Why You Should Be Kind To Yourself - The Benefits of Self-Compassion:

Do you find it easy and natural to be kind to yourself? Are you able to reassure yourself in times of adversity? Or perhaps you have a tendency to be self-critical, pointing out every perceived mistake you make and feeling like you don't even like who you are.

I work with many people who have a habitual tendency to be harsh towards themselves and who judge themselves negatively. And it can be associated with many mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. There are certainly few benefits to be gained, and not much respite to be had, from living your life being your own harshest critic. 

That's not to say that you need to strut about thinking that you are the best thing since sliced bread, yet being kind to yourself and exercising self-compassion has many benefits that mean you can encourage yourself, feel comfortable in your own skin and reassure yourself when dealing with challenges or adversity.

It can be easy, when things go wrong, or when faced with adversity or rejection, to turn the blame and criticism inwards and be harsh with yourself. However, a relatively recent piece of research has added to the study of the benefits of self-compassion which adds to the weight of knowledge about why you should be kind to yourself and develop self-compassion. 

Read more ... →

Overcoming Anxiety & Fear after Serious Road Traffic Accident:

There's no doubt that being involved in a serious road traffic accident can have huge consequences upon your life. I've helped people who were in a car, driving or as a passenger, that was involved in an accident and the shock and panic experienced stops them getting back into a vehicle. 

Once a panic attack has been experienced in any situation, the anxiety and worry about having another one, combined with the dread and worry about the situation itself, can be enough to lead to avoidance and other safety seeking behaviours. 

One client I have helped, and whose video testimonial is below, came to me after being involved in a serious road traffic accident as a cyclist. One minute she was enjoying cycling down a country road as part of training for an upcoming event, then in a flash of a moment, she found herself having been thrown off her bike, a car having hit her from behind.

Not only did she have the physical injuries to recover from, and come to terms with, she also had the anxiety, fear and worry about whether she would ever be able to get back on her bike again and dealing with the often difficult consequences on her life as a result of the accident. Her story is massively inspirational and this lady is well worth paying attention to for how far she has come since that fateful day.

Read more ... →

Hypnotherapy for Stress Relief - New Video Testimonial:

This week is Mental Health Awareness week and I've come across many posts online from people struggling with stress and anxiety in their lives. I even caught a minute of something on TV the other night where a fisherman was talking about how he values the time just sitting in nature away from the seemingly ever increasing demands and pace of modern life.

It was only recently that I wrote about using nature for stress relief and improving mental health, and time and time again my clients will tell me how much they benefit from getting out for a walk in nature and finding time to unwind for a while (you can find that post here: Using Nature To Reduce Stress and Boost Mental Health).

Recently I was working with Ben to help him to reduce his stress and to stop overthinking. After our sessions he very kindly recorded the video testimonial you can find below.

Read more ... →

Could writing about your anxiety help reduce it? Journaling for Anxiety Relief:

Using journals seems to have become very much a thing these days. Just a quick search on Amazon shows results including claims that using the journal can help you believe in yourself more, become happier, increase personal wellbeing, deal with your past, have a more meaningful life, soothe stress, eliminate anxiety and achieve your goals (amongst many other advertised benefits).

So could journaling and writing about your anxiety, stress and mental health really help you to reduce anxiety and feel better?

Certainly writing down the things on their minds is something I've used with my kids at times over the years. Sometimes they may not want to talk about what is troubling them or struggle to put it into words or perhaps there isn't enough privacy to do so at that time (what with the four of us hustling and bustling about the place). Somehow writing it down has made it easier for them to think through what it is that is on their mind and making them anxious and to be able to get it out of their head and onto paper.

As a parent it really is helpful to have an idea of what they may be overthinking about, and to understand where that anxiety fits in the grand scheme of things. At one time my eldest would use one of those 'worry eater' soft toys to help her to handle challenges she was facing.

Writing down the anxious thoughts and feelings we are experiencing has been associated with improvements in mental health yet how can we make the best use of journaling and writing about anxiety related experience?

Read more ... →

Using Nature To Reduce Stress and Boost Mental Health:

Exposure to nature has great benefits, particularly towards our sense of mental well-being and mental health. Yet until some research published this month, the duration of time required to benefit from being around nature was less clear.

This was the first study to employ long term, repeated assessment and, rather than being prescriptive, participants were able to choose the time of day, duration and the place of their nature experience based upon personal preference and changing daily schedules. In this way, it was much more like 'real-life' than a laboratory controlled experiment to assess the impact of a nature experience on stress (using two physiological saliva biomarkers).

Now I don't know about you but I love those moments where you can find a peaceful spot in nature away from all the usual hustle and bustle, noise and demands of everyday life. About forty minutes down the road from me there is an RSPB nature reserve which is a wonderful place to find that sense of tranquility and peace, even if like me, bird watching is not high up on your list. 

As a family we've recently rejoined the National Trust and although these sorts of places can get crowded sometimes, there is usually some woodland of secluded natural space to wander around and explore. The other weekend we headed over to Ickworth House near Bury St Edmunds to grab some family time in nature away from screens and shops.

Now, as it happens peace and quiet weren't quite the order of that day because there was a Napoleonic Way re-enactment going on (think cannons, soldiers and guns!). That said, it was a great experience to stand, watch and enjoy the re-enactment. Certainly it was a lovely mental escape to just be present, watch and enjoy without a million other distractions and thoughts going on (a different form of being present and mindful!). I think you've got to be impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of all involved (particularly as they camped out in the wind, cold and rain all weekend to put their passion into practice).

Yet, in the absence of a full scale mock war, how can you use the latest research to improve your own mental health and well-being and to reduce stress in your daily life?

Read more ... →

Anxiety and The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health:

Recently the Royal College of Psychiatrists advised their members to consider the impact of social media on all children they assess for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

To be honest I like to think that most psychiatrists, like other mental health professionals, were already doing this with both children and adults, because these days social media use, apps and other online sources form part of most people's everyday lifestyle in some way. So if you are doing a thorough job of discussing with someone when they experience their anxiety, what triggers it, what exacerbates it and what can ease it, technology is probably going to be in there somewhere.

That's not to say that all social media and online stuff is necessarily harmful to mental health, yet it makes sense to consider whether it is either a negative or a positive thing for you.

Read more ... →

Is Sedentary Behaviour Affecting your physical and mental health?

I've written many times before about the value of exercise and getting moving to boost your physical and mental health. In my own life my exercise is now a central part of how I prioritise my physical and mental health and I can really notice the difference if I miss my training for a while.

Yet it isn't just because I enjoy it that I promote getting moving; it's because research upon research demonstrates that getting active brings benefits physically and mentally. Getting moving and exercise improve our mental health, boost our mood, can reduce symptoms of depression and help reduce anxiety. 

As if that wasn't enough a recently published report looked at the impact of sedentary behaviour in the UK and, in looking at the cost burden on the NHS of sedentary lifestyles, once again highlighted the negative impacts on health.

Read more ... →

Challenging Anxious Thinking to Reign in Anxiety:

Anxiety can take pretty much most things in life and ramp up those anxious thoughts and feelings until they dominate your mind. And it really could be anything that ignites the anxiety, from a remark someone says, the way someone looks at you or a particular event or situation. Before you know it you just can't switch off from it and it starts to have an impact on you.

Recently, I had a health 'thing' that had all the potential to explode into a great ball of anxiety, and which, I'm pretty certain, would have done so in the past when anxiety was a big part of who I was. It was the sort of health thing that clients have told me about and which can affect them whether they have general anxiety or health anxiety problems.

Now, one thing that clients often remark upon is how calm I always seem. No matter what is going on, they tell me, I seem to have this aura of calmness about me. In fact, only a week or so ago, one client asked me whether anything ever bothers me or makes me anxious! 

As much as I admire Sherlock Holmes and his critical reasoning abilities, I'm not a robot and we are all meant to experience emotion that is appropriate to what we are facing. Yet, I also know that by developing the ability to challenge anxious thinking it is possible to learn how to stop habitual anxiety provoking thought patterns from leading us to a place of massive, unwanted anxiety.

Read more ... →

The Rise and Rise of Anxiety and Depression:

Anxiety and depression levels continue to rise and rise, despite the numerous national and local initiatives put in place to try and counter them.

The Psychiatric Morbidity Survey provides data on both treated and untreated mental health issues among adults in England. Their most recent survey results (from 2014, published in 2016), indicate that one in six adults in England has a common mental health disorder (which includes anxiety and depression). This translates to about one woman in five and one man in eight having a mental health disorder, and the rate has increased in women and remained largely stable in men.  

Perhaps even more alarming is that rates of self-harming have increased in men and women and across age groups since 2007.

Despite all the programmes and talking, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression continue to increase and impact on more and more people. The human cost of all this anxiety and depression, and the impacts that go with it, can't even be estimated.

Now, new data from America has suggested that there has been a generational shift in mood disorders towards certain age groups.

Read more ... →

Anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

In my last article I wrote about the evidence for hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and how research has demonstrated how hypnosis can really help alleviate the symptoms of IBS (you can read that article here: Hypnotherapy for IBS).

IBS is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that is estimated to affect up to 15% of people. It causes persistent pain or discomfort that is associated with relief with defecation, looser or more frequent stools, or harder or less frequent stools. The symptoms need to have been present at least three days per month over the past three months for a diagnosis of IBS.

One feature I mentioned in that last article was how IBS and anxiety often go together.

There may be anxiety around needing the toilet urgently when out, or about getting caught out if there is no toilet available and there is an urgent need to go. There may be anxiety around experiencing symptoms when with other people or about being in discomfort or needing the loo urgently when with others. And there is often an elevated level of anxiety around any situation that may involve feeling 'trapped' or out of control such as being a passenger in a car or on a train where there may be little control over going to the toilet if needed.

And, of course, as well as IBS symptoms, anxiety itself can impact on our stomachs and digestive system which can exacerbate IBS type symptoms and lead to even more anxiety. It can become a very cyclical cycle of IBS creating anxiety and the anxiety then worsening the IBS symptoms...leading to more anxiety.

Read more ... →