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A new book to be released tomorrow (Thursday 5 August) by an island-born chartered counselling psychologist aims to give support to people whose loved ones, friends or family are affected by anxiety.

Rachel Allan was born and bred in Shawbost on the westside of Lewis, where her parents Finlay and Norma Macleod still live. She left the island at the age of 17 to study for a degree in psychology, moved on to a doctorate in counselling psychology and has been a fully-qualified practitioner in Glasgow since 2010.

Her first book is not directly linked to the anxious times we are now living in, although its development unfolded alongside and during the pandemic.

How to Help Someone with Anxiety offers a practical guide for people close to someone for whom anxiety is a significant struggle. Rachel has noticed that, since the pandemic, new anxieties have arisen among people struggling with their mental health. And while those who already had mental health issues before the pandemic may have some coping strategies, there are also now those for whom a significant level of anxiety is a new thing in their life.

Rachel said: “Anxiety has a different definition for each one of us. There are clinical definitions, but really it’s important to know that every person has their own understanding of it. For me, it’s about fear, uncertainty or worry that causes a level of distress that stops you doing what you want to do or which is difficult to tolerate or manage.

“Human beings are sensible and tend to stop doing things that make them feel bad. The cost of that is that as you avoid those things your world gets smaller and smaller, until it becomes hard for you to start doing those things again.

“Anxiety is a fact of life and we all live with it. For some people, there can be anxiety about cleanliness and during the pandemic we’ve heard useful, important messages about keeping clean. But if the level of anxiety means that we are constantly thinking about or checking for infection, then that becomes difficult to manage.”

The people who usually notice anxiety reaching problematic levels are those closest to you – a parent, partner or friend. While there are plenty of self-help books addressing anxiety, there’s not much out there to support someone who wants to help with anxiety as experienced by someone they care for.

And that’s where Rachel’s book comes in, with a new framework which she has devised from her clinical and personal experience, and which she describes as ‘super-accessible, user-friendly and easy to remember.’

The four letters to remember are TURN.

  • Time – to give someone attention and listen to what they are experiencing;
  • Understanding – through really listening and breaking down their experience;
  • Reframe and redirect – so that you can gently challenge anxious thinking and help someone approach problems in a new way and
  • New approaches – helping to put together a toolbox of techniques and hacks that might set them out in a new direction, more positive for their mental health.

Rachel said: “The book is for the person alongside the person with anxiety. They’re thinking about helping someone else and their need hasn’t really been met before. But there’s also a focus on the helper themselves, because that role has its challenges too.

“How do you maintain your own mental health when you are supporting someone with anxiety? One of my own re-chargers is exercise, although I’m no athlete, but getting outside and moving my body is the best re-set I have found after supporting people with mental health crisis of all kinds.

“Hopefully, with this book, the reader will gain a useful, accessible set of tools to help their loved one and themselves and, if that happens, then my intention in writing it will have been met.”

How to Help Someone with Anxiety is published by Welbeck and has been described as ‘full of insight, compassion and hope, an essential guide for anyone supporting a loved one with their mental health.’

It’s available at a recommended retail price of £10.99 from all major book retailers and via Rachel’s Instagram account, which also contains a series of short help yourself videos (https://www.instagram.com/rachelallanconsultancy/). Further information also comes from https://www.rachelallanconsultancy.com/book/

Pictures show Rachel, the new book and the author at home in Shawbost with children Mairi aged three and Finlay, one.