We all experience difficulties in life. Having problems in a relationship; feeling unhappy or anxious about going to work; living with grief; struggling with low mood or a lack of self-confidence. Most of us have experienced a least one of these at some point. Often, we can resolve these issues for ourselves. We may seek support from someone close to us or perhaps make changes in our life that bring about an improvement. However, in some cases difficulties persist and we continue to struggle.
Although we may have people in our lives that care for us, it can sometimes be hard to talk to them about certain things. We may think that we will shock them or hurt them. We may fear that they will worry about us or treat us differently because of what we have told them. This can cause us to feel isolated and alone with our painful feelings.
Counselling involves meeting regularly with a therapist to share experiences which may be causing difficulty or distress. Many people find this idea daunting. There may be some fear about what will happen. What will they expect of me? Will I have to talk about things I don't want to? These are natural and reasonable concerns but remember, counselling is first and foremost about having a safe place to speak about what is happening in our lives. It is an opportunity to explore problems with someone who is trained to listen and will not judge or pressure. This process can help gain a clearer understanding of thoughts, feelings and needs. It can also help in learning new skills for coping with challenges in life.
So how do we know if counselling might be helpful? Here are some simple questions which can help in making this decision:
1. What is my inner voice telling me?
Life can be demanding and often leaves little time for listening to our deeper feelings. It can be helpful to slow down and tune in to your inner voice. This will often tell us when we need support. Sadness and distress that are experienced for a long time are often a signal that something is amiss. The feeling of being stuck and unable to change things can be a sign that extra support may be of benefit.
2. Have I changed?
It is important to reflect on whether there are changes in daily patterns and behaviours that are making life difficult. Are there disruptions to eating and sleeping habits? This can often go hand in hand with feeling tired and losing interest in things that used to be enjoyed. Emotions may have become more intense than previously and anger or tears may come more quickly than has been usual. Strong anxiety can lead to becoming isolated and unable to freely live life. Also consider any physical changes. Is there persistent and unexplained pain or nausea? Becoming overheated, dizzy or breathless in everyday situations? Unexplained physical ailments can often be rooted in psychological stress and there may be value in exploring this possibility.
3. Are other people noticing changes?
Sometimes friends and family notice changes which otherwise might remain unacknowledged. It is often wise to listen to what is being said by those we trust. If they feel there may be a need for some professional support it might be useful to consider whether there is any truth in what they say.
It often saddens me to think how long people suffer in silence before looking for help. Research shows that talking regularly about our thoughts and feelings can help with a wide range of mental health difficulties. Given the right environment and support I believe that all of us have the ability to adapt and heal.
It is important to remember that, while counselling can often be helpful, there are other ways to support ourselves if we feel under stress.. Support groups, relaxation techniques and lifestyle changes can all be of use in helping us come through a difficult time in our lives.
For simple self-care strategies see my article:
Make a change today
Have a great week, Jane
Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Portlaoise, Co. Laois