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Don’t let an insect phobia stop you enjoying life

While the sun is shining and the weather is warm many of us are taking to the outdoors holding picnics and enjoying the many green spaces that flourish throughout our country.  Being outside means potentially being exposed to various insects and animals that they have a phobia of. This means invitations to bbqs are a source of unease and discomfort rather than pleasure.

Insect phobia: Are you afraid of creepy crawlies?

A phobia is an intense fear of an event or a specific object or animal.  Researchers in the Czech Republic recently asked people to rank the animals they feared most.  According to their study published in The Journal of Psychology animal phobias are amongst the most severe phobias experienced.  The animals that most commonly engender a phobic response are insects, snakes and spiders. Rats and mice are also quite commonly reported. The researchers hypnothesised that this may be because of genetic memory. Insect phobias developed to avoid the creatures that might carry disease or kill us with their venom. Sometimes just the thought that perhaps the object of the insect phobia could possibly be nearby being enough to trigger intense anxiety in people who have severe phobias.

How phobias are formed.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) writes that phobias are often learned behaviours or part of the body’s natural defence systems.  Designed to protect us, the elevated response caused by a phobic reaction can actually cause us more harm.

It’s estimated that over a million people in the UK suffer from a phobia which affects their quality of life.  When phobias become severe they can generalise from one thing to other situations.  Perhaps you started out being frightened of wasps after being stung and over time this has generalised to a phobic reaction to all flying insects.  You can even pass your phobias on to your children.

Often phobias can be treated in just one session with hypnotherapy, if the client is fully willing and able to embrace the change, says the NCH. There are many different effective techniques that can be used for phobia removal. Hypnotherapists may combine different forms or use hypnosis in conjunction with other treatments depending on the needs of their client.

Is performance anxiety affecting you?

Performance anxiety is the most common of all the different types of anxiety.  If you find yourself with shaking hands, trembling knees and a dry throat before presenting at work or accepting an award you’re definitely not alone. In fact, many people will commiserate with you.  But for some people it can be a real struggle to even speak up in an office meeting.

Performance anxiety can affect anyone

In the last few weeks several celebs have spoken out about their battles with anxiety including Cheryl ColeEd SheeranJess GlynneKaty Perry and K-pop star Mina.  The level of pressure these stars feel is can be understandable. Their decisions to cancel performances can affect and upset up to 10,000 people a night. But often it’s the smaller and more intimate social engagements that cause them crippling anxiety. While the level of scrutiny these stars come under is not something that most of us ever need to worry about the feelings can be the same.

Anxiety disorders aren’t just about everyday worries that come and go. They can seriously impact your day-to-day life when it comes to school, work, and personal relationships. Anxiety related mental health conditions can feel completely overwhelming and more people are looking for ways to cope.

There’s still a stigma around mental health issues which stops people discussing them.

Being open about mental health issues like stress and anxiety is important. Mina and her pop group have been praised on social media for being honest about her performance anxiety. By talking about her struggles she has helped to remove stigma around the condition. For many stars, clinical hypnotherapy has been a popular choice to help them quickly and effectively deal with their anxieties and resume their lives.

In a recent interview Cheryl Cole said “No one could make me feel worse about myself than I did, and that was a massive problem.” The messages that we unconsciously send ourselves shape our experience of life.  During hypnotherapy we can learn to change those messages, replacing them with more helpful thoughts and more accurate statements.

Working with a hypnotherapist may help you feel more confident and more at ease about things which have previously been challenging for you says the NCH. A qualified clinical hypnotherapist can help you to better understand anxiety and change your relationship to your anxious thoughts and feelings. For example, a simple reframe might be to understand that anxiety and excitement often feel the same in the body.  Perhaps when you’re about to go on stage you’re actually excited.  That changes the feel of the situation.

World well-being week – how are you feeling?

Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.  Worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope. Well-being for many people is at it’s lowest in recorded history.

Mind, the UK mental health charity believes that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing.

Taking steps to look after your well-being can help you deal with pressure, and reduce the impact that stress has on your life. Resilience keeps us mentally healthy and able to cope with the stresses of life. Because every-day stresses are ongoing, the way you deal with them is crucial for your long-term mental and physical health.

The NHS suggests that there are a few key areas that people can work on to improve their feeling of well-being.

Social support and relationships – the more connected we are to our community, the better our well-being.  Spend time with your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues and you’ll notice your mood improves.  Connecting with your local community through volunteering not only gives you a boost of feeling good about your actions, it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests and values to yourself and forge friendships.

Finding a sense of meaning – Connect to the ‘why’ of your life. Having a sense of purpose has been found to be surprisingly important for countering burnout. When people work on projects both inside and out of work that are meaningful to them their sense of well-being soars.

If you’re struggling to manage your stress levels, feeling isolated and disconnected a few sessions with a hypnotherapist may help you achieve a different perspective.   During sessions with a hypnotherapist you will learn skills that will enable you to problem solve more effectively and think about the events that occur in your life in more productive ways.  You may also learn techniques that help you examine your short and long term goals, cultivate your purpose in life, and understand feedback from key people in your life.

After sessions with a hypnotherapist you may feel more confident; more relaxed in situations that have previously challenged you,” says the NCH. “Hypnotherapy unlocks the potential you have to break free of negative thought patterns, and to react more positively and more confidently to situations in your life that may have previously made you anxious.”

Does negative body image affect your child?

This week is Mental Health Week, and this year the topic is Body Image. Body dissatisfaction can start as young as age 6 and lead to depression, anxiety and eating disorders. For too many of us, our bodies are sources of shame and distress, recent research by the Mental Health Foundation reported that nearly 1 in 3 people in the UK have felt stressed to the point of being unable to cope because of thoughts about their body and how other people perceive them.  From an early age, we are bombarded with images that define what an ‘ideal body’ looks like.  Sometimes we have faced bullying or cruelty as friends and family have used how we look as a way to put us down for a cheap laugh.

Teenagers and young people are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor body image.  In 2017 the UK government was urged to commit more time and resources to combat this growing problem.  One expert consulted in the study said that it was now ‘normal’ for young people to be unhappy with the way that they look.

We are all aware of the proliferation of fad diets, often endorsed by a celebrity that promise to change the way we look in a short space of time.  Often these diets are unhealthy and unsustainable, leading over time to metabolisms which aren’t as effective.  Research has shown us that the more the more comfortable you are with your body, the greater your overall wellbeing, and the better choices you make when presented with fad diets or dangerous exercise programmes.

Concern over body image led the Mental Health Foundation to seek a ban on a series of cosmetic surgery ads shown around the TV show Love Island. They warned the Advertising Standards Authority that the ads ‘painted a false picture of perfection’ and ‘exacerbated young people’s insecurities’, leading to a removal of these kinds of advertisements around the show.

It’s not just advertising which sends young people the message that their bodies are not good enough.  Social media has been regularly criticised for lowering teenager’s overall feelings of self-worth and wellbeing.  In 2017 a report by Nuffield Health found that children as young as 9 were being targeted by games featuring plastic surgery makeovers. The report identified several factors that contribute to poor body image in young people These include increasing levels of anxiety around appearance, the rise of social media where photos can receive positive or negative ratings and pop culture pictures of celebs with airbrushed good looks and perfect lives.

So how do we promote positive self-esteem and body positivity to our children and teens? We can limit their access to social media and engage in conversations with them about body image.  By talking openly about how bodies change over time and what their purpose is, we can take a role in shaping an inclusive culture.  Shift to praising them for what they’ve done, rather than how they look. Emphasise health and activity over fashion.

The Mental Health Foundation suggests posting on social media a picture of a time or a place when you felt comfortable in your own skin – this could be now, five years ago or at the age of five. It can be a photo of yourself or something else that reminds you of the moment. Use the hashtags #BeBodyKind and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek to participate in the activity.

If you suspect that your child or teenager is struggling with their body image, early intervention is important.  Dealing with low self-esteem and body image issues can be effectively done with clinical hypnotherapy.  During a session of hypnotherapy a qualified therapist will build self-confidence and a positive self-image using a range of different techniques. The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) says its therapists are trained to help people improve their self-esteem, self-confidence and body image.

Social media linked to depression in teens

social media linked to depression in teensGovernment ministers and Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS have called for social media companies such as Snapchat and Instagram to limit the amount of time that young people spend on their platforms.  These calls for reform came after a study tracking 11,000 14-year-olds (the Millennium Cohort Study) found that almost 40% of girls who spend 5 hours or longer on social media a day are depressed. Stevens called for the social media companies to have an extra tax levied on them to help ease the strain on the already overloaded NHS system.

Of course, it’s a chicken and egg argument, what came first the depression, low self-esteem and dissatisfaction with their body or the excessive hours spent on social media. Experts say that despite there not being a causal link, in their opinion evidence points in that direction.

Last week Facebook faced new allegations that it paid teenagers to download an app onto their phones which tracked not only their social media useage, but their private emails. Apple said that Facebook abused a loophole in its AppStore to bypass strict data collection rules.  Barbara Keeley, the shadow minister for mental health, said social media firms should be forced to adopt a new duty of care to protect young users.

Greater amounts of daily screen time are associated with more insomnia symptoms and shorter sleep duration among teens. The sleep deprivation associated with social messaging, web surfing and TV/movie watching is linked to depressive symptoms. Of course, it’s too simplistic to lay the blame for the rise in mental health problems amongst teenage girls at the doors of social media.

There is a complex interplay between the environment, genes and what’s happening in a person’s inner world that give rise to mental health problems.  However, early intervention is very important when assessing the long term outcomes for teens with mental health issues and with NHS resources stretched, it’s easy for these girls to slip through the cracks.

If you think your child is depressed, stressed or having other mental health problems it is important to find them someone they can talk to.  The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) has nearly 2000 qualified therapists from the UK as members.  This means they are well placed to recommend someone near you who specialises working with children and teenagers.

Clinical hypnotherapy takes a holistic approach, rather than just treating symptoms. The underlying emotions that feed the anxiety or depression are addressed and effective hypnotherapy can bring fast relief compared to other forms of therapy.