How to be the real you!


Are you interested in becoming the person you truly want to be?

Perhaps you’ve already tried various ways of doing this without experiencing lasting change? Do you see yourself as a constant worrier, a binge eater, a victim or even as inferior to other people?

You are born with a blueprint or potential to be your ‘ideal’ person – but throughout life, things get in the way. Maybe significant people who leave an imprint on the way you see yourself, upsetting experiences, life events that have a negative impact, and your associated coping mechanisms, beliefs and behaviour. Whatever has happened, the blueprint for your true self is still there. I help you realise that potential and ‘reboot’ the real you!

Unlike traditional talking therapies, my sessions are very practical. My work is based in modern, effective methods developed from scientific knowledge of how the brain works. I teach you how to rewire unhelpful responses, negative emotions and patterns of thinking. You stop those old patterns in their tracks and change to new positive ways of responding – and you actually experience this happening in session!

Modern therapy has truly transformed the way I work and most of my work comes via referral from satisfied clients.

Contact me to find out more or have a look at my website: http://www.mindmakeover.co.uk/BWRT

Practical, Positive Psychology

Top tip for difficult times


Years ago I came across this idea and found it enormously helpful when going through difficult times.

Often life isn’t easy, and sometimes it certainly doesn’t feel fair. The goalposts move all the time. So, when life gets you down, remember that you are the product of a very long line of ancestors stretching back through time. They survived the worst adversities, difficulties and struggles. Those ancient battles and plagues you see in documentaries – your ancestors survived them all. It’s their genes and their blood that are part of you right now.

You have inherited all of their courage and resilience. You are their direct descendant and you are capable just as they were. You can do it!

Why it’s ok to ask for help


A fledging starling was in my garden this morning. The parent bird was busy collecting bugs, whilst the youngster sat helplessly on the patio unable to fly away if danger arrived. It reminded me of this quote attributed to Marcus Aurelius:

“Don’t be ashamed of needing help. You have a duty to fulfill just like a soldier on the wall of battle. So what if you are injured and can’t climb up without another soldier’s help?”

Most people expect to always be able to solve the problems life throws at them. I’ve worked with clients who worried about asking for help, believing they should be able to do it all on their own.

When we are born, we are all completely helpless and rely on others to help us grow and learn, just like that fledgling. It is ok to ask for help and you don’t have to face anything on your own. It doesn’t mean you are weak, or stupid or worthless and it is not something shameful. If you need support, then like the soldier who is injured, help is there for the asking.

To check out the different approaches that might help you, have a look at the Therapy pages on my website: http://www.mindmakeover.co.uk

Whatever your problems, get out and walk!


“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth” Nietzsche

When did you last take a really enjoyable walk? This photo was taken at the weekend on a wonderful walk along the river in Berwick-upon-Tweed. I recommend walking to all my clients who are stressed, anxious and overwhelmed.

There’s something about being outside in the open, fresh air that nourishes your mind. Some of my best decisions are made when I’m out walking. The bilateral stimulation of walking seems to help with problem solving. Creativity seems to be boosted, along with motivation. Then, there’s the mindful experience of taking in the sights, sounds and smells that root you in an appreciation of the present moment. On top of that, the body benefits from the physical exercise.

Whatever your problems, get out and walk!

Helping You Overcome Anxiety


Unlike stress that can come and go with the situation creating it (maybe work, study, relationship or money problems), anxiety is something that can persist whether or not the cause is clear to you.

Anxiety can make you imagine that things in your life are worse than they really are, and prevent you from confronting your fears. You may feel that you are going mad, or that some psychological imbalance is at the heart of your unhappiness. However, it is important to realize that anxiety is natural and normal and results as part of a process of bodily functions designed to help you. It is your body’s natural reaction to a challenging event or situation. Biologically the body is readying itself to either stand and fight the threat or to get out of the situation quickly – both of which require a physical response. This process gives you a boost of adrenaline that increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen going to your limbs known as the “fight or flight” response. The “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that many associate with anxiety is this mechanism kicking in, but instead of being used to avoid immediate danger, it is often inappropriately activated during normal, everyday situations when stress has built up, often without you realizing it is happening.

Common physical symptoms of anxiety include: increased heart rate, palpitations, muscle tension, “Jelly legs”, tingling in the hands and feet, hyperventilation (over breathing), dizziness, difficulty breathing, wanting to use the toilet more often, feeling sick, tightening across the chest area, headaches, hot flushes, perspiration, dry mouth, shaking, sensing a lump in the throat or choking sensations. You may experience some of the following thoughts: that you may lose control or go “mad”, have a heart attack/be sick/faint/die/have a brain tumour, feel people are looking at you and observing your anxiety, things seem to be speeding up/slowing down, feel detached from your environment and other people, wanting to escape from the situation or feel on edge and alert to everything around you.

Some people have a very identifiable cause for their anxiety; a traumatic incident, lots of stressors, or have undergone a significant life event (such as moving house, a separation, health worries). For others there is no identifiable cause for their anxiety and this creates distress. It can be helpful to think about your stress levels as being like a bucket of water. When you keep adding stressors to the bucket (even little ones like finding a parking space or commuting to work), over time it fills and fills until one day it overflows. This can be a good way of looking at anxiety as it explains how sometimes it can seem to come out of nowhere with no significant trigger. However, what has happened is that the trigger was just a very small stressor that tipped you over the edge and allowed your bucket to overflow. You really need a leaky bucket with lots of holes to reduce your overall stress levels. Each one of these holes could be something positive that you do to manage your anxiety, such as deep relaxation, exercise, reading, listening to music or spending time with friends or family.

The most common behaviour when you are anxious is avoidance. Although avoiding an anxiety-provoking situation can provide immediate relief, it is only a short-term solution. Although it may seem like the best thing to do at the time, the anxiety returns the next time the situation happens as avoidance has reinforced the message that there is a threat. When you start avoiding things you never get to find out whether your fear about the situation is justified or what would happen.

The common thread between most anxiety disorders is the panic attack. However, when panic attacks are experienced out of nowhere without an apparent trigger, this is classified as panic disorder. People with panic disorder often feel OK one minute, and the next may feel totally out of control and in the grips of a panic attack. Panic attacks produce very real physical symptoms, from a rapid increase in heartbeat to a churning stomach sensation. These physical symptoms are naturally unpleasant and the accompanying thoughts of terror can make a panic attack a scary experience. People start to dread the next attack, and quickly enter into a cycle of living in fear of fear.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is diagnosed by your doctor when you feel in a constant state of high anxiety and is also called ‘chronic worrying’ or a ‘free floating’ anxiety condition. People with GAD often describe how they can resolve an issue but as soon as this happens, another worry pops up. Everyone has worries from time to time, but GAD is different in that the worry can last for over 6 months, and the level of worry is out of proportion to the risk. For example, if a family member is an hour late getting home without calling, a person with GAD may think ‘they must have had an accident’, rather than any other explanation such as being delayed in traffic.

GAD is particularly difficult to live with as it is constantly on a person’s mind – there is no respite, as the anxiety is not tied to a specific situation or event. It can cause problems with sleep, maintaining a job and impact close relationships. If you feel you may have GAD or panic disorder then you are advised to seek further information and guidance from your doctor who will be able to make a formal diagnosis.

If you feel anxious all the time, for several weeks or if it feels like your anxiety is taking over your life, then it’s a good idea to ask for professional help. Prolonged anxiety, and the overthinking that accompanies it, interferes with sleeping patterns and can result in overwhelm and low mood. It may seem hard to admit to fears that most other people don’t appear to have, but asking for help is a sign of strength and the first step in getting better.

I specialize in helping people like you overcome anxiety. I draw on a comprehensive range of techniques and approaches to help you overcome your difficulties. If you’re interested in finding out more about the ways I can help, then get in touch.

New Pathways

New Pathways


IMG_5804Walking in the Lake District this week I came across lots of well worn paths like this. Everyone following the clearest, strongest path.

It reminded me that our behaviour is like this. We repeat patterns and our brains eventually respond habitually, following the strongest neural pathway. In this way behaviour is reinforced. When we decide to change habitual behaviour it can feel strange or uncomfortable as we wander away from the well worn path and try something new. Sometimes it feels impossible to change.

My work focuses on helping you find healthier paths that lead you where you want to go. Together we reinforce these new pathways so they become stronger. In this way, your desired behaviour feels natural and effortless. So what would you like to change about the way you think, feel or behave? Ready to find a better path? Contact me to find out how I can help you.

http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Positive Affirmations

Positive Affirmations


IMG_5755

How often have you seen those cringe-worthy memes and posts based on positive affirmations? They seem to pop up on social media every day!

Positive Affirmations are heavily promoted by the self-help industry. If you have good self-esteem and feel confident and sure of yourself, positive affirmations can give you a helpful boost. However, if you are the opposite of this – anxious or perhaps struggling with low mood, then affirmations busting with positivity can be damaging.

Research suggests that positive affirmations are ineffective for people with low self-esteem – they are not helping the very people who tend to use them.

According to a Canadian study in 2009 (Wood, Perunovic and Lee), when people with low self-esteem recite positive affirmations, they feel worse. The study concludes that “repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most”.

Researchers asked people who identified as having low self-esteem to recite this affirmation: “I AM A LOVABLE PERSON”. They measured the subject’s mood and how they felt about themselves afterwards. Those with low self-esteem felt worse after being made to recite the positive affirmation. Only those with high self-esteem reported feeling better.

The results of the study suggest that positive affirmations are incongruent with the mindset of those people who have low self-esteem. This creates feelings of conflict and feeling bad, which in turn is a driver for more negative thoughts about themselves.

Perhaps it is the nature of the affirmations that is at fault here. More realistic statements that do not create conflict or trigger negative feelings, but are neutral, are more likely to be accepted. A useful start is an affirmation such as “I AM ENOUGH”.

Understanding the psychology behind the words and their effect on the mood of an individual is important. So if you’ve tried reciting positive affirmations and it’s left you feeling worse, you now know why!

If you struggle with low self-esteem, lack of confidence, anxiety or low mood and feel like you would benefit from professional help, then please get in touch as there are many sound psychological interventions that can help.

For further information check out my website at http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Wood, J.V., Perunovic, E., & Lee, J.W. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others. Psychological Science, 20, 860 – 866.

6 Top Tips for overwhelmed working mums


Can't cope

If you have children and you’re also trying to hold down a working life outside the home, you will know how busy it feels – all the time! Before you know it, you’re experiencing stress, getting irritable and feeling overwhelmed with how much you have to do each day. Talk to any working mum and they will recognise this. For single mums it can especially difficult – and I know because I was one!

Now I’m no fairy godmother and there is no magic wand to make all this disappear, but there are ways to make it easier for yourself. I’m going to share the tips I used which helped me, and recommend some others that would have made things better for me at the time – had I known them.

Tip 1 – Recognise you can’t do everything and prioritise

Work out what is important. List everything on your mind and split the items into essentials and desirables. Essentials need to be top of your priority list – the desirables can wait

Tip 2 – Get a routine

When you’re busy, it’s helpful to have a schedule to guide you. Think of it like the timetable you used at school – that helped you know what was necessary that day, where to be and when, and what to be doing, as your time was broken down into manageable chunks

Tip 3 – Delegate

You may have a supportive partner who can share the load – so use them. Give them specific things to do, like a good manager does with a team at work. Get the children involved in tasks too – depending on their ages there is usually something they can do to help. Make others responsible for doing their bit! Things may not be done to your standards by the way, but learn to let that go – it’s better for you to get the help

Tip 4 – Back up team

We can all use a support team. Sometimes that doesn’t seem possible, but there are ways to develop one. Your children have friends and their parents are probably working too – perhaps there’s an opportunity to see if you can work out something between you, which allows everyone to take turns doing school drop offs or collecting for example. Rope in anyone in your wider family who might be willing to help when you are stuck

Tip 5 – Ask for help

Most parents are reluctant to ask for help because they believe they should be able to cope by themselves. The problem is, when things become too much you can suffer burnout. Once that happens, others will be saying – “if only I’d known, I could have helped you”. Families and friends can often help out, especially if you let them know you need some support. If you are noticing signs of overwhelm then ask for help. It feels good to know you have helped someone who is having problems, so don’t deny the people who care about you that opportunity

Tip 6 – Look after yourself

I bet you are last on your list of priorities – right? With everything else you have to do, how on earth can you spare the time to look after you! Step 1 is to slow down. Stop! When you take care of yourself, you are in a much better place to support your children. Once they are in bed, do something nice for you. Perhaps you enjoy a relaxing bath or time to watch your favourite TV programme. Perhaps you would benefit from catching up on some quality sleep. Whatever you choose, do something that makes you feel good. By looking after yourself, you are taking better care of your children too

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. Do the best you can, with what you have right now. As far as your children are concerned, that will always be good enough!

If you are really struggling with stress, anxiety or lack of sleep and would like some professional psychological help, then do what other overwhelmed parents have done and check out my website at http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com. There are lots of ways I can help you feel more in control and you don’t need to manage this on your own.

 

 

Life can be hard – how do I build resilience?


IMG_4574

Resilience in action!

On holiday this year I spotted this tree at Loch Lomond. Despite the environment trying hard to uproot it and wash it away, that tree has found a way to stay steady and to thrive, even in a tough location. It prompted me to think about resilience and how people manage to survive and even thrive despite the world sometimes seeming to be against them. Perhaps you will recognise yourself or someone you know in what follows, and if you do then I hope you find this blog helpful.

Life throws us challenges continuously, and often problems happen one after another. When some people face difficulties, particularly when they become prolonged, all of their emotions become negative.  When life is good, they feel great, but when things turn bad, they feel terrible and don’t cope well.

Resilient people are able to find something positive in even the worst of circumstances. They definitely are aware of the bad stuff, but at the same time they find a way to also see the good. For instance, they will take the perspective that as bad as something may seem, at least they don’t have ‘such and such’ a problem. How do they do that?

How do you learn to become more resilient – more able to cope well with life’s problems?

Positive Mental Attitude

Oh I know, it sounds such a cliche – that PMA! However, it is helpful to recognise and acknowledge that the way you think affects the way you feel. In order to change unhelpful emotional patterns, you need to curb that habit of negative thinking and build up your positive thinking. You need to strengthen the neural pathways that support this more helpful way of looking at things, so that becomes your habit instead.

When you find yourself ruminating negatively, notice what’s happening and challenge your viewpoint –  ‘What’s the real evidence that things will never get any better?’ All people have memories of success and of failure. Thinking that things will ‘never’ improve is an example of extreme, black and white thinking and not accurate.

We experience this negative type of thinking because our brains are naturally wired to focus more attention on negative events than positive ones. We have evolved to watch out for things that threaten us, so we are attuned to spotting them. So, even though positive events are happening, we have a natural tendency to filter them out. When you take time to notice and appreciate the positive aspects of experiences, you begin to build up a more balanced evidence base and this allows you to make better judgements. A consequence of this, is developing your resilience and enjoying the good things in your life.

Learn from experience

All good and bad experiences provide opportunities for personal growth. When you see events from this perspective – life as a learning experience – the more resilient you become. Resilient people look at a problem and say – ‘What will solve this?’ and ‘What am I learning from this?’ Problems provide an opportunity to learn and problem-solve – developing these skills allows your resilience to develop. Ask yourself questions such as –  ‘What is useful in this?’ or ‘What available choices do I have?’, rather than focusing on ‘What’s going wrong?’ or ‘Who can I blame?’ It takes practice to shift your thinking in this way, but it is worth the effort.

This type of learning encourages you to think more broadly and to accept what is possible. Alternatively, focusing on the negative will impact on the way you communicate with others and possibly make problems even worse. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself?

Be kind

Being kind boosts the serotonin or feel good chemical in your brain. Practicing kindness to others and also appreciating kindness from others, and being grateful for the good things in life (and yes, everyone has something!) allows you to see any difficulties from a more balanced viewpoint. Think about this as filling up your very own reservoir of resilience. Having a reservoir of resilience you can draw on, means you will be able to cope well when difficult times come along.

Treat yourself well

Stay mentally and physically healthy by eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise. Spend time with people whose company you enjoy. Laugh and nurture the humour in situations – after all, gallows humour is a coping mechanism! Take time to relax – listen to your favourite music or go for a walk in nature. All these things relieve stress and allow you to top up your vital reservoir of resilience.

Finally, if all of this just seems too hard, then please do seek out expert, professional help. A good coach or therapist will help you – you are not alone.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Personal Development Specialist based in York. You can reach me at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

What 10 things made this a good year?


checklist

It’s that time of year when many of us look back on the year that has passed and have a quick mental review of what sort of year it was. We all wish each other a ‘Happy New Year’ at the start of January, so how did your year go? Spend a moment now just looking back over the last 12 months of your life and see what your overall feeling is about this year.

Isn’t it strange how when we do this we tend to focus on the things that went wrong, were really bad, or disappointing? I noticed myself doing this, which prompted me to write this blog.

For many, this has been a particularly challenging year as things have shifted on the world stage. Perhaps you have experienced #anger, #anxiety or even #depression. Add in any personal, financial or emotional challenges and your review may be teetering on the edge of that negativity cliff! We all have this negativity bias as part of our human nature and it helps us to watch out for threats or danger in our everyday lives. However, we can become too focussed on what went wrong and fail to notice what went right! It is easy to become blinkered to the good stuff. So, I decided to write a list of the things that made it a good year…..

  • Love and support from close family
  • Good friends
  • Opportunities for meeting new people who enrich life
  • Exercise to feel good and improve health
  • Getting out in nature
  • Regular, healthy meals
  • Time to rest and recuperate
  • Helping others
  • Enjoying hobbies
  • Learning from a new challenge

The good news is that there are many more than 10 things on this list – this list goes on. So, my new view overall is – that was actually a great year full of challenges and opportunities that stretched old ways of thinking, increased learning and therefore enriched life! If you are feeling down about the last year perhaps your focus is in the wrong place. Take a step back and shift your focus onto what went well. What did you learn? How did you grow and develop emotionally? If you find this difficult, the easiest way to start is to think about what you can be grateful for this year – perhaps things, surroundings or people you have taken for granted? Get started now. I wonder how many you can write on your list?

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Personal Development Specialist based in York. You can reach me at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com