and find that middle place between those two. Is is important to consider body language, spoken and writen communication.

Passivity is when someone is denying their own rights and is self-effacing. It can include body language such as: shifting of weight; downcast eyes; hand wringing; steps backwards; shrugs; a hunched body posture; a hesitant, giggly, quiet or whining voice. Non-assertive words can include words and phrases such as: perhaps…; maybe…; I wonder if you could…; only…; just…; would you mind very much…; I can’t…; or fillers such as: you know; well; uh; um. Also, common passive statements are: it’s not really important; never mind; I mean; it’s all right; don’t bother.

Aggressive communication is when someone is denying the rights of others and is typically angry, hostile or loud. It can include body language such as: glaring eyes; leaning forward; pointing a finger; thumps of the fist; a sharp, sarcastic, angry, loud or dominating tone of voice. Aggressive words can include threats such as: you better…; if you don’t…watch out; or discounts such as: come on; you must be kidding; and judgemental comments such as: I thought you would know better; this is your fault; don’t be stupid; you’re joking; and lots of ought’s, should’s and must’s.

Indirect aggressive communication is when people use the language of the passive combined with body language from the aggressive communication.

Assertive communication involves body language which matches the spoken message: an assertive person would establish good eye contact; a good upright, comfortable posture, without anxious fidgeting; a strong, clear, steady voice, neither shouting nor mumbling. Being clear about specific details with regard to time, place, context and reference etc.

Assertiveness involves careful and active listening, without mind-reading, assumptions and judgements. There is a process of checking out and clarifying that what the person understands corresponds with what was intended so that both parties share an understanding of the communication.

Assertive words include ‘I’ statements such as: I think…; I feel…; and I want…; as well as co-operative words such as let’s…; we could…; and empathetic statements of interest such as: what do you think; how do you feel;

HOW TO BECOME MORE ASSERTIVE

The first stage of changing anything is to notice what we are doing now, so I we may need to take a step back from ourself and from others and notice how we are talking to people and how we respond. Notice how other people treat us and how they respond to us, taking into account the information above. Also, notice our energy around other people, who do we feel comfortable with, who gives us energy. When we are giving or receiving aggressive or passive behaviour it can be quite a drain on our energy levels. Self protection is important and there may be occasions when walking away is the best solution to avoid a situation escalating into violence or bullying.

Assertive communication and behaviour feels good, mature, equal, is a very straight way of communicating with other people. It is mostly energising because there is an equal exchange of energy which leaves neither person drained. This style of behaviour and communication is most likely to leave us feeling positive about ourselves and about the other person.

After a time of “noticing” we can make a choice to change something about our communication or behaviour, one step at a time. We can choose to focus on being particularly assertive for one hour of the day, or with a particular person, or over a particular event or occasion. Change is better tackled in small “bite size pieces” at first . We need to enable ourselves to notice and feel good about any changes we make.

If we have a particular situation in mind where we want to be assertive it can help to do a role play. Set up two chairs and role play, in turn, being both ourself and the other person. Notice what it feels like to give and receive assertive communication. We can ask a friend to help us. Role plays are empowering and are an excellent way of being prepared.

ASSERTIVENESS SKILLS

A useful phrase, if we are invited to do something is: “I’d like to come/help but I need to think about it and/or check my diary – I’ll get back to you tomorrow/next week/ later today/ in a while”. This gives us time to think through our response.

It is useful to change words like should, must, ought to the freedom of could.

It may be necessary to politely and calmly repeat what we want more than once, especially if someone is being manipulative or argumentative – we need to stick to our point of view, without getting side-tracked.

Calmly acknowledge to any critic, that there may be some truth in what he or she is saying. This allows us to remain our own judge of what we do. Equally, we may need to accept someone else’s criticism. What is important is that we can receive criticism comfortably without agreeing or not agreeing with them, without becoming defensive or explaining ourselves. This way we stay empowered without disempowering the other person.

Actively ask for criticism in order to use the information (if helpful) or reject it (if manipulative). This helps our critic to be more honest or assertive and less manipulative or aggressive and hence improves communication. Again we keep our power and empower the other person. We can offer a workable compromise to the other person as long as our self worth or self respect is not in question.

Part of being assertive is for us to feel okay about asking other people for help and being able to offer help to others. It is important for us to feel okay about giving and receiving compliments or thanks.

When we feel irritated by someone or something, we may need to take a deep breath and pause before we react. Choose whether we want to use our energy on this or not. We need to save our energy for important issues.

Useful phrases if someone is attempting to escalate the conversation into a full scale argument or wanting to leave us feeling guilty might be “That’s interesting”; “I hear what you say”; “I’d like time to think about/consider what you are saying”. We do not have to explain ourselves and to do so can sometimes be a discount of us. Remember other people can invite us to feel discounted or manipulated but we have a choice as to whether we agree with them and how or even whether we respond.

The main point about assertive communication is that we and the other person both remain “winners” and “okay”.

 

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GROUP ON TAKING OUR SPACE: RESOURCES TO INSPIRE AND INFORM

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RESOURCES TO INSPIRE AND INFORM

Books:

K. Akhler, Self Talk Your Way to Success, Amazon Media, (2009).

Richard Bach , Jonathan Livingstone Seagull: A Story. Harper Thorsons, (September, 2015). An inspirational story about a seagull finding freedom and independence, love and kindness.

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transfrms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, (January, 2013). A book about how powerful it is to be vulnerable – insirational talks by Brene Brown on ‘Teds Talks’. 

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be and Think You Ought to Be Who You Are , Hazelden, (September 2010). Again, any of her lectures on ‘Ted’s Talks’ are inspirational.

Paul Coelho, The Alchemist: A Fable about following Your Dreams,HarperOne, 25th Anniversary edition, (February, 2015). A simple fable based on simple truths. An Andalucian shepherd boy pursues his dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian Pyramids.

Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. The Art of Happiness. Riverhead Books, (1998). A Handbook for Living.

Michael Ende, Momo, Puffin Books, (2009). “And it is Momo, with her uncanny ability to listen, her simplicity and honesty, who holds the key to salvation.” (A book for children and adults!)

Ben Furman. It’s Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood . BT Press, (1998). From Adversity to Resilience.

Susan Jeffers, The Little Book of Confidence, Ebury, (December, 2013) and The Little Book of Peace of Mind, Jeffers Press, (May, 2015).

Jasmin Lee Cori, Healing from Trauma, Da Capo Press, (April, 2009).

Maddy Malhotra, How to Build Self Esteem and Be Confident, Betterment Publications, (2013).

Gerson Maso, Through the Valley. The Journey of an African Refugee, Westbow Press, (2015).

Judy Murphy, Assertiveness: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others, Kindle unlimited, (November 2011).

Wajdy Mustafa, Levant Fever: True Stories from Syria’s Underground. Juspax (November 2015).

Gulwali Passarlay and Nadene Ghouri, The Lightless Sky: My Journey to Safety as a Child Refugee: An Afghan Refugee Boy’s Journey of Escape, Atlantic Books, (October 2015).

Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Faber and Faber, (September 2015).

Chris Riddle (Children’s Poet Laureate), My Little Book of Big Freedoms, Amnesty International, (2015). See also: Amnesty International’s We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, (2015)

Michael Rosen, Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, Walker, (January 2011).

Eckhard Tolle, The Power of Now, Hodder and Stoughton, (2001) and A New Earth , Gale Cengage Learning, (2005). Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

J. Tugendhat, Living with Grief and Loss. London: Sheldon Press, (2005).

Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps The Score, Penguin, (September 2014)

Doreen Virtue, Assertiveness for Earth Angels, Hay House, (November 2013).

Peter Walker, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. A guide and Map for Recovering from Childhood Trauma, Azure Coyote Publishing, (December 2013).

Websites with information about counselling and finding a counsellor:

http://www.bacp.co.uk/ The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

www.counselling-directory.org.uk

http://www.baatn.org.uk/ The Black and Asian Therapy Network.

http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/useful-resources

Talks: Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing”, standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident, can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. http://www.ted.com/talks/amycuddy. See also: http://www.ted.com/speakers/amycuddy.

TENSION AND TIREDNESS CAN KILL…

Tension and Tiredness can kill our creativity, our good sense, our will to live well.

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How much harder it is to live the way we might choose to live when we are distracted by tiredness and tension caused by stress, pressure, lack of energy, burn out, rust out..or simply doing too much.

The difficulty can be that what we do about it can often create an illusion of helping and supporting us, but it doesn’t.

My favourite phrase is, ‘I’ll just finish this’…but if I rested at the point of tiredness, what I’m wanting to finish may be more polished and I may not end up so tired that I choose to do something that isn’t really helpful or healthy for me.

Watching television is great but sometimes it may seem like it is relaxing: sitting down, ‘doing nothing’…but often we are being overly stimulated and inactive in a way that knocks us further off balance and far from giving us energy, it takes more out of us.

Other times I know I head for something that has the illusion of being sustaining: an extra coffee that actually overstimulates me when I am already overstimulated; a quick fix of some salty peanuts or a chocolate bar that seems like it is comforting but actually numbs me out to what I may really need. It might be food that I need, but something more sustaining and not masked with the addictive qualities of sugar and salt. What about a piece of fruit we really like; a nourishing salad; a piece of cheese; a bowl of porridge and honey; a drink of hotwater, cold water, a fruit tea – something designed to give us real energy.

I now know that when I am tired or tense, sometimes I need very different things. It could be exercise; meditation; sleep or rest; it could be that I need to contact a friend and ‘chat’, ‘ let off steam’.  Often for me, it is that I need to be out in the fresh air connecting with nature; it could be that I need to do something creative or challenging if I’ve been bored or still for too long. It depends entirely on which of my own personal tanks is empty at any given time.

I believe that there are certain behaviours that many of us go into which we think is regenerating us, only to find that it takes us further away from having our real needs met to ease tireness and tension.

How could we help ourselves know what we need at different times ?

We could spend a few days being especially aware of those times that we feel extra tired and tense. Try different solutions and write down five things that really work to help us feel more energised, less tired and more at peace. Keep that list handy for those times when we feel that restlessness, tension, tiredness – that feeling of ‘running on empty’ that we all get sometimes.

This is a way to help us achieve the goal of living our lives the way we really want to, a little more often. This is real freedom, the freedom that self awareness gives us.

I know that when I do this, and I certainly don’t do it as much as I would like, I feel a sense of lightness that comes from freeing myself from those old attachments: to past habits, to familiar reactions, to old patterns of behaviour that don’t really give me the energy I am now looking for.

This is helpful for us as counsellors and for our clients, especially when we are making changes in our lives.

River Sculptures by Jos
River Sculptures by Jos

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BEWARE OF DEPENDENCE

Trees entwined
Trees entwined

I once received an enquiry for counselling from someone who’d moved to our area from Edinburgh. They told me they’d been seeing two psychotherapists, a husband and wife team for 9 years, two or three times a week.  I asked a bit more about what they felt they needed and suggested that maybe they might find it valuable to have some time without therapy. If that was difficult, I gave them the number of a local counselling group, which might dilute the dependence they had developed with their previous therapists.

It seems to me that therapy which holds up a mirror to a client but enables them to take that mirror away with them is considerably more helpful than a mirror held up to a client that remains firmly in the hands of the therapist.  Quite often charismatic therapists, healers, gurus and other support can create a dependence in clients which can become increasingly unhelpful, and expensive!

BEING PRESENT TO OURSELVES, PRESENT TO OUR CLIENTS

Two of the most valuable workshops I’ve attended, to free myself more, both as a counsellor and as a writer, were two one day Nose to Nose Clowning Workshops, facilitated by the late Jackie Moore at the Blackthorn Trust in Maidstone. This experience led to my being able to let go of some of those expectations of myself that I had been carrying.

Once the red nose was in place, the most important lesson I learnt was that it was hard to be in the here and now, present to myself and/or present to an audience, when I was carrying a sack full of expectations on my back. The heaviness of fear, anxiety and those questions: ‘What do I have to offer?’; ‘Can I get this right?’; ‘Can I do this as well or even better than other people?’; ‘Why can’t I do this?’ needed to surface and then be eliminated. Jackie was a very accepting, compassionate and an enthusiastic facilitator. She knew just what it was like for us.

It was only when I allowed myself to be vulnerable to, ‘not know how to do this’, that a space opened up to a trust, faith and belief that anything might be possible and I didn’t have to know what that would be. I could just allow something or nothing to happen. This was not an easy thing to achieve.

We all grew in different ways and watching other people perform and free themselves to be creative was just as much a joy as realising I could ‘let go’ of expectations and be vulnerable too. It was only when I was able to open myself to just being in the moment that I finally relaxed into finding the clown within me. What I took away from these workshops was the realisation that we all have that clown within us, it is just about allowing it to have the space to be whatever it wants to be in that moment.

‘Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.’

Edgar Degas

The transferable skill that I took into the counselling room with me was the ability to trust and allow the counselling to unfold. Although I was responsible for managing the space in the counselling room, I didn’t need to control it or in any way make something happen. Counselling can be a gentle process of allowing that self expression and self awareness happen. Each of our clients is truly the expert on themselves and they have come into counselling to find something that they want. We can trust the client, ourselves and the process, it is a special relationship that happens, each of us with ourselves and with each other, allowing and freeing a process to unfold as it needs to. Counselling, like clowning is a creative process. I believe I became a better counsellor as a result of doing these two short workshops. They also involved a lot of laughter with and at the other participants which was in itself therapeutic.

‘Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.’

Victor Borge

The photo above is of Carol Thompson who is a Clown Facilitator and Laughter Leader working in London: http://dandeliontime.org.uk/past-events/day-play-workshop/  She’s also involved in a Therapeutic Service which helps children recover from past traumas, develop confidence and self esteem: http://dandeliontime.org.uk.  The main Nose to Nose website is: http://www.nosetonose.info and Carol’s page on that site is: www.ntncarol.blogspot.com

LAUGHTER IS A SERIOUS BUSINESS

The Secrets of Chinese meditation (asblsima.be from Google free images)

I made a New Year’s resolution that if I had been talking to someone, reading or watching something that was distressing close to bed time, I would find something to do, watch or read that would make me smile or laugh, even if it was just for 15 minutes. It leaves a good taste from the day and my step is lighter up the stairs to bed.

I was lucky enough to have a mum who had a very earthy sense of humour and I could share any joke with her that I heard at school, really ANY joke. She would laugh, sometimes ask me to explain, and then if it was a bit too risqué, she would tell me not to repeat it to anyone else. When our family sat around the dining table and someone said something that could be taken two ways, she would suddenly look utterly fascinated by the garden. I knew she was avoiding meeting my gaze. If that happened, we would both end up with tears streaming down our faces in fits of giggles. I have been both blessed and cursed by occasional bouts of uncontrollable giggles, especially at times when it was least acceptable to show it. It was never cruel laughter but once or twice it did get me into trouble. There have been nearly one and half million viewings of the Hannah Sargeant, Funny Nativity, video on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihQuiyV-lXU

When we are busy with life, it can be hard to make space for laughter, for noticing the ridiculous in the everyday. I was listening to a comedian recently who was describing the ordinariness of his bathroom and because he was a great observer, it was surprisingly funny. I love to spend time with friends who I can laugh with. It ripples positive energy throughout our bodies and is such a release of those tensions and stresses that we absorb and can become so easily attached to. My husband, Chris and I are fortunate to share a similar earthy sense of humour about little things. This morning on a walk, a blackbird was pulling and pulling at a worm. We stopped to watch as he eventually won his rather too long and heavy prize. As he carried it across the path in front of us, he trod on it rather awkwardly and ended up with only a tiny fraction of the worm in his beak. He flew off in disgust as we laughed but we noticed that he did come back and retrieve it! When our children were young, it was a pure joy to hear them laugh out loud when we were playing games or watching something on television.

I read recently that the third largest reason for people seeking medical help is for depression and certainly when I was counselling, this was one of the largest categories of presenting problems. The pressures in schools and the working world of high expectations; lack of money; fewer jobs; expensive housing and seemingly less time for everything creates enormous stress. One important way of relieving this is to take the time to notice those things that lighten our load. In counselling, I would often use humour as a way of encouraging people to become self aware, notice repeat behaviours and be able to gently laugh at themselves for ‘doing it again’ rather than getting shameful, angry or self abusive because, like all of us, they were not ‘perfect’.

We all experience ups and downs and we need to accept and normalise the whole gamut of human feelings. However, we can find ourselves forming more attachment to negative outcomes rather than positive outcomes, we can become stuck for longer in negative thoughts and feelings. To lift ourselves out of this, it can genuinely help us to focus more on what makes us laugh. The balance we achieve in doing this enhances our good health and well being. Many of us are in serious need of a dose of laughter to lighten our lives on a daily basis.