Nature Cure

I have stolen the title of this blog from the author Richard Mabey, who wrote his book of the same name after his recovery from clinical depression, describing how his absorption with nature helped him begin to turn the tide of his debilitating illness.  The reviews of his book are mixed – some people loved his descriptions of re-connection with the natural world, whilst others said it simplified depression and recovery.  However, one thing is clear different things work for different people and psychologists know of research that shows  connecting with nature, can release the “feel-good” hormones and chemicals, such as dopamine, which protects against depression. Let’s spread the knowledge around, you never know who might benefit! 

It has also recently been proven that smelling and looking at certain plants lowers blood pressure, so really, whatever connection we can find with nature surely has to be for the good. 

There are new buzz words for this connection which you may have heard of: “Awe Walks” and “Forest Bathing”.  Don’t be put off by either title – they are simply ways of trying to explain to an increasingly sterile and insulated society how to appreciate and gain from the natural world. 

I don’t have to remind you that we are now in another lockdown and some of you might feel that it is impossible at this present time to have that connection – after all, you are now asked to stay at home and only go out for essentials, work or exercise.  Great if you have a garden, or live in a rural area so are able to step straight out into open countryside, but what happens if you live in a town or city?  How can you connect with nature – and anyway, what do we mean by it? 

Regardless of where you live, nature is never far away.  If you live in a city, there will be a park within walking distance, or a river.  If you’ve been flooded it may all look like mud rather than grass but get your wellies on and go and look for signs of spring. You’ll be surprised by what you’ll see you what you might see whilst walking alongside a city riverbank; someone posted a photograph of an otter swimming, while a friend of mine saw kingfishers nesting in the overflow pipes above the river in a rather run-down area of Sheffield last year.  London parks are a haven for birds and all cities have various birds roosting on their buildings and trees.  A project in Edinburgh would normally have bird watching walks as part of their mental health schemes. Or if you have a garden, put up a few bird feeders and watch the different species swooping in to feed – Pleasure comes from tiny things. To get the mental benefit you have to consciously stop to notice things, so set an alarm on your phone so when it rings, it becomes your reminder to look out the window, go for a walk, or simply check how your houseplants are doing. 

Use your ears – As the day is beginning to lengthen again birdsong is more noticeable – try tuning in to the soundscape in your locality, it may be more interesting than you realise.  

Among the easiest of plants to grow from seed in pots are Nasturtiums, Calendula, (Pot Marigold) and Rocket. It’s something you can do in your own time, or if you have young children maybe they can ‘help’! You can start them indoors and plant out once frosts are over, or simply plant outside later as the weather warms.  Nasturtium leaves and Rocket can be picked and eaten straight from the plant and provide a bit of vitamin C – rich zing to any day, while Marigold leaves have a soothing aroma.  The flowers of all three can also be added to cooking. 

Plants attract all kinds of interesting and beneficial insects, such as bumble bees and hoverflies.   There is a real satisfaction in growing things from seed (plus it’s more economical) and there are many more kinds of edible or aromatic plants that are not difficult to get going.  Have a browse online.  Seeds are easily delivered by post, too.  

If you are home-schooling at present, get a routine in place that your children go outside at the end of their day.  Young children will benefit by letting off steam – you can even help their education by giving them a good old-fashioned nature walk!  Even a walk along urban streets can be educational – you can point out the different buildings, look at the different trees growing over neighbouring walls, look at the history and geography around you.  It may surprise you what you see when you take time to look.  Equally, try to encourage older children / teenagers to go out with you too – they need something to relieve the intensity of online learning.  

Anyone suffering from anxiety and depression may think, that this blog simplifies the depth and seriousness of these conditions – it’s not meant to, it is meant as suggestions to give a little light relief and to offer stepping stones of ways to improve your day – a stone which you can securely build upon to help you and others. 

Click here for more information on Richard Mabey’s book: Nature Cure: Mabey, Richard: 9780099531821: Books 

If you feel you would benefit from some professional help, please contact us. We’re working online; for a confidential chat on how we can help longer term, call Adriana directly on +447890 667103 or our office 01625 786026. Email [email protected] 

Tiny tips for living a fuller, happier life! 

Loneliness at Christmas

It is thought amongst the general public that suicide rates rise around Christmas time, however, statistics show this is not necessarily the case. Having lost a friend this way some years ago, it was hard not to think that the time of year played a part, but actually, his decision just happened to coincide with Christmas, as we later found out. His issues were complex and deeply embedded and whilst he could possibly have been helped, it seemed he had reached a point where he didn’t want to be. However, it is known that people do get depressed and lonely at Christmas, and whilst it may not lead them down the route our friend took, it can make for a miserable time. 

It may not be the obvious person who is struggling with Christmas. We often think of older people who are left on their own, but it could be a newly separated younger person, someone who has been on their own for a number of years and has reached a point where they find their resilience waning, or even a teenager who feels their family no longer understands them. Of course, that single person may not be lonely and be quite enjoying the time alone, but in contrast, the person with the big happy family may be the one who actually might need support – how do we really know? An elderly, seemingly happily-married couple may have age-related issues, leaving one half as the carer, so what you see on the surface may not be the whole story. Loneliness can strike anyone at anytime. This year it is likely that a number of people who would normally visit their families might not be able to do so, either because of the government rules, or because they chose not to take the risk. 

What can we do to help? 

Well, it is difficult if visits are not allowed, but if you do know of someone who is on their own, make sure you keep an eye out for them. Send them a Christmas card and perhaps write a special message in it – telling them that they can call you if they want a chat. Let it be known by whatever means, you are available to talk at any time. Or, you could just ring them at random. 

If it is allowable, try and tempt them out for a walk, or invite them for a cup of tea – something simple to break up the long hours over the festive period may be just the boost they need. 

If your friend or relative lives locally to you, you could take them some mince pies or home-made goodies – leave them on the doorstep if you aren’t able to mix with them – or, share them on the yard outside; better still, take some mulled wine to share that way – if you are outside, it will help to keep you warm! 

Some of these things may feel awkward as we are used to being in our own whirl at Christmas and it is not always easy to make that first step, but take a moment to think how it would feel to have that visit, phone call or message if you were in the same boat as someone whom you suspect is finding it tough at the moment. It is not a long-term solution, but could help to lift a lonely person’s spirit. 

What if you dread Christmas? 

If you are one of those people who really don’t like Christmas because it seems like everyone else is having a good time and you are not, it can be so hard to get through this time of year. 

The most important thing is not to dwell on it. A boat can be surrounded by water, but it will not sink unless water gets in…be that watertight boat and surround yourself with things that are important to you. It may seem hard, but it will help these days be less difficult. Give some structure to your day and set yourself 5 things to achieve on a daily basis. 

If you have a particular hobby and are still able to partake in it, don’t stop just because it is Christmas. Immerse yourself in what you normally find interesting. 

Put your favourite music on, watch your favourite film or treat yourself to a good book. In fact, treat yourself to something you’d really enjoy but wouldn’t normally buy – a new item of clothing, some expensive chocolates, new food items or that nice bottle of wine you have always fancied but thought too extravagant. 

If the weather is reasonable, make yourself go outside. Walking is a great way of relieving stress and lifting the spirits. You don’t have to go far, but the fresh air will help. Be kind to yourself and remember it is Winter, so plan carefully if you do decide on a longer walk than normal. If you have a garden, maybe it’s time to go and chop down the dead branches and rake those leaves. Any physical activity will release endorphins to make you feel better. 

Do you know anyone else who might also be lonely? Is there another single person close by (or someone you can phone) who you think might benefit from one of the things we have mentioned above? This could not only help you realise that you are not alone in your loneliness, but be of mutual benefit to you both. 

Meditation is also a wonderful self-help tool. You don’t have to tie your legs into impossible yoga positions or think this is anything complicated. It is the exact opposite – just set aside some time in the day when you know you won’t be disturbed and spend 20 minutes sitting comfortably, concentrate on breathing deeply and try to empty your mind. Don’t panic if you find it hard to stop your mind wandering, just simply bring it back to concentrating on your breathing and you will soon get used to it. 

There are a lot of easy tips online to get your started, (and of course, some more in-depth websites), but for a simple relaxation technique, just do the basics. 

One really helpful basic guide is by author Matthew Johnstone. There is a link to a youtube video and to his book below. If you would rather have a paper copy, the book “Quiet the Mind” is widely available.

If you want to “quiet the mind” in a different way – watching birds in the garden is wonderfully meditative. I discovered this whilst doing “The Big Garden Birdwatch” each year in January – it is so relaxing that it is hard to stop after the designated hour. However, you don’t have to partake in this event to benefit, just put out some feeders (it may be up a day or two before the birds discover them) then spend as long as you like watching the different species arrive. 

Finally, if things really do get too much for you this Christmas, remember the Samaritans are there 24 hours a day 365 days per year – their free phone number is : 116 123 

If you are struggling with isolation or loneliness, we can help too. We’re working online; for a confidential chat on how we can help longer term, call Adriana directly on +447890 667103 or our office 01625 786026. Email [email protected]. 

Live Life Not Strife. 

Tiny tips for living a fuller, happier life! 

In business? Time to survive!

Whether you have a small or medium sized business chances are you are dealing with a situation you’ve not had experience of before. Practically speaking as a small business owner, you need to focus on tasks that generate cash flow, that’s the only way to keep your business on track isn’t it? You and I know that how those tasks are executed is the difference between your business thriving or barely surviving in these difficult times. 

Mindset is the invisible key to resilience in hard times. What do I mean by mindset? We all think that what we can’t see doesn’t have a strong effect on us, however let me give you an example as to how mindset affects us. One scenario could be that the work flow in the business has reduced to 35% and you’ve reached a tipping point, you know it’s not sustainable. What do you do? You have to shed staff, this leads you into another dilemma. What other fixed costs can you shed before looking at staff? 

There’s no guarantee there will be a vaccine next summer. So, if your work can be done remotely, is now the time to consider a new way of working post covid 19? You need to put things in place now that are crisis critical. Yet these will also form the foundations of how your business will be conducted in the future. What is it you can do now to keep the business afloat and strengthen the business going forward? One thing is reduce fixed costs. Why would you use an office and risk a small group of employees being off ill because of a close confirmed contact. Why risk the disruption to your business? Put more clearly, how much is to going to cost you if some of your team members have to isolate for 14 days? What if 2 or 3 of them become ill? How will that impact your finances when they can’t work from home due to illness? One critical psychological effect of not getting this right is: 

Increased anxiety in the workforce. The part of the brain that responds to perceived and actual threat is generally going to be on alert for everybody during this pandemic. The consequence of this is that the more often our brain is scanning for threat, the less capable we are on focussing on other things. That’s because the part of the brain that scans is on hyper alert, rather than allowing us to use more complex problem-solving areas that require concentration and focus. Click here to understand how the brain works:

Those owner/managers who believe people can only work in a working environment might actually have a trust issue! Trust isn’t a blind thing, it’s based on mutual experiences. Which means that we might trust one situation or person in a given situation more than another. However, if you have a blanket reaction that says “I don’t trust employees unless I see them in front of me!” the way they react, will be a reflection of your belief in them.  

Trust is one of the earliest building blocks of our personality. Before the age of 3 we have all developed a sense of whether the world is generally safe or unsafe. This blueprint forms part of our unconscious beliefs and our conscious thoughts and actions when we respond as adults to people and situations. Those employers who have been able to use the more complex decision-making part of their brain during this pandemic, have behaved in ways that help their employees, to know they are trusted, i.e. to work remotely. Others are getting a completely different message when they are being told to go into the work despite there not being a need.  

What message are you giving your staff? 

If you don’t trust your staff, these might be the consequences: resentment, feeling under-valued, feeling unable to challenge, feeling unsafe in their role, etc. These are all things that activate the ‘threat alert’ part of the brain (amygdala) and hinder staff from thinking clearly, staying focussed and coming up with creative ideas. This can cause a breakdown in the psychological contract between an employee and their employer, the consequence of this is that your best people become a ‘flight risk’. Can you afford to lose them when you most need them? Which looks like now, but actually is going to be when we all come out of this pandemic when jobs with competitors will be on the market. 

If your management style is based on trusting your employees, in the main, people respect your trust of them and feel safe enough to know that everybody is in this together. Even though people are working remotely, that trust, pulls a team together. It also promotes loyalty and cohesion, as you know both are important for productivity. It reduces the risk of your best employees not looking to your competitors in 6 months’ time. 

However, if you have to let somebody go, be alert to the business value of what you’re letting go. If a newer person in your business brings more value at this particular point in time than a more established employee, who does it make sense to let go of? 

You could take pro-active steps to talk to your staff about reducing time instead of losing all their skills. At times like this, if people can manage financially to be put on 70% it will improve staff morale to keep everyone on a 3.5/4 day week rather than a 5 day a week. Be present (don’t do this by email) spend time explaining to staff why you’re doing this and what the costs to individuals and the business will be if you don’t. Be clear that you’re all in it together, for example you might be taking a cut in salary as well and that this is about keeping people in jobs and the business sustained. Then, you have to give them an option to stay or not under the new circumstances. Depending on what you say and crucially, how you say it, your employees will gain a feeling of team solidarity. Make sure there’s time for questions and answers, be alert to the power imbalance in the employer/employee relationship. A great employer knows when to minimise the imbalance psychologically and build team strength, now is one of those times. 

If you’re all working from home, make a point of treating this as a project management exercise and organise virtual team meetings at least once a week. E.g. Monday morning meetings help employees focus on the tasks for the new week. It also helps them to bookmark their work time from their personal time. Keep it focussed but informal and invite the team to voice ideas about what is or isn’t working from their perspective. It also gives you an opportunity to boost morale for the forthcoming week and/or make Friday lunchtime meetings an acknowledgment of progress, and plan together for the following week.  

We mentor business owners and managers to help them deal specifically with their own mindset and to manage the challenges of how fear can stop their staff from thinking and being productive. 

We have a free 30-minute video course you can watch by clicking the following link: 

We have been working remotely since March with private consultations via Skype or Zoom, to find out how we can help you, email us [email protected] or call us for a confidential chat on 01625 786026. You can also call Adriana directly on +447980 667103.  

Tiny tips for living a fuller, happier life! 

BE POSITIVE – We’ve got your back

We’re dealing with many different challenges as we face a possible second wave, so let’s brace ourselves for what comes next! 

The problems we’ve already faced have been tough! However, you can pat yourself on the back for what you’ve achieved. There’s a lot of debate about what seems to make to sense and what doesn’t. We’re not here to get into that debate, we’re just going to offer you some tips, to help you in your day to day life. 

We know now we’re in this for the long haul, there’s no getting away from it, so how do we keep ourselves positive throughout these difficult times for ourselves and our families?  

The frequent changes to the rules require us to alter our mindset and daily routines with each new announcement, and to put in place any number of alternative arrangements; for our work, the way we shop, the way we socialise, the way we take our children to school. 

Let’s review coping strategies that help us respond in a fluid and adaptable way. We are constantly on our guard for the next local lockdown or indeed stricter, national measures. This can lead us to feeling stressed, anxious, upset, irritated or emotional. 

What you’re feeling is completely normal and hundreds of thousands of us are experiencing the same emotions. 

Given our many years’ experience of helping people through anxiety we want to help you understand what’s happening in your mind and give you some practical strategies to use on a daily basis that will help you feel in control. 

Anxiety needn’t look like you’re sitting in a corner shaking – in fact that’s more likely to be fear than anxiety. When we feel anxious, we can get irritated very quickly, not pay attention to what somebody is saying, not feel able to concentrate very well, we can have delicate stomachs, feel on edge, not be able to fall asleep because of thoughts whirling around your mind or you could find yourself waking up and find it difficult to get back to sleep again.  

You may find it hard to relax, hard to sit and read a book, you might not be able to follow a storyline when you’re watching TV, you may find yourself snapping at others. Again, all these things can show you when the mind is in a different place, it’s natural to feel anxious when things feel out of control. 

Let’s break it down and really get back to basics. We fundamentally need 5 things: clean air, water, food, sleep and shelter. If we focus on these things primarily and how we can improve on them in our daily lives by making small changes then we will not only feel as if we are surviving but thriving. 

Clean air – Throw your windows open, even if it’s chilly outside. Clean air will refresh the room, making you feel invigorated as it reduces the number of allergens in your home and will help anybody who has allergies. 

Spend a couple of minutes breathing in the fresh air. We have talked about the benefits of breathing exercises many times before, but it is a quick and easy way of learning to relax and one that we advise many of our clients to do. 

Click here for more information:

Water – OK so not all of us enjoy drinking plain water, but let’s talk about increasing our hydration to help us feel enlivened and restore our bodies natural balance. Did you know our bodies are made up of at least 70% water? The Eatwell Guide says that we should drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day – if you really don’t like drinking water, start by adding one glass of water a day, add sliced lemon or cucumber, mint whatever you like or if you can, buy a water filter. Then see if you can increase it! If you drink a lot of sugary drinks, consider swapping 50% per day to something without sugar. We can easily become addicted to sugar and it’s really not good for us!

Food – Do you get your 5 a day? Your answer might be does anyone? Did you know that optimum health requires you to eat 10 a day? 

There are some easy ways you can up your quota by making some swaps into your daily life.  

  • A smoothie with breakfast. 
  • Mid-morning go for a piece of fruit or carrot sticks. 
  • A glass of fresh juice with lunch. 
  • Go for a meat-free dinner at least once a week, not only will you be increasing your vitamin intake; you’ll feel good in the knowledge that you are helping to reduce your carbon footprint! It can be quicker and easier than you might think – many ‘no-fuss easy vegetarian’ recipes are available for free on the internet. Or anyone can make a salad! 

Sleep – The reality is that we might all benefit from more sleep. Many different factors affect our sleep patterns: shift work, noisy neighbours, stress/anxiety related issues. However, there are ways which you can improve your chances of sleeping well. These include creating a calm and quiet bedroom, evening routines, not drinking caffeine after lunch and not looking at a bright screen at least an hour before you go to bed which all aid a restful night’s sleep. This is what we call sleep hygiene. Click here for more information:

Shelter – Our homes are our sanctuary but when we have to be in them more often than not, you can start to feel as if you’re getting cabin-fever! 

What can you do to give your home a little TLC which in turn will enrich your happiness and relaxation?  

  • De-cluttering can help to achieve a calmer environment. If you have too much ‘stuff’ around you it can cause you to feel stressed out without you realising. It may overwhelm your senses which leads you to feeling as if you can’t concentrate. Clear an area of your living room or bedroom, even if it’s solely clearing the coffee table! You will feel as if you can think more clearly, start today! 
  • Give everyone in the family their own tasks to help keep the house tidy, if everyone buys into helping each other out, it creates more family harmony and you will all feel more organised! 

If your circumstances change, don’t put your head in the sand, go and see if you can get a mortgage holiday or if renting, find out what your rights are during this period.

Be Thankful! 

Many of us are lucky to have the lifestyles we do and although we may not have the extra leisure/social activities as we did previously. Let’s take stock and be thankful for what we have. 

Being thankful is another way you can increase your level of happiness in easy steps. For instance, take a moment before you go to bed to think of 3 things you can be thankful for from your day: it could be that you enjoyed a healthy lunch, or you had a quick kick about with kids in the garden or simply that you got chance to listen to a podcast! 

If you’re finding things difficult and would like to feel happier in your life, we can help. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026/+447980 667103 or email [email protected] 

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Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life!

Returning to work? Tiny tips to keep you on track.

As the furlough scheme winds down, many employers are now asking their employees to return to work. Whether this is now working from home, which in itself can present complications or returning to the workplace. After all this time, either can cause you to feel stressed out.  

Whether you’ve loved being away from the workplace or not, you’ve had to create new routines and now will have to change again. You could be negotiating with your workplace or you may have been informed that you need to return, all of these changes require you to adapt and be flexible. Being flexible is difficult but not impossible when you are in a climate of fear. You might be dreading the thought of having to be up and out at a particular time every day again, the school-run, meetings, dealing with new Covid secure procedures or if your workplace will be safe? You might feel you have lost your confidence which in itself is causing you sleepless nights. These are completely natural concerns and will undoubtably cause some anxiety.  

 The thought of getting back to work can be challenging, maybe you are trying not to think too deeply about it. You might have a physical response to this, it is important to address it to enable you to get things back in control.  

There are many different ways in which these feelings can present themselves: having trouble sleeping; dreading certain situations; feeling sick; stomach ache; increased heart-rate; not being to focus etc. For example, if you’re walking down the road and you realise, you’re not taking notice of any of your surroundings or if you’ve driven home but with no memory of having got there, this may be a sign of stress. 

There are ways in which you can help yourself, to regain some calmness before it manifests into something deeper. 

  • Breathe. We are keen believers at Live Life that breathing is something that we all should take more time to practice! This may seem ironic as breathing is what we do all the time, however research tells us there’s a better way to breathe. If you are stressed or anxious your breathing becomes shallower, this sends an alarm signal to the brain which in turn releases ‘fight or flight’ hormones causing your heart rate to increase and making you feel anxious. It is a cycle you can break by taking 5 minutes to concentrate on your breathing, click here for more information  If you have an iPhone you can set it to notify you 2 or 3 times a day to remind you to breathe, some of our clients with iPhones swear by this! 
  • Easy meditation. Make some quiet time for yourself. 5 minutes in the morning or evening or both, to practise some meditation or try a body scan relaxation; lie on your back or sit on a comfortable chair and starting at the top of your head tense the muscles of your body each in turn then relax them. An easy technique which really works, click the link for more information; You also can download the free Headspace app for easy meditation exercises. 
  • Exercise. An increase in exercise is proven to help reduce anxiety and stress. It makes a physiological change in the body which promotes the release of feel good hormones. There are many home workouts available for free on You Tube to suit every individual circumstance If you don’t exercise very much now, start with adding a little bit of walking into your day. Maybe walk to the next tube station or use the stairs instead of the lift. If your car journey takes 5 minutes chances are it’s only a mile away which means that it would take you 20 minutes to walk. Consider walking rather than driving, if you can do this once or twice a week you will start to feel the benefit.  
  • Get outside. Walk in an open space or wooded area if possible once a week, the Japanese practise of ‘forest bathing’ can help to lower stress and promote a feeling of calmness. Being amongst trees and green spaces is good for us fundamentally. Studies have shown that people relax best amongst the colours green and blue. This is an example of how you can get into mindfulness. Click here for more information  
  • Communication. Really important to tell people who you are living with, how you are feeling. If you don’t communicate, they won’t know how you are feeling. Also, if you share some of your feelings with your colleagues you may be pleasantly surprised that you are not alone. Then you can swap ideas of how to manage things in this transition into full time work or working differently again.

If you are feeling as if you are ‘stuck’ or unable to make decisions, Live Life Not Strife provide personal and business coaching which help you overcome anxiety and stress. Our resident psychologist Adriana Summers and her team have assisted tens of thousands of clients. 

We have been working remotely since March with private consultations via Skype or Zoom, to find out how we can help you, email us [email protected] or call us for a confidential chat on 01625 786026. You can also call Adriana directly on +447980 667103.

Live Life Not Strife. 

Tiny tips for living a fuller, happier life! 

Being kind is good for your health!

In these strange and unusual times, it’s inevitable to become wrapped up in the current pressure of living. With all the additional pressures, it’s easy to forget about the simple act of being kind. 

The list is endless, occupying the children, worrying about work, getting yourself kitted up with PPE to undertake a shift at work or working from home, perhaps with a child as well. It can seem to take over and the weeks fly by without you realising that you’ve not spoken to that friend of yours for ages or your elderly aunt.  

You might find you’re much busier and your patience is wearing thin with the little things that may not have bothered you previously. It’s becoming almost too much to bear in the current climate. With rules and guidance changing on a daily basis (it seems) this creates underlying uncertainty and anxiety without you realising. You may find yourself acting out of the ordinary and feeling wound up at the slightest thing. Now is a good time to stop and remind yourself to be kind, it’s needed more than ever!  

You have to start with being kind to yourself. Give yourself 5 minutes to relax, practice some deep breathing – (click the link for breathing exercises, and tell yourself ‘I am a good person’ whether you believe it or not, make it your own personal mantra! Or if you can’t do that, think of something you’ve done that makes you feel good. This promotes a sense that whatever happens you’re good enough! It will increase your self-confidence and help you to act kindly to others.  

Smile! A basic staple in being kind. You’ll find it gives you a lift if you can remember to smile, even if you force yourself to smile, there is years of research into this very topic that proves smiling can help you to relax and boost the immune system. It turns out my mum was right when she cajoled me into “turning those corners up!” when I was sulking over something as a child. If you smile you can almost instantly feel better, it creates physiological changes in the body and releases feel good hormones. Also, it uses less muscles in the face than frowning and who wants frown lines! A smile creates smiles from others with very little effort. Smile at someone you pass in the street – even if you’re wearing a mask, you can smile with your eyes! You may just make their day a little brighter and chances are you will receive a smile back from them which in turn feels good.  

Do something for others as often as you can, but don’t forget to do something nice for you too. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reactions you get back and it will help you reduce your own stress. 

A kind deed can prompt others to be kind, you can be the catalyst of a chain of kindness if you make the first step. Who knows where the chain will lead to! For example, For many years, when I visited my London office every Wednesday, a gentleman who I don’t know from Adam, would always say “Hello” to me as he was letting himself into his office at the same time, and I would say the same back. This basic pleasantry in passing was enough to give me a little lift as I began my day. It made a difference. We can make our own and other people’s lives better and happier with simple acts of kindness.   

Another example is when the Duchess of Cambridge spoke at the National Oak Academy online assembly for school children, this year, about the importance of being kind and how being kind in itself creates a good feeling for those carrying out the kind deed and for the receiver. It seems simple, but is easily forgotten in our busy lives. 

A friend’s mum used to say “whatever you do in life, always be happy and always be kind” it may be advice that isn’t always easy to follow but is certainly something you should aspire to because now we know the science behind this. Choosing to feel happy and small acts of kindness actually change how our brain functions and reduce stress, by changing brain activity, together with other things it builds emotional resilience. 

If you’re finding things difficult at the moment and would like to feel happier in your life, we can help. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026/+447980 667103 or email [email protected] 

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Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life! 

Is shielding making you sick?

It has been 4 months since lockdown, although there are changes being made to the guidelines all the time we are still being urged to keep away from others. It doesn’t feel natural to keep apart from the ones we love for as long as we have been doing but if you are shielding or are living with someone who is, you may choose to continue no matter how hard it is becoming. This may feel even more difficult now that you can see others out and about, socialising more and shopping. The government guidelines which are due to change from the 1st August will now advise that you do not need to shield at home. 

You know what you feel about this idea and if you are ready to make a change to your daily living arrangements. If you have a serious health condition you may decide to continue to shield for as long as you decide it’s right to do so. This is a totally individual choice but you may have external pressures on you to stop shielding when you don’t feel comfortable just yet to make the change. This in itself will lead to uncertainty and indecision which is bound to cause some degree of anxiety. You are not alone with your concerns, even people who haven’t been shielding are worried, it is a natural and understandable reaction but it is a feeling that you can overcome if you allow yourself some time to start making changes slowly. It’s really important to make small changes which when they come together give you confidence to move forward. 

You may have pressure from your employer to return to work and have the worry that your workplace isn’t covid secure. This is a very real concern for anyone who has a severe or underlying health conditions. You will have to consider your level of risk and how you can protect yourself in this situation. Talk to your boss about what safety measures they will have in place and if you can continue to work from home you should still do this if you are vulnerable or high risk. You can find more information from the HSE website here

Perhaps you have grandchildren who you haven’t been able to hug or have round to visit since lockdown began? And now it is up to you and family what you do. For example, you can enjoy having your family around you again providing you social distance. There are measures you can put in place to keep things as safe as possible. 

Also, you may not want to upset your loved ones by continuing to shield now that the rules are due to alter. Although your family will completely understand the need for you to carry on shielding, younger grandchildren will not comprehend the meaning behind why you are staying away and you may end up feeling torn. 

Given the virus is completely invisible, children will only understand why they have to do what they are being told, if they have developed the cognitive processes that enable them to think abstractly. Young children (up to 10 years) will not understand the full implications, so are more likely to forget what you tell them and become upset if they haven’t seen you for a long time. That’s normal.  The way in which children develop is visible in the government’s decision that children under the age of 11 are exempt from wearing masks.  

Do you feel trapped, like a prisoner in your own home? You may be yearning to go somewhere different, go back to work and have built up a resentment of those who can go about their daily business seemingly without worrying. Alternatively, after all this time shielding, the thought of stepping outside your own four walls may cause you to recoil in horror.  

If you are a vulnerable adult, after shielding is paused you can still receive support with collecting shopping, medications etc from the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme website

Stress relievers to try 

We all think we know how to breathe, many of us don’t. When we’re stressed our breathing becomes shallower and that sends the wrong message to a particular part of our brain which puts that part of the brain on alert and so our stressed cycle continues. You can search our Facebook page for more information and techniques. 

If you are able to, get outside. Make a conscious effort to get into the fresh air, just into your own garden if you feel more comfortable. Try out some mindfulness – be still for 5 minutes – listen to the trees or the birds. Going barefoot is another stress relieving technique, just wander round your garden barefoot for a change. To feel the grass under your feet makes us feel grounded and if it’s wet? Even better! You will feel invigorated within a few minutes. 

There is the home workout option too, you really do feel the benefit of it afterwards and there are hundreds on YouTube to suit every person’s situation, need and age. To change your mood, change your body. Get up, change the position of yourself, get moving, put on some uplifting music to listen or dance to. You will almost instantly feel different. Listen to this one and you’ll see you just can’t help feeling happier! 

This won’t last forever. 

If you are feeling stressed out or anxious this is a natural response to these abnormal times, however it’s important that you get help to deal with your anxiety because in some cases untreated anxiety can lead to clinical depression. If you would like some independent help to reduce your anxiety contact us to book an online session with Adriana, our experienced psychologist. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026 / 07980 667103 or email [email protected]. Please visit our Facebook Page: 

Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life! 

STOP PRESS. Essential reading if you are thinking of separating.

The last few months during lockdown will have caused some couples, who have been having doubts about their relationship already, to readdress their entire lives together. Your forced time together may have contributed to heightened stresses in your home and brought questions to the forefront which you have been putting to the back of your mind for a long time. It may have reached the point that however devastating the idea of separation is, staying together is just not an option any more.  

Working from home means you don’t have the usual time apart from one another, where you would return after a full day, ready to catch up with each other’s news, successes and frustrations of the day, what the kids have been up to etc. However, 2020 has given us a different way of living, your family may have been able to uniquely benefit from the unprecedented time together and cemented strong bonds. However, if the situation was already under strain, this time could have been detrimental to family life. 

The usual hours away from one another gone so suddenly and being thrown together for 24/7 may have been a turning point for many couples, when your differences are highlighted with nowhere to hide or escape from them, this may have been the time to make that heart-breaking decision.  

If so, worse still, how to tell the children? 

The thought of their faces, depending on age of course, when the reality sets in, that one of you isn’t going to be living at home anymore? Or that you may all have to leave your home? Could this be the reason you’ve been putting it off for some time? 

There’s no best time to break it to them but, if you’re sure this is going to happen, the start of the summer holidays may be a good time to plan and implement it. The summer holiday gives everybody the time to get used to what’s going to happen in future. If you’re certain, don’t wait until the new school year in September. Children have enough to cope with then; a new teacher, a new school possibly, getting used to school again after lockdown, going back and seeing their friends, this will be plenty for young minds to deal with, so give them chance to get used to the idea of your new way of living. You might not have physically separated yet, so it could seem really strange to your child, if mum and dad are still at home but living apart. Summer break allows you all to start coming to terms with your decision.  

The most successful way of managing this family transition happens when a couple decide to invest in a family consultant, who can help them think about how to tell the children, who to tell before the children, what to say to different people, why it’s important to agree what you’re saying and stick to that, who to seek support for you as individuals and for your children. 

A family consultant will help you think about who absolutely needs to know about the separation. People naturally take sides – particularly family members and friends, so it needs careful planning to ensure your family gets the best support, as you go through this transition. Plus, your child will need someone trusted and who they can confide in, someone they can talk to without holding anything back in case they make mummy or daddy upset. You will need to decide on a number of difficult things together over the next few weeks e.g. the arrangements you have with school, etc. It will help you to do this in good time. School will need to know about the changes in your family. They will be on hand to deal with any unusual responses your child would not usually show.  

Practically, school will need separate email addresses for letters and separate contact numbers so very important to make sure you have the school’s contact details saved into your phone if you haven’t already. One parent usually has the role of dealing with communications with school, however, once you separate the dynamic changes and we need to put things in place which enables both parents have direct connections with school. Experience proves conflict can arise around this – a family consultant shows you how not to get stuck. 

You have one shot at this.  

Rather than try and end up misunderstanding each other, it’s safer to use a family consultant who can help navigate from what you want, to what you can achieve for your family. A family consultant understands your child’s developmental needs and where you each are, with respect to the end of your relationship. They have the skills to avert you from getting stuck and arguing with each other, which often leads a separating couple, to feel as if they’re banging their heads against a brick wall! 

For example, your eleven-year old daughter starts a new school in September. She’s been to see it, she’s really excited and she knows a couple of people who are going there from her primary school. You tell her, mummy and daddy have decided not to live together. In the coming months at her new school, she won’t yet have built a warm relationship with any of the teachers. She may reach out to one of her friends who went with her from her primary school. 

How well do you know that child and their parents? Is the child able to provide support? Or might it stress that child out? As parents you don’t need to worry about the above scenario if you’ve sought professional advice. You will have discussed the ins and outs of what you can set up for your child, who would be their go-to person etc, before they return to school. 

The number of family consultants with experience to help a couple separate into a different sort of family unit are few and far between. We have the experience to work successfully with separating couples (on zoom/Skype) to enable more people to have access to this essential resource, which helps you move through your transition as painlessly as possible. 

Adriana has helped couples stay together or divorce for more than 30 years, she has set up an award-winning service, Painless Divorce helping people prepare, for a changing family’s future. An Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and registered to work in the UK and throughout Europe, she has been an expert speaker for the BBC and was a lecturer at one of the top 25 universities in the world. She is an International conference speaker, published author and has helped tens of thousands of people over the years.

Separating together for a better life apart. 

We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat contact Adriana directly on +447980 667103. 

Office 01625 786026 or email us [email protected] address. 

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Uncertainties about keeping safe

Now that lockdown restrictions are being lifted, we find ourselves with a brand-new set of questions and worries about social distancing. Of course, we have the government guidelines set out for us to work to but it almost seems that the onus is on the individual now to decide how they conduct themselves; whether you wear a mask when you’re out and about, visit your relatives in their homes, standing 2 metres apart from your friend in the park? It is almost bringing a whole new etiquette into our daily lives which in itself can be stressful. 

Wearing masks 

The governments’ announcement yesterday evening that it will be compulsory to wear a mask in shops in England from next Friday may come as a relief, as the uncertainty recently has led to confusion and anxiety for some. Wearing masks can be a very individual decision, you may wear a mask yourself every time you go out because you believe it will limit the spread of the virus, plus you may feel more protected in wearing one. 

You may have asthma in which case the Asthma UK website states: 

“If you’ve got asthma, you may or may not be able to wear a face mask or covering. It’s a good idea to try one out at home, or on a short walk around the block first. If it feels fine, then you can wear it, and it won’t harm you. 

But if it makes it feel harder to breathe, the UK Government has advised that you don’t have to wear one. You could try a few different types to see if there is one that suits you, but if you feel breathless or suffocated while wearing a face covering, then don’t wear one.” 

NB Always remember to take your inhalers with you. 

Others might have different personal issues with wearing masks. It takes a bit of getting used to and if you harbour some level of claustrophobia perhaps or have a child with autism it may well be completely impossible for you or your child to put a mask on. You might have autism yourself, in which case the same issues apply, Autism says: 

These new guidelines raise new challenges for some autistic people. Autistic people sometimes have difficulty in understanding facial expressions in ‘normal’ (pre-Covid-19) times. The new guidelines for people to wear masks will make it even more difficult for some autistic people to understand facial expressions as body language in communication will be restricted to what the eyes can tell us.”  

Practically speaking 

You might find it helpful to try a few different types before you find one that is comfortable or easy for you to breathe in. You may feel self-conscious or vulnerable which puts you off wearing a mask, if this is case just give it a go! In time we may see pictures similar to those in China where wearing masks is part of our daily routines.  

Why is it hard to wear a mask? 

You might not understand your hesitation about wearing a mask outside of your home. As humans we are deeply programmed to assess risk by watching what’s happening around us. So, before we pass somebody, we will automatically have looked at their face and unconsciously made an assessment as to whether we feel safe. If not, we tend to put greater distance between us and them in an everyday setting, it could be crossing the road.  

Wearing masks stops us from gaining the information we need to feel safe. It also stops us from giving feedback to other people approaching us. Maybe we have to consider new ways of giving this information, such as a nod of our head as we approach somebody rather than smiling. This deep unconscious recognition of another person, is what helps to ease the anxiety of passing someone we don’t know. Alternative ways of acknowledging someone e.g. by a nod in passing or saying hello can reassure that we and/or they, do not present a threat. 

Visiting friends and family 

Then there is the question of visiting friends and families’ homes. The guidelines now state we can go into another household and have another household visit us, while maintaining social distancing, but again it all comes down to personal choice. It may feel totally strange to go into your friend’s house for a coffee and chat after all this time we have been staying away. We know that the risk at the moment is lower than it was, but it is still there. You may feel too worried to take this step right now, there’s always that ‘What if?’ in the back of your mind, so just do what you feel comfortable with. 

Alternatively, you might be keen to invite your friend in for that long-awaited cuppa, but don’t be surprised if they don’t take you up on it just yet. It might take them a little longer to get used to the idea. Another friend might just bite your hand off! Maybe you have actually “got out of the habit” of visiting friends and are finding it difficult to get back to doing it – (not just because of the social distancing or fear). 

People who are natural introverts may have even found lockdown an enjoyable experience, to have the social pressures of meeting friends removed may have been almost a relief and now the thought of getting back to normal could be anxiety inducing! Sometimes it’s hard to make the first move, especially if you have let contact lapse over the last 2 -3 months and haven’t been mixing with people much?  

Take it slowly, as a first step, send a text and ask how your friend is, do they fancy a chat at some point? Don’t worry if they don’t get back to you straight away, they themselves might be in a similar situation. Once you’re feeling a little more confident, think of someone who makes you smile. Make an arrangement to meet them, for example, out of doors for a quick catch up, you will be glad you made the effort as chatting to a friend can be beneficial.  

Finally, it’s natural for people to react by having an opinion about others who aren’t wearing a mask or keeping their distance, but we have to keep an open mind. We should perhaps concentrate on what responsibilities we are taking ourselves rather than scrutinize other people’s behaviour. You may feel less stressed out once you take on this mind set!  

If you are unsure about what is the right thing to do regarding social distancing, click the link here for the government guidelines

Have a look at some of the information we have on our Facebook page about anxiety but if you need more individual help please contact us to book an online session with our experienced psychologist. 

Live Life Not Strife 
We’re available for remote consultations, for a confidential chat on how we can help 
you contact us on 01625 786026 / 07980 667103 or email [email protected] Please visit our Facebook Page: 

Tiny tips towards living a fuller, happier life! 

Frustration? Guilt? There is a Better Way…

Have you ever felt frustrated and done things you wished you hadn’t? 

I am sure the answer is, “of course…haven’t we all?” 

Yes, we have, but sometimes it spills over into bigger things. In these restrictive times when normal social interaction is still limited, we are not going back to how life was before – we can’t take things for granted in the same way. Part of staying alert is recognizing that, at any time, we may have to moderate our behaviour and interactions. It’s no wonder some people have found their frustration bubbling over. 

However, when you can’t always access services as you did before, when queuing to get in the supermarket takes forever, when you can’t go for a drink with your chums in the normal way, when your children stop being able to sleep through, when the home you used to see as a refuge now feels too overwhelming, when you can’t do this or can’t do that… turns into something else, then maybe it’s an indication that frustration is building.  

Frustration is a bit like a pressure cooker, you’ve got something cooking on the stove, you can’t see inside the pan but all of a sudden, the steam is released. Perhaps you have got so wound up that you feel the need to lash out? E.g. have you ever thumped a wall? Stormed out and driven the car recklessly as a tension releaser? Said something spiteful to your loved ones? This is the “steam” coming out of the pressure cooker! What’s really important is knowing what is the cause of the pressure building up, as this is the start of being able to regain your self-control. 

Ask yourself a question, how often do things frustrate me? How do I usually respond? Do I notice if/how my response affects other people? How do I feel about that? What do I say to myself? Has my frustration become a habit? 

Once you understand the root causes, then the power frustration has over you can reduce. 

Ask yourself another question. “Do I want to make a change?” 

If you can relate to the above, we will help you understand where your frustration comes from – and how to manage it. The lockdown situation may have been the trigger to release thoughts and emotions that were actually already there, so when you begin to unpack what is behind these pent-up feelings, you may find there is more going on than you originally thought. 

We help you understand and change the way you view things. You will learn how to develop better ways to get your point across and also hear what the other person is really trying to say, allowing you to reduce those guilty feelings you had in the past. The benefits will help you to feel happier in yourself, as you improve how to communicate in a calm and constructive way. 

To discuss this issue confidentially, please do not hesitate to make a private online consultation. 

For enquiries please contact our psychology service on 01625 786026 / 07980 667103, email [email protected]

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Tiny tips towards living a fuller happier life!