Psychologists and counsellors: are they helpful?

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Today, I want to break the stigma of seeing a mental health professional. Yes, it is more accepted in today’s society but there are still negative thoughts out there. This post is for those people who are afraid to be judged. This post is for those who have earned their degree, honours and masters. This post is for those who are curious as to how a professional can help them.

My experience

During high school, I saw a counsellor for the first time. I was losing motivation as each week passed and my teacher was concerned. Unfortunately, I had trust issues with most adults – the school counsellor included.  I could barely muster up words to describe how I was feeling. Albeit I was conditioned to ignore my emotions… I was so afraid that he would judge me or “turn against me” somehow. I saw this counsellor once and never returned.

Throughout the next 5 years, I struggled with negative thoughts and had trouble sleeping. I saw a few counsellors which helped to a point. Even though I got along with these people, still, I felt the same: I had a heavy chest and a sadness that wouldn’t go away. Eventually, I scraped up the courage to see a psychologist. It was the best decision I ever made. Although it was very costly (as I am a student and work casually), it was worth it. My boyfriend would always remind me, “Your mental health is more important” – this finally clicked. I couldn’t push my needs to the side any longer. I longed to move forward with my life. I made it my mission to allow for psychology sessions in my budget. If I didn’t have enough to pay for it, I’d either borrow money from someone and pay it back or reschedule the appointment until I could afford it. It became a worthwhile priority in my life!

Counsellor or psychologist?

First, let’s define these occupations. Both counsellors and psychologists can help with mental health issues and personal problems. However, the main distinction is that a psychologist has a protected title that only those who are specifically qualified can use. This involves more than six years of tertiary studies.

As I mentioned before, I have seen both counsellors and psychologists. I found that a counsellor’s fee was more affordable than a psychology session. To this day, I assume it’s because of the difference in education and a psychologists protected title.

What’s important however, is whether or not you get along with the professional. The first couple counsellors I saw, didn’t seem like people I could ‘click’ with. Eventually, I met a counsellor who was amazing and really helped me through some harrowing times. She was kind, genuine and encouraging – qualities that I was lacking in myself/around my immediate social circle at that time in my life.

Steps to seeing a mental health professional.

  1.  Do your research. Read about each counsellor/psychologists profile if that’s available. Find their website and read, read, read! Once you’re certain about having the first initial consult, send an email.
  2. Attend the consultation. The mental health professional should then contact you and organise a consultation. This is usually a orientation session to talk about what your goals are, medical history and emergency contacts.
  3. First session. This can be nerve-racking even though you’ve already had the initial consultation. But remember – this is the first step to overcoming the hurdles you’ve been experiencing. It’s okay to be nervous. It’s normal. Being vulnerable is difficult. It may not seem like it, but it will be worth it.
  4. Self-reflection. You’ve completed your first session. Well done. Now, you can take the next 7-14 days to think whether or not you would like to continue with this counsellor/psychologist. Do they respond to you in a way that makes you feel supported? Do you feel safe being vulnerable with them? Do you feel you could learn a lot from them? Expression is hugely cathartic but it’s also important that you are able to openly learn, and improve your life. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable, let the counsellor know that you won’t be continuing. Go back to Step 1 and do your research. Maybe ask friends/family you trust about professionals they may have seen.
  5. Continue counselling sessions. You’ve now made the next decision to either continue or find another professional. Remember, healing isn’t linear. You may have a breakthrough and another hurdle comes along. It’s okay. Like Dory says, “Just keep swimming!”.

Seeing a professional can be daunting and even terrifying. But if talking to friends or trusted adults aren’t improving your situation, take that step to seek help. Don’t wait. Waiting may exacerbate your symptoms.

Mental illness can be so isolating. Reach out. And if you know someone who is struggling, send them a message. Give them a call. Visit them. You never know what battle someone may be facing. Don’t wait until it’s too late to show your kindness. Don’t wait to spread love to those closest.

It’s okay to ask for help. We are stronger together.

Image from last years trip to New Zealand.

Boundaries in Relationships

Boundaries in Relationships

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What are boundaries?

Boundaries are the ‘space’ between ourselves and the other person. This can be emotional, mental or a physical space. It can also be explained as “the line where I end and someone else begins”, stated by clinical psychologist Ryan Howes. Another way to think of boundaries is imagining state borders throughout the country. We all have an emotional/mental/physical border that keeps us comfortable and safe. These borders indicate to people what is okay and what is not okay.

Have you ever been in a situation where a friend leans in too close to you, and you want to immediately lean away? Your physical boundary has been crossed. Have you ever been part of a conversation and the other person shares too many details? That’s an emotional/mental boundary that is being crossed. Boundaries are applicable to all relationships. Whether it’s between friendships, family members or coworkers.

What’s an unhealthy boundary? Unhealthy boundaries include oversharing, being uncomfortably close to others, feeling extremely incomplete without your partner and being controlled by another. This can be observed in codependent relationships.

What does healthy boundaries look like? Healthy boundaries include keeping private information private, being considerate about your presence and not impeding on another’s personal space, taking responsibility for your own happiness and being open and honest with others.

How are boundaries formed?

Boundaries are formed primarily throughout childhood. If a child’s needs are met, they are able to develop a healthy sense of personal boundaries. However, if a child suddenly has to take care of a parent with an addiction/mental illness, there can be confusion as to what a healthy boundary is. Children who suffer verbal, physical or sexual abuse can also struggle with developing healthy personal boundaries.

Why are boundaries useful?

Healthy boundaries are useful as it helps to sustain our relationships, by giving it structure. We are able to communicate open and honestly, share our feelings and thoughts without impeding on other’s mental health. It helps to establish our own identity. It’s also good for stabilising our mental and emotional states.

If we don’t have boundaries set for ourselves, it may lead people to disrespect our time, our effort or our space. Unhealthy boundaries can even impede on our happiness.
For example, I used to keep my notification sounds on for my emails. Throughout the night, the “pinging” sound of my phone would wake me up. I started waking up annoyed because of the sounds. I’ve disabled the notification settings now. This is what setting a boundary looks like – although it is simple, it is effective and relevant for more serious situations. I respect my sleep and time-out from technology, so I took the necessary step to ensure this is respected.

How can we apply it to our lives?

1. Communicate!
First, communicate! Sometimes we may not be aware of our boundaries until it happens. That’s okay! Just make sure you communicate that with the other person so they know. Encourage them to also do the same with you.

2. Be honest!
This can also fall under communication. Be honest and clear about what is okay and what is not okay. You’re not just protecting yourself but also the other person from resentment, constant fighting or silent treatments.

3. Find support outside of the relationship.
Seek a professional that you trust to work through boundary issues. Sometimes it’s easier to navigate our feelings if there is a professional outside of the relationship, supporting us. Even a trusted friend or family member can help us through this.

4. Learn to say no.
If it is not in your best interest, say no. As humans, we generally have the innate ability to notice when we’re in a toxic relationship. It’s okay to walk away. It is within your ability and right, to say no and walk away. Don’t worry about what other people think!

5. Be aware of your needs.
In my previous post, I spoke about what ‘needs‘ are. If you prefer to be alone sometimes to recharge – don’t sacrifice that time. Prioritise space and distance to look after yourself.

6. Do your best to stay consistent.
Don’t look outward for self-esteem, search within yourself. The key to self-love is setting healthy boundaries. Always remember your own strength.

Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup. In order to help others, we must first help ourselves. Think of ways you can start to make those positive changes. Is it by communicating with others? Or by writing down boundaries to work on? Maybe you can encourage someone who is struggling with this today. Life is all about learning and growing!

 

If you found this post helpful, please like, share or comment down below!
Love and light x

Image by Priscilla Du Preez.

 

 

How to study when you’re sick.

The photo above is my current situation. Although I am typing this post while sitting on a desk, I have been living in my bed. Fighting the tiredness doesn’t make it go away, unfortunately. I’m sure most of you know what it’s like… assignments due, classes to go to, rent to pay and the list goes on! So, how does a student study while sick? I’m about to tell you.

What’s your priority?

Over the course of this semester, I’ve accepted now that studying is one of my main priorities. And no, I didn’t accept it for months, until recently. I was set on working four days a week and studying meticulously during off-hours. However, it did not work out that way at all. The complete opposite, in fact. Nowadays, I study more than I work and it’s a constant cycle of “I may not pay rent, but that’s cool, I’m getting an education”. You may think an education isn’t all that important – that’s okay! This post is geared towards those who do. Then again, isn’t life full of lessons anyway? Ha!

Back to the subject.

Right now, my body is aching and my lungs are struggling a bit more than usual to take in oxygen.

My priority then, is to complete anything that is due next, like my counseling assignment. Once that’s done, I’ll study for a test that’s coming up next week. Revise, revise, revise! Anything else can take a seat in the back, as far as I’m concerned. Things like readings (I’ve been doing terribly, if I’m honest), lectures (almost up to date) and practicals — will be attended in due time.

Also, try and refrain from infecting others as much as possible. Stay home or distance yourself if you have to be out and about.

So, what’s your priority? Make a list. Work down that list in order of importance. Use as little energy as possible. You’ll need it to recover and be well.

Rest, and take breaks.

Although I’m in the comfort of my own room, it’s still important to rest and take breaks. Some people can handle aching muscles and constant coughing in public – I can’t. Unless it’s an absolutely mandatory task (test/exam/critical information to pass a subject), you’ll find me at home, studying but taking my time.

If you are able to, take your time, have as many resting breaks as you need. Look after your body, you only get one. Unless cloning is a thing…?!

Nourish your body.

I must admit, the last few weeks of assignments, tests and general living have proven tough. My diet has not been the best. However, now that my body has contracted some sort of chest infection, it’s super important that I eat well. This is advice to those who fall into the categories like  “I don’t have time to eat”, “I’m lazy” or “I’ll just eat when I really need to”.
It’s important to take care of yourself not just externally (exercise, hygiene and so on) but internally too. Right now, I’m sipping on ginger, honey and turmeric tea. Yesterday’s tea was turmeric and honey. For breakfast, I had a sweet-potato and vegan cheese sandwich, as it was easy and required the least amount of effort.

Eat more fruits and vegetables! Stay away from sugary drinks, dairy and greasy food. Do stay hydrated and well-fed!

Give your body the nourishment it needs. If your energy comes from anything, let it be good food and hot, soothing teas. Or water if tea isn’t your thing!

Good luck, and may you complete your assignments/tasks to the best of your abilities. I’m going to study and possibly cough up a lung.

Note: please see a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve.

I have been where you are.

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Today’s post is about how to tackle stress – from a 24 year old, university student. (Side note: as I write this post, I can see the sun is shining through my blinds. What lovely symbolism!)

Let me explain how things have been lately:

  • I have been sick/on antibiotics and medication constantly
  • The uni break was a BREAK, no revision whatsoever
  • I’ve put tremendous stress on myself in terms of finances

So basically, I’ve been stressed. A light in the clouds has occurred today, though. From time to time, I find myself in a “slump” of recurring sickness/problems. Life is a mix of stress and joy after all. I wanted to share how even though things get shitty, there’s a way through! Below are 3 ways I have used to combat stress. I’m not perfect, but these 3 things have given me skills to handle life’s situations.

 

1. Find your community.

I can’t stress how important it is to find your community/communities. Whether it’s a trusted family member, friendship group, online group, a professional/mentor – find your community! I’ve realised over the last couple of years, although I have loving family and friends and an amazingly supportive partner, I wanted to also surround myself with like-minded individuals from around the world that could push me to be a better person. The first group I ever joined with self-improvement in mind was Millennial Entrepreneur Community (search it if you have a Facebook account). It is a group designed to help troubleshoot business problems, ideas and collaborate with other professionals. This group set a fire in me and constantly does to seek betterment and improvement. To implement ideas and execute with some knowledge and a lot of bravery. Another group I joined recently is called Wild Woman Sisterhood. I wanted to find women who empower each other, support each other and share experiences and advice. In time, I am sure I will be more active in these groups and that alone creates another community on it’s own. Find people you vibe with. Who tell you the truth. Who also support you when it is needed.

 

2. Time out.

Although the ‘teaching break’ is presented as an extra two weeks of studying – I can admit, I did no such thing. Time away from the computer screen, deadlines and hours of reading was the nicest two weeks I have had in a while. I could have definitely fitted in a couple days a week to study but I had pushed myself so much the first couple months, that I had lost complete interest in learning or revising any more. I was overwhelmed. I’m still working on it, and as this is a recurring problem, I know now how important it is to time out! Keeping your mind and body under stress can be harmful. Even if it’s just 10-20 minutes a day or every second day – whatever suits you. Find a relaxing hobby! A few things I enjoy are: taking a walk around the neighbourhood, watching a show with my partner, cooking new recipes, yoga, finding inspiration on YouTube and getting lost in visual art/expression. So remember to take some time for yourself when you can!

 

3. Express your stress. 

Finding people to spur you on and taking a break from the everyday routine is great. In my experience, so is having an outlet for frustration and stress that may arise from many aspects of life: relationships, work, self-depreciation. I approach this by typing it all out in a private blog – word vomit, if you will. Sometimes I write multiple posts.
Other ways I express my stress is being honest. If the conversation arises, I tell my friends/workmates/partner that no, I’m stressed and mad and not in the mood. Usually from this, I find the root of the problem (and apologise for angry outbursts that are in no way personal, just my personal problem).
In some circumstances, I contact a mental health professional. I’ve learned over the years that it’s okay to seek professional help if your own solutions are no longer getting you anywhere. It’s important to know who and what organisations to contact if this is the case. I will include contact numbers/websites at the end of this post. Another way I have expressed my stress is at work; asking if shifts are available, making sure all state managers are aware that there is a sales assistant willing to travel for the hours.

“If you never ask, the answer is always no.” – Nora Roberts

With this, comes gratitude. I am so thankful that I’ve found coping mechanisms (courtesy of health professionals, family, friends, a lovely partner) communities and a job where I am appreciated and paid well.

I hope this post is found to be helpful. And as a lovely, warrior woman has said to me, I am passing this on to you:

I have been where you are.

Bad times don’t last forever. Our minds can heal. Our bodies can heal.

You are not alone. If you are experiencing extreme stress and feel you may need assistance, here are some contacts and websites based in Australia:

  • beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
  • kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
  • lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
  • qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
  • vvcs.gov.au 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support