About Dr Julie Smith
Julie Smith is a Clinical Psychologist, chartered by the British Psychological Society and registered by the Health Care Professions Council. She is a member of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy (BABCP).
A career in mental health spanning 13 years has seen Julie working in both the National Health Service (NHS) and founding her own private practice. In addition to providing assessments and therapy, she has engaged in research, teaching, supervision of trainee psychologists and support for a range of healthcare professionals.
"During my NHS career I was privileged to work with the full spectrum of psychological experiences and mental health problems using a wide range of evidence-based models of therapy. Since establishing my own private practice I now work with people who are probably a lot like you. Everyday people with everyday problems who want to find a way to make life easier and more fullfilling. People come to me for help with issues ranging from stress and anxiety, depression and relationship problems, to those who seek coaching and support to reach their full potential and enhance their life.
Therapy can be a pivotal and life changing experience for those who are fortunate enough to be able to access it. As a Psychologist I see, hidden in academic journals and behind the closed doors of the therapy room, a world of knowledge about how human beings work that can help us to live well and thrive. I created this site and my YouTube channel, not to replace therapy, but as a resource of psychoeducation."
Dr Julie Smith is currently available for local therapy sessions in the Hampshire / Dorset area, England. She is based in The New Forest and works from a number of locations in the area. One to one therapy sessions with Dr Julie Smith take place in a comfortable, private setting and are totally confidential. If you would like to book a session or a consultation please contact her on the email provided.
|50 minute private therapy session with Dr Julie Smith||£90|
|90 minute consultation with Dr Julie Smith||£150|
|50 minute online Skype session||POA|
Think exercise is all about weight loss? Think again. A surge of scientific research into the links between physical exercise, the brain, and mental health in the last few decades has revealed more and more great reasons to get moving. Below are just some of the ways in which exercise has an impact on how you feel.
1. Research shows that regular exercise (burning around 350 calories three times a week) can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression. In fact, studies have shown exercise programmes reducingsymptoms as effectively as antidepressants. The side effects of exercise are more pleasant too.
2. Stress causes our bodies to show signs of ageing right down to a cellular level. Researchers at the University of California have found that vigorous exercise significantly reduces the signs of ageing on our cells. So after a bad day at work a game of tennis could be a better stress reliever than watching television.
3. Participating in yoga three times per week has a significant effect on the chemicals in our brain associated with depression and anxiety. This makes it a great complement to both pharmacological and psychological therapies.
4. The runner's high is no myth. High intensity exercise such as interval sprinting can lift your mood and leave you feeling uplifted for the rest of the day. But you don't have to be a runner to get the effects. Cycling, swimming, football or tennis will have the same effect. The important part is just to involve bursts of high intensity with short rests in between. Get the heart pumping and the blood circulating and your body will do the rest.
5. Exercise can improve your confidence, but you don't have to wait for radical changes in your waistline to feel it. Studies have found increases in self-esteem and body image just from reaching goals such as lifting heavier weights, running a faster time or winning a game. Furthermore, taking the focus away from weight loss and paying more attention to improving your performance can be much more motivating and enjoyable.
6. Depression has a negative effect on concentration and memory. But a study in Germany found that students scored better on high-attention tasks after doing just 10 minutes of exercise compared to those that did not. Their scores were even better if that exercise was something complicated such as dancing or a racquet sport. This is because complicated activities that require our full attention and hand-eye coordination improve our capacity to learn by enhancing attention and concentration skills.
These are just a few of the ways that exercise influences the way you feel and so, if you do nothing else today, exercise. Any form of activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you feel a little out of breath. If exercise is new to you, visit your GP to get some advice on getting started, or seek out a therapist who can support you in gradually increasing your activity level to help improve your mood.
Most of us feel shy from time to time. That moment of awkwardness and uncertainty that makes you feel anxious around other people. Many people admit to feeling shy when they meet someone new, go on a first date, speak to people in authority or in a job interview. In these situations it is not uncommon to worry about being criticized or judged. Your voice starts to sound shaky, your mouth goes dry, you sense the heat across your face as you blush. Your mind goes blank and you don’t know what to say next, allowing those awkward moments to last even longer. It is only later, when you are back home, that you begin to think, ‘I should have said this or that’. It’s important to remember that these feelings are normal and very common. Research suggests over 98 per cent of people report having these shy and anxious experiences.
So when does shyness become a problem that you need to work on? For some people, shyness begins to take over. You begin to avoid doing certain things that are good for you and that you once enjoyed. You start spending less time with friends, turn down that party invite, avoid using the gym, or even decide not to apply for that job you wanted. Shyness becomes an invisible barrier holding you back from living the life that you want. The isolation that results increases the risk of developing low mood and mild depression. Listed below are some of the signs and symptoms of a social anxiety problem.
1. Physiological symptoms could include sweating, muscle tension, nausea, trembling and difficulty talking.
2. Feelings of anger and frustration with yourself.
3. The tendency to worry and dread situations weeks before the event.
4. An intense and enduring fear of being negatively evaluated by others or causing yourself embarrassment.
5. Frequently scrutinizing every detail of yourself and worrying about what you say and do around others.
6. Excessive self-consciousness and the perception that everyone is looking at you.
7. Extreme discomfort in public or social situations, which leads to avoidance.
If these symptoms seem to describe your experience, then you could have a problem with social anxiety. But don’t panic. The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to rebuild your confidence. In some cases, it may be appropriate for you to seek professional support to help you along with this, but below I have described a useful exercise taken from the ground-breaking Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) to help you to start by helping yourself.
Those with social anxiety tend to be highly self-critical in the way they talk to themselves in their own heads. When they make a mistake they can be very self-attacking. The result is more anxiety, more self-loathing, shame and more avoidance of things they value. In fact, constant self-criticism has the same affect as it would to live with a bully 24 hours a day 7 seven days a week. Not a pleasant idea. But learning to replace that harsh self-talk with a more compassionate one, when you have made a mistake, helps you to calmly engage with the situation so that it can be repaired and you can move on with confidence. Here is one exercise that is sometimes used in therapy to help individuals tackle that very critical self-talk that keeps shyness alive.
Step 1. Think of a specific situation that causes you to be self-critical.
Step 2. Write a list of all the self-critical thoughts you have about this situation.
Step 3. Next to each thought, write down a more compassionate perspective, one that is understanding of your feelings, kind to yourself, focusing on your strengths and positive experiences. Generate alternative thoughts about the situation that are more supportive.
This can be incredibly difficult to begin with. After all, it is likely that you have a lifetime of practice at being self-critical. To make it easier, consider what you would say to a good friend in the same situation. Remember to be honest, kind, understanding and encouraging. With plenty of practice at doing this it will eventually become a habit that helps.
Change is a cause of stress and having a baby changes your life in countless ways, some of which you didn't see coming. The physical and psychological trauma of childbirth, the pain and extreme tiredness that follows, chronic sleep deprivation for one or both partners, a host of new expectations for yourselves as parents responsible for another life, changes to financial state, ceasing work even temporarily to take on parenthood, and of course, failure to be 'super mum'. Each of these causes of stress are out of our control, but there are some simple things you can do to help lower your stress levels at home. So here are just a few tips on how to stress less and begin enjoying your new family.
Tip 1. Accept all offers of help.
Some of the countries with the lowest levels of postnatal depression are those in which the extended family members pull together to help after a baby is born. So let go of any ideas you have that you should be able to do it all alone. It makes sense for you and your baby to accept any offers of help, however small. Kindly accept the offer of a homemade meal from your neighbour or the chance to take a shower while your best friend holds the baby. All of these things accumulate to a calmer, happier household.
Tip 2. Involve older children.
If you have older children, this is the time to let them get involved. Recruit them to fetch the nappies or bring mummy a drink of water while she is feeding. They will enjoy being involved in the care of the newborn, so give them jobs that make them feel important. Have set times that you can spend being attentive to the older siblings to prevent them from feeling neglected. For example, while the baby has her morning nap, your older child knows this is the time he gets to choose a game to play with Mummy.
Tip 3. Share your worries.
If this is your first baby, expect to come across lots of worries about your baby along the way. Don't bottle these up. Instead, share them with your partner, health visitor or your own parents to get some reassurance and some advice. Many parents worry about being judged if they share problems with other new mums, because there is often the perception that everyone else is doing things perfectly. In actual fact, everyone has similar sorts of concerns, so talking about them can stop you feeling so alone.
Tip 4. Rest is golden.
Rest can feel like gold dust for a new parent so if an opportunity arises and you see the chance for a half hour nap – take it. Sleep deprivation makes us feel less able to cope with stress and so you are doing the best for you and your baby if you get as much rest as possible.
Tip 5. Nutrition.
When your normal routine is thrown out the window and you are struggling to find time to cook, the temptation is to eat unhealthy snacks at random intervals throughout the day. Poor diet will have a negative impact on your stress levels, so do what you can to keep your food intake as regular and nutritious as possible. Buy healthy snacks to keep in the house and when you do have time to cook, make a big batch that you can freeze for those days when you don't have the time or energy.
Tip 6. Get Outside.
In those early days with a new baby it can be difficult to get out of the house. If you can try to get out every day, even just for a short walk, this will have a positive impact on your stress levels and your mood. Any parent knows that getting out with a baby is big task, so if you can't face the organisation needed to go out, take your cup of tea and walk in the garden for a couple of minutes.
What is a panic attack and why does it happen?
Everyone panics at some point in their lives. It is a part of human nature to panic when confronted with situations that have an urgency associated with them. However, a panic attack is entirely different from panicking. Panic attacks are marked by intense fear and are often a result of quick but unanticipated circumstances. They can last from a minute to even an hour, and the after effects of a panic attack can last even days.
Most people who experience a panic attack for the first time mistake it for a heart attack. Short breaths and chest pain accompanied by a flashing vision and fainting are often associated with a panic attack. Such attacks are often a result of undesirable situations and the concerned individual may react violently, if not allowed to escape the situation. Though not usually an indication of mental disorder, they are often accompanied by anxiety disorders and other conditions of psychological nature.
Signs and Symptoms:
A panic attack is characterized by a variety of symptoms and these symptoms may differ with individuals and circumstances. Accelerated heart rate, sweating and short breaths occur in almost all cases. The symptoms develop over time and reach a peak in about 10 minutes. Other possible symptoms are:
1. Feeling of choking
2. Shaking or trembling
3. Fainting, or feeling dizzy and lightheaded
4. Fear of impending death
5. Chest pain
Panic attacks are often a result of phobic circumstances. However, quite contrary to popular belief, panic attacks can be a result of a variety of reasons:
Panic disorders have been known to run in families across several generations. This means that inheritance plays a major role in determining a person's susceptibility of being subject to a panic attack.
2. Biological reasons
Obsessive compulsive disorders and hypoglycemia are known to increase the chances of having a panic attack.
People panic when confronted with situations or objects they fear.
Loss of a loved one, especially spouse or children, can lead to panic attacks. Significant and quick changes to life too can be a reason
5. Lack of assertiveness
People who experience panic attacks are often found to be of a passive character and soft-spoken. They often lack the ability to assert themselves and carry them through difficult situations. Such people always need support and start panicking on the prospect of having to face a difficult situation alone.
Panic attacks can occur as a side effect to medications such as methylphenidate.
7. Alcohol and drugs
Alcohol and drug withdrawal can cause a person to panic and in some cases undergo a panic attack.
8. Repeating situations
When a panic attack happens to someone when confronted with a particular situation, they tend to associate that situation to the attack. These individuals then develop a pre-disposition to having panic attacks, when similar situations arise.
When trying to help a person having a panic attack, establishing and maintaining a regular breathing pattern, should be of primary concern. Breathing exercises can help in such situations. Once the attack is successfully stopped, psychological therapies and medication can be followed, to reduce the chances of having an attack, in the future.
What makes a marriage work? Open any newspaper and you’ll find yet another journalist writing about how they have uncovered the key to a long lasting marriage. If the ideas they are selling were material goods we’d all be returning them and asking for our money back before long. This is because many of the claims are not only false but potentially damaging to relationships because they can convince people that their marriage is a hopeless case when it is not. So here I attempt to uncover some of the myths about what makes a marriage work, using the expert knowledge of renowned therapist, researcher and writer John Gottman.
Myth 1. Personality hang-ups and issues wreck marriages
It has been said that personality problems and insecurities do not mix well with marriage. But research suggests this is not the case. The key to a happy marriage is not having two people with “normal” personalities, but having two personalities that fit well together. So it’s not the insecurities that threaten marriages but the way you handle them together. If you can accept each others' quirks and respond with care, affection and respect, the relationship will do well.
Myth 2. Common interests keep you together
Having a common interest is great, but only if you have a positive interaction when sharing that time. Two fitness enthusiasts may visit the gym together and spend time laughing, talking and concentrating on tasks together. Another couple may spend that time criticising how the other one chooses to work out, leaving one feeling judged and self-conscious and leaving the other feeling irritated and tense. This is certainly a time when the common interest can cause more problems than benefits.
Myth 3. A kiss for a kiss
It has been reported in the past that in good marriages all is equal. Spouses reciprocate to every kind gesture and act of love. So when one partner helps with a chore, the other contributes something of equal value. It was once thought that when this unwritten rule breaks down, so does the marriage. But, marriages with this kind of tallying up of who has done what for whom are already going wrong somewhere. Individuals who are happy with their spouse and the relationship do not keep tabs on how many times they have paid for dinner or emptied the dishwasher. Instead, they both do what they can willingly because they feel positive about their partner. It is the keeping score that suggests there may be an issue to overcome in the marriage.
Myth 4. Avoiding conflict ruins your marriage
The idea that communication will save your marriage has been talked about time and time again. But trying to talk things out is not the answer for everyone. Couples have different styles of conflict. There are those who fight frequently, those who talk things through and find a compromise and those who avoid arguments at all costs. None of these styles lead to better or longer marriages. The important part is that the style works for both partners. So if one person tends to shout things out and the other prefers to brush things under the carpet then this could lead to problems. A couple who both choose to take time out when they are feeling upset with the other and return later with all forgotten can live a long and happy life together.
Myth 5. Affairs cause divorce
Experts in this field say that in most cases it’s the other way round. A problematic marriage heading for divorce tends to lead one or both partners to look for intimate connection elsewhere. Research evidence shows that 80 per cent of divorced men and women said their marriage broke up because they lost that sense of closeness and gradually grew apart, or because they did not feel loved and appreciated by their partner.
Myth 6. Men are not biologically built for marriage
Misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory of evolution gave rise to the notion that men are at the mercy of their genes. It was suggested that men are pre-programmed to spread their seed as far and wide as possible, making them unsuitable for monogamy. At the same time it was proposed that the female of the species seeks out just one man who looks like he might provide well for their offspring. In fact, the occurrence of extramarital affairs does not depend on gender, but on opportunity. As the numbers of women working outside the home have exploded, so have the numbers of women who have affairs. According to Annette Lawson, Ph.D., of the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development, the rates of young women having extramarital affairs now slightly exceeds those of men.
Myth 7. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus
The self-help isles are full of best-selling books that claim men and women are two different species from two different planets. This can be incredibly intimidating to someone looking for sound advice on how to improve their relationship. What these books fail to consider is that many of these alien creatures live long and happy lives together. So while gender differences can be a factor in some relationship problems, they are not the root cause. John Gottman revealed in his research that the determining factor for both men and women in whether they are satisfied with the passion, sex and romance in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of their friendship.
These are just a few of the marriage myths out there in our newspapers and magazines, claiming to hold the key to a long, happy marriage. But for those struggling to make their marriage work, false information can give the wrong impression about how it might be saved. The truth is that, working on a marriage is of course hard work, but it need not seem as complex and intimidating as it is made out to be. Now we have exploded a few of the common myths about marriage, where do you go for sound relationship advice, based on research evidence by experts? I recommend John Gottman's book 'The seven principles for making marriage work,' as a starting point. Also check out the other articles in this section on relationship issues.
Believe it or not our thoughts are not always a true reflection of reality. They are filled with biases, a pattern of thinking that affects how we perceive things. We all use these types of thinking. But research shows that those people who feel shy or socially anxious tend to use these ways of thinking more of the time. In turn, the more you think in this way, the more anxious you feel, leaving you in a vicious cycle of anxiety. So for those of you who wish to feel more confident and less anxious in social settings, here is a list of some of the types of thoughts to look out for and some tips on how to keep them under control. As you go through the list try to think of times when you have thought in this way. Some you will be more prone to than others.
Black and White Thinking
Seeing things as all-or-nothing, as only perfection or failure. When you hate yourself for that 90% test score, or calling that dinner party a total disaster because you ruined the dessert. This is a dangerous one as it leads to frequent and vicious self-criticism which leaves you feeling like a total failure – which you are not!
Taking one negative event and seeing it as typical and likely to happen again and again. The last time you went to that restaurant you tripped on the step so you vowed never to go there in future because, of course, it will happen again. This type of over-generalisation means that one bad experience can have a negative impact on all other areas of your life.
Picking out a single negative detail in a room full of positives and dwelling on it, to the exclusion of all else so that it taints your entire experience. You may be unable to join the conversation and have a good time at a party because you are so focused on the fact that you spilled a drink half an hour ago and felt embarrassed. The mental filter has the potential to ruin your experiences and your memories of them in the way that a single drop of cordial darkens a whole glass of water.
You just know that when you do your presentation at work you are going to stumble on your words, sound stupid and everyone will laugh. You not only anticipate that things will turn out badly, but convince yourself it is an absolute fact. This sends your anxiety through the roof and greatly increases the likelihood that you will find a way to avoid it.
Jumping to Conclusions
You wave at a friend across the street and she doesn’t wave back. You immediately conclude that you must have done something wrong as she obviously hates you, when in fact there are a whole host of possible explanations. Your chosen theory leaves you feeling terrible.
Notice anything familiar? Great. Noticing is the first step. Keep looking for them everywhere as you’d be surprised how much they crop up in daily life and how much they then make you feel terrible. When you notice yourself using one of these thought patterns, note it down. Then write down how you felt when you had that thought. Sometimes this process of simply noticing that link can help us to detach ourselves from accepting that thought as a fact.
When you get familiar with this, look over your list of thoughts and see if you can gently challenge them. Is that thought really true? Look for evidence for and against, as if you were in a court of law. If you establish that the thought was not a fair reflection of reality, firstly cut yourself some slack. When you feel anxious you are more likely to think in that way. Then write down what thoughts might have been more useful to you in that situation, which sort of thought would have been more realistic and which would have been more helpful to you in your aim to feel confident. The more you do this over and over, the easier it becomes for your brain to access those types of thoughts in the future, so get practicing!
By noticing when you have thoughts like this as soon as they happen, you can step back and re-balance your thinking pattern by gently challenging how realistic they really are.
What pushes your buttons? Is it a noisy neighbour? Maybe when you have too much to drink or someone said something? Maybe a series of small things happen to build your frustration through the day until you explode when your partner forgets to do something? Whatever leads to a rise in anger, lashing out does nothing to improve your life. In fact, it does the opposite, leading you to hospital, prison, or unemployment and leading your partner out of the relationship.
People often get angry when they feel they are losing control of a situation. It has been said that taking a stand shows strength. But in reality, the person losing their temper is the one who loses control and gets into trouble. People avoid them and they often end up alone. Holding on to your temper, holding on to calm and control, holding on to your family and friends has a much better outcome for your life. But it requires much greater strength than anger. If you want to better understand and control anger, follow this short guide to anger management. With practice, these techniques may help you keep your temper.
Step 1. Know what makes you angry.
The best racing drivers in the world would not race on a track before getting to know, in painstaking detail, every tight bend and slippery surface. Similarly, understanding inside out the people, places and situations that always seem to push your buttons enables you to do what you need to do to stop them being pressed and taking you by surprise. Don't just think about it for a moment. Take a seat and write down all the things that have ever made you feel angry. Then go through your list and consider ways to avoid or better handle those situations before they arise.
Step 2. Get familiar with the early warning signs.
Heading for a bend in the road, a good driver can judge if he is going too fast to handle the corner well. The signs can be subtle but crucial. If missed the results can be lethal. Losing your temper can feel like it comes out of nowhere. In fact, there are many small changes in how you feel before you explode with anger. If you spend time getting to grips with these and examining your own unique process with the precision of the driver getting to know his track, you can't go wrong. Specifically, look for physical signs. Your shoulders may tense up, your breathing might change, you may start clenching your jaw. Another area is to examine the changes in your thought processes. You may start to have overly critical thoughts of someone else, or yourself. You may think you are being ignored or insulted. Any signs that warn you of building anger are useful in your mission to keep your cool. They are the voice in the drivers ear describing the corner ahead. They give you the chance you need to put your plan of action in place.
Step 3. Have a plan for emergencies.
Top drivers gain experience of reacting quickly in dangerous situations to steer themselves safely through hairy moments. You need two or three crisis plans that will get you out of trouble if you have missed those early warning signs. Some people immediately get themselves outside and away from the situation to allow them to calm down safely. Others have a certain word or phrase to say that helps to defuse the situation and reminds them of how they want to deal with things. Counting to 10 can also allow time to consider the best way to handle things rather than react on impulse. Other options include stopping in your tracks to hum your favourite song. If you are humming, whistling or singing it is harder to shout or act out. It buys you time to slow things down and change direction. Smiling is another one. There is plenty of research to show that smiling works on a biological level to influence how you feel. It also helps those around you to calm down. A great de-fuser.
Planning to manage your anger in great detail, writing things down and sharing them with loved ones, all helps to increase your ability to use these strategies. When you successfully control your temper, give yourself credit for being strong and keeping control. The more you practice, the easier it will become. For those who need a more structured and supportive approach, working with a therapist on this may be the best option.