Posted in Weekly Blog

Dealing With Unhelpful Beliefs Part II

JSLHR-S-15-0167Onslow_featimageSometimes we can get stuck in a belief about something which may not actually be true or accurate and can become quite unhelpful.  For example we might think; ‘I’m no good at anything I always mess everything up’.  If we really believe this it may be when opportunities come along we might not even give it a try because this belief holds us back.  Sometimes if we can find the root fear behind the belief that can help us to reality test it and start believing more helpful thoughts instead.

We worked with a couple of beliefs brought by the group.  A recurring stressful and anxiety creating scenario that many people encounter is the Government Work capability assessment.  This assesses people currently receiving benefits to see if they are able to start work again and so stop receiving benefits.  People often find that the assessment takes account mostly of physical ability, so for people struggling with mental health issues, these complex difficulties are not picked up by the assessment leaving people who are currently unable to manage being at work without benefits and therefore forced into finding work where they may become quite unwell and not manage a job, further increasing the very low regard with which they may already view themselves.

Whilst the group would acknowledge that structure, routine and purpose is a big part of mental health and addiction recovery, and sometimes we see people positively move into work or voluntary positions, we know that there are times when the stress and pressure to work when someone is still unwell or just starting to recover is very detrimental.  So here again we can see that if someone has a back injury their inability to work is very visible and their recovery can clearly be seen as to what they can or cannot manage.  A mental health illness and recovery is not visible and because someone looks physically fit in the assessment means they may be assessed to return to work before they are ready.

We addressed a belief that people hold about going to this assessment which is:

“There is nothing I can do about the outcome of this assessment; I’m going to lose my benefits, the ability to pay rent, and have to do a job I can’t manage and I may as well relapse”.

The group (many of whom have been through this process) offered support and a different way of looking at this belief. For example, the thought to go on a bender anyway would just delay the assessment as it would be rescheduled.  The group also said that Advocard (an advocacy service in Edinburgh) provide really valuable support and preparation for these assessments. We did recognise a conundrum in the system that doing things that keep you well, like support groups etc make you look well and fit for work, but the reality is that going back to work too soon may mean that you can’t do the things that keep you well and then you become ill again.  This again highlights the invisibility of mental illness.

So in response to the original belief, we could now see that although we can’t change the outcome, the individual can behave in a way that may influence the outcome, and therefore has a bit more power.

Another belief that we worked with today was:

‘I don’t believe recovery can happen for me’.

Here we recognised that we all go through very dark times that we cannot see a way out of, what really helps in these times is that others can believe for us and we can be carried by that on our darkest days.  The person who brought this belief was encouraged by the group that just stepping out and receiving support was being in recovery.


Posted in Weekly Blog

Great Expectations


We live in a world of high expectations; do well at school, get good grades, have a good career, get on the property ladder, have a a romantic marriage, have cute children, hold it all together, even when life is hard.  Sometimes trying to live up to the expectations of others, or even the expectations we put on ourselves can be exhausting and unsatisfying.

The group spoke this week of parental and family expectations and how sometimes, for a long time they made choices according to what they perceived their parents wanted and accordingly chose career paths and marriage partners accordingly until one day waking up and realising; “this isn’t me, this isn’t what I have chosen, this isn’t what I am passionate about.”

For some females in the group, quite strict and traditional values were expected of them from a young age to cook, clean and look after younger siblings, and in the process losing their own childhood , and with such punitive strictness there was no flexibility.

Others spoke about the expectation that families had of them during periods of being unwell and that rather than accepting that recovery would take its own time and not be a linear recovery, there was an expectation that recovery would follow a traceable course over a specified timeline.

All of these expectations cause stress and pressure, and, actually if you are not free to be yourself this causes anger and resentment and therefore strife in relationships.  If you are talented at music but don’t enjoy it, and your parents push you into learning instruments and performing  in orchestras but  your passion is to write books you won’t feel like you are fulfilling your dream or feeling satisfied…until you have the opportunity to try and write a book.

We talked about how expectations feed into struggling with self-worth; trying to please others who are never satisfied, this is exhausting and not fulfilling and if we buy into everything needing approval from someone else then we probably won’t ever feel good enough.  One result that can come from this is rebellion.

Ultimately we have to do what is right for us and remember that people who genuinely care about us will respect the decisions we make.


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Fun and Games

This week the group had a go at the popular American game, Mad Libs.  You have a story with blanks to fill in, so once we had managed to collectively remember our grammar and figure out our adjectives from our adverbs we placed the words and had some good fun and laughs hearing how they turned out in the story.  A funny example is below demonstrated by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jimmy Fallon.

It was good to have a more relaxed week and do something fun, we can forget that good leisure time is as important for our wellbeing as much as having a routine and finding ways to tackle the difficult things that we face.  In fact if we can find ways to manage stress then this is very good for our health.  Before we played the game today, many in the group were talking about their current experiences of feeling very anxious, and the different ways that people pushed themselves through these feelings to do their day to day activities.  Although its hard to get out sometimes, everyone today said it had been fun, they had laughed, and felt better on leaving than they had on arriving.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Breaking Free From Unhelpful Beliefs



Our group today was an exercise looking at where our beliefs come from and how they affect our day to day lives, and explore whether those beliefs actually limit us from fully living life.  We thought back over our lives and thought about significant people and events which may have formed important beliefs which we may not even be aware we are holding.

We worked on a belief today that was creating a fear; the belief that making any changes may cause a relapse into illness, that by remaining in a comfort zone and not reaching out of it to be stretched or try new things was safer.

If this fear is believed as a fact, this creates a life which feels stuck with frustrated desires to maybe try new things not being realised.

We looked at trying to recognise the problem as actually being the fear rather than the belief, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt helpfully said:

                  “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Founder of ‘Consulting Alliance’ a blogger called Jeff Miller comments further on Roosevelt’s words:

“The fear that we experience can be paralyzing and corrosive. It prevents us from reaching our full potential. It immobilizes us. It keeps us in our comfort zone. And it is entirely based on a story track looping inside our heads.”

“…Where do these beliefs come from? How long are we willing to hold onto them? What is the payback we’re getting from holding onto them? How much comfort do we really get from staying in our comfort zone? How can we reframe these thoughts? We need to be committed to asking the right questions. What questions are you asking yourself?”

So we concluded in our group discussion is that the first step is to deconstruct the fear, and move away from holding it as a fact.  Group members had found that talking through the events where the fears were rooted was a very helpful process but acknowledged that this took time and was difficult, however, eventually this process removed all the power from the fear so that it no longer had a limiting hold over their lives.


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How to get out of being stuck


stuckToday’s group looked at feelings of being stuck.  Sadly, feeling stuck is quite a common theme for people. People may want to make a move from their current situation but feel that something holds them back from achieving this. Fear can play a big part in holding people back. Those who are frustrated with their present situation may still find it a massive risk to initiate change away from it. Staying with what you know may feel like the safer option but may keep you in the unhealthy cycle of feeling stuck.  Another perspective to consider is how not making any change at all may actually become a bigger risk to your well-being.

We looked at how group members processed change and what risks were. We then did an cognitive tool exercise on the benefits of making positive movement. It’s always worth remembering while attempting something new, if it were not to work out it’s not the end of the world, you can keep looking for something that is a better fit.  You have tried.

Below is an example of someone who is stuck in an unhappy situation;

Unintended consequences

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The Impact of Mental Illness

Mental health symbol conceptual design isolated on white backgroundAt today’s group we looked at the different ways in which mental health can affect us. We looked at it from two different perspectives. Below are the group findings;

1.Someone who is struggling with poor mental health.

  • I feel people don’t want to talk about problems especially ‘deep’ things
  • I feel isolated
  • There is a lack of understanding from others
  • I have lost friends 
  • I socialise less
  • Acceptance can be hard
  • I feel irritable
  • Being around like minded people helps me
  • Once I felt better I gained a better understanding and now have more compassion for others and feel a better person because of my experience

2. People who are affected by someone else’s poor mental health e.g. loved on, carer

  • My friend struggles to look after himself
  • He can ‘snap’ at me
  • I need support myself while caring for my friend
  • Sometimes I feel helpless
  • I feel so tired caring for my friend
  • While I can give my friend some leeway due to his poor health I have to remember not to constantly accept bad behaviour.

In conclusion today was a ‘deep’ group but was very helpful for people to look at these issues.




















Below are the group members thoughts on this:


Posted in Weekly Blog

Healthy Eating


We are hearing more and more about the connection between what we eat and how we feel, and a new emerging science on gut microbes being almost a second brain would explain that sometimes the food chemistry that we ingest does indeed influence brain chemistry far more than we had previously realised.

Our eating patterns may also be a vicious cycle as in reverse how we feel influences how we eat.  People in the group did talk about comfort eating, or emotional eating.  I imagine most of us will be familiar with this phenomena. Conversely we may forget to eat or not eat well when we are stressed, tired and anxious, and the lack of nourishment to our bodies will further exacerbate these things.

People did talk about the bombardment of information around healthy eating and how the advice can change from week to week which makes it very confusing. It may be that for now until we learn a bit more as a group, a standard rule of thumb is that the less processed our food is and the closer to nature it is, the better it is for us.  It is also a fact that fat and sugar do not occur together in nature and so lessening our intake of this combination, and eating such treats in balance the better that is for us as it is harder for the body to process sugar when it first has to wade through fat.  The group spoke about looking at things in a balanced way rather than jumping to extremes.

We watched the following TED talk about ‘how your belly controls your brain’

We also touched briefly on how what we have around us is what we will eat, for example at the group today we ate nuts, dark chocolate, rye bread and hummus because that’s what was there.  I’m sure if crisps and donuts had been sitting in front us then that is what we would have eaten, and because it wasn’t there it wasn’t what we were thinking about.  So, the following TED talk below is all about how making such changes to our environment can help us to achieve healthy eating goals.