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Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week aims to address the fact that approximately one in ten people in the UK will, at some point in their life, experience depression. Mental Health Awareness Week aims to  increase consciousness of and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

We are all waking up to the fact that mental health needs to be discussed openly. If you know someone who is struggling you may feel unable or unequipped to help or offer your support, causing feelings of powerlessness, frustration, confusion and anxiety. Helping someone to recognise symptoms and seek professional help involves trust, patience and understanding.

Depression isn’t the same for everyone and varies from person to person.

Indicators can include

  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Preferring to spend time alone
  • Making excuses to not see friends
  • Showing less interest in things that have previously been a source of joy
  • Problems with concentration and focus
  • Increased irritability
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increase in anger or short temper
  • Changes in sleeping habit

The list isn’t exhaustive and everyone can have bad days or a low period in their life. Depression isn’t feeling fed up or a bit down; depression is more than this and can carry on for weeks or months.

In Mental Health Awareness Week, encouraging a friend to visit their GP is a good place to start, if they don’t have a regular GP who they feel that they can talk to, a recommended and trusted therapist is another option worth seeking out.

Therapy is a process, it offers a safe space to talk, helps with understanding where problems come from and with developing strategies and tools for feeling better. Change doesn’t happen overnight and your support may be needed during the process. Therapy isn’t a quick fix, but it does work.

Learning More

It’s worthwhile reading official NHS advice and MIND is a brilliant resource, both for those wanting to help and those suffering with depression.

Being there

This is the main thing you can do. Ask how you can help; there will be times when gentle encouragement to talk is needed and times when your friend needs solitude. You may need to remind them to take care of themselves, to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep.

Depression is very real and not something that someone can ‘snap out of’, in the same way you wouldn’t tell someone who has a broken ankle to go for a run.

The simplest way to help someone with mental health issues

It’s important not to pressure someone suffering from depression or make them feel inadequate. Ask them how they’re feeling, listen with empathy and encourage them to seek professional help, but understand that someone suffering from depression may not want to do this or even be able to.

Psychotherapy is a resource for helping those suffering from depression, so seek help if you or someone you know needs it.

 

Tinnitus relief

Tinnitus relief is a subject close to my heart and one that I am passionate about.

This week I have been invited to present and advise again at the Bolton Tinnitus Support Group which is a truly wonderful organisation. They help tinnitus sufferers to cope with the symptoms and the difficulties that often come along with the diagnosis.

It will be no surprise that people with tinnitus can get anxious and depressed, but it may be a surprise to know that these three issues can be chicken and egg. One thing is certain though, that tinnitus is a subjective issue which is sensitive to mood.

It’s similar to pain in that way, a subjective perception which is worse at some times and less so at others. Often when the person is distracted or absorbed (what psychology calls ‘flow state’) then the symptoms are less noticeable.

In therapy we can access states of relaxation which we call ‘resource states’. When someone is relaxed, they can’t be anxious at the same time so accessing such a state of relaxed being is an early aim of tinnitus relief.

After that, then ‘anchoring’ the resource state can allow the person to bring on that feeling of relaxation when needed by triggering a subconscious memory of it. In times of stress, this is an empowering tool for the client.

It’s often about learning to manage the symptoms and that has behavioural elements of environment and thought as well as wider elements of meaning and perception.

All of these layers of the onion, we can work on peeling in the therapy room, working towards finding your peace.

The feeling of being worn down by the tinnitus is something I also often hear and this is what can lead to low mood. Again, in therapy relief can be gained by re-framing and building emotional resilience.

If you want to discuss further then, please contact me from my website Talking-Cure

Therapy Ethics

 Therapy Ethics is a wide subject.

In the last post from my presentation at the NCHP conference we were talking about memory. Memory is not some ethereal concept, but is made up of specific neurons in the brain.

I work with a particularly scientific client, and  this principle opens up the idea that she is not stuck with a memory for life.

Memories change, re-frame.

Memory is malleable.

This introduces a sense of possibility and with unhelpful memories.

If things haven’t gone the way the client hoped, you’re often dealing with their attachment to how ‘it should have been’ .

Breaking the attachment to the memory (because it may not be entirely accurate) attaches the problem to the memory and not the client.

I’m not blind to the juxtaposition here with the person centred concept of self-actualisation and that the client is the expert in their problem.

I believe both these principles entirely but as with all things sometimes a perspective doesn’t work, and we need more creative solutions.

It’s strange to me too, that in therapy the idea of intervention against natural process is such a minefield

There is this idea that any sense of change in the client that they didn’t initiate themselves is somehow unethical. We do however change everything around us all the time.

We make different types of plants and foods by modification. .

It’s a complex ethical issue, and we will all have our standpoints. Putting male cells into a female body however is a different story when you’re doing it in the context of a bone marrow transplant to save someone’s life from cancer.

There always consequences to acting and there are always consequences to not doing anything.

All I am suggesting here is let’s not be hypocritical. Therapy Ethics is a lens.

Therapy Ethics are important when clients come to us as therapists to change, for us to help them change.

We work in an idiographic way of course, but change is nevertheless the brief. People will always be self-organising, adjusting to minimise discomfort but there are times when that isn’t enough on its own.

In Western medicine, we celebrate advancements and ways of changing things. One day we will beat cancer.

Will anybody be saying that we should have left that process to nature?

All I am suggesting is that we fit the methodology to the client.

 

Relaxation Ease Depression

Relaxation ease depression and make yourself feel better.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that sadness and depression are one and the same.

Sadness is a natural, normal emotion that comes and goes.

Although feeling sad and cheerless is an unhappy state, it usually passes.

Depression isn’t sadness.

Depression is constant.

It can last for a period of weeks, months or even years.

Willpower alone won’t overcome depression, however, there are a number of ways that the methods of relaxation ease depression symptoms and hopeless feelings.

Connection – resist isolating yourself and talk to a trusted person like a family member, friend or therapist This can help make problems feel easier.

Exercise – the link between exercise and feeling good is well established. Exercise doesn’t have to mean joining a gym; a brisk walk has been shown to improve mood and positively affect symptoms of mild to moderate depression.

Relaxation – Anything that makes you unwind and feel good will benefit your emotional health

Again – for many of us relaxing may simply mean flopping on the sofa and maybe watching the TV, that may feel relaxing, but it doesn’t reduce the effects of stress.

These techniques can all help to relieve stress because they make you feel relaxed and hopeful.

  • Deep breathingand here’s how.
  • Guided imagery – remember imagination is stronger than will.
  • Yoga– Exercise and connection – maybe take a class

Find techniques that suit you, a massage or pedicure may be good for some but stressful for others.

Make a little time each day for something that you look forward to – like a bubble bath or a walk

These are useful ways to show how exercise and relaxation ease depression, of course, a therapist will help you to improve your symptoms and you should seek out a suitable therapist through UKCP.

 

Anxiety Support Bolton

Anxiety Support Bolton is a resource to help understand anxiety from experiences and feedback of clients in Bolton whose anxiety I work with. See other resources here.

Perhaps a sense of interior discomfort or a feeling that their bodies are troubled by physical warning signs, it leads to the same outcome.

In trying to gain control, they can ignore the gut feelings and avoid internal awareness which can mean they hide within and from themselves.

Ignoring these feelings leads as a result to secondary feelings of confusion, and shame. That can mean closing off or panic symptoms because any sensory change makes them feel like a “little boat on a big sea”.

The result can be a fear of fear itself.

Fear comes from a primitive response to a threat where escape is difficult, impossible or embarrassing.

Perhaps we’re stuck on motorways, in planes, in meetings or in crowds.

Relief comes not just from external aids such as drugs, but more helpfully from changing how we feel by how we think, or react subconsciously.

Such fear is no respecter of intelligence, creativity, gender or status.

However it does have common threads.

The sufferer’s field of vision is probably inward not outward.

It can cause people to freeze.

Everything can suddenly seem blurry.

Making decisions, even simple ones is hard.

We can feel self-conscious.

Maybe it comes from the need to please others or conform. Perhaps fatigue, repressed emotions, setting the bar too high or too much responsibility.

Some of the feelings can include shame, self-blame, or frustration at being trapped in a repeating cycle.

In all the years, we haven’t made enough progress to break this negative mind/body link.

Psychology can explain  but those primitive parts of the brain don’t switch off so easily.

By being over-vigilant and reacting to inappropriate or misunderstood danger signals, we see danger where there isn’t any.

We become overwhelmed and therefore we dread.

We don’t feel fully alive, our senses work overtime but feel dulled, the body keeps a score.

Language, and the Talking-Cure of therapy is our solution in Anxiety Support Bolton.

By communicating, learning to move back into our inner selves and finding meaning, we can make some sense

In conclusion, We can find our peace.

Anxiety Help Bolton

Anxiety Help Bolton.

I’ve heard a lot about anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve heard anxious people say “I feel like I’m going mad, like I’m going to die, I feel out of control, I worry about everything”.

It can be constant and therefore they become exhausted.

They also worry that someone will find out.

It can strike out of the blue.

It can prevent travelling.

It can cling on to them.

They feel dread.

Alone.

I know a lot about anxiety and panic attacks because it’s my main focus of work.

Most of all, I know it’s treatable.

I know that Psychiatrists believe up to 30% of the population suffer with anxiety at any one time, that it costs the economy £80 million every year. That it can commonly be found alongside depression.

I also know it isn’t new, but maybe what triggers it is new.

Often the future is where the problem begins. Sometimes it’s society because if we compare ourselves with others and come off worst in social media, it can feel like a competition.

Perhaps it’s a build-up of things that finally reaches a tipping point. Maybe a single life event that maybe brings it on.

Whatever the cause, Anxiety Help Bolton therapy first of all gives you tools to rationalise, a strategy.

Because you’re not alone.

You don’t have to feel the dread.

You can challenge those negative thoughts.

You can learn to recognise patterns in the negative voices

No one should have to spend their days being afraid of being afraid.

Use integrative therapy, drawing from hypnotherapy, counselling, analysis or behavioural methods (such as CBT) to help.

I know that you can learn the coping skills and methods that can bring you back from that exhausting hamster wheel of worry and panic to embrace the life that is waiting for you.

I know as an Anxiety UK therapist that psychotherapy and hypnotherapy can help.

I know this because it happened to me.

For help first of all contact me below.

 

 

Improving Memory

Improving Memory is the third part of my presentation at the International Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy conference. Earlier parts are here and here.

Changing your outlook from ‘I am like this’ to ‘I can be different’ however – is a first step towards positive thinking. To do this therefore let’s focus first on memory.

Here are some points you need to know about improving memory;

Repeat – As humans we need to process information immediately and repeatedly. It’s why learning to play a musical instrument demands repetitive practice. Repeat to learn.

Match – Because when new knowledge comes along, we fit it to what we already know.

Picture it – We think in pictures and not words.

Slower – If we slow down,  we move information from our working memory into our long-term memory.

Structure –  we are meaning making machines, we search for meaning. It’s a classic part of the psychology of teaching. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell it to them, and then tell them what you’ve just told them, therefore creating a structure.

Creative – our memory is both creative and re-creative, as in the movie ‘Inception’ starring Leonardo DiCaprio, where he implants memories to change reality.

Obviously (and ethically) therapists don’t do this, but many of my therapy clients are stuck in thoughts, one client for 20+ years.

We all know thoughts are important in therapy, take negative automatic thoughts in CBT. Thoughts and memories obviously connect, but importantly memories are not always fixed.

We think the memory works like a recording device

This is not true.

And changing this can create a new sense of possibility – a space where we can become

Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus is especially relevant in this area. She described memory as like a Wikipedia page because you can go in and you can change it, and so can other people.

As therapists we can’t plant memories, this is the reason that I don’t do Hypno-Gastric band work. If our memories represent our identity, it helps to know we can change it.

We can recreate a sense of self.

Memories are not cast in stone, there is room for change,  you are not painted into a corner. How many times have you heard people say “well, it’s just me, it’s just who I am”?

it’s because memories are a foundation to identity that if you can challenge them, then you can ask yourself, “what else can you challenge?”.

What can you change?

Perfection anxiety

Perfection anxiety happens when we put pressure and expectation on ourselves, when perceived ability to cope is less than demands. It can have an effect on confidence and self-esteem, causing all those symptoms set out in my other posts on anxiety here.

 

One of the causes of perfection anxiety is a fear of  not being good enough, so what can we do in the short-term to reassure ourselves? Do you remember re-framing from this earlier post?

Here are some of the themes and re-frames I sometimes work into therapy with perfectionists and perfectionism, if you struggle with needing to be perfect, why not try them on for size…?

 

First, you don’t have to be perfect, nobody else is. Remember the old saying, “Never judge someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes?” – that’s the point, no matter how much ‘perfect’ we project onto someone else, from the inside their world is probably every bit as difficult as everyone else’s, and if you don’t believe me, just ask them.

After all, how many ‘perfect’ celebrities with their perfect bodies, houses, partners and lives have you seen end up in rehab, the divorce courts or worse?

 

Second, there is no perfect way of doing anything. As we get older, this becomes an easier concept to grasp but there really are many ways to achieve a specific goal in life. What’s also important is to realise that the getting there is part of the process, and often the fun.

Think about a goal you set yourself, maybe an education or fitness course or saving for something. I expect that when you got there, it was different from how you imagined it at the beginning, that the journey changed you as much as the goal.

 

Next, if you’re not doing something as well as you’d like, just accept it. Sometimes trying harder increases the pressure on you, makes you miserable and hurts your performance. You won’t be good at everything all the time, sometimes you’ll struggle or fail. If you study the lives of successful people, you’ll find that failing is a vital part of how they succeeded.

 

Be sure to catch the second part of this blog for more resources to use today to relieve perfectionism.

How anxious brains work

How anxious brains work is an important part of the understanding of anxiety and panic. So let’s begin to understand it.

Let’s start with the anxiety response. If we can understand what’s going on, we have a useful starting point. This is another in the series of learning how anxiety works.

Triggers begin the process; we’ve all had those feelings of being in a dangerous place, even when physically we aren’t. Clients often describe this as a feeling of ‘dread’. So what happens when anxiety is triggered in this way?

The parts of your brain responsible for anxiety are the amygdala and the thalamus, the limbic system. The aim of the thalamus is to keep us safe. The thalamus scans for potential dangers around us all the time, monitoring all our senses, a little like anxiety radar.

If it detects a potential threat, rightly or wrongly, even if something that isn’t a threat is recognised as a threat, it sends a message to the amygdala.

The amygdala then does all those things that we recognise as unwelcome and unpleasant. It may raise heart rate, cause sweating, shallow breathing, and tense our muscles. We are from that point hyper-vigilant.

This is the ‘fight or flight’ response that I am sure you are familiar with; it’s a natural and useful response to dangers around us.

The problem here is that in anxious people, this process can begin at any time, sometimes even for no apparent reason. It can happen on an otherwise good day – it makes us anxious, panic and want to escape.

This trigger can be tied to danger or it could be a trigger from the past, wrongly recognised in the present, it could come from a sight, sound, smell, touch or any of our senses.

Once the thalamus has signaled the amygdala, the amygdala takes over and shuts down our rational thinking. We are left with instinctive simple reactions such as fight or flight; we are out of reason and into instinct.

Importantly, we are responding to the stimulus without choice, the amygdala is preparing the body to deal with the threat.

What is needed to combat this response are methods that reassure the amygdala so that we can regulate the body, regulate the breathing and by doing that, tell the brain that everything is alright.

By doing that we turn back on the rational part of our brain and we no longer have an anxious brain.

Stay tuned for more resources on understanding and treating the anxious brain.

 

Learn about anxiety

No learn about anxiety resources would be complete without looking at emotional resilience. The word comes from ‘resili’ – the Latin word for ‘spring back’ – it’s the process of adapting in the face of adversity.

Think of anxiety a bit like a see-saw with ‘perceived’ ability to cope on one end and demands on the other. When demands are lower that ability to cope, we are OK, when the demands are bigger than our perceived ability to cope, we have a problem, we can learn to be less anxious.

Ego strengthening and emotional resilience are about improving ability to cope. We all use scales of 1 to 10, if our ability is say a grade 4 and a grade 6 problem comes up, we can struggle, if the ability is a 9, then the grade 6 problem is easily handled.

This resilience can be cultivated. The more we learn about anxiety, the more tools we have to cope.

The first step is Realism, being realistic about a situation, for example one of the difficulties with depression is that people often attach inappropriate meaning to events. If a depressed person telephones a friend and they don’t ring back, they might think ’my friend doesn’t like me’ when the actual reason may be that they didn’t even get the message.

Next we look at establishing a goal that we can work towards, a favourable outcome. Now here hypnosis can really help with what we call ‘future pacing’. We all know that hypnosis can help us look back at past problems by regressing. The other side of that coin is looking forward which is equally (if not more) powerful.

Self-discipline is important, abandoning those ‘crutch activities’ that feel safe and familiar. It might be drink or drugs or avoidance. Ego strengthening techniques can really help with this process.

Cultivating wider interests helps because it gives us different versions of ourselves. Think of all the energy an anxious person uses just being anxious, once they are less anxious they have a surplus or energy and time to spend, space to ‘grow into’.

Re-framing is seeing something through a different frame and really important if you want to learn about anxiety. Say you suffer an ankle injury; you may well be focusing on how it stops you doing what you want to do. If you’re a soldier on the front line of a war zone, a simple ankle injury might mean rest and relaxation away from stress and danger.

Here’s a great re-frame that goes directly to the next in our list – Identity. It’s easy to concentrate on all our difficulties and things that have gone wrong. Look though at the old saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. That’s re-framing from victim to survivor, think of all the strengths you’ve built up in those hard times!

Flexibility is also key, changing change, making change into opportunity rather than threat.  Flexibility is vital for surviving life’s storms, if you bend with the storm winds, you don’t break.

Hypnosis, mindfulness and meditation can all help to moderate outbursts and reinforce neural pathways. Think of your mind like a cornfield for this one. The old outdated negative patterns of thought are like well-trodden paths in the corn, easy to tread again and again. By treading down new paths of positive neural pathways in the corn, like the old ones, they get flatter and flatter, and easier to tread.

A strong social network is good for emotional resilience; reach out in times of difficulty. Today, we live more and more isolated lives, often secure in the belief that Facebook friends mean we’re well supported. Look for support in times of difficulty; seek out therapy if you need to.

For control, look to Victor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Moving your locus of control internally rather than externally can make a big difference.

Finally, test the changes, keep a journal and monitor your progress, learn about anxiety with free resources posted on this blog,  after all this isn’t work, it’s your life’s work!