What if you were your own best friend?

Do you have a best friend or a group of friends that you enjoy spending time with? If so, what do you like about them? Why does it feel good to be with them? Sometimes we like people because they share our interests, or our sense of humour sometimes we enjoy their company because we like the fundamental qualities they have like honesty, trust, loyalty or support. When we think of our friends we do so with admiration and warmth noticing all the good things that make them special to us.

Now I want you to imagine having a ‘friend’ that constantly judges you, and that thinks nothing of calling you stupid or fat or useless. A friend who has difficulty in forgiving you for even the smallest of mistakes and who does this on a daily basis. How do you think your relationship would last with such a hard critique of your perceived faults?

For many people they have a friend like this. The one that exists in their head judging them harshly for every misdemeanour and imperfection. It’s no wonder that we sometimes struggle with self esteem or the ability to challenge ourselves to achieve more than we think is possible. How we speak to and about ourselves is just as important as how we speak to each other. Most of us would not dream of talking to our friends in the same way that we talk to ourselves and let’s face it, if we did we would not have any friends left.

When we continually criticise ourselves we are doing ourselves a terrible disservice and creating a negative relationship in which we feel unsupported, unloved and unworthy. So for all of you out there that recognise that you have been giving space to this unhelpful friend take a moment to stop. Imagine that you can transform that voice into the best friend that you could ever wish to have.

How different would it feel to be talked to in a wholly positive way? It doesn’t mean that you can get away with being badly behaved, as a good friend will be honest and always keep you on track. It means that criticism becomes constructive and you would be supported and encouraged to be the best possible version of you that you can be. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a friend like that you could talk to everyday?

I want to challenge you to try it. Actively engage in the process of transforming that voice in your head to create a new best friend. Try it for a week and I doubt that you would want to invite that old voice back. So please give it a go and let me know how you get on.

K

The Little Book of Stress Busters

pocket book of stressbusters

stressbusters bookMany years ago I worked for a large telecoms corporation. My job was very stressful. I was bombarded with targets, performance parameters and quite often unhappy customers. I saw many people around me suffering from signs of stress; panic attacks, lethargy, and general feelings of being unwell and unable to cope. There was a significant number of people over the 17 years I worked there on long term sick leave.

Stress has always interested me. What makes one person more able to cope than another? What causes a person to become stressed? It’s often not one big thing but an accumulation of small pressures that build over time. So how do we manage stress? What can we do to help ourselves?

I began to collect ideas and techniques that people used and found helpful to manage their stress and in combination with what I have learnt in the last 7 years as a hypnotherapist have collected some of the most useful and put them into a book.

So I am really excited to announce that The Pocket book of Stress Busters is now here. It is a collection of tips and techniques that are simple yet powerful ways to help you manage stress. So if you or anyone you know would benefit please share the link and I look forward to hearing how you get on.

Click here to see it on Amazon.co.uk, The Pocket Book of Stress Busters

Creating your world and feeling vulnerable

One of the aspects of my job that I particularly enjoy is personal development. Coaching clients to progress, to achieve, to become the best possible versions of themselves is a real privilege. Often all that is holding them back is a thought or a worry about ‘what if’.

The ‘what if’ is usually about vulnerability, ‘what if it doesn’t work?’, ‘what if I don’t succeed?’, ‘What if they don’t like it?’

We use our ‘what if’ as a shield protecting us from disappointment, criticism and from the threat of being disliked. But ‘what if’ we used it in a different way?

Many years ago I was considering embarking on an Open University degree that, part-time would take six years to complete and was discussing my indecision with a friend. My reason for not doing it? I would be 40 by the time it was completed. My friend took a breath and said ‘you’ll be 40 anyway’.

It was a challenging six years in which I experienced exceptional highs and horrible lows. Any time my work came back with constructive feedback about where I could improve I would view it as criticism and in my mind that meant that I was not good enough. Any time my work came back with positive feedback I felt that I was lucky or that I still could have done better.

In my penultimate year, with one essay to go I gave up. Just like that. The stress of trying to be good enough, the feeling of being judged, my own expectations of what I should achieve all got the better of me and I quit. Then I spoke to my friend.

‘What if you just finish this year?’ she said. ‘It’s only one essay and then you can give up and never have to do another one in your life after that?’

That ‘what if’ was powerful. What if I did do just one more essay? What if I did one more year? What if I did something for no other reason than I wanted to do it? Those ‘what if’s’ resulted in a completed degree in psychology.

Our ‘what if’s’ can become a beacon of possibility instead of a shield of protection enabling us to think about what we are capable of and beyond. It’s one of the things that I ask people to consider when they tell me all the reasons why they can’t or shouldn’t do something.

It’s OK to feel vulnerable, it’s part of moving forward, of developing confidence and creating a world in which you are the person you want to be. So think about what you would like to achieve this year and get ‘the what if’s’ working for you.

Breathing – using it to help you relax

One of the tools I often give clients to practice is a technique called 7/11 breathing. It may seem strange to think of breathing as a technique because it’s something we usually do without thinking about it. But breathing in a particular way can create an amazing change in the way that you feel.

I often suggest that people try it when they feel stressed or anxious and although it can take a little while to get used to doing it the ability to control and manage your own state of anxiety is extremely empowering.

With permission I wanted to share this feedback that I received from a client of her experience of mindful breathing

”Tension is building in the sky. A storm is coming and feels inevitable. The dark clouds are clumping together creating a seemingly breakable force of anger and foreboding. But I’m distracted for moment and, when I look to the heavens once more, I see that a breath of wind has arrived.  Not an angry, destructive wind, but rather waves of gentle, calming, unassuming breeze which are just enough to break the clouds and allow a chink of sunlight to peep through. What seemed a moment ago to be an impossibly foregone conclusion of rain and misery now seems to have been lifted by just a few calming and refreshing breaths which allowed a ray of sunlight to break through and carried the atmosphere to entirely different place. I think I’ll go out for a walk now… It looks nice outside….”

I think it’s a lovely way to describe what happens when 7/11 breathing is used effectively to create enough space to allow a ray of sunlight to break through and enable you to choose how you get on with the rest of your day.

So please try it for yourself and see how you get on, think about how you feel before you’ve tried it and then after you’ve tried it.

Find a space where you will not be disturbed and sit or lie comfortably closing your eyes.

Keep your shoulders down and take a really deep breath – it can be helpful to put your hand on your stomach to feel it inflating as we often breathe into the chest instead.

As you breath out just allow the out breath to extend so that it lasts longer than the in breath. A good way to do this is to breathe in to the count of 7, then breathe out gently for a count of 11.

If you can’t breathe out for that long, hold your breath for the remainder of the time while you keep counting to 11 and then breath in again. Alternatively, try breathing in to the count of 3 and out, more slowly to the count of 5.

Do this about 10 or 20 times concentrating on the counting. You may find that your mind wanders and that’s fine. Any time you notice that it has just gently bring it back to focus on the breath.

It’s really that simple but it can make a big difference so good luck and I’d love to hear how you get on.

Think small

As we head towards the end of January I wonder how many New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside?

Making resolutions isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What makes them unsustainable is that we want to change too much too soon. I was speaking to a friend who confessed her resolution to give up sugar had survived for less than 2 days.

Why should a positive change be so hard to stick to? Because it’s too big. In the sugar example there are lots of things to think about. Sugar is in a lot of food stuffs. In order to give it up you need to prepare, organise and plan what you are going to eat. You need to consider what happens if you go out to eat or if someone invites you over for dinner? You need to know all the foods that have sugar hidden within them. Making a change is often more complicated than we initially think.

So if you are one of the people that are already mourning the untimely departure of your resolution I want to challenge you to start thinking small. Instead of focusing on the end goal think about the smallest change you can make instead.

What is the one thing you can do to begin to work towards your ultimate goal? It may be cutting out that teaspoon of sugar in your coffee or having one night a week that is alcohol free. Build on success. Every small step you take is a step towards accomplishing your objective. It’s rare that success is instant. Instead it is a series of small steps and sometimes we may even take a few steps backwards but that’s fine just keep your eye on the goal and learn from your mistakes.

So as we look forward to the year ahead think about the changes you would like to make and what you can do to make the smallest change possible.

Change one thing

Change one thingAs I was searching for a topic for this weeks’ blog I came across this story which was published in The Hypnotherapy Journal Issue 1 volume 13. I love it because it shows how one small thing can change your whole perspective and quite literally your life.

Erickson who is referred to throughout the piece is Milton Erickson a leader in the use and development of hypnosis.

‘A favourite aunt of Erickson’s colleagues was living in Milwaukee and had become seriously depressed. When Erickson gave a lecture there, the colleague asked him to visit the aunt and see if he could help her.

The woman had inherited a fortune and lived in the family mansion. But she lived all alone, never having married, and by now had lost most of her close relatives. She was in her 60s and had medical problems that put her in a wheelchair and severely curtailed her social activities. She had begun to hint to her nephew that she was thinking of suicide.

After Erickson finished his lecture, he took a taxi to the aunt’s house. She was expecting him, having been told by her nephew that he was coming. She met Erickson at the door and gave him a tour of the large house. She had had the house remodelled to allow wheelchair access, but other than that, it appeared as if nothing had changed since the 1890’s. The furniture and household decorations showed a faded glory, smelling of must. Erickson was struck by the fact that all the curtains were kept closed, making the house a depressing place indeed. The aunt saved the very best for last, however, and finally ushered Erickson into the greenhouse nursery attached to the house. This was her pride and joy; she had a green thumb and spent many happy hours working with the plants. She proudly showed him her latest project taking cutting from her African Violets and starting new plants.

In the discussion that followed, Erickson found out that the woman was very isolated. She had previously been quite active in her local church, but since her confinement to a wheelchair she attended church only on Sundays. Because there was no wheelchair access to the church, she hired her handyman to give her a ride to church and lift her into the building after the services had started, so she wouldn’t disrupt the flow of foot traffic into the church. She also left before services had ended, again so she wouldn’t block traffic.

After hearing her story, Erickson told her that her nephew was worried about how depressed she had become. She admitted that it had become quite serious. But Erickson told her that he thought depression was not really the problem. It was clear to him that her problem was that she was not being a very good Christian. She was taken aback by this and began to bristle, until he explained. ‘Here you are with all this money, time on your hands, and a green thumb. And it’s all going to waste. What I recommend is that you get a copy of your church membership list and then look in the latest church bulletin. You’ll find announcements of births, illnesses, graduations, engagements, and marriages in there – all the happy and sad events in the life of people in the congregation. Make a number of African Violet cuttings and get them well established. The repot them in gift pots and have your handyman drive you to the homes of people who are affected by these happy or sad events. Bring them a plant and your congratulations or condolences and comfort, whichever is appropriate to the situation.’

Hearing this, the woman agreed that perhaps she had fallen down on her Christian duties and agreed to do more.

Twenty years later, as I was sitting in Erickson’s office, he pulled out one of his scrapbooks and showed me an article from the Milwaukee Journal ( or whatever the local paper was called). It was a feature article with a large headline that read, ‘African Violet Queen of Milwaukee Dies, Mourned by Thousands.’…

From O’Hanlon, B; Do one thing Different William Morrow pp 6-8

So if there was one thing that you could do today what would it be?