Reflecting on the past six months…

Having just returned to work after a long-ish break, I found it really interesting to look at the magnetic white board on the wall of my home practice room for the first time in three weeks.

I had found the white board outside someone’s house near the beginning of lockdown in April 2020 and, after sanitizing it thoroughly, I started writing on it the random bits of stimulating things that I would read or hear (usually on the Ten Percent Happier podcast) during the long days of working at home.

As you can see, some of the statements have question marks punctuating them, and these statements have served as reflective prompts for months now; the statements without any punctuation tend to serve as aspirational prompts, reminding me of how I would like to experience the world during these incredibly surreal times.

I’m loth to erase the board and start again, so I think I might stick a piece of flipchart paper on top, and start jotting down newer random bits of stimulating stuff that I read or hear over the next six months…

These challenging times…

credit: Brooke Adams Photography @movementphotographer

Public Health England (PHE) have issued guidance on the mental health and wellbeing implications of the current public health emergency: https://bit.ly/2UJrah4

Because of the speed with which new information and guidance becomes available, I tend to post useful articles and images (like the one above) to my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nathaliegriffincounselling/

Please do ‘like’ my Facebook page so that you are notified of any updates I post.

We will get through this, but it may be a rough ride for many of us – please be gentle with yourselves…

Another new year (new decade, even), another new you?

The short answer: No.

However, I came across an article in today’s Observer newspaper that has some suggestions about building self-esteem in the current you…

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/jan/04/new-ways-to-put-a-smile-back-on-your-face-for-2020

I’m a great fan of therapeutic writing, which is one of the suggestions.

I’m also pleased that the article encourages us to embrace our bad moods without judging ourselves for having the bad moods: we are allowed to feel like crap. The key is to explore why we are feeling like crap – what are our emotions trying to tell us? And do we need to do anything about it? Maybe not… or, at least, not right now.

The author also proposes that if are skilled at labelling our emotions, we can soften their impact. We are encouraged to be more precise in how we identify our emotions, so I’ve included an image (below) based on Plutchick’s Wheel of Emotions, as a prompt to explore the different words for the way we feel.

Be gentle with yourselves…Happy 2020!

Burn-out is now recognised by World Health Organisation

An article from the Counselling Directory magazine ‘Happiful’ highlights that burn-out is now officially recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a medical condition. These are four factors which the WHO identifies as characterising the condition:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • increased mental distance from one’s job
  • feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • reduced professional efficacy.

This new recognition does not officially take effect until January 2022, when the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11)  replaces the previous version ICD-10. The WHO is also careful to point out that this would be a work-related medical condition and is not applicable to other life situations.

Changing supervisor

A recent article about changing clinical supervisors is available in the June 2019 issue of Therapy Today (Bean, L. and Perkins, K. 2019. Time to Change? Therapy Today 30:5). The article is currently only available to BACP members but it is worth checking out as it provides a useful outline of what we can expect from our clinical supervisors and/or what we should be offering as clinical supervisors. I particularly liked this:

“A good enough supervisor:

  • has up-to-date skills, knowledge and expertise in our therapeutic modality
  • can speak about differences in thinking and approach in a spirit of enquiry and non-judgement (especially if from a different therapeutic modality)
  • validates our work and challenges both thinking and practice
  • conducts meetings in an atmosphere of respect, openness and curiosity that encourages our development1
  • demonstrates attunement to us
  • maintains boundaries and focus
  • canvasses for and accepts feedback.”

It also provides a handy list of BACP resources relating to supervision.

Is ‘Inspirational’ always a compliment?

I was shown this image the other day… it feels so spot-on.

Please have a read of the Instagram poster’s words that accompany the image to gain some insight into why being called inspirational or strong or brave can sometimes achieve the opposite of what most people are hoping to achieve when saying these words…

It’s also worth browsing through the other images on this Instagram account!

View this post on Instagram

Today is something like #internationaldisabilityday #internationaldayofdisability #internationaldayofdisabledpersons #internationaldayofdisabledpeople I wanted to mark the day by acknowledging an alienating compliment that I get pretty much every week. I also want to acknowledge that some of my disabled friends do enjoy being called strong/brave/inspirational and that’s absolutely not a problem with me, we all deserve to define our own boundaries. I guess I struggle with it because all I’d rather be complimented for something that I want to be good at, rather than something I have no choice about that I just do to survive. [simple illustration of person lying in bed with sign in their head that reads “it has been __ days since an abled called me inspirational”] I used the word “abled” because it’s shorthand for ‘able bodied’, which refers to people without disability. I won’t ever be hurt or annoyed if I’m called this but it is dehumanising and it misses the nuance of my experience and the experiences of many other disabled people. I also wanted to add that I’ve drawn the person in the bed because that’s pretty much what my disability looks like most of the time, it’s my normal. I didn’t want to use an image of disability that I didn’t personally experience. #inspirationporn #disabledpeople #disabilitymatters #invisibledisability #sickbed #pleasedontcallmeinspirational #disablednotunable #includedisabledvoices

A post shared by @ total_sicko on

Global Drug Survey 2019

Have you ever completed the Global Drug Survey (GDS)? Well, if not, now’s your chance: https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/

As they say on the website: “Share your story with us and help us create change that help people have happier lives and policy that supports health well being, not punishment and stigmatization.”

The GDS is a valuable resource for people like me because I sometimes work with people struggling with alcohol and other drug use problems.

I also try to complete it every year, as it gives me a chance to reflect on my alcohol use, and also because it is an education in the new drugs that are out there.

If you’ve got the time and inclination, give it a go…

 

Net Worth vs. Self Worth

This article in the Guardian gives a snapshot view of the idea that the pursuit of material wealth in a time of economic uncertainty is having a negative impact on our individual and collective mental health:

https://bit.ly/2CzkNGr

I particularly like the conclusion:
“… it is high time for an inequality therapy that doesn’t fault people for being crushed by an inhumane marketplace – but instead recognizes that it is the system, not the self, that is broken.”

In therapy, we inevitably work on our ourselves as individuals, but I hope that we can also empower ourselves to address systemic and societal concerns that are contributing to our mental ill-health and general malaise.

 

Anxiety Hot Spots

I love this image – it’s a handy way reminder to check in with how we are feeling physically and, possibly, reduce some of our anxiety by acknowledging the physical tension and releasing it, if possible…

Gratitude in the Spiral

Earlier today, I was reminded of Joanna Macey’s Work that Reconnects, specifically The Spiral:

The Spiral

All of us will be able to use different frameworks for reflection and/or problem solving at different times in our lives, and what I like about the Spiral is its simplicity. Starting from a place of gratitude echoes ideas put forth by many therapeutic approaches: Start with identifying the resources we already have and build our resilience by acknowledging and appreciating them. It is important to strengthen our resilience before tackling difficult emotions and/or problems so that we don’t become overwhelmed.

When we’re feeling depressed and anxious, or we’re in a great deal of pain and distress, it can be hard to remember what it is we can be grateful for so I’d like to suggest that it is good mental health hygiene to start a daily gratitude exercise. I have a ‘gratititude jar’ – every morning I write down one thing I am grateful for from the previous day on a small piece of paper, then place it in an old Mason jar, which sits beside my desk. I get a great sense of wellbeing from this exercise, and it gives me more energy to start my day. Conversely, when I struggle to remember what I am grateful for, or I skip the exercise altogether, I take this as a sign that something is amiss and I set aside some time, as soon as possible, to reflect on what is troubling me.

There are many examples of gratitude jars online, but it is simple and cheap: a big enough container to hold a year’s worth of paper slips, scrap paper, a pen or pencil, and a few minutes at some point in the day or night to do the exercise. I find doing it in the morning helps energise me, but it may work better for some people to do it right before bedtime, so you can drift off with a pleasant thought in your mind…