Five Things to Stop Stress in its Tracks

Five - Five Things to Stop Stress in its Tracks

 

Stress is pernicious and all-pervading, when people come to see me for therapy for it and all the ways it presents (click here for more on that), they understand that it will take more than the one session to get a handle on it, but they also often ask, “is there something I can do now that will help?” And the short answer to that is, “yes.” If you do any of the below daily, it will help you take back control, if you practice all five things on a regular basis, you might well work wonders.

 

One: Walk away

 

Whatever the stressful situation is, if you feel your heart pumping and your pulse racing, if you feel dizzy or like that infamous red mist is descending, just walk away. Take time out, rest, relax, let your mind and body return to baseline and then, when you feel ready to, go back into the situation. Chances are that things will have calmed down by then anyway. And there is nothing wrong in taking time out, or saying, “I just need to take a few minutes to reflect on this,” and then getting the hell out of there.

 

Two: Regular breaks

 

Whilst on the topic of time out, taking regular breaks in your day needs to be routine. One job I had, back in the day (when I was still a fresh-faced teenager) not only had a full hour for lunch (with luncheon vouchers) but also mandatory 15-minute breaks twice a day. People who take regular breaks, those who come in on time and leave on time (special occasions excepting) are less stressed, more productive, less likely to take time of work sick and save money in terms of recruitment and training by staying where they are for longer. In terms of both mental health and business success, pacing yourself is the way!

 

Three: Get some nature

 

Nature is essential to your mental health and wellbeing. You need a daily dose of it and getting it will help. The more, the better! Go for a walk in a park, sit by a pond or river if you can (or a fountain in a square if you can’t). Visit forests, moors, and beaches. Even pot plants on your desk improve wellbeing and mitigate stress. One of the nicest environments I even walked into, there to deliver a workplace wellness seminar, had so much foliage within it that it looked like the Amazon jungle, only with desks and monitors poking out of the lush greenery instead of birds and reptiles.

 

Four: Box breathing

 

Your breath is a great stressbuster. When used properly that is. First up, remove yourself from the stressful situation. Then regulate your breathing. Sit or stand, close your eyes, or leave them open, and breathe deeply, preferably in through your nose and out through your mouth (but either/or works well too), but in a rhythmic fashion. First hold your breath for the count of four, then breathe in for the count of four, hold it in for the count of four, and then breathe out slowly for the count of four. And repeat this for as often as you think you need or until you feel calm and balanced.

 

Five: Meditate

 

Any form of meditation will work wonders on your stress levels, even if you do it for just five minutes a day. One of the easiest ways to meditate also involves your breath. Sit somewhere comfortable and just focus on your breathing, in and out, softly, and gently; in and out, either through your nose or through your mouth, or both. And really give your full attention to your breathing. Notice what it feels like, and what it sounds like. Feel the temperature of your breath, notice all the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between your in breath and your out breath. Try to become as vitally absorbed with your breathing as you can. Whilst fully accepting that your mind will wander. This is perfectly normal. Don’t become frustrated by this. Just accept it as part of the process. Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, just bring it back to your breath. With practice, you can stay with your breath for longer, your attention will wander less and less, and your mind calms right down pretty quick.

 

Chronic stress and situations where you often feel out of control will need a little bit more help than the above and I can heartily recommend both rational emotive behaviour therapy (click here for more on that) and clinical hypnotherapy (click here for more on that too). But, in the heat of the moment, the above things will help calm you down.

Online Hypnotherapy: Will it Work for You?

Hypnos 1030x686 - Online Hypnotherapy: Will it Work for You?

 

A few weeks ago now, I wrote an article for Psychology Today on the benefits of online therapy and how studies show that it is as equally effective as psychotherapy delivered face-to-face (click here). Since that article went live, I’ve had a fair few emails asking if that also applied to hypnotherapy. And the short answer to that question is, “yes.’”

During the pandemic, hypnotherapists had to switch their clinics to an entirely online affair whether people liked it or not. Since then, as with other forms of therapy, some therapists have remained entirely online whilst others have offered both face-to-face and web therapy.

And whilst official studies into hypnotherapy delivered over digital platforms are few and far between (at least, as far as I know, so feel free to correct me if I am wrong), one study showed that it was effective in treating migraines (click here), whilst another suggested it was effective on children presenting with nocturnal enuresis, or bed wetting (click here).

On the anecdotal front, one magazine editor happily wrote about her experience with digitally delivered hypnotherapy (click here) whilst another espoused the joys of her FaceTime Hypnotherapy session (click here). Plus, there are a plethora of successful hypnotherapy apps available that simply require you to sit back and enjoy some beneficial suggestions delivered via your smartphone or tablet.

I know from experience that the one form of hypnotherapy is is just as effective as the other as I’ve been delivering it online for years now, since way before Coronavirus forced the first UK lockdown back in March 2020.

Quite early on in my therapy career (some 19 years or so at the time of writing), someone asked if they could continue seeing me whilst work sent them away across Europe to a variety of locations. I mainly saw them in various hotels rooms, but also once by a large and empty pool and another time on a patio with a glorious mountain in the background. Back then it was Skype rather than Zoom but, the wide variety of backdrops, both panoramic and otherwise, did nothing to hamper our work together.

At the end of the day (or beginning, or middle, or whenever you see fit to see your hypnotherapist) it all comes down to a matter of choice and/or preference. Some people prefer digital (or are constrained by other factors) whilst some prefer to see their therapist for real.

Reasons for wanting to see a hypnotherapist online include factors such as convenience, schedules, work/life balance management, the ability to choose a therapist from further afield (not just nationwide but other countries), enjoying the comfort of your own home, mobility issues, and more.

Web delivered hypnotherapy is just as effective as live hypnotherapy in treating a wide range of issues including stress (life stress, work stress, burnout syndrome, and so on), as well as anxiety disorders, reactive depression, anger-management, self-esteem and confidence issues, weight control, pain control and the like.

If you are thinking of digital hypnotherapy, there are a few things to consider in advance:

  • A good connection (this is vital for any form of online psychotherapy) enables every hypnotic suggestion to be delivered clearly and precisely
  • A good screen size (so laptops and tablets are preferable to smartphones)
  • A comfy chair (the comfier the better)
  • A blanket (if you like to be all warm and snuggly)
  • Good quality speakers (good quality headphones are even better)
  • Somewhere safe, private, and secure (it’s a therapy session, after all, and you will want to keep things confidential)

Another thing to consider is the severity of the problem. If you are at high-risk of suicide or self-harm, one-to-one live therapy with a nearby therapist plus a clear care plan discussed and agreed by you both is a better fit for you, no matter what modality of therapy is on offer. But, for anything at the mild-to-moderate end of the spectrum, you should be good to go.

If you would like to see me for online hypnotherapy, or even online rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT), for that matter, my contact details are at the bottom of this page.

Finally, if you’re wondering, REBT is a rather nifty and elegant form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) that works well on everything mentioned above (stress management, anxiety issues, confidence issues and so on), either on its own or in conjunction with hypnotherapy.

Everybody is Stressed, but What Can You do About it?

Stress - Everybody is Stressed, but What Can You do About it?

 

I’ve been a therapist now since 2004 and, for most of that time, when people asked me what I specialised in, I told them that anxiety disorders and work-related stress management were my forte but, on reflection, and for several years now, I would say that both life and work have made me a stress specialist.

That term still covers anxiety disorders and work-stress but, it also covers a whole lot more. Stress affects us all and we are becoming more stressed, not less so. In fact, research from the Chartered Institute of Development has found staff absences due to stress are at their highest levels in over a decade, with the pandemic, the high cost of living and other issues all being significant contributing factors, (click here). But what is stress?

According to the World Health Organisation, “stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation.”

However, there are two types of stress: good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).

Eustress refers to the sort of challenge and pressure that you thrive under or rise to meet with excitement. It could be a work deadline, or a wedding, or a rollercoaster ride. Meanwhile, distress is what we often mean when we are talking about ‘stress.’ It can refer to seemingly insurmountable pressures in any context (life or work), pressures that you feel you can’t cope with, or are not dealing with as well as you’d like. But stress isn’t a diagnosis in and of itself. It’s an umbrella term for a variety of things including:

 

  • Anxiety
  • Reactive depression
  • Anger-management
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Procrastination
  • Insomnia (often stress related)
  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis (also often stress related)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, (nearly always stress related)

 

You can turn to unhealthy coping strategies when you are stressed, such as alcohol, drugs (both prescription and recreational) and comforting eating. Stress can wear you down, it can affect you physically as well as mentally. You can become distracted, less productive, more forgetful, and more prone to illness (stress affects your immune system). Chronic work stress even has its own diagnosis: Burnout Syndrome. This is a purely occupational phenomenon not official recognised until 2019 and characterised by exhaustion, increased negativity (or cynicism) towards your job, and reduced professional efficacy.

Stress is such as small word for something with so many distressing ramifications.

Stress affects both your mind and your body. A little bit of it is good for you, but too much stress can easily overwhelm you. And we are living in a very stressful world; one that doesn’t seem to be interested in getting any easier. Stress quickly mounts up and it soon takes its toll.

Thankfully, there are things you can do to help mitigate your stress, such as yoga, meditation, taking regular breaks, and going for long walks. And, if those things aren’t enough then therapy and coaching can help.

I practice rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) and clinical hypnotherapy, and both can help you mitigate your stress and build effective coping strategies in the face of it. With REBT and hypnotherapy the seemingly insurmountable obstacles in your daily live become something much easier to deal with.

So, if you think your stress is getting the better of you, feel free to book a call. I work face-to-face and online and can see anyone, anywhere (time zones permitting). And online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face, studies say so (click here).

Where Does the Time Go?

Ask - Where Does the Time Go?

 

Can it really be three years and five months since I last blogged on my own website? The answer to that question, going by the dates, is obviously yes. Yes, it has been more than three years.

Okay, in that time, I wrote and published one book (you can find a link to it here) and I’ve been writing a regular column over at Psychology Today (you can click on that here) and I’ve also been writing elsewhere (you can check a selection of those articles out here) but, still. Three years.

It’s been a tad remiss of me and so, to address that imbalance, I am going back to blogging on my own website where, over the coming months, I will hopefully be not only offering words of wisdom, but also helpful tips, exercises, and insights to help you manage your mental health and wellbeing that much better. After all, it’s a stressful world out there. So much so, that I’ve had to slightly redefine what it is that I offer (or, more importantly, what it is I treat).

I offer rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) and clinical hypnotherapy (either separately or combined) together with elements of positive psychology and I offer it in both a psychotherapeutic and coaching capacity.

Times past, I said I specialised in the treatment of anxiety disorders and work-related stress management as, at the time, I was receiving more referrals for these things than anything else. So, that is how and where I built my areas of expertise.  I can also help you with pain control, but that’s another story.

Meanwhile, back to stress.

Since the pandemic and everything else that came after it, I’ve just accepted the fact that I am now a stress specialist. This still covers anxiety disorders and work-related stress management but, also a whole host of other things (more of that in another blog, I reckon).

“Stress,” is what people state the most when I ask them what they want help with. “I want you to help me manage my stress more effectively,” they say. And this I can do.

People also ask me to provide them with coping strategies (again, this I can do) but, when I used to ask them what they wanted those coping strategies for, they used to mention specific things, such as “my job,” or “my boss” or “my relationship” or “my challenging friend.” Nowadays, however, when I ask people what they want those coping strategies for, the most common response is, “everything.”

Despite all the strides made in mental health and wellbeing, despite the mine of information and the wealth of support that is out there, life has become even more stressful, not less so. And people need help in dealing with that.

To that end, my next book (out Spring 2024) is called How to Cope with Almost Anything with Hypnotherapy. And it will do just what the title suggests, using not only hypnotherapy, but also elements of REBT and positive psychology to help you increase your resilience, improve your wellbeing, and handle whatever life throws at you next more effectively.

In the meantime, I can personally help you cope with almost anything either face-to-face or online. And a recent study (click here) has found that online therapy is just as effective as face-to-face therapy.

People also value the convenience of it and the ability to engage with a therapist from the comfort of their own homes. So too do many of the therapists that offer online therapy.

So, face-to-face, or online, if there is stress in your life, if there is something you would like help in coping with, now is a good time to start. Because life always has that something to throw at you.

Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

IMG 7473 - Swearing at the Coronavirus Might Just Do You the Power of Good

 

Sometimes, you’ve just got to call a spade a spade and, sometimes, you’ve got to look at something that’s a bit shit and just say, “fuck it.” Believe me, it will help you, as swearing at things can be a very empowering and life-affirming thing to do.

 

Many studies have backed up the usefulness of swearing in a variety of settings. Swearing can help you cope with adversity, get on with people more quickly, cope with difficult and demanding situations and, even, bolster the persuasiveness of your arguments, speeches and conversations.

 

One such experiment, from researchers at Northern Illinois University, examined the effects of swearing on the persuasiveness of a speaker. Participants were invited to listen to three versions of a speech. One where the word ‘damn’ appeared at the beginning, one where it appeared at the end and one where it didn’t appear at all. The results showed that swearing at the beginning or the end of the speech significantly increased not only the persuasiveness of the speech but also the perceived intensity of the speaker. 1

 

Meanwhile, Professor Richard Stephens, over at Keele University in Newcastle, has tested swearing in a wide variety of ways over the years. He and his team have discovered that people who do swear can hold their hands in freezing cold water for longer than those who don’t swear and that, in a test of anaerobic strength, people who swore produced more power wattage and a stronger handgrip on a stationary exercise bike than those who did not.

 

Elsewhere, other studies have shown that people who swear, as long as swearing is part of their overall and otherwise extensive vocabulary, tend to be healthier, happier and a whole lot more honest too.

 

 

Swearing then, is not only good for your physical and mental health, but it is also a great way to gain control over your pain, your stress and your emotions.

 

There’s a lot going on at the moment; a lot of things are currently out of our control and it’s easy to feel powerless and lost. However, if you want to lift your spirits and feel more resilient in the face of the current adversity, don’t be afraid to drop the F-bomb.

 

It’s not for nothing my therapy book is called The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up (and how to fix them). In fact, it when it comes to self-help books with swearwords in the title, it’s not alone.

 

We have The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (as well as his follow-up, Everything Is F*cked) and The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight, as well as Healthy as F*ck (Oonagh Duncan), Wake the F#ck Up (Brett Moran) and, my favourite, Fuck Off (a mindfulness swearword colouring book for adults). Finally, there’s the daddy of them all, F**k It Therapy by John C Parkin (plus his two f*ck-related follow ups). In a similar, but also slightly different refrain, we have Get your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight and (proving that even Knights of the Realm thing swearing is good for you) How to Fix Your Sh*t by Sháá Wasmund MBE.

 

Swearing crops up very frequently in my therapy room.

 

I once had a client who had an anger management issue and a very short fuse. “You must respect me,” he believed. “It’s intolerable to not be respected and people who don’t show respect me are arseholes.” This belief allowed him to kick off whenever he felt disrespected by anyone and, even, anything. He once ripped an IKEA cabinet to little bits and pieces just because ‘Thing A’ disrespected him by not fitting into ‘Groove B.’

 

The healthy alternative to all this was, “I like to be respected but I don’t have to be respected; I find it difficult to deal with when I’m not, but I know I can stand it; people who don’t respect me are not arseholes, they are worthwhile fallible human beings.”

 

With a little vim and vigour, his healthy beliefs became “I like to be respected but I don’t fucking have to be respected; I won’t like it when I’m not but it won’t fucking kill me and people who don’t aren’t fucking arseholes, they’re all-fucking-right really.” Eventually, over time, he whittled all this down to just, “fuck it.” And that was enough for him to gain control over his anger and keep calm, even when other people were being less than his ideal.

 

Profanity can be quite profound, you see; and this Coronavirus well, it can just fucking do one, can’t it?

 

 

1:Cory R. Scherer & Brad J. Sagarin (2006) Indecent influence: The positive effects of obscenity on persuasion, Social Influence, 1:2, 138-146, DOI: 10.1080/15534510600747597

 

 

There’s No Need to Panic About this Pandemic

IMG 7302 687x1030 - There’s No Need to Panic About this Pandemic

 

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) makes a distinction between unhealthy anxiety and healthy concern. Both share the same theme, or inference, as both are about the threats and dangers of everyday life. It doesn’t matter if the threat is real (something that is happening or is about to happen) or imaginary (something that hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t happen at all); anxiety and concern are all about threat and danger.

 

Unhealthy anxiety is the result of irrational (or unhelpful) beliefs about a given event or situation; whilst healthy concern arises when you hold rational (or helpful) beliefs about the exact same event or situation.

 

When you are unhealthily anxious you overestimate the probability of that threat occurring and underestimate your ability to deal with it, you can create an even more negative threat in your mind and might find it difficult to concentrate on other matters. Typically, the anxious will avoid the threat (physically or mentally), ward off the threat, tranquilise their feelings and seek reassurance about it.

 

When you are healthily concerned, however, you are more realistic about the probability of the threat occurring and are equally realistic about your ability to cope with it. You do not create even more negative scenarios in your mind, and you are able to concentrate on other tasks and matters. As a result, the concerned are more able to face up to the threat (if it even occurs) and are more able to take constructive action to minimise said risk or danger.

 

This also applies to health anxieties. A health anxiety is an obsessive and irrational worry that you have caught or are about to come down with a severe medical condition.

 

And, right now, as a health anxiety, as a public and medical concern and as a severe medical condition Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is right up there and scaring us all.

 

But, are our news outlets and our governments overdoing it or not; are we all literally making a drama out of a crisis; are our fears rational or irrational; founded or unfounded? In short, are we experiencing collective Coronavirus anxiety or COVID-19 concern?

 

Considering the statistics (at the time of writing of the 107,828 cases so far, 86 percent have been of a mild condition and a massive 94 percent have so far recovered and/or been discharged.) it would seem to be the former. And so, asset stripping the shelves in supermarkets and chemists of bog roll, antibacterial hand gels and facemasks does seem like reassurance seeking writ large, whilst completely shunning people, public places and public transport could count as avoidance.

 

Beating people up based on their ethnicity or holiday choices, meanwhile, is definitely overkill.

 

Yes, people have sadly died but there have been other factors involved (such as age and other underlying health conditions).

 

Caution is advised, certainly, but the current advice is to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly (for at least 20 seconds) and that’s about it. That is considered effective protection, not just against COVID-19, but all other cough and cold-related germs and viruses.

 

Whilst the Coronavirus is something to be concerned with, and something to take reasonable precautions against, it is nothing to get anxious about.

 

For more on the current global pandemic panic, please feel free to read my post over at Psychology Today (click here).

 

If you want to know more about REBT, the thoughts that can freak you out and, more importantly, how to deal with them, please feel free to purchase a copy of this book that I wrote (click here).

 

Not So Crazy in Love

luv 824x1030 - Not So Crazy in Love

 

Today, is February 14th; Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers, the day for romance, the day for card companies, florists, chocolatiers, jewellers, and restaurants up and down the country to make you make the most of this day, come what may. Back in the day (my day, that is) you were lucky if you got a small card and a cup of tea in bed. Now, it’s nothing but pressure to perform, please and be more loved-up than thou (we can partly blame social media for the latter, but only partly). Basically, Valentine’s Day has gone and gotten all a bit crazy, when you think about it.

 

But then, love is not the most rational of emotions.

 

Enter then, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). Not only is it a form of psychotherapy but it is also considered to be a school of thought. This means that, while it is great for dealing with specific emotional problems such as anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and so on, it is also (and at the same time) a brilliant way of looking at life and all of life’s problems in a whole new way.

 

This is important as irrationality surrounds us and penetrates us (a bit like The Force in Star Wars only crap), and it can bind us together in unhelpful ways if we are not careful.

 

With it, we can develop the tendency to blow things out of proportion, magnify their difficulty, throw our toys out of the pram and, generally, rush headlong into foolish decisions that we later regret.

 

REBT offers a way of stepping back a little, and of questioning a thought and the emotion it engenders, before you react (or overreact) according to it.

 

Once you start to question the validity and rationality of your thoughts, you will soon start to see just how silly life, and by default, our everyday language really is. Like, really, amazingly, off-kilter crazy.

 

This goes double for love songs.

 

To find out how truly ludicrous love songs actually are, to wise up to their irrationality, please read my new post over at Psychology Today (click here).

 

As you do so, whilst remembering that Valentine’s Day can be as restrained or as OTT as you allow it to become, it means that you can still be as romantic as you wish, but it also means you won’t be no fool for love (or any other emotion) again.

 

How’s that for heart-warming?

 

 

 

How to Have a Happy New Year

IMG 6752 687x1030 - How to Have a Happy New Year

 

Each year, a friend of mine, when wishing family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances a “Happy New Year,” almost always follows it up with the rather dour postface of “let’s hope it’s better than the last one.” Sometimes they even run through some of the lower points from their preceding 12 months.

 

It’s not surprising that they do that as most human beings have a tendency to focus on the negative. It’s biological and innate; it’s hardwired into us. It’s habitual. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. It’s possible to build a habit of thinking more positively, even if you’re currently the most negative person you know.

 

Positive psychology contains a vast range of tools, exercises, tips and tricks to help you do just that. Whereas most forms of psychotherapy focus on mental illness, positive psychology firmly fixes its gaze on mental wellness. “What can be done to make you feel happier and more fulfilled in your day-to-day life?” it asks. “How can you learn to flourish?”

 

One of its many, many laboratory tested exercises (i.e., a bunch of researchers have made people undertake these things and then rated their mood and physiology in a variety of ways) is one specifically designed to help you reflect upon events in a more positive way. And it does so by getting you to review the day, or the week, or even the month.

 

On a bad day, something nice will have happened (but it’s usually the bad thing you focus on) and, on a rotten week, several good things will also have happened (but it’s usually the rotten things that you reflect upon). But, by ignoring the bad in favour of good, despite your natural inclination, by writing them down in a diary or notebook, you are slowly and steadily building that habit of thinking more positively.

 

But, what does this mean for the new year and your happiness? Well, why not review your whole year? News and current affairs (and pop music) shows do it all the time.

 

So, another positive psychology exercise builds on the above by asking you to get hold of a bell jar, or some such similar receptacle. And, for a sense of occasion it asks that you get it in time for New Year’s Day. Then, over the coming 12 months, whenever something nice happens, you write that event or situation down on a piece of paper and pop it into the bell jar.

 

Note by note, nice thing by nice thing, into the jar it goes. A compliment here, a bonus there; a trip on a sunny day, a night out with friends, you name it. Large or small, any and all events go in the jar. And then, on New Year’s Eve next year, you can gather around the jar with family and friends, or simply on your own if you enjoy being solitary and introspective, and then reflect on what a lovely year you’ve had.

 

“Happy New Year,” you’ll say. “I hope it’s as good as this one was.”

 

You’re not denying that bad things have happened; you’re just choosing to ignore them for once, in favour of the good.

 

Won’t that be nice?

 

 

If You Only Buy One Book This Christmas

4thoughts 1030x579 - If You Only Buy One Book This Christmas

 

So, I wrote a book. It’s available to buy right now as you’re reading this and it would be awfully remiss of me if I didn’t blog about my book in my own actual blog so, here it is.

 

It’s called The Four Thoughts That F*ck You Up (and how to fix them) and it’s a hopefully humorous and insightful (I leave that for you to decide) book about rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT).

 

REBT was invented in the mid 1950s by a psychotherapist called Albert Ellis. It’s actually considered to be the first form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) to be developed. And it’s brilliant.

 

REBT is the form of CBT that I practice and promote. It follows the philosophy that it is not the events in life that disturb you, but what you tell yourself about those events that disturbs you. So if you are thinking, feeling and acting in ways that you don’t like, but don’t seem to be able to change, it’s not because of the thing, but down to what you tell yourself about the thing, change what it is that you tell yourself and you get to change how you think, feel and act.

 

Now, it’s not saying when stuff happens, that it doesn’t have an influence, because it does but, it’s only an influence. So, even in the face of something difficult, or challenging, or downright negative, you can still remain in control (or regain control if you think you’ve lost it) by looking at what you tell yourself in the face of that difficult, challenging or negative thing.

 

This means that nobody makes you angry, nothing makes you anxious, and nobody and nothing can drive you to drink, drugs, distraction, despair or doughnuts. It’s what you tell yourself about those things and people that does that.

 

REBT says that there is always a thing (or an activating event) and a reaction to that thing (a consequence) but, between the thing and the reaction there will be a specific thought process (known as a belief) that drive the reaction about the thing.

 

So, REBT is all about beliefs. My book is all about the four beliefs that REBT says lie at the heart of psychological disturbance (i.e., that f*ck you up) and the four healthy equivalents that can help keep you calm and rational. It also has a step-by-step guide to help you work on a specific problem

 

Someone recently asked me why I wrote it. That answer could be a whole blog in itself but, briefly, I’ve been in practice now for over 15 years and just for once, when I was finishing therapy with someone and they asked if there is any reading material I could suggest, I wanted to be able to say, “why yes, there is this very book right here.”

 

And now I can.

 

It’s available on Amazon and Waterstones and WHSmith, or directly from the Penguin Random House website and it’s available from all good online bookshops in your country, area and/or territory (so it’s not just available in the UK).

 

I am reliably informed that it is both “super-wise” and “warm and funny.” And it wasn’t my friends that said that. It would make for a good Christmas stocking filler, or last-minute Christmas gift idea. And for those of you looking a little further ahead, it would be a great way of coming up with and sticking to any one of a number of New Year’s resolutions.

 

If you haven’t bought it yet, I hope you consider buying a copy. If you have already bought one, I thank you for doing so. And, either way, I hope you will enjoy it, are enjoying it and/or have enjoyed it.

 

Personally, as much as I enjoyed writing it, I will never forget the thrill of standing in the WHSmith bookshop in Paddington station on the day of publication and seeing out on the shelves already.

 

All the feels.

 

 

 

Life Lessons are not Always Appreciated

IMG 3024 e1574090621740 773x1030 - Life Lessons are not Always Appreciated

 

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.