Light at the end of the tunnel

The past year has been an anxious and stressful time. It’s also been a lonely one for many people since Covid-19 struck our communities. Hopefully we are emerging from the worst of the pandemic now, so cautious optimism is justified – as long as we take it carefully.

I’m taking new face to face bookings, and the damaging effects of the past year are clearly apparent from the conversations I’m having with clients. Emotional exhaustion and burnout, grief, the fallout from relationships broken or damaged by unbearable strain, guilt at being unable to see loved ones during illness, or being able to say goodbye as they died – these are just a few of the issues raised, and there are many more. Some people have been undoubtedly traumatised by what has happened to them since the virus struck and are finding it very difficult to cope.

On top of this is the worry employees have about their job security, and for self-employed people, a questionmark as to the viability of their businesses.

For those of us who have been affected the most, it’s not been just a double or even a triple whammy – it’s been an assault on every aspect of our lives.

And still we need to be careful, and remember that the precautions we have taken against the virus should not be jettisoned until we can be sure it is safe to do so.

So if you are thinking of getting in touch and feel that you are only comfortable with face to face contact, you can be confident that my therapy room is as Covid-safe as possible. I’m still happy to work with clients via telephone or Zoom sessions as well. And initial consultations are free, as usual, and completely confidential.

There is light at the end of the tunnel – and I hope that I can help to brighten it for those of you who use my help.

By |2021-03-05T14:48:39+00:00March 5th, 2021|Uncategorised|

Seize the day – even if we are still in lockdown

As I write, the garden is blanketed with snow, but Spring is almost on us and brings the prospect of lighter, longer days and warmer weather. At the same time we look ahead to the hope of more social interaction and an eventual return to something more like ‘normal life’.

But let’s not forget that the best way to cope with the stress we may be feeling now is to find solace in the present. “Don’t wish your life away” is an old adage and a valid one. In our current circumstances we can be forgiven for thinking that life has been pretty much suspended and we are desperate to simply get through these times and move forward.

Many mistakes have clearly been made during this pandemic and bad things have happened. Bereavement and misery, ill health and loneliness are widespread in our country and the suffering is continuing.

But throughout this, the good in people has shone through. And strangely, the pandemic has had its benefits; many of us have learned new skills, discovered the joys of nature and bonded closely with those in our households.  The treadmill of commuting has been stopped for the masses of those in cities, and large numbers of people have gained insights into the way they have lived for years – with considerable numbers of them deciding to make changes.

So let’s not wish away today, however dark, dismal and lacking in joy it may seem, because we are hoping for something better tomorrow.

I often ask those of my clients who suffer from anxiety or low mood to find three things each day to value. “But what if there isn’t anything?” they ask.

Of course, in reality there always is, but perception is everything. We forget what we have, because we are focussing on what we haven’t.

To the person in chronic pain, a pain-free hour is a blessing. To someone who is homeless, a clean room with a bed is something to be grateful for. The difference between happiness and misery can be as simple as kind words from those you love rather than constant criticism.

And life itself is something to cherish, at a time when so many people have lost theirs.

So greet each day as the gift that it is, and look for the opportunities it brings to find some joy in life – and to give it to others. You won’t regret it.

By |2021-02-09T13:44:35+00:00February 9th, 2021|Uncategorised|

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|

“I’ll eat anything as long as it’s lemon curd…” Picky about food or selective eating disorder?

Call-centre staff may not always seem human – but the minute I mention hypnotherapy to them, everything changes. It’s unbelievable how many people have problems, small or large, that impact on their lives, and that they’d like to do something about.

I was recently in the middle of a call to the bank when I mentioned to the young man on the other end of the phoneline  – I’ll call him ‘Mike’ – that I was working as a hypnotherapist. Instantly his voice changed from bland politeness to eager interest, and he started asking me question after question – how does it work, what kinds of problems does it work with, and so on. It turned out that he had a long-standing problem which he had always put up with (and the rest of his family had done the same) – but now he was at university and sharing a house, and his housemates were less tolerant. His issue was that there were very few foods that he would eat, and he had been like that since childhood. His long-suffering mum, dad and siblings had tolerated this, but now his new friends were less happy – especially when it was his turn to cook. A bowl of chilli was completely beyond him and every single ingredient was verboten as far as he was concerned.

Intrigued, after the call was over, I did some research into Selective Eating Disorder  – that’s what it is, and it’s more than just faddy or picky eating. The condition is recognised by the medical profession and mentioned in guidance by institutions such as Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Occasionally there are news items about SED and this one appeared a few days ago…

Hypnotherapy worked for this young woman, but it does may one realise how something that begins as ‘picky eating’ in childhood can make life pretty miserable in young adulthood, when joining in with your mates is so important.

Since that call, I occasionally find myself wondering whether ‘Mike’ ever managed that bowl of chilli that he was agonising about so much…I do hope so .

By |2016-07-30T12:14:45+01:00July 30th, 2016|Uncategorised|