Anxiety – The Common Denominator

One of the things that makes my job as a clinical hypnotherapist so stimulating  is the variety of issues clients contact me for help with.  

 

 

In a typical week I can find myself working with clients experiencing problems with IBS, migraines, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, panic attacks, chronic pain, phobias and even weight gain. 

You would be excused for thinking that each of these issues has a very different cause, however in each case significant improvements have been achieved by working to address one single common factor.  Anxiety.

It still surprises me just how many ways our bodies find to tell us that there is something wrong in our minds. 

Anxiety is a strange thing – we may not even realise it’s there as it creeps up on us gradually and we adjust to it as a new “norm”.  Put simply we learn to cope.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t taking its toll on us, as associated stress hormones build up to chronic levels and upset the balance of our whole body.

Often the only way our bodies have to tell us that this balance is at risk is through a physical reaction – stomach cramps & tummy upsets, the urge to overeat, headaches, backaches, tiredness, dizzy spells, irritability, sweating, nausea….the list goes on.

Once we have one (or even a combination) of these anxiety related symptoms it can be almost impossible to see a way of getting things back under control – after all, feeling unwell or out of balance creates a whole new level of anxiety all by itself.  This is especially true if symptoms are impacting on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities and it feels like things are just piling up!

There are, however, some positive steps you can take for yourself to help get things back into balance.  Here are some of my top tips.

Tip 1 – Get good sleep

Sleep is not just about resting, there’s actually a bit more to it.  The advice “sleep on it”  is well founded as good quality sleep genuinely does give us a different perspective on things – and here’s how.

While we’re asleep we move through a repeating cycle of REM (dream) sleep and deep sleep, and in the REM part of the cycle we are actually processing the events of the day. 

The result of that processing is that our memories are changed from being emotional memories (memories with emotions attached) to being narrative memories.  Emotional memories are still very real to us – we “live” them and they still contribute to our anxiety load. 

Narrative memories are memories that we have a bit of distance from – we describe them rather than “living” them.  Once this processing has take place we have control over the memories, they no longer have emotion attached and they don’t contribute to our anxiety load.

If we skimp on sleep, or do things that impact on the quality of our sleep (for example drinking alcohol or using electronic devices at bedtime) we limit our mind’s natural ability to deal with our anxiety. We end up carrying yesterday’s anxiety forward into the next day, where it is added to any new anxiety generated, making the job of processing twice as hard the next night.  This cycle repeats and anxiety simply accumulates.

By making time for sleep and avoiding things that we know affect the quality of sleep we can take the first step towards controlling anxiety.

Tip 2 – Focus on achievements

 It’s a fact isn’t it – we’re spend more time thinking about the things we need to do than the things we’ve already done? 

Running this kind of mental ‘to do’ list leads easily to beating yourself up each day for not getting enough done.  A head full of loose ends and uncompleted tasks is in itself a significant anxiety generator. 

We often can’t do much about the number of lines on our to-do list, that’s just life.  What we can do is change our mindset and allow space in our minds to recognise what we have achieved, not just what we haven’t (yet!).

Each day find time to review the day and find 5 things you have achieved. They needn’t be big things, they could be things as simple as changing a light bulb, emptying the dishwasher or arranging to meet a friend.  A little mental pat on the back makes a huge difference to our outlook and ability to cope with our busy lives.

 Tip 3 – Allow yourself to dream

By that I mean day dream. 

We’ve been perhaps taught to regard day-dreaming as a bad thing – as waste of time, but it can actually be quite a good thing.

It’s something that our modern day lifestyles don’t allow for – we don’t do the repetitive tasks (hand washing clothes, scrubbing floors, ploughing a field) that were commonplace 100 years ago and which would have given our ancestors important mental down-time.  We have gadgets and machinery that do these tasks for us, and then we compound the problem with our mobile phones and 24 hour culture. 

Making time to let your mind wander is far from lazy (actually you’ll be burning quite a lot of energy doing this), it can contribute greatly to mental health. Positive Day Dreaming can help to lower your stress hormone levels in quite a significant way.  There’s a catch though – it really does need to be positive day-dreaming, no day-mares allowed or you’ll be achieving the opposite effect!

 Tip 4 – Smile

It sounds stupid doesn’t it, but it works.

When you smile there’s an important part of the brain that senses the change in configuration of your facial muscles.  It searches in your mental files for examples of the times when that particular configuration has been used before and uses this information to decide, based on previous experience, what its response should be.

The response that it finds actually triggers the release of two “feel-good” chemicals in your brain – serotonin and dopamine. These “happiness” chemicals begin to improve your mood. Genuinely a case of fake it til you make it.  Try it yourself…when no-one’s looking if you prefer!

Tip 5 – Keep a “good things” journal

 This is not so much an exercise in counting your blessings, rather a case of training your brain to think in terms of what things, people or activities make you happy rather than things that you don’t like or that worry you. 

Think of your brain a little like a muscle.  If you only ever use it in one way (to worry) it can only ever do one thing (worry).  Making a conscious effort to think about different things actually exercises the brain in a different way.

To start with this can feel as difficult as lifting weights or using the cross-trainer at the gym.  Eventually though it does get much easier – you can lift bigger weights or complete more repetitions with ease…or in the case of your brain you can halt those anxiety-generating thoughts and instead focus easily on the positives instead.

Here’s how. 

 In your diary or notebook every morning when you wake up write down 3 things that would make you feel good if you did them during the day.  During the evening on the same page write down three things that happened during the day that  made you feel good.  The two lists don’t need to match – it’s not a test.  As you look forward to or remember those good things each day you’ll be exercising and strengthening a very important part of the brain.  

In time this simple activity will give you a different mindset and tools to control those stress hormones, reducing anxiety and its unpleasant side effects.

 Tip 6 – Do more of what you enjoy

 How often do we actually stop to consider what we enjoy most in our lives?  How often do we just keep going, following the old routines, doing things we don’t enjoy because that’s just what we’ve always done?

Taking the time to do a conscious audit of our daily activities can often be quite an eye-opener! 

Those things you don’t enjoy or which you find excuses to drop to the bottom of your to-do list (from where, incidentally, they can actually contribute to your anxiety load!), is there a different way of getting them done?

Those things you do enjoy, how can you create more opportunities to do them?  What’s your first step towards making that happen?

It’s not self-indulgent, it’s actually chemically necessary.  Science has proven that by carrying out activities that we enjoy or that give us a sense of achievement we stimulate the release of an important chemical in the brain – called Serotonin.  A good level of serotonin in our system is associated with a feeling of well-being and balance, helping us to cope with whatever life throws at us.  Most importantly serotonin can help us fight back against those anxious stress hormones, putting us back in control.

 

With so many different physical and mental symptoms, anxiety can be difficult to pin down as the cause.  If you are suffering any form of ill-health  it is important that you visit your doctor to obtain a diagnosis, however, once any medical cause has been ruled out, you could consider whether anxiety is at the root of your problem. 

Just as anxiety takes a while to build up, calming it down again can take a little while – unfortunately there’s no overnight fix.  You may find it reassuring to know that hypnotherapy offers a gentle way to address underlying anxiety so that many symptoms can be either significantly reduced or even eliminated completely – often in a very short space of time.

If you’re not feeling quite right, don’t accept it as the “norm”.  Why not try some of my top tips or even give hypnotherapy a try?

 

New Consulting Rooms & More Appointments

Implicity Hypnotherapy Consulting Room

Exciting news!

Due to an increase in new enquiries I’m extending my clinic hours to be able to offer more appointments. This also means I’m adding two new locations, giving clients a choice of environment for hypnotherapy sessions.

From 6th May I am pleased to announce that Implicity Hypnotherapy will be offering appointments at:-

Physio Phoenix Clinic, 7 Victoria Square, Skipton, BD23 1JF

And

Dales Angels, Market Place, Settle, BD24 9HA

Appointments are available in Skipton on Tuesdays, Wednesdays mornings and Fridays, and in Settle on Mondays and Wednesday afternoons.

Limited early morning and evening appointments are available for those with commitments during normal working hours.

The consulting rooms at both Physio Phoenix and Dales Angels are newly refurbished dedicated therapy rooms, offering comfortable and calming environments in which to relax.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy offers a gentle and positive way to address many of the issues which impact on our quality of life.  It can help with:-

  • Overcoming anxiety and reducing stress
  • Addressing insomnia and other sleep problems.
  • Conquering phobias
  • Dealing with a lack of confidence, motivation or focus
  • Controlling unwanted or destructive habits such as smoking
  • Reducing the effects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Managing Weight

If you are ready to make a positive change in your life why not get in touch to arrange a free initial consultation to find out if Hypnotherapy can help you.

Better Sleep – The Best Medicine

Hypnotherapy For Better Sleep

Working  with clients who are suffering with sleep problems is one of the most rewarding parts of being a hypnotherapist – not because of any sadistic pleasure taken in seeing the genuine misery that sleep deprivation causes, but because of the opportunity, through hypnotherapy, to make a very significant difference to the quality of life of the sufferer.  And often in a surprisingly short period of time.      

Sleep issues can take many forms, perhaps presenting as either difficulty falling asleep, waking during the night, or waking too early each morning.  In some instances you may find yourself struggling to sleep at the proper time, only to fall into a deep sleep that is difficult to wake up from just before the alarm goes off.  These patterns are often the mind’s way of signalling to you that there’s something in your daily life that needs addressing.

Problems with sleep can have their roots in many different causes, often related to or exacerbated by issues such as anxiety, stress or depression (any medical concerns should always be checked out with your GP).  Most of us can cope if sleep loss is for just a few night but if left unchecked it rapidly becomes debilitating and has a significant knock-on effect in all areas of everyday life causing, amongst other, things low energy, poor concentration and irritability. 

The cycle can be difficult to break – poor sleep leads to worrying and worrying can make good quality sleep even more elusive.  Unhealthy sleep patterns can quickly become established and because you start to “expect” poor sleep this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. 

It is important to address sleep issues, not only because of the obvious impact on daily life, but also because of the longer term health issues, some of which can become serious and even life threatening. Links between healthy sleep patterns and mental health are well documented but did you know that sleep deprivation has also been linked to a number of physical health issues, including a weakened immune system, obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart conditions?

If you are suffering as a result of poor sleep, one of the options  you could consider is hypnotherapy.  Hypnotherapy addresses the subconscious part of your brain, helping to reset unhealthy patterns and address underlying issues of stress, anxiety or depression – a positive step towards making healthy and restful sleep a reality again.

Sing Like Nobody’s Listening…..

I surprised myself today…..and joined a choir.

I admit, not what I thought I’d be doing when deciding on my New Year’s Resolutions just a few weeks ago.  I did however start the year with the intention of just “going with it” when a new opportunity presented itself.  So when I saw the posters for a new choir starting up in Skipton I thought “Well why on earth not….?”.

That’s not to say I didn’t have to have some firm words with my primitive mind just before setting off for the first meeting.  And yes, even as a qualified clinical hypnotherapist with a good understanding of how the human mind works and the tricks it can play, I am still not immune to the influence of this powerful survival mechanism.

Let me explain.

The primitive mind is the part of the mind which, since the days of the caveman, has been responsible for survival. So while my conscious intellectual mind knows that joining a choir is unlikely to represent a significant threat to my continued existence on this earth, unfortunately the primitive subconscious part of my brain really does not like change and therefore resists whatever new venture my intellectual mind has planned.

It works on the principle that if what I did yesterday (i.e. not joining a choir) kept me safe it would be best if I did the same again today.  And paradoxically that includes avoiding new situations and activities which may contribute to my enjoyment of life, and even wellbeing – because in its view “new” and “different” may constitute a threat to my survival.

So, the primitive mind is now battling for the upper hand, and one of the other tricks it has up its metaphorical sleeve is to encourage negative thinking and seeing things from the worst possible perspective.  This too is a survival mechanism, discouraging any optimism in the face of a perceived threat and ensuring that the threat is taken seriously and dealt with.

Now this may seem like an overreaction to the case in hand….seriously, just how dangerous can singing be?  But it’s important to recognise that the mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality.  By the time we’ve thought about all the things that can possibly go wrong (I have to walk into a room of people I don’t know, what if there’s no-one there I get on with, what if I’m no good at it, what if I look stupid….?) anxiety is at an all-time high – and the primitive mind is looking for any excuse to back out of going…..

Fortunately in this instance my intellectual mind managed to reassert itself for long enough to get me in through the door…and then to stay to give it a try.

The reluctance of the primitive mind to try new things is particularly ironic in this case, given the abundance of research and evidence now available showing the link between singing and improvement in both mental and physical health.

The very act of singing has been shown to increase our sense of happiness and wellbeing – probably because it is associated with the release of important neurochemicals, such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.  Endorphins are the chemicals we usually think of in relation to exercise – something that many of us find difficult to find motivation for, especially on a cold winter evening.  Singing perhaps offers a more palatable way of achieving some of the benefits…..minus the lycra and aching muscles……

Performing together, even without an audience, also promotes a sense of social closeness.  As many studies have found evidence which suggests that social connections and positive human interaction act as a trigger for the brain’s reward system (more of those good neurochemicals!), it makes it even more certain that we should try to override the primitive mind’s natural caution and just give singing a try.

The “All Together Now” choir has just launched in Skipton, meeting at the Church Hall, Skipton Baptist Church on Rectory Lane (right opposite the exit from the Town Hall car park) each Thursday morning at 10am.  More details here All-Together-Now-Skipton

Come and join in.  Someone will be listening, but nobody will be judging.

New Year – New Habits?

Happy New Year’s Resolutions

How are those Resolutions going? Have you given up smoking/nail-biting/cake, been to the gym/swimming/running?  If you have then well done, but on a dark cold winter’s evening, it’s easy to slip and find yourself back where you started – on the couch with a large glass of wine and a takeaway.

So why is it so difficult to change our habits?

Well it’s because the brain is in a bit of battle with itself.  Our conscious mind knows that these changes are good for us. Unfortunately the subconscious part of our brain responsible for our survival doesn’t like change and will encourage us to simply repeat past patterns as we’ve survived thus far by doing just this.  And paradoxically that includes continuing bad habits which may be damaging our long term health and wellbeing.

So how do we get our conscious mind to take control and help those resolutions to stick?

  • Take small positive actions which move you towards your ultimate goal, and take the time to really notice your achievements.  This in itself triggers a chemical response in the brain which promotes a feeling of confidence and control.  
  • Enlist the support of people around you.  Positive interaction with others also creates that chemical response which helps us to feel good and keeps our conscious mind in control.
  • Don’t try to change too much at once.  The subconscious is more likely to dig it’s metaphorical heels in – one of the symptoms of which can be a feeling of anxiety which persuades you to you return to the old “safe” patterns. Recognising this and rationalising it can help you to overcome the urge to regress.

And this is where hypnotherapy can help.  In hypnotherapy we use trance – a state in which we can bring the conscious and subconscious mind together to focus on the positive change you would like to achieve. In this state we can work to resolve the battle and take back control for the conscious mind, helping you to make that New Year’s Resolution a reality.

New Year’s Resolution Reboot – a free event to help you achieve your 2019 Goals.

The Quaker Meeting House, Settle – Thursday 24th January 2019 at 7.30pm.

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year when we make our resolutions about the positive changes we’re going to make during the year.

So how’s it going for you?

Well done if you’ve managed to stick to your resolutions so far.

But the reality is that on a dark cold winter’s evening, it’s easy to slip and find yourself back where you started – on the couch with a large glass of wine and a takeaway.

This free event takes a fun but informative look into how and why our brains trick us into failing at even the most sensible and well-intentioned resolution. And perhaps more importantly what you can do to fight back!

Join us at the Quaker Meeting House, next to Ashfields carpark in Settle, at 7.30pm on Thursday the 24th January 2019, to find out how to make your resolutions reality.

Make a positive life change and achieve your 2019 goals.

IBS Relief – The Role of Hypnotherapy.

With 1 in 5 people affected by it during their lifetime, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can have a serious  impact on the lives of many and the common symptoms of pain, nausea, diarrhoea or constipation are well documented.

Less well known is the part that Hypnotherapy can play in alleviating the condition – even recognised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective complementary treatment.

IBS is considered a biopsychosocial disorder – put simply this means having elements associated not only with the physical functioning of the body, but also psychological factors such as stress and anxiety, as well as potential social influences.  This can make the condition difficult to treat, as instead of one single cause rooted either in the body or the mind, it is often the interaction between the mind and the body which produces and magnifies the symptoms.

It is recognised that IBS is exacerbated by stress and anxiety, perhaps initially caused by external factors but then also by the additional worry about the symptoms.   In this way a vicious circle is created where anxiety causes a worsening of symptoms, leading to further anxiety, which in turn further amplifies the physical aspects of the condition.

Hypnotherapy works by helping to break this cycle through:-

  • processing existing fears and anxieties which contribute to symptoms
  • focus on reducing the negative thinking which perpetuates anxiety
  • visualisation of specific goals which may be attained when the IBS is under control.

If you believe you are suffering from IBS it is important that you visit your doctor to obtain a diagnosis and rule out any other causes for your symptoms.   Then don’t suffer in silence – why not give Hypnotherapy a try?

Anxiety And How To Beat It

It’s a fact, all of us will have suffered the odd anxious moment in our lives at some time or another.  But for some anxiety builds to a level where the impact on quality of life is significant and sometimes devastating.  So what is anxiety and how can we stop it becoming destructive?

Anxiety is part of our primitive defence mechanism, put in place to protect us when life was full of dangers such as sabre tooth tigers – a fight or flight response which takes place in our subconscious (part of our brain that we have no direct control over).  Let’s call it our primitive brain.

And there are a few things you should know about that primitive brain…..

It’s negative – it always sees thing from the worst possible perspective.  To be honest we should be grateful for this as it’s how the primitive brain has ensured our survival for as long as it has.  Optimism is not helpful when facing a sabre toothed tiger – it only leads to being eaten!  While this negativity is great when facing a genuine threat to life and limb, such as a tiger, it’s not so good for dealing with our modern day anxieties, such as finances, relationships and deadlines.

It’s obsessive – and keeps checking on the thing that caused the initial anxiety. Again helpful if there’s a tiger in the room, but seriously, what’s that bank statement actually going to do to you?

It’s habitual – which means it’s not so great at planning a new response.  Once you’ve got into the habit of worrying about your finances (or whatever it is that causes your anxiety) your primitive brain likes you to keep on worrying about it – because you’ve survived so far by doing just that so why change?

Nowadays much of our anxiety is caused by the negative thought patterns that we fall into around every day events in life.  A build up of anxiety can be a gradual process, but eventually the balance will tip, the fight or flight response is triggered and our primitive brain simply doesn’t know where to turn with the modern day threats it faces.

Once that balance is tipped a vicious circle is established – the more anxious we feel the more time we spend in our primitive brain, and the more we are encouraged to be negative….thereby creating more anxiety.

So how can we break this vicious circle?

Firstly we need to retrain the brain, learning a new pattern to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative.  It’s a fact that whatever we focus on we amplify, and simply making ourselves notice the good things protects us from building up new levels of anxiety.

Secondly we need to process the anxieties already present – and the best way to do this is through REM sleep.  Once the influx of new anxieties is under control we have enough processing power during our sleep to deal with what’s already there.

Sound simple?  It is, but it does take determination and commitment to make the shift.  Hypnotherapy offers a gentle and natural way to create new brain patterns, often having a rapid effect in reducing anxiety  to manageable levels.