Are you shutting down or speaking out?

The past few years have been a difficult time for many people, dealing with  struggles of the pandemic, job uncertainty, isolation and now, the escalating cost of living crisis.

Recent data from Counselling Directory suggests that this sustained period of stress is having a deep impact on people’s emotional lives and sense of connection to their own feelings. Over the past week alone, the directory that connects people with the therapeutic help they need, has seen a 591% increase in people searching for help on the topics of  “Why do I shut down emotionally?” and “dissociation”*

This topic was the third most interacted with in August. Other search queries recently have centred on phrases including “shutting down coping mechanism” and “why do I shut down?”. The directory has also witnessed an increase in users searching for information on empathy disorders.

Counselling Directory therapist and member Claire Elmes, emotional wellbeing consultant, therapist and life coach shares a therapist's guide to our emotions; why we shut down and how we can manage this.

 When we experience a difficult event, our body's autonomic nervous system is activated and we go into ‘fight, flight, freeze’ responses,” Claire explains. “Our past experiences are triggered in how we respond to the event and our brains delete, distort and generalise our thoughts to help us to manage this event. 

“When we emotionally shut down this is our body's way of protecting us and keeping us safe as it perceives the event to be too threatening. This can be a one-off event or it can accumulate over time. so sometimes we are aware of why we are upset and sometimes we are not.” 

4 practical ways we can manage our emotional response from therapist Claire Elmes:

1. Sit with the feelings and label them

One thing we are really good at is pushing away the negative feelings of life. This can react a bit like a weeble wobble: the harder you push them away, the harder they come back. By acknowledging the feelings we can start to consciously work through it. Accept whatever comes. Don’t judge.

2. Journaling/reflecting

Journaling and reflecting are really powerful tools here. I love the DiveThru app. It helps to sit with a feeling and most importantly brings you back out the other side. We need to complete the cycle to start to feel better so take time to do this. If you don’t like writing things down just go through it in your head. Trust the process. Sometimes you gain insights and can link things that you never thought would be linked.

3. Self Care

Our bodies are going to be in the autonomic nervous system when we feel like this. We need to bring them into the rest and recovery parasympathetic nervous system to be able to start to feel better.

There are so many ways of doing this. Do something that lights you up: exercise, yoga, meditate, read, walk in nature, rest - be creative. Whatever resonates, find your passion and find your flow. The buzz self-care at the moment is breathwork. With Wim Hoff and others becoming more mainstream, breathwork is becoming more and more on-trend. Did you know that 10 minutes of conscious connected breathing will massively help switch your response systems?

4. Seek help

Seeking help is not failing. I repeat. Seeking help is not failing. It takes bravery and strength to seek help from professionals. It can be overwhelming, it can be a minefield. There are likely to be 100’s of people in your local area wanting to help (as an example, I have 579 therapists within 15 minutes of me, according to the Counselling Directory!) 

Find the approach that works for you and look at Counselling Directory's guides to get support. In my opinion, this is a quick guide: if you have experienced trauma, the most effective approach is EMDR, if you want some structure use CBT, if you want someone to offload to, look at humanistic or person-centred counselling, if you want support in moving forward, look for a life coach. If you're not sure, look for someone who is integrated.

All data was sourced from Google analytics, any questions regarding data and content can be directed to PR Manager Alice Greedus on

* Dissociation refers to the mental process of disconnecting from your thoughts, feelings, memories, or identity.

About Counselling Directory

Counselling Directory is part of the Happiful family with sister sites; Life Coach Directory, Hypnotherapy Directory, Therapy Directory and Nutritionist Resource and Happiful Magazine. Counselling Directory has been helping connect people with the help they need since 2005. Listing more than 20,000 professional counsellors and psychotherapists nationwide, everyone has the opportunity to find mental health support. Counselling Directory also provides helpful information on therapy types and common mental health concerns, articles from qualified therapists, as well as public and professional events.

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Written by Alice Greedus
Alice is the PR Manager for Counselling Directory and Happiful Magazine.

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