How to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

What is Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

SAD or Seasonal affective disorder is considered a type of depression that is experienced in relation to the change in seasons.

It is a type of depression most commonly associated with a lack of sunlight during the winter months. However, in some people they can feel depressed in the summer months and feel better in winter.

It is suggested that SAD is caused or triggered by the lack of sunlight received by the eyes, which causes the hypothalamus, the part of our brains that is responsible for our bodily chemistry, to change its chemical balance.

Melatonin is the hormone that is produced that makes us feel sleepy.

Serotonin is the hormone responsible for our mood, appetite control and sleep. When the level of serotonin drops it is believed that it can cause symptoms of depression.

Circadian Rhythm (Internal Body clock)

We know that light regulates our sleep patterns. When we receive less light, it may naturally encourage us to sleep more. This in turn may trigger the symptoms of SAD.

Some of the symptoms of SAD include the following;

  • Low mood that persists
  • A lack of interest in normal daily activities or an absence of pleasure in such activities.
  • Irritability
  • Despair, guilt and worthlessness are common feelings
  • Lethargy and wanting to sleep during the day
  • Sleeping for longer periods than is usual.
  • Craving carbohydrates and often gaining weight.

Treatments for SAD

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that SAD should be treated in the same way as other types of depression.

There are a variety of ways in which SAD can be treated;

Light Therapy

For some people SAD can be successfully treated with the use of Light therapy, which can help some peoples’ mood improve quite noticeably. Light therapy involves the use of a Lamp specifically designed for the treatment of SAD, called a light box. Some people with SAD find that light therapy can help improve their mood considerably. It becomes effective when you sit close to the light box for anything up to an hour at a time.

These specially designed light boxes can either be used as a desk lamp or can be mounted on the wall. The lamps use special bulbs that emit natural full spectrum daylight, and use a very high Lux, which is the measurement of light. This means the bulbs are very bright, much brighter than a normal bulb, and are designed to simulate the brightness off the sun, that is often missing, during the darker nights of winter.

It is thought the light may improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood).

Counselling and talking therapies

Counselling is a talking therapy and involves sitting down and talking with someone trained to listen to your issues and concerns.

The aim of this type of psychotherapy is to create an environment where you can discuss and explore your feelings, in relation to yourself and others, and look at past experiences with the aim to highlight whether anything from your past is effecting how you interact in your life today.

Hypnotherapy allows the subconscious mind to process the emotional content of your life and with a qualified practitioner can successfully aid the emotional healing and issues that are the underlying causes of stress on the body and mind. It is also an extremely relaxing state and can help balance the chemical processes that can affect depression.

Other useful things you can try

  • Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible. Maybe go for a walk or spend some time outside.
  • Ensure that your work environment is as bright as possible, with fresh air.
  • Ensure that you are getting plenty of Sleep.
  • Sit as close to the window while indoors.
  • Try to get regular exercise and if possible outdoors in the natural daylight.
  • Where possible eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • Take a trip somewhere.
  • Do things that make you happy or change your mood, such as listening to music or try some Art therapy.
  • It can also be helpful to talk to your family and friends about SAD, so they understand how your mood changes during the winter. This can help them to support you more effectively.
  • Where possible, avoid stressful situations.

How Hypnotherapy can help beat the Brexit Blues

For many people in the UK ‘Brexit’ is proving to be an extremely stressful process. It has caused many households to be at odds with each other, forcing families to sit on opposing sides of the Brexit argument. For some this added stress can prove too much and can start to affect the health of those struggling with the concerns surrounding the uncertainty that Brexit is causing.

Why do issues like Brexit affect our overall health?

First let’s explore why an issue like Brexit can go on to cause mental health issues. As a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist, we look at the causes of anxiety. Anxiety is triggered by thinking about issues surrounding our lives in a negative way, so we create anxiety by negatively forecasting the future. The problem with issues such as Brexit, is no-one really knows what will happen if the UK finally leaves the EU. The media provides the negative forecasting for us, and many of us get caught up in the worrying implications presented to us, such as impact on Jobs, income, medical supplies etc. The reason this is important is that these worries or anxieties build up, on top of our everyday issues.

In my practice I say that the stresses of the day go into our own personal stress bucket. The analogy of the stress bucket is important, because as human beings we do have a method for emptying our stress bucket daily, and this is known as REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). On average we need around 1.6 to 2 hours of good REM sleep a night. REM is the part of our sleep pattern that processes and discharges emotional stressors, that we experience during the day, but haven’t let go, such as an argument or things we have seen, or tasks we haven’t completed. It can take an enormous amount of energy to process these anxieties that have built up in our stress bucket, sometimes over a long period of time. The more we worry about something, the more we pile this worry into our stress bucket, and therefore the more energy we need to use to process what’s in our bucket during our REM sleep. If the amount of energy we are using during our sleep pattern is too much, we are naturally brought out of sleep, to conserve energy, and therefore this is why we find ourselves awake at 2-3am, heavy with worry, during difficult times in our lives. This means we haven’t emptied our stress bucket from the previous night and we have more to process the following night, and so we become trapped in a vicious circle which drains our precious resources.

How can Hypnotherapy help?

Hypnotherapy can be a very useful tool to help those who are suffering with anxiety or depression, because it can break the cycle of sleep deficiency. It does this because during the trance process, it mimics REM sleep. So, during a typical hypnotherapy session we allow our bodies to go into a deep state of relaxation, and during the process it allows our minds to continue to empty our stress bucket. This means we have rested but also allowed the mind to process worry and find solutions to them. The more we do this the better able we are to get a full nights sleep, feeling rested and reinvigorated, which has a profoundly positive impact on our overall health.

As a Solution focused hypnotherapist, I also use the first half of every session to assist those seeking help to focus on solutions to issues that are bothering them. We try to encourage people to re-think issues in a more positive way using the inner resources we all possess. This has the impact of diffusing and naturally emptying many of the stresses that have been, often un-knowingly, piling into their stress bucket. The more positively you think, the less worries that end up accumulating. This consequently means you use less energy while you sleep, and you can go on to achieve the good night’s sleep your body needs. I call trance a mini break for the mind. It provides time away from the troubles and negativity that can affect our busy lives.

The Subconscious Mind and Habits

What is your subconscious mind and how it can hold you back?

So, what exactly is our subconscious mind. Well this is the part of our brain that operates under the radar of our conscious awareness. Most of us are aware that we have habits that operate in our life, some useful, some not so useful. These habits can function without our awareness. An example might be the skill of riding a bicycle. When we first start to learn to ride a bike we need to concentrate fully on the task at hand, which allows us to learn and master the skill. Once we became competent enough to balance, pedal and steer together, eventually we find ourselves cycling along, sometimes even able to chat with friends as we do so, without being consciously aware of each of these skills being used, unless we focus on them with purpose. This is because the muscle memory and habits have been repeatedly embedded into our subconscious, so that we no longer need to concentrate so heavily on the multiskilled task being performed.

It is estimated that we use our subconscious mind to operate up to 95% of all tasks we complete in a day. This is a vast amount of decision control we allocate to a level of thought beyond that of our conscious awareness. This is ok for many basic tasks, and in-fact we should be extremely grateful that our brains are capable of such incredible feats. How-ever it is important to consider that the patterns we have established from our childhood, for which we are no-longer consciously aware, control our eating habits, and our social interactions. If these habits are not behaviours that serve in our own best interests, then we can be sabotaging ourselves without even knowing it.

You might be sitting watching the tv for example, and without realising it you are biting your fingernails. Another example is the smoker that might find themselves lighting up a cigarette after a meal and hadn’t realised they have done so, so embedded is the habit in their life. Another classic habit that can cause distress due to unwanted weight gain is comfort eating, whereby an individual often reaches for their favourite high calorie treat that they use as a crutch to comfort them when feeling stressed or upset. These subconscious patterns can form to help us in our daily lives, but they can also cause us frustration misery over time.

So how can we talk to our subconscious mind?

We must align our conscious thoughts with our subconscious thoughts, but before we do that, we must first decide on a conscious level what we want our subconscious thoughts to be. Once we know the behaviour that we want to change we can then look to focus on the behaviours and lifestyle we do want to see. In this way we now need to appeal to our subconscious and adapt our behavioural patterns.

 One of the most effective ways in which we can do this is through Hypnosis.  The use of Hypnotherapy techniques has been used for thousands of years, going as far back as ancient Egypt. Hypnosis creates a trance like state that is perfectly ordinary. In fact, we go into trance many times a day, and is most like the experience of daydreaming. It relaxes the body and mind, allowing the conscious & subconscious minds to be in state that facilitates and allows communication between the two. Once the subconscious mind has been reached and the conscious mind is in agreement you can adapt unwanted behavioural patterns and free yourself, allowing you to lead the life that best serves you and to be free of limiting thoughts that previously held you back.

Common Hypnotherapy Myths Debunked – Top Five

Hypnosis Myth One – Not everyone can be hypnotised.

This is one of the biggest myths levelled at hypnosis. This is in fact not true. Everyone goes into trance often many times a day, when they are reading, watching TV or simply deeply engaged in an activity.

The Key here is that Hypnosis requires  a level of cooperation between the individual to be hypnotised and the hypnotherapist.  A good hypnotherapist will ask appropriate questions to find out about the person they are looking to treat, to assess how they can best be helped by the process. The information and rapport developed between therapist and the client builds the trust needed for someone to go into trance successfully. If this is not established then a resistance can develop and someone can quite easily refuse to go into trance. Ultimately all hypnosis is self hypnosis, so if a client is ready to make a change in their life then there is a much greater chance that a change can be made.

Hypnosis Myth Two – You Are MADE To Go Into Trance By Someone Else

Again this is untrue. All hypnosis is self hypnosis, and it is not possible for someone to go into hypnosis and do something that they don’t want to do.

We all hypnotise ourselves everyday by convincing ourselves of things that, in reality, might not be true. An example of this would be to imagine a trip to the dentist, where a needle might be used. We imagine the pain to be terrible, far worse than the reality,  and the outcome is that it hurts in a terrible way because we have self hypnotised ourselves into believing this is true.

Hypnosis is a partnership based on trust, and a good hypnotherapist guides you into a state where your subconscious is better able to listen to the changes you want. Think of it as more of a partnership between you and your hypnotherapist.

In my sessions I will always ask my clients how committed they are to see change happening. If on a scale of 1 to 10, the want is high I will agree to work with the client, if not I wouldn’t want a client to waste their time effort and money. For example if someone doesn’t really want to give up smoking, it doesn’t matter how much hypnotherapy they have, the suggestions under hypnosis simply wont work in the long run. Hypnotherapy, when used well, works to assist and strengthen an individuals willingness to see change. If a desired change is what you want, it’s a powerful tool to aid the mind to bring it about.

Hypnosis Myth Three – You are not in control when you go into Trance

A fear that some people have regarding hypnosis, is that they will lose control and someone else will have control of their mind. This is often the image that is presented by stage hypnotherapists. This can cause people to be afraid of the natural process and not ask for the help they really need.

In reality you remain in control at all times,  and can come out of hypnosis at anytime you choose.

Many individuals who consider themselves to be ‘control freaks’ often make the best hypnotic subjects because they are often very self-aware and can give more detail into their problem which the hypnotherapist can use for maximum effect. That greater level of concentration can be an asset to them when they want to bring about the change they are looking for.

Hypnosis Myth Four – Hypnosis can be bad for your health

Again this couldn’t be further from the truth! It is quite the opposite. I would suggest that all medical practitioners would agree on the health benefits of deep relaxation. One of the great benefits of Hypnotherapy is that it brings about a deep relaxation. By allowing our mind to enter a deep relaxing state we can bring about a homeostatic balance – a balance within the system, of mind, body and soul bringing a calm to ourselves both emotionally and physically. We in the west have a medical system where we are told the importance and need to relax, but often not the ways in which to best achieve it.  Hypnosis can never be bad for your health, in fact we go into trance to some degree when we exercise, read a book, or watch television or simply day dream. Hypnosis is a naturally occurring state, so if you want to feel a balance within yourself, it is the best state to be in. Hypnotherapy is a great way to guarantee that deep mental and physical relaxation, we all need, to recover, centre and balance ourselves.

Hypnosis Myth Five – All Hypnosis Is The Same

There is a huge variety in the different styles and techniques that come under the banner of hypnosis. You could see two different hypnotherapists for the same issue and they may take completely different approaches to your issue.

The two main approaches when using hypnosis are ‘authoritarian’ and ‘permissive’. Authoritarian techniques are direct and instructive and often not that great for most people as the direct nature of the suggestions can Jar the mind, making them resistant to the change they want. It can feel as if you are being shouted at and being told what to do. This can lead to clients who rebel against what they are being told to do, even if it is what they said they wanted to do!

Permissive hypnosis is more subtle and tends to work better with most people in most circumstances (in my experience!). This style of hypnosis tends to look for agreement with the client so they feel they are in control and don’t feel that they are being threatened or ordered by the suggestion, but simply part of the process of change that they have sought out for themselves. This is the style of hypnosis I use with clients and always seek to agree the solutions for which they want to adopt going forward in their lives.

How to cope with Exam and Work Stress

The exam season is about to hit, and for many school children this can be a time of great anxiety and stress. A little bit of stress can be a good thing, and can help motivate us to achieve our goals, however for some this can become over-whelming, derailing our best efforts and stopping us from performing at our highest levels.

Exams themselves, don’t cause the anxiety. When we break it down, we realise that an exam is just simply a task that needs to be completed.  However, it’s the tricks that our mind can play on us, that can then cause the fear of the exam itself. This is an important realisation, because once we are aware of this, we understand that it is within ourselves that we can find the answer to the problem that we have created. This may sound harsh but its important that we realise that we are the captain of our own ship and can control the way we think about situations and events in our lives.

The great news is that you can take back control of the situation

Here in Dorset, I help people overcome the anxieties that surround exams and performance. The fact is that exam stress is the same as the stress suffered by those performing on the stage, or in Sport. It is grouped and labelled ‘performance anxiety’ and individuals can suffer to such an extent they are unable to think clearly. When we are stressed, we use the primitive parts of our brain. This area is designed to protect us from danger. This is a great thing when we encounter potential threats to our safety such as when a wasp buzzes around our head. We pump out hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that help us to react quickly. Unfortunately, it can stop us from using the parts of our brain that allow us to perform well in exams.

Having been a teacher, I appreciate how difficult it can be for children to deal with exams. All you want for our developing children is to be able to express what they can do, when they want or need to be able to do it!

The following is a list of ways to reduce stress

  • One of the biggest ways you can reduce stress is to try and avoid those around you who are showing signs of stress. The reason for this is that stress can be contagious, and we mirror this when we are around people, in the same way that a smile can be contagious or even a yawn.
  • Another way you can help your stress levels is by keeping a calm environment to work or study in, perhaps having a plant in your study space.
  • Also make sure you have plenty of fresh food in the house, and ensure you sip plenty of water or drinks during the day to stay hydrated and keep your brain alert and functioning to its maximum.
  • Try to keep your study or work area decluttered, and use calming essential oils such lavender. You can also use Rosemary or Peppermint as these have been used for thousands of years as an aid to improve memory.
  • Try to limit time on social media, this not only stops you from wasting valuable time when you could be studying or working, it also can help reduce anxiety. Social media can be known to increase anxiety, especially if someone you know is spreading the panic online.
  • Also be aware that going analogue can be detrimental to learning. When you write information down, it lights up different pathways in the brain that aid learning and memory recall. For those of a creative personality you can use mind mapping techniques to build patterns of information that help you recall information and can be more fun to do.
  • Don’t forget to take regular breaks. Get outside and get some fresh air, its important to allow the brain time to consolidate what you have learnt.
  • Get some exercise, this way you can release feel good endorphins and help to relieve the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Get plenty of sleep, this is where most of your learning is processed into your long-term memory. Make the most of this, and let your brain recover for the next day.
  • Be positive and visualise yourself doing well. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, so instead of telling yourself you feel nervous, tell yourself ‘I feel excited’ or ‘I am well prepared for these exams’. The more you practise and imagine yourself in a relaxed state in the exam, the mind can then prepare the body for this.

One of the most important things to remember is that many of the most successful people in the world weren’t particularly academic. Leonardo Da Vinci for example didn’t have what we would call a formal education, and he didn’t do too badly!

Exams are a good way to test our ability to memorise information, and our ability to cope under pressure, but what they can’t do is test somebody’s entrepreneurial spirit, musical or sporting skills or capacity to be kind or indeed their common sense!

Illuminating Minds Hypnotherapy

If despite the above advice you are still feeling anxious about your up-coming exams, here at Illuminating Minds we use proven Hypnotherapy techniques to help an individual to regain the calm and balance required to perform at their best. So often we are taught how to observe and learn and be active, but what we aren’t always shown is how to be calm and rest the mind. There is a strong learning benefit in being calm. In my sessions I explain how anxiety is a process that can build up over time.  I use a stress bucket as a metaphor to show how anxiety and worries accumulate over time. This is where we store all our anxious thoughts in a queue waiting to be processed. During REM sleep we process our anxieties, removing the emotional negative parts.  But if we have too much to process, the quality of our sleep can suffer, and we get caught in a vicious circle of sleep deprivation and heightened anxiety. Hypnosis or trance breaks this circle by simulating REM sleep and can help us process our worries and empty our stress bucket. It can also help us to focus and visualise how we want things to go during our exams or at work in a calm and methodical way.

If you feel Hypnotherapy could be of benefit and you would like to learn more,  contact Illuminating Minds now and we can start getting you back in control and on a path to your own success.

New to Hypnotherapy – A Useful Guide

What can I expect from my first Hypnotherapy session ?

Hypnotherapy is used to help individuals cope with a variety of issues. These can range from general stress to phobias, self esteem issues, depression, reaching your goals and many more.

If you have never experienced a hypnotherapy session, it is quite normal to have questions as to what it is and how it can best work for you.

The following gives a step by step guide as to the experience and how you can prepare for your first session.

  1. First of all have a good idea of what it is you are seeking to resolve. You may have been referred by a medical practitioner or sought out someone based on a word of mouth reference. Try to be as specific as you can regarding what you are seeking to rectify in your life. A good hypnotherapist will guide you through this process, without judgement, and will look to work with you in partnership, throughout the treatment.
  2. Choosing a Provider –  It’s important to choose the right provider of Hypnotherapy, so make sure you research the individual thoroughly. Check for qualifications and in particular look for the Hypnotherapy Practitioners Diploma (HPD) which is the gold standard of qualification in this field of work. You can check to see if they are affiliated with other directories such as the Hypnotherapy Directory. You can find most of this information online, checking for references and experience.
  3. Book an Initial Consultation  – Most providers offer an initial consultation, often this is free of charge with no obligation. Here you can assess whether the individual is someone you can work with and feel relaxed enough with to get the best out of the Hypnotherapy sessions. Here you can ask any questions you have about the process, how long it might take, how many sessions etc.
  4. Try to be Open minded – It is important to enter your first hypnotherapy session with healthy expectations. Hypnotherapy relies on the power of suggestion to assist the subconscious mind in re-evaluating a situation, so the more relaxed and comfortable you can feel in following along with the verbal suggestions the more productive the sessions will be. Remember no one can make a verbal suggestion that you wouldn’t ordinarily accept. In this way all Hypnotherapy is ‘Self Hypnotherapy’.
  5. Keep your expectations realistic. In most cases it requires several sessions to achieve your desired outcome, so re-evaluate your expectations as you go. It is vitally important that you work closely together with your hypnotherapist and see the work you do as a collective experience, this way you can improve your chances of ultimate success.
  6. It is also important to remember that you are in control of the number of sessions you need. Only you can fully assess when you have reached the outcomes that you set out to achieve and agreed. You can discuss these expectations and feelings with your Hypnotherapy Practitioner at the start and as you progress. Make the most of your first session – So now if you are preparing for your first session, try to remember to relax. The key thing to remember here is the Hypnotherapy is used as a mean to heal. It has been used successfully for thousands of years. The more open-minded and at ease with it the better for your chances of success.
  7. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy will look at some of the background as to why you are experiencing your problems, but the bulk of work is done together, looking to find solutions to problems and not dwelling on the problems themselves. The sessions build you progressively towards achieving your goals, but each individual session starts with a blank page, so you can change and grow as you feel yourself progressing.
  8. Remember to find the right provider for you and take the opportunity to book an initial consultation to assess whether you’re able to build a rapport with your practitioner and to ask any key questions that you may have.

If you still have any questions about Hypnotherapy ?

Contact Craig now on 07725878880 or on

Illuminating Minds – Dorset Hypnotherapy.

The 6 Benefits of an Early Bird Sleep Pattern on Mental Health.

Most of us know just how important a good restful nights’ sleep is to our feeling of well-being the next day. What many of us don’t know is the impact of when we choose to sleep can be just as important on how we feel.

I want to share with you the powerful impact waking up early can have on our Mental Health.

Now for those of us who aren’t ‘Morning People’ the thought of waking up early can seem horrifying, but with a bit of discipline we can re-organise our day and reap the benefits on both our body and mind.

  1. Organise your day & be more productive

The first benefit of waking early is that you can use this extra time when few of us are awake to start to plan your day and create a to do list. By creating a plan for your day, you can get yourself in the right mindset to go about and complete your tasks, you will also experience less anxiety and worrying unnecessarily. When you direct your mind towards your goals you start using the Reticular Activating System. This is a built-in part of the brain that filters content that is related to what you want and think about in life, So, if you are in a positive mindset, it will look for all the things that confirms your aspirations. An example would be if you decided you wanted a specific car, you will find that you suddenly notice this car in adverts, on the roads, in car parks etc.

A study that was published in the Journal of General Psychology in 2008 highlighted that “those who woke up early procrastinated less than those who woke up late. Individuals tend to be more disciplined and focused on their goals, thereby improving productivity”. Studies also indicate that individuals that rise early tend to be more agreeable and cooperative, they were more determined to achieve projects and tasks.

2. Time for Quiet, Calm and Silence

Studies indicate that when you wake up earlier than most people, you have time that affords you some quality peace and quiet in a noisy busy world, an invaluable commodity.

During those quiet moments you have time to hear your thoughts. It gives you quality time to relax, read a book, do some exercise or even meditate. These quiet moments have positive effects on the brain, and some of these include:

Reducing blood pressure

Increase oxygen levels in brain

Reduce migraines

Boost mental health.

3. Time for Breakfast

When you wake up early you give yourself time to eat a good nutritious breakfast. The benefits of eating a nutritious breakfast are numerous and some of these include:

  • Provides energy for the day
  • Help you focus
  • Reduces risk of being overweight
  • Lowers negative cholesterol
  • Reduces risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
  • Maintains a healthy bodily rhythm
  • Improves mood and positive thinking.

4. Improved brain clarity & function

According to a study carried out by Christoph Randler biologist at Germany’s University of Education, if you suffer with a foggy mind throughout the day, starting to change your sleep patterns to waking early can improve your brain function.

Those who wake up early tend to find they are more creative, engage with work more and are funnier. The have improved problem solving and critical thinking skills and have an increase in memory function, all vital skills that improve your effectiveness at work and play.

5. Become more positive and improve mental health

The biggest benefit of waking up early is on your mental health. This is as a result of the collective benefit of all of the above. Those who don’t get up early are at a higher risk of developing depression and other mental disorders.

By waking up later it increases the chances of developing negative thoughts which can overwhelm those who suffer with this, by readjusting your sleep patterns and sticking with it can gradually improve your outlook to a more positive way.

6. Better Sleep & gives you more energy

By shifting your sleeping patterns and going to bed earlier and waking early in the morning, evidence points to deeper sleep patterns. You get a better quality of restorative sleep. Once you have established a set routine of going to bed at a set time and getting up the same time every morning, your natural body clock readjusts so that you can feel sleepy when its time and get up refreshed when its time. It is also important to continue this routine at weekends to maximise the benefits. The importance and benefits of getting a deeper sleep pattern established include:

  • Tissue repair
  • Bone repair
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Relaxes the body
  • Increased blood supply
  • Releases growth hormones that can build muscle and tissue.

Waking early conclusion While acknowledging getting up early can be difficult for some, including the writer of this blog, with a determined effort and some strategies to maintain your discipline I can add my own experience to confirm the benefits are worth the effort.

The importance of mental relaxation

Happy New Year 2019

In a world where so much attention is placed on achieving goals, we are constantly busy doing and trying to accomplish a whole multitude of different tasks every day. As a result, we can often neglect the very basic needs of our highly worked, but incredible solution focused and more positive aspects of our brain.

For many of us we will see a good night’s sleep as the holy grail for a balanced life. New research carried out by the National Council for Social Research discovered that the most rested people scored 15pts higher on a happiness scale than those that struggled to get the sleep they felt they needed. It is estimated that as adults we need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night. However all too often we don’t achieve that perfect night’s sleep and this can have a knock-on effect on our relationships and work productivity, as we end up feeling sluggish throughout our day.

So how can we help ourselves to overcome the problems that lead to a lack of sleep?

As a clinical Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist, I am often asked ‘How can I relax?’ There are many ways to relax and unwind, relaxation is different for everyone. For some it’s finding a way to rest an over-worked body, but for others and more commonly among those people I encounter, is a need to rest an over-worked mind.

This may sound like a simple activity, but for those who are used to worrying about, well just about everything, it can be difficult to change habits that have formed in the brain over time.

This is where Hypnotherapy comes in as a useful and powerful tool to help ease and relieve our troubled minds. Hypnotherapy can restore balance to a potentially over-worked mind, allowing it to process the worries of the day, bring stillness and calm to the body and free up time to allow an individual to enter a deeper more restorative quality sleep during the night.

Today neuroscientists have identified four main types of brain activity that can be measured by an EEG device. These are outlined below.

Of these key brain wave states, the one that is identified as being associated with creativity is the awake and resting thought process. This is associated with activity in the pre-frontal cortex, and this is the area when logic and reasoning can present us with solutions to problems.

Meditation states have also shown that during periods of physical and mental rest, we allow the mind to quieten down, and during this period of deep mental and physical rest our minds can recover and process our feelings and issues. The more we are able to find ways to do this, the less stress we carry with us during our waking day. This in turn frees the mind to have a more effective, deeper and restorative sleep.

Here is a list of different ways in which we can allow our mind that vital time to relax from our worried state.

  • Read a book or a magazine, even if it’s only for a few minutes. This can allow your mind to escape your worries for a short time.
  • Run yourself a bath, watch a film, play with a pet or try out a new recipe. All great and enjoyable methods to focus on something other than your worries.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to keep your shoulders down and relaxed and place your hand on your stomach – it should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Count as you breathe. Start by counting ‘one, two, three, four’ as you breathe in and ‘one, two, three, four’ as you breathe out. Try to work out what’s comfortable for you.

Breathing in this way gives our mind a focus and allows us to begin to take control of our own mind. One of the methods that we can learn that teaches us to calm and relax our mind is Mindfulness. You can find a qualified teacher. This has been proven to improve anxiety or depression.

  • Take a walk in the countryside or through a local park, taking time to notice trees, flowers, plants and animals you see on the way.
  • Spend some time taking part in conservation, whether that’s digging in your own garden or taking part in a local green project. You can find projects and outdoor activities to suit whatever level of mobility you have.
  • Look for a local Hypnotherapist that offers mental relaxation classes or sessions.
  • Look for a class you’d like to try, such as yoga, Pilates or gentle stretching. These activities help focus the mind and body allow us to restore a balance to our thinking.
  • Try painting, drawing, making crafts, playing a musical instrument, dancing, baking or sewing.
  • Listen to your favourite songs. Turn up the volume and dance or sing along or put your headphones on and close your eyes, really listen to the music. Can you pick out different instruments? Can you hear a drum beat or a certain rhythm? Focus on the music, and let other thoughts fade away.
  • Think of somewhere relaxing and peaceful. You might choose a memory of somewhere you’ve been, or a place you have imagined.

If we consider that we are more productive as people when we are relaxed and in a calm and creative mindset. It should therefore naturally follow that if we allow ourselves the freedom to ensure we make the time and effort to relax and invest in our own long-term wellbeing, then this is a priceless gift to ourselves.

How Stress can affect us and how we can fight back.

What is stress ?

To answer this, we first need to step back in time to meet our primitive ancestors, the cavemen. In those long forgotten days, our ancestors would as a matter of daily live find themselves walking along on the open plains of the African savanna and would have the potential to bump into a hungry pride of lions. In order to survive they would’ve needed a rapid response system, that bypassed the controlled conscious mind and allowed them to either stand and fight with their weapons, or run as fast as they could. This system we know today as the fight, flight or freeze response. As soon as they were aware of the lion, a signal would be sent to a part of their brain called the Amygdala, which acts as the warning siren when we are under attack or threatened. With the help of the Hypothalamus, which regulates all the chemical responses in our body and mind, we would release two hormones these are the stress chemical messengers of cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine). These hormones give our body the lightening fast response it needs to take immediate life saving action.

In modern times however the ‘Lions on the planes of Africa’ has become a traffic jam, or a critical meeting at work, or a parent suffering with a life changing illness, or arguments with partners. The accumulation of a multitude of stressors, if prolonged, can have a major impact on the quality of our lives. It can if left unchecked these start to affect our health, which can manifest itself in numerous ways. It could start as a tension headache, or stomach problem at first, the effects of the hormones in the blood can restrict the blood flow forcing our blood vessels to constrict, restricting the oxygen flow to our heart or brain. This in turn, over time, can increase our risk of developing heart problems or even stroke.

The main hormone that triggers many of these health problems is cortisol. This is released by the adrenal gland and sits above the kidney. This hormone feeds our anxiety, which in turn causes our adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, so we can end up living in a vicious circle. The net result of long term cortisol production, can be weakened bone or muscle tissue. It also slows down healing, impairs digestion, affects metabolism and weakens our immune function. Listed below are some of the signs to look out for when we experience stress.

Symptoms of Stress on the body are

  • Change in sex drive
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension or pain
  • Sleep problems
  • Stomach upset

Effects of stress on your mood

  • Anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability or anger
  • Lack of motivation or focus
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness or depression

Effects of stress on your behaviour

  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Exercising less often
  • Overeating or under eating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Tobacco use

How can we combat Stress ?

So how can we turn the tide of the impact that stress can have on our bodies and mental health ?

In my clinic we tell our clients about stress, and how it builds up into what we call a ‘Stress Bucket’. When stress builds up, it can sometimes overflow, and this is when we can start feeling out of balance and a sense of losing control of our lives.

One of the best tools we use to empty the stress bucket is Trance. The reason we use Trance is that it simulates REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). When we go into REM during our sleep we re-run stressful emotional events, and we replay them and change them from being an emotional memory to being a narrative memory (a memory we have control over). This is why when someone upsets us during the day, and we still think about it later on, it’s not until we have slept on the issue, that we awaken in the morning and wonder what all the fuss was about. We have removed the emotional content from the memory. This is natures way of helping us reset and move on with our daily lives. The same is true when we go into trance.

Hypnotherapy facilitates a sense of calm and relaxation and provides the process with which the mind can reduce its cortisol levels allowing us to release our worries, so that when it’s time to go to bed, we can have a more restful night’s sleep and regain the balance and sense of well being we ultimately seek.

Welcome to Illuminating Minds

What is Solution Focused Hypnotherapy ?

This form of Psychotherapy is designed to reduce anxiety and Stress related symptoms. It is called Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) and as the name may imply during our sessions we focus on the solutions for future, rather than dwelling on and analysing the past. It is structured to empower people to change the way they think, and as long as a person is committed to this change and follows the process it can be highly effective in relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety.

By focusing on the solutions and not dwelling on the past problems we instead ;

  • See where you are currently.
  • Highlight and illuminate where you want to be going forward.
  • Empower you with the tools to make the changes required.

When it comes to the mind we say ‘Use it or lose it’. We are looking to lose the ruminating on painful memories part and rewire and fire the brain with positive actions that can only move us forward.

Famous quote

“You can’t effect the cards you are dealt, but you can determine how you play them “ Milton Erikson

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy uses practical, modern, well-researched strategies to help people make significant and beneficial changes in their lives.

It is an extremely effective treatment for Fears, Phobias, Giving up Smoking, Anxiety, Weight Loss, Depression, IBS, Sports Performance and many more.