Last week I flew out to Portugal. It’s been a few years since my last beach holiday so I should have been beyond excited – instead I started to worry about the queues at the airport. Would I get through in time? Would I make my flight? What if it got cancelled? I looked online for information on the situation at Manchester Airport, so of course every time I went on social media that’s all I saw, thanks to those pesky algorithms! I started sleeping badly, as it played on my mind. And did all that worrying help? Did it achieve anything? Of course not! (It was also completely unfounded, as the journey through the airport was completely hassle free – a timely reminder not to believe everything you read).
It was a valuable lesson, because it reminded me that even though I’m a trained hypnotherapist, and help others with their anxiety, my own sometimes still runs away with me, and I have to go back to basics.
So, here’s what I know, and how I used it to help myself.
The brain can’t tell the difference between what’s actually happening, and what you worry about. So, thinking about things that may go wrong will activate that stress response in the brain – causing anxiety.
Once that happens it’s a downward spiral, you start to catastrophise and the list of things you worry about grows, making you feel more anxious.
Anxiety is your brains way of helping you run away from a threat – but you can’t run away from something that hasn’t even happened, so those panicky feelings go round and round in your body.
Knowing that is all very well, but how do you stop it? Here’s what worked for me:
When you’re feeling anxious, avoid social media. Scrolling between good and bad news elevates your stress hormones.
Focus on what you can control. In my case that meant dropping bags at the airport the night before, arriving early and booking the airport lounge.
Distract yourself from negative thoughts, in the daytime you can try meditation to calm your mind; in the night I listen to sleep stories on the calm app. You can also try my sleep relaxation track on YouTube.
Remind yourself of everything you’re grateful for and write down everything that’s been good about your day. This helps to switch off the fight/flight response. So does deep breathing by the way.
It can help to remember that anxiety is a normal response to stressful life events, but if you’re feeling it constantly and it’s impacting on your ability to enjoy life, there are things you can do to reduce it. To find out how hypnotherapy can help, book a free telephone consultation.
How many of you sit down on New Years Day and vow that this year is going to be different; then plan out a punishing diet and exercise programme, bin the Christmas chocolates and try and overhaul your whole life? And how many of you give up the new programme by the middle of January because its too hard and your motivation has gone?
Yep – been there and done that! And so, I’m not a big fan of New Years Resolutions. They usually mean deprivation, hard work and cast-iron willpower, and none of those sound an appealing way to start a New Year!
But! I do like making plans for the New Year. It always feels like a bit of a fresh start, so I do spend time thinking about what I want to be different – but I do it by looking at what I want to add to my life instead of what I want to give up. More time with friends, not giving up chocolate for example!
If you do want to make some positive changes in your life this year, here are my top tips:
Start by listing your achievements for the previous year
It’s easy to get down on ourselves for not achieving last year’s resolutions but focusing on things that have gone well gets us in the right frame of mind to move forwards. Maybe you didn’t lose the stone you wanted but managed to keep your weight stable in a pandemic – that’s a win in my book! List everything that went well and everything you’re grateful for.
Treat yourself like your best friend
Too often we speak to ourselves worse than our worst enemy would, let alone our best friend. We eat a biscuit and call ourselves names like pathetic, pig etc. But if a friend called you and said she’d fallen off her diet plan you’d tell her she was doing great and reassure her that she could do this. And that’s what we need to tell ourselves! All positive change starts from a place of self-love.
Think about what you want to add – not give up
When you decide to give something up, like chocolate, it becomes all you can think about! Much better to think about what you want to add to your life instead, it’s so much more appealing! For example, if you want to cut down on coke, you might try drinking more water instead. This is a little mind trick that really helps!
Take small steps
There’s a reason gyms are usually full at the beginning of January and empty at the end. We try and do too much too soon! Our brains don’t like change, so they get overwhelmed when we try and change too much too soon and try and tempt us back into our old habits. It’s much better to take small steps and build up gradually. Instead of planning an hour’s workout 5 times a week, try 5 minutes a day. You’ll feel great when you achieve it and it’ll inspire you to do more.
Share your plans with others
Humans are meant to be part of a tribe; we work best together. So, share your plans with others and ask for support. Whether it’s a partner helping more at home or a friend joining a class with you, we all need a little help and encouragement.
Celebrate every little win
Whenever you celebrate a little win, your brain releases feel-good chemicals that makes you want to repeat the behaviour. And I do mean every little win. Eat a biscuit but don’t finish the packet? Give yourself a high-five. Make time for a bubble bath? Tell yourself you’re winning at life. For this to work, you need to celebrate in the moment – promising yourself a new pair of shoes once you’ve lost a stone doesn’t have the same effect.
Who has started a diet on a Monday, eaten a donut on Wednesday, called yourself a failure, given up and vowed to start again the following Monday? Me too! That’s what happens when we label ourselves as failures. The truth is, failing is part of the process. Michael Jordan famously said, “I’ve failed over and over again and that’s why I succeed.” When we slip up, we learn something about ourselves. Why did we eat that donut? How were we able to stop at one biscuit and not finish the packet?
Tweak the plan
Use what you’ve learnt to tweak the plan and move towards your goal. If a stressful day got you off track, what caused the stress and how could you deal with it better? If you didn’t have time to workout can you ask for more support? We need to adapt what we’re doing constantly to make it work for us.
Be kind to yourself
Whatever journey you’re on, nurture and encourage yourself as you would a loved one. Remember, positive change comes from self-love and we need to practice this throughout our journey, not just at the beginning!
Focus on the positives
Every day reflect on what’s gone well and what you’re grateful for. This will keep you in the best frame of mind to move forwards with whatever goal you’ve set yourself.
And if you’re not making any changes this year, and carrying on exactly as you are, great! You’re perfect just the way you are!
For those in employment ask your HR team if they have an EAP (Employee Assistance Programme). If so, you may have access to free, confidential counselling through that.
For those looking for therapy, here are 3 main ones you might want to look into:
Counselling sessions provide a safe, confidential environment where you can discuss your problems with a therapist. A counsellor will encourage you to talk about what’s bothering you in order to uncover any root causes. They will help you to address your issues or find ways of coping. Counselling is available on the NHS and privately.
To find a qualified counsellor privately, look at the Counselling Directory.
CBT is based on the concept that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are all interconnected, and that negative thoughts and feelings can trap you in a vicious cycle. It helps you to identify negative thought patterns and reframe them to improve how you feel. It’s available on the NHS and privately
To find a CBT therapist privately, look at the Counselling Directory
Solution-focused Hypnotherapy combines talking therapy with hypnosis. Hypnosis, or ‘trance’ is a state of relaxation, where the mind can relax and focus on thoughts and suggestions that might be useful. It’s a modern approach that uses the latest research into how the brain works to help people make significant, positive changes in a relatively short period of time. The key difference is that it’s solution-focused, so we work towards what the client wants to achieve rather than look at the problem that brought them here.
To find a qualified Hypnotherapist, look at the Hypnotherapy Directory
What about if you, or someone you love, is in crisis and can’t wait to see a therapist? If you are in crisis, please see your GP as soon as possible. If you can’t get an immediate appointment you can go to A&E for assessment. If you need to talk to someone Samaritans are always open, you can phone them for free on 116 123.
We’ve all read the reports that many of us are drinking more than ever in lockdown, and is it any surprise? That lovely warm fuzzy feeling we get after 2 or 3 glasses can seem to take the edge off what’s turning out to be a stressful year. I’ll hold my hands up and say I’ve been drinking more in lockdown!
But you’ll also have read the reports that predict a mental health crisis is coming, and alcohol actually plays a pretty important part in this.
Many of my clients have anxiety or depression and I always ask them how much they drink. Those that drink a lot will normally say that is helps them sleep or it helps them deal with stress. So, let’s take at those two statements.
Myth – alcohol helps me sleep
Fact – you may be passed out after a few drinks but it’s not the same thing. When you drink, you don’t get the same quality of sleep. You miss out on crucial REM sleep; this is the part of sleep when you dream, and this helps you process your stresses and worries. That’s why, when you wake up the morning after the night before, you’re more likely to feel miserable and out of sorts.
Myth – alcohol helps me cope with stress
Fact – it actually does the opposite. People who drink a lot are more likely to experience clinical anxiety or depression. And that’s because alcohol (and nicotine incidentally) stops you producing your own serotonin, that happy chemical in your brain. What happens is your brain gets lazy. It gets the artificial chemical and thinks it doesn’t need to produce the serotonin. But alcohol is a very poor substitute for serotonin so anxiety and depression can follow.
As someone who likes a glass of wine, I’m not about to tell anyone to stop drinking. But I do think it’s important to be aware of the facts and if you’re one of the many who’s anxiety has risen this year then now might be a good time to cut back.
If you do want to join me in drinking less, here’s how to make it easier.
With any habit, there are 3 parts:
The cue – what prompts the behaviour
The behaviour – drinking
The reward – what does it give you?
So, to stop a habit, firstly think about the prompt, what leads you to pour that glass of wine? If it’s stress, can you do something about the stress? If it’s just routine, can you change your routine? If you pour a drink after work can you go for a walk instead?
Then think about the reward, what does it give you? If it helps to mark the end of the working day, could you treat yourself to a bubble bath instead? If it helps you to slow down and switch off could you meditate instead?
Remember to have a nice alternative drink to hand as well. Giving up wine for water isn’t very appealing – so what else can you drink that will feel like a bit of a treat?
We know what drinking stops your brain producing natural serotonin. So, when you cut down or stop, you’ll need to kickstart that part of your brain again. Here are my top tips to increase your serotonin levels.
Write down/ talk about what’s been good about your day. Focusing on positives gives your brain a natural serotonin boost.
Connect with others. We’re meant to be part of a tribe, so our brains reward us with serotonin when we connect with others. That might be a bit more difficult this year but go for that walk with a friend, spend time with those in your bubble and call/ skype others
Take one small step towards your goal – taking action produces serotonin. You’ve already taken one step by cutting back on your drinking- what else can you do to look after your mental health?
If you do need help with this, I recommend www.drinkaware.co.uk and also www.oneyearnobeer.com and of course if you want to find out how hypnotherapy can help, get in touch for a free consultation on 07973913718 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stress is a term that gets thrown round a lot, but do we actually know what it means? The dictionary defines it as ‘a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.’
Is stress all bad? Not at all. Short-term stress (think the stress you feel before a job interview or presentation) gives you a burst of adrenalin that improves your performance. Stress can:
Boost your brainpower
Improve your immunity
Make you more resilient
Motivate you to succeed
That’s why some of us work better with a deadline! It’s the same principle used with exercise. I remember doing a Jillian Michaels workout where she said, ‘we need to put some stress on the body to make it change’. With weight training, you’re literally putting stress on the muscle to make it adapt and change.
The problem comes when we’re under long-term, or chronic stress. Chronic stress can increase blood pressure, lower the immune and lead to mental and physical ill-health. This is due, in part, by the stress chemicals released in our bodies, but also by our coping mechanisms, which often involve stimulants like alcohol and sugary foods!
A 2018 study found that 74% of adults had felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt unable to cope. 32% said they’d experienced suicidal feelings as a result of stress.
I wonder what 2020 figures will show. I spoke to many people early on in lockdown who were feeling less stressed because of the slower pace of life. Yet as time has gone on, more people are worried about the economy, their families and the effects of social isolation.
So if stress is having a negative affect on you, what can you do? It boils down to 2 things; eliminate it or manage it. We can often overlook the option of getting rid of the stress, because we think it’s outside of our control. But is it? If a relationship is causing you stress can it be fixed? If it’s a job, can you leave? Maybe not immediately but putting a plan in place to change stressful circumstances can be enough to help us cope with them.
If you really can’t eliminate your stress (pandemic anyone?) then you can at least learn how to manage it better, reducing the harm it does.
Here are my top 5 tips for managing stress:
Limit exposure to what’s causing you the stress
So if it’s the pandemic, switch off from the news; if it’s your job, turn the phone off after work, if it’s a relative, see less of them
Build restful activity into your routine
Do whatever helps you to switch off. For some it might be meditation or mindfulness. If that’s a bit too ‘still’ for you it might be running or painting. Basically, any activity that you enjoy and where you lose track of time will do. Your brain needs rest time to process your stress
When we’re stressed, especially with work, sleep is often the first thing to go. But when we sleep, we dream, and that’s where our brains process our stress. So make time for sleep and practice good sleep hygiene. You wouldn’t let your child run around playing round then expect them to fall straight to sleep. It’s the same for you. You need time to unwind and relax first.
Build in mini-stress relievers throughout the day
If you’re stressed you might be too busy to work out or meditate for half an hour. But every little helps. So try practicing deep breathing for 5 minutes, dance round the kitchen while you’re cooking tea, play your favourite music in the car or cuddle your dog. Basically, build in short periods of time to do whatever relieves your stress.
Nurture your body
It’s all too easy to drink more wine and coffee and live on takeaways when we’re feeling stress. But they will always make it worse! Things like alcohol and coffee really affect your mood and disrupt your sleep. If you can drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet, you will cope with your stress much better. Blueberries, almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds all help you reduce the cortisol (stress hormone) in your system.
If you need help managing your stress levels, get in touch to find out hypnotherapy can help email@example.com
Picture the scene. You’re in an important meeting, about to begin your presentation. A lot is riding on this and your boss is counting on you to do a good job. You’re exhausted after another sleepless night, but you’ve got this. Until you open your mouth to speak and your mind goes completely blank. You turn to your boss, hoping he can help you out, but you realise you’ve forgotten his name. Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, you feel a hot flush creeping up your neck and in seconds you’re drenched in sweat. Welcome to the menopause years. And notice I say years – symptoms can begin up to 10 years before the actual menopause.
Menopause affects half the population – yet until very recently it was something that never got talked about, unless it was the punchline to a joke. How many times have you seen someone comment ‘Oh she’s having a senior moment’, and look embarrassed? Or dismiss someone as ‘being hormonal?’ Not talking about it causes so many problems. We’re not prepared for one; I certainly didn’t know what to expect! That lack of awareness affects others too, meaning we might not get the support we need. And in a work setting it might mean that our confidence and performance are affected, all because people are too embarrassed to talk about something that affects half the population.
So here are some things I wish I knew before it happened to me:
Symptoms can appear up to 10 years before the menopause itself – so don’t assume you’re too young to have symptoms in your 40’s
There are many symptoms besides hot flushes. The ones I wasn’t expecting were reoccurring bladder infections, brain fog and rising anxiety, not to mention flashes of rage!
There are many things you can do to help yourself. Obviously, HRT is an option but there are also more holistic approaches. I’d also recommend seeing a good nutritionist. Supplements recommended by my nutritionist really helped regulate my mood swings – which I likened to PMT on steroids!
Most symptoms are caused by lowering oestrogen levels but can be worsened by the pressures that many women have in their mid-life, such as looking after children and parents while advancing in their careers. The HSE reports that mid-life women are the most stressed of any group.
Two thirds of women working through the menopause say they currently have no support at all from their employers. 25% of women say they have considered leaving their job and 1 in 10 actually end up handing in their notice.
If you’re a mid-life woman, why should you have to give up everything you’ve worked for, just because you’ve going through a natural life event that affects 50% of the population?
And if you’re a company, why would you want to lose valuable talent for the same reason?
So, what can be done?
If you’re affected by menopausal symptoms
Educate yourself, make sure you know what to expect and what you can do to manage the symptoms
Speak to someone at work. It would be great if it could be your boss, but if not maybe someone from HR or other women. It’s always nice to get some support and realise you’re not alone, and the more we all speak out about it the more normalised it will be.
If you feel your symptoms are affecting your performance, come up with some solutions to discuss with your employer. For example, if you struggle with insomnia, could you alter your start time? If your memory is shocking, carry a notebook everywhere with you so you can write everything down.
Remind yourself of all your achievements and strengths to counterbalance the reduced confidence you may feel. You have so much to offer.
If you’re an employer
Educate yourself, and your managers. In the last company I worked in, I brought an expert in to talk to HR and managers about how they can support women through the menopause. She then led workshops for staff. It was great to see an interest from men too, wanting to understand what their partners were going through.
A Menopause Policy will show employees that you’re supportive. If not a separate policy, make it part of a Health and Wellbeing Policy.
Talk to women about what they need to support them at work. It will be much cheaper and more productive than losing top talent!
If you need help with anxiety, contact me to book a free consultation.
The Office of National Statistics has reported that half of us thought the pandemic would be over in 6 months. I know I was one of them! So, to hear the government talk of further measures for the next six months felt like a bit of a body blow! Unsurprisingly, the challenges we’re all facing this year are impacting our mental health. An International Study has revealed that one in two people in the UK have felt down, depressed or hopeless about the future due to covid-19. With months of uncertainty still to come, it’s never been more important to know how to look after our mental health.
The first step is understanding how our brains work. We’re hardwired to dislike change and uncertainty. How do we know we’ll be safe if we’ve not experienced it before? Our brains view change and uncertainty as a threat, and when we feel under threat, we protect ourselves in one of the following ways:
We get anxious – allowing us to run away from the threat
We get depressed – allowing us to hide from the threat
We get angry – allowing us to fight back against the threat
Those reactions are great if you’re in immediate physical danger (think being chased down the high street by a polar bear) but not so helpful when the threat is sustained, and you need to learn to live with it.
Many clients who come to see me feel that there’s something wrong with them for not coping, or worry that they’re weak, but the truth is the brain is doing what it’s supposed to, keeping them safe.
To cope with a long-term threat, we need to learn how to reduce that fight or flight stress response, so that we can take back control and come up with solutions.
Give yourself time and space to process
We’ve all lost something this year, whether it be a loved one, a job, security or just the loss of the life we thought we would be living. Its important to acknowledge that and to allow yourself to feel the emotions attached to that loss. Too often we try and avoid our feelings by making ourselves busy or deadening them by drinking or eating more for example. But if we don’t allow ourselves to experience those feelings, they tend to force their way out later, or affect us physically. So, set aside some time, talk to someone or write your feelings down in a journal. Get it all out. The key here is to put a time limit on it, then plan something nice to do afterwards, and move forwards. Our brains process worries when we sleep, so make sure you’re scheduling in enough time to sleep and also relax.
When we focus on our worries and fears, our brains feel that sense of threat more keenly and we’re more likely to feel anxious, depressed or angry. When we focus on what we’re grateful for, we feel more in control and happier. Make a daily habit of writing down what you’re grateful for and see how many things you can come up with. It can be big things, such as having a roof over your head, or small things, like a hot chocolate on a cold day.
Connect with others
Humans are meant to be part of a tribe, we’re better when we’re around other people. With many of us working from home, and social contact limited it’s more important than ever that we stay connected. Try and meet regularly with those that you can see and keep in touch with those you can’t online. Start conversations at the supermarket, head out to the cafe – anything to interact with others!
Apart from the obvious physical benefits, exercise has a huge impact on mood. If you can do it outside, even better. 20 minutes in nature are enough to boost your mood. Most of us are moving less than ever before so plan in frequent walks, run up and down the stairs, dance around the kitchen, anything to keep you moving.
Be kind to yourself and others
Showing compassion actually strengthens our immune system – how great is that! So, do something nice for someone else, even if it’s just listening to them or making them a cup of tea. And instead of getting mad at those who are stockpiling toilet rolls or kicking off in the supermarket, recognise that they’re feeling under threat and just aren’t handling it very well. Most of us don’t show our best sides when we’re facing change and uncertainty! That compassion extends to yourself too. Be kind to yourself – practice self-care and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not on top form.
Have a purpose
Studies have shown that we’re happier when we have a sense of purpose, so plan some goals for yourself over the next 6 months. We might feel like we can’t plan much at the moment, but you could focus on home improvements; learn a language for when you can travel again, set a fitness goal or take time out to reflect on what you really want from life.
If you need support with your mental health, contact me on 07973914718, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
When you look back at your childhood, are your memories peppered with food? I remember raiding my nans fridge for a ‘choosie’ as she called it; I remember Friday night chippies and Saturday morning fry ups; food being associated with happy family times and love.
The first time I remember overeating was at High School, when I’d bin my sandwiches and tuck into a bag of maltesers for lunch (sorry Mum). At aged 17, I started my first diet, and like most diets do when you stick to them, it worked. I headed off to University with my top tucked into my jeans feeling a million dollars! So why oh why did I gain 2 stone in the first 10 weeks of term and change to baggy sweaters and leggings? Why did I devour a half-frozen cheesecake until I felt sick??
It took me many years to realise that I’d gained weight as a defence mechanism. I could hide away in my room and promise myself that I’d socialise and join in more when I’d lost weight, rather than having to do it then, when I felt terrified. And so, the pattern started. I’d gain weight in times of stress – to avoid having to face the situation, then go on a diet to lose it, only to gain it all the next time I was struggling.
It was only when I was training to be a hypnotherapist that I fully understood the link between our emotions and our eating habits, why we crave unhealthy food and why those patterns can feel so hard to change. Using that knowledge, I was able to lose 2 stones and keep it off and help my clients to lose weight too.
Here are some of the things I learned:
When we’re stressed, our brains rely on previous patterns of behaviour, and if we used to comfort eat then that’s the pattern we go back to. Reducing/ managing stress is key.
Our brains were formed in caveman days, so we’d be rewarded with a chemical high when we hunted and ate food, as food keeps us alive. For most of us, food is readily available these days, but we still get that chemical high and craving it can lead us to overeat. There are other ways of getting the same chemical high.
The way we talk to ourselves is key. Our brains believe what we tell ourselves. If we tell ourselves we’re a pig for example, then stuffing our faces with food matches that label. Whereas if we tell ourselves we are carrying excess weight at the moment, then that leads to healthier behaviours.
Reaching for that donut or glass of wine when stressed is just a habit, and there are easy hacks to help you change habits. No behaviour is fixed.
Denial doesn’t work. Telling yourself you’re not allowed chocolate only makes you want it more. Changing your language to ‘I’m choosing not to eat chocolate right now’ is much more likely to work.
Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Emily Dawes, Physical fitness and Mindset Coach at www.movewithenergymovewithmindset.co.uk We have worked together on a package that brings together the 3 pieces of the Weight Loss puzzle – mindset, food and movement.
Our Complete Weight Loss Solution gives you:
Three, 90-minute online masterclasses, looking mindset, food, nutrition and movement
A comprehensive workbook full of exercises, tools and strategies, and diary pages
A hypnosis download, which will improve sleep and help keep you on track
An exercise video showing you 4, 5-minute exercises that you can do in an ad break
Membership of a private Facebook group, where you can get support from each other, and us
The next course starts on 10 September 2020 and is available for only £149, with an early bird offer of £129 if booked by 20 August 2020.
I don’t know about you, but at the start of lockdown ( a period I optimistically thought would last 6 weeks) I made lists of things I couldn’t wait to get back to when it was over. I planned to spend 6 weeks tidying my house, organising my life, and working out; before heading back out to the restaurants and theatres looking and feeling amazing! Not quite worked out like that though has it!
At the time of writing this, we’re 12 weeks on from the start of lockdown and life is by no means back to normal. Restrictions are easing, the shops are reopening today, and I finally have a provisional appointment for a haircut next month; but normal is still a long way off. While some people have been queuing outside Primark since 6am, many have no intention of rushing back to the shops or just, getting back out there. For many, the thought of going back to work, being around other people or even just leaving the house is filling them with anxiety. In fact, data from the Office of National Statistics suggests that 64% of people are still too afraid to leave their house. Why is that?
Our brains are not designed to embrace change. They’re designed to keep us safe, and this means doing things we’ve done before. You’ve heard of the expression of ‘going out of your comfort zone’? Doing something new is uncomfortable because we don’t know how it will turn out, and our brains find that scary.
Have you taken a moment to think about all that’s changed this year? I just watched a sketch Michael McIntyre did that sums it up really well. Imagine a year ago a fortune teller told you that in 2020 you would be wearing masks and gloves to shop, home schooling your kids while on furlough, missing your holiday and not able to hug your mum. You’d never have believed it! When we’re faced with that amount of change, our brains can feel under threat as we start to feel overwhelmed. And when we are under threat, there are 3 things that we can do to stay safe.
Run away (anxiety)
Hide and wait to the threat to go away (depression)
Fight back (anger)
So, it’s no wonder that so many of us want to stay inside, where we feel safe and protected. The problem with that though is our world gets smaller. The less we interact with the world the less we want to, and we can lose confidence. That may be the confidence to go back to work, to drive the car again, or meet up with friends and have fun; all the things that enrich our lives.
What can we do? Here are some suggestions to get you back out there
Focus on the positives.
Our brains don’t know the difference between imagination and reality. So, if you focus on all your fears and concerns, your brain will think they’ve actually happened, giving you more reason to retreat. Instead, focus on the things you’re grateful for. Write a list every day and you will soon feel calmer and more in control.
Take small steps
If the thought of going to a big shopping centre is overwhelming, break it down. Go to a small local shop instead, or drive to the shopping centre but stay in the car. Just pushing against that comfort zone a little each day will make it seem manageable.
Bottle that feeling of achievement
After taking even a tiny step, focus on that feeling of achievement and bask in it. The feeling of success will encourage you to do more and widen your horizons bit by bit.
And a positive thought to end on. We build resilience when we go through challenges. So, we’ll all be much more resilient after the coronavirus than we were before!!
If you need help with anxiety, anger or depression; contact me for a free consultation on:
Most of us are doing more online than we ever imagined; from shopping to visiting museums to family quizzes. We’ve all had to learn new skills and get used to being seen on video! But how about hypnotherapy, can that work online?
The answer is yes, it absolutely works online. In fact, it even has some benefits over face to face sessions.
It saves time. An appointment is an hour long, but once you add travel time, you can usually write 2 hours off. Popping on zoom at a time to suit you takes less time out of your day
You don’t have to worry about parking, or finding your way to a new place.
The treatment is so relaxing that most of my clients wish they could stay longer and have a nap afterwards. If you’re already on your own bed you can!
Many online clients have the same questions and concerns, so let me see if I can answer them here.
I’m not very good with technology
Neither am I! I use Zoom which is really easy to use, you don’t need to set up an account or download any software. I send you an email with a link; you click on the link and we can both see and talk to each other. If that’s not possible then I’ve also done sessions on WhatsApp video and even over the phone.
Is it private?
Completely. We use zoom and protect privacy with a password encrypted invite. It’s just you and me on the call, and it’s my responsibility to make sure the conversation is not overheard.
What happens if my kids, dogs etc. come in during the hypnosis – will it stop it working?
Absolutely not. While I do ask you to go somewhere quiet where you can relax and turn your phone off, interruptions happen! Hypnosis is just a deep relaxation, somewhere between being awake and asleep. If you’re interrupted, you’ll very quickly go back into a relaxed state. It’s a bit like when you hit snooze on your alarm in the morning. You quickly fall back asleep and the more often you hit snooze the deeper you can fall back asleep! In fact, I’ve had some sessions where kids and dogs have joined the relaxation session and they’ve all drifted off!
Is it safe?
Hypnosis is really just a deep relaxation. You are always fully in control. So if, for instance, your smoke alarm went off during the session you would hear it and react to it. I will always make sure you’re fully awake before I end the session and will take your phone number just in case we lose the internet connection.
What happens during the session?
We spend the first 30 minutes talking and the next 30 minutes is the hypnosis. You’ll be asked to lie down or sit and make yourself comfortable and close your eyes while I talk you through the guided relaxation. If you like you can play your own relaxation music, or I can send you a track to put on in the background. At the end I’ll ask you to open your eyes and we end the session. You can then get up and go about your day or relax a bit longer, maybe even have a nap. Most clients find they have a great night’s sleep after the session.
Shouldn’t I just wait until I can have a face to face session?
The current epidemic is affecting us all in different ways. Many people are struggling to sleep and are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Hypnotherapy can help you take back control and improve your health and wellbeing. In the same way that if you felt a tickle in your throat you might take some vitamin C to prevent a cold, you can take steps to prevent mental ill-health. If you need help and support, it is available so please reach out.
Many people are now feeling like they want to get on with their lives. So if that involves reducing anxiety, conquering a fear or refocusing on goals, then hypnotherapy can help.
Find me on Facebook (Step Ahead Hypnotherapy) where I share daily tips on improving wellbeing and managing stress in uncertain times.
As a Hypnotherapist I talk a lot about neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change with learning. No matter what age we are, we can literally re-wire our brains and even cause them to grow. I don’t know about you, but I find this really exciting!
For instance, did you know:
London taxi drivers have larger than average memory centres in their brains? They’ve grown their brains by learning all the routes around London!
A study into Nuns and Dementia found those who continued to learn throughout their lives (such as by studying languages or music) were less likely to experience dementia than those who didn’t? It’s suggested this is because they’re continually re-wiring their brains so if one part stops working another can take over.
People who have had a stroke can re-learn to move and talk by creating new neural pathways.
I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’ve had a bit more free time in lockdown so I’ve been taking the opportunity to do more learning. The first thing that I learnt was that I can actually bake. After years spent telling myself I can’t, I’ve now discovered I make great banana bread, cookies and flapjack. There’s a lesson in there about being careful what we tell ourselves! As much as I loved the baking, my waistline didn’t so I moved onto technology! Anyone who knows me will know I’m always saying how rubbish I am at technology (another self-fulfilling prophecy?) yet this week I’ve been on a linked in course and learnt how to add subtitles to a video I’ve recorded. Go me!
Not only is this challenging a pre-conceived idea I had about myself but it’s also making me feel pretty good! Every time I learn something new, I get a great feeling of accomplishment and I’m literally growing my brain. How amazing is that? And I’m not the only one. Lockdown has forced many of us to get better at technology, I’m currently trying to teach my parents how to use zoom!
As a hypnotherapist I use this knowledge of how the brain works to help people make positive changes in their lives. After all, if you can re-wire your brain to learn all the roads around London it stands to reason that you can re-wire it to stop smoking, get over a fear of flying or reduce chronic pain. The mind is a wonderful thing!
So, my challenge to you this week is to focus on that thing you tell everybody you’re rubbish at and learn something about it. Then amaze everyone with your new-found knowledge and skills!
If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a few great resources I’ve come across:
Struggling to sleep since we went into lockdown? You’re not alone. Most of the people I’m speaking to right now and having trouble sleeping, and the issues fall into 3 categories:
Having vivid dreams or nightmares
Sleeping too much and still feeling exhausted
Waking up in the early hours and not being able to get back to sleep
In this blog I’m going to explain why that is and also what you can do about it.
Why is the Coronavirus affecting Sleep?
So the way this works is that you go through your day, with your typical ups and downs, then you get a decent nights sleep where you process it all and wake up refreshed and ready to go again. Except right now, our days have a lot more ups and downs to process! We’re going through a time of great change and with that comes worry, stress and uncertainty. Our brains aren’t set up to like change – if we’re going through something we’ve not experienced before our brain has no way of knowing if we’re going to be safe. This means that when we do go to sleep, our brains have much more processing to do than normal. Here’s how it creates those problems mentioned earlier:
There are 3 stages of sleep: deep sleep, light sleep and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep. If you were to see someone in REM sleep, you might see their eyelids flicker or their body jerk slightly and this is because REM sleep is when we dream. I often watch my dog do this, her paws twitch like she’s dreaming about running after a ball! In this part of our sleep, we’re processing all the events of the day, all the stresses and strains and making sense of them. Did you ever go to bed feeling really upset or angry with someone and in the morning wake up and realise it wasn’t such a big deal? That’s because you processed it in your sleep and made sense of it, so you woke up feeling differently about it.
Vivid dreams or nightmares – if we’re worried and scared then this plays out in our dreams, making them more frightening
Sleeping more but feeling exhausted – processing all our worries is hard work for our brains, the more worried we are the more exhausted we feel
Waking up in the early hours – most of REM sleep happens after midnight (you can see this for yourself if you have a sleep tracker). When we have a lot of worry and stress to process, our brain can snap us awake to protect itself, letting you lie there and work through your worries while awake.
So, you see, sleep problems are perfectly normal right now! That said, they’re not helpful because the less good quality sleep we get, the less time we have to process our worries and the more stressed we feel! So, what can we do about it?
My 5 point plan for better sleep
Practice good sleep hygiene
Just like children need a good bed-time routine, so do we! We need to give our brains time to unwind before bed so a couple of hours before bed turn your phone off, dim the lights and either read or watch something relaxing. Or have a warm bath. Think bedtime stories are just for kids? Check out sleep stories on the calm app – great at helping you nod off
To help your brain with all that processing, try getting your thoughts onto paper. Writing down all your thoughts, feelings and worries can help you make sense of them. There’s no right and wrong way, just grab a pen and paper and start writing. Do this at least an hour before bed so you’re not thinking about it as you try and drop off
Coffee drunk after lunchtime can still be in your system at bedtime, so noon is a good cut off for caffeine. And watch the alcohol – many of us are drinking more right now to take the edge off but it will wake you up during the night. Alcohol is a depressant, it actually stops you producing serotonin, that happy chemical in the brain that keeps you feeling positive
Limit news and social media
Bombarding ourselves with news all day will only add to the feeling of overwhelm, giving us so much more to process. Try to limit the news to once or twice a day, and definitely avoid all media in the evening. Give your brain a chance to switch off
Give yourself extra processing time
You can help your brain out by giving it extra time to process. Whenever you can switch off during the day, you’re giving your brain an REM- type boost. Any activity that focuses you on the present will do, such as mindfulness, meditation, or self-hypnosis. Again, the calm app is great for this, as is headspace. There are also lots of meditations on YouTube. If you can do this for 10 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day, you will see the quality of your sleep improve.
Step 5 will make the biggest difference to your sleep. To help you with this, I’m offering my relaxation download free through my website. Click on this link to access it:
The password is stepaheadhypnotherapy2018.
This 20-minute relaxation track can help you sleep better if listened to once a day. Listen anytime (except while driving or in the bath). If you listen to it before bed it will help you nod off and if you do wake up in the early hours, listening to it again will help you fall back asleep.
There’s been plenty of advice on how to minimise the risk of infection during the coronavirus outbreak (if you haven’t seen the video of Gloria Gaynor washing her hands while singing ‘I will survive’ check it out, it’s genius!) The truth is, however, that the coronavirus also poses a threat to our mental health. Social isolation is not what we’re built for! With that in mind, I wanted to share some thoughts on how you can look after your wellbeing.
1. Take back some control Our brains are hardwired to dislike uncertainty – so a situation like this, which seems completely outside of our control, can lead to rising anxiety. Finding out what is in our control and being proactive will reduce this. Examples of things we can do are: · Check the small print of travel insurance if you’ve booked a trip abroad · Sort a nice workspace out if you’re working from home · Have childcare plans in place in case the schools shut · Follow hygiene protocols
2. Prioritise sleep When we sleep, we dream, and this is when we process our thoughts and worries from the day. If we don’t get enough good quality sleep, our worries can build up and overwhelm us. Here’s how to get a good nights sleep: · Create a bedtime routine – you need to wind down before bed. Have a warm bath, dim the lights, turn off screens and watch or read something relaxing (not the news!) · Write down your worries before you get in to bed – make a conscious decision to leave them on the notepad until morning · Quieten your mind with meditation or relaxation exercises. Try headspace or the calm app
3. Get some exercise Exercise is great for physical and mental wellbeing. So not only will it help you fight off infection, it will also help you release endorphins and stay in a positive frame of mind. It doesn’t matter what it is, the focus should be on enjoyment and movement. So, dance round the living room or get outside in nature if that’s what floats your boat. 20 minutes outside at lunchtime if you’re not self-isolating can really give you a boost.
4. Talk to someone Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok to feel that way. And sometimes being able to get things off your chest can help. Reach out to someone. We’re all in this together.
5. Focus on the positives It’s easy at times like this to focus on all the bad things that are happening, especially when we’re glued to the news! But when we do this our brains think that we’re under threat, and this can result in anxiety or depression. Instead, try and focus on all the things you’re grateful for. Every night I say thanks for all my blessings, my family, home, health etc. And even in times like these, we can always see good around us. In this last week I’ve seen more conversations between strangers in supermarkets than I ever have before. And did you see that video of people in Naples on their balconies singing and playing instruments together? Magical.
6. Keep perspective This is a difficult time, but we will get through it. Great scenes from China this week of Doctors taking off their masks and makeshift hospitals being dismantled. That will be us soon!
7. Limit your exposure to the news and social media I get it, I’m as addicted as the next person, but it’s so bad for mental health, because it stops us keeping perspective. By all means keep up with the news and latest health advice, but maybe limit yourself to looking twice a day. There is a life to be lived outside the coronavirus.
8. Keep up social interaction Humans are designed to be part of a tribe. We’re better together. So, while social interaction might need to be limited to stop the spread of infection, it’s not good for mental health! Make sure you get on skype or the phone and keep in touch with people. Forget texting, go back to old fashioned conversations. This can actually be a time of deepening your connections with others. I’m making plans to have an online wine Friday with friends! Let’s get creative and share our ideas with others.
9. Keep your routine as normal as possible I said earlier that our brains don’t like uncertainty. They like routine. Keep as much of your routine the same as possible; get up at the same time, get dressed for work, finish at your normal time and do your normal activities as much as you can.
10. Do something nice for someone else We feel good when we do something for others. There will be plenty of opportunity for this at the moment, whether it’s looking out for relatives or elderly neighbours who need someone to go to the shop for them. Share your toilet roll! If we really do hit rock bottom you can always wash your bum!
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 email@example.com 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?