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The Emotional Cycle of Change

What Is The Emotional Cycle of Change?

The emotional cycle of change, as developed by Kelley and Conner in 1979, is a description of the most common experiences we go through emotionally when facing change.

It doesn’t always happen in the same order for all people in all situations but it is well documented and most people resonate with it.

Even if it doesn’t quite fit for you, there will still be elements of it that you experience and you can still benefit from understanding it better.

Some people don’t experience the emotions in the way they are described but that doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting you all the same

What Does The Emotional Cycle Of Change Look Like?

Here is a simple visualisation of the cycle and what to expect:

A Graphical representation of the emotional cycle of change.
The Emotional Cycle of Change represented in a graph

Uninformed Optimism

Before starting something new we often feel very optimistic. We are uninformed of exactly what is to come and we are excited about the changes and the benefits we expect.

“This is Exciting!”

Informed Pessimism

As we get started we then realise just how much we have to do or learn. We realise a lot of the things that we didn’t even know we didn’t know. We now feel informed and that we understand what is to come but we feel less positive about our ability to create or handle the changes.

“Why did I think this was a good idea?” “This is going to be really tough.”

The Pit of despair

The charming name given to the bottom of this curve. This is where people will often back off only to repeat the first part of this slope again. Pushing through this bit is often the hardest part but it is also key. What follows just gets easier when you get out of the pit.

One powerful key to making this part easier is to TALK about it. Realise that you have support around you and that you are not alone in experiencing this. Reminding yourself of this ‘cycle’ and remembering that this is where the magic really happens.

The difference here is often the ‘make or break’ in many situations. The difference? Simply whether you see it for what it is and push through… or not.

Hopeful Realism

You have got over the hardest parts. You now feel more hopeful (which in turn makes further progress easier) and you are better informed of what you need to do from here on. Everything gets easier from here.

Informed Optimism

You’ve made it! From here you feel optimistic about the future but this optimism is based on knowledge and experience.

Understanding the cycle above doesn’t necessarily change anything but for many it makes it easier to accept the different elements of the cycle. Acceptance is a key part in embracing change – you can read more about that in my blog about the different elements of change.

If you’d like further support in managing change and your emotional responses to it, please get in touch to find out how Duncan can help you.

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I Don’t Belong Here!

Ever felt like you don’t belong? Like you don’t really deserve to be where you are? Maybe you feel like people overestimate your abilities or as though you only got where you are due to chance and you could be exposed at any moment?

Whether you feel that way most of the time or just now and again in moments of doubt following a bad day, the good news is… YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

This is commonly described as Imposter syndrome and it’s entirely normal to feel that way and entirely possible to overcome those feelings.

The first step to beating it is understanding it.

Overcoming imposter syndrome is easier when you understanding it. Imposter syndrome may not be the best name for it as calling it a syndrome implies that it’s far rarer than it actually is. Impostor syndrome is a very common experience. Different studies vary on the number of people affected one study showed that it impacts two thirds of women in the UK. That was just focused on the working environment where some people may not be concerned as much by how people view them as other situations. The key thing is, no matter what study you look at it is extremely common.

It is natural to have doubts about our own abilities. Imposter syndrome has been shown to affect all varieties of industry including those getting onto exclusive courses at respected universities and call centre employees.

Where does it come from?

A subconscious desire for survival encourages us to hold ourselves back and keep within our comfort zone where we feel safe and secure. Historically, keeping in line with our role within a tribe is much safer than trying to break free and achieve bigger and better things. So we are programmed for our survival to desire to stay consistent even when that consistency is holding us back from greatness. The problem with staying within our comfort zone means that we are not growing and if we’re not growing much like water that doesn’t flow we stagnate.

Imposter syndrome is partly influenced by that desire to hold ourselves back and tendency to avoid inconsistency.

Why is it a good thing?

If you are experiencing imposter syndrome. If you feel like you’re not deserving of your position or achievements, the chances are this is an indicator that you’re actually doing something right.

Yes, you read that right, it’s good to feel this way, because it often means you are challenging yourself, developing new skills and achieving something more than you would achieve if you stayed within your comfort zone.

When you’re good at what you do it’s easy to undervalue it when you’re experienced or knowledgeable enough that your work feels relatively easy it’s easy for that to impact your perception of the value such work holds. It’s easy to assume that ‘everyone can do it’ and reinforce beliefs that you aren’t as good as others say you are.

If something feels so easy that anyone can do it that’s probably because you’re on your way to mastering it!

If things feel particularly difficult it likely means that you are doing something new, stretching yourself and achieving more than you are used to.

Either way, it’s a good indicator that you are actually deserving of where you are at. Even if it feels like the opposite.

How does this help?

Now that you know that feeling that way is a sign that you’re doing something right, you are able to take a step back when you feel that way. Realise that it’s just one ‘part of your mind’ which is trying to protect you, creating that doubt. By recognising that, it then becomes easier to accept those feelings. Accepting those feelings allows you to move on from them. You may even be able to embrace the excitement you may be feeling at the same time. This is often present but hidden by the fear and doubt).

A different perspective

There are different levels to our psyche which inform how experience life. On a fairly surface level we have our capabilities, what we are able to do from our experience and skill set. The deepest level is that of our identity. (There are levels between but that’s a whole other article). When we feel inadequate it’s often a result of confusion between these levels. Here’s why:

YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.


When you think about where you want yourself and your business to be in a years time, do you want to be exactly where you are now? Or do you want to have progressed and moved forward? In order to see yourself moving forward and growing you need to be taking on tasks and challenges that are not yet within your capabilities. This is the very essence of growth. When it comes to your capabilities there is a very good chance that you will regularly find yourself in situations where your skill levels are being pushed and you are stretching yourself. In these situations you are not good enough YET to achieve the results you desire. This is a good thing.

The problem comes when we realise that we are not good enough (yet) on the level of capability and mistakenly equate that to not being good enough on the core identity level. This is an error as we are far more than just our capabilities. Every single human is born worthy. And as babies we don’t even doubt that. If we want something; food, attention, a clean nappy – we yell out until we get it. We don’t wait and question if we are deserving of it. It’s only as we grow older that many of us somehow ‘learn’ to believe that we are not so deserving and learn to hide away that very real sense of self-worth.

What to do about it

Next time you experience a situation where you feel like you aren’t good enough, stop. breathe and smile, knowing that it’s a sign that you are doing exactly what you should be doing. Each time you feel that way and choose to embrace it, it becomes easier to react positively and achieve even more next time.

If you find yourself thinking “I’m not good enough” ask yourself to clarify that. Not good enough AT WHAT and FOR WHAT? When you see it as I’m not good enough at X to achieve Y then you can see what action you need to take to get there, what you need to work on or what help you can find from others to achieve the desired outcome. Remember that it’s a capability thing – it’s not about YOU it’s about your current skill level. Well done for pushing yourself and finding a chance to learn and grow.

If you or anyone you know has larger issues with belief, confidence and self-esteem you may like to get in touch to find out how Mind Affinity can help you to stop beating yourself up and start building yourself up instead.

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Mind Magic

The Power Of Words 

It’s long been understood that words have the power to shape reality. From ancient pagan traditions to the eerie world of Voodoo, words have been used to cast spells. But it’s not some dark art lost and forgotten in the depths of history. Words are still being used to shape your reality every single day. That beautifully written prose that transports you to a different world right through to the art of persuasive advertising copy.

The words you are reading right now could nudge you to think about something in a different way, and if they do – who knows what that small change could lead to over time.

So why allow everyone else to hold that power over you? Imagine how different your life could be if you were to start to make conscious decisions about which spells you accept and which you reject.

The Spells That hold You Back

You cast spells that shape your reality all the time but there are no spells more powerful than those you are casting on yourself over and over again. 

Think about the phrases you repeat and the words that you when ‘speaking’ to yourself. Do you use language to beat yourself up and hold yourself back? Naturally, the language we use can have a very different impact on the subconscious than we may intend.  Your words may be leaving you spellbound and blocked from taking action and seeing the opportunities available to you.

Examples of common spells that people cast which hold them back come in the form of negative suggestions and limiting beliefs. Every time you tell yourself that you’re not good enough. Every time you repeat the words “I’m so stupid”. Every time you verbally beat yourself up, you’re just repeating the spells that you’ve been reciting for too long already. Giving them more energy and making the spell stronger.

Take a moment now to think about the spells you commonly cast on yourself and reflect on the wording you use. Write a few down now ready to refer back to later.

Examples: “I always give up when things get tough.”,  “I’m so forgetful.”, 

Your Spells, Your Way.

It’s not the words themselves that change our reality. It’s the impact they have on us which leads us to experience reality differently. Words about reflecting on childhood will evoke wonderful, carefree feelings for many where for others it can bring back memories of a traumatic upbringing. This is why it can be so powerful to learn how to craft the right spells for yourself rather than just learning a new spell from a book or blog.

I could give you a list of ‘affirmations’ (a popular modern use of magic words and spells) for you to repeat to yourself in a mirror every day. Sure, they could be helpful. They will almost definitely be better than spending that time focusing on the negative words some people may often use instead. But – they would be my words, with my meaning and my interpretation. Not yours.

As a hypnotherapist, I’m carful to find the words that work right for the client as an individual. I don’t just use a generic ‘script’ that’s one-size-fits-all. A simple example would be a client that has a negative association with ‘routine’ (after all, routine is boring and restrictive, right?), maybe they would prefer to view it a little differently,. Changing the focus to creating “positive patterns” may make the process feel completely different due to the different interpretations, beliefs and feelings that those words evoke.

Casting Better Spells

There are some simple ways to improve the spells you cast on yourself and those around you. As mentioned above, it’s about finding what works for you but here are some simple and important considerations when creating your own spells. At the end of each of these suggestions I’ll give examples based on developing the examples from above. You may like to take 

Say what you want

So often our language focuses on running away from something rather that running toward something. “I don’t want to feel X”, “I wish I could stop Y”, “I must stop doing Z.” These are all fairly common ways that people answer me when I ask them what they would like to gain from working with me as a therapist.

Turning that language around so that it’s focused instead on what they DO want can be surprisingly powerful in itself. When you find yourself focusing on what you don’t want, mechanically replace that with wording focused on what you DO want and over time your default mindset will shift more and more toward focusing on what you can achieve and, naturally how to get there will be more likely to follow.

Examples:

“I always give up when things get tough.” Becomes “I want to see things through.” Or “I want to embrace the challenges when things don’t go right first time.” 

“I’m so forgetful.” Becomes “I want to improve my memory” or “I want to be better at remembering things.”

Make It Happen NOW

Often, when we do have the right focus, we still use language that makes the makes the spell less effective – or possibly even more of a hindrance. We often talk about what we want as something we would like to experience in the future. Although this is not wrong on a subconscious level, this is like making it a job for your future self rather than something you can act upon right now.

“I want to be healthier” is not as good as “I will be healthier” but better still “I am choosing to be healthier” makes it far more real.

You may have noticed that the this example is also progressive. It’s not just about being better, it’s also about continuing to improve. This gives the statement even more of a positive and ongoing impact.

Examples:

“I want to see things through.” Becomes “I am seeing things through”

“I want to embrace the challenges when things don’t go right first time.”  Becomes “I embrace the challenges…”

“I want to improve my memory” becomes I am improving my memory or “I am focused on getting better at remembering things.”

Put It Into Practice

Look at the examples you thought about above (at the end of the ’Spells That Hold You Back’ section). For each spell, re-write it to make it positive and present tense – bonus points if it’s also progressive.

Which of these spells stand out to you most? Which do you need more of in your life?

Create a routine of repeating them to yourself. This could be as an affirmation every morning or in response to situations where you would previously have cast the negative spell.

It may feel forced and mechanical at first. Like when you lear to drive. To start with you need to think about every gear change, what your foot is going, where your hands are, where to move the gear stick to, etc. Once you get more comfortable you have muscle memory of how to change gear but you still need to be aware of when to change it. Eventually (after around 3000 repetitions) it becomes fully embodied and you change gear without even realising that you have done so.

Repeat these and they will become more powerful and more natural. Keep going and they will become an intrinsic part of who you are.

Taking It Further

The next step from here if you want to really unleash the amazing power of your own mind is to learn more about the subconscious and how to program it to work for you. Check out the details of the next Mind Affinity Self Hypnosis training here.

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16 Benefits of Drinking Water

Water is essential to life as we understand it. There is no life within our current understanding that can survive without it and humans are no exception. Bur it’s not just about survival, there are so many benefits to staying properly hydrated. Here are some examples of how you can benefit from drinking more water.

Hydrating The Brain

Although the brain takes up around 2% of body mass it is responsible for around 20% of energy consumption. It’s no surprise when you consider that it’s responsible for controlling everything the rest of your body does. To function well the brain needs to be hydrated so the first few points are focused on how hydration helps the brain function

  • 1. Water helps your brain cells communicate with each other
  • 2. Water helps your body to clear out waste that would otherwise impair brain function
  • 3. Water carries nutrients to you brain

Linked to these factors, studies have found that staying hydrated leads to:

  • 4. Faster decision making
  • 5. Improved short term memory
  • 6. Improved focus
  • 7. More alertness
  • 8. Improved performance on tests (cognitive tests and in an educational setting)
  • 9. Increased learning ability
  • 10. Generally improved cognitive function

Hydrating for Sleep

  • 11. Drinking more water helps you sleep better

Studies show that hydration levels have an impact on sleep quality too. Improved sleep brings with it many additional benefits (including enhancing many of the points listed above). Here are some of the ways that drinking more water can improve sleep.

  • 12. Longer sleep cycles.

Studies show that dehydration can lead to shortened sleep cycles, causing sleep to be less restful and less refreshing.

  • 13. Temperature Regulation

higher body-fluid levels have been shown to improve temperature regulation. This is especially helpful in achieving more restful sleep.

Hydrating for Mood 

  • 14. Hydration improves your mood

Hydration levels also impact on your mood and emotional wellbeing. Your body needs to be well hydrated to correctly produce and regulate hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. 

  • 15. Dehydration worsens stress

Research shows that people produce more cortisol (referred to as a stress hormone) when dehydrated.

  • 16. It’s good for your skin.

if you have bad skin then the two most impactful things you can do to improve it are: Drink more water and sleep more.

How To Stay Hydrated

In summary, something as simple as drinking more water can improve mental and physical health, mood, sleep and cognitive function. Why wouldn’t you want to embrace all those benefits for such a small amount of effort?

It really doesn’t need to be complicated. Just drink more water. Find a way that helps you to do this. Some people prefer to have bottles of water with them that they can sip and refill easily. Other people find it easier to have glasses of water as they are more likely to drink it that way. Starting the day with a big glass of water as a habit before doing anything else.

How Do I Know If I’m Drinking Enough?

There really is no single rule that says how much you should drink. It does depend on your activity levels, the temperature, diet and more. A simple rule of thumb is to look at the colour of your urine. If you pee and it’s dark in colour then you are already dehydrated – drink more. If it is completely clear then you have been drinking more than you need to (but this isn’t really a problem unless it’s excessive all the time). A light straw is the perfect colour.

Common signs of dehydration include:

  • very infrequent bathroom visits
  • Headaches
  • Dry eyes, skin, mouth and/or that
  • Stress, irritability, mood swings and increase anxiety
  • Fatigue and tiredness, a lack of mental alertness.

You can also follow Mind Affinity on Facebook and Instagram to see daily reminders on your timeline.

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The Power Of Aspiration

What is Positive Aspiration?

To aspire means to seek to attain or achieve a specific goal. Seeing that definition it’s not hard to see why this is reverent to personal development, wellbeing and mental health. Especially when someone is struggling with their mental health it can be tough to shift focus away from the negative. Considering a positive goal and beginning to work toward it – no matter how small the steps – makes it much easier to identify positive actions. Aspiring to something more positive means you can more easily make choices that move you toward what you desire.

Why Do Aspirations Matter?

As a change-focused therapist I work with clients to overcome obstacles that get in their way in order to achieve positive change. It’s not uncommon, at the start of a clients journey, for me to ask what they want to get from our time together to find that the answer is all about what they DON’T want. If you’re looking to create lasting, positive change in your life, it’s worth spending the time to stop and think about what that looks like to you.

Another common question I ask is “How will you know that our time together has been successful?” It’s a great question to get people thinking about what success looks like to them and to focus them on what they are looking to achieve.

Ultimately, it’s easy to get somewhere when you know where it is you are aiming to get to. I also tend to find that during their time working with me, clients often begin to realise that they can get far further than they initially imagined possible and we make sure to reassess what we are aiming for and what potential possibilities exist that previously they hadn’t even considered attainable.

How Does Aspiration Help Achieve Positive Change?

In my article about ‘The ‘A’s Of Change’ I talk about the steps that are involved in creating change. Starting with awareness and acceptance, aspiration is the third step. Once we are honest with ourselves about how things are and we have accepted our reality, we can then look at where we want to get to and be realistic about what will be required to get there.

Studies have shown that thinking about, picturing and visualising a positive future that you aspire to not only makes you feel more positive in the present, it also increases the chances of achieving that aspiration. Of course, aspiration in itself is not enough. You need to take action if you want to create the future you desire but if you don’t even know what that future looks like, how can you begin to get there?

I’m not saying that your vision of the future needs to be crystal clear. I’m not saying that you need to know exactly where you want to be in 10 years time. Your vision can change, you can change and grow your aspirations as you change and grow. But having no aspiration will make it a lot harder to achieve positive growth.

How Do I Choose My Aspiration?

The simple answer to this is to listen to yourself. You already know what matter to you, what makes you happy, what you enjoy, what you are passionate about and what you are passionately against. Taking time to explore your values and think about what matters to you can make it much easier to decide who you want to be and what you want to do and achieve.

There are different types of goal that we may aspire to. Often, when thinking about what you want to achieve and aspire to, it can be easy to focus on outcome goals but aspiration can just as easily be focused on the other options too. It may be worth recognising that you can focus on any of these three elements.

The Three Types Of Goal

There are many different ways to categorise and group goals but for this article I want to look at three main types of goal, which are:

OUTCOME goals.

Outcome goals focus on the end result, what you want to get to. It’s often great to start with the end in mind, even if the end goal changes as you get closer to it. This helps you to remember what you’re aiming for and keep you motivated toward it. This is fundamentally what aspiration is all about.

PROCESS goals

Process goals focus on performing specific tasks or actions. These goals are more about what actions to take and how to behave rather than what you are aiming to achieve. If you don’t really know yet what outcome you are aiming fro you can think more about the processes – or behaviours – that will lead to you to a place where you are better able to move forward. For example, you may want to focus on building and developing positive habits day-by-day. These are great aspirations where you can also see more immediate results.

PERFORMANCE goals

Performance goals look at what you are achieving along the way. For example, if you have a process goal of making more phone calls your performance goal may be about how many of those phone calls convert to a sale. I would advise caution here when thinking about personal growth to focus on what is in your control rather than what may not be. If you are not achieving performance goals, look at what processes may improve this.

Summary

This article really only scratches the surface of aspiration and the benefits it holds. For greater context of how it forms a part of creating positive change, check out my article here:

If you would like further support, please get in touch for an informal chat today.

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How To Deal With Panic Attacks

"Don't Panic" how to deal with panic attacks image

What Is A Panic Attack?

Panic attacks are an extreme stress response. They are an exaggerated version of your body’s normal reaction to fear or danger. Realistically though, they are rarely caused by real danger and far more like to be driven by perceived danger often as a result of anxiety or heightened stress.

What Does A Panic Attack Feel Like?

Panic attacks can really vary from person to person. You could get two people to describe their experience of a panic attack and they could be completely different. So there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to experience or describe it. That said, there are a number of common symptoms and experiences of panic attacks.

The most common physiological symptoms are linked to the effect of hormones that are designed to help you survive stressful situations (adrenaline, cortisol, norepinephrine). So think about what happens to your body when you feel scared or excited, exaggerate it and there you have an idea of what’s happening physically during such and experience.

Common physical symptoms include:

  • Heart rate increase. (Pounding or racing heart)
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Struggling to breathe and/or feeling like you’re choking
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Feeling Dizzy or light-headed
  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Pain in your chest (or elsewhere)
  • Weak legs (trembling or ‘feeling like jelly’)
  • Dissociation – feeling disconnected from your mind, body or surroundings.

During a panic attack it is not uncommon to think/feel/worry that you:

  • Might feint
  • Are having a heart attack
  • Will never get better
  • Are dying
  • Have ‘lost control’

One of the most common things that makes a panic attack worse – especially if you’re not used to the experience, is panicking about the panic itself. When you feel any of the above symptoms it can be very frightening. This often results in further panic and worsening symptoms. The good news is – you WILL get better and there are things you can do to ease the situation.

Most panic attacks will last less than 10 minutes and it’s rare for them to last any longer than 20 minutes.

How To Recognise A Panic Attack

If you have already experienced something which fits the description above and there is no underlying medical cause then it’s most likely a panic attack. That said, It’s worth seeking medical support from your GP if you are unsure, especially if you are unaware of any stress-related causes.

If you feel anxious generally or in specific situations or there is a stressful event of some kind preceding the experience then it’s quite likely to be a panic attack.

If you are looking to recognise a panic attack in someone else then be aware that everyone experiences it differently, reacts differently and therefore displays different behaviour. Some people will be very good at covering it up where others will a lot more visually obvious.

Look for signs of the symptoms listed above or have a conversation with the person after the event if you wish to understand it better. Read on for more on how to support others with panic attacks but for now just know that everyone is different and do your best to understand their individual needs. If in doubt – give them space and time to deal with it in their own way.

Are Panic Attacks Normal?

YES – completely normal and very common.

In the UK it’s reported that as many as one in three people experience panic attacks in their life. So if this includes you then you really are not alone. It’s incredibly common. Some consider it a symptom of our busy, modern lifestyles. I’m inclined to believe that a lack of education and understanding around anxiety and mental health has a key role in that statistic too.

What Causes Panic Attacks?

Panic attacks can be caused by a number of things, most commonly anxiety in some form but other related common causes include:

  • Anxiety (especially generalised anxiety and social anxiety),
  • Some medications and their side effects
  • Past trauma – Trauma can be a scary word but this can relate to a range of difficult past experiences.
  • Stress and your current life situation
  • Physical and mental health conditions

I find that often panic attacks come about after someone attempts to ignore or deny how they are feeling. Someone may begin to feel uncomfortable long before the panic attack but the act of denying and trying to ignore that discomfort just makes things worse until it gets “too much” and the person feels they can no longer ‘control’ it – that’s when the panic attack often occurs. 

The other common experience that people describe are panic attack that seem to “come from nowhere”. This is generally the case where there is an underlying issue – such as unresolved trauma or chronic stress – which is being ignored. It’s almost as if by ‘pushing something down’ and refusing to face it (or not knowing how to) it finds a way to ‘come back up’ in the form of a panic attack, this can even happen in the middle of the night waking you from your sleep.

How can I Avoid Panic Attacks?

“Prevention is better than cure” is a very relevant phrase here. By the time you experience a panic attack you will likely be feeling out of control. It’s much more effective to deal with the underlying factors to stop them from occurring.

The Underlying Problem

If someone is experiencing regular panic attacks there is something causing them. This can often be a trauma that hasn’t been addressed or anxiety in some form that could be better managed and ultimately resolved. When this is dealt with and better understood then the exaggerated fear response is reduced (and ultimately eliminated) and the panic attacks stop.

Addressing trauma and other underlying causes can be a scary idea. People often worry that it will be even worse facing it and dealing with it. In reality – if you’re having panic attacks then it is already having a huge negative impact, the sooner you get the support you need, the sooner you can start feeling better. Get in touch today if you’d like to find out how I can help.

A Different Approach 

Often, the cause of the panic attack is the panic itself. You may be amazed at how easy it can be to change that. If this common experience is familiar to you then you’re in the right place…

Looking back on it, you may not even remember what caused the panic to begin. It may feel like it just came from nowhere. In reality – you were feeling uncomfortable before the panic really set in. Maybe it was the situation you found yourself in. Maybe it was the expectation that you would feel anxious or uncomfortable that was the start of it all. Or maybe it was something seemingly unrelated. Either way, the panic attack probably started as an underlying sense of discomfort before it built into what it became.

You noticed it. You knew what was coming. But you didn’t want it. So you did what anyone would probably do if they didn’t know better. You ignored it. You tried to distract yourself with other thoughts and you kept busy. It probably worked to begin with, right? You carried on and ignored it. But no matter how much you ignored it – it was still there. It didn’t go away. You knew ‘in the back of your mind’ that something still wasn’t right.

So it came back… Only now, it’s worse than before. The sense of panic has built up stronger and it’s harder to ignore. Maybe you can push it down again this time but the pattern repeats. Each time it gets stronger and each time you have less energy to fight it. Eventually, you can fight it no longer and the panic attack sets in.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the most impactful things you can do is to notice it early on, accept that it’s okay to feel that way and respond to it while you have the strength. It’s often worrying about the worry that makes it worse so acceptance place a key role.

How Do I Manage Panic Attacks?

As mentioned above, everyone is different. It would be wrong for me to sit here and tell you what one thing everyone should do during a panic attack to calm themselves down. It’s important to find what works for YOU. But here are some options that many people have found to be incredibly helpful to manage panic attacks when they do come up. Remember, these ‘tools’ and ‘techniques’ aren’t a permanent solution – they are way to manage panic attacks but not having to deal with them to begin with would surely be better. When you’re ready to change that, get in touch to find out how we could work together.

Breathing Techniques

Bringing your attention to your breathing can help you to focus on something other than the panic itself. It can also help ease a lot of the symptoms that would otherwise worsen due to the panicked, fast breathing. There are many different breathing techniques you can use. You may like to try a few different ones and see what suits you best in advance so you have practiced and know what to do.

5-2-7

Breathe in to a slow count of 5. Hold it for a count of 2 and breathe out for a count of 7, then repeat. You may even like to count along to a ticking clock or a second hand on a watch.

All The Way

Start by breathing out normally then breathe in as far as you can, take your time over it and see how far you can breathe in, pause for a moment and then see how long you can breathe out for. Really empty your lungs. Take a couple of normal breaths and then repeat if you wish to.

Breathe OUT

Often when panic sets in people feel they are struggling to breathe so they try to take in as much air as they can. This can often lead to shorter, shallower breaths and a fight to breathe IN when the lungs are already full. Start, instead, by breathing out as far as you can. You may even choose to scream (loud if appropriate or silently if you prefer) to expel as much air as you can – you will naturally breathe in automatically when you brethe out that much and your breathing will likely feel calmer. Another similar option is to imaging out have a candle to blow out but it just won’t go out. Keep this up and your breathing will be able to become more steady and under control.

Safe Place

If you’re at home you can create a physical ‘safe place’ to retreat to in those moments where you need to. What that looks like is up to you but for many it would be full of soft, cozy items. For others it may be a clear, clean, open space.

But you don’t need a physical place to go to, you can take yourself to a safe place in your own mind. When you are calm and happy, take the time to imagine a ‘safe place’ in your own mind. Really imagine what it would be like to be there. It could be a real place you’ve been to, completely imaginary or inspired by something you’ve seen in a photo or on TV. Really think about what you see, hear, feel, smell in this safe place ready to recreate it when you choose to.

Talk

For some this sounds like a terrible option but to others it can be really beneficial. This DOESN’T mean talking to someone else about how you’re feeling. That is an option and it can help but there are other options too.

Bringing your focus to your words activates a different area of the brain and can distract you from focusing on the panic. Some people like to repeat a poem they enjoy or list important people in their lives. Others just list things around them or make up a conversation to shift focus.

Focus On Your Senses

Focusing on your different senses can help to bring you back to the present moment. It’s also a good way of keeping your mind focused on reality rather than the panic and worry in your mind. A common technique that works well for many is…

5,4,3,2,1

Think or 5 things you can see in your surrounding environment. List 4 things you can hear around you. Then list 3 things you can touch or feel around you – or things you can imagine the texture of. Think of 2 things you can smell and finally one thing you can taste. You don’t need to complete all of these steps, you may prefer to focus on listing the things you can see instead. And it doesn’t need to be in that order.

Stimulate

Stimulate your senses and focus on that stimulation. This could be eating a strong mint or chewing gum. It could be smelling some vapour rub, perfume or other strong smell. Maybe for you gently stroking your the back of one hand with the other is something to take your focus.

Tapping

Another popular technique that you can use involves tapping in different areas. The repetitive tapping in itself both distracts and desensitises. EFT is an approach that teaches specific tapping techniques in specific locations but to keep it simple use the points in the image below. Tap on each point (from the top down) counting ten taps before moving to the next point. Focus your attention on how the tapping feels and on breathing while you do it.

EFT tapping points for anxiety and panic attacks

Grounding

There are a number of ‘grounding’ techniques that bring you back to the here and now and promote awareness of you present reality. These can be especially useful for those who feel dissociated during a panic attack. Here are some examples:

Blanket

Covering yourself with a blanket (one with some weight can be helpful) and just allow yourself to focus on how that blanket feels all around you.

Barefoot

Walking barefoot and allowing yourself to ‘connect’ to the earth around you and feel the sensations on your feet can help you feel more grounded and present.

How Do I Help Someone Who Is Having A Panic Attack?

If you don’t really know the person well then I would advise acting on the side of caution. People will often already have their own coping mechanisms and interference from someone they don’t know well could make things worse so don’t get too involved unless welcomed to do so.

Make sure they have space and as much as possibly leave THEM in control of the situation. If they try to move away from people then give them space, if they reach out to you then by all means allow physical contact (where appropriate) to help them feel connected. 

STAY CALM yourself. This situation will pass and they will be okay. Staying calm and centred yourself will make it easier for them to do so. Getting worked up and panic will likely just make the situation worse.

Encouraging calm breathing is generally a good idea and focus but again, don’t try and force anything upon the other person if they don’t feel comfortable with it and make sure they don’t feel crowded.

If you know the person well then you will likely have a better idea of what to offer. Discuss with them afterwards what they would like you to do differently if the situation happens again and let them know that you are there for them without forcing them to talk about it if they don’t want to.

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What Is Acceptance

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What Is Acceptance?

You may have heard coaches, therapists and the like talking about acceptance. Maybe you’ve read about it in my post about how to create lasting change. But what is acceptance all about and why is it so important?

Acceptance is “the act or fact of being received as adequate, valid or suitable.” Within the context of personal growth and wellbeing I would say that VALID is the key word here. When I talk about accepting your emotions, for example, what I really mean is to recognise that your emotions are valid. Not that they are what you would choose, not that you don’t desire something else just that whatever you’re feeling is valid.

Acceptance Is A Choice

If acceptance is ‘the act of receiving something as valid’ then it’s absolutely a choice. We have the power to choose how we receive things. As with many things we may have already developed habits of how to receive things but that doesn’t mean we can change that habit and grow. Acceptance is a very natural thing for us when we stop allowing our beliefs and doubts to get in the way of it. At it’s core, it isn’t about doing more or feeling the need to fix anything – it’s about doing less and just allowing yourself to validate things as they are without needing to do anything more with it.

That being said, when you’re in the habit of overthinking things, doubting yourself, putting barriers in the way of that acceptance then creating new habits through actively practicing acceptance is a powerful way to grow. Of course, the more your practice acceptance – the easier it becomes and the more it will become your default response.

Why Is Acceptance Important?

Acceptance plays a big part in achieving positive change. The first stage in changing or feeling better about a situation is awareness. Once you are aware of something, it can be tempting to deny it to look the other way rather than face the reality. But facing it and accepting the reality for what it is (without then telling yourself stories about it and creating a problem beyond the reality itself) makes it far easier to move past.

Acceptance is transformative.

What Acceptance Isn’t

Acceptance does not mean liking, wanting, choosing, or supporting something. One of the most common barriers to acceptance is the idea that you need to be happy with everything. Acceptance underlies all of your beliefs and ideas. Ultimately things are as they are – what things MEAN is based on how you respond and react, it’s about how you frame it, what beliefs you have about it and how you interpret it. But acceptance doesn’t care about all of that. Acceptance is just acknowledging things as they are and being okay with the reality of the situation.

Accepting something doesn’t mean you can’t change it! In reality, it means the opposite. If you don’t accept the way something is then how can you be honest with yourself about what is required to change it?

The opposite of acceptance is denial. When we refuse to accept something it means we are denying the reality and in doing so, denying ourselves the chance to react accordingly and decide where to go from here.

Other antonyms for acceptance/accept include: unpermissiveness, displeased, discontented, discontent, dissatisfy and unacknowledged. Looking at the opposites helps us see why acceptance – and especially self-acceptance, matters.

Acceptance is not apathy – you can accept things and still commit to make changes about elements of it.

When Is Acceptance Important?

The simple answer is “always” but let’s explore it a little more.

Accepting everything for what it is may not always be easy but it can be hugely beneficial. I would suggest there are two different categories to consider:

Things that are in your control.

When you accept things that are in your control it makes it much easier to accept that control and do something about it. For example – you may desire to be in better shape than you are. Beating yourself up for it comes from all the beliefs you have around it and around why it is the case. Accepting it means recognising that it is valid and real but that you can improve upon it. Denying it or not accepting it to be true makes it harder to put in the work to change it as you’ll be seeking to ignore the reality, make excuses, justify it and generally not want to face it. Accepting the reality allows you to focus instead on being supportive toward yourself as you focus on what’s required to change it.

Things outside of your control

Things that you have no direct control over are worth accepting even more. If you can’t do anything about it then denying it will just result in repeated stress and dissonance when faced with the reality. If you can’t change it then accept it so that you can refocus on what you CAN control and what is within your power. This will allow you to start feeling more in control again.

What To Accept

Everything that is, is worth accepting.

Sometime accepting the reality can be tough when there are so many thoughts and feelings surrounding the situation. Each of those thoughts and feelings are valid too, of course. There may be plenty of those thoughts and feelings that aren’t pleasant. They may be based on beliefs and expectations. They may be completely illogical and driven by pain, fear, anxiety etc. but they are all valid too. If you’re feeling it – accept it. So often the struggle people feel isn’t because of the problem or even because of the way they feel about it – it’s because they refuse to accept how they feel about it. Grief is a great example of this that has many attached emotions. A common example is loosing a loved one who had been unwell for a while and required a lot of time, attention and hard work. While you miss that person deal there may be a sense of relief that they are no longer in pain and that you no longer need to prioritise your time around them. It’s okay to feel that way on one level and it doesn’t mean you don’t care. Equally, you’re likely to feel guilty about thinking/feeling that – that’s okay too. It’s all just human emotions, they don’t have to be logical and remember – all thoughts and all feelings are exactly that. They are thoughts and feelings, they are not reality.

Acceptance the thing. Accept how you feel about the thing. Accept all that has led to the thing. Then move on from it.

How To Practice Acceptance

As with many things, even those that are completely natural to us. We get better at things by practising them. Here are a number of ways that you can exercise more acceptance and things to consider.

  • Find the lesson

Some of the hardest things to accept are those outside of your control and those where you feel a sense of regret. Reflecting on the situation and accepting the reality can be easier when you observe it more objectively. Finding a lesson you can learn from the experience can make this easier and allows you to use it to your advantage too.

  • Be honest

Be honest with yourself and be honest about the reality. A difficult truth is better than an easy lie. And remember that your feelings and beliefs are not reality be honest about what the reality of the situation really is.

  • Accept yourself

Everything here applies to self-acceptance as much as it does to accepting external situations but accepting yourself first makes it much easier to accept the other things too. I accept that sometimes I respond emotionally in irrational ways to situations. By accepting that it allows me to recognise it and focus more on the situation itself and the reality, thus reducing that tendency to begin with.

  • Accept reality

That what this has all been about but it’s worth mentioning it again specifically. Be clear on what reality is and accept that no matter how different you may choose for things to be they are what they are and you can’t change the reality of where you’re at right now. You can change the reality of where you end up though.

  • Accept responsibility for what has passed

SOME of your choices and actions will likely have played a part in the reality that you now face. That’s okay. Blame isn’t useful but accepting responsibility for the part you have played allows you to move on from it far more easily. If you knew then what you know now and had the ability to do something differently maybe you would have but back then you didn’t and that’s okay.

  • Accept responsibility for what happens next

You can’t change what is already in the past but YOU and you alone can decide what your next action is, and the one after, and the one after. Take responsibility for creating the change you desire.

  • Make it about now

Having looked at the past and aspired to create a better future remember that acceptance is about this moment right now. Getting lost in wishing things were different before or worrying about how things could go in the future doesn’t help you to accept where you are right here and right now. The chances are, if you stop and focus on this EXACT moment you’ll realise that things aren’t as bad as the emotions you are building up by living in the past or stressing about a potential future.

  • Accept the barriers

If you want things to be different in the future and there is something you can do about it, take some time to recognise the barriers that are currently in your way between where you are and where you want to be. You can accept them too. Also accept the barriers that you feel are holding you back from acceptance right now. If you can’t accept something – start by accepting that you’re not yet ready to accept it… who knows, that may make it easier to accept.

  • Accept the good

Often you will be focusing on accepting the ‘bad’ stuff. Take a moment to accept the good stuff too. Appreciate the benefits if the situation. When accepting yourself, remember to accept the things you love about yourself as well as the things that don’t bring you joy. It’s all about balance.

  • Accept your biases and beliefs

Recognise that you will have underlying beliefs and natural cognitive biases that are playing a part in how you view situations. Become aware of them and accept that they form a part of how we think as humans. – I have a whole series of videos about cognitive biases if you’d like to know more.

  • Accept struggle

Life is not fair. People often seem to think that it ‘should’ be but why? Life is simply not fair, that’s the reality that we live in. Things are going to go ‘wrong’ and things will not always go your way. That’s okay too, it’s part of life and how things work. When you accept that sometimes thing will be tough it becomes easier to accept the tough things and to feel better about reality.

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Creating a Successful Sleep Strategy

Creating a successful sleep strategy is a great way to improve your sleep quality, get to sleep more easily and reduce the impact that poor sleep can have on your health and wellbeing.

What is a sleep strategy?

You use strategies in your day to day life more than you probably even realise it. Some of these strategies will be in the form of procedures at work and others will be far less obvious. A strategy is simply a method that you use to achieve a desired outcome. Like when you call for IT support and they have a flow chart to work through, step-by-step to eliminate the most common problems first. A more natural example of this that you wouldn’t normally think about as a strategy would be your step-by-step process for making a cup of tea – you follow these steps without really thinking about them. You also have more complex subconscious strategies, like how you manage social interactions in different settings and how you react and respond to authority figures.

A sleep strategy is simply the approach you take to encouraging a good night’s sleep. You already have some form of strategy that you use but if you’re reading this then there’s a good chance that it’s not working for you. It could be due to a lack of consistency an/or there may be some simple changes you can make to improve your sleep strategy.

Why is a sleep strategy important?

Sleep is vital to health, wellbeing and effective functioning as human beings. I’ve written more about why sleep matters here. Creating a successful sleep strategy will make it easier to get to sleep and to sleep better resulting in more energy, better memory and cognitive function as well as improved mental and physical health. Sounds pretty important to me. The negative impacts of poor sleep are numerous and far reaching but it does’t have to be that way.

How can building a sleep strategy help you sleep?

Anyone who has raised children will recognise the huge impact that a change in routine can have on many things and especially on sleep. Our bodies like routine, it helps us to function and to maintain internal balance. We are designed to work to natural rhythms and when we disrupt those rhythms and patterns our bodies can struggle to adjust.

We are, by design, creatures of habit. If a dog knows that every time a bell rings it gets food then the sound of the ringing bell will generate salivation as the dog prepares for food. This is known as classical conditioning and we, as humans, experience this and create this for ourselves naturally too. It makes sense really, we learn to respond to when happens around us based on our experiences of what normally follows. So if we create a strategy that works for us, our body will naturally respond to that with restful, quality sleep.

How do I build a successful sleep strategy?

Just like the IT support desk, if you are looking to improve sleep, level one is all about getting the basics right. Only after you have created the right foundation is it worth reaching out for further support.

Getting the foundation right is much like the creating the strategy for the perfect cup of tea. I can’t just tell you what to do – that would make MY perfect drink but you may hate it. So I’ll give you the key factors and you can create the strategy for yourself around that. If you are looking for more detail and guidance on each area you may want to check out my free sleep guide at www.mindaffinity.co.uk/sleepbetter

The fundamentals to consider when creating YOUR sleep are as follows.

Timing 

Being consistent with when you go to bed and when you get up really helps your brain to know when to prepare for you sleep and when to be active. The idea of “catching up” on sleep at the weekend doesn’t really work well compared to having a good, consistent sleep pattern. This will also increase productivity and energy levels during the day. 

External factors

Think about the other factors that can impact on sleep. Caffeine in the late afternoon and evening are a bad idea, sugar and other stimulants at night will hinder sleep. Improved diet and exercise are shown to improve sleep quality too. 

Approach 

What you do in the lead up to bedtime can have a huge impact on sleep quality. Winding down as part of your approach to bedtime can help. Avoiding screens and stimuli, maybe even a bath before bed and taking time to relax your thoughts can all help. 

Stress management 

It’s not just about what you do at night. Your stress levels at night AND during the day will have an impact on sleep. Not all stress is bad though and when managed well even high stress states don’t have to hinder sleep. 

Environment 

Think about the environment and surrounds where you sleep. Quality bed sheets, a good mattress, the right temperature (15-20 degrees), low lighting and reduced noise can all play their part in improving sleep quality. 

If you’re looking for further support in improving your sleep get in touch today mindaffinity.co.uk/contact

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Expelling sleep myths

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6 Sleep myths expelled

As someone who focuses on helping people sleep I often find a great deal of misinformation and misunderstandings about sleep. Here are some of the common errors I hear people sharing along with some guidance that you may find more helpful.

You MUST sleep for 8 hours sleep every night.

This first one is probably the most common error I hear being shared by very well- meaning people.
If you aim to consistently get 8 hours of sleep every night it probably won’t do you any harm. It’s a pretty good guideline but it’s not actually quite that simple. It can be affected by the seasons, for example. In the sunny summer months we may need less sleep than during long winter nights. Our individual needs based on our biology as well as impacted by our daily activity levels and routines can have an impact too.

For me personally, I find 7.5 hours the perfect amount generally and that makes sense as a we tend to sleep in roughly 90minute phases so this would mean 5 full cycles of sleep in this time. A great way to identify what’s best for you is to find a week where you don’t have anything else impacting on your sleep and go to bed at the same consistent time with no alarm or external factors to wake you. So long as there are no other factors impacting your sleep at the time this will give you an idea of what is natural for you personally. If all else fails, 8 hours is still a good amount to aim for but don’t stress yourself out about it if you personally feel you need a little more or a little less. And be prepared for it to change slightly with the seasons.

You can adjust and train yourself to function well on less sleep

This myth is potentially harmful. While it may be true that our bodies adjust to the effects of sleep deprivation that doesn’t mean it’s healthy to do so. What really happens here is that you get so used to feeling tired and being impacted by the effects of the lack of sleep that you begin to not even notice how much it impacts you. It’s like the frog in a pot of water. If you slowly heat the water it doesn’t notice that it’s too hot until it’s too late. <5 hours of sleep is not healthy for any human.

It’s the length that counts!

Good sleep isn’t just about how long you sleep for. The quality of that sleep is important too. You could be sleeping for 10 hours a night but if that’s a disturbed and poor quality sleep you’ll wake up just as impaired as not getting enough sleep. Download my sleep guide and/or check out my other blog posts to learn how you can achieve better quality sleep and start feeling refreshed when you wake up.

Weekends are for catching up on sleep

The idea that you can go without sleep through the week and then lay in on a Sunday and magically reverse all the negative effects from that sleep deprivation is probably one of the most common sleep myths. Laying in at weekends can actually make it hard for your body to maintain its natural sleep rhythms leading to a reduction in sleep quality. You can never truly ‘catch up’ on sleep. Once you have had a poor night’s sleep you can sleep more to help you recover but you won’t really, fully undo the damage caused without creating a consistent positive sleep routine.

Sleeping still, means sleeping well

It’s often assumed that people who move around in their sleep aren’t sleeping “well”. This is simply not true. It’s perfectly normal to move around in the night and this is not a sign in itself of poor sleep quality. We go through cycles where at points we will move less and periods of shallower sleep where we are expected to move more. Movement isn’t a problem though restless sleep throughout is a sign that there is something else getting in the way of sleep quality.

Alcohol helps you sleep

Alcohol may lead to you feeling sleepy. Maybe even enough to pass out in a bush, sleep on a cold tiled bathroom floor or fall asleep in the most unimaginably awkward looking position, into which your body wouldn’t normally be able to contort… maybe I’m just describing my own early teenage years… back to the article.

It’s true. Alcohol will make you feel sleepy BUT that doesn’t mean it will have a positive impact on your sleep. When we drink alcohol we sleep poorly. It’s a shallow, easily disturbed sleep and one in which our brain and body are not able to rest and repair themselves in the normal way as you are too busy filtering out the toxin. Alcohol gets broken down by the liver and in the brain itself which is what leads to the cognitive impairments that come with drinking. As fun as that may be in the right context it’s really not good for your sleep. So forgo the nightcap or that ‘just a small glass of’ wine through the week if you value the quality of your sleep.

For more advice and support on sleep head to mindaffinity.co.uk/sleep-better or check out Relax Club to see how that can help you improve your sleep easily.

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6 Things you didn’t know stop you sleeping

things stopping you sleeping

There are many things about modern busy lifestyles that can negatively impact on sleep but in this article, I’m going to cover some of the less-commonly discussed obstacles that may be stopping you from sleeping which you may not even have considered.

1) Brushing Your Teeth

We all brush our teeth before bed (And I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t) but did you know that it can make it harder for you to fall asleep? Mint (especially peppermint) can actually stimulate you. It’s a great way to feel more energetic. Peppermint tea, for example, has been shown to make people feel more awake and invigorated. Chewing mint-flavoured gum has been shown in some studies to improve exam performance too – it’s thought to increase focus. This sounds great for many reasons, but not so great for getting to sleep at night. Yet so many of us are in the habit of brushing right before bed. If you struggle to get to sleep at night making a simple change to your bedtime routine by brushing your teeth earlier in the evening can make a positive difference.

2) Reading in bed

It’s not uncommon for people to suggest that reading a book in bed really helps them to get to sleep at night. If that helps and works for you then by all means continue. Chances are though, if you are reading this you are looking for ways to sleep better. In this case, changing this habit may help you out. Reading a good story can often make your brain more active. When you read a good book, the chances are that it engages your imagination and get’s you thinking more relatively as you imagine the characters coming to life as you work through the the pages. As fun as this may be, waking up your mind – especially the creative parts – right before trying to “switch off” is counter-productive.

The other problem with this is that bed should be reserved for sleep (and sex but that’s a whole other conversation). If your mind associates being in bed with going to sleep, it will make it for easier to drift off. If you mind associates bed with imaginary worlds, exciting stories and staying up late reading & fighting off the urge to sleep until you finish that chapter – well, then you’re training yourself to stay awake in bed rather than to sleep.

If you really do find that reading before sleep suits you and is what you want to do with your evening then I’d recommend sitting next to or ON your bed while reading and only getting under the covers and INTO bed after you have finished reading and are ready to sleep.

3) Smoking

People often refer to the downsides of a range of different chemicals can have on sleep. Caffeine, alcohol and other drugs but people often breeze over how much of an impact tobacco can have on sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant and, as such, smoking in general is not great for sleep and smoking in the evenings even less so. The later you smoke the greater the impact will be on your sleep. – If you are looking to quit check out Alan Carry’s Easy Way to Quit Smoking. It has worked for many many people looking to quit. If that doesn’t work, then get in touch, I can explain why that wasn’t the right approach for you and help you to quit.

4) Sleep Monitoring Devices

I know some people who thought they slept well until the started using a Fitbit which told them otherwise. After ‘discovering’ that they had poor sleep quality, they began to feel less well-rested and their sleep quality got even worse. Worrying about the quality of their sleep and believing it to be a problem actually created a problem that wasn’t really an issue beforehand.

5) Trying to sleep

Oh the irony! One of the worst things to do when you struggle to sleep is to ‘try’ to sleep. It’s partly the expectation you set for yourself when you decide to “try” (which presupposes failure just from that wording). Also the act of ‘trying’ to sleep is not particularly relaxing. Make the aim to rest and relax. If sleep happens that’s a great bonus – it’s far ore likely to happen when relaxation is the goal. Even if the sleep doesn’t happen, a night of being relaxed is far better than a night of being stressed about not sleeping.

6) Sleeping

Okay, so this heading may be a title misleading. Sleeping in itself is not bad for sleep. But it is worth a mention that sleeping for too long, napping too late in the day and other sporadic sleep habits are often unhelpful in improving sleep quality and getting to sleep well at night.

For more tips on improving your sleep – click here.