G – Grief

G – Grief

Grief comes to us all.  We all experience loss, whether it be the death of a loved one; the loss a family pet; a serious accident or the onset of ill-health; losing a friendship or a job that we love or suffering the breakdown of an intimate relationship.

How you deal with grief will depend very much upon:

(1)   Your life experiences so far since, ultimately our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs towards every experience in life is the result of the perceptions, attitudes and beliefs that we already hold due to the experiences we have already had! 

(2)   The value that you held for that which has been lost. 

(3)   The degree in which you have developed personal characteristics such as resilience, optimism, persistence and determination.

(4)   Your spiritual beliefs. If, for example, your belief system tells you that challenge makes you stronger, or that we learn through sadness, you will be better equipped to deal with grief in a more positive way. 

(5)   The amount of support you are offered and ask for.

Regardless of how we deal with grief, we find ourselves dealing with a pattern of human emotions and these are known as the Cycle of Grief.  Whilst the cycle is the same for most of us, we will all travel round it differently, due to the reasons given above.

Shock

When we experience an important loss, our first reaction is usually one of shock and complete disbelief. Shock affects people in different ways: everything can seem unreal; people can feel numb, withdrawn, detached; some people feel completely disorientated and don’t know what to do with themselves. For some it is a nightmare they cannot escape. Many people quickly experience complex and confused feelings – anger, guilt, despair, emptiness, helplessness and hopelessness.

Denial

When the shock begins to wear off, many people go through a stage of denial during which they cannot accept the reality of the loss. This often involves what counsellors call searching behaviour, an attempt at some level to try to deny that the loss has occurred. In the case of bereavement, people often find themselves thinking they have seen or heard the dead person and many people talk aloud to the person they have lost.

Anger And Guilt

It is common to experience anger, sometimes guilt and often both. Many people find themselves asking: “Why has this happened”? “Why me”? This is particularly so if the loss was sudden, unexpected or involved a tragic accident, Counsellors say that it is common to wish to find blame, either in ourselves, in others, or even with the person who has died, and this can lead to powerful feelings of anger and guilt.

Despair And Depression

In the first few weeks the whole situation may seem unbearable and in the months that follow, many people feel there is little purpose in life and nothing of interest in the outside world. People sometimes begin to question their own sanity and think that you are going mad.  This  is a common experience.

Acceptance

Eventually people pass through the period of depression and begin to accept the loss. This usually happens with the passage of time and, as the pain eases, we are able to think about our loss and recall the past without feelings of devastation. This can take up to a year or longer.  Eventually, however people start thinking of beginning their life again, maybe renewing old interests and taking up new pursuits. Many people take up a hobby as a therapy.   It is important to remember that the past is always a part of us and is not affected by enjoying the present, or planning for the future.

Finding Good Listeners

There is no automatic or quick answer to grief and it helps to express the feelings that well up inside us. Many people are afraid to talk to us when we experience a loss because they feel they will upset us. Most people do not realise that we want and need to talk about our loss. It is important to find good listeners. In the case of bereavement, there are organisations that can offer help and support during this vulnerable time. Please see below for links to useful organisations who provide professional help and counselling for the bereaved.

Remember, if you are grieving, whatever the reason:

(1)  Give yourself time and be kind to yourself.

(2)  Allow yourself to express your grief.

(3)  Understand that acceptance will come over time.

Useful Organisations

Cruse: http://www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk

Much Loved: http://www.muchloved.com/gateway/grief-support-organisations.htm

Winstons Wish – Have information and links specifically for children suffering from or anticipating bereavement:  http://www.winstonswish.org.uk

G – Gratitude

 

What do you have to be grateful for?  Do you ever think about it?  Does it ever occur to you to be grateful?

Practising gratitude is inherent in many eastern philosophies. It is difficult to feel negative feelings such as regret, disappointment and sadness if we spend our time feeling grateful for all the good things we have in our life.  However low and desperate we may feel, for most of us, there is always a reason to be grateful.  Did you eat today?  Do you have a roof over your head?  Do you have at least one person in this world who cares about you?  Do you have children who love you?  Do you have hobbies and interests that absorb your attention?

Have you ever heard of a Gratitude Diary?  Every night, before going to sleep, simply write down five things from your day that you are grateful for.  They don’t have to be life-changing events, because, in life, it’s the little everyday things that really count.  Some examples from my diary are:  The book I’m reading; a smile from a passing stranger; hugging my daughters; yoga; the love of my parents; time spent with a close friend; a happy client; plain chocolate; a beautiful summer’s day; a trip to the beach; finding the ‘perfect’ clothes item; when everything just feels ‘right’; and finding a free parking space!

We are all individual and different things will please us and cause us to feel grateful. By keeping a diary, you will focus on all the positive aspects of your day, instead of the negative.  This will automatically improve your mood and encourage you to develop a positive outlook. If you practice gratitude on a regular basis, you are much more likely to look forward to your tomorrows, as you will find there is always something in your day to be thankful for. Try keeping your diary for a month and go to sleep feeling grateful for the day you have just spent, and looking forward to tomorrow.

F – Focusing

When you don’t understand why you feel or behave the way you do, what do you do? Do you talk to somebody about your feelings and ask them? Do you try a little research on the web? Or read a book? Have you ever considered asking your inner self?

Asking your inner self is sometimes described as focusing. Focusing is a gentle, powerful skill that allows you to tap into the body’s own wisdom in order to make positive changes to the ways in which you think and feel. This method of self-discovery is both empowering and enlightening.

By accessing your body’s stored knowledge you can very often find the rationale behind feelings and thoughts that make no sense on a conscious level. According to Ann Weiser Cornell (May, 2005) in her book: The Radical Acceptance of Everything. Calluna Press. p. 13:

Focusing is a psychotherapeutic process developed by psychotherapist Eugene Gendlin. It can be successfully used in any kind of therapeutic situation, including peer-to-peer sessions. It involves holding a kind of open, non-judging attention to an internal knowing which is directly experienced but is not yet in words. Focusing can, among other things, be used to become clear on what one feels or wants, to obtain new insights about one’s situation, and to stimulate change or healing of the situation. Focusing is set apart from other methods of inner awareness by three qualities: something called the “felt sense”, a quality of engaged accepting attention, and a researched-based technique that facilitates change

If you would like more information about Focusing then please do not hesitate to contact me using the contact page.

E – Effort

 

As you read this, how much effort are you putting into it? Are you relaxed?  Or tense and conscious of the time it is taking you?  Are you reading it slowly because you are interested?  Or scanning through because you have a to-do list as long as your arm and you should really be getting on with something else?    

How much effort do you put into the following areas of your life?:

  1. Work/business/career/running a home?
  2. Your partner/children?
  3. Your friends and wider family?
  4. Your hobbies and interests?
  5. Your self and your own personal development?

Would I be right in saying that the majority of your efforts go into the first three categories?  Have you ever stopped to consider why this is?  Is it because you believe it is “selfish” to put your interests and your self before others?  Is it because you “don’t have the time” to think about your self, let alone actually have hobbies and interests? 

If you have just read the above and agreed with even some of it, then just stop for a moment and think (yes, you can spare a moment).  Whose life are you living?  Your bosses? Your clients? Your childrens? Husbands? Parents? … or Yours?  Who is the only person who can ever really know exactly what it is that ensures your happiness, peace of mind, contentment? And who is the only person who should really be expected to put in the time and commitment to ensure that happiness, peace of mind and contentment?

Putting a little effort into You will help to build your resilience, improve your self-esteem, your mood, your health and your relationships, it will have a dramatic effect on the whole of your life.

Food for thought … it just takes a little effort.  Every now and then take the above five categories and turn them upside down … It will do you good!

E – Emotions

 

Emotions are a form of energy that flows within our body/mind.  Right now your emotions  may be a raging torrent of anger, frustration or desperation, or maybe a gentle loving stream of contentment, or even a pool of calm and peacefulness. Whatever type of emotion is present within you, it will affect your thinking, your behaviour and your perception of the current moment. 

Just for a moment, take yourself back to a time when you felt very angry and it appeared that everything was against you. During that angry interlude, life felt like a battle: that nothing was going right. Now remember a time when you felt extremely happy and it felt like you were in the flow of life and everything felt good and right.  This is the power of your emotions. 

Although it is easy to believe that our emotions govern us, this is not actually true.  Our thoughts dictate our emotions, just as they dominate our beliefs and behaviours.  Our internal chattering translates into our emotions, leading to our behaviours.  The key to feeling contentment instead of frustration, and joy instead of anger, is to be more aware of our thoughts and to choose them wisely.  If you don’t want to be unhappy, you can learn to challenge those unhappy thoughts, release them and change them for neutral or happy thoughts. If you no longer wish to feel stuck, then lift the lid to your thoughts and allow yourself to create the answers you need for change in your life.  It may sound simple and that is because it is actually very straightforward. 

The real challenge is making the committment to changing your emotions and sticking to it.  With a little determination, some support from people around you and maybe some professional guidance, you can decide to choose your thoughts and manage your emotions successfully.

“You are the ultimate influence in your life. Inspire yourself wisely” – Maya Phillips, “Emotional Excellence.” 

 

E – Eating

 

You may wonder why I have chosen to include eating as a word associated with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  Well the connection between thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviours is never more clear than when we explore our eating habits.

Remember that CBT is all about becoming more aware of the effect our thoughts and beliefs have on our behaviours and emotions. In today’s modern world we are awash with opportunities to eat more and think less.  We wander around the shops in our local towns on a Saturday, passing increasing numbers of bakers, chip shops, burger bars, fast food shops, cafes, restaurants … the choice is seemingly limitless. We go home and sit in front of our television screen where we are shown advertisement after advertisement encouraging us to try this new food or that one. It is not surprising that we find ourselves giving in to temptation and eating something we hadn’t planned to, didn’t need to, and often didn’t really want to eat! 

 

So how can we reverse the trend and eat less and think more about what we are eating?

  • Cultivate a connection between your mind and your body.  Listening to your body means that you will be more aware of when you are actually hungry. This will encourage you to stop impulse eating when you are not genuinely hungry. 

 

  • Eat for energy not for entertainment. Don’t eat through boredom, find something interesting to occupy your attention instead.

 

  • Eat because your body needs nutrients, not because your emotions need support.  If you are feeling unhappy, eating for “pleasure” only ultimately results in you feeling unhappy and guilty because of your out of control eating habits.  Tackling your emotional and behavioural issues will mean that you no longer feel the need to use food as an emotional crutch.  (This is where the cognitive behavioural therapy comes in!)

 

  • Cultivate healthy eating habits: Eat smaller meals more regularly so that your digestive system does not get overloaded and you maintain a steady supply of energy to the body and brain.

 

  • Don’t be taken in by the hype. Foods which are promoted as being “time-saving” are either a drain on your finances or a drain on your health, or both.  Allocate time in your day to prepare meals yourself.  If you prepare them, you know what has gone into them, and probably more importantly, you know what has been left out.

 

  • Be aware of the physiological connection that our body/mind has with sugar, fat and simple carbohydrates such as white flour: The more we eat these types of foods, the more we set up pathways in the brain which then create cravings for more, thus creating a vicious circle in our subconscious.

 

  • Remember all the benefits of healthy eating:  Healthier bodies and  healthier minds.  We weren’t developed to eat chemical additives, and healthier eating patterns result in better weight management, increased self-confidence and self-esteem as a result of looking better, feeling better and knowing that you control your eating, not the other way round.

 

  • You will notice that as you begin to eat more healthily, your body/mind will gradually wean itself off the cravings for unhealthy foods and your subconscious will begin to “ask” for, and enjoy, more healthy foods.

Next time you are about to go in the bakers/chip shop or wherever, try this experiment in food awareness: Stop and ask yourself why you are going in.  Are you genuinely hungry? Does your body need that sort of food? Could you be kinder to your body and give it something it really needs, rather than something you feel you want?

D – Depression – Part One

 

Recognising Depression

It is now understood that one in four of us will suffer from depression at some stage in our lives. That is a pretty high statistic and so it can do no harm to be able to recognise some of the common symptoms of the onset of depression.  The following changes in mood or behaviour may be indications of depression.  If you are suffering from any of the following for more than a couple of weeks it is advisable to seek help and advice:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities. No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  • Appetite or weight changes. Significant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes. Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Anger or irritability. Feeling agitated, restless, or even violent. Your tolerance level is low, your temper short, and everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energy. Feeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathing. Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Reckless behaviour. You engage in escapist behaviour such as substance abuse, compulsive gambling, reckless driving, or dangerous sports.
  • Concentration problems. Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  • Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.

There is no need to feel any shame or embarrassment associated with suffering from depression.  Depression, like asthma or a broken leg, is a medical condition, and like any medical condition it responds much better to prompt diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect that either your or somebody you know may be suffering from low mood or depression, a visit to your doctor is always a good idea. 

For information about how to avoid depression please look out for my blog entitled “Avoiding Depression” on Saturday.

C – Cognitive

Cognitive is the C in CBT and in the context of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it means exploring the mental processes that take place in our heads.  Examples of cognitions are: 

  • Thinking
  • Remembering
  • Problem solving
  • Realising
  • Day-dreaming
  • Beliefs
  • Understanding
  • Exploring
  • Conceptualising
  • Perception
  • Worrying
  • Obsessing
  • Ideas
  • Dreaming.

These thinking processes are the cause of everything we feel, and the way in which we behave. If we are thinking positive thoughts we feel content and we smile. If we are thinking negative thoughts we feel low and we frown. 

CBT helps people to explore these cognitions in order to “root out” the negative automatic thoughts (NATS) that are troubling them. Much of our thinking is below our conscious awareness which means that we may not be able to understand why we experience certain cognitions and why they lead to unwanted feelings and behaviours. By becoming consciously aware of our cognitions, and recognising that negative ones can be challenged and changed into neutral or more positive cognitions, we are in a much stronger position to find equilibrium and contentment.  

Remember:  If you want to change your life, change your thoughts.

 

 

A – Authenticity

Are you true to yourself?  Do you ‘speak your truth’, in other words, do you say, out loud, and with conviction, the thoughts and feelings that you feel inside?  Do you act according to your beliefs and stand by those thoughts and beliefs?  If you endeavour to live your life according to these and other similar principles, then you are living your life authentically.  Living authentically means having an inner integrity and being honest and up-front with yourself, in order that you can be the same with others; being self-aware and understanding what you believe, want and feel.  Living your life authentically means that you assess a situation before involving yourself, you sometimes put yourself first, and you only say what you really, honestly, truthfully mean. 

Sounds difficult doesn’t it?  Immediately we start to think along the lines of: “What if I upset somebody?” Or “what if people don’t like me saying no?” Or “What if they think I’m a ‘bad’ person?”  Rest assured anybody who matters won’t think that way at all and the reason why is simple. People who live authentic lives are being true to themselves.  They are happier, and more complete, more comfortable under their skin.  Speaking with conviction doesn’t mean a licence to offend people. It means speaking thoughtfully from the heart and being innately honest with yourself and those around you.  It doesn’t mean you have to be selfish either, in fact it is quite the opposite.  Authenticity is a form of assertiveness where you can afford to be considerate of others because you have learned to be considerate of yourself. 

Delete the words “should”, “ought” and “need” from your vocabulary as they all set you up to fail.  Every time you use these words you are telling yourself that you are not doing something that  you feel is expected of you.  Now question any thoughts that contain those words.  What does a thought mean when you think you should do something?  Does it mean that it has to be done because it is expected of me, rather than it being something that I want to do?  Live up to your expectations, not those of somebody else.  Need carries with it a feeling of desperation and a vague sense of anxiety.  Do you really need  those feelings in your life?

It is liberating to be the person you want to be, not the person you have become expected to be.  When you live your life authentically, you become easier and less stressed to live with, happier to live with and kinder to live with.  Authentic living is a win/win situation.   So why not free all those thoughts and feelings around expectations of others and allow yourself  to develop an inner wisdom in order to live your life through your inner self in a way that feels comfortable and right for you?