Are Mental Health Apps Helpful For Anxiety?

There has been an immense level of excitement in the Regan household over the last 48 hours, with levels not far off those experienced at Christmas. And it's all been because my daughter saved up and ordered herself a fitbit. From the moment the online order was placed she has was asking when it would arrive and whether it would come while she was at school the next day or whether it would be the evening. I reckon we were getting a dozen mentions, questions and references about it every hour!

The following evening, when it hadn't arrived by the evening, she could be seen going and standing by the door to look out for the delivery driver, and then things moved into the realm of questioning whether the order had actually gone through ok. Perhaps it had been lost? Maybe the company had delivered it to the wrong house? Would it arrive? Would it ever arrive?!!!! (By this point I think we were all just hoping it would arrive soon!).

The no sooner had it been delivered than she was sprinting down the stairs to unbox it and get started (those running steps obviously wasted because they weren't counted by the fitbit).

And the excitement didn't stop because no sooner was she awake than she was wanting to look at the app to find out how she had slept (no more relying on guesswork about sleep from now on!). And then the joy of updates every ten minutes on the number of steps she had taken. I say every ten minutes but it seemed like a lot more!

Now I don't mind all this excitement about walking and moving because it can only have a healthy goal of having her being more active. That can only be a good thing in the age of screen after screen.

And I think this is an example of technology and an app that serves people well if they want to improve their health and wellbeing.

But what about the ever growing multitude of mental health apps? Are they good for anxiety and other mental health issues?

A recently published study took a look at mental health apps to identify how they frame mental health, including who has problems and how they should be managed.

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Anxiety in the workplace - More Action Needed!

Over two years ago I was published in the Ely Standard newspaper calling for more action to be taken to be taken to combat anxiety and stress in the workplace ('Ely hypnotherapy expert calls for more effective action on stress and anxiety levels').

Sadly, a new survey published by mental health charity, Mind, suggests that poor mental health affects about half of all employees. Their survey of 44,000 employees revealed that poor mental health at work is widespread and only half of those who had experienced problems with anxiety, stress and low mood had talked to their employer about it. 

I remember when I struggled with anxiety in the workplace. When it was bad it would impact on my performance and there were times I was too anxious to even go to work. Back then, mental health was much less understood and recognised so there was no way on this planet I would ever have discussed it with my employer. Indeed, I was certain back then that it would have a detrimental impact on my career and I was very aware of cases of colleagues off work with anxiety or depression and how it quickly became common office news.

I really would like to hope that times have changed with mental health having been elevated as an issue that can affect anyone and with more understanding about it than ever.

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Sports Psychology: Trauma, Abuse and Injury:

I work with lots of sports people who are seeking to improve their performance or to bounce back after a setback. At the professional level, the benefits of sports psychology are well understood, and that recognition of the importance of mind-set and mental attitude is something that anyone who wants to improve and perform should be incorporating into their training programme.

Sports psychology can take many forms and will depend on the particular individual. For example, recently I worked with a triathlete who wanted to stop the negative internal dialogue that impacted on his performances. It was those pesky thoughts that can make us hold back and become lost in thoughts of potential injury or things going wrong, rather than focussing on what is actually happening.

I've helped footballers who wanted to get their motivation, confidence and self-belief back, horse riders who had become anxious and fearful after a fall, fighters nervous about competing, cyclists too anxious to ride and many others who knew that they would benefit from effective sports psychology help to engage in and enjoy the sport they love. Many of these have kindly gone on to give feedback on how their sessions helped and there are many, many more who preferred to just get on and deliver in their sporting arena.

And recently new research has again highlighted the importance of effective psychological help in sport. This research looked at the impact of lifetime sexual and physical abuse and trauma and its association with sports and non-sports injury.

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Anxiety and Dreaming - How Your Anxiety Impacts While You Sleep:

If you are currently struggling with anxiety then one thing you may have noticed is how it even seems to filter into your dreams while you are sleeping.

It's something that people with anxiety often describe to me - that they seem to experience vivid, negative dreams at night. Those dreams can be filled with unpleasant scenarios that lead to them waking filled with sensations of dread and fear.  Those anxiety filled dreams can create very real unpleasant emotions and feelings that may linger into the day.

Only yesterday, an anxiety client described how he had woken the night before during a dream, drenched in sweat, with his heart pounding and filled with fear and panic. Many other clients experience this or just find that those vivid images from their dreams upset them and make them feel low. 

When I was a teenager I remember buying a book in a bargain bookstore all about dream interpretation. It would say things like if you dream of a cat you will come into money or lose money, if you dream of flying you are destined to soon travel and if you dream of being killed you will not awake! Seriously, it did say that sort of stuff (I often wondered about the last example there because how would anyone know?!).   

Anyway, the world of understanding the role of dreams has moved on a lot since then! And there's some recent research about how your anxiety while awake impacts on the content of your dreams.

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Eight Years of Hypnotherapy in Ely - Thank You!

This month (September 2018) marks the eighth year that I have been running my business of hypnotherapy in Ely. Time has flown!

I'm very proud to have reached this milestone where I've helped so many people to overcome anxiety, increase confidence, let go of old limitations and achieve their goals. And I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have trusted in me, worked with me and supported me over these years - thank you!

I've had the opportunity to meet and help so many wonderful people, many of whom have kindly left feedback on our work together and I'm excited about continuing to grow, improve and help many thousands more people in future years.

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Migraine Treatment: Hypnotherapy, Acupuncture or Medication?

In my last blog I wrote about research into the effectiveness of hypnosis for the management of  headache and migraine. The researcher in that report concluded their systematic review by saying, "This study has demonstrated that hypnosis has a significant impact on the pain activity of individuals suffering with migraines and supports the findings of several double-blind, placebo controlled studies that have demonstrated hypnosis to be statistically superior or equivalent to commonly used treatments."

Which is, of course, great news and evidence for those with migraine who are seeking help and treatment or who are finding their current treatment programme isn't as effective as they would wish.

In August 2018, another study that discussed migraine and hypnotherapy was also published in addition to the one I discussed in the previous blog article.

This report compared the efficacy of acupuncture, hypnotherapy and pharmacotherapy in patients with migraine. The study divided 90 patients into three groups: one group was treated with acupuncture, another with hypnotherapy and the third with medication. 

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The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy For Headaches and Migraines:

This week is Migraine Awareness Week, which seeks to raise awareness and understanding of migraines, which it is estimated affect one in seven people.

Migraine is a complex neurological issue that causes a range of symptoms including painful headaches, disturbed vision and sensitivity to light, sound and smells. There may be vomiting and feeling sick and, depending on severity, they may result in someone needing to be still or lie down for several hours. Someone may take hours or days for the 'migraine hangover' feelings to totally disperse.

And, of course, many people suffer stress and anxiety arising from migraine and the worry of another one happening as well as impacting on mood and quality of life.

With the essence of good timing, a review was published at the end of August about the effectiveness of hypnosis for the management of headache and migraine. Here's what it found...

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How To Choose Your Hypnotherapist:

In the internet age, choosing your therapist can be an overwhelming decision. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there all claiming to be the best solution for your needs.

In many ways it's the complete opposite of the situation when I chose my first therapist to help me overcome anxiety. In the absence of any sort of guide as to how to chose and with the phone directory as my reference manual, I went for the most conveniently located person to where I worked. I had no comprehension of different types of hypnotherapy and naively assumed if someone was trained and had an office then they were probably ok and that one hypnotherapist was probably near enough equivalent to another.

In my case it was one of the worst decisions I've ever made, financially and psychologically.  In fact, the regression style approach adopted was nothing short of cruel. In the end I said I felt better just because being anxious was less painful than being guided to vividly pour over every painful and embarrassing moment that may (or even may not) have happened. It was several years before I even considered going and talking to another hypnotherapist.

So to avoid making the same mistake I made first time around, what can you do? Below I've listed the six things I think any professional hypnotherapist should be doing and offering. If I was advising someone I deeply cared about on how to find the right hypnotherapist then this is the list I would give them (assuming they couldn't work with me for some reason!). 

After all, I'd want the very best for them and their mental health and wellbeing. 

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Dealing with Anxiety and Trauma - New Video Testimonial:

Last weekend I took my daughter for her first experience of watching Ely City FC play, when they took on Norwich in the FA Vase at the Ellgia Stadium here in Ely.

It was a glorious day as we made the mile long walk there (during which we contemplated what it would be like if all other humans vanished and we were the only ones left...such is the mind of a ten year old! (Naturally, in the true British way, we also complained a bit about how hot we were!). 

Anyway, the game itself was a cracker! Ely fell behind twice in normal time and managed to equalise each time so at 2-2 it went into extra time (my daughter was not too impressed as she'd had enough by then!). Ely again went behind in extra time, only to equalise yet again. Then Ely went ahead for the first time, and despite missing a penalty that would have clinched it, held on to win and go through to the next round.

One thing I particularly admired about the Ely team was how each time they went behind and got knocked back, they stayed positive and kept going. It's easy to let our heads drop when we get a knock back yet here was persistence and resilience in action. And, just as in other areas of life, by picking themselves up each time they went on to ultimately succeed. Great stuff!

And recently I've been working with a lovely lady who, despite a very major set back, has shown the reilience, persistence and mental courage to keep going. 

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Overcoming The Fear of Swimming in Open Water:

Do you have a fear of swimming in open water? Well, if you are a triathlete then that fear can seriously impact on your enjoyment of competing as well as your performance levels. Further down this article you can watch a testimonial from Miranda who overcame her fear and absolutely smashed her triathlon.

I'm just back from a week away with my family in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, an absolutely lovely place where we all had a great time. The weather was good, the beaches were amazing and we all really enjoyed our time there. Even the weather was just right (mostly!)!

The kids loved playing in the sea, whether it was splashing around, swimming a bit or getting knocked over by the waves. It was great to see how confident they have become in the water compared to previous years (I splashed around a bit but mainly stuck to dry land because the water was freeeeezing!!). 

There were also plenty of swimmers out in the sea and we often watched them make their way along the horizon. There's an Ironman triathlon event coming up in Tenby so I'd bet a few of them were in training for the open water swimming part.

Yet if open water swimming fills you with fear then a triathlon, or any other open water swimming, could fill you with dread, anxiety and worry. 

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