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Hangiety

I thought it was a good moment to talk about alcohol and hangovers. Why? Well, yesterday was the final of the Soccer European Nations Champion in Berlin between England and Spain. Spain won by the way, so well done to them.

As I am sure most of us know, hangovers are the unpleasant aftermath of consuming alcohol. Usual symptoms include headache, sickness, dehydration and fatigue. Other more subtle symptoms include increased blood pressure, irritability, depression and even anxiety.

Yes, according to the National Institutes of Health or NIH (a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), about 12% of people also experience anxiety as part of their hangover. When the body is recovering from a night of drinking alcohol, cortisol levels (the ‘stress hormone’), blood pressure and heart rate all increase. And this can make you feel anxious and on edge.

Alcohol dehydrates you and so it causes thirst, light-headedness and headache. It also can cause an electrolyte imbalance – when certain minerals (Sodium, Potassium, Phosphate, etc.) levels in your blood become either too high or too low. As well as drinking water, a sport drink can help with this.

Alcohol can cause inflammation of the stomach and intestines and this can lead to nausea, vomiting and even diarrhoea. It also will disturb your sleep either making you sleep less or have poor quality sleep.

Alcohol intoxication also causes impaired brain function, affecting risk assessment, decision-making, attention scan, and memory. This is due to cognitive effects that makes changes in neurotransmitter function in the brain. In extreme cases it can contribute to psychological consequences.

Hangovers are more than just physical discomfort; they also impact your mental health, productivity, and well-being. If you do find yourself dealing with a hangover, consider rest, hydration, and self-care to recover effectively.

Not everyone has the same reaction to alcohol and have varying degrees of a hangover. But for some the symptoms can be severe. As Robert Benchley (American Humourist) put it, “A real hangover is nothing to try out family remedies on. The only cure for a real hangover is death”.

So, consuming a small amount of alcohol is thought to be mostly harmless and even could be beneficial. But drinking to excess, to the point where you have a hangover the next day, is harmful and can have unforeseen impacts on your brain function and psychology.

If you or someone you know are struggling with your alcohol consumption, Hypnotherapy can help. It can help you visualise and work towards an alcohol free future as well as use regression therapy to explore past experiences and traumas that may have caused the addiction. So, if you or someone you know could benefit from this, then contact me.

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National Day of Unplugging

National Day of Unplugging is celebrated on the First Friday of March each year and so it’s the 1 March this year. It is a day that encourages us to try a digital detox and not use our phones and computers for 24 hours. Their goal is to have you spend an entire day without electronics, especially smartphones. The idea is to give us a chance to realise the impact these technologies have on our lives.

The first National Day of Unplugging events, back in 2009, started with small groups of people getting together for tech-free dinners. Today this holiday has partners all around the world who sponsor live unplugged events every year.

It is no secret that we are using our digital devices more and more, and screen time is increasing every year. It is possible to have your mobile phone produce a report of how much you use the device and the results can often be quite surprising, if not alarming. Did you know:

  • Globally, people spend an average of 6 hrs and 58 min per day looking at screens. 
  • The highest national average screen time is South Africa, with an average of 10 hrs and 46 min. Other countries coming in over 10 hours are Brazil, Colombia and The Philippines. 
  • Perhaps due to the effect of this day, countries such as the USA, The United Kingdom, and Singapore have seen a reduction in the average screen time over the past year.
  • Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) have the highest screen time, averaging 9 hrs a day. 

Smartphones and computers have given us many incredible things. Constant connection to the internet means that we have access to an immense amount of communication, information and entertainment. However, these benefits also comes with some negative consequences. We forget to connect with people in real life, we are always worried about making our lives look perfect on social media and we sleep less.

So why not try it for a day. You can avoid the stress of keeping up with social media, have the physical benefits of not staring at a small screen for so long and improve you mental health by spending some quality time with the ones you love. As Carl Honore (Canadian Journalist) put it, “In this media-drenched, multitasking, always-on age, many of us have forgotten how to unplug and immerse ourselves completely in the moment. We have forgotten how to slow down. Not surprisingly, this fast-forward culture is taking a toll on everything from our diet and health to our work and the environment”.

If you are struggling then Hypnotherapy can help with breaking habits and addictions. Hypnotherapy can also 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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Alcohol Awareness Week

3 to 9 July is Alcohol Awareness Week. It is coordinated by Alcohol Change UK (a UK based charity) and is a week of awareness raising and campaigning for change. The theme this year is Alcohol and cost.

While some people chose to abstain, alcohol is a part of many of our lives. We use it to celebrate, comfort, socialise, wind down and perhaps for some to cope. Most societies treat it differently to other drugs – it’s legal, socially acceptable and is even encouraged. It’s interesting to think what would happen if it was discovered for the first time today. Would it be so acceptable or would it be banned?

It’s thought that in the UK one person every hour dies as a result of alcohol. Even if it doesn’t kill you it can harm you through mental health problems, liver disease, economic difficulties and much more. One of seven forms of cancer are alcohol related. And it doesn’t stop there, anyone who drinks too much is part of a family and a community. This can cause increased use of emergency services, drink driving, violence and neglect.

James Wolcott (American journalist) has spoken about the effect alcohol, and other factors, had on his childhood and later life. He said, “Being raised Catholic in a pressure-cooker household besieged by alcohol and bill collectors enforced and heightened a sense of sentry duty in me, the oldest of five children and the one most responsible for keeping everything from capsizing. Wild indulgence was for other people, the non-worriers”.

The total social cost of alcohol to society in the UK is estimated to be at least £21 billion each year. We as individuals spend £50,000 on average on alcohol over the course of a lifetime. Think what you could do with that money.

The personal costs could be far more significant with alcohol death rates increasing to the highest rate since records began. The cost of living crisis has also played a key role in causing some people to drink more than they’d like to cope with their problems. And with the current challenges we all face, millions more people are suffering from worsened mental and physical health every day as a result of harmful drinking.

Hypnotherapy can help with addictions of all types including alcohol. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an addiction then contact me.

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Arrow Technique

I recently qualified in a new pain management modality called the Arrow Technique. It was developed by Freddy Jacquin who founded the Hypnotherapy Training College in 1999. He has, for more than 25 years, been at the forefront of Hypnotherapy, especially in the area of pain management.

Pain is a massive problem in this modern society. It is thought more than eight million people in the UK alone suffer from some form of chronic (long term) pain. Many of these will be taking prescription pain killers. It’s thought globally that the figure is more like 1.5 billion people.

I know from personal experience how debilitating chronic pain can be. A few years ago, before I was a Hypnotherapist, I hurt my back and was prescribed powerful pain killers and anti-depressants. Both of these carried a high risk of addiction and dependency. Thankfully for me I was able to recover through physiotherapy and was able to finally reduce and eliminate all the prescription drugs. But it was a long a difficult road filled with withdrawal symptoms and nasty side effects. It’s not something I would wish on anybody.

As with all hypnotherapy techniques it involves engaging the subconscious. This one addresses chronic pain and reduces or resolves it completely. Using Hypnotherapy has many advantages over traditional medicinal approaches to pain. Namely, there are no side effects or risk of addiction. Also, the client can be taught to be self-reliant by being able to repeat the method themselves when required.

Because of the way hypnotherapy works there are a number of additional benefits. These include it having an impact on the effect of the pain as well as the pain itself, reduces stress and anxiety associated with pain and avoid or reduce the need for opioids.

A 2000 analysis of hypnotherapy studies in clinical settings showed 75% of participants showed substantial pain relief across a wide range of treatment types including pain from cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and surgery.

Quality of life is paramount and long term pain can have a serious impact on it. As Walter Anderson (American Playwright) said, “Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself”.

If you have long term pain, Hypnotherapy can help. You don’t have to suffer. Contact me to find out more.

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Sugar

Do you have a sweet tooth? I know I do and while this may make losing weight a bit more difficult, does it do any real harm? Well is seems sugar is more potent than you might think. Sugar is a mood altering and highly addictive substance that can cause any number of problems and ailments from mood disorders to restless legs.

Now, it’s important to draw the distinction between added sugars and naturally occurring sugars in foods like fruits and vegetables. These foods contain vitamins, fibre, and other micronutrients. It’s added sugar that is the problem as they add calories, but no added nutrients. Added sugar is the main ingredient in candy / sweets and is in many processed foods and drinks, such as soft drinks and baked goods.

And American Chef, Tom Colicchio, agrees. He said, “This is what people don’t understand: obesity is a symptom of poverty. It’s not a lifestyle choice where people are just eating and not exercising. It’s because kids – and this is the problem with school lunch right now – are getting sugar, fat, empty calories – lots of calories – but no nutrition”.

With modern processed foods, sugar is basically everywhere. These days rather than chilli chicken you have sweet chilli chicken. Instead of pickles you have sweet pickles. At least with these the product description is giving you a clue. Surprising foods like bread, yogurt, breakfast cereal, soups, dressings and sauces can have added sugar and sometimes in alarming amounts. One pet hate of mine is yogurt. It’s often advertised as fat free, which is true, but it is often packed with sugar.

We probably all realise that the food we eat, or not eat, can change our mood and emotions. If you are hungry you may feel angry or grumpy. When your stomach is full you may feel content and perhaps sleepy. But, consuming large amounts of sugar triggers chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances can cause depression and increase the long term risk of developing other mental health disorders in some people.

The human body is not used to consuming such large amounts of sugar. A study in 2007 found that the brain’s sweet receptors are not adapted to high levels of sugar. This intense sweetness stimulates the brain’s reward centre and may be more pleasurable than cocaine, even in people with a drug addiction. Put simply, the high from sugar is stronger than one from cocaine. This means it’s very easy to become addicted to sugar. Frankly, your self-control is no match for sugar’s strength.

So, cutting the amount of sugar you consume is a good idea. The first thing to do is to look at how much sugar there is in the food you eat and try low sugar alternatives. Rather than drinking soda or juice drinks, try water instead. If you are cooking or baking then try alternatives to sugar such as cinnamon, nutmeg, almond extract, vanilla, ginger or lemon. There are also sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners such as Stevia or Canderel. Although in some cases these can cause an upset stomach, so experiment before you use in significant amounts.

If you are struggling with sugar addiction, to lose weight or breaking other habits and routines then Hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more information.

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Samaritans

24 July (24/7) is Samaritans Awareness Day. The date refers to them being there 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As part of this, the ‘Talk to Us’ awareness campaign runs to remind people who the Samaritans are and what they do. Samaritans is a UK and Ireland based charity aimed at providing support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide. This is usually done through their telephone helpline, but you can also email and write (snail mail) to them. Their name derives from the biblical Parable of the Good Samaritan although the organisation is non-religious.

The Samaritans are a valuable organisation and one that deserves our help and support. It is estimated that every ten seconds Samaritans responds to a call for help. In 2021, for example, around 22,000 people volunteered their time to Samaritans, 20,000 trained listening volunteers responded to calls for help and around 2,500 volunteers supported the running of more than 200 branches and locations across the UK and Ireland.

There service is available around the clock for anyone who is struggling or who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure. This supports is an important aspect of changing the culture of being able to discuss mental health more openly. As Luke Richardson (Canadian Ice Hockey Coach) said, “We need to change the culture of this topic and make it OK to speak about mental health and suicide”.

Although they are there at the point of crisis, they also offer support and encouragement before an issue turns into a crisis. They operate in prisons, schools, hospitals and on the train network. They help people who are going through a difficult time but also train others who may come into contact with vulnerable people to do the same.

Every suicide is a tragedy and reaches far beyond the person who dies. It will affect their family and friends who are often left confused and wondering if they could have done more. The Samaritans ultimate mission is to minimise and prevent suicide. I think Gerard Way (American Singer and Comic Book Writer) puts it very well, “Suicide is a serious thing. And if you know anyone who is suicidal, you need to get them help. No one should be in pain. Everyone should love themselves”.

If you want to contact them it’s free to call them from a landline or from mobiles. The number is slightly unusual, but is absolutely free. You don’t need to have any credit or call allowance. Simply call 116 123 or email them on jo@samaritans.org 

They will listen to you and help you talk through your concerns, worries and troubles. They will focus on your thoughts and feelings and may ask questions to help you explore the problem and how you feel. They offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like and in your own way. They won’t judge you or tell you what to do, but they will listen to you.

If you or someone you know is struggling then getting help is the best thing you can do. Samaritans are available to help as well as other sources of help and support.

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Caffeine

March is Caffeine Awareness month. Many of us need a shot of caffeine, perhaps a coffee of some sort, first thing in the morning. But caffeine is a powerful, addictive stimulant (alertness inducing chemical) that you need to be aware of and monitor your use of. So this month is a good time to take an honest look at how much you consume and perhaps reduce it. High caffeine intake can cause anxiety, insomnia and raised blood pressure.

You might be surprised about what has caffeine in it. Coffee, of course. But also tea and many soft drinks such as colas and energy drinks. Even decaffeinated coffee and tea is not entirely caffeine free. And it’s not just drinks, some food have high levels of caffeine. These include chocolate and cocoa powder. Also, some medicines such as cold and flu treatments have caffeine in them.

So if you want to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume, what can you do? If you need a pick me up, perhaps try exercise. This will get the blood flowing and boost alertness. Try drinking water instead of caffeine drinks. This will keep you hydrated, boost energy and is good for the skin.

Complete eliminating caffeine can be tough and is not normally recommended. Some symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include headaches, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, nausea and muscle pain. A gentle, gradual, reduction is always recommended.

Having just spent some time warning you about caffeine, it does have some benefits. Caffeine is thought to have certain medical uses in fighting dermatitis and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). So completely eliminating it not necessary. As with many things, it’s about striking the right balance.

It’s worth considering the approach that Anna Kendrick (US Actress) takes. She said, “I don’t usually drink caffeine so that when I need it, it actually does something”.

If you have a caffeine addiction or are struggling with other problematic routines then Hypnotherapy can help. Specifically it can help boost will power, break habits and explore the root cause of it. If you think hypnotherapy can help then contact me for more information.

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Addiction

Addiction is something that, historically, has been stigmatised and looked down upon. Those who suffer from addiction are often ignored, criminalised, treated as outcasts and even sent to prison. This cultural view of addiction is that it is some kind of personal defect, moral failing or a lack of willpower. These views also come with the, often unspoken, assumption that addiction is a conscious life style choice. These are all damaging and unhelpful attitudes. Condemnation and judgement are usually born of ignorance, but understanding can brings about a more compassionate view. As Sheldon Whitehouse (US Senator) says, “Addiction is a tough illness, and recovery from it is a hard but noble path. Men and women who walk that path deserve our support, encouragement, and admiration”.

One very useful and popular method to treat addiction is the twelve step model. This had a revolutionary effect on treatment as it changed the thinking about the nature of addiction. It taught that addicts have an incurable disease that can be managed. It provided a framework for addicts to refrain from using substances, attend regular support meetings and work a thorough programme in order to restore a functional life and free them from their substance addiction and the chaos that it causes.

This twelve step approach has ideas such as taking a personal inventory, accepting and working on personal shortcomings as well as seeking forgiveness and enlightenment. I believe this a tremendously powerful and effective approach. And if you or someone you know has an addiction I strongly suggest starting the journey to managing it with this approach.

But, I do not feel this is the whole story. I believe there is a part of the puzzle of addiction missing in this model. For me there needs to be an understanding of trauma and the role it plays in self-soothing behaviours and addictions. As Gabor Mate (Hungarian-Canadian physician) says “Every addict has trauma, but not everyone who has trauma becomes an addict”.

An addiction is a behaviour where by a person is unable to stop an activity despite harmful consequences. There is a wide spectrum of these compulsive behaviours but I believe they almost always start with the subconscious trying to protect us from harm or discomfort. Addictions often, at least initially, bring relief or distraction from the pain being faced.

When we feel in a state of threat or pain or dysregulation we often exhibit the Fight or Flight response to combat or run away from that which is harming us. Trauma, especially an emotional one, is not easily resolved by this response and so we become stuck in this fear state. Our minds then seek ways to mitigate, lessen or pacify the trauma and this is where addictions can take root.

Now some addicts have argued that they have not suffered a trauma. But if we look at traumas from the perspective of the subconscious or auto nervous system and how it responds to pain (both physical and emotional) we can see that addictions is often driven by a trauma of some kind.

This trauma based view of addiction has started to transform addiction management and treatment. A trauma-informed approach to addiction, and mental health, is a more compassionate, realistic and scientific approach. And Hypnotherapy has a key role to play in this. It has a number of techniques to help clients explore the origins and root causes of addictions, phobias and other unwanted behaviours. If you feel that hypnotherapy could help you or someone you know then contact me.

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Obesity Awareness

10-16 January is National Obesity Awareness Week and 13 January is Healthy Weight, Healthy Look Day. So with the excesses of Christmas rapidly disappearing in the rear view mirror perhaps now is a good time to think about dropping a little weight. The idea behind the week is to raise awareness of obesity and how it can affect our health.

According to a 2018 study by University College London (UCL) it is estimated that 22% of all people of earth with be overweight by 2045. And individual countries will have much bigger problems with the UK forecast to be 48% overweight by then.

Now that might seem a long way off, but the issue is already having an impact. The NHS (the UK health service) reported that obesity affects about one in four adults and one in five children. This can lead to serious health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes and some types of cancers. While early signs of future problems include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and access fat around organs such as the heart and liver.

Being overweight can also impact your quality of life. From body image issues causing anxiety and low self-esteem to physical limitations such as breathlessness, increased sweating as well as joint and back pain.

Now, fad and extreme diets are rarely successful, but I think they do have their place. If you have a special event coming up and you want to lose a few pounds then eating nothing but pineapple might be the diet for you. But for a diet to really work it has to be a permanent change otherwise the weight will return. And small changes can have a big impact over time.

As Marcus Samuelsson (Ethiopian-born Swedish-American Chef) said, “We struggle with eating healthily, obesity, and access to good nutrition for everyone. But we have a great opportunity to get on the right side of this battle by beginning to think differently about the way that we eat and the way that we approach food”. So, take an honest look at what you eat and how active you are. Perhaps you could eat a little healthier and avoid snacks. When do you snack and why? Do you need to have a biscuit every time you have a hot drink? Can you be a little more active? Don’t take the lift (elevator) try the stairs. Could you take a slightly longer route on the walk to the bus stop?

Finally, a note about weight and the importance of taking into account other factors such as your height when deciding whether you are overweight. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a value (ratio) calculated from the mass (weight) and height of someone. It does use the metric system of weights and measures. A useful conversation tool can be found here.

The way to calculate your BMI is to take your weight in Kilograms and divided it by your height in meter squared (timed by itself). So, a thirteen stone man weighs 182 pounds or 82.5Kg. He is six feet tall or 1.83m. So, his BMI is be 82.5 / (1.83 * 1.83), or 24.6. Generally a healthy BMI would be 18.5 to 25. A BMI of over 25 is regarded as overweight. Under 18.5 is underweight.

So, if you are struggling to lose weight then Hypnotherapy can help with breaking habits, will power and support. If you feel this could be for you, then contact me.

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Happy New Year

I hope you all had a joyous and peaceful Christmas period. And while some degree of indulgence is inevitable, we all need to put in place plans for the New Year and perhaps pay the price for over eating and drinking recently. It might be a diet, a New Year resolution to give up something or just going back to normal. Even simple changes to lifestyle can have a big impact. 

The New Year looks uncertain and does not seem that it will be any better year than 2020 or 2021. But I wish you all a happy and joyous New Year. As Sarah Ban Breathnach (American Author) said, “Take a leap of faith and begin this wondrous New Year by believing. Believe in yourself. And believe that there is a loving Source – a Sower of Dreams – just waiting to be asked to help you make your dreams come true”.

New Year – new you? This can be a good moment to make changes to your life style. So much so, I have made a short video able the changes you can make with Hypnotherapy. 

For example, I wrote back in November about problems with alcohol and increasing aware of them. One thing you can do is try the Dry January challenge. It’s a UK based, one month alcohol free challenge organised by Alcohol Change UK. They have some great stuff on their website from a useful App to provide advice and tips on how to succeed.

Also, the British Liver Trust has designated January as Love Your Liver month. The liver is a critical organ in the human body as it’s involved in so many important tasks. It cleans the blood, removed toxins (such as alcohol and cholesterol) and helps fight disease. So looking after it is a good idea. You can do this by limiting you alcohol intake, keeping a healthy weight and avoiding certain diseases such as Hepatitis.

Even if you feel you have your alcohol intake under control, having a dry period can show the effects drinking is having on you. You may be amazed at how you feel – more energy, calmer and enjoying life more. It can also have an effect on other health issues like high blood pressure and your weight.

If you, or someone you know, has a relationship with alcohol, then Hypnotherapy can help. Specifically it can help boost will power, break habits and explore the root cause of it. If you think hypnotherapy can help then contact me for more information.