Anxiety during a pandemic

You may have found yourself saying, “I’ve never suffered with anxiety before but now I do…..” I just want to tell you that this is normal (can I add, I hate using the word normal but it’s banded around now, especially the ‘new normal’) it’s kind of become part of our everyday language right?

So, what can we do about our anxiety, can we just get rid of it? No.

Can we push it to the back of our mind? Unlikely.

Can we distract ourselves from it? Probably, yes but ultimately your anxiety will be somewhere waiting and ready to pounce!

Anxiety is our brains way of telling us something is wrong – the amygdala is located in our brains and it’s basically our internal alarm system, it alerts us to danger and we respond to this alarm with different ways; what we call the fight, flight or freeze response. What happens when we are suffering with extreme anxiety, is that the alarm system will alert us to danger when it doesn’t need to, so when the threat isn’t even there.

Now I know that we are living through challenging and unprecedented times, and we know that the danger is real – so it isn’t a shock that many of us have developed higher levels of anxiety. I would like to give some quick tips you can try when anxiety strikes:

Firstly, please remember anxiety or panic attacks have never killed anyone, you may feel you cant get through it but you always will.

  1. Sit with your feelings of anxiety – challenge your thought processes/rationalise them
  2. Stick with the facts – try to avoid being caught up with social media posts about statistics – there is a lot of fake news out there!
  3. Talk to people – stay connected
  4. Breathing techniques – 7 11 breathing – breathe in through the nose to the count of 7 and exhale through the mouth to the count of 11
  5. Try to avoid watching too much of the news – limit your intake, balance it out with tv/books you enjoy

There’s no way to totally eliminate anxiety (if only eh?!) but practising these tips and maintaining some form of control over the things you can, then you can learn to manage these intense feelings of anxiety better.

2020 has been a challenge but don’t give up on it just yet – you’ve got this!


Counsellor MBACP (Reg.)

The monster under the bed – A poem to help parents

Mummy I know your frustrated with me and really fed up

But I’m scared of this monster it just wont give up

I want to be brave mummy, I really do

But It’s big, strong and scary

I just don’t know what to do

I am sorry for crying and waking you up

But you help me feel safe and that’s enough

So please help me feel safe and secure

By fighting this monster and showing it the door

Let me explain how this monster makes me feel

It starts in my tummy, I feel a bit icky

And then I start to feel shaky and sweaty

I think about the thing that’s hiding in my room

Will it eat me, crunch me, scare me, BOO!

Instead of getting angry with me mummy, can you just see

I need you to help me, and tell me I’m not being silly

To help me feel better and less scared

To help me see that you’re there

I don’t need to hear that it’s nonsense

That monsters don’t exist

Be with me in these scary times

Help me get through it

Written by Ruth Cullinan MBACP (Reg.)

Slow down – Life isn’t a race

You’re walking up hill and it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere,

Just walking, walking, walking

When will this end, you ask yourself,

‘When will I reach the top?

When I feel satisfied, that’s when I’ll stop.’

But your tired, weak and a little scared,

‘What if the top isn’t what I’d imagined up there?’

But you find yourself climbing still, higher and higher up the hill

The unknown scares you the most, just not knowing what the future holds

But something inside of you pushes you through,

You keep telling yourself, ‘this is what I have to do.’

But what if you stopped and sat for a while,

Just took in the views and allowed a gentle smile

Sat with thoughts of where you are now,

Carried on slowly, telling yourself you’ll get there somehow

Life isn’t always a race to the top, the finishing line, the full stop

It’s much more than that, you see

It’s the journey, the joy, the pain and the beauty in between

It’s about believing you’ll get to where you need to be,

Not giving up, but a sense of feeling free.

Written by Ruth Cullinan MBACP (Reg)

The power of exploration in the counselling room

I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard, “how can talking about your problems actually help?” Or, “You must be able to tell your clients what to do as their counsellor, that’s your job isn’t it?” Now, I know that these statements usually come from a persons view of counselling, and the ideas they have in their minds, maybe a therapist from a TV show has demonstrated this way of being. But in real life, in the counselling room, it’s so different.

Counselling can be the hardest job to measure, after all how do we know what we are doing is effective, is there a way to measure a persons mental wellbeing throughout their course of therapy. Of course there are things like assessment tools and questionnaires you can give to measure emotional moods, yet do these speak the truth, or will clients avoid ticking a box relating to self harm or suicidal thoughts.

Relationship is key for growth and movement in the counselling room. If a client feels safe and can connect fully with their counsellor, they will feel a lot more at ease with exploring and expressing their feelings and needs, and will more than likely feel okay with ticking the box that they once may have avoided.

I’ve had clients who have shared the views about how talking can‘t possibly help, after all it’s hard to change what’s already happened, and often they struggle to fully let go in the counselling room. Yet through exploration, clients can begin the process towards self acceptance. They can learn to accept that some things remain outside of their control, and begin to process some of their own responsibilities and tackle some obstacles, that may be getting in the way.

There are many ways clients can begin the process of exploration, it doesn’t have to be sitting opposite a counsellor, having to find the right words to explain how there’re feeling. Sometimes that may feel quite intense for some. For me, exploration can be about getting creative, using arts, sand, objects, or simply a pen and a piece of paper, to unpick and explore what is going on for my clients.

A counsellors supervision plays such an important role in the work we do with clients. When we sit with clients and encourage, sometimes gently challenge them to explore, express, and process some of their darkest and most hidden feelings, we are witnessing a growth. Yet, if we don’t gently challenge ourselves in the same way, how can we possibly be present whilst our clients do?

Exploration has many layers and doesn’t just happen for our clients in their weekly counselling sessions, it’s the stuff in between, the reflections, the connections you may make as a client or as a counsellor. It’s in these moments of real exploration and connection that growth can occur.

When someone says “what’s the point in talking, it won’t change anything” just ask them to sit with that and explore their thinking, rather than encouraging a change in their thoughts. This in itself can unearth a whole heap of feelings and experiences.

This is the power of exploration!

Ruth Cullinan – Counsellor MBACP (Reg.)


Surviving Parenting in Lockdown 3.0

Being a parent is tough in normal times, but throw in a pandemic and it definitely tests the most patient of parents. I wanted to write a blog to highlight how challenging these times are for parents, and to share some ideas and tips to hopefully help you through it.

Looking back to the first lockdown, which seems like a lifetime ago now! Things were somewhat more manageable for families and parents, the weather was glorious here in the UK, we had sun filled days and enjoyed hours in our gardens and went on walks through local parks with our families. However, nearly a year on and we are freezing and losing all momentum when it comes to finding new ways to amuse the children. Kids are bored and are mostly stuck in front of their screens homeschooling, whilst parents are battling with helping them, and maybe trying to work from home themselves, along with everything else that needs to be done around the house! Then the dreaded scream comes, “Mum, the internet isn’t working!!!” I mean, can it get any worse?!

Parents love their children and want the best for them, but sometimes you can’t pour from an empty cup. Trying to do the self care thing, along with keeping the kids happy and thriving can be exhausting. Lockdown has created so much anxiety, uncertainty and stress in many households around the world, parents often feel like they are failing, not doing enough, worrying about their kids academic success and in general feeling quite miserable at times. So what can we do to make this lockdown more manageable, here are some of my top tips:

  1. Be gentle with yourself – you are not superhuman!
  2. Limit your time scrolling through social media (all those fabulous parents who post pictures of what they have achieved today!) Social Media often lies to us!!
  3. Create a routine and stick to it – kids actually love structure, it makes them feel safe and secure
  4. Remember your kids are in the same boat as every other kid – they will all catch up on their return to school
  5. Find moments to laugh and enjoy the silly things with your kids – often kids just love simplicity. If you have older kids jump on an online game with them, learn a tiktok, you never know, you may love it!
  6. Find moments for you, take time out to drink that often cold cup of coffee, enjoy it and maybe even throw in a biscuit
  7. Connect with your friends/family – share your feelings, open up and allow yourself to have a moment of struggle
  8. And remember, you will get through this – the pandemic will end!

You’ve got this and your kids are most likely already looking at you as the most important person in their life. Try and enjoy the stillness of the world at the moment, and embrace the craziness of your household, but do find a hiding spot, for the ‘Just in case you need a break’ moments!


Ruth Cullinan MBACP (Reg.)