Accepting the loss of dreams, aspirations and that of what could have been

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We recognise grief as the inevitable pain of loss. The loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, good health. Life as we know it, is over. This we realise, is the price that comes with love. Something real and tangible has gone and by grieving, we heal.

What happens though, when our loss is less tangible, like a dream, a wish or an ambition that never materialised?

The much-acclaimed writer and holocaust survivor Edith Eger, author of The Choice: Embrace the Possible, talks to Oprah of the pain of losing her childhood dream to become a dancer. Oprah weeps when she sees real maternal love; her tears are for the mother love she never had.

[ Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fauouBeIdGM ]

Losing what could have been

Someone else told me how sad he felt about the end of an unhealthy relationship. He was puzzled.

Why wasn’t he just plain relieved?

He underestimated the huge and generous investment he had made, how much he had given but, as importantly, he needed to accept his pain over the loss of what could have been. He had invested into a future that could never be, with that particular woman. She was not able to give what he had assumed and hoped for.

We know that grieving the loss of what was, eventually heals us. We are less familiar with the necessity of mourning what could have been. The pain of our unfulfilled dreams and disappointments can run very deeply. Our emotional investment in what we hope for, is often enormous. Losing the possibility of those things turning out the way we anticipated, is devastating.

Acknowledge, Accept and Heal

Unacknowledged sadness festers. This is what we call denial. Instead of diminishing pain, it imprisons us or, moves and sometimes shape-shifts. We might be destined to keep reliving it. Alternatively, it might take on another appearance like anger or anxiety. Anxiety at work for example, can come from not accepting a disappointment at home or that the career path one is on, was not the one you went to university for.

The gift of freedom only comes when we acknowledge our quashed emotional investments; really feeling the physical sting that lingers on when we bring our dashed hopes to mind.

By bring that pain to the light and allowing it space we offer ourselves the opportunity of true acceptance. By doing so, we heal.


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

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Gratitude – ‘the new Prozac’?

I’m grateful for my garden and the beautiful blooms i get to enjoy

I’m grateful for my garden and the beautiful blooms i get to enjoy

A chimpanzee who has been groomed by another chimp earlier that day is more likely to share his food with the groomer. If he has been helped by another chimp at some stage, that too will make him more inclined to reach out to his helpful friend.

This form of ‘reciprocal altruism’ is closely linked to what we experience as gratitude. It is in our DNA and evolved to function as a form of ‘social glue’. After all, without one another we do a whole lot less well.

Why is it then, that something so natural needs to be re-learned?

My guess is that it has something to do with the brain regions referred to as the TPN (task positive network) and the DMN (default mode network) – one needed for analytical reasoning and non-social problem solving (TPN), and the other involved in ‘empathic reasoning’ which includes social and emotional understanding.  Interestingly, they don’t easily work together. So, in our world which is heavily weighed towards the TPN, the habit of engaging the emotional, empathic circuit is slowly eroded or left dormant.

A small daily gratitude practice can have amazing results.

Research into the effects of a daily gratitude practice by Duke University and UPenn have compared it to Prozac with lots of wonderful side effects. Sleep and mood are improved; anxiety, depression and rumination are reduced; the immune system is strengthened, and lots more. The list is phenomenal; and all this by cultivating a natural resource.

Why do we find it so difficult to do?

Apart from the fact that our TPN is switched on for too much of the time, we also have a negativity bias wired into us. What happens when you receive a cascade of praise after a performance of some sort, with one critical voice in and amongst all that positive feedback? Which comment are you most likely to remember? As I heard a psychologist say recently: the negative screams out at us, while the positive only whispers.

So a gratitude practice will help to listen out for the whispers, every day, little and often, until we hear them as easily as the murmur of our own babies. Not only do we train to hear them, but we stop to feel the warmth it generates in our hearts; that is how the change happens.

✔︎ Three Good Things EXERCISE

This exercise was developed and used by Professor Martin Seligman in his studies, and used in studies at Duke University.

  • Find a time within 2 hours of bedtime to think of just 3 good things that happened today.

  • Write them down.

  • If possible, make a note of your role in bringing them about too.

When I started doing this exercise I found it hard to think of 3 things to which I felt I had really contributed. It was much easier to think of my gratitude for bluebells, dappled light and people I love.

If you need a few prompts to get started, answer these questions:

  • What unique qualities do you have that you’re grateful for?

  • How has someone helped you in the past that you’re grateful for? (This might be a wonderful opportunity to take the time to say thank you in a special way.)

  • What is one thing you appreciate about your health?

  • Think of a close loved one and write 3 things that you’re grateful for about them. (You can go in to detail here about why these things are important to you and how it makes you feel.)

  • What is something that you struggled with in the past that you’re now grateful for? What did you learn from that experience in your life?

  • Name three things in your surroundings that you’re grateful for. It could even be the pen you’re writing with. The small things could even trigger larger ideas such as ‘I’m grateful that for the education I received in my childhood to be able to write with this pen''.

I suggest that both exercises are valuable. They both help us feel more connected to people and the world outside of ourselves, though the 3 Good Things exercise reinforces the experience that what we do matters, and that we have a role in shaping the world around us.

Being grateful for qualities, traits and skills of our own is also very worth doing. Particularly, if you have a tendency to be overly self-critical, it is a lovely exercise in self-acceptance and compassion.

As Brother David Steindl-Rast says, cultivating gratitude allows us to experience the ‘great fullness’ of life.


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

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5 things a psychotherapist wants you to know

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I often find that I evaluate my life and connections, with myself and others, at certain times of the year – particularly in early spring and around the New Year. They are times for renewal, rejuvenation, to reset and to reconnect.

You might do the same.

Perhaps you’ve become aware that you wish to make changes due to some obvious signs of imbalance in your life which you hope to address; or, simply because you want to make a ‘good life, great’.

You may be uncertain how to go about this on your own, and perhaps you are considering working with someone to jump start the process.

On the other hand, the idea of ‘therapy’ can be intimidating and stops too many people from reaching out to get the support and encouragement they deserve.

Why?

It might be the fear of someone rootling around in your past, or anxiety about receiving confirmation of what we most fear: that we are in some way flawed. Or maybe you dread the thought of being trapped into years of therapy. Perhaps you have simply accepted that this is the way you’ll always be.

There are lots of reasons we don’t reach out, but with enough determination and aided by the plethora of resources available to us, we can move forward in our own time and in our own way.

5 things a psychotherapist wants you to know

Read the full Breathe Magazine article for free

Perhaps the article I was commissioned to write by Breathe magazine, will help you make up your mind.

In it I describe the positive ways you can work with a therapist, to look to the future and build on your resources, develop skills and improve ways to manage yourself and regulate your emotions.

As a psychotherapist who has been practising for over 20 years, there are five things I’d like you to know before you consider therapy. I hope they’ll help you decide.

Download the article and discover if therapy could be for you.

What are your thoughts after reading the article?

Perhaps you’re confident you would like to explore ways of working together or maybe you have more questions to ask. Either way, please feel free to get in touch here ⤑

I work from my private practice in Woodchurch (near Ashford) in Kent. However, for some time now, I've been working with increasing numbers of people via Skype (or Facetime) as it suits certain types of of situations very well – including dealing with workplace stress and short sessions for parents to focus on specific difficulties as they arise.


About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

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Feeling Anxious for No Reason? Here’s what to do…

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Anxiety - currently at record levels in the world of work - is a nasty slippery and contagious beast that, when not dealt with, can hijack and terrorise a person’s body and life. It can be so uncomfortable in fact, that it robs us of energy, vitality and attention for anything outside of ourselves. At worst, it can draw us into an isolated state of self-obsession. 

All the more important then, to find ways to relate to unfounded anxiety. Its urgent calls can easily draw you right in and before you know it, you’re anxious about feeling anxious for seemingly no reason and off you go, down the slippery slopes of fuelling the unwanted fire.

Start by double-checking that there really is no reason for your anxiety.

An intelligent, committed man told me that his mind was like a frightening replica of his smartphone. He was no longer able to pay attention, process information, nor rest his mind. He felt permanently agitated. But as far as he was concerned there was no reason to feel like this. His life is OK. Why the anxiety?

Luckily, he has an attentive partner who was one step ahead. She too found herself overwhelmed by waves of anxiety at very unlikely moments. Against all odds, she managed one whole evening without her phone, without the TV - just reading.  The next day at work she felt as though her brain had had a complete make-over.

As well as over-exposure to your phone, there are other things to look out for and deal with:

·      How balanced is your life? – Is there still enough time for your hobbies, friends, or ‘alone’ time, for example? When life is not nourishing us enough emotionally, the discomfort can start eking out through the cracks.

·      How easily do you pick up on atmosphere around you? - We are highly connected with each other and our environment. If you are fine one moment and anxious the next, it might be worth noting what has changed; who might you be with now, whose anxiety you are feeling (as your own)? Maybe there’s a fractious, agitated ambiance at work, which you occasionally really sense and pick up on as if it were yours?

·      The ‘novelty’ of stillness - It is not unusual for people who start meditating to report feeling anxious when they first bring their attention inwards. It is not the meditation that causes their anxiety but the ‘newness’ of stillness. When our brains have ‘nothing’ to do, they scan the environment for danger, getting us ready for fight, freeze or flight. This is part of our evolutionary programming. So, do these waves of anxiety present themselves when you take a mini break? 

·      ‘Backdraft’ - Many of us are adrenalin junkies. Stress has become the new normal and however uncomfortable, our brain is ‘happy’ with the familiar.  So, when things start going well for us, we might be unexpectedly knocked sideways by ‘backdraft’. This refers to the feelings of discomfort that arise when we let love, pleasure or success in; or even when we momentarily allow ourselves to feel ‘safe’. Because the brain is always comparing and contrasting, moments of ‘safety’ will make it bring up times from its great memory store, when you were ‘unsafe’. This process takes microseconds and often completely bypasses your awareness. You just feel the distress.

Is it important to know more? Usually not. Once you have checked out your phone use and made sure your life is on an even keel, these flash floods of ‘anxiety for no reason’ are best seen for what they are and dealt with kindly, in any of the following ways.

Try them out and discover what works best for you.

1.     Watch from up high

Name them, to tame them. Like finding a vantage point on the bank, from where you can look down on the turbulent river, try to take a step away from your uncomfortable feelings - while they are happening. Get a better perspective so that you can recognise and identify them for what they are. Once these feelings have been named, our emotional brain settles.

2.     Feel your feet

The panic we can get into when anxious, distances us from what is really going on. By focussing on the part of your body that is furthest away from your head – your feet, in other words – we can become grounded, quieter and slow down. Either feel your feet from the inside, on the floor or, move slowly and keep your attention on and in your feet. This simple exercise is a highly effective form of mindfulness: it focusses your attention and regulates your emotions. You calm down. Inexplicable waves of anxiety will pass while you are busy focussing your attention. 

3.     Exhale deeply

By focussing on making your out-breaths longer and slower than your in-breaths, you are intervening in the neurological cascade of events triggered off by the anxiety. The out-breath sets off your relaxation response. By focussing on making it longer than the in-breath, you are actively resetting and calming your nervous system. 

4.     Strong body posture

There are a number of body postures that generate feelings of strength and confidence. Standing tall – feeling your feet well planted on the floor – with your hands on your hips or raised from the shoulders straight to the ceiling, your anxiety will subside. Make sure to avoid a rigid body and of course, try combining with the deep exhalation or feeling your feet. Two minutes of this will change everything.

5.     Soften-Soothe-Allow

This beautiful little exercise which was developed by the famous researcher on self-compassion Dr Kristin Neff, is widely used to deal with our suffering or feelings of discomfort as they arise.

Once you have identified your feelings in your body – and it can be the fear of the anxiety - try to soften them and keep repeating the word ‘softening’ while you are doing this.

Soothe the emotions, keep saying ‘soothe’ in your mind and ask yourself what you need to hear. Maybe just something like ‘may I accept myself as I am’.

Allow. Repeat the word to yourself, while opening your whole body to what is there right now. You’ll be surprised at how soon it dissipates, once you allow it in. 

A final word of advice: experiment with these practices. Make them your own, find out which you prefer and remember to be as generous to yourself as you would be to a friend.


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

 

Want more resources like this? Sign up to my monthly newsletter below.

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Do you have anxiety about going to work? Here's a Quick-Fire Guide to help you


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Quick-Fire Guide: Overcoming Anxiety about Going to Work

Are you feeling a sense of anxiety about going to work?

Do you find yourself feeling anxious on a Sunday evening, or when you when you wake up in the morning, with the prospect of going into work?

Naturally, stress is a part of our working life (whether you’re employed or self-employed) and most of us will experience it at some point. However, feeling constantly anxious about going to work is harmful for your wellbeing and health – you should take this as a clear warning sign from your body that something isn’t right and your needs aren’t being met.

But, there are ways we can help redress the balance in your life so you don’t have to let your job be a painful daily experience.

In this blog, I will help you discover:

(1) that the cause of your work stress and anxiety is

(2) the ways in which you can tackle your anxiety and re-centre

This Quick-Fire Guide on how to tackle your work related anxiety, even if you feel that the job is not yet ideal, will allow you to regain a sense of freedom which always improves satisfaction and calms us down.

Free up 15 or 20 minutes, pour yourself a cup of tea, get out a notepad and let’s do some thinking... 

✅ 1 – What are the causes of my anxiety at work? 

There are many factors that can set off anxiety and even feelings of depression in the workplace. Sometimes the anxiety that shows up at work is caused by what’s going on at home. If you’re a working parent for example, unsatisfactory childcare arrangements can be enough to keep you on edge all the time that you are at work.

Here are three common causes of dissatisfaction that arise from the workplace itself.

Think about how relevant they might be to you.

A.    A Toxic Work Culture

Have you ever thought about the culture at work?

The sad truth for many people in our modern gig economy is that they are overworked, underpaid and their jobs are insecure. Room for dignity and respect is missing too; not so much because colleagues lack humanity, but because we find ourselves trapped in a system where shareholders matter more than stake holders, such as employees. 

Examine the turnover of employees in your company. That will tell you a lot about the value placed upon keeping workers and give you some idea of the limitations within which you operate.

Think too about whether your company invests in you by allowing you to continue learning and growing.

B. Permanently overwhelmed at work

If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer relentlessness and volume of the demands made on you, your inner alarm bells will be chiming for good reason. 

They are there to protect you.

A GP told me that the only small element of control left to her was when she opened the door to start her day. She began 20 minutes late every day. Opening the door to her patients felt like opening floodgates to an inescapable tidal wave. Time passed and she lived with her anxiety but became more disconnected from her patients, as a result.

What might be stopping you from giving your best at work? What are the ways in which you defend yourself? 

Often people are accountable for too much while ultimately not properly responsible for anything much. This prevents them from being able to organise and execute tasks in a way that would suit them best.

C. Work Isolation

Human connection is like food for the soul. It is not a luxury for in our spare time. When we give or receive real interest, kindness or other warm expressions of what makes us truly human, we actually calm down.

Information overload, targets and constant demands on the other hand, turn us into zombies: absent and disconnected from each other.

For all the time that we are preoccupied, hurried, clustered to digital devices we are not able to also be present with each other in the here and now. Any surprise then that without proper human connection we are left feeling isolated and anxious?

Consider whether you’re receiving enough human connection ‘nutrition’ whilst at work?

✅ 2 – Quick-Fire Guide: Overcoming Anxiety about Going to Work

It is never too soon to lovingly take your own life into your hands and build a framework that increases resilience and lowers negative emotional states.

Stress is the state we get into when the demands laid upon us are bigger or different, than what we think we can deliver. It arises when we are not treated with respect and our efforts go unacknowledged or when we feel a lack of justice in the way things are run.

Stress Buffer: Foundation Level

o     Make time for regular exercise to burn off excessive adrenalin and cortisol (that comes with the anxiety) while simultaneously producing feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin.

o     Get out of doors as much as you can, even by walking a bit further to get to the train or taking a stroll at lunchtime.

o     Learn to meditate or develop breathing techniques to calm down as the stress rises in the workplace.

o     Drink plenty of water.

o     Cut down on sugars and caffeine.

o     Disconnect from all digital devices at least an hour before bedtime and leave your phone outside of the bedroom.

o     Reduce your use of social media - it increases anxiety.

Advanced Level: Tackling Workplace Anxiety and Stress

1.Remember What Matters and Make ‘It’ Matter Every Day 

Stress and difficulties are an intrinsic part of life. They can even be good for us when they come in short term boosts and leave us feeling good about what was accomplished. Rarely, in fact, is anything worthwhile achieved without some accompanying stress. We worry because we care. 

Research also tells us that the extent to which our challenges are aligned with what we value, will determine our ability to handle the stressful situation.  

A film maker suffering from anxiety over unrealistic deadlines turned her attention to the stress it was causing her line manager. By reassuring and reminding her colleague of his greater worth, he calmed down, they felt more connected and the atmosphere changed. Together they became more realistic about the limitations they were under. They were able to opt for doing a ‘good enough’ job. 

The film maker values her work and how it educates and brings meaning into the lives of viewers. Circumstances beyond her control stopped her from doing the job the way she would like to. She also values human connection and friendship. By bringing this value more sharply into focus every day, as she stepped into the workplace, her anxiety subsided. She put a lot of conscious attention into the human factor which led to them feeling they were in it together. 

List some of your values and how they make your life worthwhile.

Is it important that you help others? Do you value family or connection? Maybe learning or adventure? You might need nature or art? 

Pick out one or two of your top values and see how you can align the situation at work with your values. Imagine how that will be and notice if to already changes how you feel about work.

If caring for others matters and you are in a servicing role, can you ask yourself what small difference you can make under the current circumstances. You may be constrained to perform your duties as you would like to, but you can still offer care or real human interest within the context as it is.

If doing things well matters to you, can you decide which things you will do well and for which tasks you’ll accept ‘good enough’?

If you are not receiving any acknowledgement for the efforts you make, it might be possible to offer just that - the recognition of others - to colleagues yourself. Show genuine interest in others and make the connection you are not getting.

2. Learn to Be Kind to Yourself

Because kindness and personal recognition are such an integral part of our mental health it is important to learn to offer that compassion to yourself. Your brain will respond very positively.

Start by tuning into your anxiety and vulnerability. Embrace them tenderly as you would a wounded puppy. Say to yourself that ‘this hurts’ and acknowledge how hard you try. Even the recognition that anyone would find this difficult, can bring great relief.

Keep asking important questions like ‘what can I learn from these difficulties?’ or ‘what do I need right now?’ 

Think about how concerned you would be if someone you love was suffering in the way that you are at the moment. Offer yourself that same kind concern for your difficulties. 

When we embrace our hurt, it no longer needs to call for our attention in the same way. 

Research shows over and over again how favourably self-compassion effects our emotional state and how it reduces anxiety.

3. Fill Your Spare Time Wisely

Once you are reminded of your values and what really matters, think about how you fill up your spare time. 

Can you free yourself up to fit in some more time in nature or with your family? Could you pick up that old guitar again? 

Sometimes a small change and conscious effort to reconnect with what feeds our soul, can cause a domino effect. I hope that just the time you put aside to read and think about this blog, are already giving you ideas about how to take back some control. 

When that happens, the anxiety reduces.


Still not sure where to start?

I hope this guide allows you to realign with what your core values are and that you begin to see improvements - both at home and at work. Sometimes however, it can be difficult to know where to begin when you’re so overwhelmed by everything. So if your anxiety persists, and you wish to seek further support, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

You can send me a message here and we’ll go from there…


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent. She also works with people around the world via online sessions.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

Want more resources like this? Sign up to my monthly newsletter below.

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How to help a dyslexic child at home

In this blog, you’ll learn of dyslexics strengths and their styles of thinking as well as how to help a dyslexic child at home, whilst also nurturing their talents.

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National Stress Awareness Day 2018: Does High-Tech cause High-Stress?

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The first Wednesday of every November is National Stress Awareness Day (7th of November for us in 2018) and it’s a perfect opportunity for us to be reminded to take a moment to really assess how you’re feeling as well as to hopefully encourage you to seek the advice and support you need on how to manage your stress.

Stress is a natural part of life but too much too often can be serious for your mental health and overall wellbeing. It's very important therefore, that we learn how to manage it. In today's blog I will explore this year’s theme ‘Does High-Tech cause High-Stress?’ and an important modern day trigger of stress - technology, whether that be your smart phone, social media, television, games or the internet.

  • Discover how technology is causing your stress – creating deficits of really important aspects of what it is to be human.

  • Read advice on how you can start taking a step back from the digital world and be more mindful when you’re online.

  • Learn to recognise behaviours and triggers in yourself, allowing you to be a more conscious and conscientious user of the cyber world.

Living in the digital age of 2018, technology has become essential in all of our lives but it clearly has come at a cost to our mental well-being with it being a perpetual distraction from ‘real life’, affecting our sleep, robbing us of a healthy work/life balance and the constant social comparing you do by being let into other people’s ‘lives’ online.

Anyone older than about 35, can remember a time which predates the high-tech revolution. A time when you went to the cinema, walked over to the fixed telephone to pick it up, met people at parties and went to the bookshop to find a book. It was before we all lived stooped over a small screen, isolated from those around us. Life then, was in fact very differently paced. Closing the office door, also meant closing the door on your job for the day. Elements of our lives were more clearly delineated.

How can we all best use the power of technology?

The hi-tech explosion has exponentially changed everything. Who would want to turn back the clock on it all? It has revolutionised the way we work and communicate; it has brought entertainment, education and consumerism into the privacy of our lives. We literally have the whole world at our fingertips, for 24 hours of every day.

As it turns out, we have created ourselves a double-edged sword; it has the power to make or break us.

Hi-tech is seductively addictive and most people now spend more time with the their smart phone than with their significant other. We are leaving the 3-D realm in droves to take up residence in the virtual world, and as we do so we pay a very high cost - to both our mental and physical health. 

To turn the tide on this stress epidemic we must educate ourselves better about how the digital world alters our internal life. Crucial to our wellbeing, we are now discovering, is how much and in what way we use our devices.

Is the ‘internet’ hijacking your emotions?

Digital connectivity significantly raises the emotional temperature. Experts recognise anger as the most viral emotion online. Since we are more likely to share news that makes our blood boil, online platforms exploit this in their design, spreading more anger inducing material.

News messages are reported with a spin of indignation. A ‘win-win’ you might say for the platform who cashes in on the circulation of angry news, and the individual who will gain on what is called social capital: more shares means more ‘likes’ and a very temporary feeling of self-worth.

The anonymity and distance we experience online, also reduces the barriers to expressing our rants there. Normal social checks are no longer in place. We don’t feel the type of embarrassment online that we would if we were in a group of (real) people. For many, the online world is also experienced as an extension of their inner world or imagination, where anything goes.

So, as we increasingly express ourselves through the lens of heightened emotions, our thinking becomes more black-and white, which again feeds into stress. If things aren’t right, they are absolutely wrong.

Are you feeling more insecure the more time you spend online?

As the threat to our physical bodies has subsided over the course of the evolution, we now place a disproportionate amount of importance on our self-image. One off remark from someone, and we’re spiralling.

If we let ourselves mindlessly consume a daily diet of other people’s rosy-tinted, happy and successful lives, it is easy to become negatively affected. The amazing tales of other people’s perfect lives, feed directly into our ever-growing insecurities. 

Are your emotional needs going unmet?

Just as we need a balanced diet to stay well, we need an array of interactions with the real world to stay mentally (and physically) healthy. Examples of this type of essential nutrition are: real life interactions with others, whole body learning or time spent in nature.

If we pursue one activity to the detriment of others it is inevitable that our unhinged life will cause us pain. And who can argue that we have collectively become addicted to the digital world?

Are you suffering an ‘empathy deficit’?

As mammals, physical touch and nourishment from being with each other is vital for our survival. Excessive digital consumption leads to desensitisation. We lose the ability to pick up on non-verbal cues and create what Dr Helen Riess of Harvard University calls an ‘empathy deficit’. We stop being able to feel each other’s suffering and chip away at our humanity.

Relationships are complicated and messy. Staying in a relationship is something we need to work at every day of our lives. Exchanging one-liners and disappearing off the scene if it is no longer convenient, undermines our tolerance of each other.

Are you losing touch with nature and the physical world around you?

We need to exercise our bodies for health, get outside - for wind in our faces, blue skies, green trees - and have alone time disconnected from external stimuli to create self-awareness and process our experiences.

If we skimp on these essentials we become emotionally undernourished which leads to stress, anxiety, depression and so on. 

Are you suffering from an attention deficit?

The quality of our lives and our humanity itself is closely related to our ability to pay sustained attention to one thing at a time.

Digital technology enables us to consume so much information and at such speed, that without proper self-awareness it all just moves through us without ever fully being processed. It leaves us in a state of increased agitation and dissatisfaction. Compare it to mindlessly having eaten a very large bag of crisps.

Worse than that, the process of multitasking the way we do online, eventually fragments our ability to pay attention. Maintaining mental continuity becomes increasingly difficult. The energy needed to disconnect from one topic and start up for a new one, eventually wears out our ability to focus.

3 practical ways to take better ownership of your time spent using technology

How can we reduce the stress that comes from the unbridled use of our technology?

1 – Become more Self-Aware

  • Let’s start noticing how much time we spend on our devices, what exactly we do there and how we behave on social platforms - what we share and how we acknowledge each other’s humanity.

  • Have the courage to recognise how it might raise animosity in you, feed your insecurity, stop you getting on with other things, affect your relationships and fragment your ability to pay attention. (When for example were you last able to read a whole book?)

2 – Increase Important Connections

  • Populate your life with real people and spend face-to-face time with them. Human relations are complex, messy and rewarding, but they need a lot of practice and curiosity. They require of us to tolerate the pain of rejection or not knowing what’s going on and to remain curious. Making the journey through choppy waters together only serves to strengthen our bonds.

  • Get out into nature as often as you can. Expose yourself to the elements and leave your mobile device at home.

3 – Exercise restraint

It is worth a mention here that Silicon leaders of tech have admitted to deliberately designing platforms to be addictive, and are also on record as saying that they severely restrict their children’s use of the devices they helped create.

  • Cap your time, particularly on social media platforms and when there be AWARE: What are you doing? Are you mindlessly going with the flow, or is there a plan?

  • Who are you communicating with? Leave the room or reread a heartfelt post, before sending it off into cyber space. Think about how you might feel receiving it. Acknowledge the humanity of others. 

  • Just as you wouldn’t eat between meals, avoid grazing on your smart phone all day. Have  proper digital free periods daily. 

Now I’d like to hear from you…

Do you feel as though technology (your devices, the internet, social media, TV or games) are adding to your stress or anxiety? Which of these tips will you take forward with you to practice this week?

Let me know in the comments below, and please do check back in with me to let me know if smarter use of technology has had a positive effect on your emotional health!



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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

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World Mental Health Day 2018 – How can self-compassion help our mental health? (Audio)

Whether it's stress, anxiety, depression, anger - it’s always accompanied by high levels of emotional arousal, or fight-flight-freeze. This is an activation of that part of the brain that is intended to protect us.

Self-compassion is a beautiful tool which, when practiced regularly, can transform your life and down regulate high emotions. It has a huge impact on your resilience. 

In audio I discuss:

  • What Self-Compassion means

  • How Self-Compassion works and how the ‘attitude’ towards your own suffering affects us physiologically/emotionally

  • Practical tips you can apply to your own life


UPCOMING WORKSHOP

Self-care for Therapists and Healthcare Professionals

Building Resilience through Self-Compassion

SATURDAY 20TH OCTOBER 2018 – REGENT'S COLLEGE, LONDON

This workshop will not teach you to lead a balanced life. You already know how to do that. Instead it draws on your greatest resource to truly help you maintain your buoyancy and replenish your emotional stores, in a sustainable and deeply transformative way.

You will learn to mobilise your natural gift of compassion towards yourself in an embodied and experiential way.

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Suffering from a major setback in your life? My thoughts on recovery

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What do you tell someone suffering from a major work setback? 

I was recently asked to answer this excellent question on a public forum. 

Well, what do you say? And do the same principles apply when the traumatic event occurs in your private life, or in that of a child? I think they do and even with many types of loss - though I’d have more to say on bereavement - and here’s how I would respond.

Attend only to how the other is, right now

Firstly, I wouldn’t tell them anything. I wouldn’t try to fix it or say that things will be OK. However strong the urge to reach out and help relieve another person’s pain immediately, my hard learnt lesson has been that well-meant ideas offered too hastily, can make people feel less understood and even more alone. You end up pushing them away.

I would start by just being there with them, acknowledging how painful it must be and offering them kind and compassionate attention.

When we acknowledge someone’s painful experience with compassion, they calm down and soften up. It is a powerful way to help people feel connection and care and offers them the safety of really landing in their pain and becoming present with what is. You indirectly show them how to hold their own grief, with compassion and kindness.

This is the moment when something shifts. They start to calm down enough to be able to think more clearly and take some suggestions on board.

Attend to their emotional needs

Now’s the time to help them take a step back and see the bigger picture; to be reminded of what really matters in life, and how much more there is to call upon.

·     Our closest family and other social connections are key in troubled times. Their support is vital for our emotional nourishment.

·     Absorbing hobbies and the process of learning skills can also take our attention away from the pain and help us re-inhabit our larger selves. 

·     Exercise - however shattered we are - is a great way to change how we feel.

By attending to our human needs more fully like this, we naturally put our pain into perspective. Though it may not immediately be diminished, you are expanding the rest of your life and creating a sense of spaciousness.

Encourage them to look for new meaning

Major setbacks or traumatic events can be so devastating because they simply don’t fit in the narrative of our lives. They literally shatter our assumptions about ourselves, others and the world around us, as psychology professor Janoff-Bulman describes in her book ‘Shattered Assumptions’. Our strongly held views about the world as safe, predictable, just, benevolent and so forth no longer hold true. Who are we, now that those certainties turned out not to be true and we’ve discovered that bad things happen to good people?

As nature has it, the majority of us find new meaning and growth through our suffering. This is called posttraumatic growth, but is by no means a linear path, nor does it always take away the pain. The paradox is that suffering and setbacks can hugely increase our appreciation of life and the people in it.

 
As the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl famously said, even when everything has been taken from us, we still retain the last human freedom of choosing our attitude.
 

So, I am inclined to ask people to look back to earlier setbacks and childhood disappointments - even if they were smaller in size - and be reminded of how they coped and perhaps became bigger, wiser versions of themselves in the process. Often setbacks pave the way to opportunities we didn’t know we had.

When working in the BBC many years ago, I was declined the promotion I expected at my annual review. In my fury over the injustice of the situation, I resigned there and then. Going down in the lift after the interview, in a discombobulated state, I explained the situation to a man I vaguely knew. By the time we reached the ground floor, I had the position I was after.

Although I hesitated to draw on this all too jammy an example of what I mean, it does illustrate the point and shows that the course of our lives really isn’t linear. 

I would encourage people to tolerate the discomfort of ambiguity, of not knowing what will happen, and always be open to the possibility of surprises that are better than what your mind can think up. 


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

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(Audio) Why can it be so difficult to snap out of angry behaviour?

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In our stressful modern world, inappropriate expressions of anger are becoming more and more frequent. When anger flares up uncontrollably or chronically, it indicates that our lives are out of balance and is a sign that we need to address the angry behaviour.

Often, we can find ourselves trapped in this angry place and have a really hard time getting ourselves out. It can be an addictive state to be in and because of the brain's natural negativity bias, sometimes we really have to focus in order to break free.

If you find yourself easily hooked by your anger and are having difficulties snapping out of this habit - you are not alone!

So why do we like to bask in this rage when so often it has negative consequences?

Discover Why You're Having Trouble Snapping Out Of Your Angry State 

In my recent conversation with Catherine Robson about anger and the creative mind, we explored many components of anger and Catherine asked an important question that I believe many people will also wonder: why is it so difficult to snap out of angry behaviour?

Listen to this extract of our conversation to hear my answer.

It is also important to say that angry outbursts are not a reflection of who you are, but rather a clear sign that your life is currently out of balance. 

Before you listen, remind yourself that dealing with anger requires courage, because under its hard feelings and hard-bitten inclination, sit softer and more vulnerable feelings and they can be very scary to face up to.

If you enjoyed this extract of our conversation, then you'll find much more in 'A Guide to Understanding Anger' in which I explore why and how anger can manifest in our lives – as well as further practical ways to deal with excessive anger and a guided meditation to help you break old, unhelpful patterns. 


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

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Want to Improve Your Communication Skills? Learn to listen!

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As a social species, our relationships bring us our greatest joys. They also bring us our greatest sorrows, alas.

Communication is the interface through which we are brought into relationship with each other - with our most intimate circle, friends, colleagues, neighbours, communities and society at large. It is the glue that binds us and gives us a deep sense of belonging, togetherness and meaning. When we feel heard, that is; for when we don’t, we feel isolated and alone.

Yet, in spite of its crucial role in our mental and emotional wellbeing, we take communication surprisingly for granted. We often remain ignorant about how it works and how vital the face-to-face element is. We might have been taught a few manners, or be naturally kind, interested and generous, but the increasing amounts of time we spend on social media alters our brains and therefore us - and not for the better when it comes to being present in relationships.

Communication is always reciprocal 

It is the face-to-face and to-ing and fro-ing that changes us both. Authentic communication requires an openness and willingness to be changed, or better still, to be transformed in the process. It asks of us a ‘willingness to be flexible, open, soft-bellied enough to be moved by the truth of the other’, as Zen priest ‘angel Kyodo williams’ puts it.

What does this mean practically and where to begin, if we want to improve our everyday communication? You might want to be a better friend or, improve the quality of your communication in the office.

There are many components to genuine communication but if we focus on listening alone, everything changes massively. And, even if you already spend your life listening to others - does it ever exhaust you? Has it ever led to symptoms of burn-out? If so, you can learn to listen more actively, more ‘compassionately’, in a way that will energise you as much as the person you are with.

How to make your communication genuine 

Deep listening is an embodied process.
Be present - in your body - so that you can ‘hold a safe space’ for the other.

Learn to create an inner spaciousness.
Sitting upright, feeling rooted through your seat and feet. Breathe comfortably and notice what arises when you listen in this way.

Empathy alone is not enough.
Although your talking partner may enjoy being listened to sympathetically, real listening requires more. It asks of you to notice and tolerate whatever arises in yourself. This can be an urge to jump in: to save the other from his suffering; or, to offer (your idea of) great solutions.

How easily listening becomes a mere staging post, where you wait for your turn to speak. Sometimes that urge to respond, to say something, is more immediately about getting away from the discomfort that comes up in us, rather than about helping the other.

Embodied presence allows us to notice what happens in us; to notice that we are stirred. The pain we feel can be a reminder of something similar that happened to us, and/or a genuine picking up on the pain of the other.

Either way, effective listening allows us to accept and to hold our own discomfort kindly whilst listening to the story of the other in an open-hearted way. No interruptions at this stage.

Saying nothing can speak volumes

I heard a mother refer to it, to her 10-year old child, as a ‘tea and biscuit moment’. When we fully accept what’s going on in ourselves as well as the other, in other words, when we make space for us both in this way without the urge to change anything (just yet!), the dynamics of the communication change. The other person feels held and heard.

The mother I mentioned created space for the child to share his enormous suffering. ‘God had made a mistake and given him the wrong body. He had meant to be a girl.’ The mum just listened. She offered no immediate solutions, nor did she fill the silence with words. But what her child did hear loudly and clearly were her unspoken words that said ‘I will always love you’.

Be under no illusions here. You can be as warm, talkative and enthusiastic as you like - but the quality of our communication is hinged on our ability to listen: to attend to the other with compassion.

Compassion - like love - offers space within ourselves to allow others and their opinions, interpretations and predicament to be as they are - in this moment.

This is a practice, as much as a tool, for which we don’t even need to ‘like’ the other. Tuning into ‘what is’ like that, puts you directly in touch with the vulnerability at the heart of our shared humanity.

Real listening is always a gift: to yourself, as well as, to the other. It transforms communication from a turn-taking exercise, to a co-created, jointly experienced relationship.


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent.

Renée works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée is a regular contributor to Breathe Magazine and the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind.

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The Lonely Planet: A Guide to Solving our Global Solitude

The Lonely Planet: A Guide to Solving our Global Solitude

We are currently facing an epidemic of loneliness and isolation right across the western world. Loneliness hides in plain sight, as they say, and according to a report out by the New Economics Foundation in 2017, it comes at a cost of £32 billion per annum, in the UK alone. The situation is so dire that in the UK we have a minister for loneliness, and social isolation is an official ‘health priority’. Never have we been more connected, and yet never have we felt more lonely.

 

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(Audio) Practical Ways to Manage Your Anger

(Audio) Practical Ways to Manage Your Anger

In my recent conversation with Catherine Robson about anger and the creative mind, we explored many components of anger: where it comes from, unexpected ways that it can manifest itself, the way it distorts perception and covers up 'fault lines' from our past and much more.

We also discussed lots of practical ways to deal with inappropriate expressions of anger – and  it's this part of our conversation that I'd like to share with you!

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In the Press: Let's Talk about Stress (for Teenagers and Parents)

In the Press: Let's Talk about Stress (for Teenagers and Parents)

Six in every 10 students say they experience levels of stress that interfere with everyday life (YouGov Survey, 2016) and there’s no reason to be embarrassed. But how do you recognise stress, and what can you do if it feels like it’s just too much?

Teen Breathe asked Renée van der Vloodt, who regularly helps young adults to manage life’s trials, and the first thing we learned – it’s good to talk.

Read and download the full article – as featured in Teen Breathe – for free.

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3 Surprising Ways to Break the Downward Spiral of Work Related Stress

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A workplace programme I taught recently on Stress Management and Resilience Training, yielded surprising results.

It's always pleasing when people enjoy themselves, but particularly so when it is because they get (re-) acquainted with themselves. That is an invigorating and joyful experience.

Stress is pernicious. We often don’t realise how deeply it’s engulfed us. We let it creep up on us and accept its discomfort as our everyday normal. Be reminded that the word itself has little meaning. It is an abstract term and therefore takes on the meaning we each ascribe to it in our head.

For this reason it is important, to identify what we mean as a group, before we deal with it. The participants on this course identified the following important markers:

  • Sleep disturbance
  • Poor focus
  • Compromised performance and joylessness
  • Feeling more isolated from those around them and an ebbing away of their sense of worth and trust in their own abilities.
  • Less trustful of each other, which affected team efforts.

If we witnessed this in our pets, we’d be up in arms. We’d know that this is not what nature intended. A stressed organism is in the process of imploding, and therefore shrinking. Compare this to a healthy life, the way it was meant: you see growth, creativity, joy and a sense of belonging and connection. Think only of a budding flower or unfolding fern. Our lives too, should be about expanding, growing and reaching out.

The course consisted of six 2-hour sessions spread out over 3 months and the feedback was pretty unanimous - a real reminder of how shared our experiences are; something we fail to notice in the isolation of stress.  I loved how simple it actually was to make small changes with high impact results.  After the course, participants reported:

  • Lowered stress levels
  • Increased clarity of mind
  • The ability to make better choices and comfortably set boundaries (without feeling guilty)
  • An improved sense of connectedness and communication with colleagues and family members.

It all begins with the realisation that you are an important enough person to make time for.

Time is finite and precious, as a result. Think carefully about how you spend it.

That realisation can breathe fresh oxygen into our minds and invigorate our intentions to make healthy changes.

Carve out time for yourself and do these 3 things to break the downward spiral of stress... 

1.    Re-engage with something that absorbs you

Hobbies and interests fully absorb us. They invite us to engage and develop skills. We change as a result.

One woman went back to playing the guitar on a very regular basis. A man realised how the disconnection from his routine environment would alter his perception of work-related problems and give him new ideas. He took up daily walks and although he wasn’t always able to change the walk, by focussing his attention outwards, these walks were always different. Nature changes itself continuously. The newness of each walk made him experience the fullness of life around him, which reduced the size of his problems.

Should you be wondering about the time such activities might take, put a timer on your mobile phone and find out how many hours a day you surf across cyberspace. If we aren’t accountable to ourselves for the time we spend on the internet it dulls the mind: social media reduces our sense of self-worth and we don’t develop skills nor does it offer the brain a complete break like being with real friends, pursuing a sport or other hobby. However addictive and seemingly real, the internet will never replace real life.

2.    Punctuate the day more clearly

Regularly press the pause button to stop, breathe and take stock.

Several people built in regular moments to create these mini clearings during their day:

At home: to set intentions for the day or the week ahead; to look back on the day before deciding what to do with the evening and plan for tomorrow. It could be by getting up a bit earlier and have some time to oneself before plunging into the day. We start to feel more present and better in ourselves if we regularly lift ourselves out of the fast moving stream of life and look down at it from the bank. That stillness offers a chance to hear more clearly your own inner voice.

At work: look for opportunities to consciously take a slow deep breath between activities, before responding or pressing the send button on the email. How often do we not make ourselves guilty of reacting to everything that happens or is said around us. Try encouraging others to ‘tell you a little bit more about that’.

Notice (i) what a relief it is to discover that it isn’t necessary to jump into every conversation with an opinion, (ii) how much energy you save, and (iii) how stopping yourself in this way deepens connection.

Pressing the pause button creates a space between a stimulus and your response.

3.    Coming home to yourself

You may laugh when I tell you that science is only just discovering how important it is to engage your body in your life.

The practice of mindfulness - whether through the breath, mindful movements or stretches or by connecting with the felt sense of your experience - gives people a stronger, safer and more satisfying experience of themselves. Coming out of our heads and dropping into our bodies changes how we interact with the world.

One last thought... 

There is no such thing as a stress free life. We can go as far as saying that a stress free life would atrophy the brain. It is healthy to step out of our comfort zone and have problems to solve. Just as exposure to germs strengthens our physical immune system, so too can we build and harness our emotional immune system.

Resilience training does just that. It empowers us to ride the turbulent waves of life and to emerge as stronger, bolder and more human.


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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent.

Renée is the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind and works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée provides executive resilience coaching and stress reduction programmes for teams. 

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(Audio) Do you experience the phenomenon of emotional backdraft?

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After we recorded A Guide to Understanding AngerI had a niggling sense that there was an important question I'd missed. It was this: why is it that when everything is going well, I start to worry about everything that could go wrong and get a surge of discomfort?

So, Catherine Robson, who helps me pull together all these recordings, and I sat down to explore this question and the phenomenon known in the world of Mindful Self-Compassion as backdraft

When we begin to show ourselves self-compassion, the pain can often increase at first. Just as when everything is going right, we often worry about the future or get a surge of anger or discomfort.

As Dr Kristen Neff says, “Love reveals everything unlike itself.”

Backdraft is a firefighting term that describes when a door or window is opened or shattered in a burning building – the oxygen rushes in, giving the flames new fuel, and the flames burst out. The same is true when you open the doors to your heart.

Listen to this short audio recording where I speak to Catherine about what backdraft is and why it occurs. You may be familiar with the scenarios and examples we discuss... 

Listen now or download to listen later

If you enjoyed this recording and want to learn more, take a look at my online shop where you'll find A Guide to Understanding Anger and other audio guides. 

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About Renée

Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based in Woodchurch (near Ashford), Kent.

Renée is the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind and works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

Renée provides executive resilience coaching and stress reduction programmes for teams. 

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How we can all individually help reduce stress in the workplace

How we can all individually help reduce stress in the workplace

Recently, I spent a day at a well-being conference organised by the London branch of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development). It was packed.  I knew things were bad in the workplace, but I had no idea quite how bad.

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In the Press: Cool to be kind (Quietening the Inner Critic of the Creative Mind)

An active and vivid imagination often spurs creative people to achieve great things, but it can also conjure up doom-and-gloom scenarios that isolate and bring on feelings of self-loathing.

Perhaps it’s time creatives showed themselves more self-compassion?

Read my latest article for Breathe Magazine and discover: 

  • What being a 'creative person' really means
  • Why some creative people feel so intensely
  • How to quieten your inner critic
  • How being kind to yourself can lead you to develop a stable and more consistent sense of self-worth

Pick up a copy of the magazine, available in all good stockists or online – or download the article (for free) above.


Could you benefit from sessions of coaching or therapy via Skype?

Over the past year, I've been working with increasing numbers of people via Skype (or Facetime) as it suits certain types of of situations very well – including dealing with workplace stress and short sessions for parents to focus on specific difficulties as they arise.


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Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based between Woodchurch (Ashford), Kent and the Elysian Centre in Rye, East Sussex.

Renée is the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind and works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

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In the Press: 5 things a psychotherapist wants you to know

Telling people you’re a psychotherapist is an instant conversation stopper.

For all our interest in wellbeing, there remains a taboo about the topic of mental health and psychotherapy.

Perhaps it’s a fear of someone rooting around in your past, or anxiety about receiving confirmation of what so many fear: being flawed. Or maybe you dread the thought of being trapped into a lifetime of therapy. Or perhaps you have resigned yourself to always feeling this way.

As a psychotherapist who has been practising for more than 20 years, there are five things I’d like you to know – and I wrote an article for Breathe Magazine detailing exactly what they are. 

Pick up a copy of the magazine, available in all good stockists or online – or download the article (with the most beautiful illustrations) above.


Could you benefit from sessions of coaching or therapy via Skype?

Over the past year, I've been working with increasing numbers of people via Skype (or Facetime) as it suits certain types of of situations very well – including dealing with workplace stress and short sessions for parents to focus on specific difficulties as they arise.


Renée van der Vloodt ( M.A. , FHGI ) is a psychotherapist and coach – and has had a private practice for over 20 years, which is now based between Woodchurch (Ashford), Kent and the Elysian Centre in Rye, East Sussex.

Renée is the author of the CD Calm the Chaos of the Creative Mind and works with children and adults as a coach and therapist to help them overcome life's challenges and emotional difficulties including stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anger or addictive behaviour.

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AUDIO: Do you struggle to implement healthy changes in your life?

AUDIO: Do you struggle to implement healthy changes in your life?

There are many reasons why we may find it hard to reach a personal goal or to get a new project off the ground. One thing is for sure – labelling yourself with a derogatory term isn’t going to solve this problem.

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