The reality is we're all struggling, says local psychotherapist who has experienced burnout this year

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    2020 has been a difficult year for everybody, and with the sad news that Christmas is cancelled for many, we must look after ourselves both physically and mentally.

    The number of people with mental health problems has been increasing year on year, and it is expected to have risen even further due to the effects of the pandemic, multiple lockdowns, job losses, and bereavements, to name a few. 

    For many, Christmas was set to be a time for seeing loved ones, perhaps for the first time in months. But due to Milton Keynes, and other parts of the country, entering Tier 4 restrictions - this is no longer possible. This has come as devastating news for millions of people and coupled with the intensity of this year, increased pressures of working from home, childcare, and much more, it is important that you take time to look after your mental wellbeing, and speak to somebody if need-be. 

    Charlotte Braithwaite, a psychotherapist and coach based in Bedford, has been working flat-out this year helping people through what she calls the "collective trauma" caused by the pandemic. 

    The start of any given year is busy, she says, due to a number of factors including January blues and SAD syndrome, but the pandemic intensified matters even further. 

    In an exclusive interview with MKFM's Michael Blades, Charlotte revealed that all the extra slots she added at the start of the pandemic were all taken up within a week. 

    Charlotte, who has only had two weeks off this year, has felt "compelled" to help those in need during this difficult period and is now feeling the after-effects by experiencing major fatigue. 

    She says that there is often a "glorified badge" when speaking about burnout, when people express how hard they have worked, etc. "Hard work is one thing," Charlotte added, "but burnout and fatigue is very different."

    Charlotte explained that burnout is a biological response from the body whereby a high amount of adrenaline is produced, meaning that people can continue working, and eventually experience major fatigue meaning that the "nervous system flops into a heap". This means that if somebody overworks themselves, there is a high chance they will experience burnout. 

    And that is why, earlier this month, Charlotte posted a raw message on social media informing people that she too is struggling. Charlotte opened up to Michael, telling him: "I am human too. There is no shame, even as a therapist or a coach, to be able to say 'I'm with you, I'm really struggling myself, this is not something to feel any shame about if you're struggling..."

    When asked about what advice she has for those who may be feeling the same, Charlotte told Michael: "The first step I ask my clients is to pause, and ask yourself 'What is it that you want right now?' and listen to your body, and how you're feeling as opposed to the continuous chatter of productivity that our mind likes to create. If we listen to our body we might need to just rest."

    And with the Christmas break coming up, and news that we all must stay at home, this may be a time to rest and recoup as Charlotte says "so many of us just need to stop".

    People's coping mechanisms, including going to dinner with friends or perhaps visiting the cinema, have been taken away from them this year. And with this, Charlotte says "personal stuff is bubbling to the surface". So, partnered with the "collective trauma" individuals are also having to deal with "personal trauma" which can be "overwhelming". 

    She continued: "We have got into this habit of almost wanting our problems to feel smaller which is counterproductive. What is far more effective is if we sit with ourselves in compassion."

    There are a number of support methods that people can use should they feel they are struggling, these include: 

    Samaritans - Freephone 116 123 24-hours a day. 

    MIND - Click here to find out more or call 0300 123 3393.

    Milton Keynes Talking Therapies - It offers a range of evidence-based talking therapies delivered by trained NHS professionals. Click here for more. 

    GP - You can talk to your GP for further support. 

    Private support - There are a number of private registered therapists, including Charlotte, who will support you. Click here to visit 'Find a Therapist' or here to visit Charlotte's website. 

    Listen to our interview in full here:

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