Weight Loss - it's a Mental thing

  • By Geraldine Joaquim
  • 15 May, 2017

Retrain your brain to achieve long-term weight management

A couple of years ago I lost nearly 3 stone over the course of a year, but when I look in the mirror I don't see a reflection that looks much different from my previous heavier self.  I know physically I'm smaller, after all I have dropped 3 dress sizes: I was a 'hearty' size 14 (meaning squeezing into a 14 but really more comfortable in a 16), and now I have size 10 jeans in my wardrobe.  So, why don't I feel thinner?

Actually the cause of this disparity in image versus reality lies within my mind.  It has similar traits to eating disorders (but without the serious side effects of, say, anorexia) and it is also rooted in the images that surround us on a daily basis, those conflicting arguments of being fat versus being thin.

Now, I'm a pretty happy person - my husband would say I'm annoyingly optimistic!  Even when I was unhappy with my heavier weight I still had many moments when I looked in the mirror and thought "Looking good!" whilst of course sucking in my tummy.  So basically I knew I was overweight (by the way this doesn't mean I was unfit - I was going to the gym 3 times and week and I 'ran' in the London Marathon the year before) but I genuinely think I didn't see the real me, rather like wearing rose-tinted glasses or looking at one of those old-fashioned distorting mirrors which make you look taller and thinner, or shorter and fatter.  And I think my general positivity - or annoying optimism - played a huge part.

Had I leaned towards anxiety or depression I believe I could have gone the opposite way and thought I looked much worse than I did - and this is where the eating disorder connection comes in: many people with eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia) see themselves in this distorted way.  Even when they are way below a healthy weight they still see a fatter version of themselves and this in part drives the desire to lose more weight (along with other mental health issues and a need to control some part of their life), weight that they can ill-afford to lose.

So it is not their real appearance they are seeing but rather a mental picture of how they think they look.  And our mental state plays a huge part in our outlook and how we view ourselves and the world at large.

Back to my weight loss and personal image: whilst I optimistically thought I was ok, on an intellectual level I know I needed (and wanted) to lose some of that weight.  At this point I had been on and off diets all my adult life - at age 19 I was a size 10 (of course I didn't appreciate my body back then!) but the years, bad habits and two babies take their toll...

The trigger to finally shift the weight for me was when I entered my first triathlon - and nothing will motivate you more than seeing a Lycra tri-suit hanging on the wardrobe ready for you to climb in it!

So the key change was my mind set and remember, I had tried numerous diets before without much success and certainly not keeping weight off for any length of time: I had a solid goal in mind - the thought of swimming, cycling and running in public in my tri-suit!

And I didn't go on a diet, rather I found a lifestyle that worked for me, I lost nearly 3 stones and dropped several dress sizes but I still maintain my 'diet' with moderation.  Losing weight is not a one-off and back to how things were, it is a mental shift in attitude towards food that can achieve weight loss and, crucially, weight stability.

That's why so many people yo-yo diet, losing weight and regain the same or more.  They are dieting for a period but then going back to their old habits but their relationship with food has not changed, whether they eat from habit, for comfort, misinformation... the change needs to start within the mind itself before you can have achievable and sustainable weight management.

Hypnotherapy helped me to determine what my goals were and kept me there, and I continue to use it to help maintain my weight now.

So it's okay that I don't 'see' a slimmer me because intellectually I know that I am slimmer.  I know my clothes are smaller, my fitness has improved (just by shedding the pounds my running pace has improved without any conscious effort), my flexibility and strength are the best they have been and my health is better.

And I'll continue to be annoyingly optimistic and see the world through those rose-tinted glasses :)
By Geraldine Joaquim 29 Nov, 2017

Mental health has become big news. It’s being talked about by the medical and legal professions, the young royals, newspapers, it’s all over the internet in blogs and articles, and in institutions like the IoD and HSE.  Stress is affecting many people so it is welcome that our own government is putting it high on the agenda and it is right that we should provide awareness and support for people suffering from the effects.

But how?   And where is the money coming from to help people suffering physical and psychological symptoms as a result of excessive stress? 

  The NHS is already over-stretched and under-funded, falling back on sticky-plaster solutions like prescribing a record 64.7m antidepressants in 2016 (that’s an increase of 108.5% in the last decade) to treat a variety of mental health issues including depression, generalised anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks.  It can take months to see a psychotherapist on the NHS, in which time whatever issue you might be suffering from will probably develop into something bigger and take longer to treat, with potentially serious consequences  https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/psychotherapy/availability/

As part of her commitment to the mental health agenda, Theresa May commissioned a report to gauge how big the problem is and how it can be handled.  The result was Thriving At Work, published in October 2017 and authored by Dennis Stevenson (mental health campaigner and former HBOS chair) and Paul Farmer (Mind CEO).

One of the big positives is that it seeks to change the culture around mental health to create a more open and understanding society.  They believe that employers are well placed to have a positive impact on our lives, and by encouraging a more open environment we should see a drop in the estimated 300,000 people who leave their jobs annually due to mental health problems, and reduce the associated costs to business which stand at £42bn per year, and £99bn to the UK economy as a whole.  This also alleviates the pressures on the NHS, housing and welfare benefits.

Employers are encouraged to take ownership of their employees’ mental wellbeing by implementing a number of recommendations including creating mental health at work plans, developing awareness and introducing routine monitoring of employee mental health and wellbeing.

Mental health is often seen as the ‘woolly’ side of health, after all there’s no blood on the carpet and it is often a hidden condition until something snaps.  Stress in itself is not a bad thing: stress gets us up in the morning, it motivates us to achieve things, to do better, to get things done.   It is only when that pressure becomes excessive, when it causes an adverse reaction, that it becomes a problem.

As a business it is not your duty to relieve all stress from employees, that in itself is an impossibility and in fact would be detrimental to the health of the company, but there are areas that can be looked at to alleviate non-productive stress.

Common causes of stress at work include the organisation culture, management practices and support, job content and demands, physical environment, relationships with fellow colleagues and customers, role conflict.  We all understand that working overlong hours, having a heavy workload, tight deadlines, job insecurity, lack of proper resources or management support, harassment, discrimination, poor work relationships are all stressors.   It’s not that these will never happen, but by having a policy in place a company can provide a route to discussion which otherwise might not be available, exacerbating the problem.

If an employer notices any significant changes in an employee such as changes in their emotional state, mental acuity or behaviour, that should be a trigger to investigate.  Having a mental health plan in place and making sure everyone is aware of it, is not about removing the stressors per se but rather enabling people to manage their stress so they are better able to cope, have more clarity of thought which will result in better decisions, better time management and ultimately more productivity – a win-win all round.

So what can a company do to start helping their employees, which will also benefit them in the long term?  

A good start is to engage a professional with mental health expertise to bring the issue into the open, this reassures employees that it is a valued area and allows opportunity for discussion.  Considering providing extra support in terms of time off/financial assistance for psychotherapy may be appropriate in much the same way as a company may offer health cover, dental treatment or gym membership.  Making it the norm to have adequate guilt-free breaks in the day, and providing relaxation audios, breathing techniques, opportunity to break away from the desk are all valuable tools in building resilience to stress.

Finally, devising a mental health at work plan which includes regular monitoring and is openly accessed will help with staff retention and recruitment, putting them firmly at the front of the organisation.

Your mental health plan should contain…

1.  Make a commitment: clear message that mental health matters, visible and understandable

2.  Build your approach: assess mental health of all employees, assess improvements required and identify clear objectives for development

3.  Positive culture: effective management standards, work environment is conducive to promoting healthy behaviour and limiting potential to cause ill-health, enable social activities/out of work activities/volunteering, provide appropriate avenues and frequency of communication

4.  Support and training: information is freely shared, easily accessed. Line managers to receive training and employees educated to recognise signs

5. M anaging mental health: proactive approach to ending the stigma, mental health discussed openly, employees supported to reduce potential of experience stress and organisational changes made where risks are identified that may lead to stress or other mental health issues

6.  Providing the right support: managers trained and confident in handling sensitive conversations, organisation prepared to make adjustments to work patterns/structures, provide confidential support

7.  Helping people to recover: support employees who take time off work due to mental ill health, appropriate return plans and adjustments made

8.  Going further: staff consultations, action plans to address major issues, regularly evaluation approach, reporting back to employees on progress

If you would like help with addressing mental health in the workplace, please do take a look at our dedicated website.  We can arrange a meeting for a free assessment and discuss how your employees would benefit which in turn can improve productivity and reduce costs - and make your organisation a better place to work in:  www.mind-yourbusiness.co.uk  (email: info@mind-yourbusiness.co.uk) 

or contact us: geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk   tel. 01798 344879

By Geraldine Joaquim 01 Nov, 2017
The recently published Thriving At Work report has revealed the scale of the impact mental health issues have on businesses.  With up to 300,000 people annually leaving their jobs due to problems like anxiety and depression, it's affecting people at an individual level, but also costing businesses up to £42bn per year and the UK economy as a whole around £99bn.

The report was commissioned by the government as part of Theresa May's commitment to transform mental health support in January 2017.  May appointed Mind CEO, Paul Farmer, and mental health campaigner and former HBOS chair, Dennis Stevenson, to head the enquiry on how staff could perform at their best.

Farmer says it's time for employers to better support workers suffering from mental health problems, and the report suggests that companies should create a mental health at work plan.  In fact they were shocked to find the number of people forced to stop work as a result of mental health problems was 50% higher than for those suffering with physical health conditions.

The reasons for this are down to a combination of a lack of support, lack of understanding within some workplaces and a lack of speedy access to mental health services.  In some organisations people feel themselves excluded as a result of their mental health issues and sometimes people don't necessarily spot that somebody is struggling.

However on the flip side, there are significant numbers (approximately 15% of people at work) who continue to work with symptoms of an existing mental health condition which suggests that with the right support they can thrive in employment.

The report recommends six core standards:
1. Creating, implementing and communicating mental health at work plans
2. Developing mental health awareness for employees
3. Promoting effective people management through line management
4. Introducing routine monitoring of employee mental health and wellbeing
5. Employers encourage open conversations about mental health and support available
6. Provide employees with good working conditions to ensure they have a healthy work-life balance as well as opportunities for development

The report goes on to encourage organisations to take responsibility for the mental health of their staff, to shift the stigma around it.  By so doing, the area of mental health in the workplace is becoming much more visible, making it less of a taboo subject.

Many organisations may support the findings and recognise that staff welfare is an issue but they don't know what to do about it.  "The most progressive organisations in this area are already being quite open in terms of their internal reporting and what they put on their website in terms of how they support their staff", Farmer said.

And large employers are expected to go further with calls on the government and public sector to lead by example.  The government should also ensure that the NHS provides high quality mental health services which are quick and convenient to fit around employment, and to consider enhancing protections for employees with mental health conditions in the Equality Act 2010.

The report has been welcomed by the Institute of Directors, who comments that mental health is not just a moral issue but a business one too, and business leaders should put themselves at the front line of addressing the challenges.

So what can a company do to start helping their employees, which will also help them in the long term?  
1. Invite a mental health professional to give a talk or run a workshop, bringing the issue into the open (this can reassure employees that this is a valued area, so increase loyalty and opens up opportunity for discussion)
2. Consider providing additional support in terms of time/financial, for those staff who need it
3. Ensure staff take adequate breaks in their working period, consider various techniques such as a simple break away from their desk, providing relaxation audios from professionals, breathing techniques, power nap, this can be individually tailored - make this a guilt-free break
4. Putting together a mental health plan that is openly accessed which will help with staff retention and staff recruitment (this can also be an important step when approaching customers as it may be part of the tender process, to see what social responsibilities you have to your staff and to their families)
5. Offering regular mental health and wellbeing reviews, including scaling 'happiness'

If you would like to learn more about stress in the workplace and how clinical hypnotherapy can help, or would like to arrange a meeting to discuss your company needs for talks, workshops, or any of the points mentioned above do get in touch: geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk or call 01798 344879
By Geraldine Joaquim 29 Sep, 2017
Hypnosis applied in therapy has been around for more than 200 years, however it has remained on the fringes of 'quackery' since the 18th Century.  During the 20th and 21st Centuries hypnosis moved from the parlour-room into serious medical realms, and in current times it is fast becoming a popular alternative to traditional treatment for many conditions.   

Hypnotherapy is being embraced by the medical profession and is even moving into mainstream treatment: in April 2015 the General Medical Council announced that hypnotherapists who meet set accreditation requirements can now provide hypnotherapy services and treatments via the NHS.

In more recent times specialists have gained a better understanding of what hypnosis is and how it can help.  So, how does it work?  

The word 'hypnosis' is derived from the Greek word 'sleep'.  Hypnotherapy replicates part of the sleep phase called REM (Rapid Eye Movement), this is when our brains process events that we have gone through during the day, or week, month or even from years ago.   During the REM phase our brain will re-run the event either in clear (repeating it exactly as it happened) or metaphorically (a dream which might not make much sense), and it examines the event to decide whether we need to hold on to the event or if we can move it on into our memory banks.  In doing so, the event changes into a narrative form,  so the emotional attachment is removed.

An example of this would be going through the grieving process - initially you feel huge, overwhelming sadness, but as time goes on your brain processes the event making it easier to cope with.  This doesn't mean you forget the person or event, but the emotional attachment to the event is reduced and the physical feelings dull.  This is a coping mechanism which helps us survive and it is the same process for all our experiences, large and small.

In effect we are processing stress, and we do this every single night.  Hypnosis replicates the REM phase so the hypnotherapist is helping the client to manage their stress.

There are two parts to hypnosis in therapy:

Firstly, the induction delivered by the therapist that elicit seemingly involuntary responses, namely leading the client into a state of deep relaxation.

Secondly, the 'change work'.  Prior to the hypnosis, discussion will have taken place to ascertain what the client wants to achieve and the therapist will usually incorporate them as suggestions into the change work, the part of the trance when specific suggestions are made whether it's to do with weight loss, stop smoking, coping with anxiety, building confidence, etc.

Anyone can be hypnotised although some people are more 'suggestible' than others, making them easier to work with. In recent times scanning techniques have allowed greater access into the brain and researchers have found indications that highly suggestible people exhibit higher activity levels in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate areas of the brain during different phases of hypnosis.  This does not mean that less suggestible people cannot be hypnotised only that they may take longer to go into the state of deep relaxation, however with repetition, they too will become adept at achieving this stage more quickly.

As we need to process events in order to maintain a state of equilibrium in our day to day lives, by using hypnotherapy we can support our own natural REM as well as using it to effect positive change whether it is removing negatives habits (stop smoking, getting rid of fears or phobias), building confidence or motivation, changing mindset (for weight management, coping with stress, anxiety or depression) and a number of other life issues.

In common with other talking therapies, hypnotherapy can be delivered in person or via technology such as skype.  As long as the client and therapist are comfortable with this and discuss the best set-up (i.e. the client should be able to recline or lie down fully during hypnosis) there is no hindrance to the process - and absolutely no possibility of the client being left 'under' should the technology fail mid-session.

If you would like to find out more about how hypnotherapy can help you, do get in touch on 01798 344879  or email geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk
By Geraldine Joaquim 12 Sep, 2017
Hypnosis has been used in sport for a number of years now.  It is highly likely that any high level sports person or team you can think of has a psychotherapist in the background, helping them to get mentally fit along side the team of coaches, physiotherapists, medics who help keep them at their physical peak.  As far back as the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, the Russian team was using hypnosis and psychotherapeautic techniques to improve performance and produce champions year after year.

And these techniques are used in many other areas of life such as preparing for childbirth (hypnobirthing), hypnosis for pain management including documented cases of patients undergoing major surgery without anesthetics, many performers use hypnosis before going on stage and that includes business people (public speakers or simply doing a internal company presentation), 

So what's it all about, isn't it just daydreaming about winning, seeing yourself crossing that finishing line(or the baby's birth, the applause at the end of a performance, etc)?  If that was it then all you'd be focusing on is the end result, not the steps that get you there...

Hypnosis for sport, motivation, weight loss, finishing a project, whatever it is involves experiencing the whole journey - the wind in your hair or the feel of contractions, the muscles bunching and relaxing, every part of the body is involved.  By doing this, by visualising in detail all the nuances along with the activity involved we are creating a 'blueprint' for our bodies and minds to repeat, and repeat, and repeat so that it becomes automatic, it becomes a familiar map to follow.

We are  telling the body and mind exactly what we want it to do so the more detailed we can make it the more we will learn from it.  And when these visualisations are done in conjunction with physical training (such as preparing to run in a race, or rehearsing a speech) we are rounding out the experience.  Some years ago I ran in the London Marathon, prior to the date I attended one of the information/training days and one of the most valuable pieces of information I got from it was to train at the time of the actual race.  By running in the morning during training, I was mentally and physically more prepared for the race day as this was a 'normal' time for me to run.  It didn't jar with my expectations of what would happen on the day.

The more true to life we can make it the more we learn, so colour your visualisation with sounds, smells, how things feel.  Most racers in all sports (whether it's running, horse riding, formula one) will walk the course so they can create a blueprint in their mind, they will work out ahead of the race when they should start turning, speed up, or slow down.  

Here's another example from my own experience: I competed in a triathlon a couple of years ago, I drove the bike course before the race day so I could see where the hills and bends were and it meant I wasn't worrying about getting lost!  I then used that map I created to 'cycle' the route in the comfort of my own home, building up the image over a period of time.  I also practised the transition (change from wetsuit to getting ready to cycle and then to run), again doing this physically and mentally so it became second nature on the race day, I didn't have to think about what I needed to do I just did it.

And if it's good enough for all those professional athletes, singers, performers, isn't it good enough for you?  If you have an event coming up, by rehearsing the physical movements along with visualising them, the results are even more effective so that when you're standing at that start line, or on your way to giving birth, or preparing to face the audience your muscles memory will kick in and you will perform to your best - because you know how to as you've already experienced it.

Now, obviously just visualising winning isn't going to get you to your goal - every first time parent will tell you they simply can't imagine how the baby makes it out! - but if you have a plan and practise towards that end, you know how you're going to get there and you have a much better chance of actually achieving it.  In my hypnobirthing classes, one of the things I impress on prospective parents is the necessity to practise - to visit the chosen maternity unit or place of delivery, familiarise yourself with routes to it and parking, spend time doing the breathing exercises with visualisations and the relaxation hypnosis so that when the actual event happens it is all second nature, you're not fumbling around trying to read signs or manuals, your head will be in the 'zone' and you'll work together as a team.  And a materinity unit at the point of delivery with possibly people looking on (at least the midwife, maybe additional nursing staff) is not the place to start trying to coach your partner with hypnosis!
Having a plan and a solid path to follow makes it much more likely you will succeed, and by visualising each step you are enhancing your preparedness, and your motivation to achieve the goal.  A huge part of performance is self-belief, if we are scared and fearful of failure we will release unhelpful stress hormones which only cloud our thinking, but with self-belief we release the much more helpful serotonin ('happiness' hormone) and dopamine ('reward' hormone) which will encourage us to continue, to commit to the task and get out of bed to train.  It even helps us cope with any roadblocks or setbacks that might occur.

Once your mind has 'seen' the goal being achieved through hypnosis or guided visualisations, and that blueprint is made to get you there, it knows you can do it! 

If you would like to learn more about how hypnosis can help you with whatever your big event is, do get in touch geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk or tel 01798 344879
By Geraldine Joaquim 04 Sep, 2017
I met with a friend recently and she was quite upset about a situation she was in with another mutual friend.  For ease in telling this story, I'll call them Jane and Sue.  Jane had seen Sue at the supermarket that morning and had gone to greet her but Sue brushed past her, cutting her dead.

Shocked by this behaviour Jane had spent the rest of the morning ruminating about what she could have done to offend Sue, and not being able to think of anything, she had slowly worked herself up into quite a state so by the time she met with me that afternoon, she was seething!

After she had gone, I called Sue to find out what the issue was - well, it turned out that she had had some terrible news, her beloved cat of 10 years had been run over the day before and she was devastated.  She had spent a sleepless night and was really struggling to come to terms with her loss.  When she had gone to the supermarket she had been in a bit of a daze understandably and hadn't even registered seeing Jane hence she'd 'ignored' her.  

This got me thinking about how we can be so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget things can be happening to others that we might not know about, however close they are to us.  As we go through life we automatically 'colour' our view with our own thoughts and experiences so when we connect with others, known or unknown, we tend to see the interaction from our own selfish point of view.  But perhaps we should look up occasionally and think outside our own narrowed view, make an effort not to be offended so easily.

Had Jane stopped a moment and thought about Sue's behaviour being strange rather than thinking it was all about her own hurt feelings, she might have gone back into that supermarket and asked if she was okay, and saved herself a whole lot of wasted time feeling cross and upset.

And Sue would most certainly have appreciated a hug from a friend at that moment of intense sadness.  

This doesn't just apply to people you know.  As a clinical hypnotherapist I get enquiries via my website and through memberships such as the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and the Hypnotherapy Directory.  Some time ago I had an email enquiring about treating a specific medically diagnosed psychosomatic condition which entailed painful physical symptoms, so bad she described them as ruining her life.  
The email was very abrupt and I'm ashamed to admit I took an instant dislike to the way it was worded, it was very combative - basically did I have experience in treating the particular condition or not, and not to waste her time if I hadn't!  Now, whilst hypnotherapy can help with alleviating and coping with a range of symptoms and conditions, I had not encountered this particular condition and I sent back a brief email explaining how hypnotherapy could help her.

Rather than taking umbrage at what I perceived as poor manners, on reflection I should have seen it from her point of view: someone struggling with a condition and wanting help.  She mentioned that her doctor couldn't help her so we could deduce that she had already been through a variety of medical tests to ascertain it was psychosomatic rather than a physical condition (but with physical symptoms) so she didn't want to be fobbed off or waste time and probably money.  I didn't hear back from her but I did learn a lot from that incident - certainly not to take everything at face value - and I believe it has made me a better therapist, teaching me to look beyond the obvious.

Communication is a two-way street and thinking a little more about what one person is saying (or doing, non-verbal is often more telling) before reacting can be invaluable.

So the next time you feel the heat of offense rising, it might be worth taking a moment to ask yourself if it's the right reaction, could whatever you've taken offense at be a misinterpretation?  

Our own state of mind influences how we perceive the world and people we interact with, and being in a heightened state of anxiety, stress, trauma or dealing with painful conditions no doubt affects us and our dealings with the world at large.  

If you think you could benefit from talking with a hypnotherapist, or would like to find out more about how we can help alleviate pain and a number of other conditions do contact me on 01798 344879 or email info@questhypnotherapy.co.uk
By Geraldine Joaquim 08 Aug, 2017
Some years ago I undertook a post-graduate diploma in Marketing.  It took 3 years of evening classes twice a week with progressive exams each year, the final exam included a case study in which I had to collate information and write a strategic marketing plan based on a real organisation.  I remember those final few weeks running up to the exams well: not sleeping properly, with a tic in one eye and my jaw aching and locking in the morning due to excessive teeth grinding through the night.  Sounds fun, doesn't it?

During this time I went to my doctor to sort out the lock jaw and he referred me to a orthodontist who took an imprint of my teeth and had a brace made for me to wear each night.  I did this for several weeks and eventually the grinding stopped, the clicking and lock jaw eased - and I was left with a very slight over-bite, not noticeable aesthetically but if I try to cut a piece of thread with my teeth, which I used to be able to do, I can't now as my front teeth don't quite meet anymore.  The brace had subtly changed the shape of my teeth.

Now, none of this is life changing stuff but a little annoying sometimes, especially since I now know that the poor sleep, eye tic and teeth grinding/lock jaw could have been sorted out very simply - by relaxing!

Of course I was stressed out by the exams, I had invested a huge amount of time and effort in them.  But what would have made it easier to deal with at the time was changing the way I coped with the stress rather than firefighting the symptoms which is what all these things were, just physical symptoms of a mental health issue - stress.

Since gaining my DipM (thankfully I passed those exams) and working in marketing for over 20 years, I decided to try something new and, having experienced hypnotherapy over the years for motivation (following a major knee operation) and during two pregnancies, I thought it would be an interesting area to go into - and boy, has it changed my life!  If only I had known then what I know now...

Anxiety and stress are very much a part of our human condition.  Our cavemen ancestors lived in a constant state of heightened awareness or anxiety, not knowing where their next meal was coming from, if they'd be killed by predators or other tribes, if they'd return back to their own tribe after a hunt, all real life or death stuff.  So it's no wonder they lived on their nerves!  They used anxiety to survive, it kept them alert and enabled them to forecast scenarios, gave them caution.  Our ancestors, those early humans who survived in an incredibly dangerous world and the reason we're sitting here today, became experts at managing their stress to help them survive.

If they let psychosomatic symptoms distract them, such as facial tics, lock jaw or lack of sleep, they were most likely killed during one of the numerous dangerous encounters they had to contend with in their day to day lives.  

But what's that got to do with me, you might ask, I don't need to 'survive'.  I know where my next meal is coming from, there are no dangerous wild animals waiting around the next corner to eat me, I have a roof over my head...  In simplistic terms, our brains have developed over thousands of years, in particular our cortex, the 'intellectual' part of our brain and what sets us apart from other animals, but we still have the sub-cortex (known as the primitive or mammalian brain) whose primary purpose is to protect us.  

It is really only in the last few hundred years that our modern lifestyles have evolved where we have roof over our heads and food on the table (not everyone, there are of course many people living hand to mouth existences in poor conditions), it's not quite caught up with our modern-day lives but our primitive brain is very clever.  If it thinks that our life is in some sort of crisis or state of emergency, it will step in to try to help - unfortunately sometimes it isn't very helpful!  It views anything that could be deemed a 'road block', something stopping us getting what we want or interrupting the normally smooth flow of our lives, as a threat and not just a small threat but a matter of life-or-death!  This could be something like running late for a meeting, or not being able to find a parking space, or sitting an exam.  It will try to help by throwing out three fall back positions: anxiety, depression or anger.

Hence someone experiencing road rage when stuck in a traffic jam, or someone's predisposition to depression during times of stress, or another person's panic attack... in my particular case my primitive brain opted for anxiety and produced some physical symptoms that might have made me stop pushing on with the exams, the thing that was causing my stress - basically giving me an excuse to give up!

Those physical symptoms were all resolved in the end by the exams finishing, so the stress dissipated (except for the residual nerves that I hadn't done well enough and might need to re-sit them!).  Had I understood the mechanism behind the physical symptoms I might have managed my stress better resulting in lower impact.

Sometimes we struggle to see the wood for the trees so whatever we are facing fills our whole vision and we find it hard to put things into perspective.  Had I failed my exams I would have just re-sat them, slightly painful but not a disaster.  Ultimately everything passes and we do survive, despite how we react to them, and remember that these trials help to shape us, help us build resilience to face future trials.

In the meantime there are lots of therapies available to help us cope with immediate moments of stress, far better than working on the symptoms such as resorting to antidepressants or alcohol, sleeping tablets or painkillers.  You might enjoy a relaxing massage, find solace in reflexology or try a talking therapy like hypnotherapy.  As a clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist I now help people cope with their stresses whatever they might be, by working with them to identify where they want to be and the stepping stones that will get them there.

If you would like to know more about hypnotherapy and how it can help you contact Quest Hypnotherapy on 01798 344879 or email info@questhypnotherapy.co.uk 
By Geraldine Joaquim 20 Jul, 2017
I was chatting to a friend recently who runs a sleep consultancy aimed at young families but also working with adults.  She does a lot of free talks and is trying to get her service out there but she was telling me how hard she found it getting people to book consultations.  There is certainly no lack of people seeking advice (especially with helping their young children to sleep through the night!) and she always has a queue of people wanting to speak to her after one of her talks or sending questions by email, but when it comes to actually booking a consultation and potentially laying down money, they disappear.

Now, this is a scenario that is probably familiar to many holistic or complementary healthcare services in the UK.  We (the public) are very used to getting free services and advice with anything to do with our healthcare, having the wonderful NHS which provides its service free at point of delivery (and of course we have already 'paid' for it via our tax and NI system). 

However, it is widely reported that the NHS is in crisis.  Our doctors and nurses, A&E, ambulance service, paramedics, etc are stretched and as a population we are also living longer - no wonder it's in trouble.  

Just the other night I was watching one of the 'What's Your Emergency' programmes on TV, and our police and ambulance services were being called out to take care of people under the influence of alcohol.  In one particular case a perfectly respectable looking middle-aged woman was so drunk that an ambulance was called and she was taken to hospital to be checked over after falling over, and to keep her from being near a road where she could potentially cause an accident - as even she noted in the interview afterwards, it was a complete waste of resources.  Just to reiterate here: an ambulance including its highly trained medical staff being used as a taxi service to take a drunk woman to A&E so that she could be checked over and to keep her from potentially injuring herself or others, for a completely self-inflicted condition.  How can this be right?  That ambulance and all the medical staff involved could have been treating other far more serious and dare I say it, more deserving, cases.  And it's free.  That same woman could go out the next night, get completely drunk and go through the same thing again... and again... and again.  

This is a just one example of how our NHS is being mistreated and over-stretched.  

If anyone has seen the BBC's 'Doctor in the House' series, you might be familiar with Dr. Rangan Chattergee.  He's a GP who has seen how the NHS is firefighting a growing population and its symptoms, and is trying to do something about it.  Instead of spending time and resources - because they simply do not have them available, the average 8-10 minutes allocated per patient is simply not enough time to get to the bottom of a lot of the issues being presented on a daily basis - our GP's are handing out pills and quick fixes.  In the programme, alternative and complementary healthcare were shown to help the patients showcased enormously.

In the most recent series the Alexander Technique was featured on a paralympic athlete (he had lost a leg during childhood) who was shown how to hold himself better and put less strain on his shoulders during everyday life using crutches and during his extremely demanding sport of ice sledge hockey, meaning he could minimise the damage to his shoulders which would lead to life in a wheelchair.

In another episode, a 34 year year old mother had been suffering from severe anxiety, panic attacks and depression since she was 19.  She relied on a cocktail of antidepressants, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and high-sugar processed foods and drinks.  During the programme she was persuaded to change her diet and alcohol intake which helped address some of the mood swings and to see a counsellor to address a trauma she had suffered at 19 which may (probably) have been the cause of her 15 years of mental health issues.

Both these complimentary therapies would probably not have been available through the NHS, or if they were would certainly not have been available in a short time frame - however they are readily available on a private basis. 

Just last week (July 2017) there was a BBC news story involving a young woman who had suffered from an eating disorder, on seeing her GP she was put on the NHS waiting list to see a talking therapist but was given a time frame of over a year - this is a young woman who has taken the huge step to seek help and is being told she would have to wait for it.  In the meantime, how much worse would her condition have become before she finally got to see the therapist?  In the end her parents paid for her to see a therapist and she was quickly on the road to recovery - again, an instance of much needed complimentary healthcare which is readily available on a private basis, and which ultimately saves the NHS a huge amount of money.  Had the young woman waited, she could potentially have been in a much worse state needing hospitalisation and more medical care - not to mention the mental anguish she and her family would have gone through.

In almost all other countries, health services are paid for by the patient at point of treatment and may be reclaimed via public or private insurance.  Take having a baby as an example: I've had 2 babies in the UK and they didn't cost me anything - I had scans, regular midwife checkups, blood tests, antenatal classes, hospital delivery (both happily delivered naturally without the need for additional medical help, but I knew it was there if things did go awry) and follow up home visits by my midwives and health visitors.

If I'd wanted to go privately, I may have paid around £10,000 ($15,000) - that's the amount that was allegedly spent on Prince George's birth at a private London hospital.  In the US, if you want to have a baby you need to plan to spend around $30,000 for a standard vaginal birth, not withstanding any complications.  If you're opting for a caesarian you're looking at around $50,000.  If you have medical cover, you're probably paying in the region of $100-$285 per month to cover childbirth, depending on the level of voluntary excess to mitigate the higher premiums, and the payout itself will have a maximum ceiling after which you would have to pay any outstanding balance.  If you're on a low income (less than $16,000 per year) you might qualify for Medicaid.  See how lucky we are, and yet this very same wonderful free at the point of delivery service we have is taken for granted.

So, getting back to the title of this piece: Is the NHS keeping us 'sick'?  To some degree it is, simply because there is no time or financial resource to do anything other than deal with the presenting symptom.  Got a rash?  Here's a cream.  Trouble sleeping?  Here's a sleeping tablet.  Feeling depressed?  Try this antidepressant.  In a lot of cases these symptoms can be signposts to a hidden cause - it may be anxiety related, or down to diet or lacking in vitamins (B12 has been linked to extreme fatigue, compromised balance, 'cloudy' thinking).  

But without our very own 'Doctor in the House' it is hard for our poor overstretched NHS to do anything other than treat the symptom so isn't it time we take control?   There are many alternative therapies and complementary healthcare services available - if you are prepared and can afford to pay for it.  

In fact the Government recognises the place of complementary healthcare and has a register in order to protect the public: "The CNHC (Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council) is the UK register for complementary healthcare practitioners that was set up in 2008 with government funding and support.  We hold a UK register of complementary health practitioners who have met UK standards.  CNHC registrants work in private practice, the NHS and a wide range of other health and care settings."

So if you are living with a condition that affects your everyday, if you're fed up with putting up with a condition that you really could live without, isn't it time you thought about helping yourself to better health?  Yes it costs money, but perhaps we need to start thinking about our health in the same way we think about our possessions - you pay to get the car serviced, you pay for gym membership, you pay to eat nice food, you pay for new TV's, computers, ipads, stuff... just to have the latest model or because you can.  Shouldn't we see our health as a valuable 'possession' too?  Something to keep in tip-top shape, to invest in?  

For the cost of a night out you could see a private therapist (and there's a huge range of different services available, whatever you need to deal with) and feel so much better in yourself and about yourself - and aren't you're worth it?

If you're interested in seeing a clinical hypnotherapist and psychotherapist for a range of issues including poor sleep, anxiety, stress, depression, eating disorders, weight management, fears or phobias, quit smoking, high blood pressure give us a call: 01798 344879 or email geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk 
Sessions can be conducted in person or via skype.  
By Geraldine Joaquim 27 Jun, 2017
With summer looming, it's time to think about holidays! 

Holidays play an important part in our busy lives, not only do they allow us to decompress from our daily busy lives but they give us a chance to reconnect with our loved ones.  Here are some tips on how to get in the holiday mode before you go so that you get the best out of your time away...

1. Plan to have work tied up and handed over by the middle of the day before the day before you start your holiday - that's not a typo!  By being prepared a day in advance you can spend the last day before you go sorting out any last minute issues which may arise, or enjoy a more relaxed day if nothing comes up.

2. Get your head in the right place, once everything is organised at work and home close the door and enjoy being with you family or friends.  Try to be in the present rather than worrying about what you've left behind and especially as the holiday draws to a close, don't start imagining the pile of work waiting for you when you get back or the laundry to be done, it will be there whether you worry about it or not!

3. Book the holiday accommodation that suits you, if you can't live without logging on to check emails then make sure you have wifi available.  It is far better to spend a short amount of time daily checking emails to your ease of mind (as long as it is short) so that you can focus on your family for the rest of the time - but this does not apply to social media, leave it at home.

4. If you enjoy exercising at home there's no reason why you can't do it on holiday, just pick a time that works around the holiday and accept that you will ease back a bit.  If you go to the gym for an hour 5 times a week, download a HIIT programme which takes 20 minutes and do it 3 times a week on holiday around the family activities, that way you still get your fix but it doesn't take too much time away from the family.  Or go for a shorter 30 minute run instead of the usual hour.  It can also be an opportunity to do some exercise together, fun swimming races (as long as it doesn't get too competitive with the kids!), or a mini group yoga session.

5. Sleep!  Use the time on holiday to get plenty of good quality sleep during the night and naps during the day.  Sleep is the most under-rated of the 4 pillars of health, without it we simply can't function so luxuriate in earlier nights or lazier mornings.

6. Forget any expectations you might have, don't go away thinking this is going to be the best holiday ever...  we're going to do this and that...  just accept what happens. 

7. Compromise.  If one of you wants to go on lots of excursions but some one else wants to laze by the pool, work out a compromise either agreeing you'll do your different activities separately or you'll each spend time doing what the other wants to do.

8. Enjoy the food but don't go overboard, it's just a holiday.  You don't want to pile on weight which becomes a stresser when you return to the 'real world'.

9. Don't forget to drink water especially if it's not quite so readily available as when at home (i.e. from the tap), make sure you have plenty of bottled water.

10. You are not responsible for other people's happiness - if you're used to organising everything, ease back a little and let whatever happens happen.  You don't have to fill every day with activities, just kick back, relax and allow other people to make decisions.

If you'd like more hints and tips, click the link (our top tip is on page 4 under 'Communication', no 6)
By Geraldine Joaquim 27 Jun, 2017
A national newspaper recently ran an article (May 2017) about the guilt felt by mums who had had caesareans and struggled to bond with their babies for the first few weeks. This idea that they were not quite worthy, that they somehow fell short of the 'ideal' they expected to be as new mums.

But who is judging us, we should ask? Is there a higher body, some unseen force giving us a Len Goodman "7!"? Of course not, we only judge ourselves and it's ourselves we fail to satisfy against our own imaginary panel of judges. We are hugely influenced by everything we see and hear around us, from the media to our closer friends and family. For most of us, starting a family is a huge step into the unknown and we probably feel more at sea than we have ever felt before.

As social animals it's very natural to compare ourselves to those around us, and in the main we want to appear like we're coping amazingly well: no car crash here, nothing to see..! But aren't we being too hard on ourselves? Isn't everyone simply swimming or sinking in their own way and by not putting on too brave a face or berating ourselves we might actually enjoy this time more?

I work with perspective parents in my hypnotherapy work, teaching them wonderful techniques to help them have a calm and relaxed childbirth, to enjoy one of the most amazing things they will do in their lives and not just get through it. As part of my programme we discuss what happens if things don't go according to plan, if there are complications and by doing so give them tools to cope if their birth experience doesn't go quite the way they planned.

There are two points to this:
1. Safe Mother, Safe Baby is the best outcome however it happens
2. In the end it doesn't matter how your baby arrives, the birthing process is just a tiny part of the whole of the rest of your lives together: you've got years of growing, bonding, loving, learning, crying, laughing, fighting, adventuring to come - what's a few hours compared to that?

In the UK 26.2% of births are by caesarean - that's roughly 1 in every 4 births - and of those, 13.2% were elective and 13% are by emergency operation (2013-14, Health and Social Care Information Centre www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB16725 ). And it's worth knowing that only 4% of babies are born on their actual due date, so whilst it is important to have an 'A' plan we should also bear in mind that we might need a backup 'B' and 'C' plan just in case.

So instead of looking at your baby and worrying about whether you have bonded, just allow yourself to feel whatever you feel and know that you're doing a great job. Don't over-analyse what you should be feeling or take on board what others are doing because rest assured they'll probably be kicking their feet just as hard as you trying to stay afloat.

If you would like to learn more about how Hypnotherapy can help you have a relaxed and calm birth, or you're feeling anxious about any part of bringing your baby into the world, contact us for a chat. Our programme has been designed with the help of a highly experienced Midwife with over 20 years experience and literally thousands of babies under her belt! Visit  www.questhypnotherapy.co.uk/hypnobirthing  or email info@questhypnotherapy.co.uk
By Geraldine Joaquim 09 Jun, 2017
As we head into the second half of the school summer term, it signals a period of change for several year groups: Year 2's may be leaving their Infant schools and moving into Juniors, Year 6's may be preparing to make the move from Primary or Junior schools to Secondary, and the Year 11's get ready to sit their GCSE's. It can be an exciting time for many but for some it may represent a big step into the unknown, a time of feeling the overwhelm rather than a natural progression.

It is worth preparing our youngsters to embrace this term, whatever their views on these changes, and especially for those sitting their GCSE's it can be important to give them some perspective. It can feel like this is a crucial time, laying down the foundation for their future progression in academia and further on into their careers but this can cause a lot of anxiety and stress, and ultimately hinder the students as they feel themselves sinking beneath the pressure.

And preparing your child does not need to entail a lengthy lecture but rather a quiet chat to gauge where they are on the emotional scale: worried, coping, anxious, excited, even not bothered. It gives them an opening to air their views and get things off their chest, and that can be all that is needed, a sense that you are with them on their journey into adulthood.

Intrinsically children are selfish, it's hardwired into their DNA to look after themselves and this narrow vision often means that the events they face seem bigger than reality - literally life or death. 

Just this week (May 2017) the BBC reported that the GCSE English Literature examination papers included an error in one of the questions:

"One of the country's biggest exam boards, OCR, has admitted to an error in Friday's English Literature GCSE exam, taken by around 14,000 teenagers. The mistake related to a question on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in which the family background of a key character, Tybalt, was mixed up. It suggested he is a Montague when in fact he is a Capulet."

And of course there was an outcry:

"...head teachers said the error was 'serious'. "

"Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said when candidates see errors in a paper it can undermine their confidence...This appears to be a serious error and it will have caused stress and concern to candidates."

"One pupil ... said: "I got to the question, I read it, and read it again and thought that doesn't make sense. It really threw me off - it had been fine until then, and then this happened... We had all tried so hard and made so much effort, and then for the board to mess it up, it's just terrible. It's so distracting - afterwards everybody was so worried and stressed that they had got it wrong. You don't expect something like that on your exam."

And a teacher tweeted:

"Our Year 11s have worked so hard studying Romeo and Juliet for their #gcse and have been completely let down by #ocr - please RT for them"

But shouldn't we use these instances as a learning tool? Although they are rare they do happen and will inevitably happen again - after all these exams are written by humans who are not infallible despite the checks that are in place to prevent them. Do these instances not represent what happens in real life, life outside school and beyond into adult life? Real life is not perfect, people make mistakes, it happens.

In fact these instances can encourage another dimension beyond learning and that's self-thinking. It's about opening your eyes, not just learning for the sake of passing a test but actually learning and being able to apply the knowledge. No one could argue with an answer that begins "I believe the question is wrong, it should be..."

This would demonstrate a confidence in the student's knowledge right from the outset and a maturity in the student to stand up and point out the error, not an easy thing to do by any means, but something that should be applauded as a step towards maturity.

So part of learning could include empowering the students to question what is in front of them - and that helps prepare them for an imperfect world where they will inevitably come up against instances when they will need to use their judgement, not just blindly accept what they are being told. This is an invaluable lesson in being an independent self-thinking individual.

And isn't that as valuable a lesson as getting the question right? It builds resilience, a confidence to question.

A young student may feel their whole world hangs on them getting good results when, with some perspective, the reality is that if they fail it isn't the end of the world. It might just mean it takes a little longer to get their feet on the path they choose - or even deciding to go a different way. And that's not a free pass to forget about revision, it is still important to try their best!

But helping them build a little resilience now may help them grow in confidence, and help them cope so much better with life.

If your child is feeling the overwhelm, it can be very useful for them to talk through their worries with a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist to gain some clarity of thought and to help deal with any anxiety they may have. Using a combination of clinical hypnotherapy and psychotherapy, we can help children as young as 6 years old to gain control over their feelings. If you would like to learn more, contact us for a chat info@questhypnotherapy.co.uk

More Posts
Share by: