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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.

Hypnotherapy: Icebergs and Hidden Depths

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Quite often in psychology they compare the mind to an iceberg in the ocean. It was Freud who originally came up with the analogy. But why, and what purpose does it serve?

 

Well, very simply put, there is about ten percent of an iceberg above the waterline. You can see it. But, there’s about 90 per cent of that iceberg hidden below the waterline, and you can’t see it. It’s what can make them quite tricky buggers (or bergs) to navigate.

 

And there are two parts to your mind (again, very simply put): the conscious and the unconscious, but it’s not a fifty-fifty split.

 

Which is where that analogy comes in.

 

Your conscious mind is like the ten percent part of the iceberg visible above the waterline. It’s responsible for all your short-term memory ‘stuff.’ It’s responsible for your everyday thoughts. It’s the part of you that remembers that appointment you have at 1.30pm (if you remember that appointment, that is) and that phone number you only need to use once. It’s also the part of you that remembers to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home from work because your other half asked you to (and, because it’s cheeky and not entirely reliable, it sometimes only reminds you of that just as you cross the threshold to your home). And it’s also the logical, rational and analytical part of your mind.

 

But, what about the hidden bit?

 

What is actually going on with the 90 percent of the iceberg below the waterline? What is your unconscious mind responsible for?

 

Well, the short answer is, “everything else.”

 

Right now, as you read this article, you are blinking and breathing and regulating your body temperature, together with a thousand other process that you don’t consciously think about: your unconscious mind simply takes care of the for you. But, it’s also the database of everything you are. Everything you’ve ever learned and experienced, all of your skills and habits and all that you have seen and done.

 

To put it into a context, a 2017 study by tech giant Huawei found that whilst the brain actually makes around 35000 decisions every single day, we’re only ever conscious about a hundred of them. Most of our daily decisions then are made by the unconscious. We are not consciously aware of them. That means there’s a hell of a lot going on with that hidden beneath the surface part of you.

 

Now, a very nice thing happens in hypnotherapy and it happens to your mind. Hypnosis itself is a trance-like state, very similar to nodding off, daydreaming or losing yourself in a really good book. In this nice-and-dreamy, trance-like state, your conscious mind becomes more passive. It kind of takes a back seat for a while. When that happens, the unconscious part of your mind (that big old database of everything you are) becomes more alert and receptive to positive suggestions.

 

Especially when those suggestions are tied to goals you already know you want to achieve.

 

So, in a hypnotherapy session, the hypnotherapist can communicate directly with your unconscious mind and suggest new thoughts, feelings, behaviours and ideas. And these suggestions take hold because you are motivated for change; they take hold because those suggestions are totally in line with what you want to happen and how you want to be.

 

Pretty cool, huh?

Hypnotherapy: Why it is about the thing you think it isn’t actually about

clock macro pocket watch 3023593 - Hypnotherapy: Why it is about the thing you think it isn’t actually about

I’ve been in practise as a hypnotherapist since 2004. Over those years, I’ve lost count of the amount of articles I’ve read on the subject, written by journalists who all seem compelled, somehow, to kick start said article by saying, “You’d be forgiven for thinking that hypnosis is all about swinging pocket watches and pendulums but, it’s isn’t.” And, by doing so, perpetuating the idea that, somehow, hypnotherapy is, or was at some point, all about swinging pocket watches and pendulums. Again, and again, I’ve read the same stereotype being perpetuated, for over thirteen years. Enough, already!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “Hang on a minute, but isn’t he starting his article off that way too? The hypocrite!” Well, yes. Yes, I am. But and the point really needs to be made, finally and for the last time, so that it need not ever be mentioned again: Hypnotherapy is not about being hypnotised by a hypnotherapist with either a swinging pocket watch or a pendulum. Except.

Except.

Except, it can be.

I have a pocket watch. A friend bought one for me as a present when I graduated from hypnotherapy college. And I have hypnotised someone with it, once, but only because they asked me to. I’ve also hypnotised someone with a sonic screwdriver. Not a real one mind, but one of those £10.00 plastic replicas. But, that’s only because A: I had one in my possession at the time and B: the person concerned was a Doctor Who fan and was absolutely over the moon when I waggled it in front of him.

The point of swinging pocket watches, or pendulums, or Doctor Who sonic screwdrivers, or anything waved rhythmically, side to side, in front of someone’s eyes, for that matter, is to tire those eyes; to make someone want to close their eyes, preferably with some relief. “Thank god they’ve stopped waving that bloody thing in front of me,” they mentally sigh.

This is known as inducing trance. It is the first stage of hypnosis. Once someone’s eyes have closed, once a trance has been induced, it can be deepened to the appropriate level. Once it has been deepened to the appropriate level, the therapy part can take place.

You can also induce a trance but having someone stare at the palm of your hand, or the back of their hand, or a spot on the wall, or by holding their arm in the air, or by listening to the sound of your voice, or to a specific sound around them and more. All to the same point: inducing trance, getting someone to close their eyes and begin to comfortably relax.

So, to journalists everywhere, I say this: You’ll be forgiven for thinking that hypnotherapy is all about swinging pocket watches and pendulums because it can be. And, now that you know that, you need not ever kick off an article about hypnotherapy that way again. Much to the relief of actual hypnotherapists everywhere.

Now, do not get me started on that old, “look into my eyes, not around the eyes, in the eyes you’re under” malarkey.

Travel in Time with Hypnotherapy

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Yes, you read that right.

 

With hypnosis and hypnotherapy, you can revisit the past and visit the future as often as is needed (therapeutically speaking) via regression techniques (to the past) and with what is known as pseudo orientation in time (to the future). But, why would you do so? 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

Stop Smoking: Hypnotherapy can Help

It’s very nearly Stoptober, the month the NHS would like as many of you to quit smoking as possible. To that end, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation have compiled a very handy infographic on all the goodness that comes from quitting cigarettes. You can find more details, plus other information over at their website (click here). Sadly, the only thing they haven’t included is how good hypnotherapy is at helping people quit.  Read more

Stop Smoking for October

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October is nearly upon us and what an auspicious month it is; not only does it contain Halloween and my mum’s birthday (Happy Birthday Mum!), but it’s also the month that the NHS invites you to quit smoking (Stoptober) But, can it be done? Can you successfully ditch the cigarettes and remain a non-smoker in just one month?  Read more

Treating Phobias: Help is at Hand

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A Northern Illinois University (NIU) graduate in psychology has developed a measurement of fear, a unique psychological tool that could not only open up new areas of phobia research, but also be of use to therapists and other mental health professionals (click here). But, what is a phobia, and how can you deal with it if you have one?  Read more

Fear of Flying: It Can Be Controlled

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At this time of year, with winter a wet and distant memory and spring definitely springing, a lot of thoughts are turning to foreign holidays. And so, it’s about this time of year I see an increase in people wanting help with their fears of flying (even more so since the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370). This increase in anxiety has even been noted in the press (click here). But fear not, for help is at hand! Read more

Chronic Pain: You Can Control It

pain 300x203 - Chronic Pain: You Can Control It

 

 

A chronic pain condition is not an easy thing to live with. Typically, the medical response is to chuck pain-killing drugs at the problem. However, psychotherapy, in the form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and hypnotherapy can do much to not only help alleviate your perception of pain, but to also help with the inevitable emotional problems (such as anxiety and depression) that come with having to live with pain for so long. Read more