Summer SAD?

Summer SAD? It seems that summer is here. We’ve had a lot of glorious sunshine with little rain at all for a while and lighter evenings.

When I start to think about summer generally, I have a number of loosely connected thoughts

  • Will we have a real summer? Endless dry sunny days with a hosepipe ban?!
  • If I bring the barbecue outside will it jinx the weather? Like it did last year and it wasn’t lit once due to incessant rain, sorry neighbours
  • Will the sun make us all feel happier?

That last question seems to be the big one for a lot of us.

Happiness and sunshine just seem to go together. Walking down the road or through the park, when it’s sunny there seems to be more people smiling and everything just seems better.

There have been countless studies and years of research into how weather affects us and the results aren’t necessarily what we’d imagine.

Humidity, temperature, and hours of sunshine had the greatest effect on mood…….As the number of hours of sunshine increased, optimism scores also increased’ Howard and Hoffman(1984)

And yet… Summer, not just in Bolton, isn’t necessarily the happiest time of the year, you can find yourself summer SAD.

According to one study, if the weather is too warm and humid, people suffer from lethargy, low mood and a lack of affection whilst levels of violence and aggression rise.

Researchers argue back and forth that summer is or isn’t a happy season.

What we do know is that the weather has been proven to affect people’s moods and emotions. Just how much it affects us varies from person to person. The time of year and amount of available daylight is not significant.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real condition characterised by feelings of sadness, depression and negative thoughts.

SAD isn’t, as is usually believed, specific to the winter months when temperatures drop and the days shorten. Some people, although a minority, experience SAD during Spring and Summer months too.

It’s helpful to remember that even if the weather doesn’t go according to plan – I can’t remember when we last had a white Christmas, can you? – WE can be adaptable and change our plans rather than let the lack of sunshine ruin our day.

Help for seasonal affective disorder, depression, low mood or anxiety is here for you all year round, so don’t suffer in silence or feel like you’re alone or you ‘should’ be happy when you’re not.

If you’re summer SAD, contact me here for further help or advice on any of the issues mentioned in this blog.

Oh, and if you fire up the barbecue this summer, maybe turn the oven on too, just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of Flying

Does a fear of flying mean you’ll be restricted to a holiday in the UK again this year? Fear of flying is an excessive worry of air travel and knowing that air travel is one of the safest methods of travelling does little to reassure those that suffer from fear of flying and many avoid flying at all costs.

This avoidance can affect people both professionally, avoiding air travel for business and personally, as family trips or visiting loved ones abroad seems impossible. It is thought that over 10% of the population suffer from fear of flying.

If you do, know that you are not alone.

Possibly you used to travel by air quite comfortably and have developed a fear of flying over time, this is common and often in women happens after having children.

People who have a fear of flying usually fall into one of two groups;

  • Those for whom the fear is concerned with the aircraft itself, fearing a fault, bad weather, terrorism or turbulence.
  • Those  who fear a loss of control. This could be because of fear of an anxiety attack, being trapped in a confined space, losing control of emotions or of bodily functions, all in public.

The fear can also develop alongside anxiety, often anxious people avoid leaving environments they consider to be safe, a type of avoidance strategy.

If you are suffering from anxiety therefore, fear of flying can happen alongside fear of travel of other sorts, and is especially linked to avoiding situations where escape is difficult, impossible or embarrassing.

I see a lot of anxiety clients who also fear being stuck in a car, on a motorway for example, in a traffic jam. Even fear of meetings at work, anywhere where you don’t feel in control.

It’s all normal with anxiety.

It could also be simply a specific phobia, just around flying.

For some, just the thought of flying may cause increased anxiety or a panic attack. A fear of flying could be linked to other psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder, claustrophobia or a fear of heights.

Even the language around flying can be worrying ‘terminal’, ‘final call’ – none of this is particularly comforting.

If your fear of flying is holding you back from exploring the world, visiting family or expanding your career horizons there are a number of ways in which you can begin to help yourself:

  • Relaxation exercises – spending just a small amount of time each day relaxing can help to reduce levels of anxiety.
  • Breathing exercises – taking a few deep ‘belly’ breaths can help to calm you. Shallow breathing, which we do when we’re nervous can make you feel jittery and light headed.
  • Learning about how planes actually work -there are courses available that teach you about the outside and inside of a plane and lots of information regarding the countless hours of training that pilots, co-pilots and flight attendants have to go through before flying, not to mention the contingency plans in place.

There is help for you, lots of psychotherapy techniques can help, systematic desensitisation, hypnosis to explore the subconscious threat, some NLP techniques.

If you need help, you can contact me here to ask questions, discuss and make a start on being free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Others Think Of You

Do you really need to stop caring about what others think of you?

We are a highly social species, we tend to like meeting and making friends and generally spending time with other people .In 2014 there were over a quarter of a million marriages in England and Wales alone.

Relationships, on the whole matter to us and we can care deeply about other people’s opinions. Too strong an external locus of evaluation however can cause discomfort.

It means for ‘people pleasers’ among us, there is a middle man through which we make ourselves happy.

More crucially it places our own happiness in the hands of others.

If you do something that makes you feel embarrassed or ashamed, it’s generally not a great feeling.

“Oh no!, what will they think?” 

Embarrassment and shame are emotions which occur when we wonder and worry what other people think of us or our behaviour.

Worrying or caring about what others think of you isn’t always a bad thing. Recalling feelings of embarrassment and shame can motivate us to be kinder, less selfish and thoughtful of other people.

Harm arises when the worry grows into anxiety, fear and panic, because you’re caring about what other people think of you too much. Anxiety, fear and panic can lead to feelings of insecurity which then leads to behaviour which can drive others away.

There are ways to break this cycle of worry, anxiety, panic and insecurity.

  • Be kinder and more considerate of and towards others; this can stop you worrying about what others are thinking about you and probably attract more friends and good people into your life
  • Realise that you’re often not the sole focus of attention of all of your friends and colleagues all of the time, means you can take it all less personally.
  • You can’t please everybody; it would be impossible for everyone you come into contact with to love everything about you. This is natural and normal. You can’t stop people from having opinions, but you can stop those opinions from having a negative effect or learn how to stop them from having any effect at all on you.
  • Believe in what you believe in: they are your beliefs. Stand up for them. Don’t change them because others disagree. The people you may be worried about impressing will be much more likely to respect you, even if they disagree with you. 

This is just touching on the issue but these quick tools and shifts in thinking can help.

It is a complex subject this and the circumstances are as unique as you are but the principles and tools can work for everyone.

Those tools need to be carefully chosen by you and carefully applied to your world and you.

 

If you need more help with issues around what others think of you then don’t hesitate to contact me here.

 

 

 

Pet Grief

Losing a beloved pet is emotionally shattering; it is natural to be overwhelmed by feelings of sadness when you suffer from pet grief.

There is nothing to prepare you for the loss or the cyclone of feelings that follow the death of a Pet who was a loving companion. Pet grief can feel simply devastating.

Many people see their pets as a member of the family. They can bring so much joy, love, fun and companionship to our lives that it can feel as if your world has been turned upside and emptied out when a pet dies.

Pet grief is the price we pay for love.

 

Experiencing loss is, sadly, an inevitable part of pet ownership, however, there are helpful and healthy ways to help you to cope with pet grief.

  • Grief is personal to you, there is no right or wrong way to feel when you’re suffering from pet grief, so don’t be ashamed of how you feel.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, including yourself. Allow yourself to feel angry or sad without any judgement.
  • Hold a funeral if you want to – ignore those who disagree or think it’s inappropriate; do what is right for you.
  • Look after yourself and your other pets who may be distressed from the loss of their companion and /or your sorrow. Increasing their exercise and playtime will benefit them and also help to lift your outlook.
  • Try to eat properly, get enough sleep and take some exercise. Paying attention to your emotional and physical needs will help you as you go through this difficult time. Exercise will help to boost your mood, no matter how little you feel like doing it.
  • Speak to someone who has experienced the loss of a beloved pet – it may be that family members and friends simply don’t understand how important your pet was to you. It can hurt terribly when someone devalues your loss.
  • Talking to someone who appreciates how huge your loss is and what pet grief feels like will probably help more than trying to explain it to someone who hasn’t known the companionship and love that a pet can provide.

This is a time to be gentle with yourself and don’t forget that there is an abundance of support and professional help if you need it.

 

There is no need to suffer pet grief by yourself.

 

Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy has gained increasing popularity due to it’s versatility and ability to help treat issues ranging from smoking addiction to emotional trauma. The image of dangling pocket watches, swinging pendulums and mysterious mind control, during which the person having treatment has no will or control over them self, is fast disappearing.

How does hypnotherapy work?

Hypnosis is a quieting of the conscious, busy, analytical mind and a focus of attention. This attention focus offers the ability to relax deeply and recognise and utilise resources that are within you that may otherwise be overlooked. It is not a state of outside control or unconsciousness or an altered state. It is a peaceful inner awareness, similar to drifting off or losing track of time. Something that we all do naturally when we daydream. During hypnotherapy you remain fully aware, both of your surroundings and everything that is being said to you.

Being in an hypnotic state allows you to pay closer attention to your own guidance; your unconscious mind is enabled allowing you to easily make positive changes.

Hypnotherapy can work for everyone. Some people find they go into hypnosis easily, others can resist letting go and want to have a sense of control – an issue in itself, but it is a skill anyone can learn.

What can hypnotherapy help with?

There are apparent fears such as fear of flying or motorway driving as well as less obvious ones; the fear of being alone or of rejection or of fearing being unable to cope. Fear affects us in many different ways and can lead to negative and limiting behaviours such as lack of motivation, remaining in a bad relationship, anxious thoughts or addiction.

Hypnotherapy can help you to remove old, negative ways of thinking and replace them with self belief and assuredness, confidence and assertiveness.

Hypnotherapy has gained in popularity as people are becoming more open to self improvement; mental self awareness is now viewed as a strength rather than a failing. Hypnotherapy allows you to examine why you are feeling the way you feel, to remove the negative feelings and change your default thinking.

If you want Hypnotherapy, then seek out a properly qualified UKCP therapist to ensure the best results.

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.

 

Procrastination is good

Procrastination is good

Therapy is full of cycles, be they cycles of progress or the less helpful type.

One of the less helpful type is that stress hormones suppress the growth of new brain cells. The more stress we suffer, as well as expected anxiety or depression risk,the less brain development, the less brain development, the less adaptability….. and the more stress.

See what I mean…..?    Cycles.

 

In mice, if they are brought up in a solitary non-stimulating environment (not their natural setting) neurogenesis – the birth of new brain cells – does not occur.

If you put that mouse in a social setting with plenty of stimulus, it does.

I have seen in clients with depression that trying to get them to engage with their support network can be a challenge; this is the settled science that proves that that is an important step.

So let’s look at other ways that cycles of difficulty our clients face can be re-framed with the help of a little psychology.

Take procrastination.

The title of this piece, procrastination is good might seem the opposite of what our parents and teachers tell us.

Now let’s look at this not from the perspective of putting off the washing up for an hour while you watch X factor, but from that wider more insidious perspective of procrastination without time limits.

I find many clients get stuck here, often by that fear of not being good enough and that without time limits that shock the system into doing the task, they can get stuck in a never-ending loop that is hard for them to break out of.

But the plus side of procrastination is that is linked to creativity, not productivity but creativity.

Now don’t tell my students this – but starting early and finishing late is a sweet spot for procrastinators. It’s simple, and once again psychology proves it –

If you wait until the last minute to do something, you don’t get any new ideas, not enough time for creative thinking. If you finish too quickly, again original thought is lost.

By starting early and finishing late, you get the maximum opportunity for original thought and creativity.

Give yourself time to be creative…

Procrastinate just enough…

…find your perfect level.

Psychotherapy open questions

Psychotherapy open questions is another extract from my 2016 presentation at the International Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy Conference.

While as therapists we all know about active listening and open questions, I’m often asked by students and colleagues about examples of such questions.

These are the kind of questions that can open up a discourse, and help a client to reflect in an area where perhaps clarity may have been lacking.

So to try and help, I’ve prepared a short list of interesting questions that although sometimes too challenging to be used ‘raw’ as it were, can be framed more gently by the therapist.

These psychotherapy open questions  have been gathered from various sources and I’ve used them (or versions of them) in therapy for some years, if any are of use then please feel free to incorporate them into your practice or self-reflection.

In no particular order then:

Why do you matter….? This question might initially ring some alarm bells but bear with me. Apparently one of Viktor Frankl’s questions with some depressed clients was to ask them why they had not taken their own lives? From that question, Frankl , it is said, could often find a thread (however slender) to begin to explore the meaning in the client’s life that kept them from doing that. This question comes from the same place, when self-esteem is challenged or low, a question in this vein can start a challenge to the negative self-talk and open up the client to challenge perhaps distorted beliefs.

What’s happened to you….? This is far subtler and touches upon how the client sees their own story. Have things happened to them? are they taking it personally when in reality they are collateral damage in something unrelated? Is the world unfair? Where does a lack of success come from, them or the outside pressures of the world? Again this question can open up many facets that may not have been visible before.

What do you want to achieve working with me….? I’m a great believer in sticking to the brief, what does the client want to achieve? This question can help clarify and set goals. It also has an element of de Shazer’s Miracle Question in there. The client can step even if only briefly into a future where the change has happened and ‘try it on for size’. Imagination is stronger than will after all.

What feels different…..? This is about seeing less in detailed pictures and beginning to connect with the feeling. That can be helpful in terms of chunking down to the root feeling that is driving the wish to change. Are you running away from something or towards something. It’s also a nice segue into the accessing of resource states for the client.

What am I doing to make life better for myself….? Here we begin to look at psychotherapy open questions centred around where we are at the moment. This comes from a solution-focused perspective, where are we now and where do we want to go? This can identify the differences between the two places and therefore sharpen that focus and highlight what’s missing.

What’s the one thing I can do today to make my life easier….? This has roots in the power of making a change today. It also touches on the step-by-step approach, if we tick off the easy things first, the little ones, we can begin to build the proverbial ‘yes ladder’ to achieve and create movement in the desired direction.

What does that fear need…..? From John Hartland’s theory that the client will only let go of symptoms when they feel ready to do so. This question allows the client to look at self-care, and what they already know about what they need to move on. Again it feeds into allowing the client to accept that they matter and that it’s ok for them to have needs. It can allow them perhaps to access the child within them and its needs.

And saving the best until last tell me about…?  This is my holy grail of open and encouraging  questions and is the glue that binds the rest of them together. If you only take one question from this blog, then I would suggest this is the one.

So hopefully these psychotherapy open questions will be of some use, please let me know any others you have that might helpfully be added to this list by email at info@talking-cure.co.uk.

Thanks

Stuart Cale

(Talking-Cure Hypnotherapy and Psychotherapy)

 

 

 

Therapy of dreaming

Therapy of dreaming… sounds odd perhaps?

Well, Freud called dreaming ‘the royal road to the subconscious’ 

We forget dreams when we wake up, and there’s a reason for this, and that is to prevent us confusing them with reality.

I remember reading from a biography of Keith Richards about the fact that he used to keep by his bed a tape recorder to record guitar riffs that came to him in his dreams. The story is that the riff to satisfaction was recorded in one of these night sessions, and he had completely forgotten that he had written it until he listened back to it on the tape recorder.

It’s this idea of Christopher Bollas’s ‘unthought known’ a phrase he coined from Freud who reported a patient saying something ‘ to the effect that he had always known something but he had never thought of it.

How many unthought knowns do you recognise in your own thinking? Those things on the edge of awareness or consciousness.

The science is therefore that dreams are the brain’s way of creating solutions to problems. That when we sleep, we process, much the same as we do in hypnosis.

The science supports this…

In dreams, if the smell of rotten eggs is sprayed into the nose of smokers directly after the smell of cigarettes, they will feel less of an urge to smoke.

PTSD sufferers have noticed a lessening of symptoms in the waking state after positive smells were introduced after trauma triggers during sleep.

So this is further evidence that memories are malleable, that they are changed as they are used, that they can be overridden.

And most importantly that they are interwoven with dreams and dream content.

A little science can serve to underpin the art of working with for example dream interpretation or dreaming in trance or the idea of the subconscious as a benevolent problem solver.

If we accept the principle of the subconscious or unconscious mind, then the therapy of dreaming must surely be worth a little more exploration?

 

Anxious thoughts

Anxious thoughts can be a problem when self-reflection gets out of hand and becomes negative rumination.

As a health professional I accept that the Mental Health Foundation place this issue as a cause of anxiety and depression.

In 2013 the University of Liverpool published a study that  said that rumination (a word for constant repetitive thinking or dwelling that comes from the action in cows of chewing the cud) far from being a player in the most common mental health issues, is the largest predictor.

So what does this mean for us? It means that when we dwell on things, not only do our thoughts tend to spiral downwards but that can lead us to poor mental health.

This will come as no surprise to therapists, but the extent may. Most therapists see the link between persistent negative thought and self-blame and anxiety and depression, but as a causative factor?

It also means that psychological issues can lead to problems at a mental health level. Replaying thoughts over and over again makes us sad and anxious.

There is also evidence that rumination is at play in OCD and eating disorders, in fact anywhere our negative thoughts are stuck on repeat, we find the potential for problems.

So… what can we do about it?

Well firstly, we can learn to relax. Relaxation is often the key in early therapy to opening up the space into which the client can grow and change can be made.

Think about the amount of time that anxious thoughts or worried thoughts take up, or as some say, the amount of space they rent in your head. With all that time and energy freed up, what would you be able to do?

After that, we can look at the sense of threat that generally underpins anxiety, often being able to identify that threat can help us move forward to explore it and perhaps re-frame it or find ways to cope with it.

Please don’t think that anxious thoughts, constant thought repetition or rumination are something that you have to ‘put up with’ or suffer. If you need help to overcome these patterns, then please reach out to a professional.