Who hasn’t experienced difficulty with their thoughts, feelings, and emotions from time to time? When it limits our daily life and relationships, some professional support can be helpful. I have experience working with a wide range of difficulties and have identified the areas that I specialise in below.
In my personal and professional experience, the following symptoms can often overlap. They can be experienced on their own, or in any combination. Often people approach me for counselling as they want to feel less anxious, improve their mood and relationships. We often discover that the anxiety and low mood has come from an experience leading us to have consistent self-doubt and low self-worth.
What is low self-esteem?
We all suffer with self-doubt occasionally, for a variety of reasons. When it is occasional, it keeps our ego in check and can be manageable. Persistent self-doubt can be debilitating and can bring on excessive worry and low mood. You might start to withdraw from your external world (hobbies, interests, friends, pretty much anything that could bring you joy)
Why we experience low self-esteem
Low self-esteem and low confidence can result from traumatic or painful past events, or past experiences that have led you to believe you are worthless or not good enough. You feel like you cannot live up to certain expectations and you are not as good as others.
When you do not accept yourself, you will stop being kind to yourself and start to doubt yourself and your abilities. If this becomes the norm, you may no longer feel that you matter or are worthy of anything. This can lead to anxiety (in many forms), depression and other mental health issues.
When we doubt ourselves and do not accept all that we are, we are limiting ourselves and our potential.
How to feel more self-assured
Overcoming self-doubt/low self-esteem means making some lifestyle changes, it means changing habits and it can feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first. Learning to accept compliments, offering yourself some kindness, telling yourself it is ok to be kind, because surely you would do the same for a friend? So why is it that your friend deserves kindness, but you do not? It takes effort and determination to counter the negative voice in your head.
Counselling can help you establish where this negative voice has come from and why you have continued to listen to it. Counselling can also help you strengthen your self-belief, resilience and discover self-compassion. Self-doubt has a role in keeping our ego in check, but we need to strengthen our self-compassion to maintain a healthy balance.
What is anxiety?
Your heart starts racing, your chest becomes tight and it is hard to breathe. You can feel yourself sweating and going red. Your thoughts race and you want to escape. You may even think you are going to die.
Anxiety can affect anyone, at any time. Most of us experience worry, fear, stress, or panic at some point during our lives. When anxiety becomes regular and prolonged it can reduce the quality of daily life. Sometimes the cause is unknown to the person experiencing it. Sometimes the root cause is known, but has become tangled up in other experiences.
Anxiety can be experienced as excessive worry about something, panic, obsessive thinking, health anxiety, or fear of failure. It can also be experienced physically such as sweating, shaking, tension, headaches, pain, and heart palpitations.
Why we experience anxiety
Your brain is responding to a perceived threat or danger, real or imagined. Your brain releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which creates physical symptoms to enable you to escape the threat. If the threat is an imagined fear or worry, it can feel real, especially if you have experienced something traumatic or negative. You will then start to avoid or withdraw from situations, which can provide short term relief. This then starts the cycle of anxiety as we start to overthink the negative experience, avoid situations, and lose confidence in our ability to cope.
How to overcome anxiety
Counselling can help uncover and untangle the possible causes and help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.It can help you to realise ways to cope and allow you to experience relief from the intense and sometimes debilitating symptoms. You can start to trust yourself again.
Feeling low or depressed
What is depression or low mood?
Like all mental health problems, there is a spectrum of experience. We all experience periods of low mood depending on our life experience and most of the time we move through this and back to feeling ourselves again. However, for some, low mood can become long-lasting and debilitating. This may be diagnosed as depression.
Depressive episodes affect normal daily life and impact negatively on you and your relationships. You may lose interest in your usual pastimes, school or work may be affected, have difficulty concentrating, experience low sex drive, have irregular sleep, and suffer physical pain.
Life becomes hard, sometimes feels impossible and some people may even feel like giving up. It is common for people who experience depression to have thoughts of ending their life. These thoughts can be passing or persistent. It is especially important to talk about these thoughts with a trusted friend or relative, mental health professional or your GP.
Why may we have depression or low mood?
The cause of depression could be known or unknown. Sometimes due to traumatic or negative experiences or relationships, which could include abuse, life-changing events, physical ill health, loss, childbirth, drug or alcohol misuse and bullying. As medication is prescribed, which changes the brains chemistry, some theories suggest that there could be a chemical imbalance in the brain, although there is insufficient evidence for this to be a cause. Other theories suggest the cause could be genetic. If you have a close relative with depression, you are more likely to experience depression. It is more likely that you have learned behaviours and ways to cope.
Whatever the cause, it is important to ask for help.
How to overcome depression and low mood
It has become widely accepted that talking therapies is the way to go if you want to learn to manage, or even overcome low mood and depression. There are many treatments available for depression including medication, which can work to help bridge the gap so that you feel able to explore your thoughts and feelings in therapy. It takes time, effort, and determination to change thinking styles, build resilience and develop healthy ways to cope, but it is possible.
Signs and symptoms that may lead you to want counselling support:
- Negative self-talk
- Negative thinking
- Difficulty expressing yourself
- Worries about health or death
- Withdrawing and isolating
- Irregular sleeping habits
- Avoiding experiences, friends, family, or occupation.
- Procrastination or fear of failure
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Controlled eating
- Biting nails, pulling hair, scratching skin
- Panic attacks
- Hopelessness or suicidal thoughts
- Tensions in body – headaches, tight muscles, pain.
- Increase or decrease in appetite
- Often feeling angry, frustrated, sad, lonely, fearful, jealous, resentment, shame, guilt.
- Hoarding – finding it difficult to let go of things could mean you have experienced a loss.