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.

Unusual Fears

Do you think your fear is weird?  Are you worried that I might not take you seriously because the thing you’re scared of is just too strange?

Don’t be.  People really can be scared of anything.  I’m scared of peas!  Watch this video to hear me talk about it.  And there’s a whole world of unusual fears out there.  These are a few of my favourites.

  1. Lutraphobia – fear of otters.  How can something as cute as an otter scare anyone?  There are spiders and snakes out there!  But this is a genuine fear, although it doesn’t tend to come out of the blue.  Most lutraphobics have been attacked or bitten by an otter, or seen it happen to someone else.  Not so cute and cuddly after all!
  2. Chirophobia – fear of hands.  Yes, it really does happen.  And somewhat inconveniently, some people have a fear of their own hands.  This is usually brought on by some kind of trauma, like a hand injury.
  3. Globophobia – fear of balloons.  This fear can obviously make birthday parties a bit difficult.  Some people are afraid of the balloons themselves, others of the balloons being popped.  Apparently, Oprah Winfrey suffers from this fear.
  4. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – fear of long words.  Well it just had to be, didn’t it?  This is often the result of being laughed at for struggling with long words, usually in childhood.
  5. Turaphobia – fear of cheese.  This doesn’t only affect people who remember Martine McCutcheon dying under a huge wheel of cheddar in “Midsommer Murders”.  Some people genuinely get clammy and have panic attacks just walking past the supermarket cheese counter.
  6. Alektorophobia – fear of chickens.  This may stem from a traumatic experience or from a bad dream.  Sufferers imagine chickens attacking them with their talons and beaks.  They may even picture their eyes being clawed out of their sockets.
  7. Linonophobia – fear of string.  Most of us think of string as pretty harmless, even useful.  But to a small number of people it can be terrifying.  As with most fears, this usually results from a bad experience in the past.  Sufferers may have been tied up as a childhood punishment, or seen something similar in a TV show.
  8. Decidophobia – fear of making decisions.  People with decidophobia find it almost impossible to decide on anything.  What to eat, where to work, whether or not to get married – you name it.  Fairly obviously, the real fear here is of making the wrong decision.
  9. Omphalophobia – fear of belly buttons.  People with this fear can’t bear to see or touch belly buttons, even their own.  Some sufferers even think their insides could spill out of their belly buttons.  Which is a pretty scary thought!
  10. Pupaphobia – fear of puppets.  Most children love a good puppet show but some find them seriously distressing.  This can continue into adulthood.  Glove puppets, marionettes, ventriloquist’s dummies – all of these can induce terror in pupaphobia sufferers.

So there you are – ten unusual fears, plus one of my own.  All of them might seem ridiculous to an observer, but to the sufferer they are very real. They can be mildly inconvenient, like mine, or completely incapacitating.  But they all deserve to be taken seriously.

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.

Painless Positive Thinking

 

Positive thinking – what’s that all about?

You feel rubbish, and someone comes along telling you to think about three good things about your life.  Even better, they suggest, write them down in a nice shiny notebook.

Well you’ve got nothing to lose.  It might even help.  So you try it, and it’s not too difficult. You have food on the table, a roof over your head, clean water, a flush toilet, a few friends, and you can just about pay your bills.

It doesn’t stop you feeling rubbish though – now you feel guilty too.  What right have you got to feel like that when there are so many good things in your life?  You see news reports about children dying from starvation or disease in the Third World.  People closer to home are queuing at foodbanks.  Someone on Facebook tells you that you’re better off than 99% of the world’s population.

You must be selfish to still feel rubbish after all that.

But that’s not how it works.  You don’t feel bad because of what you don’t have your life.  You feel bad because of something that you do have in yourself.  And that’s not your fault – whatever it is, you didn’t choose to put it there.

Maybe you’re clinically depressed and there’s something wrong with the chemicals in your brain.  Perhaps your most vivid childhood memories are of arguments, anger and distress, so now you’re too scared of emotion to really feel anything.  Maybe someone  bullied you at school and now you’re stuck with low self-esteem and no confidence.

Whatever it is, the good things in your life won’t make it go away.  What they can do is make it feel a bit better, a bit more bearable.  In the darkness of despair those few positive thoughts can be like little flickering candle flames offering you light and hope.

So think about those good things in your life.  Collect them, keep them safe and use them to help you feel better.

Because that’s what positive thinking is supposed to do.  Not make you feel guilty.

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.

 

What’s Your Mantra?

We all have a mantra.  It doesn’t have to be an arcane Sanskrit word that we’re not sure we’re pronouncing correctly.  It’s far more likely to be that repeated thought playing silently in our heads.  And all too often it’s negative.

I’m too fat.

Everyone else is better than me.

Nobody likes me.

But once you become aware of your personal mantra you can change it.  You can switch that negative message off and replace it with something more positive.  And when you do that it can have a huge impact on your life.

How to change your mantra

If you want to change your mantra, the first step is to identify the one you’re currently working with.  So take a bit of time to hear what your inner voice is saying to you.  Note that I said hear, not listen.  If there’s a negative message playing in your head you just want to identify it, not take it on board.

Once you’ve identified your negative mantra you’re in a better position to replace it with a more positive one.  Because once you’re aware of the negative thoughts you have about yourself you can identify the effect they’re having on you.  Then you can better identify the kind of positive thoughts you need in order to reverse them.

So if your mantra is I’m too fat you can replace it with I’m working to reach my ideal weight.  Or you might look at yourself coolly and realise you’re happy with your weight, in which case you could choose I’m fine just the way I am.

If your mantra is Everyone else is better than me you could perhaps identify something you’re good at and base your new mantra on that.  Or you could recognise that we all have good and bad qualities and simply opt out of competition – I’m as good as anyone else.

And if that little voice in your head is saying Nobody likes me you could think of someone who you know does like you and replace “nobody” with their name.  Or more helpfully, start by appreciating yourself – I love and accept myself – and start to notice how positively other people respond to you.

So just try it – change your mantra to change your mind.

Where Did Your Confidence Go?

No-one is born with low self-esteem.  No-one is born lacking confidence.  Have you ever seen a shy newborn baby?

You’re amazing

You spend nine months developing in a safe, warm environment where all of your needs are met.  You may not be aware of it at the time (I think the jury’s still out on that one) but you’re often talked to and told how much you’re loved by parents who haven’t even met you yet.

Then you’re born.  You come into the world and, at least for a short time, you’re the most important person in it.  Everybody wants to meet you.  Everybody wants to hold you.  You’re amazing!

And it gets better.  You smile.  Has anyone ever seen a more beautiful smile?  You learn to raise your head and look around.  “Wow – he’s looking at me.  Isn’t he a clever little boy?”  You clap your hands and splash around in the bath.  “Isn’t she cute?  Isn’t she the cutest little thing ever?”

And better still.  You take your first steps and you might as well be an Olympic athlete.  You say “mama” and it’s received like the world’s best TED talk.  Every tiny stage of your development is celebrated.  And so it should be – you really are amazing!

Maybe not quite so amazing

But it can’t last.  The crowd gets tougher.  You have to try harder to impress.  Suddenly you have to do more difficult stuff.  Like talk in full sentences.  Read and write.  Get your head around long division.  Not only that – you have to be good at things.  Who knew that was part of the deal?

Before you know it, you’re getting criticism.  Some of it’s delivered constructively by people who know how to bring out the best in you.  But far too much just has the effect of making you feel like you’re not good enough.  Your confidence and self-esteem start to slide.

It gets worse

And people stop being nice to you.  Not all people – lots of them still think you’re wonderful and make that crystal clear.  But some people don’t like you.  That’s not your fault – no-one can be universally popular – but it doesn’t half feel like it sometimes.  And don’t forget the people who go around be horrible to you just because they can.  They can really sap your confidence.

But you ARE amazing

Really you are.  When you think back to that tiny baby who couldn’t do anything, then look at who you are now – isn’t it incredible how far you’ve come?  We all deserve to be proud of ourselves.

You deserve to be proud of yourself.  Because you really are amazing.