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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Dickens, Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future:

Shops have started playing Christmas songs and the kids have started opening their advent calendars and that can only mean one thing: that we are on the ever-escalating countdown to Christmas.

This past weekend I took the family down to Rochester in Kent for our first visit to the annual Dickensian Christmas Festival. It was a far cry weather wise from the summer Dickens' Festival we went to and this time we spent more time trying to keep warm and dry rather than trying to find shade from the summer's blazing heat.

There were street entertainers doing short plays, magic and music, a chance to have a go at bell ringing (which my daughter got told she is a natural at!) and as many people dressed in Dickensian clothes or as characters from Dickens' novels as you want to spare the time to look at. There was also an absolutely ram-packed Christmas market and the kids loved going on the rides (except the scary ride which was over before it began for my two). And let's not forget the candle light procession and the 'guaranteed snow' (pumping out from machines around the town) that created a wonderful wintry atmosphere.. 

Now I love all this kind of stuff: the characters, the street entertainment and so forth. There is so much to watch and do that it takes all of your focus and you find yourself very much in the present mentally and free from all the other day to day stuff that can so often be there the rest of the time.

One particular street play I stopped to watch was a very well put together and funny rendition of a Christmas Carol, where Scrooge is visited by three ghosts (or four if you count Jacob Marley) who represent the ghosts of past, present and future. And it always reminds me of a particular hypnotherapy technique that can be useful where someone is seeking motivation or isn't doing something that they know they really need or ought to be doing.

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Ely Festive 5k - Santa boosted Mental Health:

This weekend marked the annual Ely Festive 5k, where a few hundred people (mostly) dress up in their finest festive gear and walk, jog and run around the streets of Ely. 

And, in what is fast becoming a family tradition, I dusted off my white beard and red hat, reminded my daughter that yes, she really had said she wanted to do the Ely run again this year, and headed to the start line alongside the fabulous Ely Cathedral. 

It's always a fun occasion and there is always a lot of friendly chat and encouragement from fellow runners on the way around. All of which helped me to cope with over thirty minutes of continuous moaning from my daughter about how a) every part of her ached b) she couldn't breathe and c) how she was never, ever, going to do this again (all of which are also fast becoming part of the annual tradition!!). But bless here she finished it and even managed a sprint finish over the last 50 metres AND she did it quicker than in any of the previous years. 

I think the awesome chocolate orange brownie she tucked into at the end helped to ease some of the 'suffering' and her next day muscle soreness will soon pass too (although not before a rather achy PE lesson at school!). And, of course, she felt better after having done the run and a sense of satisfaction in telling others of her endeavours.

I've written many times about the mental health benefits of being active... and I'm sure there must be research that dressing as Santa boosts mental health too! Anyway, before the run we popped into the office to record a short video...although it got overtaken a bit by my daughter experiencing a bit of an issue behind me!! 

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Misophonia - Dealing With Noise Sensitivity & Anxiety:

Some sounds can be just plain irritating and annoying. Sounds such as the high pitch scream of a dentist's drill or someone drilling a hole in a wall can set you on edge and make you want to move away.

Yet with misophonia, which literally means 'the hatred of sound', that noise sensitivity can send you into a rage and fill you with overwhelming stress, anxiety and anger. And it will often be sounds such as chewing, eating and the repetitive clearing of a throat, that is enough to make certain situations unbearable.

With Christmas approaching, and the prospect of sufferers trying to cope with, or avoid, eating with others, misphonia has received some press coverage recently.

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Should you wait until you feel like it? My latest hypnotherapy vlog:

Yesterday morning my alarm went off at 5.30am, something that has become much more of a regular occurrence of late. That's the time I need to get up to get ready if I'm going to get to bootcamp on time.  It's one of my least favourite moments of the week and it's repeated up to three times a week. 

As I tentatively opened my eyes to the realisation that it was still pitch black outside, every part of my mind and body was whispering for me to stay under the warm duvet and give it a miss. It was cold out there!

If you asked me in those first minutes if I felt like getting up, getting ready and going out to exercise in the dark and cold, I can promise you that the answer would have been a very clear and very precise 'no way!'

No matter how much I love and enjoy bootcamp, no part of me in that moment feels like running around, doing countless burpees and press ups or lifting some weights.  Yet I still get up and do it because I know how much better I will feel afterwards; I know the positive outcomes that await me.

And it's true even when we look at issues such as anxiety. 

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Some Thoughts On Grief - New Hypnotherapy Vlog:

This weekend marked the Armistice 2018 and a chance to take some time to remember those who served during the First World War, on the centenary of its conclusion, along with paying tribute and remembering those who have served in other conflicts on behalf of their country.

Here in Ely there was a march to lay wreaths at the Memorial and, in the evening, there was a Beacon of Light service that included the playing of the Last Post, a very well observed two minutes' silence and the lighting of the new beacon, along with the ringing out of the Church bells. It really was a very moving and poignant reminder of 100 years since the signing of the Armistice.

I always think it's very important that we all pay tribute and take a few moments on this day and it was very pleasing to hear my kids talking about it from things they had learnt at school.  

As well as paying tribute to those who have served and, in many cases, given the ultimate sacrifice, this past week has marked the fifth anniversary of the death of my father from cancer, which has naturally led to me thinking about grief and the loss of a loved one. I've recorded a short video about some of my thoughts around grief that I share with you below.

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Triathlon Sports Performance - Sports Psychology Video Testimonial:

As I write this I can already feel my legs starting to seize up a bit from this morning's 6.30am bootcamp. As much as I love the feeling after I've completed it (because it's so blinking intensely tough!), sometimes during it I have to dig deep to stay focused and in the right mental space to keep going.

Anyone who takes part in a sport knows that their mind-set is just as important, and often more so, than their physical state. If you want to be able to focus, keep good technique, push through the burn and get the job done. Then there are times when you've really got to be in control of your inner dialogue. If you aren't in control of your mind-set then it's easy to give up or to think you can't do it or to let any other amount of negative mind chatter take over. We've all been there and the more fatigued you get, the more that little negative voice can start to pipe up.

It's something that, along with physical strength, I continually try and work upon in my own exercise, and it's something that I often help others with in sessions. Developing your sports psychology capability can have huge beneficial impacts on your sports performance and getting the most out of yourself when you want or need to.

The other day, Ashley popped into the office to record a short video testimonial about how his sports psychology sessions had helped him with his most recent Ironman triathlon performance. You can check out what he said about his sessions below.

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Hypnotherapy to help you stop smoking:

When it comes to quitting smoking with hypnosis and hypnotherapy, we need to be clear from the outset. Any quit smoking programme involves motivation, commitment, effort and doing stuff. There is no way of passively becoming a non-smoker (successfully) - even someone switching to e-cigarettes has to take some action and go and get them and use them.

All of which, of course, means that there is no single system that will help everyone. And, in my opinion, there is no way to quit without putting in that effort, and for some, a good deal of determination and persistence.

This weekend I worked with a lovely lady who wanted to quit smoking her roll-ups. She'd smoked them for fifteen or more years and had never said no to a cigarette and had never gone a whole day without one. Before I sit down with anyone for the hypnosis session, there are several pre-quitting actions to take. Again, the more someone invests there time and energy in these the greater the likely reward. In this case, by taking those steps this lady went from 20 a day to averaging less than six a day during that week before she actually quit. Now that is solid motivation and commitment.

Of course, results vary from person to person, but hypnotherapy certainly is a valid option for many. 

Just recently I was invited to write for the awesome Good Zing website about how hypnotherapy can help someone to quit smoking.

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New Hypnosis Downloads - I've been back in the studio:

I've been back into the recording studio and have some awesome new hypnosis downloads available that are being added to the ever-growning range over on my hypnosis download shop.

I get loads of wonderful positive feedback from people who use my audios for things like controlling anxiety and increasing confidence. Some people have kindly left their feedback for you to read over on the shop, although many, many more tell me in e-mails and in person how much they benefit from repeated listening. And do remember that you can grab a copy of my free rapid relaxation hypnosis download by just filling in your details here: Free Hypnosis Download (you have downloaded your copy, right?!).

Although I've been to the studio quite a few times now, it's always a slightly surreal experience for me. I mean, it's just like one of those studios you see that popstars use on TV, with the headphones and microphone on the performer and a sound engineer sitting behind a screen with some massive deck of switches and dials. And with Christmas just around the corner (sorry all you 'not to be mentioned until December' people!), I always have a slightly mischievous temptation to burst into song...although if you've heard me sing then you can guess that my 'Classic Christmas Hits' double CD wouldn't be troubling Sir Cliff and that Buble fella for sales.

And if you ever want to get over that thing of not liking hearing a recording of your voice then this is one way to soon get over it. After listening to large parts of your own recordings out loud while the engineer cuts out all your (many!) mistakes, you'll soon start to become indiifferent to how different your voice sounds out loud compared to in your own head.

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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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