Now with January over we can really see the days get brighter and the sunrise earlier. At these transition times we need to mind our energy levels, coming out of winter slowdown and moving towards Spring awakening. Take a look at our body work therapists who can support your health and balance with Craniosacral Therapy, Massage (Holistic & Sports), Nutritional Therapy, Physiotherapy and Reiki.
The therapy centre flower bed planted as an experiment last year has already starting to show signs of new growth, as you can see in these photos. It is time to get back to it, shake off the winter and move into growth emotionally and spiritually ourselves as well. Lets also bear in mind that thousands of us have had private losses and grief as we went in and out of covid restrictions over two years. As people mix together again and return to the office workplaces, we can be mindful that we do not know what the other has really gone through since March 2020.
Anyone fortunate enough to not have been bereaved during the pandemic restrictions might now be wondering how to give themselves permission to live in a meaningful way, or what that means, as the world opens up again. This will be different for everyone. Dare to be different and own your choices, mistakes and growth. Our collective and individual experiences over the past 2 years have helped us realise how quickly our lives can change and how little control we have. Perhaps we can take from that a lesson in paying attention to what makes our life feel worthwhile and fulfilling. To choose our life path for our growth, not taking on other peoples’ expectations and judgements if they do not fit us.
Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. (Maya Angelou)
We are closing off another year and however you celebrate and find meaning in this time of year, I hope you have a peaceful and happy time. Some people get festive with as many people around as possible. Others like to take time out for reflection, processing, letting go the year just lived before turning to enter the new journey into Spring. Many of us are somewhere in between so wherever you are on that spectrum, I hope you enjoy it in your own way.
As we wrap up this year I am thinking of all the hard work and developments here in the Therapy Centre. We have had new therapists join and everyone is enjoying the space here. Therapies added this year are Art Psychotherapy, Holistic Massage, Nutritional Therapy, Physiotherapy, Reiki, and Sports Massage. We also have two student therapists who joined us this Winter as part of their professional training and are providing the Low-Cost Counselling Service. This is an opportunity for anyone who wants to access counselling but is hesitant either about the cost or about whether counselling would work for them.
We decorated the rooms a little more this year too. It’s a process and a balance between keeping the space neutral enough for different therapists to be able to make it their own, and helping the space feel warm and welcoming. We will continue in 2022 with more little improvements into the Spring so I will post those on Facebook! We started an online shop with gift vouchers initially as a Christmas gift idea and will look at continuing to sell non-Christmassy ones in the New Year.
There was a lot of growth in 2021 but it happened in increments, and it is now that I pause at the end of the year and look back I can see we have developed quite a bit. That is part of the value of these darker winter months. Take time to look back and reflect on what you have lived through. It is important to celebrate the small wins and small steps as well as acknowledging what was painful this year. Let yourself fully acknowledge your experience then, if you can, take what is useful to you into the Spring. We cannot carry everything with us year on year as we go through life. This is a time to rest a bit, unpack what we have been carrying around and see what we have accumulated. Some experience may have changed you and become part of who you are now. On the other hand, what is no longer useful to you can be gently set down. Is there something you can set down now and prepare to step lighter into February? This could be a habit, a relationship, an attitude, a feeling of obligation, a fear.
Thank you to everyone who came to the therapy centre this year. I hope you found it helpful, that is what we are here for. If there is something you think could be better or different, please do get in touch. This therapy centre is here to support the community while maintaining your privacy, so if there is something we are missing we would love to hear about it!
Working in psychotherapy I know an annual theme in December is preparation for coping with family over the Christmas season. A recurring theme in January is how well or not you managed to maintain your sense of personal agency and your emotional and mental health. Mind yourselves. Remember what has helped your mental, emotional and physical health the other months this year and see if you can carve out time to exercise and rest. Anyone not seeing family now because of testing positive for covid, I hope you are well, safe and comfortable for the isolation period and that you get to see your family when you have the all-clear.
Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year,
We blended some old with the new in No. 256, here is a fireplace from the previous home still gracing our modern therapy centre
We have had challenge and support here at 256 Swords Road in the past months. We had our first apparent attempted intruder one evening when I encountered someone climbing over the backyard wall (which is over 7ft high). The Guards arrived very quickly and I have been really struck with how kind their response has been. Also interacting with them in the follow up to this incident has given me some insight into how very busy they are. We here in the therapy centre see some aspects of the personal toll the pandemic has taken on people, while the Guards are dealing with the unintended consequences of lockdowns at a societal level in what they deal with every day. In 2 years here, I think this is the first incident where I had to tell the other therapists to be careful as this is a secure building on the main road, and a very safe place to work. I am taking the Guards advice and increasing the security and hopefully we won’t have anything further.
Apart from that, August is a quiet month as clients take their holidays and we have a little more looseness in our schedules. I am enjoying the opportunity to skip home earlier than usual or start later. We will be busy enough when everyone is back from their breaks. Many people wait until the children are back into the school routine before starting therapy, and September often sees a significant increase in requests for appointments.
We had a couple of therapist changeovers too, some movement and growth in the therapy centre. In August Paula moved her acupuncture practice to her own clinic space in Beaumont. This is great for Paula who has built up a full-time client practice. I enjoy seeing other therapists flourish and have always worked with a philosophy of abundance. It was great seeing Nicole the student therapist a few months ago successfully work up her client hours and go on to be a full-time therapist, and it is great to see Paula open her own space now. Just as I put an ad up on therapyrooms.com for a new therapist to join us, I was contacted by three people who had seen the therapy centre either because they live locally or they pass the building regularly. Marie has already started with us practising Art Psychotherapy, Counselling and Reiki. Thirupal is a physiotherapist and is starting here in the next few days. There is another therapist who I am hoping will be able to join us in September, so these are exciting times! I enjoy the serendipity of this transition, the three therapists ready to join No. 256 as Paula was ready to move out. We have all come through 18 months of lockdowns, restrictions and fear and we are working here with processing trauma, releasing held fear and moving into health and balance physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
In May and June, I am thinking about the 2nd anniversary of moving my therapy practice to 256 Swords Road. I have been reflecting on the process of getting the therapy centre up and running and the experience of the past 15 months living through what we have all experienced. If I had known there was going to be a worldwide pandemic within the first 12 months which would stop half the therapists from working and put the other half mostly online, I would have decided it was probably not a wise time to open the therapy centre. In retrospect I can see the pandemic was going to happen whatever I did, and I was happy to have this office to run my therapy practice throughout. I sometimes think the right time to do things in life is when it is the right time for you and your life path. Back in 2019 the time was right for me to step into growth personally and professionally and embark on this chapter, which as it happened played out against the background of the pandemic. They say it takes 12 months, all the seasons, to get to know a building. We have been here 24 months now and it has been great, the building has a lovely atmosphere. It has been a rich experience learning how to manage a building and a business and it seems there is always something new to figure out.
Thinking of the first move here in June 2019, I am reminded of the Netflix series Schitts Creek storyline of David leasing a vacant building to start his own business while being unaware of the necessary bureaucracy and figuring it out as he went along.(here's the scene: Schitt's Creek 3x08 - David & Patrick Part 1 - YouTube ) . David trying to explain that his proposed new business would not be a coffee shop although people could have a coffee there, reminded me of conversations with planners about this not being a medical health centre although we would be working in mental and physical health. Overall, the experience of engaging with Dublin City Council and Revenue showed me they want small businesses serving local communities to succeed. The council had its stipulations before granting permission – I could not extend out the back for a yoga / meeting room. I had to move the property boundary in to widen the public footpath thereby losing carpark space. I had to put up a new boundary wall so that cars would exit the premises via the existing laneway. That boundary wall is in the form of little concrete pillars that I am happy to say are now used as perches by people waiting at the bus stop just outside. When I accepted no yoga/ larger meeting room (sadly), loss of carpark spaces and cost of putting up a new perimeter, in every other respect the council was helpful and patient. I would encourage anyone who has an idea for a small business to at least have a conversation with an accountant who can give some advice on next steps. You don’t know till you start asking questions and judging by my experience professionals in the area of supporting small business are happy to advise. I am still sorry about the yoga room, but perhaps that is another person’s journey to open one up on this street. There are a couple of vacant buildings that I often think would be ideal!
This summer 2021 is already feeling more like a usual therapist’s summer. Last year I noted that after the first covid restrictions new clients who would normally show up in Autumn were instead requesting to start over the summer. This year seems to have the more usual lull over summer, a normal part of a therapist’s yearly cycle. Clients are taking their well-earned couple of weeks off, and therapists are also taking their holidays this year which is good to see. A therapist’s yearly work cycle has times of high demand and times of near empty appointment diaries. Learning to appreciate the joy of free days mid-week when clients are all on holiday should be part of therapy training in my opinion! I hope you all get some good rest and reset over this summer 2021. A lot of us have a lot of held emotions to be processed and now is a good time to start letting go, exhaling, releasing.
March and April were good months here at 256 Swords Road with therapists either already back or preparing to come back as restrictions start to lift and vaccinations continue. This month I am writing about intuition as I had a lesson about the importance of listening to mine. For the past few years I worked part-time as a researcher on a PhD track. I had started down that PhD road because there was an aspect of counselling work I wanted to investigate, and when exploring ways to get started I decided to approach a university to see what a PhD would involve. I found that door swung open immediately and almost before I knew I was registered and started. That was back when I was overseeing the renovations at 256 Swords Road therapy centre and I was already quite busy to put it mildly. While I knew it was a bad idea to do both at the same time, I overrode myself in light of the opportunity being offered and walked through that open door.
For three years I researched and worked towards a PhD while I opened the therapy centre, started to bring other therapists on board and continued to run my own therapy practice. I was so busy there was not enough time to step back and reflect on the experience. Too busy to listen to myself. Eventually towards the end of 2020 I could not ignore the insistent unease I felt at the direction the research was taking, unease about how it did not feel right. I realised the people I wanted to reach as research participants would not respond well to someone who could be viewed as using that research as their way towards the academic reward of a PhD. I recalled the watchfulness of some past clients who were frozen in trauma, checking my reactions and testing whether the therapy room was a safe space to talk. I imagined their response if a researcher asked for their confidence and used it to gain professionally. The research project I wanted to do needed to be grounded in a therapeutic approach. I told the university of my decision. I shared my news with some other therapists when we next met online and being therapists, they asked me how I felt when I made the decision. I described a sense of energy clearing, a light going on and a feeling of being in tune with a clear purpose. We talked about listening to your inner wisdom, your intuition, and recognising when something feels right and when it does not.
I am sharing this story as an example of being on the wrong path even though it looks great to outside observers. It is so important to check in with yourself whether you are on the right path for you and for your life. This tuning in is also part of therapy work. Sometimes I meet clients who cannot remember a time when they felt they were living in a way that was right for them. The therapy work then becomes about figuring out what that might look and feel like. I hope I do not need many more such lessons and that I can remember to take a breath, check in with myself, speak up clearly about my concerns and occupy my space. This experience has also been a lesson about failure and making mistakes. It is ok to try something, realise it is not right, and stop. It is ok to try something and fail. Going through life without taking a few wrong turns or failing at something would mean I was not moving outside my comfort zone sometimes, and that would mean I was not growing as a person.
As we are still in Level 5 restrictions there has not been very much changed in the therapy centre, so this month I will write about an aspect of therapy again. In the blog post for January I wrote about abusive relationships. There appears to be a lot of it about at the moment. Perhaps it is the stressful 12 months we have all been through bringing some people’s dark side to the front, perhaps it is the removal of external distractions and supports that makes people see they have been living with a pattern of abuse and control. Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise a relationship is abusive because the person can also be very charming. If you are in an abusive relationship It can be confusing if your partner is charming and kind until you step outside the rules created by your partner. You might begin to believe the abuse is your fault because you make ‘mistakes’. Or perhaps your partner has a cycle of peacefulness / violence when they may be charming one week and noticeably winding up to violence the next week before assaulting you.
An abusive partner’s charm can also be an obstacle to you getting support. Talking to someone about the abuse can seem impossible because you fear no one will believe you, or you fear it will be too big a scandal as your partner is well known. Your partner may be an example of street angel, house devil and you may fear that the community will sympathise with your partner and see you as troublemaker. The abusive partner’s ability to charm can be a motivation for them wanting to meet the therapist. They may want to draw the therapist into their dynamic, get the therapist on their side and so remove a source of support for their partner.
Generally when working with someone who is having (non-abusive) difficulties in their relationship, who comes to therapy as an individual client and not as a couple, I remind myself I am hearing just one viewpoint. My purpose as therapist is not to take sides or tell one partner they are right and the other is wrong. My job is to try and understand my client’s experience and their belief about what is causing them unhappiness in their relationship. I work from there to question with them if they are perhaps co-creating that unhappy dynamic with their partner and what would need to change in working towards having the relationship they want, to explore whether change is possible.
However when a client discloses they are being hit, raped or controlled in their relationship I do not suggest they are contributing to that situation. As mentioned in last month’s blog first we talk about safety. Then we can look at how the abusive situation developed because it can be important to understand our past and learn from it so we can move on with our lives. Through a series of conversations I work to create a therapy space where the client can talk about what is happening in their home and their relationship. Sometimes it is when we hear ourselves say the words out loud, they are heard by another person, and reflected back the reality of a situation can sink in.
We need more places of refuge for people who are being abused in their relationships. We need more alternatives for people who are afraid in their own homes. We need people to have an option of somewhere else to go. That in itself can be empowering.
December 2020 – Change is Possible
Part of my self-care practice is yoga. As I stretch, I become aware of tension and discomfort I am carrying and feel it loosening and releasing. I become aware of pain as I let it go. In therapy sometimes clients become aware of pain they have been carrying as they start to let it go. Sometimes clients come to therapy without a defined ‘issue’ to work on but just feeling like everything is a bit joyless, tiring, frightening, baffling. We talk about their life in the present, their past and any thoughts or hopes for the future. A picture emerges of beliefs they hold about themselves and their lives. Sometimes we develop beliefs or coping behaviours in childhood which were necessary and appropriate at the time to survive physically or emotionally. In adulthood we do not realise we can set them down and proceed with our lives. I work with clients to discover discomfort or pain they are carrying in the form of beliefs that they are unlovable, incapable, not worthy, their dreams are unrealistic and immature. If you believe you are unlovable this can affect how you treat yourself. If you believe you are incapable this can prevent you from daring to try. If you believe your dreams are unrealistic and immature this can prevent you from taking steps to create a life you want. If you believe you are unworthy you may spend your life trying to prove (to who?) that you have worth. In therapy we look at how these beliefs were formed whether in one harsh experience or slowly and almost unnoticed over a long time. We sit with the beliefs and ask if they are still relevant and useful. Sometimes we do not realise we are carrying pain until we start to release it.
This can happen at a wider societal level also. The 2020 experience we all lived through may have increased your awareness of old beliefs and patterns of behaviour which were causing pain. Many of us had less ‘busy’ lives, even if still working hard, with less distractions and less avoidance of our thoughts and feelings. This may have been extremely uncomfortable. Pre pandemic in Ireland some were well positioned and did not have to question our social structure very much. Some were so busy making ends meet they did not have time to question how our society could be better structured. Some were experiencing disadvantage or discrimination in its varied forms to the extent they felt they did not have a valued opinion or voice. In 2020 a lot of the busyness stopped and a lot of people had more time than ever before to think. Something I learned during a Masters in Gender Studies in UCD back in the day was that it can be difficult to see a system when you have grown up within it and are in a position of sufficient comfort that you have not been motivated enough to question it. Or if you are in a position of such discomfort that you are entirely occupied with survival and you do not have band width to reflect and imagine how the system could be changed.
In 2020 we saw that things which were previously just a fact of life could be changed. Commuting hours to and from an office is not after all automatically part of holding down a job and something to just get on with. Security for people renting accommodation takes away a core source of anxiety and is possible if we decide as a society it is a good idea. That being part of a community can be good for quality of life and there should be time for that in our weeks. Easy access to green spaces is important for mental health and it is worthwhile keeping plenty – not a minimum sufficiency - of parks in cities for everyone to enjoy. Our homes should be designed to accommodate rich and fulfilling lives - we need space. The system of busyness stopped and a lot of people experienced a different way of living. It could be worthwhile to remember what we learned about how a system can be changed. And then think about how we can support a fairer less stressful economic and social structure through who we vote for, what organisations we donate to or give time to, what shops we buy from, how we interact with our neighbours and participate in our community. The personal experience of our society is also political.
I'd like to choose how I hear the news. Take me to a park that's covered with trees. (Don't) Tell me on a Sunday please.
An email came in at the start of the month with the subject ‘October News’ and I had a moment of disbelief that it could be October already. Yet there we were and what a month it was including that Sunday evening bringing news that a Level 5 lockdown was being advised to Government. I don’t know what you were doing that evening, but I had been having a deliberately quiet and restorative day, even tuning to a cheesy mellow radio station which I use when ensuring my Sunday evening is as soothing as a bowl of ice cream. That news landed into my kitchen like a mental health bomb without the usual days of public debate process which allows us all come to terms with an idea. No warning. On a Sunday. I would like a word with whoever gave that story for dissemination that Sunday evening. I would like to know if they had any thought of the public mental health impact of the sudden news. In fact it was not even news of a decision, it was announcement of a level of uncertainty and served no purpose on a Sunday evening. I appreciate all involved in creating and implementing covid policy are working long hours and long weeks and everyone is doing their best. Yet had they forgotten mental health and that one of the ways many of us are keeping in any sort of mental or physical shape is through putting a structure on our week. Creating real down time to recover, relax, refresh. Taking the Sunday if that used to be a regular day off. The following week I repeatedly found myself humming to imagined altered lyrics from the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Donald Black musical - (Don’t) tell me on a Sunday please.
Music is one of the tools I use to balance my mental and emotional state. I use music to help me concentrate, relax, or liven up and exercise. It can be very effective if you are feeling stressed, low or overwhelmed. Switch off the news channels, switch off the phone-in shows and definitely switch off the shock-jocks of which we have a sprinkling in Ireland – they are literally paid to try and push your buttons, get you texting in to their station. Switch to an all-music station or go on youtube for example and seek out playlists. Type in what you are looking for eg music for concentration / relaxation / positive mood and so on. For example, I enjoy youtube playlists while I work on admin or research here in the office of 256 Swords Road. The background ‘music for concentration’ gives the busy part of my thoughts something to play with, while I can turn the rest of my attention to the work for that day.
It is remarkable how much what we direct our attention to impacts our mental, emotional and by extension physical health (blood pressure, stress hormone levels, clenched muscles). By all means stay engaged on political and social justice issues. We can’t tune in and drop out all the time. But I do encourage you to build in time at the start and end of each day for switching off from the news or from the voices of those whose job it is to stir strong emotions, raise fears and create heated 'debate'. Focus on what is important to you each day, see if you can choose the attitude with which you enter your day. Remind yourself at points during the day that very often you can choose your internal state no matter what other people around you are up to. See if you can give yourself time at the end of the day to switch off. Some grounding exercise that brings you down out of your head and back into your heart and body can be good such as stretching, walking, taking a shower, cooking. Even better if it is set to relaxing music. Take care of yourselves for November.
Tell me on a Sunday please. Songwriters: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Donald Black
Tell Me On A Sunday lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group
It is not uncommon for therapy clients to know very little or nothing about their therapist’s private life. This is often deliberate on the part of the therapist to help create a therapy space where the client does not feel any topic is taboo because of what they know about their therapist’s past experiences. However in 2020 figuring out how to cope and navigate the global pandemic situation is something I and my clients have in common to some degree. It is a piece of information each of us have about the other’s life, so I feel it is appropriate to be a little more personal in this blog post than on other topics.
September went by so fast it is a blur. There was a deal of additional administration as I went through the annual re-accreditation process with the Irish Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy. Reaccreditation is a requirement for membership of IACP and involves counting client hours worked in the past 12 months, what continuous professional development action I completed, reflection on my professional development over the year and setting my objectives for the coming 12 months. I am happy to say I received confirmation back that my re-accreditation as a therapist and a counselling supervisor has been approved, so that is all set for another year. September/October is also tax return time for self-employed people. I was glad to get that compiled and off to my accountant for checking in good time. This all meant that September was off the scale busy and I think I hit a wall with my physical and mental energy.
During the initial covid restrictions period from March-June, I felt part of my brain or my consciousness were stuck at March. Somehow the enormity of what was happening caused part of me to freeze, while at the same time I was very busy with work and keeping things going. I do not know if the stop/freeze was a disconnect through overwhelm, or whether it was caused by the incongruence of the gravity of the pandemic amidst an almost holiday scene of beautiful weather, peaceful streets, people home and a very loose routine. All in all a very strange time. In some ways March 2020 feels years ago. At other times it feels only last week.
Some people say they have thrived getting fit, learning new cookery dishes, baking bread, doing up the house, beautifying the garden, learning languages. I considered it a success that I got out of bed every morning and kept the therapy centre open, networking with other therapists all figuring out how to cope and navigate the various levels of restrictions. If anyone reading this also feels they scraped through the past 7 months instead of blossoming in lots of lovely down time enjoying a slower pace of life – I completely empathise. The reason for sharing this is I have coping skills and strategies to help me recover when I feel I am wading through muck – I work with mental health for a living. I know how to get out of the muck and generally how to fall into the muck less frequently and less deeply with each experience. I have been reflecting on how I found the past months tough going and wondering how many others are there quietly struggling with growing anxiety and despair, perhaps without coping strategies. I was grateful when mental health was deemed an essential service and I was able to turn up both online and in person to meet my therapy clients and continue to provide that hour of support a week.
It seems covid-19 will be around for a while so we are into the longer haul of trying to stay well. The virus infection is not the only danger. There are other health effects from being more sedentary, comfort eating, sedating through alcohol and other drugs or generally avoiding the awful reality of what is happening. I’m not blaming anyone, my old habits made a strong comeback rally too. I feel a sense of urgency for those of us who found it tough to take action now as winter approaches for our mental, emotional and physical health. Our immune systems and stamina (physical and mental) need building up. A health expert on radio recently caught my attention – going for a 30-minute walk every day can help reduce blood pressure. It is funny how a snippet can land correctly in your ear when you are ready to hear it. Although my fitness dropped dramatically this year, I have been putting on my runners again and heading off from the therapy centre for a lap of Ellenfield Park or the very pretty suburban streets around Santry. It does me good, increases energy. I tell myself I knew exercise was good for my mental health but decide not to beat myself up about it this time. Another piece of advice I remember is one of the most important things as you age is to keep moving. Go for a walk every day, move about the house, keep active doing housework as long as you can. Stretch. It is good for you physically and it really helps with managing anxiety and balancing your mood too.
I felt grateful that I had coping and recovery strategies, learned from working in mental health. If you feel you could do with some help at the moment but are unable to connect with mental health supports either through an online session or in person, there are some other good things you can do to care for yourself. Here are some ideas:
Phone a family member, friend or neighbour. Just making a few minutes to ‘check in’ on someone by phone can help you to feel connected. A sense of belonging and being seen in some way is one of our basic needs. And it might do them some good too.
Get out for a walk during daylight if you can.
Bring your attention to what you can do for yourself and loved ones. Focus on the small things you can control to some extent to make your day-to-day better. Take a break from covid news if you can. It is happening anyway whether you listen to the news all day or limit your news intake to the nine-o’clock bulletin.
ALONE have a COVID-19 advice and support line for older people. Phone 0818 222 024 from 8am to 8pm everyday Monday – Friday. Also see their website alone.ie
County Councils around the country have helplines if you need help getting food delivered, or transport to your GP or to a testing centre : www.gov.ie/en/publication/2bd8ba-how-can-i-volunteer/#contact-details-for-local-authorities
headspace.com is a mine of useful nuggets for your mental health
alustforlife.com has some lovely mental health tools and articles for all ages
In pre-covid times, August was often a very quiet month for counsellors and psychotherapists. August was when many took a good long break, even the whole month, before returning refreshed for autumn and winter. People considering starting therapy often decide to wait until autumn when the children are back in school, or they are back from their own holidays. Autumn and winter then are busy times as many people find their mental and emotional health is affected by the dark mornings and evenings, the rainy days and nights that make them turn inwards. Old clients return for a few sessions to check in and set themselves right for winter, while new clients appear. (Of course many with introvert tendencies can find much to enjoy in the darker months – but that can be the subject of another blog post!). August in this year of covid was a bit different, as every month since March has been. The new autumn clients started appearing early this year, having waited through lockdown to come in and not wanting to wait any longer.
Still, there was some time for reflection and processing the experience of living through a national emergency situation. One of the things that really struck me is something reiki therapist Alina had mentioned to me and that chimed with my own experience. Remember back when we all were staying within 2k then 5k of our homes, and out for daily walks in our own neighbourhoods? Remember when the weather was glorious and the trees were full of blossoms? There were many people out walking alone, I guess maybe either because they lived alone and so walking was just another thing to be done alone during lockdown - or they wanted to get away from the other people in their house for just one blessed hour of peace. I noticed people who walked with their eyes to the ground, or who would look the other way when we drew level going in our opposite directions. For some this behaviour may come from anxiety, or self-conscious insecurity that makes it almost impossible to make eye contact and so meet another human person even for 3 seconds as we pass each other on our daily walk. Others are grieving. Some are so frightened of catching the virus themselves or carrying it home even looking at other people face on can feel too strange. Others are living in a space too small for everyone to reasonably be at home for long periods at the same time, so their hour out walking is the only bit of peace in their day and they cannot be dealing with other people in that hour too. I am not judging. We probably all have days when we just cannot be dealing with other people at the moment.
It is not always going to be a good idea or even appropriate to make eye contact and smile at someone you meet out on your walk. It could get you followed home by some creepy character. Bearing that in mind may I suggest to anyone of any age who is not having a horror show of a day, who is not in the depths of grief, who is not experiencing high anxiety or completely absorbed with worry – anyone who is just out for a walk to get some exercise and vitamin daylight – maybe think about looking in the direction of the person walking alone coming in your direction. Use your judgement to assess if they appear to pose any threat to you. If no possible threat is apparent, how about you give a smile and a nod. No need to even speak. How about we acknowledge the shared experience of living through this pandemic that has made so many of us scared and lonely. How about we make eye contact and let someone know they are seen for three seconds. That brief acknowledgement and tiny human connection might even be enough to make someone’s day better.
July was a busy month at 256 Swords Road Holistic. Two new therapists started here, a psychotherapist and a craniosacral therapist. Alina who is a massage, reflexology and reiki therapist has been able to start back also. The counsellors and psychotherapists were able to continue working all through the pandemic whether online remotely or in some cases in person but of course the therapies that require physical proximity were not able to resume until the covid-19 restrictions were eased. As this is a holistic therapy centre, I am very pleased to see the variety of therapies resuming with acupuncture, counselling & psychotherapy, massage, reflexology, reiki, and craniosacral therapy all able to happen in person again.
At the end of June/ beginning of July we had a visitation of bees, which started appearing down the chimney and into the office. This was somewhat alarming as I sat in the office but it would have been more difficult if they started making their way into the therapy rooms and buzzing around! Of course honeybees are very important and luckily, a beekeeper was able to advise me to smoke them out of the chimney which would not harm them. A first time for everything, I smoked the bees out using a sage smudging stick and with the support of Pamela the shamanic practitioner (also reiki and bioenergy healing practitioner) who carried out energy work at a little distance.
If you look up the symbolism of bees, you will see a variety of meanings in different traditions but the interpretations share the characteristic of being generally positive. The meanings relate to industriousness, persistence, abundance and fruitfulness, as well as getting rid of toxicity, working with community and society, finding a balance between work and rest, and enjoyment of life’s beauty. I have been thinking about that as I observe the therapy centre filling up and attracting more therapists and clients since the covid-19 lockdown. Also, many people who were not directly impacted or touched by the coronavirus say they rediscovered an enjoyment of nature and of family. The lockdown period helped many to realise a slower pace of life really suited them. The bee’s message about finding a balance between industriousness, appreciation of our community and relaxation is very welcome as we are learning to live with the impact of covid-19 in our society and our families. It seems like a cycle has come to an end and we are brought back to think about what we really need to live well, and what that means individually and as a community.
June was the first anniversary of 256 Swords Road Holistic Therapy. I moved my psychotherapy practice here after the June public holiday in 2019 and started the process of learning my way into the role of therapy centre manager and all that goes on behind the scenes. Step by step, more therapists started to find their place in the booking schedule and the place was takingshape nicely. With the covid-19 pandemic restrictions, things suddenly became incredibly quiet as I and the other psychotherapists moved to online zoom sessions and phone calls, and the acupuncturist, bioenergy healer, massage therapist and reiki practitioner were unable to work for some weeks. It is great to see the acupuncturist and psychotherapists returning to the therapy centre with the easing of restrictions, resuming appointments with safety precautions. The other holistic therapists have moved their practice online where possible and you can see their contact details on this website. I hope they can resume work in person and we will see them again in the therapy centre with their clients.
There has been a new routine to get used to around covid precautions, hand washing, cleaning contact surfaces, keeping physical distance. We do our best to make the therapy centre as safe and clean as possible. We were already by appointment only so therapists know when their clients are due and meet them at the front door. This naturally keeps the number of people here at any time down and helps us ensure social distancing. It is a bit different to before covid-19, but it is surprising how quickly it feels normal, or almost normal. It is important to pay attention to our mental, emotional and physical health now. We have lived through a traumatic experience and the uncertainty of what awaits is also very distressing for many. It is great to see businesses opening and social life coming back. Some people have found the lockdown slowdown beneficial and feel changed for the better from the experience. It is also true that many have been impacted in other ways by the experience of lockdown, we have been through a huge event and while we can recover and grow again we will not be the same as before. Many of us have been bereaved. Many traumatised through working in the helping professions and support services in the pandemic. Many have been highly stressed through managing children, schoolwork, paid work or highly stressed through loneliness and isolation through the lockdown. I believe it is important to acknowledge what you have been through and the impact it had on you. I believe it is important to do that as soon as you can, so you know what trauma you are processing. Unprocessed trauma can go under the surface and reappear years later, when you might wonder why it feels you are losing your rational self. At least now in this moment of 2020 we know why it might feel like you are mentally, emotionally and even physically wounded. And even just acknowledging that is a good start and can itself help.
Many therapists across disciplines have started working online and holding sessions through video conferencing applications like zoom. I had not heard of zoom before the covid-19 restrictions but it is very easy to use and I and my clients have got used to it quite quickly. If you have been able to navigate the internet this far and are reading this blog page you will be well able to figure it out with the support of your therapist. I use it on my laptop and placing the screen more or less at eye level helps make the therapy session feel quite natural and like the original face-to-face meetings. If you want to start counselling and psychotherapy there are a lot of different organisations you can look at, here are just some of them:
The Irish Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (IACP) www.iacp.ie,
The Irish Association of Integrative and Humanistic Psychotherapy (IAHIP) www.iahip.ie,
The Irish Association for Play Therapy & Psychotherapy (IAPTP) www.iaptp.ie,
The Addiction Counsellors of Ireland (ACI) www.addictioncounsellors.ie,
The Irish Council for Psychotherapy (ICP) www.psychotherapycouncil.ie.
The HSE has a useful web page on how to access support during these covid-19 restrictions on our movement and the need for keeping our social distance:
I know these are anxiety-inducing times and we have to mind ourselves and each other through it. Even if you come through this unscathed, without being bereaved by covid-19, it is a hard slog emotionally and mentally. If you are finding this hard, that is quite normal because it is hard. Even if you are getting used to your isolated new life already, it is normal to have days when the worry, fear or anger seem bigger than you.
It can help to create a structure for your day. This means deciding beforehand what your day or even your week will be shaped like. Get up at a certain time, get showered and dressed, have breakfast, if you are not self-isolating at home and are able to go for a walk while keeping 2 meters from anyone you meet then go for that exercise. Work, study, housework, small repairs around the house, gardening, telephoning and skypeing your family and friends. Do not listen to the news and discussions all day long, switch on music, podcasts, guided meditations instead. There is no point in you stressing about covid-19 all day. Switching off and taking care of yourself does not make the covid-19 pandemic any worse. You do not have to keep an eye on it 24 hours a day.
Think about what you do not want to resume doing when this period of isolation ends, what activity, busyness, relationships or thought patterns do you not want to pick up again. What will you replace them with in your life? What are you missing and does that mean they are more important to your core values than you realised?