Are you getting enough sleep?

- Friday, May 27, 2016
Do you know how important sleep is to your physical and mental health?

Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining good health and wellbeing. Sleep allows your body to continue working to support healthy brain function and ensure good physical health.

What are some of the problems associated with sleeping?

There are many problems associated with sleep, ranging from getting too much to too little and the impact this can have on your daily life. 


This could mean that you have difficultly falling asleep at night, or getting back to sleep if you awake in the night. This can lead to sleep not feeling like it has refreshed you, and that you are in a constant state of tiredness. 


Sleeping more than your body needs has been linked to physical problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Nightmares are frightening dreams that can cause you to awaken and often relate to real life events. Night terrors, on the other hand, occur during deep sleep and cause a deep sense of fear, sweating and an increased heart rate. Both can affect the quality of your sleep.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis occurs when you wake in the night but are unable to move or speak because there are still sleep hormones in your muscles. This can be an extremely scary experience and lead to anxiety when falling back asleep.

Sleep Walking

Sleep walking is not usually a problem, unless you injure yourself whilst moving around, but it can disrupt your sleep and lead to a lack of restfulness the next day.

Sleeping problems can be caused by a range of factors including:

  • Poor sleep routine or sleep environment
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Physical illness
  • Alcohol, drugs and stimulants
  • Stress, worry and anxiety

How to cope with sleeping problems

To help you get a better nights sleep, try out these tips to ensure that some of the sleep problems we've mentioned in this blog post don't affect you...

  1. Make your bedroom into a calm, relaxing space
  2. Try a breathing technique, such as the 4-7-8 technique
  3. Take note of what you eat and drink, and record whether that affects your sleep
  4. Determine physical causes of under or oversleeping
  5. Before you go to bed, write down all your worries for the following day
  6. Keep a sleep diary to record how much or little sleep you're getting
  7. Find out whether your medication is affecting your sleep by changing to a different type (be sure to consult your GP before making any changes to your medication)

Sleep and Mental Health

As well as weakening your immune system, poor sleep can affect mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders.

Stress and Anxiety

These problems can lead to disturbed sleep, nightmares, sleep paralysis and sleep walking. Also, sleep problems over a prolonged period of time can lead to anxiety about going to sleep which can cause insomnia.


For many people, sleeping is a way to avoid facing day-to-day activities that depression makes so hard to do. This oversleeping has long-term physical affects on your health, and can cause fatigue and lethargy, making it difficult to sleep at night.

Sleep problems can make it difficult to deal with everyday life, induce feelings of loneliness and a low mood, cause negative thoughts and sometimes lead to psychotic episodes. 

Options are here to help!

Are some of the sleep problems we've talked about in this blog post affecting you or someone you know? Do you need help coping with the stress, anxiety and other mental health issues associated with sleep problems? Options is here to help. Our fully-trained, professional counsellors are on-hand to discuss a range of issues including:

  • Depression
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Life Changes
  • Relationships 
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Addictions
    • Alcohol
    • Gambling
    • Eating Disorders
No problem is too small. Take a stand today to improve your sleep, mental health and wellbeing.

Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.


Mental Health Awareness Week

- Wednesday, May 18, 2016

This week, 16th - 22nd May, marks Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. The Mental Health Foundation and many other organisations are working together to spread awareness of mental health problems, remove the stigma associated with them and help those directly or indirectly affected.

The Facts

Mental health is a broad topic, including a range of issues including stress, anxiety and depression. The breadth of the topic means that an increasing number of people across the UK are directly affected or know a family member, friend or colleague who has mental health problems.

  • 2.6 in 100 people in the UK have depression and 4.7 in 100 have anxiety
  • Phobias, OCD, panic disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders affect between 1.2 and 3.0 people in 100 every year
  • 17 in 100 people have suicidal thoughts and 3 in 100 self-harm

Heads Together and the Invictus Games

Mental Health Awareness Week coincides with the launch of the Heads Together campaign and the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games, both of which are aiming to change perceptions towards mental health and encourage more sufferers to come forward to get the help they need. To find out more about how the Invictus Games has helped and will continue to aid those with mental health problems, read our blog post here.

Launched by Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton, the Heads Together campaign aims to destroy the prejudice surrounding mental health that stops so many from seeking the help they need, inevitably destroying families and lives. Heads Together is working closely with mental health charities including: Mind, CALM, Best Beginnings, Place2Be and Young Minds to tackle the stigma, raise awareness and provide essential help for those with mental health problems.


The theme of this years Mental Health Awareness Week is relationships. Good relationships are fundamental to our health and wellbeing and have been found to be as vital as eating well, exercising more and stopping smoking. Mounting pressures of work-life balance and the impact of bullying and unhealthy lifestyles are all issues affecting mental health; however, forging and maintaining positive relationships can benefit those with mental health problems.

Get Involved

There are many ways that you can get involved in spreading awareness of mental health problems, ranging from tweeting your support for the campaign to getting involved with the Mental Health Foundation's relationship challenges.

Make a Relationship Resolution
Could you invest more time in listening to a friend, family member or colleague? Tweet your relationship resolutions to #RelationshipsResolution to pledge how you're going to do your part to promote a healthy mind and wellbeing.

Daily Relationship Challenges
Investing in good relationships can have many positive health benefits, not only for our minds but also for our bodies. Think you're up for a challenge? Visit the MHF Relationship Challenge web page and find out how you can get involved.

Spread the Word
Doing your part this Mental Health Awareness Week could be as simple as pledging your support to #MHAW16 on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. This, as well as events such as a wellbeing walk for friends, family and colleagues or a talk on mental health to local organisations, all help to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and raise awareness. 

Do these issues affect you?

If you are directly or indirectly affected by mental health problems then Options is here to help. Our fully-trained, professional counsellors are on-hand to discuss a range of issues including:

  • Depression
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Life Changes
  • Relationships 
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Addictions
    • Alcohol
    • Gambling
    • Eating Disorders
No problem is too small. After all, it's often the little things that snowball to become a bigger problem. Take the opportunity this Mental Health Awareness Week to take control of your health and well-being, for a brighter future.

Get in touch today via our TwitterFacebook or the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

Invictus Games 2016: Offering Mental Health Hope

- Sunday, May 15, 2016

Founded in 2014, the Invictus Games are a bi-annual multi-sport event for wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans. The Games' patron, Prince Harry, spoke out earlier this week about how this years games, in Orlando, Florida, has provided hope to athletes suffering from mental health issues and also the wider community.

How did the Games help?

Athletes from 14 countries competed over four days in a variety of sporting events, and every single sportsperson involved had to endure tremendous emotional and mental health challenges. Speaking out about their own experiences in the vast media coverage of the games encouraged and will continue to help other people, not only veterans, with mental health problems to come forward and confront them.

Prince Harry paid tribute to competitors and those suffering from a mental illness in his opening ceremony speech...

"To those of you watching at home and who are suffering from mental illness in silence - whether a veteran or a civilian, a mum or a dad, a teenager or a grandparent - I hope you see the bravery of our Invictus champions who have confronted invisible injuries and I hope you are inspired to ask for the help that you need."

The extensive media coverage of the event and a number of high-profile figures involved with the games, including Barrack and Michelle Obama and the Queen, has helped and hopes to continue to encourage more of those suffering in silence to come forward and seek the help they need.

What do I do next?

Keep up-to-date with our blog posts as next week we will be talking more about mental health and the help we provide for Mental Health Awareness Week, running the 16th-22nd May. For now, if you or anyone you know is affected by stress, anxiety, depression or any other issue then please contact us today via our TwitterFacebook or contact form on our website.

The Options Team.


Dealing with Difficult People and Situations

- Wednesday, May 04, 2016

De-escalation Techniques and Training

Whether you work in the healthcare industry or not, you can encounter difficult people and situations in your day-to-day lives. Have you ever considered if you really know how to effectively manage a difficult situation? This post aims to give you guidance, support and advice on how to deal with people who are distressed and may be aggressive.

When might I come into contact with a difficult person or situation?

Difficult situations and aggravated people can arise in many everyday settings. You may encounter issues with your colleagues at work, or your house-mate. If you work with the public you may have to deal with a difficult customer. You may even find yourself in a difficult situation at school or university, or it might even be with a stranger on the street. Knowing how to effectively manage these situations, to resolve them and support the distressed person is very important and can prevent further confrontation.

Managing the Situation

Your body language, listening skills and tone of voice can all impact a difficult situation. Behaviour specialists have concluded that 65% of communication is non-verbal. Tone, pitch and volume makes up over 25% , whilst what we actually say is less than 7%.

It is important to give the distressed person enough space and that you adopt a neutral stance. Folded arms and clenched fists can make you seem unapproachable. Maintaining eye contact, without starring, is also important because it shows you’re engaging with them.

When talking to a distressed or difficult person, speak calmly. Remember to never raise your voice and don’t sound defensive.

Active Listening

Actively listening to the distressed person is incredibly important in helping to defuse the situation. Active listening encourages the person you are listening to, to talk and feel heard and understood. Active listening involves:

  • Using minimal encouragers such as ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘uh-huh’ as well as actions such as nodding

  • Reflecting and feeding your perceptions back to the distressed person

  • Paraphrasing the words of the speaker

  • Using silence to give them space

  • Asking open questions rather than closed ones

How can I apply this to my everyday life?

We’d like to hope that you don’t come into contact with distressed people and difficult situations on a regular basis, but in the event that you do, our top tips for de-escalation could help to resolve the conflict.

De-escalation Training

We've recently developed a de-escalation and managing difficult situations training programme and have delivered it to a few local clients, including a large charity. The training, which involves role plays and discussions, applies the tips you've learnt from this post to a professional environment.

Want to learn more about the training services offered by Options?

Options provides training for organisations and individuals in recognising and managing health and wellbeing, including stress, anxiety, depression, and addictions, as well as other areas of training and development. Our programmes can be tailored to your organisation's needs. To find out more, contact Louise Harris via our Twitter or Facebook pages, or through the contact form on our website. 

The Options Team.

Alcohol Awareness

- Monday, April 25, 2016

Do you have a problem with alcohol?

Most people will answer this with a definite no, but how much do you really know about the problems associated with drinking increasing amounts?

Alcohol is a part of many people's’ lives. It is easily accessible, can be a sociable experience, poses a relatively low risk when consumed in moderation and has the ability to make you feel good.

Whilst occasional use of alcohol to alter your mood and mind is not problematic, becoming reliant upon alcohol to cope with feelings such as stress or a lack of confidence can cause an increasingly high risk toward your emotional, physical and mental health and wellbeing.

What are the indications of an alcohol problem?

Some of the indicators of an alcohol problem include:

  • Drinking increasing amounts of alcohol

  • Friends and family commenting on your drinking

  • Finding it harder to concentrate

  • Not being able to remember the night before

  • Finding it harder to meet financial commitments

  • Clock watching until time for a drink

  • Becoming irritable or shaky when you haven’t had a drink

Do any of these issues affect you?

If some of these issues affect you, take our Alcohol Questionnaire on our website. Here’s an example of some of the questions we ask on there:

How can you help yourself?

Managing your alcohol consumption starts with you. Once you’ve recognised that alcohol is a problem for you then start implementing our self-help tips into your everyday life and begin to improve your relationship with alcohol.

Options is here to help...

Our counsellors here at Options are fully qualified and experienced in dealing with problems with alcohol and a wide range of issues that can also affect those suffering from alcohol addiction including:

  • Depression
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Life Changes
  • Relationships 
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Addictions
    • Gambling

No problem is too small. After all, it's often the little things that snowball to become a bigger problem. Don't hesitate; time to take control of your health and well-being, for a brighter future. For more information visit our alcohol problem information page.

Contact us today via our TwitterFacebook or through the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

Depression Awareness Week

- Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This week marks Depression Awareness Week. Although this is a topic we have raised before in our blog post 'Mental Health Awareness', depression affects 3 in 100 people every year in the UK with many unaware of the symptoms and the treatments available to help you manage and recover from depression.

It can get better...

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Organisations such as The Depression Alliance have lots of useful contacts on their website if you, a friend or a family member need someone to talk to about depression. They also suggest 'Five Ways to Wellbeing', simple actions you can do in your everyday life to help you feel good, function well and help you to manage depression. To learn more about these ways and explore how to make them part of your everyday life alongside professional treatment, visit

Options are here to help!

Making small changes to your everyday life are a great start in managing depression and along with professional treatment can go a long way in aiding your recovery; Options are here to help when these changes are not enough. Our fully qualified and professionally trained counsellors are on hand to discuss and help you manage depression as well as many other issues including:

  • Depression
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Life Changes
  • Relationships 
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Addictions
    • Alcohol
    • Gambling
    • Eating Disorders
If you are suffering from depression, or any other issue affecting your wellbeing then get in touch today via TwitterFacebook or on our website by filling out a contact form

The Options Team.

Stress Awareness Month

- Sunday, April 10, 2016

This April marks Stress Awareness Month. Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that "demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilise". Some stress can be good for us, it acts as a motivator and can encourage us to finish a task we have been putting off. It also stimulates our 'fight or flight' response which can protect us from danger. However too much stress can have a negative effect on our mental and physical health.

How does stress affect us?

The Stress Management Society explains the effects of stress as similar to when a bridge is carrying too much weight; eventually, it is going to break. 

Stress can have many negative impacts on cognitive, physical, emotional and behavioural aspects of our lives. Although everyone endures stressful days from time-to-time, prolonged stress of over five days in a row undoubtedly makes people ill. 

Stress is a proven contributor to many conditions:

  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension and High Blood Pressure
  • Strokes
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Ulcers
  • Miscarriage
  • Alopecia
  • Premature Tooth Loss

If you want to learn more about the physical and mental impacts of stress, check out Ted-Ed's video How Stress Effects Your Body.

How can we deal with stress?

Feelings of stress can be triggered by many things. Anything from personal illness, bereavement, losing your job, debt, exams, divorce and even organising a family holiday can cause stress. 

Whatever the cause, our top tips for dealing with stress are here to help:

1. Indulge in physical activity

2. Get more sleep

3. Try relaxation techniques

4. Talk to someone

What if it's not enough?

Prolonged stress can be lessened with self-help techniques such as more sleep and exercise, however sometimes this is not enough. The team at Options are here for you when relaxation techniques or talking to a friend is not enough. Options' fully-trained and professional counsellors are on-hand to discuss your stresses, however big or small they may seem. 

If you are suffering with stress, don't hesitate to contact us today through our TwitterFacebook or via the contact form on our website.

The Options Team.

Spring forward... and exercise your way to a happier, healthier you!

- Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Make the most of the longer days, and get healthier and happier at the same time!

With the clocks going forward and the weather (hopefully) getting better, it's time to get outside, enjoy the extra hours of daylight and improve your health and wellbeing all in one go!

Why should I exercise?

It's well known that your mood can improve with the weather, and exercise can also give you a boost if you're feeling low. Exercise affects certain chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin, that make you feel good, and can even reduce harmful changes in the brain caused by stress. 

The NHS has a lot of information about what exercise might be right for you and how much you should be doing on their website but generally, 30 minutes of moderate exercise for 5 days a week is enough to boost your mood and is also a great way of making a use of the longer days!

What should I do?

You don't have to throw yourself in the deep end to feel the benefits of exercise; it doesn't have to time consuming, expensive or strenuous. 

Going for a walk is a great way to clear your head and gather your thoughts, and with Hampshire's many beautiful parks and open green spaces, what better way to take advantage of the longer, warmer days?

If you fancy some company along the way, why not go for a dog walk? Inviting along a family member, neighbour or friend and their fluffy friend helps their health and wellbeing as well as yours!

Up for something a little more strenuous? A bike ride exploring the beautiful scenery of the New Forest or your village, town or city can be taken as leisurely or as quickly as you like, and encourages the release of chemicals in your brain that make you feel great. You could even try your hand at swimming at your local pool, or in the sea if you're brave enough!

Don't forget, we're always here to help...

Although exercise can help to boost your mood, sometimes it can help to talk to someone if you are suffering from symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety, or anything else that is affecting your mental health and wellbeing. Options' professional and fully-trained counsellors are on-hand to discuss a range of issues including:

  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Life Changes
  • Self-confidence and Self-esteem
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Work-related Issues
  • Addiction
    • Eating Disorders
    • Alcohol
    • Problem Gambling

What are you waiting for?

Start making the most of the longer days and better weather today! Find out what your village, town or city has to offer this Easter holidays and make a positive change to your health and wellbeing. 

The Options Team.

Mental Health Awareness: Depression, Stress and Anxiety

- Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Affected by depression, stress or anxiety?

Options is here to help.

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. Worries about money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope, and increase depression, stress and anxiety. These issues can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime.

How can I tell if I'm affected?

There are many signs and symptoms for stress, depression and anxiety - we have listed some of them below. If you or a friend, family member or colleague are suffering from these symptoms don't struggle alone  get in touch today.

What are the symptoms for...


  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Worrying and negative thinking
  • Physical tiredness
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Social withdrawal
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling out of control


  • Feeling hopeless and helpless
  • Lost interest in friends, activities and things you used to enjoy
  • Tiredness
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of control over negative thoughts


  • Feeling tense, worried or on edge
  • Anxiety interferes with work, school or your social life
  • Feel irrational fears you cannot get rid of
  • Avoiding activities and situations because of anxiety
  • Sudden and unexpected panic attacks

Do these symptoms affect you?

It's important to remember...

If you, a friend, family member or colleague are affected by depression, stress and anxiety then Options are here to help. Our professional and qualified counsellors are on hand to help with a range of issues including stress, depression and anxiety, as well as:

  • Life Changes
  • Self-esteem and Self-confidence
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Relationships
  • Addictions
    • Gambling
    • Alcohol
    • Eating Disorders
Just because a problem seems to have little effect on someone else, doesn't mean it can't have a huge impact on your life. We are all affected by various life events in different ways. At Options, no problem is too small.

For more information about depression, stress and anxiety visit the NHS mental health awareness fact sheet.

If you would like to know more about how we can help you or someone you know then contact us today. Tweet us at @options_plus, send us a message via our Facebook page or fill in a contact form on our website. 

The Options Team.

(Information from ISMAAnxiety Help Guide and Depression Help Guide)

SVS Friday Forum

- Thursday, March 10, 2016

On Friday 4th March, some of the Options team attended the monthly 'Friday Forum' hosted by Southampton Voluntary Services at their Kingsland Square office, Southampton.

The Friday Forums are a great way for us to get to know other charitable and voluntary organisations in Southampton and the surrounding areas and find out what they're doing to help the community. They are used to update voluntary organisations on key city issues and developments, and is also a good way for us to stay connected, discuss voluntary sector news and network with colleagues.

This month there was a talk from Laurence Pearce, CEO of XIM and Annie Clewlow, Manager at Communicare, about New Technologies for Supporting Older People. It was interesting for us to learn about the development of cutting edge technology to support older people and how this may affect us now and in the future.

The other session of the day was both interesting and informative and focused on the needs of the Southampton community. Dorota Goble and James Marshall from the Southampton City Council Strategy Unit held a Health and Wellbeing Strategy Consultation.

The Options team were informed of some of the health and wellbeing issues that those in Southampton face, and were tasked with proposing strategies to improve figures.

What did we learn?

What can Options do?

At the end of the session, we were set a number of tasks and we were asked to answer key questions:

  • Can we help Southampton City Council reach more service users?
  • What relevant links and networks do we have?
  • What can we, the voluntary and charitable services in Southampton, need to do together to approach and tackle the future challenges in achieving a healthier city?
Our free problem gambling service and not-for-profit rates other counselling services are  aimed at helping those who are more deprived in Southampton and the surrounding areas.

Our professional and fully qualified counsellors are available to talk about a wide range of issues including:

  • Depression
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Self-Esteem
  • Relationships
  • Life Changes
  • Loss and Bereavement
  • Addictions
    • Alcohol
    • Gambling
    • Eating Disorders

What can you do?

To achieve a healthier and happier Southampton, we need to work together.

STEP 1: Start with yourself
Little changes in your life can go a long way to making you healthier and happier. Parking further away from work and walking more, substituting something unhealthy in your diet for a less-sugary or fatty alternative, taking time out to de-stress, talk to a friend or even do some colouring are simple changes to make in your life that can have a great impact on your health and happiness.

STEP 2: Spread the word.
Now you know all this about what we need to do to change, let other people know! Tweet, Facebook, blog or even just tell your neighbour. The more people that know what problems we are facing and how little changes can make a massive difference, the quicker Southampton will become healthier and happier.

STEP 3: Help someone out.
On your journey to becoming healthier and happier, why not help someone with theirs? Anything from being the shoulder for a friend to cry on, to knowing when you need someone else to help them get better can help someone to becoming healthier and happier.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. We know it's a lot of information but it's important that we are aware of these issues and take the time to help overcome them.

The Options Team.