A problem shared is a problem halved. It might be a cliché, but it's true. When you're not feeling yourself, talking things through with someone you trust can help lighten the load. It's the first step towards taking back control of your mental wellbeing. Why does talking help? Talking about something with another person allows you to see things from a different perspective. There could be another way of looking at your situation Talking aloud can help you make sense of a problem and clarify your thoughts and feelings. When we're just turning things over and over in our own heads it can be difficult to see what's really going on Another person may offer practical advice and solutions that you hadn't considered before The simple act of being listened to often has a big impact in itself. You'll feel less alone knowing that someone is there for you. You might even discover that you're not the only one who feels the way you do Sometimes just saying something aloud is immensely relieving. You may have been carrying something around in your head for a long time and talking about it can be like setting down a heavy load. You might notice your whole body relaxing as you start to talk Opening up to friends and family might encourage and empower others to do the same Talking openly about how you feel might seem awkward at first. Especially if you're not used to it. But it will get easier and become more natural the more you do it Who can you talk to? Friends and family are a great place to start. They may have already noticed that you're not quite yourself and asked if everything is ok. This can make starting a conversation a bit easier. Having said this, it's common for people to find it difficult to talk openly with friends and family, for lots of reasons. Often they're worried about upsetting people they care about, how their relationships might be affected or that they might be treated differently. And this can affect how honest and open you are about the reality of your situation. Sometimes it's easier to be more honest with someone you don't know. That's where counselling can help. Counselling, or talking therapy, is a chance for you to talk to someone who will listen without judgement. It offers you a safe space and dedicated time to talk openly about you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. And the real impact they have. A counsellor can offer an impartial perspective on what might be a very complex and intense situation. As someone who's not involved and with no personal agenda, they may be able to help you work through and understand things in ways that your friends and family can't. Ask us about counselling CA Support can arrange for you to work with a professional counsellor face-to-face, over the phone or online.  Take the first step You might have avoided opening up in the past, simply because you don't know where to start. How can you possibly articulate all the thoughts and feelings going round and round in your head? But there's no set script you have to follow, and no rush to get it all out at once. When you contact CA Support, our trained advisors will help you find the right words. And after that first step, you'll have the support of a professional counsellor to help you through the rest of the process. You won't be on your own. You can talk to an advisor in complete confidence, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us on 01 637 7342 to talk to one of the team. We are here for you. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Aug 08, 2019

Now that winter has finally loosened its grip, it's time for many people to give their homes a top-to-bottom spring clean. And as anyone who has ever had a major clear-out at home knows, it can give you a huge sense of satisfaction. But what about spring cleaning your mind? One good reason to do just that is to improve your memory. According to researchers at Concordia University in Montreal, as you get older you have so much more information to remember. So having the odd memory lapse may have nothing to do with the first signs of dementia, it could be that your mind is simply bursting at the seams. The researchers carried out tests with adults of all ages, and discovered the older volunteers had less working memory than the younger ones. But reducing 'clutter' in the mind by practising relaxation exercises could help, they concluded. Other experts believe that holding on to negative thoughts from past experiences can cause unnecessary stress. But how exactly do you declutter – or detox – your mind? Here are a few ideas... Learn how to meditate This doesn't have to mean sitting cross-legged on the floor and burning incense. Meditation can just mean closing your eyes for a minute or two and relaxing. Make yourself comfortable (sit, stand or lie down, if you feel like it), close your eyes and listen to the sound of your breathing. Don't worry if your mind starts to wander off – if it does, just keep breathing slowly and deeply, and bring your attention back to your breath. Get some fresh air Now that the weather is improving, there's no better way to revitalise your body and your mind by taking a walk outdoors, especially if you can walk in a natural setting. Go for a hike in the country, walk along the beach, or visit a local park or green space. Keep a notebook Write down all the thoughts that are swirling around your head – such as details you need to remember or things that are worrying you. Your mind may find it easier to let go of worries if they have been written down. And the things you really do need to remember – such as when bills need to be paid and other important dates – will be there in your notebook when you need them. Turn off your phone Spend an hour each day clearing your mind. Switch off your phone and other gadgets that distract you, such as the TV, radio and computers. Try not to fill your head with more information that isn't essential, and you'll feel better for it. Get rid of negativity Try to release all those thoughts in your mind that lead to blaming and complaining, and remember you can choose to be more positive if you want to. You'll be surprised at how much more free your mind will feel if you do. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 23, 2019

We all get stressed from time to time. A certain amount of stress can be useful but if you feel constantly overwhelmed this can lead to health problems. This article will look at the causes of stress and provide some tips on how to increase your resilience. You probably know the feeling of being stressed out all too well. Your breathing quickens, your heart starts to pound, your mouth feels dry, your muscles feel tense, your hands feel cold yet sweaty. Situations we find stressful can vary widely from person to person as some of us are more susceptible to the effects of stress than others. These situations trigger the release of stress hormones that are responsible for the way you feel when stressed. This is called the stress response, or the fight or-flight response. Survival mechanism The term fight or flight was first used by American physiologist Walter Bradford Cannon back in the early 1900s. It describes the body's automatic response to danger which is thought to have evolved as a way of helping humans react quickly to life-threatening situations. This response is triggered so fast you won't have time to think about it. Here's how it works: Step 1 In the presence of danger, the eyes and/or ears send information to the area of the brain involved in emotional processing, called the amygdala. The amygdala sends a distress signal to a tiny area at the base of the brain called the hypothalamus, which communicates with the body via the nervous system. Step 2 The hypothalamus activates the part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. This then sends signals to the adrenal glands, which respond by producing hormones including adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol into the bloodstream. As these hormones circulate through the body they bring about a range of physiological changes, such as: Faster heart rate Increase in blood pressure Faster breathing rate Increase in mental alertness Decreased saliva production Increased sweating Sharpening of senses such as sight and hearing Increased energy (caused by the release of sugars and fats into the muscles) Reduced urination Step 3 If the brain perceives the threat as ongoing the hypothalamus releases more hormones. These act on the adrenal glands, making them release more cortisol and leaving the body in a continued high state of alertness. Step 4 When the brain perceives the threat as having passed, cortisol levels fall and the hypothalamus activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which dampens the stress response.  Long-term effects Though the threats we encounter these days are usually very different from those faced by our prehistoric ancestors, the stress response is still useful as it boosts our awareness in stressful situations and helps us cope with emergencies. If your fight-or-flight response is triggered too often and for too long, the constant release of stress hormones in your body can lead to one or more of the health problems associated with chronic stress. These include digestive issues, impaired resistance to colds and other infections, heart disease, sleep difficulties, weight gain, anxiety and depression. While it's unlikely you'll be able to remove stress from your life entirely, there are steps you can take care of your physical and emotional wellbeing. Try to make your lifestyle as healthy as possible by: Eating well Eat a healthy balanced diet. Have at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and try to limit how much sugar you eat. Sleeping well Getting a good night's sleep (read our Good sleep guide for pointers). Learning how to relax Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing or whatever helps you feel calm. Move more Taking regular exercise can help reduce the build-up of stress hormones in the body. Improve your resilience Increasing your resilience can help you to cope with stressful situations. Learn how to be more resilient by reading our article 5 ways to boost your resilience Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019

Could a nerve you’ve probably never heard of be the key to boosting your mood and reducing anxiety? Say ‘hello’ to your vagus nerve. What is it? Vagus means ‘wandering’. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve in the body, starting at your brain and connecting to a host of organs including your gut, heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladders, kidneys, spleen and tongue. What does it do? Your vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you ‘rest and digest’. It helps to control body functions like your heart rate, digestion, breathing along with regulating your mood and emotions. How fit is your vagus nerve? Just like a muscle, when the vagus nerve is working well, it’s said to have good ‘tone’. Your heart speeds up a little when you inhale, slowing down a little when you exhale. The difference between those speeds is your HRV. A larger HRV indicates that your vagus nerve has good tone. Tone your vagus nerve: Singing Laughing Yoga Tai chi Humming Deep breathing Meditation Listening to music you enjoy Gentle to moderate exercise Getting a massage Eating probiotics Gargling Splashing your face with cold water Practice: deep breathing Set aside 5 minutes where you can be quiet without being disturbed. Lie down on your back with your hands on your abdomen. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Relax your elbows on to the floor. Close your eyes and notice your breathing without changing it on purpose. Focus on your navel and imagine your breath is moving your hands. Don’t push your breath to make your hands move. Just stay relaxed and focused on your breathing as it is. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 24, 2019

How much of our time and mental energy do we spend dwelling on things that have already happened or worrying about the future? For many of us, mentally multi-tasking and having our brain in three places at once is a reality of daily life. But it often means we miss out on what's happening in the here and now. This is bad for our mental wellbeing in a number of ways. By dwelling on things we can't change or control, we are more likely to feel anxious, insecure or uncertain. Focusing on the present, on the other hand, allows us to channel our energy into the things we can control. When we're distracted, we're less able to concentrate and focus on the task in front of us. How many times have you walked upstairs and forgotten why you're there? By paying attention to the present, we increase our effectiveness and productivity. In addition, when our minds are somewhere else, we miss out on all the positive things that are happening right in front of us. Being present in a moment allows you to enjoy everything it has to offer. The key to breaking this cycle is mindfulness. Mindfulness is being aware of the here and now, of your thoughts, feelings, sensations and your surroundings. Using techniques like meditation, breathing and yoga, it can help you become more aware of the present moment, rather than worrying about what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow. Mindfulness exercises Here are three mindfulness exercises you can try in your own time, at home or at work. 1-minute meditation - This quick and simple breathing exercise is useful anywhere, anytime you need to pause and refocus. 3-minute breathing - This quick mindful breathing exercise can help you pause, regain control and refocus on the here and now. 10-minute body scan - How are you feeling? Reconnect with your body and your senses with this 10-minute full body scan Being present throughout your day Like any other skill, mindfulness takes practice. But the more you do it, the easier you will find it to apply the principle of being present to moments throughout your day. When you're eating... Whether it's in front of the telly at home or sat behind a desk at work, many of us eat throughout the day simply to satisfy hunger pangs before moving on to the next thing we need to do. But eating can be an opportunity to experience real sensations of joy and pleasure. The next time you sit down to eat try this mindful eating exercise. What difference do you notice? When you're walking... In the daily rush, walking is usually just a means of getting from A to B and on to C. But it could be an opportunity to exercise our curiosity and heighten our senses. By becoming aware of the world around us, we're more likely to find things that make us happy, fill us with wonder or spark our imagination. Try this mindful walking exercise as part of your commute or the next time you walk to the shops. When you're listening... Even when we're mid-conversation with someone it's easy for our minds to wander off. How many times have you found yourself thinking, 'What were they just saying?' To really listen to and understand someone requires your full and undivided attention. And that means being aware of how your own thoughts and feelings might distract your attention from a conversation. Learn how to apply mindful listening techniques for more meaningful conversations and stronger relationships. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 14, 2019

If we asked you to think about stress, you may well think back to the last time you had a stressful experience and how it affected you personally. But when someone around you is stressed – whether it’s a friend, work colleague or member of your family – it can have a negative impact on you too. While you may be coping well with your own stress levels, dealing with someone else’s is an entirely different story. But knowing how to spot spiralling stress levels in others could help stop things from getting any worse. And that could have a positive effect not just on your own wellbeing, but that of the other person too. Here are some of the main things to watch out for, plus a few practical suggestions on how to tackle the problem. Tell-tale body signs The human body reacts to stress in lots of physical ways, some of which are difficult to spot in other people. But some may be easy to identify, including: A tendency to sweat more than normal or having a nervous twitch Smoking and/or drinking more than normal Eating too many unhealthy foods or having no appetite If this person confides in you they may have also complained about not being able to sleep very well lately. Or they may have mentioned that they’re suffering from more headaches than usual, or that they often feel sick or dizzy. Emotional signals Stress also has a powerful effect on how someone feels and behaves, so look out for changes in other people’s moods and what they do. Ask yourself the following questions: Do they seem more anxious or irritable than normal? Are they losing their temper more quickly than they used to? Are they constantly worrying about things? Have they suddenly lost their sense of humour or are they suffering from uncharacteristically low self-esteem? Someone who is under too much stress may also have trouble concentrating or making decisions, and they may shy away from difficult situations. Tackle stress head on If you do suspect someone you know isn’t coping with stress, speak to them. Stress can make people feel isolated, and keeping things bottled up only makes it worse. You don’t have to be a stress counsellor, just a good listener – and allowing them to talk things through could help them find a solution to their problems. Depending on your relationship, you could also encourage them to get involved in activities that may help them cope better. For example, taking regular exercise often helps people see their concerns more clearly as well as deal with them more calmly. So why not suggest going for a walk in the fresh air or organise some team sports at work or at home? And the best part is, you’d benefit from all that extra exercise too. However, if you do not feel comfortable having these discussions or feel the individual needs profession advice encourage them to seek help from their GP. Meanwhile if the person under stress is a work colleague who isn’t coping with their workload, persuade them to talk to their manager about it. Suffering from stress at work is alarmingly common these days so there is no stigma attached to it. And by talking to their manager, they can identify the tasks that are important and stop worrying about the low-priority jobs. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 10, 2019