Category Archives: Depression and Low Mood

The main signs of stress to look out for

Stress is a normal part of our lives. Work deadlines, study deadlines, the school run, preparing for a holiday, juggling lots of pans on the hob, traffic jams when you’re in a rush… Most days have some element of stress in them. At it’s most basic level, stress is simply the body’s reaction to anything that needs you to respond to it.

Stress can be positive: remember those sabre-toothed tigers we’ve mentioned before? The stress response kept our ancestors alert and able to avoid being mauled by large and aggressive cats. These days, the stress response still helps us in potentially harmful situations, such as when we’re driving or chasing toddlers around the park.

So, if it’s a normal everyday occurrence, and it’s designed to keep us safe, why do we speak of stress as a bad thing? Stress can start to have a negative effect, both physically and mentally, when it becomes relentless. When it feels like there’s no let-up between stressful situations, our “stress bucket” starts to fill up and even overflow. Feeling stressed can be caused by a series of minor stressors or one great big worry: we’re all different, and so different things press our stress overload buttons.

However, there are some pretty universal factors that impact on most of us. It’s often easy to identify the causes of stress: problems at work, family issues, health worries, finances – all those things that we can deal with in moderation but not in excess.

How do we know when stress stops being a normal part of life and becomes something we need to address? Here are the signs of stress that we all need to be aware of.

Physical symptoms of stress

Our bodies are designed to cope with stress. However if there is too much relentless stress, we can experience physical symptoms due to the extra hormones (such as adrenaline) that our bodies start producing. Common symptoms can include headaches, upset tummies, feeling faint, chest pains, panic attacks or raised blood pressure. There are also other physical effects such as sweating more, feeling tired, having bad dreams, or grinding your teeth.

Emotional responses to stress

If you’re experiencing too much stress, you may be feeling overwhelmed, weepy, or even depressed. There could be a feeling of life spiralling out of control or of losing self-esteem. It’s hard to relax or switch off from your thoughts. Sometimes, stressed people avoid their friends or dong things that usually make them happy, a bit like having depression. Some people say that when they lose their sense of humour, that’s a sign that things “aren’t right”. If you already experience depression or anxiety, stress can make you feel much worse.

Stress affects your relationships

Stressed people often find their sex drive is affected, and they stop turning to their partners for comfort. Because there’s so much spinning around in their heads, they may be snappier at the kids or their colleagues, and avoid friends altogether. This can be one of the most conflicting symptoms, as you feel simultaneously irritated by people, but also lonely.

Problems sleeping

You may not be sleeping well, either because your thoughts won’t switch off, or because you’re having disturbing dreams. The knock-on effect of poor sleep, as I’ve discussed before, is that we need quality REM sleep to process the day’s events. This naturally empties our stress buckets overnight. If you can’t sleep, this doesn’t happen, allowing the stress to build up. When we were children, our mums used to say “you’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.” It’s true: it’s much harder to deal with life when you’re tired.

Changes in behaviour

There can be small indicators that all is not well: starting to bite your nails for the first time in years, not bothering with your hair or make-up or ironing your work clothes. Your appetite can change, eating more or less than you typically would. Usually-decisive people can find it hard to make decisions.

Turning to unhelpful stress relievers

A large glass of wine, a deep drag on a cigarette, or a slab of chocolate cake may make your feelings of stress feel better. They do – but on a very, very short term basis. For example, turning to alcohol to relieve stress can lead to greater problems. So, if you find yourself reaching for the fags or a bottle of wine when you’re feeling stressed, stop and think.

How can solution focused hypnotherapy help you with stress?

It can help you take that essential step back and regain control. You can’t be relaxed and stressed at the same time, so I work with my clients to help them find ways to remain calm and manage their feelings when things begin to overwhelm them. You will learn how our brain works to create anxiety and stress, and what we can do about it.

I’m Debbie Daltrey, the founder of Great Minds Clinic. My clinics are in Timperley, Altrincham, and Manchester City Centre. If you feel that everything is getting too much, please get in touch for a confidential chat. We can work together to help you feel in control again, and replace feelings of excessive stress with ones of calm, in-control and confidence.

Coping with anxiety

Everybody experiences anxiety sometimes. It is one of the many emotions that we feel as humans. However, things that are simply passing worries for some people are debilitating anxieties for others. If you have an anxiety disorder, or think you may have, how can you keep these negative feelings under control?

Recognising anxiety

The first step is recognising that you are experiencing anxiety, rather than feeling anxious, and seeking support. There are various forms of anxiety.

The most common one is Generalised Anxiety Disorder. People with GAD anticipate tragedy. Worries become relentless, and fears for the future can arise from little or no actual stimulus. For example, you may find yourself unable to sleep because you are worried about your job, when in fact your employment is secure.

There are other more specific anxieties. If you worry excessively about interacting with other people and experience severe discomfort during social situations, you may have Social Anxiety Disorder. It is estimated that one in every three people who lives through a traumatic event will experience some level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People who have regular panic attacks, a huge rush of physical and psychological symptoms, may be suffering from Panic Disorder. The term ‘OCD’ is incorrectly used to describe someone who is excessively fussy; however genuine Obsessive Compulsive Disorder sufferers have a debilitating condition which makes daily life difficult.

Coping mechanisms for anxiety

If you are diagnosed with anxiety, you are far from alone. The figures for a 2016 mental health survey reported by MIND show that 5.9% of the UK population experienced GAD, and 7.8% of people had mixed anxiety and depression.

There is a lot of support for anxiety disorders, and there are many things you can do to manage it. However, a 2014 YouGov survey showed that a fifth of people who have anxiety have no coping mechanisms to manage their anxious periods. Please don’t become one of those who struggle unnecessarily.

Everyday anxiety management

You may be treated for anxiety disorders with a combination of therapy and medication. However, there are also coping strategies you can use every day. I work with my clients on coping mechanisms, and I can’t stress enough the importance of developing strategies that work for you.

Learn to Control worry

When somebody tells you not to worry, it is easier said than done ! I can’t tell someone with anxiety not to worry, but what we can do is learn to control worry.

Self care

Take time for self care. Eating healthily is as important for the mind as the body. Avoid alcohol and caffeine if they increase your anxiety. Do nice things that make you feel good, listen to your favourite music, read a good book, have an invigorating shower, book a massage, spend an hour in the garden, take a walk in the fresh air, or as one of my clients said to me this week ‘I allow myself half an hour to have a peppermint tea in the conservatory’ – a great simple idea ! Activities don’t have to be complicated to be enjoyable. Plus, make sure you have plenty of rest…

Sleep

When we enter the REM phase of sleep, our minds churn over the day’s events and emotions, moving them from short term to longer term memory, and from the emotional side of the brain to the intellectual side. Unfortunately, anxiety sufferers often miss out on some of the essential REM phase of sleep.

However, you can carry out various rituals to help you sleep. Try a bath, a cosy drink (no caffeine or alcohol), and a good book. Avoid stimulating action movies, social media, and rich food. Make your bedroom as calming as you can: a good temperature, dim lights and comfortable bedding can all help create a relaxing haven.

Be open

Discussing your feelings with others can really help you manage your anxiety. If you would prefer to talk to people who share your experiences, ask your GP about local support groups, or look for (recognised) online communities.

Some people choose to volunteer for a charity or community group. As well as providing social interaction and distraction, helping others is a powerful way of realising the good in yourself, and seeing that you can make a positive difference.

Learn your triggers

Awareness of what triggers anxiety attacks can help you manage them. For example, it could be that alcohol increases your symptoms so you know you should cut down. If events in the news make you anxious, don’t read the headlines before bed.

Keep a diary. Note your mood and anxiety level in different situations, building up a picture of any patterns. It will also show you all the good that you are doing, journaling can be a really great morale booster.

Physical activity

Exercise provides so many benefits: stress relief, focus, better appetite, improved sleep, possible social circle, goals, enjoyment… Plus of course, improved physical health makes you feel much better mentally. You can start to introduce exercise gently with some walking, or perhaps there is an activity that you have always wanted to try. Whatever you choose, the endorphins released by exercise are sure to help.

Feeling confident in your physical health is really important, as many people with GAD spend sleepless nights worrying about imagined or exaggerated symptoms. As an aside Googling symptoms is not always helpful! If you need to check something out online, use a recognised medical website like NHS Choices.

Meditation

More people are realising the importance of meditation, hence the sudden rise of mindfulness apps. Meditation is the act of focussing the mind to create inner calm, clarity and concentration. You can learn simple relaxation techniques through meditation, which can help you through stressful moments. Learning how to relax through breathing (taught in meditation and yoga) is a valuable tool, after all, your breath is always with you, ready to help.

I’m Debbie Daltrey, the founder of Great Minds Clinic and an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist. My clinics are in Timperley, Altrincham, and Manchester City Centre. I am a solution focused hypnotherapist and Master NLP Practitioner, I can work with you to reduce and manage those anxieties that make daily life harder. Please contact me for a confidential chat.

 

6 ways to juggle your busy life without feeling overwhelmed

Sometimes, life is simply overwhelming. There is so much to do and think about, it’s hard to know where to start. We all feel the squeeze sometimes: there may be an extra-busy time at work, or a building project at home. When we feel up against it, even a simple trip to the supermarket seems like an epic task.

The run-up to the summer holidays is one of those overwhelming times. We may be trying to fit lots in before heading off on our hols; and many parents start to worry about how exactly they are going to keep all those juggling balls up in the air when the kids are home full-time.

I can’t reduce your task list but I can help you manage it. It is possible to be really active and still feel calm and in-control. Here are my tips, based on time-management methods and relaxation techniques, for happy juggling.

Diarise your time

During busy times, a diary is your new best friend. Whether you use something like Google Calendar or prefer the old-fashioned desk diary approach, keeping track of everything helps you lose that feeling of chaos or the fear of forgetting anything.

It also helps you be sensible about your capacity. Seeing everything written down is a great reality check, sometimes you glance at your calendar and realise that your schedule simply isn’t possible. Cross things out and reallocate them. You can’t begin to manage your activities if you don’t know what’s happening when.

Can you outsource?

We all understand what that means in the workplace: but it can be done in general life too! There are all sorts of people out there who can lend a hand, and you don’t need a massive budget to hire in help when you need it.

A virtual PA for just a couple of hours a week could tide you through busy times and this doesn’t just have to be for work, although if you are a self-employed parent, admin assistance could make all the difference when school’s out. Try an ironing service for busy periods or before a holiday, or find someone who can help you tame your garden so it’s lower maintenance (and a space to enjoy). If you have school holiday children to manage, arrange play date swaps with other parents, so each of you has some child-free time in turn (and you can relax knowing that your kids are having fun with friends). Look into local holiday clubs for older kids.

Handling the housework

A personal chef is a step too far for most of us, but there are always takeaways for those evenings when you can’t do it all! You can also have food ready in the freezer for busy weeks (and drop the guilt if you haven’t made any frozen batches of wholesome casserole. The freezer section of your local supermarket is fine!). Grocery delivery is an absolutely brilliant help.

We’ve discussed hiring in help, but realistically, the housework falls on the householders. But don’t forget that you might have potential helpers! Even little kids can help with simple tasks such as putting the dishes away (and older ones can always be bribed…).

Combine, don’t separate

In an ideal world, work and family would be in two nice, neat boxes! Sometimes, that’s simply not possible, and working from home can actually reduce time pressures. Sir Richard Branson claims to not divide work and play, and that involving his children with work has always brought a new perspective. Mothers trying to work to the background sounds of CBeebies may raise a tired eyebrow; however he has a point. If your partner, children or elderly relative is used to you working in the same space as them, it becomes business-as-usual.

Explain to the kids if you can complete x, y and z before deadline o’clock, you’ll have the afternoon at the park/cinema. Set up craft activities to keep younger kids engaged, and accept that there may have to be a bit more screen time occasionally. When you do go out, you can still keep an eye on work. Being able to access your emails 24/7 could be seen as a bad thing or as a way of preventing work from building up and getting out of control. Of course, your working hours may mean you need to arrange childcare for at least some of the summer. If this is the case, separating work and family life can be important to make sure you enjoy time together. Again, that diary helps!

Don’t forget yourself!

When people mention ‘me time’ during busy periods, the most likely response is hollow laughter! But really, a break from everything recharges your batteries and actually makes you more productive. Dog owners are often very good at this, as their pets make them go out a couple of times a day! Go for that run or swim, take a fun lunch break with friends or family, join that book club for a once a month get together, make sure you get a relaxing evening bath, and only burn the midnight oil in times of extremis.

If you have kids or dependent family, book a babysitter or smile nicely at a local relative, and go out with your partner or friends.

And relax…

What relaxes you? Is it that lovely bath I mentioned above, or half an hour with a book before bed? We all have a ritual that makes us feel relaxed and comforted, and that is so important when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and if you learn breathing and calming strategies, you can keep bringing them into play all day when things start to feel too much.

You can visit someone like me, and by using solution-focused hypnotherapy, I can work with you to develop coping strategies for dealing with your hectic lifestyle. There’s a fine line between busy-ness and stress, and hypnotherapy, along with these time management tips, helps you stay on the right side of the line.

I’m Debbie Daltrey, the founder of Great Minds Clinic. I have clinics in Timperley, Altrincham, and Manchester City Centre. Please call me for a confidential chat and I’ll help you keep all those juggling balls up in the air.

 

Empty the stress bucket: how hypnotherapy helps with anxiety

There’s a big difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. Everybody feels anxious occasionally: it’s a perfectly normal emotion. Exams, interviews, new work challenges are examples of things that make us all anxious. However, for someone with an anxiety disorder, regular everyday life feels overwhelming.

If you think you have an anxiety disorder, you’re not alone. The Mental Health Foundation reports that in 2013, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK. It’s reassuring to know that you’re not unusual and that there are tried-and-tested means to help you manage anxiety.

One of the ways that solution focused hypnotherapy can help you is by emptying out your “stress bucket”.

What is a stress bucket?

The stress bucket is a helpful analogy that describes the effects of anxiety. Imagine you have a bucket, and every time something causes you to feel anxious or stressed, a beaker of water is poured in. Tiredness, family issues, work problems, money worries…all the negative thoughts, over-thinking, and fearing the worst will happen… in they all go. And of course, as the stressors build up, the bucket starts to get very full.

We’re all individuals, so we all have our own different buckets. Your stress bucket can take days, months or years to fill up, and it can easily overflow…!

What happens as our stress buckets begin to fill?

To understand more about the stress bucket, let’s put it down for just a moment and look at our brains.

In some ways, we are closer to our primitive ancestors than we think. Our minds have an intellectual, rational evolved part, and the primitive original part. The latter is what we can refer to as the “emotional, primitive’ part of our brain which we share with our ancestors, and this controls our fight-or-flight response. This developed to keep us alert to potential dangers and when our flight or fight response has become too sensitised, we can feel as if we are on hyper-vigilant mode, where we are expecting something to go wrong at any moment and fearing the worst. The primitive/emotional mind is the source of anxiety, anger and depression. If the rational side is temporarily unable to take over and make sense of any fears or worries we have, anxiety builds – and our stress bucket builds up.

A filled bucket needs to be emptied. Good sleep can be very helpful for this. At night, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, our brain is attempting to use up any unspent adrenalin in the body by completing events, emotions and suppressed emotions in our dreams. In this way events get filed away as a narrative which we then have more control over. This overnight process helps to empty the stress bucket.

However, REM sleep is only limited to about 20% of our sleep. If the brain tries to overdo this, we are woken up in the middle of the night, this can explain why some people have disturbed sleep patterns. Therefore, when we have a full stress bucket, the brain isn’t able to empty it with REM sleep alone. Sleep difficulties are a common anxiety symptom.

But – buckets can always be emptied! Just because it’s not emptying automatically at the moment, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done…

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How can I empty my stress bucket?

We’ve talked about REM sleep as an essential bucket emptying tool – nature’s siphon, if you like. However, if you have anxiety, it’s likely that sleep doesn’t come as easily to you as it could. It’s always worth trying some simple sleep routines that help improve your sleeping habits.

Unwind before you try to sleep: no social media, work, or frenetic films. The old fashioned remedies of a relaxing bath, a warm drink, and a good book can all help you feel calm before bedtime. Caffeine, alcohol and rich food late at night prevent deep sleep, so avoid all these (and smokers find it harder to fall asleep than non-smokers). Make sure your bedroom is a sleepy haven: no kids, no pets, no bright lights, no telly, and kept at a comfortable temperature.

Make time for you, and doing the things you love to do. Sometimes we get so busy with our hectic lives these pastimes take a back seat, but self-care is important. Sometimes, it can be helpful to peer into your stress bucket to find coping strategies. Can you identify the stress factors and come up with some solutions?

Solution focused hypnotherapy can help empty the stress bucket

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy reduces the levels in the stress bucket through mixed methods, we combine hypnosis with psychotherapy to produce a less anxious mindset. Solution focused hypnotherapy concentrates on the future, helping you to come up with creative solutions to help yourself. Hypnosis creates a contrived trance state, in this state, we can start to replace those anxious feelings with positive thoughts.

I’m Debbie Daltrey, the founder of Great Minds Clinic and an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist . My clinics are in Timperley, Altrincham, and Manchester City Centre. If you need some help to empty your stress bucket, please call me for a confidential chat.

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Six Signs That You May Be Mildly or Moderately Depressed

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Are you depressed? How do we know the difference between an ‘off’ day or days, or if it’s something more?

Well, everyone feels low sometimes. We’d be pretty strange if we didn’t respond emotionally to life’s situations. However, if your low feelings simply won’t go away, and you start to notice other changes in your behaviour, patterns or emotions, it could be that you are experiencing mild to moderate depression. And if you are, don’t worry, it can be helped in a natural way to help you to cope and then to start to feel better.

Depression is divided into three levels – mild, moderate, and severe. The levels are measured by the impact that the depression has on daily life: some impact, significant impact, or in severe cases, the impact is so great that everyday life has become practically impossible. The signs I’m talking about here are potential indicators of the first two levels.

I want to make it clear at the start that even though these changes may be unusual for you, they’re not unusual in themselves. If you recognise any of the signs as changes you are experiencing yourself, or you’ve spotted them in a friend or family member, please remember that with help, you can overcome all these.

The list is not exhaustive; however here are some of the main signs to look out for.

1. You’re Not As Interested In Things You Used To Enjoy

Cast your mind back to that feeling as a child, when you really couldn’t be bothered going to swimming lessons, or brownies, or scouts, or whatever it was. When you got there, you always remembered that actually, it was fun, and you simply hadn’t wanted to go because you felt a bit tired.

Imagine feeling like that as an adult, a lot of the time, about a lot of things. Except that now, you don’t bother going. Things that you usually enjoy just feel like too much effort. At times when you can’t even raise the enthusiasm to watch a TV programme, hobbies such as sports are way too much. The really unfair thing about this symptom is that hobbies are really beneficial for mental health, giving a sense of achievement, lots of endorphins, and the social aspect of like-minded company.

Losing interest in things you used to enjoy can also include sex, food, socialising, and looking after yourself (painting your nails, shaving, pampering). Lacking in energy is a common sign of depression, and this is one of the ways it clearly manifests itself.

2. You’re Isolating Yourself More Than Usual

We all have days when we really don’t feel like being the life and soul of the party, or we feel like we can’t be bothered going out – but when those days stretch into weeks, or even months, and we’re still making excuses not to see people, it could be that it’s deliberate isolation.

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Why do people choose to separate themselves from their friends and family at a time when their support could be invaluable? There are various reasons. Being happy feels fake – and it’s exhausting to keep up a show, especially if you’re already feeling fatigued. Your patience is perhaps thinner than usual so you may find the idea of sociable chat highly irritating, or, it may be too anxiety provoking so you don’t bother and prefer to isolate yourself instead.

However, we always feel better when we make that effort to socialise, because we are hard wired as part of our evolution to feel safer when we ‘belong’ to something bigger than ourselves, e.g our ‘tribe’ in evolutionary terms. This is why we feel better when we make the effort to practice interacting and engaging with others.

3. You’re Feeling Anxious, Scared, Or Worried Frequently

Depression and anxiety are different things. However, people with depression often have similar symptoms to those with anxiety disorders. You’re fearing that the worst will happen, or thinking negatively about the future which naturally creates anxiety and worry. It’s so hard, carrying these feelings around with you all the time. Constantly imagining the worst-case-scenario is exhausting, and leaves you unable to relax and switch off.

Remember to always practice self-compassion; be kind and encouraging to yourself like you would be to a friend. Talk to people you trust; or talk to a professional counsellor or psychotherapist. It’s true that a problem shared, (or feelings and worries shared), really helps put things into perspective.

4. Negative Thinking And Self-Criticism

When we feel in a low mood it stems from our thoughts and we can be our own worst critic. I hear healthy, clever, successful people describe themselves as failures – and they have this negative belief because they really can’t see the truth whilst they are in this negative state. They sometimes think that everybody else is having a wonderful life, and compare themselves negatively. They are seeing a distorted view of the truth.

The good news is that the brain can be ‘re-wired’ to think more positively, and negative thinking doesn’t need to be the only way.

5. Your Sleep Patterns Have Changed

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It could be that you’re not sleeping well, not able to get to sleep easily,  waking up frequently in the middle of the night, or waking up too early in the morning. Another change in sleeping patterns is wanting to sleep more – partly due to avoidance, partly because you simply feel so exhausted. The first sign that something is really bothering you is when your sleep patterns are different.

6. You’re Turning To Food Or Drink For Comfort

Comfort eating is an understandable response – after all, food releases endorphins because we need to eat to survive. However, with comfort eating we usually reach for the unhealthier choices of food, and in larger volumes than dictated by hunger. This of course leads to weight gain, which can make us feel worse, and a whole vicious circle begins. Alcohol, likewise – it’s all too easy for the glass of wine to turn into the empty bottle of wine as you try to self-medicate or escape these feelings… and as with food, you end up in a far worse situation, except this is far more dangerous for your health and wellbeing longer term.

Conversely, you may have lost your appetite, and no longer enjoy food you used to. Again, this could be an indication that everything isn’t as it should be.

I work with clients who have one or more of these symptoms of depression – and the good news is that solution-focused hypnotherapy can help as a natural way to start to cope with these feelings, and to start to feel better.

If you are interested in managing your feelings of mild to moderate depression, or anxiety with a combination of psychotherapy, NLP, hypnotherapy and EFT then please contact me for a friendly, confidential chat and further details.

Hypnotherapy is a safe, calming, relaxing experience. I will work with you to help you move forwards into the positive future that you deserve, and to start enjoying life again.

I’m Debbie Daltrey, founder of Great Minds Clinic. I work from clinics at home in Timperley, Altrincham and from offices at the Milton Rooms, Deansgate in Manchester City Centre.

http://www.greatmindsclinic.co.uk

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