The “problem” of crying in public

One of the problems of living in our modern society is the pressure to conform to a “don’t rock the boat” pattern of behaviour.

This includes

• not crying in public, unless everyone else is

• not getting angry about something, unless everyone else is

• needing something that other people aren’t prepared to give

• needing time alone when other people expect you to be sociable

• needing to be sad when others are having a happy time and expect you to do so as well

• not inconveniencing anyone else with your needs.

DON’T ROCK THE BOAT

This is a particular problem when you have suffered an event that modern society has so removed from view that reacting to that event is considered a “don’t rock the boat” pattern of behaviour.

I am referring here to Grief.

One of the biggest issues people who come to see me report is the fear of crying in public.

Is this something that you experience?

A FIRST QUESTION

My first question is:

• What is it like for you to have the experience of crying in public?

• Is this something embarrassing?

• Do you feel there is a taboo on crying in public?

• Is it something you notice other people feel uncomfortable about, so you try not to do it?

• Do you feel judged, as though you are somehow not mentally stable, because you are crying in public?

• Do you feel other people shut you down when you cry? Are you told to stop? Are you offered platitudes such as “They are in a better place” “Heaven wanted another angel” or demands to stop such as “You’ve got to pull yourself together”?

• Is this your experience, or is your experience something else?

THE NEXT QUESTION

My next question would likely be:

• What if it was okay to cry in public? What if it didn’t matter what other people thought and you just did it anyway?

Our society is very good at putting a taboo on overt emotions. No emotions other than happiness are well tolerated. The difficult emotions are definitely not okay by our society’s standards.

It is one reason we rush to remove those uncomfortable emotions and the events behind them from public view.

HIDING DEATH FROM PUBLIC VIEW

Very few people get to die in their own homes. They are usually in hospital or, if they are lucky, they are in a palliative care unit. As long as they are not out there, visible, in the community everyone is happy.

CHANGING SOCIETY

Change in society occurs gradually and usually because some trailblazers take the courageous step of behaving differently in public.

Of course when you are grieving and your world is in pieces it is difficult, often impossible, to take the conscious step to challenge society’s taboo on displaying uncomfortable emotions.

So change in this area is very slow. It often involves those supporting the grieving person being the ones who challenge the taboo.

EXPECT TO CRY FOR A VERY LONG TIME

Another issue with this public display of emotion is that grief is not over in a matter of hours or days. It stretches on for months and years. In fact, grief never ends. It gets easier and the tears are less frequent, but there is still the possibility of them for the rest of your life.

My question here is, Are you okay with the possibility of public tears a few years from now? Are you okay with the fact that each day carries the possibility of being sad?

DO YOU WANT TO STOP CRYING OR THE REASON BEHIND THE CRYING?

So many people who come to see me just want to stop crying and being sad. But is it the crying you want to stop? Or is it the reason for the crying? When you try to imagine life without the one you love, do you ever want to be okay with that? Or do you want to always love them yet live as well. This of course carries the risk of crying in public. Can you live with that?

DO YOU NEED TO TALK AND BE HEARD?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief and learning to live with the tears, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Grieving is Learning

If you look at the grief of loss as a learning experience then it is easier to understand the length of time it takes. This is particularly so if you consider that learning is a lifetime pursuit.

LOSS OF NORMAL ROUTINES

One of the really disorienting aspects of grief is the loss of normal routines and events of life when someone you love dies.

This is especially so if this person was very present in your life. The more your life intersected theirs, the more the disruption of normal routines and events.

With time, new normal routines are formed. Of course, that does not solve the pain over the absence in your life of that person you loved.

The process of finding those new normal routines is what the first period of grief is about. That is the part where life is most disrupted and there is a struggle to just get through each day.

YOUR BRAIN LEARNING NEW ROUTINES

This is the period of greatest learning. It is about learning to adjust everything in you and your life to match the new environment you find yourself in.

Before you think that sounds like an insurmountable thing to achieve, consider the fact that your brain knows exactly what to do. Every day of your life you have to adjust to things that are changing.

• You have to adjust to the weather when getting dressed.

• You have to adjust to the need to keep dry when it is raining.

• You may have to drive a different route home because of a road closure.

• You can’t find what you want at the shops and have to find something else instead.

• Someone at work may leave, or someone new may start.

• You may be more challenged by starting a new job or moving house.

NEURAL PATHWAYS IN YOUR BRAIN

These are just some examples of the way your brain has to constantly adjust to changes.

Some changes are more difficult to adjust to than others. You may not see those changes as difficult. If you start a new job, your brain has to adjust to that routine. But you will more likely see this as exciting and a bit stressful. The same applies to moving house.

Other changes may not be exciting. When someone you love dies that is not an exciting thing initially.

WHEN ROUTINE CATCHES YOU UP

We are creatures of habit and our brains ensure we are by establishing neural pathways that lead us to follow habits of thought and action.

An example of this is waking up in the morning. Assuming you are at home, you expect to open your eyes and see the same room, the same view, the same people. If the person who has always slept beside you is gone that is a shock. Your neural pathways are telling you to expect certain things in the morning and one of those expectations is not met.

So you wake up, they are not there, and you experience the crushing reality of their absence.

NEURAL PATHWAYS TAKE TIME TO FORM

It takes time for neural pathways to form. The usual estimate for adults is three months. So for roughly three months you will experience that crushing reality every day.

And this pattern is repeated throughout the day.

Small wonder you find it hard to cope.

This forming of new neural pathways is learning. This learning is the major task your brain undertakes as you grieve.

GRIEF SHATTERS THE PREDICTABILITY OF YOUR WORLD

When your loved one dies your nice predictable world is shattered. It doesn’t exist anymore. Those early months and maybe years after a loved one’s death is a time of learning to find a new predictable world to replace the old one.

Not only does grief shatter our predictable world, it can shatter our sense of who we are. We are built for relationships. We love the people we are in relationship with. Part of that love is forming an identity that includes the people we love. If one of those people dies, then our sense of self is also shattered.

THE ROLE OF MEMORY IN GRIEF

Memory plays a huge part in how we relate to others and therefore how we grieve.

We use our life experiences in living our lives. Our memories of past experiences teach us to fear things that in the past were dangerous. They teach us to predict the outcome of an event based on past experience of similar events. That is sometimes referred to as pattern matching and it is often used in our brain’s defence systems.

PATTERN MATCHING IN YOUR BRAIN

Pattern matching is never exact or our brains would rarely be able to predict danger. Pattern matching works by looking for similarities in order to predict danger.

Pattern matching is also used to predict good things. If you see your loved one, pattern matching may lead you to predict they will smile, kiss and hug you.

These pattern matches are neural pathways that also need to change. So you will find it hard learning to feel that your loved one is dead. You will see someone in a crowd and you will be sure they are your loved one.

This pattern match may also be present in that your first reaction when something happens is to text or call your loved one to tell them about it. Then there is the crushing realisation that they aren’t there.

UNLEARNING AND BUILDING NEW NEURAL PATHWAYS

Unlearning that pattern match is another thing your brain has to do.

So many people who have lost a loved one report a strong desire to be with the person who has died. This is another example of neural pathways that are yet to be rebuilt. You are hurting and your brain is offering up a solution – contact with the person your love. Unfortunately, the brain hasn’t quite registered they are not there. Well, the part that yearns hasn’t registered that.

Over time, new neural pathways form and it is possible to live without such constant pain. You will wake up in the morning and know they are not there anymore. You will learn a new sense of self. You will know not to call or text your loved one.

You will never stop loving that person. The pain of their absence will never go away. What will happen is that the love and pain will exist alongside the need to live in the here and now.

As you live through the time of your brain learning new ways of living, be patient with yourself. You are doing great. It will eventually get better. You will learn how to live again.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief learning, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

6 Steps to Solving a Problem

So often when challenges occur in life you can get caught up in the situation and lose the objectivity you need to find a solution.

Past experiences and hurts can cloud how you perceive the challenge.

Self beliefs that are disempowering can also impede your ability to solve the challenge.

Once you reach that stage of believing it is too hard to solve then the challenge becomes a problem.

Here are some things you can try to help you see more clearly and find a solution. Write down the answers to your questions as the process of writing and seeing what you have written is a wonderful way to get a bit of distance between you and the problem:

  1. What have I tried already to solve the problem?

You have usually already tried to solve a challenge a few different ways before you perceive it as a problem. What are those ways? Write down you answer with just facts and no emotional interpretations of what you have done.

Getting caught up in the emotions makes it hard to be objective. When subjectivity fails to solve a problem you need objectivity to see solutions.

  1. How will I know when the problem is no longer a problem?

There are always challenges in life that can become problems when you can’t solve them. What often happens is you find a solution and the problem is no longer a problem. The question to answer here is what would be happening for you so you no longer see this problem as a problem?

Finding that answer will help you break the problem down into parts that are more easily resolved. You will likely find that some parts of the problem don’t need to be solved.

So the question here is which parts need solving in order for the problem to no longer be a problem?

  1. When is this challenge not a problem?

Things can happen that are challenging but you are able to manage the challenge without it becoming a problem. The addition of one or two factors may make this challenge a problem. That can give you the clue as to what you need to focus on to resolve the problem.

The question here is what is present in this challenge that makes it into a problem?

  1. What is present when the problem occurs?

This is similar to the previous question. Just as factors in a challenge may make it feel like a problem, situations at the time of a challenge can make it feel like a problem.

In answering this question you may realise that there are certain situations that feel overwhelming or disempowering. If a challenge occurs in those situations they you struggle to solve the challenge and it becomes a problem.

This questions allows you to separate the other factors that are present from the actual problem.

  1. What is the difference between when the problem exists and when it doesn’t?

The problem is causing some form of distress for you. What is that? What is happening for you when this problem is present that isn’t happening when the problem is not there? Pay attention to that. It will help you to understand how this problem is a problem and give you some ideas as to how you can solve it.

  1. How can I redefine the problem so that it is more solvable?

There is that saying that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. One of the applications of that saying is that what one person perceives as a problem another person does not perceive as a problem.

Sometimes a problem is this way because that is how you perceive it. If you look at the problem from a different perspective it does not seem such a problem. This is what redefining means.

One example is your car getting a flat battery. While you are waiting for help jump starting the car you can:

. worry about the things you need to do that are now being delayed, or

. you can choose to accept that you day is going to be different and notice the glorious skies, or

. you may catch up on some phone calls you needed to make, or

. you may spend time planning your next holiday.

The list is endless. You can choose to see the disruption as an opportunity to catch up on other things, or just chill, or you can choose to see the disruption as something bad.

If you find you frequently have problems in your life that you can’t resolve it can be helpful to talk to someone else about it.

It can be difficult just putting these steps in place. It takes time to learn these skills and sometimes you may need help learning the skills.

Sometimes it is best to talk to a professional about this.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with learning how to solve problems, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

Grieving is a matter of relearning how to be in the world – Thomas Attig

I love this statement.

Why? Because over the course of my life I have observed that to be very true.

So often when bad things happen:

• You lose your job

• You move to a new area and leave all your support networks

• Your dog dies

• A relationship ends

• You lose your health

• Someone you love dies

• And more

You struggle to get back to life as it was.

But the reality is that will never happen.

When you lose something or someone important to you, grieving for that loss changes who you are.

Once you change, you cannot go back to how you were. All you can do is move forward into the new person that you are.

This means the way you relate to the world has changed, because you have.

If you have changed then the way you are in the world has changed too.

The end result is that you need to learn how to be in the world now, as the new you.

That is not easy. It is not necessarily desirable. But it is a fact. It is what it is. All you can do is learn how to be in the world as you are now.

If you are struggling with this, it can be helpful to seek professional help from a registered counsellor.

I am a registered counsellor and if you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with relearning how to be in the world, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How childhood stress affects you in adulthood

Would you be horrified if I told you that some childhood stress will shorten your life expectancy by 10-20 years?

Maybe you would struggle to believe that. For generations adults have told themselves that children are resilient and get over things. But do they?

Extensive research has shown that some types of childhood stress have exactly this impact on life expectancy. This stress is referred to as toxic stress.

These types of childhood stress are called adverse childhood experiences. There is an acronym for that – ACE.

ACEs

High ACE scores have been linked in research to premature death, a large number of health conditions including mental health problems, heart disease, and lung cancer.

The types of stress included in ACEs include physical and emotional abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, parents struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, sexual abuse just to name a few.

The truth is childhood trauma is not something you “get over” or “grow out of”.

CHILDREN’S BRAINS ARE IMPACTED BY ACEs

The repeated stress of ACEs has well observed impacts on the way the brain develops. These impacts are observable across the person’s lifetime.

ACEs were described in the 1990s and have been the subject of much research since then. The original researchers noted that ACEs are very common, in all strata of society. A person from a middle class or high socio-economic level is just as likely to have experienced ACEs as a child from an impoverished background.

IMPACTS OF ACEs

Other findings are that high ACE scores are consistent with poor adult life outcomes including significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, substance abuse, mental health issues, suicide, smoking, poor academic achievement, homelessness, incarceration, being a victim of domestic violence, unemployment and early death.

That is quite horrifying. But how do stressful things that happen to children impact on adulthood? The answer is toxic stress. Toxic stress in a child is stress that leads to frequent, prolonged and excessive activation of the body’s stress response systems. This has a negative impact on the child’s developing brain, immune system, metabolic regulation and cardiovascular system. It has been described as overrevving the body over a long period of time so that it wears out and problems develop.

WHEN STRESS IS A PROBLEM FOR CHILDREN

Children will experience stress. It is part of life. Where it becomes a problem is where there is no supportive adult or adults present to cushion the impact of the stress. For example, research has shown that during crises in the life of a family, the children of the family will be less impacted by the stress if their parents are able to cope well and support their children.

WHAT ARE ACEs?

Initially ACEs were classified as:

• Neglect

• Physical abuse

• Emotional abuse

• Sexual abuse

• Domestic or family violence

• A parent with mental health issues

• A parent with substance abuse issues

• A parent in prison

• Lack of attunement between parent and child

Over time there has been a broadening of what is considered to be an ACE to include:

• Homelessness

• Natural disasters

• War

• Being a refugee

• Violence in the community

• Racism

• Chronic poverty

• And so on.

TRAUMA, ACEs AND TOXIC STRESS

Trauma is a large part of ACEs and toxic stress. Trauma is generally considered to be any stressful experience where there is great adversity or terror and the emotional responses to those experiences. This involves toxic stress and is a major part of any ACE.

HOW CHILDREN REACT TO TRAUMA

In children, trauma will often play out in behaviours where the child withdraws or acts out. Some children will develop ADHD type behaviours. Others may become aggressive and pick fights with other children. Some may withdraw and even self harm. Bullying behaviours are sometimes the result of trauma.

The child who steals cars, breaks into homes, vandalises things ifs often a child who is suffering from ACEs.

It is important to recognise the acting out behaviour of children as likely due to trauma.

Many years ago I worked in a shop and caught a boy stealing. He was only 12 and had started this destructive behaviour after his father had left his marriage. The boy was so broken and miserable. It broke my heart to see his pain.

WHAT HAPPENS IN ADULTHOOD?

ACE affected children grow into adulthood. It is important to consider that if you are ACE affected you are not irreparably damaged. You can get help.

It is important to see a Trauma trained therapist. Working with trauma is a highly specialised field. It is important to find out what experience a prospective therapist has in the trauma field.

WHAT THERAPY SHOULD I SEEK OUT?

Therapy to heal the impact of ACE is not a 10 session solution. The impacts on your brain have taken a long time to form and they need a long time to change. Brain growth slows over the age of 26 and you need to grow many new neural pathways. So expect these changes to take a long time.

Much of trauma is stored in the areas of the brain and body that cannot be consciously accessed. For this reason, talk only therapies are not very effective in healing trauma.

Finding a therapist who works with different approaches such as, to name a few, somatic approaches, art therapy, expressive therapies, EMDR, EFT as well as some talk therapy is important. In Australia the Blue Knot Foundation and its guidelines are the gold standard for trauma therapists. A good trauma therapist will have completed training with them.

HOW LONG DOES THERAPY TAKE?

Expect to spend a long time working on your trauma. I recommend you come to work on a problem. This may take regular sessions over a number of months. The sessions will be frequent at first and decrease in frequency as time goes on. You work on a particular aspect of your trauma, then allow time for that healing to consolidate.

You may take a break from therapy while that consolidation takes place. At some time in the future you will feel the need to seek therapy for another aspect of your trauma. You may go back to the same therapist or find a new one.

HOW I CAN HELP

I am a trauma trained therapist, have received training through the Blue Knot Foundation and I adhere to their guidelines. I also have extensive experience working with trauma affected individuals. All the therapies listed above are used by me in my work.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your ACEs and their impacts, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

How to overcome the inadequacy of language to express your feelings

Recently I was reading a book After Story by Larissa Behrendt. At one point in the book one of her characters reflects on the failure of English words to describe many things.

The English language has a rich array of words in many areas, but in others, there is a great lack of words to describe the nuances of many emotions.

The character mused on this fact. I have described her musings in my own interpretation below.

DESCRIBING GRIEF

Grief is one. There are so many layers to the experience of losing someone you love.

The word hope is another. So often you are encouraged to have hope in the future or you feel you have lost hope in the future you dreamed of. The word hope just doesn’t describe the nuances of feeling around the word hope as it relates to grief.

The word tragedy doesn’t even begin to describe the awfulness and extent of losing someone you love.

The truth of what the author wrote really struck me.

This is often something people I see struggle to comprehend.

HOW TO DESCRIBE THESE BAFFLING FEELINGS AND STRANGE EMOTIONS

If you are struggling with grief you may experience the same difficulty.

How do you put into words the impact of the death of someone you love?

There are not enough words in the English language to fully describe it.

It is also important to note that every person’s experience of grief is different.

But how do you express something so far reaching? So life changing?

How do you express the lost hopes and dreams? How do you express the extent of the tragedy that has befallen you?

THESE FEELINGS NEED TO BE NAMES TO MAKE SENSE OF THEM

The difficulty of expressing these feelings doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t express them. You need to. If you can’t express them to yourself how do you make sense of it all?

For this reason, I use a number of different approaches to working with you. Words alone are never enough so I like to use other approaches.

DIFFERENT APPROACHES WORK WHERE WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS FEELINGS

I teach these approaches to use in sessions so that you can encounter these feelings and have them witnessed. Being able to share the array of emotions is an important part of grief.

I also teach these approaches so that you can use them personally whenever you need to. Below are some of the approaches I use:

. Journaling, both with prompts such as questions to answer and free expression of what is in your head is one way.

. Writing poetry is another way. Haiku is a great format to use the haiku is a Japanese poetic form that consists of three lines, with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

. Sandplay, where you use symbols in sand to explore aspects of your grief is also very powerful.

. Finally, painting or drawing is very powerful and my personal favourite. I don’t ask you to paint a masterpiece. I just ask you to put shapes, squiggles, dots, stick figures, blocks of colour, anything you feel is important to do. You are expressing what cannot be put into words and it can come out many ways.

CAN I HELP YOU?

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

6 ways to gain control of your mind with overwhelming emotions or anxiety

You know how it is.

There are those times in life when you get so anxious you can’t think straight and find yourself saying and doing things that you wish you hadn’t.

Or there are those times when you are overwhelmed by intense emotions and can’t function, or worse still react in a way you don’t want to.

What do you do?

In the long term, counselling to find the root cause of the problems and defuse them is great.

But what do you do in the short term?

Learn how to identify the signs you are getting anxious or your emotions are intensifying. You need to be able to identify them before they get out of control.

When you feel those early signs practice grounding to help you gain control of them.

6 ways to practice grounding are:

  1. Tune into your Body. Feel your feet on the ground. Pressing your toes into the floor will help make that connection. Look at your shoes. What size are they? What do they look like?
  2. Engage your senses. put on a favourite shirt, smell essential oils, make yourself a warm drink, go outside and feel the wind on your body or gaze at a tree or clouds.
  3. Self-soothe. find an object connects you to something solid outside yourself. This may be a rock, a soft toy, a tree to hug. You might find taking a shower or a bath helps.
  4. Observe. look around you. What can you see? Choose an object and describe it in detail. What colour is it? What is its texture? What about the play of shadow and light in the object? What shape is it?
  5. Breathe deep to the bottom of your chest. Practice 4-7-8 breathing. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 then breathe out through pursed lips for 8. This is a wonderful way of engaging your Polyvagal Nerve and calming yourself.
  6. Distract yourself. Look around the room. Find all the red objects. Find all the objects with right angles. Count backwards from 100 by 5s. Anything that focuses your attention somewhere else.

Everyone has moments when it is hard to maintain control over intense emotions or anxiety. If you learn how to spot those moments and stop them before they are out of control then you are on the path to having more control over your life.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with the long term healing of your anxiety and overwhelming emotions, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

5 ways your physical body processes grief

It may surprise you to learn that grief impacts on your physical body.

The feelings and emotions we experience in life are not just in our heads. Anything we experience impacts on our bodies in various ways. This blog is about some of the ways our bodies are affected by grief.

  1. HOW YOUR HEART RESPONDS

According to a small study, there is a greater risk than normal in the week after you have suffered a bereavement of having a heart attack. This is because the body responds to the stress of bereavement by increasing blood pressure, heart rate and clotting. Of course having a higher risk does not mean you will definitely have a heart attack. It is a good reminder to look after yourself in this time.

There is also a condition sometimes called broken heart syndrome where the left side of the heart, which pumps blood around the body, weakens. So if you are feeling tired and becoming more easily breathless and fatigued don’t push through. Take time out to rest and seek medical attention if it is needed.

  1. HOW YOUR ADRENAL GLANDS REACT

For the first six months after bereavement you may find it harder to sleep at night. You may also feel your digestion is affected. This is because the stress of losing a loved one causes your adrenal glands to release more cortisol. This impacts on sleep and digestion.

  1. HOW YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM IS IMPACTED

Cortisol also affects your immune system by lowering your ability to fight infections. This also affects your immune response to vaccines. The result is you may find yourself getting sick more often and any vaccines you have may be less effective.

  1. HOW YOUR BRAIN STRUGGLES

A lot of processing goes on in your brain during grief.

In order to work efficiently, your brain keeps very busy with housework. This includes tidying up neuronal pathways that are no longer needed.

When the one you love dies your neuronal connections to them are no longer needed. You don’t need to remove neuronal pathways every day and work like that is quite major for the brain to do. Don’t be surprised if you get headaches, fatigue easily, find it hard to string thoughts together, forget things and generally feel you are in constant fog.

Raised cortisol levels in your body just add to the brain fog.

Remember to be kind to yourself. You are not mad. You are not stupid. You are grieving and just getting through the day is an amazing achievement.

  1. YOUR ENTIRE BODY

Because of the raised Cortisol levels in your body, you may find you are more likely to feel stressed and overwhelmed, even by things that were once simple and non stressful. You may also find it harder to calm down after stressful incidents.

Again, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself time to calm down. Practising simple meditations may be helpful. As your concentration is impacted it is better to keep mediations short.

Be mindful of your health and remember to get regular check-ups from your health practitioner. The stress caused by grief is known to raise inflammation in your body and that inflammation if more likely to become chronic. Inflammation is often experienced in sore joints, flare ups of skin conditions, allergies, arthritis and digestive difficulties.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Life is stressful. Some events cause greater stress than others and are therefore associated with greater risk of stress related illnesses.

Grief is one of the most stressful events you can experience.

A lot of the physical impacts of grief are caused by your body’s response to the pain you are experiencing. There are ways to limit that.

Understanding the impact of Grief is important.

Understanding that your body will be responding to the stress of bereavement will allow you to make allowances for yourself.

Focus on looking after yourself. I realise that is often the last thing you want to do in this situation, but it is important you allow time for you.

GRIEF THE COMFORTER

Remember grief is there to comfort you, not to make your life difficult. Bereavement makes life difficult. Grief just picks up the pieces.

Do see a doctor if you are experiencing severe physical symptoms.

In the meantime, when you feel able to eat try to eat nutritious foods. Get as much rest as possible. Try simple, short meditations. Even if you stop for a minute every so often to focus on your breathing and just let go of whatever is on your mind at the time can be helpful.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

I can’t say this enough! Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to be able to achieve magnificent goals at this time. Accept that some days, just getting through the day is a fantastic achievement.

SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP

It can help to talk to a counsellor about your feelings. To feel free to express all the thoughts that you may feel you can’t express to other people. To know you are not crazy. When you are ready you may find a support group is helpful.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

10 ways to roll with life’s punches better

Awareness of the importance of resilience has increased over the past few years. But what is resilience?

Most definitions will say that resilience is the capacity of an individual to manage difficult situations by using psychological, social, cultural and physical resources available to them and be able to work out how to use these resources in a meaningful way.

IN SHORT, RESILIENCE IS:

• The ability to bounce back when faced with stress or pressure

• The ability to fall and pick yourself up

• Knowing when to persevere or decide to stop doing something

• Be able to accept the new reality, even when it is less good, and work to create something that is good enough

• Being able to ask for appropriate help.

RESILIENT PEOPLE ARE NOT:

• Always positive and upbeat

• Know how to achieve things on their own

• Never give up

• Tend to be perfectionists.

RESILIENT PEOPLE ARE:

• Less prone to stress

• Have strong problem solving skills

• Accept difficulties as part of life

• Be aware of the situation, their feelings and how other people are behaving

• Accept what they are responsible for and what other people are responsible for

• Experience greater satisfaction in life

• Know how to effectively manage social and emotional areas of life

• More optimistic

• Not afraid to ask for help

• Less afraid of facing life’s challenges

• Know life can be difficult and doing new things is scary but do them anyway

• Have a strong sense of self and are more confident in their own abilities

• Are creative

• Identify as a survivor not a victim.

BUILDING UP YOUR RESILIENCE

Now you have an idea of what resilience is. Maybe you are thinking you don’t have those skills. Don’t worry, you can build up your resilience.

Here are 10 things you can do to build up your resilience.

  1. When you experience challenges in life, pay attention to what you are feeling, how you are reacting, what your body is feeling. Pay attention also to words or statements that are running through your head. Be particularly aware of statements that tell you that you can’t do this, you are useless, have done something bad, this always happens to me, I shouldn’t be upset by this, I should be able to manage this and so on. Choose to see the experience as something that is outside you, rather than part of you. This means you need to separate your negative words from being about you.
  2. Note the attitudes you have around difficulties in life. Again, this is best expressed in your self talk. You may find your self talk is making statements about why this is happening or how hard it will be to cope. These attitudes sound like facts but they are actually unhelpful habitual statements that hold you back. Challenge those thoughts. Are they actually true? Tell yourself those statements are not the truth and that you have the skills, or know who to turn to for help.
  3. Derail those unhelpful thoughts with the following practice: STOP Take a few deep, slow breaths Notice what is being said in your mind Identify the thoughts as visitors with opinions, not statements of who you are Choose how you are going to proceed.
  4. Establish a daily practice of mindfulness. Take a few minutes out to just sit quietly and pay attention to your breath. Allow yourself to not engage with any thoughts you are thinking. They will come, but you can just notice them and let them go. Practice this at least daily, or a few times a day. when you practice this regularly you can use this when challenging things happen to give yourself time to collect your thoughts and make decisions more effectively.
  5. Reach out to others for help.
  6. Be aware of the reactions you have when things are difficult. Allow yourself to react, be upset, be angry, feel powerless. Allow yourself time out to explore those feelings. Exploring them mindfully can help. Allow yourself time to sit with the feelings and let them settle. When you feel calmer you can make decisions on how to act.
  7. Choose to change your inner dialogue. That is the one where you make a mistake and tell yourself you are useless. Change that so that you say you made a mistake and that is okay. This is a practice you can practice always so that when difficulties arise you don’t default to the negative thoughts. Choose to see your strengths. When you feel calm enough explore what skills and strengths you have that can help you.
  8. Don’t fight the difficulties. They have happened and no amount of thinking or railing against it will change things. Explore what you control and what you can’t. The things you control are things you can work through. Those things you can’t control are either things you may be able to seek help from someone else for or are things that you accept and work out how to work with.
  9. Develop an action plan with clearly defined and measurable steps to work through. Start off with one small thing you can do that will move you in the direction you want to go in.
  10. Remember to look after yourself. Take time out regularly to do things you enjoy and relax you. This allows you to be well rested and less stressed when difficult things happen. That way you are in the best place to work through the difficulties.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you develop resilience, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz

When your anger is really grief

“I sat with my anger long enough until she told me her real name was grief” C.S.Lewis

I read this quote a long time ago. At the time it really resonated with me. I felt like that over the death of my mother. I had a family that didn’t communicate so I couldn’t talk to my family about it. My husband was sympathetic but he didn’t really understand it at the time. I most certainly was not going to talk to my children about it.

I thought I was going mad.

ELIZABETH KUBLER ROSS AND THE “STAGES” OF DEATH

As a teenager I had read the Elizabeth Kubler Ross books about death and dying and the “stages” of grief. But what I was experiencing didn’t make sense in that formula people were using for grief.

WHAT WE KNOW NOW ABOUT GRIEF

What I didn’t know until I studied counselling was that many other theorists had come after her and their theories made a lot more sense of my experience.

It was many years before I went to a grief group and discovered that my feelings were normal.

Since then I have sat with many people grieving loss and seen their anger as well.

The difference is that now, I can reassure them that what they are feeling, although distressing for them and those around them, is completely normal.

WHEN ANGER IS GRIEF

People come to see me about anger and discover that anger is masking grief.

Children are particularly prone to anger as an expression of grief. There is not much understanding about how children grieve.

HOW CHILDREN GRIEVE

A child will be sad and then go off and play. An adult watching that may reassure themselves that the child is over it. But they aren’t. The grief is still there, they are just attending to the other needs of life.

The grief a child feels may surface months or years later, often as anger and disengagement with school. It takes a long time to process grief. Don’t think that because a child appears happy they are over the grief.

HOW ADULTS CAN GRIEVE THAT WAY TOO

Adults can have similar experiences too.

It is worthwhile considering that your reactivity and swiftness to become angry is actually a reaction to grief. That the anger is trying to tell you to address something in you that is unresolved.

THE DANGER OF SUPPRESSING GRIEF

Grief that is not acknowledged or is suppressed often becomes anger because while you are suppressing your grief your brain and body feels abandoned and ignored. Your brain builds narratives that are not correct and develops assumptions about things. This creates a conflict in your mind and often results in anger.

GIVING GRIEF ITS IDENTITY

This reminds me of an exercise I often use with people who come to me for grief counselling. I also use it with people who come to me experiencing anger.

The exercise is based on the concept that strong emotions are signals to you about things you need to deal with.

In order to deal with those things, you need to be able to listen to your emotions.

My exercise is around centring with some focused breathing and preferably eyes closed.

Once you are centred, ask the feeling who it is. What does it want? What does it want you to know?

I then ask you to draw that feeling. On the drawing write down things the feeling has said. Who it is, what it wants and what it wants you to know.

Interestingly, I have never had anyone find that this emotion wishes them harm. It is always that it is there to help and it has wisdom to impart.

I have had angry people surprised at discovering the feeling is grief and that it wants to help them.

I have also had grieving people surprised to discover that grief loves and cares for them and wants to guide them through this time. Not the way many people see grief.

LEARNING TO BE

Learn to sit with your feelings. If it helps, ask them who they are, what they want and that they want you to know. Then draw them and write down their words. You may be surprised and reassured at what you find.

If you would like to talk to me about how I can help you with your grief or emotions you are experiencing, please contact me on 0409396608 or nan@plentifullifecounselling.com.au

If you would like to learn more, I write a regular newsletter with interesting information, tips, information on courses, and the occasional freebie. At the moment I have a free mindfulness meditation for anyone who signs up to my newsletter. This meditation offers a way to safely explore your feelings and learn to be okay with them. If you would like to subscribe please click on the link here: http://eepurl.com/g8Jpiz