Shifting Anxiety and Fear the RADICAL way

There’s a lot of anxiety and fear in the air at the moment because of the challenging times we are experiencing. Human beings are generally resistant to change and we dislike uncertainty. Our brains like habit and routine but both have been disrupted.

The power of your thoughts

How we think about things, the sense we make of our situation, affects how we experience life and the emotions we feel. If your thoughts are negative and pessimistic you are more likely to feel stressed and worried, unable to make good decisions. The more you think positively about this situation, understanding that it will pass and some good may come from it, the more able you will be to think clearly and act logically.

There is an added health benefit to being able to think positively because it boosts your health and your immune system. Anxiety and worry cause the release of the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. Those hormones inflame your body and, in the long term, lower your resistance to illness.

A RADICAL approach to changing your thoughts

Thinking negative thoughts and feeling negative emotions such as anxiety is natural at times of massive change. As my friend, the Shamanic Healer, Daniel Guttierez says, ‘It’s alright to go there. It’s not alright to stay there.’ You need techniques to address unhelpful thoughts and move on.

Here is my RADICAL approach to shift anxiety and fear developed from Positive Psychology, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, The Work of Byron Katie and Radical Mindfulness

Recognise that you are thinking an unhelpful thought.
  • Is the thought positive or negative?
  • Does it give rise to a pleasant or unpleasant emotion? Does it give rise to anxiety or fear?
  • Will the thought move you forward or keep you stuck?
  • Does this thought lead to growth or contraction?
Acknowledge the thought and the emotion that arises.
  • Without judgement, notice what you are thinking and feeling.
  • Notice where in your body you are feeling it.
  • Accept it with compassion and kindness for yourself. It is temporary and you will take action to deal with it.
  • Be aware of the trigger for the thought. Was it something you heard or saw or felt?
Do something physical to change how you feel.
  • Shift your mood by tricking your brain into thinking you are smiling. Put a pen between your lips sideways. Lift your chin. Roll your eyes upwards and move them from side to side five times.
  • Stand in the superhero stance for two minutes. Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Put your hands on your hips. Beam your gaze out directly. Do it with superhero attitude.
  • Do your happy dance for three minutes
  • Put on your favourite happy song and sing along.
Identify a new more helpful thought.
  • What could you think differently?
  • What would ‘best you’ think in this situation?
  • What would someone you respect think?
  • If a friend was in this situation what would you say to them?
Capture the new thought(s).
  • Write down the new helpful thought(s)
  • How much do you believe the new thought(s)?
  • Notice how the new thought changes how you feel.
Amplify the new thought
  • Picture yourself believing the new thought(s).
  • See yourself looking more positive.
  • Make that image big and clear and colourful.
  • Spend a few minutes enjoying that best version of you.
Learn and Laugh
  • Notice what you have learned from the experience.
  • How could you use the new thoughts in the future?
  • How could you use this technique again?
  • Can you avoid the triggers you identified?
  • Laugh! You got through this and dealt with it.

I have talked through this technique on my Royston Hypnotherapy Facebook Page.

If you need any help with this technique or to deal with your anxiety or fear contact me.

Stay well.



Further reading:

The Work by Byron Katie

Radical Mindfulness by Daniel Guttierez

Thrive by Rob Kelly

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Dummies

Habit or Addiction?

I was recently asked to be part of a radio discussion about social media addiction. There has been so much in the news recently about social media, particularly Facebook, and people trying to decide whether to delete their accounts and whether they feel they can do without that contact. How easy is it to stop the habit of checking your Facebook account or is it an addiction?

Pat Duckworth, Royston Hypnotherapy, Addiction

Pat Duckworth with Chris Mann, BBC Radio Cambs


We use the word addiction a bit too freely. It is a serious medical condition that can ruin lives.  It’s often used in a way that demonises the behaviour of young people. When I was young, parents were worried that kids would be addicted to television. Now they are worried about social media.

So what does it mean to be addicted? You can become addicted to anything that affects the reward circuitry in the brain. It’s not about the substance or the behaviour, it’s about the way the brain responds through changing structure and releasing hormones such as dopamine and endorphin. A person experiencing an addiction carries on repeating the habit or behaviour regardless of the negative consequences.

Someone with a social media addiction would feel compelled to check their social media sites frequently and be unable to control the amount of time they spend online. This is likely to be accompanied by feelings of anxiety. The negative impacts could include:

  • Losing track of time
  • Procrastination
  • Stress
  • Need for instant gratification
  • Reduced self-esteem
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Being emotionally unavailable

Stopping the behaviour for a short period of time may be quite easy. The challenge is not going back to it or taking up a new addiction to replace it.

If you recognise any of this in yourself or someone you know, the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem and that you need help. Don’t let it ruin your life.

If you think you have just developed a habit that is wasting your time there are some steps you can take to break the habit:

  • Leave mobile devices outside the bedroom so they do not disturb your sleep.
  • Turn off message alerts
  • Limit your exposure. Decide how much time you are going to look at the website and stick to it
  • Delete sites from mobile devices so you don’t get tempted. Or make them password protected to make it harder for you to access the sites quickly

If you need help, don’t put it off, contact me now

Step Away from the Buffet

Buffets are the enemy of weight control. But what is that about?

Lose Weight

Mindful Weight Loss

I was on a cruise ship recently. Breakfast and lunch were buffet meals and every day was like a battlefield as passengers elbowed each other out of the way to get to the plentiful food. Plates were piled high with a strange mixture of fish, meat, salad, hot vegetables.

You would never order those combinations from a menu so why do we do it at buffets?

Your Caveman Brain

Our human brains formed when we were cave people. When you were a cave person, (it’s a long time ago, you won’t remember it), all food was seasonal. You ate whatever was available because you didn’t know when you would be able to have it again. If it was summer and there was a lot of variety, you ate some of everything. You brain was hard-wired to make the most of all the variety of nutrition.

We may have evolved over the intervening thousands of years and food may now be available all year but our brains are still structured in the same way. And that’s why buffets are so dangerous if you are trying to get rid of unwanted weight.

Develop a Buffet Strategy

If you want to shift those pounds, avoid eating out at buffets. If you can’t avoid it have a strategy to deal with the temptation and keep your willpower strong:

  • Only visit the buffet once
  • Pick a smaller plate
  • Avoid the carbohydrates such as the potatoes, rice, pasta and bread
  • Choose the lean proteins such as fish and chicken
  • Enjoy the vegetables and salads
  • Put any sauce or dressing on the side of the plate and limit how much you eat
  • Eat it all slowly and mindfully aware of the textures and flavours
  • Be prepared to leave food on your plate if you realise to have eaten enough
  • If you want a dessert, choose one and enjoy it.

If you need any help with losing weight contact me and we can discuss how I could help you.

What do you predict for 2018?

As I look back over 2017 I realise what an unpredictable year it was. Who could predict all the major events that happened in the world in the past twelve months?

And if I review my own year I know that I couldn’t have forecast half of what I have experienced back on 1 January 2017. I have been to so many different places this year, worked with amazing clients and met some wonderful people. There were bumps and obstacles along the way but they passed and life went on.

Also, if I had used my experience of 2016 to predict what would happen in 2017 I would have been way out. You can’t use your past to predict your future.

So my thought as we approach 2018 is that it is good to have a plan and a vision for the new year. It is good to set intentions and resolutions, and take action to achieve them. But build plenty of wriggle room into your plans for all the good stuff that is going to surprise you.

A final thought from Abraham Lincoln ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it.’ What do you want to create this year?

Contact me if I can help you with your resolutions or plans.

A very Happy and Peaceful 2018 to you and your loved ones.




Are you addicted?

These days it is possible to become addicted to anything. You might be thinking about common addictions such as alcohol, drugs and gambling but you can also develop an unhealthy habit around sugar, shopping, social media, computer games, pornography – the list goes on and on.

Addiction is defined as ‘the compulsive repetition of a habit/behaviour, regardless of negative consequences’.  The American Society of Addiction Medicine says, ‘Addiction is what happens in a person’s brain when they are exposed to rewarding substances or rewarding behaviour’.

I am not sure that I am addicted to the Internet and Facebook but I know how upset I become when my broadband connection fails or is weak. When it happened recently I got stressed and then angry. I also know that sometimes I start looking at social media sites for ‘5 minutes’ and then time passes and I feel guilty that I have got nothing done. Guilt, stress and anger are all symptoms of addiction.

Some of the developers of the apps and programs we us in everyday life are now concerned about how addictive they have become. These men (mainly) who are now in their 30s and early 40s are having children and are starting to worry about the impact of tech on the next generation.

There were some useful tips in The Guardian Magazine about how to stop tech from stealing your time:

  • Turn off notifications which are not from a real person, such as Twitter updates or news bulletins
  • The only easily accessible apps you should have are those with a clear endpoint such as National Rail, TfL, Maps or Notes
  • Do not have your phone or tablet in your bedroom. Use an external alarm clock
  • Create custom notifications for special people, so you don’t feel tempted to check your phone whenever it vibrates or chimes
  • Scramble your apps regularly by rearranging your screen, so you don’t click on time-sapping apps out of habit

You can

So, what might you be addicted to? What is stealing your money, health, time or attention? What one change could you make today that is going to make a difference?

If you need help to make a change contact me today.

Are you feeling anxious?

I am feeling anxious about you. So much has happened in the last 12 months that has raised levels of anxiety. First there were all the issues raised around the Brexit referendum. Then there was the American Presidential election.  Now we are in the process of another General Election which is stirring up fears around elderly care, the economy and immigration. All of that against a background of terrorist incidents and war in other parts of the world.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you were feeling a bit anxious but do you know what? It isn’t doing you any good and it’s not making the situation any better.

Our human brains formed when we were cave people and the environment around us was dangerous and life threatening. We had to forage and hunt every day just to stay alive. Add to that there were predator animals that wanted to kill us. Our brains became very sticky for bad news as a survival mechanism. That’s why your brain notices negative information far more than it notices positive good news.

When you watch scary stuff on the TV news or read it in newspapers, your brain imagines you having to deal with that scary situation. In response, your brain releases the hormones that prepare you for fight or flight or freeze. Those hormones inflame your system. That’s ok if you only get anxious in short bursts and not too often. Persistent levels of anxiety can lead to physical symptoms such as poor sleep, lack of concentration, weight change, headaches and raised blood pressure.

So what can you do about? Firstly, acknowledge bad stuff happens but it is not personal to you. It’s not the stuff that is happening that causes the anxiety, it is the thoughts that you have about it.

Secondly, stop reading news reports and listening to or watching the news, particularly in the evening and before you go to bed. There is nothing you can do to make those situations better so stop exposing your brain to them. Remind yourself of all the good things that are happening, the millions of people who will go to sleep safely tonight, the beautiful babies that have been born, the things of nature just outside your window.

Thirdly spend a few minutes each day calming your body and your mind by just focusing on your breathing. If you can, make your out breath longer than your in breath for even more relaxation. Even better, go for a walk and breathe deeply.

If you need more help, contact me today so I can find out more about what you are experiencing. You are welcome to book a free 30 minute consultation with no obligation.

Are you feeling SAD?

The clocks have gone back, the trees are turning colour and Christmas decorations are appearing in the shops. Autumn is here and for some people this is the season of SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Are you feeling SAD?

Are you feeling SAD?

Symptoms of SAD include:

  • Lack of energy and feeling sleepy during the day
  • Poor quality or interrupted sleep.
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in normal activities
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings, irritability and low mood
  • Cravings for carbohydrates leading to weight gain.

These symptoms are the result of lower light levels during the winter months which causes an increase in the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes us sleepy at night), and a reduction of serotonin (the Happiness hormone). These changes disrupt your internal body clock which regulates important bodily functions such as appetite, digestion, sleep quality and mood.

I have experienced mild symptoms of SAD since I was a teenager. Every year it creeps up on me and I wonder why I suddenly feel miserable and have no energy.

One way to boost your exposure to natural light and reduce the effect of SAD is to use a full spectrum light box.  These lights provide summertime levels of light and have been shown to be effective in up to 85% of diagnosed cases of SAD.  Light boxes are available from specialist retailers.

If you are experiencing mild symptoms there are other practical things you can do to improve your mood:

1 Take a 30 minute brisk walk outside around the middle of the day.  The exercise will make you feel better and you can get the best of the daylight.  Research has shown that a 15 minute walk can significantly reduce daytime snacking.

2 Boost your mood with healthy food. The food you eat can have a negative of positive effect of your mood and can increase or decrease mood swings. Some simple guidelines:

  • For an energy boost include lean proteins in your diet such as: cheese, milk, eggs, nuts, seeds, pulses, beans, fermented soya products (miso, tofu and tempeh), white poultry and seafood.
  • Avoid eating simple carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread and sugary foods. These foods will cause your blood sugars to spike and fall rapidly causing mood swings. Instead eat complex carbohydrates including vegetables and fruit.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine suppresses the production of serotonin and stresses your nervous system. Remember that caffeine is not just in coffee, it is also in black and green tea, chocolate and energy drinks.
  • Consider taking a vitamin supplement. At this time of year you may need to supplement your diet with vitaminB12 and D. Vitamin D is predominantly made by your body when it is exposed to natural sunlight which is in shorter supply during the winter months. Low levels of Vitamin B12 in the blood have been linked to depression, though the exact cause is still unknown. You can top up by eating fish, shell fish, fortified cereals, eggs, yoghurt, and milk.
  1. Maintain your social contact during the winter months. People with strong social contacts tend to stay happier and healthier and cope better with life’s challenges. Being on social media is not sufficient so contact your friends and arrange a regular get together. If your friends live at a distance, could you enroll for an evening class or get involved in a hobby group?
  2. Commit a random of act of kindness every day. Showing kindness and compassion to others is an excellent way of boosting your own feelings of well being and strengthening your emotional resilience.
  3. Do something that makes you smile or laugh for five minutes three times a day as this will help to boost your levels of serotonin and immunise you against stress. You could watch a funny video on YouTube or your favourite comedy on the television. But the best method is to have a laugh with a member of your family or a friend or colleague.

If you are experiencing prolonged or intense symptoms of SAD it is important to consult your medical practitioner.

For practical techniques to help with SAD contact me to find out how I can help you.

For more information on SAD see

Olympic Wisdom

I am sure that there are lots of lessons that we can all learn from watching the Olympics. We can certainly learn about hard work, focus and perseverance. But there were two incidents that stood out for me last week.

The first incident was between Tom Daley and his diving partner, Dan Goodfellow. Tom, at 22 years old, has had lots more experience of the pressures of competing than his 19 year old partner, Dan Goodfellow. It is understandable that, as they were waiting to compete in the synchronised diving, Dan should start to feel nervous. The advice from Tom was to ‘stay in the moment’. Great advice.

Whenever we start worrying we are either thinking about something that happened in the past and having negative thoughts about it or we are imagining something that is going to happen in the future and imagining it going badly. If you are ruminating on something that has already happened, let it go. You can’t change what happened. Learn from it and move on.

If you spend time imagining all the things that could go wrong in a future event, you are priming your brain for failure. Worry is like praying for what you don’t want. You must have had one of those moments when someone said to you ‘Don’t spill that drink’ or ‘Don’t trip over that step’ and the next moment that was exactly what happened.

By staying in the moment you are being mindful about what is happening now. That enables you to deal with the situation you are in, not some imaginary situation that you have created in your imagination. You can also enjoy the experience so much more.

The second event was Mo Farrah’s response to tripping and falling during 10,000m race.  The fall happened with 16 laps to go in the race when Mo was accidently tripped up by his training partner Galen Rupp. That could have been the end of his race but Mo is made of sterner stuff.  He got back on his feet and caught up with the race leaders to win.

The interesting thing is what said after the race.  He said it was ‘lucky’ that he fell early in the race so that he could catch up. How many of us would be that positive about a major obstacle in our lives? There are lots of learning points from what happened:

  • ‘There is no failure, there is only feedback’. When something doesn’t go the way you expected, what can you learn from it?
  • ‘Fail early, fail often’. This is advice that is often given to new business people. What it means is that to be successful you have to try new things and they don’t all work well. Be prepared to learn from the early failures so that you don’t make them later in your business development.
  • When something happens that you think of as negative, what are the positive aspects of it?

I am sure there were lots of other exceptional moments. Congratulations to all the athletes at the Rio Olympics. You are inspirational.

If you need help with negative thoughts or anxiety contact me today.

Travel Phobias

It’s that time of year when many people are looking forward to going away for a summer holiday. But for a significant number of people enjoyment of holidays is spoiled by travel phobias and fears. There are the obvious travel phobias such as fear of flying, fear of insects or reptiles and fear of heights. Then there are the less obvious phobias such as fear of stomach upsets or vomiting.  Sattal

I could write a blog about each of these and how to get over them but having just come back from India, I am going to concentrate on fear of stomach upsets. I travel a lot and have had traveler’s stomach problems in various countries but particularly in Morocco. It might be due to eating different food, the dirtiness of the currency or just a different range of bugs and bacteria.

Some people tell you to get the stomach bug early and then enjoy the rest of your holiday but I was determined not to get Delhi Belly and I pretty much succeeded. Here are my top tips.

#1 Only drink bottled water – even in hotels. Check the seal on the top of the water bottle to make sure it hasn’t been refilled.

#2 Don’t have ice in your drinks. This may seem a bit strict in hot countries but most soft drinks and bottled waters are refrigerated.

#3 Avoid salads and fresh fruit. You don’t know what water they have been washed in. You can eat fruit that you have peeled yourself as long as you are careful about your hand hygiene (see more below).

#4 When eating sandwiches, or any food that you pick up in your hands, use a paper napkin to pick the food up.

#5 Depending on the country you are visiting, avoid eating meat. Again, you may think this is extreme but in hot countries a vegetarian diet is much healthier.

#6 Eat local fresh yogurt to boost your natural stomach bacteria.

#7 Take probiotic tablets for a week before you leave and during your trip.

#8  Keep your hands as clean as possible. Use hand sanitiser after every time you wash your hands, handle money or touch anything that you think might be dirty.

#9 Take a good look at swimming pools before you jump in, particularly in resorts outside of city locations. Health and safety regulations are not the same in other countries!

#10 Pack a toilet roll! Indian toilet rolls are the smallest I have ever seen.

These are simple precautions to take and then you can relax and enjoy yourself.

If you need any help with your holiday phobia contact me and let’s talk about how I can help you.

Improve Your Exam Performance

It is that time of year when many young people are revising and preparing for exams. It is hard not to feel stressed by exams particularly when the outcome can have a significant effect on your future.

Improve Your Exam Performance

Improve Your Exam Performance

So what can you do to improve your revision and your performance in the exams? There are two lifestyle factors that can have a substantial impact on your performance: your sleep and your nutrition.

Sleep for Better Exam Performance

Research into the role of sleep has shown that poor or inadequate sleep causes drowsiness that leads to reduced performance and memory impairment.  Insight and higher-level learning is also aided by sleep.

The amount of sleep we need varies with age. Adults need about 7.5 hours whereas teenagers need about 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, during the teenage years the brain is going through a number of neurological changes that mean that young adults tend to want to go to sleep later and get up later than when they were younger. School timetables don’t fit in with that pattern but it may be possible during the revision time leading up to exams.  You can catch up a bit at weekends but it is not as effective as regular good quality sleep

Some top sleep tips:

  • Treat your sleep seriously. While you are revising, get into a regular routine of going to bed before midnight and sleeping up to 8 hours if your commitments will allow.
  • Leave electronic equipment outside the bedroom to avoid stimulation. So, no mobile, no TV, and no computers in the bedroom.
  • Dim down light levels as the evening progresses and make sure your bedroom is completely dark. This facilitates the brain to produce melatonin and the neurotransmitters that aid good sleep.
  • Keep your bedroom cool, quiet and well-ventilated.
  • To induce sleep, listen to relaxing music, read a calming book or watch an amusing TV program. Do not watch the TV news or read a page-turner or do anything that will over-stimulate you.
  • Avoid or reduce caffeine in the afternoon and evening that includes coffee and energy drinks.
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol in the evenings. It negatively effects the quality of sleep.
  • Exercise in the morning or afternoon. Only do light stretching exercises in the evening.

Nutrition for Better Exam Performance

Our food provides the building blocks for our brains and our bodies. Good nutrition supports your mood and your brain function. Poor nutrition results in mood swings, stress on our internal organs and erratic brain function.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and de-caffeinated drinks. Avoid sugary, caffeinated drinks because they increase the level of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, in the blood.
  • Reduce added sugar in your diet. Sugars in processed foods go under many names including: agave, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, sorbitol, sucrose, and corn syrup. Eat fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Substitute unrefined complex carbohydrates for simple carbohydrates. Eat wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, grains, beans and pulses.
  • Foods that are good for brain function and mood include: salmon, mackerel, herring, flax and pumpkin seeds, meat and eggs.
  • Foods that are good for sleep include: dark cherries, almonds, kale, bananas, honey, flaxseeds and grapes.

For more ideas see Top Revision Tips.

If you need any help to relax and improve your revision and exam performance contact me so we can chat about how I can help you.