Part 1

Are you struggling to get to sleep, waking up during the night or waking up early in the morning?

Ask yourself –

1. How much tea, coffee and decaffeinated drinks do you consume?
2. Do you have your main meal later than 8pm?
3. Do you feel tired when you go to bed?
4. How airy is your bedroom?
5. Do you watch TV in bed?
6. Do you have a bedtime routine?
7. Has your mood changed or are you dealing with stress?
8. Do you smoke before going to bed?
9. Is your bed comfortable?
10.Do you have any physical problems?
11.Do you struggle to relax?
12.Do you exercise, and have a healthy diet?
13.Do you snore?
14.Do you feel tired in the morning?

Look out for Part 2 to see how you might tackle Insomnia.

Relationship Problems

Part 2. What can you do to help solve relationship problems?

1. You need to be aware of passive or controlling behaviours.
2. You need to be aware of blurred boundaries where there is only
“we” and never “I”.
3. You need to ensure that there is never just “I” and never “we”.
4. Beware of always interrupting your partner and not letting them
Finish what they are saying.
5. Beware of automatically blaming your partner.
6. You need to listen to what each of you are saying.
Fully hearing what is actually being said.
Fully understanding what has been said.
Give time to absorb and not just react.
7. How does your partner know what you want?
Do you tell them?
Do you say it clearly enough in words that can be understood that
not only convey your thoughts but also your feelings?
8. Constantly turn towards each other not away.
9. No matter what your problem someone else has faced it as well.

You can seek support from relatives or friends, and some may be brilliant, but it is difficult for them as they have a vested interest – you are their best friend, son, daughter, brother,sister. This is where a therapist can help as they are totally neutral. They are there for both of you as you talk about very difficult and sensitive issues and take decisions about your future.

Contact Autonomy Counselling and Psychotherapy for help with your relationship issues.

Relationship Problems

This is Part 1 of a two part exploration of relationship problems.  Part 1 briefly looks at possible causes for relationship issues and Part 2 then looks at what actions can be taken to resolve these issues.

As we all know relationships go through various phases and indeed change over time. 

In a sustained relationship there are many highs and lows and indeed fairly mundane plateau’s.  Many changes happen in life and these can impact on our relationship and even strong relationships can have rocky patches. 

Relationship problems can be triggered by a multitude of issues.  Major events such as job loss or illness can cause significant personal as well as relationship stress which can then severely test the partnership to breaking point.

There are many factors that can cause tension in a relationship such as work, money, sex, children and these can slowly impact on the health of the relationship leading to issues.  One thing that often happens at this point is the breakdown of communication.  Unfortunately when life is busy it is only too easy to not realise or ignore how these pressures are impacting on our relationship.  More serious issues can then occur such as infidelity.

The fact of the matter is if you believe your relationship is in trouble then in all probability it is!  What you must keep in mind is that issues can be resolved. 

Remember to look out for Part 2 when we will look at what actions can be taken.

Therapists at Autonomy Counselling and Psychotherapy are experienced at working with couples with relationship issues.

Coping with Anxiety

Coping with Anxiety


Common symptoms of anxiety:


  • Feeling fearful
  • Feeling panicky
  • Feeling sick
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Agitated
  • Feeling tired
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Trouble with going to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night
  • Bad dreams
  • Feeling hot or not being able to get warm
  • Feeling as if your body is shaking internally
  • Sweaty palms
  • Lack of appetite or taste
  • Headaches, eye strain etc
  • Memory and concentration issues


And more!!



What can I do to cope?


  • Take time out.  It doesn’t feel possible to think when you are full of fear and anxiety.  The physical symptoms you are feeling are due to the fact that adrenalin is being pumped through your system.  So, distract yourself and take time out to physically calm down such as a warm drink, a bath or a walk.
  • Imagine what the worst case scenario might be.  It really can help, and the chances are you and the world will survive.  Don’t fight it – stay with it – feel the panic – don’t distract yourself – breathe slowly and deeply – try not to take more than 12 breaths a minute.  It might take awhile, even up to an hour, but helping the mind cope with the panic helps take the fear of fear away.
  • Don’t avoid fears.  Avoiding only makes them scarier.  Whatever your fear, if you face it, it should start to fade.
  • Embrace the fear.  Each time you face them makes it easier to cope the next time.
  • Fears are more often worse than reality.  Even if incidents have happened previously it does not mean that they will happen again.
  • Perfection doesn’t exist.  Black and white thinking or to think things have to be perfect only sets us up to be anxious.
  •  Close your eyes and imagine a place where you feel safe and calm.
  • If you can get a good sleep, eat well and healthily and take some physical exercise.
  • When you face any anxiety remember to reward yourself.
  • Share your fears.  Talking about your fears with others can really help. Talk to a partner, family, a friend or seek help by contacting a counsellor or psychotherapist who are professionally trained to help you through your issues.

Muscular Relaxation Exercise

Allow yourself about 30 minutes.

A. Get yourself ready:
• Find a quiet room where you will not be interrupted and get comfortable
• Choose some music that really relaxes you. Slowly work through each muscle group, tensing and relaxing

B. Tense up
• Tense your muscles slightly – don’t strain them
• Hold it
• Feel the tension in your muscles
• Take note of where the tightness is
• Keep your muscles tense and focus on it

C. Relax:
• Feel the tension leave your muscles
• Feel them grow more and more relaxed
• Feel them become heavier
• Feel the warmth flow through them and the tension drain away
• Notice the difference between tension and relaxation
• Let all the tension go
• Say words like “calm” and “relax” silently to yourself
• Really let the feeling of being relaxed increase

D. Go through each muscle group in order:
• Curl your toes and press your feet down – and relax
• Tense your calf muscles – and relax
• Tense your thighs, straighten your knees and make your legs still – and relax
• Tense your buttocks – and relax
• Tense your stomach – and relax
• Clench your fists – and relax
• Bend your elbows and tense your arms – and relax
• Hunch your shoulders – and relax
• Press your head back into a cushion to tense your neck – and relax
• Clench your jaws, frown and screw up your eyes – and relax

E. Shoulders:
• Tense your shoulders by shrugging them as high as they will go – and relax

F. Throat:
• Tense your throat by pressing your chin down on your upper chest – and relax

G. Head and Neck:
• Press your neck and head against the back of your shoulders – and relax

Healthy Mind And Body

The effects of stress

Stress can have a profound effect on the digestive system, complaints such as indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers are well known.

Stress affects blood sugar levels, leading to tiredness and cravings for stimulants such as coffee, tea, alcohol and sugary foods which only in fact offer a temporary energy boost, or fix.

These stimulants can have destructive results in the long term adding to your body@s stress.

How to protect yourself against stress

You can help protect yourself by eating food that is rich in zinc, essential fats and anti-oxidants. These help give the body what it needs to repair damaged tissue and keep blood flow healthy.

Maintaining good blood sugar levels improves the balance of brain chemicals such as serotonin (a natural anti-depressant) helping you to feel better emotionally and improve your skin, hair and nails.

Eating healthily

We cannot avoid all stress but we can deflect some of the worst effects by eating healthily. Over processed food lacks many vital nutrients needed to help us deal with the effects of stress.

Anti-oxidants (these can help prevent degenerative disease such as cancer and heart disease), are very important, as are phyto- (plant) chemicals which give fruit and vegetables their natural colour.

For health and vitality it is important to focus on eating fresh wholefoods at every opportunity.


An indication of how much impact “addictive” foods or stimulants can have is, what happens to the body when they are withdrawn. Headaches can be common when giving up caffeine and some can lead to symptoms of bad breath and spots.

Caffeine can over stimulate the adrenaline glands.

Alcohol also affects the adrenaline glands and excessive intact depletes many vitamins and minerals.

Sugar in excess impairs the adrenal glands and suppresses the immune system.

Understanding Depression

What is depression?

Depression is a medical term covering a wide range of psychological distress. Depression causes low mood, and makes everything harder to do and less worthwhile.

What causes depression?

This varies from person to person. There can be hereditary links. In many cases it can be triggered by life-events. These events can have a significant impact, and those as a child can have an even more profound effect about how you feel about yourself now.

What are the symptoms of depression?

People may:
• Feel numb, empty and despairing
• Be preoccupied with negative thoughts
• Feel low spirited a lot of the time
• Have low self-esteem and lack confidence
• Find it hard to concentrate and make decisions
• Blame themselves and feel guilty
• Wake up early, or have problems sleeping
• Be unusually irritable or impatient
• Not enjoy usually pleasurable activities
• Eat erratically, gaining or losing weight
• Use more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs
• Experience a loss of sex drive
• Have reduced energy and reduced activity
• Cut themselves off from others
• Have a bleak or pessimistic view of the future
• Consider, or commit self-harm or suicide

What treatments are available?

The recommendation from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is that in mild to moderate cases people should be offered counselling/psychotherapy and in severe cases counselling/psychotherapy plus anti depressants.

Effectively Anti depressants work on chemicals in the brain to lift your mood. They do not cure depression, but they do alleviate the symptoms so that you may feel able to take action to deal with the depression.

Anti depressants usually take three to six weeks to take effect and unfortunately can come with unpleasant side effects. There also needs to be a phased withdrawal as you can experience withdrawal symptoms.

Coping With Stress

Useful tips

Change your attitude

• What are your priorities in life? Are they about your colleagues and work? Are they about your own health and wellbeing, your family and your friends?
• Focus on the real (good or nicer) parts of your life! Make sure you plan things to look forward to in the evenings and at weekends.
• Monitor yourself. Tell yourself to snap out of any moods or anger.
• Make sure you give yourself permission to be less than perfect! You are allowed to have off days and to get things wrong. Remember to extend this to family/friends/colleagues as they have bad days too.
• Learn to let go and switch off when you find yourself dwelling on stressful or embarrassing situations.

Home life

• Set time aside, start and finish, when at home to moan about work. Make sure you and your partner stick to it!
• Make a habit of listening to your favourite music on the way home. Set a time or a landmark after which you will not think about work. If you are alone in the car, have a good sing or shout.
• Make sure you have relaxation time and find a way to spend it that is effective and enjoyable.
• Remember to treat yourself! Make time to do something you enjoy, or something you would not normally do.

Working practices

• Look for enjoyable or funny features in stressful situations and concentrate on them.
• Make sure you note all the positive aspects of any difficult situations and congratulate yourself for dealing with them!
• Make sure you do not put things off! Deal with any little niggles or confrontation before they become a bigger problem.
• Draw up a list of priorities and feel good as you tick them off!
• Make sure you learn to say NO!
• It’s helpful to plan your day/week and anticipate busy times and priorities. Make sure you postpone unimportant tasks until you have time to deal with them.
• Remember to take time off. Your body needs mini breaks. Take advantage of any times during the day where you can stop or slow down for a minute (e.g. by slowly walking down corridors).

Are You Stressed?

It may sound strange when I say to you that we all need some stress to keep us alert and healthy, but it is when it is severe and prolonged, stress can start to affect your mental, emotional and physical health. The sources of stress are varied, but usually lie in one or more of these areas:

• Marriage and/or intimate relationships
• Family
• Social life and friends
• Housing
• Money
• Work

Do you think you are stressed?

You may not realise you are suffering from stress! You may even think you have a physical illness, and therefore don’t realise that the symptoms you have are caused by stress. Stress has a habit of showing itself in many different ways. As you look at this list how many signs of stress do you suffer from?

Physical signs

• Feeling sick
• Chest pains
• Feeling light headed/faint
• Frequent headaches
• Frequent butterflies in stomach
• Heart palpitations
• Constant colds
• Allergies
• Trembling
• Frequent visits to the toilet
• Skin irritation
• Heartburn, stomach cramps, acidic problems
• Sweating
• Muscular pains in back, shoulders and/or neck
• Difficulty in swallowing

Psychological signs

• Withdrawing into self
• Being forgetful
• Being resentful
• Unable to make decisions
• No sense of humour
• Lack of interest
• Lack of self esteem
• Lack of concentration
• Lack of confidence
• Unable to relax
• Becoming unhelpful
• Flying off the handle
• Becoming suspicious

Behavioural signs

• Becoming isolated
• Drinking more
• Being obsessive
• Smoking more
• Taking less interest in your physical appearance
• Eating more
• Accident prone
• Talking more quickly
• Not going to other commitments or appointments
• Eating more quickly
• Not going to work
• Walking more quickly
• Being moody and offhand
• Fidgeting
• Interrupting conversations

Want to read some techniques for coping with stress?  Click here to read on……

Keep Mentally Healthy

Life is a stressful business, but there are ways that you can stay happy and healthy.

1. Find out what is an effective way for you to relax

For example:

• Seeing friends
• Reading
• Listening to music
• Playing sport

2. Learn a relaxation technique

Use it in any situation where you are stressed

3. Learn to say ‘NO’

Learn not to take on too much, particularly when you are stressed.

4. Ask for support

Learn to talk things through before things get too bad.

5. Don’t isolate yourself from other people

Keep in contact with family, friends and neighbours.

6. Learn to take frequent breaks

You will be able to work better when you get back. Learn to switch off for mini breaks such as in lifts, at traffic lights or by walking slowly etc.

7. Make sure you get enough sleep

8. Make sure you eat properly

Excess caffeine, nicotine and concentrated sugars can increase stress levels so a healthy, balanced diet is essential for your wellbeing.

9. Do exercise

Regular exercise has a positive effect on the brain, and will increase your capacity to cope with stress, and can help you live longer.

10. Review your situation

Think about how you use your time, how you might improve this, and can you prioritise your tasks in a different way that would help.