More tips to help survive Christmas!

imagesWell, we say ‘survive’ but really it is all a matter of planning, arranging and agreeing to a festive season that suits your needs whilst supporting other family members and friends who might also find Christmas a difficult time.

December, for example, is a month in which many relationships struggle as the stress of organising who goes where when and with what becomes simply overwhelming. Jane Gotto here at The Terrace has always worked to pull together all the best Christmas tips that she has used over many years of working in relationship and couples counselling and today we wanted to share a few more, as we approach the last week before the ‘big day’.

Today we want you look at whether you are a classic Christmas ‘grump’ ‘Grinch’ or Ebeneezer Scrooge. 

Is there  a reason (either in the recent past  or back in your family history) why Christmas lowers your mood. Were you ‘made’ to feel the Christmas Spirit, or forced to continue in a particular ritual without enjoying it?  Or was there an event which still evokes difficult memories? These are all ‘Christmas Spirit killers’ and understandably so.
You might want to create your own ritual – one that is personal and authentic and connects you to who you actually are, rather than joining the Christmas mad rush.

Pay particular attention to what is important to you; you may want to see special friend(s) or spend time with one member of your family rather than all of them.

Think about planning and preparing a meal you enjoy, or creating your own spiritual practice – meditation or quiet time can be important as a hectic day threatens to overwhelm. There is nothing wrong with taking time to read a book or watch a film that interests you or simply spending time alone.

Remember, getting it right for you often gets it right for others too.

Do you have any Christmas tips you can share with us here at The Terrace? We would love to hear from you.

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Building a relationship with reading….

downloadThe title of this post really has a double meaning and is inspired by the radio show Talking Books on 10Radio in Somerset. The guests today were in the relatively early stage of their relationship – newly engaged and very much in love. Clearly, they were not in need of our couples counselling, or Shaping Anger for Couples workshops but it was refreshing to hear that they were cementing their bond in a thoughtful and intelligent way. They had set themselves a challenge, a brave one, and it was something we thought you, our followers, might be interested in as a way to share ideas and subjects that are important to you with someone close.

Each person in relationship chooses five books for the other to read. It is as simple as that. Any genre, for any age. Yet it is so much more complex in reality. By choosing those books you are making a number of decisions and taking interesting aspects of your personality and relationships into account. Do you pick books you think will make you look clever? Or do you choose books that you grew up with and which remind you of key times in your life? Do you look over your shelves for books you think the other will enjoy? Or are you trying to trip them up? Are you being honest and authentic in your choices?

When you consider these points you can see it is not quite as easy as it first seems. How will each of you respond to the other’s list? What if a book that is your favourite is loathed by the other? Are you prepared to defend your choices in a constructive way? Or do you fear an argument? Have we put you off even considering this as a way to bring you together and offer opportunities for fascinating conversations?

We have, on this blog, often highlighted reading as a way to relax and to take you out of a stressful day. We have a page on the Local Bookshops site (see the link to the right) with a list of our favourite titles (we are always looking for suggestions) and our poetry for mindfulness posts are very popular. But we thought this was an additional way to make reading part of your whole life and at the same time learning a little more about someone you are close to. It doesn’t have to be a life partner – it could be a friend or work colleague for example. But we think it is a really interesting way to take you out of the routine of the day and into a conversation with a difference.

In fact, you could do it with music, or films. It will get you talking, and relationships are best nurtured by finding ways to communicate and make sure you are really understood and known by people who are important to you.

What do you think?

‘Re-charging’ the Christmas ritual….

images (3)As the days of December rush past, leaving us little time to pack in all the annual rituals – present buying, writing and sending cards, attending the work Christmas ‘do’- as well as trying to keep the non-Christmas side of our lives under control, it is all too easy to succumb to a bug, or feel oneself become overwhelmed with the stress and anxiety of it all. Here at The Terrace we like to gather together some tips to help survive the second half of December and on into the new year.

For many of us the rituals are all part of the season and fill us with a sense of nostalgia. For others, the rituals seem stale, lowering and unnecessary, washed away in a sea of consumer madness, bright lights and bad tempers. Money is tight, the shops are filled with things we can’t afford and don’t need. It can be difficult to cope.

If you fall into the latter category – or if Christmas holds darker memories and is a time when you battle depression-  rather than avoiding it altogether, you might want to create your own ritual, one that is personal and connects you to who you are rather than joining the ‘Christmas Mad Rush’. So why not consider the following:

  • Pay particular attention to what is important to you; seeing special friend(s) or spending time with one or two members of your family rather than all of them.
  • Prepare a meal you enjoy, rather than feeling obliged to have turkey with all the trimmings, or create your own spiritual practise – meditation and or quiet time.
  • Take time to read a book, or watch a film that interests you.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into an arrangement which you know is not going to work for you. If you cannot say ‘No’ outright, say you would like some time to think about it and let the other party know a time when you will get back to them.
  • Never feel guilty about saying you need to spend time alone if that is what you really want.
  • Try to build an understanding of what is important and getting it right for you. When a ritual has become dead for one person it normally has for others too – naming it can be a relief and stimulate new ideas. You might be concerned about upsetting other people’s routine – but they may just be waiting for someone to take that step for them!

In getting the festive season right for you, it often gets it right for others too.

Dealing with anger in angry times (2)

angerIn a previous post we looked at the ways in which we can cope with feelings of anger in a society that is increasingly prone to focus on the negative; stereotyping and reporting on issues that can make our blood boil. We looked at how we can focus on those issues that we can influence, and how certain coping strategies can increase our chances of remaining calm and ensuring relationships are not damaged by unexpressed, or hastily expressed, anger.

We mentioned at the end of the last post that this time we would examine who is responsible for our personal response to anger. Of course, the answer is ourselves. We can choose whether to act hastily or with a more measured tone. But we acknowledge that in some situations this is difficult, or impossible. So why do we get angry?

There are obvious causes: a threat to ourselves or the ones we love, being actually assaulted – verbally or physically, losing money, finding our property has been damaged. Then there are less obvious ones: hearing someone has acted against a principle we hold dear, being interrupted when something is important to us, feeling undermined or humiliated among our peers. If it seems we have been hurt deliberately it can make matters worse.

If we are in imminent danger, the anger can be productive and protective, but if the causes are less obvious, then our responses can affect the outcome for our health, and for our relationships.  If we are living in a state of constant tension we might snap, regretting it later when we find we have over-reacted and must build bridges. Or we might repress  our anger, only for it to surface days, weeks, months or years later.

Some anger can drive change for the better, lead us to campaign for what we believe to be right. But repressed anger, or long-term anger that is not expressed in a constructive way can lead to depression, anxiety and self-harm, alongside physical ill-health, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes and gastric problems.

The Mental Health Foundation offers some great advice for those of us faced with a situation where we sense our blood is up. Where in our last post we offered some general advice, here are some specific exercises to adopt:

Count to ten before you act.
Drop your shoulders and breathe deeply to help you relax – your instincts may be telling your body to get ready to fight, but your rational self can reverse this message by telling your body to chill out.
If you feel the urge to throw something or hit out, remove yourself from the situation and try taking it out on something soft like a cushion that you won’t damage and which won’t hurt you.
Try screaming if it won’t disturb people near you or scream into a pillow to release your tension.
Talk yourself down – imagine what your calmest friend would say to you and give yourself the same advice
Imagine yourself in a relaxing scene.
Distract yourself or take yourself out of the situation that made you angry – read a magazine, do a crossword, listen to soothing music, go for a walk.
Pour out how you feel in writing or redirect your energy into another creative activity.
Offload to a friend who will help you get perspective on the situation.

We know it is not easy to deal with anger, but most of us can learn to respond in a healthy way. Next time we will look at triggers; if we know in advance what ‘sets us off’ it can make us better able to cope with a situation before that moment of no return…..

The Terrace is hosting a ‘Shaping Anger’ workshop on 25th and 26th October. For more details go to What’s On.

So what is ’empty nest syndrome’? ‘let’s talk!’ on how to cope…

740_empty_nesters3It is that time of year again. Autumn, when many of our children fledge, leaving their homes to start a life apart from their parents at college or university. They will experience all sorts of new things; challenges aplenty and excitement, as well as the inevitable hangovers.

But what about the parents and carers they leave behind? Their lives go on, on the surface at least the same as before, but there will be something missing….

‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ can be defined as ‘feelings of depression, sadness, and even grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes.’ (Psychology Today). It is an inevitable step that we want our youngsters to take but that does not always help. For women, other life changes are often happening at the same time – the menopause can itself cause depression and feelings of loss so the lowering of mood is exacerbated and they may re-evaluate their relationship with a spouse or partner. Women are now likely to be working, rather than staying at home with a nurturing role, but that does not always help. Men are not immune, as they too feel a loss.  Even the knowledge that many young people return home for financial reasons doesn’t offer solace, as they come home changed, more independent and with the potential to cause greater friction in a household no longer run to suit their needs.

So is there anything we can do to avoid the grief at the gap the fledging of our children leaves in our lives? The answer is, of course, ‘yes’, but we must acknowledge first that it requires some effort from everyone involved. In this post we will look at how to make the step itself easier, and in the next post we will start looking forward and noticing how we can appreciate the benefits without losing that bond with our offspring.

Firstly, make the whole event something of an adventure. Acknowledge that the young person may be nervous and the parents worried, but that doesn’t mean the preparation can’t be fun. Shopping trips, preparing meals, washing, budgeting – all can involve the young person in those weeks up to the leaving date. There may not always be enthusiasm for the tasks, but having at least a rudimentary knowledge of how to look after themselves will help a child in the first weeks way and offer a crumb of comfort to a parent.

Then, if a child is unhappy at first, do not make it too easy to run home. This is a tough one, as secretly (and we have to admit this) many of us might be pleased to feel our child needs us again. But what they need is our support and encouragement, to know that they have our love; not the feeling that they needn’t try to manage for themselves. Home is always there for them, but not as a base to escape from responsibilities they have taken on.

kitThirdly, do have a strategy for keeping in touch. Mobile communication is so much easier now, and Skype allows us to keep in touch face to face. Arrange to chat once a week perhaps, with texts or emails as a stop-gap in between. If money allows, you can offer a decent Smart phone contract. Brief text chats can keep the emotion out of discussions and offer the opportunity just to send a quick tip to solve what might seem an insurmountable problem at the other end (the ‘Mum I put red pants in with my white t shirt’ call perhaps!)

Finally, recognise that you might feel teary and low, but if depression starts to affect your day-to-day living you should seek professional help, or at the very least open up to friends about how you are feeling. Similarly, you might also have to admit to feeling a little envy at the new opportunities opening up to your child, who may be posting lots of excited Facebook updates, making new mates and seemingly having the time of their lives away from home.

So next time, we will offer a few tips on how to make sure it is not only the kids who can take on a new stage in life and have a great time!

 

 

Holidays are for relaxation, aren’t they? Some tips for really leaving stress behind…

holsOn our Facebook page over the past week we have been thinking about how we can make the forthcoming school holidays a time when the whole family can relax and enjoy really nourishing time together. How often have we looked forward to a one or two-week break for the first six months of the year, only to feel like we need a month off on our return?

There are many reasons why holidays don’t live up to expectations, but failures in the accommodation or travel plans aside, there are things we can do that make it more likely that everyone can come back refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the year.

Firstly, make sure you have all your travel plans to hand well in advance.  Many arguments start in the car before the holiday destination is even reached but can be avoided by making sure paperwork is to hand, routes planned and money for tolls in the glove compartment. Don’t travel when you are tired, but if you can start early to avoid the jams, it can make the trip so much less stressful.

Secondly, if you can take a day off work to pack it can reduce the last-minute panic that can cause arguments. If you can’t do that, start packing the week before and get the whole family involved, ensuring they choose what needs to be clean in time to get it washed and dry.

Thirdly, leave work behind. If you have to take work with you, limit the amount of time you are on your laptop; agree to have the phone on only during agreed times of day. You cannot expect your holiday companions to feel relaxed with you there on your Blackberry half the time.

beachFourthly, relaxing immediately will be difficult, especially if you have children with you, so wind down gently in the first couple of days with some energy-filled activities to avoid the mood swings associated with a drop in adrenaline.

Lastly, if you are travelling with children remember it is your time they will value, not the cultural trips you organise. If you are a couple travelling without kids for a break, don’t feel guilty and make the most of your time alone together; it will make your family unit all the stronger.

So relax and enjoy. If plans go awry , go with the changes and remember to be mindful every day. It will make the time go more slowly as you savour every moment….

 

Relationship tips for St Valentine’s Day & beyond..

240px-Antique_Valentine_1909_01In recent weeks Jane Gotto has been offering a ‘Relationship Tip of the Week’ on our Facebook page for those of us interested in Valentine’s Day, or for anyone interested in a good opportunity to refresh and look at a relationship. Today we bring some of the most recent ones together and next week will make a digest with some new ones for the big day itself.

So firstly,  have a thought about what you  are putting into the relationship in comparison to what you would like to take out of it.

So if you are thinking ‘I would like her/him to be warmer towards me ‘, ask yourself the question “How am I being warm?”

If you would like more affection , the same question applies –  “How am I being affectionate towards my partner?”

It’s so easy to want something different and expect someone else to give it to us – and we can often feel quite entitled and expect that ‘they should’ be meeting this need.  However, when we think in this way we are being judgemental and attacking.

Thinking of what we would like, and seeing ways we can put this quality into our relationship for ourselves, is taking responsibility. Taking responsibility is also being able to find a way to talk to our partner when we do want something different or to make a change; we can find ourselves saying it in a caring and open way and allowing them time to hear it, digest it and continue the conversation. That is INTIMACY!

Romance is different from intimacy, and it is intimacy we are looking for to satisfy us in long-term relationships. Romance is the unexpected, not knowing, being whisked up and into the ‘romantic bubble’. This is great in its right place, such as the beginning of the relationship, but long-term it does not last or satisfy. Real connection comes from commitment, and that contact with another creates an intimate relationship.

So coming back to Valentine’s Day –  if you find this idea interesting, look at  how you can you create connection and contact with your partner  and just what you would you need to do or say. It is a challenge, but that deep intimacy is the basis for a lasting and nourishing relationship with a partner.