Life brings us all challenges.
Sometimes these challenges are in our relationships, our family, our careers, our finances, our health; sometimes the challenges stimulate us, sometimes they knock us over and rock the foundations of our world like a runaway train with a pain that is so unbearable we doubt we will ever enjoy life again.
If we are lucky we have friends and family to support us but rarely is that support available 24/7 as they too have their own responsibilities in life and may also be struggling. The pain of being alone at a challenging time often adds to our feelings of despair and hopelessness and yet it provides the opportunity for one of life’s greatest lessons, we will all be alone at times and to be able to get through these times we need to be able to self-soothe.
Self-soothing is the ability and acceptance that you can comfort yourself when you feel stressed, anxious, abandoned, rejected, alone etc. Self-soothing often takes the form of distraction through escapist, short-term techniques which, if repeated, can become addictive. A reliance on alcohol, food, gambling, smoking, drugs actually worsens anxiety and depression which in turn increase problem-focused negative introspection and negative forecasting.
Beneficial self-soothing techniques include the acceptance that pain and challenges are a part of life for everyone, despite the barrage of social media posts that create a false reality of permanent success and happiness. Accepting life as it is and not how we think it should be is the first step in self-soothing as it allows us to recognise that we have coped with difficult times in the past and can do so again even if we can’t immediately see how. Techniques such as listening to calming music, meditating, going for a walk, reconnecting with nature, not only reduce our emotional arousal but allow us to view things with a more rational perspective and recognition that hard times might last longer than a day or a week but they aren’t permanent.
Why self-care is essential even when life is going well
We’ve all had experiences of realising self-care is vital when life is challenging; we try to get more sleep, eat better food, fit in some exercise, maybe have some therapy etc. but often as our challenges subside or are resolved we believe that we can ease off or even give up looking after ourselves! Maybe unconsciously we believe that no stress = no need for self-care when we believe we are coping well with life and are back in flow.
If we make self-care a permanent part of our daily routine we are better able to cope with stressful situations when and if they arise as we will already be more resilient both physically and emotionally.
Each of us has an internal stress bucket and most of us underestimate how full our stress bucket is. Unlike the big tankers that cross the oceans, we do not have a visible plimsoll line to tell us how much of a load we are really carrying. Regular bucket emptying is vital as it allows us to off-load anxiety create more mental space and mental resilience and this in turn allows us to deal with life’s challenges more calmly and with a more rational perspective from a solution based focus rather than a problem based focus.
Exercise is a really good form of bucket emptying as is taking time each day to relax the mind through either self-directed meditation, guided meditation or solution focused hypnotherapy. There are hundreds of free examples to choose from on YouTube and just 25 minutes a day is beneficial when done consistently.
As a hypnotherapist and coach for the last 15 years I have seen many clients who want to break a negative habit. Negative habits such as smoking, binge drinking, binge eating and negative thinking are all created through repetition and on a chemical level they bring comfort and reward no matter how ‘negative’ they might be to our health.
Often negative habits are our way of seeking comfort during stress –we turn towards substances that bring both pleasure, with the release of dopamine, and distraction from the stressor; however both the pleasure and the distraction are short term and yet this experience is recorded by the unconscious mind for future use when we encounter stress again. With repetition the habit is created and functions automatically along with the recollection and promise of the same good feeling which offers us ‘escape’ from the pain of the stressor.
It is because our habits are automatic and run by the unconscious mind, that the first part of any change process is to re-engage the conscious rational mind so that we can raise our awareness of our habit triggers. This process begins by reducing stress with hypnotherapy or meditation both of which increase alpha brain waves and serotonin production – a calmer mind is capable of more rational thought and of noticing the times and situations that trigger the habit and therefore, in a more relaxed and rational state of mind, we can begin to choose not to have the cigarette or not to eat whatever is in the fridge. Michael Yapko (‘Treating Depression with Hypnosis’) describes these moments of conscious choice as ‘forks in the road’. In her poem ‘An Autobiography in Five Short Chapters’, Portia Nelson uses a similar idea of walking down a different street. Habits don’t change by themselves or by magic but by reducing stress and being willing and able to make a new conscious choice. A therapist can’t make you give up a habit but can help you take a different turning at those moments of choice.
None of us can escape stress in life and it comes in many forms, emotional, financial, family problems with our children and ageing parents etc. Stress can be overwhelming and the overwhelm is increased when we place unrealistic expectations on ourselves by thinking we can deal with any stress whilst also continuing to manage the rest of our lives as we previously did.
Not only is this expectation unrealistic but in our struggle to meet it we inevitably flounder and instead of accepting that we can’t carry on as normal we stagger on battling against a weakened immune system and increasing stress; this leaves the door wide open for physiological symptoms of stress (digestive issues, frequent colds and infections, elevated blood pressure, weight gain or loss etc) and the psychological symptoms of poor concentration, memory and focus as well as insomnia, anxiety and depression. The result is that we find ourselves even less able to deal with the original external stress.
Our natural response to an external stress is to want to take some sort of control and to fix the issue but often there is no way to fix a situation and so the only control we can take is control of ourselves in the form of self-care. Often we confuse self-medication for self-care.
Self-medication comes in many forms, high sugar foods, alcohol, smoking, spending money and provides only short term comfort and relief. Positive self-care offers long term comfort but needs to be consistent and comes in the form of the basics such as regular exercise, relaxation or meditation to de-stress and promote good quality sleep, a low sugar diet to avoid spikes in blood sugar and unwanted weight gain. In the midst of a stressful situation or crisis it’s easy to overlook the importance of active and positive self-care, in fact it’s easy to overlook ourselves.
If you are currently feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation give yourself permission right now, yes right now, to make time to look after yourself in positive ways – time to simply get back to basics.
Everything you do involves the minds – yes the minds. You have one physical brain but 2 minds, the conscious rational thinking mind which deals with data and facts and the unconscious mind which deals with emotions and the stress response patterns of depression, anger and anxiety. These three stress response patterns date back to primitive times and were responsible for surviv
Primitive man often faced life or death situations and food was not always readily available so if a neighbor tried to steal his food his very survival would be under threat – in response to this threat he would probably ‘shout’ or ‘rage’ or ‘lash out’ at his neighbor.
In the modern world we also feel under threat, when we perceive that our need for security is being threatened (unemployment, economic recession ) or when we perceive ourselves as being attacked emotionally, disrespected or unfairly treated by others. Stress hormones are released into the body preparing us for the ‘fight’, the rational mind shuts down as the emotional unconscious mind takes over in the stress response mode, and with no regard for the consequences our judgement is impaired and our responses and behavior often escalate to levels which are inappropriate and potentially dangerous and illegal.
Hypnotherapy can help with anger in several ways. Helping you learn how to actively relax your mind, and de-stress after a bad day; how to reduce negative thinking and become more assertive in order to better manage the various stressors in your life by adopting new techniques which enable you to think and act from a more rational perspective when faced with both perceived and real threats.
Everything you do involves the minds – yes the minds.
You have one physical brain but 2 minds, the conscious rational thinking mind which deals with data and facts and the unconscious mind which deals with emotions and the stress response patterns of depression, anger and anxiety. These three stress response patterns date back to primitive times and were responsible for survival.
Imagine during the winter months when primitive man looked out of his cave and saw torrential rains and winds, he would stay inside and wait for the outside conditions to improve. He knew hunting and going to visit his friend in the next cave would be potentially dangerous against the inclement weather. Instead he chose to stay inside, opting out of normal everyday life, seeing no-one whilst he waited for life outside the cave to improve – he would sleep and eat.
When we experience depression in the modern world we also often react in the same way as our primitive ancestors, we opt out of everyday activities, withdraw from friends and retreat to our ‘cave’ often eating and sleeping too much while we wait for life on the outside to improve. Primitive man had no influence over the weather and so could only wait. When we are depressed we focus on what’s wrong in our lives and we take no action but instead we retreat to our caves and wait for things to improve. We wait to lose weight, to feel more confident, for our job to improve, for relationships to fix themselves – however these are all things we can influence and can change but only when we are proactive.
Depression focuses our attention and our thoughts on the negative and blinds us to the fact that things change and improve when we take action. Taking action is empowering and allows us to feel a sense of control. Action comes in many forms, taking exercise, consciously looking for the positive, meeting a friend, deciding to focus on solutions, getting help – action creates momentum and momentum creates optimism.
Staying in the cave was appropriate for our primitive ancestors, they had no choice, but today in the modern world, staying in the cave is inappropriate because we do have choices, many choices which allow us to make positive change and enjoy life. If you would like help to lift your mood and break the cycle of depression call 07899 625 156 to make an appointment and start enjoying life again!
A really great article from Psychology Today
A really great article about life truths from Psychology Today
Anxiety – is it in your mind?
Everything you do involves the minds – yes the minds. You have one physical brain but 2 minds, the conscious rational thinking mind which deals with data and facts and the unconscious mind which deals with emotions and the stress response patterns of depression, anger and anxiety. These three stress response patterns date back to primitive times and were responsible for survival.
Imagine primitive man hunting; off he goes with his spear hoping to bring back a large cow, well imagine his shock if instead of a cow he comes face to face with a wild tiger – his life is in danger, and the battle cry goes out when he thinks or says the words ‘oh no, what do I do now or oh no, I can’t cope, I’m going to die!’ – as soon as the unconscious mind detects those words of alarm it will fire off the anxiety response and with it come the physical responses of raised heartbeat, increased body temperature and release of the stress hormones; in this situation his rational mind shuts down, he can either fight or run away. We call this the fight or flight response and whichever he decides to do the physical changes created are designed to give him the maximum chance of survival – an elevated heart rate can pump the freshly oxygenated blood to his muscles, the raise in body temperature warms the muscles ready for action and of course today these reactions are often experienced as blushing, trembling and a blank mind!
In modern life the same process happens when we react to a situation with thoughts and words of panic and alarm. The unconscious mind races in with the stress response because the unconscious mind can’t tell the difference between us facing a wild tiger or feeling frightened about giving a presentation etc. Anxiety is further increased when we become aware of the physical responses in the body and worry that others can see how anxious we are and of course, we can rarely do a good job when body our mind and body are in anxiety mode.
So you see a lot of our anxiety is made worse by the words and thoughts we use. We need to be aware of how we react – we need to be able to choose rational and calm words and thoughts which are not interpreted as an alarm by the emotional unconscious mind. Awareness is created with a relaxed mind so the first part of this change process is learning how to relax your mind, because when we are relaxed we can react to stressful situations in calm rational ways by choosing to think rational thoughts, allowing the unconscious mind to realize there’s no need for an anxiety response pattern.
Hypnotherapy helps you overcome anxiety by helping you learn how to relax your mind and reframe old negative responses into more positive ones, because yes, anxiety begins in the mind – visit my online shop
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How to strengthen the foundations of your self-belief
Just because your self-belief may not be strong at the moment doesn’t mean it has to stay that way – it can change and you can change it by changing how you think about yourself.
Create negative feelings
Which in turn create?
• negative reactions in the body
• negative choices
• negative behaviours and actions
The foundation of your self-belief is built on your thoughts about yourself, the thoughts you perceive others have of you and your self-talk. Your self-talk reflects your thoughts about yourself and of course you self-talk is like a 24/7 radio show . . . it never stops! It’s therefore important to pay attention to your self-talk as its influence on your self-belief is huge.
The quality of our self-talk stems from our own expectations of ourselves and our perception of what others think of us.
What do you expect from yourself?
Many of us expect ourselves to be perfect; to always be happy, to please everyone, to always succeed; with these unrealistic expectations we are doomed to fail and to feel negative about ourselves. Perfection doesn’t exist and when we allow ourselves to be human rather than perfect our self-talk becomes a lot more positive.
What they think of you?
We have all experienced the pain of someone thinking negatively of us and yet we know we can’t expect everyone to love us or even like us and the good news is that with 7 billion people in the world we don’t need to be liked by everyone! Whatever anyone thinks of us is based on their perceptions, not on facts and their perceptions don’t diminish who we are or change the qualities we have.
Strengthen your self-belief
Consciously choose positive thoughts about yourself. Be true to yourself, recognise your qualities and be realistic in your expectations of yourself.