Mary Mcilroy Counsellor in London Bridge,
the City of London & Muswell Hill

Dealing with Anxiety and Panic Attacks


Be present. When you are experiencing a panic attack, try to acknowledge the situation realistically. Tell yourself, “This will be a good chance to try out one of my new coping strategies.” Ask yourself “am I really in danger or just experiencing discomfort?” Remind yourself that you’ll get afraid, but you will calm back down like you always do. Try to be more in the moment, using your thoughts to steer away from your fears.

Talk to yourself. When you start to feel yourself panic, try to talk yourself out of your feelings. Play the role of a concerned friend who shows the lack of evidence for your worry based “what-ifs”. State the cause of your worry out loud, and then try to find fault with your reasoning.

Breathe. During a full-fledged panic attack, your breathing becomes more rapid as your body prepares for a fight-or-flight reaction. Place one of your hands on your diaphragm and the other on your upper chest. Breathe slowly in through your nose and hold for five seconds. The hand on your diaphragm rises as you breathe whilst the one on your chest stays still. Then slowly exhale for another five seconds. Focusing on the counting and hand placement can help reduce feelings of panic.

Exercise. Regular exercise can help release tension. Introducing an exercise regimen can also have excellent long-term benefits.

Relax. Scanning your body for tense muscles helps relaxation. Close your eyes and focus on curling your toes for five seconds, then release them. Move onto your feet and then slowly work your way up your body, focusing on contracting and relaxing one muscle group at a time. You should feel a lot calmer by the time you reach your face muscles.

Distract yourself. When feelings of panic start to set in, distraction can be a good way to redirect your thoughts. Listening to music, drinking water or begin a hobby that actively engages your mind such as reading or practising a foreign language.

Meditate. Many people who suffer from feelings of panic, anxiety and nervousness find that meditating can help. During meditation, your body remains still as you focus on one particular object, word, or your breath. This is also beneficial even when you’re not in the middle of an overwhelming panic. So try meditating for ten minutes every day.

Talk to your doctor about medication. Some people suffering from panic disorders find medication can reduce symptoms. It can help take the edge off of an extreme situation so the physiology is less intense, making it more possible to cope.

Join or visit a support group. Support groups for people who suffer from panic attacks and phobias can be a tremendous help. Many people feel reassured knowing there are others who can identify with their feelings, and sufferers are able to share coping strategies and inspire one another.

Consider therapy. When your panic becomes too much for you to manage on your own counselling can be a good option. Counselling can help you understand the roots of your anxiety and how to reduce unnecessary panic.



Blog Archive. heart

Dealing with a break-up

A divorce or break-up can feel like bereavement.

Even the end of a bad relationship can feel like the loss of a planned future or of a dream. Grief can be draining, paralyzing and feel like depression however, it is not depression. Day by day the grief will shift, you can and will move on over time. Give yourself permission to feel and function at less than your optimum level. Sharing your emotions with a trusted friend helps to feel less isolated and less stressed. As with a bereavement, divorce also affects you physically as well as psychologically. While at this vulnerable place treat yourself as if you are ill. Rest, reduce your workload, minimize stress and make some positive changes.

• Make time each day to do activities you find soothing.
• Pay attention to what is right for you, say ‘no’ if its right for you. Honor yourself without angst as saying ‘no’ to others is saying ‘yes’ to yourself.
• Sticking to a routine after a divorce helps make changes. Establishing a new structure brings about a sense of calm and normalcy.
• Take time out, after a divorce you feel intense emotions. Wait a few months before changing jobs.
• Explore new interest’s, divorce is a beginning as well as an end. Pursuing new interests helps bring new enjoyment to life.
• Make healthy lifestyle choices. Exercise, eat well, sleep well and drink less.

Grow and learn from mistakes. Questions to ask yourself:
• How did you contribute to the problems of the relationship?
• How do you react to conflict, is there a more constructive way?
• Consider whether you accept people as they are or do you try to change them?
• Can you identify the sort of people you date? Are they good for you?
• What can you do differently in other relationships?

Do you need help moving on or a trusting person to talk to? If so contact m-mcilroycounselling.com



Why Men Cheat

Most men are happy in marriage and not looking for a way out. However, when unhappy, men are not likely to express their worries / emotions / sex issues with a friend / family and certainly not with a partner. If a man feels his efforts, good intentions or contributions are not appreciated he will long for recognition yet feel guilty asking for his emotional needs to be met. Just like most women, men are emotionally driven and want a connection with their partner.

Most men don’t talk when they feel furious, criticised or insignificant.

They don’t talk when they feel their partner doesn't recognise they are trying.

Men see their silence as a way of protecting the marriage. They don’t consider ways of verbalising for fear thinking that:


Talking will evoke anger.

They preempt their partner won’t listen or that honesty will cause hurt.

They feel self-conscious and unwittingly send a message of avoidance, rejection, dis-interest, blame…

Meanwhile, the partner's posture is seen as an accusation and blame rather than the defence / cover for her emotions that it is.

It’s not easy to say “I think we are starting to lose something important in a marriage and I don’t want it to disappear”.

It is much easier to put feelings aside to deal with later and have an affair.


Surprisingly most men don’t cheat for sex or looks, they want to fill the emotional void. Often the affair starts at work (40%) where the female provides the compliments and praise not received at home. Men act differently to the lover in a way he has not been able to with their wife. They want to find in their lover what’s perceived to be missing in their wife. To meet their unspoken emotional needs it helps to set a tone of appreciation and thoughtfulness (so your man will match it). Dealing with awkward silences and pent-up emotions can be helped with fresh insight and a new perspective.




Blog Archive. Photo by Lightspring /Shutterstock.com

Considering therapy? Find out how it can transform your life:

The majority of us build a set of coping mechanisms throughout our lives that can help us to face life’s challenges as they arise. Common coping methods include meditation, reaching out to some self-help literature or taking up a regular fitness regime. We also each have friends and family on whom we count for love and support. Yet, with all good intentions, it’s difficult for them to be unbiased or to tell us things they fear may hurt us. Nor are they able to understand all that they see and hear in us.

Psychotherapy is often referred to as “talking treatment” as it is usually based on creating a regular time and space for an individual to talk about his problems, explore difficult feelings and work towards solutions with a trained professional. Other forms of therapy may include a variety of communication methods, such as writing, music or artwork.

If you are considering therapy, but are perhaps a little sceptic, thinking along the lines of ‘what can they tell me that I haven’t already thought of myself’? Or perhaps perceiving therapy as a cure for self-obsessed celebrities or others with too much time or money on their hands, take a minute to look at the following, proven benefits that therapy can bring to anyone’s life. Bear in mind that while psychotherapy is often not a quick fix the gains here are deep and long lasting:

1. Research in the field has continuously shown that verbalizing feelings and getting one’s worries out in the open have a significant therapeutic effect on the brain.

2. A professional therapist has the ability to listen in a very different way to other people, and therefore is capable of hearing what others do not, even the speaker himself…This means that a professional can recognize shame where others hear aggression, fear where others hear anger. This invaluable ability can allow the speaker to get a completely new perspective, a different way of hearing and recognising his or hers feelings and emotions.

3. Therapy can also help one understand others, and this enhanced understanding has a positive influence on relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

4. Exploring one’s past and individual circumstances in a confidential set up helps people to feel less on their own and identify choices for change. This ongoing support, throughout the highly challenging path of change, helps a person to reach a state where he or she is better equipped to cope with the future.

As my client you will be positively and warmly accepted for all that you are. I will see your world and your relationship to it as it appears to you, and I will help you to move out of your difficulties and towards your goals. I offer the benefit of unbiased, honest feedback based on years of training and experience. Working with me, you can speak openly and in private. I am dedicated to helping you expand your sense of well-being.

I invite you to read the rest of this site and if you are looking for a psychotherapist in Highgate, Muswell Hill or London Bridge area
email : enquiries@m-mcilroycounselling.com or
call me 07769218 281.



Blog Archive. How to beat winter blues. Photo courtesy of Kichigin/ Shutterstock

Choose Happy: How to beat the winter blues

During the winter months, the short, darker days and the lack of sun light can affect even the best of us. If you find yourself suffering from that common, seasonal health complaint, you are among 2 million people who experience it every year in Britain.

The condition, described by some as a mild depression, is usually characterized by feeling a little down, lacking motivation and energy, increased fatigue and in some cases, greater appetite.

The good news is that there are some simple steps that you can take in order to improve your mental wellbeing. By doing so you may feel happier and more positive every day.

Adjusting your diet

Paying attention to your diet and making some healthy choices can positively affect your mood and energy levels. Try to keep those carb cravings at bay by maintaining your blood sugar levels, it will help you to feel more energetic. Reduce the intake of sweets and simple carbs because eating them will lead to sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood. This in turn, results in irritability, poor concentration, dizziness, crying spells or fatigue.
You should monitor your caffeine intake too. High levels of caffeine in your daily diet can lead to agitation and nervousness. Various studies shown that cutting down on caffeine can lift effects of depression.

Getting a portion of exercise

As shown by many studies people who exercise regularly experience positive boost to their moods and therefore lower rates of depression. This is because exercising relieves the build-up of stress hormones in the body and promotes overall relaxation of the nervous system. It also releases happy chemicals called endorphins.
Incorporating regular fitness routine into your life doesn’t require buying expensive gym membership. It is enough to just add little activity into your daily schedule.
According to University of Bristol, as little as 20 mins of exercising a day is enough to boost your happiness levels.

Investing time in your social life

Studies shown that socializing has a positive effect on one’s mental health. However, during the winter months we often tend to spend more time in the warmth of our homes, limiting our time with others.
Keeping in touch with people who care about us is considered one of the best mood boosters out there. So if you are feeling low, instead of dwelling on it, pick up a phone and call a good friend, spend more time with your family or join a club in your local area to meet new people.

Getting outside

Lack of sunlight can make the winter blues worse. Spending time outdoors, as little as 15 minutes a day, can reduce stress levels and boost your mood. If your work requires long hours spent indoors, try to sit near to the window whenever you can.

Developing hobbies and interests

Cold winter months may push us to spend more time indors, but that doesn’t mean that our free time should be spent entirely in front of TV. Try to proactively research options for indoor hobbies, some of the most popular include baking, painting, reading, writing or learning a new language.






Blog Archive. depression

Don’t Let Depression Win...

You Want to Cry and Don’t Know Why

The alarm goes off and the depression count down begins. What can I delay today? Who can I cancel? Where can I delegate? All you want is your pillow. When you look in the mirror, you count the flaws and loathe what you see. The inner diatribe is sharp and unrelenting. This is depression and it makes working, playing, learning and parenting almost impossible. You suffer because you lack motivation. You are guilty because you can’t mobilize. You want to cry and you don’t know why. It makes no sense. You barely recognize yourself.

It Makes No Sense

You would do anything to feel better, and you’ve probably tried all of the usual fixes: omega-3s, gym memberships, yoga, meditation, affirmations and “being positive.” Self-help books and rock anthems might give you a momentary emotional boost, but perhaps the gray cloud of depression always manages to descend once again. Your job performance may be suffering, your loved ones are perhaps bewildered and you are likely worn out by the effort it takes to pay the bills, get out of bed in the morning or even tie your shoelaces. There’s a way out of this, but in your current state, hope has perhaps migrated south for the season.

It’s not your fault

Depression treatment also questions the high bars individuals set for themselves. Is it fair? Does it make sense? When patients learn to examine their wishes for perfection, they learn to weed out the goals that don’t matter anymore and keep only the important ones. Once the backbreaking ideals are retired, rest and relaxation can find a foothold. Pleasure and connection are right behind. With the help of counselling you can learn about your vulnerabilities to hurt, guilt, shame, and loneliness. You can recognise that you are backsliding into depression in a more timely manner and intercede with exceptional self-care.

I can barely get through my day

Yes. I know. Another obligation. Another place to be. You are already so burdened by your illness that you can’t imagine that someone could lighten the load you are already carrying. The hopeful part of you is reading this and searching for relief. At the same time, something powerful (and probably old) is working like acid on your hope. Think of taking the power of the sneering, hateful part and aiming all that energy at acquiring something you want instead of at your most vulnerable self.

Don’t Let Depression Win

With the help of depression treatment, it’s possible to get back in touch with the best of what you are. I have 8 years experience working as a counsellor and have worked with depression in all its disguises. You can take off the mask with me. Give me a call on 07769 218 281, or email enquiries@m-mcilroycounselling.com and make an appointment today.




Blog Archive. toxic people

5 Effective Ways of dealing with Toxic People

The sad reality is that toxic people are common; we all come across them at one point or another. The boss who wants to discredit your achievements, the friend who injects pessimism into every situation, or the family member who enjoys pushing your buttons. Some of them seem to be unaware of their damaging impact on people around them, others thrive on creating chaos and causing upset.

While it’s impossible to avoid such people in our lives, it is important to protect yourself from their influence. Especially, as recent studies have shown that stress caused by interaction with toxic individuals can have a lasting, negative impact on one’s brain and really hurt your productivity and performance.

It is very useful to have some tested techniques on hand. Here are five of the best.

1. Distance yourself and stick to the facts
Don’t waste your time on trying to understand or explain their behavior. It is not possible simply because they operate in an irrational way. This is why in order to stay in control, you should distance yourself from toxic individuals emotionally and don’t let them mess with your emotions. Otherwise you are throwing yourself in their emotional chaos.

2. Don’t let them steal your joy
Don’t allow toxic individuals to control your happiness. For this reason train yourself to take other people comments with a pinch of salt, remembering that while everyone may voice their opinions, and in case of toxic individuals snide remarks, they have no bearing on your abilities and talents. They don’t, unless you let them.

3. Steer away from negative thoughts and focus on positive
Where you invest your focus and attention dictates your emotional state. Instead of dwelling on the situation caused by the toxic person and their crazy behavior, and therefore multiplying negative thoughts, focus on ways that will help you grow as an individual and improve your current position. Such an approach will help you to get back in control and feel stronger when facing toxic individuals.

4. Use interaction with toxic people for your personal growth
Focus your attention on lessons that you can derive from this situation. Your lesson may be to learn how to establish better boundaries or perhaps remembering to distance yourself from opinions of others. If you approach it that way, next time around you may deal with a similar situation in a more effective way.

5. Use your support network
Don’t try tackling the situation entirely on your own. In order to successfully deal with toxic people, you need to distance yourself from the approach you are taking and consider it in a critical way.

And what a better way of doing it then discussing the situation with somebody who is there to help. Identify the key individuals in your support network and get their insight on the situation. It will be invaluable, as their perspective is much clearer and their solutions much more straightforward, all because they haven’t invested their emotions in the toxic situation.

The only way to master your approach towards toxic individuals is to repeat the best practice behaviors over and over. With consistent, practical implementation of such behaviors you will eventually train your brain to handle toxic people and associated stress much more effectively.



Blog Archive. Copyright Attribution: Lightspring/Shutterstock”

Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success. – Paul J. Meyer

From the day we are born we try to express our thoughts and get out what we want to say however, being able to communicate in a clear manner can be very difficult, many people struggle with the challenge. Unclear communication has led to many unnecessary arguments between friends, families, couples, and perhaps even countries. Clear communication is something that takes practice. It is a skill that you can develop and acquire over time. You may struggle with it now but with practice and continued effort you will likely improve. Here are 13 ways to improve your communication skills:

1. Ask for an objective opinion
You struggle with communication but it would be interesting to know if others share that opinion. You could ask your friends, family members or teachers whether they agree with your self-evaluation. Their responses may surprise you. You may find you are much better at communicating than you give yourself credit for.

2. Practice with friends or family
Objective listeners may be able to identify unclear presentation of ideas.

3. Look for similarities and establish a connection
When meeting people always look for common ground, identify similar interests or hobbies. Steer clear from controversial topics, such as politics or religion.

4. Be a receptive listener
We love talking about ourselves. To become a powerful communicator, show genuine interest in the other person’s family, work, or any causes that are important in their life. As Dale Carnegie famously said “ Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours”.

5. Have other people read your work.
With regard to writing, sometimes we become “too close” to our work and no longer see where we may be making errors. An objective observer can point out overlooked mistakes.

6. Join a debate club
Debate clubs often foster skills such as articulating logical arguments and developing clarity of thought.

7. Read
Reading has many benefits. It’s like exercising the mind. It keeps us mentally sharp. You may want to read works by “great” writers. Opinions vary greatly but a list of great writers may include Tolstoy, Dickens, Hemingway, and many others. Another way to develop your communication skills may be to read editorials and news articles in prominent newspapers such as The Times. Pay attention to sentence structure, grammar, presentation of ideas, and so forth and it could help you to improve your skills. You may also want to consider reading books about communication.

8. Take a public speaking class
Many people avoid public speaking classes but if you’re interested in developing communication skills, I would highly recommend it. It could help you to be a more sensitive and deliberate communicator. Public speaking courses encourage an examination of our thoughts and beliefs and thus may lead to clarity of thought.

9. Make it a point to speak when you’d rather send a text or email.
It is okay on some occasions to write instead of speaking to someone directly but not if you do it to avoid the uncomfortable feeling associated with trying to express yourself. Try to force yourself to speak instead of writing. It may not be easy and it may be unpleasant at first but over time your communication skills may improve.

10. Develop good eye contact
Eye contact is vital for successful conversations. It shows attentiveness and interest in what is being said. According to research, consciously making eye contact during conversation conveys truth and honor. However, remember that good eye contact is a balancing act Too much can be seen as aggressive, while too little equals lack of interest in the person speaking.

11. Avoid judgment
For effective communication you don’t always have to agree with the other person’s believes or opinions. However, you should try to set aside your judgment and steer away from any criticism. This will help you to truly understand the person and make a deeper connection.

12. Don’t get fixed on what you want to say next
People can easily recognise when you are truly listening. Always make sure you listen before you speak and let others finish their points. Your patience and thoughtfulness will be appreciated.

13. Maintain a positive attitude
We tend to avoid people who are frequently miserable. Therefore, when communicating with others try to maintain a positive attitude towards life. If you smile more often, people will be more likely to respond positively to you.

While your communication skills won’t improve over night, it is worth taking time and effort to put above tips into practice. Considering that effective communication is one of the most important life skills we can learn, embarking on a long-term journey of improving your skills is crucial. Start today, it will be a journey you won’t regret.



Blog Archive. link

Think the Link: Mind /Body /Feelings & the Health Connection

So much ill health is entirely preventable. If you only treat symptoms and fail to explore the reason for illness, you will never get to the root cause of the problem and it will most likely remain or return. My experience has taught me the importance of becoming aware of our sensations, catching the thought that accompanies this physical reaction and naming the emotion involved. Awakening our awareness, linking it to similar historic experiences and being willing to challenge beliefs, (which are often presented as facts) can help bring about behavioural change.

A change in behavioural patterns might be enough to avoid accompanying reactions when considering choices for health care.

Example 1 “The people who expressed the most positive emotions lived up to 10 years longer than those who expressed the fewest. This gain in life expectancy is considerably larger than the gain achieved by those who quit smoking”
© 2003 Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society on ‘The Value of Positive Emotions’

Example 2 “Despite people placing a high value on health and wanting to live healthy lifestyles, the majority of the adult population has at least one of the major lifestyle risks (such as smoking, regularly drinking more than the recommended limits, not being physically active and/or being overweight or obese) that can lead to poor health, increased cost to society and lives cut short. Changing these behaviours is extremely challenging, often requiring not just individual motivation but sustained support from family or committed professionals”
www.gov.dh’ ‘Changing behaviour, assisting outcomes’

My core training in Psychosynthesis Counselling established a keen interest in the Mind/ Body/ Feeling connection and its relationship to mental health. It also taught me to reflect on the history of our repeating patterns and to know there is always a solution to physical manifestations of anxiety related illnesses.

For advice on addressing behavioural changes refer to my blogs on:www.m-mcilroycounselling.co.uk



Blog Archive. body

Linking thinking and health

Much of what the body resorts to (headaches, numbness, nausea, hyperventilation, trembling) are tactile communications of jeopardy that have lingered on well past the event. By helping to understand what is stimulating these physical reactions (it could be a colour or smell, any sensory input that has been charged with alarm) we can help bring meaning to fears and symptoms that have elevated beyond comprehension and manifest as illness.

However, most of us, therapists included, have grave reservations about addressing the physical front of emotional distress. Have you ever found yourself:

Shooing unpleasant thoughts with your hands,
Shaking your head silently,
Quickly changing the topic or
Distracting yourself by eating?
Where do those unsavory feelings go? The repressed emotions stay in our mussels to
later manifest as physical illnesses. They remain buried until examined and released.

We can begin to release the buried memories and emotions in small chunks:

First become aware of our emotions, listen to the thoughts and day-dreams.
Record what you love and what you hate.
Which memories won’t go away? Analyse, re-feel the hurt and forgive for your health’s sake
Keep a diary by your bed. Record the emotion for your health’s sake, be specific.
Do you compulsively overeat to stuff down emotions, when was this behavior triggered?
Identify the emotion and the cause.

When what you say is not is sync with what you feel “it's not important” explore the reasons.
Identify your emotion. Re-experience the pain, cry about the experience.
It helps to share your list of painful emotions, do you know someone who will listen?

Take the risk.









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