Forgiveness

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Recently I have found myself thinking a lot about forgiveness. Partly because of articles I am writing about trauma and partly due to research I have been doing on culture and religion. Forgiveness is intertwined in most religions and indicates holding power.
There is this idea that in order to move forward, we must forgive. That with forgiveness we will find true happiness and freedom. I don't believe this is the case. I am not talking about disagreements or arguments that are had between couples or family members. It's those who have experienced trauma or abuse at the hands of others, individuals who walk into my clinic room, holding pain and suffering. Although the idea of forgiveness seems simple, it can be very emotionally loaded and complex, particularly for trauma survivors.
I understand, of course,  that if a person comes in and finds that the word “forgiveness” resonates, I do not discourage it. Forgiveness is highly personal and individual. You do not need to forgive so you can move on, instead move on in the right way for you.

Healthy relationships

@journey_to_wellness_ uses this lovely image to describe what a healthy relationship should look like. Learning about and valuing what is important to each other is paramount. Knowing and being able to express how you feel, your desires and thoughts facilitates openness which in turn leads to a deeper connection. Healthy relationships bring out the best in BOTH of yo

Intimacy and Communication

The most common issue is not that couples are not communicating, its that couples are communicating in ways that push each other's emotional buttons.
In couple therapy you should get support with helping you learn how to communicate more effectively. 
Initially it's to try to get emotion out of the way when you are talking, so you can get to the root of the problems. Understanding yourself and your partner first is key. 

Vulvodynia

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Some #sexeducation for this Friday evening. With #vulvodynia being the todays topic. Vulvodynia means ongoing pain in the vulva  when there is nothing abnormal to see and no known cause for the pain. Whether it is generalised or localised, may be described as provoked, in other words touched, or spontaneous (occurring without touch as a trigger). Many conditions affecting the vulva can be painful (e.g. infections such as thrush or herpes, or eczema). In vulvodynia, pain is felt in the vulva when there is no obvious visible cause for it and other diagnoses have been ruled out by examination and investigation.There is also  localised vulvodynia (also known as Vestibulodynia) which is a term used for pain arising at the entrance of the vagina. This is when any pressure, (touch or friction) is applied. Vulvodynia is not only physically painful but it can disrupt and unhinge intimate relationships and take and emotional and mental toll. In my next post I will be talking about treatment methods for vulvodynia.  

Equality for all

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I have saved so many posts by @theequalityinstitute with the aim of posting them, but I can never decide which one!! They are all vital and powerful. I decided to choose this one for today because I believe that there still much more work to do around debunking stigma around Feminism. Feminism is about equality for ALL womxn. Feminism needs to be intersectional. It is important to to know that intersectional feminism points out that there are multi-layered facets in life that womxn of all backgrounds face.
The whole purpose of intersectional feminism is to listen to different kinds of feminists, not just ones like yourself. In other words; if you don't stand for all womxns rights , you don't stand for any  

Masturbation and the Prefrontal Cortex

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When we’re masturbating, our perception of what is sexually attractive and desirable changes. This all happens through my favourite part of the brain: The Prefrontal Cortex. Its the part of the brain that focuses on personality and creativity. Research has found that heightened sexual arousal achieved through masturbation can make almost anything and anyone seem more sexually appealing. Interestingly enough, these findings tell us that sexual arousal changes our perceptions of the world around us. Which is pretty crazy! 

Understanding your triggers

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Ever been in a situation where somebody is telling you a story and you get a PANG of emotion (fear, rage, anxiety, sadness)?
It may take you by surprise and leave you feeling confused. Thinking that it's disproportionate to what was happening...well you were triggered! Some of us are great at identifying these triggers and some of us need more help.
Triggers can be anything from environmental factors, opinions, certain words or even just people! Triggers also tend to have a physiological reaction: palpitations,dizziness, hot flushes, nausea etc.Identifying triggers is no easy feat but it will certainly serve you. Without becoming aware of triggers you are at the mercy of your emotions manipulating you.

  • Pay attention to your physical reactions. Like the ones I outlined above.

  • Be mindful of any thoughts or words that whizz through your head after the physical response

  • Notice your surroundings: who are you with, what are you doing, what can you see?

  • What were you doing before you were triggered?

  • Keep a journal on your phone or at home. See if you can find a pattern

  • Be patient! This takes practice and time so show yourself some self-care!

Listening skills

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Listening.
REALLY listening. 
We all want to be heard. REALLY heard. We often prioritise that over listening.  My favourite quote is; "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply". How often have you found yourself doing just that? Sitting and listening to what someone is saying, but really thinking about your; emotions or rebuttle - getting geared up to respond. I know I have! That's why with couples that I see, I focus on getting them to listen, REALLY listen. The best exercise I find for this (Couple Therapists if you have good ones too please let me know!) is simple paraphrasing! This exercise is so easy to use and translates to most issues or topics you may be struggling with.

 All you need to do is; one person be the speaker and the other the listener.
Speaker: Discusses how they are feeling or thinking. Listener:Use your own words to communicate what you understand the Speaker to be saying (paraphrase). Don’t just repeat what the Speaker has said. Listener:: Verify, clarify, or modify the Speaker’s paraphrased response. Speaker: Paraphrases what the Listener has said again.
This is intended to help the listener to know that the Speaker is aware of the Listener's perspective and has heard what they have said. Paraphrasing and restating also allows the Speaker to correct any misunderstanding on the part of the Listener.
Side note; when I was 19 I remember seeing a big poster, and it's always stuck with me. It said; We have two ears, two hands and one mouth-to talk less listen more and do most.

Sound Bath Bliss!

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My lovely, talented friend @yattire has started up sound bath classes. I have been blessed enough to experience it! 
Sound Baths are incredibly relaxing and beneficial to mental health. Researchers have found that sound waves can reduce blood pressure as well as enhance sleep and memory. Binaural beats, tones played simultaneously that are close in pitch but not identical, can be found in a sound bath session. Studies show these sounds can reduce anxiety and enhance mood states. Sound has been found to be a useful “brain exerciser”, helping to improve cognitive functioning and help with mental and emotional health. 
I would really recommend having a go if you want a change to mindfulness and experience an escapism that can help heal you at the same time. 

Do you know what consent is?

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Consent is described as: permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.Consent is a vital part of creating a culture and community in which everyone feels safe and comfortable to live in. 
Silence does not permit consent. It is clearly communicated, not negotiated.
An unconscious or intoxicated person under the influence of drugs or alcohol who is unable to knowingly consent cannot legally agree to sexual activity.
Past consent does not guarantee future consent.
A person has every right to change their mind at any point in time, because consent is ongoing.
Finally, even if you're in a long term marriage, consent is still vital. 

Low Libido in Women

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Loss of desire, also known as low libido. Can affect women at certain times of life.

There are many obvious times such as during pregnancy, after having a baby, during menopause. However some women experience most of the time. 

Low libido can have a range of physical or psychological causes, including:

*Stress

*Depression

*Excessive drug use or alcohol.

*Medication side effects

*Hormone issues (drop in testosterone)

*Relationship issues

And many more reasons. If you are struggling with low libido it is worth visiting your GP in the first instance. They can assess for any physiological aspects. If ruled out sex therapy can help assist you in reconnecting with your sexuality and help with any relational issues. 

Craving Intimacy

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"Our souls crave intimacy"—Erwin Raphael McManus

Real intimacy is not found just by merging bodies in sex it is a process – not a thing. It takes place over time and there are many different types including: emotional, sexual and intellectual amongst others.

It's important to harbour and develop intimacy in relationships through self awareness and knowledge not to mention the all important communication! 

New Year New Me

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We all know the "New Year, New Me" phrase that is thrown around regularly this time of the year. We set high expectations for ourselves and attempt to change those pesky "flaws" that we see. 
Many of our resolutions actually re-enforce most of the negative conceptions we already have and guilt begins to flourish when the resolutions fall through. 
Instead, why not allow this year to be the one when you put your own needs first, to honour where you are and what you've accomplished no matter what.
Can you make this the year of asking for help and allowing yourself to accept support? To be guilt free and self compassionate? 
Life is too short and too uncertain to spend it surrounded by things that drain you. Perhaps 2019 can be about taking stock of what and who feed your soul and get more of it!   

What is Dysperunia?

Dyspareunia is pain or discomfort in a woman’s labial, vaginal, or pelvic areas during or after sex.There are many different causes of dyspareunia, resulting in different levels and kinds of pain. One of the main reasons so many cases go untreated is because women feel uncomfortable talking to their GP about this very private issue. If you're worrying about having the conversation try imagine going home knowing that you have taken the first steps towards recovery and how good you'll feel. There are many forums and even Facebook groups  that can help support you. Remember that you are not alone. Contact a Sex Therapist like myself for further assistance.

Drury Therapy

Inner Dialogue

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My final part for mental health at Christmas is how "shoulds" effect self-care. The word “should” has is a fixture in our everyday inner dialogue. We use it in conversation with others, as a way of motivating ourselves or keeping ourselves in check. The word "should" can be insidious. When we use it we’re distorting reality. It's raising self-criticism and pressure by reinforcing the idea that we are not doing something we feel we ought to. As a result it leaves us with feelings of regret, disappointment and guilt. It feeds into any doubts of our self-worth and damages our mood while increasing anxiety. During the Christmas period the pressure to be festive, spend time with friends or family and ultimately make the most of the festive time can be relentless. If you're thinking about what you should've done in the past, you usually feel upset with yourself for not adhering to your future self's expectations. It's imperative that actually, if you want to avoid stress, pressure and guilt you must start with taking accountability over your own self-care. Making the decision to; not go to that party, spend Christmas day with family who make you miserable, remove people from social media who make you feel low, or not buy gifts. Is no easy feat. But perhaps starting with changing your inner dialogue could be the first step. Should undermines your ability to do what you want to do.
•Sometimes "should" has a good purpose, but sometimes it exists because it's part of someone else's purpose. So try think about WHY you're using the word. Who is it for?
•So instead try changing "should" to "could" or "would like to". •Think about what your "shoulds" are and see if you can reframe them in a positive way.

Relationships at Christmas

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Christmas time is a yearly test for relationships, it’s a stressful time on both time and wallets. This is amplified if your relationship is already strained. A recent Facebook study reported that most breakups occur two weeks before Christmas. Having realistic expectations of what you can and can’t do, and making time to practice self-care such as exercise, enough sleep and relaxation, can relieve stress levels which, in turn, will reduce strain on your relationship. Here are some other tips on how to decrease stress at this time of year.
·  Communicate: Set your boundaries and make them clear. Talk to your partner about what you may need over this Christmas period; space, extra TLC, support with family.
·  Articulate your stress; Be mindful of how you are talking to each other.  If you want to voice a concern, try saying ‘I’m feeling stressed because’ rather than ‘you are stressing me out’. Try and communicate clearly but ask yourself do you really need to say this, if it can wait let it wait.
·  Manage expectations; Remember that Christmas throws up circumstances that aren’t present at other times of the year. So, remember that the holiday relationship stress is contextual.
·  Plan in advance; Try to openly discuss plans and details for the Christmas period making sure that you are both prepared for what may arrive; arguments about family, planning out who goes where, what’s expected for gifts

Living with Anxiety

Anxiety is isolating and can feel like it is eating you up from the inside. The physical manifestations can be debilitating and exhausting. If you look closely at anxiety, you can begin to see that our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physical symptoms all interact and combine to keep our anxiety going. Things like mindfulness, distraction techniques, CBT skills can assist with alleviating it. However it's important to get to the root cause. Talk to a friend, family manner or therapist to understand yourself better and what is triggering it. 
Suffering in silence with anxiety only exasperates it. 

Social Anxiety

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Christmas time can be a challenge for sufferers of social anxiety, with the pressure to be festive and to socialise, it can be the most stressful time of the year. Those suffering with social anxiety can obsess about such issues until they prove debilitating. It is estimated that social anxiety disorder affects up to 10% of the UK's population. The NICE guidelines describe it as the "persistent fear of or anxiety about one or more social or performance situations that is out of proportion to the actual threat posed by the situation”. Most individuals struggle with their supposed social inadequacies. Alongside; paranoia, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
If you go to the party (you are amazing and brave if you do!) here are some tips to help you through.
·  Plan ahead; set a time you would like to go and like to leave by. Make sure you will feel comfortable for this duration. Stick to your exit plan.
·  Limit alcohol; I know one of the easiest things to do is turn to booze, masking some of the feelings and giving yourself some Dutch courage. However, this is not going to be the most helpful. There is a strong correlation between anxiety and alcoholism. It may also perpetuate the anxiety in the future. ·  Plan on what you would like to talk to people about at the party. Think of topics and conversations that you enjoy and how you could integrate them in. Ask questions, most people love to talk about themselves so see if you can ask questions that may give you a common ground; sport, studies, music. Maybe avoid politics!
·  Look out for those on their own; find someone who may be on their own or broken away from the group. Most people will be delighted that they have been approached and will engage in chat.
·  Be kind to yourself; you are fab that you have gone in the first place. Tell yourself that! You deserve praise and admiration! Show it to yourself. Repeat after me; ‘I am amazing and brave. I am enough’.