Axing Anxiety

Anxiety Workshop

Today, October 10th, is world mental health day – a day designed to raise awareness of the mental health issues faced by people across the globe. In 2013 15.2 million working days were lost due to the mental health problems of stress, anxiety and depression in the UK1. Mental health problems were the third biggest contributor to absenteeism after back and neck problems and coughs and colds.

Given that the management of stress and anxiety plays a key role in a happy and productive workforce, we need to get serious about solving these health challenges. Historically, anxiety has been regarded as a purely mental problem. The associated physical symptoms have been seen as a result of mental processes such worrying and irrational thinking. Little attention has been paid to the physical processes that contribute to the condition.

In our upcoming pioneering workshop next Sunday, 19th October, we combine my work as a clinical hypnotherapist with the work of Somatic Movement Educator Tanya Fitzpatrick to manage anxiety from both the physical and the mental perspective.

The workshop, Reprogramming Anxiety, will be held on Sunday 19th October at 10am at Clerkenwellbeing, 178 Goswell Rd, EC1V 7DT. In this two-hour introductory workshop you will:

• Identify your habitual patterns of anxious thinking
• Understand how anxiety affects you physically
• Learn skills to counteract anxious patterns
• Discover how to restore a sense of calm and comfort to your daily life

The cost of the workshop is £35. You can purchase tickets in advance by clicking the button below. To keep the group intimate, spaces are limited, therefore we encourage you to book in advance to guarantee your place.

Reserve your place by purchasing your ticket below:

Reprogramming Anxiety Workshop 10am Sunday 19th October 2014

1Sickness Absence in the Labour Market, Office for National Statistics, February 2014

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Has your body forgotten how to relax?

Reprogramming Anxiety

Over the summer my fascination with the phenomenon of anxiety has led me to investigate additional approaches to handling the problem. In my enquiry I came across a compelling, albeit low tech, lecture by Dr. Leon Chaitow of the University of Westminster, London on the wide-ranging negative effects of incorrect breathing and the link between breathing and anxiety.

Chronic incorrect breathing causes an imbalance in the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, which leads to:
• Triggering of the stress response (sympathetic arousal)
• Feelings of anxiety and apprehension
• Bowel problems (diarrhoea or constipation)
• Exacerbating PMS symptoms
• Lowering of pain threshold
• Fatigue, tiredness and brain-fog

This discovery had me seek to correct of my own breathing. To achieve correct breathing, it was clear I needed to release the chronic tension in my back, chest and diaphragm. My search led me to the amazing Tanya Fitzpatrick.

Tanya is a certified Somatic Movement Educator, an advanced yoga teacher trainer, and a Body-Mind Centering Professional. Her speciality is helping her clients to retrain their brains to tell their muscles to relax correctly and to learn to move in an effortless fashion.

Tanya explains that through habitual patterns of tension, muscles in the body learn how to remain tight, and the brain develops what she terms sensory motor amnesia.  This means the brain literally forgets how to relax these muscles at all, leading to chronic tension, pain and restricted breathing.

Tanya and I quickly realised what a beautiful synergy our work has. She helps clients release physical patterns of anxiety and I help clients release the mental patterns that hold anxiety in place. Imagine the power of experiencing the effect of both!

We are so excited to share with you our brand new workshop, Reprogramming Anxiety, which will be held on Sunday 19th October at 10am at Clerkenwellbeing, 178 Goswell Rd, EC1V 7DT.

In this two-hour introductory workshop you will:
• Identify your habitual patterns of anxious thinking
• Understand how anxiety affects you physically
• Learn skills to counteract anxious patterns
• Discover how to restore a sense of calm and comfort to your daily life

The cost of the workshop is £35. You can purchase tickets in advance by clicking the button below. To keep the group intimate, spaces are limited, therefore we encourage you to book in advance to guarantee your place.

Reserve your place by purchasing your ticket below:

Reprogramming Anxiety Workshop 10am Sunday 19th October 2014

I look forward to seeing you in October!

Image credit: Fayez via Flickr

The Secret to Making a Hard Choice

Making a hard choice

 In her TED talk, How to make Hard Choices, philosopher Ruth Chang shares a new way of handling choices between two difficult options. “What makes a choice hard is the way the alternatives relate” she explains. “In a hard choice, one alternative is better in some ways, the other is better in other ways and neither of them is better than the other overall”.

The key to her argument is that when evaluating hard choices we are really evaluating our values. She posits that we incorrectly apply scientific thinking to values, “assuming that values, like justice, beauty, kindness are akin to the scientific quantities like length, mass and weight…”

Values are typically single abstract words like love, freedom, security, trust or joy. These words represent what’s important to us and will determine where we spend our time, our energy and our resources. I regularly use values in my work with clients. If you recall the Hierarchy of Change model that I wrote about in January, you’ll remember that changes made at the level of values and beliefs will automatically impact on your behaviours, your capabilities and your environment.

Most often our values are unconscious and were installed in the formative years of early childhood. Values are installed unconsciously through the strong influences of our family, our education and our culture.   Unless we bring those values to conscious awareness, we are destined to evaluate our hard choices based on someone else’s outdated programming.

Once you uncover and claim your own values, you are then much better equipped to be able to make a decision when faced with a hard choice. Ruth Chang explains that hard choices occur when the options are “in the same league of value, while at the same time being very different in the kinds of values [they fulfill]”. For instance, if choosing between two career options, perhaps one as a graphic artist and the other as an investment banker, the graphic artist option fulfills the value of creativity and expression and the investment banking option fulfills the values of security and status. The key to making the hard choice is to know what values are most important to you. When we make these hard choices from our values we are setting ourselves up to enjoy the most satisfaction with the chosen option.

So when faced with a hard choice between two options, I encourage you to follow Chang’s advice: “Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here.” Make your decision based on your values, on what’s most important to you, to build a life rich in satisfaction.

Image Credit: Grant MacDonald via Flickr

Let me tell you a story…

Hypnosis through storiesThis month, I’d like to share a story about my first experience with hypnosis.  Around the turn of the millennium I was a stressed out twenty-something searching for a way to cope with the tension and anxiety that had become a permanent fixture in my life.  I had been referred by my GP to a local hypnotherapist for help in dealing with this problem.  Shortly thereafter I attended the hypnotherapist’s practice in a leafy suburb of Newcastle, Australia, where I would experience the trance state for the first time.

After gathering some information, the hypnotherapist invited me to sit back in the comfortable leather chair, close my eyes and listen to his voice.  He began speaking in a gentle tone, telling stories that seemed to drift and float, weaving in and out of one another like birds flying in formation in the sky.  It was a very pleasant experience and I could sense that I was being told something of great importance, but was unable to fully grasp what it was.

Upon emerging from the session I was struck with the sensation of awakening from a powerful dream that was quickly fading in the light of full consciousness.  I had a sense of having experienced something of profound significance, but not being able to put my finger on what it was.

And so began my love affair with hypnosis.  I would later learn that this form of what appears as vague storytelling was highly influenced by the work of Dr Milton Erickson.  Dr Erickson was the American hypnotherapist responsible for having the American Medical Association recognise hypnosis for medical use in 1958.  Ericksonian hypnosis employs the use of storytelling and metaphor as a means of indirectly inducing change in the client.  Stories are a powerful tool in my toolkit when working with clients.

Stories and metaphor are wonderfully effective ways of inciting an individual to think and behave differently.  Below I share five key reasons why stories and metaphor are such effective catalysts for change:

Stories are non-threatening, respectful and gentle – Rather than being instructed to stop doing something or start doing something else, stories are a gentle way of introducing new concepts and ways of behaving to clients.

Stories are engaging – Stories, by their nature, engage the listener and elicit the state of focused attention that characterises the trance state.  Within that receptive trance-like state the client can take on the message of the story that most benefits them.

Stories foster independence – the client makes sense of the message within the story, draws their own conclusions and then takes appropriate action, creating a sense of independence and self-reliance.

Stories can be used to bypass natural resistance to change – Stories deliver their message in more subtle ways than simply telling a client to change. There is power in metaphor to subvert the vigilant critical factor of the mind and allow new perspectives and ideas to stealthily take root.

Stories tag the memory – stories bundle a message into a package that will be much more memorable and compelling than a list of facts or a string of suggestions.

As I left that first hypnotherapy session, I floated out the door feeling calmer and more relaxed than I’d felt in a long, long time.  The images and words I had experienced were still washing around in my mind.  I was left with a sense that I was holding several pieces to a puzzle, and felt a growing curiosity inside me as I wondered how I would put those pieces together.


And now, dear reader, I invite you to share your story with me – when has a story affected the way you behave or the choices you made? What was the outcome? Share your story in the comments below.

Reference: Battino & South, Ericksonian Approaches: A Comprehensive Manual, 2nd Edition, (Wales: Crown House Publishing Ltd, 2005). p.310

Image Credit: Lotus Carroll via Flickr




Five Strategies of Super Successful Clients

How to be successful

New clients often ask me how they can make sure they get the most out of the work we do together.  In this month’s blog post I share with you the top 5 strategies my most successful clients have employed to make the changes created in the consultation room a permanent part of their lives.

Make change a short-term priority

Life can get busy and hectic and get in the way if we let it.  Clients that are super successful at getting the results they want, make change a priority in the short term.  By creating non-negotiable space in their busy schedules they ensure they have the time to attend our consultations and practice the tools I give them.

Take responsibility for your results

As a professional I will give you the very best of my training, knowledge, care and attention but I am not going to be there with you for the other 23 hours in the day where you’re making decisions.  To create permanent change, you need to break through the barrier of inertia, and sometimes that means putting in conscious effort to get the ball rolling.

Do things differently

As the old adage goes “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got”.  Super successful clients follow up our consultations by taking consistent action and practicing new behaviours that support their goals.

Use the tools

I have spent the last decade of my life scouring the world for tools of transformation to share with my clients, but a hammer won’t drive a nail if you don’t pick it up and use it.  Clients that see the most rapid change are the ones that use the tools between sessions.

Focus on your victories

It’s easy to focus on our shortcomings, our failures, and our slip-ups.  Focusing on your victories, no matter how small at the beginning, will teach you to build that muscle of positivity and belief that change is possible.  With positive reinforcement, day-by-day that muscle will get stronger and soon you’ll be celebrating larger and larger victories.

By following these five strategies of super successful clients you’ll be setting yourself up to get the very most out of your investment, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of our work together for the rest of your life.

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Move forwards by going back: the power of regression to change your present

Childhood regression

Working with memories within hypnosis is a very powerful tool to achieve effective change.  During early childhood, our minds are incredibly open and our neurological patterning is formed at this age.  Key events that occurred in early childhood can influence our behaviour, our emotions and our beliefs in the present without us even being aware of it.

One of my approaches when working with clients is to guide their unconscious mind to find often forgotten but influential memories.  This technique is widely known as regression.  Once the client has located the key memory,  we work quickly and effectively at re-contextualising the events of that moment.  This process allows the client to take more information from the event and make new conclusions.  By revisiting specific childhood events and seeing the bigger picture we create new neural connections which allow new behaviours and responses in the present.

To make the process of re-contextualising memories even faster and more effective I often use the technique called “creative mothering”.  As the client reviews the key event, I invite them to bring their present-day adult-self to be there with their child-self inside the memory they are working with.  The purpose of their adult-self is to serve as the source of support and resources that their child-self needed at the time.

In her recent exhibition, Imagine Finding Me, London-based photographer Chino Otsuka has literally inserted her adult-self into childhood memories using digital software.  The compositions presented in her exhibition could well be little vignettes from many of the client sessions I facilitate.

The results of re-contextualising these key memories are often noteworthy. I recently worked with a client who came to see me to overcome her feelings of failure.  I took her back to the originating memory which involved feeling ignored by a parent.  Once she’d been through the process of having her unconscious mind understand that being ignored was not her fault she was able to know that she was important and loved.  Getting in touch with the knowledge that she did matter allowed her to claim her self-worth in the present.

A week later she made a minor miscalculation while driving.  While everyone remained safe and no property was damaged, she did receive a fine.  She relayed to me that if that miscalculation had happened in the past, she would have fallen into a hole of self-criticism and shame from which she would have taken a long time to recover. After releasing and re-contextualising the key memory she was thrilled that she could easily say to herself, “Damn it, how annoying!” and get on with the rest of her day.

What patterns of thought or behaviour have you feeling stuck?  If enough is enough, then get in contact.  Let’s go meet with your child-self and discover what else there is for you to learn.

Make New Year’s changes that stick

The Hierarchy of Change

Happy New Year!  May 2014 be your greatest year yet!

What do you want to achieve in 2014? What would you like to change this year?

To assist you in making those changes permanent and easy, I’d like to introduce you to the Dilts’ model of change.  Robert Dilts is a significant contributor to the field of NLP and stipulated that there was a hierarchy of six different levels where change could be made within a person.  Those levels are: Purpose, Identity, Values & Beliefs, Capability, Behaviour and Environment.

Dilts' Model of ChangePurpose – Whom do I serve and for what purpose?

Identity – Who am I and do I reflect that in the way I live?

Values & Beliefs – Why do I make these changes?

Capability – How do I make these changes?

Behaviour – What do I need to change?

Environment – Where do I need change?

Changes made at one level tend to flow downwards and impact on the levels below.

Typically, when people want to make a change, they target the level of Behaviour.  For example, if someone wants to lose weight, they will target behaviour by changing their exercise regime or their diet.  A change at the behaviour level will filter downwards and impact on their environment as they start going to the gym or avoiding bakeries and fast food outlets.

When changes are made at the higher levels of Purpose, Identity or Values & Beliefs, change filters down into the lower levels and behaviours and environments can change easily.  Consider how you would naturally and automatically behave if:

  • You believed that eating cakes and sugar was causing immediate damage to your health and you valued good health as a high priority.  A change at level of Beliefs & Values
  • You identified yourself as an extremely health-conscious person.  A change at level of Identity
  • Your purpose was to make a huge contribution in your chosen field during your lifetime. Therefore you ensure you are in the best possible physical condition to do so.  A change at level of Purpose

Unless we have taken action to change our values, beliefs and identity, we may well be operating on unconscious programming that was installed during our early years.  By working with the unconscious mind and creating new beliefs, values and an identity that supports our goals and desires in the present, we can make taking action so much easier.

Should you wish for support to make those desired changes in 2014, I am always at your service.


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Shift negative emotions in minutes with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

EFT Circle

This month I’d like to introduce you to Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is one of the other tools I regularly use with clients.  EFT is known as an energy meridian therapy, which means it is explained using the principles of Chinese Medicine.  Meridians are the subtle energy lines that travel the body and, according to Chinese medicine practitioners, when the energy is flowing well we enjoy good health, when it is blocked we experience ill health.  Clinical Psychologist, Dr Roger Callahan PhD, originally developed EFT in the 1980’s.  Stanford engineer Gary Craig further refined the technique.

A large number of studies have been made into the efficacy of EFT in overcoming problems such as anxiety, depression, pain and physical symptoms, athletic performance, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, weight loss, cravings and addictions.  I personally have used this technique and count it as a huge contributor to overcoming seven years of clinical depression.

EFT can be learned in just one session and can then be applied either on your own or in on-going work with me.  A third option is to experience the power of EFT in a group.  Click here to watch an introductory video on the basics of EFT and to find out dates and locations for group EFT.

Group EFT can be very effective.  A clinical study of college students at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila transformed the treatment group’s Beck Depression Inventory score from 23.44 indicating moderate to severe depression to 6.08 indicating the subjects were non-depressed after just four 90-minute group EFT sessions.

If you have any questions about EFT or the EFT Group, feel free to get in contact to experience this transformative technique for yourself!


Image Credit: Agustín Ruiz


Is your language influencing your behaviour?


In 2012 in Edinburgh Ph D. Keith Chen shared macro economic analysis of 25 years worth of data that shows that the language we speak affects our ability to save money.  Through extensive analysis Chen drew out an unbreakable relationship between the savings rate of particular groups of language speakers that were significantly different to speakers of other types of language.

Chen focused on the distinction between two groups of people.  One group spoke a language that had a different future and present tense (futured languages); the other group spoke languages that did not differentiate between tenses (futureless languages).

English is a futured language, which differentiates its tenses between the past, the present and the future.  For example: “yesterday it rained”, “today it is raining”, “tomorrow it will rain”.  Mandarin Chinese is a futureless language where these three phrases would translate as “yesterday it rain”, “today it rain”, and “tomorrow it rain”.  Chen’s hypothesis was that by verbally and grammatically distinguishing between the present and the future, us futured language speakers dissociate ourselves from the future, making it less important than the present and that this has an unconscious effect on our behaviour and choices.

From detailed analysis of 25 years worth of OECD data he was able to show that futureless language speakers are 30% more likely to report having saved in the last year than futured language speakers.

This is a tangible illustration of the great influence language has on behaviour.  We may not be able to strip out the future tense of the English language to improve our savings rates, but by modifying our linguistic habits, we can influence our behaviour in other areas.

Let me introduce you to “Modal Operators of Necessity”, the linguist’s term for words of obligation.  Words such as “have-to”, “must”, “should” and “ought-to”.  These words pepper our everyday speech and imply a lack of choice.  Have you ever said “I have to call so-and-so” or “I should do the dishes”? Subtly, these words create feelings of powerlessness and servitude within us, robbing us of our enthusiasm and self-determination.

Modal Operators of Necessity are deliberately used by the hypnotherapist within the trance state, to infer a lack of choice.  For example, “you can’t access that old problem in quite the same way again”.  Within trance, I use these Modal Operators of Necessity for the benefit of my clients.  The intentional use of these words is a powerful tool in my toolbox.

If you would like an alternative to Modal Operators of Necessity in your everyday speech, let’s look at Modal Operators of Possibility.  These are words such as “can”, want to”, “choose to”, “able to”, “get to”.  Notice how it feels to say, “I choose to do the dishes”, “I get to call so-and-so”.  These words create a sense of optimism, choices and alternatives.

I invite you to take this new linguistic pattern for a test-drive.  What changes do you notice in your body, your energy and motivation when you speak in this new way?

You can choose to leave me a comment and share your findings!

You can watch Keith Chen’s fascinating talk in full here.


Image Credit:  Trey Ratcliff via Flickr

Feel confident and powerful in just two minutes

How to feel confident

In her 2012 TED talk Amy Cuddy shared research that found the way we hold our body affects how we feel.  She found that just by adopting so called “Power Postures” for two minutes, the subject would exhibit a significant change in hormone levels.  Power Postures involve sitting or standing using the body in an expansive way – arms outstretched or on the hips, with a wide stance.  Wonder Woman’s classic pose is a perfect example of a Power Posture.

Wonder Woman's Power PoseTwo key hormones were measured in this research: Testosterone – the dominance hormone; and Cortisol – the stress hormone.  After two minutes of Power Postures, it was found that testosterone levels increased by 20% and cortisol levels reduced by 25%.  Conversely, when subjects adopted low-power poses for two minutes – hunching over, shrinking down and crossing arms, legs or ankles – their testosterone levels reduced by 10% and cortisol levels increased by 15%.

In my consultations with clients we take this mind body connection even further to create specific physical gestures that allow the body to gain access to states of power and confidence for particular situations such as public speaking, job interviews and important meetings.  Can you imagine how great it would feel to know that you could instantly access the confidence with which you hit a tennis ball in your leisure time when you need it for a crucial meeting at work?

Using Power Postures is a first and easy step towards taking charge of your physiology and biochemistry and making them work for you.  This is a technique that you can use today to improve your feelings of confidence and power.  Before your next meeting or in the lead up to a presentation I encourage you to use this – although you may want to strike that Wonder Woman pose in the privacy of the bathroom rather than the boardroom!


Image Credits:
Header : Llima Orosa via Flickr
Wonder Woman : Amazon Archives