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How can I help at this time as a Counselling Psychologist?

I continue to process my own responses to the ongoing trauma of this pandemic. This with the ongoing mutual support of my colleagues and with extremely useful online training and information that I have received from both local and international sources. I am pausing with deep muscle relaxation, on a very regular basis, to let the relevant and credible information settle and to draw deep inside myself for strength, calm and balance. It helps greatly that I am living and working surrounded by beautiful nature.

 

 

I am vigilant in knowing the difference between a normal response to traumatic events with a heightened experience of anxiety, panic, irritability and depression that settles with time and resilience, to when my clients are feeling progressively overwhelmed with uncontained anxiety, major depression and the need for urgent, further professional intervention to prevent significant current and future mental health issues.

 

I listen deeply and empathically to each person’s story. It is a privilege for me to share their stories and emotional tapestry in a collaborative, safe space; their anxieties, depression, joy, resilience and huge courage.

 

There has been a tendency to cook, bake and eat comfort food in this very distressing time in our lives. This is often an attempt to comfort the deep dis-ease within. We talk in therapy about clients’ different ways of sharing food with people who are desperately poor and hungry, to ways of donating money, time, talents or other resources with those who are in need. We also talk about the value of eating nutritious food and snacks at this time so as to avoid unnecessary weight gain which is a common complaint of my clients.

 

It has been interesting to hear the natural urge of most people who want to go outside to walk, run or cycle. It goes without saying that exercise inside or preferably outside in the fresh air is a great way to burn up stress and to calm down. It is a way to feel in control when the unpredictability of the pandemic challenges our assumption of ever having had control.

 

With no control over the outside world and the future, I am enjoying, metaphorically and virtually, walking with my clients into their inner worlds; exploring their imagination and creativity; these from the foods that they are cooking and baking for themselves and for others, to the paintings and other artworks that they are making. A client started creating a beautiful balcony garden of herbs. She described how this process lifted her mood and calmed her in these turbulent times.

 

Another client was waiting for lockdown to end so that she could buy mannequins to paint. When she could wait no longer, she searched her home and found some porcelain pots. She showed me the most beautiful artwork that she has created on these pots and shared how it has been so healing for her. This client is in lockdown after getting out of a physically dangerous marriage. So not only is she coping with the anxiety and depression of her abusive marriage but also with the isolation and financial uncertainty of her forthcoming divorce. I have been inspired by her courage and faith.

 

I am learning from the tools that people are creating and sharing with me and with others. I have listened to classical musicians playing wonderful music for patients who are in ICU in New York. They have organised to have phones placed next to patients. The patients who previously were hearing the frightening noises of the ICU are now hearing the beautiful sounds of music. In response to this, healthcare workers have reported a significant calming of their patients.

 

I have encouraged my musical clients to play their music for themselves and to hear the joy of  their own voices when they join others in their neighbourhood, or further afield, to play music together; while being physically apart. Those of us who do not play an instrument, can listen to the music of others and feel our breathing become deeper, more rhythmical and calmer.

 

Clients are remembering fun, treasured memories from their lives before lockdown and sharing their moments of laughter even in these times of pain and loss. I recommend this as a healing tool, especially if they can learn to do this without experiencing overshadowing feelings of guilt.

 

We are walking together into the unknown. While I have always felt respectful of my client’s journey and always believed that I should walk at the pace of my client, with this pandemic, I am even more careful and respectful to walk at the same pace as my client, so that we can navigate this everchanging learning curve together.

 

Regular sleep is known to build resilience with a healthy immune system. This helps us to cope better with anxiety, depression and the challenges of relationships.  So sleep hygiene; with regular bedtime in a cool dark room is part of what I suggest. This, together with the relaxation exercises discussed below.

 

Deep muscle relaxation with creative visualisation and music is a skill that I learned and adapted over the past many years primarily to lower anxiety levels, promote pain relief and improve sleep. It is a tool that I have successfully shared in workshops with colleagues, the business community and in my private practice.

 

Should you wish to try this practice yourself, or add it to your toolkit, please send an email to susan@musikanth.com  with DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATION in the subject line and I shall send it to you via WeTransfer. There will be no cost to you.

 

In summary, please remember that no one needs to feel alone. Know that in a crisis, such as this pandemic, there is frequently a state of panic, with anxiety and depression and with some time and increased resilience, there is an adjustment, both physically and emotionally, to the new normal.

 

Some signs that you need more intensive help include unrelenting higher levels of anxiety and deeper depressed mood with disturbed eating and sleeping patterns. If you are feeling overwhelmed, and increasingly anxious and depressed, and this feeling persists for a while and is worsening over time; despite that you have used some of the above and/or your own self-help tools, reach out to your medical, psychological and/or holistic healthcare provider.

 

Take Care and Stay Safe.

 

Healing Acts of Kindness

My clients are a group of special people, many of whom have been checking in on me to find out how I am doing. This, in the midst of their own challenges.

 

It’s as if there is a supportive system of connectedness in the world where the best kind of energy and strength is being shared, and where we are learning the ropes from each other as we walk this unpredictable and often scary journey together.

 

There are wonderful people who are discovering that through sharing their time, talents and resources they feel more proactive, purposeful and less anxious.

 

 

For some, it is the small things like leaving dry food on top of bins for the weekly collectors of garbage and thinking about the ordinary person who is trying to do their work in the face of the danger of catching the virus. By wearing a mask to avoid others’ getting sick, and staying home so as not to risk getting sick and overcrowding the health systems, we can all impact many lives.

 

The kindness of the very wealthy celebrities, like sportsmen and women, musicians, artists, actors and more, who are bringing joy, fun, food and money to those less fortunate. These icons are to be respected for being willing to get their hands dirty and to place their feet firmly on this shaky ground.

 

Then there are those whose sense of community leads them onto the rooftops of apartment buildings to play music, or make communal noise to thank the heroes who are putting their lives on the line in the work they are doing.

 

Whether it is a spiritual belief, a trust in the force of nature or following an organised religion or a gut instinctive feeling, I am comforted by the knowledge that we are not alone. We have support from other people on earth and from the greater universal energy, however that may be defined and described by each individual person.

 

Deep muscle relaxation with creative visualisation and music is a skill that I learned and adapted over the past many years primarily to lower anxiety levels, promote pain relief and improve sleep. It is a tool that I have successfully shared in workshops with colleagues, the business community and in my private practice.

 

Should you wish to try this practice yourself, or add it to your toolkit, please send an email to susan@musikanth.com  with DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATION in the subject line and I shall send it to you via WeTransfer. There will be no cost to you.

 

Exploring Emotional Responses

I am grateful that I am able to continue to offer telehealth, or distance therapy, sessions for my clients. I have noticed that some have responded to the trauma of the pandemic with expected intense feelings of anxiety, low mood, guilt at having food and shelter whilst so many are deprived of these basics, and stress over ongoing unpredictability.

 

 

Having a Purpose

Clients in this group are generally able to fund their expenses. They are mostly feeling a great sense of purpose and control when they are able to give of their time, talent and money to those less fortunate. They appreciate having more time and not having to rush from one meeting or appointment to another or from exhausting social gatherings, all of which have been termed ‘hurry sickness’.  They are either locked down with their families and are enjoying this special and rare bonding time or are alone with partners in good or good enough relationships.

 

These clients talk also of the cleaner world that they are seeing around them. They enjoy hearing more birdsong and breathing cleaner air, this when they are able to go outside. They express the wish that the world of governments and industry will see the value of a greener, cleaner earth for all of us.

 

They are recognising that the plight of the desperately poor is not new and their hope is that there will be a new focus on the divide between the haves and the have-nots in the new normal world. These clients who are mostly coping, with renewed resilience and courage, are sometimes feeling that they are riding a rollercoaster with the highs and lows of change, but are generally feeling quite strong.

 

Double Trauma

Then there are clients who are really struggling with the ongoing and unrelenting trauma of this pandemic. It feels to them like a double wounding and a double trauma. These clients are finding that the pandemic is triggering their worst fears and feelings; anxiety that was an issue prior to the pandemic is amplified and very difficult to moderate, and depression is intensified with the isolation of lockdown. It is this group of clients who need extra care and attention at this time.

 

Below are some of the feelings that have been expressed by many of my clients; some by those who are generally coping well and those who are particularly vulnerable at this time of ongoing trauma.

 

Stress of boredom

I have heard the stress of boredom from many people; some who are used to a busy social life and others who depend on being with people in person, both at work or at home, to entertain and stimulate.

 

Loss of privacy

We have, in the past (pre-pandemic), spoken at length about partners, husbands, children and pets if there are any. So far, I have only met the well-loved pets online, and heard some background noises from the children, but haven’t as yet met partners or husbands.  There was, however, an unexpected appearance on Zoom of a client’s Mom who didn’t realise that her adult daughter was in a private therapy session. It turned out well though with Mom being introduced to me and quietly exiting the space.

Financial insecurity

Feelings of anxiety, depression and anger when clients have not been able to work, either on their own or in someone else’s business. This leads to severe financial insecurity and lack of control over their futures.

Uncertainty

Most people are expressing the stress of uncertainty; ‘How long will this last?’, ‘When will we be able to get back to work?’, ‘My sanity depends on regular walks at any time on the beachfront’, ‘I really, really need to get out there and into my life. I don’t know, however, what my life in the new future, will look like?’

 

Elderly clients whose children and grandchildren live overseas and who have had to adapt over the years to irregular visits, are experiencing the anxiety of: ‘What happens if I get sick?’ ‘How will my son visit when he cannot travel?’, ‘Who will come to my funeral if I get sick and die from Corona or from the other illnesses that I currently have?’

Loss of familiarity

Most clients are facing the stress of change where everything is different and where just as they get used to a new status quo, things that are becoming comfortable and familiar are again changed. There is a mourning of familiarity and a sense of loss of normalcy.

Information frustration

Many clients are suffering from media information overload and infodemics; the latter where the pandemic is used to fuel conspiracy theories, these in the minds of already vulnerable people who are fearful and searching desperately for answers and someone or a government to blame.

Childcare conflict

Clients with babies and toddlers are working from home and really struggling to deal with the seemingly endless needs of their children. This is resulting in conflict within the parental relationship that is amplified as both parents are working. The grandparents, who would usually assist, are in isolation and unable to do so.

 

There are parents juggling the demands of work, housework, healthy food preparation as well as managing home-schooling schedules for their children in different schools. Helping their children to manage their school work and their anxieties requires a lot of their energy, patience and time. Some young and older children are either struggling to fall asleep at night or are waking in the early hours of the morning; too anxious to fall asleep again. This of course impacts further on the parents, leaving them feeling exhausted and helpless.

Loss of self-care. Loss of couple-care

With so many demands at home, the parents are describing how they are not finding the time nor the energy to care for themselves. This too translates into little time, space or energy left for partners to relate to each other; physically, emotionally and/or sexually.

 

Some clients who live with their families in small apartments and are used to getting out to work and to exercise are now feeling very cooped up and not able to get much needed space. Weight gain due to lack of regular exercise and increased comfort eating or junk food intake is causing some clients to be more stressed now. A change in sleep patterns caused by struggling to fall or stay asleep through the night is also adding stress for some.

Loneliness

People who are living on their own have been particularly stressed by not being able to connect in person with others.

 

The elderly, who previously relied on being visited by their children or grandchildren, are now expressing a visceral ache of loneliness as their lives were made more valuable by a visit and a hug from family.

 

They are also missing their regular visits to the GP, specialist or me, where they felt safe and could speak freely. While they consult online if they can, it is not quite the same for these clients. This pandemic has changed everything for them.

Fear

I listen to those who have serious illnesses and they understandably worry about consulting their doctors in a hospital setting where, already immune compromised, they fear catching Covid-19. Clients are fearing the unknown.


Grief

This is a time of great loss. My clients are mourning the loss of everything that they knew as normal. While none of them have as yet lost anyone through Covid -19, they are fearing this loss as we move towards the peak of the pandemic in South Africa. They are also experiencing secondary trauma when they watch world news that is reporting so much death and destruction from this pandemic.

Guilt

I am hearing of guilt and shame from clients who are trying to help others but are feeling that they can never do enough for the poor and hungry. There are those who feel so emotionally wretched and do not want to burden their already burdened family and friends with their troubles.

 

Deep muscle relaxation with creative visualisation and music is a skill that I learned and adapted over the past many years primarily to lower anxiety levels, promote pain relief and improve sleep. It is a tool that I have successfully shared in workshops with colleagues, the business community and in my private practice.

 

Should you wish to try this practice yourself, or add it to your toolkit, please send an email to susan@musikanth.com  with DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATION in the subject line and I shall send it to you via WeTransfer. There will be no cost to you.

Telehealth

My partner and I are staying in our holiday house in Paradise Beach, Langebaan, for the foreseeable future. We left our apartment in Green Point on the 25 March after hearing about a positive Coronavirus case in our building. I am so thankful that at a time when the focus and attention of myself as a psychologist is essential, I can continue to support previously established face-to-face therapeutic relationships as well as a few first-time clients, online, via Telehealth.

 

 

Telehealth, or ‘distance therapy’, refers to the use of technology for therapeutic needs of clients, who are not located in the same room as the mental health professional. With no real training or experience with long-distance therapy, this pandemic has pushed me to learn quickly how to provide services to my clients that don’t feel too different from when we physically share space in my therapy room. For this reason I encourage clients to have a cup of chai tea, coffee or water before joining our online sessions in the hope that their familiar drink will be nourishing in the same way as when we shared my therapy room before lockdown.

 

I have encountered some drawbacks to online consulting, such as the guest appearances of pets and young children wanting attention as well as the sudden loss of internet connection, just at the point of an intense interaction. Noticing subtle non-verbal cues of clients through the veil of a screen is becoming less of a challenge for myself as well as for my clients. There is a feeling of camaraderie, and a sense that we can and will help one another to feel at ease in this new online therapy situation, and with each session, it does indeed feel more natural to communicate this way.

 

In therapeutic sessions we talk about clients’ world view that keeps evolving. I listen, acknowledge and respect all of their feelings; from the pain of loss of normalcy and loss of control, to the devastating effects of isolation and loneliness, from lack of touch and human contact, to fear of catching Covid-19 and possibly dying alone. When possible, we share stories of exquisite joy, fun and moments of peace, even as the feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty continue to push back.

 

Quite recently, we’ve added to the heaving emotional load, fears of our security and police forces, who we have witnessed acting with a particularly heavy-hand when dealing with non-compliance of the new laws.

 

Deep muscle relaxation with creative visualisation and music is a skill that I learned and adapted over the past many years primarily to lower anxiety levels, promote pain relief and improve sleep. It is a tool that I have successfully shared in workshops with colleagues, the business community and in my private practice.

 

Should you wish to try this practice yourself, or add it to your toolkit, please send an email to susan@musikanth.com  with DEEP MUSCLE RELAXATION in the subject line and I shall send it to you via WeTransfer. There will be no cost to you.

 

WATER AND RELAXATION

This article is based on a telephone interview with Jane Foster of Colors Magazine on 11 January, 1999. This is an Italian Magazine where Jane was based in Bosnia. The article was never published as soon after this interview the Bosnian War broke out. I tried to contact Jane thereafter but was not able to do so.

 

The main question she asked was: Why do we go on holiday to water?

Water reminds us of our first home in our mother’s womb where we live in water from conception to birth. It is where we experience a sense of calm and safety.

Also, most of our body is made up of water.

Water too forms most of the earth; be it sea, rivers or lakes.

We relax with water as it stimulates our senses of

Sight – seeing waves lapping on the shore or crashing on rocks.  Looking at the beautiful colours of water; like the torquoise colours of the Commores, Mauritius or in Paradise Beach in Langebaan; in the picture above.

Sounds – hearing the sounds of waves or the gentle ripple of rivers or of water falling over waterfalls. We also sometimes have water features in our gardens, pools or homes that look and sound peaceful.  Some people prefer the silence of still water in pools, lakes and rivers to calm their souls. Others feel invigorated and refreshed by the sounds of rushing water or loud crashing waves or the gentleness of lapping water. These preferences could depend on how we feel on a particular day or at a particular time in our lives or we as people may have a general preference for still or loud water sounds for relaxation.

Touch – Sometimes water is icy cold as in some oceans, rivers, lakes and pools which feels refreshing, invigorating, cleansing and thus relaxing. We might choose to emerge ourselves in icy cold water and then lie in the warm or hot sun. Here we would feel the contrast between the cold water and the warm sun. Alternatively we might choose waters in oceans, pools, rivers and lakes that are nearly as warm as our body temperature. Here the warmth of these waters serve to relax us. Also the speed of the water touching our skin can also soothe and relax us; as when we body or kite surf, water ski or simply float gently on a lilo in smooth waters. Or we may have a warm bath to soothe and relax us; this before the drought and severe water restrictions. Currently, a warm shower for less than a minute should suffice to relax us.

Smell – This is the most primitive of our senses. We can feel soothed by the smell of different waters, by sea weed and fish in and around the sea and water plants in water.

Taste – We can feel relaxed by the salty water of the sea or the clear sweet water of mountain streams.

Again, with the severe drought that we have been experiencing in the Western Cape and in other areas of Southern Africa, there is a noticeable and loud expression of joy and release of tension when we have rain.

One of the ways that I work with clients is through Deep Muscle Relaxation with Creative Visualisation and Music. One of the tools here is to visualise a liquid that is a colour and temperature that is soothing for the person. It is to see the liquid moving from the head through the body massaging, healing and soothing the muscles and then flowing out through imaginary holes at the bottom of the feet.

 

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF RAISING TWINS

As parents we face the awesome task of attempting to raise well-adjusted and happy children. As parents of twins, triplets, quads or more we face a doubly monumental task. Many of the issues experienced in bringing up twins are amplified. However, there are those issues particular to bringing up of twins.

Particularly in the first year of your children’s birth the parents feels guilty that they are  unable to offer the twins the attention that they require. they simply runs short of time and energy due to the huge physical demands made by the twins on the parents.

These parents need wherever possible to ask for support from family or friends or in the community.

The Mother of twins often feels resentful that her every waking hour is used to satisfy the demands of her children. The father frequently feels neglected because his wife is giving every last ounce of her time and energy to the twins.

It is essential that these Mothers and Fathers can take a small patch of time just for themselves each day just to relax and catch their breath. As a couple they too need time out to reconnect with each other.

When the twins are older, the parents often feel guilty that they are not using every minute that the twins are awake to stimulate them.

The truth is that the twins like all children need time alone where they are not stimulated but where they have space for relaxation and creativity.

Parents of twins frequently find that the setting of limits or boundaries on the behaviour of their twins is an area of uncertainty or conflict between the parents. These parents have said that the twins present a mighty force with which to contend in the face of boundary-setting.

Parents need to exercise extra effort, persistence and consistency in limit-setting.

A further issue is the feeling of some parents that their children will be damaged should they be punished.

The answer to that is that no child will feel happy to be punished. But will benefit from constructive limit setting by parents with long-term feelings of security and emotional maturity ensuing.

One question that parents of twins have is what if my child is hyperactive or is academically slower than their peers or if one seems to have difficulties and the other does not present with these?

It is important to treat twins as individuals with different needs, talents and vulnerabilities.

Do twins benefit from being in the same class at school or should they be separated into different classes?

My own sense is that the twins will benefit from being in separate classes from the start in that they will be developing here too as individuals.

In the same vein, parents ask if they should dress their same-sex twins in the same clothes or differently.

Again, I believe that the twins should be able to develop their own sense of dress and so should be allowed and encouraged to make decisions about what they would like to wear. And if that means they would like to dress alike, so be it.

So in conclusion, it appears that raising twins is an amplified version of raising single children. There are, however, those issues particular to raising of twins such as same or different classes at school, clothes to wear and much more. If these parents ensure that they engage as much support as they can from family, friends and from the community, they are most likely to raise mature, healthy and happy young people.

These parents too need to remember to give themselves as individuals care and attention and to give themselves as a couple the attention that they need to build a strong base and role models for their twins and perhaps other siblings to emulate.

‘GUT’ INSTINCT AND SAYING ‘NO!’

I want to share with you one of the most valuable assertive skills that I have learned for: Managing Stress,

Managing Time and as an effective antidote to Depression.

In an Ideal Situation we are all able to Say ‘No!’ when our Gut instinct is uncomfortable. It is here where we do not have to explain. We do not become defensive. We do not become aggressive and we do not withdraw. We are also ideally able to say ‘No!’ without feeling guilty.

In real life we are so often faced with this situation at work and or at home. We all know the demands of; ‘can I have…’, ‘whats for supper’,. We all know the feeling that others are sucking the energy out of our bones. We all know the feelings of resentment and anger when we say ‘Yes!’ rather than ‘No!’, and where we think others expect us to be Superman or Superwoman.

So what advice can I offer for those who frequently struggle to Say ‘No!’ ?

  1. Listen to your Gut Feel when someone is requesting something of you.
  2. Either say a direct ‘No!’
  3. Or say ‘Not today but I can do this for you on Monday’.
  4. Do not explain yourself
  5. Do not defend yourself
  6. Do not become aggressive
  7. Do not withdraw.
  8. When you can say, ‘No!’ without feeling guilty, you will feel liberated
  9. And as you practice this skill, you will find that you become more effective in using this skill and will subsequently feel less pressured, less guilty and less anxious and depressed

Clients frequently say; ‘But my Mother is persistent when she is demanding that I agree to something’. I counter this argument with ‘Keep repeating yourself like a broken record’ like ‘I know that you need me to……..but unfortunately I am unable to do so.’ Offer empathy for the person who wants something that you don’t want to give and then Say ‘No!’ anyway or give them a different compromise.

Or you might say ‘I cannot possibly refuse an important client.’ I say ‘Yes you can refuse the client when their demand is making your Gut instinct feel uncomfortable.’

Also, I often hear a client say; ‘sometimes I have to say ‘Yes!’ when I know that my Gut instinct is uncomfortable.’ I reply that should the person makes a conscious decision to agree to an unreasonable demand for whatever reason, they will not be damaging themselves at any level. This sounds paradoxical but in fact it is a truism. We sometimes decide to agree to do something for a myriad of reasons.

Therefore, we could review the GUT Instinct and Saying ‘No!’:

Gut feel puts you in touch with who you are and what it is that you want.

Understand the need of others.

Time-management is clearly facilitated when you learn to Say ‘No!’ to unreasonable or uncomfortable requests.

Females or women are often associated with pleasing others. So if you are a woman and struggle to say ‘No!‘, practice this skill and you will find yourself feeling more confident.

Empower yourself by setting  boundaries by Saying ‘No!’

Educate close associates, family and friends to respect even if they are not necessarily enjoying your ‘No!’

Lighten the heavy depressed feelings that result from the internalised anger and resentment of Saying ‘Yes’ when your could Say ‘No!’

 

STRESS, ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION SAD – THE VICIOUS CYCLE

The purpose of this article is so that we can put our heads together and practically and creatively:

recognise the signs of SAD and offer a wide variety of tools to both balance and manage the symptoms thereof. Also, through education and empowerment, we can rewrite scripts that are currently maintaining the symptoms of SAD.

If clients were able to describe their symptoms in a clear manner, we as therapists and those close could better understand whether the client is mainly stressed, depressed or anxious or is experiencing a combination of all of these.  Also, in an ideal world, we as therapists, doctors and those close to the ‘client’ would  be able to understand, manage and balance our own SAD and so, the ‘client’ would trust and respect our advice and so feel better.

However, Stress, Anxiety and Depression so often present with similar symptoms. And there are other reasons why therapists, those close and the client is confused; Stress is frequently equated with success. Then why are our stressed clients often also depressed with panic attacks and/or phobias? Then there is Depression; with it’s embarrassment and associated stigma and secrecy. Also, the symptoms of Mourning with the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job or the loss of health and other losses, mirrors the symptoms of depression and anxiety. A further complication and confusion with SAD is that the client could be experiencing side-effects from antidepressant medication and one of these side effects might be panic attacks, whilst another might be anxiety or depressed mood. Also, in my experience, low iron or thyroid frequently presents in the client with fatigue, low motivation and other depressive symptoms. Whilst overactive thyroid can present with symptoms of anxiety and agitation and irritation. In addition, sometimes that client who is experiencing mostly stress and anxiety does not recognise the ‘quieter’ underlying depression that is being masked by the ‘louder’ stress and anxiety. further to the above confusion and complications of SAD, it can be contagious; i.e. family, friends or colleagues at work might feel SAD when they are close to the client. As health care professionals or medical doctors, the question to ask is: How often does our own SAD impact on our clients and theirs on us?

So what can our clients and we as professionals do in the face of SAD? Use creativity, feedback from others and talk to trusted others to identify SAD. Use self-help like exercise, deep muscle relaxation and the many other tools offered in Stress matters and Depression Matters. Seek psychotherapy for the management and treatment of SAD. Consider holistic treatments available for the balancing of SAD symptoms; these frequently involve homoeopathy, aromatherapy, reflexology, acupuncture and more. Should the client not be feeling significantly better after trying the above, he or she could consider psychotropic medication with the holistic tools for the balancing of SAD.

We so often find that a client feels physically ‘ill’ when in fact they are experiencing SAD. So the medical or healthcare professional should explore the possibility that the client’s iron, thyroid, Vit B, Vit D, testosterone, low blood pressure or other physical or chemical factors that need further exploration. When these are out of balance and are then rebalanced, the symptoms of SAD reduce or dissappear. Then there are clients who do not wish to take psychotropic medication. They fear addiction or they have seen a colleague or a family member experience particularly bad side-effects of this type of medication. In these cases it may be useful to offer the client over the counter herbal or homoeopathic remedies for the symptoms of SAD. Should these not work adequately, the client could be offered information about the pros and cons of psychotropic medication. We should not discount the effects of insufficient light in the Northern Hemisphere where some people experience the symptoms of SAD. When this is the case, these people; clients and professionals alike can consider the use of light boxes which as known to alleviate the symptoms of SAD.

In summary, clients, those close, like family and work colleagues and we as professionals could use the myriad of self-help tools available, like exercise and relaxation. We all could benefit from education about SAD and also, the open communication about SAD, will remove a great deal about the secretness and embarrasment surrounding the symptoms of SAD.

CHILDREN OF PRESSURING PARENTS

Children of celebrity or generally pressuring parents frequently have difficulties in the development of their identities. This is because they are frequently under pressure to achieve the same or more than that of their parent. These children thus carry a set of expectations that elevate them to a level beyond that of children who do not have famous parents.

 

Children, in general, are more likely to develop a healthy sense of identity if their parents are encouraging and nurturing and if these children have the intellectual and/or creative potential to achieve at a similar or higher level than that of their parents.

 

When huge pressure to achieve is laid on these children, it can have devastating results. This is especially so should these children not have experienced the warmth, acceptance and caring by the parent. It is also detrimental to these children when the parent has been so involved in the pursuit of his or her career  that important stages of these childrens’ development have been missed in terms of parent/child interaction.

 

Another difficulty can arise for children of famous parents when a public figure, as is often the case, becomes embroiled in controversy. These children often have to cope with this controversy and the court of public opinion levelled against their parent. Children facing this situation could respond by protecting and defending the parent; withdrawing from them or becoming angry with them. The children’s behaviour is also likely to depend on their stage of development.

 

The above issues are interesting in view of South Africa’s first/third world status. For example, many black students that I counselled at University of Western Cape’s Student Counselling in the 1980’s were first generation university students.  They were so often under enormous pressure to achieve status for their working class parents. They were not, for example, allowed to watch television as this would detract from their study time. It was often the case that much financial sacrifice had been made on the part of the parent and on the part of the student. Besides the pressure from parents to achieve, there was also at that time, strong pressure from peers to become involved, or more involved in the broader social struggle. The students’ conflict was often one involving personal growth and fulfilment versus the struggle for a better social order. In this regard, many of the parents had over the years become more attuned and sympathetic to their students’ needs.

 

Within the social structure of the 1080’s, it seemed that the second generation university student had a different, but no less pressured influence on his or her identity formation. Take for example the first black professor at a local university. When he had sons, he would often express the wish for these male children to achieve an even higher career than he had achieved.

 

In general, parents would be well advised to encourage their children to achieve their own unique potential. However, undue pressure to do so, particularly when that pressure is placed on  children of slower intellectual potential, is likely to create anxieties and possible depression in these children. In addition, the parents are likely to set themselves up for disappointment in these children  and subsequent less acceptance of the latter for who they are. It is thus when childrens’ own interests, talents and abilities are not recognised nor nurtured by the parents, that difficulties such as adolescent drug taking, delinquency, anxiety and depression and other negative acting out behaviour can arise.

DEPRESSION – A SECRET STORY

I would like to relate a story of depression with a happy ending.

 

Once upon a time there was a young girl called Allison. She was able to tell those around her how she felt. She was open about her depression and how it felt for her. Because of this openness, she was able to get help and to manage her depression and therefore to live a happier life.

 

In reality, depression is often an embarrassing secret with a stigma attached to it.

 

The depressed person just does not feel well. They often have little energy; difficulties with eating and sleeping, irritability, anxiety and also negativity towards themselves, their world and their future. These symptoms most often affect their relationships in a negative way.

 

So in view of the above, I recommend that the depressed person:

 

Go to their General Practitioner to have blood tests to establish whether their symptoms could be due to other factors such as low iron, thyroid, Vit B or D, testosterone or other tests deemed necessary by their doctor and/or whether their blood pressure is particularly low. All of these factors could mirror the symptoms of depression.

 

Recognises their  own signs and symptoms of depression such as mentioned above.

 

Try for 2 weeks to do regular exercise for 20 to 30 minutes for 3 to 5 days a week.

 

Consider consulting with a psychologist or a social worker to manage their depression.

 

Should the symptoms of depression not be well managed after taking the above measures for between 2 weeks and a month then it may be necessary to consider taking either a natural tranquilliser, and mood elevating substance; Biral for anxiety and Elevate for mood elevation comes to mind. Should these not help after a week or two, consider taking an anti-depressant over the long-term to treat and manage depression

 

On the positive side, the person will have started to talk to someone about how they feel. That in itself will be likely to make them feel lighter and not so alone. It is also probable that this will move the person from feeling sad, depressed and isolated to feeling more in control of their lives.

 

So I can hear you object to the above recommendations:

 

“ I am too tired to exercise”

 

Do not wait to feel more enery to be able to exercise. Start slowly and don’t exhaust yourself; that would just set you back to feeling more depressed.

 

“I want to feel better but no one will listen to how bad I feel”

 

Start by writing your story and once it is all out there on paper in front of you, change the negative statements to positive ones.

 

To conclude and summarise, I would like to look at the word SECRET.

 

S – Tell your STORY to a friend, a psychologist, a social worker and/or your doctor.

E –  EDUCATE yourself about depression; Read about depression and learn from others.

C – Use your CREATIVITY by painting, singing, and/or writing your story etcetera.

R – RESPECT yourself and the choices you are now making in your life.

E – EMPOWER yourself through these choices and through your own positive behaviour.

T – TRANSLATE the sad story of depression into a journey where you feel more in charge of

Your life to cope better with life’s joys and pain.