Gillie FarnworthCounsellor & Psychotherapist
Newport, Gwent

Poll Reveals State Of Nation’s Mental Health

The UK may be gradually emerging from the pandemic, but the toll the crisis has taken on the mental health of the nation has been huge, according to a new poll.

A survey by the Daily Mirror has found that out of 1,598 adults across the full range of demographics, a quarter of adults have worse mental health now than before the pandemic.

This included one in 12 having panic attacks and one in 15 battling suicidal thoughts. One in eight of those who said their mental health has got worse reported making an attempt to take their own life.

Of this group, a quarter have been diagnosed with a mental health condition and one in eight are still waiting for one, with the NHS under increasing pressure to cope. Over two-thirds of those who have sought medication to fight anxiety or depression has been given them.

The age profile of those most affected was notably polarised. While 80 per cent of those aged 55-64 suffered anxiety, the second worst hit was the 18-24 group at 72 per cent.

What this may show those seeking counselling in Cwmbran after the pandemic is that they are not alone in suffering over this time.
Indeed, the Daily Mirror poll is just the latest of many pieces of research and data showing the impact of the crisis on people’s mental health.

In July, a survey of 12,000 people by mental health charity Mind found those who were already struggling with their mental health before March 2020 found the situation hardest to cope with.

Other findings were that younger people found it much harder to cope and were more likely than adults to use coping strategies like self-harm, while the expectation among half of respondents that they would feel better when restrictions were lifted was countered by the concerns many had about meeting up with people again.

How Can You Reduce The Risk Of Burnout?

The upheaval of the past 18 months has taken is toll in many different ways. Frontline workers and healthcare staff have had a busy and stressful time for obvious reasons, and we are still facing an uncertain winter. Other people have had to juggle caring for a family at home with a demanding job.

When we experience periods of prolonged stress and overwork, it can take its toll on our mental health. This can lead to a range of symptoms, which are collectively known as burnout. Signs of burnout include exhaustion, lack of motivation, irritableness, anxiety, and disrupted sleep patterns.

It has become such a widespread concern during the pandemic that some major companies have awarded their staff extra time off, or ‘burnout breaks’, to help them rest and recover. For example, The Guardian reports that staff at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon have been told to take a week off, and LinkedIn and Bumble took similar steps earlier this year.

The fact is however, that most of us are not going to be in such a fortunate position. So, what can we do to protect ourselves? The mental health charity Mind advises that it is important to take all the annual leave you are entitled to. Presenteeism can be counterproductive, as we all need regular time off to recharge our batteries.

It’s important to maintain clear boundaries between work and home, especially if you now work from home. Have a cut-off time in the evening, when you shut down your work computer and stop checking emails. Most evenings, try and have at least one hour before bed to wind down and watch TV or read.

Sometimes, if you are really struggling, it can help to talk things over with a trained professional. They will be able to help you manage difficult feelings and offer fresh perspectives, and help bring to light any underlying issues you may have.

For counselling in Newport Gwent please get in touch today.

How Do Phobias Develop?

With the imminent lifting of the lockdown restrictions, many people are experiencing a surge in anxiety, driven by a fear of losing control and the removal of the comfort zone provided by the last 16 months, The Guardian reports.

One of the reactions to anxiety can be the development of a phobia, such as touching things in public places or socialising in large groups. This is an understandable reaction to recent events, and sometimes anxiety and phobias can function as a rational survival mechanism, to stop us engaging in harmful or dangerous activities.

However, when a phobia lingers after its useful purpose has passed, it can interfere with our mental wellbeing and even impact on our everyday life. Sometimes, a phobia can be very deep rooted in traumatic events during childhood, or even be learned behaviour from being exposed to the fears and anxieties of a parent or older sibling.

The mental health charity Mind explains that some people may be genetically more predisposed to developing phobias than others. Sometimes, it may be a reaction to long-term stress and depression which reduces your ability to cope with certain situations. Whatever the reason for a phobia, it is important not to suffer in silence.

An untreated condition will usually result in the sufferer avoiding the trigger situations for their phobia, but there is a danger that this will make the problem worse in the long run. It can help to write your thoughts down, or talk to a trusted friend or acquaintance about your feelings.

Some people find that learning specific relaxation and breathing techniques that they can draw on when they are in a triggering situation can help. All phobias are unique, and there is certainly no ‘one size fits all’ answer when it comes to treatment. If you feel that it would be helpful to receive some counselling in Newport, Gwent, then please get in touch today.

How Royal Mental Health Issues Break Stigmas

A key challenge for anyone suffering poor mental health is to admit they have a problem and seek help for it, which has often been very hard to do in a society with stereotypes about what poor mental health means.

However, the fact that so many famous and ostensibly successful and powerful people have been willing to admit their own problems may have helped, not least the royal family.

While someone seeking counselling in Cwmbran may have more to do with south Wales than the Prince of Wales, what has become evident is that all that wealth and privilege in the world does not provide immunity to poor mental health.

Prince Harry has been at the heart of many stories, with his own willingness to talk about his struggles, along with those of his wife Meghan. Harry’s issues have been well known for some time - partly stemming from the childhood trauma of losing his mother, something many could relate to, but few amid widespread media attention.

Although a much-publicised rift has arisen between Harry and other royals, according to the Daily Mirror this week the Queen opposes cutting Harry off precisely because of concerns about his mental state. Whether or not this is accurate, it may have echoes in other families, where allowances are made for such considerations even at times of conflict.

The Daily Express, which tends to be less sympathetic to Harry, has taken a different line on matters this week by suggesting he has been told his recent revelations about royal life might in turn have a major impact on the mental health of his brother and father. Prince William has himself been willing to talk openly about such issues.

Of course, much of what is written in tabloids about the royals is inaccurate or speculative. But the fact that mental health is being raised as an issue in the midst of it represents a significant change from the past - and if it reduces the stigma we may be thankful about this.

As Harry and Meghan celebrate the arrival of their daughter Lilibet, they may at least be glad that some things no longer have to be brushed under the carpet.

How Do We Define Good Mental Health?

Our mental health is as vital as our physical health when it comes to our overall well-being, but it is sometimes difficult to convey how we feel and figure out what it means to have good mental health.

However, to help improve our mental health we need to know what it is, and also most vitally, what it isn’t.

A good place to start with defining mental health is the World Health Organisation’s definition, which describes it as a state where we understand our own capabilities, cope with everyday life, work productively and help make our communities better.

Mental health is not simply the lack of a mental disorder, nor is it always being happy. It is not even necessarily about productivity, but about self-actualisation, resilience and managing the good and the bad parts of life.

It is about being able to feel everything from the good to the bad and being able to keep going and living your best life regardless of what life throws in front of you.

More importantly, mental health, much like physical health, is best managed with help. And whilst it is a difficult first step for all of us to look for a psychotherapist near me to help handle what has been bothering us, it is also the first step to a happier, healthier self.

If you have a nasty cough that won’t go away or are struggling to walk, you would head to the doctor for help, and this is the same approach people need to take with their mental health.

How To Emotionally Prepare For Lockdown Lifting

When the ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ was announced, there was a sense of relief and excitement across the nation, which for some may have quickly turned to anxiety and fear at the prospect of having to make plans to be social, pubs and restaurants full of people, and then return to a packed rush-hour commute.

Mental health experts have warned that there could be a spike in anxiety and mental health issues as we all try to find the new normal post-pandemic, with Scottish charity See Me Scotland claiming that 54 per cent of survey respondents say they have felt guilty for struggling with mental health issues during the lockdown.

We are all, of course, eager to see friends and family again, especially those we have not seen in over a year. But there is a big part of us that also enjoys staying at home with no obligations, PJs for work, and knowing what day of the week it is by what’s on TV (Line of Duty? Must be Sunday.)

So what can you do if anxiety about the pandemic and the end of lockdown has you feeling overwhelmed?

It’s your choice

Before the pandemic, many of us had to feel we have plans to prove to others and ourselves that we are busy, endless meetings and events we didn’t really need to go to, and maybe didn’t.

At the end of the lockdown, remember that you do not have to feel obliged to go to something you don’t want to. Prefer to have a meeting over Zoom? Say so. Don’t feel like going to a gathering or meeting? Don’t.

Choose your own speed

Everyone works at a different speed, so test your instincts and do what feels right for you, and remove any pressure to go out and socialise the moment the lockdown ends. Take your time, especially if the thought of a packed bar makes you feel uneasy.

Stay connected

The lockdown meant we had to find new ways to stay connected with friends, family and loved ones. Once the requirement for social distancing is over, maybe keep such elements as the weekly Zoom quiz night or cocktail hour catch up if you enjoyed those aspects of the lockdown.

If you’re struggling with any aspect of mental health or anxiety and looking for counselling in Newport Gwent, talk to us today.

4 Tips To Help Children Settle Back Into School Life

If you have children or teenagers, they are likely to have spent most of the last three months being educated at home. For some, the recent step back into the classroom might have been a daunting experience. If you or your children are finding the readjustment period tough, here’s a few tips to consider.

1. Don’t give in to requests to stay at home
If your child begs not to go, it might seem easier to give in and put the issue off for a week or two. However, this will only store up problems for the future. Acknowledge to your child that it may be a difficult time, but focus on practical things such as preparing a packed lunch and getting their uniform ready. This will signal that the event is non-negotiable.

2. Meet up for a walk with friends
Unlike returning after a long summer holiday, your children have probably not socialised much with their friends over the winter, and their social skills may be rusty. Arranging for them to meet up with some friends for a socially distanced walk can help to break the ice for children who are naturally quiet and may have become more withdrawn recently.

3. Don’t expect perfect results straight away
Your child will probably need a gradual learning curve to bring their concentration levels back up to classroom standard. Even the most diligent home-learners will have been surrounded by temptations which are not there at school, but concentration is like a muscle, and becomes stronger with practice. Within a few weeks there should be an improvement.

4. Encourage independence to mitigate anxiety
Studies show that there has been a significant rise in talk to us today. This could be from loss of social contact, boredom, and uncertainty about the future. If this is the case, experts advise encouraging the teenager to take more control, rather than trying to organise their lives for them.

It can sometimes help to talk to a neutral party about anxiety or any other mental health issues you are struggling with. If you are looking for counselling in Newport, Gwent, get in touch today to see how we can help.

How Counselling Can Boost Mental Health In A Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a range of terrible consequences, starting with the death toll in the millions and continuing through the misery of illness and diminished mental health.

In the latter case, there are many elements of the crisis that have impacted negatively on mental wellbeing. Perhaps not surprisingly, those affected most are those on the front line in medical settings, as they have to battle to save people who are gravely ill - often without success.

A study by study by Sheffield University published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry has indicated just how severe the impact can be. Not only can medical staff suffer from stress, anxiety and trauma, but the impact can have lasting affects that linger for as much as three years.

Lead researcher in the study Dr Fuschia Sirois said: “Consistent evidence indicated that being female, a nurse, experiencing stigma and having contact or risk of contact with infected patients were the biggest risk factors for psychological distress among healthcare workers.”

She explained that this research was based not just on the experience of medical staff in the current pandemic, but in past health crises such as SARS and Swine Flu.

Of course, you don’t have to be working in a hospital to have suffered mental health problems. Bereavement from the virus itself - or the restrictions in place at funerals, social isolation, job loss or insecurity, money worries, the difficulties of homeschooling, fear for one’s own health and that of others have all created waves of stress, anxiety, depression and trauma.

The situation in Wales has been well documented. In November, Cardiff University published research findings showing that of nearly 13,000 people surveyed in June and July last year, around half were suffering from the lingering psychological effects of the first lockdown. Of these, around a fifth were suffering severe affects. This suggested the situation was worse than originally thought.

Of course, with the vaccination programme making rapid progress, life may be about to get a lot better. But with research showing how the mental effects of a pandemic can last years, it may be that seeking counselling is a key part of making a full recovery.

If you need counselling in Newport Gwent, get in touch today .

Some Tips To Know Your Physical And Mental Health

After a year filled with so many changes in our lives, it is almost certain that you will want to improve your physical and mental health in the coming year, and may already have set goals to help you achieve this.

The pandemic has affected people in many different ways, especially their mental health. It might be that lockdown weight gain has got you down, or perhaps it is heightened anxiety about the coronavirus, or a sense of isolation from working from home. The most important thing you need to remember is that you are certainly not alone during this crisis.

To help find the right balance of mental and physical fitness, we have five suggestion that you can implement into your daily routine.

Get to know your body and take care of it.

It is important to set aside a part of your day for personalised attention and self-care, either at the start of your day or at the end of it. Not being able to find time during the day is an often quoted excuse for why we are neglecting ourselves, both mentally and physically. Schedule the time into your day, instead of trying to fit it in when you can find the time.

New habits.

We all just to our daily routines, even if many of our daily habits have changed due to the pandemic. Review the activities you spend time on and assess how you distribute your energy between work, home, and your other responsibilities.

Meditation and stress management.

Regularly practising meditation will help balance your mind and help you deal with the stress and anxiety about the lockdown, work, and anxiety about what the future holds.

Physical and mental activity.

Whether you previously attended a gym or not, find a space at home where you can keep your body active, through exercise or yoga. The same can be done for your mind by finding a spot to sit and read or engage in activities that help put our minds to work.

Maintain remote contact.

We might not be able to make physical contact with friends and family, but we can communicate through our digital devices, which will help mitigate the sense of isolation.

If you need counselling in Newport Gwent get in touch today, .

Some Tips For Better Mental Health During Lockdown

As the country enters a second national lockdown, there is a growing awareness of the impact that the change from our regular routines, isolation, and COVID-19 related anxieties can have on our mental health.

It is completely natural to have worries about your health, the health of loved ones, finances, and job uncertainties. But there are ways we can help ourselves to manage our mental health a little better over the coming weeks.

Normalise the circumstances.

Normalisation is a powerful tool for helping us manage uncomfortable feelings in the current environment. Learn to self soothe and remind yourself that this is understandable and manageable, making it all logically make sense.

Acknowledge that the lockdown and the spike in infections are normal for a pandemic, and while a pandemic is out of the ordinary for us, what is happening is being well charted.

Accept the here and now.

Similar to normalisation is acceptance and the power of here and now thinking. Out minds will inevitably drift to the things we feel might cause threats in the future, the often slightly irrational ‘what ifs’.

We might not have the power to affect the course of the global pandemic, but we can focus on what we have right now and what we are grateful for.

Have hope

Hope and faith in the future can help make you feel better, and making yourself feel better during times of stress through positive psychological and behavioural methods is priceless.

Be helpful

If you feel you’re in a position where your troubles are so large and looking you cannot see a way out, reaching out to help others can provide a sense of perspective and purpose. Always in life, there is someone who is struggling more than us.

Most importantly, avoid drink and drugs, as it will not help you manage your stress, anxiety, depression or sleep issues. Do not buy into the fear, and maintain sensible measures for infection control.

Keep planning for the future and the things you look forward too. If you are looking for counselling in Newport, Gwent, get in touch.

Multitasking Can Impact Mental Health

Multitasking has been held up as the gold standard of productivity for a long time, but in truth, it is a harmful habit, not only to your productivity but to your mental health too. It’s time to give this habit a rest.

While we’re all working from home, we're likely all trying to take on much more than we should, not only trying to achieve our work tasks, but multitasking it with household chores, child care, and all with a background of a global pandemic, lockdowns, and financial uncertainty. It’s little wonder more people are drinking more than they should be.

Multitasking is a myth. What we’re actually doing is switching between two tasks at once, we can’t do both tasks at the same time, but instead of being super productive, as we think we are, we are preventing ourselves from focussing on any one of the particular tasks at hand as we are distracted.

You might be thinking that surely it won’t make too much of a difference whether we’re focussing on one task or trying to do more than one at once?

The problem is that we are putting ourselves in a position where we are trying to do something unachievable, which can have some unfortunate consequences.

Multitasking is mentally exhausting, as it forces our brains to constantly switch between different tasks, which will then lead to a loss of focus on any of the tasks. Research has shown that multitasking can lead to a 40 per cent decrease in productivity.

Studies have demonstrated that attempting to complete multiple tasks at once can not only increase our stress levels, it can also lead to depression, social anxiety, and even cause memory problems in the long run.

The next time you’re in a Zoom meeting while answering emails, and writing a report at the same time, stop, take a step back, and allow yourself to focus on one task at a time. Both your productivity and your mental health will thank you for it.

If you’re looking for counselling in Newport, Gwent, get in touch.

WHO Calls For Greater Investment In Mental Health

World Mental Health Day is on 10 October 2020 and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is using this to launch its global campaign for greater investment in mental health services.

The organisation noted that people from all walks of life have struggled with their mental health as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to the strains we face in day-to-day life.

“Given past experience of emergencies, it is expected that the need for mental health and psychosocial support will substantially increase in the coming months and years,” the WHO asserted.

There is greater awareness than ever before about mental health conditions, and there is acknowledgement that many who were struggling with their mental health before the pandemic have found recent months particularly challenging.

However, despite there being greater awareness, many people who suffer from mental health conditions feel that it’s holding them back in their careers.

Research conducted by Hays and shared by People Management revealed that 24 per cent of staff with mental health conditions claimed that they are being blocked from progressing with their careers, while 12 per cent said that their struggles with their mental health reduced their chances of being chosen for a job.

Wellbeing director at Business in the Community Louise Aston told the news provider that there is no need for mental health conditions to hold someone back in their work. “Mental health conditions are not a rarity: every day millions of employees manage them or work alongside colleagues who are managing their own,” she asserted.

If you feel you would benefit from counselling in Newport, contact me to learn how I can support you.

4 Ways To Make Winter A Little Easier

After a summer marred by a global pandemic, economic anxieties, and civil unrest, the approach of winter and the continuing pandemic is bound to cause more worries than usual.

Even if you have not been directly affected by the coronavirus, or lost a loved one or friend, winter is a difficult time for many before considering limited socialising, the lack of a proper holiday, cancelled plans and lockdown loneliness, especially for those who love with seasonal depression and other depressive symptoms.

We have some tips to help manage your pre-winter apprehension.

1. Make a coping plan now, well in advance of when you’ll need it.

It’s useful to think about how you will approach the colder months while it is still reasonably temperate. If you feel you may be starved of human interaction, then invest in some good cold-weather gear, such as coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, so that you can partake in an outdoor comically distanced walk with friends.

Or perhaps schedule regular or weekly Zoom dinner parties, and make sure it’s on everyone’s calendars now.

2. Take stock of the habits and practices that helped back in the spring.

It might seem unsettling to consider spending the winter with more lockdown measures, but remember, you’ve already been through it earlier in the year, and back in March no one really knew what to expect, but now we have experience and know what we need to get through it.

Think about the helpful routines, and get rid of any that didn’t help so much. Write down a list of the activities that help bring a sense of normality so you can revisit them when you feel anxious.

3. Talk about your concerns with friends and loved ones.

Feeling alone during the more anxious times in your life can only serve to increase your anxieties. Remember that you are not alone in how you are feeling, and talk openly and honestly to loved ones and close friends - not always to be seeking solutions, but to just get the weight of the anxiety off your shoulders.

4. Reach out and get professional support if you need it.

It is absolutely reasonable to connect with a mental health professional about how you feel. Getting counselling in Newport Gwent can help normalise some of what you’re feeling and help create strategies for coping.

Get in touch today if you want to know more.

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