Resolutions for mental health?

So many people make new year / January resolutions for their physical health, but it is quite unusual to do so for one’s mental health perhaps? Some people might think happiness is something to aim for? But you can’t be happy all the time and it is probably unhealthy to expect that – so perhaps a better way would be to embrace positive emotions when you can (see my blog from March 2015) on the 3:1 ratio).

So maybe “finding meaning” is a better way to approach things? It is good to look for meaningful experiences in work and leisure and relationships and spirituality, but one has to remember that if one does that, there will be the accompanying anxiety that you may lose these things – so having a purpose in life is a paradox!

Perhaps being calm is something to aim for too? Mindfulness is often proposed as a way to achieve this – although true mindfulness is actually more about an inner contentment that can weather the storms, rather than just appearing serene all the time! Mindfulness can help with mental health and also with decision making, but beware of narcissists who “do mindfulness” as it could make them worse…

If all else fails try compassion – for others and for yourself…#bekind

Stress at work?

So some people might say that they don’t get stressed at work, because they love their job and are passionate about what they do – I would say those people are few and far between – most of us work because we get paid for it. If we enjoy our work that’s a bonus and if you, like me, prefer to work for yourself that can be great too. However most people don’t have that option, because they need a regular income to pay the bills. So if you occasionally feel stressed at work, here are some tips that might help you:

  • If your boss is having “a go” at you, and this could happen quite often, because most managers are not trained in how to manage people – then just look at their eyebrows and focus on them.
  • Take a break during the day – even if it is for just a short while – away from the office. If you eat your lunch at your desk, then find some other excuse to get out for a brief walk.
  • Use mindfulness.
  • Remember that most things that don’t get done today can be done tomorrow!
  • Make lists in order to prioritise, but limit yourself to one a day.
  • Be assertive, rather than passive/passive-aggressive or aggressive.
  • Allow some time to share your day with someone special in the evening, but put a cap/time-limit on it, otherwise they will get stressed too!
  • Find a good friend at work who you can trust 100% in order to be able to confide in someone who will understand.
  • Make sure your social circle (and that includes Facebook) includes more people who are outside your work network, so that you don’t end up “talking shop” all the time.
  • Spend a little of what you earn each month on a treat for yourself, so that you don’t feel like you are just earning to pay off bills/debts.
  • Sometimes you have to take work home with you, but again put a time limit on how long you spend working at home. And in reverse you can then “home from work” too when necessary, for example use a spare moment at work to book that dentist appointment.
  • Constantly checking your emails will interrupt your flow – so limit that to 2/3 times a day.
  • Remember that you work to live, you don’t live to work.

Nobody thought of bringing a headache pill to the party?


I have mentioned mindfulness before in previous blogs, but not in its own right. The blog about grounding is just one mindfulness technique – there are many and it is not just about meditating. It is about living in the present with acceptance and compassion, but without judgement. It is about being rather than doing – after all we are human beings; think about the last time you just lived right here, right now and just enjoyed what you were seeing or hearing or tasting or feeling just for its own sake. Small children are good at just being in the present – watch a toddler absorbed with playing with duplo for example – they are not worrying about the future or the past. It is amazing how much happier you feel when you practise mindfulness.

Some Christians have doubts about mindfulness because it originates in Buddhist thinking, but the techniques can easily be separated from the religion; even Jesus was mindful sometimes- in the gospels it refers to him saying- don’t worry about tomorrow – today has enough problems of its own.

It doesn’t mean we become complacent and never make plans – there is a time for planning and a time for looking back on fond memories, but a lot of the time our minds are like hamsters on a wheel – just going over the same issues again and again- we can get off though when we want to. At the moment I am between salaried jobs and therefore spending more time at home (Rachael’s Retreat) and I am applying for new research posts, but I have found that I can be concerned about the future and yet not worry about it.

Our cottage


Anger issues?

All sorts of things can make us angry…and sometimes anger is justified and sometimes it isn’t…but quite often it is our beliefs and expectations that will affect whether we get angry or not and these in turn are influenced by our upbringing and our experiences of life.Then if we do feel anger – how do we act on it? It often depends on what mood we’re in and whether we are in pain or tired etc. but also it is about our inhibitions, which is why some people show their anger to people they love and not in the public domain! Hence the expression “Angel on the street but a Devil at home”

What are good ways of dealing with anger and frustration?  Mindfulness can help – it will pass… and the traffic lights system is a good one: Red is the anger when you feel it, Amber is the time you have to give yourself to think about it and Green is when it is safe to act. On a deeper level we sometimes get angry because we think the world owes us happiness – this is a trap – if we stop striving for happiness we can sometimes find moments of joy in everyday things.
Angry face

Friends or enemies?

cat and dogFor various reasons I have been inspired to write about the relationship between therapy and faith. Of course there are books and journal articles written about this and even a special research unit devoted to this at the University of Cambridge, but these are my thoughts: Some psychotherapists would not discuss anything about themselves with their client and certainly not any religious views; this is perhaps indicative of a certain type of training. However I consider it to be rude if a client asks me a question and I answer it with “why do you need to know that?” Obviously in the session the focus is on the client, but there is nevertheless a therapeutic relationship going on that involves two or more people, including the therapist. If a client brings spirituality into the room then it is up for discussion. Also one could argue that Christian or Buddhist values can enhance using techniques such as mindfulness.

There is perhaps a historical take on this- psychologists in the early days were often atheists or agnostics either because they considered themselves to be pure scientists (and science and religion used to clash) or because they thought that being part of a faith group could cause you to repress your emotions (put v simply).

However as a health psychologist I have read of the benefits to physical health that are brought about by being part of a community and by living a life where you have respect for your own body. I think that having a purpose in life means you are less likely to be depressed.