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Monthly Archives: December 2013

How a Personal Review of the Year Can Promote Self-Growth

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With New Year’s Eve fresh in our minds, this is the perfect time to take a pause, sip a glass of wine and complete a personal year review. Be honest: how did last year go? What went well? What didn’t?

A personal review is a powerful tool; the fact that it remains private means that it’s possible to be brutally honest with yourself. Gaining an awareness into your deeper processes and motivation is an essential step towards self-fulfilment, and perhaps even self-actualisation. The questions listed below may help you to identify key strengths that can be built upon, and they will allow you to target the things you want to improve.

Of course, if you’re coming to read this post in January, or indeed later in the year, that doesn’t mean you can’t do a review. Your year could be April to April, or whatever 12-month time-span you find works best. It could even be like the academic year, from September to July.

Questions From Your Personal Review of the Year

What was the best thing that happened this year? What made it so good?

Which was my greatest accomplishment? Why?

What was my biggest failure and what did failure teach me?

How can I use the learning from past failures to ensure future success?

What word, phrase or theme describes my year?

What aspect of the past year was the most challenging?

What strengths did the challenge illuminate?

What weaknesses were made visible?

What are the three things I am most grateful for?

What brought me the most joy?

What do I need to do more of to feel happier, self-fulfilled or at peace?

It can be useful to complete your personal review questions slowly and with thought, and to periodically revisit your responses.  Your personal review doesn’t carry the threat of  entering special measures your response is negative.  Instead, a negative response should be seen as a potential gift: a chance to see what can be improved upon.  After all, it’s only through heightened awareness that change can be achieved.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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Achieving Goals in Five Simple Steps

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Be determined and get that action plan in order.

Ever wondered why some people are better than others at achieving goals? Achieving your goals is not just about intellect – it is about planning, vision and tenacity. Individuals who take the time to plan, plot and map their goals generally achieve more success than those who simply jump in.

Achieving goals will become easier using these simple strategies.

1)      Pick realistic and meaningful goals

Recognise what is truly achievable; your goals may take considerable effort, but they must ultimately be possible.

This might mean signing up to a 5k run, then a 10k run, then a half-marathon, before you commit to an ultra-marathon. Don’t assume the sheer adrenaline and determination will get you through a feat with little training or stamina (and that doesn’t just apply to sports situations, either!). If you struggle with unrealistic goal setting and perfectionism, to the point where it affects your mental health, you may want to consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to unpick the thought patterns behind this behaviour.

2)      Clearly define the steps necessary to achieve the goal

Remember, successful execution of a goal takes planning. Break down each step into sub-sections. Many clever people with great ideas fail to achieve their goal because they omit this step.

If your goal involves outside input, or you’ll achieve it sooner with other people on board, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For example, deciding to redecorate your house shouldn’t involve you single-handedly renovating each room, and nor should all your DIY take place at the same time. The best strategy would be to sort the rooms by priority, work out where you will store items as you decorate, and create a budget for materials and any decorators you need to hire.

3)      Schedule activities into your planner that support the defined steps.  Carry the activities out. No excuses

Inspiration only works when coupled with perspiration. Your goal has to be a priority.

Going back to that running training, your activity plans would include solo running sessions, group sessions with a local running club or some friends, and related activities to support your fitness levels, like swimming, Zumba, walking or yoga. To fuel your body with the right foods, you could start a folder of useful recipes to inspire you each week, and set aside a half-day to batch cook meals for the week ahead, making you less likely to reach for takeaways.

4)      Accept there will be set-backs on the way to achieving goals

Build a contingency plan for these. Get back on track with minimal fuss or drama. Think of the set-back as a learning curve.

In that decorating scenario, we all know there are lots of things that can go wrong when you do up your house (the famous clip from 90s TV show Changing Rooms, when shelf-loads of antique teapots have been smashed to smithereens, is a prime example). Whatever the disaster, make sure you’ve got extra time, money and helping hands set aside for those tricky moments. If you run out of the perfect paint colour, there are companies that will mix bespoke colours to order. If your plasterer hasn’t done their job properly, explain the problem and have an alternative plasterer’s details ready just in case. Try to put any set-backs in perspective, and don’t take them personally.

5)      Ask for support from family and friends when needed

Very often, timely support is vital in helping you remain on track in order to achieve your goals.

Whether you’re the next Dame Kelly Holmes or you’re just redecorating your home, you’ll need support to reach your goals from those around you. Keep them informed about your plans, and ask them to nudge you in the right direction if you start to waver. Turn to social media or internet forums for peer support from strangers, too. Being in a community of like-minded people can really help to focus your energy on what matters.

Using these simple steps is a tried and trusted format for achieving goals, effecting change or enabling self-development.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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Coping with Christmas After the Death of a Loved One

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Coping with Christmas after the death of a loved one is always very painful.  Pain is often made worse because everybody else appears to be happy at this time  of year.

While Christmas will be painful, there are a few things that can make the process a little easier.

It is important to recognise that sadness will come and go throughout the festive period. This is inevitable, grieving is the price we pay for love. You can and will get through it.

These practical steps for coping with Christmas after bereavement may help.

1) Plan for Christmas day: get out pen and paper or the iPad, and jot down things you might like to do if you were not feeling quite as sad

List simple things. Maybe you always wanted to drink Bucks Fizz in bed, but never could because your partner was teetotal, or perhaps you always wanted to walk in the country on Christmas morning rather than go to church. Now is the time to please yourself – don’t feel guilty, just do it.

In making new memories and new habits, you are building a future for yourself in small but tangible ways. And don’t forget to include the quiet time between Christmas and New Year, which many people can find difficult. Think about what you’ve always wanted to use that time for.

2) Anticipate the parts of the actual day when you are likely to feel worse

Once you can recognise where the major deep pits lie, you will be able to draw up a plan to be doing other activities at those especially vulnerable times. If you recognise that your dip in mood occurs after lunch, why not go for a walk, have a sleep or try and master a hobby?

Don’t be afraid to rip up the rule book to get through Christmas. Just because you’ve always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean they have to remain that way forever. If a particular tradition or ritual feels too upsetting to revive this year, attempt a new one. Swap the Queen’s Speech for a card game, or the post-lunch walk for a Boxing Day morning walk instead.

3) Create a ritual that honours the past but sows the seeds of hope for the future

Perhaps that might be to gather winter foliage from the country to make a seasonal wreath and then laying it at your partners resting place.  Afterwards, why not meet up with a son, daughter or grandchild to do something different together? Have some mulled wine, treat them to a meal, watch them ice skate, have a flutter on the horses.

It is not important what the activity is – the importance is found in developing new rituals. Why not create a ritual you can carry out and extend every year forward?

4) Buy yourself a present

Wrap it nicely and pamper yourself, whatever the budget. Don’t pick something practical with little personal meaning, such as a new iron.

Choose something you have always wanted but never dared to buy. If you can’t afford to be extravagant, buy something that works towards your dream – a Theatre Token, to help save for a theatre trip, or a pair of walking boots, to prepare for an exotic walking holiday at some point in the future. Open your present on Christmas Day, and immerse yourself in it.

5) Make an emergency ration pack

An emergency ration pack is a small parcel made up of items that will lift your spirit even in your darkest moments. The idea is that you take time to select items that comfort or cheer you. When sadness hits, you won’t feel like seeking out things that raise your mood, so be prepared, and have the ration pack ready before you need it.

A typical ration pack might include chocolate, bath oils, a favourite DVD, a magazine, notebook, a novel and a painting set. The items don’t have to be expensive or wildly exciting, but they keep you occupied in difficult times.

6) Accept invitations

You may not want to go out, and that’s fine, but try and be gracious. Accept the odd invitation, as it will help you realise that life goes on. When you’re struggling, set a time limit: tell yourself you’ll go to Christmas drinks for an hour, and then see how you feel. Could you stay half an hour longer? Don’t forget to enlist friends and family to help, too.

Socialising does not mean you have stopped grieving or have forgotten your partner.  It does mean that you are courageously choosing to walk on for yourself while honouring your past life.

7) Count your blessings

Remember, you are lucky to be here: you have your health, and the ability to choose to move forward. You are able to feel your pain, but this in itself means you will also feel joy again. Many are not so lucky.

You may find it helpful to talk to other people who have recently lost a loved one. Track down a support group near you, or consult bereavement charities, to find a network of like-minded people who may be further along in their journey with grief, and can remind you of the happier times to come.

8) Be kind to yourself: use mindfulness

Don’t be harsh on yourself when you feel sad. Feelings of sadness will pass. Feeling broken and like life has ended is part of the grieving process. Allow yourself to experience your emotions without dulling them with excessive alcohol or drug use.

If you are unable to take any of these steps and are thinking that you can’t go on, it is essential that you seek help.  Counselling or psychotherapy may help you to adjust to your situation. It may also allow you to recognise that, despite your current feelings of sadness, you do have the chance of a positive future ahead of you.

If things become too much before you have arranged psychotherapy, dial 111 (for NHS help in a non-emergency), 999 (in an emergency) or talk to the Samaritans, night or day, including over the Christmas period, on 116 123.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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