Ely Christmas Lights Switch On and Coping with Stress at Christmas

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?  We started putting up our Christmas decorations at home and last Friday we all enjoyed going to watch the Ely Christmas lights being switched on by the Mayor along with Boogie Storm (if you don't know who Boogie Storm are, they are a dance group dressed as Star Wars Stormtroopers who appeared on Britain's Got Talent).

Despite the freezing cold, we had a great time watching the Ely Pantomime characters on stage (and getting a photo taken of the girls with 'Willy'), checking out the various stalls, saying hello to Mickey and Minnie Mouse and visiting Santa in his Grotto. There was also a very talented fire juggler and loads of rides and other stuff that made it a great occasion. And there were some great fireworks once all the lights had been switched on.

You can have a look at my amateur video recording of the fireworks and a few bits from Boogie Storm in this video:

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How To Beat Exam Stress & Anxiety - Cambridge News

Just recently I've seen a large increase in the number of calls and clients I'm speaking to about exam stress and anxiety. With mock exams timetabled for early in the New Year, and final exams following in the summer, many students find that their stress and anxiety levels rise so intensely that they can't perform to their potential.

Some students find that the stress stops them concentrating, whilst others feel sick or a sense of dread at the thought of sitting in the exam room. And all those exam anxiety thoughts and feelings can really hinder effective revision and study, as well as creating worries about feeling unwell or going blank in the exam.

I was delighted to once again appear in the Cambridge News earlier this year. This time my article was all around how to beat exam stress and anxiety. With exam time fast approaching, I wanted to share a few tips on how students can perform to their potential in the exam room.

As I have written about in previous articles, there is a free guide to overcoming exam stress, anxiety and fear available from this website. The guide covers ways to ease any stress and anxiety so you can perform to your potential, feeling calm, confident and in control around your exams.

With Childline reporting a huge increase in the number of students calling them about exam stress, it has never been more important that we share ways to manage the exam period successfully. 

So if you, or someone you know, have exams coming up then be sure to point them in the direction of my free guide and the Cambridge News article (link below).

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Is your smartphone addiction increasing your anxiety? 

Before you answer that, let me tell you that recent research suggests that smartphone addiction and internet addiction are very possibly increasing feelings of anxiety, depression and tiredness.

Earlier this week I was talking to a client who was telling me about her sleep issues, or more accurately, her lack of sleep, issues. Now one thing I always ask about in relation to sleep is the use of screens because we know that the light from screen means daytime to your brain and the temptation to check messages and social media can be overwhelming. You may find yourself getting stressed and anxious about your messages and e-mails or simply losing more and more time you should be sleeping to scrolling through social media. Either way, your brain is active and alert and when you then close your eyes a few seconds later you may find you have difficulty switching off from your thinking.

Anyway, I suggested to my client that she either leave her phone outside the bedroom or turn off wi-fi at night to avoid any of these distractions keeping her awake. Her face filled with horror and anxiety at even the thought of this! After we discussed it some more I'm pleased to say that she agreed to implement this and it can only benefit the quality and quantity of her sleep.

And recent research suggests that smartphone addiction does indeed trigger effects such anxiety, depression and drowsiness.

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Mental Health and Exercise - family fun at the Ely Festive 5k

One of the things I love about living in Ely is that there seems to always be something going on. And that means lots of opportunities for family fun with my girls.

This weekend was a big one in our household because as well as my normal bootcamp and full day of clients on Saturday, my eldest daughter also performed on stage with her school choir and the highly acclaimed Witchford Voices choir. It was a brilliant evening and a proud moment to see my daughter standing up on stage and confidently singing her heart out in front of about 250 people. The grand finale featuring both choirs was a version of 'Africa' (the 1980s hit song by Toto) and was exceptional. 

Then Sunday morning it was up and ready and heading to the start line with about 600 others for the Ely Festive 5k, a fun run around the streets of Ely in aid of the Arthur Rank Hospice charity, who support people in Cambridgeshire living with a life-limiting illness. A fantastic cause I'm sure you'll agree. And a great excuse to dress as Santa and go for a run with my daughter!

Now if you've taken a look around my website, you'll know that I love exercise (or at least I love the feeling having completed a marathon or a tough bootcamp session!). I started exercising years ago because I was grossly overweight into my teens and hated being fat. Of course, with the anxiety I had back then I soon also discovered that good mental health and exercise go hand in hand. 

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Anxiety: 3 ways to ease anxiety and stress:

One moment you feel fine and then, almost out of nowhere, the anxiety and stress strikes and you find yourself feeling tense, on edge and your heart is pounding. Or maybe you've been thinking about that upcoming event and the thoughts of what might happen have started to set your anxiety and stress levels rising. 

I can remember being on a specific training course in Nottingham, over a decade ago in the days when anxiety seemed to be my constant companion. Even before I arrived at the course I'd started feeling a bit tense and on edge, after all, what if the other trainees thought I was an idiot, what if I made a fool of myself, what if I accidentally did something stupid? I'd have been mortified! The closer the course got the more it seemed to fill my mind. So on the day I was sitting in a room of maybe ten or twelve trainees and the trainer. The words I dreaded came out of the trainer's mouth, 'let's go round the room and all introduce ourselves, say what we do and why we are here.'

Now if you have, or have had, social anxiety then these words (along with 'let's do an ice-breaker' or 'how about we role play this in groups') will fill you with dread. I was about five or six down the line. Even as the others were speaking I was rehearsing my name ('arghhh what if I mess up my name!'). I was tense, I was sweating, I felt sick. Yet still in my head I was rehearsing over and over what to say and how to say it. The trainer got to the person next to me - which was always THE worst - you know it's coming your way and it's coming your way any moment now. It was all I could do to breathe (and of course that anxiety was reminding me that they'd probably all notice I looked nervous and so they'd all hate me). If you have anxiety / social anxiety then this is about as cruel as it can get. You're trapped in the room and there is no escape and you can see that wrecking ball heading right towards you.

To this day I have no idea what I said next. I can, however, remember the feeling of relief and exhaustion that followed. I'd avoided danger, at least for now. Ten minutes into the training course and I'm exhausted.  

And of course back in those days it wasn't just training courses. It was any meeting involving people, any social occasion, any time I had to deal with someone more senior than me (I used to hide in the toilet rather than speak to senior staff), in fact, almost any time I walked down the street. It was hell.

Of course, back then I didn't have the 3 techniques below to save me and to calm my overwired anxiety and stress system. 

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How To Sleep Better - Seeking Solutions When You Can't Sleep:

Last time out I wrote about sleep disorders and the epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation. That is, about how we often view sleep as something passive that eats into our busy lives and so we downplay it as a priority in our lives even though all the evidence shows how vital good quality sleep is for our physical and mental wellbeing.

In fact, sleeping less than six hours a night has been linked to an increased risk for obesity, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. If you are struggling with a sleep disorder or consistently can't sleep then it can impact on your memory and ability to learn, on your strength and endurance and can lead to an inability to focus and making more unhealthy food choices.

Perhaps ironically, although I tend to sleep really well usually, after writing about sleep deprivation last time I had one of the worst night's sleep I can recall having for years! Curses! The day after I felt lethargic, unmotivated, and like my whole body ached. Perhaps it was a reminder to myself of how important sleep is to my own sense of wellbeing!  Certainly since studying a University of Michigan course about sleep recently, I've become much more strict with myself about having a good night time routine and not sitting on the sofa channel hopping when I know I should be switching off the TV and switching off my brain.

Having worked with over 1500 clients, as well as from my own experience, I think that investing time and thought to ensuring good quality sleep is time certainly spent well if you want to feel better each day. But what can you do to increase your likelihood of sleeping better each night? How do you end the cycle when you can't sleep?

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Sleep Disorders - The Epidemic of Sleep Deprivation

How's your sleep right now? I don't know about you but with the coming of winter here in the UK, it often feels like I would love just five more minutes in bed each morning before I get up and get on with the day. Just let me lie in bed for five more minutes each morning!! 

Yet if you struggle with sleeping well (or even at all in the case of some insomnia sufferers), then your whole bedtime and night-time experience may seem like one long wrestle in which you desperately seek, yet struggle to find, enough sleep.

And whilst the odd night of poor sleep may not impact too greatly, consistently struggling to get enough good quality sleep can leave you feeling drained, unmotivated, irritable, struggling to focus and like your head is one great ball of fuzziness. You may find yourself relying on caffeine to drag yourself through the day, or smoking more to try and revive yourself, or over-eating in a quest for more energy.

Then the whole struggle recommences each night.

Recently I've been studying a course by the University of Michigan called, 'Sleep Deprivation; Habits, Solution, Strategies' where their Sleep Disorders Centre discuss the modern epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation.

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Social Anxiety No More! I'm looking forward to appearing on one of the world's most popular hypnosis podcasts!

When I used to struggle with social anxiety, any situation where I had to talk about myself and my opinions was a nightmare for me. Whether it was an interview, a team meeting or a presentation, it would cause me weeks of dread, fear and anxiety.

My social anxiety would kick in and I would lose hours to worst case scenarios where I was being judged negatively in some way, or making an idiot of myself or just simply not being good enough in some way. Then there were the sleepless nights and the exhaustion of being consistently anxious.

I can even remember times I called in sick to the job I had then, to avoid stressful meetings or the anxiety of presenting. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't pleasant. In fact, I can even remember a time I only had to do a presentation to two new members of staff (one of whom I'm now married to!). I was anxious and restless beforehand, I felt hot and sick all the way through it and I was a heap of exhausted relief afterwards. Social anxiety was just a familiar part of my life experiences. 

So nothing is more satisfying to me now than helping others to break free of all that needless social anxiety and to stop worrying about what other people think about them (and to stop assuming it will be negative too!).

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Dealing with grief - it's four years since my dad passed away

Just now on Facebook a 'memory' popped up from four years ago when I thanked my clients for their understanding after I was called away to my Dad's bedside in hospital in Cardiff. Not that I actually needed Facebook to remind me. When someone you love has been struggling with an illness like cancer for a long time, it's still the phone call you dread, that call that says you'd better come right now.

And even as I write about that time, I can still feel myself getting emotional right now, four years later. Not in the same raw way that it did in the months after he died when I couldn't even mention his name, but in that way we get for those we have loved and who have been an important part of our lives yet are no longer with us. Sure, it has elements of sadness and loss within that emotion, but is also has joy and love and hope because I always aim to continue to be the best son I can be to my Dad through how I support and nurture my children.

Of course I can't change the past, I can't turn back the clock and see him again and in many ways we all have to learn to accept that, when we lose a loved one, no amount of tears or sadness or longing can change the facts.

However, one thing I did in those long hospital days (my Dad had a strong heart and defied the opinion of the doctors by holding out for another week...we like to think because he wanted to hear the fireworks one last time!): I made the decision to deliberately recall many, many of the happy times that we experienced together. And there were many. We had long, funny conversations, we went for walks along the cliffs on holidays, we watched Wales play rugby in Cardiff and much more.

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Hypnotherapy Testimonials - building a relationship of trust?

One thing prospective clients often cite when we first meet is how the testimonials on my website gave them the hope and courage they needed to take the first step towards overcoming their issues. After all, reading feedback and watching real client testimonials of people who used to struggle with, for example, anxiety, low confidence or fears, and who successfully overcame it, is pretty inspiring. I know that it inspires me each and every day in my work because I want all of my clients to experience that joy (whether or not they decide to share their successful results with others).

I'm delighted to now have nearly 200 hypnotherapy testimonials, including forty videos, from clients who were delighted with the results from our sessions together and who wanted to encourage others to seek help too.

And each and every testimonial I publish is from a client who I have worked with and helped myself. I'm pretty proud of that. 

I'm also clear on my website that results cannot be guaranteed because both you and I have a role to play in achieving results. Each and every client I work with has their own responsibilities within the process, such as engaging in our sessions and carrying out agreed therapeutic tasks that help them take back control over how they think and feel between our sessions.

So as a professional hypnotherapist I was saddened this week when I happened to come across other therapists who seem to try and pass off the results of others as their own. I mean, is that really how someone thinks you develop an effective working relationship?

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