photo-1522108362351-8505156ba648

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.

photo-1552345387-07e60f8985fb

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.

photo-1577210073654-ad0f0a7dca6b

Meditation, for the Nation

21 May 2021 is World Meditation day. So, what is meditation? Well, of all people, Dick Van Dyke put is very well. He said, “When you’re a kid, you lay in the grass and watch the clouds going over, and you don’t have a thought in your mind. It’s purely meditation, and we lose that.”

Meditation plays a role in many religions throughout the world, especially Buddhism, but is not an exclusively religious practice. Many people have realised the benefits of meditation and incorporated it into their daily lives who are neither spiritual nor religious.

Today’s world puts many demands on us, such as work and family, and can leave us very little time for ourselves. Meditation is a way to have a very beneficial moment’s peace to quicken or clear the mind and relax. It has been proven to have positive mental and physical effects when practiced regularly. Specifically, some of these benefits include reducing anxiety and stress.

Anxiety remains one of the leading causes of mental health conditions and can manifest itself as physical as well as emotional problems. In severe cases doctors may prescribe medication, but the best approach is prevention. Meditation is one of the most common ways to treat the symptoms of anxiety, helping individuals to slow their heart rate, control harmful thoughts and prevent future anxiety.

Stress is a normal bodily response and is closely allied to the fight or flight response to danger. For short periods it does no harm, but if you are regularly stressed and your body it regularly preparing to run or fight, this can cause problems in the body. Meditation is a good way to take time out from the world and to focus inwardly on yourself. For example, breathing exercises can reduce blood pressure, calming the mind and give the body time to recover from periods of prolonged stress.

Also, practicing meditation and mindfulness encourages you to think about the present, to live in the moment and not worry about future possibilities. With this focus and other distractions dismissed, it can help you to stay focused and to improve your overall concentration and productivity.

One of the great things about meditation is that anyone can do it, almost anywhere. How you meditate varies widely from person to person. Some prefer physical activity accompanying it such as yoga, while others prefer to stay still. Whether you’re seated, standing, lying in bed or sitting in the bath, simply close your eyes, focus on taking deep breaths in and out and allow your mind to empty of thoughts. If thoughts pop up, simply acknowledge them and dismiss them. Continue to breathe deeply and use it to deepen your sense of calm. When you are ready, then open your eyes and continue with your day. If you are short of time, then set an alarm to alert you it’s time to finish.

So, celebrate World Meditation Day by setting some time aside for yourself to clear your mind and relax. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed, feel at ease and relaxed. This could be in the bath, in bed, or somewhere in nature like a garden. Then simply put yourself in a comfortable position, close your eyes, breathing steadily, and let all thoughts clear from your mind.

If you’ve never tried to meditate before then it can be difficult to clear your mind and avoid wandering thoughts. You may benefit from trying a guided meditation tutorial in which an experienced individual will gently talk you through the process. I have a guided meditation on my You Tube channel which you are welcome to use. Please click here.

Whichever way you choose to celebrate World Meditation Day, just remember that meditation is most beneficial when practised regularly, so why not set yourself a reminder to meditate once or twice a day. Try it for a week and see how you feel. You won’t be disappointed.

stress

Stress, what is it good for?

April is stress awareness month. Are you stressed?

We all feel stressed from time to time. Perhaps when we are busy or something unexpected happens. Stress is a state of physiological disturbance to your normal well-being, occurring due to environmental (external) factors. One way to look at stress is when the demands on you are greater than the personal resources you have. Perhaps, not enough time, information or money. Typical signs of stress include increased blood pressure, insomnia and irritability.

Some stress is not necessarily a bad thing and triggers responses in us to help deal with the situation we are in. When we are stressed, we release stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which prepares the body for physical action – fight or flight. This reaction also causes physical changes such as blood supply being diverted to certain muscle groups and shutting down some secondary bodily functions such as digestion. These hormones provide us with a boost of energy to help us fight the danger or run away. This response is probably of more use to a caveman confronted with a dangerous animal, but it also has a place in the modern world. This response will be triggered by any stressful situation.

But, long term, unresolved, stress is not healthy and can have damaging effects on the body.  Raised cortisol levels can caused increase in blood sugar and blood pressure levels as well as a decrease in libido. Ultimately, if left untreated or unresolved, it can result in breakdown or even suicide. The problem comes when your body goes into a state of stress when it’s not appropriate or when this response is unnecessary. If you are stressed by a tight deadline, being ready to run or fight is not helpful. Also when blood flow is diverted to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is impaired. This mean you can’t ‘think straight’ and this leads to poor decision making. A state that is not ideal in either our work or home lives.

Everyone experiences stress in different ways. For some it might be headaches or an eczema flare up. For others perhaps a change in personality such as being short tempered or impatient. Stress can also affect the immune system making us more likely to become ill.

Some stress is unavoidable, but managing it is the key. It critical that we recognise when we have too much demanded of us. Then we can take action to prevent ourselves from becoming overwhelmed – say ‘no’, delegate, prioritise or ask for help.

Hypnotherapy can help is a range of techniques including relaxation, mindfulness, boosting self-esteem and positive affirmation. These will help you to develop effective coping strategies for when you are stressed and ensure you remain focused and effective to resolve the stressful situation.

To find out more about Stress Awareness Month, click here

To find out more about how I can help you manage your stress then click here.