Self-help guides by Julia Fisher

Over the years I have had a number of articles published - to read any of these articles simply click on the title of the article you wish to read.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like further information.

Saying No

…a two letter word, yet sometimes the most difficult to announce… “NO”.

We learnt the word before we were two years old, then it was easy peasy to say, “No, No, No”.

Not by chance it's known as the Terrible Two's, when authority is challenged and not liked too much… So, many of us grow to be “people pleasers” where the word “No” disappears from the growing vocabulary to keep other people happy.

Saying “No” is sometimes believed as costly in life; yet all too often NOT saying “No” has a greater cost to YOU and to those around you.

Let's look at a way to introduce “No” back into an okay word:

Firstly, forget the unassertive “No”. That's when weak excuses or attempted rationalisations are offered as if saying “No” needs such support.

Secondly, forget the aggressive “No”. That's when is it said with disdain or contempt to mask the fact that's its YOU that is uncomfortable saying “No”.

Now the correct and assertive way to say “No” …simple and direct:

“No, I cannot help with that”

“No, I have already made plans”

“No, maybe another time but not now”

The three above examples ALL started with the word “No”

Other tips:

It's okay to ask for time to think.

It's okay to shake your head as if to say “No”

“No” is an honourable word, an honourable response when you do not want to do something.

When wanting to say “No” always start your sentence with the word “No”, then the commitment of NOT being resentful in doing something YOU really don't have to do, is made and heard.

Depression versus Grief

The difference between Depression and Grief makes itself known in characteristic ways, namely that of Depression; includes a sense of hopelessness, disinterest in the outside world and self-critical thoughts. With Grief there are similar characteristics but with little or no self diminishing nor little or no diminishing of self esteem.

Tools to help Depression:

If prescribe an anti-depressant, take as prescribed and review with GP. Take exercise; introduce a daily exercise that can aid your sleep. Even if eating is not top of your list, write a list of one meal to shop/cook for the next day. Watch what you read, keep to light-weight books that do not require heavy concentration. Introduce a small daily nurturing routine, one that helps to restore some balance; this may need to be repeated and added to accordingly to aid your self-esteem.

Tools to Help Grief:

  • Be aware that Grief is a normal process
  • Loss is accommodated after time
  • Seek out those friends where you can “just be”
  • Allow time to reflect and allow time to be “in today”
  • Gently write a goal for your future

Both Depression and Grief can be isolating so it is good to introduce some social interaction, this can be with a trusted friend or family member or alternatively you may wish to join something where new faces can be welcomed into your healing process.

Diet and Exercise is important on two levels:

  • Physical well-being
  • Nurturing of the self, mind and body
  • The open-air is non demanding
  • A distraction to the imploding moment


When Anxiety Rears its Voice in your Head:

When we are anxious we often avoid, so too the anxious thoughts are pushed out and hopefully “avoided”. One of the ways of helping your anxiety is to bring it into the present, for example:

Believing that “Anxiety is bad”

Try to imagine the “anxious thoughts” as an alarm bell… it should go off when there is a “real” alarm or you are in “real” danger so some anxiety is good, but sometimes it becomes over-anxious…going off at all times of the day. No different in physical terms to a recently acquired allergy, in that the body becomes hyper-sensitive and over reacts accordingly.

So, you have an alarm bell to keep you safe, it is needed if you are in “real” danger but sometimes when you hear the anxious alarm you may need to check two things:

  • What was going on just before the anxiety set off?
  • Is the danger “real” today?


The hallmark of anxiety is avoidance, such avoidance can be observed even in the therapy room, we can talk about anything but... “I don't want to think about it… I am having a bad day etc...”

If you can test the “anxiety” in tiny, tiny steps by writing down your thoughts, whilst respecting the “alarm” is for “real” danger only, then the avoidance begins to diminish and in turn the anxiety lessens.

Read back your observations and ask yourself:

  • Did I overestimate or underestimate the danger for today?
  • Are my Anxieties set off in certain situations?
  • What were my intrusive thoughts?


The Dilemma of “I Have to” or “I Choose to”:

We all too often choose to say, “I have to…” but is this statement a present day truth or a part of a belief system built up over the years?

For example, a client presents with a working opportunity/promotion where it would go in her favour if she accepted a place on a short course. The client deliberates for weeks, “why do l have to” etc… The truth is she doesn't “have to” but by replacing the word “have” to “choose” she was able to take her place on the course, “I choose to” and allow herself to take responsibility for her working progress.

When the words “have to” are a large part of the daily vocabulary then life must appear pretty harsh and full of responsibilities. That said, we all have certain responsibilities in life but they all too often get confused with everyday decisions based on an automatic mindset that refuses to introduce the word “choice”.

Your observations:

I have to:

Next time this statement raises its head ask yourself, “Can l choose to do instead?”

I Choose to:

Just saying these words gives a sense of your willing participation, a sense of wanting to rather than “having to”.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do you have to?
  • Why do you need an unwavering response?
  • How does it feel?

Try for two weeks:

Replacing “Have” with “Choose”

  • How does the change feel?
  • Were you more energised with the change of word?
  • How can you introduce this into your everyday vocabulary?

Sleep Problems

How much sleep do we need?

It varies greatly from the popular belief of a full eight hours and also varies at different stages of our lives.

There are a number of reasons why you may be suffering sleep problems, stress, anxiety and worry easily affect our sleeping habits.

If prescribe an anti-depressant, take as prescribed and review with GP. Take exercise; introduce a daily exercise that can aid your sleep. Even if eating is not top of your list, write a list of one meal to shop/cook for the next day. Watch what you read, keep to light-weight books that do not require heavy concentration. Introduce a small daily nurturing routine, one that helps to restore some balance; this may need to be repeated and added to accordingly to aid your self-esteem.

Some good sleep habits are:

  • Try not to worry about not getting enough sleep
  • Check your sleeping surroundings
  • Making simple changes to aid your sleep by checking -
    • Noise level
    • Light level
    • Comfort zone
    • Temperature
    • Pre-sleep routine

If worry is creating your sleep problem try taking each worry, write them down with possibility of solving them. Includes obstacles and choosing the most helpful steps to overcoming them, and then announce “That's it for tonight”.

If you still feel worried say to yourself “I've dealt with my worry for tonight, more worry wont help and l will deal with it after a good nights sleep”.

Spend at least half an hour winding down before bedtime, read a paper, book, listen to soothing music, generally introduce a relaxing winding down habit every night.

Anger, Shame and Guilt

Anger Control

Anger becomes a real problem when:

  1. It happens often
  2. It damages relationships
  3. You can't control it

Make a note of what situations and repetitive thoughts is making you angry:

“You are pushing me too far”, “You know nothing”, “You are making me feel small”

  • When did you first feel like that?
  • What are your basic frustrations?
  • What are you intolerant towards?
  • How often do you think only in extremes?
  • How often do you jump to conclusions?
  • How often do you not tolerate another persons difference of opinion?

It is not other people who make you angry but how you react to them.

Anger can overwhelm and that emotion can be part of an issue you have not dealt with:

  1. Low self esteem
  2. Learnt behaviour

Displacement of Anger

If you have had a bad day, who do you take it out on? If you had an argument at home do you take your anger to school, work or the person you are standing behind in a queue? Conversely, if you had a bad day at school or work do you take that anger home and kick the dog? Displacement happens when the cause of your anger is not resolved and so you transfer it onto the next person or situation. If this happens ask yourself, “did that person or situation actually merit all my anger or was a percentage due to a past event”. Displacement is a form of bullying, if you cannot resolve the initial cause of your anger then announce it at home, school or work in a manner which is clearly understood, “I have had a crap day and feel angry, not at you but at the day”. You will have an improved understanding of your feelings and the response will be more sympathetic than if you displace your anger onto someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Protective or Avenging Anger

Some feelings of anger are justified in that the feelings are right and a good expression of a bad thing. When you feel justified at being angry through damage, theft or intimidation you are entitled to feel and express anger, but it needs to stay under control and in the present. If it does not stay under control it could flip into an avenging anger where you are seeking justice on all kinds of past hurts and angry feelings that you have bottled up. This is when “good anger” becomes “bad anger”.

Second-hand Anger

If you are feeling angry on someone else’s behalf be aware that you are somehow sharing in or empathizing that person's position. In the grand scheme of things that could be a good thing as some great acts of humanity are inspired by such a drive, but this is not always the case. Sometimes it can be an unconscious manipulation of your good nature, in that you remain unaware of being used and doing someone else's dirty work so you end up the one with the reputation of having the anger issues.


Using the “Personal Responsibility Pyramid” below you can fill in what and who contributed your angry feelings.

Personal Responsibility Pyramid

By filling in the questions in the chart it will become clearer how much you may be shouldering for someone else. It doesn't matter if they cannot share this exercise but it does matter that you can choose to stop shouldering “their part” in your feelings of Anger.

Anger can be directed outwards and if built up over weeks, months, or years, then the cause of your anger is metered out to whatever triggers that buried emotion. If you come from a family where levels of anger were high then you may have problems in expressing your emotions in a healthy way, but by changing how you react you can bring you anger under control. If you believe that being angry expresses strength then you can change to become firm and effective person without losing control. If you use anger to control others then it is based in you feeling fear on one occasion. Good relationships are not built on fear.

Question and Challenge:

Are you taking things too personally, if so you will often feel attacked.

Are you super sensitive to criticism, if so you will often feel hurt.

Are you expecting too much from yourself and others, if so you will often feel let down.

Balance your thinking:

Take time out and announce you will return in a few minutes.

Ask for an explanation, “What do you mean by that, l don’t understand”.

Listen to what the other person is saying.

Take the initiative and ask “that you sit down and talk about this, calmly”.

Be aware of your beliefs from the past and question how valid are they in your present situation.