Living with uncertainty

At the time of writing, Covid-19 has been with us for the best part of a year. As the likelihood of living under restrictions for the foreseeable future disrupts our abilities to make plans as normal, how can we learn to live with uncertainty – especially at a time when Brexit and climate change are adding to it?

Why is uncertainty stressful?

Uncertainty occurs when our sense of familiar shifts, and things are in a state of flux – where no one knows what will happen next, or what a new normal might look like once the dust settles. The human body is hardwired to react to uncertainty in the same way as our brains are designed to assess potential dangers. Therefore uncertainty and unpredictability result in our nervous systems being on high alert; ready to react through fight, flight, or freeze.

Worrying is also a consequence of our desire to be in control – whether in terms of our environment, or the outcome of a situation. But the more we attempt to control everything around us, the more stressed we feel – which can eventually become a vicious circle.

Therefore the first and most vital step towards becoming more accepting of uncertainty – and better at dealing with it – is to understand that almost nothing is certain. Maintaining a sense of perspective is also vital – viruses and diseases have been with us since the dawn of time; and humans have adapted to living along a spectrum of medical, physical, and mental health risks. Some cultures spend lifetimes in challenging environments with little or no access to clean water, food, or sanitation – but still learn how to adapt, survive, and thrive. Such changes in perspective can result in a shift from despair to hope.

Learning how to live with uncertainty brings many benefits. Making the most of whatever resources we have – and mastering challenges – can increase confidence, build resilience, and develop skills which all contribute to us creating a more fulfilling life.

What can we do about it?

Actions that can help you become more comfortable with uncertainty include:

    • Practising kindness, compassion and empathy towards yourself and others.
    • Staying hydrated —many people don’t drink enough water, and even mild dehydration exacerbates anxiety.
    • Noticing your breathing, and make your breathing slower and deeper. Stress and uncertainty tends to make breathing faster and more shallow, which becomes a vicious circle as the brain is starved of oxygen thus increasing anxiety.
    • Getting moving. Exercise flushes the body’s stress hormones; and even during winter, there are plenty of free routines and tutorials on YouTube for whatever level you feel comfortable with. This also applies to more mindful forms of exercise such as yoga.
    • Reminding yourself of your core values – the personal principles by which you live.
    • Doing at least one thing that aligns with these core values, something you can genuinely feel positive about.
    • Remembering to be grateful for whatever you do have. Imagine what life would be like without the people or things in your life you perhaps take for granted, in order to realise how fortunate you are.
    • If you can, being of service and doing something meaningful for those less fortunate. Reminding ourselves how we can add value to the lives of others, no matter how small, reinforces our own sense of meaning and purpose.
    • Taking action to become part of a solution. This can take many forms – from educating yourself (and maybe others), to becoming involved with groups campaigning for the changes you wish to see. Giving yourself a sense of control and purpose in this way not only gives you the opportunity to engage with something you’re passionate about – potentially with other like-minded people – but diminishes the helplessness which often contributes to anxiety. Be the change you seek!

How will this help?

When you learn to live with uncertainty, you’ll have more time and energy to devote to the things you do have control over – and this can be key to reaching your highest potential. Remembering that ‘this too shall pass’ can also motivate us to become more appreciative, charitable, and selfless. And because crises disrupt the familiar and comfortable, these shifting sands also offer rare opportunities for growth and change. Such possibilities might not have existed before, at least not in our conscious awareness – but the situation can impair our ability to realise and potentially make the most of such opportunities. However, post-traumatic growth can become a reality if we are able to find meaning and learn lessons in the aftermath of stressful circumstances – and may be the best way we can contemplate the future for ourselves once the pandemic is over.

If you need support throughout this process, I am a qualified hypnotherapist and coach who can support and empower you through this process of change (see my success stories). I offer online sessions wherever in the world you may be, so please feel welcome to call me on 07947 475721 for a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation – and soon you will be able to take new coping skills into whatever the future holds.

Hypnotherapy, coaching, and covid-19

 

In accordance with current guidelines, I am currently seeing all hypnotherapy and coaching clients online until it is safe to do otherwise, whenever that may be. In this post I talk about both what that means in practice for your experience as a client; and also how hypnotherapy and/or coaching can help you now during such uncertainty.

How can hypnotherapy and/or coaching help?

Online therapy has been found to be effective for depression/mood disorders, anxiety disorders, stress, PTSD, phobias, relationship issues, adjustment issues, and grief. These are among the issues that many are contending with right now, as the implications become apparent for our loved ones and ourselves in every sphere of our lives. Additionally, people may find themselves struggling only after current restrictions have been lifted. Many will have used coping mechanisms such as cigarettes, alcohol, comfort eating, or addiction to rolling news and social media – strategies which may have seemed to help in the short-term, but have become habitual and problematic. 

It’s not all necessarily bad, however. The rare opportunity to step back and truly assess our lives may bring insight, and with it the possibility of making changes. Whether a new career direction, the realisation that now is the time to fulfil a lifelong ambition, or simply being able to spend more time with loved ones; covid-19 will cause many to reassess their priorities in life. 

Hypnotherapy and/or coaching can help with all these issues. Managing anxiety, coping with uncertainty, and focusing on self-care are vital basic skills at this time, and easily taught online. I have been conducting hypnotherapy and coaching online ever since starting as a therapist, and many prefer the convenience. I also resolve such issues for clients regularly (see my success stories), so you can feel reassured that though this may be new for you, you’re in safe and experienced hands.

So what next?

Online therapy or coaching requires nothing more than an internet connection, and a place where you won’t be disturbed. I’ll send you documents in advance before we conduct sessions via video link, so we can interact much as we would do face to face. I also offer a free 15 minute phone consultation, so you can ask me any questions not covered elsewhere on the site.

And if you need something more immediate, I recommend Hypnosis Downloads for a large range of excellent low-cost hypnosis recordings.

Covid-19 may have disrupted many areas of our lives for the time being, but it doesn’t have to impact on your well-being.

Stay safe,
Caroline

Depression in young people

depression in young people

teenager with sad face mask

School holidays can be a testing time for families. Parents try to find new ways to keep children and teens occupied, while young people themselves may be missing school friends. They may try to assert their own independence. Or they may simply be bored, no matter what activities are available. But what if problems are a symptom of something more concerning?

Many people wonder if depression in young people is real. In the case of teens, adults may attribute symptoms of depression to normal teen emotional swings. But experts and paediatricians point out that children and teens really can get depressed, and may be afflicted with the true illness of depression.

What causes depression in young people? 

As in adults, depression in young people may have multiple causes, or one cause that varies among individuals. There are some factors that are unique to certain stages of life, however.

Children

Children, like adults, may become depressed because of genetics. They may have inherited a tendency toward depression, and perhaps there was a trigger that caused it to surface.

Children may become depressed due to parents’ relationship difficulties, as they are uniquely affected by their immediate family’s dynamic.

Bullying at school is also something children may have to face that is not a factor for adults. The same goes for cyber-bullying, which can have devastating consequences. Low self-esteem can also develop through comparing themselves to peers on social media.

A child with a tendency toward perfectionism may be more prone to depression as well. Children with this tendency may ‘beat themselves up’ unnecessarily over failures or perceived failures.

Teens

This age group is considered particularly prone to depression, possibly due in part to the hormonal upheavals of the teenage years. But be careful. It’s easy for adults to take this information and think ‘it’s just hormones’ and therefore think the depression does not need to be addressed. Experts agree that depression, regardless of its cause, is something that should be addressed and treated.

Teens may also be dealing with the bullying/self-esteem issues mentioned above, or even just ‘harmless’ teasing. They may be experiencing their first crush; or rejection from the opposite sex, or indeed same sex. And realising one’s sexuality and then facing the prospect of coming out is an additional and potentially enormous minefield for those affected. (This download might help in this instance.)

Other causes may be purely physiological. Maybe nothing is particularly wrong in the teen’s life, but his or her brain just seems to run in a depressed mode.

What are the signs?

Here are some warning signs of depression in young people.

Children

Parents should be vigilant for any talk about suicide or morbid fascination with death. Other sources point out that television and films should be carefully monitored. Parents should be wary both of potentially depressing subject matter, and of the psychological effects of TV viewing in general (studies show that children who watch six or more hours of TV a day are more prone to depression).

  • Sleep disturbances or changes in sleep habits
  • Sudden increase or decrease in appetite
  • Angry outbursts and/or irritability
  • Lack of interest in social activities or friends
  • ‘Touchy’ about perceived rejection
Teens

Some of the signs of depression in teens are like those in children; some are different. As with children, parents of teens should be keenly aware of any indications of suicidal thoughts. Music, films, and television are also sources of potentially depressing images and subject matter – although it’s important to emphasise that an attraction to these may be a symptom rather than a cause. Also, many teens attracted to ‘alternative’ subcultures can find solace and support there. Non-mainstream interests can be a positive indication of independent thinking and inner confidence.

Other signs may include:

  • Weight loss or gain
  • Over-exercise
  • Binge eating and/or obsessive dieting
  • Angry outbursts/yelling at parents
  • Withdrawal from social activities and family
How can hypnotherapy help?

If your child shows some of these signs over a period of time, consider whether they would be open to seeing someone who could help them. Hypnotherapy can be an extremely effective way of working with depression in young people on a number of levels. In particular, it’s significant that in hypnotherapy they don’t have to talk about their issues if they don’t want to, or feel able to. But, like adults, they appreciate the deeply calming relaxation involved in hypnotherapy. And this can help them gain perspective and develop control over their issues, and then work towards clarity and understanding. If they want to give it a quick try, this download might be a good starting point.

I am a qualified hypnotherapist, experienced in working with depression (see my success stories). I’ve completed the acclaimed Uncommon Knowledge course ‘How To Lift Depression Fast’. And I have good experience in with working with young people, including treating depression. I am based in Canterbury, Kent and Peckham, London SE15; and also undertake online sessions, wherever in the world you may be. I offer a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation, so please do get in touch on 07947 475721 if depression affects you or your child – I can help.

The importance of self-care

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. I am based in Canterbury, Kent and Peckham, London SE15; and also offer online sessions, wherever in the world you may be. Please feel welcome to call me on 07947 475721 for a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation to see how I can help.

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

mental health issues

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 am based in Canterbury, Kent and Peckham, London SE15; and also offer online sessions, wherever in the world you may be. Please feel welcome to call me on 07947 475721 for a free no-obligation 15 minute phone consultation to see how I can help. 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.

Interview 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).