So, it’s the middle of January – how are you getting on with your New Year’s Resolutions? Did you set them? Are you sticking to them?
Studies show about half of us make New Year’s Resolutions but less than 10% manage to stick at them for more than a few months. I’m not surprised, seeing as they usually involve denying ourselves what we like the most when we’re dealing with the come down from Christmas and a few months left of Winter! Who said they were going to: • Stop drinking? • Go on a strict diet? • Stop spending money?
Does that sound like fun? That’s why I stopped making New Year’s Resolutions years ago! What I make are New Year plans! What’s the difference? They’re things I want to achieve over the next year, things I want to do to add to my life, and they get me excited! I plan in things that make me happy, as well as aiming for things that will improve my life.
So, here are some of my plans this year: • Have weekend adventures with my friend who recently moved to London • Have a spa day with my busy mum friend who I don’t spend enough time with • Go to the theatre because I love it! • Go gin tasting with my mum because we both love gin! • Get a new kitchen • Grow my business to help more people take back control and live their best lives
I’m also really excited to be working on improving my fitness. Last year I was finally able to flip that switch that enabled me to get control of my diet and reach a healthy weight and this year I want to get fit! Do things like a pull up, the splits, proper press ups! So, if anyone can give me advice on this get in touch!
To any of you who haven’t made some exciting plans this this year there’s no time like the present! Pour yourself a glass of the leftover Christmas alcohol, grab a notebook and jot down some things you can get excited about. I’d suggest some plans along the following lines:
• Things you can do to look after yourself and improve your wellbeing • People you want to spend more time with • Projects that will improve your quality of life – maybe a qualification, new job, work on the house
Then break them down into bite-size actions to make sure they happen! I like to plan my year in 3-month chunks. So, by the end of March I’ll have seen Phantom of the Opera, had a spa day with my friend, been gin tasting with my mum and booked a weekend away with my friend who lives in London. My fitness plans need a bit more work so watch this space!
Whatever your plans, I hope you have some you can get excited about and step ahead into 2020 raring to go!!
Ps – New Year, new You? You’re perfect just the way you are!
PPS If you are looking to make changes to your health and wellbeing check out these tips https://drchatterjee.com/blog/
To round off Stress Awareness Week, I’m looking at how to build your self-confidence to increase your resilience.
Self-confident people believe in themselves and in their ability to cope with challenging situations, and the good news is that you can build self-confidence, if you work at it.
So, which of these seem more like you?
Behaviour associated with low self-confidence
Doing what you believe it right, no matter what others think
Trying to fit in
Being willing to take risks for a better future
Staying in your comfort zone because you’re afraid of failure
Accepting compliments graciously
‘oh this old thing?’
If you identify more with the behaviours on the right side, let’s look at building your self confidence
10 Steps to building self-confidence: 1. Reflect on your achievements – write a list of everything you’ve achieved in your life so far
2. Complete a SWOT analysis, what are your strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities?
3. Set goals for what you want to achieve. Set goals that exploit your strengths, minimise your weaknesses, make the most of your opportunities and control the threats you face. Break your goals down into small steps
4. Use the Positive Thinking technique in Wednesdays blog to control any negative thoughts that might be getting in your way
5. Use positive affirmations. Remember, your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality so what you tell yourself, your brain will believe! Try saying out loud; ‘I can do this’, ‘I’m great at my job’, regularly and your brain will start to believe you!
6. Celebrate each small step you take and note down everything that has gone well
7. Visualise success for the same reason. If you imagine yourself doing well then, your brain believes you’ve already done well, and this increases your confidence!
8. Reframe any failures as mistakes to learn from. It took Thomas Edison 10,001 attempts to make the light bulb. He said “I’ve not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Each failure took him one step closer to success.
9. Take small steps outside of your comfort zone – whenever you challenge yourself in a manageable way, you build your confidence. Try driving a new route home, or trying a new recipe.
10. Remember to celebrate and record your successes!
It can be said that everything in life falls into one of these three circles; things you can control, things you can’t control but can influence, and things you can neither control nor influence.
We create a lot of stress for ourselves when we spend too much time worrying about those things in the 3rd circle. If that’s you, I can recommend S.U.M.O by Paul McGee. It’s got some great strategies to help you stop worrying about things outside of your control or influence.
Sometimes, we can reduce our stress levels by focusing on things we can control or influence – and it’s normally a bigger list than it looks! For example, you can’t control the weather, but you have some influence over whether you get wet by checking the weather report and carrying an umbrella. You can’t control the traffic, but you can check google maps before you set off and pick the least congested route. Taking control and being proactive, in however small a way, helps reduce stress levels.
And remember, even when you’re not able to control or influence a situation, you can ALWAYS choose your response!
If you’re late for work because of a crash on the motorway you can: A) Panic about being late, moan how unfair it is and let it ruin your day
B) Be thankful you’re not in the crash, call work to let them know, and put on your favourite tunes
Which response do you think will do you the most good?
I get it. You’re going through a tough time and someone tells you to think positively? It’s a bit like when someone says, “Cheer up, love, it might never happen”! But here’s the thing. Changing the way you think about things can make a dramatic difference to your health and it’s a skill that can be learned.
Your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality. That means when you have negative thoughts your brain believes them to be true. Imagine that there is a restructure at work, and you start to think ‘what if I lose my job?’, ‘what if I can’t get another one?’. Your job might be perfectly safe but as far as your brain is concerned, you’re unemployed with no chance of getting another one! Understandably, then, your brain will think that you’re under attack and will try to protect you by making you angry; depressed or anxious. Remember:
• Anxiety helps you to run away from a threat • Depression helps you to hide from a threat • Anger helps you to fight back
And when this happens, it’s hard to think rationally and be proactive about the situation.
So how can you train yourself to think more positively?
Step 1: You’re thinking negatively when you worry about the past or the future, put yourself down or expect the worst. Negative thinking damages your confidence, harms your performance and impacts your health. Note down these negative thoughts as they occur, over the course of a week. This will help you identify patterns and triggers.
Step 2: Challenge each of your negative thoughts and ask yourself if it’s rational? What’s the evidence behind it? If you struggle to look at your negative thoughts rationally, imagine that your best friend is looking at the list – what would they say?
Step 3: How can you change that negative thought into a positive? What opportunities does a challenging situation give you to learn or to make positive changes?
Here’s an Example Negative Thought – nobody will talk to me at this networking event, I’m rubbish at networking Rational Thought – I’m not confident in groups but I’m good at talking to people individually Positive Thought – I can find someone who’s stood on their own and strike up a conversation with them
Once you start reframing your thoughts, you will feel more in control and able to cope better.
Something else you can try? At the end of each day make a list of ‘what’s been good’. Focusing on the positives will help build your resilience and reduce your stress levels.
Todays blog is all about the importance of looking after your physical health to improve your mental health.
When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to comfort eat, drink or smoke too much and stop exercising. These things can seem like they’re helping us in the short-term (I mean who doesn’t reach for the wine after a tough day at work!) but they really aren’t! Did you know for example that smoking and drinking stops us producing serotonin – that happy chemical in our brains? This means that people who have smoked or drank most of their lives are 80% more likely to suffer with anxiety or depression in middle age.
So what should we be doing to help us cope better with stress?
Exercise Research has shown that regular exercise reduces stress. It releases endorphins which make us feel good, improves our sleep (more on that later) and helps us cope better with whatever life throws at us. When you are stressed it can be the first thing to go, because it can seem like an easy way to save time when you’ve got a lot going on. Big mistake. If Barrack Obama can find time to exercise so can you! People like him and Richard Branson know that the only way they’re going to get stuff done is to be physically fit. When you’re pressed for time, multi-task! Do a workout with your friend instead of going for drinks, go for a walk with your partner instead of watching TV, play with your kids in the park. It makes a massive difference.
Sleep Sleep is, without a doubt, the cornerstone of good mental health. When we sleep, we process the events of the day, all our worries and concerns. If we miss out on sleep, then we miss out on that processing time and we soon feel overwhelmed. Pay attention to your sleep – it gives you early warning signs of overload. Having nightmares? Waking in the early hours of the morning? Both are signs you’ve got a lot of stuff to process and your brain is feeling a bit overwhelmed! So, what can you do?
• Prioritise sleep – even more important in times of stress • Get a bedtime routine – our brains need to relax and unwind before sleep; we can’t go straight from high activity to bed and expect a good night’s sleep • Try headspace for short meditations or calm for sleep stories – both help your brain to switch off • Avoid alcohol – it may help you drop off, but it’ll wake you up in the early hours!
Eat Well If you’re going through a tough time dieting should be the last thing on your mind! That said, eating healthy foods that nourish your body will make you feel a whole lot better than filling it with junk. I’ve changed my diet this year and have felt so much better. Yet recently when I got a bit stressed, I went back to burgers and chips and red wine! Within a couple of days, I felt awful. Food is fuel so put the best in your engine to keep it powering through!
Manage Your Stress An NHS study found that after meditating 20 minutes once a day for only 5 days, people had measurably less anxiety and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.(Incidentally, the more cortisol we produce the more fat we store on our tummy so added bonus for meditation!) If meditation isn’t your thing, try mindfulness, yoga, hypnotherapy, deep breathing or walking in nature. So, if you’re feeling a bit stressed, or you know you’re going to be going through a tough life event, give yourself a time-out. It really will help you cope better.
Look after your physical health, and your mental health will thank you for it!
This week is Stress Awareness Week and the focus is on resilience. Why? Because building resilience is one of the most powerful tools we have for managing stress. In previous blogs I’ve talked about the effect prolonged stress can have on our mental and physical health. But as a recap, it can lead to anything from insomnia and anxiety to high blood pressure and heart disease. Definitely not something we want!
Modern life can be stressful – at some times more so than others. And while we can’t always change what’s stressing us (think redundancy, divorce, illness etc.) if we can build our resilience, we can cope better with what life throws at us. Think of it as our ability to bounce back. The quicker we’re able to bounce back the lower our stress levels and the better our health!
And the good news is that resilience is a skill that can be learnt and developed. Great news for me, as I’m not naturally resilient! Like many others, I have to work at it.
So how do we do it? Here are my top tips, which I’ll be exploring more in this week’s blogs.
• Sleep, exercise and eat well – sleep is the cornerstone of good health
• Think positive – negative thinking increases anxiety and lowers the immune system. And you can change the way you think. I’ll show you how
• Learn from mistakes and failures – when things go wrong see what you can take from the situation to help you move forwards and get better
• Choose your response – while we can’t always control what happens to us, we can always choose our response
• Maintain perspective – it can be easy to blow things out of proportion but in reality, most bad times will pass
• Set goals and live to your purpose – read about Ikigai to find out how important a sense of purpose is
• Build your self-confidence – yes, it can be done!
• Develop strong relationships with friends and colleagues – we all need support
• Focus on being flexible – the more you can do to stretch your comfort zone the more resilient you’ll be.
Keep an eye on this weeks blogs for more detail:
Tuesday – how to look after your physical health to help you manage stress Wednesday – why thinking positively is so important and how to re-train your brain Thursday – how to choose your response in any given situation Friday – How to build your self-confidence.
I’d love to know how you manage stress and build your own resilience so get in touch on my facebook page Step Ahead Hypnotherapy and let’s all help each other!
They say that some people sail through the menopause, and others really struggle. Around 8 out of 10 women experience symptoms in the run up to the menopause and of those 45% find their symptoms difficult to deal with.
My mum was one of those that struggled! Looking back though, all I really remember was the hot sweats and sleepless nights she had to deal with, the visible signs. And that’s still the most common symptom that people associate with the menopause, probably because you can’t hide it. And most women suffer silently. Sure, it’s a biggie, but there’s a lot more, as I discovered when I found myself in the ‘peri-menopausal’ stage. And for those of you that don’t know that that is, it’s the period leading up to menopause, which can last a few months or up to 10 years, in which your oestrogen levels start to drop. And because up until recently menopause has been one of those things we just get on with and don’t talk about, I didn’t recognise that lower oestrogen could be the reason my hips ached in the night. I mean who knew that oestrogen had anything to do with your joints? Or that it could be causing the frequent urinary tract infections I was getting. Or make me forget words (which we jokingly call word salad) and lose concentration?
But the thing that really took me by surprise was the anxiety that just seemed to pop up out of nowhere. I mean, one minute I was fine, doing my thing and being happy about it and the next thing I knew I was weepy and anxious, panicking about the slightest thing. It was like PMS but on steroids!
Thanks to those women who have recently started talking about it, like Meg Matthews and Andrea McLean, I had an inkling of what it could be and started to do something about it. But I have read about women who were convinced they had dementia because of the memory loss and brain fog. That’s not right!
I’m also seeing an increasing number of clients who are struggling with rising anxiety levels and who can’t understand why. Well ladies let me shed some light on that. When those oestrogen levels drop your body compensates by releasing more noradrenalin, a hormone which increases anxiety. Great! And not only that, but you’re typically going through the menopause at an age when you might be caring for parents as well as children and have a lot on your plate. You’re also dealing with the fact that you’re entering a new phase of your life; it can feel like a loss of sorts as you lose your fertility and you’re faced with the fact that you’re not getting any younger! And if that wasn’t enough, you’re going red faced and sweaty in meetings and losing your confidence! No wonder it can feel like an anxious time – that’s a lot for us to deal with.
So, I’ll tell you what I tell my clients; this is the time when you need to focus on yourself. You need to put some strategies in place to be healthier in body, mind and spirit. Some of these might include: • Exercise – we need more weight bearing exercise at this age to strengthen bones, plus it makes us feel good! • Eat well – magnesium,(no not Magnums – I wish), is a mid-life health game changer so look into it! • Take time out to relax, your brain needs this time to process (daily) any stress and anxiety you have accumulated. You might want to try and app like calm, headspace or clarity, specially designed for women! • Prioritise sleep and if you’re not getting enough, rest during the day is even more important • Make time to see your friends. Let your hair down and have a laugh. Spa day anyone?
To help all you menopausal women out there relax, I’d like to give you free access to my download. Go to my website www.stepaheadhypnotherapy.co.uk, look under the hypnotherapy tab for the relaxation CD and use the password stepaheadhypnotherapy2018
Also, this is a period of transition; so why not use it to make some changes? Now’s a great time to reflect on where you are and refocus on where you want to go next. You’ve got so much knowledge, life experience and power, so why not use it to make your mid-life your best life?
You’ve probably heard the statistic that 1 in 4 people will experience a common health disorder each year. And by common health disorder we’re talking about things like anxiety, stress and depression.
That number seems high, doesn’t it? I know when I was growing up mental health was hardly ever mentioned, so why now? There are a couple of reasons; one is that we’re talking about it more. So it’s not that people didn’t used to get ill, they just wouldn’t talk about it. You were expected to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ and just get on with life.
But the second reason is that our brains simply weren’t designed for the way we live our lives today. Advances in technology have accelerated the pace of change and the way our minds work is at odds with how we live our lives. We were designed for 8 hours work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours sleep. But now we’re switched on 24/7 and we’re taking in far more information than we have the band-width for.
How the Brain Works
I’m massively oversimplifying this but basically, we have 2
brains. The first is our rational, intellectual brain which we’ve developed
since cavemen days. If you look at the skull of a caveman, it’s flat, as it hasn’t
developed that intellectual brain we use to run our daily lives. This is the
part of the brain we use at work, to take exams, solve problems.
The second brain is our primitive, emotional brain. This we share with all other animals and its purpose is to keep us safe. Maybe you’ve heard of the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response? Think back to caveman days, when you might be out hunting and you come across a sabre tooth tiger. You’d have one of three options; run away, hide or fight back. I know which I’d choose!! Now that’s a great response when you run into a tiger. But not so helpful when your boss shouts at you, or you get cut up in traffic, or you’re being trolled on social media.
These days, those responses turn into anxiety (run away), depression (hide) or anger (fight back). When we feel under attack, our brains will generally step in to help by provoking one of these 3 reactions. And whereas in caveman days, we might come under attack every week or so when we went out hunting; these days the threats are constant. You wake up, scroll through social media and see some emotional posts. You check the news and it’s all bad! You look in the mirror and worry you don’t look as good as the people you follow on Instagram. And that’s all before you’ve even left the house! No wonder our brains feel under attack and feel compelled to keep us safe in the only ways it knows how.
Top Tips for Good Mental Health
So, what can you do about it? Here are my top tips for good mental health. I’ll be exploring these in more detail over the next few weeks in my Wednesday blog posts.
Limit time on social media/ news channels. Bombarding ourselves with negativity is quite literally making us ill. A friend of mine has a family rule that all devices go into a basked at dinner time. That’s their time to talk and reconnect.
Schedule regular breaks, time to be alone and just stop. Things like meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing all help us to relax and process the events of the day. We need this to stop us getting overloaded.
Get outside. Even 20 minutes spent in nature is enough to boost mood. Doing this at lunch-time will make sure you get a break and give you more energy for the afternoon
Exercise – it’s great for brain chemistry. You don’t have to slog it out at the gym, dance around the kitchen if that’s what you enjoy! Walk the dog or go on the kids trampoline
Spend time with friends and family, have fun and laugh. Give the soaps a miss and watch something light-hearted and fun.
Train your brain to focus on the positive (thinking negatively leads the brain to feel under attack). So, try writing down ‘what’s been good’ at the end of every day. Ask the kids ‘what went well today’
Get enough rest and enough sleep, both essential for good mental health. You can’t expect to run around until 10pm then get into bed and drop off. You need a good bedtime routine that involves relaxation.
Every month is seems there’s another awareness day; today it’s World Mental Health Day, next month it’s Stress Awareness Day. And while many people will post about it to raise awareness, others will ask, ‘why are we going on about this all the time?’
The simple answer is that unless we keep talking about it and normalising the conversation then people who need help won’t get it. And with 1 in 4 experiencing a mental health problem each year, that’s a lot of people suffering alone.
Ask yourself this; if you’d been off with the flu would you be happy to tell people at work what had been wrong with you? What if you’d been off with stress, anxiety or depression? Still happy to share? My experience tells me most of you will say no, because there’s still a sense of shame that attaches itself to mental illness, as though you’re somehow at fault, or maybe you’re weak. I’ve worked with HR teams for many years and found a real reluctance to be open about a mental health problem, in case it damages career prospects.
So how come every part of the body can get sick and we expect our brains not to?
I’ve had depression and I’ve had anxiety. I’ve also had pneumonia and a hysterectomy. None of it was my fault. I got ill and luckily, I got better. Sometimes I’ve been able to be open with people around me, people at work; other times I’ve kept silent, fearing I’d be judged. And let me tell you I recovered faster when I was able to be open and honest and got the support I needed.
So let’s stop judging and start talking, because if you’re not the 1 in 4 this year, a friend, family member or colleague is. And if you’d send flowers or a card to someone who’d had an operation – send them to someone who has anxiety or depression. Worried about having the conversation? Just ask how they are – and if they say fine, ask again. If they open up just listen, then ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Simples!
And if you want to know why mental health disorders are on the rise, and what we can do about it, subscribe to my blog to receive next Wednesdays instalment!
One of the best ways of improving your mental wellbeing is
by creating a positive mind-set. I know that sounds cheesy but bear with me while
I explain why.
Our brains don’t know the difference between imagination and
reality. So, lets’ say for example that you have a job interview and every time
you think about it you imagine it going badly. By the time it comes around, you’ve
gone through it 50 times in your head and each time it’s been a disaster. You do
really well in the actual interview but as far as your brain is concerned you’ve
had 51 job interviews and done badly in 50 of them.
Now when that happens, when it feels like everything is
going badly, it can feel like you’re under attack; and your brain will generally
step in to help you. It has 3 ways of doing this; anxiety, anger or depression.
Anxiety is there to help you run away from a threat, depression will help you
to hide until it’s safe and anger will help you to fight back. So, you can see
the impact that negative thinking can have!
Training your brain to be more positive will make you
happier and healthier. In my sessions with clients; we focus on having positive
thoughts, having positive interactions with others and taking positive action.
That’s because doing this helps our brains to create serotonin; a chemical in
our brain that we need to feel happy.
The part most people find difficult is positive thinking; I
mean it’s hard to control your thoughts! Especially if you’ve been thinking
negatively for a long time. But it can be done, and here are some ideas to get
Write down what at least 3 things you’re
grateful for every day
Keep a journal of things that have gone well
Exercise – a great chemical boost for the brain!
Meditate – the headspace app is great for
Do nice things for other people
Make these daily habits and you will soon see a difference
in your wellbeing.
If you want to know how hypnotherapy can help you call me on
In this blog I want to talk to you about what your brain is busy doing while you’re sleeping, and the 3 signs that you need to look after your mental health.
Today my dog, Sky, went in for an operation. I’ve been
worrying about it for a couple of days and last night I had a really weird
dream. Long story short I dreamt I’d left Sky with strangers and they juggled
with her! She loved it but I was fuming! How strange is that?
Well actually, it makes perfect sense. During the night, your mind processes your worries and concerns from the day, often by dreaming about them. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your mind is really busy processing everything that’s happened to you during the day; so that you can make sense of it and wake up refreshed and raring to go. The bigger your worries, the weirder your dreams can get! That’s why I know that when I’m getting strange dreams, or nightmares, I need to pay a bit more attention to my mental health. In this situation of course I’m worried about a one-off event, and tonight Sky will be home, being spoilt rotten and I’ll probably sleep very well! But sometimes there is no specific ‘thing’ I’m worried about. I just notice my dreams have got very disturbed and I know I need to stop and take a look at what’s going on in my life – get to the bottom of what’s worrying me so I can do something about it.
Waking up in the Night
Another sign of poor mental health is waking up in the early hours. Not like when you wake up to go to the toilet and fall back asleep easily; but when you’re wide awake at 2am and know you’re going to find it hard to get back to sleep. That’s because if we have too much to process during our REM sleep, our brains will snap us wide awake, almost as self protection so that we don’t short circuit! And it just so happens that most of our REM happens after midnight, so that’s when we wake up. So, waking up in the early hours is a sign we’re getting overloaded and need to do something to deal with the stress we’re experiencing.
Sleeping too Much
The third sign is sleeping too much! REM sleep is
exhausting; the more we have to process the harder our brains have to work
during the night, and it tires us out! So, feeling like you’ve slept but still
feeling exhausted and not wanting to get out of bed is another symptom of poor
So, if you’re having bad dreams, waking in the early hours
or sleeping too much, see that as a sign that you need to pay more attention to
your mental health. Obviously, the best remedy is to change the situation that’s
causing you stress or anxiety but sometimes that’s not possible. So, what else
can you do? Hypnotherapy works because it gives you an extra dose of REM sleep,
so helps you process whatever is going on for you. Other things that can help
are meditation, mindfulness, exercise, talking it over with a friend or getting
out in nature. Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to pay attention to
what your sleep is trying to tell you and look after yourself. Sweet dreams!
I was 21 when I was first diagnosed with depression. I’d
spent a year in France as part of my degree and found it very difficult; a roller-coaster
of ups and downs that ended up taking its toll. Ironically, it was only once I
was home again, back with the people I loved, when the depression came. A
bleakness that clouded everything and left me feeling like I was carrying a
rock on my shoulders. A combination of medication and counselling worked and by
the time I finished my degree I was feeling more like myself. I didn’t really
understand why it had happened or how to prevent it happening again; all I knew
was that I never wanted to go back to that overwhelming feeling of hopelessness
Unfortunately for me, and my family and friends, I did. Twice
more. What I thought was going to be a fourth time turned out to be anxiety
instead; rather than the awful feeling of ‘nothingness’, I had panic attacks on
my way to work and social events.
I don’t share this because my story is interesting or
different to millions of others, rather precisely because it isn’t! I share it
because I honestly feel that speaking out is the only way to end the stigma
that still surrounds mental health. As Ruby Wax said, “every part of the body
gets sick so why not the brain”? Until we get to a point where we’re just as
comfortable telling people we have anxiety as we are telling them we have the
flu then we need to keep raising awareness. We need organisations and
individuals to realise that being mentally unwell is not being ‘weak’, and that
people signed off with stress aren’t workshy. In the same way that our physical
health has ups and downs so does our mental health; and both need attention.
In an effort to make sure I never again fall into that awful black pit of depression; I’ve done lots of work on understanding mental health. It’s one of the things that led me to practice solution-focused hypnotherapy. Over the years I’ve learnt the importance of spotting the signs that all is not well and doing something about it. This has sometimes been big things, such as leaving jobs that were making me unhappy; or small things like modifying my diet, taking gentle exercise, better communication with my friends and family or just taking a little “me time” to take a moment and recharge my batteries.
So, for anyone who is struggling, know you’re certainly not alone. And for those who wish we’d all stop talking about mental health; it’s something we simply can’t ignore. One in four people will experience a mental health problem this year. If it’s you, I hope you get the understanding and support you deserve; and if that’s not you then that’s great, just remember one of your friends or a member of your family probably wishes they could talk to you. Please remember to take time to be there for them and to help them do something about it.
In my last blog, I explained why stress has been called a ‘21st Century Health Epidemic’ and the effect that the way we live our lives is having on our minds and bodies. In this blog, I’ll be sharing some simple tips that can help us reduce the harmful effects of chronic stress. Just pick out 1 or 2 that seem easy to do and try them out.
Can you change what’s causing you stress?
Most of these tips concentrate on how we can better manage stress. But it’s worth asking ourselves if we can do anything to reduce it. If your job is stressing you out, can you talk to your manager or look for another job? If a relationship is causing stress, can you talk about it? If you have too much to do, can you ask for help? If you’re constantly feeling stressed, it’s worth taking a look at what’s causing it and dealing with it
Choose your response
There are many things in life we can’t control; but we can always choose
our response. For example; if you’re late for work because you’re stuck in a
traffic jam, you can panic and get angry; or you can let work know you’ll be
late, put on your favourite tunes and sing along!
Discover your purpose
When we have a sense of purpose, we feel more fulfilled and better able
to cope with things. The Japanese call this sense of purpose Ikigai. This could
be through our career, looking after family or volunteering. Finding what we’re
good at and doing more of it can reduce stress levels.
Connect with people
Interacting with others boosts serotonin levels in the brain. This ‘feel-good’
chemical is vital in keeping us happy and balanced and is missing in people
with depression. When we’re feeling down or stressed, it’s tempting to stay
home and withdraw from the world but meeting up with a friend will make you
feel a lot better.
When we’re stressed, we tend to focus on all the things that are going
wrong, and this only makes us feel worse. So, at the end of every day, think of
everything that has gone right. Maybe you got a good parking space, or the sun
was shining? Focusing on the positives will give you that important serotonin boost
Taking positive action is another way to boost serotonin. If life feels a
bit overwhelming, this needs only be a small step to take you closer to where you
want to be. It might be to book an exercise class, have one less glass of wine
or add some fruit to your diet. Small actions lead to bigger ones.
When you do something outside your comfort zone, you increase your confidence and resilience. It may be something small like trying a new route to work or trying a new recipe, or it could be something bigger like signing up to a charity event. A few years ago, I did a sky dive. It was terrifying but amazing and for about a month afterwards I felt like I could accomplish anything! Pushing yourself a little shows you what you’re capable of
Take a Time Out
Sometimes, we get stressed out by trying to meet the needs of others instead of our own. We can feel torn between the needs of work, partners, kids or parents. It can feel selfish to take time out for yourself, but the fact is you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, prioritise some time for yourself. It may be turning your work phone off when you get home, saying no to being mum’s taxi, or having that bubble bath while your partner cooks dinner. You matter too!
That said, once you’ve taken care of yourself (remember to put your own oxygen
mask on first) helping others is known to release feel-good chemicals in the
brain. It doesn’t need to be time-consuming; you might just pay someone a
compliment or make a colleague a cup of tea.
Be in the moment
We’re most stressed when we’re dwelling on the past or worrying about the
future. To reduce stress levels, focus on the here and now. To help you do
this, try something like mindfulness, meditation or even an adult colouring
book. Just 10 minutes a day can reduce stress levels.
The Power of Touch
Touch can be very effective at reducing stress as well as pain levels (have
you noticed how we rub an injury to feel better?) So, something like a massage,
or even a good hug with a loved one can make us feel better. Scientists have
found that a 20 second hug releases oxytocin, another of those feel-good
chemicals in the brain!
Try Positive Affirmations
We may feel a bit silly standing in front of the mirror in the morning
saying things like; ‘I’m calm, I’m in control, I got this’, but here’s why it
works. The brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. So,
what you tell yourself, your brain believes. Try it!
Change your internal dialogue
Because our brains can’t tell the difference between imagination and
reality, what we tell ourselves becomes so important. If you’re feeling
nervous, reframe it as excitement. If you come across a problem, call it a
challenge instead. What we tell ourselves really does make a difference.
Watch what you’re feeding your brain
One of the reasons we feel more stressed than ever is that bad news is
available 24/7. We don’t have to watch the news at ten, as my grandparents did.
The minute we wake up we’re on social media seeing all kinds of upsetting
stories, it’s relentless. This can lead our brains to feel as though we’re
under attack. So try to limit the time you spend on news, or search out some
good news stories.
Get a Pet
Stroking a pet can lower your blood pressure and cuts down on the levels
of stress hormones in your body. If you’re able to get a dog, you also get exercise,
fresh air and social interaction. If you’re not able to get a dog, you might benefit
from volunteering at a rescue centre or walking someone else’s dog.
Spend time outdoors
Even 20 minutes spent in nature can reduce your stress levels. A short
walk at lunchtime can make a big difference. At weekends try and get out
further. A walk in the woods or by the sea can be a stress reliever. I’m often
in Yorkshire and as soon as I get out into the fields I can feel my stress
The importance of sleep can’t be emphasised enough. Sleep is our time to
process the events of the day so we can start tomorrow refreshed and
revitalised. Not enough sleep reduces our ability to cope. Too often, we’re on
the go all day and all evening and then wonder why we can’t get to sleep. Our
brains need relaxation time before sleep, so make some time to relax, turn off your
phone and get ready for a good nights sleep.
Exercise is so important for reducing stress levels and releasing feel-good
chemicals. Building exercise into your day will help you cope with whatever is
in store. If you’re pressed for time, it doesn’t have to be anything major,
even 20 minutes will make a difference. You could even dance around the kitchen
while you’re cooking tea!
A large coffee at lunchtime can still be in your system at bedtime. So
try reducing your caffeine and having it as early as possible, so that you get
the quality sleep you need.
The same goes for alcohol unfortunately! When we’re stressed, we may want
a drink to take the edge off and to help us sleep. While we may get to sleep quicker
our sleep is more disturbed and we’ll wake up more often. This leads us to feel
tired the next day, reach for the caffeine and so it continues. Not only that but
alcohol also stops our natural production of serotonin, that feel-good chemical.
So, when we’re stressed drinking alcohol is one of the worst things we can do!
Some foods can reduce the effects that too much cortisol – a stress hormone – has on the body. Too much cortisol can cause weight gain, high blood pressure and mood swings. Foods that reduce its affects include blueberries, walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds, so try adding these to your diet in times of stress.
Watch those unhealthy habits
When we’re feeling stressed we tend to reach for fast food, have a few drinks and skip the gym. This can then become a vicious circle, as it affects our sleep and leads to us doing the same things the next day. If we’re going through periods of stress, that’s the time to stick to healthy habits as much as possible; to help us cope.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with your to-do-list, prioritise what’s
important. Stephen Covey’s Time Management grid can help. When we’re stressed,
it’s too easy to procrastinate with time wasting activities. Focusing on the
important tasks will help us get back on track.
feeling stressed and anxious, focus on your breathing. Try the 3-4-5 method;
breathe in for 3, hold for 4 and breathe out for 5. This will calm down your
If you need some more help relaxing, try my free Hypnotherapy download! Click on this link and enter the password, stepaheadhypnotherapy2018
April is Stress Awareness Month. In this blog I’ll be
explaining why the World Health Organisation has called stress a 21st
Century Health Epidemic and the impact it can have on our mental and physical wellbeing.
I must start off by saying that not all stress is bad. Short-term
stress is actually good for performance. That’s what gets the adrenalin pumping
when we have to give a big presentation, or why we can start an essay the day
before it’s due and pull it off! It’s chronic stress that causes us problems.
To understand why stress has become such a big problem, we
need to know a bit about how the brain works. Our brains were designed back in
caveman days, when the kind of stress we faced was being chased by a wild
animal or fighting another tribe. So, our brains were great at reacting to that
kind of threat. You would be out hunting, and your brain would be on high
alert. At the first sign of danger the adrenalin would pump round your body so
that you could run away or fight back. However, once you were safely back in
your cave, you would have a long period of recovery and rest before you had to
go out again and face another danger.
These days it’s a different story. Most of us are lucky enough
to have never been chased by a wild animal (does a cat count?) but we do face
stress on a constant basis. Rather than one big dose of stress, we face small
(micro) doses of stress all day long. The alarm goes off, jolting you out of a
deep sleep, that’s your first micro dose of stress. You hit snooze and 10 minutes
later it wakes you again, that’s your second dose. The first thing you do is
check the news, and Brexit sends your stress levels soaring! So, for some light
relief you scroll through Facebook where you see a picture of a starving dog.
You get the point. Before you’ve even left the house, you’ve experienced maybe
10-15 micro doses of stress, with no time built in for recovery. We live our
lives at 100 miles an hour.
Why is this a problem? Because chronic stress is bad for us.
It actually damages every single cell in the body! Chronic stress:
Increases blood pressure – leaving you more at
risk of heart attacks and strokes
Lowers the immune system – meaning you’re more
likely to get ill
Affects sleep, which is vital to good health
Leads to mental health issues such as anxiety
Last year, stress accounted for 50% of all sick days. 1 in 5
of us went to the GP with stress!
Why are these numbers soaring? Because our brains simply aren’t designed for the way we live our lives today. Thanks to advances in technology, our lives are evolving much quicker than our brains!
This may all sound like bad news, I mean we can’t change our
pace of life, can we? The good news is there is a solution. While our caveman
ancestors faced big threats and had long periods of recovery, we face smaller
threats and so need to build in smaller amounts of recovery. Over the coming
month, I’ll be sharing daily tips to show you how on my Facebook page (Step
Ahead Hypnotherapy). These will be published in another blog at the end of the
month – check back here at the end of April to access my free giveaway – which will
help you reduce your stress levels!
Most of us struggle with confidence from time to time. Many
of my clients come to me having lost confidence due to events in their lives,
which makes sense. When we’re faced with stressful life events, our brains want
to protect us and keep us safe; that means staying firmly in our ‘comfort zone’!
Confidence usually comes back with time, but some of my
clients don’t have time to wait! You may have lost confidence after being treated
poorly at work but then you have to apply for another job. You may be going through
a difficult personal situation but need to nail a presentation at work.
Here’s the thing with confidence; the saying ‘Fake it ‘till
you make it’ really works! Here’s why; your brain doesn’t know the difference
between imagination and reality. So, imagine it’s your first day in a new job
and you’re worried about being late. Every time you think about being late,
your brain thinks you are late. By the time that Monday morning comes around,
you’ve thought about being late 50 times. You’re actually on time, but as far
as your brain’s concerned you’ve been late 51 times! No wonder you’re stressed!
Luckily, the reverse is also true. If you think positive
thoughts; if you tell yourself you feel calm, confident and in control, then
your brain believes it!
So, here are some tips to increase your confidence in a
Remember, your brain believes what you tell
it. So, try saying out loud things like:
I am confident
I can do this
I am great at my job
2. Remind yourself of all your achievements. If you’ve lost confident after being treated poorly at work for example, it’s easy to focus on all the negative emotions you felt. Instead, try writing a list of everything you’ve ever achieved or been proud of. You’ll be surprised how long the list is!
3. Try Power Poses. The way you carry yourself affects how you feel. Think Wonder Woman! There’s a great video which explains this, check out https://youtu.be/phcDQ0H_LnY
4. Spend some time focusing on the present. We spend far too much time going over the past or worrying about the future. Try mindfulness, meditation, walking in nature or of course, hypnotherapy.
5. Exercise will release feel-good chemicals that will help you feel better about yourself. Even a 20-minute walk in nature will have an impact.
If you have an important event coming up where you need to perform well; such as a driving test, exam, presentation or job interview, then hypnotherapy can help. Call me on 07973914718 for more information.
Anything we do repeatedly becomes a habit. And there are
lots of habits that do us good, such as brushing our teeth twice a day or
putting a seatbelt on as we get in the car. But most of us have developed
habits that don’t do us good; such as reaching for a glass of wine after a
stressful day or biting our nails when we’re bored.
I was reminded yesterday of how easily habits are formed.
Those of you who use the M60 will know it’s been 50 mph for months, while
they’ve converted it to a ‘smart motorway’. I, like many others really
struggled with reducing my speed. It felt unnatural to be going so slowly. Yesterday,
although the speed restriction has finally been lifted, I saw lots of drivers
still doing 50mph! It had just become hard-wired into their brain. The good
news is, just as they got used to doing 50mph, they will be able to re-wire
their brain to do 70mph again. And in the same way, you can also change your
habits if you want to.
Here are some tips to help you do it:
Identify what you’re getting from the habit
All habits serve a function, even the bad ones. Perhaps drinking helps you to be more sociable? Maybe smoking gives you the opportunity to take a break at work. Mindless eating can be a way of comforting yourself when you’re feeling down. Our brains release dopamine when we eat, which is a bit like an internal hug. The more you eat, the more you need to eat to get the same comfort. Identifying what you gain from your habit will help you find a different one to replace it with. Maybe a bath will help you to relax instead of a glass of wine.
2. Ask yourself, ‘What’s the real problem?’
Dealing with whatever the real issue is will help you achieve your goal. If you over-eat because of low self-esteem, then that’s something you can work on. If you drink when you get home to mask a problem in your relationships, then you’ll need to face that to move forwards. If you smoke to get breaks at work because you don’t like your job, then that’s the place to start.
3.Write out your goal and look at it often to keep yourself on track.
What do you want to achieve? Maybe it’s 3 alcohol free days a week, maybe it’s stopping the daily donut. Whatever it is, putting it into a clear goal will help.
4. Assemble your support team
Having people around you who will help support you in your goal is a huge help. Maybe it’s your partner who can help prepare healthy meals, or a friend who will go to the gym with you. Let them know what your goal is and how that can help you. Also, keep an eye out for those around you who may try and sabotage you and plan how you will deal with that. It may be the co-worker who doesn’t want to be the only one eating donuts or a partner who starts bringing home takeaways because they’re worried about losing you.
5. Be patient
Our brains aren’t programmed to like change. Our brain wants to keep us safe and to do that it likes repeated patterns of behaviour. Sometimes we fail because we try to change too much, too soon. Pick one small thing to change and take small steps forwards; the tortoise wins the race on this one!
6. Be prepared for slips
ingrained habit won’t change overnight, and we will face challenges on the way.
Slipping up gives us valuable information. What was happening before we reached
for that glass of wine? Why did we lose our temper? Knowing what our stressors
are will enable us to put plans in place to deal with them. Try keeping a diary
and record how you felt before you slipped into an old habit.
Hypnotherapy can help you to change your habits, by helping you re-wire your brain. For a free consultation call 07973914718.
Who’s heard of JOMO? I hadn’t either, but I was familiar with the term FOMO – fear of missing out. It’s FOMO that drives us to scroll through social media the minute we wake up, check news sites obsessively and accept social invitations to events we really can’t bothered going to, we just don’t want to miss out! We want to be able to show on our own social media channels that we have a life too!
But here’s the thing, relaxing and doing nothing are also an important part of life. Many of the clients I see in my Hypnotherapy Practice are struggling simply because they’re packing too much into their lives, and our brains aren’t designed to cope with that level of activity. We need time to process our thoughts and activities and recharge, and when we don’t give ourselves that time our mental health suffers. The most common result of packing too much in that I see in clients is insomnia. When we sleep, we process the events of the day, and if we have too much to process our brain pings us awake in the early hours of the morning, as a self-defence mechanism. So, we don’t get enough quality sleep, wake up tired and irritable, and this starts a downward spiral.
So, here are my top tips for embracing JOMO
We’re often told to schedule exercise into our
diaries to make it a priority, the same needs to happen for relaxation. Build
time in your weekly schedule to relax. For me, that means no work or chores on
Sunday. It’s a day for family, relaxation and fresh air.
Limit social media, it’s amazing how much extra
time you have when you’re not scrolling for updates! You might have a total ban
one day a week; or have a rule not to go on it for the first and last two hours
of the day.
Have a good sleep routine – many clients with
insomnia go straight from an activity to bed and then struggle to sleep. You
need time to switch off and relax, maybe have a bath or read a book. If you’re
watching TV try and avoid tense dramas!
If you have children, try and avoid the
temptation to pack their evenings and weekends with clubs and sports. Kids
especially are learning constantly and need time to unwind. They will benefit
from time to just play and use their imagination, and you’ll certainly benefit
from not being on taxi duty every night!
If you are struggling with relaxation or sleep, contact me for a free
consultation to see how hypnotherapy can help.
My Dad worked for the same company his whole life, but today
people can expect to have 5 to 15 jobs in their lifetime. I’m 44 and have had 5
employers so far and been made redundant twice! The good news is that the more
change we go through the more resilient we become, and that will benefit us in
all areas of our lives. However, if we have worked in the same company for a
long time and our job is threatened, it can be hard to handle. Our brains are
designed to fear change, which can lead to anger, anxiety or depression when we
feel under threat.
In my hypnotherapy business I’ve seen many clients who’ve
lost their confidence after losing their jobs. As a Business Coach I’ve
supported many people through restructures and helped them prepare for the job
So as someone who’s been through it, and someone who’s
helped others, here are my top tips for dealing with changes at work.
Accept that no job is ‘safe’ forever, and make sure you’re prepared.
Things you can do:
Save 3 months wages. This means you won’t panic
about where next months mortgage is coming from or feel you have to take the
first job you’re offered, however unsuitable.
Have an up-to-date C.V. I’ve coached people who
haven’t updated their C.V. for 20 years and it can feel like a very big task
when you need it in a hurry. Get a template online and focus on what you’ve
achieved in each job rather than your day to day duties. Update your C.V. every
6 months to capture key achievements.
Get on LinkedIn and once you’re on it, use it to
network. Connect with friends and colleagues, engage with conversations and get
yourself known. Many recruiters use LinkedIn to search for candidates, and many
jobs come through connections before they’re even advertised.
Register on job sites that specialise in your
area of work. Even if you’re not looking it’s useful to keep an eye on the job
market and see what roles are being advertised. When you do need to look, it’s
one less thing to do.
If you do lose your
Accept it’s natural to feel sad and worried. You
may be missing colleagues, banter, a sense of purpose. Give yourself time to
grieve for what you’ve lost.
Set aside time each day for job hunting. As well
as applying for jobs online, you might also register with agencies, network or
approach companies directly. A routine will help.
Try and keep to the same sleep schedule and wake
up time. It can be tempting to lie in bed but getting out of your routine will
make it harder when you find another job. It can also leave you feeling
demotivated and down.
Make sure you get out and about and see friends
and family. Being at home alone all day can affect your mental wellbeing. If
all your friends and family are working in the day, consider going to a coffee
shop to do your job hunting.
People need a sense of purpose for good mental
health. So now might be a good time to tackle a project you’ve not had time for
before. It might be decorating, decluttering or getting fit. Make the most of
the extra time, you’ll soon be back in work and wishing you’d made more of your
Take comfort in the fact that this experience
will make you more resilient and adaptive to change in the future.
If your mental health has suffered after a job loss or poor working
environment, get in touch to see how hypnotherapy can help.
Anxiety is created when we dwell on the past or worry about
the future. It’s important to be present in what’s happening right now. That
can be harder than it sounds, so here are some things that might help
Limit social media – pay attention to what you’re
doing or who you’re with instead of scrolling through details of others’ lives.
Try meditation or mindfulness to still your mind
Take a minute to tune into what you can see,
what you can hear, how you feel
Tip 2 – Get out in
Exercise boosts serotonin (a happy chemical) in the brain. Sunshine
and fresh air also lift your spirits Make it even more beneficial by noticing
what’s around you; the sounds of the leaves under your feet, the smell of the
air and the sounds of water maybe. Exercise and mindfulness are both great for
Tip 3 – Take time out
Modern life is busy and sometimes overwhelming. The
to-do-list never ends. Your brain needs down-time to process and recharge. So,
build in some quiet time; listen to music, have a bath; anything that calms
you. This is particularly important before sleep.
Tip 4 – Eat well
What we eat affects how we feel. We wouldn’t run our car on
lard and we can’t run our bodies on it either. Eating an unprocessed diet with
plenty of fruit and veg is good for our mental as well as physical health.
Tip 5 – Put yourself
Putting yourself first isn’t selfish – it’s the only way you
can be strong enough for others to lean on. You can’t pour from an empty cup so
make time for yourself on your schedule. Do something that makes you happy and
that’s just for you.
Tip 6 – Think about who
you’re spending time with
The people we spend time with can have a massive impact on our
mental health. Energy vampires leave you
feeling drained, while spending time with positive people will give you more
energy. If you’re unable to avoid negative people (family members perhaps) then
put some boundaries in place and limit time spent with them if possible. Bear
in mind too that your mood rubs off on others, so think about the effect you’re
having on your family and friends.
Tip 7 – Practice
No matter how your day has gone, there will be some things
to be grateful for. Focusing on this, instead of everything that’s gone wrong,
will improve your mental health. Instead of moaning about the traffic jam, be
grateful you weren’t in the accident that caused it. Try writing a list of
everything you have to be thankful for, I bet you’ll be surprised how long it
Tip 8 – Tune in
A good way of safeguarding your mental health is to
recognise the signs that it needs some attention. When we feel under attack,
our brains will try and protect us by helping us to fight back, run away or
hide. This shows as anger, anxiety or depression. Look out for signs of stress,
so you can do something about it before it spirals out of control.
Tip 9 – Have strategies
When you’ve recognised that you’re feeling under stress,
it’s a good idea to have some healthy coping mechanisms in place. Instead of
reaching for a glass of wine or chocolate donut, can you see a friend, meditate
or pick up a favourite hobby? Do something that makes you feel good but is also
good for you.
Tip 10 – Forgive yourself
If you do react badly to stress; yell at your kids, down a
bottle of wine – forgive yourself! Nobody is perfect and putting pressure on yourself
isn’t helpful. Tomorrow is another day!
If you’re interested in improving your mental health this year, check out my website and get in touch to discuss how hypnotherapy can help you. It’s very effective in the treatment of common mental health disorders; such as depression, anxiety, OCD, insomnia and phobias to name a few.
The start of a New Year is a great time to refocus on your goals and plan what you want to achieve in 2019.
Yet only 20% of those who make resolutions are still
sticking to them 6 weeks into the New Year, this is because most of us set
ourselves tough goals centred round deprivation;
“I’ll never drink alcohol again”
“I’m doing a juice fast”
“I’ll lose a stone in 6 weeks”
Our brains are designed to keep us safe, which is why we’re encouraged to repeat patterns of behaviour including unhealthy habits; they don’t like too much change all at once.
In this 6- week programme I’ll show you how you can work with your brain to achieve the results you really want. This programme will set you up for success and give you the tools you need to set achievable goals for 2019 and make them happen.
I’ll explain how the brain works and how we can use that knowledge to get what we want. We’ll look at what you want to achieve in 2019 and how to break it down into goals. Once you’ve set your goals, I’ll use hypnotherapy to tap into your subconscious, which is where lasting change happens.
We’ll look at what gets in the way of achieving our goals,including why your brain wants to keep you in your comfort zone, and I’ll give you some tools and techniques to overcome obstacles.
We’ll look at how habits are formed and how to create better habits to replace those that are no longer working for us. We’ll also look at the importance of nutrition, sleep, and why it’s ok to put your own needs first for a change.
We’ll tap into the power visualisation, which is a surprisingly effective way to make things happen. A study of Olympic Athletes found that those who used visualisation brought home the most medals!
We’ll discuss tools and techniques to support motivation and increase self-esteem, which is really important to you achieving your goals.
In this last session, we’ll recap what we’ve covered and cement your plan to move forward and have the best year yet!
The programme is designed for small groups of six, meaning you can get it for only £20 per session, or £120 for the whole programme. If you wish to follow the programme individually, you can have it at the discounted price of £45 per session (normally £55).
The programme includes a workbook, a hypnosis download, and a 10% lifetime discount off further sessions. I believe in paying it forward so you will also receive a £10 discount for your friends and family.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07973914718 to reserve your place. The programme starts on Saturday 5 January at 11:30 at my practice in Atherton (alternative dates are available). Please note a £60 deposit will be required on booking, followed by £10 a week payable at each session.
When I was 20, I lived in France for a year, a requirement of my Degree course. It was one of the toughest years of my life and I was an emotional mess, never far from a box of tissues! One of my friends over there was emotionally fine, but caught one bug after another, and that was the first time I realised that stress will always have an out!
Now, as a hypnotherapist, I see all kinds of symptoms. Some clients will tell me that they don’t feel stressed; yet they can’t sleep, or have migraines, or have developed a need to re-check that the front door is locked 5 times when they leave the house.
So, what is stress? It’s the body’s way of responding to any kind of danger or threat. When working properly, it helps you to stay strong, focused and alert. It keeps you safe by giving you extra strength to defend yourself or energy to run away from a threat.
However, when you can’t run away from constant pressure at work, or fight a demanding boss, you can develop chronic stress, and this can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body; it can supress your immune system, upset your digestion and reproductive systems and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A study by the Mental Health Foundation found that, in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. To stop getting to that stage, you really need to recognise signs of stress in yourself, so you can take action:
Signs of Stress
Irritability or Anger
Aches and Pains
Frequent colds or minor illnesses
Headaches or migraines
Eating more or less
Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
Anxious or racing thoughts
Worrying about the future or dwelling on the past
Seeing only the negative
Here are some suggestions to help you eliminate, or cope better, with stress:
Find out what’s causing you stress and change it if possible (e.g. if it’ your job can you get a new job?)
Ask for help – can you talk to your boss about your workload or ask your partner for more help round the house for example
Find healthy coping mechanisms – rather than relaxing with a glass of wine meet a friend for an exercise class or have a bubble bath
Eat well, to support your immune system and guard against illness
Spend time with positive people who you can have fun with – laughter really is the best medicine!
Practice some kind of mindfulness or meditation – focusing on the here and now will stop you worrying about the future or dwelling on the past
Reduce your exposure to social media and bad news stories – they increase the level of stress hormones in your body
Change your thought patterns – instead of talking about how rubbish your day has been talk about what’s been good.
And remember – you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to look after yourself if you want to look after others.
I’m a great believer in modelling excellence. If you want to run faster, find out how Usain Bolt trains. If you want to become a pop star, find out how Ed Sheeran went from busking to playing Wembley.
So, if I want to be happier, who else would I model myself on but my dog Sky? No offence to cats (I’ve had them all my life) but they can be a bit tetchy. I mean have you ever tried to get your cat to the vets and come away unscathed?
Dogs on the other hand, are pretty happy as a general rule. And this is because they live in the present. They don’t hold on to what happened yesterday, and they don’t worry about what tomorrow may bring – they just are.
Here’s my guide to happiness, courtesy of Sky:
Get out in nature more
Sky loves nothing more than going out for a walk – whatever the weather. She’ll stop to smell the plants (and pee on them but I’m not advocating that) and kick up the leaves. If she’s not out walking, she’ll be out in the garden, holding her face up to the sun. She knows that being out in nature is good for the soul.
Move your body more
Sky loves to run and chase balls, when she’s at full pelt she’s a sight to behold. And throw her duck in the water and she’s in heaven! Physical exercise is good for the mind as well as the body as it increases serotonin and other ‘feel-good’ chemicals.
Rest is just as important as exercise
Yes, she loves to run, but afterwards she’ll happily snooze the afternoon away. She’s not looking at her to-do-list, checking her emails or worrying about all the housework that needs doing. Our brains are designed to work for 8 hours, rest for 8 hours and sleep for 8 hours. That may seem impossible in today’s world, but scheduling rest and down-time is really important. Some of my clients who have insomnia are simply taking on too much. You need to rest if you want to sleep well.
Eat what you need and no more
Ok it may be different for Labradors, but German Shepherds are great at regulating their food intake. If Sky overeats one day (well if Grandma is offering sausages it would be rude to refuse!) then she’ll eat less the next day. Food is fuel, and because dogs live in the moment, they’re not emotional eaters like many of us! Eat if you’re hungry and stop if you’re not.
Live in the moment
Dogs live in the present, they don’t fret about what’s already happened or worry about the next day; they don’t hold grudges or take things personally. They very much live in the moment. Most of the clients I see with anxiety readily admit that they spend a large part of the time worrying about the future or going over the past. These thought patterns are never helpful, and they can be changed.
So, thanks to Sky for teaching me some valuable lessons! And While I’m on the subject consider getting a pet if you don’t already have one (for life not just for Christmas!) They’re great for reducing stress levels, improving your mood and lowering your blood pressure!
Hypnotherapy is a deep state of relaxation, during which the client experiences a heightened sense of awareness. We call this ‘trance’ and it’s something you experience several times a day; for example, when you’ve driven somewhere and don’t remember the journey, or when you’re so engrossed in a book you tune everything else out. Being in ‘trance’ is a very relaxing experience in itself and helps lower your stress levels. It does have another benefit though, which is to give you access to your subconscious mind.
Let me explain why this is so powerful. If you’ve ever learned to drive, you’ll remember that at the beginning you couldn’t talk to anyone or listen to the radio because you were concentrating so much on how to drive the car. You were driving with your conscious mind. Several weeks later, you can hold a conversation easily and think about what to have for your tea when you get home. This is because the driving habit has been transferred to your subconscious mind and your conscious mind is free to think about other things.
So, think of your conscious mind as a computer and the subconscious mind as a programme running in the background. When you’re hypnotised, you have access to both and that means that any changes you want to make are more likely to be ‘hard-wired’ in.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a mix of hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. In the first half of the session we help you to focus on what you want to achieve and picture a goal. In the second half of the session we use hypnosis to embed that action in both your conscious and subconscious mind. We don’t tell you what to do or implant suggestions, because we believe you’re the master of your own life and will come up with the right solutions for you.
In between sessions, you listen to the hypnosis download daily to reduce stress levels and help you take action towards your goal.
Because you’re using the power of both your conscious and subconscious mind to make changes, results can be seen quickly and are long lasting.
Take a look at my website to see how Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help you.
We know that to prevent disease and physical illness, we need to eat healthy and move more. Yet few of us have the same approach to mental well-being; we may seek help when we become mentally unwell but what do we do to take care of ourselves and make sure that doesn’t happen? I’ve been treated before for both anxiety and depression and thankfully made a full recovery, but it’s only since starting on this journey as a therapist that I’ve become aware of how to proactively look after my mental health.
In the first session with a client, I explain how the brain works; how anxiety is created and how we can suffer in the way we do. This is usually really powerful for people, as they can make sense of their behaviour and understand what they can do to change it. Did you know for example, that anxiety can cause the following:
The need to re-check things
Anger and irritability
I’ve had a busy year, working full-time and studying as well. I’ve started to pick up on my own triggers. For example, when I’m taking on too much I start to notice that I’m checking the front door is locked 3 or 4 times. Or sometimes my sleep becomes disturbed and I start having bad dreams. When that happens now I pick up on it, and take steps to manage it. So I might go through my diary and create space for relaxation or fun, to give myself time to re-charge, or I might take the dog for a long walk because I know being out in nature calms me. As I write this, I’m on a balcony overlooking the beach on holiday. Closing my eyes and listening to the sound of the waves while I breathe deeply is a great stress buster! And when I’m back at home I listen to a download called ‘Lullaby of the Ocean’ on YouTube.
So what are your signs that tell you you’re struggling? And when you see them, what do you do about it?