Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Benefits of keeping a journal


If you, like many of us, received a shiny new journal for Christmas you may well be wondering what to write in it, that’s if you haven’t started scribbling already. Diary and journal keeping was once restricted to high-school students, but now it’s seen by many as a useful tool to help solidify your observations and feelings for the day, as well as capturing your dreams and aspirations for the future.

Not convinced? Here are just some of the reasons to grab a pen and paper and jot your thoughts down in a journal.

More open to mindfulness

There’s a strong link between happiness and mindfulness and as keeping a journal focuses your mind very much on the present, it can make you happier. When you write things down, past frustrations and future anxieties lose their edge and cease to occupy precious mind-space.

Programmed to achieve

We’ve said a number of times about the importance of writing things down if you want to actually achieve them. Keeping a journal encourages you to crystalise your hopes, dreams and ambitions. Once articulated, they become real – and once real, they, in turn, become easier to achieve. In your head, dreams may seem fanciful and unattainable; once in black and white you're more likely to believe in your own ability to achieve them.

Emotionally aware

Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive and manage your own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Keeping a journal provides us with an outlet for exploring our emotions, which increases self-awareness. Once we're more aware of our own emotions and how to manage them, we are more likely to better understand others, which enables us to be more empathetic and build stronger relationships with others.

Self-disciplined

Setting time aside to write every day is an act of discipline. Plus the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Once the writing habit is formed, you’ll find it easier to stick to routines elsewhere in your daily routine too. If you write in the morning it will set you up for the afternoon; if you prefer to write in the afternoon, you’ll be keener to keep to your morning schedule so that your writing time isn’t interrupted.

Keener to communicate

You'll be amazed at how your journal keeping will help you to better communicate with others on a verbal level too. As your ability to write down what you're thinking becomes easier, so does your ability to speak with confidence. You’ll also find that your desire to communicate with others increases as you have more to talk about – even if it’s only to glean content to write about in your journal!

Healing

There are many who believe that writing down our troubles is the first step on the journey towards healing. Stress and sadness often come from an inability to process our feelings or through over-thinking hypothetical events and situations. Being able to articulate our emotions, provides us with a release and frees our mind. From this clarity comes calm and this is when the healing can start.


This blog post on PsychCentral suggests that writing for around 20 minutes a day is all it takes to release the health benefits. So, what are you waiting for?

Monday, 1 January 2018

Embracing the New Year as an introvert

It’s the most celebrated time of the year - an occasion when it’s perfectly OK to hug your neighbour and hold hands with strangers as we sing Auld Lang Syne together. However, for the introverts amongst us, New Year’s Eve may have been a painfully awkward affair.

Fear not, we have some tips to help you embrace your introvert nature and use this brand New Year to set resolutions that will help you to live the life you want – rather than conform to what others expect you to do.

Step out of your comfort zone – just the once

If we always do what we’ve always done, we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow. Yes, we know that socialising and partying can be uncomfortable, especially if you find small talk painful, but try and commit to going out at least once a month – or even, once a quarter. And it starts now. After that, it’s up to you to decide where you go and what you do with your time, but by pushing yourself to do something you wouldn’t normally do, it will heighten your senses and give you a great sense of achievement afterwards.

Do something with your alone time

Just because you don’t want to spend your time with other people, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fill your time doing something stimulating and constructive. Make 2018 the time for taking up a new hobby or craft that will make you feel as though you are accomplishing something.

Practise your small talk

For many introverts, unplanned social interactions with others can leave us feeling awkward. The way to avoid this is not to dodge others, but to prepare for it. Start the year as you mean to go on – read the papers, scan the internet for topical news and pre-plan a couple of areas of conversation that you can pull out of you find yourself in a situation that requires small talk. If you practice these conversations in your head, it will help to desensitise you when you have to make small talk for real!

Digitally sociable

The world of digital and social media has made it much easier for introverts to connect with other people – without having to interact with them at all. Make 2018, your year to be more sociable - digitally. Set up an Instagram account, start up a blog, make a commitment to share all that you are and all that you are passionate about with others, through a medium that you feel comfortable with.

Keep moving forwards

Introverts have tend to have a self-destructive habit of pondering on things that happened, or were said, weeks ago. Introverts like to dwell. However, this isn’t constructive and can sometimes lead to anxiety or even depression. One of the biggest lessons we can take from our extrovert friends is to draw a line under events, and move on. There is little to be gained from over-analysing situations. Sometimes we just have to accept things at their imperfect best. Give yourself a break and resolve not to be so hard on yourself.


So in summary, our advice to all the introverts out there – enjoy making resolutions that will not only be within your capabilities to achieve, but also challenge you enough to spark self-growth. For some more ideas, read this Forbes article <https://www.forbes.com/sites/christinapark/2014/12/29/go-for-it-5-new-years-resolutions-for-introverts/#6d7a37613803> or our previous blog post <http://firstpsychology.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/being-happy-by-yourself.html> .

Friday, 15 December 2017

Take a minute to mull over your wine this Christmas

With the darker nights coming earlier accompanied by colder temperatures, treating yourself to a glass of alcohol in the evening to heat yourself up and unwind might be the obvious choice. However, daily tipples combined with those wild Christmas nights on the town could cause more problems than a bad hangover...

Despite it being a popular way to de-stress around family, relax around awkward moments with colleagues, and experiment with that new dance move, alcohol can become a more serious issue when we fail to recognise that we're drinking much more than we should. This can result in bad decisions being made, jobs being threatened, relationships tested, or even a dependence on alcohol developing that will be hard to kick come the new year.

Write it down

The best way to work out if you're exceeding your limit this year, is to take pen to paper and jot down some facts. What have you had to drink this week and how much of it? Is there a pattern in who you're drinking with? How would the past week have panned out differently had you been sober? These are important questions to ask if you're drinking more than usual and you may notice things you might not have picked up on otherwise.

Have a little less and feel a whole lot better

Sometimes we end up drinking more simply because we want something to hold. Try ordering half measures or top up your small wine with some soda water, lemonade or ginger ale. That way you save some money, make it last longer and still have something pretty to hold.

Alternative de-stressors

If you're still finding yourself overindulging in the alcohol department, why not try finding something else to indulge in? You may find yourself sinking into old habits, but before you crack open that second crate of beer to unwind after a hectic shopping trip, replace this activity with something more forgiving – maybe a warm bath with a good book or a family card game followed by a hot chocolate.


Anxiety and depression can develop in those who are dependent on alcohol as well as other health problems, If you are still struggling to get on top of drinking habits and would like to speak to a professional, contact your GP or book a session with First Psychology on 0845 872 1780.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

How to have a stress-free soirée

Whether you’ve been chosen by your boss to plan a Christmas event or volunteered to host a New Year's party after a few too many mulled wines, we’ve got you covered. This time of year, it’s important not to get weighed down by your responsibilities and impossible expectations. Try to remember that these events are meant to be enjoyable for everyone, even you!

One of the main stressors around the Christmas period comes from our tendency to set unrealistic goals for ourselves. When we don’t achieve these goals, it can leave us feeling disheartened or as if we have failed at something. So how do we set realistic goals?

Well, it can be helpful to split larger goals, down into more manageable sections. For example, instead of ‘Organise party’ which is very difficult to monitor and delegate, try something like this,
  • Look into event venues suitable for a party 
  • Decide on venue and book date (Have a Plan B, just in case!) 
  • Put together a guest list in consultation with interested parties 
  • Write out/design invitations and deliver 
  • Chase up invitees to get final numbers 
  • Put your feet up and relax! 
As you move through these actions, tick them off as you go. This will ensure that nothing slips through the cracks and will also remind you of the achievements you’ve made so far!

Setting your goals

Don’t sit on your work break, scribbling down ideas, while simultaneously trying to eat a sandwich and sip your coffee. Choose a time and a place where you can feel relaxed and ready to embrace your role. Maybe put on your favourite album or grab your most festive candle to get you in the party mood!

Time

Another important stress-free factor is to ensure you allow yourself enough time for each task. Rushing through your list in one sitting means you're more likely to look back on it critically at a later date and are not taking the time to enjoy your role as party planner. Create a timeline and make sure you allow plenty of leeway in your schedule to stay away from your stress zone.

Stay organised

As much as it might not be your style to keep the different areas of your social life in colour co-ordinated files, a certain level of organisation when planning a social event can make your life easier. Create an ‘event’ folder (online or paper) that you can easily access whenever a new idea springs to mind, or you need to confirm numbers.


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Dealing with disruption – tips to ease the stress this festive season

A house full of trimmings, more social engagements than you’ve managed to pack in all year and an abundance of changes to your usual routines and patterns all serve to make Christmas a busy, chaotic time. Yes, it’s only once a year, and yes it’s only for four weeks or so but for some people dealing with these disruptions to normality – on top of our jobs and home life - can be extremely stressful which takes the shine off the festivities.

According to this article "there is something about Christmas that sends even balanced people, the types who do meditation or mindfulness classes, slightly out of whack.”

It suggests dealing with Christmas in a more modest way to ease some of the stress and often unrealistic expectations that we place upon ourselves and our families to be ‘perfect’.

So what can we do to make sure that Christmas is a cheery season, rather than a time when our stress levels soar?

Have a calendar of events

Even if you're not a write it down kind of person, we can all benefit from a Christmas schedule. Use the calendar to make a note of all your planned events, activities and chores that need to be done before ‘the big day’ – include all of your work and social events on the same calendar to give you a full picture. Once it’s written down, it becomes more manageable, – you should be able to visualise what needs to be done and when. Rather than take the spontaneity out of Christmas, you can manage your commitments and prevent yourself from agreeing to things you can't manage.

Don’t be afraid to schedule time into your calendar for family stuff too and be mindful of your ‘pressure points’ like bedtimes and mealtimes, as well as some downtime at home to recharge your batteries. If you have children, this downtime is especially important as they often need time to recover from over-stimulation and too many additives!

Have a timetable – and stick to it!


We know that the spontaneity of Christmas can be overwhelming for those of us who thrive with routines – especially children. Yes, writing all your festive activities on a timetable may seem over the top, but creating a structure at a time when everything around us is chaotic can make things less stressful. By providing a comfortable pace with intentional structure you can feel in control of the festive season, which will make it more enjoyable for you and your family – making sure that you continue to deliver at work and at home.

Some tips for maintaining a timetable during the holidays include sticking to regular mealtimes as much as you can and being clear about arrival and departure times when attending parties and other social occasions. Share your timetable with colleagues, friends and family, so that they are aware of your commitments – this will help to manage expectations if you need to leave an event early.

Have a plan


Over the Christmas period, more than any other time of the year, an action plan is your friend! Do whatever you can to prepare for events ahead of time – pick out your outfits, prepare party food, select and wrap gifts – all of this helps to keep you on top of things and enjoy the season’s festivities. If your Christmas period involves a lot of travel, make sure that you have enough to keep you and any travel companions occupied in case of traffic jams and ensure that your car is in good repair and ready to embark on the additional mileage.

Be sure that you have stocked up on enough essentials to see you through the holidays – yes, the shops may only be closed for a day or so, but shopping in itself can be quite a challenge during December. Order as much as you can in advance, so that any shopping you do is a pleasure rather than a necessity. It’s always worth making sure you have enough toilet paper, kitchen roll, batteries, light bulbs and dishwasher tablets to see you through the holidays.


Rather than take the excitement and spontaneity out of Christmas, we hope that by getting organised we can help you get the most out of the festive season. Making practical plans can help alleviate holiday stress and, more importantly, keep your main focus on enjoying the time spent with family and friends.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

How to make the most of Christmas alone

Christmas Day is often described as the perfect opportunity to spend time with others. Be it family, friends or a partner, there is often the assumption that the best way to enjoy the festive period is with other people.

But what if this isn't your idea of a perfect Christmas? Or maybe it is but it's not possible for your to be with other people this year. Or, what if you hate this time of year and can't think of anything worse than being around people? Whichever it is, it's OK. If you want to spend the day in bed alone with a hot water bottle and a box of chocolates then why not? However, if you're looking for ideas on how to make the most of your Christmas Day by yourself this year, we have some suggestions you might want to try.

Get outdoors

The local pub and the shops might be closed, but nature is wide open. A cold, crisp walk on Christmas Day can be just as enjoyable by yourself, if not more enjoyable! Choose somewhere quiet where you can enjoy the peace and quiet while taking in your surroundings without any distractions or demands from other people. It can be a great time to practise some mindfulness techniques too.

Listen to whatever you want

Sick of hearing Mariah Carey on repeat? Ready to smash the radio next time you hear a bell jingle? Make the most of this day by yourself and blow the dust off your old favourite albums. Be it the Beatles or the Backstreet Boys, nobody's there to judge. And research suggests that music can be beneficial to our wellbeing in so many different ways.

Volunteer

Don't want to spend the day with people you know but like the idea of bringing a little Christmas joy to someone else? There are usually plenty of local opportunities to get involved with like food kitchens and nearby charities. If not, maybe there's a neighbour alone this year who would appreciate an hour of your company? There have been many studies looking at the benefits of giving on wellbeing, so it's a win win situation - give to others and you're giving to yourself too!

Make your own holiday

More of a sun worshipper than a snowball maker? Turn up the heating, get out your brightest t-shirt, make your favourite fruity cocktail and put on a film about summer. Alternatively if you're not a fan of Christmas cheer in general, why not try a gory horror film, dim the lights and make a nice batch of fresh popcorn.


Christmas Day without friends and family doesn't have to be a bad experience and there are various different ways that you can make the most of the time to yourself. However, if you're alone over the Christmas period and feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to talk to someone about it.

Contact First Psychology to book an appointment or you can visit your GP surgery and speak to them about how you're feeling. You can also call the Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123 for a chat.




Saturday, 2 December 2017

How to avoid an angry Christmas

Learning to deal with anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Stress can be a huge influence on our anger levels and for many, Christmas is the most stressful time of the year. The British Association of Anger Management found that the average family has their first argument at 9.58am on Christmas morning!

The aim of Anger Awareness week is to identify and bring awareness to anger as a social issue that needs to be addressed. Have a read through our top tips for innovative ways to keep your cool this week and throughout the festive period.

Breathe…

The Christmas period can be a busy one. Many of us will be spending more time with close and extended family than we would usually choose to! This can result in louder arguments and messy meals which can cause stress anger levels to rise. If this happens to you, take a step outside the room and find a quieter place to just breathe. Never underestimate the benefits of allowing yourself this time to yourself, to gather your thoughts and think more rationally.

Express yourself…

When we feel that our voices have not been heard, there can be a sense of injustice, which can result in feelings of anger. Once you have taken the time to breathe and are thinking more rationally, try expressing your feelings in a calm and non-accusatory way that avoids any further friction. This can allow them to understand your feelings better and will also provide you with an insight into another person’s perspective, which can sometimes be helpful.

Laugh…

It may seem like the last thing you want to do, but a humorous distraction can work wonders for diffusing your anger levels. Try thinking back to a particularly funny experience or find an online video you can immerse yourself in for a moment to help dig yourself out of the angry hole you’re sitting in.

Listen…

Arguments can often arise as a result of miscommunication. You both might be trying to make the same point but in different ways, but without listening to each other, you’ll struggle to realise this. Try to take in and process what the other person is saying before jumping in with your own point.

Learn…

Christmas is not a one off. Therefore, you have the advantage of knowing what set you off last time. If there seems to be a recurring conversation that has led to an argument before, take action and change the subject. They may not be your mistakes, but it is still worth learning from them.