Accepting Change

“And once the storm is over
You won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.
You won’t even be sure, in fact, that the storm is over.
But one thing is certain.
When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm is all about.
 

                                                           taken from ‘Kafka on the Shore’, by Haruki Murakami

The strange times that we find ourselves in, during lockdown may feel like time has stood still, each day blending into the other and things beginning to feel stagnant and immobile.  The virus may feel as though it has taken control of our lives and all things, we thought we had control over, away from us. This feeling of having no control of our circumstances can be terrifying and give rise to despair, anxiety, and panic.

In moments like this it is difficult to practice mindfulness and using breathing techniques. However, if we remember that we do have control over our minds and bodies, and practice some of that control, by focussing on our breathing we are already starting to tell our brains that we are going to be OK.  The way to do this is easy.

The first step is to just concentrate on the breath as it comes into our bodies through our nostrils and leaves our bodies in the same way. The next step is to engage the left hemisphere of our brain by counting the breathes into our bodies from 1 to 7 and, then very gently counting the breathes out of our bodies up to 11. Just by doing this very simple technique can help us to begin to feel OK. 

How does this work?

The technique of focussing on our breath initially is the distraction from the negative thinking.  The use of numbers for counting enables the use of our left cognitive hemisphere of our brain.  This allows us to think logically and put things into perspective. The two together help to anchor us back into the present moment. Once we are in the present moment it is important to keep things in perspective.

Any form of change can be difficult, the old pair of slippers are always difficult to throw out, but sometimes it is necessary, and we must accept that a new pair will have to be used. We have had to try and master change from the day we were born! Imagine how many adjustments to our lives we have had to make up to this point. So, change is not alien to us, but it is uncomfortable.  Accepting that things are uncomfortable as we are learning new ways of being, can ease some of the anxiety.  What ever we are experiencing at this moment does not mean that we have lost control of our lives, but that we are adapting to a new world, a new way of being and once we master it, things will seem better and manageable.

I came across the above poem and it resonated with me as I thought of the present circumstances, we are all facing.  The poem for me is saying that with change we are becoming stronger, making us different to who we were yesterday. With this strength we are adapting to the different life changes we are having to continuously make each day. Change is happening all the time. We are becoming stronger all the time.

Understanding the trauma of Covid 19 on its victims

Understanding the trauma of Covid 19 on its victims

  Photograph by Jonathan Kelly

Covid 19 has presented many challenges to all of us. However, for some of us it has been a heart wrenching time when we have found that loved ones have fallen ill with this virus. The media coverage directs our first thoughts to the worst-case scenario, death, and not recovery. However, that is not the only possible outcome- not everyone dies, some people recover quite rapidly depending on their physical and emotional well-being. Many of you will understand the physical aspect of being able to recover from the virus but many will question the validity of the emotional impact or its importance.

From a personal perspective, the emotional impact is huge. The discovery that a loved one having the virus is not only heart wrenching, but it immediately leaves you overwhelmed with fear for losing them. The fear seems to wash over you, zapping all of your energy, and if you are aware of your body and how it reacts, you would notice that the fear penetrates every part of your body from the pit of your gut to your limbs. The feeling of stress and anxiety and hopelessness weighs heavy on your shoulders, immobilising you into inactivity.

Once you recognise that you are immersed in this trauma induced inactivity that you have a decision to make: one of staying in the trauma state and doing nothing or getting up and doing something useful. Perhaps of contacting the loved one, perhaps arranging to help with shopping, or having a friendly chat, giving encouragement, and laughter. For those of you who believe in the greater power offering prayers.

What just happened here?

Put simply I found myself in apposition where I was presented with such a terrifying experience, which activated that age-old survival instinct of flight, fight, or freeze that we are all prone to. I wondered if I felt such acute fear hearing about their situation, what might it be like for them as the victim of the virus? What must they have felt when they fell ill?

I can only imagine that it must have been similar. They would feel the impact of fear and anxiety and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Perhaps they would wonder at their life and all the things that they wished to do and the people that they wished to see and speak to. Maybe there are things they feel need to be ‘said’. A wonder if they can make it through. The fear immobilising them too.

Interestingly I was recently listening to Dr Bruce Lipton who reminded me of my training days and the impact of the survival response on our bodies. I thought Dr Lipton’s explanation more scientifically helpful.

When we receive shocking news, our brain sends out a signal to the rest of our body telling it we are in danger. Generally, the brain perceives stress, worry, anxiety and trauma all as dangerous and signals our body to shut down all unnecessary actions in order to conserve energy to face this danger (the shocking news). So, the heart starts pumping blood away from our skin and digestive organs into our muscles because our survival response will be either to run from the danger(flight), challenge the danger (fight), or to play dead (freeze). 

The flight fight freeze reaction is designed for action and survival. For someone suffering from the virus this initial response has limited the ability of the immune system to fight the virus and stop it spreading. In the longer term it could be counterproductive and inhibits their recovery, simply because the immune system is jeopardised as the brain is sending all the body’s resources to the muscles. So, the immune system being already stretched is further strained and struggling to fight the virus. I guess when things settle down a little, then the body would begin to respond with supporting the immune system. But somewhere emotionally some of the victims of the virus are compromised and may suffer trauma in terms of panic attacks or flash back. As for those of us who simply hear of the loved one contracting the virus, we also suffer trauma, and while activity and realistic perspectives can help mute the response, it may well be that the effects will continue long  after the virus has disappeared, haunting us all in some way.

It is both the initial shock and the longer-term emotional outcomes in response to trauma and fear that can leave us suffering and in distress. Fortunately, there are many ways of helping people recover from trauma. Using counselling approaches such as mindfulness, CBT, Dr David Moss’s rewind technique and even the rewind techniques adopted by Fusion and Human Givens too. EFT often can help certain people. It is really about the right technique for each individual client. For me, like many others, it is about recognising what is happening in our body, managing our response to it, that can help. It is about standing back a little and becoming aware that some of the fears surrounding the virus are unfounded and that sometimes common sense needs to prevail. For many us, it is important to remember that COVID19 poses no danger, and like the flu virus we can recover quite rapidly from it. This recognition and acceptance can help keep us calm when and if we are ever faced with the virus.

Grieving death and surviving

Losing someone can feel like your whole world has shattered and some how you have to learn to rebuild your life on your own, trying to fill in the missing pieces.

Recently I had a client who had lost her father 4 years ago. She had not really grieved for her father as she wanted to be the strong one for her mother and sister, only to find that she was becoming increasing angry and anxious that she was worried she couldn’t cope anymore. Within 6 sessions of therapy my client was able to move forward in her life, finally accepting her fathers death and overcoming her anxiety attacks. She shared a poem that she had written about her father below and sent me a testimonial of our work together.

Memories

The remnants of a Trinny accent that lingered in your voice
Vanilla Ice cream was always your favourite food of choice
The silly songs you sang to cheer me up when I was blue
How you exploded with earth-shaking sneezes each time you had the flu
 
Trying to keep up with you in the supermarket as you raced off with each long leg
Your noisy, animated conversations while on the phone to Greg
Every Sabbath morning listening to you singing falsetto in the shower
How you loved to talk all things maths for hour upon hour
 
You had a special type of humour that only dads can seem to master
Telling jokes that used to send yourself into peals of laughter
The undisputed best scrambled egg maker in the nation
Your potato salad and macaroni cheese were my culinary inspiration
 
A Gadget Man way before Stephen Fry – techno problems you never had
Without you Brother Gibbs would not have learned to use his infamous I-pad
A mathematical genius- the best I know by far
Even though I could done without the maths quizzes in the car
 
Through the successes and the failures you were always by my side.
You videotaped my graduation with such happiness and pride,
You were my own personal tutor who never failed to help me through
And each future milestone I hope to conquer I’ll do in memory of you.
 
Each and every moment I will treasure with all my heart
As life has been so very cruel to tear us far apart
When I feel your loss I can’t help but shed a tear
As it hurts to lose someone you love who was once so near
 
But I have a blessed hope and I today I testify,
That soon you will awaken as Christ Jesus bursts through the sky.
You’re the first face I will look for as I cross that glassy sea
And we can spend always together with Him for all eternity
 
So this tribute is not to say goodbye but to say I’ll see you soon
Although to lose you so early was inopportune
Knowing we’ll meet again makes my heart so glad
To others you were Neil…
but to me you were simply… Dad.

Her testimonial:

“Before I had counselling sessions with Satya, I had been struggling for over four years. 3 family members had passed away, including my father, and I was finding it difficult to cope with my grief and increasing levels of anxiety.
 
Satya was so helpful from the very started. Recognising my urgency for support, she booked me in for an appointment the day after I first called.
 
Before working with Satya I contacted other bereavement services – but they felt impersonal. However, my sessions with Satya were different. She listened and remembered, which made me feel like my grief was acknowledged and that I was recognised as an individual.
 
I especially loved the way that Satya incorporated my faith into my sessions (as it is a really important part of my life). This again helped to make the sessions feel more personal.
 
The help and support I received from Satya has been invaluable. The coping mechanisms and techniques she shared have helped me in all aspects of my life and have significantly reduced my anxiety.
 
Thanks Satya! “

Illustration by http://cargocollective.com/tonyparkash

Mental Health

The world has become crazy about mental health. In fact since the Royals raised awareness of mental health issues last year, it is quite the buzz word on everyone’s lips.

So what does mental health mean to many of us?

For my part I believe for many of us it is the impact of our emotional well being on our mind and our physical health, because some of our emotional needs are not being met. (Human Givens)

You may ask what these needs are and how they could affect us? Well unmet emotional needs can cause a whole conundrum of problems within us making us feel as though we can’t cope leading us to feel anxious and stressed making us physically exhausted, irritable and angry. We may be bullied which leads us to have low self esteem and lack confidence. Loss whether it is a broken relationship or death can leave people devastated with pain, fear and a host of insecurities shackling them down in that dark place. Confusions and having no direction in life can bring about its own problems too, raising feelings of inadequacy, demotivating us. Many of these problems can make us become isolated and depressed and change itself can become scary and difficult to deal with causing resistance, upset and the list goes on and on…..

Counselling and coaching fused together can help people to work through their problems helping them to move forward with reachable personalised goals and targets.