We’ve all been there. One in the morning, one hundred things going through your mind all at once, each one gathering its own head of steam…growing in dimension.
One thirty….that clock is far too bright… I’ve got to be up in six and a half hours….I wonder what she really meant when she said that about the report yesterday? I really do need to get on that diet for the holiday! Did I lock the garage? I’m getting worried about this pain in my neck!
Three o’clock - aarggh….Not comfy….REALLY not comfy, why is this house so warm? What was that noise – oh no the garage will be cleaned out by now. Should I get up? What if there’s someone in there? I did submit that report yesterday didn’t I? Yes I’m pretty sure I did…..
Four o’clock….so thirsty! Can’t go downstairs – is there someone in the garage?….I wonder if they meant that I hadn’t done a good job with that report? Yes that’s it –that’s worrying…hot, I’m so HOT…and uncomfy…
…count sheep one, two, three, four, five….FIVE! Five o’clock….nooooooo. Ok, maybe I should get up and rewrite that report. Get it resubmitted this morning. Is the car insurance due this month?…sure it is. It’s getting light….nice birdsong though….oh I’m going to be so tired today why am I such a dope and can’t get to sleep? I wish I could turn off my brain….my neck…it is sooo sore….need to book an appointment to see the doctor before it gets worse…..I’m so tired….I’d get up and do that report again but I just can’t put my foot out from under the duvet….mmm duvet day…that would be amaaazzinnn…..
Bzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzz
Bees! Wasps……help!…. Alarm - phew…….but I’ve only had two and a half hours sleep! Not good…not good at all…. In retrospect I actually think I did good work on that report and I did submit it yesterday, why did I think I hadn’t in the middle of the night?
How many people are coming to the dinner party?
So, we’ve all had sleepless nights where the chatter in our head just takes over like a dinner party with lots of people – every one trying to get themselves heard, every one with their own demands, their own concerns, their own story that seems to exaggerate with the more attention that they’re given. Nights filled with doubt and despair, only to wake in the morning and think “what the heck was all that about” and the doubts shrink away again to be replaced by logic once more.
Well that’s what I realised about dealing with stressful and anxious situations and in particular dealing with the different parts of the brain – we can all be in control of how many guests are invited to the party.
I’m a qualified clinical hypnotherapist and I’ve studied many different therapies - NLP, CBT, Mindfulness, EMDR, EFT…. But it was while studying hypnotherapy that I learned how to take control of the guest list.
Before the dawn
I’ve not always been in the mental health and wellbeing sector. I’ve always had mental health, a fairly unhealthy form of it anyway…. dogged with self-doubt, bouts of black-dog days, ups, downs… what we now, in these more enlightened days, accept to be ‘the norm’ for many many people.
For sixteen years I owned my own successful brand engagement agency in Manchester, servicing global and pan-European accounts, creating strategy, running business planning sessions … things were growing and we employed over thirty people. I’ve lived with stress in much of my working life, as you’ll expect, a career in a fast paced advertising agency that’s continuously evolving with the market can be particularly stressful.
I became very interested in the motives surrounding a purchase decision and in particular the neuroscience behind customer interaction (neuromarketing). I began to explore neuroscience in my leisure time and started to follow people like Tony Robbins, Dr Wayne Dyer, Les Brown, Paul McKenna and Glen Harrold.
Then came THE year, I think the Queen called hers ‘annus horribilis’ – I can’t print what I called mine, apart from 2015.
And so, in a handful of months and in no particular order (well some I guess) ….
Our main account switched agencies pretty much over night, placing us in an unviable position. My Dad got cancer twice and unfortunately died that year. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor and subsequently passed way. My eldest son went head-first down a water slide and cracked a vertebrae, my daughter collapsed and smashed her skull, lucky to be alive but losing much of the hearing in one ear.
All this while closing my precious company after 16 years of nurturing it. Having to let my staff know, dealing with liquidators, suppliers and clients.
In the midst of it all I Googled the symptoms of stress and I pretty much ticked all the boxes. I booked a medical appointment - did the bloke thing and cancelled it but became ill and saw the doctor anyway. I was referred to a stress counselor…the earliest appointment was FOUR months later due to a ‘stress bottleneck’ in the health system.
So I decided to take control of things myself; I regularly listened to the motivational speakers I mentioned earlier and they really did help me out by showing me the ways to foster a positive mental attitude. But it was the process of hypnotherapy and that isn’t the stereotypical: follow the pocket watch/ look into my eyes, process that we all hear about…it was the process that hypnotherapy uses, in particular bypassing the critical factor of the brain and talking directly to the subconscious part of the brain that lead me to the work I’ve done since.
VIVA the Vagus
You read it right…not Las Vegas. I researched the Vagus nerve (wow…this is such an important nerve in your body and if this is the first time you’ve heard of it I really do suggest you take a closer look, click here )
Anyway. Getting back to that dinner party…or was it a restless nights sleep….
The problem with mind-chatter is that it’s all consuming. It fills your head with dialogue; noise, banter, questions, doubts…and these grow. How do you stop that noise? Stimulate the vagus nerve and increase the vagal tone… sounds complex but it really is simple
A higher vagal tone index is linked to physical and psychological well-being. Even if stress hormone levels are high, the vagus nerve can slow the heart and provide gut level calming.
CBT is the go-to therapy for stress and anxiety but it is only 57% effective. There’s a reason for this. If your mind is full of chatter and at the same time you’re asked to perform a cognitive exercise – identify triggers for your low mood, for example, your brain finds it hard to cope and just doesn’t take part.
If you silence the chatter first (deep breathing, meditation, abdominal massage, deep humming, exercise..) then your mind has the calm space to perform these ‘insight’ therapies in a calm and controlled way, putting you back in control of the guest list.
Now then, where did I put that report?
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