Pay It Forward
Pay It Forward
 
This week marks Depression Awareness Week. We have previously written an informative blog entry about depression, so please read that for more information. This time I wanted to take a different approach.
 
There are various conversations in the media, online and throughout society in general about the stigma of mental illness. This continues to puzzle me. Why are we so hesitant to tell others if we have suffered from some form of mental health problem? Does it make us feel weak? Does it make us feel that we won’t be accepted by the society around us? Why is it so much more acceptable to tell others that we suffer from flu or a broken leg…or even a cancer? What’s the difference? All these are related to our health.
 
When it comes to depression, I am pretty sure that most of us have suffered from it at some point in our lives. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime. That sounds such a small percentage. I suppose it depends on how depression is defined and how many people actually do seek help and support. I always look at depression like a big umbrella, and underneath it are various forms of depression, such as clinical depression, situational depression, post-natal depression, psychotic depression, and low mood. So based on this definition, I’m sure that real percentage is much higher. And yet, we feel so uncomfortable to talk about it. Why?
 
First, I want to tell you about one of my favourite movies. It’s called Pay It Forward. The storyline: young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother's alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favour not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor's efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him. The reason I wanted to mention about the film is because I really like the concept of it…pay it forward.
 
I have suffered from depression in the past. It was horrible. The days were so dark. Some days I just stayed in bed because I didn’t want to face the world. It felt like my life was about to end. On the days I managed to get up, by the evening I had already forgotten what I had done during the day. It felt like I was functioning and living in this invisible bubble. Everything felt like an overwhelming task. My sleeping pattern was all over the place, as was my eating. Nothing interested me, nothing mattered. I didn’t want to socialise, yet I desperately wanted and needed someone to reach out. I couldn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I thought I was this super-nurse who can function no matter what. How wrong was I. Thankfully I finally decided to start therapy, and this helped me to work through some of my underlying issues. With time my depression lifted, and I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Having gone through that experience, I feel wiser now. If I’m having a bad day or if I’m feeling low, I tell someone about it. I try to break the cycle before it can get worse. But I also appreciate that this isn’t always easy. Showing your own vulnerability can be painful and challenging. One very wise and very important person to me told me once that vulnerability is feeling exactly what we feel in any particular moment without addition of thought or meaning; when we are truly vulnerable, we become truly powerful – we enter a state of truth. It makes so much sense.
 
Having suffered from depression, and my many other life experiences, have helped me to become the therapist and the person I am today.
 
And here is my challenge to you. I want to break the stigma around depression and other mental health issues. I have told you that I have suffered from depression, so now I want you to tell three people if you have suffered from any type of mental health problems. And kindly ask them to pay it forward. Let’s break the shame because there is no shame. Pay it forward.
 
Thank you for reading, and I wish you good mental health.
 
Eeva
 
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Couples counselling
Couples counselling
 
Being in a relationship can be (and often is) hard work. The way we communicate and behave in relationships is influenced by our upbringing, our parents’ relationships, our hobbies/work/interests, stress in general – just to mention few. At times we are in a situation which feels overwhelming, and we can’t find a way out of it. In relationships these difficult situations are often brought in by the lack of effective communication; sometimes we shout at each other or we just turn our back and be passively aggressive; neither of these methods are particularly helpful as you can imagine. In order for the relationship to work, effective communication is the key.
 
Couples come for counselling for various reasons and in different stages – sometimes the couple might have hit the crisis point, or they have just come to a conclusion that external help and support could be beneficial in order to improve the relationship. Couples counselling is not about the individuals, it’s about the space between the individuals – this space is the relationship. During the sessions we look at this space, what’s in there, what’s not working and what is working, and what you both bring in to this space, and find ways of improving this space.
 
I offer couples counselling in Gamlingay (SG19) and in London (N11). Please do not hesitate to contact me for further information or to book the first session.
 
Thank you.
 
Eeva
 
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Mental Health Awareness week
Mental Health Awareness week
 
This week (11.-17.5.) celebrates the Mental Health Awareness week. You might find the ‘celebrates’ -word a bit of an odd choice of a word to be used in this case but why shouldn’t we celebrate mental health? We all have mental health. It is as important as the physical health - one can’t function without the other. Good mental health means feeling good – about life and yourself – and being able to get on with life in the way you want.
 
But how to maintain a good and balanced mental health? There are various ways you can help yourself. Mental Health Foundation has listed several effective and useful ways to improve your mental health – talk about your feelings, eat well, keep active, drink sensibly, and so on; click here for more information. NHS Choices have also listed very useful information on their website – click here to check more information.
 
This year’s Mental Health Awareness week specifically focuses on Mindfulness. You may have heard about it. I previously wrote a blog entry about Mindfulness, so please read it for further information; the blog entry also has a link to a very good Mindfulness exercise. According to the MHF: “Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, without getting stuck in the past or worrying about the future. Mindfulness can be practiced standing, sitting and walking. It can be practiced both indoors and out; at home, in schools, at work or simply out and about. You can practice mindfulness for 5 minutes or 5 hours – that’s the great thing about mindfulness, you can tailor it to suit your own needs.” Mark Williams, professor of clinical psychology at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre and Welcome principal research fellow at the University of Oxford, says: "Mindfulness means non-judgemental awareness. A direct knowing of what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment." Professor Williams says that mindfulness can be an antidote to the “tunnel vision” that can develop in our daily lives, especially when we are busy, stressed or tired. "It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling, and to end up living 'in our heads' – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour. An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs. Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or fix anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives."
 
I have found Mindfulness to be very beneficial – both in my personal and professional life. I try to use Mindfulness techniques as often as I can; I have found it reduces stress and anxiety, and helps me to stay more focused. I also teach Mindfulness techniques to my clients, and many of them have found them beneficial.
 
Take a moment to focus on your being, and acknowledge what you are feeling – both physically and mentally. If your thoughts go wondering, just acknowledge that, and bring your attention back to the main focus. And don’t forget to breathe…
 
I want to wish you all good mental health. Don’t ignore it; you need it. If you feel your mental health is suffering, seek help – there is no shame in it. Celebrate your mental health!
 
Thank you.

Eeva
 
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Mindfulness
What would it be like to stop, be still, and just focus on your breath, or on the physical sensations of your feet touching the floor? What would it be like not to worry - even if it is just for few moments? Doesn’t it sound freeing?
 
Many of us feel the stresses of everyday life but how are you managing your stress? Do you brush it under the carpet, and hope it goes away? Do you maybe avoid experiencing it, yet often have various physical symptoms, such as abdominal discomfort, headaches, or painful and tense muscles? Or do you give yourself regular ‘me-time’ in order to ease the stress?
 
Mindfulness is an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety, and improve depression and low mood. According to Jon Kabat-Zin, “Mindfulness means paying attention is a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment”. Marsha Linehan’s view is that “Mindfulness is taking control of your mind rather than allowing your mind to be in control of you”. Mindfulness is not meant to ‘work’, relax you, change things, stop your mind wandering, make you more cheerful, turn negative experiences into positive ones; it’s not about trying to get somewhere – it’s about trying to be somewhere - right here, right now (Dunkley & Stanton, 2014).
 
Mindfulness is now one of the recommended treatments for depression by the NICE Guidelines (click here for further information). Following further training & reading on Mindfulness, I have introduced it to my therapeutic work as well. Many of my clients have felt the benefits of Mindfulness, and continue practising it.
 
If you are interested in Mindfulness, please do not hesitate to contact me. Here is a very good Mindfulness exercise as a taster for you (click here).
 
Good mental health to you.
 
Eeva
 
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