Life’s Rollercoaster: Practical Tips for Riding the Highs and Lows

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Life’s Rollercoaster: Practical Tips for Riding the Highs and Lows

Life is a journey filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. These major life changes, whether positive or negative, can often feel overwhelming and challenging to navigate. However, with the right strategies, you can effectively manage these transitions and come out stronger on the other side. From Humansense, here are some practical tips to help you adapt and thrive during these pivotal moments in your life.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

In the face of significant change, stress and anxiety are natural responses. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga can help you maintain calmness and clarity of mind. Regular practice of these techniques can equip you with the inner peace needed to manage your emotions and make sound decisions.

Focus on the Positive

Change can be daunting, but it’s crucial to focus on the positive aspects it may bring. Embrace the possibilities of new experiences, growth, and learning opportunities that lie ahead. This optimistic mindset will enable you to see change as an exciting adventure rather than a fearful unknown.

Set Achievable Goals

Setting small, achievable goals can give you a sense of control and direction amidst the chaos of change. These goals can act as stepping stones that guide you towards adapting to the new circumstances. Remember, every small success brings you one step closer to your ultimate objective.

Digitise Important Documents

During times of major life changes, it’s essential to keep your important documents organized and easily accessible. Here’s a possible solution — digitizing these documents into PDFs. This method can help achieve this crucial organization. Plus, you can easily rotate PDF pages to portrait or landscape mode depending on your viewing preference. By embracing this digital organization, you can save time and alleviate stress when quick access to critical information is needed.

Develop Outlets for Relieving Stress

Having outlets for stress relief is crucial when navigating life changes. This could be anything from physical exercise, like jogging or dancing, to creative pursuits, such as painting or writing. Engaging in these activities not only provides a distraction from the challenges at hand but also releases endorphins that can boost your mood and outlook.

Stay Open-Minded

Adaptability is key during life transitions. Staying open-minded allows you to embrace change instead of resisting it, which can greatly ease the transition process. This flexibility can lead to unexpected opportunities and enriching experiences that you might have otherwise missed, enhancing your personal growth and broadening your horizons.

Seek Support

Don’t hesitate to seek support during challenging times, whether it’s from friends, family, or professional counsellors like Niki and Dom of Humansense. Sharing your feelings and experiences with someone else can provide relief and valuable insights, helping you gain a fresh perspective on the situation. Remember, you don’t have to navigate these changes alone; there are always people around you who are ready and willing to lend a hand or a listening ear.

Navigating major life changes can seem like a daunting task. However, by implementing these strategies, you can manage these transitions with confidence and resilience. Develop relaxation techniques, focus on the positive, set achievable goals, digitize important documents, develop outlets for stress relief, stay open-minded, and seek support. With these tools at your disposal, you’re well-equipped to handle the ebb and flow of life’s remarkable journey.

Guest writer. Phillip Carr

Your Mid-Life Is the Time to Start Living Your Best Life

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By Phillip Carr, guest writer at Your yearly Checkup. 

Your Mid-Life Is the Time to Start Living Your Best Life

A lot of people feel like they are in a rut during their mid-life and are not sure how to get out of it. Nowadays, as the University of California notes, many experts consider the idea of a mid-life crisis a myth, and not an accurate representation of what happens to people in their 40s and 50s. In reality, it is just a time when you are reflecting on your life and what you have achieved so far. 

Read on for some helpful information and suggestions from Humansense.

First Things First

Before you approach any kind of self-help, it’s important to ensure there isn’t something more troubling that is making you feel unhappy and depressed. Sometimes it’s necessary to speak to a professional like Niki or Dom from Humansense first. It’s now possible to access mental health services virtually. Online therapy is convenient, secure, private, and less of a commitment than in-person therapy. 

When you choose to see an online therapist, you’ll have a wider variety of licensed professionals in selecting the best online therapy. You’ll save time on travel, and pay less for mental health care this way, too. Many therapists also offer quick free consultations to ensure you find the right match.

It’s Time to Take Care of Yourself, from Fitness to Landing a Mortgage for a New Place

The mid-point of our lives is usually when we begin to realize that we can no longer take our good health for granted. Even if you’ve been living off of fast food and spent too many sedentary hours in front of a computer monitor, that doesn’t mean you can’t change all that. 

You don’t have to change all at once, though. No overnight miracles last anyway. Instead, start gradually. You might want to start by cutting out one unhealthy food from your diet each day and replacing it with a healthier option. For those times you need a snack, make sure you have grapes, nuts, or other healthy options on hand. 

A new exercise routine can simply be walking on your lunch break, and in the evenings instead of watching television. Plug in some podcasts or audiobooks to keep yourself going. You can work up to gym memberships and at-home fitness equipment when you’ve achieved your 10,000 steps goal. 

Revisiting an old hobby or picking up a new one can remind you that there’s more to life than work. In a recent survey on stress and well-being conducted by the Australian Psychological Society, four in five participants found activities like listening to music and spending time on a hobby was an effective way of managing stress.

You may even think about moving to make a fresh start in an area you’ve always loved. If it’s a new home you’re after, securing a mortgage is a big first step. Research and familiarize yourself with available mortgage rates whether you’re taking out a conventional, FHA, or VA loan. You can start by finding out all you’ll need to know at this link, which explains how you can lock in a good rate, get instant rate quotes, as well as discovering how much your home is worth.

Go for the Gusto

This is the time when many people are rethinking their career choices. But what if instead of just switching to a new job, you finally lived your dream of beginning your own business?

If you’ve got a business idea that you’ve been considering, now may be the perfect time to put those ideas into action.

Writing a business plan first can help you decide if your idea is viable. It can also help you understand the steps you need to take to get where you want to be. Like a novelist writing their first draft, you’ll have to make changes as they become necessary, but it’s the only way to begin. 

If you’re worried about your personal finances being at risk, it’s easy to form your business as an LLC where your personal liability is protected. It’s something you can do yourself, you don’t need a lawyer to handle that for you.

Once you’ve come up with the perfect name, you’ll want to create the perfect logo to use on all your marketing and business forms. You can design an appealing and creative logo on your own with an online logo maker. Simply choose a style and icon and add in any text you’ll need, and you’ll be able to view an assortment of logos and adjust their fonts and colors. 

The best way to feel good about your future is by finding your passion. If you’re not sure what your passion is, then try out different things and see what works for you. Remember to put first things first, practice self-care, and possibly pursue that dream of launching your own business. You may find something new that will make your life more fulfilling than before.

Humansense makes sense for those in need of online counseling and therapy assistance. For more information, connect with us today!

Article kindly provided by Phillip Carr 

“Phillip used to be the guy who would put off doctor’s appointments, but after a routine checkup revealed he had hyperthyroidism, he makes yearly visits a priority. He created Your Yearly Checkup to not only share his experience but provide you with useful and informative health articles as well.”

Helpful Tips If You’ve Recently Been Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness

Helpful Tips If You’ve Recently Been Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness

chronic illness

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Many people live with chronic conditions, especially as they get older. Ailments like diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis become more prevalent as we age. If you’re 30-plus and have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may be worried about how your day-to-day habits will be impacted. Read on to discover how you can take control of your illness to keep living a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.


Learn all you can about your diagnosis


Educating yourself is the first critical step after a chronic illness diagnosis. Talk to your doctor and get as much information as you can about the ailment, its causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options. Ask useful queries, like what lifestyle or dietary changes can help your condition, whether you should get further tests, and what prescription medications you may need. Also, ask whether you should see any type of specialist medical professional


Establish a detailed care plan with your doctor’s help


Your doctor can also help you create a care plan to manage your condition. McMaster University explains that personalized care planning allows you to make an action plan, encouraging you to proactively take steps to keep your ailment from worsening. It could include points like diet, exercise, and doctor’s appointments. Writing out your care plan will make it easier to remember and can help hold you accountable, ensuring you stick to it.


Make general healthy living habits a top priority


Research has shown that a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of getting a chronic disease. If you’ve already been diagnosed with an illness, a healthy lifestyle is just as important to helping you stay well. This includes eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding bad habits like smoking cigarettes or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Altogether, these measures can reduce the risk of chronic illness by as much as 80%.


Address the mental side of a chronic condition diagnosis


It’s common for people to experience mental health problems after a chronic condition diagnosis. Anxiety and depression are two prevalent issues worth keeping an eye out for. If you notice you’re struggling emotionally, seek assistance from a mental health professional. Humansense offers online therapy and coaching that you can access wherever you are in the world. They offer a free initial consultation to assess your needs and get you started.


Find ways to manage everyday stress


A chronic condition diagnosis can be stressful. In an unfortunate twist, stress can also worsen many chronic conditions, such as hypertension. It’s thus important to get a handle on the stress in your day-to-day life. Practices like meditation or listening to soothing music can be helpful. Enhance these experiences by investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to drown out the noise. Verizon has options at a range of price points.


Connect with others who have the same condition


One factor that can contribute to mental health problems following a chronic condition diagnosis is isolation. You may feel alone with your diagnosis and like none of your friends or family know what you’re going through. To avoid such feelings of loneliness, the Mayo Clinic recommends joining a support group. You’ll get valuable encouragement from other people who have your condition and can also receive practical advice on how to best manage it.


Whatever your age, getting diagnosed with a chronic condition can be a disconcerting experience. It’s important to realize that you aren’t alone—and that you still have control over your health. The tips above can help you enhance your physical and mental wellbeing.


For more content on living a happy and healthy life, physically and mentally, check out the Humansense blog.

Guest written article by Diane Harrison from

Diane decided to create Health PSA after seeing how many people came into the library seeking more info on health and specific medical conditions. She thought it would be great to create a resource for people where they can find easy-to-understand info rather than medical jargon.


The Benefits  of Art and Music Therapy for Those in Recovery



The Benefits  of Art and Music Therapy
for Those in Recovery


As someone in recovery, your sobriety journey is intensely personal. To be sure, even though you are probably doing the same thing that others are in their recovery — eating healthy, exercising, avoiding trigger spots and people, and attending meetings — the additional decisions you make as you choose to stay sober are exclusively yours. So, why not add some joy to your recovery and use art and music as therapeutic tools?


Even if you’re not sure which side of a paintbrush to hold or you know you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, learning how to play a musical instrument or sing, or how to draw, paint, or even sculpt can add a joyful dimension to your sobriety and yourself. What’s more, you can, instead, choose to learn about art and music and deepen your appreciation of the arts.


Here, Online Therapy and Coaching provides guidance on finding your artistic outlet.


How It Works


People on the path to sobriety often relapse when they feel stress or anxiety, which most often happens when they feel a loss of control. Writing at Psychology Today, Dr. Elliot D. Cohen refers to it as our “demand for certainty in a world that is tentative and uncertain.”


Normally, hobbies are a great way to relieve the twin conditions of stress and anxiety, namely because they can help us feel in control, and just their very practice helps reduce heart rate and blood pressure and increase happiness. Hobbies get the mind and hands focused on a single task, whether it’s knitting a scarf or running a model railroad. They can also help us stay productive, build confidence, and connect us with productive, drug-free people who pursue the same hobbies. And because they can reduce stress, they can reduce the possibility of relapse.


Why Art or Music?


Like other hobbies, art and music can definitely be therapeutic. Additionally, they can also be creative outlets for building self-confidence, expressing feelings, establishing connections with others, and bringing joy. What makes them a little extra special is that they both can be forms of communication.


Art involves communication with imagery, whether it’s a painting or a sketch. Through it, you can communicate anger or peace, chaos, or control. Music, meanwhile, is communication with a sound other than the spoken word, and it, too, can reflect feelings of distress or calm. With art, you’re not just limited to watercolors on a canvas. You can learn to use charcoal, colored pencils, oil paints, textures, or you can learn photography. Likewise, with music, you don’t have to learn an instrument; you can also take voice lessons.


Even if you don’t feel you have the coordination to make art or feel you have the ear to make music, you can learn to appreciate and study both of them instead. Consider taking an art or music appreciation class, attend art exhibits, and attend symphonies or an opera. You can also spend some time on the internet and find a type of art or music that interests you, then find out everything you can about it. Either way, you don’t have to reduce your joy just because you are choosing to experience something instead of creating it.


Bob Ross, the late painting instructor, said that “every day’s a good day when you paint.” He also said that painting can bring a lot of “good thoughts to your heart.” But it really doesn’t matter if you’re painting, drawing, sculpting, making clay pots, playing an instrument, or singing from the top of your lungs. Learning art and music can add a dimension of joy to your sobriety. They can all bring good thoughts to your heart.


Photo Credit:

Guest article by Lydia Chan from

Live your best life after 65 – Health tips for seniors by Hazel Bridges

Live Your Best Life After 65 - Health Tips for Seniors

Live Your Best Life After 65 – Health Tips for Seniors


Live your best life after 65 – Health tips for seniors. Who says the quality of life goes down as you age? The truth is many seniors find that things get more interesting with each new silver strand that pops up. Your retirement years are supposed to be your best years, and they can be as long as you are willing to put the work into yourself.


Keep your mind engaged.


Mental engagement is one of the most important things you can do as a senior. Now is the perfect opportunity to utilize your free time to fill your brain with new knowledge. Consider taking online courses, try out music lessons, put your library card to work, or try a class in cooking, woodworking, painting, or weaving.

Be mindful of your mood.


The newly retired often have difficulties adjusting to life after work. This can be especially hard for retirees who spent much of their career managing others or who had a senior role in a company. It’s normal to feel sad or confused, and in many cases, these feelings will pass, particularly as one finds more to do with their time. When sadness turns to a fog of depression that won’t lift, counselling is the next best step. Working with a professional therapist can give seniors the tools they need to navigate their emotions in this new chapter.

Boost your energy levels with vitamins.


You already know that you’re supposed to eat right. However, even if you’re filling your plate with all the right foods, you may not be getting enough of all the vitamins you need. This can lead to low energy, and that’s no good for anyone. Consider supplementing your diet with vitamin B12, which is known to aid the body’s ability to convert food into energy. Ashwagandha, CoQ10, and L-theanine are other vitamin supplements that can help you return the pep to your step. Remember to check with your doctor before taking any supplements to avoid any dangerous interactions with prescribed medications.


Stock up on denture-friendly snacks.


If you wear dentures, you might’ve found that it’s more difficult to choose healthy foods that don’t irritate your mouthpiece. This may lead to poor dietary choices or cause you to forgo certain food groups altogether. Plan to keep healthy treats on hand that won’t cause pain or discomfort when you eat. Vegetable sticks, olives, and hummus are healthy, denture-friendly snacks.


Wear the right shoes.


Ideally, you’re spending some of your retirement hours exercising each week. If not, find some friends and start a walking group. But, make sure that you choose the right shoes; otherwise, blisters and pinched toes will lead you straight back to the couch. Look for shoes that fit well and that help keep your feet dry even when you sweat.


Get more exercise.


If you’ve already been walking for a while and you’re ready to take things up a notch, look to fitness programs that are geared toward seniors. Through memberships like Silver Sneakers, you can have access to gyms and health facilities that offer a wealth of classes in yoga, strength training, Pilates, and more. Of course, just simply having access to a gym can make it easier to get extra steps, start a swim routine or work with a personal trainer. With all the extra time you have on your hands, why not put it toward improving your physical health?

Keep an eye on your vision.


Have you noticed that it’s a little harder to see newsprint or drive at night? Vision changes are perfectly normal in your 60s and beyond, says All About Vision. But just because they are to be expected does not mean you have to live with them. Declining vision can make you less confident behind the wheel, leave you less able to enjoy a good book, and may even give you headaches. Visit your eye doctor at least once each year for a quick check, and make an appointment if you notice vision changes or discomfort.


Retired doesn’t have to mean you’re tired all the time. When you keep your mind engaged, take steps to enhance your energy levels, and participate in healthy practices that keep your mind and body in shape, you may just find that you have the time and stamina to enjoy retirement.

Guest Blog by Hazel Bridges

If you would like to read more of Hazels work you can visit her website here, AgingWellness


If you need to talk to someone as you work out your new retirement landscape, considering working with a trained therapist from Humansense. We offer online therapy and coaching that you can take advantage of wherever you are. Check out our website today to find out more.

Weekend Wisdom with Humansense

Weekend Wisdom with Humansense – Positive Intentions

Positive Intentions

Often at the start of a new year, we make resolutions, and often these can be hard to maintain.

Setting positive intentions can be more beneficial in maintaining and motivating personal progress.

 Our thoughts, beliefs, and intentions influence and therefore create our experiences of the World. Setting intentions, unlike goals, allows us to focus on the here and now without the pressure of a specific achievement. Being intentional allows you to focus on how you want to be in the moment.  

Setting intentions can help with
– creating mindfulness
–  keeping  you centered and grounded
–  making you more effective through reducing anxiety

e.g. “today I give whatever I do my full attention”

“I intend to stop taking things personally”

” I won’t be afraid to try something new”

“I will look for the positive sides of a negative situation”

” I am enough”

What intentions can you set for yourself this week?


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Positive Mental Health for 2021 – Create a Covid Mindset

Living in the age of Covid – Create a Covid Mindset

When the Corona virus pandemic hit in January 2020 who would have thought that at the start of  2021 many of us across the globe would still be living life in lock down or under curfew.  Christmas 2020 will certainly be one to remember. It will become part of our World history. Its time to create a Covid mindset.

For many, 2020 was the year families and friends faced forced separation through social distancing rules. Families  dealt with the first Christmas without loved ones who have died from the disease.  As of time of writing there are  over 1.85 million plus Covid deaths worldwide (  Businesses have been forced to close impacting on people’s livelyhoods, with many not opening again.  Work and education has been affected and people are feeling isolated and lonely.  Look anywhere and you will see the impact of the Covid pandemic. The changes have been massive, affecting us all in someway or another.

 Change and Loss

Change and loss are part of life. However, it’s safe to say that 2020 has resulted in an unprecedented amount of change and loss for millions across the globe.   Typically, the changes have been unwelcome, significant, anxiety provoking and for many traumatic.  These types of changes make us question ourselves and the world as well as causing fear and anxiety because we are living with huge amounts of uncertainty.

We all experience change differently but there have been shared common themes at some point this year –  curtailment of our day to day freedoms, not being able to mix with our family or friends, work and financial changes, travel and the  education of our children and young people to name a few.

External v Internal locus of control

A theory developed by Rotter (1954) examines how a person’s Locus of Control influences their belief in the amount of control they have over their lives.  An internal locus is the belief that a individual has control over their own lives whereas an external locus is the belief that life is controlled by outside factors in which they have no influence.

Self efficacy, a person’s level of self confidence is closely related to how we view our own locus of control. This is found to be closely related to how we deal with stressors we face in our day to day lives. Some research findings suggest that people with a higher external locus and a lower self efficacy are more likely to experience higher levels of stress and be more vulnerable to external influences.

Covid Fatigue

The Covid pandemic has influenced the global locus of control. There are external factors we have no control over and cannot do anything about.

Media bombards us daily with Covid updates, infection rates, death rates, restrictions, what we can and can’t do from one day to the next. It can feel confusing, anxiety provoking and frustrating! No wonder we are fed up, disillusioned and tired.  How long will this go on for? When will it end? Will we ever get back to normal? Our lives for the last 12 months have radically changed and it is set to continue for 2021 whether we like it or not.

Create a Covid mindset to improve mental well-being

Presently there are some external factors we cannot change. However,  what we do have control over is how we react and respond to those external factors. How we think influences how we feel and together these influence our behaviour.

Break the Cycle – challenge your negative thoughts and feel better

If we are feeling low or depressed we might think “Its another awful day” or “What’s the point of doing something?” This makes us feel more depressed. The likely result is we end up behaving in a depressed way – not doing anything or withdrawing. The bottom line is that this negative thinking just increases the feelings of low mood and becomes a vicious cycle of depression or anxiety.

When we are experiencing stress or anxiety we may be more prone to unhelpful patterns of thinking (automatic negative thinking) and these are unconscious. Identifying our own automatic negative thoughts is a good start in helping to break the negative cycles of thinking that cause us distress. Have a look at some of the unhelpful thinking styles below which we can all be prone too.

Mental filtering.  This thinking style involves a filtering in and filtering out process – a sort of tunnel vision, focusing on only one part of a situation and ignoring the rest.

Judgements.  Making evaluations or judgements about events, ourselves, others, or the world, rather than describing what we actually see and have evidence for.

Emotional Reasoning. I feel bad so it must be bad! I feel anxious, so I must be in danger.

Critical self.  Putting ourselves down, self criticism, blaming ourselves for events or situations that are not our responsibility

Should’s, ought’s & must statements.  Reflect our (often unreasonable) standards (“I should do this”, “I must do that”) and frequently lead to feelings of frustration, shame, or guilt.

When life gives you lemons……….

You’ve heard the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” Covid has and continues to throw buckets of lemons!  We can either let them go to waste or start making lemonade!

Self care – Small steps create big changes

It all starts with the self. When we want to change our mindset we have to work on ourselves and that can feel hard if we are in a rut.  The key is to take small, consistent steps in making positive changes. That way you are more likely to see achievements quickly that will motivate you to keep going.

Steps could include, getting out for a regular walk and fresh air, eating breakfast daily or not skipping meals and creating good sleep patterns. These are all basic needs but often get forgotten when we are stressed or anxious.  Regular relaxation or “time out” is crucial for our mental well-being.  There are lots of apps and a growing number of online groups offerring a variety of relaxation experiences, Yoga, meditation and mindfulness that you can take part in.

Keep Communicating

We are social animals. Contact with others is important for our overall well-being, especially if we live on our own. Communicate with friends and family on a regular basis – via Zoom, Skype, phone and text (social distancing applies).  Hold a Zoom coffee club with friends, join a online forum or organize a virtual quiz night. There are more support groups being offered online so check out your local area or national organisations such as MIND or NHS online for more information.

 Growth and Opportunity in the face of adversity 

There’s no doubt we are living in a difficult and unpleasant situation. When faced with adversity we need to dig deep and find our our inner resiliance. Of course this is easier to say than to do but the goal is to make the best of the situation we are in.  What can we learn from our experiences? What can we learn about ourselves? How can we utlize the opportunties that might be created amidst the changing situation?

All change is an opportunity for growth. What we are experiencing is something new, how we think about the challenges we face will define how we respond to them. So how can we respond to adversity? Being mentally prepared, taking stock of what you have been through, having a purpose and maintaining a sense of humour are key aspects in nurturing a health prespective.

So what are some of the things we can do help ourselves?

Cover the basics – eat, sleep and exercise.

Routine – find yourself a routine – this helps to create structure and familiarity and provides a sense of purpose

Don’t be hard on yourself – don’t forget this situation is new to everyone, there will be ups and downs and that is normal in difficult situations. Nurture yourself in the lows and revel in the highs.

Communicate – keep in touch with others. Reach out if you are feeling isolated or alone.

Take time to reflect while the world is hold take the time to pause and reflect.  What opportunities can you create? Learn the langauge you have aways wanted too?, Learn a new hobby or skill?, change the way you work?, read those books you never got round too? or maybe you can just take some time you have never allowed yourself too. Now is the opportunity to do so.

Follow a healthy mind platter – a bit like the “5 a day” the Healthy Mind Platter created by Dr Dan Siegel outlines 7 essential daily activties that can help to optimize matter matter and create well-being.

A final thought. We may feel frustrated, anxious or scared. Its understandable and normal given the situation.  Take care of yourselves but remember others where you can.  I love this quote, I don’t know who the author of it is but I think it is particularly relevant.

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”



We would like to offer a FREE  informal Covid Support group if there is enough demand. To register your interest please fill out the contact form here

If you have found this article helpful please like and share to help others. Thanks!








mens stress

Men’s Mental Health – Stress

 Men’s Mental Health and Stress – Its time to “Speak Out”

Global statistics indicate that 1 in 6 of us over the age of 16 will experience stress, anxiety or depression at some point in our lives. Although both men and women encounter similar levels of stress men are less likely to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress or seek help. Men’s mental health and stress is important. It’s time to speak out.  

What is stress?

Stress can be described as a reaction to a threat.  This is an inbuilt response that humans and animals have when faced with frightening situations.  It is known as the “Fight / Flight” response. This response, a primitive survival mechanism, was crucial for our early ancestors frequently confronted with life threatening events.  Nowadays, we may not face the same physical threats but our brain will still react in the same way when faced with emotional ones.

Stress is part of life and in some cases can be helpful (think back to primitive man).  Stress becomes problematic when it occurs over a long period of time or when we experience too much at a time.  Chronic stress weakens the immune system and can lead to other mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

Men’s Mental Health and Stress                                                                                                                       

A key difference between men and women’s responses to stress is how they deal with it.   Although both experience similar stressors around work or financial issues, relationship difficulties or dealing with significant life changes, such as their own or a family member’s ill health, women tend to search out support and talk about it. On the other hand, research suggests that on the whole men are reluctant to seek help being more likely to “bottle up” their feelings or use “escape” strategies such as alcohol, drugs or withdrawing socially to cope.

Gender stereotypes and expectations in society of having to be “strong” and not show vulnerability are thought to be part of the problem of not talking about it and can increase the chance of depression. In fact the “average suicide rate across all countries among men was 3.7 times greater than that for women”( Health at a Glance Europe 2018).

Signs and Symptoms of stress – things to look out for

Signs and symptoms can be physical, emotional or behavioural. Being aware is the first step in making changes. If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms below, ask for support.

  • Anger and irritability, feelings of despair or hopelessness
  • Feeling tired, low energy, not being able to sleep well
  • Finding it hard to make decisions or concentrate
  • Experiencing headaches, backache, muscle pain and stomach problems
  • Withdrawn, not wanting to go out
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Smoking or drinking more
  • Not feeling hungry or eating for comfort


Recognising and responding to stress early on is key in stopping more severe mental health problems from developing.  If you or someone you know is experiencing stress, follow the tips below and don’t suffer in silence.

SPEAK OUT       (Tips for managing stress)     

S – seek support from family ,friends or professionals

P – pace yourself. Break down tasks and jobs so you don’t become overwhelmed

E – eat healthily and regularly

A – activate yourself. Movement /exercise releases endorphins our “happy hormones”

K – kickback and relax.  Take time out for yourself, keep up with hobbies or start one

O – objective not subjective. Try not to personalise, try a different view

U – utilise positive strategies and your skills to help when you feel down

T – talk about how you feel with someone you trust. Its okay to ask for help


Uncovering the Narcissist

What is a Narcissist?

Narcissists are individuals who tend to go through life –  refusing to take responsibility for their behaviour’s and actions. Are quick to blame others for their own short comings. Show a complete lack of genuine empathy for others. Feel they are entitled or special and have difficulty in maintaining meaningful relationships.

Types of Narcissism

When we hear the term “narcissist”,  a character who is loud, arrogant, full of self importance with big ideas comes to mind. There are however 7 distinct categories:-

  1. Grandiose – the classic stereotype of narcissist, arrogant, validation seeking, big ego and full of their own importance.
  2. Malignant – has the traits of the grandiose narcissist but has more psychopathic tendencies. They are deliberately mean and have little remorse for their action. They will steal, cheat and lie.
  3. Covert – this narcissistic type is passive aggressive in their behavior towards others. They portray themselves as the victim (the martyr complex) and are put upon by others or the world and are hard done by.
  4. Communal – involvement in community and public work but needs to have lots of recognition for their efforts. Often tell everybody how wonderful they are at helping groups they see as vulnerable or less deserving than themselves.
  5.  Toxic – There’s a range of toxic narcissism, and none of it is good. A toxic narcissist “continually causes drama in others’ lives at the very least and causes pain and destruction at the very worst.
  6. Psychopathic – A psychopath is an unstable, aggressive person, and these traits also show up in the psychopathic narcissist. A psychopathic narcissist, which is a type of toxic narcissist, will often be violent and show no remorse for their behaviour.
  7. Closet – This one can be trickier to spot than other types of narcissists because the person isn’t always obvious about their disorder. “A closet narcissist is one who doesn’t inflict their personality upon others or society but firmly believes in the characteristics of narcissism.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

From a clinical point of view, for an individual to be diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) they need to meet certain diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical  Manual for Mental Disorders) . The difficulty, however, is the majority of individuals who would be diagnosed do not see themselves as having a problem and are therefore unlikely to seek treatment. For the few that do its usually in relation to depression, alcohol or drug use or other mental health issues.  Once in therapy, the narcissists inability to take responsibility for their actions along with feedback internalized as unjust criticism it is almost inevitable that they will not continue and soon end contact.

As a therapist I often find myself working with the casualties of the narcissist and the majority of cases involves the more subtle but just as devastating covert type.

Key behaviors and characteristics of the narcissistic personality

  • have an exaggerated sense of entitlement and importance – narcissists feel they are superior to other people, they know more than others and their opinions hold more validity than anyone else. They often exaggerate their accomplishments and talents and always do something better than anyone else. There is a “been there, done that” attitude displaying arrogant, haughty behaviors.
  • lack genuine empathy for others – they really do not hold a high regard for anyone. They may display “a show” of concern in certain situations but it is rarely long lasting. It relates more to “being seen” as concerned to outsiders or within a social situation as opposed to really genuinely caring.
  • unable to accept responsibility for their behaviors, actions or choices – particularly when something they have done does not work out as they had planned.  Instead, they blame their bad decisions at someones else’s feet.  For example, “its not my fault the business didn’t work out, you didn’t do enough / work hard enough”.
  • the rules do not apply to them – this relates to them feeling “special” or “superior”. So unlike other people they can disregard the rules.  This often means they can behave recklessly or act impulsively.
  • bend the truth or lie outright to suit their needs – the narcissist is very good at adapting the truth. They will resort to outright lying to defend their position or to get their needs met.  For example they may only tell half the information or distort it to more extreme measures such as committing fraud.
  • change their minds continually so are unreliable – narcissists often involve themselves in lots of things but never for very long. They may go through a variety of jobs or get involved in schemes that fulfills their preoccupation of the fantasies they hold of  unlimited success, wealth or power.  They can change their mind as often as their socks without any care of thought of the consequences particularly on others.
  • take advantage of others – people are exploited to meet their own needs. Narcissists are charming manipulators and have very few friends (that stick around). What they do have are “useful” acquaintances.
  • undermine and blame others – a hallmark trait of the narcissist is to undermine those people they are closest too and involved with. This is about their need to be “in control”. The narcissistic parent will undermine their offspring from a young age in a variety of ways. This includes eroding confidence and self esteem to maintain their own by telling their children they are not good enough, they don’t work hard enough,they are lazy, stupid, ungrateful or too sensitive. The narcissistic partner will behave in the same way with their significant other to destroy their self esteem, value and self worth thus keeping themselves emotionally secure.
  • they do not like to be challenged or criticized – this is because they see themselves as all knowing and always being right. If they are they will explode and become aggressive or withdraw becoming cold and distant justifying their position by blaming, undermining or belittling the person who has dared confront them.

When narcissists lose control

When the narcissists position is challenged or exposed and they lose control over others they become evasive, distort the truth or lie outright often contradicting themselves in the process and will re-write history as they perceive it (basically making it up as they go along).

Narcissists who no longer hold control over someone, usually because the person has become wise to their behavior and challenges them, they can respond in one or two ways.  They will either be aggressive and disparaging or use the silent treatment. Both of these responses are used to try and elicit emotional pain, confusion and guilt. If this doesn’t bring you back into line the aim is then to exercise as much control as possible. This could include withholding affection, help or finances.

A tactic often used when they have lost control over someone is to try and control how others view that person. This involves talking badly about the person to others, telling half truths or lies about them or the situation and portraying themselves as a victim to justify their position and discredit the person who has stood up to them.

So how to individuals become narcissistic?

Research indicates that environmental and social factors play a significant influence in the development of NPD in an individual. Narcissism can develop from an impaired emotional attachment  to primary caregivers that results in a difficult and chaotic childhood.  Children who are brought up in environments where one or both parents are emotionally neglectful or absent, overly demanding of their own emotional needs and inconsistent in their emotional responses to their child or children are at an increased risk.

Parents may only give affection and value the child for doing well at something so their affection is “conditional”. One child within the family may be pit against another or there may be a favorite so that comparisons are made. This devalues one child whilst elevating another. This however, can change rapidly and leave children feeling emotionally insecure and vulnerable impacting on their confidence and self esteem.

The adult narcissist is driven by an intense, deep rooted fear that they are inadequate and  not good enough. Stemming from early childhood experiences linked to rejection, this fear is so ingrained it is unconscious.  The narcissist is therefore preoccupied with keeping difficult feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy and shame at arms length. The narcissist uses defence mechanisms (a way of dealing with painful or difficult emotions) including repression, denial and distortion to cope.

When the narcissist’s fragile sense of self is inadvertently challenged, mini emotional crisis are triggered.  Anger, acting out, sulking and withdrawal are commonplace.  Regressive behaviors both on a cognitive and emotional level occur seeing them return to a childlike state in their actions and responses.

Responding to narcissistic individuals         

Its not uncommon for people to be involved in long term relationships with a narcissistic personality and not see it.  Realizing a family member, parent or partner is narcissistic can be difficult and raise a lot of emotions.  There are steps you can take ensuring you look after your own well-being and heal from the trauma caused.

  • assert your boundaries –  narcissists find boundaries difficult and will violate them when given a chance.  Be clear and factual about what you will or won’t accept and don’t back down.
  • don’t personalize behaviour – the actions and behaviour’s of the narcissist have little to do with you. Don’t take on the responsibility. They need to learn to own it.
  • Respond don’t react – learning to respond as opposed to reacting to their unacceptable demands or behaviours is important. When you respond you come from a more adult, considered position and therefore have more empowerment.
  • Educate yourself – learning about how narcissistic behaviour works helps you to understand and deal with it. Its unlikely the narcissist will change because they do not have sufficient emotional awareness. However, you can.
  • seek support – there is a wealth of information to help you cope with your feelings and heal from narcissistic abuse. Online support through articles and forums. Reading books and watching movies can help to provide understanding.  Working with a therapist who understands narcissism provides a good support process.
  • self support – looking after yourself is important.  Honor your feelings, you may experience a range of feelings from anger to sadness to dismay.  Don’t blame yourself. Practice good self care – take time to heal, nourish the self and use mindfulness or relaxations skills.

If this is helpful to you or you know someone who might find it helpful please like and share.

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Grow the Sun- get growing sunflowers for well being

Get growing sunflowers for well being

Want to get in touch with nature? Want a bit of colour in your life? Then get Growing sunflowers for all-round well-being! Out of all the flowers, you can grow sunflowers cannot be beaten. They are not just beautiful but they are also so easy to grow.  Sunflowers are quick to gain height so they are an ideal starter gardening project for all ages. Bees love them so you will be helping the environment by encouraging them in your garden or space and with some species of sunflowers, you can eat the seeds or provide winter sustenance for the birds. Win!


Spring is here…

The days are getting longer, brighter, and warmer. Spring is officially here. This time of year nature bursts into life, spring flowers are blooming, trees are blossoming and animals are in the process of their mating rituals. There is a definite spring in nature’s step.  For humans, the increase in daylight hours is a real boost to our physical and emotional well-being.

 Nature and its Impact on well being

There’s a mountain of research highlighting what we all know to be true, nature is good for us and has both long and short-term physical and mental health benefits.  Regular outdoor activity provides a number of physical benefits, it lowers blood pressure, reduces pain, lowers the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, these are just a few of the benefits.  A simple activity such as a stroll in the park can aid fitness through gentle exercise as well as provide an array of colours, sights and sounds that aid relaxation and calm the senses.

Spending time in and around nature helps with reducing stress and anxiety.   Researchers at the University of Essex conducted a survey where they found that 94% of the individuals believed that spending time in nature and connecting with it help them to have a positive mood. Other studies such a those by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature help to increase mood and emotional wellbeing, meaningfulness, and a sense of vitality.

Get in touch with nature

I remember years ago when I first started training as a therapist. I was coping with my own issues of anxiety. My mentor encouraged me to start planting some flowers and veggies.  There was something about getting my hands in the earth, nurturing the seedlings, and seeing them grow and develop that was deeply satisfying yet so simple it allowed me to refocus, ground and generally feel better.  I grew some sunflowers.  They were easy, quick and when they bloomed they were beautiful! I was hooked.


Growing Sunflowers – nature therapy at its best!

Bring nature to you – Get some nature therapy wherever you are!  Growing sunflowers is a simple way to engage with nature or bring a bit of nature to you. It doesn’t matter where you live. Plant them in your garden, on your allotment, in a pot on your balcony, or even on a sunny window ledge.  Seeing your plant develop and bloom can bring about a wonderful sense of achievement and change your environment.

Encourage nurturing and responsibility – growing sunflowers are great to do with children. It helps to develop responsibility by taking care of something by regular watering and making sure it has the right growing conditions. This can also be a good activity for people who experience dementia as it can help to spark memories of once-loved activities, provide a focus and conversation topics.

Educational and social – sunflower growing provides lots of opportunities to learn and share experiences. Learning about the cycle of life, maths (measuring your giant), and spending time together. It’s a great activity for across the generations, having fun together, sharing experiences, and creating memories.

Being in the moment – even the simple act of planting and nurturing seeds can really help to calm and soothe the mind and is a wonderful grounding activity that can reduce stress and aid relaxation.

Sunflowers by post

A great resource for growing sunflowers

An updated, comprehensive guide on how to grow sunflowers. It is completely free and you can find it here at

Want to know when and how to harvest your sunflower seeds, for the best results? has just published an updated comprehensive, free guide to help you get the best possible results. You can find it here at


Happy growing 😉

Niki and Dom xxx