Life Lessons are not Always Appreciated

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It would appear that symbols of triumph over adversity are sadly lost on some people, even when said symbols are quite literally flourishing right in front of them.

 

I’m lucky in that the housing development I live in is built on the edge of what was once a churchyard. The church is long gone, but the grounds remain, and so what is now a lovely little park actually sits on my doorstep. It features a large lawn, a war memorial, several trees, squirrels galore, park benches and even a picnic table. It also often contains people walking their dogs or just chilling out in the space.

 

It’s certainly a beautiful view from my living room windows and one that I never fail to appreciate.

 

Sadly, in the four years that I’ve lived here several trees have been lost to the storms, felled by ferocious winds that are now a constant feature of the British weather.

 

One such tree was literally split in two by a particular violent episode about two years back. One half of it fell to the floor and one half remained. However, the remnants of its once proud boughs and trunk were, for safety’s sake, quickly chain sawed down to a mere stump that stood a little over waist height.

 

Undaunted by the spate of adversity it had faced, the tree stump decided to carry on regardless. The following spring, tiny shoots poked their way out from the reduced trunk and quickly grew into small branches. Each branch sprouted buds that blossomed and became leaves. For two whole summers, it wore those branches and leaves like a verdant, pagan crown. You can see the results in the picture at the top of this post.

 

I loved that tree stump; it was like a glorious “fuck you” and “bring it on!” to the challenges that life can chuck your way.

 

Sadly, as of today, that stump is no more. Bristol City Council in its infinite wisdom, or lack thereof, decided to butcher it, to take a chainsaw to that glorious symbol of fortitude and reduce it down to a mere plinth.

 

It will neither bud nor blossom again.

 

If asked for a comment, I’m sure some official at the council would say something bland and officious about health and safety.

 

You can survive any predicament in life, except for the things that kill you, and while that tree survived the storms, it could not survive officialdom.

 

Goodbye valiant little tree stump, I will always value the life lessons you taught me even if Bristol City Council will not.

Anxiety Disorders: A Brief Overview

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As a rule, I tend to specialise in the areas of anxiety disorders and work-related stress management. Between the two, I cover a multitude of sins. And, but sins I mean I help people deal with a series of emotional and behavioural problems that have them thinking, feeling and acting in ways that they don’t like but don’t seem to be able to change.

The term ‘anxiety disorder’ on it’s own could mean any one of several things up to and including, but not limited to panic attacks and panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), psychosexual dysfunction, health anxiety and any and all types of phobias.

Broadly speaking, anxiety is your response to danger; it’s the fight, flight (or freeze, for those of you who experience brain lock) response to a threat or a danger. However, this response is being triggered in situations that aren’t that dangerous. Coming across a hungry lion whilst walking down your street is very dangerous, whereas sitting an exam is not. However, if you have anxiety, the same thoughts and feelings are being triggered in the face of an exam as they are when confronted by that hungry lion.

Anxiety problems are the number one presenting symptom here in the United Kingdom

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are an extreme type of fear response. They are an exaggeration of your body’s normal response to danger, stress or excitement. They’re not much fun

Panic Disorder

This is where you have regular or frequent panic attacks that don’t seem to have a specific cause or trigger. It can mean that you are so afraid of having another panic attack that the fear itself can bring on a panic attack. Not good.

Social Anxiety Disorder

This is where your fear response is being triggered by social situations, such as pubs and parties, work and networking events. Basically, anywhere you have to talk to another person. This is also known as social phobia and it’s more common than you think.

GAD

Pity the person who is living with this condition, for they are experiencing regular or uncontrollable worries about many different things across most aspects of everyday life. It could be that there are many, many triggers or no specific trigger at all, making GAD a tricky little bugger to pin down.

OCD

This problem is made up of two parts, an obsession and a compulsion. Obsessions are unwelcome and intrusive thoughts, images, urges, worries or doubts that repeatedly appear in your mind. The compulsions are repetitive activities that you feel compelled to do in order to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession. It could be checking that a door is locked, or repeating a specific phrase in your head and so on. Some people have what is known as ‘Pure O’ where they have the obsession but not the compulsion. This does not make it any less distressing.

PTSD

This is an anxiety problem that gets diagnosed after you have gone through something that you found traumatic. A close brush with death or a violent attack on you or someone near you can do it. PTSD can cause flashbacks and nightmares that make you feel like you are reliving the fear and anxiety you experienced during the traumatic event again and again. Who said the mind isn’t your best friend?

Psychosexual Dysfunction

When related to anxiety, psychosexual dysfunction is the inability to become sexual aroused or achieve sexual satisfaction because you are afraid of something happening or something going wrong. The problem is not physiological it is psychological. It can affect both men and women and, obviously can be quite miserable and debilitating.

Health Anxiety

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this means anxiety about your health. You will have an obsessive preoccupation with the idea that you have (or are about to develop) an illness. Common health obsessions including cancer, heart health, HIV and so on, but people can become preoccupied with any condition. Behaviours include researching symptoms, constant checking to see if you have them and many, many, many visits to your local GP.

Phobias

A phobia is an extreme form of anxiety that can be triggered by a particular situation or object, even when there is no danger. The sufferer knows that their reaction is out of proportion to the danger but they just can’t stop themselves. People can becoming phobic about anything and everything: spiders, mice, lifts, heights, thunder and lightning, buttons, ships, you name it.

Other anxiety problems include performance anxiety (stage fright and exam fears, for instance), body dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) and more.

Thankfully, all forms of CBT are considered the gold standard of treatment for anxiety disorders. Hypnotherapy is also a highly effective adjunct to CBT. So, if you need to find a therapist to help you with your anxiety, look for someone who has CBT skills, or hypnotherapy skills, or both.

Obviously, there is quite a lot to digest here so I’ll leave the heady world of work-related stress (the number one cause of staff absenteeism) until next time.

Men, Mental Health, Barbershops and Talking

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It’s good to talk, isn’t it? Male or female, young or old, it’s good to have someone to turn to in times of trouble, yes? And yet, despite the many inroads made in raising mental health issues, men still struggle with talking about their feelings, or reaching out if they’re in difficulty. Which is problematic to say the least. And, it needs to change, but how? Read more

Mental Health is Normal

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I think one of the most surprising things about psychotherapy is that, despite the many, many strides in mental health awareness, more than a fair few people are still loathe to admit that they just might have mental health issues. But, guess what? Having a mental health issue is completely normal. Read more

Stress: take back control

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Earlier this month, I talked about stress and how, according to a massive survey last year, three out of every four Brits are feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. I also mentioned that therapy could help you to regain control. And it can, only not always in the way that you think.  But, what does that mean exactly? Read more

Stress: It’s out of control

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Stress is a big problem the world over but, here in the UK, we seem all seem to be that little bit extra stressed, and in ways that have nothing to do with Brexit. Read more

There Is No Try!

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Yoda said it best when he told Luke Skywalker in the movie The Empire Strikes Back, “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” But, what did he mean? What was the lesson, and why was it an important one?  Read more

Do You Want To Stop Drinking?

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In just a few short weeks Macmillan Cancer Support will be asking you to commit to 31 days of sobriety in their annual Go Sober for October campaign (click here). It’s a fun way to be healthy and helpful. But for some people, that commitment isn’t as easy as it sounds. What do you do if you think you have a problem with drink? What do you do if you don’t think you can stop? Read more

Think of a Therapist as a Mechanic for your Mind

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Some people are a little put off by psychotherapy, and so approach it with caution, while others are too scared to go for therapy at all, even though they know they need it. There’s still a lot of stigma attached to mental health issues, but therapy need not be such a scary thing. As the self-development guru, Wayne Dyer, once famously said, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Read more

Hypnotherapy: Here to Help you Shed those Pounds

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Hypnotherapy is an altered state of consciousness, very similar to daydreaming, or losing yourself in a really good book. In this trance-like state, your unconscious mind becomes very susceptible to positive suggestion, especially when those suggestions are tied to a goal you already know you want to achieve. When it comes to weight loss, whether you goal is to shed a few pounds or a few stone, you’ll be amazed at what a good hypnotherapist can help you with. Read more