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.

Chronic Pain and Beliefs


Pain

Your experience of Chronic Pain is not just about the physical sensations. There are many psychological aspects to pain including what you think about pain, and how you think about it – which I mentioned in my blog – Pain and the Power of Words https://yorkmindmakeover.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/pain-and-the-power-of-words/

The psychological aspect to your experience of pain is based on your own beliefs – the meaning you give to pain.

  • Control

Do you believe you can control your experience of pain and manage how it affects your life? I use hypnotherapy to show people how they can learn to manage their own pain experience and gain control over it using self-hypnosis techniques. This gives you the power to change your perception of pain, lower the intensity of pain and lessen distress and depressive thinking

  • Acceptance

Helping people to explore their pain using mindfulness techniques is the first step in accepting that pain is only one component of your experience. Pain sensations are transient and can change. It is still possible to lead a satisfying life, and practising pain reduction is helpful but not necessarily central to this

  • Disability

When people believe they are disabled by pain they will necessarily behave that way. You need not be disabled by pain. Activity can reduce the experience of some pain (i.e. pain stimulated by physical damage) – despite common thinking that it will make the experience worse. For example, weak muscles are more likely to spasm so limiting activity only makes pain worse long term. Exercise to lengthen and strengthen muscles can stop pain getting worse

  • Fear of Harm

It seems common sense to believe that pain is a signal of physical damage so activity should be limited or avoided altogether. However, when pain becomes chronic, the intensity loses its association with the amount of physical damage. Gentle exercise such as stretching is in fact beneficial rather than causing harm

As you can see, your beliefs about pain guide your behaviour and therefore impact on your long-term health. Your beliefs will determine the strategies you use to cope. Maladaptive coping strategies include guarding yourself, resting and constantly asking for assistance to do things, believing these behaviours will help you avoid further possible harm. This limits your life and can lead to distress, withdrawal from society, anxiety and depression.

Adaptive coping strategies are the answer – including pacing yourself so you never get overwhelmed by pain, learning how to gain control over your perception of pain, learning ways of coping when pain flares, and encouraging regular gentle activity to encourage mobility.

Do you recognise any of your own beliefs about pain? Would you benefit from shifting your thinking?

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com

 

Pain and the Power of Words

Pain and the Power of Words


Chronic Pain

I’ve been working recently with people who suffer with chronic pain. Working together over several sessions we have experienced success in reducing the perception of pain and alleviating the suffering, as well as formulating new habits such as pacing so that the problem never reaches the point of overwhelm and is manageable.

What struck me about working with these people are the stories they tell about themselves and their pain experiences. They seem to have one thing in common – a person in authority in the medical profession has told them that the pain will always be there, it is something they have to live with and it will probably never go away. They can take medication but this in itself has unpleasant side effects, particularly when the dose needs increasing over months or years as they become tolerant to it. Again, they have been told that this is inevitable.

As a hypnotherapist I am very aware of the power of words. Let’s step back and think about the effect of these negative, disempowering messages. Set them in the medical context, delivered by an expert  – who has the patient’s full focussed attention, and it’s not difficult to see how these words have mesmerised them and affected the beliefs they now have about the pain. Negative hypnosis in action!

Did you realise that pain is not just about physical sensations? There are many psychological aspects to pain. What you think about pain, and how you think about it, has a huge effect on your experience. Catastrophising is common and is a consistent predictor of the level of pain and suffering experienced. When someone thinks that they cannot learn to manage pain themselves and are stuck with it, and then is constantly focussed on that pain and ruminates on that negative experience, it is no surprise that they experience higher levels of pain, possibly depression, anxiety, distress and even disability.

When people learn to use adaptive coping strategies rather than only relying on the doctor, hospital specialist or science itself to make them feel better, huge improvements can be experienced in terms of the intensity of pain, physiological functioning and activity levels. This can be done with the right professional help.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Looking inside my Therapy Toolbox – What is EMDR?


Toolbox1

In my therapy practice I offer a range of different psychotherapeutic approaches and techniques so that I can use the most appropriate tool from my toolbox to help a client with their own individual issues. Good psychotherapists are committed to continuous professional development and undertake additional courses each year to keep their skills up to date and to stay abreast of new methods, models, techniques and research in the world of psychotherapy. Perhaps you have been seeking therapy or are just interested in what is available?

If you have ever checked out various therapist websites you are probably bewildered by the strange sounding therapies and techniques they offer. Whilst hypnotherapy is now very common, other evidence-based therapies such as EMDR are less well known. I trained in using this form of therapy a few years ago, when I felt I needed an extra tool in my toolbox for dealing with distress in a fast and effective way. In this blog I am talking about EMDR and how it can be invaluable in helping people overcome serious distress.

So what is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It is a powerful psychological treatment method that was first outlined in the 1980’s by Dr Francine Shapiro, a clinical psychologist. Shapiro developed the EMDR therapeutic approach based on specific principles, protocols and procedures with the goal of reducing distress in the shortest period of time.

Substantial research has demonstrated the benefits of EMDR in treating psychological trauma and (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is now commonly used to help the victims of large-scale catastrophes around the world including experiences of war and natural world disasters. However, it is also used to help people overcome the distress experienced from childhood abuse or neglect, assaults, surgical trauma, road traffic and workplace accidents. For example, train drivers who witness fatalities on the line are treated with EMDR as it can relieve their distress quickly and effectively. It can also be used to help people experiencing emotional distress with other issues including anxiety, phobias, grief, divorce, illness, performance anxiety, self esteem or any distress from the past, which is still impacting on day-to-day life.

So how does it work?

Being involved in a distressing event can feel overwhelming and the brain may be unable to process this information in the same way as it would an ordinary memory. The distressing memory seems to become frozen on a neurological level. Recalling the distressing memory, which can sometimes be triggered when you least expect it, can cause you to intensely re-experience whatever you could see, hear, smell, taste or feel at the time of the event. Sometimes the memory is so disturbing that you avoid thinking about it so you don’t have to experience the distress. In PTSD, people experience flashbacks and nightmares that are as intense as the actual incident that created the distress.

EMDR aims to identify and process dysfunctional and unhelpful behaviours, emotions, cognitions and memories arising from recent or past trauma and distressing life experiences. The theory behind the treatment proposes that unprocessed traumatic or distressing information produces dysfunctional reactions. These unprocessed memories are stored in separate unconnected memory networks in the brain. In EMDR, bilateral stimulation allows you to make connections between these neuro-networks causing spontaneous insight and change, resulting in learning and relief of emotional distress.

For example, let’s suppose someone was bullied at school and instead of the brain making sense of that experience and letting it go, the distress experienced is stored in a separate memory network along with all the emotion, beliefs and physical sensations that were there at the time. When something happens perhaps 20 years later that the brain interprets as being similar in nature (perhaps a boss at work makes a negative comment) the brain makes sense of it by linking to the old memory and all the associated feelings come flooding back. This person may not understand why the boss being negative triggers such a distressing reaction in them because it is happening automatically and is beyond their control. In EMDR, that old memory can be processed appropriately as you learn what you need from it and let the rest go. The original memory is transformed and stored in this reconsolidated form so the person can’t be triggered any more.

The treatment phase of the EMDR protocol can seem a little strange when you first encounter it. Alternating eye movements (or sometimes tapping or sounds) are used to stimulate the brain into reprocessing the frozen or blocked information that is being triggered and creating the distress. This bilateral stimulation allows you to re-process the distressing memories more appropriately, so they lose their intensity and can be stored in the same way as normal memories. The effect is believed to work in the same way as we naturally process ordinary memories during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) or dream sleep when your eyes move rapidly and repeatedly from side to side. After treatment, past memories no longer cause you distress, allowing you to respond adaptively in the present and in the future.

What happens during EMDR treatment?

In my therapy room, I start with a history taking session during which I assess your readiness for EMDR and develop a treatment plan. Working together, we identify possible targets for EMDR processing. These include recent distressing events, current situations that elicit emotional disturbance (triggers) and related historical incidents.

I always ensure that every client has adequate methods of handling emotional distress and good coping skills before any processing work takes place. Hypnotherapy techniques can be great for doing this effectively and the bonus is that you learn and practice some valuable skills that can be used in everyday stressful situations, as well as during or between sessions.

Once an initial target has been identified, it is processed using EMDR procedures. This usually involves you identifying a specific visual image related to the memory, beliefs about yourself in that situation, and the associated emotions and body sensations. There are other ways of using EMDR where you don’t have to openly share distressing information with the therapist, so before any processing starts we decide together which way of working would be most beneficial for you.

When the processing stage begins you are asked to focus on aspects of the memory whilst simultaneously moving your eyes back and forth following my fingers as they move across your field of vision for 20-30 seconds. You may be asked instead to listen to alternating tones or use a tapping device, which you hold in each hand to experience the bilateral stimulation, which enables the processing to take place. You are then asked to relate whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind. This is repeated numerous times throughout the session. As the memory is adapted appropriately you will notice things changing and the associated distress subsiding until it disappears. Depending on the complexity and severity of the distress, it may take several sessions to process the old memories in a fully adaptive way.

After EMDR processing, clients generally report that the emotional distress related to the memory has been eliminated, or greatly decreased, and that they have gained important cognitive insights. Usually they cannot recall the old memory in the same distressing way again. Importantly, these emotional and cognitive changes generally result in spontaneous behavioural and personal change, which can be further enhanced.

When I first experienced EMDR I was blown away by it’s effectiveness. I have since used it very successfully for treating many clients including people suffering from the effects of phobias, anxiety, relationship distress, and road traffic accident traumas.

I have completed all 4 parts of an EMDR Association approved course and supervised practice in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. Training on an approved course is restricted to mental health professionals who hold current registration to provide psychotherapeutic services (such as British Psychological Society membership). I am pleased to be able to offer this service to my clients alongside my other services.

If you are interested in EMDR there is a link on my website to find out more: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com/links.html

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

Tips and Tricks for keeping your Stress under control


ok

Stress is your emotional and physical response to pressure and happens when you feel unable to cope. Many people lead demanding lives and stress can arise from life events, illness, living conditions, work, relationships, and money worries. in fact the list is endless because people have different ways of reacting to and coping with stress. A situation which is overwhelming for one person, may not concern someone else in the same way.  Even those events which you see as enjoyable can be stressful, such as holidays, moving house, starting a new job or course, pregnancy, parenthood, and family get togethers like Christmas.

When you are constantly under pressure, the stress hormones remain in your body, leading to the symptoms that let you know you feel stressed. It’s important to recognise these symptoms early and prevent serious health issues such as high blood pressure. Everyone gets stressed from time to time – it’s a natural reaction to a threat or danger or prolonged pressure, so it’s a biological part of all of us. However, what is important is how you choose to manage stress. Some people adopt unhealthy coping strategies such as comfort eating, drinking alcohol or smoking which take a further toll on health. There are simple things you can do to give yourself a sense of control and help you to cope in a healthy way.

The first step is to identify what makes you stressed:

  • Where am I when I’m feeling stressed? What am I doing? Who am I with?

Even if there is little you can do about some situations, making some small changes can make a big difference. In stressful situations remember to Pause, Take a breath, and Don’t just react automatically. Ask yourself:

  • What am I reacting to?
  • Is it helpful for me to think this way?
  • What is within my control?
  • Is there another way of looking at this?
  • How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 months time?
  • What is the most helpful way to respond for me and others?

I see many clients who are struggling with stress and anxiety in their lives. Common to all of them is the lack of knowledge or skills for controlling these feelings. There are lots of tips and tricks for helping you keep stress levels under control:

  • Deal with problems as they happen. Bottling up your feelings allows them to grow until they overflow
  • Slow down. You don’t have to do things at 100 miles an hour. Eat, walk and drive more slowly. If you don’t get as much done as you would like, there is always tomorrow. Act ‘as if’ you are relaxed: slow down your speech, relax your shoulders, and don’t fidget. This will also affect how other people will react to you
  • Do one thing at a time. If you have too much to do and can see no way to cope with it, see if you can divide it up and then tackle the bits one at a time. Prioritise and then do the worst thing first
  • The words ‘must’ and ‘should’ create pressure. Work out what you can realistically cope with and be content with this. You don’t have to be Superman/Wonder Woman
  • If people expect too much of you, you don’t have to accept their targets. Learn to be more assertive and say ‘No’
  • Stress can make you hard to live with and create problems with those close to you. Nurture strong, confident relationships which give you people to confide in and help you fight stress
  • Talk to someone – if you don’t have a supportive relationship or someone to confide in, there are lots of professional therapists who specialise in helping people with stress
  • Treat yourself as you would a good friend. What advice would you give?
  • Help others – people who help others become more resilient themselves. This can be as simple as doing someone a small favour that costs nothing
  • Shift your perspective by noticing what you have to be grateful for. Problems are often a question of perspective
  • Write down your thoughts and feelings – get them out of your head
  • Accept that there are things in life you can’t change – people get ill, people die, people lose jobs. Bad things happen and everyone has to learn to accept them as a part of life. Focus on the things you can control instead
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and cut down on high sugar foods such as cakes, biscuits and sweets which may fuel anxiety
  • Caffeine can make you feel alert but the effects of too much are the same as those of stress and anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the brain and central nervous system. It can be found in: coffee, tea, Coke, Fanta, aspirin, cold remedies, headache tablets, energy tablets, drinks like Pro-Plus and Red Bull and even in chocolate at a low level
  • Stay hydrated by drinking more fresh, clean water
  • Some people believe that smoking helps them relax, but nicotine is a stimulant. The reported relaxation effect of smoking is nothing more than deep breathing when you inhale. Practice the breathing but lose the cigarettes
  • Make some time for relaxation, fun and enjoyment. If you think you don’t have time for this – you need it the most!
  • Learn Mindful Breathing (see my blog on ‘3 Quick Relaxation Exercises’)
  • Listen to music – sing and dance along to something upbeat, or relax to something calming and emotion-free
  • Physical exercise – get active even if you just go for a walk. Doing something physical completes the stress cycle and allows those stress hormones to dissipate, so you feel better
  • Get out in nature to feel uplifted – go to the park or for a walk in the countryside
  • Find a hobby or interest that gives you a sense of achievement – adult colouring books or doodling zentangles are great for feeling creative. Don’t know what they are? Look it up. Challenge yourself with something new
  • And finally….RELAX! Do some deep abdominal slow breathing or listen to my free 10 minutes Relaxation track on http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com to instantly feel a little better

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Hypnotherapist based in York. I can be reached via my website at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

3 Quick Relaxation Exercises


Tired woman uid 1426326

Perhaps you’re feeling stressed or anxious and you know that you need to calm things down fast. Knowing that you need to calm things down to feel better, just makes you more anxious and more stressed because you don’t know how to do it. It can be difficult to change that state of emotional arousal when you don’t have a clue where to start. I see clients every week who have this dilemma. By sharing these quick relaxation tips, they soon learn how to get back in control of any anxious, stressful feelings and reduce the physical symptoms that can feel so distressing.

Did you know that your breathing plays an essential role in stress and anxiety? Breathing is a powerful determinant of physical state. When your breathing rate becomes elevated, a number of physiological changes begin to happen. Perhaps you’ve noticed this yourself when you’ve had a fright; you might suddenly gasp, feel a little breathless or lightheaded, or notice tingling sensations around your body. The way you breathe is a major factor in producing these and other sensations that are noticeable when you’re stressed or anxious.

One of the first things I teach my clients is the important role breathing plays in controlling the stress response, and how changing your breathing can be used to send a strong, positive message to your brain that everything is ok, you are safe at this moment and you can allow yourself to relax and calm down.

So if you are feeling stressed give this a try now. Find a place where you will be undisturbed for a few minutes. You can close your eyes or keep them open, whatever is comfortable for you. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting lightly in your lap. If you wish you can lay down.

Exercise 1 – Breathing to release tension

  • Breathe in deeply (from your diaphragm) to the count of  7. Pause.
  • Breathe out to the count of 11. Pause.
  • Breathe in to the count of 7 and so on…

Just allow the oxygen to gently and slowly flow in and flow out. The numbers themselves aren’t important – it’s the lengthening of the out breath that does it. Sometimes people find it hard to breathe this slowly at first so adjust the numbers if you wish.

Once you have practised this breathing technique you can add the following:

  • As you breathe in, imagine that the air around you is a wonderful colour of calm. As you breathe in allow the colour to flow in and through your body like a wave of calmness, clearing any tension in your body or stresses in your mind
  • As you breathe out, imagine any tension or stress flowing out and away from you and disappearing into the air where it evaporates and disappears

Exercise 2 – Deep Breathing Technique

  • Breathe in so that your belly (not your chest) rises. This deep abdominal breathing (diaphragmatic breathing) is the correct way to breathe
  • You can check whether you are doing this correctly by placing your hands on your belly with your fingertips touching, on an out breath. As you breathe in, your fingertips should part

So why does changing my breathing help?

You might already know that you breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. For the body to run efficiently, there needs to be a balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide, and this balance is maintained by how fast and how deeply you breathe. Of course, the body needs different amounts of oxygen depending on your level of activity. When you exercise, there is an increase in both oxygen and carbon dioxide; in relaxation there is a decrease in both oxygen and carbon dioxide. In both cases the balance is maintained. However, when you are anxious, this balance is disrupted. You take in more oxygen than the body needs – in other words you overbreathe, or hyperventilate. When this balance is detected, the body responds with a number of chemical changes that produce those uncomfortable physical symptoms; dizziness, light-headedness, confusion, breathlessness, blurred vision, increasing heart rate, numbness and tingling in the extremities, cold clammy hands and muscle stiffness. The normal rate of breathing is 10 to 12 breaths per minute. What is your breathing rate and would you benefit from slowing down?

Exercise 3 – Mindfulness relaxation – it only takes a minute every day

This technique is simple yet very effective. Take a moment to practice it every day:

  • Close your eyes and focus your awareness on your body and become aware of any and all sensations there
  • Now focus your attention like a spotlight on any particular tightness or discomfort anywhere in the body. If there are none then just focus on the stillness in the body

You are not trying to judge any sensations or change them, but simply to become aware of them. If your mind wanders then gently escort it back to focusing on your breathing

  • You may find that any areas of tension begin to loosen and relax. You don’t need to try to do this, just be aware of any relaxation happening
  • You can stay like this for as long as you wish but even a minute is beneficial

Using these calming exercises, you can experience a minute of stillness, slow your breathing down and reduce your general level of anxiety. The key to gaining control really is practice, so set aside some time to do this every day. With enough practice, it will even help to reduce feelings of stress when you are in an anxious situation.

There are lots of breathing techniques out there so experiment with them and see what a difference this new habit can make.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and Hypnotherapist and I work in York. I can be reached via my website at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com

Would you like a good night’s sleep? Here’s how


Woman s closed eye uid 1282205

Did you have a good night’s sleep last night? Did you wake up this morning feeling refreshed? Or was it a bad night?

If you had a rough night then you are not alone. Many people experience problems sleeping at some time in their lives. As babies, we can sleep for 16 hours a day. As adults we tend to benefit most from 7- 8 hours sleep on average. Over your lifetime you will develop your own sleep pattern, which may change as you age. You will probably notice changes in sleeping habits at significant times as a result of various issues. When I see clients seeking help for sleep problems it is helpful to define exactly what they are experiencing as there are different types of sleep disturbance:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Sleeping lightly and restlessly, waking often, and lying awake in the night
  • Waking early and being unable to get back to sleep

We are probably all familiar with the tell-tale signs of a rough night’s sleep! Physical symptoms usually include feeling tired during the day, frequent headaches, irritability or lack of concentration, and feeling tired on waking rather than refreshed and re-energised. The main causes for sleep problems are:

  • State of mind – anxiety, depression, worry, anger, grief, or anticipating a difficult event
  • Menstrual cycle changes in women
  • Change – moving house, starting a new job or a course
  • Environment – noise, discomfort, time zone change
  • Pain
  • Medical conditions – heart, breathing, digestion, high blood pressure, arthritis, anorexia, tinnitus
  • Recreational drugs – nicotine, caffeine, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD, cannabis
  • Sleeping pills or tranquilisers – these substances can create sleep disturbance!
  • Other prescription drugs – some contraceptives, diuretics, slimming pills, beta-blockers, stimulants

It’s a long list so if you are having problems sleeping, it is important to work out whether there is an underlying cause for your disturbed nights, or any particular trigger. Here are some areas for you to consider:

  • Are you aware of any cause or trigger
  • Are you aware of any stressors
  • Is your bed comfortable – how old is your bed and does it need replacing
  • Is your bedroom dark enough – do you need thicker curtains or an eye mask
  • Any noise disturbance – neighbours/snoring partner. Earplugs may help
  • What is the temperature of the room and is it cool enough for sleeping
  • Diet – very rich foods and alcohol can interfere with sleep. Are you eating too late in the evening

It also helps to avoid these:

  • Naps during the day especially after 3pm and longer than 20 minutes
  • Going to bed when you are stressed or wound up or not ready
  • Having an argument at bedtime
  • Working, eating or phoning in bed
  • Using an electronic device in the evenings which emits blue light – including watching TV
  • Lying in bed awake for more than 30 minutes
  • Eating, drinking or smoking if you get up during the night
  • Falling asleep in front of the TV
  • Drinking too much liquid towards the end of the evening
  • Worrying about not sleeping or getting angry
  • Stimulants – coffee, tea, alcohol, nicotine, cola drinks, food additives, junk food, slimming pills or appetite suppressants

The good news is that there are many things you can do to change habits which may be interfering with the right quality and quantity of sleep, including:

  • Change or resolve things causing you stress where possible – see a therapist if you need help with this
  • Accept situations that you can’t change
  • Give yourself enough time to do things. Don’t take on too much and avoid unrealistic demands
  • Live in the present, rather than worrying about the past or fearing the future
  • Talk through any relationship problems with the person concerned
  • Do some relaxing activity just for pleasure
  • Get regular exercise, but not later than 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Spend at least 30 minutes a day in natural sunlight. Daylight regulates your sleeping pattern
  • Some foods aid sleep such as a meal high in carbohydrates 2 hours before bedtime, a warm milky drink, a herbal tea such as chamomile, or hot water before bedtime
  • Establish a bedtime routine
  • If you are a late sleeper, get up earlier
  • Get up at the same time each day
  • Only go to bed when tired
  • Do one final security check
  • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something that is not too stimulating
  • Have a warm bath or take a light walk before bedtime
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones – “I will sleep”
  • Lavender scent on pillows can help to relax you
  • Don’t try too hard to sleep – instead just let go and allow it to happen
  • Give yourself some quiet time each day
  • Practice relaxation techniques or breathing exercises regularly
  • Keep your mind and body as relaxed as possible – self hypnosis, mindfulness and meditation is great for this

Various natural remedies claim to aid restful sleep such as valerian and cherry juice products. Research suggests that cherry juice increases melatonin levels – the hormone that regulates sleep and makes you feel naturally sleepy at night. As melatonin is released you feel increasingly drowsy. You naturally feel most tired between midnight and 7am. You may also feel mildly sleepy between 1pm and 4pm when another increase in melatonin occurs in your body.

Psychological interventions are very effective for dealing with sleep problems and can include relaxation training, stress management and hypnotherapy. I have helped many people suffering with insomnia using these techniques. For starters, why not listen to my free 10 minutes relaxation track before you go to sleep. If you find this approach helpful then there are lots of meditative recordings generally available which will help you to relax a busy mind and promote a good night’s sleep. My free recording is here: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com. Alternatively, seek out a hypnotherapist who will work with you on a one-to-one basis.

Sleep well!

#Confidence – what can I do to get it? Part 6


Confident

Often people tell me they lack confidence because they are scared about making a fool of themselves or looking stupid. When you think like this, those thoughts affect the way you feel and lead to a host of physical symptoms. Perhaps you have experienced some of them – shaking, blushing, feeling sick, tripping over your words. If I asked you to describe a person who lacked confidence, what would you say? Chances are you would notice their closed body language, or how quiet and withdrawn they are.

However, physical symptoms like feeling sick are usually more apparent to the person experiencing them than being outwardly visible. Even blushing or shaking can go unnoticed despite feeling overwhelming to the person who is experiencing the discomfort of a lack of confidence. The point I am making is that other people just don’t notice as much as you think they do. Even if they do, they would just think you were a bit nervous, and reasonable people think that is ok as we all feel like that sometimes. When you lack confidence you can get totally caught up in these sorts of feelings – your focus is directed inwards on yourself – and this makes you feel worse. The trick to feeling confident then is to reverse this focus. You need to focus outwardly on other people and on your immediate purpose.

Remember that young man who lacked the confidence to give a presentation? He discovered that when he shifted his focus outwardly – onto his audience and on what he wanted to tell them about, he stopped dwelling on how unconfident he was feeling inside. When you focus internally on your nervous feelings you are sending a message to your brain that says “I am really nervous about this so it must be something to be worried about” and this in turn makes the symptoms even worse. It sets up a vicious circle. Often people who feel like this and lack confidence will avoid situations that make them fearful – for example phoning in sick on the day of a presentation so they don’t have to go through with it. This either just puts off the inevitable as the presentation may be rescheduled, or it reinforces the learned behaviour – that this is something to be worried about and you must avoid it at all costs if it happens again. If you play the avoidance game all your life then you are missing out on some wonderful opportunities to fulfill your potential. Why not have a go at changing the way you behave – you have nothing to lose but your lack of confidence!

Let’s take our example of giving a presentation at work again. Your instant reaction may be to make an excuse and avoid having to do it, but there is a way to override this feeling if it happens. You can find ways to help overcome any feelings of anxiety. See my previous blogs on #anxiety for how to do this: https://yorkmindmakeover.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/anxiety-what-is-it-and-how-do-i-make-it-go-away-part-7/

When you are able to feel calmer and more relaxed, you can think more clearly. Focus on your purpose for doing the presentation. What message or key points do you want your audience to take away with them? Remember how it felt when you modeled your ideal confident person – how they were standing and the speed of their speech. Mirror that body language and you will e-experience the confidence you felt during your identity merge. Remember that your audience is there to learn from you, not to judge you personally. Most people have had the experience of presenting so they understand it can make you a little nervous – and therefore they will be on your side. Have you ever watched those TV auditions for singing shows? Do you feel yourself willing someone who seems a little nervous to do well? Notice how the audience is on their side and wills them along. Most people are like this and want you to succeed, so they are tolerant of mistakes – you do not have to be perfect. It’s ok to be good enough! Being ok with whatever happens, because you did the best you could do at that particular time, is the key to confidence. It’s amazing that even the most confident performers admit to feeling a bit nervous – but you would never know unless you asked them. Just because you feel this way on the inside it doesn’t mean your audience will notice, so don’t get hung up on it and allow it to take over your thinking. Do the best you can at that time and congratulate yourself for what you did achieve – that is the way to build your confidence. Your own internal voice can be trained to be your fan club rather than your greatest critic!

Reading this series of blogs has already sown the seeds of Confidence in your mind so why not start growing your own Confidence habit today – reinforce it by using regularly and see your Confidence blossom!

I hope that you have found these 6 blogs on #Confidence interesting reading. Perhaps you have learned something, challenged something, or thought about changing something. If you have a different perspective to offer then perhaps you could share your ideas too. If you have been inspired to seek help with building your confidence, then there are many dedicated professionals out there who can help you.

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and #Hypnotherapist and I work in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

 

#Confidence – what can I do to get it? Part 5


Confident

Maybe you are one of those people that feel like you have never, ever been confident? How do you know how to be confident if you have never done it? One of the very useful techniques I use in my therapy room allows people to understand how another person goes about being confident – and then to model themselves on the confident traits they would like to adopt.

Who do you admire for their confidence? I’ve heard various answers to this question ranging from President Obama to Beyonce, Margaret Thatcher, Muhammad Ali and Rihanna. For others it is their husband, mother or a favourite teacher. If you would like to become more confident then in order to have made this judgement, you must have already had a model in mind that you are using as a comparison to yourself.

Get a sense of your admired, confident person and take a good, long look at what it is about them that leads you to admire their confidence. If you find this difficult you can close your eyes to allow you to focus your attention, much as you would do in a #hypnotherapy session. You only need to notice the confident parts of the person that you would like for yourself – not every aspect or things you don’t like about them. Modelling other people in this way is nothing new. Have you ever shadowed an expert at work to see what it is they do to complete their job well? Top sports people are often encouraged to do this same exercise – noticing what it is about the performance of winning athletes or themselves when they are successful, that they can use to improve. Modelling or copying the outwardly evident confident aspects of your ideal will allow you to feel the confidence they experience on the inside.

So you can do this for yourself now. Think about the person you most admire for their confidence, and imagine them in the situation where you would like to be more confident. Close your eyes and see that person in that situation and notice what they look like. You need to pay close attention to their posture and body language, the way and speed they move. Notice their facial expressions, the way they speak – the tone, pitch and speed. Picture how they are dressed. Pay attention to the way they relate to other people in the situation and how others interact with them in return. Spend as long as you need doing this and make it as real as you can. Next, imagine yourself standing next to your model. Gradually you are going to drift into being that person as your identities merge together until you are there actually as that person, seeing through their eyes and standing in their body. If you are doing this in a focused way, you will be able to experience what it is like to be this person and have this amount of confidence. It can take practice to do this and a good #hypnotherapist will help you to do this effectively. Once you have experienced what it feels like on the inside to be this confident, it becomes easier for you to behave this way in your own life.

It is well known that acting ‘as if’ we are confident allows our brain to learn how to do this instinctively. Remember, if you have been training your brain by acting unconfidently for a long time, it will have learned to do this really well. Acting ‘as if’ may seem to be a bit false or fake for you at first, but it is this mental rehearsal that allows you to learn any new behaviour until it becomes an effortless habit. Confidence is something we learn. Often we begin in childhood by modeling a parent or someone close to us. Perhaps you haven’t had the right training so far, but this doesn’t mean you are stuck with a lack of confidence. You can bring your ideal into your imagination and begin to model them whenever you want to. You can learn how to be confident, and this means you have to practice until it becomes your natural way of doing things.

I hope you are enjoying reading these blogs about developing your Confidence and are finding the information helpful. Why not follow my blog and check out whether you have missed anything useful?

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and #Hypnotherapist working in private practice in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com

 

 

#Confidence – what can I do to get it? Part 4


Confident

In Part 3 of this series of blogs on #confidence I talked about a young man who lacked the confidence to give a presentation at work. Although he had prepared the content for this presentation, and was confident he knew his stuff, he was not prepared for it mentally. His imagination was running riot, predicting all sorts of things going wrong and this was sapping his confidence. No-one is a mind reader, so we just can’t say what will happen in any future situation – good or bad. However, we can learn to manage whatever happens in a successful way. This is what gives us confidence – learning to deal with and effectively manage the uncertainties of life, knowing that whatever happens we will be ok. This young man was using his powerful imagination to foresee things going wrong and could even make himself feel sick at the thought of standing up and presenting. Many people do this – perhaps you know someone who avoids meeting new people or is too nervous to go on a date, or someone who dreads holiday times because they aren’t confident flyers – or perhaps you recognize yourself here? What my client didn’t realize is that this powerful imagination is a great gift – he could learn to harness this ability to imagine himself coping well with whatever may happen. Instead of sabotaging himself, he could use his imagination to develop his own confidence.

The easiest and most effective way to do this is using #hypnosis. Did you realize that hypnosis is a natural phenomenon that we all use every day? It is a state of highly focused attention that we have all experienced. This young man had already inadvertently been using negative #self-hypnosis to convince himself that things would go wrong. He was worrying about his presenting style, the obvious physical manifestation of his nervousness and what his colleagues would think of him when he started shaking and his voice faltered. He was using his powerful imagination to scare himself about something that hadn’t even happened!

I talked with him about anxiety and how this affects the way we think and behave. You can find out more about this here: http://www.yorkmindmakeover.wordpress.com/2014/07/04/anxiety-what-is-it-and-how-do-i-make-it-go-away-part-1/

In the therapy room, he learned how to use hypnosis to turn this around. He learned techniques for staying relaxed and calm including using deep abdominal slow breathing or a one minute meditation to feel instantly a little better. Using hypnosis, I encouraged him to travel forward in time and imagine himself really there on the day of his presentation. He pictured himself getting up in the morning feeling relaxed and calm, going to work and leading up to the time before his presentation slot. He experienced all of this whilst remaining calm – just as he had told me he wanted to feel on this day. I then helped him imagine his presentation going really well, remaining in control of his body, standing steady, even to see himself handling challenging questions from his colleagues, remaining calm and his voice staying steady and clear, and then to feel the sensations of pride and achievement in a job well done. He imagined and experienced a wonderful feeling of confidence. This happens because your brain doesn’t differentiate between what is real and what is imagined – the feelings are the same. If you doubt this just watch a scary movie or a weepy movie – it’s not real but you still have the same emotional reaction as if it was really happening. He finished the session with a huge smile on his face. He was encouraged to go through this exercise again and again at home to strengthen the new neural pathways he had established. Building confidence needs practice and reinforcement, just as in building any new habit.

I wonder if you are now becoming aware of the way you may be using negative self-hypnosis to sabotage yourself? We are all guilty of this from time to time and usually completely unaware of it. However, the good news is, in the same way, you can use positive self-hypnosis to develop your confidence. Why not give it a try? Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and allow yourself to become calm and relaxed by slowing your breathing and relaxing any tension in your body. Imagine yourself in a situation where you would like to have more confidence. Make the scene as real as you can – bring it to life and picture yourself there feeling calm and optimistic, expecting success in whatever it is you are doing. Remember, confidence is all about feeling that whatever happens you will be ok. Picture yourself coping well and feeling confident – allow that feeling to grow and develop. Just experiencing this sets up new pathways in your brain and the more you practice, the more you reinforce this new behaviour. After all – hasn’t your unwanted behaviour developed in the same way? When your new confident behaviour becomes a habit, the old unwanted behaviour will fade and disappear. Eventually this decay means you will find it difficult to remember how it used to be.

In the final 2 blogs in this series I will be talking more about Confidence and what you can do to encourage it to grow and develop. Why not follow my blog and check out whether you can learn anything useful?

I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist and #Hypnotherapist working in private practice in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com