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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Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy - what it is and how it can help you combat anxiety:

Often when clients come to meet me for the first time they seem to think, based on the sloppy portrayals of hypnosis in the media, that I will start swinging a watch in front of their eyes and evoking some sort of mystical persona (perhaps a bit like Gandalf in Lord of The Rings or something from Harry Potter). They've seen things in TV programmes and in films and stage show type environments that leads them to form an opinion that hypnosis is something unknown, mystical and magical in some way. 

They may also think that hypnosis is something you can either do or not do, that is, either you can 'go under' or you can't, either it will work for you or you can't be hypnotised (full stop). And it makes sense that we form these perceptions based upon the things we see and hear about 'going under' and myths about being controlled by the hypnotist.

In fact, part of the reason I went to a hypnotist for help with my anxiety was that I wanted to be 'knocked out' and then come round to find that I had ultra amazing levels of self-belief and confidence, before heading off into the sunset with ultra-confidence and anxiety freedom for ever more (seriously, I thought I would be put under and awake to have all the confidence in the world). The first hypnotist I saw spent hour after hour taking me back through unpleasant and anxiety filled memories in the hope of finding some root cause yet all that did was make me feel more depressed and more anxious. The next hypnotist I saw transformed my life and whilst the results of hypnotherapy often seem magical, they are of course, built upon normal psychological processes that we are all capable of identifying, taking control over and changing.

Rather than being seemingly controlled by ongoing, intrusive and habitual anxiety filled thoughts, those same psychological processes can be used to create thoughts and feelings that leave us feeling happier, calmer and more in control.

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Motivation and results - Come rain or shine!

It's been a lovely day here today yet earlier this week, just a few days ago, it was a very different story. Over the Easter bank holiday weekend the heavens seemed to open and the rain poured down. Lots of well made plans were waterlogged (including my trip to watch Ely City FC with my daughter and father in law). 

And on Monday morning, which was a bank holiday here in the UK, my usual evening bootcamp was moved to eight in the morning. Whilst I only ate a small amount of chocolate over Easter, anyone who knows me knows I love that feeling after a hard work out - my mental health feels boosted and i know my physical health is benefitting too.

That Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday it absolutely poured down. The rain was so heavy that the noise of it on the windows woke me up two or three times during the night. When my alarm went off at 7 a.m. (cause yes it takes me an hour to wake up physically and mentally before I can exercise), there was a massive temptation to switch it off, roll over and go back to sleep. My bed was so warm and comfy and outside I knew it was wet and cold. 

So what do you do? Stay in the warm and dry and enjoy the comfort, or push yourself out of bed and just get on with it?

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Sugar Cravings - are you craving chocolate at Easter?

As I write this article, Easter is just a few short days away and already my kids are craving chocolate that they expect to receive over the weekend (from the Easter Bunny herself!).

Yesterday I nipped into a local supermarket with my daughter to grab some water (for us) and spinach (for our rabbit) and it never ceases to amaze me just how many Easter eggs they can cram into one shop. The moment we entered the store we were faced with tall towers of brightly packaged eggs that seemed to be screaming to be eaten. There were hundreds of them. They were seemingly everywhere around the store; every corner and end of aisle was rammed with chocolate eggs. And assuming that the other local shops are equally as stocked up, I'm pretty sure that if we've divided them out there was enough for everyone in the City to have one (if not two) each! 

When I was a kid I loved this time of year and the huge hit that met my sugar cravings and cravings for chocolate. I'd eat tons of the stuff and that probably explains why well into my teens I was fat and overweight. 

And even though I never eat sweets (apart from during one ultramarathon as an exception), and don't have much chocolate, all those brightly coloured wrappers and promises of luxurious melting chocolate goodiness was enough for me to start salivating a bit (albeit way short of a full blown chocolate craving). I have been to sugar craving land and there was a time when I couldn't be in the same building as a chocolate digestive - and I've been known to fall into festive chocolate craving traps (even if I usually manage to keep to my arbitrary rule of only having three of them).

For sure, all that sugar and fat is enough to create chocolate cravings so overpowering that we can almost feel helpless in the face of the cravings. The chocolate call to us, it cries out from the kitchen beckoning us to enjoy both the sugar hit and the relief from battling against the cravings. After all, once that lot is all eaten, we certainly won't ever buy any more ever again, will we?

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Hypnosis Downloads - New Titles, New Shop...

Earlier this week I headed back into the recording studio to record a couple of new hypnosis downloads. As much as people keep asking me to record new hypnosis tracks, finding the time to research, prepare and then record them has proven to be a bit of a challenge in recent months due to the high volume of people I've been helping in Ely and Newmarket and over Skype/Facetime.

i always get great feedback on my hypnosis downloads, which I currently have for such issues as anxiety relief, stress relief, letting go of worry and boosting self-confidence.

I'm very pleased to now add two new titles to the collection and am making a commitment to get back in the studio much more regularly this year to expand my offerings.

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Ely Hero Awards 2018 Nomination - Thank You!

Very honoured and grateful today to learn that I've been nominated for an Ely Hero Award 2018. 

It really does mean a lot to know that I've made such a positive difference to someone's life that they felt compelled to take the time and effort to nominate me. Thank you!  

There are many, many local people in Ely doing great things in this area and I hope many of them also get nominated for the great stuff they are doing.  

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Depression, Anti-Depressants & Mental Health - Do The Tablets Actually Work?

It's a debate that has gone on as long as anti-depressants have been available: Do they actually work or is it all down to the placebo effect? In my professional circles, social media has long been littered with those who are advocates of anti-depressants in the treatment of depression (often those who are or who have found personal benefits from them) and those who can only be described as opponents of them (often from a philosophical or anti-big-pharma standpoint). 

I've worked with hundreds of people with depression (and anxiety). Some chose not to start taking anti-depressants; of course they are entirely within their rights to make this decision and to pursue other sources of effective help. Some people who come to me are taking anti-depressants and noticing no change from taking them or report they are finding them only partially helping to ease their symptoms and so are seeking additional support. And of course there will be others who are prescribed anti-depressants and who find them completely helpful and so don't require any other therapeutic help.

My view, which I can state upfront, is that it is up to each individual to make the decision that suits them best. When someone comes to work with me, they may or may not be taking anti-depressants, yet either way we work with their individual situation, thoughts and feelings to make progress. Following this progress, my client can then go back to their doctor to discuss the possibility of gradually coming off the tablets if they wish to do so (and with the full co-operation, advice and review of their doctor). 

Sadly there are also still too many therapists (of many types) who seek to impose their own views upon clients and who, despite not being doctors or knowing the person's medical history, still suggest to them they should stop taking the tablets (usually with the advice to seek treatment from that therapist). In my view, this is both unprofessional and unethical and should be a big, bright waving red flag if you ever hear such assertions.

Anyway, I digress slightly as the main focus of this article is the recent study that has found that anti-depressants are more effective than placebos at reducing symptoms of acute depression in adults.

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My latest vlog - Mental Health & Pets:

Recently I wrote an article about how pets can benefit your mental health. This followed on from a recent research paper that carried out a systematic review of 17 studies involving 1727 pet owners, all of whom had mental health conditions. 

In the conclusion the report says, 'this review suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions through the intensity of connectivity with their owners and the contribution they make to emotional support in times of crises together with their ability to help manage symptoms when they arise.' 

Now I like this because I think pets can help to support our mental health even in the absence of having a mental health condition. Pets provide a consistent and close source of calming support and companionship, distraction from unwanted symptoms, a sense of purpose and routine and they offer acceptance without judgment. 

When I was a young teenager, struggling with low self esteem and anxiety, we inherited a cockatiel following the death of a family member (he was called Joe for some reason and he must have been camera shy because I haven't got a photo of him). Many was the time when I would get home from school feeling low because of some (at least perceived) anxious or embarrassing moment I'd endured that day. So I'd get Joe out and we'd sit on the floor and interact (he liked to rip matchsticks to pieces with his beak) and maybe I'd have some sort of conversation with him about my day (I did all the talking!) and I'd invariably feel better for it.

Recently, following a campaign of sustained requests from the kids and being sure they were old enough to care for her, we adopted a pet rabbit who my daughter has named 'Nibbles' and it's really impressed me how involved and purposeful the girls have been in taking care of her. Nibbles makes her first ever video appearance below...

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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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Weight Loss - Does Britain need to eat less?

This week Public Health England announced steps to reduce 20% of calories in popular foods by 2024 to tackle childhood obesity. 

As they put it, 'Too many children and most adults are overweight or obese, suffering consequences from bullying and low self-esteem in childhood, to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers as adults. An obese parent is more likely to have an obese child, who in turn is more likely to grow up into an obese adult.' The aim is to help people achieve weight loss and be healthier by cutting the calories consumed by eating less.

Public Health England's challenge to the food industry is to reduce calories in their products, such as pizzas, ready meals and savoury snacks by changing recipes, reducing portion sizes and encouraging people to buy lower calorie products.

All very worthy stuff isn't it? And no doubt the food industry, sensing the direction of policy and keen to continue healthy sales will produce products to meet this weight loss demand. Anything that makes life simpler wlll help although actually, such products already exist for those who choose to take them. 

Personally I aim to eat relatively sensibly most of the time - having been 'the fat kid' at school, there is no way I want to go back to being overweight. I hated it. It impacted on my self esteem massively and created a negative spiral in that because I was unhappy I would eat more and being unfit I would avoid  the embarrassment of exercise as much as possible. Which meant that I ate more and moved less and got bigger. 

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