Counselling in the Real World...
Bank Holidays can be amazing. But often they’re not. Sometimes we look forward to them so much that they can’t possible live up to our expectations... And sometimes we feel sure they’re going to be rubbish before they even happen... and then they become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Usually it all comes down to where we are as a whole, in our lives. Occasionally a Bank Holiday can be an oasis in a desert of low mood but often it feels like a microcosm of life in general. For example, if life is generally over-busy and we never get a minute to ourselves then fitting in going away for the weekend can be the last straw. If, on the other hand, we find ourselves alone for the Bank Holiday weekend, just like every other weekend, then we can feel life is intolerably lonely and that we are rejected, unpopular or even unloveable.
Every Bank Holiday weekend has its ups and downs and often encompasses a point at which we reflect on how we got to where we are in life. And if that’s not where we want to be then we may end up feeling intensely sad or frustrated... Maybe we may feel a sense of loss for someone or something gone forever. Or perhaps we feel lost or defeated, wondering how we can ever get through our current situation, or how we can ever change things for the better.
Identifying that we feel overwhelmed can be a good starting point for counselling. Working with a neutral therapist in a safe, confidential setting can help us to get things into perspective, to rebuild our sense of self and to regain confidence. Once we take care of ourselves and rebuild our emotional reserves, it becomes achievable to work out how we can move forward in life, avoiding past mistakes. We can learn about ourselves and what we really need to be in good place, which in turn can inform our decisions and help us - and those we support - to get onto a positive, healthy path through life. So if a Bank Holiday weekend gives us an important chance to look in our emotional mirror then it need not be the end of the world, in actual fact it can be the start of a whole new era...
This can be a strange time of year if you’re young...
You might have worked really hard all year, and your teachers may have said you’re definitely on track for great exam results... and then the world has fallen in on you... you haven’t got ‘the grades that matter’.
Or you might not have lifted a finger all year, believing there was no point... and now you don’t know who you are or where you’re going... you haven’t passed ‘the exams that mattered’.
Or you might have got the best exam results in the world, shocked even yourself, and now you have to leave home and go and live in some other city miles away from everyone you know, and from your family... and now you’re not even sure you want to...
So Exam Results really are the Game Changer.
You might have been waiting forever to leave home and go to uni and now your dream is shattered. You have to search desperately for somewhere that’ll have you with your exam results. But what’s the point of doing a degree in the back of beyond anyway...?
Your parents might be mad at you about your exam results. More mad than you’ve ever seen them before. It may feel scary that they’re not on your side.
It may feel scary that you can’t keep going to school anymore.
Scary that you can’t go to the same place your mates are going.
It may feel scary that you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life.
Scary that you thought you did and now you’re not sure...
You may feel your life is over, before it’s even started. This isn’t true but it may feel like that.
So what can you do about Exam Results?
And why am I talking about this on a Counselling Blog...?
Well my point is that Counselling can be really useful in a situation like this -
- The counsellor is a ‘neutral’ person. They’re not your Mum or your Dad or your teacher. The counsellor accepts you for who you are and doesn’t judge you for your Exam Results... or for anything else.
- The counsellor can support you to accept and come to terms with what’s happened. That might seem impossible now but it can be done.
- The counsellor can help you to get things into perspective. This might seem like the end of the world right now but it’s tiny compared to your whole life and everything you’re going to do in it...
- The counsellor will support you to look at yourself and work out who you really are, and to work out what you really want out of life, what makes you happy and what really doesn’t.
- The counsellor will support you to build a new image of yourself and to feel confident about yourself.
- The counsellor can support you to evaluate the choices that you have here and now.
When we’re feeling really anxious or sad, sometimes we need a space to take all our worries and fear and sadness so that we can put them down for a while. We need someone to listen while we get it all out. We need to find out who we are before we can sort anything out and move on...
After Exam Results, Counselling is that space.
As a result of recent events in Manchester and London, I have been asked a number of questions about trauma. If you have questions then I hope this will help answer them -
© 2017 Pam Arland
A traumatic event may be an act of terrorism or violence, a disaster or an accident.
A traumatic event often causes moderate to severe stress reactions.
Traumatic events can affect survivors, rescue workers, family members, friends, colleagues and witnesses.
Traumatic events can also affect individuals who see them on television, hear about them on the radio or from someone involved, or read about them on social media or in the press.
Whatever traumatic event has taken place, each individual will have their own individual reaction to it. And each individual reaction will be unique.
How do we usually react to trauma?
After a traumatic event we often look at life in a slightly different way. Our perspective, assumptions and expectations of life are changed. Typically we feel shocked, saddened and vulnerable.
The following reactions are ALL usual and as individuals we may experience some or all of these reactions.
*shock *numbness/ feeling nothing *anxiety *depression *sadness
*guilt for surviving/surviving better *fear of something else happening
*fear of returning to the place *fear of harm to self and loved ones *fear of being alone
*fear of having to leave our family *not knowing what we feel *feeling lost
*feeling abandoned *feeling overwhelmed
*poor concentration *difficulty making decisions *confusion *memory loss
*shortened attention span *unwanted memories *indecisiveness
*irritability *getting into arguments *increased/decreased eating
*inappropriate humour *loss of interest in everyday life *withdrawal
* change in sexual interest *suspicion *increased use of nicotine, alcohol or drugs
*headaches *listlessness/feeling tired *nausea *loss of appetite *edginess
*stomach pains *pounding heart *tremors *disturbed sleep
*nightmares *increased sensitivity to noise or people *rapid breathing
*tightness in the chest *upsetting thoughts *tightness in the chest
Helping ourselves to recover
Our reactions to trauma are unique. My reaction will be different to yours and that is OK.
Our reactions result from our backgrounds and experience of life so far.
It is helpful to give yourself permission to NOT feel OK.
Difficult feelings are your body’s way of helping you to accept and adjust to what has happened so you can develop a new view of the world and move forward.
It is helpful to have time to focus on relaxing. Often we need an absorbing activity to help us do this. Different activities work for different people so it’s helpful to find out what works for you e.g. reading, watching a comedy on TV, sorting the washing.
It is helpful to aim for a balance of resting, nourishment and exercise. If we can’t be bothered with anything else or can’t face life, we can care for ourselves by setting minimum daily goals e.g. have a 10 minute nap on the sofa, eat a banana, walk 10 minutes to the corner shop. We can build our goals up as we recover.
It is helpful to make as many decisions as possible because they give us a sense of control over our lives. This is something we often feel we have lost following a traumatic incident. So starting small is helpful e.g. have a boiled egg or cereal for breakfast? wear the blue T-shirt or the green one?
It is helpful to take more care than usual both around the house e.g. cooking on the hob and
out-and-about e.g. driving to work. We are much more likely to have an accident when we are experiencing trauma.
It can be helpful to identify someone in your life who is a good listener and doesn’t make judgements. Most people are pleased to be able to offer support if asked, so this can be an important source of support going forward.
It can be helpful to keep a journal.
It’s OK to cry, in fact it’s good for our healing.
It can be helpful to share feelings with others affected and to take an interest in their progress.
If at all possible, we are better to avoid drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and coffee.
It is helpful that we avoid media coverage of what has happened.
It is not generally a good idea for us to make big life changes or snap decisions until we are fully recovered.
When we need outside help
Sometimes we experience trauma which is too severe for us to cope with alone. If this happens, we need to contact a healthcare professional. So how do we identify that we, or someone we know, is at this point?
*inability to care for self or children e.g. not getting out of bed, not washing for days on end, not feeding the children
*ongoing feelings of numbness, anxiety, confusion, exhaustion
*low mood continuing after 2 weeks
*ongoing extreme emotional reactions
*ongoing poor sleeping pattern
*excessive use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes
*thoughts of suicide
*ongoing making mistakes or having accidents
*realising work performance and/or relationships are suffering
*wanting to share emotions and not having anyone to do that with