Do you 'believe in anti-depressants'?

The other day a client was telling me how she'd spoken to a previous therapist before coming to work with me. That therapist had told her that she 'didn't believe in anti-depressants'. Now I don't know about you but I find that rather an odd thing for a therapist to say to a prospective client having only met them for half an hour or so.

Now bear in mind that this client had been through some pretty upsetting and traumatic stuff, had visited their GP and, on the advice of the GP, was taking anti-depressants and having regular follow up reviews with their doctor. So for a non-medically trained therapist to turn around to the client (whose self-esteem was pretty way down there anyway) and effectively tell them they are doing stuff wrong seems pretty incredulous to me. 

I'm going to apologise right now if it seems like I've got a bee in my bonnet about this but the fact it I have. I think it's pretty insulting for a therapist to force their views and beliefs onto a client and, more than that, it shows a lack of respect to the client and to the medical profession as a whole. For some reason there are whole bands of therapists (of many types) out there who feel they are more qualified about medication than a doctor and who seem to think of doctors as nothing more than evil minions of powerful pharmaceutical companies with nothing better to do than dish out anti-depressants irrespective of the needs of their patient.

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone:

We hear a lot of talk about how life begins at the end of our comfort zone don't we? Like we can't possibly be happy and content for a moment because we need to push, push, push...

And whilst I sometimes wonder just how true this is as an absolute (after all, if you do what you always do and are happy and healthy then do you really need to go outside that comfort zone?), it's often considered a human need to stretch ourselves and to learn and grow. For example, the Human Givens Institute suggest that being stretched in what we do and think gives our life meaning and purpose.

Personally I like to push myself in many facets of my life (although not necessarily all at once!). For example, we've just had 'Hell Week' at bootcamp where every session is ramped up a further notch and you have to dig deep physically and mentally to get the reps done. I kind of like that, the taking it a bit further, after all, we are all too often far more capable than we think we are and sometimes we need an environment that nurtures and promotes that within us.

This month marks the third anniversary of when I moved into my current office, a change that at that time seemed like a massive leap outside of my comfort zone. Up until that point I had always operated out of complementary health clinics, being around other practitioners and have that support structure. Yet I knew that I had outgrown that set up and the demand for my services meant I needed my own space. Yet at the time of planning it and committing to it, I can remember constantly questioning myself about whether I was doing the right thing or not.

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The power of music to ease stress and anxiety symptoms

Last week I had the privilege of being invited as a guest to watch the awesome blues artist, Danny Bryant, perform in Cambridge. If you've never checked him out you should take a look at some of his stuff right now because his singing and guitar playing are something special. 

In fact music can be pretty mesmerising can't it? There were moments at the concert where I was lost in a sort of music trance while watching the band play and listening to the songs. Some of the time I pretty much lost track of where I was and the other people around me because I was just enjoying watching and listening so much.

And I bet you've had those moments where a song comes on and all of a sudden you remember a time from the past linked to that song, perhaps even eliciting an emotional response to the music. Of course, what we often do is listen to the music that reflects our current mood so if we are feellng down we listen to sad songs and if we feel happy we listen to songs that give us a good feeling.  

As music can have such strong associations it makes sense to try and utilise this power doesn't it?

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Overcoming Embarrassment - Ending Anxiety & Fear

Do you ever get anxious that you might somehow embarrass yourself in front of others? It's a pretty common thing to worry about how others might judge or perceive you if you are battling with anxiety or self-consciousness issues. 

In fact, it can go a little further than that and you may find that you take on anxiety for fear of other people being embarrassed or because of something they are doing. I've even known clients with anxiety and fears to become panicky when watching things on TV or in meetings happening to others yet responding as if it is happening to them.

The other day I was messing about making up silly new lyrics to familiar songs with my kids and the words I was saying came out pronounced all wrong. Now in an environment with people where you can relax and be yourself, such things can just be laughed off and forgotten as soon as you move on to something else.

Yet sometimes things happen (or could happen) around others, and that's where the fear and worry comes in. I can still remember a time many, many years ago when I fell over on the bus to where I lived as it swerved around a corner. It doesn't bother me to think back on it now yet at the time I was acutely aware of people laughing, of someone I knew from school seeing it happen and the anxiety and embarrassment that coursed through my mind and body. It ruined the rest of that day and I brooded on it for days after (and avoided as best as I could being seen by that person who knew me). It made me anxious about bus journeys and hyper on edge on them for many months after in case I should endure a repeat performance.

Fast forward to earlier this year and we were out in Bury St Edmunds shopping because the girls had got vouchers as part of their Christmas present from a relative. We were in a crowded little shop that sells pencils, rubbers, pencil cases and lunchboxes (and a million other things aimed at little people) in bright colours. To me it looks like overpriced tat but to kids it seems to be irresistible. Anyway, I was trying to squeeze past everyone to escape from the shop when somehow my rucksack caught the table display and brought the whole lot crashing down in a mass of boxes and brightly coloured stationary type things. It went everywhere and it was loud. It was the shopping equivalent of when you are in a pub, restaurant or coffee shop and someone drops and smashes a glass and in that moment, the entire place stops mid-sentence and turns to look.  I paused, sincerely apologised to the assistant (who, judging by his reaction, was clearly already having a very bad day) and we bought our stuff and left to get on with the rest of the day.

The first occasion on the bus, when I was anxious and self-conscious, was like torture; yet the experience in the shop was just a fleeting unfortunate mess-creating moment that was soon forgotten. 

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Social Anxiety - Why We Need More Than Just Conversation

The sun is finally shining here in the UK, Spring seems to have finally arrived and yesterday was my youngest's seventh birthday. Blimey time flies! It doesn't seem that long ago that she was coming home from hospital after being born! 

To celebrate her birthday we had family with us and a garden picnic and lots of running around, messing around, laughing and playing. Having moved on from fidget spinners, the next thing currently seems to be creating slime. I've got no idea what it's made from but it feels wet and slimy and cold when you hold it. So there was lots of slime making and colouring going on and, in one of my favourite moments, our rabbit seemed to learn how to play football!

And there was one moment yesterday when, as we were all sitting around in the living room, I know in the past (when I struggled with social anxiety) would have crushed me inside. When my social anxiety was a thing for me, I would have felt sick, hot, tense and then afterwards have replayed it a thousand times, each time twisting the knife inside because of how I would have perceived I'd made an idiot of myself in front of others.

You see, at some point, someone suggested playing that game where the others write a celebrity name on a post it note and then give it to you to put on your forehead before you ask them yes/no questions to try and work out who the person is. Now, if you suffer with social anxiety you may well appreciate how such a situation could seem like an ordeal. There you are in a confined space with half a dozen people watching you, while you try to ask sensible questions and not make an idiot of yourself along the way. I know when I had social anxiety I would have wanted the earth to open up and swallow me right there and then. But of course without that old anxiety, it was actually quite fun (mine was Elvis Presley in case you are wondering!). 

Recently a You Tube star (or at least that's how she was described in the press!), attracted a lot of publicity after starting a conversation about social anxiety on Twitter. And of course any raised awareness and openness about mental health issues is to be welcomed (if people want to talk about their mental health issues that is). Yet are we really going to just stop there - with conversation? Aren't we actually going to move on to real solutions about how to overcome social anxiety? 

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Latest hypnotherapy testimonials - overcoming anxiety:

It's always a lovely thing to receive a hypnotherapy testimonial from a happy client. As my clients know, I invest a huge amount of energy, time and focus into helping them make progress and achieve their goals.

And having suffered and overcome anxiety in my life, the knowledge of how overwhelming all those anxious thoughts and feelings can be inspired me even more to help those who seek my help. Of course, effective hypnotherapy is a joint effort. My clients have to be motivated to change, adopt a positive mind-set and take structured action outside of our sessions too in order to reap the results. And of course it's a fantastic moment for me, both personally and professionally, to help so many people overcome anxiety, increase confidence and succeed in many other ways.

I know many people take the bold step to seek my help having themselves been inspired and motivated by learning of other people's success. And the more we all talk about how we can improve our mental health the better. Yet increasing our mental health is more than just talking and talking about problems and issues; it's about taking action to change such things as our thoughts, cognitions, imagination, beliefs, mind-set and perspective.

Recently I've received some wonderful feedback from people who have literally changed their lives through our hypnotherapy sessions and I want to share these inspiring stories with you here in the hope that if you are struggling with a mental health issue, you too will take that first step to successfully overcoming it.

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Mental Health & Pets - How Pets Can Benefit Your Mental Health:

A recent review has suggested that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions. That's right: having a pet can help you if you have a mental health issue.

Interestingly enough, this review comes just a few weeks after we have expanded the Regan household to include Nibbles the rabbit. She's on her own right now as the other rabbit we were going to adopt fell ill yet soon we will be socialising her to live with a new rabbit friend. It's been pretty great to see how my girls have taken on the responsibility of looking after Nibbles. They are out there first thing in the morning adding hay and food and changing the water. They are out there again after school and before bedtime to make sure she is ok and to have some rabbit time. In fact, I think that the amount of times they spend watching TV and on other screens has probably dropped about 50% or more.

And, combined with a change of school for our eldest, we've really got our daughter back after the issues we had at her old school that were impacting on her mental health and wellbeing. It's been great to see. It's also given me a great excuse to repeatedly sing the classic 80's Chas & Dave song 'Rabbit' which although having nothing to do with actual rabbits, certainly mentions them a lot!

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Health Anxiety Help: 

Last week I headed over to an appointment with a physiotherapist about my long standing leg injury that has kept me out of running for about a year now (thank goodness for bootcamp or I think I'd have lost the plot by now without any form of exercise!). 

Anyway, he checked out my movement, flexibility, leg strength and all the usual stuff and has given me some exercises to practice. Interestingly enough I often use the example of a physio when explaining how hypnotherapy works to clients, in that, in order to get results you need to go away and actually apply the strategies and techniques and take some action towards your goals. After all, if would be a bit pointless to go to the physio and then come away, do nothing and hope it changes all by itself - wouldn't it?!

Anyway I digress, because one thing that the physio asked me (that I've never been asked by physios before) was, 'have you googled your injury?' (oh how the times they are a-changing as Dylan might sing!).

Now these days I won't go near Doctor Google with my symptoms, whether it's a running niggle or anything else health related, for the simple reason that it's a sure fire way to drive up health anxiety. It could almost come with a guarantee of increased anxiety. Like many others I learnt this the harder way.

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Negative Thoughts, Mindfulness & Anxiety - The 321 Vlog:

Recently I wrote about a way to interrupt anxious thoughts and negative thoughts using the 3-2-1 technique. This is a very mindfulness based technique that shifts your focus and awareness to the here and now, rather than getting caught up in things from the past or worrying about what might happen in the future.

For those who prefer to get their anxiety relief fix in video form, I've also recorded this vlog about how to use the technique (and yes I did feel the need to talk about the TV show 321 and to do my lame attempt at the way Ted Rogers used to do the finger thing):

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A Way To Change Negative Thoughts to More Positive Thinking:

Last time out I wrote about a way to interrupt unwanted thoughts using the 3-2-1 technique which can help you to deal with negative thinking or anxious thoughts.

That is, in order to break that cycle of anxious thoughts, stressful thoughts or negative thoughts (and any other unwanted overthinking), you bring your attention back to the here and now by describing to yourself three specific things you can see, three specific sounds you can hear and three specific sensations you can feel right now.  

You then repeat this doing two different sights, sounds and sensations and then one different example of each. You can repeat this pattern as often as is beneficial, always remembering to use different sights, sounds and sensations each time.

This mindfulness type of psychological technique works by having you focus on your experience right now, where thoughts of what might happen or what has happened don't exist. In addition, it moves your focus of attention from inside your own head (where all those thoughts were residing) to what is going on outside and around you. It's a way of taking control over what you are paying attention to and your thinking.

As such, it's a brilliant technique to learn and apply. Yet sometimes we want to have a way to actually direct our thoughts in a direction that we want them to go. We want to change negative thinking not just to this very moment but move towards creating a habit of more positive thinking.

So by extending this 3-2-1 technique we can start to do this very thing.

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