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Every Mind Matters

Recently the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK has launched a mental well-being campaign called “Every Mind Matters”. To support this they have designed a set of resource pages on the NHS website which includes expert advice and useful tips to help you to improve or maintain your mental health and wellbeing.

As I have written before there can be a lot to worry about at the moment – Covid19, food, fuel and energy uncertainty as well as Christmas looming on horizon. So, this handy resource comes at a very good time. We can all suffer from potential mental health issues at times. So when we do, seeking help should be your first thought. As Torrey DeVitto (American Actress) said, “It’s okay to talk about mental health issues. It’s okay to admit that you have anxiety. It doesn’t take away from your power. It’s totally normal”.

As well as an on-line questionnaire that allows you to define a personal plan for your mind, there is more general information. Specifically there is advice on five main areas that if you get them right will really improve your mental health. They are:

• Long-term health conditions and mental wellbeing. Physical health and mental health can be very closely related. Concerns about your physical health can quickly manifest as mental health symptoms.

• Employment and money worries. Worrying about money or unemployment can have a massive impact on your mental health. Also, poor mental health can make managing your finances more difficult or threaten your employment.

• Tips on how to sleep better. Getting the right amount of good quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel, both mentally and physically.

• Post Covid19 anxiety about returning to normal. You may be concerned about how quickly things are returning to normal or be struggling to get back to old routines.

• Coronavirus in general. The impact of the Covid19 has been different for everyone. But there is little doubt it has been a difficult time for us all.

As Luciana Berger (British former Politician) predicted, “When the physical threat of Coronavirus subsides, as it surely will, we must address the impact to our mental health”. And the NHS is a great place to get reliable advice and information, be it the Every Mind Matters website other online NHS resources or your GP.
Alternatively, Hypnotherapy can be an effective way to help you with a wide range of conditions including anxiety. If you feel this could be for you, then contact me.

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Always Connected?

The Cov-19 pandemic has meant that many of us have been working from home for some time. But this has been a mixed blessing. While there is more time to spend on yourself and family due to not having to commute, the line between working time and leisure time has become blurred. Take email for example. You take a long lunch because it was a nice day and the dog was really enjoying her walk. So you log back into work for an hour after the kids are in bed. There is an email from the boss, do you reply? It’s going to take more than an hour to research the answer and reply to him.

The culture of companies can have an enormous impact on the mental health of employees. Some companies have an “always on” / “always connected” culture. Meaning it is expected that you are available at all hours of the day or night. I personally believe a balanced approach to extra hours is fair and reasonable. So, there are busy times (the end of a project, month end, year end, etc.) and an employee should expect to have to work harder / longer at these times. Correspondingly, when there is less demand employers should redress the balance (added time off, leaving early, etc.). An employer that always wants you to work at 100%+ all the time will only be rewarded with high sickness levels, high staff turnover, stressed employees and burnout.

Recently, some European countries have passed “right to disconnect” laws. These laws mandate that employers must have a policy for email use after working hours. The idea is to reduce the number of employees having to use email after work and over the weekend.

Today, email is an integral part of business and is an incredibly powerful communication tool. So much so, that employees often feel pressured to check email out of work hours. According to one recent study, the average employee spends 28% of their working day on email and 45% of employees check their work email out of hours.  This means you never properly switch off from work to recharge, recover and relax. And this, in turn will impact your relationships with friends and family. As Jacqueline Leo (American magazine Editor and media Producer) said, “One look at an email can rob you of 15 minutes of focus. One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love, and friendship”.

And Jacqueline Leo’s point is supported by research. Soviet era Psychologist, Bluma Zeignarik, found that people can recall tasks that are uncomplete or were interrupted 90% better than tasks that were completed without interruption. This Zeignarik effect means that uncompleted tasks stay in our minds much longer than completed tasks. Our minds see emails as mini-tasks and so email can be on your mind 24/7. As the inbox begins to pile up, you can’t stop thinking about all of those incomplete tasks. 

So what can we do? Well here are some suggestions.

  • Learn to switch off, unplug from work and be strict with yourself.
  • Develop a non-digital hobby – physical sport, a craft or gardening.
  • Use the features of email to help you. Set an auto reply when busy or unavailable, block spam, Inbox rules (auto file some emails in folders without reading them immediately).
  • Unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters, mailing lists, etc.
  • Allocate and block out time for email, for work, for lunch, etc.
  • Use the calendar and set reminders to do things.
  • Follow and encourage other to use good etiquette – Avoid reply all (should this be a meeting?), send emails in normal working hours, think about who you copy in, etc.

As Gretchen Rubin (American Author) said, “Technology is a good servant but a bad master”. Make technology work for you – be its master, not its slave.

Hypnotherapy can be an effective way to help you with stress, anxiety and burnout. If you feel this could be for you, then contact me.

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World Mental Health Day

The World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day as 10 October every year. The objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and help mobilise efforts in support of mental health. It’s also an opportunity for those working in mental health to talk about their work and the issues they face.

It’s important to realise that being mentally healthy isn’t just the absence of a mental health problem. To be truly in good mental health, you must be able to make the most of your potential, cope adequately with life and be able to play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends. Further, good mental health is characterised by a your ability to learn, the ability to feel, express and manage your emotions, the ability to form and maintain good relationships and, finally, the ability to cope with and manage change and uncertainty.

The theme this year was set by the World Federation for Mental Health and is ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’. As Jagmeet Singh (Canadian Politician) said, “To me poverty, mental health, and addictions don’t sound like criminal justice problems. They sound to me like a social justice problem”.

The last few years have highlighted inequalities due to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, and the lack of respect for human rights in many countries, including for people living with mental health conditions. These inequalities have an enormous impact on people’s mental health.

It is thought that between 75% and 95% of people with mental disorders in low and middle income countries are unable to access mental health services at all. Access in high income countries is not perfect either. Lack of investment in mental health compared to the overall health budget contributes to a significant mental health treatment gap.

I have written before about the stigma and discrimination experienced by people who experience mental ill health. It not only affects a person’s physical and mental health, stigma also affects their educational opportunities, current and future earning and job prospects, and also affects their families and loved ones.

The 2021 World Mental Health Day campaign ‘Mental Health in an Unequal World’ will enable us to focus on the issues that perpetuate mental health inequality, both locally and globally.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health and you think they could benefit from hypnotherapy then contact me.

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Uncertain times

It seems we are living in uncertain times. I try to remain positive and not worry too much, but worrying is an aspect of who I am. I have had some moments of pause and reflection on the world as it is now. Winter is on the way, COVID is still with us, the NHS is near breaking point, there are fuel shortages, potential food shortages and a spike in energy prices.

While these problems are real and should not be downplayed, I realised I was experiencing a period of anxiety. And this is understandable, normal and nothing to worry about in itself. But having a great deal of uncertainty about what the future holds is a challenge to our mental health and can lead to anxiety and depression. This is all the more so for those already dealing with issues as the fear of being out of control and unable to deal with uncertainty are common characteristics of many anxiety disorders. As Rosie Weatherley from MIND (UK mental health charity) said, “A lot of anxiety is rooted in worrying about the unknown and waiting for something to happen”.

So at times like this it’s good to remind ourselves how to protect our mental health and look out for others who may not be coping as well as we are. Firstly, make sure you have access to high quality, truthful information. If you are going to worry about something make sure it’s real.

Consider when you want to consume information. Checking the news first thing in the morning and again in the evening is probably better than being constantly bombarded all day long. Also, try to avoid things that trigger your anxiety. There are some media outlets that seem obsessed with alarming people and are always trying to predict the next big crisis.

Stay connected to people you care about and people who care about you. Limit your time with those who are very pessimistic or negative. Also, having a routine can be good to remind you that life, day to day, goes on.

Anxiety UK (UK charity for those with anxiety) suggests practising the “APPLE” technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

• Acknowledge. Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty when it comes to mind.
• Pause: Try not to react as you normally. Pause and breathe.
• Pull back. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts, they are just thoughts or feelings. Remind yourself this is just the worry talking. The seeming need for certainty is not necessary.
• Let go. Let go of the thought or feeling. You don’t have to respond to them. They will pass. You can perhaps imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
• Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Practise mindfulness – notice your breathing, the sensations of your breathing, notice the ground beneath you. Look around and talk in what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Once you have centred yourself, shift your focus of attention to something else. Focus on what you need to do now, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry.

Hypnotherapy can be a powerful tool to help with anxiety and other disorders. If you feel that hypnotherapy can help you then contact me.

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Stopober

Stopober is the UK annual quit smoking campaign organised by Public Health England. It encourages smokers to make an attempt to stop starting on 1 October. It runs for the whole month because research shows that if you can stop smoking for at least 28 days you are five times more likely to stop permanently.

The campaign provides inspiration and resources to help you stop smoking. This year is all the more special as it the tenth anniversary of the campaign being launched. It’s thought that more than two million smokers have used the campaign to make an attempt to quit. So, if you are thinking about quitting, perhaps now is the time to give it a go.

Quitting smoking is probably the best thing you can do to improve your health and those around you. Even if you’ve smoked for a long time, quitting will reduce your risk of many heart and circulatory diseases. Reducing the number of smokers will help the NHS as well. As David Byrne (Scottish Musician) said, “The true face of smoking is disease, death and horror – not the glamour and sophistication the pushers in the tobacco industry try to portray”. It’s never too late to quit and you will start to see the benefits almost immediately. And it’s not just your health that will improve, your finances will too.

Smoking also effects those around you. Second-hand smoke, or passive smoking, is when you breathe in someone else’s cigarette smoke. Passive smoking increases your chance of getting heart and circulatory diseases, cancer and breathing problems. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of second-hand smoke as their bodies are still developing.

Once you start smoking it’s hard to stop because nicotine is so addictive. Consequently, stopping smoking is, put simply, very difficult. It’s thought only about 1% of all people who try to quit without any support will be successful. But, remember you are not alone. Make sure to enlist the encouragement of friends, family and colleagues. The NHS has a number of ways to help and support you. The Stoptober mobile phone app is available on the App Store and Google Play. It shows you how much money you’re saving, and sends you a daily email to boost your motivation. You can also join a community of fellow stop smokers and receive more personal support.

Also, the NHS Stop Smoking Services are free, friendly and can massively increase your chances of quitting for good. Your GP, Asthma Nurse or Pharmacist can advise you, talk to yours about treatments and aids, such as Champix or nicotine patches.

Hypnotherapy can be an effective way to help you stop smoking. If you feel this could be for you, then contact me.