Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Stop smoking this autumn

We see many clients who come to us seeking psychological support to help them give up smoking. We all know smoking is bad for our health and many smokers who want to quit start off well. However as tobacco is highly addictive, even people with the strongest desire to give up can find it hard to kick the habit once the withdrawal symptoms begin. This is not a weakness in them, it just demonstrates how addictive smoking really is.

Despite the difficulties people experience when trying to kick the habit, there are a number of things that can increase your chances of success including support.

This month has been renamed 'stoptober' to mark a campaign to get people off cigarettes for the month. It's not too late to join the hundreds of thousands of people who are taking part in the challenge. Sign up today and get your free support pack with lots of tools to help you along the way.

See for more details.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Wellbeing and Self-Care for Mental Health Professionals

This fascinating conference will take place in the historic city of Edinburgh. Why not extend
your stay and take in some of Edinburgh's many tourist attractions?

If you work in the field of mental health you will understand how important it is to look after yourself. However, despite knowing this, you may find that you spend so much time and energy helping others that thinking about your own wellbeing gets pushed to the back of the queue.

Self-Care Conference

Our 'National Conference on Wellbeing and Self-Care for Mental Health Professionals' will focus on this vital topic, highlighting various aspects relevant to mental health professionals and other allied health workers. It offers a professional forum to explore the personal and professional challenges of self-care in this unique and challenging working environment.

Fantastic speakers and conference programme

We are delighted to have lined up a fantastic group of expert speakers from a wealth of healthcare backgrounds to speak at the conference. The conference programme will consist of three keynote sessions with a choice of workshops available, so you can tailor your day to meet your individual interests.

When and where?

The conference will take place on Friday 22 November 2013 at Radisson Blue, Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Who would be interested?
This conference will be of interest to mental health professionals working in complex, voluntary and private organisations and / or settings including:
  • Psychologists; psychotherapists; counsellors; clinical supervisors; social workers; CPNs; educators; and academics and students of these disciplines.
  • GPs and allied health professionals who are exposed to patient/client disclosures, narratives of struggles or adversities, and those supporting clients in a professional capacity although not necessarily trained in mental health.
  • Those in management positions who - along with supporting mental health professionals, frontline workers, or allied health professionals - are responsible for promoting an organisational culture of wellness.
More details

For more details and to book your place see our conference website. Early bird discount available!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Surviving the school holidays

If the very thought of the school holidays fills you with dread then read on for some survival tips from our psychologists.

  1. 1. Make a plan: what do you need to do to have a great holiday? Try to plan ahead and look at options that allow you to spend time together, but also give the kids a chance to spend time with other kids. Include your kids in the planning stage by asking for their thoughts and integrating them into the family plans. And remember to have some rainy day options up your sleeve!
  2. Create a routine: during the school year, our days are highly structured. The holidays are a good time to loosen these routines and generally slow down, however both you and your kids will benefit from some kind of structure such as set play times and meal times. Spontaneity is great, but without any structure at all, kids can feel a bit lost and bored.
  3. Build up a support network: check with the kids’ school or nursery for a holiday programme. Community centres also sometimes offer activities and events that allow kids to try something new, learn different skills and develop interests outside of their school curriculum.
  4. Family is key: if you’re lucky enough to have family members close by, include them in your holiday preparations for day trips, sleepover, etc. Visiting family members is a great opportunity for kids to bond and have fun with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Your family will appreciate spending time with the kids, too, and it takes the pressure off you as a parent.
  5. Mind your work: most working parents are unable to take time off work for the full duration of the holidays and even with flexible working arrangements, there will be times when you need to knuckle down and work. Make sure these times are part of your joint holiday planning so you don't end up more stressed than you would be during the school year.
  6. ‘No parents allowed’: most children love socialising with their peers and the holidays are a great opportunity to arrange ‘play dates’ with their friends. Speak to other parents and your neighbours about taking turns in hosting the kids. This will allow you to retain some ‘me time’ while giving your kids a chance to develop social skills and enjoy themselves.

Tips based on original comments supplied by psychologists Professor Ewan Gillon, clinical director of First Psychology Scotland, Dr Maria Gascon and Dr Ian Connor

Friday, 24 May 2013

Encouraging a healthy weight in children

Recent figures hit the headlines that younger children than ever are becoming weight conscious. A study at Essex University found a startling one in 17 children are too thin, with 6% now being classified as underweight. It’s been claimed that these children are being missed because of society’s obsession with tackling obesity. However, being underweight can also cause a variety of health problems such as a lack of energy, weakened immune system and delayed development.

Eating disorders most commonly occur in 14-19 year old teenage girls, but clinicians are diagnosing younger and younger children and many more boys, so it is a problem that parents should be aware of. But how can we help our children feel better about their weight when there is so much pressure from society to be thin?

Numerous studies have shown links between exposure to thin bodies and a desire to lose weight. So be careful about leaving fashion magazines around the house. However, the media isn’t the only problem as parents often guide a child's self-image. If you're very weight conscious, your children will copy you and may start saying things like, “I’m so fat" without really understanding what it means. Encourage health in your family, not weight loss per se.

Communicating with your children about weight is key. When they hit puberty their bodies will change suddenly. This may happen at a different time to their friends, leaving them feeling self-conscious. Talk to them about these changes and explain that it is normal. Try to understand their feelings and the source of any untrue beliefs they may hold.

If you believe your child may be developing unhealthy weight goals it is important to consult with your GP quickly to determine whether they have a weight problem and decide on the most appropriate action.

Being aware of potential issues and taking action quickly can really help your child develop a more healthy relationship with their body in childhood, puberty and beyond.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Coping with fertility problems

Recent statistics found that a shocking one in six couples have trouble conceiving, making it an issue that affects many of our lives. Our fertility is influenced by factors such as age, hormonal disorders, smoking, alcohol, stress, sexually transmitted infections, unhealthy body weight or even just bad timing. No matter the cause, it is normal to feel a monumental sense of loss, guilt and sadness if you are struggling to conceive. However, there are certain things you can do to overcome this overwhelming flood of emotions….

  • Resist the urge to blame yourself. It is easy to feel a sense of failure and guilt but no matter what the cause of your problems they will not be solved through placing blame. Focus on the solution rather than the problem. 
  • Face and accept your emotions. Trying to bury your head in the sand will only prolong the pain. 
  • Work through this time with your partner, but this does not mean you should be feeling the same things at the same time. Understand that you may be experiencing different processes and dealing with your issues in different ways. 
  • Communicate with your partner and pay attention to what your partner is thinking. Overcoming these problems together can help make your relationship stronger. 
  • Gain control of the situation by educating yourself. Read, speak to doctors and make use of online forums to chat with couples in similar situations. 
  • Give yourself permission to say no to baby-focused activities such as Christenings if you feel it would be too difficult. 
  • Pursue other interests. It may be difficult, but making your life baby focused will make it even tougher. 
  • If you’ve made decisions such as abortions in the past, don’t dwell on them. It is important to concentrate on your future. 
  • Friends and family can sometimes find it difficult to empathise, and it can be infuriating to keep hearing things like “Just relax and you’ll get pregnant”. Use the internet to make contact with others who will understand what you're going through. 
  • Counselling shouldn’t be seen as a sign you’re not coping, it is perfectly normal for you to want a chance to talk. 
If you are having trouble conceiving, remember there are other options available. Communicate with your partner and doctors to discuss your future and remind yourself of the areas of your life that you have been more fortunate in.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Is your relationship worth working at?

Deciding a relationship is over is one of the hardest things to do. You may feel torn, remembering once happy times while also feeling sad about how things are at present. In addition, when children and shared assets are involved, things can be very complicated. 

Unfortunately, there is no sure way to tell your relationship is over and no-one can make that decision but you, however the following questions may help you decide whether you want to put in the effort to make things better or end the relationship and move on.

1. Ask yourself, in your heart of hearts, is your partner the right person for you?

2. Does your partner make you a better person?

3. Are you afraid of losing your partner more than you're afraid of the break-up process.

4. Think about why you fell in love with your partner in the first place, are those reasons still enough?

5. Imagine yourself in ten years' time, do you see your partner with you?

6. Again, imagine your future self, do you think you would regret staying with your partner for so long?

7. Are you considering a break up with a calm and rational mind, having thoroughly thought it through? (Rather than in the heat of an argument).

8. Do you look forward to seeing your partner?

9. Are you faithful? Both physically and emotionally?

10. Is your relationship worth fighting for?

Breaking up with your partner may feel like the most devastating thing to happen, but it is important to believe that you can be happy again in the future. 

If thinking about your relationship has made you realise that what you have is worth working at, then you may wish to consider relationship counselling. This is a process during which an experienced, non-biased counsellor can help you identify issues and work through them.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Walk the walk to better health

May is national walking month, and with the weather finally improving it is the perfect excuse to get outside and sneak some exercise into your daily routine. 

Research shows that walking 8,000 steps a day significantly improves your health, not just in the short-term. In the long term walking reduces risk of long-term conditions such as heart disease, colon cancer, osteoarthritis, hip fracture and even mental illnesses such as depression and dementia. There’s no need to make huge life changes to reap the benefits of walking and exercise, here are our hints and tips to squeeze exercise into our increasingly busy lives…

  • Walk to work, the longer days and better weather make this all the more possible. If you live too far to walk try getting off the bus a couple of stops early or park further away from work. 
  • Invest in a shopping trolley and do your food shopping locally rather than driving to a super store. 
  • Walk with friends, family or your dog. Not only will this make it more enjoyable, but it is also a great bonding opportunity. 
  • Play with your kids. Rather than just watching, join in and run around with them! They’ll love it too. 
  • Take the stairs rather than the lift. If there’s too many, get out half way or just walk down them. 
  • Go on active dates! Rather than going out for dinner or to the cinema with your partner or friends play tennis or go for a cycle. 
  • Take a break from work and walk round the block. Not only will this improve your concentration but it a great way to sneak in some extra steps. 
  • Check out the Apps available for your smart phone. There are great apps out there ranging from stepometers to walking route suggestions to activity logs so you can track your progress. 
Remember, it’s little changes like these that can really make an impact to your life so don’t be daunted by '8000' steps… you may be surprised how easy and enjoyable they are to do!

Friday, 26 April 2013

Giving a confident presentation

Last week we discussed how to build confidence in children, but what about our own? Many of us find our confidence is put to the greatest test when giving a presentation. 

If you've been asked to give a presentation or speech, perhaps for a wedding, work, end of term show, etc you may feel very daunted by the prospect. However, this doesn’t have to be a daunting experience, but rather an opportunity to entertain, showcase your leadership skills or build your career. Below are some tips to help you give your best possible presentation.

  • Studies have shown our emotions aren’t as visible to others as we think, so don’t panic that everyone will know how nervous you are. Plan ahead so you feel in control of things and to help prevent last minute panics.
  • Be careful not to memorise a speech word for word. If you forget one word or phrase it will throw you off completely and will seem much less authentic too. Instead, write down some key headings and points and practise what you want to say about each. When the time comes, take your headings in to the room with you to jog your memory.
  • Everyone, even the most experienced speakers, gets a little nervous before doing a presentation. Do not let the nerves control you. Believe in yourself. If you go into a presentation believing it will go well, the chances are it will. 
  • Control your body’s nervous response by using slow, deep, calming breaths. 
  • Studies have shown that people like others more if they have seen them before. So try to work the room beforehand and speak to as many people as you can. Getting your face out there will cause the audience to respond to you better. 
  • Children are not the only ones who love stories; adults do too. Use stories and examples to captivate your audience. 
  • Go slow, it will not only help you relax, but will make your audience understand what you are discussing. 
  • End strong. This is the part the audience is most likely to remember, so make it crisp, clean and powerful! 

The old saying, “fear is worse than fear itself” applies to presentations. So just remember that it is very unlikely to go as bad as you may think. Believe in your capabilities and the audience will follow suit. Good Luck!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Building confidence in children

From infancy to adulthood children face a range of changes and potential problems along the way. While we can't step in and live their lives for them, we can arm them with the tools they need to contend with each stage of their lives.

Helping to build confidence in children is a great way to help your child cope with the ups and downs of childhood.

Confidence can help a younger child manage the friendship problems they commonly experience, as well as helping children of all ages deal with sibling rivalry, problems with schoolwork and bullying, among other issues.

A confident child is more resilient to the fluctuations of life. They will not take things personally or blame themselves for things that are not their fault and can therefore find it easier to deal with the sorts of issues that crop up in childhood and adolescence.

Want to learn to build confidence in children?
First Psychology Scotland is running two FREE events this spring aimed at parents and educators of children and young people. You will come away with a range of tips and tools that will help you build confidence in children!

Glasgow: 9 May, 7-8.30pm, Centre for Contemporary Art

Edinburgh: 16 May, 6.30-8pm, City Art Centre

Places for both events are limited so book now to avoid disappointment!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Recognising the Signs of Autism

Tuesday 2 April was World Autism Day and although this date has passed, it is never too late to raise awareness. It is estimated that autism spectrum conditions (including Aspergers syndrome and other persuasive developmental disorders) occur in 1-2% of the population. As a parent you never want to believe that your child may have such difficulties but it is important to get an early diagnosis as the younger the child the greater the impact of treatment.

The signs and symptoms of autism vary according to the individual. However children with autism spectrum conditions have problems in the following areas:

  • Problems with social interaction. This includes non-verbal communication behaviour such as eye contact impairments, abnormal development of peer relationships, a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, and a lack of emotional or social reciprocity. 
  • Impairments in communication. This includes marked impairments in the development of language and conversation skills, repetitive use of certain words/ phrases and a lack of interest in imaginative play. 
  • Repetitive and restricted behaviour. This includes an abnormally intense preoccupation with a particular subject or activity, very rigid routines or rituals, repetitive movements (such as hand flapping) and a persistent preoccupation with parts of objects. 
If you suspect your child may be suffering from autism spectrum disorders it is important to trust your instincts – after all, you know your child best. Consult your GP who can provide you further information and advice and refer you on if necessary.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy families

Growing up in a relaxed and happy environment can reduce anxiety levels in children. However, perhaps family life is not as perfect as we’d like it to be. Psychologists have long argued that our relationships with family members have an enormous impact on our well-being. It is therefore crucial to put both time and effort into them in order to make them as strong as they can be. Here are some tips to help create happy families.

  • Fun. Have fun together. It can be easy to dismiss activities as 'something for the kids' while you just sit and watch, but having fun and laughing together is a crucial bonding experience. Get involved with the kids and don’t be afraid to be silly. 
  • Allow free communication. This does not include talking about mundane daily topics, but discussing real issues that matter to your family. If you provide an open environment where your children are encouraged to communicate freely about their opinions and lives, they will be more likely to come to you if they have any problems. 
  • Partner. Don’t be afraid to put your partner first. Arrange a babysitter and spend time with your partner. A loving relationship is the backbone of a family and teaches your children crucial lessons about relationships. 
  • Individuals. Each member of your family is an individual but because we spend so much time around them we can easily 'habituate', this means we stop noticing their individual qualities. Take a step back and appreciate your family member’s unique abilities and personality, this will help you to value you them more. 
  • Love and respect one another. In school, children are taught to respect others, but this message is often ignored at home. If your children see you and your partner respecting one another, this will set an example and they will be more likely to respect their siblings and others. 
  • Interact with each family member. If you have more than one child, spend time with each child individually each day. This will make the child feel special and strengthen bonds between you. 
  • Eat together. Humans have turned the basic need for food into an important time to socialise so turn off the TV and use this time to connect with one another. 
  • Spend time together. As your children grow older and become more independent, it can be difficult to set aside time together as a family. Schedule time and plan activities that you can all enjoy.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Conquering the weight loss demons

It’s almost been three months since we set our New Years resolutions and many of us may have already slipped. One resolution that is particularly hard to keep is weight loss - especially with all the tempting Easter eggs filling the shelves! However, don’t give up, it is not too late to lose weight. Here are our top tips to conquer your weight demons and accomplish your goals:

  • Many of us eat because we have a deep emotional attachment to food. If you're feeling stressed or sad don’t be tempted to grab the ice cream, instead go for a walk or call a friend. 
  • Studies have shown that couples tend to have similar BMIs and eating habits. This does mean that losing weight as a couple is much more effective than going it alone so encourage your partner to join you. However, be careful not to force or guilt them into it because this will only lead to resentment. 
  • Keeping a food diary helps you realise how much you actually eat. You’ll be surprised how the little snacks add up. 
  • It has been shown that people eat more when they aren’t concentrating on their food. Stay away from the television and you’ll pay more attention to your body’s natural satiety signals. 
  • Don’t be too rigid with your diet. There’s no point in losing weight and being miserable, so if you feel like chocolate have one square! They key is moderation and you’ll be less likely to completely fall off the wagon. 
  • Don’t make exercise a chore. Make it fun by going for a jog with a friend or do a salsa class. 
  • Don’t be critical of your own body. Look at yourself in the mirror every day and point out something you like. This will help you become happier with yourself. 
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others. There are some people who can just eat more than others without piling on the pounds. Making comparisons will just make you feel bad. 
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has proven to help with weight loss. Together, you and the therapist can get to the root cause of your eating habits and identify and modify your thinking habits. 

Friday, 15 March 2013

After the affair

Infidelity is when a partner breaks the expectations of exclusivity upheld by the relationship. However, what constitutes 'cheating' varies between cultures and types of relationships and is not necessarily physical. Figures suggest that roughly 30-40% of those in a marriage or a long-term relationship break these expectations at some point, and so is a something many of us will deal with.

Immediately after the affair you are likely to feel hurt, angry and betrayed. It may seem like you'll never get past it, and many may not want to try. However, if you want to continue with the relationship here are some tips that may help get you through.

  • Be prepared! Deciding to stay with your partner is only the first step. Make sure you are both prepared to work hard and fight for the relationship. 
  • Take some time off or get away for a few days. This time and space can give you clarity to figure out what you truly want. 
  • Understand the cause of the affair. Although, there is no excuse for such betrayal, most affairs do have underlying causes such as lack of communication, boredom or lack of intimacy. Understanding what led to the affair can provide a helpful insight into your relationship and where it went wrong. 
  • Do not blame yourself. 
  • Express your anger in positive ways. Seeking revenge on your partner or the person they cheated with is not going to help. Choose healthier ways to express your anger such as exercise. Not only will something like kickboxing help you through your aggression but it will also give your self-esteem a much needed boost. 
  • Spend time together. Use the affair as a wake up call that marriage is a challenge and unless you both work at it, it will fall apart. 
  • Be transparent. The unfaithful partner must be prepared to be transparent about their whereabouts and actions for a while while you rebuild your trust. 
  • Try to put the past behind you. If you have chosen to forgive your partner, then you have to forgive them. Don’t hold it over their head or keep bringing it up during arguments. If you want to move past it, you have to put it behind you. 
  • Seek the help of a relationship counsellor. They are trained to spot problems that may have led to an affair and to help you move past them. 
Surviving an affair is not going to be easy or quick. Following these tips and devoting the time and work required will give your relationship the best chance possible and you may even emerge as a stronger couple.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Quit smoking for the last time!

Friday 13th March is approaching and as well as the usual superstitions, it is also 'No Smoking Day'  - a fantastic opportunity to finally kick the habit once and for all! 

Overall, tobacco smoking is estimated to be responsible for more than a quarter of cancer related deaths in the UK, that’s over 100, 000 deaths a year. Furthermore, the average smoker will spend more than £2700 a year on cigarettes. The dangers and costs of smoking are well publicised, but despite the facts, it can still be a huge struggle to quit. However, other people have successfully quit before you - follow these tips to get one step closer to completing the challenge.

  • Don’t keep putting it off. Plan to quit on the 13th March and do it! 
  • Studies have shown combining medicine with social support is the most successful method for quitting. So, get prepared before the big day. Talk to your pharmacist or GP about possible nicotine replacement therapies and let your friends and family know you're quitting so they can support you through it. 
  • If you're highly dependent on cigarettes, (e.g. smoke more than 30 a day and need one as soon as you wake up), you will need nicotine replacement therapies such strong patches, gum, or nasal spray. 
  • If you are moderately dependent, medium strength patches or gum should help. Perhaps you could try electronic cigarettes to help with the habitual aspects of smoking, such as having one with a coffee, etc. 
  • If you believe you're only slightly addicted to smoking, do not underestimate the challenge. You may be able to quit through willpower alone but nicotine patches/ gum can make it easier. 
  • Everyone has their own personal reasons for quitting, but make sure you want it. If you are trying to quit simply because you feel you should, you will be unlikely to succeed, and it may deter you from future quitting attempts. 
  • Write it down. Putting your goals on paper has been proven to increase success, you could even hang a 'days since last cigarette' poster in the house to remind you of your achievement. 
  • Have a plan for how you're going to deal with tempting situations such as going to the pub or a stressful day at work. Exercise is a better way to handle stress but it may be necessary to avoid going to the pub with smoking friends for the first few days. 
  • If you're worried about weight gain, stock your cupboards with tasty and healthy snacks. Smoking clogs your taste buds, so when you quit it is tempting to eat more and it gives your hands something to do. However, once you have quit you will be amazed how much more active you are able to be so the extra couple of pounds you may have gained can quickly be lost. 
  • The most crucial component to quitting is believing in yourself. Choose a role model that has quit and keep remembering that if they can do it, you can do it too. 
  • There are dozens of online resources to help you quit. Joining chat forums to talk to others who are going through the same process can give you that much needed support. 

If you want to know more about 'No Smoking Day' or for extra tips on quitting visit:

Friday, 1 March 2013

Self-injury awareness day

Today is 'self-injury awareness day' which aims to bring attention to the issue of self-harm. Tackling the issue today could be the first step in stopping someone, or yourself, self-harming for good.

Self-harming is when somebody deliberately hurts themselves (through cutting, bruising, burning or other methods) in order to help deal with any emotional pain they might be experiencing. We often associate it with teenage girls, but it occurs in men and women of all ages and the UK has the one of the highest self-harm rates in Europe. For many, it is a way to release emotions when they are feeling numb and can be an immense relief, but the behaviour can quickly become addictive and in the long term causes a great deal of psychological trauma.

Many people wrongly believe those who self-harm are trying to get attention, but in fact most people desperately try to hide their behaviour. However there are crucial signs to look out for if you suspect a loved one may be self-harming, although just because somebody exhibits the signs it does not necessarily mean they self-harm.

  • Frequent unexplained wounds or scars. May attempt to explain them by claiming they are clumsy or that 'the cat did it'. 
  • Covering up. Changes in clothes such as suddenly wearing long sleeves or wristbands and refusing to remove them, even in hot weather. 
  • Signs of depression such as low mood, lack of interest and low self-esteem. 
  • May need to be alone for long periods of time. 
  • You may also find objects such as razors or of knifes amongst their belongings. 
Discovering a loved one self-harms can be traumatic, but it does not mean they are suicidal. You may feel helpless, but there are steps you can take to aid their recovery.

  • Talk calmly to them and listen to their troubles. This can provide an alternative outlet to release their pain 
  • Make sure they realise you are there to listen and are not going to judge them. 
  • Try and learn about the problem and what triggers it so you know when to be ready with support. 
  • Be careful not to give them ultimatums to try and stop their behaviour. Threats or punishments will just drive them further away. 
  • Communication is key but if they are unwilling to talk to you, ask them to write a letter, keep a diary or speak to an experienced counsellor. 
Self-harming is treatable given time and patience and thankfully there is support out there. For more information about self-awareness day, and for more information and support visit

Friday, 22 February 2013

'Til debt do us part

During the courting stage of a relationship we are often impressed when our partner flashes the cash. However, this can quickly change as responsibilities grow and our finances become shared. Money troubles can create extreme stress in a relationship and, in the current economic climate, they are becoming an increasingly common cause of divorce.

The key to dealing with money troubles is honesty. Trying to hide your spending will not solve the problem, but will result in your partner feeling betrayed. Talk openly with them and explain exactly how much money has gone. Anger may be your automatic reaction if your partner has overspent, but try and remain calm so you can work together to find a solution.

If you earn significantly more than your partner it can be easy to blame them for any financial troubles. But it is very important not to use money as a weapon. If you have agreed to share your finances then you must not regard money as 'mine' or 'yours'. Ensure you both fully understand your financial state so one partner does not overspend. If your partner's spending becomes excessive, talk about it calmly, but be careful not to accuse.

We have all been guilty of spending money to make ourselves feel better after a tough day at work or an argument with our partner. However, this behaviour can quickly spiral out of control and eat into our finances. Emotional problems cannot be solved with money so try get to the root cause of your or your partner’s spending. Understanding why you feel the need to spend money can lead you both to a solution and improve your relationship.

Finally, if you have found yourselves in financial difficulty, it isn’t the end of the world. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and make sure you deal with the problem head on. Use the opportunity to spend quality time with your partner without the distractions that money brings: cook meals together rather than going out, go for walks rather than shopping or just watch a film at home rather than going to the cinema. As long as you are honest with each other and open to solutions then you will get through your money troubles and will hopefully emerge a stronger couple.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Dealing with rejection

At some point in our lives we all deal with rejection. Even if we’re smart, beautiful or funny, rejection hits us hard, especially when it comes from those closest to us. Despite the hurt we may feel immediately, rejection doesn’t need to stop us in our tracks. Whether you feel rejected from your partner, a job or a friend you can use the pain as an opportunity to grow stronger by following this advice.

  • Think about the positives. The most important thing to do is not measure your worth against the opinions of others. Instead think about your achievements and all the people that do care about you rather than focussing on the negatives. 
  • Think of reasons behind the rejection. Understanding that it wasn’t personal can be a big help in moving on. 
  • Look to the future. Despite what fairy tales led us to believe growing up, it takes time to find 'the one'. If someone you thought you had a future with has rejected you then they were probably not your perfect partner! Try to view the experience as taking you one step closer to  'the one'. 
  • Look for the common factors. If you have had a series of rejections, think about the common factors. Were you consistently drawn to unsuitable jobs/partners? 
  • Be truthful. Don't be tempted to lie at the beginning of a new job or relationship. It is likely to lead to rejection later on. 
  • Don’t be put off from dating or job searches after a rejection. Each time, place and person is different and the next opportunity could be the right one for you. 
While being rejected may be out of your control, the way you deal with it is not. Be positive, don’t take it to heart and keep looking to the future! With the right attitude you will look back one day and thank the person that rejected you because it can lead to bigger and better things!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Improving communication in a relationship

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and it may seem as if we are surrounded by inflatable hearts and smug couples. The 14th of February is a day to celebrate love with our partner. However, for many couples it can shine an all too harsh (albeit red hued) light on a broken relationship. The biggest problems couples face can be the result of poor communication and so in order to have a great Valentine’s day and improve your relationship follow these simple tips.

  • Discuss issues before they turn into problems. Many issues are not discussed until they suddenly become overwhelming and may be unresolvable. It is therefore very important to calmly discuss problems when they first arise in order to stop them spiralling out of control. 
  • Share your views. We are sociable beings and enjoy talking about our feelings, hopes and aspirations but if our partner is unwilling to listen or share their own thoughts it can become frustrating. Set aside time to talk and agree not to be critical of one another. 
  • Try and see the issue from your partner’s perspective. Sympathising with their view and feelings will help you understand their actions and will help them communicate their thoughts better. 
  • Don't attack your partner. If you wish to talk to your partner about a problem, try to not make it a personal attack. Remain calm and discuss why their behaviour upsets you and suggest how the problem can improve. 
  • Understand your own needs. If you do not know what you want then it is very difficult to communicate what is troubling you with your partner. 
  • Communicate with your partner. If your partner does not realise something has upset you it can be infuriating and may seem easier to blame them for not understanding. Make sure you tell your partner what the problem is it rather than playing the blame game. 
  • Do not let the argument become about winning or proving a point. Maintaining the strength of your relationship by respecting your partner should remain a priority during the discussion. 
  • Write to your partner. If you are finding it difficult to express your emotions, write a letter to your partner so you can communicate how you are feeling. 
  • With regards to Valentine’s Day, communicate exactly you want from it. Are you expecting a romantic trip away? Or would you be happy with a take-away and a movie? Having expectations of your partner without communication is likely to end in disaster. 
  • Consider therapy. If you still struggle to communicate with your partner consider couples therapy. Talking calmly in a neutral space allows you to appreciate how your partner is feeling which is difficult to achieve during conflict. Couples therapists are trained to spot key communication problems and will guide you to a happier relationship. 
If you strip away the gimmicks and the high expectations, the 14th February is a day to celebrate your love for one another. Use it as an opportunity to appreciate your partner and spend valuable time together. If you do this and follow our tips on communication you will not only have a fantastic Valentine’s day, but your relationship will grow stronger and healthier.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Feel good Friday

Today is 'Feel Good Friday'! Organised by the Samaritans the aim is to fundraise while having fun with your co-workers. While it may be too late to organise a big event, it is certainly still possible to do something fun with your colleagues.

Studies have shown that workplace friendships generally improve productivity and office morale. While it is important to remain professional, knowing you have emotional support from someone going through the same struggles can help you cope with the stresses of work. Additionally, office friendships provide practical support by sharing knowledge and helping one another with the workload.

It is clearly important to establish and maintain healthy relationships at work, both for personal and professional support. Inspired by 'Feel Good Friday' here are our top tips to boost office morale:

  • Organise a 'dress down Friday'. This can make co-workers more relaxed and give an insight into their personality. You could even make it sponsored and donate to charity providing an extra 'feel good boost'. 
  • Do a group exercise class during your lunch break or after work. Exercise promotes interaction in a focused manner as there are few distractions during the workout. Something like Zumba or Salsa dancing is fun, which will create a bond between you and your colleagues and is a great way to stick to any new year’s weight loss resolutions! 
  • Start group lunches. Each of you could bring a small contribution or you could take it in turns to bring lunch for everyone. Food has the capacity to bring people together and may also be a great way to save money. 
  • Talk to your boss about bringing in your, or another colleague’s, dog. It is long established that pets can reduce stress among individuals or groups. 
  • Laugh together. Whether it's visiting a comedy club after work or sponsoring your boss to dress as something silly, laughter is the best way to bring people together and will make you feel fantastic. 
Enjoying your job is important both for your mental health and your productivity and good relationships with coworkers is a key factor in this. If you would like to donate to Samaritans or take part in feel good Friday you can follow this link:

Friday, 25 January 2013

Dealing with the suicide of someone close to you

It is estimated that 5% of people attempt suicide at least once in their lives, and 1 million people succeed every year, that’s more than from war and murder combined. If one of these people is someone you know and love, it is a very hard thing to deal with. The emotions are often different from other types of bereavement and can cause feelings on top of the usual grieving process. Many people feel a strong sense of abandonment and guilt, but you have to let these feelings go or they will consume you. Following these guidelines should be the first step to accepting the death of your loved one. 

  • Record you emotions in writing. This can help you process what your feelings and help you let go of any of the anger and guilt. 
  • Set time to grieve. Don’t try and carry on as normal, you must deal with your emotions. 
  • Look after yourself, eat well and exercise. This will help you feel better and make it easier to sleep. 
  • Don’t feel guilty. Talking to someone with a realistic perspective can help you rationalise. 
  • Constantly thinking “What if I’d done something differently” will not help grief. Once someone has decided to take their life, they will go to great lengths to do so- no matter what you did. 
  • Avoid making major decisions straight after the death. 
  • Ask for help in arranging the funeral and sorting out the affairs of the deceased. 
  • Anger is a natural response to death, resulting from a sense of helplessness. Don’t direct this anger towards the deceased or others. No-one could have prevented this. 
  • Suicide is rarely from a single cause so blame should not be placed on anyone. 
  • If you found the body, you may suffer from reoccurring and disturbing images. Talking to someone, perhaps a professional, can make these images less painful. 
  • Birthdays and anniversaries of the death can be difficult. Arrange in advance with other family members/ loved one how to spend the day. Celebrate their life rather than mourn it. 
It is unlikely that you will ever fully get over the death of a loved one, but following these steps can make it easier to deal with. Have faith that it will get easier and work through the grief.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Stuck in relationship cycles

At this time of year when we tend to look to the future and the shops are suddenly brimming with Valentine's gifts, it may be hard to face the fact that a relationship has ended badly.

When you are not well matched a relationship is likely to end badly. However, if you keep picking the wrong partners it can leave you feeling helpless and alone.

Firstly, ask yourself these questions to see whether you keep dating the wrong people.

  • Do the same problems keep arising in each of your relationships? 
  • Do you attract partners that need your help in some way? Are you trying to fix them? 
  • Are you unable to be yourself in your relationships? 
  • Do you spend a lot of time trying to please your partner at the expense of your own happiness? 
  • Do you always behave in the same negative ways? (I.e. become jealous, over critical) 
  • Make a list of characteristics of the people you have dated. Are these really the types of people you wish to end up with? 
If you answered yes to any of these questions you may be stuck in a relationship cycle, where different relationships always end with the same problems. Follow these guidelines in order to break this pattern and finally find happiness.

  • Do you understand what a healthy relationship looks like? If you don’t then it is hard to create one. Think long and hard about this before you get involved in a new relationship. 
  • Make a list of unacceptable traits from past relationships, and avoid partners that hold these. 
  • Look for someone you feel safe with. Being comfortable with your partner means you can express yourself openly without fear of being judged. 
  • Don’t put too much emphasis on looks when searching for a partner. Look for common values and friendship over superficial traits. 
  • Think carefully about what kind of person could break your relationship cycle. Most people don’t analyse what they really want in a relationship but doing this will stop you from rushing into something that isn’t right. 
  • Try dating people you would never normally consider. You don’t know if you don’t try! 
  • Understand what you both want from the relationship before getting deeply involved, this will stop hurt later on. 
Relationships aren’t easy, but when you find the right person it is worth it. However, if you think there are deeper reasons to why you keep choosing the wrong person consider speaking to professional counsellor or psychologist. They could help you get to the bottom of your poor choices and give you help and support to find the right person for you.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Social networking: how to portray yourself positively

It’s the beginning of a New Year and we all want 2013 to bring us something exciting. Whether you wish to get in touch with old friends, look for a new job or are looking for love, social networking is a good first step.

Fortunately modern technology means you can now do this from your sofa! According to recent statistics, 59% of us are now using some form of social networking. Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn, social networking is a powerful tool to help you manage and expand both your personal and professional life. It is therefore crucial to portray yourself in a positive way. Here are some hints and tips to becoming social networking savvy.

  • Unfortunately, it is impossible to separate your professional and personal life on the Internet. One simple Google search and your boss could see photos of you dancing on the desk at last year's Christmas party… so be very careful what you upload. 
  • Show off your personality. There is no point trying to portray somebody you are not. Post photos of yourself doing the things that you enjoy with the people you love, rather than staged photos of you doing something you think others would find impressive. 
  • Be careful with sarcastic or jokey comments. They often don’t translate in writing and people could get offended. 
  • If you're feeling emotional, social media is probably not the best place to blow off steam. Your outburst will remain on the Internet long after you calm down and can portray you as a negative person. Call a friend to rant instead. 
  • Know who you are and portray yourself consistently. Potential employees or dates will see straight through someone who changes their profile constantly. 
  • Use an up to date profile photo. You want people to be able to recognise you in the real world. 
  • If you are using social networking for dating it gives you the opportunity to have a good snoop before your commit to a date. Search through lots of profiles, read their interests and look through their photos, you can be picky later on. 
  • Studies have shown that people like someone better if they have seen their face before, even just briefly. So get yours out there! Join conversations and debates and add value to them. After all social networking is about engaging with other people. 
  • Be active on your profile. Try to strike a balance so people don’t forget about you but don't annoy others with constant and irrelevant comments. 
  • The best rule of thumb for social networking is to use the same policies that you implement in your face-to-face conversations and interactions. That way you are unlikely to offend others. 
Ultimately your profile is about you. It is your online persona that the world can see, so be smart with it and you can use this powerful tool to enhance your social, profession and romantic life…while watching Coronation Street!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Keeping your New Year’s resolutions

So you’ve set your 2013 resolutions, but now for the hardest part… keeping them. Evidence has shown that 40% of us give up our resolutions by the end of January. but if you follow this simple advice you can make 2013 a year for real change.

  • Put your resolutions in writing. Studies have shown that writing down your intentions improves your chances of sticking to them. 
  • Have a role model.  Find someone who has achieved what you want to achieve. Whether they are a celebrity or a friend, knowing that someone else has done it can give you the confidence to do it too. 
  • Pinpoint potential obstacles. Figure out a plan beforehand so you are prepared to tackle the situation. For example if you are going for dinner but are trying to diet, have a healthy snack beforehand so you aren’t so tempted to have a huge meal. 
  • Believe in yourself! As long as you have set yourself manageable goals you are more than capable of achieving them. 
  • Do it with a friend. Going through this together will give you someone who truly understands what you are facing. You can motivate and confide in each other. 
  • Don’t let the fear of failure stop you. Just imagine the feeling when you have achieved your goals to keep you determined. 
  • Try not to think of your resolutions as challenges, but rather as new habits. If you're in a routine, you are much more likely to stick it out. 
  • If you think there are deeper reasons why you cant achieve your goals. Consider speaking to an experienced psychologist who can help you get to the root cause of them problem. 
Good Luck and Happy New Year!