Anjali LevertonCounselling in Wickford, Essex & Online

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8 Things I’ve learnt about Friendship since becoming a Counsellor

I’ve recently found myself leaning into friendships more than ever before. It's brought me support and laughter, as well as a sense of belonging.

This, as well as the Mental Health Awareness Week topic of loneliness got me thinking about friendships and what can get in the way of these positive relationships.

Keep reading to find out more.

1. We are all deserving of friends
Sometimes life can leave us feeling we don’t deserve to have people in our corner, particularly if we’re struggling with our emotional wellbeing or mental health.

Shame often drives these feelings, leaving us to believe that we are unlikeable and/or less than others.

Core beliefs like these can cause anxious thoughts and feelings and will often play out in interpersonal relationships where we might consciously or unconsciously keep ourselves distanced or “once removed” from others.

This might also feel like the safe option if we’ve been let down or hurt by people that we thought were on our side in the past.

2. Friendships are not a competition
It can be easy to make negative comparisons in friendships. Do you find yourself thinking “those two see each other regularly so they must prefer them to me”.

Friendships are not measured by the amount of time spent together. If that was the case, we’d automatically be best friends with all of our co-workers.

Friendships, I would say, are relationships where people respect each other and where you are each prepared to make an effort to meet each other needs. Whatever those needs might be.

For some, that will mean spending a lot of time together where, for others a phone conversation every few months might be what’s needed.

It's not about who can shout the loudest.

We all have the capacity to have more than one good friend and for friendship to look different with different people. This doesn’t lessen the value, impact or importance of any friendship.

3. I can only be friends with people who share similar life views/backgrounds with me
The only view you need to have in common with your friend is that you respect each other and value what the other person has to offer.
This means being able to openly share and discuss issues without becoming dismissive or defensive.

Some of my richest friendships are with those who have differing experiences and opinions to me.

I love hearing different viewpoints and why they feel the way they do; that allows me to “broaden my own horizons” and challenge my own ways of thinking.

4. I’m “the listener” in our friendship group; I can’t burden others with my stuff
This ties in with point number 1.

Having often been the listener, I know how challenging it can be to step out of our accepted role with in a group; it becomes what’s expected of us.

However, we don’t have to stay confined to only one role in any group situation and its okay to ask for support if it feels safe to do so.

Generally, people are only too willing to reciprocate the support they’ve more than likely felt from you over the course of your friendship.

Unfortunately though, we can’t control the actions of others so we won’t always get the reaction we want; it's important to remember though, that the other person’s response is reflective of who they are and the circumstances they find themselves in.

Allow them to take responsibility for their actions rather than assume that its something you did that caused the reaction.

5. Numbers are not important in the friendship game
Some people will have a lot of friends where others will have only a few.

The numbers are not important and are NOT a measure of your value.

Friendships, like people, come in all different shapes, sizes, combinations and permutations.

More than likely, the number of friends you have will be reflective of your way of relating to and with others e.g. some people are energised by company where others are drained by it.

6. Friendship groups can be complicated
Friendship groups are not always easy to navigate as we can find ourselves amongst groups of people with different needs.

The dynamics can be especially difficult to read if you’ve been hurt or let down by others in the past (see 1) as it can be hard to identify in the group context who has the capacity, ability and desire to support.

Sometimes it will feel easier/safer to pull away and to keep yourself to yourself.

That’s okay but it can be useful to notice if you're blaming others when this happens as this can impact the group dynamics going forward.

Sadly, we do sometimes find ourselves in a situation where a group member acts out of malice or with an intent to hurt. The absolute priority in this case is to keep yourself safe and to place responsibility where it belongs.

7. Friendships, like all relationships, take effort
In order to grow friendships we sometimes have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with those that we care about and that have shown they care about us.

This can be deeply uncomfortable, feel like a big risk and trigger some anxious thoughts and feelings.

However, in order to feel a connection with others we have to be able to offer up something of ourselves; something that allows others in.

This is not always an easy thing to do.

8. Friendships can change over time
Knowing people for a long time can give us a shared history that strengthens the bond we feel with others and allows us to understand each other better.

However, sometimes we evolve at a different pace to those around us and the friendship will no longer feel the same as it once did. At this point your friendship might feel like a “lot of hard work”; that your efforts are not reciprocated and that you find yourself pulling away.

Sadly, it’s not always possible to save every friendship that reaches this point but it is important to acknowledge the feelings of loss that will arise.

The same would be true if life events take friends away.

If any of the above has a struck a chord, please don’t hesitate to get in touch because individual counselling can help you with these issues.

Because it gives you the opportunity to understand yourself and what you want from others. How we do this would be specific to you but it might involve talking about issues like trust and boundaries that impact your relationships and what it would be like to cultivate relationships that work for you.

Time to have the conversation you need?

Text 07484 160971 or email Great Expectations
to book a free initial consultation.

May 20, 2022
Photo credit: Clay Banks on Unsplash

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Back to Work Then & Now

So, here we are the start of new year, ready to write the next chapter of our story.

The first step of that for me is back to work at my private practice after a short break.


During my time off I became aware of how I was looking forward to being back at work rather than the more familiar dread I used to feel, before I started training to be a counsellor.

As a young adult I enjoyed all the hustle and bustle of a City career, London lifestyle and the intense workplace relationships but long hours were very much the norm as were "sleepless Sundays” where I’d be anxious about what the week would bring and if I’d successfully adapt to meet the expectations of others.

Looking back, I can see that the pressures increased as time went on and I found myself juggling work with a long commute and the needs of my family.

Circumstances gave me the opportunity to step away from the “eat, sleep, do for others, repeat” cycle I’d found myself on and with time and a change in career, I now see how that cycle impacted me emotionally and physically (some good; some not so good).


Through my personal therapy and training, I now have a much clearer idea of what I want from my work, and perhaps more importantly, what I offer. I’m not going to lie, balancing the giving and receiving is ongoing work for me, but having this awareness and choices around that, is part of why I feel so positive about my counselling career.

In addition to that, I feel a huge sense of honour and privilege, if you chose to contact or work with me at what might be a difficult and/or frightening time. Particularly if others haven’t been trustworthy in the past.

I see it as you asking me to “walk alongside you” so that you no longer have to make sense of your experiences and feelings on your own.

I’m allowed insight into your world and am able to bring you alternative views, but no judgement, from my world made up of my training, professional experiences along with my personal experiences that can help you to make sense of where you find yourself and what you’d like going forward.

And most importantly, we get to build a relationship around you and your needs. Your needs are at the centre of how we work together.
You get to be you and I get to be me; working together we can make life feel less tough.
That’s why I find my work as a counsellor so rewarding and why I look forward to seeing my client’s again, particularly after a break.

How do you know what the right changes are for you?

If you’re struggling with issues at work, feeling anxious and dreading going back or just want to explore the feelings that you’re experiencing in the pit of your stomach, here’s how getting a better understanding of the things that are important to you both in and out of the workplace, through counselling, can help.

Things like:
  • How you feel about money.
  • The ways in which you feel valued and respected.
  • Things that energise you and make you feel good about yourself.
  • Things that drain and deplete you.
  • How you manage relationships.
  • An awareness and understanding of the anxieties that you experience and how they present.
  • Finding healthy coping strategies for when you’re outside of your comfort zone.
Most of us spend a significant portion of our awake hours working so its really important that we look at how we feel at work and understand the impact it has on how feel about ourselves and our lives.

If we're able to identify what’s helping and what’s not, we can look at what you need going forward.

I know this helped me.

07484 160971

January 4, 2022
Photo credit: Marten Bjork on Unsplash

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"A Change is as Good as a Holiday"

If there was one word that I could use to summarise my summer months it would be “change”. This led me to reflect on how we react to change. How often we feel fearful and anxious about what “change” might bring and why that might be the case.

Change can and does come in any and every sphere of our life. In our relationships, at work, in our health or the health of our loved ones, in family dynamics so, having children, children leaving home or retirement. Also, income can change as well as where we’re living, what we’re eating, how we present ourselves to others. It turns out that change happening is actually pretty certain; as certain as day will become night or the changing of the seasons…one might say.

So why do we spend so much time and energy trying to avoid and hide from it? Is it because of the fear and anxious feelings that arise as we assume that the change will have a negative impact on us? After all, all that glitters is not gold.

The more I think about this though, the more I realise how closed we are to the idea that the change, whatever it might be, could bring us a change for the better. There is after all a 50/50 chance of benefit but it seems most of us focus on the fact that change will make things worse.

Why is that?

It might be because changes in the past have had a negative impact. Does that mean though that changes in the future will have the same outcome? Having studied probability when I was (much) younger I know that it isn’t the case.

It might be because we don’t feel we have enough information or the full picture (this is often the case with changes in the work place) where there’s underlying sense of distrust around the motivations driving the change.

Or is it that we don’t have enough trust in ourselves; trust that we will be able to adapt as required?

The other factor that we have to be aware of is the impact of anxiety on our brain. As I’ve talked about in a previous blog, anxiety presents itself whenever and wherever there’s uncertainty (it’s our body’s in built safety response).

One of the things that happens when we’re in an anxious state is that our brain struggles to hold and access memories unless they’re related to anxiety. Happier memories that might relate to success and achievement are buried, so of course, we’re more likely to anticipate a negative outcome.

The other thing that happens where we’re anxious is that the thinking and logical processing area of brain effectively “goes offline” whilst our body pours all its resources in to the fight and flight response.

So now, we have some context as to why we might assume the worst when it comes to change we can look at what we can do about it.
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek."
Barack Obama

Here’s some things that it might be helpful to think about
  • What are ALL the possible outcomes; everything from the best possible outcome to worst case scenario and also everything that comes between?
  • Identify your concerns and anxious responses; this can help you to identify and logically process what are the anxiety driven fears versus the actual facts of the situation.
  • Trust yourself; if you feel like you want to try the change, what’s stopping you? What consequences might there be? Will it be possible to reverse the change if you feel you need to? Are there choices and options you can take that might open things up for you?
  • Know what resources you have available to support you and if you need more help look at ways of getting this in place. Questions like “what is my back up plan” can help.
  • Think about how you’re feeling now and how you might feel in 12-18 months time if that change happens. That way you’re comparing like with like which is something we sometimes forget to do. For example, when starting a new job we can find ourselves thinking I don’t like this as much as my previous role/its very difficult/my colleagues or boss aren’t as nice when actually we’d settled and found our comfort zone in the previous role. Allow yourself time to find your comfort zone once the changes have come into place before comparing.
  • Give yourself permission to find change tough; acknowledge the days that have felt straightforward and be gentle with yourself on the days that are challenging.
  • Make sure you find time to do something that feels easy, is fun and replenishes your resilience levels as they may be depleted by the change.
  • Think of it as a risk assessment weighing up potential positive outcomes with potential negative impacts.
  • Consider counselling; I give you the opportunity to talk through all of the above in a confidential and safe environment. I don’t have any vested interest in the outcome so I’m impartial in the questions that I ask. My only aim is to help you find your way forward. And having worked with change personally as well as professionally, I know how challenging and vulnerable it can leave us feeling, so as well as questions, I bring you open and honest support and warmth as you explore all the questions and doubts that might be going through your mind.

    Is change just one big cliché?
    And I have one more point that I’d like to share with you before I end this blog; who knew there were so many cliché’s when it comes to change?

    This is something that I’ve become aware of as I‘ve been writing and in case you were wondering I’ve used six in this blog. Did you spot them all?

    Normally, I try to avoid them when writing but I thought it was really important to include them here because they’re a really good indicator of what we see and hear around us every day. This can strongly influence our way of thinking without us even realising and can get in the way of us embracing the changes that we sometime need, in order to move forward.

    Change is possible

    If you’d like to talk about any of the above or changes that you’re contemplating or experiencing give me a call, text or email. I’d love to hear from you.

07484 160971 or

September 19, 2021

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ANXIETY in 2021

How are you doing with shops, hospitality and the opportunity to socialise face to face in slightly larger numbers?

Not as much fun as you thought it would be? “Normal” feeling different to how it used?

Personally, I was looking forward to having the opportunity to do more but, amongst the excitement I was also aware of my bubbling uncertainty; how would it be seeing people I hadn’t seen face to face for such a long time, would they want to hug or kiss, go indoors; how would I communicate where I’m at, what’s comfortable for me?

So undoubtedly there have been some nerves, some tension, some irritability, some desire to put off engagements and withdraw, but these are familiar anxious responses for me and ones that I’m now usually able to spot.

I know though, that doing this isn’t always easy, particularly if these feelings are new and/or unfamiliar or even if they’re old familiar feelings that are now magnified but carry on reading, for information that might help you make sense of some of what you’re experiencing.

Pandemic Re-Entry Anxiety – is this a thing?
You’re not on your own in finding the re-opening difficult as lots of people find themselves in new, unfamiliar, uncertain territory and the media continues to give us mixed messages of opening up whilst the impact of the Delta Variant seems unknown.

No wonder then, that we don’t know how to be around others in a way that will keep them and us safe.Within that lies the trigger for an anxious response

Anxiety is an in built warning system that all humans are equipped with. It's designed to maximise our chances of survival if we’re under threat.

Let’s face it, as threats go, a global pandemic is pretty major so it’s no surprise that we find ourselves struggling now with the feelings that have come up.

Combine that, with what we’ve been told and learnt over the period of lockdowns and restrictions i.e. to limit, control, minimise and distance our contact in order to keep ourselves safe, it makes sense to me that anxiety might be triggered, as restrictions lift and we find ourselves out and about more with less control over our environment and levels of contact.

This feeling of lacking control is the perfect cue for our anxiety to fire up and step in order to keep us safe.

What can you do about it?
It’s easy to be critical of your own anxiety. Perhaps you find yourself wondering what’s wrong with you…why aren’t you able to get on with and enjoy things like everyone else.

The problem with this though is that rather than accepting the anxious response and allowing it to pass, you’re telling yourself that there IS actually a problem, something IS wrong…so your anxiety remains high.

If you’re able to change this inner voice to one that is kinder, more accepting and responds with reassurances in the same way as you would to a friend who told you they were uncertain, worried or afraid then, the anxiety response will be able to “quieten”.

Know the symptoms
Knowing how your anxiety shows itself can be really helpful. We often think of sweating and irregular breathing as signs but often its less visible e.g a racing heart, headaches, migraines, dry mouth, nausea and/or worrying endlessly.

The actual response will be unique to you and your body, but spotting your signs can be a good way of knowing that you need to take some time to look at your emotional health; why is your body feeling threatened? Is that threat real? What action do you need to take?

Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling
Bringing your anxiety out into the open can make it feel less imposing and shameful. In telling someone out loud, you notice and accept the feelings that you’re experiencing where before, you might have been questioning yourself with the critical voice I spoke of above.

For example, “what’s wrong with me” “why can’t I just get on with it like everyone else” “I’m letting myself and others down”. This is all added threat i.e. extra fuel, going into the anxiety fire.

Understand some of the neuroscience
Having a basic understanding of what’s happening in your body when you have an anxious response can make it easier to understand and accept the physical and emotional response that your experiencing.

For example, knowing that you’re body has gone into fight/flight mode so blood is pumping to your muscles means that now is a good time for exercise/go for a walk or run, and allow the adrenalin and cortisol levels to normalise.

The thinking/logical processing side of our brain will have gone “off line” whilst this is happening so other activities that involve focus and concentration will feel harder as all your body’s resources are being channelled elsewhere and even simple instructions like “turn to your left”, become really difficult to follow.

The after effects
Do you find yourself analysing events afterwards; replaying what happened and being critical of what you did/said? Again, this is your anxiety checking things out and looking for reassurances that you were safe. This can become problematic though when the negative thoughts get stuck and start to spiral because reassurances are hard to find. This can be the case when confidence and esteem levels are low.

Focusing on facts and logical reasoning can be helpful though as what the anxiety is telling you is often the worst case scenario. Get in touch if you’d like to know more about this.

If the anxious response has been intense and long lasting you might also feel yourself fatigued, exhausted, run down and generally “floored” a few hours after. This is because of your body’s physical response and can be considered a “hangover”, where you body needs time to recuperate and level out the adrenalin and cortisol used in the response.

Get in touch
Let's talk about your experiences of anxiety. Together, we can look at:
  • what your fears are,
  • why your body thinks you’re under threat
  • how this is impacting your everyday life.
This puts you in a better place to accept the feelings you’re experiencing and allows your body to step down from high alert before the anxiety escalates, “snowballs” and/or takes over.

This is an area that I have lot of experience in, as I run Anxiety Management Workshops and I'm also an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist providing therapeutic support to the charity’s members and partner beneficiaries.

Call/Text 07484 160971 or email
to book a confidential, counselling session.

June 28,2021
Photo credit: Visuals on Unsplash

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