Maintain Order in Chaos


In a fast changing, seemingly chaotic world right now, it is so important to maintain order within yourself so that you can navigate stressful times with relative ease.

What can you do to maintain structure in your life, what can you focus on that helps keep you motivated and positive as much as possible?

There’s plenty of choice when you look around.

 

Managing Anxiety in Stressful Times


stress-2902537_1280

One of the most important things in working with anxiety is helping people change their relationship with their anxiety.

With any intense emotion, in some ways, it’s important to make friends with it, to tolerate it and recognise that any emotion is a form of communication with your and from yourself. It’s a signal to pay attention, to pay attention to what is this trying to tell me? What is this feeling, this emotion, this anxiety trying to tell me about myself, about my relationships, about the world?

So, I think the first piece of the work is to try making friends with it.
An often useful metaphor is:  A child is laying in the bed and fears the monster under the bed. What does the parent do?

We might always think that it would be a good ideas a parent to turn the light on. Get a torch and look under the bed for the monster rather than sitting on the bed and saying tot he child, “Oh my god, the monster’s there.”

If we sit on the bed and don’t look at the monster, and we don’t say, “Hi, monster. What’s going on?” – then the monster continues to grow bigger and bigger. Yet when we turn the light on and really look at what’s there, it’s then that we can begin to manage how we’re going to deal with the monster if there’s a monster there. And if there is, how are we going to deal with that monster and communicate with it effectively?

Another way of managing anxiety is to find a message and meaning in it. I believe meaning-focused work can be helpful with many issues.

One of the dynamics that present barriers to managing anxiety has to do with focusing on the future or the past, and not being able to stay focused in the present.

If we think about worry, it’s focusing our attention on the future. If we think about rumination, it’s focusing our attention on the past. Worry and rumination both take us out of the present.

So, intervening in ways that help people ground themselves in the present moment can reduce anxiety. That way, we’re not living in the future of worrying what’s going to happen? or living, ruminating the past, playing over and over in our minds some past situation we regret.

danger-4931411_1280

Another metaphor that many people have heard, and is attributed to Cherokee people is the story of the two wolves.

The grandfather is telling his grandson, “There’s a war going on inside of me between two wolves. And one of the wolves is very, very evil and bad and is filled with anger and arrogance and envy and all these negative emotions. And the other wolf inside of me is really good and filled with empathy and love. And the same fight is going on inside of you, my grandson, and going on inside of everyone.”

And the grandfather pauses, and the grandson reflects for a moment and asks the grandfather, “Well, which wolf is going to win?” The grandfather pauses and says, “The wolf that you feed.”

So that idea that it’s what we feed that grows. And if we’re feeding anxiety and fear and anger, if that’s where we’re focusing our attention, then that’s what’s going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. If we feed kindness and love and self-compassion, then that’s what’s going to get bigger.

One of the things that I’ll work with clients on is what their life would look like if they fed the good wolf.

If your energy was put towards feeding the good wolf, what would that entail? What would you need to do differently to nurture and put energy towards those things?

The first one is in relationship to what I was just sharing, and it’s called the FACTS. F-A-C-T-S — Foundational Attention Centering Techniques.

The FACTS are things like meditation, breathing, and visualization. These are strategies to focus attention in different ways. And these are skills that can be learned.

Particularly for people who have a lot of anxiety, being able to ground themselves in the present, in their bodies, in their breathing, and assemble a visualisation or a mantra, is centering and meaningful to people. So, that’s one set of the core four strategies – again: the FACTS, Foundational Attention Centering Techniques.

The next cluster of techniques that I think is helpful for anxiety are the expressive-creative strategies.

We can help people identify whether it’s expressive arts— drawing, painting, finding expression for the turmoil that’s inside. Active creative activities – problem-solving in terms of inventing something or fixing something, where the attention is on using cognitive processes in the service of creativity. Creating arts as well as daily things — fixing a car, working on a car — having those kinds of outlets are creative expressive strategies. Or, physical movement — dance, sports, athletics, things where we are engaging in expression. So that’s the second.

The third is reflection exploration strategies. Another set of techniques for managing anxiety would be, as I mentioned with the other question – journaling, writing, avenues for reflection where we can take a step back and get a little observing self-activated, really ask ourselves questions about, “What am I thinking? What am I feeling?” Self-monitoring. “When do these things come up? What triggers my anxiety?” So the reflection exploration is about getting to know yourself better. Any strategy that can help you be aware of, again, the triggers, to be aware of the thoughts and feelings. That could also involve dialog, talking with someone, having a sounding board for one’s thoughts and feelings. Again, reflection. Reading, learning, reading articles, getting informed — that gives you a stimulus for reflection.

So the first three — the FACTS, the expressive-creative strategies, the reflection exploration strategies. And then the fourth is what I call healthy lifestyle and values congruent self-care.

We’re looking at four areas of turning your attention. And again, all these have a commonality of where we put out attention – turning our attention to healthy habits, healthy relationships, healthy pleasures, and a healthy world.

So, what kind of healthy habits can we develop? The healthy habits that relate to diet, nutrition, and exercise all help with anxiety management. Healthy relationships, healthy pleasures.

So how do you relate to anxiety: you can go down the list of all the ways that you respond once anxiety has come up. One of the first ways you can change your relationship is to change your initial interpretation of what it means that you’re feeling anxious.

Most people’s initial interpretation of anxiety is, something really is wrong, or something really bad is going to happen, or there’s something really wrong with me – I don’t belong here.

And one possible other interpretation is, this anxiety is arising because I care about this; I care about this person; I care about this situation.

There are other possible interpretations: this is a moment that matters, or, anxiety is arising because anxiety is how I do life. I mean, there’s a lot of different interpretations you could have. But that’s one relationship you can change: that very first thing you say to yourself about what you believe it means. You can also change your habits of behavior, which is the sort of non-avoidance; if you know that, when you feel anxious, the first thing you do is you try to escape it by avoiding the cause of the anxiety – maybe you start to work on that behavior if that happens. Maybe you notice, when that’s not possible, you try to numb what you’re feeling with a drink or with food; maybe you start to change that habit.

You can also change your relationship to your anxious self. You can have more compassion for the part of you who is anxious rather than feel like if you were the right kind of person, you wouldn’t have anxiety; there’s something wrong with you; there’s something wrong with your brain – that sort of broken brain model of anxiety. You can also develop different brakes for the anxiety.

So, what do you do when the anxiety feels like it’s spiraling out of control?

cyclone-2100663_1280

Most people’s attempts to break it are avoidance, or control coping – where people have rituals where, if they do something, they can make themselves feel better. In dysfunctional anxiety, often people are insensitive to safety or support to you – so something that you can change your relationship to is, when you’re trying to put a brake on the anxiety spiralling out of control, you can maybe think about attending to safety cues or support cues: In this moment, are you safe? Are you breathing? Who supports you? Who cares about you?

The resources that I know we’re going to talk about – that there are a lot of other things you can use as brakes to the system spiralling out of control. So those are all things that I would consider part of your relationship to anxiety.

The great thing, as we’ve been talking about, is, when you change these things, you really do change your experience of anxiety – and sometimes the anxiety goes away, sometimes it doesn’t. But you have so much more freedom and flexibility in response to the anxiety and having the choice in how you respond to your anxiety is a key art of relieving it to some degree.

 

 

References:

Four Core Strategies to Neutralize Stress and Anxiety

Shelly Harrell, PhD, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Rick Hanson, PhD and Ruth Buczynski, PhD

NICABM

Mind-Matters Podcast Series #4: Judith Hammond


This episode is a conversation with Judith Hammond who I first met in 2013 as we were on the same NLP Trainers course. Judith tals about being abused by her mother physically, mentally, verbally and psychologically/emotionally.

Judith explains how this conditioned her through her life and how she coped with this and work place bullying, abusive relationships and always managing to find the reserves to be there for her own kids despite all this.

It’s a deep and emotional conversation full of amazing insight into her life and how she has dealt with traumatic experiences. I have no doubt that like me, you will gain so much from it.

If you enjoyed listening to this episode and the others then please share them with your friends, family, colleagues and leave your thoughts and comments and your own experiences.

 

 

Mind-Matters Series Video #10: Refresh Your Mind & Body


This is a short video about refreshing your mind by moving your body. It’s based on the simple principle off doing something positive for yourself when you feel good and making it a habit, because when it becomes a habit, it makes it much easier and more natural do something positive for yourself when you feel negative or unwell.

Get started today no matter how you feel and begin to make your new habit.

 

Mind-Matters Podcast #2: Tamsin Astor


This week started with an interview for my Mind-Matters Podcast and in this second epsiode I talk to Tamsin Astor PhD who talks about dealing with her youngest son being diagnosed at the age of just 2 with Burkitt’s Lymphoma, whihc is a cancer of the lymphatic system.

She talks about the struggle to get her concerns heard and recognised by the doctors, hearing the diagnisis and dealing with the whole treatment process and being strong for her son, her family and herself.

She talks later about her divorce and how now, ten years on her son is clear and healthy and how they are planning a ten year celebration of him being clear.

It’s a highly emotive story, hugely inspirational and I hope you get as much from it as I have.

You can find out more about Tamsin by going to her website www.tamsinastor.com

Click on the link below to go to the Podcast and click on episode 2 to hear the interview with Tamsin.

Enjoy

Mind-Matters Podcast

Mind-Matters Series Video#9: Why Do We Limit Ourselves?


It’s a strange thing about human beings, we are often our own worst enemy because of how and what we think. We deny ourselves the opportunity to improve and grow purely because we limit ourselves through a lack of self-belief, lack of confidence and all because we think we can’t do it, can’t have it, can’t be it, don’t deserve it. These thoughts come about through conditioning from other people as well as our own homegrown rhetoric and are often developed through a lack of focus and understanding of what it is we actually want for ourselves.

This lack of awareness and focus can be hugely detrimental to our lives in terms of achieving what we want, yet it can take just a few minutes a day of learning to focus our minds, clearing the crap (thoughts and behaviours) and setting it on the right path at the beginning of each day enables you to become aware of what does make you happy, what really flicks your switch and then you can start to take action and make changes in your life and design the one YOU want and not one that others want for you.

I hope this video gives you food for thought and is a starting point and/or a catalyst for you to start from.

As always I’m here for guidance.

Simon

Creative Reframing


A wise old gentleman had retired and bought himself a modest home near a school. He spent the first few weeks of his retirement in peace and contentment. However, when the new school year began, the very next afternoon three young boys, full of youthful exuberance and post school enthusiasm, came down his street, banging merrily on every dustbin they encountered. The crashing percussion continued day after day, until finally the wise old man decided it was time to take some action.

The next afternoon, he walked out to meet the young percussionists as they banged their way down the street. He stopped them and said, “You boys are a lot of fun. I like to see you express your exuberance like that. In fact, I used to do the same thing when I was your age. Will you do me a favour? I’ll give you each a dollar if you’ll promise to come around every day and do your thing.” The kids were elated and continued to do a bang-up job on the dustbins.

After a few days, the old-timer greeted the kids again, but this time he had a sad smile on his face. “This recessions really putting a big dent in my income,” he told them. “From now on, I’ll only be able to pay you 50 cents to beat on the cans.” The noisemakers were obviously displeased, but they accepted his offer and continued their afternoon ruckus. A few days later, the wily retiree approached them again as they drummed their way down the street.

“Look,” he said, “I haven’t received my Social Security check yet, so I’m not going to be able to give you more than 25 cents. Will that be okay?” “A quarter?” the drum leader exclaimed. “If you think were going to waste our time, beating these cans around for a quarter, you’re mad! No way, we quit!” And the old man enjoyed peace and serenity for the rest of his days.

Changes In Treatment Approaches For PTSD


Below is an article taken from the APA website that I find extremely interesting and reassuring that the military is not restricting themselves to CBT and EMDR in treating serving personnel struggling with PTSD.

A psychodynamic treatment for PTSD shows promise for soldiers
March 2012, Vol 43, No. 3
Print version: page 11

PTSD
While cognitive-behavioral therapy remains the most well-researched treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, it doesn’t help all patients. That’s especially true for service members who have been perpetrators as well as victims of violence, says Russell B. Carr, MD, an Army psychiatrist.
“It’s a much more complicated experience, and they often feel a lot of shame in addition to the usual PTSD symptoms,” he says.

For the past six years, Carr has been working with soldiers who haven’t responded to cognitive-behavioral therapy, and he’s developed a new treatment rooted in intersubjective systems theory. This modern take on psychoanalysis pioneered by Robert Stolorow, PhD, posits that the heart of trauma is shame and isolation.
Carr’s therapy, described in the October 2011 issue of Psychoanalytic Psychology, has shown promise helping soldiers who haven’t responded to CBT by addressing the existential dread dredged up by trauma, and the feeling that their entire world has lost meaning. Though Carr’s goals are ambitious, his intervention is relatively short—requiring twice-weekly sessions for up to three months. As a result, the therapist must clearly define goals, keep conversations on track and quickly establish rapport with clients, Carr found.

Short-term therapy—which is typical of CBT, but less common with psychoanalytic approaches—is often the only option in military settings, he says.
“In the military, there is frequently the situation where a patient or therapist is leaving soon,” says Carr. “It’s a transient population, and it limits the length of time we have to work together.”

A key part of intersubjective therapy is helping clients put their feelings around traumatic experiences into words. These feelings aren’t always negative. One patient described in the article found he enjoyed the smell of burning human flesh, and was later horrified and ashamed of his initial reaction. By expressing empathy and not rejecting the soldier, Carr helped the soldier process the experience and reconnect with the civilian world.

Convincing soldiers that a therapist—as well as friends and family—can understand a little of what they are going through lessens their PTSD symptoms, Carr found. In some cases, soldiers even learn from the experience, he says. “Recognizing the fragility of life, you can refocus on what’s important to you, and not waste time on things that aren’t.”
—S. Dingfelder

Hypnosis and Fear of Needles & Injections


Needle Phobia Facts

The Fear of Needles Has Many Names and It Is Very Real
Trypanophobia? If you’ve ever tried to search for “needle phobia” or “fear of injections,” you’ve probably come across some very odd and confusing terms, yet this condition is very real, and a whopping 20 percent of people have a fear of needles. There are a lot of risks associated with the fear of needles. It can prevent people from going to the doctor, getting routine blood tests, or following prescribed treatments. Modern medicine is making increased use of blood tests and injectable medications, and forgoing medical treatment because of a fear of needles puts people at a greater risk for illness and even death. For example, diabetics who skip glucose monitoring and insulin injections can put themselves in danger of serious complications.

HERE ARE THE SIX MEDICAL TERMS THAT ARE RELATED TO FEARING NEEDLES:

  1. Aichmophobia: an intense or morbid fear of sharp or pointed objects
  2. Algophobia: an intense or morbid fear of pain
  3. Belonephobia: an abnormal fear of sharp pointed objects, especially needles
  4. Enetophobia: a fear of pins
  5. Trypanophobia: a fear of injections
  6. Vaccinophobia: a fear of vaccines and vaccinations

OTHER IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT FEARING NEEDLES

Approximately 20 percent of the general population has some degree of fear associated with needles and injections. Traumatic experiences in childhood form the foundation of these fears—like seeing an older sibling cry when getting their shots.

As much as 10 percent of people suffer from a phobia called trypanophobia, which is a fear of needles and injections. Of those who have a fear of needles, at least 20 percent avoid medical treatment as a result.

The fear of needles is both a learned and an inherited condition. A fairly small number inherit a fear of needles, but most people acquire needle phobia around the age of four to six.

Below is my research into studies conducted using hypnosis to reduce or remove the fear of needles and injections.

Study 1: Hypnosis Assists to Enable Patients to Receive Essential Injections

Fear of injections: the value of hypnosis in facilitating clinical treatment
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ch.223/abstract

Results: Successful outcomes for the three patients described showed that hypnosis, adaptably adjoined with mainly behavioral and cognitive methods of counseling, can be of very great assistance in enabling patients to receive injections essential to treatment, and can usefully be made part of multidisciplinary team provision.

Notes: The present paper describes three patients with different problems who had high levels of fear or anxiety about receiving injections in botulinum toxin clinics. Individual differences in causes, history and personality made an integrated approach the logical choice.

Contemporary Hypnosis, Volume 18, Issue 2, Pages 100-106, June 2001
By: David Y. Medd


Study 2: Hypnosis Effective for Needle Phobia

Desensitization Using Meditation-Hypnosis to Control “Needle” Phobia in Two Dental Patients
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515441/pdf/anesthprog00099-0027.pdf

Results: The researchers conclude that these case studies are of interest for the following reasons: (1) They show the effectiveness of meditation-hypnosis for “needle” phobia. (2) Meditation-hypnosis is a rapid, effective antianxiety technique that can be used in systematic desensitization. (3) Even long-standing “needle” phobia cases can be effectively treated with this combined technique. (4) The meditation-hypnosis technique is helpful in generalization to other anxiety-induced situations.

Notes: Two case studies were conducted.

Case Study 1
Meditation-hypnosis was induced. Within a few minutes, the subject was deeply relaxed. At first, the patient exclaimed “I’m afraid” but after a few repetitions of her mantra (meditation word), she was again deeply relaxed. While the patient was meditating, the following items were presented and well tolerated: placement of dental towel; turning on of unit light; backward inclination of the dental chair; having the patient maintain an open mouth for thirty seconds; insertion of author’s (DM) index finger into floor of mouth; insertion of saliva ejector into same area; placement of author’s index finger over alveolar mucosa of upper right central incisor; placement of topical anesthetic into same site; and finally giving one-third of a capsule of local anesthesia into that same region. As the patient did so well, at this and at the following visit, other items were added including, running the ultra high speed contra angle in the vicinity of the tooth for fifteen seconds; releasing water spray into the mouth and aspirating it; maintaining an open mouth for fifteen minutes and finally running the contra-angle for a complete minute with water spray in the mouth. The patient was then able to go to her dentist for subsequent treatment.

Case Study 2
The patient was taught meditation-hypnosis and was able to achieve good relaxation within seven minutes. She was then instructed to practice the technique by herself at home. She stated that it helped her reduce her overall anxiety with good results. The patient did not return for more hypnosis, but she spoke the researchers by telephone. She said that she was able to go to her general dentist and have the local anesthetic injections for the tooth extractions. Dentures had been made and she was very pleased. The patient apologized for not making the final hypnosis appointment but she said that it was not necessary as the relaxation technique allowed her to have the necessary injections and dental work done.

Anaesthesia Progress, May/June 1983
By: Donald R. Morse D.D.S., M.A. (Biol.), M.A. (Psychol.), Bernard B. Cohen Ph.D. Professor and Research Director, Department of Endodontology, Temple University School of Dentistry, 3223 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, West Chester State College, West Chester, Pennsylvania


Study 3: Hypnosis for Needle Phobia of Child

Brief hypnosis for severe needle phobia using switch-wire imagery on a 5-year old.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17596226

Results: Following a 10-minute conversational hypnotic induction, the 5-year-old was able to use hypnotic switch-wire imagery to dissociate sensation and movement in all four limbs in turn. Two days later the boy experienced painless venepuncture without the use of topical local anesthetic cream. There was no movement in the ‘switched-off’ arm during i.v. cannula placement. This report adds to the increasing body of evidence that hypnosis represents a useful, additional tool that anesthetists may find valuable in everyday practice.

Notes: This was a case study of severe needle phobia in a 5-year-old boy who learned to utilize a self-hypnosis technique to facilitate intravenous (i.v.) cannula (a tube that can be inserted into the body, often for the delivery or removal of fluid or for the gathering of data) placement. He was diagnosed with Bruton’s disease at 5 months of age and required monthly intravenous infusions. The boy had received inhalational general anesthesia for i.v. cannulation on 58 occasions. Initially, this was because of difficult venous access but more recently because of severe distress and agitation when approached with a cannula. Oral premedication with midazolam or ketamine proved unsatisfactory and hypnotherapy was therefore considered.

Paediatr Anaesth. 2007 Aug;17(8):800-4
By: A. M. Cyna, D. Tomkins, T. Maddock, D. Barker, Department of Paediatric Anaesthesia, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, SA, Australia


Study 4: Olfactory/Smell Hypnosis for Needle Phobia

Hypnotherapeutic olfactory conditioning (HOC): case studies of needle phobia, panic disorder, and combat-induced PTSD
http://thethrivingmind.com/blog/hypnotherapeutic-olfactory-conditioning-hoc-case-studies-of-needle-phobia-panic-disorder-and-combat-induced-ptsd/

Results: The authors present 3 cases, patients with needle phobia, panic disorder, and combat-induced PTSD who were successfully treated with the hypnotherapeutic olfactory conditioning HOC technique.

Notes: The authors developed a technique, which they call hypnotherapeutic olfactory conditioning (HOC), for exploiting the ability of scents to arouse potent emotional reactions. During hypnosis, the patient learns to associate pleasant scents with a sense of security and self-control. The patient can subsequently use this newfound association to overcome phobias and prevent panic attacks.

International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 57.2 (2009): 184-197
By: Eitan G. Abramowitz, Lichtenberg, Pesach, Hadassah Medical School, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel