Counselling in Edinburgh

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Albert Einstein

Writer’s Block

How to Cure Writer’s Block

By Annie Hay

Many of us who have experienced Writer’s Block will recognise the feeling of frustration coupled with self-recrimination. The internal nagging voice which says, “Do I have anything of worth to say?” or “Will it be good enough?” stops us in our tracks. The accompanying feeling of anxiety, agitation and self-doubt can be debilitating.

A Personal Journey

Writers block can be agonizing for people who experience it, students, researchers professional and amateur writers alike. However it is has other widespread negative consequences.

Speaking from a first hand perspective, there are many things I would like to have expressed but hit a wall instead. I hate to think now of the ideas and  projects that have remained stuck, wasted. Instead, I have cleaned the fridge, weeded the garden, rearranged the furniture and all manner of “crucial” tasks which suddenly become much more important. Frustratingly, my procrastinations have been costly. A recent idea for a business development was scuppered by someone with a similar idea, who had not been bogged down by wanting to get the text “just right”.

 

From a Psychotherapy Perspective

It is unfortunate that so many people live with these life-limiting problems when they can be quite easily and effectively worked through. From a psychotherapy perspective, different factors may be at play. One such factor is grandiosity where we purposefully exaggerate some aspect of reality, and thought processes where the details required to define the problem are ignored.

Another factor is driver behaviour where the “Be Perfect” driver raises internal demands “to get it right” before risking committing to paper. Failure to be perfect can lead to extreme anxiety.

Procrastination, where we protect against the fear of “not knowing enough yet” by endlessly drawing out the planning process, taking copious notes, and allowing the project to become so out of hand that it never happens, is also often present

Revealing our ideas can be exposing, leading to feelings of shame and a need to hide or escape.

Psychotherapy addresses the feelings of threat and the underlying conflict which have been stirred up at an unconscious level.

 

How Writer’s Block can be Tackled

For those of us affected by writer’s block or other forms of creative block, there are several ways we can help ourselves.

  • We can give ourselves permission to be imperfect. Perfection is the enemy of creativity.
  • We can learn to enjoy the ebb and flow of our activity, enjoying the process, rather than focussing entirely on the end product.
  • We can release the tension in our minds by changing focus, exercise, play an instrument, listen to music, make a jigsaw.
  • Explore your strengths and your vulnerabilities. Our inner voices are often at the root of creativity. By listening to the creative force of our inner Child, we can experiment with playfulness and pleasure, allowing for mess and chaos. It is important to not always get it all right or to be perfect.
  • Start to write again. You will find new energy. Ideas which previously were held back as if in a mist will start to come to the fore. Experiment. Just put something down on paper. While the underlying conflict may be heightened by the prospect of putting ideas on paper, the very act of writing can be cathartic. Writing is really a healing process.

 

As a psychotherapist and counsellor, I have met many people who get stuck in the process of putting thoughts and ideas onto paper or canvas. Meaningful and relevant work get blocked in their heads, held back by psychological issues. With help this can become unblocked.

Writer’s Block is responsible for the loss of many new ideas and potential developments. The loss of their creative energy is our loss.

 

SAD

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), Winter BluesWhat to do about winter depression

Was Monday 16th January 2012 the gloomiest day of the year for you?

Scientists at Cardiff University designated the third Monday of January “the saddest day of the year”.

They say at this time of year weather conditions are bleak, Christmas is over, credit card bills are coming in, you’re back at work and there’s not another holiday for months, you’ve put on weight, motivation is low and you’re tired. Maybe more than that, you feel depressed.

When the sky is blue, the sun is shining and the light is bright, many of us feel happy and energetic. When it’s dark and gloomy, the converse applies and we feel unhappy and lethargic. This is quite normal, but for one in ten of us, the situation is more serious and we may be suffering from SAD or winter depression.

Counselling for SAD, Winter Blues

SAD  is a type of depression which is affected by the season. As the name implies, winter blues is common in the winter months when there are fewer daylight hours and light intensity is less.

Light plays an important part in regulating physiological and psychological systems. When light hits the retina, messages are sent to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates sleep, appetite, sex drive, body temperature and mood. In the winter when there is less light, these activities can slow down.

It is normal to want to sleep more in the darker, colder months. It is also normal to feel less energetic and a bit low when the skies are grey and the days are short. Some of us wish we could just hibernate and wake up in the spring.

Psychotherapy for SAD, Winter Blues 

However, some of us seem to need more light and are likely to develop SAD. It is estimated that around 10% of the people of Northern Europe have SAD symptoms. They will notice changes in their mood such as sadness, anxiety or irritability. They notice changes in their behaviour such as a tendency to eat more and consequently put on weight. Their energy is low and they feel depressed. These symptoms recur regularly each winter. Sometimes SAD may have been triggered by life events such as serious illness, bereavement or hormone imbalance following miscarriage or childbirth.

How to beat SAD

There are however several things however that you can do to help yourself overcome winter blues:

exercise for beating seasonal affective disorder

Photo by @lux&pixel

 

 

 

 

  • Exercise. There is a wealth of evidence that shows there is a strong link between good mental health and physical activity. (See http://www.changefitness.co.uk for fitness advice and training, and  http://www.coredynamix.co.uk :  combined personal fitness training and psychotherapy for overall wellbeing).
  • Eat well. Keep to healthy eating, balancing carbohydrate with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Light therapy is useful in tackling SAD. Get outside in the natural light as much as possible. Keep warm.
  • Avoid stressful situations. Your body is less able to tolerate pressure in winter months.
  • Be kind to yourself. Use mindfulness to relax and strengthen your coping mechanisms to combat winter blues.
  • Get enough sleep
  • See people. Socialise with friends and family.
  • Be a resource yourself. Understanding and helping others improves your emotional health.
  • See a psychotherapist or counsellor. There may be underlying factors contributing to SAD which you can do something about with the help of someone who knows about the condition
Counselling and Psychotherapy for SAD/Winter Blues