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.

Anxious

Anxious? Need help?

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 http://www.sad.org.uk/

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.