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The importance of self-care

woman in yoga pose on rock above lake

Self-care: you can’t pour from an empty cup

I gave a talk at a local business networking group a couple of weeks ago, and the conversation turned to self-care. Everyone there was running a small businesses – all women, many bringing up children at the same time. Some commented that the brief guided visualisation I conducted as part of the session was the first time they had relaxed in months. Not unusually, some of them felt guilty when they took time out for themselves. I replied that if they didn’t care for themselves, would they be giving the best service possible to their clients?

Unfortunately we live in a culture that fetishises hard work, with predictable consequences. Burn-out is endemic, people spend less time with their loved ones, and everyone suffers. It’s not selfish to take time each day to nurture yourself. By that I mean things like taking time to cook a nutritious meal instead of grabbing a take-away. Or spending quality time with people – preferably with phones off! Maybe taking a walk in nature. Or meditating: there are plenty of guided visualisations on Youtube if you’re not sure where to start. Basically anything that gets you to slow down, breathe, and reconnect with the world around you. Do you ever notice how much calmer you feel around someone who is calm themselves? Well, you can be that person! And you can try for yourself right now, if you like – check out this download and see how refreshed you feel after fifteen minutes.

Self-care: you don’t have to go it alone

If you need some support and encouragement along the way, there are many therapists – including myself of course – ready to help. Therapy centres often run open days so why not try some different therapies and see what feels best for you? Many therapists, again including myself, offer free consultations, so you can decide whether they offer what you need (my contact details if you’d like to get in touch).

Some people find the potential cost off-putting. Consider it an investment rather than an expense. Besides, a session with someone providing meaningful support costs about the same as a night in the pub. And a good therapist doesn’t just help you work through the issues holding you back. They will also teach you skills and strategies to take away and use to better the rest of your life. Who can put a price on that?

All about mental health

woman alone on bus with distorted reflections in windows

I’ve been focusing strongly on mental health so far this year, including starting a NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Awareness of Mental Health Problems. I also attended a couple of good events that I’d like to discuss.

Before I do, it’s such a positive sign that these discussions are even taking place. People are increasingly open about their mental health struggles. I’m no fan of celebrity culture, but I applauded Mariah Carey’s bravery in revealing her bipolar disorder recently. This – and similar revelations by those in the public eye – will give courage to many who have struggled with the same symptoms but not known what to do. Or not even realised that there was a name for them. For far too long the media has ridiculed sufferers, and ignorant attitudes have prevailed. All too often sufferers are told ‘pull yourself together’, ‘man up’ or ‘move on’. None of which helps those struggling to manage their symptoms, which often result from factors outside their control in the first place.

Mental health in the workplace

It was with interest that I ventured to the recent Minds@Work event – in their own words, ‘a community of like-minded professionals coming together to break the stigma of depression and anxiety in the working world.’ Handily they have put all the talks up on their website, including stories from two gentlemen whose mental health had impacted upon their careers – and how they had overcome this adversity. There was also an excellent demonstration of best practice from insurance firm Legal & General. They not only employ sixty Mental Health First Aiders, but have a great campaign underway called ‘Not A Red Card Offence’, engaging famous sportspeople to help shift the stigma (the power of celebrity again). Impressive!

It’s encouraging to see the business world starting to grasp the nettle. In fact, I’m increasingly seeing executives seeking treatment. People start to buckle under the strain of a culture where being a workaholic is seen as a positive attribute. In reality, it inevitably strains relationships with their families and other loved ones – especially if they resort to coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol, or gambling.

Mental health in the music industry

The next event was close to my heart: a Mental Health Workshop run by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA). As a professional musician myself, I have seen firsthand the impacts of a lifestyle that’s often over-romanticised. Long days composing, rehearsing, or touring, with longer nights performing, take their toll on health and relationships. The near impossibility of earning any reasonable income from one’s talents doesn’t help. (Did you know a band/artist earns only 0.001p from each play on Spotify, for example?) So this event was intended to provide a taster of skills based on neuroscience and cognitive behavioural psychology to empower musicians as they progress against such unfavourable odds, courtesy of Music for Mental Wealth. It was good to see some of the techniques I use with my own clients gaining wider traction. And I’m optimistic that these sorts of conversations are becoming more common.

Find the help you need

So if you or anyone close to you is feeling the strain of a mental health issue, remember you’re not alone. You can get help from a number of local sources and support groups. Ask your GP for advice in the first instance too. Although medication works for some people, it doesn’t really represent a long-term solution. A qualified therapist can help you get to the root of the issue and teach you coping mechanisms as appropriate. This may entail making some lifestyle and work-life balance changes. But as the old adage says, no-one on their deathbed wishes they’d spent more time at work. If you need to take action on this front immediately, I recommend this download.

Hypnotherapy or coaching might be right for you regarding these (or any other) issues. I am a qualified life coach and hypnotherapist, experienced in coaching clients to help them make the changes they want in their lives (see my success stories). And I can help you move forward too. I offer a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation, so call me on 07947 475721 to see what I can do for you. And if you work for an employer who runs staff well-being events, I also undertake corporate sessions – feel free to put me in touch with your HR department.

In the meantime, thanks for reading; and let’s do our best to support anyone we know – or suspect – who may be struggling with their mental health.

I’m interviewed on Radio Sydenham!

I did a live radio interview about hypnotherapy on Radio Sydenham today. This is great little community radio station operating from the depths of Sydenham Library. I did some myth-busting about hypnotherapy, and talked about the process and the benefits. You can hear the interview in full here (I’m on at the start of the show, for about 15 minutes).

Time for life changes? Make them a success!

fireworks

Raise the subject of new year’s resolutions in January, and you’re likely to get some mixed reactions – from guilty admissions of falling off the wagon, or finding the prospect too daunting to even try. So how can we tackle making life changes that stick, new year or not? Fortunately, there are some ways we can make getting off the starting blocks easier.

One step at a time

First of all, there’s the bite-size approach, where the elements of a goal are broken down into manageable chunks. Let’s take the example of writing a book. Once you’ve defined the subject or storyline, how will you fill those empty pages? A sensible approach would be to break it down into chapters. Maybe then you might outline each chapter structure. Perhaps then you’d work out how many words a day you can realistically get down. Of course you need to take your other commitments into account. And you might have to sacrifice something else to make time – watch less TV perhaps – to reach your goal. But if your aim is realistic to begin with, once you’ve made a start, you’re well on your way to making the life changes you want!

Which leads me onto the next crucial element: turning something into a habit. Research shows that we are far more likely to succeed at something once we incorporate it into our daily routine. Basically this sidesteps our brain’s tendency to question it. Even if you can only make a little time each day, the important thing is to do it regularly. ‘Little and often’ make the process easier, and helps it become part of the natural rhythm of your life.

Work smarter

And to enhance that natural process, we can use a little extra cleverness. If you’re a morning person, it makes sense to work with your early bird tendencies. So set the alarm half an hour earlier, rather than try and incorporate your new habit later in the day when you may be more tired. And if you really want to give yourself an extra push, take advantage of moments in the day when you can visualise yourself going through elements of your task – and succeeding. Your brain will respond accordingly!

Finally, the best bit: reward yourself. Track your progress, set yourself achievable milestones along the way, and be sure to celebrate once they’re achieved – perhaps with friends or family who are supporting you. For many, sharing their achievements is a magic ingredient of motivation. But if you’re flying solo, give yourself an extra reward for your strength and determination. Above all, cut yourself some slack and don’t give up if you hit a setback. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep your eyes on the prize. And if you need a little motivation boost, I recommend this download.

A qualified hypnotherapist or life coach can help you achieve your desired life changes if you need a little extra support on your journey. I offer a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation, if you’d like to find out more. Or check my success stories to read about clients who I’ve helped to make changes in their lives. Good luck!

(Published on The Hypnotherapy Directory, 3 January 2018)

Managing stress with hypnotherapy

peaceful woman in nature

Managing stress is arguably one of the greatest challenges facing us as a society in modern times. How can hypnotherapy help with the increasing levels of stress we all face?

It’s important first of all to put in perspective. Stress can be good as a motivating factor. It can help us overcome challenges, keeping us on our toes and ensuring that we meet our responsibilities. After all, it serves an evolutionary purpose – the fight/flight mechanism helped our ancestors survive when encountering predators. However, the human brain hasn’t evolved nearly as fast as our way of living, so the same response is triggered by a traffic jam as by a sabre-toothed tiger! And we need to learn ways of managing this.

Techniques for managing stress

Breathing techniques are the most immediate tools to learn in managing stress. These allow us to activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system – the body’s natural calming down mechanism. And we can also practise self-hypnosis. This is important for several reasons. Firstly, it makes us make time to relax. And the more the mind and body practice relaxation, the better they get at it. Our neural networks work in much the same way as our physical bodies do in automatically taking the most familiar route. So make it a good one! You can try out self-hypnosis right now with these stress relieving downloads.

In managing stress, it’s also important to identify any fundamental human needs that may be being neglected. The obvious but often-overlooked ones are sleep, nutrition, exercise, socialising and play (yes, play!) As stress tends to come from different directions it’s not always easy to identify a single cause, but this process can still help people take a step back and look at their life in a fresh perspective.

Hypnotherapy can also help people return to the source of their stress, as it often originates from an early age. Trying to meet the expectations of parents and other significant people in a person’s childhood is a common cause – and these stress responses have magnified in later life with an increase in responsibilities. Identifying patterns formed in childhood can, however, improve abilities in managing stress in the here and now.

Hypnotherapy is deeply relaxing in itself – some people say afterwards it is the most relaxed they have ever felt in their lives (see my success stories). I offer a free 15 minute phone consultation (07947 475721), and although I am based in London, UK I can work remotely wherever in the world you may be. So please do get in touch if things feel overwhelming for you – I can help.

(First published on Hypnotherapy Directory, 20 October 2017)

Stopping smoking – for good!

Stoptober runs each October, encouraging participants to quit smoking. The concept comes from evidence showing that after stopping smoking for 28 days, smokers are up to five times more likely to quit permanently. With this mass event providing external support, now is the perfect time to explore how hypnotherapy can help.

Stopping smoking by forming new habits

A successful smoking cessation programme tackles the obvious elements such as overcoming cravings and adopting new healthier habits. And it deals with potentially more tricky areas such as managing stress, needing a break from work, or getting a little ‘me time’. For many, smoking forms part of their social identity, which may require some gentle disentangling.

Smoking is not a nicotine addiction; it is a habit. This is why nicotine patches and nicotine gum are successful in less than 10% of those who use them. Helping smokers to stop seeing themselves as slaves to addiction is the first step. Then they are more likely to come up with positive solutions to help themselves break the habit. This can be one of the most transformative moments in a hypnotherapy programme. The former smoker starts to feel their own empowerment, and begins to cut the conscious and unconscious ties to smoking.

Many smokers worry about gaining weight after stopping smoking, and it’s important to address such concerns. Replacement behaviours can be tested and reinforced during a hypnotherapy programme, reassuring the former smoker that they really have stopped for good.

How can hypnotherapy help?

Smokers are rarely short of reasons why they want to give up. A good hypnotherapist will reinforce these motivations whilst giving them the support and practical tools they need to beat the habit. The cost of a smoking cessation programme is small in proportion to the outlay on cigarettes, so those looking to quit now really have nothing to lose – and everything to gain. For those who want to start right away and are happy with a generic programme, I recommend this.

I am a qualified life coach and hypnotherapist, experienced in helping clients make the changes they want in their lives (see my success stories). And I can help you move forward too, whether in stopping smoking or other life changes. I offer a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation, so call me on 07947 475721 to see what I can do for you.

Originally published in Hypnotherapy Directory 

Beating exam stress

girl writing exam paper

It’s coming up to that time of year when teenagers across the country are feeling the heat… and I’m not talking about the eventual arrival of British summer. With endless revision, exam stress, and ‘A* or bust’ expectations, it’s a testing time in every way.

Staying in good mental and physical shape

While there’s a temptation to cram for exams, it has been proved that a ‘spacing’ strategy is considerably more effective for revision. A bite-sized approach works best with the brain’s natural learning capacities. And this has the added benefit of allowing other vital needs to be incorporated into a programme of study, helping reduce exam stress overall.

When students feel they have to study 24/7, regular meals, exercise, and sleep can fall by the wayside. And even more so if they are especially anxious. As students are used to leading timetabled lives, it can help to design home-based study and relaxation timetables together. It will help them remember these basic needs, and to stay mentally balanced and physically healthy throughout this time. This approach also provides a sense of control as the pressure rises and exam time approaches.

How can hypnotherapy help with exam stress?

Anxiety is complex, however. Students may still feel a sudden sense of overwhelm, resulting in ‘brain fade’ – or simply blind panic. This is where hypnotherapy can be incredibly beneficial – and you can try it right now with this download.

Students can learn self-calming techniques to use, and other practical means of coping with anxiety. They can also learn to visualise a calm and confident persona entering and leaving the exam room, which can help them face their fears. Many young people respond well to techniques that use their imaginations. Picturing themselves in new ways starts the process of overcoming limiting beliefs, and feeling more positive about their abilities. Important steps on the road to success in life, with or without A* grades!

I am a qualified hypnotherapist, experienced in helping clients – including young people – deal with anxiety and stress (see my success stories). I offer a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation, so call me on 07947 475721 to see how I can help.

Article first appeared on the Hypnotherapy Directory  May 2017