Tag Archives: new start

an empty wooden bench looking out across sea and sand

Journaling: could it work for you?

You might have heard that journaling is a good idea and that it can help support good mental health, and this sounds like something you would like to do. Maybe you have friends who say they journal, and who encourage you to do it, but you aren’t sure what ‘it’ is. Perhaps you kept a diary as a child or young person – is that what journaling is? Like a lot of things, journaling is something that can feel a bit mysterious, and possibly a bit exclusive. Unless you already journal, how do you find out what it is and how to do it? How do you know if you are doing it right?

First of all, journaling is a few things in one place: you, something to write with and on, and some time. The permutations within this set are almost endless – are you on the bus, in bed, at the table, in the bathroom, in your workplace, is it in the morning, or is it last thing at night? Have you got an hour or have you got five minutes? Are you using a lovely new notebook, your laptop, the back of a scrap of paper, an app on your phone,  or your actual diary?

For some of us, we can take what we’ve got, in terms of time space and materials, and just get started. This might mean we start just writing about the day, perhaps we start by describing the events and then are able to move on to writing about our feelings about the events and maybe segue into other feelings or events we are reminded of. Before we know it, time has passed, words have appeared from out of the ends of our fingers and perhaps we have explored something unexpected, perhaps we have a feeling of relief at getting something ‘out’, or another feeling is around, as a result of the writing. We might be able to read back over what we have written – or maybe we can’t, because it’s literally too messy, or we didn’t write actual sentences, or it just doesn’t seem relevant to read it.

Once we’ve had that first experience of journaling, as described above, we can repeat it – the next day maybe. Or next week. Or next time we have a difficult day. As we do it more often, we might expand our writing from specific events to specific people or relationships, we might explore our patterns or delve backwards into our distant pasts, triggering memories we didn’t know we still had. And the writing might be collected in one place – a notebook, a folder, a box, a document, an app. Or each bit of writing might be dumped, because it’s the process not the product that is important to us.

After a few months, we might have turned into one of those people who encourage others to journal – we’ve experienced the benefits of having a place to dump stuff, to explore themes, to express ourselves.

For those of us with perfectionism and anxiety around doing things ‘right’, getting started like this might well be impossible. We might feel like we need to get properly prepared with the right tools, at the right place and time. So for us to get started, we might need a new notebook, and a nice pen. We might want a plan that someone else gives us, (here are some ideas), so that we have enough structure to be able to take the plunge, and start.  What will it be like for you, to start this thing that really doesn’t have a ‘right’ way and really is just for you? For those of us with anxiety around doing it properly, journaling can be really challenging – and it can also be a safe place to explore some of those difficult feelings and restrictions.

Next, a couple of directions you might want to go in, now you’ve read this far and are maybe thinking journaling might be for you!

Firstly, there is now a body of research into gratitude journaling specifically that shows that having a gratitude practice is good for us: this article summarises the research findings. Could your daily journal start with a list of three things you’re grateful for? Doing this regularly will start to retrain your brain – it will want to find things you can add to the list!

Secondly, journaling doesn’t have to be only for the hard times. We are wired to focus on the negative, but with a little help, we can encourage our brains to also pay attention to the positive. Describe a good friend, a lovely day, a great feeling. Give your happy memories an airing!

How does journaling fit in with counselling? It can support your counselling, and expand the learnings you make from your sessions. Themes might appear in your journal that you can bring to your therapist to make more sense of. Your therapist might be a great person to work with those feelings of perfectionism and anxiety, and together you might be able to work out what those feelings are about for you.

If you do start journaling, good luck!

in a sea of grey leaves, some yellow flowers bloom

Under pressure – deadlines and me.

I just heard my first reference to Christmas – someone saying it’s only a few months away, so they are starting planning for it now. As well as a feeling of surprise that so much of this year has already passed, I also noticed a feeling of ‘under pressure’. I’m not someone who does a lot of anything for Christmas, so it’s not something I need to be thinking about or worrying about just now, but that mention of the time limit, the deadline, was enough to spark a little feeling of panic in my body.

For me, someone who finds feelings of safety in rules and following the rules, a deadline can be something exhilarating: I like to know the parameters, I can write them in my diary and think about what needs to be done. A deadline means there’s an end, so I’d better get started! But there’s also a panic: what if I forget to do anything, what if I’m going about the task the wrong way? What if I complete the task by the deadline, but I do it wrong, and I fail? What if I miss the deadline entirely? A lot of ‘what ifs’ pop up for me when I’m faced with a deadline. I might even find they can swim around in my thoughts for a while – for longer than I would like – leaving my body with that feeling of panic and worry.

I do know what to do when faced with a deadline and these feelings that go along with it. For me, planning helps, writing things down on paper feels reassuring. Breaking tasks down into steps and small chunks works for me. When I am really struggling with getting things done, I set myself short timers and work on the task for a minimum of, let’s say, five minutes. I might carry on after then, or I might not. I keep the end goal in the front of my mind – and at the top of my written plans. These are the practical things that work for me.

Doing the practical things helps the feelings as well – my body is soothed as it recognises I am taking care of things. But I might also need to devote some additional time to other soothing activities to support my physical feelings. For me, this is more yoga (Yoga with Adriene of course!) and more listening to talks and meditations from Tara Brach. More sitting in the garden listening to insects and birds. More walks in the countryside, feeling the air on my skin. Doing these things builds up my feelings of safety, calmness and joy. It means I can more easily be kind to myself when I don’t tick anything off my list of plans. I can more easily reassure myself when the worrying thoughts reappear.

I wonder what you are like when it comes to deadlines? Do you know what your feelings are around them? And do you know what helps soothe you if you’re worried or thinking about them too much?

Doing a bit of self exploration around deadlines and the feelings can be really helpful – you might find out what deadlines mean to you, and why. You might experiment with different ways of getting things done, and in doing so, realise what actually works for you. You can do this exploration alone, with a trusted friend, or through journaling. You could also do it with a counsellor – someone who is going to listen carefully as you explain what it’s like for you.

If you do decide to seek a counsellor to help you with deadlines, and anything else you’ve got going on, have a look at my previous posts with advice about how to go about finding a good match for you.

Good luck!

Starting Counselling

The whole process of starting counselling is really daunting. If it’s your first time, you might be wondering how to start counselling. Read on for information about what you can expect:

A good place to look for a counsellor is the BACP (British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists) and that’s because the counsellors on this directory have done an accredited course, and have committed to working to an ethical code of practice. Start here, at their Find a Therapist Directory

Once you have identified a few you’d like to work with, get in touch and ask for some information about how to get started with them. Some counsellors will meet you for free for a short or full session; others will start in a different way. Find out if they are available at the times you are free, and double check you understand their pricing.

Hopefully you’ll be able to meet a few, and then you are nearly there! These first meetings will give you an idea of what sort of counsellor is going to work best for you. Remember, the counselling sessions are for you, and this really is time to put yourself first. And noticing how easy or hard it is to prioritise your needs might be a good place to start the work!

If you’re someone who likes to know what’s coming and to gather information before you do something, you might like to read a bit more about the process of finding a counsellor, I’ve written about this topic before – you can see more advice here ‘How to find a counsellor‘, and here ‘New (academic) year, new you‘. 

And BACP have produced a great video about what to expect from the start of counselling. Hopefully after watching, the process won’t feel quite as daunting. Good luck!


Feelings at Springtime

Depending on where you are in the world, you might currently be enjoying springtime. Here in Edinburgh the days are already so much longer and lighter, nearly all the trees are in bud if not in leaf, and seedlings are sprouting all over the place. 

What impact does all this activity, new life and energy have on you? Does it give you some extra get up and go, are you getting round to doing things that had only been a plan so far this year? Does the optimism of nature around you make you feel optimistic too? Maybe the long winter of slowness was just right for you to compost, and with the sunshine, higher temperatures and activity all around you, you are bursting with energy yourself!

Or have you been taken by surprise by some feelings of melancholy and fatigue? Maybe you can’t find any spring in your step, and are feeling sad, heavy or low. The German language has a word for this feeling: 


It means ‘Spring Tiredness’ – and there’s even a Wikipedia page about the feeling – find it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Springtime_lethargy

As well as feeling uncomfortable, you might also be wondering what’s going on with you. It might not seem to make sense: you’ve been waiting for spring through the dark, cold winter months, and maybe there were things you were looking forward to. But now it’s here, none of those things seem appealing. Feeling low wasn’t part of your spring plan for yourself. As well as this mismatch between the nature around you, it might also be quite lonely to feel sad at this time of year. It’s ok to share how hard winter is emotionally, but there isn’t much open talk about any negative feelings in springtime. 

So, what to do if you are experiencing something like ‘spring tiredness’? If you know what activities often help you to feel better, it might be worth trying one or some. But you might not feel up to this. Talking to someone often helps, perhaps there’s someone you could call. If you don’t feel like speaking to a friend, then google organisations near you that have a free telephone listening service. 

If you are feeling low or sad, or something like that, it might be familiar to you – maybe from other spring times, maybe from other times. When you read about ‘spring tiredness’, you might recognise your own experience, or you might realise that your experience in fact is something different.  You might want to work through these feelings with a counsellor, a trained professional who’s there alongside you.

Whatever you decide to do, always remember to treat yourself softly and gently, and to speak to yourself in the kindest way you can. 

an empty wooden bench looking out across sea and sand

Doing hard things.

Are you about to do something hard, or maybe you’re already in the middle of doing something hard?

Sometimes life just ticks along, with ups and downs, but things basically stay the same. You know what’s happening, things might not always be easy, but they are usually manageable.

And other times, we find ourselves doing hard things. Some we choose, others are driven by someone else, and some things happen to us.

I’m thinking of things that involve change: looking for or starting a new job; a change in your relationship status; or a change to your family, for example.

Periods of transition and change can be really hard. Some of us rely on our routines to support our mental health, and so a change in routine can feel uncomfortable and make us wobble. Working out what new routine is going to work can be tricky, especially if you haven’t done it for a while, and I guess we are all aware of how hard it is to change a habit.

When we go through a period of change, perhaps our identity also changes. And if our identity shifts, then who we are can feel tenuous and vague, at least at first. When we used to feel solid in how we described ourselves, now we’re trying to work out how to best describe this new thing. What language are we going to use, and how do we feel about it? It’s hard navigating these things.

As well as things changing for you, you might also be wrestling with the reactions of the people close to you. While you figure out your new identity or path, your family and friends might have their own feelings and opinions about it, that they want to share with you. A supportive friend or family member is gold in hard times, someone who’s there for you, on your side. But when you change, this can unsettle people around you – maybe they are worried that you’re moving out of their reach, or are you reminding them of some hard things of their own they’d like to do?

I don’t know if you’ve watched any of the TV series ‘The Piano’ on Channel 4? Amateur pianists play on pianos in the middle of train stations for huge crowds. Some of the pianists make this look easy – although of course we don’t know what is happening for them internally. For others, they are clear that they are doing a really hard thing. In Episode 3, about 5 minutes from the start, the host Claudia meets Dana. Dana really wants to perform, but she is also really scared, she’s not sure how it’s going to go. She goes wrong, but she carries on and does well, with her own determination and Claudia’s support.

And for me, that is what counselling can offer you – a place where you can explore doing hard things. If you are thinking about doing something hard soon, your counsellor can help you talk about what it might be like, and what you might need to support you. If you’re already in the middle of a hard thing, your counsellor can be there to support you in talking through what is going on, and what it might all mean. Are you looking back and only just now realising that you just got through something really hard? Talking about it with your counsellor can be really helpful in processing what has changed.

And I can’t close this post without directing you to a podcast: We Can Do Hard Things!

Good luck to you with your hard things – with choosing them, doing them and coming out the other side. And good luck also if right now isn’t the time for you to do a hard thing – we definitely don’t have to do hard things all the time! If you are looking for a counsellor to support you, have a look around this website, you’ll find a How to find a counsellor guide.

an old gate in a field

How to find a counsellor

Making the decision that you are going to start counselling can feel pretty huge. You’re ready to try something that could help you feel better and enjoy life more – and there are only a few more steps to go:

You might have a personal recommendation of a counsellor, or you might have heard a name of a counsellor – or you might have no idea where to start.

Mind UK (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/talking-therapy-and-counselling/how-to-find-a-therapist/) is a good place to start.

Counselling Directory is a place for counsellors from lots of different membership bodies.

BACP is the biggest membership body of counsellors.

ACTO is a directory of online counsellors.

If you can, take a bit of time to think about what exactly you are looking for: is your counsellor’s gender important? or their specialisms? or their counselling approach? Do you want to know if your counsellor is an ally? Next, more practical concerns: do you want to work face-to-face or online? What time and day is going to suit you best? How much do you want to spend? Are you thinking of working long term or short term (or not sure)? Do you want to meet first for a quick chat on the phone, or a short face-to-face meeting or video call, or would you rather book a full session, and decide after that?

Once you have this kind of thing clear in your mind, write a short enquiry email. Say that you’re looking to start counselling, ideally with someone who (and describe what you are looking for). Explain how and when you would like to work. Ask what the counsellor’s arrangements are for initial meetings or sessions. You can explain that you will be contacting a few different counsellors so that you can find the best match for you. You might like to say a few words about the main issues you are hoping to work on, but you don’t have to go into any detail, and you don’t have to do this now.

So you’re ready with your email, and you’re on a website listing counsellors. As you scroll through the pictures and welcome messages, you might get a sense of who you might like to consider working with. Anyone who catches your eye, send them your email!

Over the next few days, keep an eye on your email and do check your spam/junk folders. When you find someone who’s available to work with you, set up your first meeting – whether it’s a short chat, or a full session. You might prepare a list of questions you want to make sure to ask. These might be questions about something practical – payment methods, confidentiality or cancellation arrangements. Or you might want to know something about them and how they work. Feel free to ask anything you’d like.

If you can see a few different counsellors, you’ll get the chance to see what sort of person appeals to you the most, and who feels like you could work well with. The practicalities can be ironed out, and you’ll be ready to go!

And then, of course, the real work starts!

an empty wooden bench looking out across sea and sand

2023: what will be new for you?

The start of a new year can be an exciting time – there might be a feeling of a fresh start, anticipation of adventures to come and hope for better times ahead. For the first few days of a new year, you might even be feeling refreshed and energised if you’ve been able to have some time off work.

You might well know yourself what suits you better: are you someone who benefits from setting yourself clear goals that you can then systematically work towards across the year? or are you someone who is better suited to adopting a theme for the year, maybe something like a way of being or doing that you’d like to grow over the year? Maybe you know that actually springtime is a better time for future planning for you? It takes a lot of self awareness to understand what works best for you, especially if it’s something different to what we are told is the norm.

Perhaps you’re someone who has noticed that you have a tendency to set yourself targets at this time of year, targets that you very rarely meet, and that really don’t give you any pleasure. I wonder what is going on there – a wish to be someone who you aren’t, an uncomfortableness with who you actually might be, or a belief that things should be hard and painful?

If you have time, this year, before you set yourself your goals, targets, resolutions or themes, I wonder if you could spend some time reflecting on what has worked for you in the past? Have you successfully made big deliberate changes in the past – and how did you do it? Do you need rewards, or friends to help, or someone to be accountable to? What has worked? If nothing comes to mind, consider what you might try. If you can consider this quietly, away from distractions and judgments, perhaps you’ll have a sense of what will work best. And then experiment: if possible, keep close at hand a sense of kindness, softness and gentleness towards yourself. Remember that actually, you already are good enough, any changes you do make will be the icing on the cake!

Good luck with whatever you decide – whether it’s big changes, small changes, or a decision to accept things as they are. Remember that talking things like this over with a counsellor can be really helpful. Your counsellor can be someone who helps you work out what to do, reflects on what’s happened and supports you to make changes. A good place to find a counsellor is on the BACP Therapist Directory, or if you think we might be a good match to work together, contact me here:

    an empty wooden bench looking out across sea and sand

    New (academic) year, new you!

    I wonder if this sentiment is familiar to you: New Year, New You!

    I know that when both September and January start their approach, I notice a sense of new leaves turning, and fresh starts being made. I have a belief that these times of year are the ‘right’ times to make changes. So the start of a new calendar year and a new academic year are both times when I feel that things could be different.

    And very often, the new years (academic and calendar) are when I make changes: I might join a new group, start a new class, or change my yoga routine. Maybe the practice of years of doing this mean that I’m correct, these are good times to start things.

    But often, starting things can be a real struggle. We put things off for so many reasons, and even getting round to doing something we really want to do can sometimes just not happen quickly. We might end up missing out on something we thought we wanted, and we can easily criticise ourselves for procrastinating. The received wisdom is that we put off doing things we don’t want to do – even if they lead us somewhere we want to be. Maybe our job is really making us unhappy, but we put off applying for something new because we hate interviews. Or we have always wanted to learn ballroom dancing and a beginner’s class is starting up, but we don’t join it because we hate going to a class for the first time.

    We want the long term thing to come true, but we feel like we can’t tolerate the short term pain we think we’ll have to endure to get there. I wonder if it feels like deciding to take a long distance coach to your destination for your dream holiday!

    I guess I am thinking about this because counsellors report an increase in enquiries to start counselling in September and January. These are the people who know they’d like to feel the benefits of counselling, and have taken the steps they need to start counselling.

    But there must also be people who’d like to have counselling – but who just aren’t getting around to making an enquiry and then booking an appointment. Part of me thinks that you will find counselling when you’re ready. And part of me thinks that maybe you are ready, but you just don’t want the short term pain that you imagine there might be – you are ready, but you’re procrastinating!

    I’d like to reassure you that starting counselling probably won’t be as bad as you think – and you could break the process down into some smaller steps:

    • write a short email text that you want to send to counsellors you might want to work with. Mention the times/days that you are available, and ask any questions you have. You might give a brief outline of the issues you are interested in exploring. Ask if the counsellor offers any initial meetings or chats before agreeing to book a session. You can also say that you plan to contact a number of counsellors as you are looking for the best fit. Have this text ready to copy and paste!
    • look for a counsellor on the BACP Directory (https://www.bacp.co.uk/search/Therapists). This means that you know that everyone on there has done an accredited course. Search by your own area and see who appeals to you.
    • contact everyone who appeals to you. You can do this from a form on the BACP Directory – just copy and paste the text you already wrote!
    • keep an eye on your email spam folder, and look out for replies to your enquiries. Read the enquiries, and think about how you’d like to respond – when is going to suit you for an initial meeting or chat? Would you prefer to just jump in and start with someone?
    • set up and have those initial meetings/chats. Ask anything you want, make notes if that’s going to help. Make sure that the times the counsellor has available are times that are going to suit you. You might want to say that you’ll be in touch in the next week if you’d like to go ahead, so you have some thinking time.
    • And hopefully, after all these small steps, you’ve found yourself someone who feels like you’ll be able to work with. Someone who seems trustworthy, and who feels like they’ll be able to ‘get’ you.

    Good luck – with the procrastinating, with the new years and fresh starts, and with starting counselling!

    And if you have a sense that we could work well together, just send me a message on the contact form, or send an email to jessica@jessicatettcounselling.co.uk