‘’I don’t need therapy …

There is nothing wrong with me’’

For some people, just the mention of the word therapy scares people. For some, getting any sort of help for mental health problems is seen as weak, as being unable to cope and failing at life. Only those not strong enough to deal with their problems need to resort to therapy.

The number one reason people don’t get help is because they are scared, They are scared of their illness, and of what it would take to change it. Many feel, perhaps unconsciously, that if they ignore it then it will just go away. They may also feel that they are in some way to blame for their problems and they will be judged. Perhaps they don’t understand their problem or have feelings of hopelessness; that there is nothing anyone can do.

But of course it doesn’t ‘just go away’. At best the person is able to carrry on in the status quo, just about holding it together and just about functioning in life. At worst their mental health problems become overwhelming and they are no longer able to cope.

Change can be a frightening thing, even when it is change for good. Someone who is struggling with their mental health isn’t always strong enough to see that they don’t have to be alone, that they are not unusual in what they are going through. Perhaps the idea of reaching out just seems overwhelming.

So often we don’t understand why we think the way we do. We don’t spend much time exploring our thoughts or beliefs, so do not understand why we do the things we do. We bravely carry on, surviving another day.

However, therapy is the opportunity to let go of thoughts and beliefs that are unhelpful or destructive. Instead of bravely soldering on, appearing on the surface to manage, they can find real and lasting relief from their distress and have a better, happier life.

 

How we develop irrational fears and phobias

Sometimes you can work out why you are afraid of something. perhaps you are scared of driving because you were in a car accident, or were bitten by a dog when you were a child and have been scared ever since. Other times it just isn’t that clear; there maybe a combination of factors that ignited the fear.

What is clear is that we are not born with phobias, they are something that we learn. Learning a few fears is a useful survival tool, after all small children are adventurous and sometimes reckless, not understanding the consequences of their actions. Learning to be fearful of a busy road or cliff edge can keep them from harm.

However, it is when we associate a situation, person or object with fear or anxiety that we learn to be afraid of it. We can do this through direct experience such as being bitten by a dog. It is no suprise that this can lead to being afraid. However, often we become fearful by seeing other people behave anxiously or afraid in a situation.

Take the small child who sees their mother scream and run away when she sees a spider. The child doesn’t need to understand what the threat is to become scared themselves. Mum screaming is enough to make them anxious, add the spider in there, and the next time the child sees a spider they will be scared themselves. They have learned the fear by pairing the spider with anxiety.

We don’t need to directly experience the threat ourselves. There was a sharp increase in the number of people reporting a fear of sharks in the mid 1970s. People who lived a long way from the sea became anxious that they would be attacked by a shark. The chances are that they had never seen a shark so why such an outbreak of galeophobia? In one word ‘Jaws’. The film played on our ability to learn to be afraid by seeing other people’s experiences.  The characters in the film were terrified, and rightly so, but those watching it had little if any chance of being attacked, it just felt like they would. They had learned to be afraid by associating sharks with the anxiety they felt during the film.

Sometimes it is information that fuels a fear. Plane crashes are rare but make the headlines when they do happen. All that terrrible loss leads to headlines around the world and can bring on a fear of flying.

The good news is, as you learn phobias, you can also unlearn them. Hypnotherapy can help change and re-wire the brain, breaking the connection between the situation or object. It can help you change the way you think and physically react in fearful situations, and rebuild your confidence in your ability to cope.

 

 

Are you anxious about learning to drive? Try these technique, they really help

Many people feel anxious when they first start to learn to drive. Driving is a complex set of actions; we have to be able to watch the road, whilst moving our feet and hands at the same time while thinking about where we are going and what everyone else on the road is doing. It can feel overwhelming at first, until our actions become automatic, and trust me, they will. What we have to think about at first soon happens at an unconscious level, and it becomes easier and easier to concentrate on the road ahead. Your driving instructor will help you to gain the skills you need to do this.

However if your anxiety is too high you may struggle to take on board what you need to learn. Here are some helpful tips to reducing anxiety, lowering your fear and leaving you in a calm frame of mind to take on board what your instructor is telling you.

Practice calm breathing

It is a biological fact that you can not be anxious and calm at the same time. Anxiety causes an increase in our heart rate, breathing and the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. By slowing down your breathing you can reverse this effect, and take control of your physical response to stress. A few simple breathing exercises can be highly effective.

Sit quietly for a few minutes, either before you get into the car, or when you are behind the wheel, but before you switch the engine on. Close your eyes if that feels right for you and focus on your breathing. Take a long slow breath in, and as you release it, say the word ‘calm’ to yourself in your head. Repeat as you focus only on your breath, and the sound of the word. Let any other thoughts just flow through your mind as you feel yourself becoming calm. Keep practicing this until you are ready to begin driving.

Use visualisations

Seeing what we want to happen can help us to achieve our goals. After all, part of anxiety is visualising a negative outcome for our actions and when anxiety becomes too strong, these images feel like they are real. The best part of this is that we can use this tendency for good. Visualising a positive outcome can help you make it a reality. We are more likely to achieve our goals if we can see ourselves doing them. Think about what you want to achieve, perhaps somewhere you want to drive to when you pass your test, and really see yourself doing it. Take it step by step; getting in the car, starting the engine, pulling away and driving down the road. Imagine successfully navigating roads and roundabouts, traffic lights and zebra crossings. Think about what it would feel like to arrive at your destination, the sense of pride and satisfaction it would give you. Fill in lots of details; colours and sounds. Make it as rich as possible.

Progressive muscle relaxation

We carry a lot of tension in our muscles, often without realising it. PMR is very simple and effective way of releasing this tension. In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This can help you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You can become more aware of physical sensations. Start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat..

As you drive, talk each step out loud

This one you can do whilst you are actually driving. Talk each step out loud, from turning on the ignition to checking the mirrors, putting the car in gear, releasing the handbrake and pulling away. As you say each step out loud you will clarify it in your mind, help you to see that you know what you need to do in each situation. It may seem strange at first, but it will feel reassuring as you see that you have more skills than you first thought, and that you know more about driving than perhaps you realised. Don’t worry about your driving instructor, they will be ok with it.

Hypnobirthing – good enough for royalty

“Hypnosis may ease Kate’s birth pains” Times Newspaper January 14th 2018

With headlines like that it’s no surprise that Hypnobirthing has become more popular in the last few years. Midwives on the private Lindo Ward of St Mary’s Hospital in London where Kate and William have had their last two babies, are being trained in Hypnobirthing.

Breathing exercises, visualisations and relaxations have been around for years, and they are helpful. However, Hypnobirthing goes further in the way it works on fear. Every woman, however much she is looking forward to giving birth, will have seen a TV programme or film which showed a less than positive birth experience. This may be buried deep in her subconscious, but it is there. Just think about those ‘One born every minute’ episodes full of high drama and anxiety. No wonder our expectations are that giving birth is something to be fearful of.

Hypnobirthing courses work on eradicating this fear. It’s techniques help you feel calm instead of frightened about labour. When you feel calm, your body produces the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterine muscles work more effectively and efficiently. Oxytocin triggers the production of endorphins, which are often referred to as nature’s pain relief, so your body is perfectly designed to give birth efficiently and comfortably. The perfect system is already in place. All you have to do is get your fear and anxiety out of the way and let this natural system work in the way it was created to. Giving birth can be the most wonderful and empowering experience of your life.

Michelle, speaking on R4’s Woman’s hour had this to say about her experience:

“I felt pretty in control really, I felt more relaxed and was in a really good mental state which allowed me to zone out and focus on what was important. Obviously opening up and birthing my baby as quickly and calmly as possible. … the time went so quickly because I was in the zone and I was in control.”

” I would say the first part of labour before I was bearing down and pushing the baby out was not really too painful. It was quite manageable, I had a bit of gas and air and my husband played a huge part in it and he was counting me through surges and really helping me stay focused and calm. That first part was not too painful at all. The second part when she was actually making her way down was more amazing really as I felt like this is what I am designed to do. It was painful at times but it was at the back of my mind.”

Added to this most courses also include a full antenatal course; something that is sadly lacking as NHS cutbacks have forced midwifery services to drop this service. Hypnobirthing courses will give you all you need to know to make informed choices around your birth.

Hypnobirthing helps women rewrite their birth stories, removing fear and anxiety and helping them have a calm and comfortable birth. After all, if it is good enough for Royals …

How Hypnotherapy can help the symptoms of IBS

Anyone who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is well aware of the impact symptoms such as abdominal pain, distension and altered bowel habit can have on the quality of their life. Add in additional symptoms such as backache, nausea, and lethargy and many people can feel that it is IBS that controls their lives. IBS is becoming more common. It now makes up to half of the cases seen by NHS gastroenterologist in the UK, and that only accounts for those who seek medical help.

There is a wide selection of medical interventions available to IBS sufferers, but not everyone responds well to them. They can have limited efficacy, or unpleasant side effects associated with them such as constipation, dry mouth or blurred vision. For many this is simply swapping one set of symptoms for another.

Hypnotherapy as a treatment of the symptoms of IBS has been shown to be highly effective. with the majority of patients showing improvement in symptoms, associated extra-colonic features and quality of life, findings which have been confirmed by independent studies. Dr Whorwell of Withington Hospital in Manchester has carried out extensive research into how well hypnotherapy works, finding that it improved symptoms in 70% of cases, with women finding it worked more, at 80%. Not only did it improve the colonic symptoms associated with IBS, but also non-colonic. Clients reported improvement in anxiety and depression levels, plus experience no side effects with hypnotherapy, unlike many of the medical treatments available to them.

Dr Whorrell does not see hypnotherapy as a ‘stand alone’ treatment and feels strongly that it should be part of an integrated care package. This should involve education, diet, lifestyle advice and medication. The more a client understands about their condition, how their gut works and what lifestyle factors affect their IBS, the more control they will have. Added to this, medication can be a useful tool to aid this; a laxative can be used if constipated or perhaps Imodium if they have diarrhoea.

What happens when you have hypnotherapy for your IBS?

The first session is a ‘getting to know you’ session, including a tutorial on IBS giving information on some of the abnormalities of gastrointestinal function that contribute to symptoms, such as hypersensitivity and excessive contraction of the gut muscles. You will be asked about your symptoms, what techniques you have used in the past that have and have not been successful..

At the end of the first session you will be given a MP3 to listen to between sessions. The purpose is to help you to learn to relax, build your confidence in the process and to reinforce the work carried out during sessions. Hypnosis starts at the second session. You will be hypnotised, usually by getting you to progressively relax your muscles in conjunction with calming your mind. We will explore useful visualisations and metaphors for your symptoms, such as viewing bloating as a balloon inflated inside your tummy. These can be used during hypnosis to control symptoms, because the brain can activate the necessary symptoms to bring about change without actually having to know how to make it happen.

For instance, you may be asked to imagine your gut as a river, the flow of which you are able to control by speeding it up or slowing it down depending on what type of bowel habit you have. In addition, you are asked to put your hand on your tummy and feel a pleasant warming feeling that can reach every part of your gut and give you control over it. You are told that in the future every time you put you hand on their tummy you will feel this warmth, which will enable you to get rid of any pain. Eventually you will be able to soothe your pain in day-to-day life by just putting your hand on their tummy, without having to go into a trance.

At each session of treatment the process is repeated and built upon according to the your response. Each session takes approximately one hour and the process is repeated at weekly intervals, if possible, and is usually complete after 6 sessions, though some clients may need more. Hypnotherapy for IBS is not a backward-looking form of treatment; we are only interested in moving forward.

The misconception of due dates

It is so exciting to start planning for the arrival of your new baby. One of the first things expectant parents do is calculate their due date. The midwife will calculate this for you based on your last menstural period (LMP).

Understandably this becomes a significant date for everyone, shared with friends and family, maternity leave organised around it and both parents have an expectation that baby will arrive on or near this date as if it is a fixed date. However, one person that doesn’t know much about this calculation is the baby, who usually has different plans.

In reality, only 5% of babies arrive on their due date, with 85% coming after. So where do due dates come from? It is much older than you might think. Aristotle, born 384BC in Ancient Greece, worked out that pregnancy lasted 10 months and saw this as a celestial sign, an astrologically significant amount of time related to lunar months. As 10 lunar months are 28 days, Aristotle determined that a pregnancy was 280 days long, or 40 weeks, and this became Naegele’s Rule and is used in the UK and USA extensively. It assumes that all menstrual cycles are 28 days long, so simply take this date, add 7 days and then take off 3 months and you have your baby’s due date.

In all of this there are a lot of assumptions; that a woman’s cycle is 28 days, that the LMP is known, that the pregnancy is exactly 280 days long. There are much better predictors available. The woman’s age, height and ethnicity can predict length of pregnancy. An ultrasound can look at the size of the baby, and the length of the cervix which are better predictors. However these are rarely used, as Naegele’s rule is so simple and quick to apply.

Length of pregnancy varies according to the country you live in. Whilst the UK uses 40 weeks, France uses 41 and Kenya 43. The World Health Organisation states that pregnancy lasts between 37-42 weeks. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists now recommends that babies born between 37 weeks and 38 weeks and six days should be considered “early term.” Babies born between 39 weeks and 40 weeks and six days are considered “full term.” And babies delivered between 41 weeks and 41 weeks and six days are considered “late term

However, many mothers still think that the estimated due date is the day that the baby should be born and can feel pressure from those around them, leaving them feeling stressed at a time when they most need to feel relaxed. However 40 weeks is still well within the WHO’s normal range for pregnancy and ‘late’ doesn’t begin until 42 weeks.

Risk of complications are often cited as the reason for concern. When a pregnancy extends beyond the end of week 42, the risk of complications do rise. But only slightly. Incidents of death during labour at 37-42 weeks are 0.213, rising to 0.131 at 42+ weeks. So long as a midwife or doctor and the expectant mother keeps an eye on the baby and the pregnancy, a longer pregnancy is generally not a problem. In fact, the majority of women who are considered post date go on to give birth to healthy babies.

How to choose a Hypnotherapist

If this is the first time you have thought about hypnotherapy you may be wondering how choose the best therapist for you. I have put together 5 tips to help you make that decision.

1 Check they are fully qualified by a recognised body. Unlike other professions, there isn’t a single overseeing organisation for hypnotherapy, but there are recognised qualifications that any hypnotherapist should have. One way to check that the therapist you have chosen is qualified is to look out for organisations such as APHP, NCH, CNCH. Alternatively you can look for them on the hypnotherapy directory which only accepts qualified therapists on their site.

2 Gather lots of information about any hypnotherapist you are interested in. Look up their website, see what specialist areas they cover, where do they see clients, what sort of promises do they make. No therapist should guarantee to ‘cure’ you and you should be wary of any that do. Most hypnotherapists offer to treat a wide range of issues, whilst others will focus on being experts on a few.

3 Look at their prices. Some hypnotherapists will charge a lot of money and others much less. Cheap doesn’t always mean you are getting less, and expensive doesn’t mean you will get more for your money. Some therapists charge different amounts depending on where they offer appointments as they may have higher overheads. Think of an amount you are willing to pay and look for a therapist in this price bracket. If you can’t find one to suit, you may have to adjust your pricing. Look out for packages for certain problems, such as IBS or weigh loss.

4 Ask around for a personal recommendation. The best way to find out more about hypnotherapy is to ask someone who has experienced it. They will be able to tell you what it is really like and how it worked for them. They will also be able to recommend someone to you. If you don’t know anyone who has had this therapy before, then arrange to talk to a number of therapists to get a feel for them. See below.

5 Take up the offer of a free consultation. This is sometimes face to face but it is getting more common that this is a telephone consultation. All hypnotherapists should be willing to spend some time talking to you and making sure hypnotherapy is the right option for you. It also gives you a chance to see if you like the therapist and want to work with them.
Follow these tips and you will find the right person for you to help you make the changes you want.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

 

 

I often ask this of my clients. It can be quite a telling moment for them. They can strip away all fear and begin to realise what they would really like to happen in their lives.

Recently I had to ask myself this question. I’m scared of heights. I really really don’t like them. I have avoided going on the London Eye, to the viewing platform on the Shard and even climbing ladders leaves me stressed. So when a close friend offered me a ticket to go on a hot air balloon ride my first reaction was no, you must be kidding me.

Then I stopped and thought about it. What if I wasn’t scared? Would I turn down this amazing opportunity? Of course I wouldn’t. I knew lots of people who would jump at the chance, not giving it a second thought. I decided to pretend I wasn’t afraid, just for a moment. I picked up the phone and called my friend and said yes, I’d love to come.

I didn’t have time to get too worried to begin with, it was booked for the next afternoon, and I had a lot to keep me busy that day. I put it to the back of my mind. When I got in the car to drive down to the launch site I stated to wonder what on earth I was doing. I decided to think only about the car journey, then about booking in, helping with the ballooon, getting into the balloon and listening to the safety talk. I just didn’t look at the big picture just each little step it took to get to the flight.

 

The balloon going up

All of a sudden we were floating up in the air, the ground drifting further and further away. My heart was pounding and my palms sweating. I had a moments regret, at around 3,000 feet when I looked down and saw how high we were. But we only stayed that high for a minute or two, and soon we were drifting peacefully over the fields and Oast houses of Kent. It was incredible, so beautiful and truly the experience of a lifetime.

 

Beautiful heart shaped field

A sense of calm came over me. I didn’t feel afraid. I was able to enjoy the magic of the moment, as we drifted calmly and quietly through the sky. Even the landing was ok, a bit bumpy but all part of the experience.

 

Celebrating with a glass of bubbles

 

 

3,000 feet, I’m sitting down!

 

Lots of people have asked if I would do it again. I think I would, now that I know I can get past the fear and really enjoy it.

So, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

 

4 ways you can start to think like a thin person

 

 

How many times have you been promised an easy, simple and effortless way to lose weight? All you have to do is count points, drop carbs or go paleo and like magic all your weight loss problems will be resolve. Just sign up here to this programme, pay so much per week and everything will be fine. Trust me.

So how come you are still overweight? Because this doesn’t work. Diets, whether they are based on calorie counting, pointing or syns rely on restricting your diet in some way, and having the willpower to maintain that for a long time. This works for a while, but then it becomes hard to hold at bay those habits and beliefs that we have had for so long, that sabotage our best efforts. Diets are an external change, they do nothing to tackle our deep rooted beliefs, patterns and behaviours that inform our food choices and eating habits. After a week or maybe a few months we slip back into our old ways, and put back the weight we lost.

Add in to this what happens to our bodies when we restrict calories. Our bodies see dieting as a stressor, and produces high levels of stress hormones; cortisol and adrenaline. This causes our body to slow down the rate of calorie burn, intentionally slowing down our weight loss to maintain energy reserves.

Not to mention that diets are boring, tedious and just not fun. There is a long list of ‘no-go’ foods that are ‘bad’ and a not so long list of so called ‘good’ foods. This leads to a sense of tension around food, a feeling of being hard done by. When certain foods are forbidden, their value increases and we desire them more. We end up feeling deprived, craving these foods and then suffering guilt when we give in and eat them. All this does is create even more stress, making it more likely that we will not lose weight, and will revert back into our previous bad habits to relieve the tension. We blame ourselves, when really it is the diet that has failed us.

Challenging your own beliefs and behaviours around foods can be a liberating experience. Not only could you start to lose weight effortlessly as you learn to recognize when you are hungry and when you are full, but you will also begin to enjoy eating food that tastes great and makes you feel good. Diet clubs seek to teach you this by educating you around what to eat. What is missing is tackling the underlying beliefs that influence your eating behaviours.

The way forward is to start to think and eat like a ‘naturally’ slim person. ‘Naturally slim’ people stop eating when they are full enough, know that hunger is not an emergency. They are creatures of habit; eating similar foods and exercising regularly, and mostly make healthy choices most of the time. They do not restrict their diets, do not skip meals or over exercise and they do not have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days.

Here are four simple changes that you can do to start thinking and eating like a slim person.

  • Learn to leave food on your plate. Eat slowly and without distractions such as the TV, and put your knife and fork down regularly during the meal. Take a moment to think about how full you are getting. When you get to comfortably full, take your plate away, even if there is food left on it. As time goes by, start to think about how much food you actually need on your plate, and adjust your portion sizes accordingly.

 

  • Don’t be afraid of hunger. You do not have to eat just in case you might be hungry later. Hunger is not a state of emergency, it is merely a biological state and as long as you have no underlying medical condition, you can feel hunger, real belly rumbling hunger, with no side effects. What’s more, food tastes so much better when you are hungry as you are more aware of what you are eating. You can last until the next meal; after all you don’t wake up in the night to eat.

 

  • Stop feeling guilty or ashamed about food. Slim people are not perfect, they make mistakes. However, they then move on. So they ate a slice cake this morning when perhaps an apple would have been a better choice. They trust themselves to make a better choice next time. They don’t think in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ days, they simply eat, making mostly healthy choices and listen to what their body needs.

 

  • Drop the endless rules around what, where and when you can eat. No carbs unless you have exercised, don’t eat after 7pm, eat six meals a day or fast twice a week. To a slim person these seem bizarre. They think about what feels good; so maybe a little chocolate is good, but more makes them feel sluggish. The day is easier if they have breakfast. They function better in the afternoons if lunch isn’t too heavy. These aren’t rules, they are just the ways they have learned to feel good around food.

Change can be daunting, so why not try to make one small change at a time. Begin with something you know you can achieve and then watch your confidence grow.

8 phobias for the 21st Century

A phobia can be any situation or thing that can cause so much anxiety it interferes with your quality of life. We all know someone with a fear of spiders or heights, but let’s take a cheeky look at some of the phobias your grandmother wouldn’t understand, but you definitely would.

Antefamaphobia

You know that moment when you walk into a room and everyone stops talking? Logic tells you that it’s just a break in the conversation, but who listens to logic when you can listen to your fear;  that everyone is talking about you.

Carbophobia

It’s the fault of that evil bread, and pasta, and noodles, potatoes, be afraid, be very afraid.

Cyberphobia

To some a computer is a great way to waste time watching cat videos and ordering shoes online. To others it’s a strange confusing device designed to make life so much harder.

Politicophobia

A snap general election, need I say more!

Macrophobia

A fear of long waits.

Agmenophobia

A little like macrophobia, only a bit more specific. A fear that the queue you join will be slower than the other one. Then you have to wait longer while they get served first. Of course, it’s a very British problem.

Rhytiphobia

A fear of wrinkles – with an uncanny relationship to the increase in the popularity of Botox.

Omphalophobia

We’ve all got one, but some people are afraid of belly buttons. Let’s hope boob tubes don’t make a comeback.

And the ultimate 21st Century fear – nomophobia. A fear of life without your mobile phone. What’s irrational about that? Though maybe if I had editovultaphobia I might get more work done!