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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. Click here to see it.

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.

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Alcohol Awareness Week

15 to 21 November is Alcohol Awareness Week. It is coordinated by Alcohol Change UK and is a week of awareness raising and campaigning for change. The theme this year is Alcohol and relationships.
For most of us, we associate alcohol with fun and socialising. Culturally alcohol has become a part of our connections and interactions with friends and family. But when our own or a loved one’s drinking starts to have a negative effect on our relationships it can have a devastating impact on our lives.

Social drinking has long been a source of concern for health experts with many of us drinking more than we should. And this has only been made worse by the loneliness, uncertainty and isolation of the pandemic. Alcohol is addictive and the effect it has lessens the more you drink. This can lead to an escalating situation where you drink more and more and can’t easily stop. As Raymond Chandler (American-British Novelist and Screenwriter) said, “Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine”.

Now you might argue that you choosing to drink too much is a personal matter. But the harm doesn’t always end with the individual. Everyone who drinks too much is also part of a family and a community who can feel the effects too; possibly through frequent use of emergency services, drink driving, crime, violence or neglect.

Alcohol Change UK works to build a future in which people drink as a conscious choice. Where the issues that can lead to alcohol problems, such as poverty, mental health issues, homelessness, are properly addressed through high quality support without shame or stigma.

It is estimated that every day, in the UK, 20 people die as a result of alcohol. This can be through, liver disease, one of seven forms of cancer and mental health problems. It is thought an estimated 600,000 people are dependent drinkers in England alone. These are people who are in a relationship with alcohol that is bringing them and their family’s ill-health, conflict and pain. Worse still, four in five of them are receiving no form of treatment.

In January 2001, 6.5 million people took on the Dry January challenge. It’s a UK based, one month alcohol free challenge. Cutting out alcohol or getting it under control will allow you to get your fun back, get your energy back and get your calm back. The benefits to your bank balance and health could be immense. As Alex Ferguson (Scottish former Football Manager) said, “In England, it’s a rare thing to see a player smoking but, all in all, I prefer that to an alcoholic. The relationship with alcohol is a real problem in English football and, in the short term, it’s much more harmful to a sportsman. It weakens the body, which becomes more susceptible to injury”.

If you, or someone you know, has 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.

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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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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.

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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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Burnout

Feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted? Then you may be on the road to burnout. Feeling like this for short periods is not a concern, but if you feel like this most of the time you may be burned out.

Burnout is a gradual process, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can creep up on you. It’s a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

Burnout may be the result of constant stress, but it isn’t the same as stress. Stress usually involves too much – too many demands, too much to cope with physically or mentally. However, stressed people feel that if they can just get on top things, get everything under control, they’ll feel better. Burnout, on the other hand, is characterised by not enough. Burned out people feel empty and mentally exhausted, devoid of motivation and beyond caring. People with burnout usually don’t see any hope of an improvement to their situation.

Susceptibility to burnout can be influenced by three main factors – work, lifestyle and personality. Work related causes include feeling like you have little or no control over your work, lack of recognition or reward, unclear or overly demanding job expectations, monotonous or unchallenging work and a chaotic or high-pressure environment. Lifestyle factors include working too much without enough time for socialise and relax, lack of close, supportive relationships, taking on too many responsibilities and not getting enough sleep. Personality traits can also contribute including being a perfectionist, having a pessimistic view of yourself or your environment, the need to be in control and a reluctance to delegate to others.

Turning to others and socialising is a powerful antidote to burnout. Enjoyable time spent with friends and loved ones can have a positive impact on mood and outlook. Correspondingly time spent with negative and aggrieved people will have the opposite effect. Where possible limit contact with these people.

Most of us spend a large part of our lives at work. Being happy there is important. So, developing friendships with people you work with can help. Having friends to chat and joke with during the day can help relieve stress and make the day more enjoyable.

Everyone must find some value in what we do. So, even if your job is mundane you can often focus on how your role helps others by provides a product or service, either for external or internal customers. Focus on aspects of the job that you do enjoy, even if it’s only chatting with your co-workers at break time.

If you truly hate your job, then looking for meaning and satisfaction elsewhere in your life might by helpful. Perhaps in your family, friends, hobbies or voluntary work. Remember focus on the parts of your life that bring you joy.

Your lifestyle and habits can be a good way to address burnout. Things like taking a break from technology, making time for relaxation and ensuring you get plenty of sleep are a good place to start. Learning to set boundaries and limiting responsibilities will allow you to feel more in control. Also, nourishing your creative side is a good reliever or stress. Perhaps something new, start a fun project, or resume a favourite hobby.

It might be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re burned out but physical activity is a powerful antidote to stress and burnout. It’s also something you can do immediately and easily to boost your mood.
Diet is also an important area. Try to minimize sugar and refined carbohydrate foods as these can affect your mood and energy levels. Other areas include using caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in moderation or not at all if possible. 

Hypnotherapy can help relieved a wide range of symptoms of burnout and help you to make the changes to avoid it in the future. These include relaxation, boosting confidence / positive affirmation, meditation, progression muscle relaxation and stress reduction. Also it can help you to deal with sleeplessness, smoking, alcohol use or weight gain, Furthermore it can help with better diet – eating disorders, sugar addiction, comfort eating and any other unwanted or problematic habits. So if you think I can help then contact me.

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Smokin’ not Smoking

10 March 2021 is national No Smoking Day. Are you ready to stop smoking?

The writer, Mark Twain, once said, “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times”. I suppose me was right, as with all addictions it’s easy to stop, it’s not starting again that’s the problem. Smoking over the long term is very harmful and will likely cause severe health issues such as heart and lung problems, cancer and stroke. If you are pregnant then smoking is very harmful to your baby and you really need to try to stop.

Also, COVID-19 is a viral respiratory infection that particularly affects the lungs. If you smoke, you have an increased risk of contracting a respiratory infection and generally have more severe symptoms once infected.

If you smoke, stopping is the best thing you can do to improve your health. Even if you’ve smoked for a long time, quitting will reduce your risk of heart and circulatory diseases. It is never too late and you might notice benefits within just a few days. To find out more about this click here

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

Smoking is a powerful combination of habit and addiction, often with a social overtone. Addictions, such as nicotine from smoking, are difficult to overcome and you have to be motivated and in the right frame of mind to undertake the task of giving up. So, basically, are they ready? Could you be ready soon?

Wednesday 10 March 2021 is national no smoking day and now is an excellent time to stop smoking. Many of the usual routines of smoking are disrupted by the pandemic – you can’t go to the smoking area at work or smoke in the pub with your mates. Perhaps now is the time to try and succeed?

If you are really thinking of quitting, have just stopped or have been smoke free for a while then hypnotherapy can help. Hypnotherapy is most effective in supporting an imminent attempt or to help maintain an existing smoke free period by approaches such as helping to avoid triggers to smoke, boosting your will power and reducing cravings. To find out more about how I can help you, click here.