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Ask a Stupid Question!

28 September is Ask a Stupid Question Day. It started in the 1980s in the US as a holiday for schools and teachers. It was designed to encourage students to ask more questions in the classroom as it was thought that kids sometimes hold back, fearing their question is stupid and they may be ridiculed. But I think it’s a lesson we can all learn from regardless of our age. As Carl Sagan (American planetary scientist, cosmologist and astrophysicist) said, “There are naïve questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question”

So, in the spirit of what Carl Sagan said, what do you want to understand or understand better? Something that I have always wondered about is what the first person to milk a cow was trying to do? But seriously, take a moment to find out things you should know. For example, if you are on prescription medication, do you know the possible side effects?

It can also be a chance to ask yourself more fundamental questions about your life and how you live it.

* Am I happy? If not, why not?
* What are my values? Am I living my values?
* Looking back over the last five years, what did I do right?
* Looking back over the last five years, where did I go wrong?
* What scares you or causes you to procrastinate or hesitate?
* How can you take better care of myself?
* Do I have the right people around me?
* Am I improving the lives of others?
* Do I need to forgive myself?
* What do I need to accept and embrace about myself?

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Are You Sabotaging Yourself?

“If you don’t believe in yourself, somewhere or another, you sabotage yourself.” Jason Day (Australian Golfer)

So, what is self-sabotage? Some say it’s Self destructive behaviour, such as smoking or drinking excessively. And while that can be the case, that’s not quite what I am talking about here. I am thinking more of self-limiting beliefs and behaviours, such as “I have no will power” or “I am unlucky in love”.

As with any problem or concern it’s important to not let it define you and explore the root cause of it. Often these self-sabotaging behaviours stem from a lack of self-love, lack of self-worth (self-esteem) or a lack of self-belief / confidence. Another way to express this is the thought that ‘you are not enough’, not deserving (of love, success, etc.) or I am lucky to have got where I am now and that’s enough for me. All these are self-sabotaging thoughts. Hypnotherapy has a range of techniques to help explore the reasons for these thoughts and address the resulting unwanted behaviours.

Despite what you may think this is not your mind playing tricks or trying to damage or harm you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your subconscious tries to keep you safe, happy and away from pain. Your conscious mind would pull your hand away from a flame without a thought. And your subconscious does the same with physiological pain. But often this is not a conscious process. So, for example, perhaps you want to stop smoking, but you feel you have no will power. Well, to spare you the embarrassment, anxiety or shame of failing to stop smoking, your subconscious tells you it not possible because of your lack of will power. It doesn’t realise that you want and perhaps really need to stop smoking for health reasons.

Another strategy the subconscious uses to protect you is to bury unhappy or unpleasant memories and traumas. And while this can be a good thing in the short term, having unresolved problems or buried traumas can bring different problems in the long term. Not least because, your subconscious will analyse the buried memories and draw conclusions and learn lessons from them. All this without your conscious mind knowing. These lessons and conclusions may not be correct or are contrary to what conscious mind it trying to achieve.

For example, one aspect of self-sabotaging behaviour is the inability to deal with and process the stress stemming from your lack of self-confidence. So, in a relationship you might wonder, how can they love someone like me? Self-sabotaging people tend to lack healthy coping strategies. So, they may feel that showing they are incompetent or unworthy is a way to untangle themselves from emotional, personal or work demands.

Even successful individuals may have self-destructively or sabotaging urges. This may stem from a feeling of anxiety, unworthiness or from an impulse to repeat the process that made them successful. As Mitski (Japanese Musician) said, “I always have strong urges to sabotage myself. Whenever someone says they like something about my music, I tend to not want to do that anymore. It’s not even that I don’t like it anymore: it’s that I keep trying to find ways for people to dislike me”.

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool to speak directly to the subconscious and ask it to change and support the changes you want to make in your life. If you feel that hypnotherapy can help you then contact me.

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Suicide Awareness

10 September is World Suicide Prevention Day. The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) was started it in 2003 and is co-sponsored by the World Federation for Mental Health and World Health Organisation (WHO).

Suicide is a growing problem in the world and especially amongst the under 30s. The statistics are truly frightening. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every 40 seconds someone successfully takes their own life. That equates to approximately 800,000 people every year (globally) or one in a hundred of every death. And for each successful suicide it is estimated that there are 40 attempted suicides. The sad thing is, as Phil Donahue (US media personality) put it, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. Suicide is largely preventable as undiagnosed, or untreated, mental illness is the largest contributor to it.

Each suicide is a tragic waste of life and devastating, sometimes life changing, to those left behind. So, by raising awareness, addressing the stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, it is hoped that the instances of suicide around the world can be reduced. World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to do these things and reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts. There are five key messages:

1. Creating hope through action. This is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide. Our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. Through action, you can make a difference to someone (as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour) in their darkest moments. We can all play a part in supporting those experiencing a suicidal crisis or those bereaved by it.

2. Suicidal thoughts are complex. The causes of suicide are complex and many. There is no one size fits all approach. We know that certain life events can make someone more vulnerable to suicide. Also mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression can also be a contributor. People who are suicidal can feel trapped or a burden to their family and those around them and thus they feel as though they are alone and have no other options. The COVID-19 Pandemic has greatly contributed to increased feelings of isolation and vulnerability. By Creating Hope Through Action, we can signal to people experiencing these thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them.

3. You can help give someone hope by showing that you care. We can all play a role, no matter how small. You do not need to tell them what to do or have solutions, just make the time and space to listen to them. Small talk can save lives and create a sense of connection and hope in somebody who may be struggling.

4. Stigma is a major barrier to help-seeking. I have written before battling stigma and prejudice around all forms of mental illness. Changing the narrative around suicide through the promotion of hope will help to create a more compassionate society where those who need help feel comfortable in coming forward.

5. The insights and stories of people with a lived experience of suicide. Personal stories of someone’s experiences of emotional distress, suicidal thoughts or attempts, and their experiences in recovery can inspire hope in others. It illustrates that they too can move through the period of crisis. Also, individuals sharing experiences of being bereaved by suicide and how they came to live their ‘new normal’, can help others experiencing suicidal loss make sense of their devastation and believe they will be able to live through and with the loss.

So, if you know someone who make be anxious, depressed or suicidal help them to get the professional assistance they need. And be an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on.

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Youth Mental Health Day

7 September is Youth Mental Health Day (YMHD). It’s an awareness day founded by the leading young person’s mental health charity stem4. stem4 is a UK charity that promotes positive mental health in teenagers. They work with individuals, their families and carers, education professionals, as well as school nurses and GPs through the provision of mental health education, resilience strategies and early intervention. This is primarily done digitally through their education programme, pioneering mental health apps, clinically-informed website and mental health conferences.

YMHD encourages understanding and awareness of mental health in young people with a view to enabling them to live happy and healthy lives. Each year, the day aims to get young people, and those who care for and support them, talking about how to improve mental health.

This is all the more important with the covid-19 pandemic disrupting the lives of young people more than you might realise. YMHD 2021 focuses on how young people can #StrideForward with their mental health.

Missed classes, lack of social interaction, missing friends, cancelled exams and university lockdowns – the last 18 months have been rough. This time has seen many decisions made on behalf of young people and without their input. But as Vikram Patel (Indian psychiatrist and researcher) said, “There is no health without mental health; mental health is too important to be left to the professionals alone, and mental health is everyone’s business”.

Looking to place young people’s voices at the forefront of the conversation once more, YMHD 2021 invites young people across the country to reflect on how the last year has impacted their lives and share how they will #StrideForward and move towards positive mental health.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, one in six young people aged 5-16-year olds had a mental health disorder. The crisis will no doubt have worsened the situation. These disorders include anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders and addictions. Mental health can often be overlooked at the symptoms are not as visual as other health concerns. As Kate Middleton (member of the British Royal Family) said, “A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health and deserves the same quality of support”.

Youth Mental Health Day seeks to help by engaging young people in discussions and activities about how to improve their mental health. YMHD looks to go beyond awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding mental health into tackling the heart of the issue.

As a Hypnotherapist, I do not work with people under the age of 18. But if you are worried about someone who is, stem4 is a good place to start to look for the help and support you need.

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Mental Health First Aiders

I recently qualified as a Mental Health First Aider. The idea is to be a point of contact for any employee who is experiencing mental health issues or some form of emotional distress. Normally, this ranges from having a friendly chat through to directing them to expert, professional help and supporting someone while they get the help they need.

While I am a qualified hypnotherapist, it is not essential to have any former of prior healthcare training. Typically, Mental Health First Aiders are just regular employees and are not part of the management team or Personnel / Human Resources. This is very important as many employees can feel a sense of guilt or shame at admitting they are suffering with a mental health condition and organisational attitudes and culture can be less than ideal. I have written in the past about reluctance of people to seek help and the perceived stigma of suffering with mental health concerns.

Mental health has long been the Cinderella of the health services both within the National Health Service (NHS) and in the workplace. Being given equal status would be a significant step towards acceptance of mental health issues.

The statistics around mental health are frightening. It’s thought as many as one in six of people at work have symptoms of a mental health condition at any one time. A survey by MIND (UK mental health charity) found in 2018 that 50% of the 44,000 employees surveyed had suffered some form of mental health problems at some point. These conditions are typically, anxiety, stress, burnout and depression. If you suffer from any of these and feel that hypnotherapy can help you them contact me.

A government commissioned review, published in 2017, put the cost to the economy of these conditions at between £74bn and £99bn a year. Having a system to support employees is clearly the right thing to do and makes good business sense. It also fits with the employer’s duty of care. And, when people feel supported and valued, it contributes towards a motivated and efficient work force.

The employees of an organisation are its life blood. When we have a sense of well-being we function so much better. From a business perspective, it’s incredibly short-sighted to ignore mental health issues. As Richard Branson (British Entrepreneur) said, “By putting the employee first, the customer effectively comes first by default, and in the end, the shareholder comes first by default as well”.

Having Mental Health First Aiders is relatively new and so it’s unclear how effective they will be. If an employer used them as a tick box – ‘We really care, we have Mental Health First Aiders’, without addressing the underlying causes of health problems the initiative will be worthless. Furthermore, from a humane perspective, to be forever increasing pressure on employees and not properly caring for them seems immoral. It indicates that some companies think only of shareholder value, profits or service level agreements, which is very short sighted and is nothing short of foolish.