Sleep Tight

Are you getting enough?  I mean sleep of course!

We’re told throughout our lives that everything seems better after a good night’s rest.  That might not be entirely true, but everything certainly seems worse when you’re exhausted.  So it really is important to make sure you get enough sleep.

But how much is enough?  I’m assuming most people reading this are aged between 18 and 65.  According to the Sleep Council  people in that age range function best on seven to nine hours per day.  Above that age you may be happy with a little less.   And while missing the odd hour now and again isn’t likely to cause you any great harm, long-term sleep loss can make you forgetful, moody, depressed and irritable (as well as tired).

So it’s really important that you get the right amount of good quality sleep.

Tips for better sleep
  1. Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable, welcoming place.  Keep it at a cool temperature around 16-18° C (60-65° F).  Try to get it completely dark – or wear an eye mask.  And keep technology out.  Not only does having a computer or your mobile phone in the room tempt you to use it, the blue light they emit can interfere with restful sleep.
  2. Choose the right kind of mattress for your needs.  It should be firm enough to support your spine while still moulding to the contours of your body.
  3. Try to keep to a regular routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
  4. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime.  And try not to overdo fluids at night to stop your sleep from being interrupted by trips to the loo.
  5. Try to put your daytime worries to one side when you get into bed.  Easier said than done, I know.  One trick is to imagine putting them all into a box that you can open again in the morning.
  6. While an empty groaning stomach probably won’t help you sleep, try not to eat too close to bedtime.  Struggling to digest a heavy meal is likely to keep you awake.
  7. Try to maintain a moderate level of exercise during the day, but avoid it late at night.
  8. If you’re struggling to sleep you can help yourself by relaxing your body, either by progressive muscle relaxation or breathing techniques.  I’ll explain these in another blog.
  9. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, it might be worth getting up for a while.  Do something non-stimulating like listening to music (not Black Sabbath!) or reading until you feel sleepy again.

 

After a good night’s sleep you should wake up feeling relaxed and refreshed.  You may not feel like leaping out of bed, but you’ll know that you are, in fact, ready to face the day.

Have An Imperfect Christmas!

We all have that perfect Christmas image, don’t we?  It’s probably something like this.

The Dream

Gran and Grandad snoozing in front of the fire, stomachs replete with an excellent lunch.  Mum and Dad sitting hand-in-hand watching a blockbuster movie on the TV.  Kids happily playing with their Christmas toys.  And the dog looking photogenically cute in its elf costume.

But maybe it’s more like this.

The Nightmare

You’re a single parent struggling to cope on your own.  Or you’re not, but halfway through Christmas Day you’re allowing yourself a sneaking suspicion that you might be better off if you were.  Gran and Grandad jetted off to Tenerife on Christmas Eve.  They’ve just facetimed to wish you “Feliz Navidad” and you answered through gritted teeth.  The turkey was dry, the pigs lost their blankets, and you set fire to the Christmas pud (and the curtains).  You forgot the batteries for the kids’ toys so their now alternating between fighting each other and telling you what a useless parent you are.  And the dog’s eaten its elf costume and is now looking forlornly at a pile of green sick.

The truth is probably somewhere in between.

The Reality

Some things will go right.  Others will go wrong.  And once you recognise that, it stops being such a problem.  We all put so much pressure on ourselves to make everything perfect that we end up angry, stressed and miserable.

So step back and think about what really matters.  If you’re like me, that’s enjoying a relaxing day with people you love.  It’s about a nice meal, not a gourmet feast.  It’s about smiles and laughter and not worrying if the Christmas tree looks like an accident in a bauble factory.

So decide what really matters to you about Christmas and focus on that.  If you don’t like turkey, don’t have it.  If lighting the pud always results in a call to the fire brigade just skip it, or get someone else to do it.  Concentrate on the few things you think are important, get those right, and take everything else as it comes.  And if the important things go wrong – have a laugh about it.  Turn it into one of those Christmas memories you talk about every year.

Christmas will always involve some degree of stress – unless you’re Delia Smith (and she’s probably lying).  But you can reduce it to a level you can handle by letting go of the idea of perfection.  And if you need any more help with your stress, at Christmas or any other time, you can always give me a call.

Fear Factor

We all have our fears.  For some it may be spiders, for others heights, and for yet others clowns can be terrifying.  Most of the time we can keep our fears under control, but sometimes they turn into phobias.  A phobia is much stronger than a fear – it can be totally paralysing.

10 Most Common Phobias

But what are the most common phobias?  The list below is provided by the website fearof.net after extensive research.  Do any of them affect you?

Number 10 is the fear of holes. Did you know that was known as trypophobia?  Sufferers are not only afraid of holes in the ground, but also those in coral, honeycomb and Swiss cheese for example.  They find the sight of a hole so distressing that they will take extreme measures to avoid them.

Number 9 is the more familiar fear of flying, known as aerophobia.  This affects nearly 6.5% of the world’s population, and is closely linked with fear of confined spaces and of being unable to escape.  Fairly obviously, it affects sufferers’ ability to travel but can also impact on professional life if air travel is necessary for work.  Even the thought of flying can cause nausea, panic attacks and a sense of dread in the sufferer.

Number 8 is mysophobia, the fear of germs.  This is closely related to obsessive compulsive disorder as sufferers indulge in excessive hand washing.  It can have serious effects on people’s social lives as they take increasingly extreme precautions to avoid contamination.

Number 7, claustrophobia, affects about 7% of the world’s population.  The fear of small spaces is closely linked to fear of suffocation.  Although it has been studied to a great extent by scientists, only 2% of sufferers are believed to seek treatment.

Astraphobia, the fear of thunder and lightning, is number 6.  It’s most common in children but can persist into adulthood.  Storms become a source of extreme terror.  Astraphobia can even affect wild animals.  Fortunately, at least for humans, it is very responsive to treatment.

Number 5 is the fear of dogs, otherwise known as cynophobia.  To a dog-lover like myself this is inexplicable but it’s one of the most common animal phobias around the world.  It’s interesting to note that the majority of cynophobes are also afraid of cats.  It’s far more common in women than in men, and usually develops in childhood.

Agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces, is number 4.  The sufferer feels panic at the mere thought of visiting theatres, shopping malls or wide open spaces.  Eventually a vicious circle is established.  The sufferer avoids going out and his or her world decreases in size.  In severe cases, only the home feels safe.

Number 3 is the fear of heights, or acrophobia.  This is usually, but not always, associated with the fear of falling.  It can cause severe panic states which somewhat paradoxically increase the risk of falling.

Number 2 is ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes.  Indiana Jones was not alone!  It affects nearly 33% of the adult population.  To an extent, it’s a valid fear – snakes can obviously be dangerous.  But to a true ophidiophobic, a harmless grass snake is as terrifying as a cobra.  Even a picture of a snake can induce panic.

So what is the number 1 phobia worldwide?  You’ve probably already guessed – it’s arachnophobia of course.  Fear of spiders is incredibly widespread around the world.  Again, in some countries a healthy wariness of spiders is sensible.  In the UK, however, the paralysing fear of spiders that some people experience is not helpful.

So do you suffer from any of these?  Or maybe you have a phobia that’s I haven’t listed above.  If you have a fear that is so strong it interferes with your life, don’t hesitate to get help from a hypnotherapist.

Does Hypnotherapy Guarantee Results?

 

Seeing a hypnotherapist can seem like a big decision – I totally get that.  You’re investing your time, money and trust in someone you’ve never met.  Hopefully you’ve done a bit of research, so you know hypnotherapy can be very effective.  But you might be wondering if I can guarantee that I’ll solve your problem.

 

Can I give you a guarantee?

 

The honest answer is no, I can’t give you a 100% guarantee that the I’ll give you your desired result.  But no therapist can, however well-qualified and experienced.  Every client is different, and some just won’t respond to a particular approach.  Part of my job is to tailor my treatment to your needs – if I do that correctly we’re well on the way to getting a positive result.

But you also have a part to play.  You need to be motivated to make a change.  That doesn’t mean you have to do all the work – there’d be no point coming to see me if that were the case.  But if you want to make a change in your life then you have to involve yourself in that change.  So if you come to me for help to stop smoking you have to really want to stop, not just come along because someone’s nagging you.  Or if you want to increase your confidence, at some point you have to go out and try your new confident behaviour.  Otherwise how will you know if it’s worked?

 

Building on your motivation

 

But the fact you’ve taken the trouble to read this means you’ve made a good start.  It suggests you do have the motivation to make a change.  So there’s an excellent chance that I can help you by building on that motivation.

 

My guarantee

 

While I can’t guarantee that I’ll solve your problem, I do guarantee that I’ll use all my training and experience to give you the best possible chance of success.  I’ll treat you with respect at all times, listen to you with empathy, and respect your confidence.  I aim to get results from the minimum possible number of sessions, so you’re not spending any more of your time and money than necessary.

And I guarantee to give you the best therapy experience I can.

Positive Thinking Made Easy

I recently heard from a friend who was having a bit of difficulty with positive thinking.  She’d been set the challenge of writing down three positive things about her life every day.  This was fine until she had a migraine and just couldn’t face it.

Various people tried to help.  One suggested that “I haven’t been stung by a wasp” could be counted as something positive.  But it’s not, is it?  It’s just a potential negative thing that didn’t happen.  I could spend hours listing the potential disasters that haven’t happened to me; while I’m very grateful for that fact it’s stretching things a bit to call it a positive thing about my day.

Someone else suggested, rather more helpfully, that if thinking of positive things was causing my friend stress then maybe she shouldn’t try to do it.  This is a valid point, but it really shouldn’t be a stressful exercise.  The whole point of thinking of a few positive things about your life is that it should be easy.  The trouble is we make it difficult for ourselves.

We think we should be coming up with things like “I love my career as an international top model.”  Or maybe “It’s great living here in my palatial home with my incredibly handsome/beautiful partner and our two perfect children.”  Or even, “Ever since I won the Lottery jackpot my life has been amazing.”

But that’s not what most people’s lives are like.  And they don’t need to be.  Do you have a roof over your head?  Can you put food on your table?  Do you have access to clean water?  I’m guessing you’re answering “Yes” so that’s three positives straight away.

Do you have friends?  Family?  Someone to love who loves you in return?  Do you feel safe in your environment?  Do you have a job you enjoy and a bit of spare cash?  Maybe you can’t answer “Yes” to all of those but take pleasure in the ones you can.

Once you stop expecting positive things to be huge it gets much easier to find them.  Someone smiles at you in the street.  The sun’s shining.  You find £2.37 down the back of the sofa.  Celebrate the little things.  And recycle them – it’s great if you can think of three new positive things every day, but it’s okay to go back to some of your old favourites.

Positive thinking really doesn’t have to be difficult.

Walking Through Fire

About 20 years ago, to raise money for charity, I had a go at  fire walking.  Don’t try this at home – while it’s perfectly safe done properly you can get badly burnt.  I spent the best part of a day training, doing exercises that, at the time, seemed a bit strange.  Now, with an understanding of hypnotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming I can see what those exercises were trying to achieve.

It was supposed to be a huge confidence booster.  If you could take off your shoes and socks then walk boldly across a bed of burning coals you could do anything.  That was the theory anyway, and it made sense.

I did it successfully, and quite enjoyed it.  The sensation was a bit like walking across warm sand.  A doubting friend stuck his finger into the coals to test their heat.  He went home with a blister as a souvenir!

 

But it didn’t do anything for m confidence. Of course I felt proud of myself when I’d done it – but there were no lasting effects.  When I thought about that, I realised it was because I never doubted my ability to do it – I trusted my trainer and knew that if I followed his instructions I’d be fine.

I’m not knocking fire walking as a means of building confidence. It has an amazing impact on lots of people who try it. But if you believe you can do it from the outset, it’s probably not going to have much of an effect on you.

I use gentler ways of building confidence. You don’t have to face your fears in order to overcome them, although that can be very effective. I prefer you to overcome your fears so you can face them.  Using the pleasant sensation of hypnotic trance to access your unconscious mind, I can then work with it to release you from your fears.

 

You Can Make A Difference

Sometimes it’s easy to think that you’re too small, too unimportant, too insignificant to make a difference.  And when you feel that way it can help to lower your self-esteem.

But we can all make a difference with the smallest of actions.  You might know the story of the starfish on the sea but it’s worth remembering.  And if you’ve never heard it before it’s a useful lesson.  It’s based on the writings of an American called Loren Eisley – this is my version.

 

The Starfish Story

In a seaside town, there lived an old man who used to go down to the beach to take his morning walk.  One morning, after a very stormy night, he walked along the seashore and was amazed to sea hordes of starfish washed up on the beach.  As far as the eye could see, in every direction, the beach was covered in starfish.

The man walked on, sadly reflecting that the starfish would surely die.  Nothing could be done to help them.  Further down the beach, the old man noticed a little girl approaching.  Every so often she would pause, and as the old man and the little girl drew closer together, the man could see that the girl was stopping to pick something up and throw it into the sea.

“Good morning,” the old man called as the little girl drew close enough for them to speak.  “Do you mind if I ask what you’re doing?”

The girl looked up and smiled, saying, “I’m throwing starfish back into the sea.  The storm must have washed them up onto the beach and they can’t get back by themselves.  If no-one throws them back they will die.  Wouldn’t that be a shame?”

The old man replied, “But there must be thousands upon thousands of starfish on the beach.  You can only save a few of them.  What difference can you make?”

The girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it as far as she could into the sea.  Then she smiled and said, “Why don’t you ask that one what difference I can make?”

 

The truth is you can – and do – make a difference every day.  When you smile at a lonely person, when you say a few kind words to someone who feels beaten by life, when you offer a helping hand.  You don’t have to do anything huge or dramatic to change someone’s world.

 

 

Don’t Apologise For Being You

Too many of us go around constantly putting ourselves down.  We find it necessary to apologise for existing in a world full of people who are far more important.

Well I have news for you.  You are important.  Yes – you, sitting at your computer reading this.

How do you answer when someone asks you what you do for a living?  Do you say, “Oh – I’m just a cleaner” or “Nothing special – I’m a teacher”?  Do you look down at the floor and mutter something about working with computers?  Or look sheepish and apologise for being a stay-at-home mum?

The fact is, it doesn’t matter what you do – doctor, lawyer, Indian chief – you are not what you do.  You are so much more than that.  You are the product of all your experiences and everything you have learned from them.  You have a lot to offer the world, you just haven’t realised it yet.

A Message From The Movies

We are all important.  When I think about this, it reminds me of the film “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend you take a couple of hours to sit down and watch it.  It’s generally thought of as a Christmas movie, because the action takes place around Christmas, but you can watch it any time.

It tells the story of George Bailey, one of the good guys in the small town of Bedford Falls, New York.  All his life, George has put other people first, ignoring his own needs.  We follow George’s life until one Christmas Eve he finds himself standing on a bridge contemplating suicide, believing he has ruined the lives of everyone around him.

At this point, Clarence Oddbody, George’s guardian angel, is despatched in an attempt to save him.  If he is successful, Clarence will be awarded his wings and become a fully-fledged angel.  Initially, he distracts George from his suicidal thoughts by throwing himself into the river and appearing to be in danger of drowning.  Good guy that he is, George jumps in and drags Clarence to safety.

But this is just a temporary fix – in order to change George’s view of himself, Clarence has to resort to more devious measures.  He shows George a vision of a timeline in which he never existed.  In this timeline, George’s brother Harry died in a childhood accidentvbecause George wasn’t around to save him.  In turn, Harry does not grow up to be a Navy pilot and shoot down a kamikaze plane headed for a troop transport.  And control of Bedford Falls comes into the hands of local miser Henry Potter.

Horrified by all this, George begs for things to be restored to the way they were.  His wish is granted, he abandons his suicidal plans and the story ends happily.  Oh – Clarence gets his wings!

So the point is – none of us knows how different the world would be without us.  We all matter and we all need to believe that.

So don’t apologise for being you.  Get out there and claim your place in the world.

Don’t Be Invisible

When you have low self-esteem it’s very tempting to try to be invisible.  You don’t feel as good as other people, or as worthy of attention, so you shrink back and try to hide.  You make yourself seem small and hope that people won’t notice you.

And, generally speaking, it works.  You’re waiting at a busy bar, shop or fast-food outlet.   There are lots of other people there, all of them more important than you.  So you shrink back, don’t make eye contact, smile patiently at the floor or pretend you haven’t decided what you want yet.  Nobody notices you until eventually it quietens down and you get served.

Does that sound familiar?

Does it feel good?

I’ve done it myself and it didn’t feel good.  It just made my already low self-esteem feel worse.

So one day I tried a different approach.  It was New Year’s Eve, I was out for a meal with a group of friends, and I went to get drinks from the restaurant bar.  There were several people clustered around waiting to order from the two harrassed-looking staff.  I felt myself starting to shrink, trying to be invisible, falling into the old familiar pattern of behaviour.

Then I stopped myself.  I wasn’t going to do this anymore.  I moved my feet a little bit apart to give myself a firmer grounding.  Stood up straight and tall.  Imagined my whole frame broadening and taking up more space.  And smiled at the busy bar staff as they flew backwards and forwards with drinks.  I was visible.  People could see me.

And sure enough, I got to place my order when it was my turn.  And I did a little happy dance inside.

Sometimes it feels hard to push yourself forward a little bit, to just make people notice you.  But you deserve to be seen.  You’re as important as anyone else and if you act is if that’s true you’ll start to believe it.

So stop being invisible.  Make people see you.

Stop Making Comparisons

If you want to feel better about yourself, maybe you should stop making comparisons with everyone else.

There are about seven billion people on this planet today.  The sad – but also liberating – truth is that some of them are better-looking, more intelligent, and more talented than you.  Whatever it is you think you’re good at, there’s almost certainly someone out there who is better at it.

“Hang on,” I hear you crying, as you splutter on your tea.  “I thought this was supposed to make me feel good about myself.”

And so it should.  Because once you realise that making comparisons is a loser’s game you can stop doing it.  You don’t need to be better than anyone else, just the best version of yourself that you can manage.

Take a look in the mirror.  What you see in there is you, and it’s all you’ve got to work with.  So don’t compare it unfavourably with some media-created image of the perfect human being.  Find the things about yourself that you really like – if you’ve been reading this blog there must be some by now.  Maybe you have nice eyes, or good skin or lovely thick hair.  Pay yourself a compliment instead of comparing yourself with your friend who seems to have it all.

Remember there’s a lot more to you than the outside.  Think of all your positive qualities – are you kind, thoughtful, funny?  What do your friends and family love about you?  Celebrate those things instead of worrying about your perfect sibling.

And so what if lots of people are better at chess, baking, abseiling or whatever your particular interest might be.  You’re better than you were when you started – look at your own personal progress instead of regretting that you’re not a world champion.

Be the best you can.  Do the best you can.  And be proud of yourself and your efforts.