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Fitness and Performance

Not everyone knows that our bodies are designed to heal, perform, adapt and change constantly. This happens daily without us consciously being aware of it. Physiologically our cells change according to internal and external stressors, pressure and emotions.

Who supports us when we feel we have failed physically? Who speaks to us when we have a physical set back? When did we decide it was ok to suffer alone, or be told that there is no help?

Being able to perform well mentally, physically, emotionally makes us feel great as it enables us to become better people. We can do more, experience more and learn more. Movement makes us feel good.

Daily exercise has been documented as a tool to overcome illness, not only physical illness but also mental illness. It can combat depression, anxiety, it can even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Moving, and performing, makes us feel good.

When we are labeled with a disease or we feel sick, unwell, with or without a diagnosis, it will affect our mindset. We see ourselves differently, we don’t see ourselves as limitless. The pain mindset is one of distress, less able, weak and vulnerable, we become fearful, anxious and can often dread certain social situations. We become dis-enabled.

The lack of education with regards to our human body and mental capacity is vast. Science is still catching up when it comes to understanding what our brain is capable, what we can sense, what we can tolerate and what we can change.

Change, most importantly, is up to us. Despite physical set backs, or chronic pain, our mindset is still a choice, and we need the daily support to achieve our personal goals.

It is within our nature to always see the faults, weaknesses, failures and inabilities, when we often forget about our personal physical achievements. We can be quick to judge ourselves, and diminish or forget our improvements, especially when we compare ourselves to unrealistic situations or have specific expectations.

Disappointment, regret, pain are emotions we are all familiar with. It is not easy to overcome these on your own. We tell ourselves, we can’t do it, or we must not do it. You, however, are your only limitation. At Go Change, we are here to offer you a different perspective, provide the right support, be it nutritional guidance, strength or exercise work, rehabilitation or proactive behavior and positive mindset. We can be the difference which helps you become able, independent and feel great.

How can we help you?

  1. We help you set your clear, personal goals
  2. Develop a practical and achievable strategy to get there
  3. Provide you with ongoing support, as and when you need it

Change is inevitable, your goals and how we strategize to get there needs to be flexible. We work to give you the best chances of performing better, improving your fitness and your mental ability to go beyond those physical and mental limitations.

Talk the Talk: 10 Tips for Starting Therapy

A friend of mine recently told me about her experience of starting psychotherapy. She said she would have liked a list of pointers to help her understand what she was getting into before she started. That sounded like a good idea to me.

It’s not uncommon to want a few signposts when we start a journey. Inspired by her, here are 10 things I think might be helpful to you if you’re new to, or thinking about, therapy.

1. Do it for yourself.

One reason I find therapy doesn’t go well for some people is that they’ve entered into it for somebody else’s benefit or they’ve been ‘told’ to attend. If you’ve reluctantly engaged in therapy, or you’re doing it out of duty, or obligation, you may not get the best from the process. Generally it’s better to come into therapy through the understanding that even though others may benefit from you having treatment, therapy is a personal choice because it’s right for you and you alone.

2. Not all therapy is, and not all therapists are, the same.

In my opinion (and I’ll say this over and over) there’s not one way to ‘do’ therapy. At the moment CBT is the flavor of the month, but that doesn’t mean it’s a better approach than, say, gestalt or psychodynamic (http://psychcentral.com/therapy.htm). More often than not, it’ll be the therapist who makes a difference to you, not his or her approach.

All therapists will be different due to our different personalities, how we look, and how we interact. You may find that one therapist is too quiet for you, too talkative, or wears heavily patterned shirts that distract you. Whatever our differences, it might be good for you or it might not, but you can always change therapists or therapy. We don’t take it personally if you don’t get along with us.

Just because some people swear by one type of therapy or therapist, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. My advice is to call a few therapists before you see them. See how you react to their voice, the information they tell you and your gut feeling. The first therapist I saw was very scary over the phone. I decided to see them because I thought if I could deal with them for an hour, I could deal with anything. Best decision I made.

3. Don’t rush the process.

At its heart, therapy is about learning to be comfortable with being vs. doing. At the beginning of therapy we’re often ‘doing’ therapy: talking about things, recounting, explaining. Soon we learn to go further inward and begin ‘being’ and exploring what it means to be us in relation to our world. This transition can be a quick or a slow process; there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

One of the best things I recommend for anyone just starting therapy is not to work so hard at being the good patient. This isn’t a job interview — you don’t need to impress me. Just be you, the way you are now, and in time you’ll discover what really being you is all about.

4. Not every session will be the same.

Get used to the idea that some sessions might feel satisfying with ‘breakthroughs’ or ‘eureka’ moments, while others might feel mundane and frustrating. As with all things, there is an ebb and flow to therapy.

5. Be open and honest. 

Therapy is about realism. It helps to talk through events, feelings and thoughts as they really are and not modifying what you say because you’re worried whether the therapist will be ‘able to take it’ or if they’ll have some ‘judgment’ about you. Facing your difficulties and negative views authentically will help make your therapy more successful.

6. Things can get worse before they get better.

Talking about, and learning that one’s own life might be dull, frustrating, painful or average can be a difficult process and often demoralizing at first. More often than not, I see people become more depressed or more anxious before they move forward and become healthier. Sticking with the process is important. Once we throw light into those dark areas of our lives, we can then start to face the world more realistically and with grace.

7. Let’s talk about sex.

I don’t know how many times patients have been reluctant to talk about sex. I know you might feel a little shy or uncomfortable about this subject, but please talk about sex, as it’s usually in the mix somewhere in why you feel how you feel.

8. Self-esteem and self-worth are not the same things.

You want to feel better, and often people talk about wanting to gain self-esteem through therapy, but don’t be fooled: That is a surface-level human condition. Self-esteem is a bolstering of one’s own view of self through gaining confidence in one’s own abilities.

However, the more satisfying goal is to work on gaining self-worth. Self-worth is accepting that one has worth and value no matter how good or bad we are at some task or other. Through a healthier understanding of our totality we will gain the ultimate goal of therapy of unconditional self-acceptance; this is when we can fully realize and accept our self for who we truly are – the good, the bad and the ugly… and a million things in between.

9. It’s not being selfish to talk about yourself.

I’ve covered this topic in other articles, but there’s a big difference between taking care of one’s self and one’s needs and being selfish. Selfishness is lacking any consideration about others and profiting by this. Self-care is about making sure that we’re well and healthy so that we are more available to help ourselves and others. In therapy the focus is on you and the goal is for you to be well. You, you, you. Get used to it.

10. Money.

On the whole, therapy costs money. There’s no way around this. As a therapist I’ve put in thousands of hours of time into my profession, and this is how I make a living. If I don’t get paid to do my job, I don’t get to work with you or anyone else, and that’s the cold truth.

Sometimes patients tell me that I (or another therapist) only care because they are paying for my time, but this is not strictly true. Of course you have my full attention because you are paying for my time, but that has nothing to do with the level of care you will receive from me. I (and I’m sure the vast majority of my colleagues) do this work because we genuinely care and want to help people live a happier, healthier life.

It’s also true that money is the stitching that binds us together for the length of time you attend therapy and pay for my time. Money often can be an issue in therapy, but I will say that paying more for a therapist’s time doesn’t mean you will always get better results. As in point 2, choose your therapist based on what your needs are and whether you feel comfortable with him or her, and not on how much he or she charges.

I hope these points help you in your therapy journey. I’d be interested if you have any points of your own which you could share with others. If so, please add them in the comments section below.

Self-Care is Learning to Give & Receive

Yes, yes, I know you don’t need me to state the obvious.

You and I both know that self-care is unlikely to be top of your or my list or even in our vocabulary when we’re depressed. Trouble is, this probably isn’t the first time you’ve neglected self-care, though, is it?

I bet that word or the concept of self-care hasn’t been on your radar for so long you’ve forgotten what it’s like to think about yourself. I bet this could be one of the reasons why some people become depressed in the first place.

Now don’t get me wrong: that isn’t a criticism, just an observation. I know when I’ve struggled with unhealthy emotions, self-care has been difficult. Yet I’ve purposefully made a point of continually engaging in the things I know will nourish me even when I don’t feel like it. However, I’ve also seen the flipside: I’ve worked with thousands of people who have been absolutely terrible at self-care, and I mean terrible.

One of the things that’s been pretty clear to me over my years of working in mental health is that the majority of people who become depressed are the type of people who are extremely diligent, loyal, hardworking, conscientious and self-sacrificing, but to the point of self-damage. And it’s this general life view that can lead to burnout, overload, unhealthy thinking and behavior, confusion, self-flagellation and then depression. Not for all, but for many.

“So why is self-care important? Isn’t that just being selfish?”

Self-care absolutely is not the same as selfishness. Selfishness is lacking any consideration about others and profiting by this. Self-care is about making sure that we are well and healthy so that we are more available to help others. They are polar opposites, in my view.

If I am going to be giving of myself, my time and my energy to an endeavor that helps others grow, then I need to make sure I’m available to take that journey with them. If I’m burned out and depressed, I’m no good to anyone and I’ll be the one who ultimately suffers.

But that’s me. The question is, why should self-care be important to you?

I think it’s admirable that the people I’ve met who struggle with depression, on the whole, have been givers. That’s a wonderful trait, but to truly embrace self-care I want you to consider that there is another aspect to giving that is very, very, important: receiving.

If you are a giver, you’ll need to learn to allow others to give you help and support. Otherwise, it’s all one-way, and that isn’t healthy or particularly fair. We all have an individual responsibility to grow and be responsible for ourselves. I also believe we have a responsibility to help others grow in their lives too; however, that doesn’t mean you neglect your needs and always take the position of feeder. You also need to feed.

It’s all too easy to get our sense of worth from doing for others. I spent a good deal of my life doing just that, because giving feels good. But I challenge you to learn that part of your self-care is to let others give to you. This may be a tough lesson, but it’s one that’s important for your personal growth, and will potentially help you battle or stave off depression in a healthier way.

We need to remember that when we are nourished physically, emotionally, and spiritually, then we are better able to help others from a stronger foundation of giving and receiving.

You may find you are resistant to this concept. You may even think that people around you cannot give or are unwilling to give to you, and that may be true. However, there is nothing to stop you seeking out others who are willing to give. Getting a professional massage is a great way to receive some self-care from another person. Going out to dinner and allowing another to feed you also is healthy. Maybe take a yoga class or do another type of movement class. That can be very nourishing.

You may not see it now, but this self-care cycle isn’t just about doing something for yourself. Self-care is allowing others to do something for you. Learning that it’s OK to accept this gift may be one of the most important lessons you can learn to help you become healthier. And once you have received this gift, then you will be in a better place to help yourself and others.

Depression Is Different For Everyone

Each and every person who has ever experienced depression will have his or her own take on what it’s like.

There are many commonalities and themes associated with depression, such as thoughts of hopelessness, loss, and feelings of utter sadness. But we all still have our own unique experiences within that. And communicating how we feel and think often can be difficult for another to grasp, especially if they haven’t been there, done that.

Often when I’m running group sessions, the thing that quickly unites a group is when they start sharing about how their wife, husband, boss, or mother just doesn’t understand what they are going through. They talk about the way they perceive comments such as “you’ve got nothing to be depressed about” or “Oh, I was depressed once and then I decided to stop and just be happy” or the worst ever, “Just snap out of it, things could be worse.”

These comments to somebody who’s depressed can be utterly devastating to hear. As well-meaning as people think they are being, one of the most difficult things for a person who’s depressed to do is to ‘snap out of it.’ If that were possible nobody would experience depression.

There are many subjective levels of depression, from very mild (or what I would call blue or melancholy) to the deepest, darkest well of lonely suffering that nobody in their right mind would dream up. But calling everything on that continuum ‘depression’ diminishes the depth and intensity of what a person feels. Trying to communicate using the word “depressed” as a catch-all can make it hard for a spouse or partner who’s never been depressed to fully grasp what is going on internally for the sufferer.

If you do a Google search, the first large explanation on the page defines depression as this: “Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.” Doesn’t that make depression sound fairly innocuous and easy?

Sadly, this is only one facet of feeling depressed. If somebody takes this as the ‘truth’ of depression, it can give a completely false impression of its intensity. Along with this lack of understanding or personal insight into depression, a gap can emerge between couples who view the problem differently. This difference in understanding can then lead to other relationship crises.

Depression is fundamentally a uniquely personal experience which is often lonely and bleak.

In the beginning stages of depression, people often tell me how their partner was supportive and would do anything to help, but as time went by things began to change between them. The concern soon turned to annoyance. The soft voice of kindness began to turn sharp and abrasive. The calm words of support to ‘rest and take it easy,’ turn to demands of ‘get up and do something constructive.’

But isn’t their behavior understandable? For a partner to see the one they love become depressed can be a difficult thing. To see the person you knew turn into a shadow person, darker, vulnerable, indecisive, and tearful can be heartbreaking and scary.

It’s seeing this transition that can become hard for somebody to endure, no matter how much they love you. It often feels safer to shut off one’s feelings to a depressed partner rather than get dragged down by their hopelessness. This is clearly a survival tool and makes perfect sense when you realize that all too often, when one person in a relationship becomes depressed, the other partner can soon follow.

Can anything be done to change a couple’s path? Is it the end of a relationship if one partner becomes depressed? Well, no, it’s not. But this change in status can become rocky without making healthy choices quickly. Yet healthy choices when deeply depressed is somewhat of an oxymoron.

One thing many men in particular don’t do is seek help or talk to people at the onset of depression. They tend to try to ride the waves and carry on as normal, which sometimes works. If this is your first experience of depression, then chances are it may only last a few weeks to a month. But in my experience, the more rounds of depression you experience, the harder and deeper the depression becomes and the harder it is to help yourself get well.

The first thing to do is get help early, even if there is no obvious reason why you might feel depressed. Often the roots of depression have grown slowly over time, unnoticed.

However, depression-inducing cognitions also can spring up quickly. Sometimes we get stuck in a loop of unhealthy thinking as we try to come up with the ‘absolute best choice.’ We then become too hard on ourselves for not doing what we perceive as our best.

Talking still is the best cure for depression, even if it’s a slow process. If you’re wanting a pill to take this feeling away, you might get lucky in the short term, but rarely in the long term.

The second thing to do is to make sure you do the first thing. The second rule emphasizes the first. But you need to talk as well as emotionally and cognitively fight.

The third thing to do is keep communicating with people around you. Don’t hold onto thoughts that people don’t care. If you stay quiet and your mood changes, you will most likely become more distant from the people who care about you. This distance can be difficult for others to bridge as they may have little understanding of your internal process.

This lack of clarity may then lead them to come up with their own scenarios of why your behavior and mood has changed. It’s not uncommon for a spouse to believe their partner is having an affair because they’re not “interested in talking to me anymore.”

Depression is fundamentally a uniquely personal experience which is often lonely and bleak. It rarely makes sense. Every choice you make seems like the worst choice ever and withdrawing from the world seems like the best option. These are exactly the reasons why getting support is important. Don’t wait. Do it now.

Therapists Have Therapy Too

One thing that often surprises me is when a therapy user comments on how they admire the therapist because they must never get overwhelmed by the common issues or problems the rest of humanity experiences.

The times I’ve heard people tell me, “I wish I was like you, you are so calm and together.” As much as I appreciate the compliment, that isn’t always true.

I’ve been through psychotherapy before. As a trainee years and years ago, I was required to do at least a year of therapy. And although when I went into therapy I thought I didn’t have any issues to talk about and thought myself self-aware, I soon learned how easy it is fooling oneself.

I found that 18 months of therapy changed me and defined who I became for the rest of my life. Since then I’ve been a strong advocate for therapists having therapy and I always stand by the belief that I could never ask my clients to do something that I wouldn’t be prepared to do myself.

I’m very wary of therapists who have never had therapy and I’m suspicious of their motives for being a therapist without seeing the other side of the chair first. Personally, I think it’s essential for all therapists to have experienced what it feels like to be faced with a stranger while exploring difficult issues. To put oneself in a position to be vulnerable and explore truths about oneself that would be safer kept hidden and not revealed. I believe it’s valuable for a therapist to experience being human, flaws and all.

For me, if a therapist hasn’t been through that experience, I personally wouldn’t want them to be my therapist.

This brings me to why I’m writing this article. I think it’s important that people know that therapists also need help at times. I know for myself, I’ve recently been going through some difficult issues that I knew I couldn’t understand alone, and I started therapy to help me gain some new insight. I’ve always found therapy a great way of getting a different view of what I thought my problem was.

It’s also a great way to just talk and see what happens. Being guided to stay with feelings or to talk more about a certain issues helps illuminate areas that I hadn’t considered when thinking alone. Therapy is also great for getting to the heart of an issue, even if the conclusion was different to what I was expecting or wanting.

I also know that as much as I know about therapy, what motivates people and change, sometimes I think it’s healthy to throw my hands up in the air and say, “I need help. I can’t do this alone.”

Another thing to remember about therapy is that everybody uses it differently. There isn’t just one way to ‘do therapy.’ Some people want to work on specific problems, like myself. Others want to talk to somebody and not have a specific goal in mind because they are lost or stuck in life; and some people just like to go to talk as there is little room in their lives to talk about themselves elsewhere.

All of these options are fine. There is no right or wrong way ‘to do’ therapy.

In practice I’m a goal-focused therapist and I work with people to help them achieve specific goals. But I also recognize that that type of therapy doesn’t work for everybody. In fact, I’m working on my current issues not in a goal-focused way. I want to explore my feelings around that goal and experience my body and emotions before I can go back to working on my cognitive tasks. And that works for me at this point.

Again, there isn’t one right therapeutic approach which will suit everybody, and each therapist is different and will bring specific strengths and weaknesses to the therapy relationship. Also different approaches can help us at different times in our lives – one size will not fit all.

If you’re with a therapist or in therapy that doesn’t seem to work for you, you can always change. It’s like finding the right shoes. Some days you want the super-fast running shoes, other times the dog-chewed comfy slippers.

So next time you see your therapist and think that he or she has his or her life together, don’t be afraid to ask if they’ve ever had therapy. They may tell you, and they may not. But I am a firm believer in practicing what I preach because I know therapy is helpful and will always be a part of my life as either a therapist or therapy user.