MARY McILROY Telephone and Online Service Counsellor in London Bridge,
the City of London & Muswell Hill - North London

Blog . sad

SAD ’Seasonal Affective Disorder’

SAD is a type of depression that relates to changes in season. SAD usually begins and ends about the same time each year, beginning in the autumn and continuing through the winter. SAD can sap all your energy, make you feel miserable and moody in December and depressed in the spring. We know the symptoms of depression!

We can take steps to overcome these symptoms, to increase our mood and motivation, even prevent SAD from taking hold:

Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
If you are already suffering from low energy, feeling irritable, have low energy or feeling depressed it may help to

consider alternative medicine
see your GP who may suggest anti-depressants
take care of yourself, really indulge in your favourite pleasures
get out and socialise
contact a counsellor to resolve your anxieties and depression.

Blog . acceptance

The Power Of Acceptance

" All truth passes through three stages.
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)

One of the most difficult yet most simple qualities to cultivate in life is acceptance. And while it is true that not everything ought to be accepted, it is often a virtue and a step toward serenity to understand that not everything can be changed, and that unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.

"Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.."
Katherine Mansfield, British author (1888-1923)

As we strive for perfection we fight what may be good enough or what we cannot change anyway. We may waste a lot of energy, feeling bored and stuck rather than progressive and motivated. Sometimes there is no magic however, simple acceptance can be enough to ease and change our perspective. In turn we free our energy to discover, explore and enjoy what is already available.
After an unfortunate injury a young man became epileptic, this unexpected condition could not be completely controlled by medication. Unlike a common cold, his epilepsy did not get better and go. Despite consulting experts and living as carefully as possible occasional fits still occurred. The changes in his life excluded him from driving, enjoy his favourite activities of climbing and sometimes drinking to excess, such changes impinged on his style and his goals. In desperation he consulted a counsellor for guidance only to find out what he needed was to accept, even a reputable counsellor could not rid him of epilepsy. He felt disappointed, almost horrified, how could he simply ‘accept’ his new condition? In time however, he found public transport services to be good enough, that walking and running worked wonders for his health and that there are many alternative interests. His life carried on, he developed new ways to be. His health was not ideal but accepting epilepsy allowed him to adjust his style and enjoy his life regardless.

"Accepting does not necessarily mean 'liking,' 'enjoying,' or 'condoning.' I can accept what is-and be determined to evolve from there. It is not acceptance but denial that leaves me stuck."
Nathaniel Branden, American psychologist

Again, note that acceptance does not connote approval. In fact, it usually connotes that there is something in the situation that is less than appealing, less than ideal. Yet, for wider reasons, such as the overall value of a relationship, or situation, we tolerate or assent to the imperfection. While perfection and improvement are surely ideals for which to strive, inordinately demanding them in every situation or instantly is usually a recipe for resentment, frustration, disappointment, and even strife.
Often we may begin a relationship with stars in our eyes, wanting to believe ‘he/she is the one, this time it will work, he /she will change that little bit’. In time ‘that little bit’ can grow and it often happens that the ideal one seeks becomes a new deal. And the process tends to repeat and repeat, such that a person like this never attains deep relations with real people in a real world, but is forever seeking that which is unreal, which does not exist. In effect they miss real life, in search of fantasy.

A young woman believed she finally met her prince, this new man was surely the antidote to her current relationship. Without deep reflection she bade the old relationship farewell and eagerly welcomed the new. Her new beau may not show his emotions but look at his confidence and sporting prowess, surely in time he would notice and appreciate her affections. “My displays of love and gratitude will rub off, his indifference will melt, I will gently engineer these changes” she convenience herself yet again.

If we can give up the temptation to end one relationship and move from place to place in search of an ideal situation we ultimately realise there is no escape from oneself, and the idea that things would be better someplace else is usually an illusion. Acceptance of one’s partner can provide incentive to restore peace and work things out. This acceptance means learning the practices of love: acknowledging one’s own offensive behaviour, giving up one’s preferences, forgiving and possibly developing oneself as a result. Acceptance enables one to work with what you’ve got rather than waste time constantly looking for a better deal.

"It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however, satisfying and reassuring."
Carl Sagan, American astronomer (1934-1996)

Blog . happy life

5 Key Habits to a Happier Life

We all strive for happiness, often by looking for it in a wide variety of places, perceiving it as a state that we can arrive at. But happiness is a journey, not a destination. It is not a place that you can reach for good. The good news is that we can develop our own happiness plan, by consciously exercising some positive habits. So here they are, five, psychologically proven habits that will help you to live a happier and more fulfilled life:

1. Express Gratuitude- happiness really starts from counting your blessings. Psychological studies over the years have consistently shown that an ongoing practice of gratitude brings surprising life improvements. Yes, gratitude, just like any other skill requires practice. So start consciously reminding yourself things that you can be grateful for, you may chose to write a gratitude journal or simply verbalise the feeling of gratitude on regular basis.

2. Forgive- being able to forgive and let go will empower you. And it applies to both, forgiving others and yourself. By doing so you will remove a heavy and a painful load off your back. Forgiveness, however difficult, will set you free so you can lave the trap of endless revenge and experience more joy and connection in your life.

3. Turn jealousy into motivation- the feeling of jealousy is often associated with negativity. However, if we chose to look at jealousy from another perspective we can turn it into a healthy tool. When approached in a constructive way jealousy can help us to fulfill our wants, needs and goals. Move from a jealousy mode into a ‘student’ mode to be inspired and learn from the success of others.

4. Smile more- research shows that our emotions are reinforced by our responding facial expressions. In simple words, smiling more will make you feel happier. Recent study by University of Cardiff discovered that people who have botox injections, are happier on average than people who can frown. Smiling is very powerful, it helps us to crate a much happier environment around us as people respond to it and gravitate towards happy, stimulating individuals.

5. Embrace your inner child and learn something new- children are curious and always ready to learn something new. Try to let go of your inner perfectionist and embrace new skills. Remember, it’s ok not getting it right the first time around.

Blog . obnoxious people

How to handle challenging people?

We don’t live in a perfect world and therefore meet all different kind of people. Additionally, we often hold unrealistic expectations about others and our relationships with them. Expecting people to share our values and behave exactly the way we would, will certainly lead to disappointment and frustration. Reflecting on and understanding our interactions with others, on the other hand, can take the emotions out of a tense situation and allow a bit of distance, perspective and empathy to better interact with those whom we like and don’t like.

1. Don’t take it personally

Remember, the fact that someone behaves in a rude way doesn’t necessary make them a bad human, especially if you know and like the person and their behavior seems to be out of character. We all have bad days, and while it is certainly not a good idea to take our frustration out on others, we are all guilty of this from time to time.
While it isn’t easy to consider the feelings of a person who acts in an obnoxious way, it can certainly help you deal with their rudeness if you realize that they behave this way because they have been scared or hurt in life. It is crucial to protect the positive space around you, so take the power away from the obnoxious person by remembering that their words do not define you and choose to treat it as their problem and not yours. As Eleanor Rooselvet once said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

2. Is it really about them?

Our self-perception can affect the way we perceive others. Consequently, it is worth considering whether your feelings of offence or hurt are caused by your very own, deep-rooted insecurity, rather than the actions of somebody else? Someone’s hurtful remark may weight very heavily on your heart due to painful experiences from your past. This is why it is important to remember that the inner belief we hold of ourselves can affect the way we perceive our interactions with people. What we don’t like in others often mirrors exactly what we don’t like about ourselves. The good news here is that it is much easier to change your perception or attitude, rather than ask someone to change theirs.

3. Confront

It may be an idea to confront the obnoxious person and let them know, politely but in a confident manner, that they need to stop their behavior, as you don’t appreciate it. You may consider using an ‘I’ statement e.g.“when you use that tone of voice I feel attacked, don’t be surprised if I ignore you”. It is crucial to stay calm and avoid any aggressive behavior as it can only escalate the situation. Also, while is important to set boundaries, remember that you don’t need to prove yourself to anyone and you don’t need to explain yourself.

4. Don’t overanalyze and move on

Consider how much time and energy you spend on thinking of your encounters with rude individuals. After you tried being empathic and understanding, did some self-reflection or confronted that person and things still haven’t improved you need to draw a line. Overanalyzing the situation, the history of interactions or worrying about what they think about you means simply giving your energy away. Allowing others to define us can also be a significant obstacle in developing and maintaining a healthy and realistic self-perception.
It is also advisable to limit your contact with the obnoxious person. If someone’s rude behavior towards you becomes repetitive, adjust your expectations accordingly. That way you will be prepared for the situation and it won’t catch you by surprise. Another reaction worth considering is simply removing yourself from the situation. Walk away, even if they are still talking to you! As they say ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

It is crucial to accept that not everyone will like us and equally we won’t like everyone we meet. Conflicts and disagreements are an inseparable part of our life and while we cannot always control our circumstances, we can certainly control our attitude and response. And finally, let me share this great quote by Adisa Dimpfara Srijana with you:

“Consider all phenomena to be dreams
Be grateful to everyone.
Don’t be swayed by outer circumstances.
Don’t brood over the faults of others.
Explore the nature of unborn awareness.
At all times simply rely on a joyful mind.
Don’t expect a standing ovation”.

Blog . body

Listen to the wisdom of the body

Our bodies are amazing, they are an important and overlooked tool for gaining physical, mental and emotional health.
When you last couldn’t sleep did you reach for a sleeping pill or scan your body for areas of tension.
When you are stressed with your head between your knees do you reach for a coffee, trying to forget the tension and override what your body is telling you? If your head is aching do you see an aspirin as the answer?

Your body is talking to you, listen.

It’s quite amazing what we can perceive by simply:
closing our eyes,
feeling the weight of our body on the chair or feeling our feet on the floor and
placing our left hand on our stomach, our right hand on our heart while we breathe gently as we
scan our body for troubled spots.

Nurture and support your body instead of ignoring those aches, twinges, tensions, tight spots.
Ask yourself “what one thing can I do to support my body today?”
An idea might arise, it could be through an image, a thought, a dream.
You will receive an answer, reflect on the answer and care for your body, you deserve care.

I believe a contemplative 5-minute routine can offer physical, emotional and mental benefits if you are prone to high levels of stress.

Blog . emotions allow

How to release pent up emotions, just let them be

Have you ever been ambushed by your emotions and found yourself fighting back tears, possibly with a lump in your throat, unable to speak as your stomach contracts?

Possibly this emotional ambush is accompanied by intense embarrassment which you believe ‘simply must not be seen’. Maybe a heart breaking memory has been triggered. Maybe a worrying thought brought to mind, one which you are unable to share. I say:

"Let this emotional ambush be witnessed,
just let it be, don’t try to push it away.
For now let it be and really feel that forbidden feeling.
Feel into that place inside your body.
Share that intense flush of emotion that grips you as
it’s really OK to be vulnerable, if you dare take the risk’”.

The prize for this sharing is you may find your witness to be warm-hearted, sympathetic, friendly, surprised to have discovered their own well-hidden emotions. The sharing of true emotions is also a great way to bring others closer to us and a prerequisite for building friendships.

"Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Blog . emotional eating

How to overcome emotional eating

We don’t always reach for food to simply satisfy hunger. Many of us turn to food in times of distress, boredom or uncertainty. Other problems, such as depression, anxiety, chronic anger or poor self-esteem can also result in overeating and consequently, unwanted weight gain. According to recent studies 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.

The sad truth is that emotional hunger cannot be satisfied by a full stomach. On the contrary, after the ‘emotional feast’ is over, we are often left feeling much worse, struggling with guilt and shame, and unable to justify our behavior.

Emotional overeating can easily become a habit that can prevent a person from effectively resolving emotional distress. For emotional eaters food becomes a ‘buffer’ that blocks the pain, even if only temporarily.

So where do you start if you want to stop eating emotionally?

1. Become aware of your feelings

It is absolutely essential for you to recognize that you are an emotional eater and try to explore the reasons for it. A good place to start is to ask yourself the following question, every time you reach out for food or experience a craving: “Am I actually hungry? Why am I eating? Is it because I need to eat or because I just want to eat?”

2. Start an emotional eating journal

You may wish to take notes and track your eating habits to determine patterns and emotional triggers that lead to food binges. If you notice that you tend to overeat during specific times of the day, consider what is it about those times that triggers such behavior?

3. Find alternative ways to deal with your feelings

In order to find a long-term solution to emotional eating, one needs to find different ways, other than food, that can help to achieve an emotional fulfillment.
Example: If you are feeling anxious, relieve the nervous energy by playing a musical instrument, dancing to a favourite song or going for a brisk walk. Similarly, if you are feeling exhausted, don’t ‘reward’ yourself with a bar of chocolate, but make yourself a hot cup of tea or light some scented candles and have a relaxing bath.

4. Don’t give in automatically

Emotional eating works like an impulse, before you even realize what you are doing you may have already finished a tub of ice-cream. Next time you have a craving, give yourself a couple of minutes to analyse your feelings and make a conscious decision. Avoid thinking in terms of ‘I can’t’ because forbidden fruit always appears very tempting. Instead, ask yourself ‘how am I feeling right now’? What’s going through my mind? Giving yourself time to reflect instead of immediately giving in to craving, will help you to develop a different response over time.

Putting the above tips in practice will help you to break the eating cycle. This is not likely to happen over night and you may fail several times before you change your emotional responses, but in time you will overcome the emotional eating problem.

Therapy can provide effective ways for managing overeating and eating disorders. Together we can identify the challenges that predisposed you to the problem and find the best way forward to help you develop a healthy relationship with food. I offer counselling and psychotherapy in Muswell Hill N10 and London Brdige (City of London). You can contact me in confidence on 07769 218 281, or email me at [email protected]

Blog . ambition

Blog . success

Blog . Aspiration

Ambition- Do you have it? Do you need it? Is it ok if you don’t have any?

Do you have it? Do you need it? Is it ok if you don’t have any? How do you deal with it?
Love and marriage, the workplace and a career, sports and games, win and lose, first and last.
We can’t all be winners, Brad & Angelina, The CEO, Top Dog, Chris Vroom, Bill Gates.
What if the desire to compete is missing? What if we are happy to tend the garden and don’t want to set foot on
the starting block?

Is there an alternative to the rat race? An antidote to firsts, merits & distinctions?
Must we wait until midlife and burnout before we explore other options?
Can we learn to meditate on the meaning of ambition rather than on how to get rich?
What exists to placate those who haven’t realized the dream?
Is there a second chance? a reward for coming second? success for late bloomers?
What follows the success of achieving CEO? Nirvana? A void? Much more efforting to stay Top Dog?
Are the rewards of success now more obtainable or less obtainable following Brexits shrinking economy?
Are you one of the minions who take their mobile on holiday trying to cling onto the slippery ladder?
Are you at the top working non-stop?
Are you pedaling at your own pace, having a laugh and enjoying your blooms when they are in season?
Are you thinking ‘it's all behind me’ or ‘the best is yet to come”
Is there an answer?
Are you driven by love or money, do you want comfort or are you insatiable?
Where are you on the continuum of ambition and success ?

Awakening Ambition

Are you too stuck in ingrained patterns, listening to the voices of ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’ to dare open up to
your own inner ambition and let fresh air in? Success costs and risking the safety of the known is the currency.
Calculate the cost:
You need to open your heart to develop.
Risk being vulnerable, feeling weak is imperative to growing strong.
Work out what you want, what is right and fair for you?
Honor yourself and your situation. While daring to communicate your truth you might discover that the other (person) feels the
same, rather than blame look at what needs to happen:
The other is picking up our weakness, make it a strength, reframe and the system shifts, change comes about.
You are on the first rung.
The first step to success is to operate from within your heart.
Slow down, what are you in touch with, connect with the aspects of you silenced by imperative voices.
Find the dismissed dreams, record reflections, honor the unoffered parts of you unseen before and something will change, you have a choice:
Observe inner ambitions or listen to the voice saying "it will never happen" the voice blocking your success.
Individual success is a journey we need to stay open to.
Whatever arises have compassion for and respect the surprises.

Blog . Ambition and Success

Blog . goalposts

Moving the Goalposts

As a child we’re guided pointedly towards the need for goals.
“What do you want to do when you grow up?”
“Paint pictures” is laughed off. “Help those in need” is not seen as a serious goal.
We learn money is the measure of success that needs addressing.
Most parents highlight how money and a chosen profession is the only way to fulfillment.

But are we in danger of killing awareness of the soul’s pleasure?

Is success wearing the gown or having a partner to happily dine with you?
Is ambition the image of Nigel the neighbour making big bucks or following your vision of setting the world to rights?
Do you dare defy the boundaries set down at 3 or explore the limits of your horizon in teenage years?
Does your vision lead to success or wax and wane while getting nowhere?

Are you a follower or an individual with awareness?
If you want to explore the dynamics of your potential counseling can help?

Overcoming Loss, Bereavement, anxiety, stress, trauma, panic and Relationship difficulties.

My aim with all issues is to help you have a wholesome and satisfying life.
To achieve the above we need to work together in order to learn and understand why things affect you as they do.
What you are struggling with could be the loss of a loved one, anxiety, depression, loneliness, anger, loss of meaning, difficulty in relationships.
Often relationships are key to our work and home - life difficulties.
I want to help you develop a concrete plan to address these difficulties.
When emotional issues get in the way, new skills and alternative strategies may need to be developed so you can continue to function successfully.

I work in Muswell Hill N10, North London and London Bridge SE1 and offer therapy in The City of London.
My address is an easy commute for those in Central London, N10, SE1, Westminster, Holborn and The City of London

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