Archive | September, 2011

Book Review: A Guide to the Good Life

27 Sep

A Guide to the Good Life (the ancient art of stoic joy) by William B. Irvine

For anyone interested in a book, which helps us to understand the philosophical underpinning of todays CBH, this book is a fascinating and engaging read. Irvine explains not only the historical
perspective as it originates with the ancient Greek Stoics in the third century BC, including Epictetus who is commonly acknowledged as being Albert Ellis’s inspiration in the foundation of REBT, but he evaluates the philosophy in the context of twenty-first century living and offers clear and helpful advice on how to achieve the ‘tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’ that the Stoics valued.

‘Tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’ for the ancient Greeks didn’t refer to a new age or pseudo spiritual state, but instead had a very practical meaning which leads us to a modern day understanding of something akin to mental or emotional health.

The ancient Greeks also had a different understanding for the concept of ‘virtue’ than we do today. Today the word virtue is loaded down with religious and moralistic associations, but for the Stoics, living a virtuous life meant living in accordance with the observable design for all human beings. Consequently, all human beings have an appetite for food, therefore it is ‘virtuous’ to eat well, but not to over eat.

The book gives us a very helpful and easy-to-read perspective on the historical context and philosophy that underpins modern-day CBT and CBH. It is also very practical and helpful offering suggestions that help us to develop our own strategies for living a ‘virtuous’ life and achieve both ‘tranquillity’ and ‘serenity’.

By Ian Martin

Book Review: Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt, Routledge

23 Sep

Why love matters is about how affection shapes a baby’s brain.  It’s a great book that explains that love is essential to brain development in the early years of life. The book is well written and accessible.

It offers an interpretation of the findings from neuroscience, psychology, psychoanalysis and biochemistry.  Yet it is evidence based and full of interesting information and facts about the brain and its development.  It provides interpretations in that are grounded in psychodynamic psychotherapy.  The author is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist.  Essentially, many maladaptive patterns have their roots in early experiences.   I would have liked the author to have mentioned that change is possible and despite our past experiences we can change our beliefs and behaviours and therefore our emotional state in the here and now.   I still enjoyed the book immensely as it is written from the point that prevention is better than a cure.

What I found more interesting is the development of the higher brain capacities i.e. social, which develop in response to social experiences.  The author makes the point that it is appropriate to hold a baby rather than hold flashcards to him/her.  Further a baby can’t develop an orbitofrontal cortex on his/her own because it depends on the relationships with other people who are available.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in psychological health.

All about self-esteem

23 Sep

Many of us think we know what self-esteem is, but do we? How does self-esteem impact our daily lives? Equally what things play a role in our self esteem, and are these things different between men and women, and do they change as we go through our lives?

People suffering with issues such as depression or anxiety often suffer from low self-esteem, so understanding self esteem is an important issue.

In a recent survey conducted by the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy (CCBH), a number of self-esteem based questions were raised and the results were rather interesting…

Male Female divide

When asked to rank how you feel about your own self-esteem, there was a clear difference between the answers men gave to those of women (although we should point out at this point that 71% of the people who answered the survey were women). The average self esteem score for females was ranked at 5.66 (0 being no self esteem and 10 being the highest amount). The average score for men was higher, at 5.8, so there wasn’t a large difference between the two.

Noticeably, there is was small difference between men and women when it came to financial situation. Men were slightly more concerned with this, and 53% stated that this has a big impact on their self esteem and 50% of women agreed.

When it came to body shape, 59% of women stated it had an impact on their self esteem; men were less worried, with only 45% stating their self esteem is impacted by their body shape and size.  27% of men surveyed said not being as slim as they would like, had an impact on their self esteem, whereas 46% of women said it had an impact. Yet more men (48%) stated that if someone doesn’t find them
attractive, then it had an impact on their self esteem, while only 33% of women said it had an impact on them. This is interesting then – could women’s self-esteem be affected more by how they view their own appearance, while men’s is affected more by how they think others view them? What do you think?

When we look at being happy in a relationship, 54% of women stated this had an impact on their self esteem, while only 45% of men agreed.

Another big divide though is shown when we look at how our self esteem is effected by having someone criticise us, or when we are unappreciated. 63% of men said this had an effect on them, while a whopping 77% of women said it played a big part in their self esteem.

Where are men and women similar?

It seems when it comes to work, the differences between men and women are far smaller.

67% of females surveyed stated that making a mistake at work had a big impact on their self esteem. The figure for men wasn’t that different; with 65% agreeing. Regarding success in work, the difference between men and women, was again very small. 62% of women felt success at work had an impact on their self esteem, and 60% of men surveyed agreed with.

Interestingly, being single had a similar impact on self esteem for both men and women, with around 22% being questioned stating it had an impact.

Does age make a difference?

More women took the time to enter the survey, and as such, CCBH looked at different responses to answers based on their age ranges. Focusing in on the 26-35 year old females, we notice different impacts on their self esteem, compared to the full age range of female respondents (26-70+).

Looking at the workplace, it was interesting that both age groups had similar views on how success or failure at work impacted their self esteem.

However, the difference comes when we ask questions about our body size and shape. 59% of all women surveyed said their body size and shape impacted on their self esteem. This figure rockets to 71% of those between the ages of 26-35. Similar gaps are shown when asked about whether feeling attractive or not, impacted on self esteem. 63% of all women surveyed noted that it did, while again, this figure jumps massively for the age range 26-35, to 76%.

Big differences are also apparent when it comes to people liking us, with 48% of all women surveyed stating that this had an impact, while 71% of women aged 26-35 felt this played on their self esteem.

The tables are turned though when we look at feeling unappreciated and criticised. It seems that for the younger age range this impacted less on self esteem, with only 58% of them stating it played a part. However, looking at all the women surveyed, 77% felt this played a part in their self esteem…

Impacts on self esteem

What these figures highlight is that different factors for genders may have an impact on our self esteem. It also shows that as we age, different things may impact our self esteem at different times in our lives, so self esteem is an ever changing thing within our lives.

Throughout our lives we need to use a variety of tools to deal with self esteem, and the factors that play a part in affecting our self esteem, for good or worse. The College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy is running a master class course, which is open to anyone, and is designed to provide people with all the tools they need to take solve their self esteem problems, no matter what the factors are that impact us.

For more information on Self Esteem and the CCBH self esteem master class, please visit their website http://www.ccbh.org.uk/Hypnotherapy_course_for_self_esteem

Have you got the post holiday blues?

23 Sep

September can be a dreary time of the year. The kids are back at school, we have all returned from our summer holidays; the nights are drawing in, and it seems a long time until the Christmas holidays. So what can this mean for us? Often, one thing, the back-to-work blues.

Post Holiday Blues?

Post Holiday Blues?

According to research, Autumn is a key time to have a career crisis. Many of us spend a relaxing fortnight in the sun questioning our choice of job and dreading going back to the office. You may even have what some experts have dubbed Post Holiday Syndrome – a general feeling of discomfort, tiredness, lack of appetite and anxiety.

First of all, it is not that uncommon to have an initial feeling of discomfort about returning to work following a holiday.  A holiday is a time for relaxation, a suspension of reality and responsibility.  Getting back home is returning to the reality of life, responsibilities, and work.  For many people work may not be a passion even though it is enjoyable or acceptable most of the time.  If, however, you are anxious and lacking appetite on returning from holiday then you may need to explore this further.

It is important to first of all distinguish between anxiety and nervousness or concern.  When you are in a state of anxiety, you tend to exaggerate the badness of the situation, underestimate your ability to stand or cope and even put yourself down.  The thoughts tend be very negative and all that you want to do is think of ways to avoid or run away from the situation.  In this case it may be
related to the job itself or even bosses or people you are working with.  You may think that you have no other choice left in the world and feel like you are forcing yourself to do something that you really do not want to do. In this state of anxiety you may lose your appetite and also have problems with sleeping.

 

So what can you do about the back the work blues?

 

  • Change the way you are currently thinking about work and make it more helpful to you.  Accept that you may not be in your ideal workplace at the moment but whilst that is bad, it is not the worst thing that can happen to you and that you can tolerate it even though you may not like it.
  • Reflect on what you want to be doing.   Maybe it is time to explore your options and what really interests you.  This may take a little time but is worth it.  Once you have established your goal then create a plan about what you need to do to
    start moving towards it.  You need to accept that achieving your career goal may mean retraining and may take a few
    years. (If you think you might be interested in retraining in therapy/hypnotherapy remember to check out www.ccbh.org.uk for more info on Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy our courses.)
  • Think clearly about why your goal is important to you.  Write these reasons down.  Keep your focus on the goal and remind
    yourself of these personally important reasons. This will help you remain focused on your plan particularly when at time
    you may feel de-motivated or uncomfortable in your current job.

Lastly, remember that you are only in your current job temporarily and that it will come to an end sooner or later and you will be embarking on something new.

Ok, so that is the post holiday blues, but many of us encounter another problem in these cold Autumn and winter months, after we have returned from holiday, and this is that you can lose diet/health motivation

Let’s explain a little more. From spring until August, most of us have one diet goal – ­ to look good on our summer holiday. But come the autumn, with Christmas still too far away to worry about and the colder weather meaning we naturally cover up more,
it can be hard to have a weight loss focus. You need to find a new goal to focus on and re-energise your healthy eating efforts.

If you only want to lose weight for your summer holiday or for Christmas then accept that that’s your goal and it’s for that specific reason only.  This means accepting that weight loss is not a major issue for you.  Accept yourself and get on with life.  Find another
temporary goal like giving up a certain food for Lent or an alcohol detox for a month.  You can join with a friend and start walking or jogging together.

However, if physical health and well being is important to you then you need to keep it high on your agenda and not just for holidays.

 

How can you keep motivated about health all year round?

  • Create a health goal and ensure it is high on your list of priorities and commit to achieving it.  You will struggle if you are inconsistent with this.  So think about why your physical health is important to you.
  • Make a list of ‘What’s in it for me in committing to my physical health and well being?’  This list becomes the source of your motivation and initial kick start.  You need to be thinking about your goal and this list daily.  A good exercise would be to start imagining yourself with your goal already achieved.  Do this daily for a few weeks to start the feeling of motivation and then put it into action and be consistent.
  • During this initial period, accept that it will feel like a challenge.  Keep imagining your goal and remind yourself of your list. This will help you tolerate this initial period more easily.
  • After a few weeks, your feelings of motivation will naturally be there as a new lifestyle habit will begin to develop.  It always feels more challenging at the beginning so realise this is natural.  Keep your goal and ‘what in it for me reasons?’ at the forth front of your mind and accept that this initial feeling of discomfort is temporary but part of it.

We hope these tips help. Do let us know your experiences of combating your post holiday blues!

Anxious about heading back to school

12 Sep

Do you remember as a kid, heading back to school after enjoying those 6 week holidays? Ahhh, I remember (especially when being very young) that the summer lasted forever, and that when it was finally over, I dreaded heading back to school. For me, I simply didn’t want the summer to be over, but for many children, this is a time of great anxiety.

Back to school

Anxious about heading back to school

There are lots of things that children may be anxious about, for example, heading to a new school, or into a year where they know they have important exams coming up – such as GCSE or A-Levels. Other possible anxieties include:

  • Making new friends
  • Seeing friends they haven’t seen since school term ended
  • Seeing the school / class bully
  • Being in a new school
  • Being cool
  • Coping with the study demands
  • Fear of failure, in terms of study, exams, or even sport
  • Anxiety of being anxious

For most children, once they are back to school and back in the swing of things, a lot of these anxious feelings go, but for some, they won’t…

If anxiety persists

If anxiety persists, it can lead to all sorts of psychosomatic symptoms or acting out behaviours.  Some common issues include tummy aches and sleep problems, but anxiety can lead to out-and-out refusal to go to school.

Most children can overcome their anxieties with the help of their parents.  Therefore, talking about their worries and helping them to feel safe and secure is often very helpful. Here are some tips…

Help your child overcome their anxiety

  • Communication with children should start early if at all possible.  Parents should talk about school in a light and fun way, perhaps recalling funny and interesting stories of their own.  School experiences should be talked about as well as expectations.  The child should be encouraged to talk about their thoughts and feelings so solutions can be worked out in advance.
  • We should  remember that children pick up on our own emotions, and this can amplify feelings of anxiety further. How many of us get a lump in our throat when we wave goodbye to our child on the first day school?  It is important to remember that children can pick up on these small things, increasing the state of anxiety. Therefore, parents should smile, hug and kiss
    and wave goodbye.  It is important to create a light and positive state so the child picks up on this instead of anxiety.
  • Parents can shop for school supplies with their children, making it a good opportunity to chat about school in a healthy, relaxed and fun way.
  • Ensure you allow enough time in the morning routine to get your child to school in state that he or she is ready to start the day of learning.  Rushing and shouting only increases an anxious child’s anxiety
  • For younger children it’s important to let them know in advance what is happening. Young children do not comprehend time scales in the way older children do and its important to  continuously signpost their week so they know what is happening.  We do not like the unknown and the anxious child struggles with it more and surprises can be very hard to manage when you are in a state of anxiety

Children who become very withdrawn from their family and friends, experience loss of appetite and become lethargic may be experiencing depression. Any dramatic change in mood and behaviour that persists should be seen as a sign and advice from a professional may be appropriate.

What about you?

If your child is leaving home for college for the first time and you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by sadness and loss you may be experiencing a healthy negative emotion, but if your emotional state persists for weeks and weeks then you may be experiencing unhealthy negative emotions like depression. You can learn more about this by looking at our website

Core Values and why they are important

2 Sep

In the 21st century society there is  little reinforcement of values within our cultures.  Personal values are important to us; they are our moral compass, our reference point to know how we are doing in the world; without which we become discontent and often judgemental, deprecating of others and ourselves.

Importance of core values

Importance of core values

What are your values? What matters to you?

Every person has a unique system of values which inform their beliefs about themselves and the world.  Clear identification of your values help guide your reactions and motivate your behaviour even when facing personal difficulties.  It is about making a choice to live in accordance with one’s defined values.  Clarifying our own values is one of the most important exercises in our path towards personal fulfilment.

What do you really want to achieve? Not just at work, but in your life as a whole?

Core values exercises are very personal. These are the moments when you explore what is important to you – not to other people, society, or the world at large!  They are important to build confidence  and self esteem. Often when we feel guilty it is because we are acting “against” a core value we hold, though we haven’t consciously recognised we hold that value.

Often we have never really stopped to think what our value system is. Take time to identify your core values and consciously assess what really matters to you.

How to identify your core values

Our values should be choices rather than imperatives that “it MUST be so”.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) recognises the importance of healthy thinking – healthy thoughts are flexible, consistent with reality, logical and helpful.  When we think in unhealthy ways we think rigidly, illogically, inconsistently with reality and unhelpfully.  So values are choices, not dogma.

There are many ways of identifying your values; here are some of those ways:

1) Devising a life balance wheel is one way of exploring your value system.

The circle below may represent some of the significant areas that are significant to your life.  It is not an exhaustive list and you may wish to add something that is not on the list. (Source Joseph, 2009)

Core Values

Core Values

Choose at least five areas that are at the core of your life purpose.  Start by reflecting and writing a description of the person you would like be in each area.  Begin on the most important area and write
down a description for all your chosen values.

2) Take some time to reflect on your core values and list them on a sheet of paper.

Initially you may find it easier if you take a brainstorming approach and generate quite a long list.

Once you have made a list of your core values, then:

  • Go over the  list being much more selective and narrow it down to your top five or six.
  • Take each value and consider what it means to you.
  • Choose one to act on and begin acting in accordance with that value. Each month add the next value to act in accordance with.

Values may change with time as the world moves on, so regular re-evaluation is helpful.

3) Using Visualisation methods:

Imagine yourself meeting an inspirational figure and discussing values with him or her.

Imagine you are all most at the end of your life surrounded by people you care about and reflecting to them on your life.

Imagine you had an opportunity to give your message to the world and you had a short amount of time to present this to the world – what would you say?

Here are some core values you might like to consider:

Prudence* Temperance* Fortitude* Justice * Diligence* Love* Acceptance* Achievement* Altruism* Ambition*Appreciation* Authenticity* Freedom* Friendship* Fun*Respect* Harmony* Responsibility* Health* Balance* Choice* Beauty*  … and there are many more…

We hope that you do give working out your core values a go, and see what difference it makes to your life. If you have any questions about any of the advice here, do ask it below.

* Joseph, A (2009). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Your route out of Perfectionism, Self-Sabotage and Other Everyday Habits. Capstone Publishing, Chichester.