Mindfulness, emotional intelligence, focus, personal development and confidence building book recommendations

blog feb 2018

Struggling to entertain yourself whilst you are snowed in?

 

We live at a time when there are more self-help books on the market than any one person could hope to consume in a lifetime. But in today’s world, finding the time to read even one book, let alone a dozen, can still pose quite a challenge.

To make it easier for people like you with hectic lifestyles, rather than spend hours looking for the most acclaimed self help book, I have come up with the most popular mindfulness, self-improvement and counselling books from my client library:

Key themes covered include: mindfulness, emotional intelligence, focus, personal development and confidence building:

 

1. Screw Work Let’s Play by John Williams

2. Free Range Humans by Marianne Cantwell

3. Stop Talking Start Doing by Shaa Wasmund

4. What’s Stopping You?: Why Smart People Don’t Always Reach Their Potential and How You Can by Robert Kelsey

5. Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Professor Mark Williams, University of Oxford and Danny Penman

6. The Artist’s way by Julia Cameron

7. Ask and it is Given: How to Manifest the Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks

8. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

9. How to Save an Hour Every Day by Michael Heppell

10. Overcoming procrastination by Dr Windy Dryden

11. Subpersonalties by Dr John Rowan

12. Meeting the shadow by Connie Zweig

13. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

14. It’s not how good you are it’s how good you want to be by Paul Arden

15. Freedom from your inner critic by Jay Earley and Bonnie Weiss

16. Perfect Love Imperfect Relationships by John Welwood

17. Sane New world by Ruby Wax

18. The Chimp Paradox by Stephen Peters

19. The six pillars of self esteem by Nathaniel Branden

20. Boundaries and Relationships by Charles Whitfield

21. Boundaries where you end and I begin by Anne Katherine

22. The Self-Acceptance Project: How to Be Kind and Compassionate Toward Yourself in Any Situation by Tami Simon

23. The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free From Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry
by John P. Forsyth and Georg H. Eifert

24. The Compassionate Mind Approach to Overcoming Anxiety (Compassion Focused Therapy) by Dennis Tirch

25. The little book of Ikigai – The essential Japanese way to finding your purpose in life by Ken Mogi

26. What you think is what you get – An introductory textbook for the study of the Alexander Technique by Donald L Weed

 

This will keep you out of mischief on a cold winter’s evening tucked up with the cat, dog or your laptop on the sofa or when later in the year you are sipping a refreshing cold gin and tonic on a sunny beach

so as one of our favourite authors states: “stop talking start doing” …….

 

How to achieve a positive mindset to help you achieve your goals and ambitions for 2018

Blog Scacity Mindset jan 2018

Why is it no matter how much time most people are given, they often finish jobs or tasks at the last minute and are left feeling completely stressed out?
• Why is it that very high wage earners end up broke?
• Why do organisations get stuck firefighting?
• Why do the lonely find it hard to make friends or to find a partner?
• Why do most New Year Resolutions fail by February?

These questions seem unconnected, yet drawing on a raft of research in psychology and behavioural economics, Harvard economist Mullainathan and Princeton psychologist Shafir illustrate that they are all examples of a mind-set produced by scarcity. Put simply, you and most people, often force the brain to focus on alleviating pressing shortages and thus reducing the mental bandwidth available to address other needs such as:

• planning ahead
• exert self-control
• problem solving

The result these academics argue, is a life fixated on agonising trade-offs, crises, and preoccupations that impose persistent negative thinking and self defeating actions.

How can you re programme your scarcity mindset and develop a healthier growth mindset instead so that you can get the most out of your counselling or mindfulness sessions at work or in your personal life?

 

According to Psychology today, “making resolutions or new habits work is essentially changing behaviors and in order to do that, you have to change your thinking and “rewire” your brain. Brain scientists such as Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux and psychotherapist Stephen Hayes have discovered, through the use of MRIs, that habitual behavior is created by thinking patterns that create neural pathways and memories, which become the default basis for your behavior when you’re faced with a choice or decision. Trying to change that default thinking by “not trying to do it,” in effect just strengthens it. Change requires creating new neural pathways from new thinking.”

Here’s some more Neuroscience research relating to scarcity mindsets which can have a huge impact on your counselling, mindfulness and coaching sessions:

 

• We recall negative feedback more than we remember praise.
• Unpleasant events tend to be more memorable than pleasant ones.
• The brain is programmed to be vigilant and wary.
• The brain reacts more strongly to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli.

Studies indicate that there’s a greater flow in electrical activity in the brain when we visualise a negative image such as a dead cat than when we witness something positive like a glass of prosecco or yummy lemon cheesecake.

How can Neuroscience and a knowledge of the brain help you to develop a growth mindset and the best return on investment on your counselling coaching and mindfulness sessions?

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Neuroscience is the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure, and what it does. Neuroscientists focus primarily on the brain and its impact on behaviour and cognitive functions.

Neuroscience is an increasingly wide ranging subject. Perhaps because the brain is one of the most complex structures in the known universe:

 

• intricate enough to coordinate the fingers of a classical violinist
• or logical enough to introduce the laws and theories of gravity.

Now let’s take a brief glimpse at the brain:

The right hemisphere is generally associated with creativity, communicating emotion, analysis of nonverbal information and the control of the left side of the body, temporal and spatial relationships.

Whereas, the left hemisphere is usually identified with logic abilities, casual relationships, sequential thinking, controlling the right side of the body and producing/understanding language and complexities.

The limbic system sometimes referred to as the “emotional brain” is usually considered as composed of the following:

cingulate gyrus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala.

It is the site of: emotional states and behaviour; the bridge between the conscious and subconscious brain and short term memory/ information storage, especially short term recognition of facts, objects, people etc.

The amygdala, the brain’s alarm system is located in the limbic system. Its key function is to call you to attention, and in an emergency, to mobilise or shut-down your body and mind so that you’ll survive.

Sadly though, this alarm rings automatically and unnecessarily often incorrectly informing you that you are experiencing a flight or fight situation when the actual reality is that you are not and the alarm is just being over cautious.

When our amygdala misinterprets a bodily sensation such as sinking stomach to be a message of despair and pessimism, it has exactly the wrong result, reducing rather than enhancing our attention and alertness.

That’s why anxiety, frustration, anger and other chronic stress reactions can occasionally, or for some people frequently, escalate into huge problems.

 

Put simply, we’re not using our amygdala as effectively as it was intended.

Mindfulness strategies can help to reprogramme your brain’s natural tendency to focus on scarcity rather than on the positives of a situation:

 

When you experience a negative thought, feeling or physical sensation, breathe, pause, step back then ask yourself the following question:

“what do I know?”

“I know that if I allow my negative thoughts to take over it is not healthy for me and leaves me feeling anxious, I also know that though I can’t stop my thoughts, feelings or physical sensations, I can change what happens next, such as, consciously deciding to stop myself from catastrophising or getting too attached to my thoughts.”

“I know that thoughts aren’t facts”

Following your attempts at implementing the above strategy, record on a piece of paper the process of what happens when you try this technique and the automatic negative thoughts that stop you from supporting yourself.

Now, let’s take a real life example of a person wanting to create their dream life:

 

Instead of focusing on scarcity and deprivation by talking yourself out of it by getting into a negative thinking style of what ifs, buts, shoulds etc, ie scarcity, approach your dream life by placing yourself in a growth mindset:

Here’s how:

 

(1) firstly, create your own life script by writing down a series of positive affirmations on a piece of paper or on your tablet such as:

“I’m really happy and grateful for all the following things that I’m just about to say:

I’m really happy and grateful to be a wildly successful writer and public speaker, and wife with an endless regular weekly supply of income that greatly exceeds my outgoings.

What’s also wonderful is that my work is mostly daytime and online so I can do it anywhere in the world.

I have over 5,000 twitter and instagram followers and I’m thrilled that my fiction book is a best seller.

I have great health and I’m really enjoying a good work life balance with lots of time to relax and exercise to play piano and make jewellery and other creative activities.

My life is full of fun and joy and I have an abundance of male and female friends that bring out the best in me in Wiltshire and in other parts of the UK .

And I’m open to receiving this and more thank you.”

Repeat this at least once each morning and then just before you go to sleep for at least a six week period.

 

(tip: ensure all statements are in the present tense as if they are happening right now and avoid using words such as not, never, no longer etc)

(2) then, cut out some images/photos from either a magazine or the internet relating to your life script and arrange them on a piece of paper or on a cork memo board/whiteboard. Alternatively, create a collage by using pinterest or instagram.

What is key here is to look at the relevant image/photo whilst you are reading each affirmation out loud (ideally smiling and with heaps of enthusiasm and belief!)

 

(3) Be mindful. Become physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your inner state as each external event happens, moment by moment, rather than living in the past or future

(4) Last but not least, reflect on this statement: you never fail if you never give up

In other words, it’s about moderation not deprivation and adopting a small steps approach such as and be patient…

Sounds simple and perhaps mumbo jumbo doesn’t it? However, I have used this technique with several clients and friends to help them tackle issues such as:

• overcoming procrastination
• overcoming addictions
• overcoming shyness and social phobia
• overcoming anxiety and exhaustion
• overcoming loneliness

 

The results have often been astounding. Having said that though, most of these clients have undertaken a few counselling or coaching sessions with me, Karen Deeming, before adopting the above exercise in order to achieve their goals.

What’s the primary principle behind this techique? The subconscious mind operates 95% of your life and only 5% of what you are thinking or perceiving is your conscious mind.

 

The subconscious mind works most effectively with pictures and imagery so you want to take advantage of that, ie the photos. Once you train your subconscious mind to focus on the things that you want then your performance starts to follow because your performance is always aligned with your subconscious mind.

Also as children we picked up messages from parents, peers, teachers and society, not always positive, that literally form the 95% that we are not conscious of and this 95% is really running the show often resulting in fears and doubts that cause us to procrastinate or to feel stuck and demotivated.

For example:
• don’t dream like this
• you can never have this kind of house
• don’t set yourself up for failure
• you can never run your own business it’s too risky

We then blame our doubts and fears on the external world and we play the victim but the reality is it is our own selfs we are our own saboteurs.

The creating your dream life exercise is an ideal tool to reprogramme your subconscious and of course your unhealthy, scarcity mindset.

 

Does any of this sound familiar? What can you do about it?

Be honest with yourself and acknowledge that you’ve probably fallen victim to the scarcity trap and mind set. Naturally, the reason will be different for each person and remember you’re not alone in this very common dilemma…

Take control of your negative internal chatter box alias “inner critic”.

Over to you:

 

If after reading this blog, you are still struggling to overcome your scarcity mindset and are feeling overwhelmed with distractions and negative thoughts don’t panic or give up just yet.

Coaching, counselling or a  mindfulness course can help you.

 

So, if you need a bit of extra support and encouragement and a few on line or face to face counselling or mindfulness sessions why not contact me to arrange an appointment for a short free introductory chat on 07950 751352 or by emailing me at karen@karendeeming.com

I’ll end with a few growth mindset insights that have helped me, Karen Deeming, along the way:

 

• whatever is going on in your mind is what you are attracting
• happy feelings will attract more happy circumstances
• visualize and rehearse your own future
• shift your awareness

Counselling and coaching is about personal growth and development and encouraging people to discover their potential for living as well as for people with anxiety, depression, stress, bereavement, low self esteem, and relationship difficulties.

 

Christmas Spa Packages and Self Care Benefits

Do you ever come across Christmas Spa Package ads like this?

Get away from it all with one of our blissful spa treat packages for two. Choose from a wide range of venues across the UK including Bannatyne’s and Marriott Spa, all offering a haven away from life’s stresses. From rejuvenating facials, immaculate manicures or soothing massages we can offer the treatment for you and your guest. As well as both enjoying a relaxing treatment leaving you each feeling as good as new, you’ll also have access to steam rooms, saunas and swimming pools at many of the locations. The gift of relaxation is ideal for any occasion!”

And think to yourself ooh this sounds delightful and is just the tonic I need right now to recharge my batteries just before Christmas on these cold dark winter evenings? Then ten minutes later think I’ve got a “to do list” the size of Loch Lomond so I’ll book this bargain Spa package later…

Then, before you know it, this amazing opportunity has totally disappeared from your memory or has suddenly been demoted to the bottom of your to do list because you simply feel too overwhelmed or too busy to take time out to book it. Me too !!

As a Health and Well Being Practitioner I often encourage clients to pay attention to their self care and am often emphasizing the benefits of a good work and play balance.

So dare I say it, when I was presented with a very generous spa treatment gift voucher by my friend earlier this year and I didn’t actually use until a month before it’s expiry date I felt slightly hypocritical as you can imagine….

Having said that, I do ensure that I book in regular monthly massage and coach appointments for myself and take regular holidays so it could have been worst, I may have missed this truly enjoyable and self indulgent experience altogether.

Set in the heart of the Mendips, just a ten minute drive from my cottage, Charlton House part of the Bannatyne’s Health Clubs chain has achieved an enviable reputation as one of the leading country house hotels in the South West of England. So if you’re looking for a luxurious spa break Charlton House makes an unforgettable stay and here’s my photos to prove it !! Yes, that’s me in the colbalt blue coat again !!

 

What is self care exactly?

 

There are many definitions of healthy self care. As I like to keep life simple, I break it down into four distinct categories:

Relaxation

 

By this I mean incorporating at least one hobby and activity into your daily routine such as: mindfulness, yoga, pilates, tai chi, qigong, art and crafts, reading a novel, playing a musical instrument, surfing and gardening. What’s key here is allowing yourself to enjoy the journey rather than the arriving, in other words, undertaking the activities at a slow pace it’s not a competition.

Exercise

Include at least one of the following activities at least four times a week into your daily routine:
• Cycling
• walking
• running
• ruby
• football
• cricket
• golf
• swimming
• rowing
• dancing
• basketball
• netball
• tennis

Diet

 

In terms of mood, I believe we are what we eat!!

I am not referring to a miserable life of fasting, food deprivation and diets.

What I mean by this is the introduction of a healthy daily diet consisting of mostly fruit, vegetables, seeds, fish and less fast food, red meat and carbohydrates.

For example, over the past few years, I have gradually reduced my daily bread, rice, pasta and sugar level intakes and only eat fast food and take aways about twice a year if at all nowadays.

As a result, I have noticed how less tired and sluggish I feel and how I feel increasingly more energetic and motivated.

My new motto is moderation not deprivation.

Adopting healthy sleep patterns

 

I go to bed most evenings before 11pm with the aim of sleeping for at least 7 hours.

Research indicates that engagement in emails and social media activities such as a facebook and twitter can overstimulate the mind resulting in difficulty sleeping.

So as part of my daily bed time routine, I ensure that I cease sending emails or engaging in any type of face book, twitter or other types of social media activities for at least two hours before going up to bed.

Do you include relaxation, exercise and diet into your daily routine?

 

If the answer is no then your work life balance or levels of self care are probably not as robust as they could be and you are not alone in this very common dilemma.

Most of us put work above family, friends and hobbies or have struggled with time stress at some point in our lives.

We are not taught about the significance of self care and work life balance at school, so how can we be expected to know how to create our ideal dream lives?

I believe self care and the art of work life balancing should be a mandatory item on the school curriculum.

How do you put self care strategies into practice to create a healthy work life balance?

 

Following extensive self care and boundary setting training on my Psychotherapy Master’s Degree and from attendance at several personal development courses, the knowledge I acquired , outlining how to create a timetable that reflects my ideal, dream week, has made a significantly, positive difference to my life and health and well being.

For example:
• I mostly now do things that I want to as well as have to
• My energy levels have increased, as I no longer experience high levels of time stress, caused by previously booking up my diary months ahead, as a result of over committing myself, saying yes to most social and work-related events and spending too much time on face book and twitter
• My moods are mostly positive because I no longer eat fast food, I also find it helpful to limit myself to watching only 1.5 hours of television most evenings
• Nowadays, I rarely feel tired, resentful and guilty except of course when I leave spa package bookings to the last minute !!!

Here’s an extract from my recent daily timetable:

 

8.30am – 9am Mindfulness Practice
9am – 1pm – Work
1pm – 2.15pm – Running then lunch
2.15pm – 6.15pm – Work
6.15pm – 6.30pm – Mindfulness Practice
6.30pm – 10pm – Family, Friends and Leisure time
10pm – 11.30pm – Read a novel.

What are the benefits of self care and creating your ideal, dream life?

 

You will begin to:
• feel less irritated, stressed, resentful, exhausted, guilty and overwhelmed
• experience more joy and happiness because more time will be spent doing the things you really want to rather than a life just full of to do lists and things that you have to do
• sleep better and as result increase your energy levels
• experience more peace of mind, a sense of clarity and feel more focused

Heath and well being are your most important assets and investments, without these, you may experience exhaustion, illness, burn out and struggle to be as productive and as successful as you could be at work. Put simply: Health = Wealth.

Work related stress, Neuroscience and the Brain

you_revolution17 jan2015

Does this sound familiar? You’re feeling a bit tense with a tightness in your chest or butterflies in your stomach. You search your mind for the reason why and before you know it has reached a number of conclusions:

• an incident at the office a few days ago
• a tricky chat with a loved one
• or a looming unreaslistic deadline at work.

Suddenly, you begin to feel totally overwhelmed and stressed, paralysed to do anything because you’re caught in the middle of a viscous circle of negative automatic thinking patterns………

Do you know why this happens?

It’s a phenomenon called “negativity bias,” a name coined by Psychologists, describing our human tendency to be much more likely to be influenced by and to recall negative experiences, instead of neutral or positive experiences.

So the good news is that work-related stress, anxiety and automatic negative thoughts are not wholly your fault it’s just the way your brain is wired and you can take steps to address this.

So instead of giving yourself a hard time, be kind and compassionate, reassuring yourself that you’re pretty normal and not alone in this very common dilemma.

Man and clouds jpg

Here’s some Neuroscience research:

• We recall negative feedback more than we remember praise.
• Unpleasant events tend to be more memorable than pleasant ones.
• The brain is programmed to be vigilant and wary.
• The brain reacts more strongly to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli. Studies indicate that there’s a greater flow in electrical activity in the brain when we visualise a negative image such as a dead cat than when we witness something positive like a glass of prosecco or yummy lemon cheesecake.

How can Neuroscience and a knowledge of the brain help with work-related stress?

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Neuroscience is the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure, and what it does. Neuroscientists focus primarily on the brain and its impact on behavior and cognitive functions

Neuroscience is an increasingly wide ranging subject. Perhaps because the brain is one of the most complex structures in the known universe:

• intricate enough to coordinate the fingers of a classical violinist
• or logical enough to introduce the laws and theories of gravity.

Now let’s take a brief glimpse at the brain

The right hemisphere is generally associated with creativity, communicating emotion, analysis of nonverbal information and the control of the left side of the body, temporal and spatial relationships.

Whereas, the left hemisphere is usually identified with logic abilities, casual relationships, sequential thinking, controlling the right side of the body and producing/understanding language and complexities.

The limbic system sometimes referred to as the “emotional brain” is usually considered as composed of the following:

cingulate gyrus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala.

It is the site of: emotional states and behaviour; the bridge between the conscious and subconscious brain and short term memory/ information storage, especially short term recognition of facts, objects, people etc.

The amygdala, the brain’s alarm system is located in the limbic system. Its key function is to call you to attention, and in an emergency, to mobilise or shut-down your body and mind so that you’ll survive.

Sadly though, this alarm rings automatically and unnecessarily often incorrectly informing you that you are experiencing a flight or fight situation when the actual reality is that you are not and the alarm is just being over cautious.

When our amygdala misinterprets a bodily sensation such as sinking stomach to be a message of despair and pessimism, it has exactly the wrong result, reducing rather than enhancing our attention and alertness.

 

That’s why anxiety, frustration, anger and other chronic stress reactions can occasionally, or for some people frequently, escalate into huge problems. Put simply, we’re not using our amygdala as effectively as it was intended.

monkey jpg

How can you tame your amygdala then?

Having studied this topic for many years now, by far the most comprehensive, informative book about neuroscience and the emotional brain I have read so far is the Chimp Paradox by Dr Stephen Peters.

As Coach of the Great Britain Cycling Team, and many business leaders, Peters developed a highly successful mind management programme using the term “Chimp Brain” as its premise.

The Chimp Brain

Peters asserts that “Chimp Brain” is an emotional part of our brain designed by evolution to support our survival.

Specifically, it is the area of the brain which activates the fight-or-flight response, hyperarousal, hypervigilance or the acute stress response, physiological reactions that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event or threat to our survival.

As it is fundamently concerned with two main instincts:

(1) survival and (ii) procreation

for example: sexual reproduction, hunger, thirst and protection of our territory.

The “Chimp” automatically jumps to opinions in the absence of concrete facts and may be paranoid, periodically resulting in catastrophic and irrational behaviour.

According to Dr Peters, the Chimp works on impressions, perceptions and interpretations, not facts and responds up to fives times faster than our rational brain.

Two other terms are also used by Peters, the Human Brain and the Computer.

The Human Brain

This Peters describes as the rational part of the brain highly effective at considering all the available facts and evidence and subsequently reaching careful and deliberate conclusions using cognition. It’s also where our highest values of humanity reside and it works five times more slowly than the chimp.

The Computer

A storage centre of retained experiences jammed full of automatic habits and responses, some positive, some negative. Above all though, when processing what is happening to us, both our Human and Chimp refer to the computer to seek associations and similar experiences. The Computer operates twenty times faster than our Human and four times faster than the Chimp.

You’re probably asking yourself right now how does all this relate to work-related stress then?

Peters argues that before taking any action, we firstly need to recognise these three powerful structures are continually operating in our mind. Furthermore, if we do not acknowledge this we will be perpetually running to catch up with ourselves.

This reminds of the mindfulness approach

Though we can’t stop our thoughts, feelings or physical sensations, we can take charge of what happens next. We can consciously step back, pause, breathe and choose to observe our negative thoughts rather than responding to them immediately.

Here’s some tips to help you regulate and tame the Chimp and as a result handle work-related stress more effectively:

 

1. Acknowledge that we as Human beings developed a negativity bias, that is, we evolved to notice and respond more forcibly to the negative, since that helped our ancestors to stay alive. Thousands and thousands of years ago, it was more important for cavemen to escape negative situations than it was to approach opportunity.

In other words, our ancestors wouldn’t even have stopped to analyse the situation. As soon as they noticed the slight rustle, like animals of prey, our ancestors would have simply fled for their lifes.

2. As it’s your “Chimp” it will respond sometimes when you are angry, stressed or perceive any kind of threat, physical or psychological, and it moves much more quickly than the Human part of your brain so is likely embarrass you with its responses. It might shout and rage, be rude and angry or violent.

3. Observe Chimp-like responses, these are easy to spot, they are responses which when you reflect later aren’t ones you’re proud of. They are likely the ones that if you had your time again you’d do differently, or they are the responses that you might, with the benefit of hindsight, think you need to apologise for.

4. Be aware that everyone has a Chimp and managing it is an everyday challenge, when we’re tired or stressed our Chimp becomes more difficult to control and can overwhelm us more easily. Observe other people’s responses, you can see Chimp behaviour everywhere.

5. Having become aware of your Chimp, you can work on taming it and rather than ignoring the Chimp’s instinctive and rapid reaction, just allow it to have its say. Then, consciously step back, pause, breathe and allow yourself more thinking time to work out a better, more considered Human response.

6. We can use the Computer part of our brain, our automated habits, to put in responses faster than the Chimp can react. This takes time and practice, but if we make a conscious effort to put in a different response to the impulsive Chimp one, we can develop what Peters calls an Autopilot, which is a script or response that overrides the unhelpful Chimp response before it can be enacted.

This rather reminds me of one Mindfulness tip I offer clients:

When you experience a negative thought, feeling or physical sensation, breathe, pause, step back then ask yourself the following question:

“what do I know?”

“I know that if I allow my negative thoughts to take over it is not healthy for me and leaves me feeling anxious, I also know that though I can’t stop my thoughts, feelings or physical sensations, I can change what happens next, such as, consciously deciding to stop myself from catastrophising or getting too attached to my thoughts.”

“I know that thoughts aren’t facts”

Following your attempts at implementing the above strategy, record on a piece of paper the process of what happens when you try this technique and the automatic negative thoughts that stop you from supporting yourself.

To conclude

Understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry.

Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom and sense of inner strength.

A mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them, and is less rattled or distracted by exaggerated, manageable, or false alarms.

Tips how to overcome panic attacks

you_revolution17 jan2015

Do you sometimes feel like you are:

  • losing control?
  • about to faint?
  • having a heart attack?

or at it’s worst a sense that you are going to die?

The symptoms of a panic attack can be very frightening and distressing.

 

According to the NHS definition:

“Symptoms tend to occur suddenly, without warning and often for no apparent reason.

As well as overwhelming feelings of anxiety, a panic attack can also cause a variety of other symptoms, including:

 

  • a sensation that your heart is beating irregularly (palpitations)
  • sweating
  • trembling
  • hot flushes
  • chills
  • shortness of breath
  • a choking sensation
  • chest pain
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • feeling faint
  • numbness or pins and needles
  • dry mouth
  • a need to go to the toilet
  • ringing in your ears
  • a feeling of dread or a fear of dying
  • a churning stomach
  • a tingling sensation in your fingers
  • shivering
  • shaking

The physical symptoms of a panic attack are unpleasant, and they can also be accompanied by thoughts of fear and terror.

 

For this reason, people with panic disorder start to fear the next attack, which creates a cycle of living in ‘fear of fear’ and adds to the sense of panic.

Sometimes, the symptoms of a panic attack can be so intense they can make you feel like you’re having a heart attack.

 

However, it’s important to be aware that symptoms such as a racing heartbeat and shortness of breath won’t result in you having a heart attack. Although panic attacks can often be frightening, they don’t cause any physical harm. People who have had panic disorder for some time usually learn to recognise this ‘heart attack sensation’ and become more aware of how to control their symptoms.

Most panic attacks last for five to 20 minutes. Some attacks have been reported to have lasted up to an hour. However, it’s likely that in these cases one attack occurred straight after another or high levels of anxiety were felt after the first attack.”

Do you know why this happens?

 

It’s a phenomenon called “negativity bias,” a name coined by Psychologists, describing our human tendency to be much more likely to be influenced by and to recall negative experiences, instead of neutral or positive experiences.

So the good news is that panic attacks, anxiety and automatic negative thoughts are not wholly your fault it’s just the way your brain is wired and you can take steps to address this.

So instead of giving yourself a hard time, firstly, be kind and compassionate, reassuring yourself that you’re pretty normal and not alone in this very common dilemma.

 

Man and clouds jpg

Here’s some Neuroscience research:

  • We recall negative feedback more than we remember praise.
  • Unpleasant events tend to be more memorable than pleasant ones.
  • The brain is programmed to be vigilant and wary.
  • The brain reacts more strongly to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli.
  • Studies indicate that there’s a greater flow in electrical activity in the brain when we visualise a negative image such as a dead cat than when we witness something positive like a glass of prosecco or yummy lemon cheesecake.

How can Neuroscience and a knowledge of the brain help with panic attacks?

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Neuroscience is the study of how the nervous system develops, its structure, and what it does. Neuroscientists focus primarily on the brain and its impact on behavior and cognitive functions

Neuroscience is an increasingly wide ranging subject. Perhaps because the brain is one of the most complex structures in the known universe:

  • intricate enough to coordinate the fingers of a classical violinist
  • or logical enough to introduce the laws and theories of gravity.

Now let’s take a brief glimpse at the brain

 

The right hemisphere is generally associated with creativity, communicating emotion, analysis of nonverbal information and the control of the left side of the body, temporal and spatial relationships.

Whereas, the left hemisphere is usually identified with logic abilities, casual relationships, sequential thinking, controlling the right side of the body and producing/understanding language and complexities.

The limbic system sometimes referred to as the “emotional brain” is usually considered as composed of the following:

cingulate gyrus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, thalamus and amygdala.

It is the site of: emotional states and behaviour; the bridge between the conscious and subconscious brain and short term memory/ information storage, especially short term recognition of facts, objects, people etc.

The amygdala, the brain’s alarm system is located in the limbic system. Its key function is to call you to attention, and in an emergency, to mobilise or shut-down your body and mind so that you’ll survive.

Sadly though, this alarm rings automatically and unnecessarily often incorrectly informing you that you are experiencing a flight or fight situation when the actual reality is that you are not and the alarm is just being over cautious.

When our amygdala misinterprets a bodily sensation such as sinking stomach to be a message of despair and pessimism, it has exactly the wrong result, reducing rather than enhancing our attention and alertness.

That’s why panic attacks, anxiety, frustration, anger and other chronic stress reactions can occasionally, or for some people frequently, escalate into huge problems. Put simply, we’re not using our amygdala as effectively as it was intended.

 

 

monkey jpg

 

How can you tame your amygdala then?

 

Having studied this topic for many years now, by far the most comprehensive, informative book about neuroscience and the emotional brain I have read so far is the Chimp Paradox by Dr Stephen Peters.

As Coach of the Great Britain Cycling Team, and many business leaders, Peters developed a highly successful mind management programme using the term “Chimp Brain” as its premise.

The Chimp Brain

 

Peters asserts that “Chimp Brain” is an emotional part of our brain designed by evolution to support our survival.

Specifically, it is the area of the brain which activates the fight-or-flight response, hyperarousal, hypervigilance or the acute stress response, physiological reactions that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event or threat to our survival.

As it is fundamently concerned with two main instincts:

(1) survival and (ii) procreation

for example: sexual reproduction, hunger, thirst and protection of our territory.

The “Chimp” automatically jumps to opinions in the absence of concrete facts and may be paranoid, periodically resulting in catastrophic and irrational behaviour. For example when you are experiencing a panic attack the chimp often jumps to the wrong conclusion that you are having a heart attack or are going to die.

According to Dr Peters, the Chimp works on impressions, perceptions and interpretations, not facts and responds up to fives times faster than our rational brain.

Two other terms are also used by Peters, the Human Brain and the Computer.

The Human Brain

 

This Peters describes as the rational part of the brain highly effective at considering all the available facts and evidence and subsequently reaching careful and deliberate conclusions using cognition. It’s also where our highest values of humanity reside and it works five times more slowly than the chimp.

The Computer

 

A storage centre of retained experiences jammed full of automatic habits and responses, some positive, some negative. Above all though, when processing what is happening to us, both our Human and Chimp refer to the computer to seek associations and similar experiences. The Computer operates twenty times faster than our Human and four times faster than the Chimp.

You’re probably asking yourself right now how does all this relate to panic attacks then?

Peters argues that before taking any action, we firstly need to recognise these three powerful structures are continually operating in our mind. Furthermore, if we do not acknowledge this we will be perpetually running to catch up with ourselves.

This reminds of the mindfulness approach

 

Though we can’t stop our thoughts, feelings or physical sensations, we can take charge of what happens next. We can consciously step back, pause, breathe and choose to observe our panic attacks or negative thoughts rather than responding to them immediately.

Here’s some tips to help you regulate and tame the Chimp and as a result handle panic attacks more effectively:

 

1.Acknowledge that we as Human beings developed a negativity bias, that is, we evolved to notice and respond more forcibly to the negative, since that helped our ancestors to stay alive. Thousands and thousands of years ago, it was more important for cavemen to escape negative situations than it was to approach opportunity.

In other words, our ancestors wouldn’t even have stopped to analyse the situation. As soon as they noticed the slight rustle, like animals of prey, our ancestors would have simply fled for their lifes.

2.As it’s your “Chimp” it will respond sometimes when you are angry, stressed or perceive any kind of threat, physical or psychological, and it moves much more quickly than the Human part of your brain so is likely embarrass you with its responses. It might shout and rage, be rude and angry or violent.

3.Observe Chimp-like responses, these are easy to spot, they are responses which when you reflect later aren’t ones you’re proud of. They are likely the ones that if you had your time again you’d do differently, or they are the responses that you might, with the benefit of hindsight, think you need to apologise for.

4.Be aware that everyone has a Chimp and managing it is an everyday challenge, when we’re tired or stressed our Chimp becomes more difficult to control and can overwhelm us more easily. Observe other people’s responses, you can see Chimp behaviour everywhere.

5.Having become aware of your Chimp, you can work on taming it and rather than ignoring the Chimp’s instinctive and rapid reaction, just allow it to have its say. Then, consciously step back, pause, breathe and allow yourself more thinking time to work out a better, more considered Human response.

6.We can use the Computer part of our brain, our automated habits, to put in responses faster than the Chimp can react. This takes time and practice, but if we make a conscious effort to put in a different response to the impulsive Chimp one, we can develop what Peters calls an Autopilot, which is a script or response that overrides the unhelpful Chimp response before it can be enacted.

This rather reminds me of one Mindfulness tip I offer clients:

 

When you experience a panic attack, negative thought, feeling or physical sensation, breathe, pause, step back then ask yourself the following question:

 

“what do I know?”

“I know that if I tense my body my panic attacks will increase so I will try to be more calm and relaxed and say to myself it’s OK we’ll get through this”

“I know that if I allow my negative thoughts or panic attack bodily sensations to take over it is not healthy for me and will leave me feeling more stressed and anxious.”

“I also know that though I can’t stop my thoughts, feelings or physical sensations, I can change what happens next, such as, consciously deciding to stop myself from catastrophising or getting too attached to my thoughts.”

“I know that it is highly unlikely that I will experience a heart or die.”

“I know that thoughts aren’t facts”

Following your attempts at implementing the above strategy, record on a piece of paper the process of what happens when you try this technique and the automatic negative thoughts that stop you from supporting yourself.

To conclude

 

Understanding how your brain became so vigilant and wary, and so easily hijacked by alarm, is the first step toward gaining more control over that ancient circuitry.

Then, by bringing mindful awareness to how your brain reacts to feeling threatened, you can stimulate and therefore build up the neural substrates of a mind that has more calm, wisdom and sense of inner strength.

A mind that sees real threats more clearly, acts more effectively in dealing with them, and is less rattled or distracted by exaggerated, manageable, or false alarms.

Blue Monday-Mindfulness tips to beat stress, anxiety and depression

Aren’t Januarys tough sometimes? what with post Christmas blues and cold dark nights?

 

Back by popular demand, this video I created for my coaching business, You Revolution, shows how mindfulness can help you with Blue Monday. Mindfulness can also help you to reduce and overcome anger outbursts, stress, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, negative thinking patterns, high blood pressure, low self esteem and exhaustion.

 

Feeling low or depressed because of dark nights and too much rainfall?

Dreading the arrival of your credit card bill this month?

Want to simply curl up in bed beneath your duvet and hibernate for the whole of January?

Feeling disappointed that your New Year Resolution, detox or weight loss programmes aren’t going as well as you had anticipated?

Then you may have fallen victim to Blue Monday trap. Following extensive research findings, the third Monday of January, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, has been awarded the gloomy title due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills.

Even though I, Karen Deeming, am doing my dream job, Blue Monday is still always tough, however, what helps me cheer myself up and get through the day is my daily mindfulness practice, doing nice things for other people or simply remembering that I have roof over my head, have the pleasure of three good meals a day and I don’t have the misfortune of living in a war zone.

 

Mindfulness is a technique for reducing stress, exhaustion, high blood pressure, panics, anxiety, and negative thinking patterns which has been widely approved by the international medical community. It teaches greater awareness of our thoughts, feelings and sensations through simple techniques like visualization, meditation and gentle movement.

Let me give you a recent, real life example of how mindfulness helps:

 

Despite a prediction of heavy rain in Somerset a few days ago, I decided to take out my rickety vintage bicycle “Flo” for an impromptu cycle ride to the local farm shop. As she had been snuggling up to the lawn mower for most of December it was no easy task to take Flo out of the shed, nonetheless I still proceeded to do so.

The cycle route from Pilton to Pylle is no stranger to me but today it was a strikingly different experience because I had decided to attempt mindful cycling. In other words, I adopted a small steps approach, focusing on the here and now and the journey rather than a speedy arrival at my destination.

How stunning I chuckled to myself as I was greeted by the distant view of Glastonbury Tor. I even encountered the delightful sound of a trickling stream for the first time too. Slightly distracted by these delicious in the moment experiences, I cycled through an unexpected knee deep, muddy puddle resulting in a near trench foot endangerment.

Fortunately, I escaped lightly and though my socks were thoroughly soaked, a brief recollection of a relentless flooded tent experience at the Glastonbury Festival in 1996 encouraged me to soldier on. What also helped me manage this somewhat unattractive incident, were the charming duo of immaculate cocker spaniels grinning at me from the rear window of a delapidated jeep ahead. Ten minutes or so later I noticed a distinct change in the earlier calm blissful atmosphere and it suddenly struck me that I had entered into the realms of a busy, treadmill resembling, A road……

Anyway. The reason I’m writing this blog for you is not just to share the awesomeness of Pilton landscape(though it ‘s definitely a worthwhile visit).

 

It’s also this:

The application of mindfulness together with my conscious intention to zoom in on the abundance of delightful landscape instead of focusing on the scarcity of sunshine resulted in a highly pleasurable experience.

 

Moreover though it was forecast to train at 11am it didn’t actually rain until 11.10am when I was safely home and dry nestled up to the cat on the kitchen sofa.

 

Over to you

 

The ability to achieve a successful work life balance in order to live more creatively and fully has never been more important than in today’s society. Unless you take more quality time on your own, you will always experience emotional and physical difficulties from the beginning of your working life until the grave. Health, well-being and mindfulness workshops are our passion at You Revolution that’s why we pride ourselves in inspiring people, like you, to find balance in work and play and in your mind and body and to experience being in the flow.

We also provide the ideal playground and tools to empower people, like you, to overcome issues that are bothering you. This includes learning practical skills that you can use in everyday life and learning techniques to identify your triggers and to put a stop to any unhelpful behavioural patterns.

If after reading this blog you are still struggling to motivate yourself on Blue Monday or indeed anytime in 2017, why not take this one small step today by signing up to one of our mindfulness one day or eight week courses where you can meet like minded people and achieve life changing results!!

 

Alternatively, if you don’t feel ready for a course just yet we also offer on line or face to face counselling sessions too.

Make it happen Stop thinking, Start doing !!!

Why not call Karen to have an informal chat or to book an appointment by calling 07950 751352.

Alternatively you can email me on: info@karendeeming.com

Tip One – How to achieve more focus at work – Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness tools for employers and for business

you_revolution17-jan2015

 

New Mindset new work opportunities…

Does any of this sound like you?

 

  • I want to reconnect with my creativity, spark and imagination but don’t know how
  • Instead of feeling demotivated and bored at times, I want to feel more focused, passionate and enthusiastic about my work
  • I’d like to achieve even greater success levels in work and relationships
  • I want to become more productive, to procrastinate less, to make smarter use of my time and to consistently meet/exceed my targets
  • Making it to the top of my career is a key priority for me

Continue reading

Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness tools for businesses and employees

you_revolution17-jan2015

New Mindset new work opportunities…

Does any of this sound like you?

 

  • I want to reconnect with my creativity, spark and imagination but don’t know how
  • Instead of feeling demotivated and bored at times, I want to feel more focused, passionate and enthusiastic about my work
  • I’d like to achieve even greater success levels in work and relationships
  • I want to become more productive, to procrastinate less, to make smarter use of my time and to consistently meet/exceed my targets
  • Making it to the top of my career is a key priority for me

Continue reading