Blog - updated June 2023
What is identity?
It's natural to want to fit in. That's why groups of teenagers often have similar hair, make-up and clothes. But when this extends to opinions and behaviour, it can be very destructive.
This may happen in subtle ways which are not obvious but eventually lead to a loss of sense of who you really are.
Embrace your differences
Think about what makes you different and how you feel about each of those aspects of yourself. Proud? Ashamed? Embarrassed? Think about your opinions and how those may be different or similar to the way that people around you think. Try to see both sides of an argument before forming your own view. If you can tune in to the way you really feel about something it will help you to feel that your opinions have value.
Anxiety stems from worries about the future. We may not be aware of this, so it's important to explore our feelings as they arise and trace them back to the cause. They are then easier to deal with.
I am a therapist working with a variety of clients. They generally suffer both anxiety and depression to some degree. We can think of these as coming from sadness or disappointment in the past (depression) of fears about the future (anxiety). The first step to dealing with them is to explore the thoughts and identify the connected emotions.
We all develop ways to manage our emotions. Some of these are helpful, but some can cause us more distress.
One of the most common causes of depression is suppressed anger. Many of us prefer to avoid conflict, so rather than expressing our anger we turn it in on ourselves. This leads to low self esteem as we unconsciously begin to feel that are emotions are not worthy of being heard.
The first step is to stop being a people pleaser! Be ok with other being 'annoyed' with you. You may be surprised that they are more receptive than you expect if you can express your feelings and needs in an assertive, calm way.
What is 'Madness'
This can be a defence against the disappointment of reality. If we don't feel needed or important in any way, the brain can choose to create an inner world in which we are special.
Do something you are good at.
Being involved in activities has been shown to improve mental health. Doing something we are good at, or taking part in local community groups all help to build a sense of self-worth.
Here are some additional resources and links that may be helpful:
Anxiety reduces our ability to think clearly. The first step to good mental health is often finding ways to calm your mind. These may include breathing exercise, meditation and mindfulness.
1. Breathing. Sit upright in a confortable chair. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you breathe in, make sure that the lower hand (on your stomach) is the one that moves. This reduces shallow chest breathing which can trigger feelings of panic. Breathe in slowly through the nose and out through the mouth. Count these breaths up to 10, then back down to one. Aim for 5 minutes at first, then increase.
2. Apps such as Calm and Headspace offer more ideas for reducing anxiety.
What is Depression?
We all feel sad at times, but how do we know if we need help? Some people describe sadness as feeling 'blue', while depression can feel 'black'. It also helps to think about how long you have been feeling this way. It's natural to be sad when someone has passed away, and it's good to let yourself experience those feelings. However you may get 'stuck' in these feelings and not feel you are 'moving though' the grief. There can also be feeling of guilt and regret which are difficult to process on your own. Therapy can help to understand these feelings and feel more at peace with the loss.
Sometimes depression comes from a response to your current life situation, especially if it seems impossible to make changes. Talking though the situation can help you to see what is possible, and also to reframe your thoughts and make it more bearable while you make changes.
Low mood can make it hard to take action as it feels like nothing will make a difference. Using this list of steps to good mental health can help you to get started.
1. Do something you are good at
2. Care for others
3. Keep in touch with friends / family
4. Talk to someone about your feelings
5. Keep active
6. Take a break
7. Eat well
8. Drink sensibly
9. Ask for help
10. Accept who you are
Can Self Help books really help?
There are numerous self help books claiming to change your life. They are obviously cheaper and quicker to read than committing to therapy, but can they really help?
Self Help Books are a convenient way to begin to increase your self-awareness
Reading can give a great insight to the issues you are facing, but therapy is the only way to get a tailored approach to your individual situation.
We are all product of our unique experiences and there is no one book that can entirely solve our main issues.
Books vs therapy
Self help books are a great way to start to understand ourselves better. While you are reading, try to notice your emotional response and any memories that arise. This can help you identify painful memories that have been suppressed. Therapy can then be useful to help process these memories. The experience of being heard and understood can lead to a deeper resolution, rather than just reading alone.
Books to read:
The following books are a good way to start to increase your self-awareness and understand what may be helpful for you.
Feel the fear and do it anyway - Susan Jeffers
The Road Less Travelled – M Scott Peck
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living – Dale Carnegie