Author: Kieran

the-incredible-hulk-looking-angry

How to control your anger (and not lose control)

Introduction

I decided to write a blog post about how to control anger because ‘anger management’ is one of the most common problems clients come to me wanting help with, in fact, it is probably the most common. When I began researching the post I came across a report on anger; ‘Boiling Point’ produced by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) back in 2008, which found that (of the 2000 people surveyed):

  • 32% of people say they have a close friend or family member who has trouble controlling their anger.
  • 12% have trouble controlling their own anger.
  • 28% worry about how angry they sometimes feel.
  • 1 in 5 people have ended a relationship or a friendship because of how they behaved when they were angry.

anger management’ is one of the most common problems clients come to me wanting help with…

I was shocked to learn that the statistics were so high and there were so many people who’s lives were affected by their anger. So, below is a guide explaining how to control your anger and I’ll be sharing some of the ways I have helped many clients handle their own anger problems.

In this post I will explain:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
― Buddha

What is anger and why does it matter?

Anger is a natural emotion, that is part of our survival instinct. When we feel threatened, a part of the brain called ‘the Amygdala’, prepares the body for action and we get ready to fight what is trying to harm us. Without this early warning system, we probably wouldn’t be here in the 21st century, with the human race being extinct as a result of being eaten by bigger, stronger, quicker predators, millions of years ago!

“The best fighter is never angry.”

lAO tZU

While anger can keep us safe, it simply isn’t acceptable to treat everyone as though they are going to kill you! Like all our emotions, we have to learn to control our anger. The difference with anger, unlike our other emotions, is that anger makes other people around us feel threatened, frightened, resentful and indeed, angry themselves, so it important for us to control our anger if we are going to maintain the relationships in our lives.

What makes you angry?

Whether someone has told you, “you need to control your anger more” or “you get wound up easily” or you’ve noticed that you feel angry or frustrated yourself, the first thing you need to do is to establish what makes you angry.

Everyone is different so write a list of things that make you angry. This could include things people say to you like being told you’re wrong or maybe when people ignore you, you get angry. You might find that the drive to work makes you angry, or perhaps its a person, your partner, or maybe your boss.

Getting it down on paper will help you focus on the things that make you angry and give you a place to start tackling the problem.

Counselling for men

Why does it make you angry?

Now you have an idea of some of the things that make you angry, you need to spend some time on why they make you angry. The reasons you feel angry are going to be personal to you and it might be difficult to admit to yourself why they make you angry, so take your time. Here are some steps to follow to help you work out why things make you angry:

Step 1

Find a time and place you won’t be disturbed. No mobile phones, no televisions, and nothing that is going to distract you, including other people in the house and noises outside.

You might have to wait until the kids are at school and the other half is at work but it’s important that there are as few distractions as possible.

Clearly, during the Coronavirus outbreak, getting some quiet is much harder than usual and indeed, this might be something that is making you angry in itself so what’s important here is that you find somewhere where you can think clearly. If needs must, you could do this sat on the loo, perhaps with some peaceful music playing through some earphones to block out noisy distractions.

Clearly, during the Coronavirus outbreak, getting some quiet is much harder than usual and indeed, this might be something that is making you angry in itself so what’s important here is that you find somewhere where you can think clearly.

If needs must, you could do this sat on the loo, perhaps with some peaceful music playing through some earphones to block out noisy distractions.

mobile-and-earphones-for-helping-to-reduce-anger

Step 2

Sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breathing.

Helpful tip:

Breathing in the smell of a cup of coffee can help.

Step 3

Relax your body and let go of any tension.

Step 4

As you begin to relax, you’ll be giving your mind the chance to present what’s troubling you. It might be something on your list or it could be something else. Let the thought’s enter and try to spend 5 to 10 minutes on what come’s to mind.

It’ll take practice to stay with your thoughts so don’t worry if you have trouble focusing, it will come.

Don’t try to force the thoughts to come back if you lose track, this will only frustrate you even further. If you want to carry on, come back to focusing on your breathing and give the thoughts the chance to come again.

work-harder-to-control-your-anger

It’ll take practice to stay with your thoughts so don’t worry if you have trouble focusing, it will come. Don’t try to force the thoughts to come back if you lose track, this will only frustrate you even further. If you want to carry on, come back to focusing on your breathing and give the thoughts the chance to come again.

“Tomorrow’s victory is today’s practice.”

Chris Bradford, The Way of the Warrior

It’s important to point out you might not like what comes to mind and you may not agree with them but try to accept them and be open to exploring what comes to mind. For example, you might have a thought that say’s something like “you’re angry because you’re jealous”. Rather than pushing the thought away and dismiss it, try to accept it for what it is, a thought and try to explore it. “Am I jealous”? “What exactly am I jealous of”? Etc.

Step 5

Write down anything that feels relevant. You will hopefully have gained some insight into what it is that is making you angry and it’s useful to record it.

Staying on top of your anger

One you’ve begun to work out what makes you angry and how it makes you angry, it’s important that you stay on top of your anger. Practice steps 1 to 5 as often as you can, everyday if it is possible.

You can use this technique to work on something making you angry in the present such as an argument with your partner. You can also use this technique to work on something that’s been troubling you longer term such as anger towards a relative who has passed away, for example.

What’s important is that you learn to listen to your mind and trust your feelings.

Conclusion

Today we’ve learnt how to recognise the things that make us angry, why they make us angry and how we can control our anger and stay on top of it. I hope this helps you and please feel free to look at some of my other blog posts.

Need help with anger?

If you would like to talk to some, confidentially about anger management, then I can help.

4 Steps to achieve your goals

Achieve your goals!

Clients come to me looking for counselling for all sorts of reasons.  Some come because they keep losing their temper and want help with their anger.  Some come to me because they’ve become so anxious that they struggle with social interactions, that many of us take for granted.  Some come to me because they’re suffering from depression and find some days that they just want to stay in bed and be left alone.  Some come to me simply because they have “lost their way” in life and are looking for help getting their life back on track.  In this blog, I’m going to show you how you can turn your life around and achieve your goals.

If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.
– Albert Einstein

The one thing that all my clients have in common is that they are all looking to achieve something, even if they don’t know what it is.  Now as a counsellor who takes pride in practising ethically, I can’t talk about what my clients and I talk about in counselling sessions but I can talk about what all my clients want and indeed, all of us want – to achieve our goals.  Whether we want to find a partner, feel less anxious, get a better job or just enjoy life, we all have goals.  The problem is, sometimes our goals are too diffuse – they aren’t clear to us or maybe we just don’t know what our goals are at all.

Maybe we’ve set goals in the past and we haven’t achieved them or maybe we’re just struggling with the goals we have and need some help.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look at how we can get to where we want to be in life and achieve our goals!

Goal Setting – what are your goals?

If we’re going to achieve anything in life, we need to establish our goals.  We need to know what we want if we are going to achieve it.  But knowing what we want is only half the battle.  Most people have at least an idea of what they want, it’s achieving our goals that most of us struggle with.  If I want to learn to swim but I don’t know where I can find someone to teach me, I need to start to think about how I’m going to do it.  If I plan my goal, it’ll keep me focused while I solve the problems that are stopping me.

Lets take a look at a plan to figure out what our goals are and how we are going to achieve them.  Grab a blank piece of paper and a pen and lets get started!

1. Set no more than 3 goals to begin with

So it’s time to think about your goals but to begin with, set yourself no more than three goals.  If we set anymore than three, there’s a danger that we’ll become overwhelmed.  While it’s great to have lots of goals, if we can prioritise three to begin with, it’ll help keep us focused on what’s most important.  As we begin to achieve those goals, we can make revisions to our goal plan and this can then include some of the other goals we have.

For example, if we decided that the goals we wanted to achieve was ‘to get into shape’, ‘to socialise more’, to ‘find a hobby we enjoy’, ‘to change jobs’ and ‘to meet the right woman’, then we might find that we try to do all of them but lose focus because we’re trying to change our lives too dramatically and too quickly.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
– Bruce Lee

If for example, we focused on socialising more, getting into shape and finding a hobby we enjoy, there’s every chance that by socialising more, you’ll meet someone your attracted to.  If you’re doing more, socialising more and exercising more, you’ll be more appealing to a potential employer too.  Wouldn’t you hire someone who is sociable, looks after themselves and has things in their life they’re passionate about? You’ll also tend to find that as you achieve your most important goals, you’ll be achieving your other goals too.

2. Focus on short term goals

While it’s important to focus on a manageable number of goals, to start off with, it is also important to work on short term goals.  So for example, if your goal was to ‘learn a foreign language’, a short term goal might be to ‘enrol on an evening course at a local college’ or ‘buy a teach yourself French audio book’.  The useful part of short term goals is that they are easier to achieve and measure.

For example, to enrol on an evening course it is usually a case of applying to the college.  It can be done fairly easily.  If you are accepted on to the course, you’ve achieved your goal.  If you don’t make contact with the college, you won’t achieve your goal.

If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.
– Elon Musk

You can measure success and failure much easier than you can the longer term goal of learning a language.  Once you start to get into the habit of achieving goals, you can then vary between the short, medium and long term with more confidence.

3. Keep it positive

It might sound obvious to say but if you’re in a place where you are feeling negative about your life, being positive about achieving your goals may not come naturally.  So, rather than setting a goal like ‘stop playing on the Xbox every night‘, it is more useful to set a goal of ‘playing on the Xbox for no more than 2 hours each night’.  Another example might be ‘eat less takeaways’.  You could alter this to ‘eat a cooked meal three time per week’.  Both of those examples can be “shortened” too.  You might need to drop to 4 hours on the Xbox each night first or cook a meal once a week before you can get to three or more.

4. Lets be SMART about this

Now that we’ve established our goals, we need a framework to help us realise them.  A really useful technique for achieving goals is to us S.M.A.R.T goals;  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time specific.

Specific:

Be as to the point as you can.  If for example, you wanted to save up enough money to buy a new car, then it would be useful to write down things like; which car do you want? How much will it cost? How long will it take you to save the money? Adding as much detail here, will help you overcome the obstacles to your goal.

Measurable:

We need to be able to ‘measure’ the progress of your goal.  Staying with the car example, if you wanted to save £5000 as a deposit, then we can measure the progress towards the figure by depositing a certain amount each week into a bank account and checking the progress on a monthly basis, when the statement arrives.

Achievable:

Setting a goal like ‘I’d like to become a Hollywood superstar within the next two weeks’ is unrealistic if you have just realised that your goal is indeed, to become a Hollywood star! If your goal isn’t achievable, it isn’t useful to you.  If you really wanted to become an actor then a goal which might ‘getting a role in a play’ would probably be more useful.

Time Specific:

You may have already thought about how long it would take you to achieve your goals when we looked at the ‘Specific’ aspect but if you haven’t, it’s useful to set yourself a time limit to achieve your goal.  So for example, if your goal was to ‘join a Thai boxing club‘ then you might want to give yourself a week to complete the goal, as you’ll have to find a club, work out if you can afford membership etc.  If you don’t make your goal time specific, you may find yourself “putting off” your goal.  If you can’t make it time specific, go back to ‘Achievable’ and make an adjustment.

For example, your goal was to ‘learn how to design websites’, you might want to set yourself a longer time frame, if the course began in the September and it was now July.  But, you could alter the goal to ‘prepare for the webdesign course beginning in September’ and start working towards your goal, now.

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
– Steve Jobs

While it’s great to achieve a goal, don’t be too disheartened if you don’t.  You might be too ambitious when it comes to ‘Time Specific’ or maybe you wasn’t ‘Specific’ enough but if you set a goal and use this framework, you can always re-vise your goals.  So for example, if your goal was to ‘learn Spanish in 6 months’ and your on month 12 and you’ve only mastered half a dozen phrases, you just need to re-vise your goal.

Maybe the goal needs to be something like ‘practice spoken Spanish with a friend twice a week’.  Also, if you have set yourself a goal that’s not ‘Achievable’, re-vise it but also remember to give yourself credit for what you have achieved. Taking the Spanish example, you’ve still learnt some Spanish.  Perhaps you’ve made some friends from the classes too? The SMART framework is to help you focus, not beat yourself with!

Finally, you need to refer to the framework on a regular basis to keep your goals focused  and relevant.  If you met someone on that Spanish course and started to date, is that other goal of ‘to meet the right woman’ still relevant?

Conclusion

The SMART framework can be a really handy tool if you struggle to achieve your goals.  This isn’t something you’ll need to do for the rest of your life, it’ll help you get into the habit of making achievable goals and attaining them.  I’ve used it with my clients and it works.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Have you tried it and had success? Have you tried it and failed? Why do you think that could be and what did you try instead?

Thanks for reading.

Kieran.

'Scrabble' tiles spelling 'positive' on a cork background

You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.
– C.S. Lewis

If you’re looking for a counsellor who understands and can put themselves in your shoes and feel how you feel, get in touch.

Suicide: the bane of masculinity

As I casually flicked through my Twitter feed I remember the feeling of sadness at seeing another icon of my youth, Keith Flint of ‘The Prodigy’ had committed suicide.  The feeling instantly took me back to how I felt in July 2017, when Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, committed suicide too.  I was heartbroken.  The music of both The Prodigy and Linkin Park elicit fond memories from my teenage years and fill my head and my heart with thoughts and feelings of an optimistic youth with his best years ahead of him.  This is the gift both Keith and Chester gave to me and I will forever be grateful to their pioneering geniuses.  Gifts given to me and millions of fans around the world who were uplifted by the energy in both their music and their on stage performances and consoled by the poignancy of their lyrics.

Two picture merged into one; the first is Chester Bennington on Linkin Park and the second is Keith Flint of The Prodigy

When we lose icons like Chester and Keith as well as men like Chris Cornell from Soundgarden and Audioslave to suicide, it brings the subject to the fore and creates discussions but how many men are seeing suicide as a serious threat to both themselves and their families? Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under 45.  Bigger than any cancer.  Suicide claims more lives of British men under 45 years of age than anything else, so shouldn’t we be doing something about it? While suicide affects women, it doesn’t claim nearly as many lives, with the figure being roughly a third of the male suicide rate and yet there is a higher rate of depression diagnosis in women.  There are 15.5 male deaths per 100,000, in the UK, compared to women, with the figure standing at 4.9 female deaths per 100,000.  The figures for death by suicide in the United States and Australia, both show similar trends.  Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, in Australia and in the United States, that figure rises to men being 3.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

So why do more men commit suicide than women?

Well, we can identify several ‘risk factors’ and one of the biggest risk factors I am aware of and a risk factor many of my male clients identify as a major issue, is communication, or lack of it.  We could put it down to women being more “open” and willing to share their thoughts, feelings and emotions, while men “bottle it up” and feel less able to tell their loved ones or friends what “going on for them” but is it as simple and as straightforward as that? For too long I feel it is true that western society has for generation after generation encouraged men to be “strong” and to not admit when they are struggling but that’s why many of my clients who seek counselling for men contact me because they realise that they do need to talk to someone.  The problem is, by the time they come to me for counselling, they’ve already had many years of experience of not talking about the anxieties.  And its not just how men feel emotionally either.  If there is something physically wrong with a man, they are less likely than women to put themselves into the vulnerable position of asking for help.  The ‘Health and Social Care bill’ found that men visited their GP’s 20% less frequently than women.  It’s not that men don’t have the same issues as women but it’s that men are less likely to share a problem preferring to resolutely say “I’ll be fine”.  This attitude puts men at a greater risk of suicide.

What are the other risk factors?

While it’s not unusual to hear of women in the UK drinking excessively, the Samaritans advise that men are more likely to turn to alcohol to when they are in distress, with alcohol being a known risk factor for suicide.  Another major risk factor of male suicide is employment.  Men are traditionally the “main bread winner” so when unemployment rises as a result of economic downturn, we see an increase in the number of suicides.    A study by Bristol, Manchester and Oxford University, estimated that an additional 1,000 suicides and “30 to 40 thousand” attempts were made as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.  While money worries can understandably contribute to a man considering suicide, the reduction in finances, is the tip of the iceberg.  Simon Gunning, the CEO of Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) says “We’re brought up our entire lives to judge ourselves in comparison with our peers and to be economically successful.  When there are economic factors we can’t control, it becomes very difficult.”

What can be done?

To reduce the number of male deaths by suicide, attitudes towards talking about suicide need to change.  If we become more comfortable about talking about suicide, we can become more able to help someone who might be suffering with suicidal thoughts.  Here are some ways you can help someone you feel could be contemplating suicide:

Know the warning signs:

  • Mood changes – a sudden change from sad to happy can appear as though someone is in “a better place” but it could also be because they have decided that they are prepared to commit suicide.
  • Withdrawal – be aware of people who are not going out or socialising as much as they once did.
  • Changes to sleeping and eating patterns – someone who eats or sleeps excessively can be a warning sign as much as someone who can’t sleep or doesn’t eat.
  • A lack of energy or seeming “run down” – someone who is lethargic may be struggling.
  • Poor personal hygiene – if someone isn’t showering, brushing their teeth or wearing clean clothes, could be suffering from poor mental health.
  • Drink/drugs/gambling – excessive drinking, gambling and drug taking, can be warning signs that someone has “more going on in their lives” than they are letting on.
  • Recklessness – a person who is “risk taking” may be in danger.
  • Anger issues – Someone who is easily irritable or seems “always angry”, is possibly struggling with mental health issues.

What can I do to help someone who may be suicidal?

  • Be there for them.  Give them space to talk, if they need it.
  • Don’t pressure them to talk to you if they really don’t want to.
  • It’s also ok to ask someone if they feel suicidal.  While it can be a scary thing to do, it shows the person that someone is paying attention to them, which can make a difference.
  • Try to help the person explore their feelings and it may seem hard but try not to be judgemental if the person is drinking too much or dependant on drugs.  They probably realise that already and if they feel judged they’re more likely to respond negatively and reject your help.
  • If the person agrees, remove anything that could be used to take their life.
  • Get some help – you can call a GP’s surgery, 999 or take them to A&E but stay with them.
  • Get support – it’s tough hearing that someone you love or care for is thinking of suicide and it can leave many people feeling upset.  Get support from other friends or family members but if you don’t feel you are able to, there agencies who can support you.

Useful contacts

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Anxiety rises among teenagers and children

As a counsellor who has worked with dozens and dozens of young people, from 7 years old and upwards and worked with organisations such as Kooth, the Scout Association, the YMCA and the Army Cadet Force (ACF), it never ceases to amaze me how many young people are affected by social media and how complicated life has become for people since the advent of platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Anxiety is just one of the many issues caused by social media for teenagers and children, in the 21st century.

Ironically, while I was looking through my Twitter feed, I came across an article that reported the number of young people in the UK who say they do not believe that life is worth living, has doubled in the last decade, amid a sense of overwhelming pressure from social media which is driving feelings of inadequacy, new research suggests.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. – Walt Disney

The article went on to talk about the rapid rise in young people who were unhappy with their lives.  In 2009, only 9% of 16-25-year-olds disagreed with the statement that “life is really worth living”, but that has now risen to 18%. More than a quarter also disagree that that their life has a sense of purpose, according to a YouGov survey of 2,162 people for the Prince’s Trust (who do an incredible job), a charity that helps 11 to 30-year-olds into education, training and work. Youth happiness levels have fallen most sharply over the last decade in respect of relationships with friends and emotional health, the survey found, while satisfaction with issues like money and accommodation have remained steady.

The Prince’s Trust has been gauging youth opinion for 10 years and found that just under half of young people who use social media now feel more anxious about their future when they compare themselves to others on sites and apps such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. A similar amount agree that social media makes them feel “inadequate”. More than half (57%) think social media creates “overwhelming pressure” to succeed.  Anxiety has become a real problem for young people.

The gloomy view on life being taken by a growing minority of young people comes amid reports of an increased rate of teenage suicide. It was reported on Sunday that official statistics due later this year will show that suicides now occur at more than five in 100,000 teenagers in England. That contrasts with a figure of just over three in 100,000 in 2010.

A graph that shows the rise of anxiety believed to caused by social media

Source: Prince’s Trust eBay Youth Index/You Gov (Online poll of 2,162 adults aged 16-25 between 13 November and 2 December 2018

“Social media has become omnipresent in the lives of young people and this research suggests it is exacerbating what is already an uncertain and emotionally turbulent time,” said Nick Stace, UK chief executive of The Prince’s Trust. “Young people are critical to the future success of this country, but they’ll only realise their full potential if they believe in themselves and define success in their own terms. It is therefore a moral and economic imperative that employers, government, charities and wider communities put the needs of young people centre stage.”

There were positive feelings about social media too. A third of people said being on social media makes them feel like they can have a voice for their generation and influence positive change, and more than a quarter said it made them happy. However, playing sport (44%), earning enough money to live how they want (62%) and spending time with family (77%) were more likely to drive happiness. Four out of 10 young people said they felt more confident online than they do in person, but that rises to almost half among the youngest age group, 16 to 18-year-olds.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius

The findings follow public pressure on the government to toughen the regulation of social media companies, which use algorithms to target users with tailored content. Government Ministers have asked the chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to draw up advice on social media usage for children amid growing concerns about links between its excessive use and mental health problems among children.

a tree and various social media icons hang from its branches, like fruit

Education secretary Damian Hinds, said at the weekend that social media companies have a “moral duty” to act. He announced that children will have lessons in how to deal with the pressures of social media.

Tskenya Frazer, 24, a habitual Instagram and Twitter user until recently, said she would “feel bad” about her own life when looking at posts from friends about holidays, work promotions, new cars or homes. It also made her question her body image.

“As soon as I woke up I would be on Instagram, scrolling through,” she said. “I would be on a page with a girl with the most perfect body.”

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill

“Social media reinforces those feelings of not being good enough, that you’re too fat, and that is toxic,” Frazer said. “Social media doesn’t induce those feelings but it heightens them.”

The Prince’s Trust creates an index based on happiness and confidence which stood at 73 in 2009. It is now at its lowest level yet at 69.

But young people need social media, right?

So with all the statistics and opinion in mind, there is clearly a link between anxiety in young people and social media.  But as we must also realise, social media is a very important aspect of children and teenagers’ lives.  Teenagers and children, use social media for a myriad of reasons such as to simply have fun; Fortnight is an incredibly popular multiplayer online game at the moment and an extension of that too is somewhere for teenagers and children to make and maintain friendships through “chat”, this allows them to share interests as well.

Social media also gives children and teenagers the opportunity to explore their identities and develop relationships with family.  Many children and young people (and of course, adults too) use social media to keep in touch with family who are in a different part of the country, or indeed, the world.  Not only can children and teenagers connect with friends and family, they can connect to global communities, often based on interests they share.

A image of a young woman looking at many different images, possibly a metaphor for the internet

Connecting with other teenagers or children around the world allows them to “meet” others who may have shared interests.  For example a young person who is interested in West Midlands Aston Villa football club but is based in Cornwall, can connect with fans in the local area.  Likewise, a teenager who wants to find a support network for sufferers of eating disorders, can find online groups, research ways of getting help and find out where support groups meet locally.

While we can’t stop the teenager and children from using social media, we can try to alleviate its affects on children and teenagers and help prevent anxiety and other metal health problems.  By talking to young people about social media, we can help protect them and improve their internet safety.

Below are 6 simple guidelines to discuss with your child or teenager about social media.

  • Think about online behaviour and respect for yourself and to others.  Ensure that children and teenagers appreciate the risks of cyber bullying, the affects social media has on their self-confidence and where they can get help if it becomes (or is) a problem.
  • understand the risks of using social media – for example, risks like being tagged in an embarrassing photo taken at a party or someone sending you unwanted messages.
  • Beware of the dangers involved in sharing content and personal information – this includes not only content that your child or teenager shares but also images of your young person that other people share, or posts and images that others tag your child or teenager in.  Also be aware of the dangers of giving out personal details to people on social media.  They may not be who they claim or appear to be.
  • Identify how to minimise risk – for example, if your child or teenager posts an identifiable image of themselves, they can reduce the risk by not including any other personal information such as where the photo was taken.
  • Learn how to handle a situation that may include people asking for personal details, are abusive, post unwanted photos, or share information that links back to your child or teenager – identify what to do when these things occur and reassure your child or teenager you are there to help.
  • Beware of their own digital footprint – we don’t know how long the information in cyber space will stay “out there” and while it may be “funny” to post images of a drunken night out on an 18th birthday party but it might not be the kind of image a potential employer college or university would want to see!

If you feel like you’re struggling with anxiety because of social media or you have a teenager or child who does, I can help. I know what it’s like and I know what it takes to accept yourself.  If you’re looking for a counsellor who understands and can put themselves in your shoes and feel how you feel, get in touch.

a-selection-of-cold-and-flu-remedies

Is mens confidence hit by ‘Man Flu’?

Confidence is an issue for a lot of men and when I wasn’t feeling well recently, I got thinking about whether terms such as ‘Man Flu’ (and the other common one ‘Man Up’), really can have an impact on the way men feel about themselves.

It started as I was walking up a steep hill I walk up on a fairly regular basis, I noticed that I was finding it harder going than usual.  I felt a bit sweatier than I normally would and when I arrived at where I was going to, I felt that I had walked for more like 2000 minutes than 20 I had actually walked.  I usually have a pretty good appetite but I didn’t feel as hungry as I normally would and although I did eat, I felt like I wanted to go to sleep as soon as I had finished the meal.  Shortly afterwards, I noticed that I could really feel my hips, knees and back and then in it ocurred to me – I must be coming down with a cold!

A goal should scare you a little and excite you a lot – Joe Vitale.

Later on that night, I woke up with a blocked nose and feeling quite sick.  My other half had work the next day, so I decided to go and sleep in the other room as I didn’t want to keep her up all night as I would probably be snoring because I couldn’t breath very well.  I really felt awful.

When I woke up in the morning I wasn’t feeling any better and I immediately started to think about the 101 things I needed to do that day, things that I was sure wouldn’t get done because I simply didn’t have the energy because I was now fighting an awful cold.  Then I thought to myself “is this the so called ‘man flu’? I then began to question whether I was really ill or not and whether I was just being ‘a sissy’ or ‘a pussy’.

I thought, I feel terrible but it really bothers me that I might be judged for suffering at the hands of an infectious disease! And why should we be made to feel this way? Is it so wrong to simply feel unwell? It started to make me wonder how much damage to your self-confidence a phrase like that can have and the anxiety it can cause.

I’m a ‘wimp’ because I have an infection?!

Since recovering from the ‘Wimpy Man Syndrome’ (yep, I read an article by an American doctor and it is actually known as that in some parts of the world), I thought I would do some research and see if there was any truth in whether men were more affected by cold and flu than women and there is so evidence to support this theory.  According to Professor Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor in family medicine, who published a study in December 2017, men were more likely to be affected by the flu, than women.   The study showed that:

  • Influenza vaccination tends to cause more local (skin) and systemic (bodywide) reactions and better antibody response in women.  Testosterone could also play a role, as men with the highest levels tended to have a lower antibody response.  A better antibody response may lessen the severity of flu, so it’s possible that vaccinated men get more severe symptoms than women because they don’t respond to vaccination as well.
  • In test tube studies of nasal cells infected with influenza, exposure to the female hormone estradiol reduced the immune response when the cells came from women but not in cells from men.  Treatment with antiestrogen drugs reduces this effect.  Since flu symptoms are in large part due to the body’s immune reaction, a lessened immune response in women may translate to milder symptoms.
  • In at least one study reviewing six years of data, men were admitted to hospital with the flu more often than women.  The mortality rate in men was also reported to be higher than in women.

Knocking your confidence.

So it would seem that there is evidence to support that men are more likely to suffer from cold and flu symptoms than women and women are more able to cope with the affects than men, hence why men may feel worse than women when they contract the cold or flu.

But even if there wasn’t any evidence, why do we ridicule men who don’t feel well? Why is it shameful not feel great and pretend everything is “fine”? Do some men lack confidence in themselves because of terms like this?

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves – William Shakespeare.

I personally have no idea whether the evidence mentioned earlier is true or not but more to the point, even if it is true, I highly doubt it would change most peoples reactions to a man who says he has a cold.  Men are criticised for not sharing their feelings yet with a culture who ridicules you for “not feeling great” it is understandable why we keep a lot of our thoughts, feelings and emotions to ourselves.

Why don’t we ignore the opinions of others and just be ‘unwell”?

With the perception in mind that we are going to be laughed at or thought as being “less of a man”, it’s easy to see why many men will hide how they are feeling, dose up on cold and flu tablets and carry on “as best as they can” but would it be so awful to simply say “I’m not feeling very well”? Do we have enough confidence that we won’t be laughed at? We fear the reactions of others because we are conditioned by society to act and behave in particular ways and in the case of men, we are conditioned to not admit to feeling ill because of fear of ridicule.  If men are taught that illness equals weakness, how many men are going to say “yeah, I have man flu, I’m weak because I’m ill”?! Not many.  As I’ve said in previous blog posts, communication is so important.

When we start to communicate our thoughts, feelings and emotions to others, it gets easier.  We when men start to recognise that illness isn’t a sign of weakness and talk about whats wrong with us, then self confidence will naturally grow but shaming men with sexist phrases isn’t exactly going to encourage anyone, is it?

Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were going to do anyway – Robert Downey Jr.

Without getting too scientific, as you learn to communicate your feelings, neurons kept in the area of your brain that’s storing your existing communication skills would send electrical messengers down the axons to the cell’s centre where it is then routed to a particular group of connected dendrites which would then release a chemical messenger to the new targeted group of neurons that are located next to it.  New neural pathways begin to be formed to acquire and store the new communication skills. These new pathways become stronger the more they are used, causing the likelihood of new long-term connections and memories.

Practice makes perfect – practice communication.

The more we practice, the better we will be at it.  The more you tell people how you feel, the more they will get used to you doing so.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Put it this way, would people shame a man who found a lump on a testicle and wanted to tell the doctor? Most people would be telling him to make an appointment asap. But if the same man had never been able to express his feelings, what chance does he have? If he’s never practiced telling people close to him that he isn’t well (like he has a cold!) then is he likely to tell a relative stranger? If he doesn’t know how to say “I’m feeling frightened, I don’t know whats going to happen to me”, then he probably won’t.

By ending the use of terms that make people feel ashamed of how they feel, we can get men to open up about how they feel and build their confidence in themselves and allow the real self to come out and erode the self which needs to hide behind the macho facade that pretends “everything is ok”.

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self – Ernest Hemingway.

On a final note, Guys, if you don’t feel well, it’s okay to say so.  Listen to whats going on inside, your feelings are there to help you.  If you need some help making yourself heard or want to learn to listen to yourself and not be afraid to be the real man you are and feel that talking to a counsellor would benefit you, get in touch.  I can help you improve your confidence!

Everyone needs confidence

I can help you need find your confidence .

guitarist-on-stage-playing-to-an-obscured-crowd

Anxiety struggles for pop star

I read an article today about the pop star, Olly Murs and his battle with anxiety. He talks about a mistake he made on the tv show ‘X Factor’ and how he found counselling had helped him get over the anxiety of making the mistake again.  He talks about how he was struggling with negative automatic thoughts such as “Why am I doing this? I can’t do it. What if I go and say something bad again on TV? What if I make a mistake?”, when he was offered a role on another show ‘The Voice’.

According to Olly (calling him ‘Olly’ sounds like I know him, which feels a bit strange), he was the target of ‘online trolls’.  While I couldn’t tell you about the levels of abuse he experienced, it demonstrates how heavily we can be affected by the thoughts, feelings and opinions of others. Murs goes on to say (calling him Murs isn’t any better, it sounds like I don’t like him either!) “And I made myself ill, literally ill. Sick with worry and anxiety to the point where I was home for three or four days with sweats, headaches, and I never get ill. I felt really tired and lethargic and hot and my heart was, I was having panic attacks”.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. — Confucius

This man was affected so badly, his anxiety levels spiralled out of control to the point he was physically sick. And yet, he had probably not met any of those people who abused him and likely never will. So what was going on with Olly Murs and why did these people cause him so much anxiety? I should point out here, I don’t know a lot about Olly Murs and I’m only working with the information I have but as human beings, we are constantly taking in “data” from our “perceptual field” such as what our friends think about what we are wearing, who likes the music we like, who makes me feel angry, who makes me feel happy, etc etc and what we do with this data is where the “problem” can occur.

To understand why the opinions of others can cause us so much anxiety, we have to go back to childhood. We learn at a very young age how to “get our needs met”. For example, babies quickly learn that if they cry when they are hungry, someone will come and feed them. A baby gets its needs met by crying until somebody comes and feeds them. The baby learns that each time they cry, they will be fed.

As a baby learns how to get milk, young children learn what gets them into trouble and what doesn’t. A child will learn what it will get praise for and what it doesn’t get praised for. If we get a good score in a test, we get praise. If we kick a football through a window, we get into trouble. And it’s usually in childhood we find the root of our problems and the causes of much of our anxiety. If a child learns that the best way to avoid getting into trouble is to do what their Mum or Dad says (or primary care giver to be totally inclusive) then this is often a learnt behaviour which is carried into adulthood.

A star is born!

Many performers in the public eye or “celebrities” find this “skill” very useful. By learning to please Mum and Dad they get praise. If they are a talented singer for example, they will find they get praise from lots of other people too. They quickly become known as “the child who is really good at singing” and this is either incorporated into the persons self concept or not. In the case of a performer, it would most likely be taken in and becomes part of their self; a star is born! The problem or so it seems like to me it is in Olly Murs’ case, is that he didn’t know what to do with the criticism. And when I say he didn’t know what to do with it I mean he didn’t know how to incorporate it into his self concept.

Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed. – Bob Riley

While I’m only speculating here, maybe there was a time in his childhood when he found a way to get his needs met by entertaining people. Maybe that was singing or dancing or making people laugh. It is possible he found that he was given attention by making people take notice of him and he enjoyed the confidence he got from it. We could speculate that there’s part of him thats not so sure of himself and not so confident and when the internet trolls said things that didn’t “fit” with what he usually heard about himself, that didn’t fit with his self concept of a confident man, he found it incredibly hard to accept and couldn’t incorporate it into his self concept, otherwise known as an ‘introject’.

We all need to be like Rambo, don’t we?

I think most men out there can probably relate to how that feels. When I was a child, I used to watch tv shows like ‘the A-Team’ with B.A (Bad Attitude) Baracus, ‘He-Man’, ‘Thundercats’, WWF/E Wrestling’ and movies like ‘Die-Hard’, ‘Rambo’ and ‘Predator’ all which featured macho heroes who saved the day! All big strong guys with lots of confidence and no sign of anxiety!

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. – Les Brown

This made me think all guys were “macho” and if you weren’t saving the world, there was something wrong with you. If you lacked confidence you weren’t a “real man”. I found it really difficult to accept if anybody said anything about me that could be deemed “feminine” or touched on my emotions.  Another problem was I found it really hard to take any praise for anything that I didn’t consider to be masculine and found it even harder to tell people how I felt for fear of being “a sissy”. I certainly couldn’t tell anyone I was lacking in confidence or I felt anxiety about something!

There’s no way He-man had anxiety, did he?

As I got older, I really struggled with my own sense of self. I wasn’t built like a truck with huge rippling biceps and I wasn’t a member of the SAS! My confidence was really lacking but couldn’t admit it. I noticed lots of things made me anxious but I wouldn’t tell anyone. I really struggled to accept myself for who I was. And this is where counselling can help. We take the opinions of others such as our parents, friends, relatives, tv, magazines, movies, social media etc and we use the information provided to us to get our needs met.

In my case, I thought that because I saw a lot of machoism on tv that was what the world wanted me to be; a confident man who never talked about his “feelings” because nothing worried him enough to have to. When I couldn’t be what I thought I should be, it caused psychological tension with the real me; my authentic self and this resulted in a great deal of anxiety.

My authentic self just wanted to be me and the me who wanted to play video games and kick a football around, not join the army and fight in a war I didn’t agree with the politics of (Iraq)! It took time and a lot of counselling but eventually I learn’t that counselling can be for me and men can ask for help without having to fear being called “weak” or “girly”.

Believe in yourself. You are braver than you think, more talented than you know, and capable of more than you imagine. ― Roy T. Bennett

If you feel a sense of anxiety about who you are and feel as though you “lack confidence”, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like and I know what it takes to accept yourself. I can help. If you’re looking for a counsellor who understands and can put themselves in your shoes and feel how you feel, get in touch.

If you need help with anxiety, I can help

I’ve helped many men with anxiety and I can help you too.

confidence-isn't-found-at-the-gym

Confidence (and why men don’t find it at the gym)

Edit: May 2020

This was the first blog post I wrote and while the information in it is still relevant, the layout makes it difficult for me to read and I guess, to you as well.  While I’ve updated the blog about gym confidence, I’ll be publishing a new blog post on confidence and how to build it soon.  Watch this space!

Confidence is important to everyone, especially if you don’t feel very confident. A common misconception is that by going to the gym you will feel more confident but is that true? Maybe sometimes. In this blog post, I’m going to talk to you about why you won’t find confidence at the gym but how you can still become more confident.

In this post I will:

Explain what stops you from going to the gym.

Show you a real case study of someone who lost confidence at the gym.

Explain the real reason why you don’t go to the gym.

Show you 5 steps to overcoming a lack of confidence.

What stops you from going to the gym?

So you think you’ll feel more confident by heading to the gym? Does this sound familiar though; by the time you get home from work after a busy day, the last thing you want to do is get shorts, t-shirt and trainers together and head out of the house again!

And the worst thing you can do is sit down and think “I’ll just have a rest for 5 minutes, then I’ll go” because once you sit down, your body really does not want to stand up again! After all, you’ve had a hard day, the gym will be really busy, you can never get on the equipment you want to get on, you can go tomorrow night etc etc etc.

confidence-isn't-found-at-the-gym

“Imagine your life is perfect in every respect; what would it look like?” – Brian Tracy

These are all the reasons that run through our heads for us to not go. And most of the time, we go with one of these reasons. Instead, we sit down in front of the tv, play some computer games, help the kids with their homework, cook some dinner, go for a pint or two etc etc.

But we really meant to go to the gym, didn’t we? Or did we? It can be really tough trying to add something new into our already busy lives.

Making time for something new often means sacrificing the time we spend on something else and for the most part, that thing will be something that we have to do like going to work or cooking and eating an evening meal. Which is often where the problem lies; Do we want to go to the gym bad enough we’ll make time for it in our otherwise already busy schedule?

This is a long part, skip to the confidence steps HERE

We probably enjoy the idea of getting “buff” and looking better to boost confidence but how much do we enjoy getting there? Do we ever get there? In most cases the answer to both is “we don’t”. So what makes us want to go to the gym then?

Here are a few reasons why guys want to go to the gym:

• To get fitter.
• To be better at sports.
• The social side/meeting people.
• Look more attractive to possible partners.
• To feel healthier.
• To relieve stress.
• Build confidence.

And these are all good reasons for going to the gym.

Case study: 31 year old, male.

Let’s look at an example. A man, who is below average size but physically fit, once told me that after splitting up with his girlfriend, he started “going back to the gym” and was working out several times per week.

gym-dumbells

He found that he had a good appetite and was taking whey protein to bulk himself up and was genuinely enjoying his workouts. He told me that he could see that his body was growing and he felt more confident about himself and felt that by having more confidence and looking better, it would improve his chances of getting a new girlfriend.

A few weeks later he told me about a girl he had met and how he really liked her. He felt they “clicked” and he really liked spending time with her. While this man was still going to the gym, he wasn’t going to the gym quite as often as he had been before because as you would expect, he had to make time to see her.

Do you need some help finding your confidence?

 

As the weeks wore on, he wasn’t going to the gym anymore but “didn’t miss it”. Sadly after a few months, the relationship came to an end. Without going into too much detail, they weren’t getting along and decided to go their separate ways. While the client was happy the relationship had finished, his confidence and self esteem had fallen and he had noticed that he was eating very little. He didn’t want to go to work and had phoned in sick a few times because he wanted some time to get over the end of the relationship.

“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

A few weeks after they split up, this guy has started going back to the gym again and feeling better about himself too. You might say, “he was enjoying the gym before and it built his confidence which led to him getting a girlfriend, so surely it’s a good thing he’s working out again”? And that would be a fair question. The gym does boost his confidence, which then would possibly lead to him getting another girlfriend. Great! Problem solved! Well, sort of.

thumbs-upThe guy in question does now have a new girlfriend but the cycle has started again, where he no longer has time for the gym because of the girlfriend, so he has stopped going again.

The confidence boost from the workouts is gone. The motivation to go to the gym, is gone. The client started to notice his muscles aren’t getting any bigger and wonders if the new girlfriend still finds him attractive, now he isn’t so muscular.

He even started to wonder whether she would still find him attractive if he starts to put on weight because he isn’t exercising anymore.

This made him worry even more and his confidence dipped further. Does any of this sound familiar? It has done to me in the past.

find-confidence-at-the-gymSo, back to the original question; why doesn’t the gym work for you? If like in this example case you’re going to the gym to make yourself look more attractive, it’s probably never going to work.

The real reason you don’t go to the gym.

We need to start with the REAL reason for going to the gym. Rather than trying to make yourself more appealing to a prospective partner, you need to think about why YOU don’t think you’re appealing already.

So for example, if you are overweight and you think no woman (or man) is going to be attracted to you because you’re “too fat”, you need to think about why that is.

“If you put a small value on yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price. “– Anonymous

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