Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Addressing money worries at Christmas

Although it should be a happy time of the year, the festive season can be a worrying time where finances are concerned.

In the run-up to Christmas, when we're expected to be preparing for a season of fun and festivity, many of us become more anxious and stressed as the Big Day approaches. Undoubtedly, it’s an expensive time of year when money worries become even more concerning.

Debtpression

We’ve all the heard the phrase ‘money is power’, and a study in the Journal of Consumer Research saw participants actually salivating at the concept of money when primed to feel they lacked power. So what then of debt? How does it effect how we feel about ourselves and what is debtpression?

Many people equate money with power and success, believing it to make them appear more attractive, popular and successful to others. Conversely, not feeling able to spend can create a strong sense of powerlessness and failure, which can be highly disturbing. Debt equates to emotional pain. Indeed, debt and mental health problems often go hand in hand.

When we feel low, we spend money to make ourselves feel better. We’re bombarded by adverts telling us certain products will lead to positive emotional experiences. Spending therefore becomes habitual as it meets our deep-rooted psychological needs.

When we're in debt we often feel stressed, anxious and depressed. To cope with these feelings, many people ignore the debt and continue to spend money to make themselves feel better. In the long term this leads to more debt and the feelings of guilt and anxiety return. This becomes a vicious circle, which harms mental wellbeing and has been dubbed ‘debtpression’.

It all sounds so gloomy, but debt can have positive outcomes too, driving people to be resourceful. Many small businesses have been started in recessions as individuals become more creative in their attempts to make money. Debt can also force our hand, making us face our fears and try new things. Whatever our approach, acknowledging debt and taking action are crucial steps to avoiding debtpression.

Tips for budgeting at Christmas

It can be difficult to get to grips with our finances, especially if we already struggle to pay the bills or have the burden of debt. Even though you might prefer to stick your head in the sand and not think about your financial issues, this can lead to further stress in the long run.

Scrutinise your money situation – This will enable you to set realistic budgets that can prevent you from becoming ill with worry. Firstly, make sure the most important aspects such as paying bills are your priority. Work out how much you can afford to spend and look for ways you can cut back on costs. Most of us have things that we waste money on, for example, an unused gym membership, too many takeaway coffees, buying lunch on work days, buying books when we can borrow them from the library, etc.

Shop around – If the thought of not buying presents leaves you feeling uneasy, shop around for offers. With online shopping so easily available, you’ll find plenty of bargains. Ok, so it might be more time consuming, but it will consume less of your budget. Scour comparison sites to get the best deals as they will do a lot of the legwork for you. Money Saving Expert is another great place to find money saving tips at Christmas.

Don’t rely on credit – Tempting as it may be, unless you know that you're able to pay off your credit in full, resist borrowing as it can be a disastrous trap that could send your debt spiralling out of control.

Make a pact – Most adults, particularly those with children, will understand if you’re unable to spend a fortune on gifts. So, suggest that you only buy presents for the children – they’ll likely feel relieved themselves!

Spread the cost – There are two ways of doing this; put a set amount of money away each month throughout the year so that come December, you have a nice little pot of cash to spend. Alternatively, buy a present each month so it’s less of a shock on your purse strings.

Finally, remember that the festive season isn’t as important as your mental and physical wellbeing. Make sure you put yourself first (no matter how much of a Scrooge you feel). If you're in a situation where you can’t afford to spend any money at all, so be it. How about writing out some time tokens instead - you could wash their car, take their dog for a walk, make them a cup of tea, do a session of babysitting, get them a bunch of wild flowers - these things are free or cost next to nothing and sometimes the smallest acts of kindness are the things that matter most to people. And don’t forget, Christmas is one day of the year and it will be round again soon enough.

If issues with debt are causing you serious cause for concern and are having an impact on your health, National Debtline has lots of useful information and offers free debt advice.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Ways to help your child cope with mental health issues

There are many different mental health disorders that young children might have to deal with in their lives and, although each might need addressing slightly differently, there are some common ways to help your child cope.

Communication

One of the best ways to help your child cope with mental health issues is by communicating openly with them at all times. By showing your child respect and by being able to communicate honestly, you are allowing them the opportunity to discuss their feelings in a safe environment where they feel loved and unjudged.

Even without facing a mental health issue, growing up can often be difficult for children as they are learning about themselves and discovering their identity in the world. When we share our experiences with our children and discuss how we have dealt with similar issues, it can make them feel less alone and more comfortable to speak about their own feelings.

Ask for help

Because there are many different mental health issues, including bi-polar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, depression and autism to contend with, sometimes we need to ask the experts for help as we are not always equipped with the knowledge and resources to deal with it on our own.

Encouraging your child to talk to the experts can give them and yourself a greater insight into the issue and you’ll learn about different strategies that can be put in place. Also, you’ll find support groups for children with similar mental health issues, which can make your child feel less alone and more accepted.

Provide a supportive environment

Once you've spoken with your doctor or social worker, you’ll be able to recognise symptoms and adjust your child’s environment accordingly. If you notice certain mood changes or specific symptoms that relate to their disorder, you’ll be more equipped to provide the right environment.

Perhaps you need to give them some space, or maybe they’ll benefit from an activity that will stimulate their mind, but you will be in a much better position to understand what your child needs.

Take care of their physical wellbeing

It’s equally as important to look after your child’s physical wellbeing in order for them to cope with their mental health issue. Spend time with them outside, whether that’s taking a walk in the countryside or going on a bike ride. Plenty of exercise, a well-balanced diet and a good sleep regime will all contribute towards improving their mental wellbeing.

Take care of yourself

Most importantly, remember to look after yourself, both mentally and physically so that you are able to provide the best possible care for your child. We are all human and no matter what age we are, we also need self-love. If you feel yourself becoming stressed, anxious or tired, take some time out and do something you enjoy or simply rest and clear your mind. Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to recharge your batteries and gain a clearer perspective on life.

Further information

It can be helpful to know what are ‘normal’ issues for a child to experience at a given stage of their life. Our booklet ‘Flourishing children – help your child to thrive’ looks at the different issues a child may experience and the sorts of things that may help. Download our families booklet here >

The NHS also has a wonderful online hub of information that provides children with advice and help on dealing with mental health issues.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Tips for preserving your energy

Have you ever felt that you’re being pulled in so many different directions that you can’t keep up? Work demands, family commitments, peer pressure and even the pressures of social media can all have a huge influence on your life without you even realising how much they’re draining you of your life energy.

When you’re being deprived of your inner strength and natural spark, it’s time to re-evaluate your life and flick the off switch. We have some much-needed tips for preserving your energy and reclaiming your life.

What drains you?

First and foremost, it’s important to take some time out to sit down and assess your current situation. What gives you the most beneficial return for the energy you spend and what do you need to eliminate from your life?

You might find that the most common stressor in your life is the demands of other people, or perhaps you get too caught up in 'keeping up with the Joneses', but whatever it is that’s draining you, you need to reverse the effects.

Avoid negative people

Often, one of the greatest drains on our energy reserves is people. Maybe they expect too much of us or pass their negativity on to us.

However, it's not possible to avoid all people all the time, but there are ways that we can reduce the impact they have on our lives. If a chat with a friend or colleague turns into gossip, make an excuse to leave the conversation and don’t get drawn in. Not only can negative talk of others cause an unwelcome atmosphere, it can also cause a lot of upset to the person being talked about.

You’ll also probably meet the types of people who are all too quick to point out your flaws or are critical of your lifestyle choices. Remember that how you conduct your life isn’t the business of anyone else. Try to avoid sharing any personal information with this type of person and don’t get into an argument with them.

How to say no

It can be easy to fall into the trap of being a people-pleaser, especially at work or with close friends and family, but if you are making too many sacrifices that ultimately leave you feeling unhappy, you need to learn to say no.

This can be quite difficult and can make us feel uncomfortable but once you realise that self-care is important to your wellbeing, the easier it becomes to say no.

  • Don’t feel the need to give reasons behind your decision
  • Remain polite yet assertive at the same time
  • Don’t give into pressure

If the person who is asking something of you has a negative response, all the more reason to stay firm. Do you really want to sacrifice your happiness for someone who doesn’t respect your decision?

Stop competing with everyone else

With social media playing such a huge part in many people's lives these days, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself and trying to live up to others’ ‘perfect lives’. Remember, what is portrayed on social media is often a false perception and people only let you see what they want you to see.

A study by the Royal Society for Public Health examining the effects of social media, shows that in the last 25 years, anxiety and depression in children has increased by 70%. There is so much pressure to look or live life a certain way, that we forget to appreciate our positive qualities and instead, focus on the negative.

Try replacing scrolling with something more meaningful, such as a country walk among nature. The less time you spend online and the more time you spend outside or doing something that makes you feel good, the less you will feel drained. These ongoing negative feelings can leave us stressed, anxious and depressed so it’s vital to step away and remind ourselves of what’s really important.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Is your home getting you down?


From time to time, we might feel under the weather, but have you ever considered it could be your home that is getting you down?

There are several reasons why your home might be affecting your wellbeing – is there too much clutter? Is it in need of a serious spring clean? Does it lack organisation? Whatever it is that’s making you feel out of sorts and a little uneasy, we have some top tips for organising your home and how it can benefit your wellbeing.

Stop daydreaming, start decluttering!

Before you can even think about sprucing up your home and achieving some kind of organisation, first you’ll need to take the plunge and declutter. You might be surprised to learn that studies undertaken by UCLA’s Center on Everyday Lives of Families(CELF) showed that a cluttered home can, in fact, cause stress. Sometimes, without us even noticing until it’s too late, we accumulate a wealth of ‘things’ that we don’t ever actually use or need. Before we know it, our homes are jam packed to the rafters and there is barely any space left for us to relax.

The amount of clutter that we amass can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, anxiety, stress and depression. So, it makes sense that if we create a home where there is less clutter and more organisation, we are likely to feel more content, relaxed and happier.

  • Before you start, create a list of categories that any clutter might fall under, such as keep, throw away, recycle or sell. 
  • Start with the room that has the least clutter first as you are less likely to feel overwhelmed by the task at hand and you can make space for any items that you might want to keep. 
  • Try not to spend too much time reminiscing about anything that you come across or reading through old diaries as this will only make the task take longer, and you might also talk yourself out of decluttering at all!

As you start to make progress, you will begin to feel a weight lifted and you might even start to enjoy the process, which can be extremely therapeutic.

Declutter your home, declutter your mind

If you wake up surrounded by an unclean house, it can really play havoc with your mindset. Although you might not realise it, the state of your home can cause anxiety and stress, which can affect our levels of cortisol in the body. This can lead to lethargy, high blood pressure and disturbed sleep. By decluttering, we can help create a more relaxed environment which will reduce stress and regulate our cortisol levels, meaning we will feel uplifted and energised.

Once you have completed decluttering, pull out the sofa, empty the cupboards and have a good spring clean. It’s quite surprising how much dust and dirt can build up when we neglect to clean behind and under things. If left for too long, this can cause respiratory problems and have a harmful effect on our physical health as well as our mental wellbeing.

Initially, it might seem like an uphill struggle to organise your home but once you make a start, you’ll begin to see the benefits that it has on your wellbeing. As well as the immense satisfaction that it brings, you will feel less stressed and more motivated.

Hoarding

Of course, we're referring to general accumulation of 'things' in this article. If you or someone you know have hoarding issues and the clutter is getting out of control or dangerous, you would be advised to seek the help of a professional as there is usually a deeper cause to hoarding, which you may need to explore. 
















Friday, 4 October 2019

Mastering the art of positivity

Did you know that too much negative thinking can cause actual physical pain as well as affecting our mental wellbeing?

When we spend too much time focusing on the negative, as well as complaining, our brain and thought processes are telling our bodies to act accordingly. Worry is a huge cause of stress and anxiety and unless it is dealt with or we make changes to our thought patterns, it can ultimately create negative feelings such as fear and anger. In turn, these feelings can trigger various reactions in our body which can cause us to feel tired and withdrawn.

But we can do something about our thoughts, and by mastering the art of positivity, we can rewire our brain and change our body’s reactions. OK, so when you are in a constant mindset of negativity, it may seem much more difficult to just switch off your thoughts, but by practising these simple techniques, you will start to see a difference in your thought process and overall sense of positivity.

Although it won’t happen overnight, positive thinking can help you cope with stressful situations better, thus reducing the damaging effects that stress and anxiety can have on your physical wellbeing.

Meditation and mindfulness

As you begin to become aware of your thoughts, meditation and mindfulness can help you reconnect with yourself on a deeper level. With so many external pressures impacting on our thought processes, these techniques help us recognise any negative thoughts - accept them and let them go. You only need to set aside 15 minutes each day to relax and empty your mind.

Be your own best friend

Many of us are fearful of rejection and failure so it’s understandable that we often expect the worst or feel the need to protect ourselves from the worst possible outcome.

“I’ll never be good enough”

“I don’t have the skills”

“Nobody likes me”

These might be some of the phrases you’re familiar with and tell yourself on a regular basis. But, guess what? The more you say these kinds of things to yourself, the more you will believe them, and this is also conveyed to the people around you.

Each day, when you wake up, try replacing this negative self-doubt with positive affirmations such as:

“I am a good and likeable person”

“I can achieve anything I put my mind to”

“I am good at my job”

After practising these affirmations on a daily basis, you will start to notice a shift in your confidence and self-respect, and you will actually start to believe that you are good enough.

Once you have mastered the art of positive self-talk, your mood will improve, and you’ll feel happier.

Stop complaining and be grateful

While many of us are guilty of complaining about trivial things from time to time, studies have shown that constant complaining can talk your brain into feeling anxious, which can then trigger negative emotions. But the good news is, these patterns can be reversed.

Try to pay attention to those moments when you find yourself complaining and instead, think of something that you are grateful for. When you start to change your thought patterns, you’ll begin to see a change in your mood and overall wellbeing.

Curious Mind Magazine looks more closely at how complaining rewires your brain.

Find out more about happiness

If you're interested in the topic of happiness, First Psychology is running workshops in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, where you will learn about happiness and what really makes us happy. For more information and to book your FREE place, click here >







Thursday, 19 September 2019

Learning how to accept your emotions

Sometimes emotions can be extremely overwhelming, and we can become fearful of them if we don’t accept and learn from them. There are many different reasons why we might experience intense emotions that cause us to feel out of control and make irrational decisions. This can lead to anxiety which, in turn, triggers even more emotions. This process can be painful and sometimes quite frightening when we feel like our emotions are spiralling out of control.

The good news is, there are certain steps we can take to help us accept and deal with our emotions. Firstly, we need to understand that emotions are a natural part of being human; we all experience them from time to time.

Types of emotions

Whether you’ve had an argument with someone, lost a loved one or lost your job, there are many situations that can bring about negative emotions such as sadness, fear, shame or anger. Society often bullies us into believing that if we experience these negative kinds of emotions, we are a bad person, so we tend to shut them down and not deal with them properly. Although this can seem like the best thing to do in the short term (and to avoid judgement from others), in the long term, it can do more harm than good. Remember, it’s not just you that experiences negative emotions.

By accepting our emotions and dealing with them positively, we can start to feel better quicker and learn to resolve any issues that are so very often repeated. Humans have emotions for a reason, and they can provide us with vital information about situations we need to confront or deal with.

Learning how to accept our emotions

By accepting our emotions and recognising that they are a natural response to certain situations means that we can become less judgemental of ourselves. There’s a difference between resigning ourselves to emotional pain and wallowing in self-pity, and accepting our feelings. We must remind ourselves that emotions are only ever temporary. Regardless of whether we’re feeling joy or sadness, they happen for a reason: to help us make decisions about what we need to change in or lives. When we listen to what our emotions are trying to tell us, we can take important information from them and act upon them accordingly.

Recognising our emotions

Before we can truly accept our emotions, it’s important to recognise what they are and why we are feeling them in the first place. If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by a particular emotion, try and pay attention to how you're feeling at that moment in time. Are you experiencing any physical feelings? What thoughts are going through your mind? Do you recognise the emotion, and can you identify it?

Separating from your emotions

Once you’ve recognised the emotion that you’re experiencing and taken it on board, try and distance yourself from it by visualising it outside of your body. What does it look like? How big is it? What does it sound like?

Once you have accepted the emotion, let it go from your sight.

What did you learn?

It’s important to take some time to reflect on your experience. How did you feel about the emotion once it was no longer inside of you? What do you think caused the emotion? What did you learn from it and did you come to any decisions about how you can avoid it in the future?

With practice, you’ll find it easier to accept your emotions and you’ll be able to take away some very useful information from them which will help you make more informed decisions about your present situation.

Through experience, observation and research, Tracy Kennedy, a personal development expert for Lifehack, discusses her findings and musings on negative emotions and how to handle them.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Building bridges after an argument

Whether it’s with your partner, a family member, or friend, arguments are never a pleasant experience and can cause a great deal of negative emotions such as sadness, anger and stress, to both parties involved. From time to time, there will be occasions when we get caught up in disagreements and sometimes hurtful things get said in the heat of the moment.

So, one or both of you maybe lost your temper and walked away without resolving the argument. At some point in our lives, we’re all going to be faced with arguments and it’s only natural for this to happen. But it’s how we deal with the aftermath that's really significant and can determine our future relationship with the person.

Calm down!

Immediately following an argument, our emotions are likely to be running high and our heads are filled with what they said and what we said. Before we can even begin to build bridges, we need time to cool down and let our emotions settle. The best way we can do this is by spending some time alone, away from other people who might influence our thoughts or actions.

Perhaps go for a walk outside or find a quiet place at home where you can clear your mind, take some deep breaths and get some clarity on the situation before you start to chew over every detail of the argument.

Once you start to feel calmer and your emotions aren’t running high, then you can start to contemplate the cause of the disagreement. In order to move forwards and resolve the situation, it’s important to accept responsibility and your part in the argument.

Sometimes, rational thinking goes out of the window and we might say things we don’t really mean. So be honest with yourself and if you feel like you might have overreacted or been hurtful, take it on board.

Talk maturely

Now that you’ve had time to calm down and rationalise your thoughts, suggest a time when you can both talk in person. Texting is never a great way to build bridges as often words are misconstrued, and it’s much more difficult to portray true feelings.

When you meet, it’s often best to start with an apology for anything you think was hurtful or unnecessary. Be sincere and perhaps remind them of all the positive qualities that you love about them. This can be reassuring and will let the other person know that just because you have an argument, it doesn’t have to mean the end of a wonderful friendship or relationship.

It’s important to speak with a mature attitude and with respect as well as trying to understand from the other person’s perspective. Even more importantly, take time to listen properly to the other person. Not everyone is going to agree with each other all the time, so rather than going over the same ground again and again, try to suggest ways to fix the problem. Sometimes we must make compromises to find some middle ground and move on from an argument, so suggest ways that you can do this.

If you can find a way to resolve the argument, learn to forgive, put it behind you and try not to bring the same issues up again in the future.

If you find yourself getting into arguments on a more regular basis, you might want to take steps to reduce the chances of getting into an ugly argument. Psychology Today has some interesting tips.