Hypnotherapy for Anxiety and Depression (and Happy New Year!):

Hello and Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful festive period and are all set and ready to have a fantastic 2019.

While busy enjoying my Christmas break, I was delighted to read a story in The Times about 'how hypnosis can sooth anxiety and depression'. A wonderful little piece about how effective hypnotherapy for anxiety has been at Southampton University and let's hope that many other universities and education establishments follow suit and get their mental health support in place. More on that story and the results of anxiety hypnosis in a bit.

I've got to say that this Christmas was one of the best I can remember. We had loads of fun playing cards and games, messing about, and trying to get our new Alexa to say funny stuff (my favourite so far is asking 'how much is that doggy in the window?' - and 'is this the way to Amarillo?' was pretty amusing too). Although if my daughter shouts for the Imagine Dragons to be played (again...and again...and again) then I may have to work out how to make it only listen to my voice!

The one thing I miss most over Christmas is boot camp! With all the eating and the lack of routine, I made sure to get to bootcamp on Christmas Eve (in my Christmas jumper) before using some of the spare time away from the office to get out for a few shorts runs. And right after the big day, we all headed off to the Ely Panto which is always a brilliant show and well worth booking in for. There was also time to head over to watch Ely City play Haverhill, a pretty even contest even though Ely ultimately lost.

And now, being back in the office for a few days I've already had the chance to help people to reduce anxiety, end unwanted thoughts, increase self-esteem and tackle their fears. It's all set to be another great year of anxiety-busting and confidence building! 

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Anxiety & Your Imagination - Hypnotherapy Vlog and New Research:

In my last article I wrote about anxiety and how your imagination interacts with it, following my trip to the Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival. Anxiety driven imagination leads to thoughts about things going wrong or badly in some way. Your mind seeks to interpret the cause of the anxiety and it flows into all those unwanted scenarios that can fill you with dread, fear and worry.

Anxiety fuelled imagination strengthens that cycle of anxious thoughts and feelings and can lead to avoidance behaviours and that sensation that something bad is going to happen.

I've recorded a brand new hypnotherapy vlog for you about this very subject - anxiety and your imagination - and you can watch that further down the page.

And interestingly, not long after I recorded it, a new piece of research came out on this very subject which talks about how you can use your imagination to extinguish anxiety and fears.

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Anxiety and Imagination - The Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival:

This past weekend was spent at the fabulous Dickensian Christmas Festival, down in Rochester in Kent. I wrote recently about how we can use the message of a Christmas Carol with Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future to help us take action and make decisions right now that will cause us to live the life we want to live (go and check that article out if you haven't already).

In this article I'm mainly talking about anxiety and how our imagination and thinking can intensify those unwanted anxiety-filled thoughts, feelings, behaviours and emotions.

One thing I love about the work of Dickens is how he took experiences from his own life and the people and places around him and incorporated those into his stories to bring them to life. You only have to stroll down the main street in Rochester to notice all the plaques on the buildings describing how that place appeared in a certain novel of his. Rather than just creating everything from a blank canvas, Dickens took real life and wove it into the fabric of his work. It's certainly one of the ways that he brought his work to life and gave it that essence of being realistic and believable to us readers.

And if you are struggling with anxiety you may very well be able to relate to that process. Anxiety has a way of taking the people, places and situations around you and starting to distort them in your imagination into all sorts of worst case scenarios. And just like a good Dickens novel, the more you get absorbed in them, the more they come to life in your mind and the more your anxiety escalates.

All those 'what if this happens?' type of thoughts can grow and grow until everything seems like a disaster waiting to happen that will lead to bad outcomes, negative consequences and you feeling even worse. Your mind goes into overdrive seeking out those possible future threats so that you can prepare for them or avoid them, yet because most of it is anxiety-fuelled distortion and perception, you may find there is no escape from your own thinking.

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What are you focusing on? Things you can't control, or those you can?

The other day I was chatting with someone who was telling me all about a co-worker who, in their opinion, wasn't pulling their weight at work. They also told me about a conversation they had with someone over the phone and how they didn't like that other person's opinion or the tone of how they expressed it. All of these things were so prevalent in their mind that it was stressing them out and keeping them awake at night.

In another conversation, a client told me about how angry he gets when someone cuts him up in the car, or if he thinks they drive too slowly. That anger would lead to shouting and cursing. That emotion and those thoughts could take over his whole day.

And I think we could all reel off dozens of other examples; the way that e-mail was phrased, the look on someone else's face, that worry about what others think about us, that thing that doesn't go to plan, that person who is late, that response we get that isn't what we expected or wanted, that person who didn't say thank you when we let them pass or we did them a kind deed. 

It's so easy to get caught in the cycle of focusing on things that we can't do much about and then finding that those thoughts and that focus leads to us experiencing wave after wave of negative emotion.

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Could thinking the worst make you happier (and reduce anxiety and stress)?

Sometimes we all have to think about the worst case. Whether it's when taking out any type of insurance in case something bad happens, or when you get your will drafted, or even just when someone is very ill or sick and there's a need for planning. Because sometimes contemplating the worst case is an important aspect of planning ahead and being prepared. 

Of course, thinking or contemplating the worst case is very different to worrying about it or getting anxious about it. With anxiety, our anxious brain can start to imagine the worst in just about anything and everything, and because it is imagined in such an impactful and 'real' way, it can cause those unwanted feelings to seriously spike. 

But could deliberately thinking about bad things happening to us actually reduce anxiety and stress and become happier?

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Taking Action On Anxiety - The Latest Hypnotherapy Vlog:

This weekend saw the opportunity to walk over the new Ely bypass bridge before it opens for traffic later this month. Anyone reading this who ever travels to Ely from that direction will be looking forward to a reduction in the traffic bottlenecks (for those outside the area, at the moment a railway crossing and low bridge tend to block things up quite significantly).

Anyway, despite the pouring rain it was all to help raise funds for a great charity and one close to my heart because of the help they gave us when my Dad battled cancer a few years ago (MacMillan Cancer Research). So despite the protests of the kids, I hustled, cajoled and dragged them into the rain to take advantage of this once on a lifetime chance to walk the bridge before a few thousand cars get to take it over every day forever more.

Now, I love stuff like this because it was a chance to do something new and different...almost like the kind of stuff you get to do on holiday! A chance to walk a new road and take in some new views and sights, and, either because of the rain or because it's actually quite a wide road, it was nice and relaxed and there was plenty of space for messing about with the kids (one of whom mainly moaned a lot and one of whom mainly laughed a lot). I enjoyed our little family walk though and that's the most important thing!

Due to the weather and the need to dry out from the rain, we stayed in the rest of the day and that gave me a chance to upload my latest vlog all about the importance of taking action on anxiety (it's been a while since my last vlog due to my workload so I hope you enjoy their return!). You can check out my vlog further down the page.    

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When Anxiety Takes Over - Check out this client blog!

October 10th was World Mental Health Day and I was delighted to be tagged in a Twitter post that day from a former client. Lauren, who has her own brilliant blog called 'Girl Running Late' took the opportunity to write about her anxiety around running.

Or, as she writes, her anxiety around running that had grown into her everyday life. It really is worth a read of her blog as it touches upon how anxiety and panic can start to expand into all sorts of aspects of everyday life. And, of course, it's worth reading because it talks about how it is possible to rein it back in and take back control (and it's even worth reading it because she says some nice things about her work with me!).

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Gaining Perspective & Clarity - Seeing the Wood From the Trees!

It can sometimes be hard to get a sense of perspective and clarity on our own problems can't it? We can be so involved in something in our mind that we can't mentally distance ourselves enough from it to view it in a clearer way. All our thoughts, feelings, emotions and concerns create a mash up of being stuck in our minds, and sometimes in our life too.

Or as the old saying goes, sometimes we 'can't see the wood for the trees' (the meaning of which, according to the Cambridge dictionary is 'to be unable to understand a situation clearly because you are too involved in it'). 

And I think we've all been there. It's like those moments where we realise what great advice we can give to others about how they should handle a situation yet, despite knowing that advice, we seem unable to apply it to ourselves. We just can't get that distance and perspective on it.

Last week was a pretty rough one for me, simply because the man flu well and truly knocked me for six (and as we all know, man flu really is the worst!!). I think it was the longest period of sickness I've experienced for more than a decade. My high hopes of a swift recovery soon evaporated into a lost week of feeling rubbish and not getting much done in any area of my life. I had to rearrange clients (all of whom were great - thank you!), cancel meetings and pretty much draw a line through anything I had planned.

And perhaps the hardest thing for me was missing out on any exercise; just going from one room to another left me drained! Missing a couple of sessions here and there with a niggle or family commitments is frustrating; missing a whole week is a disaster. Isn't it? When I miss training I instantly feel like I've put on half a stone and I hate that feeling. I won't lie, there were times last week when I felt very, very sorry for myself! There were moments when I totally lost perspective. Instead of a week of illness it felt at times like the wheels of life were well and truly coming right off!

Of course that's not logical or reasonable. And it certainly isn't helpful!

So what I needed, and I think we all need sometimes, is a way to gain a bit of perspective and clarity on our current situation.

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Managing Emotional Distress Related To Medical Procedures:

This week has mainly been a bit of a write-off for me due to the dreaded 'man flu' striking me down (or 'a bit of a cold' as others might call it!!). It's hit me hard and has wiped out my exercise at bootcamp, my work and pretty much everything in-between. 

All in all it's been pretty frustrating but I know I'll get through it and get better and survive (somehow, like if I'm really brave about it!!). 

But, of course, the frustration and distress caused by a heavy cold is nothing compared to the emotional distress that can be associated with medical procedures. Only last week I heard back from a client who had originally been to see me about an intense dental phobia and fear about dental treatment. She told me how she had been and had a filling removed and replaced. She was ecstatic afterwards (as was her long-suffering dentist!) to know she can now do it without all that fear, anxiety, dread and distress.

Medical procedures can generate all sorts of distress and worry and that can impact both before the procedure and can even impact on recovery afterwards. Luckily we have a meta-analysis available that evaluates the effect of hypnosis in reducing emotional distress associated with medical procedures.

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Using Choice Overload To Reduce Anxiety:

Ever noticed how when you struggle with anxiety, every possible option you can think of seems to be the worst case scenario. Whether you run movies in your head or find your inner dialogue is filled with doubt, dread and worry, it's like a sort of tunnel vision that invariably leads to things going wrong or ending badly for you in some way.

And as you'll know, the more you have those anxious thoughts, the worse you feel; and the worse you feel, the more your head fills with those anxious thoughts.

I remember sitting in a restaurant a few months back with my girls. We were nearly finished when a new family arrived on the next table. A quick read of the menu and three of the four had made their decision and were ready to order. One of them was not at all ready. She sent the waitress away so she could have more time. Then when the waitress came back she sent her away again. Even from our table you could sense the tension rising in her as she tried to choose what to have, a task not aided by the rest of the family who kept upping the pressure on her. Finally she chose. Only to then call back the waitress a couple of moments later as she'd changed her mind. At that point her frustration poured out and her family received a rather loud verbal lashing that I'm sure didn't do too much to improve the mood during the rest of their meal.

Now there may have been other factors at play yet certainly from where I was sitting it looked like a classic case of choice overload - when there are too many choices we can become well and truly mentally stuck in a fog of indecision.

And I was reminded of the restaurant story after reading an abstract of some new research that looked into which parts of the brain were active during choice overload. 

One technique I sometimes talk to clients about is how they can use choice overload to diminish the run-away train of anxious thoughts.

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