Mindfulness – When can I find the time?!

Sometimes trying to find a balance between focusing on our everyday tasks and finding time for ourselves can be difficult. In all of the chores, work commitments and other mental checklists we tend to forget to pause and we end up putting our own needs on the back burner. 

This can result in us feeling overwhelmed, rushing from one task to the next, never finding a moment to relax. If we do, we feel guilty that we are not productive enough. 

I myself find it difficult at times to switch off and just be present in the moment. If it’s not rushing around trying to get the odd jobs done, its more about what have I done that I can class as being productive. 

The pressure we can put on ourselves can result in us feeling burnt out. It becomes a vicious cycle of irritation, moodiness and unfulfilled feeling that we should be doing better. 

We all have heard of the benefits of mindfulness, even I have purchased Pause by Kim Davies which provides 50 instant exercises to promote balance and focus every day. But to actually find the willpower to sit down and start is another thing that I struggle with.

Browsing the Works store, first what attracted me to the book was the bright colours and the word PAUSE in bold. “I need to pause.” I remember thinking to myself. “I need to find some Me time.”

You would think a stay at home mum, part time volunteer and qualified counsellor attempting to start my own private practice, would in fact have plenty time to pause. But I felt like I was wasting my time. If I sat down to do nothing, if I didn’t achieve that mental check list then I was failing somehow.

I myself feel that doing daily chores such as cleaning, washing up, laundry and weekly shops are unpaid, thankless, and let’s face it things we have to do to live jobs. But what about feeding our soul? Who am I?

So, I picked up the book and paid for it, brought it home and then placed it on my desk. “I will get to it”. I kept telling myself. Then I decided to renovate my downstairs which meant that even if had wanted to, I couldn’t surely find 10 minutes to do some mindfulness exercises. The house is a mess like someone had just picked it up given it a good shake and set it down. When I wasn’t doing the redecorating, organising and cleaning I was just too exhausted.

So now all the work is done, I say all but who am I kidding. Most of it is done. I want to try to find some inner calmness. 

Each day I will try to find time to do one of the instant exercises within this book. I will share the technique and how easily they can actually be integrated into every-day life. I am committed now to this, because truth is you need to practice what you preach. As a counsellor I always encourage my clients to carve out some time for themselves. Where they can be relax and reconnect with who they are.

I plan to reconnect with my surroundings, be present in the moment and try and find some inner peace which can be difficult to achieve in the busy lives lead. Will you come on this journey with me?

Can a counsellor FIX Me?

One of the misconceptions of counselling is that the counsellor or therapist has all the answers. The counsellor has a number of techniques which have been learnt, practiced and acquired that can be helpful to the client.

A counsellor isn’t there to tell you how you should and shouldn’t lead your life. Your life is something that only you have experience on, and you are the only expert to your life.

A counsellor is there to facilitate the depth of exploration the client is wanting to achieve. The best way to do this is through empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard.

Empathy is a skill that can be learnt overtime but there also needs to be a genuine desire of the counsellor to want to show empathy to their client. The counsellor is not using their own experience as a measure. They are walking with the client in the clients shoes and experiencing the world through their eyes. 

Congruence is being aware of the way that you feel, that then matches with your outer experience. Having awareness of how you are feeling at all times can be difficult for any person but within a session a counsellor needs to congruent and vigilant of any arising feelings. If the counsellor is incongruent and so is the client, then it can be difficult to create a therapeutic relationship. 

Some may say that by sharing with the client how they are receiving the client is congruent, but what benefit does that have to the client? If you are shocked about something the client has said, by stating you are shocked can put the client off from opening up to you in the future. 

image from me.me

There needs to be balance in the way you demonstrate congruence. The counsellor needs to be real with the client, but not confrontational. Being authentic and real with the client should only be done if it will benefit the client in some way. 

Another aspect of counselling is providing the client with unconditional positive regard. This doesn’t mean showering the client with praises or to “rescue” the client from the feeling they may be experiencing. 

Unconditional positive regard is achieved through respecting the other, being non-judgemental and showing acceptance. The counsellor is accepting the client for who they are. Acceptance that they are unique and the expert to their own life and the experience they share.

The counsellor shows Acceptance through their manner and words. The counsellor values the client and accept their opinion, their values and beliefs. Accepting the client as a unique individual allows the counsellor nurture and care for the client within the session. 

 Taking the clients lead is very important, and going at their pace means not rushing them to disclose any information they may not be comfortable sharing. Allowing them the time and space to explore what they need to. Only then can the therapeutic relationship be developed.

Depression – silently suffering

“You are worthless”. “No one cares about what you have to say.” “If you weren’t here no-one would care”. “You are useless”. “Everyone would be better off without you.” “You are ugly and fat!” “No one loves you!” 

These are just some of the words that I would tell myself, over and over again. In the middle of feeling buried with emotions and trying to act “normal”, I would berate myself over and over again. 

Depression is different for each and every person that experiences it. To think we know what another person going through can be difficult. For me it was like an invader has taken over your mind and every step I took, every action and everything I would say, that voice, that invader had an insult waiting for me. Waiting to pounce and knock me over.

image from phoneky.com

Sometimes as soon as I opened my eyes, it would hit me with so many insults that I just wanted to curl up and disappear. I refused to get out of bed, I refused to even go to the bathroom because it was the only place, I could find comfort. I felt like I had no-one to turn to and I kept wrestling with the idea of picking up the phone and just hearing that one voice that would help. “But they didn’t want to know, they had their own problems”, the invader would say.

The invader, the negative voice in my head that would beats me down every moment of the day was like a demon feeding off the fact that I felt paralysed and couldn’t turn to someone. 

You want to reach out and scream on top of your lungs that you need help. You need to be held, you are starving for something, anything, inside screaming “Just please, help me”. But your voice is muted. 

Image from pixel.com

Many times, my partner would ask “tell me what’s wrong?” The words wouldn’t come out, it was like a lump in my throat that just wouldn’t go up or down. I would remain silent or say “nothing”. Each day I would continue to feel lost and alone. With myself I became good at hiding it in public, continue to smile, say hello, and pretend that I am living. 

It would start, day or night, sometimes just creeping up in the middle of the day. Today I wasn’t a good enough mother, I wasn’t a good wife, a good sister, a good daughter or a good friend. I started drowning in the shower of insults and guilt. These are the values I had placed on myself over the years. 

My self-worth was attached to all these roles that in a sense I played. At times I felt like this isn’t my life to lead, I felt fake. I was losing myself, my individuality and my personality was getting lost in my own conditioned beliefs. I had to be perfect and if I wasn’t perfect at it then what was the point? 

As a trained counsellor I now know the way to help others who are experiencing similar thoughts and conditions. My experience doesn’t hinder me in helping clients, because I don’t use my experience as a measure. I use my experience to provide unconditional acceptance that what my clients are going through is real as the oxygen we breathe. Their experience their pain is theirs, which no one can judge or discount. 

One of the things we were taught in counselling was the goal is to be a fully functioning person, someone who has autonomy over some if not all aspects of their being. It can be difficult to achieve that but for me, if I wake up and do something for myself, such as brush my teeth, get dressed, and spend some time doing something that feeds my soul, my individual personality, then that’s a win for me. 

I feel like society has told us that we have to be happy and fulfilled all the time, these unrealistic conditions make us question our own sanity at times and we want to be cured if we are not living the dream or not happy. Now once again this is my experience where I feel that depression is not something you just get over or fix. 

The negative thoughts can be challenged though. The time limit is different, each and everyone’s symptoms and thoughts are different. But learning to take back control over this invader and silence its voice is what helped me.

Majority of the time I am OK (notice how I am not saying great), I feel happy with the way things are within my life, I am loved and appreciated by some and maybe disregarded by others. I am okay with that. I’m doing something that I love. Helping others and taking care of myself are my top priorities now. Every day I challenge a conditioned belief that no longer works or is helpful to me.

Image from build faith.org

There are days when I am not okay, when I wake up and straight away, I feel like I can’t take a deep breath but them days I am now kinder to myself. I accept that I am feeling low and there is a relief in that acceptance. The relief that it’s okay not to be okay all the time. It is okay to feel like you will burst into tears if someone asks you how you are, and the relief that I may not be perfect to the tamed demon in my mind, whether imperfect or perfect this is me. 

Now ask yourself, how kind are you to yourself?

Starting the Journey

The journey to therapy can be a difficult one. Who do you turn to and what is available out there? It can be difficult to sift through all the different options. In this article I would like to talk to you about the beginning of the counselling journey.

Self Help

Where to start? This is the question I guess we all face from time to time. You may have the feeling that something needs to change. You want to help yourself but don’t know how. That’s where a counsellor comes in.

Before counselling can begin, an assessment should take place to see if the counselling is right for you. It’s not about one size fits all. It’s more about what are you hoping to achieve, and what do you expect vs what can be offered.

Once an assessment takes place, it’s best to find out the counsellor can offer.

I offer Person – Centred therapy which is tried and tested and suites each unique individual.

Next Steps to Counselling – Contracting

What is contracting and what to expect?

So you have had your assessment or conversation with your counsellor and you are ready to start.

The first session can sometimes go by very quickly and some of the information that is provided may seem to have got lost in the minefield of words and nerves.

Normally contracting is something that the counsellor does at the beginning of the session. It’s a verbal contract with you and the counsellor, that allows the counsellor to set out boundaries and expectations from the get go. It sounds very formal and in some sense yes it is.

Below is an example of contracting I do with all my clients on the first session, which generally just takes a few minutes.

“Today’s session is 50 minutes long and before the end of the session I will let you know we are nearly coming to an end.

“Everything you do say within these sessions are confidential, the only time I would have to break confidentiality is if you mention harm to self or others, drug trafficking, money laundering or any acts of terrorism by law I would have to break confidentiality. In the event this does happen I will inform you first and will then raise this with my supervisor because I take my duty of care towards you seriously.”

Nearly done…

” I work following the BACP Ethical Framework and Payment has to be recieved 48 hours before the session and if payment isn’t received then the sadly the session cannot take place. Any questions?”

Now majority of the time since it is your first session you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information passed to you within a few mins. So take a moment and if something does come to you during or after the session then raise it with counsellor.

Some counsellors may send you the contract in document format so you can read it before the session and I personally like to send a contract before the session outlining these aspects as well as verbally confirming them within the session.

Within the written contract it should also include terms of agreement regarding any payment, frequency of the sessions and notice period of any cancellations.

Different forms of delivery

Due to recent COV-19 restrictions and for the safety of clients until further notice all forms of counselling are to be carried out remotely.

Counselling can take place over the telephone or via video link using zoom or teams.

Phone counselling does have its advantages where clients can save time and money from commuting to appointments. There is another degree of anonymity and sessions can take outside of your working hours.

What this does mean is that the counsellor will be extra vigilant in hearing you, not just your words but the silences too. This will show the counsellors listening skills where they are not reliant on facial expressions or body language to gain an understanding.

Whatever form you prefer please let the counsellor know and they should accommodate you to help form a better working relationship.

Once restrictions are lifted and face to face counselling can take place the counsellor will inform of any changes that may impact your sessions.