Sunday, 25 November 2012

Jingle Hells- How Avoid the Christmas Stress

“Next to a circus there ain't nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit!” – Frank McKinney Hubbard.  

Christmas can be a very stressful time of year – so much planning and organising, living up to expectations, spending time with that Uncle you hate, making sure everything is perfect…There are lots of things you can do to prevent the Christmas stress from getting to you.
Some top tips are:
Give up unrealistic Internal Demands: Too many people at Christmas think “Everyone must have a good time” or “I must organise things perfectly”.  Therapist Yvonne Wildi  says that Magazines, shops and television programmes create an almost impossible to achieve level of perfection which often bears little in relation to reality but many of us still feel driven to try and achieve the fantasy.” To set yourself such idealistic targets is surely going to add to your stress greatly. It’s much better to think of things in a more flexible way. You’re not responsible for other people’s enjoyment – they are. Stop hoping to reach the impossible levels of expectation, as it’s not going to happen. 

Try not to Pressurise yourself: This is closely related to the internal demands, but on a more basic level. If you don’t reach your targets, never mind. Try again tomorrow. 
Stop Catastrophising:  Something might go wrong and you think “This is awful! It’s the end of the world!” but really just sit back, relax and try to look at the situation. Be rational about the problem. Is it really “awful” or is it just an annoying hassle? Looking at things rationally will help you deal with things better and find a solution for these (often trivial) problems.
Look after Yourself: With everything going on, we might forget to eat or drink or take some time out. Make sure you eat well and healthily, drink enough fluid, and have time to relax. Meeting these criteria will keep your body at a normal level and help you concentrate better on the tasks ahead. 
When dealing with Teens: At Christmas some parents act in certain ways or say certain things that push their teenagers back into “Child mode”. Try to remember that they are young adults now, and will not want to do the same things as they used to. By treating them with respect and talking to them in a mature way, you can ensure that any conflicts or “Stop babying me!” situations will be avoided.
Dealing with Loss or Grief at Christmas: Christmas can be a dark and lonely place for those who are suffering loss. It will draw your attention to those who “Should be there but aren’t” and often make you feel sad and even guilty for continuing without them. The glaring happiness others feel can sometimes have a negative effect, but just try to remember that although loved ones are gone, loved ones still remain. Try to enjoy your time with your friends and family as much as possible, whilst fondly thinking of those who are no longer with you. It’s okay to feel sad at Christmas. 

Remember not to forget the main point of Christmas and allow any stress diminish from the pleasure of enjoying time with family and friends. As Calvin Coolidge says: "Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas."

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

How to Change Your Reality in 4 Steps

“Reality is merely is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one"  Albert Einstein

The way we perceive the world is a guide to how we navigate our way through it via out filters of experience- our map.  You see, ‘reality’ as we see it is only an edited version of the ‘real thing’- the territory.  Most of us operate as if our map that we hold in our minds is the reality that everyone else uses.  We then make assumptions and deletions based on our perceptions, resulting in stress and conflict as we learn that others don’t think the same way!

We create a very limited view of the world which often leaves us feeling without choice, stressed and unhappy that others aren’t doing it right. Or, we feel we seem to be getting it wrong (depending on what our model says) !  The question I often ask my clients is, ‘would you like to change this view’?  Most of them say yes of course though with a having a map comes a certain amount of investment in that view of the world and a fear of what might happen if I change it?

As a therapist, I aim to challenge the ‘reality’ of a person’s experience whilst respecting their model of the world as being theirs and unique.  I do not wish to trample on what has been their foundation for years of experience though perhaps offer them a different perspective from a third person’s point of view.  This in itself can be liberating.

To begin shifting your reality, work through the following steps to begin editing your experiences:

1.    Bring a stressful or negative memory or thought to mind- make sure you make it as powerful as possible- sense and connect with the colours, feelings, sounds again.

2.    Check in with yourself- would it be okay to let go of any unpleasant feelings associated with it? If ‘no’ then ask yourself ‘what is the positive purpose of keeping it?  i.e. so you don’t do it again or so you can ‘punish’ that person or yourself? Be curious.

3.    Next, notice how you think about the thought or memory you’re accessing then:
a.    If you’re associated (in it), dissociate (see yourself in it like a movie)
b.    Turn it black and white if it is in colour.
c.     If it is in 3D, make the memory flat like you’re seeing it on a screen.
d.    Shrink it down in size until you have it about the size of a postcard, flat and black and white in front of you.
e.    Reach out in your mind, screw it up and throw it away or burn it.

4.    Test it- Think about the memory now and see how you feel about it now?  If it feels better, you’re finished.  If there is no change, try altering the other submodalities such as making the sound different or quieter or adding a funny soundtrack to the image or memory.  Using humour is very powerful for changing our perceptions of things.  Try it next time you are scared of something or anticipating an event like doing a presentation- imagine the most ridiculous thing or a commentary by someone who makes you laugh and see how it feels. Feel free to play with it, after all, it’s your reality!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Tips for Breaking the Worry Cycle

“Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” - Henry David Thoreau

Worry can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Your kids haven’t been abducted, you’re happily married and a month ahead on the rent – so what’s the problem? Why can’t we stop worrying?
We worry about everything and nothing. Most worriers are aware that there is no logic in the act of worrying – it is shutting it off which proves to be the problem! And it can be exhausting.
Dr. Walter Cavert did a study of the things we worry about. He discovered that:

40 % of the things we worry about never happen,

30 % of our worries concern the past,
12 % of our worries are needless worries about our health,
10 % of our worries are insignificant or petty (things that will really not make much of a difference in our lives one way or another).

We have spent 92 % of our emotional energies over things that won’t happen or things we can’t change.
Identifying why you worry is a suitable starting point to dealing with this cycle. For some it might be physical; they have had too much sugar or caffeine (it is surprising how much of a difference this can make!) or they haven’t worked out at the gym in a while and feel a bit restless. Or it could be mental, like stress or dysfunctional thought patterns.
Getting to the root of the worry is essential in breaking the worry cycle. Find out what is triggering the anxieties, and avoid those triggers. But how do we figure out what they are? The problem is, worries don’t always have a reason. It could simply be the fact that everything is going so well which makes a person nervous as they are expecting it to change! Sometimes, worrying about something can be reassuring, as if it might solve the problem when the problem isn’t even there yet. Confused? Us too.
The trick is: Just sit back and relax. Take a minute to laugh at yourself – worrying about things that don’t exist or running too many 'what if' thoughts? Try mixing up the associations with the worry- imagine it being like a movie or a comic strip where you can put a funny soundtrack to it or canned laughter. Do whatever makes it light hearted or silly and see what happens!
Avoid the caffeine if you can. It’ll increase your awareness and that fretful part of your brain will be kicked into overdrive.
Try and figure out if you can take any action against what’s worrying you. Chances are it’s something so miniscule and irrelevant that when you moan about it to someone, they’ll tell you to “find some real problems”. But if there really is something, you DO have a bill due soon – think about ways in which you can deal with that. And if it’s all under control and you worry anyway? STOP. Cue the laughter. 
A useful process to follow is to write down all your ‘worries’ and write down all possible solutions to each problem.  Don’t analyse, just brainstorm. Then go back and assess which ones are the best and the pros and cons of each.  Next, decide on the most practical solution.  This helps engage the rational side of your brain and enables you to see the worry from another perspective.  If you struggle with this exercise, think about what advice you would give a friend if they had the same issue, or ask another for some ideas for solutions.  Lastly, ask yourself what is the first step to changing this? Take action and remember to review your progress. 
Life is too short. Kick back, put your feet up, and enjoy the ride. Worrying will get you nowhere and it won’t allow you to have fun. Relax and take some time to think about what’s good in your life. Break the cycle today.