According to the Mental Health Foundation a UK-wide stress survey found that 74 per cent of UK citizens have felt stressed, overwhelmed or unable to cope at some point in the past year.
Stress is significant factor in anxiety and depression and other mental health problems. Stress is also linked to physical health conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, diabetes, obesity and other digestive problems.
While a certain amount of stress in everyday life is normal, frequently feeling extremely stressed can lead to serious physical and mental health problems.
As well as everyday stresses, such as work, finances and relationships, there are many unexpected things that can contribute to how we cope in every day life. The death of a loved one, divorce or separation and even positive life events like moving home or starting a new job can be a source of stress.
What is stress?
Stress is a normal response to external pressure, such as a life event or a dangerous situation. Your body’s response to external stress results in the production of certain hormones in the body that activates our immune system and releases adrenaline to help us respond quickly. This state is commonly referred to as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.
Excessive and persistent stress can cause the body to feel like it is permanently in a state of ‘fight, flight or freeze’. This pressure and resulting elevated stress hormones result in wear and tear on the body and contribute to a feeling of being unable to cope. High levels of stress hormones can also make you feel physically unwell.
What are the effects of chronic stress?
When the body is in an almost constant state of alertness, it can have severe physical and psychological effects. Signs and symptoms of chronic stress can be emotional, physical and behavioural and can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disorganised thoughts
- Excessive worry
- Heart burn
- Muscle tension
- Frequent acute illnesses
- A change in appetite
- Digestive problems
- Low libido
- Feeling out of control
- Feeling helpless
- Feeling unsociable and withdrawn
- Lack of confidence
15 steps to a life with less stress
Chronic stress can seem overwhelming. But, even in the most difficult of circumstances, there are things you can do to help reduce stress levels and improve well-being. Here are our 15 steps to a life with less stress.
- Look out for the signs and symptoms of stress (awareness of when you feel stressed is important)
- Look after your health and review your lifestyle
- Cut down on alcohol and smoking (they contribute to anxiety and depression, making stress harder to deal with)
- Get a good night’s rest
- Practice mindfulness of breathing
- Speak to friends and family about how you are feeling
- Identify stress triggers
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a balanced diet
- Exercise regularly
- Think positively
- Get smart with your time management
- Take breaks from tech
- Take time out to relax
- Say no
If you are struggling with stress in your life, are experiencing anxiety, depression or feeling unable to cope, some counselling may help.
At KlearMinds we have helped many people to understand how stress affects them, shown them how to implement coping strategies and develop emotional resilience to make lasting changes for the better. If you want to take steps to reduce the stress in your life and learn how to cope, call 0333 772 0256 or email us here.
Research has shown that a mere 7% of human communication is based on what we actually say. The remaining 93% is non-verbal, of which 38% comes from tone of voice and 55% from body language. Learning how to read other people’s body language can yield an astonishing amount of information about them, as many counsellors and psychotherapists know only too well.
However, interpreting body language is a lot more complex than just looking up someone’s body shape on a definitive list such as this one. How do you know whether a person who has their arms crossed is feeling defensive or superior? Or are they feeling relaxed and putting their arms into a comfortable position?
This is where the 5 C’s come in. It’s a set of additional clues that can help us read body language and other non-verbal communication in a more coherent and accurate way.
Behaviour and communication are two-way processes, with external events acting as triggers that stimulate our responses. Ask yourself: What might have just happened for the person to take that body stance? There may be more than one answer.
A cue can also be triggered internally, so ask yourself: Looking at the person’s body language, what might they be thinking or feeling? The cue-response sequence can even be instinctive, such as the fear-and-recoil response to seeing a spider or a rat.
Body language may suddenly change, say from open to closed formation, or the person suddenly scratching their nose – both of which may indicate discomfort. When you notice a transition, think back for clues that may have triggered their change in behaviour.
Sales people, for instance, use body language signals all the time. A customer leaning forward displaying positive non-verbal responses is subtly sending buying signals that the sales rep will use to help him close the deal.
More often than not, body language is more than a single event – in fact, it very rarely is. Instead, a cluster of different movements take place together. A person may shift position, cross their arms, lean backwards and purse their lips. They’re clearly in disagreement with whatever just happened or was said.
However, sometimes these cluster movements contradict each other, sending mixed messages. When this happens, be extra vigilant and trust your instinct, then back it up with reasons why you might be feeling this way.
Next, look at the general character of the person. What are they like and what body language is normal for them? For instance, extroverts may naturally display frequent and large body movements, unlike introverts who prefer to take up less space.
Trying to decipher people’s non-verbal communication in an effort to interpret their thoughts and actions is notoriously difficult, particularly if you apply the ‘wrong’ filter. What’s more, temperament, mood and short-term emotional state can modify a person’s normal character and behaviour, making their body language even more complex.
Finally, take account of the broader context that may influence how the other person feels, thinks and acts. In terms of the immediate physical surroundings, for instance, young men in the presence of attractive women will alter their behaviour to include more mate-attracting moves.
This also goes for the wider context of a person’s life. Past experiences good and bad can have a significant effect on their body language. Unless you know about these modifiers, your ability to interpret the person’s non-verbal communications may remain superficial.
When it comes to your physical health, you wouldn’t think twice to see a doctor. But what about your mental health and emotional wellbeing? Many people feel nervous, embarrassed or even ashamed about seeing a counsellor. Why?
Well, not only is there a stigma attached to admitting that you may need help taking care of your mental health, there’s also a lot of misinformation out there about the kinds of people who seeking counselling, and what a counsellor does and doesn’t do. Here are 5 myths that we’re going to lay to rest right now.
1 – Counselling is only for people with serious mental health issues.
Many people believe that in order to see a counsellor, you need to have a psychological disorder or be seriously mentally ill. The reality is entirely different. Counselling can be beneficial for everyone. Whether you seek support for everyday matters such as stress management or relationship issues, mental health challenges like depression, or life events such as a bereavement, counsellors and psychotherapists are expertly trained to help people with a wide range of concerns.
2 – It’s easier to talk to friends and family about my problems.
There is a common belief that seeking the support of your friends and family is just as good as getting professional counselling. But while being able to share your problems with your friends and family is obviously helpful, it is very different from the relationship with a trained counsellor who has specialist skills in diagnosing and treating a range of cognitive, behavioural and emotional issues. What’s more, counselling is entirely private and confidential, meaning you don’t have to take the feelings of your loved ones into account when you speak.
3 – Counselling is nothing but endless talk about my childhood.
Another common misconception is that counselling sessions are spent endlessly rehashing the past, your childhood and the relationship with your parents. The truth is that counselling is tailored to meet your unique personal situation. While some people will benefits from exploring their various previous relationships that are impacting their current reality, others may wish to focus on the present time to inform their future pathways. Counselling draws on a range of approaches to resolve concerns and achieve desired outcomes.
4 – Counselling takes ages; it’s like writing a blank cheque.
Many people mistakenly believe that if you go to counselling, you’re committing to endless sessions that will, over time, cost you an arm and a leg. However, modern counselling is outcome focused and affordable. Private health insurance can also significantly reduce the cost of mental health treatment, while many counsellors keep their fees moderate to ensure maximum access to quality care and support for all. While the goal of counselling is to help people manage their individual challenges, most patients will get there with effective short-term counselling, while others may need several months or more intensive support.
5 – I tried it once and it didn’t work, so counselling is not for me.
Just because you may have had one bad experience with counselling, this doesn’t mean the treatment isn’t for you. If you’re not happy with one counsellor, get a second opinion elsewhere. There are literally thousands of counsellors and psychotherapists in practice. Each one is different and it’s important to find one that you can build a positive rapport with. In fact, the ‘therapeutic alliance’ is at the core of every successful counselling treatment. Trust, respect and working towards a common goal together is probably one of the most reliable indicators of positive counselling outcomes.
At KlearMinds, we have a team of professionals trained in a range of counselling, life coaching and psychotherapy approaches. This means we can tailor our therapy choices to suit your individual learning style and give you the best opportunity to achieve positive results. For more information about the KlearMinds team and how we can support you, please get in touch on 0333 772 0256 or email email@example.com.
Contrary to popular belief, counselling doesn’t have to take place face to face. If you are seeking professional help for a mental health issue but find it inconvenient to come in for your sessions, online counselling may be the perfect solution for you.
According to recent research, online psychotherapy meetings can be just as effective as face-to-face consultations. And with modern digital communications technology such as Skype and FaceTime widely available, there’s no reason why you can’t access high quality counselling for a wide range of issues including anxiety and depression, relationship problems, career concerns and much more.
With the help of online coaching and counselling you can
- Have sessions in the convenience of your own home, office or hotel at a time to suit you
- Save on childcare and/or travel arrangements, time and expense
- Access counselling even if you’re housebound, have a disability or limited mobility
An online psychologist can be particularly helpful in the following situations:
- Your daily schedule may simply be too busy to take time out for a visit to see a counsellor. Rather than wasting precious time to get from A to B, why not save time and arrange a Skype session straight to your office desk?
- If you live in a remote location, high quality counselling may not be available locally. The availability of online support will substantially broaden your reach of highly qualified and experienced counsellors who can help you tackle your concerns.
- Are you a frequent traveller, spending much time abroad or away from home? Why not book a Skype session to avoid overly long gaps in between personal consultations to keep your progress on track?
- Do you live abroad and would like to see a counsellor? Whether you are uncomfortable with the local language or can’t find a good English speaking counsellor where you are, online sessions will provide the required access to a high quality coaching and counselling service back home.
How does it work?
At KlearMinds, we offer counselling and psychotherapy via Skype or FaceTime with our highly experienced psychotherapist and psychologist Jo Frost. With over 14 years’ professional experience, she excels in helping people understand what is going wrong in their life, supporting them to find effective strategies to successfully address a wide range of issues such as panic disorders, bullying, low self esteem, bereavement, anger management, eating disorders etc.
To make contact, simply email KlearMinds or phone and request a Skype session. Jo will be in touch by email to arrange a mutually convenient time and to exchange contact details. And if you’re worried about the security of a Skype call, rest assured that Skype uses encrypted data transmission protocols that are the safest forms of internet security currently available.
Why not call KlearMinds today on 0333 772 0256 or email us to set up a Skype consultation for you.
Welcome to 2018! Whether or not you’re the type of person who makes New Year’s Resolutions, the beginning of the year is always a good opportunity to take stock of what’s gone well (or not so well) in the past year. Many people use the time between Christmas and New Year as a period of reflection, and to formulate a plan of action for the months ahead.
Fresh energy in January is a great idea to spur you on to make improvements in your life that can really benefit your mental health. But while it’s tempting to get carried away on a wave of ‘new year, new you’ initiatives, don’t forget that most New Year’s Resolutions will have failed by February. If you do decide to make an action plan for 2018, you need to give yourself the best chance of success.
Focus on doing something new rather than giving something up, to keep motivated. Choose small positive changes that will benefit your confidence and keep the momentum going. Here are 5 practical tips that can make a positive difference to your mental health in 2018.
1 – Start a gratitude diary
Make it a habit to write down 3 positive things that have happened to you each day. These don’t have to be major events, they can be small things such as ‘I went for a walk in the park’ or ‘I met up with a friend for lunch’.
Training to look at the good things that happen every day help to cultivate a positive mind set, which in turn will benefit your overall mental wellbeing.
2 – Practice meditation
Learning to meditate is a fantastic way to give your mind some much needed downtime. It’s not difficult to learn, and nor does it need to take up much time. If possible, try to fit 2 sessions into your day, even if it’s only 5 minutes each.
If you’re not sure how to get started, you may find it helpful to use an app to teach you the basics and guide you through your meditation. There are plenty of free ones available including Calm, Inscape, Headspace, Buddhify, Simple Habit and The Mindfulness App, making meditation accessible to everyone.
3 – Take up a hobby
The new year is a great time to start a new hobby or revisit an old one. If you’ve always wanted to play the piano, learn Spanish or take up hill walking, now is the perfect time to do it. Not only will learning a new skill be a confidence booster in itself, it will give you something to look forward to during the week and a chance to meet other like minded people.
Just remember to focus on enjoying the experience, rather than letting it become yet another pressure to achieve. While practice does indeed make perfect, it may be the journey rather than the destination that gives you the greatest pleasure.
4 – Treasure ‘me time’
If you work long hours, juggle work and family commitments and generally lead a busy lifestyle, it’s important to take time out just for yourself. That way, you can recharge your batteries ready for the next day, able to perform to your best ability. Being tired, stressed and permanently exhausted is no good for your mental health, your relationships, career or overall wellbeing.
‘Me time’ doesn’t have to mean an expensive holiday; it could be something as simple as soak in the bath and an early night, getting lost in a good book or a trip to a favourite art exhibition. The important thing is that you get to relax.
5 – Get professional support if necessary
If it feels as if everything is getting on top of you and you’re struggling to cope, you might benefit from professional support. Asking for help doesn’t come naturally to most of us but it can be an important first step to help you get better.
The KlearMinds team consists of experienced counsellors that are highly trained in a range of therapeutic approaches including counselling, psychotherapy, life coaching and cognitive behavioural therapy. We provide advice for a wide range of issues and can help you achieve fast, effective and lasting change.
If you wish to make contact, why not email us in confidence today?
Deciding to work with a qualified counsellor or therapist is a big decision to take. Whatever your issues or concerns are, it will take time to work through them in order to make progress. At KlearMinds, our professional team is committed to helping you achieve lasting change in the fastest way possible, but do be aware that counselling can never be a quick fix.
While there are many different approaches to counselling and therapy, the most important aspect is the rapport you have with your therapist. Especially if you are feeling anxious and vulnerable, finding someone you can trust and that you would feel comfortable talking to about very personal thoughts and feelings is key.
So, how do you go about choosing the right therapist? Here are 4 tips to help you make the right decision.
1 – Do your research
From word of mouth to local sources and online directories such as the Counselling Directory, there are many ways to find therapists in your locality. You can filter your search by area, type of therapy or the type of issue you wish to address.
The KlearMinds therapy team comprises a number of experienced counsellors, psychotherapists and life coaches that can help with a wide range of mental health concerns.
If you are looking at online profiles or professional websites, be mindful of your thoughts and feelings as you look through them. Does the person whose profile you’re reading give the right impression? Are they approachable? Professional? The sort of person you could talk to?
2 – Trust your gut feeling
When it comes down to it, there’s no scientifically proven way to choose a therapist; you’re going to have to go with your gut. If you’re drawn to a particular person, there may well be a reason that you don’t understand rationally. Don’t ignore your intuition.
Do you have a preference of male or female therapist? Is your issue particularly related to one or the other gender? It’s a very individual thing and there are no right or wrong answers – you need to choose what feels right for you.
3 – Speak to more than one therapist
There’s no need to make a decision based on having spoken to, or seen, only one therapist, unless you’re comfortable to do so. It is perfectly OK to make a shortlist and speak to several therapists, perhaps taking advantage of any free phone consultations that may be on offer.
At KlearMinds, we view the initial meeting as a mutual opportunity to see whether working together could produce the results you wish to achieve. It is a time for you to ask about how we work and the types of therapy that might be most appropriate for you. At the end of the meeting, you may wish to go ahead with counselling or go away and think it over – no pressure.
4 – Make your decision
When you think you’ve found a counsellor that you are happy with, book a first set of sessions to get your therapy started. At this point it is important to make a firm commitment, even if it’s only for a few sessions, to give you both a chance to get to know each other. Sometimes, difficult feelings can come up at the beginning of your journey together and it’s wise not to throw in the towel.
At the end of the first set of sessions, you will be given the opportunity to review your progress and either continue or terminate your therapy.
If you wish to make contact with the KlearMinds team to discuss the possibility of therapy, you can reach us by email or phone 0333 772 0256.
Are you busy today, and every day? Too busy to ‘stop and stare’? Our world continues to whizz around at ever increasing speeds, thanks to mobile communications technology and the 24/7 availability of information. The result is that our brains are expected to process information at an unprecedented rate, with the expectation that we’re constantly ‘on call’.
Where’s the downtime?
Research has shown that downtime is hugely important to our wellbeing. It helps to alleviate anxiety and depression and is a valuable tool for stress management. ‘Switching off’ for just a short time is important for recharging and replenishing our depleted mental resources, providing our minds with the necessary rest and space to increase our attention span, improve memory function, process information and learning, inspire creativity and make better decisions.
The trick is to take time out to intentionally and mindfully slow down, creating a bit of extra space every day. Just 10-15 minutes a day can be a sufficient window for our minds to experience downtime.
Here are 7 easy strategies you could try:
1 – Get up 15 minutes earlier. Find a bit of peace and quiet before the madness of the day consumes you. Whether you try a short morning meditation, take a longer shower or simply have a cup of tea in bed, it helps to set you up for the day.
2 – Reassess your commute. If you must commute to work, make the time as stress free and relaxing as you can. Try sitting in silence, creating space for the mind, rather than cluttering it up with news and information before you even get to the office.
3 – Take a ‘power nap’. A 10-minute nap in the middle of the day, sitting in a chair, is all it takes to recharge and enhance your performance straight away.
4 – Take a short walk every day. The fresh air and the change in environment are enough to switch off from ‘work mode’ for a few minutes, leaving you refreshed and in a better mood.
5 – Turn off the TV. Did you know that we watch on average 34 hours of TV a week? Rather than taking in more information (ostensibly as entertainment), why not value our downtime by switching off artificial stimulants?
6 – Limit distracting internet activities. Rather than spending hours idly surfing the web, use the time to engage with the real world – you will feel better for it.
7 – Turn off notifications. Did you know that we now check our phones an average of 150 times a day? Don’t be a slave to your smartphone. Incoming emails, messages and notifications – nothing is so important that it can’t wait a while.
When a loved one dies, it can feel like the end of the world as we know it. The natural response of grieving for our loss is a hard and extremely painful process to go through, and we all have a different and unique response to losing someone close.
Bereavement counselling is there for you when it seems like you’re drowning in sorrow, unable to move forward. That’s when it can be enormously beneficial to work with a trained therapist who can help you through the stages of grieving to enable you to acknowledge and process what has happened. With the benefit of counselling, you will in time allow life to continue with adaptation and change while preserving the memory of the person who passed away.
There are 5 generally recognised stages of grieving that we all go through when learning to cope with personal loss. As you move through the bereavement process, you may experience some or all of these stages and in any order. It is an important part of the healing process to allow yourself to experience and accept all the feelings as they occur.
- Shock and Disbelief
The first response to a bereavement is typically one of disbelief and shock, even if the death did not come as a surprise. Numbness is often a natural reaction to an immediate loss – it’s our body’s way to shield us from the intensity of the event, and can be useful when action needs to be taken, for instance to make funeral arrangements. As we slowly acknowledge what has happened, the feelings of shock and denial will diminish.
- Guilt and Bargaining
This stage involves an intense preoccupation with what might have been, if only some other course of events had occurred. It’s easy to obsess endlessly about how things could have been better, what could have been done to prevent the worst outcome. That’s why it is important to resolve this stage, so that guilt and remorse don’t get in the way of the long-term healing process.
Many people will experience anger over their personal loss which may feel unfair and untimely. Strong feelings of anger can be a result of perceived helplessness and powerlessness, either as a result of having somehow been ‘abandoned’ by the deceased or because a higher power was at play.
- Depression and Loneliness
Once the full extent of the loss is realised, sadness and loneliness begin to set in. Normal responses may develop into depression as it becomes difficult to ease the pain. Sleeplessness, low mood, appetite disturbances, lack of energy, self-pity, social withdrawal and physical pains are all symptomatic of this stage of grieving.
In the final stages of bereavement, we begin to fully accept that the death has occurred and we are slowly allowing ourselves the ability to manage its effect on us. Healing can begin once the loss becomes integrated into our life experiences and we are able to move forward with our life.
If you feel that it would be helpful to speak to an experienced bereavement counselor to share your personal circumstances, please contact us to arrange an appointment at one of our London clinics.
When relationships go wrong, it can be the hardest thing. Are you fed up with constant misunderstandings or arguments? Do you feel as if you’re doing all the relationship work? Are you drifting apart? Has the spark gone?
Whatever relationship or marriage problems you may be facing, often it’s our communication skills that are letting us down. That’s where relationship counselling can make a real difference. Experienced therapists can help you understand the underlying issues while teaching you the tools to make progress.
According to the 1990s blockbuster The 5 Love Languages, there are in fact 5 ways that we express and receive love. The book may be a perennial favourite on the pop psych shelves, but there’s no harm in taking a closer look at the advice given: learn to speak and understand your and your partner’s main ‘love language’ and not only will you communicate better, your relationship will improve as a result.
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