About Kathleen Roberts

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So far Kathleen Roberts has created 20 blog entries.

Christmas – are you really crackers about it?

Once a time for Christian religious worship, now a time of peak consumption. I know people who are so stressed about Christmas that they can barely sleep for worrying about posting cards off in time, getting the right presents for their family and friends, planning the schedule for the ritual Christmas dinner, cooking it – and making sure that everything goes exactly right throughout the whole day.

And what of those who don’t spend Christmas with a partner, friends or family? Having experienced this myself, I know only too well that if you aren’t initially upset about your situation, everyone else will unwittingly conspire to ensure that you are, as the day approaches. Were you looking forward to getting up when you felt like it, eating what you want when you want, going out for a walk in the woods and then luxuriating in a hot bath, before catching up on that box set you’ve been saving up? Hard luck. By the time the day arrives, you’ll feel like a solitary failure of a human, because you’re ‘on your own on Christmas Day’.

Last year one of my clients was in full Christmas meltdown and described it as a “greed-fest”. She felt worn out by the responsibility of making sure that the whole thing went as it should and that everything was bought, posted, wrapped, decorated and cooked: “I’m on a treadmill and I can’t get off,” she lamented. She was not the only one to feel that way.

It’s worst of all for those who are getting into debt so that their children and families “can have a Christmas”. And those who are homeless, out of work, or simply out of luck already feel bad enough about their situations without being bombarded with reminders of what they can’t afford.

How did it come to this? When did goodwill and peace on earth turn into a pile of presents, many bought in desperation? All of the accessories – the tree, the decorations, the wrapping paper, cards – all end up as rubbish to be disposed of or recycled in the New Year.  And what of the overeating, the excess, and most of all, the hard work and the stress? For the people stage-managing it all (and usually they’re women) the emotional fatigue sets in long before the turkey goes in the oven.

Having witnessed Christmas grow into the monster that it has become during the course of my life, I ask my stressed-out clients what they want to do about their Xmas anxieties  Many of them say they want to get off the treadmill – in fact, I’ve seen the very thought of it bring tears to their eyes.

And yet getting off the treadmill is so easy. It’s staying on it that’s hard!

Talk to others first, of course, in plenty of time. And when you do you may find that they are enormously relieved as well. Make a plan. Perhaps you’ll agree that everyone will buy just one small gift as a ‘secret Santa’ lucky dip, or maybe give homemade presents like jars of chutney or biscuits. Or you’ll donate a gift to a women’s refuge for them or their children to have something to open on Christmas Day. Instead of buying something, you might wrap up a promise (to clean your friend’s house, do the ironing, make a cake, take them out for the day, go to the cinema, etc). If you want a big get-together, you could each bring something for a shared Christmas dinner, ready-prepared. Or you could just go for a walk in the woods or on the beach, breathe some fresh air and focus on what you have to feel grateful for. Instead of piles of Christmas cards that are thrown away on Twelfth Night, send your friends a real Christmas message by email, one that is personal to them.

Maybe it’s too late for this year and you’ve already sent the cards, ordered the turkey, done the online shopping and the real-life shopping, wrapped the presents and decorated the tree. But there’s always next year.

Or maybe you’re a big fan of your current way of celebrating the festive season – in which case, there’s no problem.

I personally love Christmas but what matters to me is the emotional connection with others.

But if Christmas for you is a treadmill of excess and stress rather than a time of peace, hope and goodwill, just be aware that it takes more effort to stay on that treadmill than it does to step off it.

And remember – the most important gifts come from the heart and not the wallet.  And we can give those at any time of year.

By |2019-12-11T13:31:35+00:00December 11th, 2019|Uncategorised|

November blues!

It’s that time of year again and I’m reminded of the poem by Thomas Hood, which ends with the lines: “No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, November!”

Dark nights and gloomy days can make the most cheerful of us despondent. But those suffering from anxiety or stress may find the ‘winter blues’ affect them in a disproportionate way.

If that sounds like you, there are things you can do to help combat those feelings, and it’s worth making that little extra effort.

First of all try to make the most of what natural daylight there is. If you can, spend some time outside during the day and especially if there is any sunlight. Even if the sky is grey, research tells us that being outside is beneficial to body and mind. A brisk walk (and at this time of year, brisk is best!) will also burn up those calories and release endorphins that lift the mood.

Also, make some time to practise relaxation is a mindful way. Even if this is simply doing some conscious breathing for five minutes of the day, I promise you that you’ll feel the benefit. And even better is a short mindfulness meditation that can be done on a daily basis and takes up only a tiny part of your daily routine.

Take pleasure in small things. Let yourself notice the beauty of nature even at a time of dormancy – at the dead time of year, the shapes of the trees are revealed clearly and only then can their sculptural forms be appreciated as the wonder that they are. Let your eyes and mind linger on things that you wouldn’t usually notice or are normally distracted from.

And finally – smile at a stranger. You’ll be surprised how many people will smile back!

By |2019-11-04T13:12:21+00:00November 4th, 2019|Uncategorised|

Mental health in the NHS – the Cinderella service?

Mental health services in the NHS will be getting an extra £2 billion per annum as a result of the recent budget But is it too little, too late? The promised funding is not due to arrive in NHS budgets until 2023 and the plan is to create a new mental health crisis service, provide mental health provision in A&E, and to prioritise mental health support to young people.

The Royal College of Nurses is dubious about the plans as they will inevitably depend on the existence of a well-trained and expert workforce of healthcare professionals. They point to the current staffing gaps in A & E departments which don’t seem likely to be filled in the near future.

As I listen to the stories many of my clients tell of the mental and emotional distress and anxiety that they suffer on a daily or even hourly basis, I frequently wonder how we have arrived at this state of affairs. The catalogue of misery that often precedes a mental health crisis is often made up of a series of events and incidents that could have been avoided. In addition, the person affected might have been able to cope better with some support and help. This is only offered when they have become ill.

A Health Service – or an Illness Service?

A National Health Service should be about wellbeing – people need to be cared for and supported whilst they are well, to stay that way. They also need help to continue to remain in the best health that they can. The NHS is waking up to this for physical conditions such as diabetes where overweight people are referred to support groups and given other help to ensure that they do not develop the disease. But our so-called ‘health’ service is anything but when it comes to emotional wellbeing. This is understandable when money is in short supply.

But we need help to learn how to relax and be mentally and emotionally resilient. That’s the only way to deal with the blows that life will deal us. Happy people are almost always emotionally and mentally well. People who are worried and have problems that seem insurmountable, feel undervalued or bullied and intimidated at work or at home, are being constantly worn down and their energies depleted. Sooner or later they will break under the strain.

My plan

I’m planning to set up a small class in my area to promote emotional and general wellbeing. This is something new for me and I’m getting excited about how to help people to become stronger, happier, and more resilient. I’m thinking of calling it the ‘Don’t Give A -” course. Some time ago worked with a very poorly person who hadn’t been out of the house for a long time. She finally managed to overcome her fear and go to her children’s sports day. When asked how she had managed it, she said: “I had hypnotherapy. After that I didn’t give a s**t!”.

Watch this space…

By |2019-02-01T15:21:53+00:00October 31st, 2018|General News, Hypnotherapy|

Make 2018 your year to blossom!

The start of a new year is usually a time to reassess our lives and work out how we want to make changes for the better.

We often think about this in negative terms, because we perceive that we have ‘bad’ habits or our self-image is somehow unsatisfactory.

Instead of self-criticism, I encourage my clents to focus on the positives. For example, don’t beat yourself up about being fat – focus on how fantastic it would feel if you could walk up a hill fast and get to enjoy the view at the top without even thinking about being out of breath, or wear the clothes you’d really like to be able to buy.

Stressing about the negatives just brings you down even more.

Think of a plant and how it grows… It doesn’t fear the frost or worry about being attacked by predators. It pushes out new growth, and after even the coldest, darkest winter, its buds will burst into flower on the first day of sunshine.


Why not make this year YOUR year to blossom?

By |2018-11-05T14:10:03+00:00January 6th, 2018|General News|

“Take care” means just that.

I lose count of the number of people (especially women) who use the words “take care” automatically when signing off an email or note. It’s become an almost meaningless cliché.

But we need to start to really mean it when we say it, for our own sakes. Because we simply aren’t taking enough care at the moment –not of our friends and family members, but of ourselves.

Many people seeking help from hypnotherapists and counsellors want to lose weight, or stop smoking or deal with anxiety-related issues.  They see these problems as individual and specific issues that they are suffering from and that they want to get rid of. lonely-273629_1280

However, the cause of many of these problems is that we aren’t taking care of ourselves, in the sense that we aren’t caring properly for our physical bodies and our minds.

I said to a (very stressed client) just recently: “Would you let your car run out of fuel, never replace the oil, and overload it with heavy weights?”  No, of course not. But that’s what we’re doing to ourselves.

People experience different results from hypnotherapy, as with all therapies, and some clearly derive more benefit than others. But hopefully all of them will exit a course of therapy understanding that they need to care for themselves better in the future. They will also have some techniques and strategies that help them to do this. Because many of them haven’t been looking after themselves  properly for quite a long time.

A recent analysis by Cancer Research concluded that cancer rates will increase nearly six times faster in women than in men over the next 20 years, with obesity al least partly to blame. Other factors are smoking, drinking and lack of exercise.  So why are women increasingly more at risk?

I suspect one reason is that women themselves are often the care-givers – they care for their partners, their children, their elderly parents and perhaps their neighbours too. Sometimes they are providing emotional support for colleagues or even working as volunteers.  This inevitably takes its toll, and the person giving the care may be the one neglecting to care for herself.

Caring for ourselves is crucial. If we are strong, healthy and resilient, we have a better quality of life and we also are better at looking after others.

So if you’re one of those people who sign off by saying “take care”, how about focusing on yourself for a change?

By |2018-11-05T14:10:12+00:00February 3rd, 2017|General News|

The season of goodwill?

rainy-83136_1280“Happy Christmas”! To anyone feeling lonely, anxious, fearful or depressed, those words sound not only hollow but cynical.

In fact, they just seem to emphasise that many people aren’t actually happy at all, and won’t miraculously become that way just because it’s the festive season.

But it’s worth remembering that those smilingly wishing us a happy Christmas are often not very happy themselves – their smiles may hide heartache, worry, illness or even downright misery.

Talking to people can help, which is why so many of us turn to counselling and hypnotherapy. But a bit of  ordinary, genuine goodwill can also go a long way towards making people feel better.

In the run-up to the Christmas holiday, I plan to make sure that I perform at least one small act of kindness or consideration every day, even if it’s only telling someone that they’ve done a good job or thanking them properly for their help. Simply smiling at people who serve you in shops can make their day that bit better.

If we could all do this, it would make our lives a little bit happier, I’m sure. And who knows – it might become a habit.

Because goodwill is for life, not just for Christmas.

By |2018-11-05T14:10:30+00:00December 7th, 2016|Anxiety, Hypnotherapy|

Smoking harms DNA

cigarette-666941_640A new study proves that tobacco smoke harms human DNA and is linked to a whole range of cancers. This was a large-scale research exercise involving 5,000 smokers so it can’t be dismissed.

Though I don’t specialise in smoking cessation myself, it is something I feel is very worthwhile and other hypnotherapists report good results as long as their clients are really motivated to stop.

One reason that I don’t offer smoking cessation is that I have a personal interest that makes it hard for me to be objective. In her youth and middle age, my mother had been a very heavy smoker. When she was in her last months of life, I watched her trying desperately to breathe, hooked up to an oxygen cylinder. This is an image that will stay with me always. She had suffered from breathing problems for years and her whole retirement (after a life of hard work and little enjoyment) had been blighted by this disability. I had health problems myself that later were recognised as the result of passive smoking.

I do offer help for clients who want to rid themselves of unwanted habits and lead healthier lives. Some of these issues – such as obesity or excessive drinking – have a negative effect on their families and friends. But only smoking harms such a wide range of people, including the general public who are breathing in the harmful ‘second-hand’ smoke. Does passive smoking also harm DNA? It would seem likely.

For more information, see:


By |2018-11-05T14:10:44+00:00November 4th, 2016|Hypnotherapy|

Anxiety and male deaths from cancer

Anxiety is bad fordespair-513530_640 us: we know that. But it is a killer – or can it save our lives?

A large-scale study has found that men over 40 who suffer from significant levels of anxiety are twice as likely to die from cancer than their female counterparts. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common mental health problem that is associated with an increased risk of suicide and other mental health problems. It affects about 5% of the population. But the male sufferers studied in the research were found to be at greater risk of dying from cancer than the females – or from other men who did not suffer from GAD.

Was this because the men worried about their symptoms in silence?  Did women react differently, worrying more about theirs and consequently taking steps to gain reassurance from their doctors? Were there other differences caused by gender-related issues? Or did the anxiety itself cause cancers to develop more frequently in men, and not in women for some reason?

Much more research needs to be undertaken to find out the answers. What is certain is that anxiety, like stress, is bad for our physical health as well as for our emotional and mental wellbeing.

For more details on the study, go to



By |2016-09-23T16:02:25+01:00September 23rd, 2016|General News|

Young girls feel the pressure to be perfect

girl-470690_640Girls are increasingly worried about their appearance and the pressure to be perfect, according to this year’s annual report from the Children’s Society, produced with researchers from the University of York.

Among the sample of 10 to 15-year-old girls surveyed, the researchers found that 14% are unhappy with their lives as a whole, and 34% with their appearance. This is an increase on the previous year, when 11% said they were unhappy with their lives and 30% with their appearance.

Some respondents cited social media as a particular influence, with girls more active than boys on sites like Facebook and other platform. But the rise of the popularity of ‘celebrities’ and their newsworthiness was also mentioned by girls, who felt they could not attain the “perfect” looks of females featuring in many TV shows and in magazines.

The proportion for boys remained the same, with 11% saying they were unhappy with their lives as a whole and 20% with their appearance.

The report highlighted other differences between boys and girls.  Boys aged 10 and 11 were less happy than girls with their school work and more likely to demonstrate conduct and attention/hyperactivity problems. Girls experienced anxiety and depression significantly more than the boys and became increasingly unhappy with their appearance as they got older. This also fits with the idea that girls tend to internalise feelings and not communicate them easily.

It’s a pretty staggering situation when a fifth of boys below the age of 16 are unhappy with the way they look, but when more than a third of the girls are troubled by this, it’s something we need to take very seriously.

The mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people, and especially girls, is already a cause for concern, as highlighted by another recent report.  But now those working with very young girls – in nurseries and children’s centres – are reporting that these children are more conscious of the way they look than ever before, and are showing signs of anxiety in this regard.

It’s all too easy to remark on how pretty a little girl looks, especially if she’s dressed up in a special outfit . But does constantly mentioning this reinforce a belief that appearance is more important that ability, kindness or intelligence?

The media is surrounding us with images of physical female perfection and telling us this should be the norm.

This needs to be debunked and countered by parents, teachers and young people themselves. Not only do we need more realistic visual role models (as opposed to super models) but we need to value the really important attributes of our fellow human beings and not the superficial and often artificially-enhanced ones. And we need to encourage children and young people to value themselves for these attributes and build their confidence and self-esteem for what is within them, not what is on the outside.

The story as covered by the BBC is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-37223063

The whole report can be requested here http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/resources-and-publications/download-the-good-childhood-report-2016

By |2016-09-02T17:18:13+01:00September 2nd, 2016|General News|

Girls aren’t finding life a bed of roses…

Exam results are over – but now it’s almost time for the new school year to start.

This can be a stressful time for all students. But new research shows that girls are increasingly suffering higher levels of emotional and psychological distress than boys, according to a study by the Department of Health on Year 10 students in schools in England.

A previous survey was undertaken in 2005 and the results of that have been compared with the most recent one. This year’s findings showed that 37% of girls were identified as “psychologically distressed” compared with 15% of boys – and the average levels of distress were more severe for girls, at four points higher. Back in 2005, girls were also displaying higher levels of psychological distress but the differences were less pronounced, and the percentage affected was lower.

teen-954378_640In the latest survey, more of them reported feelings of worthlessness, unhappiness and an inability to enjoy day to day activities, as well as trouble sleeping, and other indicators of distress.

Mental health and wellbeing are now recognised as important issues for all of us, affecting our own lives and the lives of those around us.  Years ago people appeared to assume that children led happy, carefree lives, and that mental health and emotional problems began with the pressures of adult life. Now Department of Health research surveys are measuring the health and wellbeing of young people and the results will hopefully inform government policy.

The discovery that there is a marked increase in psychological suffering experienced by girls is worrying. More needs to be done to find out why so many girls are feeling like this and why, so that help can be offered.

Whilst there is no definitive explanation at present, we do know that there are many factors which may contribute to the discrepancy between boys and girls in this respect.

For example, girls engage in less physical exercise than boys and exercise is beneficial not just for physical wellbeing but for psychological health as well. Neurotransmitters in our brains seem to react to exercise and produce feelings of wellbeing and even euphoria. Serotonin is one of these neurotransmitters and exercise has been linked to the production of higher levels of it in our bodies. Research indicates that low levels of serotonin are linked to depression.

Another reason why girls may be more distressed psychologically is that they tend to internalise issues – and the things we keep inside us are not usually the ones we feel good about. Girls are often more critical – and self-critical – than boys, especially about their physical appearance.  A word of criticism will be remembered long after paeans of praise have been forgotten.  Repeating negative thoughts inside your head is not going to do much for your self-esteem, or your confidence.

So there are many complex issues involved here and the upward trend is not easily explained.

But one area where there is an improvement on is in terms of recognition of the problem – at least now we are willing to acknowledge that children and young people are not simply skipping down a yellow brick road of happiness.

Unhappy thoughts and worries thrive in darkness and isolation.  Bringing matters into the open and shining a light on them can only be a good thing.

Helping young people to become more positive about their perceptions of themselves is one way in which hypnotherapy can support emotional wellbeing. Changing a negative self-image for something more positive and realistic, and improving self-esteem, can make an enormous difference.  This can’t be done in an instant, but a process can be started which will gain in momentum and hopefully create the foundation for a happier and more resilient adult.

The life of a 15 year old girl in the 21st century may not be a bed of roses – but at least we can try to remove some of the more obvious thorns.

By |2016-08-30T11:01:17+01:00August 30th, 2016|General News|