OK, so you have had a feeling for some time that there are some unpleasant and unsorted things in your emotional and mental life, and maybe at 50+ it is time to recognise them and address the intray. So where to start? Whatever the issues you are trying to resolve, these six broad steps should help you get started:
1) Get some facts: Take an honest look at how much of the time you feel happy or not, and what the problems actually are. Keep a diary, maybe for a month, with as much factual detail as possible: for example, how often have you felt depressed, anxious, lonely, obsessive, and for how long each time? Keep a log of physical symptoms, like sleeplessness, indigestion, overeating, which may result from emotional issues.
2) Second reality check: Talk to a few close friends and family members, ask them what difficulties they see you experiencing. Share your diary with them, ask them if they think you’re being accurate, or if there’s anything they’d amend.
3) Initial research: Use web searches, online forums, phone help lines, and relevant books to help you to define and diagnose your problem, to explore ways to tackle it, and people, organisations and other resources which could help you.
4) Shortlist and investigate: Make a shortlist of three specific initiatives you could take to clear your problem. For example, these could include, joining a support group, having a series of counselling sessions, going to your GP or trying a complementary medicine approach. Having made your shortlist, investigate each option carefully.
5) Commit and stay with it: Choose your preferred option from the shortlist, commit to it, and stay with it through the programme. You may want to discuss your intended programme with one or two close contacts before you commit, and also ask for their support during the programme. If you really believe none of the three options on your shortlist would suit you, do the process again. If the second go-round produces nothing you are willing to try, admit that there is strong resistance and avoidance on your part, and seek some professional help.
6) Review: When you make your commitment, set yourself goals for the changes you want, and the time you want to achieve them by. Review your progress regularly: this is best done with a friend or professional, and also review at the end of your programme.
Courtesy of Alan Heeks, taken from his new book ‘Out of the Woods’