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Our latest article published in the Chiswick Herald on the 1st December on page 21, to read it click here. Otherwise the article is detailed below:

 
Is work affecting your mental health?

 I have been thinking about how many of our clients are routinely impacted on stress that comes from work, either from the pressure of the work itself and or difficult relationships at work. And too much stress can so easily have a significant impact on a persons quality of life. Stress can lead to anxiety and depression that brings with it many symptoms that can prevent people from getting the most out of life.

 And did you know that employers should be thinking about whether your work is well designed, organised and managed? Employers in the UK have a legal duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees and yet according to research conducted by the mental health charity Mind in 2013, work was given as the most stressful factor by 34% of respondents saying they found their work life either very or quite stressful. Other research quoted by the Health and Safety Executive also shows that workers in the public service industries tend to have higher incidences of stress.

 It can of course be difficult to attribute stress to just one source and yet if you find yourself saying that work is stressful, or if you notice that someone else tends to exhibit signs of stress in relation to work then it can be helpful to keep in mind that there are ways to manage and reduce stress. It is also helpful to remember that if you are stressed at work then your employer has a responsibility too.

 Bullying continues to attract much attention in the media for example, if you are struggling at work whilst it might be your first thought to think about how you are failing that might mean you fail to recognise that you are the victim of bullying. Instead of focusing on what you are doing wrong take a step back and think about the environment and context in which you find yourself. Examples of bullying can include overbearing supervision, constant criticism, exclusion and maybe you are working an a culture where this is routine but it doesn’t mean you have to put up with this. 

 But it is not just adults in the workplace who are suffering from stress. It seems this is an increasingly recognised problem for children too. In August 2015 The Guardian reported that English children are among the unhappiest in the world and again there seems to be a significant link with bullying. Head Teachers have been calling for improved mental health care and yet for some time now the news has been full of articles on how much stress teachers say they are experiencing.

 Marybeth Mendenhall, our Senior Associate and a Systemic Psychotherapist told me “The dynamics within organisations can usefully be likened to those that occur in families -  dysfunctional organisations are like dysfunctional families. For the members belonging to the group harmful behaviours may easily become so familiar that it is only when a new member joins or an outsider gets to see and experience being part of the group that the harmful dynamics can be identified”. 

 

Ia Tollstam, our Consultant Supervisor for business services told me “many medium and large organisations have services in place to help managers think about stress and employees deal with stress. Access to counselling is commonplace in many organisations but not so much for those that are smaller”. She added “there is so much an organisation can do to support its staff and the value of a workforce who feel looked after is something the most successful employers understand.”

 

As Marybeth says “Just like with a family, members can really help each other out when trouble strikes and good communications and strong relationships can build resilience that minimises the impact of difficult times or events.” 

 

In talking to my colleagues about stress at work and in families I have found myself thinking about how more and more of our work is with children and adolescents. It seems that stress is affecting everyone? Stressed parents equals stressed children, stressed managers a stressed workforce and stressed teachers stressed pupils so to end I guess I am thinking about just how useful it can be to think about the different roles you have in life - parent, manager, partner, friend, colleague, teacher - when you think of that role can you recognise stress and if so what impact might that be having on those who count on you?
 
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This article is the second in a series by Nicholas reviewing an online Mindfulness Training he started just prior to Christmas.....
 
I hope you had a peaceful, relaxing and enjoyable Christmas? 
 
For my part a quiet Christmas with close friends and family has been a healing experience after three successive festive seasons with various painful, stressful situations and losses. Periods of calm, gentle relaxation with others who have been easy company, has been nurturing, restorative and facilitated a general sense of well being. 
 
Alongside this and the absence of any new difficulties, has also been the Online Mindfulness Training I’ve been doing as introduced in the last column published in the paper on the 17th December or available here online: http://chiswickherald.co.uk/on-the-couch-with-nicholas-rose-p4693-261.htm. The training itself is provided by www.bemindfulonline.org.
 
Overall, both have given me an experience of a period of time whereby the noticeable absence of worries again suggests to me just how much previously experienced day to day stress and anxiety maybe coming from nothing other than self made pressures. Of course it is natural to react to difficult situations by taking action and making lists of things to do, however a list of things will only bring additional pressure and a resulting bodily response that adds to the already heightened experience caused by existing difficulties.
 
As is always the case when I spend time practicing and learning more about Mindfulness I find something new and helpful that makes the time spent both easier and more rewarding. As I start week three of the training it is during a meditation I notice throbbing in my head, it is something I’ve noticed many times before. Previously I’ve tried doing what I’ve been taught, namely paying it attention but the outcome has been for me to feel somewhat nauseous and it has led me to feel reluctant at times to practice. However this time, right at the moment when the nausea is starting to appear the facilitator, Ed, says something like “if you notice any unpleasant thoughts, feelings or bodily sensations you can try paying them attention or you might find it helpful to return your focus to your breathing". This I do and the pain and nausea disappears. Todays learning was a piece of “unlearning” - I had been holding an assumption that there was only one way to deal with difficult experiences during mediation but now these few words have released me from something that was certainly unhelpful.
 
And I am finding Ed and Tessa, the facilitators, to be perfect companions to the training. In the middle of the second week just at the point I noticed thoughts around how the training was not enough I received an email inviting me to a mid week video. It was as though they knew exactly how I would be thinking and feeling at this stage and hearing them talk about the successes and challenges of the exercises as I had also experienced of them was just what I needed. I was left feeling reassured that I was in fact on course, not alone in my experience of suddenly doubting whether the training was useful and not failing.
 
This week I read two articles published on washingtonpost.com about Mindfulness, one from Neuroscientists again talking about how after eight weeks of practicing, changes to the brain can be seen in areas that they believe are helpful and healthy, meanwhile another article warns that Mindfulness is being “mindlessly” taken up by everyone when for some people it might not be helpful - in fact it might be unhelpful.
 
Mindfulness helps me to identify where stress and anxiety is leading me to do more than I need to, whether that is working, cleaning, eating, drinking, exercising, resting or like this week, paying attention to difficult experiences during a meditation. In other words it helps me to keep things in perspective and this is what I believe is most helpful. As a psychotherapist I’ve learnt and experienced many different approaches to gaining perspective but when I think of things that I have found helpful I would say that both therapy and mindfulness as it is taught and practiced today have been the most useful.
 
I’m still working through the Online Training so I will let you know in the next column what I think as I reach the end.  
 
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The latest edition of the Chiswick Herald includes this new article helping with the common concern people often have about how to talk and therefore help a friend or relative who is struggling with mental health concerns. Read it here:

How to talk to someone who is really struggling….
 
The Mental Health Charity Mind quotes research that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. So its no wonder that in working as a psychotherapist people often seek my advice when they are concerned about a friend or, family member. In response to this I always ask “Do you believe offering your time and attention will not be helpful - that you won’t be able to think together about a way forward?”
 
Often I hear the problems appear so big and complicated there is a sense of not being able to help and people can be feeling fearful that anything they might try to do and say could make things worse. It is natural to experience such a response because it is likely the person you are concerned about is thinking and feeling this way too. At this point many people become nervous that they are not equipped to help, particularly if words come up like suicidal, crazy, murderous, out of control, psychopathic or any of a whole range powerful words or the many psychiatric terms that are becoming so widely used nowadays. So it can be useful to recognise that actually you are already developing a good understanding of what is happening for them and that this means you are already able to help. 
 
These thoughts and feelings are most likely coming from a place of isolation, loneliness and desperation and the most effective way to start dealing with things is not to panic but to see if you have understood correctly. Do this by asking something like “I am wondering whether you are thinking the problems are too big and complicated, things can only get worse and you are feeling isolated, lonely and desperate?”
 
In doing this you will already be helping with the feelings of isolation and loneliness and your willingness to ask questions will already be challenging the feeling of desperation. Now start to consider whether either of you might be struggling to talk freely. One of the most frequently given reasons people give for choosing to talk to a therapist is they don’t need to worry about what impact sharing their problems will have on either the other person or that relationship. So if you think that the conversation isn’t flowing freely then ask. You can then both think about whether there is someone else who it would be easier to talk to. 
 
If you both decide to carry on talking then the next thing is to ask for as much information as possible. If suicide has been raised ask about it - “you have been thinking about suicide? what have you been thinking of doing? what has stopped you?” It is likely that the conversation will move onto the underlying problems but if not then maybe this is the time to talk to them about taking more immediate action. Again, Mind’s website suggests what action to take. 
 
Assuming you both feel it’s proving helpful to talk then you can think through together the basis of the concerns. Consider questions like what is going on? What if anything has changed? Why might the concern have become apparent now? What has been tried to sort things out? Whats different that means you are not coping like in the past? Is this a completely new experience, if not what happened last time? What options have been considered and why have they been ruled out? What would you like to do if you could do anything you wanted? Ultimately to help them think through what to do to start to make their situation better.
 
Remember although you are asking questions it is not for you to answer them. You might have opinions or think your own experiences are relevant - it can be helpful to share these but ask whether they want to hear them. Opinions can be really helpful if you know the person well enough however remember answers are only really answers when we find them for ourselves - to give or be given an answer is rarely the answer! The most important opinions and experiences are the persons own. 
 
If after having talked things through the other person is still really distressed ask what they would like to do now and what they want from you? If you are concerned tell them what you would like to do, if suicide has been talked about ask if they are still feeling suicidal. If it’s a yes then again talk about the options for getting more help. If at the end you are left feeling nervous about whether they will be alright then think about what you need. You might find it helpful to talk this through with someone.
 
If you have any questions about this or to book an appointment, please contact us on 020 8996 9551 or send an email to info@nicholas-rose.co.uk and we will get back to you.
 
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We are pleased to announce the introduction of a number of reduced fees for services during off peak times. For full details click here.