stress free Christmas

Trying to achieve a stress free Christmas can feel like an impossible task.

Everything will be busy, last minute and crammed into time we simply do not have.

At The Spark, however, we disagree and believe that a stress free Christmas is possible!

21 tips for a stress free Christmas


To help you de-stress this year we have put together 21 tips for an enjoyable Christmas from start to finish.

stress free Christmas

Starting on 27 November The Spark will be posting a tip a day to help you enjoy the festive season instead of feeling like it is something to survive.

From advice on handling relationships and budgeting, to low-cost way to entertain the family The Spark wants to help you relax this Christmas.

Follow our 21 tips here or on Twitter and Facebook.

Christmas debt credit cards

Christmas is an expensive time of year for all of us as we buy presents, decorate our homes and enjoy nights out. Costs can soon add up and Christmas debt is a significant problem with 1 in 4 adults in the UK feeling pressured into overspending at Christmas.

Loans, credit cards and Christmas debt


Christmas debt credit cards

Many of us can be left feeling we have no choice but to spread the costs of Christmas across loans or credit cards. If we are not careful about where we source credit from, we can end up left with a financial hangover in the New Year.

High interest costs and long repayments – a common feature of many high cost lenders – can leave us with serious financial worries many months after Christmas.

Our friends at Scotcash – a not-for-profit community finance lender – have put together some hints and tips on how to keep on top of your finances this year and avoid Christmas debt.

Take control of your budget


To take control of your Christmas spending the first thing to do is to plan your budget and then stick to it.

The Christmas Calculator tool from Independent Age Scotland lets you see exactly how much money you will need for your Christmas expenses.

Christmas debt food and drink shopping

The calculator breaks down all the usual Christmas spending – for gifts, food and drink, going out – to give you a clear idea of what you can afford.

With a set budget in mind you will be a big step closer to avoiding Christmas debt this year.

Avoid high interest rate borrowing


Wherever possible try to avoid borrowing to finance Christmas so you can start the New Year with as little Christmas debt as possible.

Should you need to spread the cost of Christmas, do a bit of research on the options available to you first. Avoid high cost options such as door step loans and pay day lenders.

Christmas debt

Both will include high interest rates that will leave you paying much more back than you originally borrowed.

By contrast community finance lenders such as Scotcash can provide borrowing at a much lower rate of interest.

What if I’ve run up Christmas debt already?


If you do find yourself in debt, please be assured that there is advice and help available to you.

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can help with information on benefits, grants and money management advice. Organisations such as Step Change Debt Charity can provide over the phone advice and support if you are struggling with debt.

Affordable alternatives to Christmas debt


Community lenders like Scotcash can provide advice and access to affordable loans and other financial products and services. These organisations want to make sure you do not feel trapped in a spiral of high cost credit.

Christmas debt

By providing affordable alternatives and helping individuals and families manage their money better, they are a great way to get your finances back on track.

Find out more about Scotcash and their services.

Counselling and support


Financial worries can be a source of stress and anxiety. Unsecured debts like credit cards and pay-day loans are a common cause of relationship problems and relationship breakdown.

Counselling support for individuals, couples and families struggling with debt cannot provide practical ways to manage and improve your financial situation. It can however help you explore why debt has become an issue, the motivations behind it and ways to tackle those issues.

Find out more about counselling or locate your nearest The Spark counselling centre.

To enquire about counselling freephone 0808 802 0050 during our opening hours or complete an online enquiry form.

change in relationships

There is nothing permanent except change’. Heraclitus

This particular Greek philosopher had life pegged some 2,500 years ago: change is inevitable.

The world around us changes, as do we as life progresses. Aside from the physical aspects of ageing, over time we evolve in our attitudes, beliefs and priorities.

Change can lead to new opportunities, experiences and personal self-improvement. When it is considered in the context of relationships however it can be perceived as a threat.

change in relationships

‘But I don’t want them to change’

In the midst of a happy, contented relationship the prospect of a partner changing – for example, their outlook on life – is capable of instilling fear.

Thoughts race through our minds at the prospect: ‘I love him/her as they are now’, ‘I don’t want our relationship to change’ or ‘I want them to stay the same’.

The idea that they might be losing interest in shared activities or their attitude to work (why they do it and who for) can feel like the beginning of the end. Or result in us forcing our loved one to stay as they are, leading almost inevitably to resentment and anger.

Change is scary

Naturally we are averse to change and have been since our earliest years.

As children we are reluctant to sleep in our own beds, relinquish the comfort blanket and sleep with the light off.

Those strong emotions never really leave us completely once we reach adulthood, like loss, sadness or anxiety.

From our experience counselling couples for over 50 years, almost all long-term relationships experience multiple periods of change.

During that time we have also determined that it does not need to be a frightening or divisive process.

Change creates powerful emotions

The first step in dealing with change in a relationship is to accept that change naturally creates powerful emotions.

It takes time to come to terms with them and to rationalise the impact they are having on you and your partner. Being patient with yourself and each other is important as such emotions rarely normalise in a short period of time.

Recognise the sacrifices that need to be made

Relationships are built on compromise and recognising sacrifices that are willingly made. Therefore during periods of change, recognition becomes even more important.

change

It is all too easy to forget the sacrifice made by a partner in our quest for personal change.

Conversely it is common for the individual making sacrifices to keep their feelings hidden, instead of communicating their concerns and emotions. In either case resentment and bitterness can soon follow.

Embrace it as a couple

Perspective is important in coping with change as a couple, as is the understanding that your relationship is an entity in its own right.

We need to view any period of change as an evolution in our relationship and not something happening to one individual.

change

Couples that embrace this concept of relationship thrive compared to those that do not. Instead of allowing the fear of change to overwhelm, they explore what it could mean for them.

This comes from an acceptance that both perspectives are valid and require appropriate consideration. Similarly it requires both individuals to embrace aspects of the other’s interests.

There is nothing permanent. Accept change

We all change over time. Our perspectives on life, our priorities and how we want to live out our time on this planet will evolve.

It need not be a reason to fear the end of a relationship.

Instead it is an opportunity to deepen existing relationships and form even stronger bonds with each other.


Counselling and support for couples

Navigating periods of change in a relationship can be a challenging process. The support and guidance of a professional couples or marriage counsellor can offer a stability and impartiality that smooths the process.

At The Spark we have been supporting couples navigate the ups and downs of life for over 50 years. We can do the same for you.

Find out more about couple counselling or marriage counselling.

Locate your nearest The Spark counselling centre or contact us to discuss your needs.

Freephone 0808 802 0050 during our opening hours or complete an online enquiry form.

male infertility

Men are in general pretty bad at talking about their feelings. They are taught from their earliest years – both explicitly and implicitly – to hold emotions in.

Never cry, get on with it and barely whisper about what is upsetting you. When it comes to male infertility, the whisper typically fades to complete silence.

male infertility

For many men with diagnoses ranging from low sperm counts to poor sperm mobility, infertility can become a hidden source of mental health problems.

Male infertility and the impact on mental health


Fertility problems can leave men with intense feelings of anger, shame, resentment and confusion. But their default setting is to stay silent about how infertility makes them feel.

This unwillingness to talk about problems is not however only down to childhood conditioning. Men struggle to open up about the gut wrenching emotions of infertility for many reasons.

unhappy men

A system set up for female infertility


From a practical perspective it is difficult for men because society is geared towards dealing with female infertility.  Consequently the support structures for men are very limited.

It is not uncommon to hear of a man being given a blunt diagnosis, handed a pamphlet about sperm donation and sent back in to the world to ‘get on with it’.

Apart from being a completely unsympathetic way to deal with earth-shaking news, it is probably the worst way to deal with a group so disinclined to deal with their emotions in the first place.

Don’t question his virility


Another significant barrier is the importance and symbolism of male virility.

The ability to procreate can be considered the essence of what it means to be male. Like childbirth for women it is something that remains no matter how gender roles and societal norms shift over time.

To have that questioned or even rendered void is a fundamental challenge to his sense of self. Only sufferers can truly understand the impact.

Here’s some more bad news…


The problem of male infertility is not going away and in fact, it is getting worse.

Couples in western society are delaying procreation until well in to their 30s and early 40s, bringing with it a host of age-related challenges.

male infertility

Worse still, recent studies have shown that male fertility rates have dropped by over 50% since the 1970s.

With little support and advice out there it can feel almost impossible for wives and partners to know how to help. Thankfully there are some straightforward steps you can take to support your loved one.

Encourage him to talk about infertility. And then keep encouraging him.


And then encourage him some more.

There are hundreds of chat boards, forums and support groups aimed at women. On them they are sharing experiences, encouraging and helping each other deal with fertility challenges.

By contrast there is very little for men. Therefore wives, partners, friends and family need to research, prompt, cajole and support men as they begin to access help to share their own emotions.

Search online for male infertility support groups and online forums. Speak to your fertility clinic or consultant about support groups for men in your area and search for them online as well.

Speak to a counsellor


Opening up about infertility to a partner, friends or family can be daunting for many men. In the first instance, talking to a partner can bring up intense feelings of failure for not ‘coming up with the goods’ or ‘not being a man’.

With mates it can be impossible to even admit there is a problem in testosterone-fueled environments like the pub or Saturday morning five-a-side football. Family can simply feel too close and brings with it similar anxieties about expectations and opinions.

An objective, independent counsellor – particularly with experience in the area of male infertility – can provide the gentle guidance needed to help men come to terms with their diagnoses.

Counselling provides ‘head space’ and an environment free from the heavy burden of expectations and opinion.

Do not place blame


The medical profession treats infertility as two separate issues: female fertility and male fertility.

As a result either the man or women comes under the magnifying glass as ‘the problem’. Cue the apportioning of blame.

Many couples that have successfully navigated infertility often talk about ‘our problem’. Irrespective of whether a physical issue resides with the male or female, getting pregnant is ultimately a team effort.

It is vital that partners are as supportive as possible and do not place ‘blame’. No matter whether it is – in medical terms at least – a male or female problem.

Avoid pressure


A poor fertility report can often create a frenzied sense of urgency to do anything to improve chances of conception. But be mindful of the magnitude of the diagnosis. Time and space is needed for anyone – male or female – to process such devastating news.

Pressure to start trying herbal remedies, consuming supplements and changing habits could negatively impact your chances of conceiving.

Stress is a significant contributor to male fertility problems across the board. So you could end up undoing all the benefits of having a supplement consuming, veg-eating, non-pants-wearing partner.


Are you dealing with male infertility issues?

 

Our counsellors have extensive experience helping couples and individuals deal with infertility and the strain it places on relationships.

From our local centres around Scotland we provide support to couples and families coming to terms with infertility or fertility issues.

To find out more freephone 0808 802 0050 or complete an enquiry form.

You can also search for your nearest counselling centre.

emotional first aid guy winch

When we experience aches, pains or a chesty cough where do we head? Straight to our local doctor of course. When it comes to emotional pain – guilt, loss, loneliness – what do we do? Most of the time we try to sort it ourselves.

We (try to) keep calm and carry on. Instead of seeking the help of a professional – as we do for physical health problems – we soldier on. Often with wildly varying degrees of success or failure.

The concept of emotional first aid


It is this preference for dealing with mental health challenges on our own that has inspired the concept of emotional first aid. In this thought-provoking talk, psychologist Guy Winch encourages us to stop trying to cope on our own and practice emotional first aid instead.

Based on an attitude that views physical, emotional and mental pain in exactly the same way, Winch suggests we treat all these ailments with professional help.



The Spark Counselling

Are you dealing with emotional or relationship issues at the moment? The Spark’s counselling and relationship support services offer the opportunity  to speak to a professional counsellor about the difficulties and challenges you are facing right now.

We provide counselling services to individuals, couples, children and young people, and families. To find out more freephone 0808 802 0050 or complete an online enquiry.

Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Society over 850,000 people in the UK are living with dementia. The impact of dementia on sufferers and their carers is deeply upsetting. In particular the effect on their relationship is a very emotionally and mentally painful feature of this illness.

The symptoms of dementia and the inevitable loss of the sufferers’ personality can push relationships to breaking point.

Losing the person you love to dementia


DementiaTypical symptoms can include impaired decision-making and problem solving. Meaning previously simple tasks like cooking a meal or going to buy groceries become very difficult. A dementia sufferer’s personality can change quite rapidly. Thus individuals who were once happy and relatively care-free can become easily frustrated, angry, anxious or depressed as a consequence of the illness.

Sufferers can in some cases experience delusions which result in them falsely accusing loved ones of stealing. The belief that their nearest and dearest are taking money, clothes or family heirlooms is a common symptom associated with certain kinds of dementia.

Can relationships survive dementia?


Common to all of these is the pressure it places upon relationships. Spouses, children and grand-children often take on responsibility as a primary carer.

Cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and the like tend to fall solely on the shoulders of the carer. Mood changes, accusations of theft and worsening memory take an emotional toll on both the sufferer and carer. The deterioration of the relationship can be as painful for the carer as watching a loved one they once knew intimately, slowly drift away.

Dementia effects relationships within the whole family


But it is not only the relationship between carer and dementia sufferer that can be compromised. Relationships between the carer and their own partner, children and wider family can also be damaged. Increasing amounts of time spent caring for an elderly relative leaves little time to maintain a marriage or family relationship. The stress of caring can also easily spill over in to those relationships.

Dementia can appear like a life sentence for carers. The illness forces us to watch a loved one disappear. Meanwhile the pressure and responsibilities upon our own shoulders increase. There are thankfully ways to help ease the burden and make the best of your associated relationships.

Hurtful comments are not deliberate


It is important to understand that your loved one cannot control this process. Changes in mood, delusions and at times nasty and hurtful comments are not of their choosing. Dementia is the result of diseases and conditions that damage brain cells. The hurtful words may come from the mouth of your loved one but they are not deliberate.

Focus on positives and not dementia


DementiaFocusing on the positives can provide a break from the negativity that often surrounds dementia. Place your attention upon the things your loved one can still do as opposed to the things they cannot do. As a child grows we celebrate what they can do and almost entirely ignore what they are yet to learn. A similar approach can be beneficial when dealing with dementia.

Similarly, pay close attention to moments of positivity during your time with them. For example a kind word, smile or a time of laughter are the moments to take away from each visit. Not the repetitive conversations or forgetfulness.

Make time to deal with your own emotions


As a carer it is important to confront rather than ignore the feelings and emotions you are experiencing. Talking about your situation and how it is impacting upon you can help deal with difficult emotions.

Share your situation with other family members or friends. Join support groups and meet with fellow carers. Try your best not to bottle up how you are feeling.

At times carers may experience feelings of anger and resentment towards their loved one. Admitting having such feelings to a family member for example can create other emotions of shame and guilt.

When talking to family is not enough


Those feelings are completely natural under the difficult circumstances of dementia. But talking about them to family members can sometimes be impossible. Counselling can provide a safe place where you can talk freely and openly about how you feel.

A counsellor has no emotional ties to the situation which allows them to be impartial and fair. Unlike a family member who is emotionally involved in the situation, a counsellor is completely removed from it.

Look after yourself as well as your loved one


Finally it is important to look after yourself. Carers can feel duty-bound to be on call 24/7. Often that creates intense feelings of guilt at taking a day off or spending time doing something purely for themselves.

In reality not taking time out can lead to carers being emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted, consequently unable to look after their loved one.

Dementia is a tragic illness but it need not be the case that carers have to suffer alone and in silence. Organisations like Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer Scotland, Dementia UK and Age Concern offer help, support and advice for carers. Counselling charities like The Spark can also help address the complicated relationship issues that emerge when dealing with dementia.


Are you a carer looking after a loved one with dementia? Could you benefit from talking to a counsellor about your relationship to talk to someone?

Life can be challenging at times. And speaking to a loved one or friend sometimes is not enough to help overcome those challenges. Speaking to a counsellor can help you understand the problems you face and decide how to move forward positively.

Find out more about our counselling services for couples, individuals and families on freephone 0808 802 0050. Alternatively find your nearest counselling centre or complete an enquiry form.

male postnatal depression

The idea that male postnatal depression exists has long been considered in the same terms as man flu. Reactions can vary from a raised eyebrow to thinly veiled contempt when the subject is broached. Familiar gender stereotypes entrench the belief that a dad ‘can’t get’ postnatal depression. A viewpoint justified on the basis of a perceived limited role in pregnancy, childbirth and the early months of life.

The reality is that male postnatal depression is real. Why? Because new dads go through a similar emotional, physical and mental rollercoaster as new mums. The upheaval, trauma and radical change that comes with parenthood affects both men and women. In the case of new fathers this might be the combination of new/expanded responsibilities at home plus the pressure of potentially becoming the sole bread-winner for the family.

What have the dads got to be depressed about?


male postnatal depression Monty Python
What have the Dad’s got to be depressed about?

The situation could be likened to the classic scene from the infamous Monty Python film ‘The Life of Brian’. The Peoples Front of Judea (or was it the Judean People’s Front?) lament ‘what have the Roman’s ever done for us?’

They could easily be swapped for a council of mums debating ‘what have the dad’s got to be depressed about?’ The punchline – spoiler alert – is of course that the group begin to rhyme off a list of very robust rebuttals.

A ground-breaking study in New Zealand revealed that while men are less likely to seek help, they are just as likely as women to experience postnatal depression.

Other data suggests this can mean as many as 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression and research by NCT suggests more than 1 in 3 new fathers are worried about their mental health.

Misunderstanding postnatal depression


Postnatal depression is not completely understood. Previous theories believed it an entirely hormonal issue. This has been widely discounted. In turn that has undermined one of the primary arguments against male postnatal depression. If men do not experience the same hormonal changes as women, there is no trigger for postnatal depression.

Current thinking considers any form of postnatal depression to be a combination of birth trauma, changes in the relationship between mum and dad, isolation and financial pressures. Whilst the experiences of new mothers and fathers differ, they share almost all of these challenges.

Trauma, isolation and anxiety


Infant mental healthA traumatic birth is an horrific episode for any mum. The experience for dad is distressing for different but no less significant reasons. Many men who suffer from postnatal depression can trace its origins back, in part, to a traumatic birth. The associated feelings of fear and helplessness during a difficult labour can remain long after the child is born.

After birth, women with postnatal depression often experience exhaustion, feelings of isolation and a sense of being overwhelmed by the demands of their new-born. Once again the experience of a father is not too dissimilar.

Whilst a mother is exhausted from feeding and sleepless nights, a father can be exhausted by managing an increased workload around the house and caring for his partner. A new mother may feel isolated as she stays home with her baby but a father can experience similar feelings of abandonment and rejection as his partner focuses her attention on their child.

Slow acceptance of male postnatal depression


We are reaching a critical point where it is understood that male postnatal depression exists. However the glacial speed at which it is being accepted is significant for two interconnected reasons.

Firstly the traditional structure of support services in the postnatal period is geared towards mother and baby. Slow acceptance of postnatal depression in men will translate to slow change in how we support fathers. Our society needs to take a more family-focused approach to perinatal and postnatal care. Only then will male postnatal depression be treated on equal terms.

The impact of male postnatal depression on children


Secondly we need to actively consider the impact of paternal postnatal depression on the development of babies. Research in the field is increasingly demonstrating a direct link between a child’s psychosocial and cognitive development and the influence of their father. Consequently we cannot continue to write off male postnatal depression as simply a sign of ‘weakness’ or a myth.

The alternative is to continue leaving men with postnatal depression to fend for themselves. Not only will that harm parents but it will also create more mental health issues in the future. Sons and daughters will suffer as a result of undiagnosed and unsupported paternal depression.


Counselling and support for new parents

Are you or your partner struggling to cope with parenthood? Is it causing tension in your relationship and leaving you feeling isolated and anxious? The Spark’s counselling services are available to help you and your partner cope with the challenges of becoming parents.

Our couples counselling provides an opportunity to talk about your experiences and perspective with a trained counsellor. To find out more freephone our team on 0808 802 0050 or complete a counselling enquiry form.

You can also review our free resources for parents with tips on bonding with baby and maintaining your relationship with your partner.

life hacks

In the final part of our life hacks series we are looking at how doing what you are good at, keeping in touch and asking for help can set you on the path to good mental health.

Catch up on part 1 and part 2 of the life hacks series.

Life hacks number 7 – Do things you are good at


life hacks - do something you are good at and enjoy
Good at cooking? Cook lots.

These days it feels like criticism is more common than praise. As a society we celebrate a child doing anything well but once they hit adulthood we seem to flick the switch from bravo to blame. Thereafter it is a life of appraisals, 360 degree feedback and assessments – which all tend to focus on what you are not doing well.

None of that is good for our mental health. A simple life hack to improve that situation is to spend as much time as you can doing things you are good at.

It might not be something celebrity websites or Instagram suggest we should be good at, but that does not devalue it. In fact it probably makes it more valuable. Good at cooking? Cook and enjoy preparing a great meal for yourself or others. Green fingered? Fill your home with blooming plants or help a neighbour who kills cactuses. Good at building Lego kits? Build a Lego kit.  You get the idea.

There may be 101 things you are not particularly great at but there will be at least 1 (and usually more) that you are good at. Find it and do it. And do it lots.

Life hacks number 8 – Keep in touch


Humans were made to interact with each other. Relationships are fundamental to our wellbeing and mental health. Scientific research has proven that interaction with other humans keeps us healthier and happier.

Life hacks - spend time with people who are good for you
Spend time with people who are good for you

Isolation can be a cause of poor mental health. It can also be a symptom of poor mental health if we deliberately choose to isolate ourselves. That is why keeping in touch, keeping in contact is so important.

Keep in touch with friends and family, particularly the ones who are good for you. You know who they are: the people that make you feel good about yourself, have you laughing and leave a smile on your face. Instead of getting sucked in to the trends of communicating only via WhatsApp or text, do something radical with your smartphone and call them. Better still call them to arrange a time to meet up in person.

It is easy to slip in to a mind-set that ‘no one is interested’ in you if the mobile is not ringing. Instead flip it around and consider that a friend could be sitting at home thinking exactly the same thing. Give them a call, get together and you will both feel better.

Life hacks number 9 – Ask for help


A particularly Scottish trait is to soldier on, suck it up and push through difficult times. Self-reliance and resilience are good skills to develop. But not when they begin to harm your mental health and wellbeing.

life hacks - keep calm and carry on
Keep calm and carry on: not always the best option…

Stubbornness is probably up there with soldiering on as a famous Scottish trait. It often manifests itself as an unwillingness to ask for help when we know deep down, that we really need it. Meaning we try to fix relationship problems and struggles with mental health ourselves.

There are problems we cannot solve ourselves, despite our best efforts. Unless you are a qualified plumber you will not be able to fix a broken boiler. So why would we expect to solve significant life issues ourselves with no help or support?

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness in mind or spirit. It is a demonstration of strength and intelligence. The Spark is an organisation ready to help with the big life issues and challenges we all face. Through counselling or just discussing a problem on our free Relationship Helpline, you can confidentially begin to address the issues causing unhappiness in your life.

Speak to our counselling enquiry team on 0808 802 0050 or complete an online enquiry.

Find out more about the free Relationship Helpline and our services for couples, individuals and families.

bending the truth fingers crossed

In a society increasingly dominated by ‘alternative facts’ it is beginning to feel like bending the truth is replacing good, old-fashioned honesty. More alarming is the implied acceptance that bending the truth or even lying outright no longer carries with it consequences.

“People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.” Otto von Bismarck.

Politicians, business leaders, adults and kids may believe the consequences of being economical with the truth do not outweigh the benefits. More seats in parliament, more money or more sweeties might seem like a good reason to bend the truth. Of course that is as untrue as many of the alternative truths being peddled today. When it comes to relationships in particular the consequences of bending the truth can in some cases be devastating.

Bending the truth – the first step on a slippery slope


bending the truth fingers crossed
“It was only a few quid darling…”

Lying is easy and it is addictive. The idiom goes that ‘lies breed lies’ and experience suggest it is pretty much spot on. Couples coming to counselling often find that a few seemingly inconsequential acts of bending the truth have started to snowball in to something bigger.

Medical research is starting to conclusively prove that lying is addictive and leads to a gradual increase in the scale of the lies being told. Research by University College London found that our brains can become desensitised to lying. In practice this can lead to lies escalating over time and the act of lying itself to effectively become a habit.

Therefore when your partner asks how much you spent gambling and you ’round down’, it sets in motion something that could become a habit. Similarly bending the truth about how attractive you find a work colleague could be the start of a slippery slope.

The irreparable damage of lies and bending the truth


“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon was ahead of his time when he wrote this. The advent of social media has facilitated the world-wide spread of alternative facts at an alarming speed. Within an hour bended truths can become ‘fact’. Whether a tweet from a questionably coiffured President or unfounded gossip about a friend, bending the truth can cause irreparable damage.

It is impossible to put a cost on the impact lies have on the mental and emotional wellbeing of an individual. Our counsellors work regularly with individuals coping with the aftermath of dishonesty in relationships. From deliberate office gossip to bitter words amongst family members that are eventually exposed, the damage caused by lies can be irreparable. Relationships are built on care, mutual trust and empathy. Lies undermine and, in time, can destroy those foundations.

Can trust be fully recovered?


“A liar will not be believed even when he speaks the truth.” Aesop

You can probably remember the story your mum told you about the boy who cried wolf. Despite the best efforts of parents, teachers and we humans can all too easily fall in to the role of the shepherd boy. Nowhere is this more apparent in relationships than when infidelity has been discovered.

Sadly we know this because relationship infidelity remains a common issue our counsellors tackle with couples every day. Where a couple decide to remain together, the ability of an adulterer to regain their partner’s trust is a massive challenge.

Will I ever trust them again?


bending the truth can i ever trust them again?On an emotional level there are doubts that are fundamental to what their relationship had been built upon in the past. Will they ever truly believe a partner is remorseful about their actions? Will ‘I love you’ continue to mean I love you or something else? Can they reach a point where it is not the first thing they think about upon seeing their partner?

Even the most basic and day-to-day actions can become fraught with doubt, anger and hurt. When a spouse says they are going to meet friends, will their partner be able to believe them? Are they just popping down to the shops or doing something else?

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Looking through social media, the news and political soundbites you would be forgiven for thinking that consequence-free alternative facts are here to stay. It is hard to stomach the idea that the truth will forevermore be subject to manipulation. When it comes to relationships the consequences are massive and can be life shattering.

Relationships are of course the building blocks of society. Therefore the significance of a growing acceptance of alternative facts as appropriate is one we should not ignore.

Have you been hurt by lies in your relationships?


The Spark is available to help individuals, couples and families coping with the consequences of lies and broken trust. As a COSCA-accredited counselling provider our counsellors are highly experienced and skilled in working with individuals, couples and families.

Find out more about counselling for couples, individuals and families.

For more information or to book a counselling session freephone 0808 802 0050 or complete an online enquiry form.

life hacks listen to relaxing music

Welcome to part 2 of The Spark’s life hacks for mental health series. This time we are looking at how getting active, putting the cork back in the bottle and looking out for others can boost mental health.

Catch up on part 1 of the life hacks series – covering healthy eating, slowing life down and talking about your concerns.

Life hacks number 4 – Care for others


It might not seem particularly intuitive but a simple way to boost your own mental health is to care for someone else. Previously we looked at the idiom ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ and its scientific foundation. Taking a different perspective, offering to help a friend with a problem can be almost as rewarding.

life hacks be a listener and help a friend instead of focusing on yourselfThere is little doubt that sharing wisdom, expertise or previous experience to benefit someone else creates a natural ‘high’. Being the listener/helper can also bring you closer to your friend/loved one and boost your own self-esteem as you help them tackle a problem. Furthermore it provides the opportunity to put our own struggles in context and offer perspective on our individual life challenges.

And it does not need to be another human. A pet can create a strong bond similar to one between humans. The opportunity to care for another living creature plus the structure of a daily routine can be hugely beneficial.

Life hacks number 5 – Get active


A little bit of exercise can go a long way towards improving mental health. There are in fact pages and pages of research documenting the benefits of exercise in terms of mental health and wellbeing.

Issues like depression, stress, anxiety and low self-esteem can all be helped by getting active. The best news is that we do not need to be exercising like an Olympic athlete to feel the benefit. As little as 10-15 minutes exercise per day like a brisk walk or swimming can help you achieve the recommended level of physical activity.

Physical activity can be anything that gets us moving and expends energy. That means making even simple changes like walking to the shop instead of taking the car can make a difference. Exercise provides opportunities for human interaction too – like going for a walk with a friend – and exposure to new activities (e.g. trying a new sport) which help boost wellbeing.

Life hacks number 6 – Be sensible about alcohol


Alcohol is a depressant – a substance that disrupts the balance of chemicals in the brain that determine our mood and personality. In small quantities alcohol can create feelings of increased confidence and reduced anxiety. However over time alcohol lowers our mood and it can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. This is due to it decreasing levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain – the substance that regulates mood.

A simple way to give your mood a boost is to limit your intake of alcohol. You can do this by reducing your typical consumption of alcohol or scheduling in alcohol-free days. These can help reduce the chance of your body building a tolerance to alcohol – basically having to drink more alcohol to achieve the same effects.

life hacks put the cork back in the bottleAlcohol and stress-relief

If you use alcohol as a stress-reliever, try to substitute it occasionally for alternative methods of relieving stress. Do some physical activity, meditation, breathing exercises or listen to calming music instead. Another great option is to talk to someone about the issues that are creating feelings of stress for you.

Talking to a trusted friend or loved one can be very beneficial. Sometimes however is not practical or the issue is something you do not feel comfortable talking to them about. In those circumstances speaking to a counsellor can be great solution. It allows you to talk to a skilled, impartial and non-judgemental expert who can help you tackle the issues causing stress. Find out more about counselling and support services available from The Spark.

In the final part of our series we will be looking at how reaching out to others, finding your talent and keeping connected can boost mental health.

Remember you can catch up on part 1 of the series and read our first 3 life hacks.