It’s the time when we think about making New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know about you but over the years I’ve vowed to :-
- cut down on alcohol
- stop eating junk food
- reduce my sugar intake
- exercise more
- take up yoga
- learn to play the piano
- stop procrastinating.
And that’s just the things I can think of right now.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I never kept a single on of my New Year’s resolutions. And I’m guessing I’m not alone – or even unusual – in that. Those well-meaning promises we make as the champagne (who am I kidding? – Prosecco) corks pop at the stroke of midnight are generally forgotten within a few days.
So why do we do it? Why do we tell ourselves we’re going to be better people just because the number at the top of the calendar is changing? Maybe we really believe that it’s easier to make a big change at the start of a shiny new year. Especially if we tell our friends and family about it, and perhaps even get them to join us.
But change isn’t easy. It takes motivation and a lot of thought. You need to really want to make that change, not just think it sounds good as the New Year’s chimes come to an end. Promising yourself you’re going to stop smoking isn’t going to work unless you really want to stop. And you have to be able to achieve the change – don’t swear you’ll take up yoga if you have no idea how you’ll find the time.
I’ve decided I’m not going to make any New Year’s resolutions this year. Rather than pressurise myself to think of a way I’m going to improve, I’m going to remind myself that change can happen at any time. I can tackle those things about myself that I’m not happy with when I’m ready. I can think about the benefits of change, work on my motivation, and then take action.
So maybe this time next year there’ll be a new me. Or maybe not.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – unless you’re scared of Santa Claus! And that particular fear isn’t as rare as you might think.
Because while adults are all aware that the man with the bag is a kindly benevolent old soul, to a surprising number of children he’s distinctly scary. And that’s bad news at a time when he seems to be everywhere. So how can you help if your child is afraid of Santa?
Talk about their fears
What is it that scares your child about Santa? Is his voice too deep? Is it his beard? Or do they see him as a stranger? It’s hardly surprising that some children are afraid of Mr Claus. We teach them to beware of strangers then we tell them an old man in red will come into their home on Christmas Eve while they’re asleep. A sensitive child could find lots to worry about in the discrepancy here.
Once you know why your child is scared you can tackle that fear. You can explain that Santa only comes into the house when you’re there to give him permission. You can talk about how kind Santa is and what a lovely old man is hiding behind the beard and the deep voice.
Don’t push too hard
You might think the best way to tackle a child’s fear of Santa would be to get them to sit on his knee and see how kind he is. But would you force someone who’s scared of heights to stand at the top of a tower? Hopefully not. Forcing a child to confront a fear isn’t going to help anything – it’s more likely to make matters worse. Work with your child’s feelings if you want to change them.
Read stories about Santa
There are lots of lovely children’s stories about Santa Claus. Sharing these with your child will help to show him as a friendly figure who loves children. And don’t forget to talk about how kind he is to his reindeer.
Keep them away from negative images of Santa
There are , of course, comedy films that show Santa as a bad-tempered old curmudgeon. While those of us who know the truth can laugh at these misrepresentations, children may believe them. Only let your child see films that give an accurate picture of Santa’s personality.
Take your child’s fears seriously
You wouldn’t like to be told your fear is silly, would you? So don’t do that to your child. It’s very tempting to say “Don’t be silly sweetheart, Santa’s nothing to be scared of.” But to your child that fear isn’t silly. Take it seriously and ask how you can help.
Christmas is a special time for children. Don’t let fear of Santa take away any of the magic.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Try to keep to a regular routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Try to maintain a moderate level of exercise during the day, but avoid it late at night.
- 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.
- 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.
We all have that perfect Christmas image, don’t we? It’s probably something like this.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.