Keeping calm when the world around you isn't

  • By Geraldine Joaquim
  • 11 Jan, 2018

Living in the modern world isn't easy...

Why do we lash out at others when we get stressed, when did strangers start having arguments with strangers over the minutiae of life?  Particularly in highly populated areas and at times of stress, such as using the tube at rush hour or crowding together to read the train arrival/departure boards in the evening...  When did we all get so mean?

Underneath our very modern exteriors, we are still cavemen and women. The human race has evolved over millions of years however civilisation as we know it has only been around for a few thousand years, so it’s understandable that our brains haven’t quite caught up yet. 

The brain is made up of 2 main areas (tube-map version!): the Intellectual brain which is our conscious part, and the Primitive brain, our subconscious, whose sole role is to manage our survival. When we operate out of our intellectual brain we usually make rational, considered decisions however when we feel threatened we lose that intellectual control, the primitive mind takes over and it always operates under the freeze/flight/fight response (otherwise known as depression, anxiety or anger).

This system kept our ancestors alive and enabled them to anticipate danger. Now in our modern world, we no longer face life-threatening situations every time we step outside our front doors – but to our Primitive brain, any situation that has the potential to jeopardise our life or is a ‘road block’ to us getting what it thinks we need, is perceived as life threatening and thus a chain of reactions is activated. The Amygdala (freeze/flight/fight centre) sends a message to the Hippocampus (stores our patterns of behaviour), if a negative match or no match is found the Hypothalamus is activated which releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, getting us ready to act.

So, what has this got to do with us getting so mean and stressed? Our everyday lives are strewn with roadblocks – for instance, every time we can’t find a parking space, or we’re late for a meeting… or we enter a Tube station. We potentially face danger in the form of missed trains, pushing crowds, other people’s stress or anger, machines not working, racing against the clock… so our Amygdala is on constant alert pushing us into the fall back positions of depression (freeze), anxiety (flight) or anger (fight). Quite literally we are ready to react as if it were a life or death situation whilst being quite unaware of it. And that anxiety doesn’t have to happen all at once, it can build up gradually until one day you find your heart is pounding, your forehead is clammy, your palms are sweaty, your stomach is churning and you simply cannot face going down those stairs to the Tube, on the verge of a full blown panic attack. And this fight/flight response is going on in every person, every day. Some people are predisposed to anger more readily than others, or to anxiety or depression but we all have those potentials. As we live closer and faster lives, the survival system is switched on more and more and without allowing down time, it becomes hyper-alert.

So how do we stop it?  Quite simply we need to make a conscious choice to remain in our intellectual brain, to make rational and positive decisions rather than operating from our emotional, primitive brain. The more we practise being positive (smiling at a stranger, noticing blue sky, holding a door open), the better we become at it.  

And this isn't just a woolly concept of being more positive, when we change our thinking we also change the balance of chemicals that are floating around our systems increasing hormones like serotonin which helps to cap those stress hormones, and makes us feel happier - and we feel happier because we are happier.

Sleep. This is the most under-rated pillar of health (we all know about exercise and nutrition but sleep is pivotal to good physical and mental health), it has been marginalised by modern living as we strive to make more use of our waking hours. 

And using talking therapies such as CBT, NLP, hypnotherapy, coaching, counselling, etc that can help people cope with modern living, helping them to cope better with stress.  

If you would like to gain control of your thoughts and live a more positive life, contact geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk for a chat to see how we can help get you back on track to the real you


By Geraldine Joaquim 15 Jan, 2018
Watch out, watch out, Blue Monday's about!
But what is Blue Monday?  According to Google, it's the third Monday of the New Year and is claimed to be the most depressing day of the year.

Actually it's a made up day reputed to be part of a press release from a holiday company - something to do with getting us to spend some money on a holiday, perhaps?  To be fair, following the glitz and sparkle of Christmas and the potential of the New Year, by the time we get to the start of the third week in January it does look a little grim... we're waiting for the bank account to stop squeaking from the thrashing it got over Christmas and our New Year's resolution is already a fading memory, the trousers still won't do up after the excesses of eating and drinking and we're probably facing the third or fourth storm of the year already - and we've been back at work for a couple of weeks.

So perhaps it's natural to feel a bit down on Blue Monday, and what better remedy than turning our thoughts to a hot, sunny holiday?

And actually that's not such a bad idea - barring emptying the bank account even more!  Our primitive brain (the subconscious part) can't tell the difference between imagination and reality, when we worry about bad things happening, such as going into the overdraft or stressing out about losing weight, we activate the freeze/flight/fight system.  To our primitive brain those negative thoughts are as good as real and they're life threatening so the chemical balance in our bodies and minds shifts, with more stress hormones being released to keep us in readiness for action.

This is such an effective system it's why you're sitting there reading this, it kept your ancestors alive.

But in our modern lives we don't face life or death situations so our brilliant but imperfect brains see everything that acts as a barrier to us getting what we want as life or death, so the empty bank account becomes a terrifying Saber-toothed tiger, and our primitive brain activates the physical system releasing cortisol and adrenaline (this is how anxiety, depression and anger issues develop).

But using the very same system, when we positively forecast (i.e. think about that holiday) we release happy hormones like serotonin.  By releasing serotonin, we stay in a coping mode - it helps us cope with day to day activities, it helps us cope with fear, it even helps us cope with physical pain - and it helps to cap the release of cortisol.  This was how we evolved as humans, the more we felt good about something (surviving, supporting ourselves and our families, interacting with other tribe members) the more we wanted to do it and it acts as a catalyst for mentally healthy behaviour, and this still holds true for today's modern humans.  So when we interact in a positive way , are active in a positive way and think in a positive way we create patterns in the brain that give us that constant flow of serotonin.

So perhaps Blue Monday isn't such a bad idea, if it gets us focusing on positive things like spring coming or going on holidays... and we can help ourselves feel better by seeing today as the start of a brand new week, when we can pursue those dreams, and we can tick off being a day closer to the weekend...

If you want to change your thinking to be a more positive person being able to cope better with life, hypnotherapy can help.  Contact us on geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk or if your company would benefit from opening up the conversation on mental health in the workplace contact info@mind-yourbusiness.co.uk  


By Geraldine Joaquim 11 Jan, 2018

Why do we lash out at others when we get stressed, when did strangers start having arguments with strangers over the minutiae of life?  Particularly in highly populated areas and at times of stress, such as using the tube at rush hour or crowding together to read the train arrival/departure boards in the evening...  When did we all get so mean?

Underneath our very modern exteriors, we are still cavemen and women. The human race has evolved over millions of years however civilisation as we know it has only been around for a few thousand years, so it’s understandable that our brains haven’t quite caught up yet. 

The brain is made up of 2 main areas (tube-map version!): the Intellectual brain which is our conscious part, and the Primitive brain, our subconscious, whose sole role is to manage our survival. When we operate out of our intellectual brain we usually make rational, considered decisions however when we feel threatened we lose that intellectual control, the primitive mind takes over and it always operates under the freeze/flight/fight response (otherwise known as depression, anxiety or anger).

This system kept our ancestors alive and enabled them to anticipate danger. Now in our modern world, we no longer face life-threatening situations every time we step outside our front doors – but to our Primitive brain, any situation that has the potential to jeopardise our life or is a ‘road block’ to us getting what it thinks we need, is perceived as life threatening and thus a chain of reactions is activated. The Amygdala (freeze/flight/fight centre) sends a message to the Hippocampus (stores our patterns of behaviour), if a negative match or no match is found the Hypothalamus is activated which releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, getting us ready to act.

So, what has this got to do with us getting so mean and stressed? Our everyday lives are strewn with roadblocks – for instance, every time we can’t find a parking space, or we’re late for a meeting… or we enter a Tube station. We potentially face danger in the form of missed trains, pushing crowds, other people’s stress or anger, machines not working, racing against the clock… so our Amygdala is on constant alert pushing us into the fall back positions of depression (freeze), anxiety (flight) or anger (fight). Quite literally we are ready to react as if it were a life or death situation whilst being quite unaware of it. And that anxiety doesn’t have to happen all at once, it can build up gradually until one day you find your heart is pounding, your forehead is clammy, your palms are sweaty, your stomach is churning and you simply cannot face going down those stairs to the Tube, on the verge of a full blown panic attack. And this fight/flight response is going on in every person, every day. Some people are predisposed to anger more readily than others, or to anxiety or depression but we all have those potentials. As we live closer and faster lives, the survival system is switched on more and more and without allowing down time, it becomes hyper-alert.

So how do we stop it?  Quite simply we need to make a conscious choice to remain in our intellectual brain, to make rational and positive decisions rather than operating from our emotional, primitive brain. The more we practise being positive (smiling at a stranger, noticing blue sky, holding a door open), the better we become at it.  

And this isn't just a woolly concept of being more positive, when we change our thinking we also change the balance of chemicals that are floating around our systems increasing hormones like serotonin which helps to cap those stress hormones, and makes us feel happier - and we feel happier because we are happier.

Sleep. This is the most under-rated pillar of health (we all know about exercise and nutrition but sleep is pivotal to good physical and mental health), it has been marginalised by modern living as we strive to make more use of our waking hours. 

And using talking therapies such as CBT, NLP, hypnotherapy, coaching, counselling, etc that can help people cope with modern living, helping them to cope better with stress.  

If you would like to gain control of your thoughts and live a more positive life, contact geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk for a chat to see how we can help get you back on track to the real you


By Geraldine Joaquim 02 Jan, 2018

To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there's the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” 

William Shakespeare, Hamlet


Sleep is as necessary to our well being as good nutrition and exercise, yet it is probably the most abused pillar of health.   From the moment our caveman ancestors discovered fire, we have been pushing back the night and we now readily 'steal' from our sleep time to augment the day.  So if you find it difficult to switch off and find that elusive land of nod, here are a few tips that can help:

1. Routine is key: around 60-90 minutes before you want to be sleep, start winding down (do the washing up, dim the lights, turn off electronics).  This signals to your brain that it is time for sleep and melatonin production can kick in (that's the hormone that controls our wake and sleep cycles)

2. Use a relaxation audio when it's time to go to sleep as it helps lead your brain into sleep gently - and even if it doesn't feel like it's working at the beginning keep persevering.  We learn by repetition so the brain will eventually get with the programme and wind down.  Relaxation audios also benefit the listener as they get you straight into the REM phase of sleep, the part when our brains are processing events that have happened giving you the best chance of quality sleep

3. Progressive muscle relaxation: starting at the top of the head and working down to the toes focusing on each muscle group in your body, tensing selected muscles for a few seconds and then slowly relaxing them over 20-30 seconds.  Breath steadily throughout - and don't worry, no one can see what you're doing in the dark! 

  • Face: Lift your eyebrows to wrinkle your forehead, and then slowly relax and let the tension out of your forehead. Close your eyes tightly and then relax and slowly open them. Tense your lips, cheeks, and jaw muscles by grimacing, and then feel a sense of serenity come over your face as you relax all your facial muscles at once.
  • Shoulders and arms: Bring your shoulders toward your ears, tensing your muscles, and then slowly let them relax. Starting with your upper arms, flex your biceps, and then relax, letting the tension out of your muscles. Tense your forearms, and then slowly let them relax.
  • Chest and abdomen: Take a deep breath and tense the muscles within your chest and abdomen, and then slowly exhale as you relax these muscles.
  • Back: Flex the muscles in your back as you arch them on the floor or bed, and then relax and let the stress and tension go out of your back muscles.
  • Hips and buttocks: Tighten the muscles in your hips and buttocks, and then slowly release the tension and feel the stress leaving this area of your body.
  • Legs and feet: Flex your leg muscles, squeezing your legs together, and then slowly relax. Flex your feet for a few seconds, and then relax them. Curl your toes, and then slowly let them return to neutral.

When trying anything new, it takes practise so persevere with these techniques - they do work.

If you would like more help with sleep related issues, hypnotherapy has a good track record with alleviating symptoms.  Call us on 01798 344879 or email geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk for a chat

By Geraldine Joaquim 02 Jan, 2018
As we head into another year, it can be a time of relief as the last year closes if it's been a shocker, sadness if it's been great.  And there's also the optimism that a new year brings, or slight trepidation for some as a brand new year stretches out ahead... whatever you feel it's useful to take this time to evaluate and plan how you want things to go.

This doesn't mean putting together spreadsheets and 5-year plans, just spend a moment to reflect on where you are now, where you want to be and how you're going to get there.  This is a solution focused attitude, acknowledging the past but not getting mired down in it - after all what has happened, has happened and you can't change it, you can only change how you think about it.

So whether it's for business or personal life, block out a couple of hours to define what you want.  It's useful to break the year down into quarters and individual months, chunking it down makes it a less daunting task, and remember that the aim is not to set a concrete plan in place, it should be made with the knowledge that it's flexible and needs to evolve as the year progresses and as you yourself change in that time.  We are not static creatures stuck in the same existence day after day, we have thoughts, feelings, desires and the ability to change ourselves, if not our environment.

And it can be useful seeking help from outside, using a business or life coach or talking therapy to gain clarity in your thoughts.  Therapists are often used as sounding boards and 'borrowing' another brain can give you perspective on your situation and realism in your future wants.  They also provide a degree of accountability which can make the difference between wishing something would happen and making it a reality.

Lists are useful, if nothing else they give you somewhere to start, a focus to hang that rest of your plans on.  Try dividing your intentions into 3 or 4 key areas such as relationships, work, well being, etc and jot down a few bullet points.  You will find that your plans start to flow out of that rather than staring at a blank page. 

And using a diary, note down key dates, holidays, birthdays, work projects, anything that you have already booked in as these start to add structure in your year.  Anyone with children at school or university will know the difference between a blank year and one filled with term start and end dates, exams, etc.

It's a good idea to keep referring back to your plans and ideas along the way, not to castigate yourself for actions not done but just to refer back to your original ideas, using them as a start point to see how far along you are and where you still need to go.  With today's busy lifestyles, set aside a couple of hours every month (make an appointment with yourself in your diary to do this, it gives it importance and makes it more probable that you will do it rather than just leaving it to a spare moment).

If you're a blogger, use twitter or need to send newsletters this formalisation of your year can be invaluable, enabling you to pre-plan blogs and feeds around relevant dates, help you identify when product launches would be best, and prevent those last minute stresses.  This might seem like a lot of work but it really will reap rewards and make better use of your time in a more organised way.

And remember, this is a working document which should change as the year progresses.

If you would like help bringing clarity to your plans for 2018, get in touch for a chat about how hypnotherapy can help
01798 344879 
www.questhypnotherapy.co.uk  geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk
www.mind-yourbusiness.co.uk   info@mind-yourbusiness.co.uk 

By Geraldine Joaquim 02 Jan, 2018

To Sleep, William Wordsworth (1770–1850)

 A Flock of sheep that leisurely pass by

    One after one; the sound of rain, and bees

    Murmuring; the fall of rivers, winds and seas,

    Smooth fields, white sheets of water, and pure sky:-

 I’ve thought of all by turns, and still I lie

    Sleepless; and soon the small birds’ melodies

    Must hear, first utter’d from my orchard trees,

    And the first cuckoo’s melancholy cry.

Even thus last night, and two nights more I lay,

    And could not win thee, Sleep! By any stealth:

    So do not let me wear to-night away:

Without thee what is all the morning’s wealth?

    Come, blessed barrier between day and day,

    Dear mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health!

Why do we sleep , that's the purpose of spending several hours in an inert state and what happens within us during that time?  We are still learning about the workings of our bodies and especially about what happens in the brain.  With advances in technology, neuroscientists are becoming better able to 'see' into the inner workings of the brain.

We do know that sleep is an activity that crosses almost every species from the highest forms (like mammals) to the simplest (like nematodes).  Some do it standing up, some create mucus cocoons to hide themselves away from predators, some sleep during the day, and some at night, but however they get sleep, we can deduce that it has the same benefit across all participants and is clearly important with deep evolutionary origins.

It is widely accepted that sleep allows activities like waste clearing, cell renewal and repair which is essential for a healthy life, and we are learning more about what happens in the brain during this rest period.

In the state of sleep it is known that we go through several cycles of light sleep, deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement).  Each cycle lasts roughly 90-120 minutes long and they reduce as we near the end of sleep.  REM is our dreaming phase and it is when our brains re-run events from the previous day/week/month/years ago, processing them and deciding if we need to keep them 'live' or whether we can move them back into our memory banks - it doesn't mean we forget the event ever happened, but we no longer think about it or 'feel' it with the same emotional intensity.

During sleep our motor systems are turned off to prevent us from injuring ourselves - if  we started acting out some of our dreams whilst in an unconscious state we might get into serious trouble, sleepwalking our way onto a busy road or out the window perhaps!  A small number of people wake up with their motor neurons still switched off, giving them a frightening sense of being paralysed although this state doesn't typically last long.

Whatever the reason for sleep, we know that sleep is essential for normal brain function.  Without enough sleep we suffer from impaired cognitive ability, our immune system is compromised and being sleep-deprived can lead to issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, low sex drive, risk of heart disease.  Sustained lack of sleep (over several years) has even been linked to Alzheimer's Disease.

So why not use the Festival of Sleep Day on 3 January as an excuse for an early night and enjoy sinking into your bed for a well-deserved 8 hours of sleep, you'll be doing yourself a world of good!

If you suffer from poor sleep, either in quality or quantity, hypnotherapy can help you get back on track.  Call us on 01798 344879 or email geraldine@questhypnotherapy.co.uk for a chat

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
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