Early research and news reports have indicated a rise in anxiety in response to the national lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Anxiety is a vitally important emotion; its function is to keep us safe by signalling to us to ‘be prepared’ for a potential threat. So anxiety, to a degree, is an absolutely appropriate emotional response to the current situation that is threatening people’s lives, jobs, the economy, and mental health.
Anxiety triggers the sympathetic nervous system and hormones, such as noradrenaline and cortisol, which are perfect for galvanising us into action to make ourselves safe in a short time frame. But part of what is fuelling the elevated anxiety is the fact that people lack control in the situation, they have been restricted about what they can do and where, how and with whom they can do it, so taking action to ‘be prepared’ (beyond panic buying) isn’t always possible. So anxiety is more likely to continue for days or weeks, and thereby the body is flooded with stress hormones that weaken the nervous system.
So, what can we do to reduce anxiety? Well with anxiety the answer is never a silver bullet, it’s a holistic toolkit that we delve into regularly.
First, we need to relax and soothe the nervous system. This can be done rapidly (in just a few minutes) and effectively by using Havening Techniques, as demonstrated by Paul McKenna who created this video for NHS workers, but it is applicable to us all. FYI Havening is used by Justin Bieber to help him manage the anxiety he experiences.
Second, we need to raise our confidence and resilience. Confidence can be thought of as the belief in your own ability to figure things out as you go along and resilience is the ability to bounce back from knock-backs and keep going. We know from studies into high performers that part of their confidence and success is down to them using regularly positive self-talk in the second person; they basically talk to themselves like they are their own inner coach. One of the most powerful things that I tell my clients and I’d recommend as a great piece of self-talk to increase your confidence and resilience is to say to yourself at least once a day: “You have phenomenal coping skills [insert your name]” and “You are good enough just as you are” and “Wonderful things are coming your way”.
Third, reduce stressors. We need to make an agreement without ourselves to only look at the news or news stories on social media once or maximum twice a day at set times. If we feel anxiety rising when looking at news reports then use Havening to calm ourselves down and say a calming mantra like “peace”, “calm” or an affirmation like “I am coping phenomenally”.
Four, we need to look after our whole selves. This means exercising, eating well (and reducing sugar, which can impair the body’s ability to cope with stress), exercising, going to bed early (and use Havening to help you go to sleep), and doing something that is just for the joy of it (watch TV, read a book, knit, call a friend etc).
Consistency is key. Doing these things once won’t cut it, we need to do them regularly in order to feel the difference and ride out these uncertain times.
Confidently presenting or pitching is an essential part of most job roles, especially as you progress upwards in organisations or if you run your own business. But a fear of public speaking afflicts about 20% of Britons and holds them back from performing as brilliantly, and progressing as far, as they could at work.
The fear of public speaking is in fact a fear of rejection. Specifically, it’s the fear of being publically found out for not being good enough and rejected in a humiliating or critical manner. It can feel deeply threatening to be humiliated and rejected publically, because humans are a tribal species and 200,000 years ago we wouldn’t have been able to survive if we’d been rejected by our tribe. So we are hard-wired to belong and be accepted.
Whilst rejection is the deeper unconscious fear, each person will have a specific fear that they are aware of when speaking in public. These are commonly the fear of: making mistakes, not knowing what to say or their mind going blank, being berated by the critical voice in their own head, inviting criticism by being visible or vocal. These specific fears are formed by a unique set of experiences involving public attention. For many people, this will have involved a negative experience at school when they made a mistake or did something embarrassing in front of the class and everyone laughed or they were told off by a teacher. But in some cases these fears stem from childhood experiences that made them feel unsafe, for instance having verbally or physically abusive parents from whom they learnt it could be dangerous to be seen or heard, or that what they had to say wasn’t worth hearing.
On rare occasions, the fear of public speaking can arise following a recent traumatic event. This is because the amygdala (the brain centre responsible for keeping us alive) is on high alert after a trauma and it can easily categorise situations that cause some level of stress as threatening, whereas in the past they would not have been. Consequently, if one public speaking event caused stress the amygdala quickly intervenes in future ones and prompts a freeze, flight or fight response and thus a fear of public speaking is perpetuated.
In addition to these painful memories from childhood or recent times, we unconsciously form beliefs in response to these experiences. These beliefs are design to protect us from similar situations in the future but they also unintentionally fuel the fear of public attention. For instance, “it’s not safe to speak up or stick out”, “what I have to say isn’t important”, “I’d rather die than speak in public”, “if I embarrass myself no one will be friends with me”. Simultaneously, and unconsciously, we also picture upcoming public speaking events being a humiliating disaster. This combination of negative memories, beliefs and imagined future experiences influences the way that we feel about being seen and heard in public, which in turn influences the way that we behave in advance or during them.
The good news is that the mind has a phenomenal capacity for change at any age and public speaking anxiety can be overcome relatively quickly; I work with people on this issue in 1-3 sessions. I use Havening Techniques® to alleviate the trauma and/or use Rapid Transformational Therapy® in order to: 1. Understand the memories and unconscious beliefs that are at the root of the issue for you. 2. Shift your perspective of past and future public speaking experiences. 3. Install new and empowering beliefs and reprogramme your feelings and behaviours so that you feel confident in the limelight.
It's almost the two year anniversary of my training with Marisa Peer in Rapid Transformational Therapy. The training was fantastic and transformed the way that I deliver therapy and the results that my clients get from working with me. But I was always being asked "What is RTT?" and felt that I needed to develop my own definition. This is how I summarise what RTT is and I still use this definition today:
Rapid Transformational Therapy is a powerful therapeutic protocol (i.e. a series of specialised and honed techniques) that combines Hypnotherapy with aspects of Psychotherapy. My clients have described it as being like intensive Psychotherapy with your eyes closed. Hypnosis is what makes this therapeutic approach rapid and effective because it: 1) enables you to take a unique perspective on your issue and your past, and 2) it facilitates the mind being calmer, more focused and (as studies have shown) more receptive to change. The experience of being in hypnosis is actually very pleasant, because it’s simply a relaxed and focused mindset that’s similar to meditating or daydreaming, and you remain in control of your mind and body throughout.
You can find out more about how RTT and therapy with me are different from conventional hypnotherapy on my FAQ page.
I attended a brief Neuro-Linguistic Programming training back in 2014 which I left somehow knowing less than when I entered! Feeling frustrated I decided that the best way for me to learn about NLP would be to do an intensive training course with the co-creator of NLP, Richard Bandler. This training was fantastic and ultimately prompted me to become a hypnotherapist, but it also reinforced my impression that the way NLP is often explained and taught could be clearer and simpler.
My definition of NLP is: "a model for understanding people’s thought and behavioural patterns, and a series of techniques to help change those patterns quickly."
Richard Bandler once referred to NLP as "a trail of techniques" and I see those techniques as falling into three buckets. Bucket 1 contains insights about how people perceive reality. Bucket 2 contains tools for identifying how others perceive reality. Bucket 3 contains techniques for creating change both overtly in hypnosis and covertly out of hypnosis in normal conversation."
For me, at times NLP can feel like the 'Emperor's New Clothes', in that lots of people talk about NLP but not many people can really succinctly explain what it is without focusing on details or using technical terminology or being unhelpfully vague. I personally think that this is in part because NLP is all about hypnosis, hypnotherapy and hypnotic language. In fact, I sometimes think of NLP is half pop-psychology, half pop-hypnosis. But even today hypnosis and hypnotherapy are often misunderstood and mistrusted. So NLP is a smart way of branding hypnosis so that it is more acceptable, especially in business contexts.
Confusing definitions aside, NLP offers valuable insights and techniques that I draw on regularly to help my clients overcome issues and move towards what they want in their careers and personal lives.
I have recently moved to Somerset and I am in the process of setting up my practice in the area. I now run clinics in Frome and Bath.
My clinics are in safe, calm and comfortable spaces that are ideal for therapy. In Bath I see clients at the Bath Practice Rooms on Upper Borough Walls, in the heart of Bath, and in Frome I see clients at my home. I offer day time appointments in Frome and day time and evening appointments in Bath.
I continue to run clinics in central London and I am now based at 14 Charterhouse Square, which is a few minute's walk from both Barbican and Farringdon underground stations.