Striking a digital balance

Striking a digital balance

In a bid to improve his quality of life regarding mental health and happiness the creator of the X-Factor, Simon Cowell has revealed that he has not used his mobile phone for almost a year.

He told the Mail on Sunday newspaper that his phone-abstinence had absolutely made him happier.

His comments tie in with a recent survey by Deloitte of just over four thousand British adults. The research found that 30% thought they were using their smartphones too much. The percentage rose higher to more than 50 per cent when targeting 16-24-year-olds.

There are opposing views on whether accessing social media and the use of smartphones is detrimental to one’s mental health or not. I was recently interviewed by mental health blogger Fiona Thomas for the Metro.co.uk online newspaper exploring the positive effects of modern communications for those feeling isolated or depressed. In the feature ‘Stop telling me to go on a digital detox; social media is actually helping my mental health’ I recounted how some of my clients had felt supported by their experience of social media and it had helped them make progress in their real off-line life too.

You can read the feature here  

Clearly, though the uncontrolled use of electronics of themselves is having an impact on our lifestyles and over-use for some people may be detrimental especially where sleep is concerned.

Poor sleep patterns can have an impact on general health, including an increased risk of many preventable medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The immune system is also compromised in its ability to fight infection, while insomnia is a common precursor of an increased risk of anxiety and depression.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) published a report in April 2016 noting that 10 million prescriptions for sleeping tablets are written by doctors in the UK each year. In their poll of 2000 adults, they reported their average sleep time is 6.8 hours compared with the 7.7 hours they felt they needed. This amounts to a sleep deficit of about one hour per night, which cumulatively amounts to losing the equivalent of an entire night’s sleep a week.

It is important to consider changing your habits around going to bed and improving your ability to sleep soundly throughout the night.  One way would be to keep the bedroom an electronics-free zone. If you usually keep your smartphone on your bedside table to use its alarm function, you can purchase a cheap alarm clock as an alternative.

Also, give yourself a buffer zone between being fully awake and bedtime. Ideally, turn off your computer, TV, pad and smartphone at least 30 minutes before retiring.

This is easy to achieve if you switch from watching television to reading a novel in the final hour before bed.

Taking a shower or bathing too before bedtime could be a good idea if that is something that would help you to unwind.

All of these things are routines that, once established, send messages from your brain that it is time to relax and sleep. They are akin to the sleep training you might have had from your parents as a baby. Somehow, all the good habits you may have learnt have got lost, but you can reclaim them. Psychologists estimate it takes twenty-one days to embed a new routine until it becomes a habit, so stick with this new behaviour for at least that length of time.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the highly influential Huffington Post online newspaper went from burn-out to being a convert to the importance of sleep.

In her recent book ‘The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time’ she explores the ways we can use sleep to help regain control of our out of kilter, sleep deprived lives. 

You can buy it here from Amazon UK 

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

The strain of self-imposed starvation

The strain of self-imposed starvation

Intermittent fasting (IF) was the shiny new kid on the block of the last couple of years.

It offered a novel way of limiting eating instead of the usual fad diets that quickly gain popularity only to fade into obscurity.

People in their droves bought the best-selling fasting diet books and tried the most popular 5:2 IF plan of fasting for two days out of seven or alternate days.

Other lengths of intermittent fasting such as skipping breakfast or skipping both breakfast and then lunch are known as 19:5 - signifying nineteen hours of fasting followed by a window of 5hrs to eat one daily meal. Nineteen hours can seem interminably long when your hungry and certainly puts the body under a great deal of pressure.

Sustained feelings of hunger cause the production of the stress hormone cortisol, a by-product of adrenalin as the body tries to cope with the uncomfortable feelings of self-imposed starvation.

The consensus was even though it could feel challenging to go for extended periods without food it was easier for some people than having to be conscious about the calorie content of every meal.

Fasting’s bubble was burst however by scientists at the recent European Society of Endocrinology’s annual meeting which reported fasting could have damaging side effects.

The research into IF was carried out by a team at Sao Paulo in Brazil. Ana Bonassa who lead the research said: “This is the first study to show that, despite weight loss, intermittent fasting diets may damage the pancreas and affect insulin function in healthy individuals which could lead to diabetes and severe health issues.

Previous research has also shown that short-term fasting can produce free radicals that can cause damage to the body’s cells and possibly increase the risk of cancer.

The team of researchers followed the effects of fasting every other day on normal adult rats over a three month period. It came as no surprise that the rats did lose weight but the amounts of fat tissue in their abdomen increased. Cells in their pancreas that release insulin it was reported was also damaged.

The conclusions from the study suggest further investigation using adult humans is needed to fully explore how people may be affected, particularly those who are pre-diabetic or diagnosed as diabetic.

If you do consider fasting as an aid to weight loss, it can be useful. However, it is advisable not to exceed 48 hrs.

It does mean that for that period of fasting your body wilt be denied many essential nutrients during your fast, and this might potentially cause physiological damage if you are trying to recover from an injury or illness. Remember that people observing religious fasting are allowed to be exempt from the arduous nature of fasting. In the case of women who are pregnant or for anyone who is infirm or living with a chronic disease such as diabetes when fasting could have serious health implications.

The jury is out for fasting on whether the effects on the metabolism are favourable or adverse effects on weight loss in the long term.

If you are on any course of medication, have heart problems, are pregnant or breastfeeding then you should not consider fasting until you back to full health.

If you have tried every diet from Atkins to the Zone and the Mediterranean and are an expert in knowing the calorie count of every foodstuff your challenge might be something else and not just food.

Emotional eaters struggle with yo-yo dieting that is not just about food and never about a lack of willpower. Maybe you have other reasons for your eating patterns.

If you’re ready to explore what they may be and to transform your relationship with food you can book an obligation free call with me via this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

Overweight and unwell?

Overweight and unwell?

 

Finding it hard to be well? 
One of the goals of a therapeutic approach to losing weight is to resolve and release the stress triggers which can lead to carrying excess weight, and with obesity often comes Type 2 diabetes or a diagnosis of pre-diabetes.

Rates of obesity are increasing year upon year, and so is the incidence of diabetes. There is an insightful quote in Jeff O’Connells’s book called ‘Sugar Nation’.

He wrote, “The truth is, by the time you have or even flirt with type 2 diabetes, there’s probably a lot more out of whack with your life than just blood sugar’.

In my work I find this to be very much the case, and my therapy approach includes reframing and changing the mindset to enable people to alter their habits, adopt healthier lifestyles and step up to create the life they want for themselves.

Living with a chronic disease
For my clients living with a chronic disease, it is common for them to feel utterly overwhelmed with the degree of medical intervention they are dealing with on a day to day basis. Complex drug regimes can leave you so overwhelmed in fact that you can feel as though you have little or no part to play in achieving the best life you can live.

Sound familiar?
Feeling powerless is counter-productive to optimising your health and well-being and can keep you stuck in self-limiting beliefs and negative thinking. Powerlessness does not leave you with access to your emotional resources or personal resilience to draw upon to help you do whatever you need to improve your health outcomes.

It can leave you feeling as if your whole life is one long duvet day with your head under the covers
.
Are you newly diagnosed?
When newly diagnosed with a chronic illness a person can experience feelings of grief similar to bereavement. The person mourns their previous sense of self and all its future possibilities.

They often struggle to accept what is happening to them and can stay in a period of denial for quite some time. This denial can coincide with poor drug compliance or a delay in starting treatment which can make the long-term prognosis worse.

Other emotions that present can be issues around not deserving to be well; colossal self-blame; self-directed anger; long-buried resentment at others; frustration; self-punishment, and fear.

What could your secondary gains be?
On top of feeling unwell. All of these emotions are exhausting and can wear you down. When not taking care of oneself there are also secondary gains to be considered however uncomfortable that idea may be. Secondary gains are ‘benefits’ from being in any given position or state. They do not have to be positive and still count as secondary gains if the impact of them is negative for the person experiencing them.

In therapy work, these can be safely explored so that they can be released. It is only then that self-forgiveness and the development of self-worth and ultimately self-love can become the dominant feelings. These are crucial steps on the journey of living as well as one can.

An illness can also provide a person with a voice or a narrative when they felt they were not heard in the past. Although having an illness can be a ‘successful’ strategy for gaining attention a person pays a high price for this to be their voice.

overweight and unwell

Finding it hard to be well?

Stumbling blocks to well-being is always worthwhile through hypnosis to explore what a medical condition might ‘say’ for the person suffering it.

A therapeutic goal would be to reframe those feelings or emotions so that the person felt able to have their emotional needs met in new and different and more empowering ways.

Scientific evidence recognises that type 2 diabetes, for instance, can respond more favourably to changes in lifestyle more than the current drug regimes. Stepping up and making changes that can positively impact on one’s health is a big ask for someone whose self-esteem is on the floor and who feels it’s their fault they are unwell in the first place.

The desire to thrive can be blocked for a myriad of reasons and therapy can clear away those blocks to achieve your best self.

You can begin to feel more peaceful and accept everything that has brought you to this place in your life, and from there you can have a profound and beneficial impact on your health. Not just diabetes but all illnesses are exacerbated, to a degree, by cortisol hormone, a by-product of adrenaline, which is triggered by stress.

So, what this post aims to share today is that whatever health concerns you have, and we all have some, therapy is a powerful way to start making changes in how you think and feel about yourself so that you can star in your own life.

Make contact If you are feeling overwhelmed by your health issues and not sure how to move forward to maximise your health potential, then you can book an obligation free discovery call with me to find out what may be blocking your journey towards health and well-being.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

Is IBS ruining your life?

Is IBS ruining your life?

If conventional treatments have failed you, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) agree that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and specifically chronic IBS when symptoms have persisted for more than a year, or have not responded to pharmacology.

NICE Recommend hypnotherapy for IBS
The NICE recommendation is a research-based acknowledgement from independent committees which report to the government’s body responsible for providing national guidance and advice to improve the UK’s health and social care.

NICE recognise that IBS as well being a physical illness with very distressing and disruptive symptoms, also has an emotional component.  Every person who suffers from IBS has a unique experience of how the illness affects them and the impact it has on their life.

Many people experience a flare-up in symptoms corresponding with an increase in stress or anxiety. Alternatively, specific stressful events can trigger IBS symptoms.IBS can also be unpredictable with little or no obvious or conspicuous causal links. Because of IBS’s unpredictability,

it can make it difficult to fully relax and enjoy periods of time when symptoms lessen or abate completely. There is often a preoccupation of fear and dread that the symptoms will suddenly return, creating an unremitting and self-perpetuating cycle of stress and anxiety so that even when living free of IBS it can still dominate and limit one’s life.

 

Hypnotherapy as a way forward for IBS treatment
A therapeutic approach to IBS works below conscious awareness direct with the sub-conscious mind to quickly improve and increase day to day levels of calmness. Long-term stress and anxiety can also be released with hypnotherapy.

This would enable the fear and stress triggers which would have previously resulted in an IBS flare-up to be resolved and released.

It is also possible to influence the Amygdala when working with hypnotherapy. As the emotional centre of the brain, it controls the primitive fight or flight response. The Amygdala can get ‘over-cranked’ by years of stress so that it gets ‘stuck’ in high alert. Under hypnosis, a person can take a guided journey into their mind’s control centre and dial down their fight or flight response to reset it at a calmer level.

This powerful technique can in effect reset the brain’s habitual responses to pain, emotion, stress and fear, all of which play a critical part in the severity of the IBS symptoms. Hypnotherapy is known as an effective method for releasing long-term stress that may have originated many years previously. Improvements in levels of relaxation and calmness can be achieved even when the memory of the originating specific events are forgotten and lost in time.

Clearing negative emotions attached to old memories or events enable a person to be no longer bothered or triggered by their past. Lowering stress levels generally is beneficial for everyone. In particular, the mind and body can benefit from the reduced production of Adrenalin, and it’s bi-product Cortisol. Both of these stress hormones can increase IBS symptoms so feeling calmer improves digestion; lowers blood pressure; improves sleep patterns and many other physical improvements.

The benefits of hypnotism increase as the client allow themselves to relax deeper and deeper. The hypnotic process can then effortlessly create profound changes in the belief system and how a person thinks and feels about themselves. To be most effective the guided visualisation techniques and the appropriate hypnotherapy approach is customised to each person’s specific needs. As well as improving a person’s ability to relax it may also be necessary to clear negative emotions attached to old memories or events so that they no longer bother them as they used to.

Part of a holistic treatment plan includes teaching clients powerful self-help tools to manage their stress levels in the future so that they can release day to day stress before it builds into chronic stress.

There are many relaxation audio recordings and meditation teaching resources available online designed to help you to reduce your overall stress levels. Taking steps yourself can also help you to feel pro-active in the face of an illness that can often feel beyond personal control or influence. Be kind to yourself if you struggle with IBS.

Try writing down your feelings in a notebook if you find it challenging to express your emotions or find it difficult to access your real feelings. At the very least it may offer you some useful insights into the thought processes that influence you, plus you may also discover some of your triggers to your IBS too.

If you want to find out how hypnotherapy can be customised to help with your unique IBS symptoms or other health challenges, then please book an obligation free discovery call via the link on this page.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

7 Ways to Overcome Fear of Giving Birth

7 Ways to Overcome Fear of Giving Birth

Liz Hogon and I have often worked with women to prepare them for giving birth by helping to release their fears using hypnosis and other powerful therapy tools.

We also have also occasionally worked with mothers who have come into therapy many years later who were still harbouring critical judgements about themselves and how they managed their birth experience as well as feelings of enduring trauma.

We've worked with some new fathers too who got caught up in a particularly stressful or distressing birth experience with their partner. Although rarely acknowledged, some men can be left feeling overwhelmed and powerless observers of nature as it's most raw.

It is most often beneficial in these cases for them to access therapy for what can be symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that if left untreated can lead to depression.

Although every woman faces this time with her unique perspective, and expectations in clinical practice we have observed several core issues common to many expectant mothers.

Here we have selected our seven top tips for you to consider in advance of your big day to help empower you to have the birth experience you want.

1. Think positive
Emile Coue was a famous French hypnotist who coined the phrase now known as Coue’s Law - ‘Whenever there is a contest between the conscious mind, and the imagination, the imagination will always win.’ Therefore the more you focus on a positive, life-affirming experience of giving birth the more likely this will be the outcome of your experience.

2. Speak up
Get clear about your birth preferences including who you want to be present at the birth. Women can often feel obliged to rely on just having their partner present when in fact they would value the support of a trusted friend or relative as well. Voice your preferences well in advance.

3. Be open and flexible
Women are often encouraged to compose a detailed birth plan which can lead to carved in stone type of expectations. When reality diverts to Plan B or even Plan C, it is easy to feel like you failed.

It can be a positive process to create your birth plan while at the same time acknowledging that whatever happens, it will be OK.

4. Self-belief
Women have given birth since the dawn of time. You are part of this amazing, and powerful continuum. You too can do this. Take this as your mantra and repeat it to yourself regularly.

5. Visualising
Rehearse visualising your body is relaxed, and open. Take an image that works for you, perhaps a gorgeous sunflower unfurling its petals and facing into the sun or beautiful lotus flower. Whenever you have a few moments to spare, close your eyes, and imagine this effortless transformation taking place.

6. Strengthening your ‘No.’
From the day you tell people you are pregnant, the nay-sayers can target you with the exaggerated horror monologues of their own birth experiences.

The majority of women have a natural labour and have positive experiences of giving birth, but they are not so inclined to keep reliving their stories.

Interrupt the scaremongers by calmly, and assertively stating your refusal to listen.

In many circumstances, women can find it difficult to say ‘No’ to other people's demands. If you recognise this in yourself, then it is useful to practice strengthening your ability to say no in your everyday life so that it becomes easier and easier for you to state what you want. Practicing your ability to say no with clarity can be immensely helpful in facilitating you having the type of birth you want to have as you will find it is easier to speak out when you feel it is necessary.

7. Be calm
Anxiety and panic release the hormone Adrenalin which is known to increase the pain receptors in the body potentially making your birth experience more challenging than it needs to be. In preparation note down your imagined fears around your impending birth so that your negative thinking is not allowed to escalate into catastrophic thinking.

When working with pregnant clients, we use a mix of therapeutic approaches to dispel birth fears, erase negative thinking, and reinforce confidence for positive outcomes.

Many of the techniques are easy to learn as self-help tools including one of our primary therapy approaches which work brilliantly to help discover the underlying reasons for limiting beliefs.

For instance, a woman who has experienced a previous difficult birth can face the prospect of giving birth again with even greater fear and trepidation. We work to break the emotional connection to those old memories so that although the memories remain, they no longer carry an emotional charge and do not trigger fears for the future birth either.

(This feature was commissioned and first appeared on an NHS website designed for mothers-to-be.)

Contact me if you are feeling fearful around giving birth or still feeling overwhelmed following your birth experience. You may need some help to resolve your old memories and let them go. Click the button at the top of this page to schedule a call.

If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.

 

No Pressure! How to lose your pre-baby weight in an instant

No Pressure! How to lose your pre-baby weight in an instant

​Of course, there is enormous pressure in our modern, western culture to return to your pre-birth body in what can seem like less than a fortnight after giving birth!

The media is crammed with images of rich, and famous celebrities who are supposedly back to their original slender selves almost on the day they are discharged from their exclusive, private clinics. You may even torment yourself with negative thinking about your own body shape, and size, and castigate yourself for not being fully back to the old you.

Many new mothers put enormous pressure on themselves to be Super-mums, and in this age of gossip magazines, and digitally enhanced photos there are many ways you can judge yourself, and feel as if you are failing, and those negative feelings can make successful weight loss even harder to achieve, or maintain.

No one knows this better than therapists  Liz Hogon and I who specialise in resolving issues around emotional eating so that people who struggle with weight loss can finally be successful. They are also the co-authors of the just-published book, ‘7 Simple Steps to Stop Emotional Eating’ (Hammersmith Press 2015).

We see many new mothers desperate to regain their pre-baby body weight, and figure and they would like to share here seven of the top tips that have evolved through their experiences of working with many women facing this similar challenge.

In our therapeutic experience of reviewing client’s food diaries, we have found that most new mothers are under eating, and not over-eating. If that sounds untrue for you then for a week jot down what you actually eat. Look at your notes, and underline nutritional foods you have eaten that provide real nourishment for you.

Often it is not what you eat but what is eating you that will keep the extra weight stuck. If you are stressed, overwhelmed or unhappy then weight loss is more of a challenge so it is important to do whatever small, manageable things you can to help you de-stress, and rest. We understand what a huge challenge this can be with a new baby.

Here’s a double whammy for you - at a time when you are totally exhausted it is important to remember that your body can often confuse being tired of being hungry. You will find your weight loss, and life in general, of course, much easier if you are properly rested. That may sound like the holy grail for new mothers who are desperate for sleep but it can help if you’re able to undertake the absolute minimum amount of distractions other than what your baby, and you need to flourish and thrive.
Most other things can wait, or better still be delegated.

Just as exhaustion can confuse your body, then being under hydrated can do the same. Ask yourself ‘Am I hungry or thirsty?’ Drink a long drink of water, and re-assess your appetite.

Women who are critical, and unhappy with the changes in their body’s shape after childbirth can often disconnect from their own bodies, feeling embarrassed, or even ashamed of the physical changes. It is a vital part of healing, and moving forward to acknowledge deep within yourself that your body has done the very best it could throughout your through your pregnancy, and giving birth.

You can impart this important message by reconnecting to your physical self through gently stroking, or massaging your own body after bathing, or by stroking your post-birth tummy in bed. Silently tell your body you know what it has been through, and how hard it has laboured. Reassure yourself that you will provide your body with the best nourishment you can and that it is safe for it to let go of any excess weight now.

Just as you are particular about what you feed your baby then raise your own bar to be particular about what you eat too. There is a growing realisation in the medical profession of the links between food, and moods. It is important to eat the best quality food you can afford - looking for good quality protein, and a rainbow variety of vegetables on your plate at every meal time. If the meals you are eating are predominately beige in colour then that can be an indicator that they are nutritionally poor.

Your body will more easily return to its pre-baby shape, and weight if you are eating highly nutritious, home-cooked food - preferably cooked by someone else for now.
Remember your body has always changed, and transformed itself. Look at how it has changed from when you yourself were a child, with even more radical physical changes taking place throughout your pregnancy, and the birth of your child.

You can be reassured and reminded that your body can change again. It takes the time it takes, and the more able you are to rest and take care of yourself physically, and emotionally then the quicker this can happen for you.

Contact me if you feel lost in your post-childbirth world and need some help to reconnect with who you truly are. You can schedule a 30-minute discovery call at the top of this page.


If you want to lead a happier more fulfilled life it’s almost impossible when you’re doubting yourself or sabotaging your chances of success. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve ‘tried everything’ it could be just what you need. You can book an obligation-free 30-minute discovery call to find out for yourself.