Why do we ignore relationship red flags and how can we address them?

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Sometimes, relationship problems fly under the radar, but other times we deliberately look the other way. Here, we’re breaking down why we do this and explore what happens when we face tension head-on

Why do we ignore relationship red flags and how can we address them?

As well as traumatic things that happen to you – like physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, or the betrayal of your trust via an affair – trauma in relationships also includes what isn’t happening, and examples include a lack of attunement, emotional unavailability in the other person, and no safe container for your emotions and experiences. Sometimes they go unnoticed, sometimes they are ignored.

You might be familiar with tolerating, even denying, some degree of trauma so that your relationship can continue as it is. For example, it may have become characterised more by criticism, complaint, and resentment than the love you want, but you shield yourself from what’s really going on, or just ‘get on with it’. Which begs the question…

Why do we do this?

An answer might be found in each of three important parts of you:

1. Fear

When you attach to someone, this part can get triggered at the thought of the relationship ending. Because your fear ensures your survival, it can make a potential ending feel like a life or death situation. If your body believes your survival is at risk by moving on to an uncertain future, it’s easy to understand why you’ll tolerate distress to avoid it. That said, the longer you stay, the more fearful you become, the more your trust and self-esteem drain away, and the tighter you grip the relationship. You’re caught in a vicious circle.

2. Reward

This includes your innate drives to acquire more possessions, status, money, sex, and to ‘win’. These are powerful motivators, and some of the main reasons humans have been in existence for so long. Reward can make status, wealth, a great sex life, and a need not to ‘lose’, ‘fail’ or look ‘less than’ others, compelling reasons to stay – despite you rarely actually feeling good.

3. Connection and love

Love is presumably where you’d hope to spend most of your time in a relationship, but, an ending – whether of the relationship or your trauma denial – might lead to you experiencing grief; love with nowhere to go. Grief is one of the most painful feelings and it’s understandable that we, therefore, try to avoid feeling it. You’ll of course be driven to accept, forgive, and empathise with and be selfless when you love someone. These are all great, loving qualities.

Taken too far though, they’ll overlook and accept problems and put empathy for the other person above empathy for yourself. Knowing your loved one has such potential for growth also leads to living in hope that they might eventually see and hear you one day, even without any real evidence it’s happening.

With such a range of compelling parts in play, you can understand why you might endure, or deny, relationship trauma. A compassionate view of yourself is key here, because any frustration, or shame, you feel towards yourself for doing it simply leads to more fear and therefore more rigidity, making you cling even tighter.

Try to couple this empathetic understanding with a

7 superfoods under the spotlight: are they fab or fads?

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7 superfoods under the spotlight: are they fab or fads?

How often have you added something to your shopping basket after reading that it was this month’s superfood? Whether it’s getting passionate about kale, or adding spirulina to our morning shake, we’re all guilty of jumping on wellness trends in a bid to look and feel better. But what does the word ‘superfood’ actually mean?

Well, it turns out there’s actually no singular definition of what a superfood is. While we generally use the term to describe a product with some health benefits, ‘superfood’ is not a scientific term, meaning the label doesn’t really tell us by itself what sets the product apart.

“The term superfood isn’t regulated in any way, so anyone can make food or package a fruit or vegetable and call it a superfood,” says Sophie Medlin, consultant dietitian at CityDietitians.

And this is the problem. While it might encourage us to eat more healthily, calling a product a ‘superfood’ doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than one that isn’t. Clever marketing has us thinking we need to splurge at health food stores for these hallowed foods in order to be healthy, but we can find many of the same benefits in our everyday diet – without the premium price tag. For example, while spirulina and quinoa are high in antioxidants, you don’t need to splash out on them if you don’t want to. In fact, you can find plenty of antioxidants in your average roast as broccoli and cabbage are great sources of them.

So, which superfoods could be worth tucking into, and which ones should you leave on the shelf? Let’s take a look…

FAD: Kale

Remember when kale was everywhere? You could even buy T-shirts declaring your love for it. Yet, since 2014, the leafy green seems to have been declining in popularity with fewer and fewer Google searches – but why? Well, while it doesn’t hurt to add this to your salad, you can just as easily get nutrients from similar vegetables. One study compared kale to other vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and spinach, and found they all contained higher levels of 17 nutrients than kale did.

FAB: Blueberries

All berries are a good source of fibre, but blueberries stand out from the crowd as a superfood worth shouting about.

“Blueberries are pretty ‘super’; they contain polyphenols which are like antioxidants – these are shown to improve brain function,” adds dietitian Sophie Medlin.

Studies have shown that a moderate intake of blueberries can also help reduce your risk of things like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, thanks to anthocyanins (which are like antioxidants). And, there are ways to make your purchase last longer.

“Buy frozen, because they’re cheaper and retain more nutrients,” advises Sophie. The perfect addition to whizz i

Men's mental health: The club that's getting men talking

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When bottling up his emotions became too much, Scott Oughton-Johnson decided to seek help but felt something was still missing. This saw the birth of ‘The Proper Blokes Club’, which aims to encourage more men to speak up about their mental health

Men's mental health: The club that's getting men talking

The suicide rate amongst men is more than triple that of women, with this being the most likely cause of death for men under 50 years old. So, why don’t more men speak up? Well, the answer often lies in our deep-rooted gender stereotypes that portray men as being strong and in control. But, it’s now 2022 and this needs to change because more and more men are being damaged by society’s expectations.

What’s more, men are less likely than women to reach out for support, with only 36% of referrals to NHS psychological therapies being for men.

Scott Oughton-Johnson was one man who decided to take the brave step of acknowledging he needed help, after separating from his previous partner and spending 10 years in and out of court facing a custody battle over his children.

The south London community sports coach admits he bottled up his feelings for a decade, saying, “The stress and anxiety were killing me”. In 2017, Scott decided enough was enough and received cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS, but their sessions were limited and, before long, Scott found himself “back in the wild”.

After realising something was still missing, Scott found release in his love for walking and, in 2020, set up a Facebook group to try and reach other men who were going through similar battles with their mental health. Scott would meet up with other men in his position and they would walk through the streets of London, through parks, or down a canal, talking openly about their feelings - allowing them to practice mindfulness and be in the moment. ‘The Proper Blokes Club’ was born.

What started as a rather disheartening one person attending has now grown to anywhere between five and 35 men meeting up every Monday and Wednesday. “It kept growing and growing,” Scott says. Scott has now recruited 'walk leaders' who arrange walks across other boroughs of London, to allow for more men to get involved.

The club provides a safe space for men to talk about their mental health “without the potential judgment you might get from friends and family”. Naturally, friendships have been formed, with the youngest member being just 19, and the oldest, 75. The walkers are added to a WhatsApp group, and each day they check in on one another.

“How many of those [deaths] might have been stopped through a conversation?”

Scott's goal is to register the club as a ‘community interest’ company and roll it out to all London boroughs and nationally. In the meantime, he’s encouraging people to start their own groups.

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What is quiet quitting (and should you do it)?

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There’s a new workplace buzzword in town, but what does it mean and could it prevent burnout?

What is quiet quitting (and should you do it)?

Scrolling through TikTok recently, I noticed a phrase that made my ears prick up, ‘quiet quitting’. When I did some further digging, I found myself down a rabbit hole of various takes, interpretations and ‘solutions’ (for both employers and employees).

So what is it? While that may well depend on your interpretation, after reading countless articles and LinkedIn posts, I see it as a rejection of the hustle mentality. Recognising your worth outside of work and pulling back on the energy you dedicate to it.

This means not working hideous hours for minimal pay, not stressing over inconsequential (in the grand scheme of things) decisions and not giving everything you have to go above and beyond for work. Instead, it’s about turning up, doing your job to the best of your ability… and that’s it. Some call this ‘working wage appropriate’, which shouldn’t be that radical, should it?

I think the reason my ears pricked up at the term was because I feel like I’ve done this. Twice, actually. Once about five years ago when I decided to step down from a management position and reduce my working hours. This was initially so I could dedicate more time to a side business, but it was also to lower stress levels as I was dealing with some intense work-related anxiety at the time.

I remember saying to myself ‘I can’t give 100% to this job, because I have other important areas of my life’. I needed to pull back, both mentally and physically, and stepping down from a management position allowed me to do that.

More recently I’ve, perhaps not so quietly, quit the aforementioned side business and hope to return to full-time employment. There are many reasons for this but a big one is, again, to regain some energy and a better work-life balance.

Both of these were different moves (that some may consider ‘stepping back’ in my career), but both had the same, positive outcome. Me prioritising my health and joy over work. And this is coming from someone who is passionate about her work and actually enjoys her job. So… yes, I’m pleased more people are coming around.

Speaking to life and career coach Gaby Grzywacz, it seems I’m not alone in my feelings towards this.

“If we understand quiet quitting as ‘just’ doing your job (which, I think, is all we should ever be asked to do by our employers!), then I feel very positive about it!” Gaby says.

We’ve finally reached the point where younger employees come into companies and say ‘we don’t want to sacrifice everything for you, we’re here to do the job’

“We’ve finally reached the point where younger employees come into companies and say ‘we don’t want to sacrifice everything for you, we’re here to do the job’. This is a very positive move towards improving employee wellbeing, reducing rates of burnout and, in my view, potentially increasing productivity.

“I strongly believe that an overworked employee is less likely to do their best work, while someone who leaves their work at work, and physically steps away from the work on time to relax, can rock it out of the park.”

Let’s be honest, the phrase ‘quiet quitting’ is misleading, because for most of us it isn’t about checking out and doing the ‘bare minimum’

4 myths about narcissism and NPD that need to be debunked

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Separating fact from fiction: Here’s what you need to know about narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder

4 myths about narcissism and NPD that need to be debunked

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) tends to have a bad reputation. If you search for it on Google, you’ll be presented with a definition: ‘A mental health condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.’

It’s no surprise, then, that diagnosing personality disorders like NPD can be considered controversial. Whats more, experts currently don’t agree on how we can best understand personality disorders or even if we should diagnose them.

But with so much confusion and so many misconceptions surrounding narcissism and NPD, what do we really need to know? And what common assumptions do we have that are just plain wrong?

Understanding NPD

Generally speaking, someone with narcissistic personality disorder has a distorted self-image, believes they are superior to others, and often feel that their opinions, feelings, and interests are more important than others’. They may struggle to empathise with others, exaggerate their talents and accomplishments, or even lie about them. Success and power are extremely important to them. They may appear patronising, be quick to anger if contradicted, and show a need for admiration.

Without help and support, those with NPD may be at risk of developing depression or suicidal thoughts, and relying on substance or alcohol misuse. Building (and maintaining) healthy relationships can be challenging without help.

Common myths and misconceptions

We spoke with Counselling Directory member and counsellor, Peter Klein, to find out more about narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder, and to get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions and misconceptions.

Myth: Narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder are the same thing

“Narcissistic personality disorder, as a definition, is more clear cut than narcissism,” Peter explains.

“Many of those with NPD are unable to connect with others on a deeper level, which means that their relationships are more superficial. Someone with NPD will often not be able to experience empathy, and therefore is more likely to exploit others for their own means.

“Many will also feel a sense of emptiness, which coincides with other problems such as anxiety and depression. Therefore NPD is mostly a far more serious problem than that which falls within the wide range of what is defined as being a ‘narcissist’.”

Myth: All narcissists are incapable of love

While love and relationships may be more difficult for some with NPD, they aren’t impossible. Peter explains, “Narcissism is on a continuum, and healthy amounts can allow people to not constantly overestimate life’s challenges and connect with people without feeling inferior. Many forms of love necessitate an ability to be able to connect, at least in some form