Kirsty high­lights shar­ing as a way to re­lease pres­sure

Bray People - - NEWS - By MARY FOGARTY

‘SOME­THING about shar­ing helps you re­bal­ance your­self,’ said Kirsty Kirk­wood, who is CEO of Liv­ing Life Coun­selling.

She was talk­ing about the sim­ple prac­tice of chat­ting to friends or fam­ily mem­bers.

Kirsty de­scribed the body from throat to the base of your tummy as like a jelly jar, with all of one’s wor­ries fill­ing it up lit­tle by lit­tle.

‘Ev­ery time you hold some­thing and don’t share it – it could be hurt, anger, anx­i­ety, up­set – it goes into that lit­tle jar. Over time it just builds up and over­flows like a vol­cano or pres­sure cooker.

‘ That’s of­ten when peo­ple walk through our doors,’ said Kirsty. ‘It’s an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of life events that has put pres­sure on some­one. We un­pack that ma­te­rial in a safe way, and help the per­son nav­i­gate it them­selves.’

She said that rather than build­ing a de­pen­dent re­la­tion­ship, they work on a per­son’s in­de­pen­dence and re­silience. Even the act of com­ing to coun­selling can make some­one feel em­pow­ered. ‘ They feel like they have climbed a moun­tain and that’s im­por­tant. Some­times when they come in the moun­tain seems very high. But we don’t look at at the top. We’re go­ing to get there, one day at a time.’

Liv­ing Life has cen­tres in Bray and Ark­low and last year cel­e­brated its 20th an­niver­sary in the com­mu­nity.

The char­ity pro­vides men­tal health sup­port to those who can’t ac­cess pri­vate coun­selling.

In the past that was lim­ited to so­cial wel­fare or state ben­e­fit re­cip­i­ents, how­ever Liv­ing Life is avail­able to any­one who needs it. Clients are asked to make a do­na­tion of what­ever it is they may be able to af­ford, per­haps €20 if they can pay that.

Kirsty said that as well as fi­nan­cially sup­port­ing Liv­ing Life, this do­na­tion is im­por­tant for the client. It places a value on their care, and is fun­da­men­tal in terms of self-es­teem, even if they only pay a cou­ple of euro.

Peo­ple come from all over County Wick­low and south County Dublin to seek in­di­vid­ual coun­selling, cou­ples and re­la­tion­ship coun­selling, play ther­apy, ado­les­cent ther­apy and help for is­sues such as ad­dic­tion.

At Liv­ing Life, they look af­ter clients from the age of five.

‘We would deal with is­sues like de­pres­sions, anx­i­ety, anger, loss, bul­ly­ing, sep­a­ra­tion, abuse, stress, and sui­ci­dal be­hav­iour – the whole range of emo­tional dis­tress.’

They of­fer a 50-minute ses­sion and up to six months of coun­selling.

Some­times if there is a more com­plex, deeper is­sue, Liv­ing Life may guide the per­son into a more ap­pro­pri­ate ser­vice, for ex­am­ple psy­chi­atric ser­vices, or the na­tional coun­selling ser­vice for sex­ual abuse.

‘We just want to make sure they’re get­ting com­plete care,’ said Kirsty. At a first ses­sion, it will be de­ter­mined where the client is, and what their needs are.

Liv­ing Life is a char­ity which is com­pletely do­na­tion led. Vol­un­teer coun­sel­lors work free of charge, and the char­ity em­ploys a small staff.

The 90 vol­un­teer coun­sel­lors work with 240 clients a week. Their doors are open from 8.30 in the morn­ing to 9.30 p.m., and they are on the go the whole day.

She said that in terms of look­ing af­ter one’s men­tal health, dif­fer­ent things work for dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

‘What’s al­ways noted in any sort of read­ing is your con­tacts – fam­ily, rel­a­tives and net­work of friends. The more isolated a per­son is, the more prob­lem­atic.

‘One of the first things we talk about with a client is their sup­port struc­ture, do they have a fam­ily mem­ber, good friend, some­one avail­able to you? That’s re­ally im­por­tant.’

‘Don’t catas­trophise,’ said Kirsty. ‘If you don’t share a worry or prob­lem with oth­ers, it gets big­ger.’

Fresh air, and be­ing in the mo­ment, present in the here and now, is some­thing to con­sider, along with tak­ing part in some sort of ac­tiv­ity.

‘What­ever is in­ter­est­ing to you. If you’ve lost in­ter­est, find­ing an in­ter­est.’ Kirsty said that vol­un­teer­ing and help­ing are very pos­i­tive. ‘You step out­side of your­self, you have to get up, get washed and dressed, and do some­thing. It’s re­ally im­por­tant to have a sense of pur­pose. Join a group and you have to be there. Even if it’s Weight Watch­ers!’

‘Be­ing around peo­ple, be­ing con­nected in life, helps peo­ple recog­nise the value of them­selves.

‘We’re all so busy, there’s so much in­for­ma­tion thrown at us. Of­ten peo­ple can feel very lonely in a big group, life they’re all on their own.’

Ado­les­cents, she said, can strug­gle with this. So­cial me­dia puts in­creas­ing pres­sure on them to look ‘per­fect’ for the cam­era.

Get­ting what they think is an in­suf­fi­cient num­ber of likes on a selfie can re­ally dam­age the self-es­teem of a young per­son.

Not even 20 years ago, young

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