Posts filed under stress management

The Value of Mindfulness within Cancer Care

I have been proud to work as a volunteer reflexology practitioner and mindfulness teacher at The Mary Stevens Hospice in Stourbridge.  There is a growing volume of evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness for patients, their families and those working in the end of life care environment.

the mary stevens hospice

The Trish Bartley  book, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Cancer: Gently Turning Towards, explores a Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for cancer care. This eight-week course has been tried and tested over ten years of clinical use. Bartley believes

“mindfulness is a way of being more present and aware. This offers us many opportunities to appreciate life more. It also enables us to respond more gently to what we find difficult, and by doing this we often find that we experience changes”

A study in 2008 (Chadwik et al) found that mindfulness was beneficial to people with terminal cancer both physically and emotionally.  An analysis of the research available in 2005 concluded that mindfulness based intervention in cancer care had positive results, including improvements in mood, sleep quality and reductions in stress. A further review of studies in 2011 supported this finding. They found significant improvements in anxiety, depression, stress, sexual difficulties and immune function

Christopher Johns in his book, Being Mindful, Easing Suffering: Reflections on Palliative Care explains

"Mindfulness is a quality of mind that notices what is present without judgment, without interference. Being mindful guides me to see things as they really are rather than as a reflection of myself. Mindful practice is being aware of ones experience as it unfolds in its unpredictable and unique way.”

In 2005 the use of mindfulness in hospice care was examined from the perspective of the nurses. For many of the staff the changes were very significant

“Mindfulness makes me alert to what is happening……I see things that I didn’t see before, I begin to notice. For example when there is a lot of chaos in the room…..is this what she is seeing all day?”

“I think that in itself to be mindful that someone is afraid and not to reject it, not to sugar it over with something but also not be freaked out, but to really be with that feeling and to embrace it….then it seems the person can usually relax”

Mindful presence enables the nursing staff to be totally aware and focused on the circumstances she finds in the here and now, regardless of what has gone before or what will follow. It is a valuing of “being” over “doing” in the belief that compassionately being present allows the nurse to respond with empathy to the needs in that moment.

When I worked on a hospital ward during my nursing days I was often guilty of not being truly present but more concerned with my list of jobs to do. I felt that truly experiencing each moment would be overwhelming as many situations were difficult and challenging, but mindfulness has taught me that being present in the moment without trying to be in control of it is actually a great relief. To experience the moment for just what it is allows choices to be made from a place of awareness rather than habit or panic. Removing the “what should I do” and replacing it with an understanding of what is needed in that moment is very liberating. I know life is often unbearably busy on the wards and nurses are pulled in so many directions, introducing mindfulness is not easily done, but this does not mean it can’t be done. The staff at Mary Stevens Hospice are working hard to introduce mindfulness to their clients and to their own work. I truly commend them for their commitment to constantly move forward to provide the very best care.

Mindfulness, as all holistic therapies, is not a replacement for medical care but it can be included within the home, hospice or hospital setting.  For more information please visit: mindfulness explained.

You may also enjoy reading : Mindfulness in a busy Kidderminster carpark

                                                 Mindfulness Explored

                                                 Meditation and pain

 

Posted on October 18, 2016 and filed under reflexology, mindfulness, stress management.

Anxiety and Childbirth; You are not alone with your fears.

tired pregnant.jpg

Anxiety in pregnancy and child birth fears

Child birth fears explored by Kidderminster Hypnotherapist. 

Pregnancy and child birth is an amazing time but for some it is blighted by fear and anxiety relating to child birth. It may be hard to express these as it is supposed to be a happy period. If you feel anxious and afraid please do seek help as there are many ways to manage your fears to help you enjoy your pregnancy and child birth. 

To truly understand anxiety disorders associated with childbirth it is important to explore the origins of these fears and anxieties. I feel the foundations for these can be viewed as falling into three themes: 1: loss or lack of control 2: negative expectations and 3: physical and mental distress. Birth is a universal experience existing since the very beginning of evolution, but for some the thought of birthing their baby evokes overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety. At its most debilitation tokophobia, intense fear child birth, can be diagnosed. Anxiety disorders associated with childbirth, their origins and effects will be explored taking into account the many degrees of anxiety and their response to hypnosis.

The term tokophobia was first used to describe an intense anxiety and fear of childbirth in 2000 by Hofberg and Brockington. A degree of fear of childbirth is fairly common, over 20% of pregnant women report fear, 6% describe a fear that is disabling  and 13% of women who have not become pregnant report fear of childbirth sufficient to postpone or avoid pregnancy. Other studies have shown much higher rates of fear in pregnant women . It is now widely accepted that pregnancy may be a time of considerable anxiety with symptoms worsening in the third trimester .  


There were four significant aspects to tokophobia; intense anxiety and worry about childbirth; difficulties controlling this concern; difficulty concentrating  on work and family activities; plus at least  three  of  the  following  symptoms:  fear  of  pain,  fear  of  being unable  to  give  birth,  physical  disorders,  nightmares,  avoidance  of  pregnancy or request for caesarean section.  It is clear from this definition that tokophobia is relevant throughout the pregnancy, birth and postnatally. Tokophobia can be present before any pregnancies (primary), developed after a birth (secondary) or as a result of more underlying psychological disorders.


Tokophobia could be seen as a condition at the top of the continuum of anxiety related to childbirth.  Women and men can experience anxiety at many levels from mild anxiety that fluctuates and recedes right through to tokophobia.  A study in 2002 involving 329 pregnant women in Finland found that 78% expressed fears relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or both. This suggests, therefore, that anxiety and fear are experienced by the majority of women to some degree.  Any level of anxiety or fear in pregnancy has the potential to affect the woman, baby and wider family. Dick-Reid (2013) goes as far as to state that fear of childbirth over many generations has had a growing negative effect on civilisations  all over the world.

The movement of birth into hospitals began in the Seventeenth century in France when male doctors first stepped into the birthing environment.  This marked the start of the removal of power and expertise in the birthing process from the women herself. By removing the birthing woman’s sense of control and introducing many processes and techniques alien to her it is not difficult to see why fear and anxiety would increase.A study in 2008 found that lack of control featured as a cause of secondary tokophobia in all the women interviewed.  


A reason for the profound negative influence of loss of control may be understood by looking at our psychological development as a whole. From our birth onwards we move toward a growing sense of control over our environment, our choices and daily life. It is simply human nature to want a slice of life that we can control and that when this control is threatened anxiety disorders can develop. When a sense of control is lost it can be replaced by a fear o terrible things happening which cannot be stopped . This has clear implications for the process of childbirth. A woman and potentially a man who perceives a lack of control may it seems easily move into experiencing fear and anxiety about the new journey they are embarking on.


An individual’s expectations of a forthcoming event will influence how they feel about it. There are many influences present on modern women’s expectations of childbirth and the proliferation of negative views on birth is widely recognised.


The role of negative expectations in the development of anxiety disorders associated with pregnancy cannot be underestimated. Dick-Reid (2013) highlights the many pronged attack of negative influence on pregnant women; involving the media, literature, friends, mothers and partners.  Most importantly many of these negative frightening influences are from people who we hold as important and respected. This proves to strengthen the effects of their words, however well meaning. Research suggests that mothers who have unresolved trauma relating to birth can unintentionally pass this on to their daughters.


There is a growing recognition of the potential role that medical involvement has in the belief that birth is fearful and potentially dangerous and life threatening. The movement of birth to hospital settings, associated with illness and trauma, could feed women’s and societies belief that birth is dangerous.  The manner in which women are led to believe medical or surgical intervention may be needed e.g. during antenatal checks, even before birth commences increases the perception that child birth is dangerous. An expectation that child birth is dangerous is a powerful foundation for anxiety associated with child birth.


The third theme relates to physical and mental distress. Most obviously this relates to the fear of physical pain during childbirth.  A study in 2006  found that pain during contractions and pain during the passage of the baby from the vagina were both feared although some women feared only one of these. For some the fear of physical distress manifests as a fear of dying during child birth.

 
Mental distress can relate to many aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. If mental distress is experienced then fear and anxiety can reasonably be expected to develop. 
The origins of anxiety disorders associated with childbirth are clearly complex but an awareness of this allows both the effects of this anxiety, wherever it falls on the continuum, and potential ways to manage and reduce it to be understood.

If you are experiencing fear and anxiety during your pregnancy or even before becoming pregnant please do seek advise as you are not alone. Hypnobirthing is one way of lessening and managing this anxiety. Your midwife will also be able to offer you assistance.  If you feel your fear and anxiety is affecting your life please do speak to your doctor for support. 

Related pages : Hypnobirthing evidence.

For more information please contact me.

Posted on November 2, 2015 and filed under stress management, maternity, hypnotherapy.

Kidderminster Mindfulness Fundraising Day

 Charity Day Kidderminster

At Breathe Therapy, Kidderminster’s hypnotherapy practice I am using my Mindfulness training skills to raise funds to support local carers.  Worcestershire Association of Carers (WAC) gives vital support for adults providing unpaid care for their relatives or friends.

Worcestershire Association of Carers is a registered charity. They act as an independent source of information, advice and support for carers.  The charity provides many services such as carers groups, help lines and training.  I was able to meet the Stourport Carers group last week and learned of the value of the meetings, both practical and emotional.

There are at least 63,000 unpaid carers in Worcestershire, as a therapist and volunteer at a local hospice I see both the value of caring but also the difficulties experienced by carers and their families.  Many carers experience high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can encourage a sense of calmness and resilience, giving individuals some peace in a frantic world.

I will be holding a fundraising day on Saturday October 17 at Breathe Holistic Therapies Kidderminster Treatment room.  Individual “Introduction to Mindfulness” sessions will be available and all donations will go towards WAC’s valuable work.  Those attending will be able to find out about how mindfulness can help them and experience a mindfulness meditation.  After the Introduction to mindfulness everyone who attends will have access to a series of meditations to make it easy to use mindfulness in everyday life.

If you feel meditation is not for you because you have a busy, hectic mind then the session will help to dispel those concerns. Meditation really can be enjoyed even by people with the most anxious, worrying minds. The benefits can include increased feelings of calm, improved resilience, well being and happiness.  There are many myths about meditation and the introduction to mindfulness will help to explore these.

You don’t need to be a carer to take part, the fundraising day is open to everyone.

If you would like to know more please please contact me :  e-mail or call 07531121199

More on mindfulness and hypnotherapy

 

 

 

Posted on September 21, 2015 and filed under mindfulness, stress management.

Breathe Kidderminster's Chosen Charity for 2015:

I am planning a Mindfulness fundraising day at Breathe Kidderminster later this year to raise funds for the Worcestershire Association of Carers.  This fantastic charity work tirelessly to support carers all across the county.  I attended their annual conference this week to learn more about the work of this local charity and most importantly to meet the people whose hard work makes it all possible.

The conference was both informative and incredibly moving. Speakers included Professor David Green, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Worcester, Clare Marchant, Chief Executive, Worcester County Council and Sarah Dugan, Chief Executive, Worcester Health and Care Trust. All three speakers explored a different perspective of caring but the resounding theme for me was that carers save the country millions of pounds while caring can have rewards but also immeasurable costs for those involved.  

I was shocked to learn that "Carers save the UK economy 119 billion every year" ( State of Caring report 2015) and even more shocked to learn that this figure is higher than the total spend on the National Health Service.  The financial impact of carers on the national and local economy was far beyond my appreciation.

More significant than any of these figures was the opportunity to hear first hand  personal experiences of caring. 'The Value of Caring' film launch clearly portrayed the reality of caring and without making any efforts to pull at the heart strings it still bought tears to the eyes of many in the room. I will hopefully be able to share this film with you on a later blog post.

If you are caring for a relative or friend, even if you do not consider yourself as a carer, please do take a look at the Worcestershire Association of Carers as they may well have something to offer you and your family. I will let you know when I have planned the fundraising day where I will be offering one-to-one sessions of Mindfulness Meditation at my Kidderminster treatment room.  You can learn more about mindfulness here.

 

Hypnotherapy Relaxation for Exam Stress and Anxiety

exam stress

Click for a ten minute relaxation MP3 to promote calm and reduce stress and anxiety for all ages.

Exam season is upon us, from primary school SATS to A levels  children and young people are expressing how they are struggling with exam stress.

Children as young as ten are worried that poor exam performance will have a bad effect on their lives.  many children are so anxious about their SATS that they are too nervous to eat before school, a recent survey found. The survey showed a startling 72% of the primary school children felt pressured at exam time.

Hypnotherapy relaxation is one technique that even the youngest child can enjoy.

Symptoms of exam nerves and anxiety can include feeling sick, sweaty palms, sleeping problems,  loss of appetite and frequent loss of temper. As a parent you know your child best and every individual has a different response to stress and anxiety.  Hypnotherapy is a common method of helping children cope with exam stress. Visualisation techniques can encourage a child to clear their racing mind and approach the exam feeling calm.  Controlling anxiety in this way can help increase concentration levels allowing knowledge to be accessed more easily.  This can lead to better results along with calmer children! 

Hypnotherapy in the run up to exams can be used to increase confidence and motivation, improve concentration and lower anxiety. Learning how to relax can help children focus and revise more easily. Tackling any child's fear of failure can allow them to approach an exam with more perspective and less fear.  

There are many ways available to help your child manage their stress levels better and reduce anxiety. The NHS have advise online to assist families to cope at exam time. This includes practical considerations such as promoting good sleep routines at exam times and providing healthy food and adequate hydration. Talking to your child about how they are feeling is also important.  They suggest reminding your child that nervousness is normal and natural and not something to feel overwhelmed by.  Focusing on their achievements in life and building their confidence is also important.  Listen and support them without being critical whilst also helping them to keep the exam in perspective.  

This can be a difficult time for the whole family and you do not need to cope alone. Along with the NHS advise there are many sources of support online.  Childline have produced a leaflet full of advise for beating exam stress. If you are concerned about your child please do speak to their school or if you feel necessary consult your GP.

 

Mindfulness in a busy Kidderminster Car park!

I may not have been on a beautiful beach, but a busy car park in Kidderminster provided me with an opportunity for calmness.

Mindfulness can mean different things to every individual who explores it but for me the essence of mindfulness is quietening my busy mind. Before I began mindfulness I believed I simply could not meditate or clear my head, it was just too full of thoughts! But now I have learnt that by focusing on the experience of being in a moment, rather than trying to clear my mind, is profoundly calming.

Last week I was waiting for a lift in Kidderminster, perched on a wall. I was initially frustrated as I would normally be independent and drive myself but  due to a back problem (now resolved)  I could not drive. I had arrived early so I didn't need to rush so I had 25 minutes on my hands. At first I did what I often do, reached for my phone and checked my emails, then I checked my schedule in my diary, thinking of lists and work to do.  Still over 20 minutes to wait. I could feel myself starting to ruminate on the issues of the day, churning over thoughts and feelings. 

I decided to put some mindfulness into practice. Firstly I focused on the sounds I could hear, just listening and not judging or hoping to change anything. Simply bringing my attention to the sounds around me. When my mind wandered, as it naturally did, I just bought it back to the area of focus I had chosen. The great thing about mindfulness is there is no self criticism involved as you can not get it wrong. It simply is whatever happens at that moment.  I found myself listening to the constant sounds then noticing the intermittent yet regular sounds. I could soon pick up on noises I had not been aware of before. 

I next took my focus of attention to my internal experience. Taking time to experience the sensations of my body, not thinking about what they meant but noticing the sensations and no more.  My mind did wander away from my chosen focus but without tutting at myself I gathered it up and focused again.  

This episode of mindfulness felt like a few minutes but when I checked my watch I realised my lift was actually late and  25 minutes had gone by. I am pretty sure if I had continued with my mind churning and ruminating I would have by now been pretty frustrated with my wait, but I felt calm and content. 

There are many aspects to mindfulness but my experience in the Kidderminster car park was a simple exercise in mindfulness. I spent my time simply being within the experience and switched off my doing busy mind. It was a lesson to me in how making plans and ticking boxes is not always the best way to feel on top of your day.

More on stress management and understanding stress.

 

Posted on April 27, 2015 and filed under hypnotherapy, stress management.

Coping with Challenges using Reflexology and Hypnotherapy

My clients often say I must be the most chilled out relaxed person as I have so many techniques at my fingertips. In some ways that is true, I am far more relaxed than I was before I began to use complementary therapies, but life still throws challenges at even the calmest people!

During the last few weeks I have taken on a number of challenges, some by choice and others have arrived uninvited! I have to admit despite my love for holistic therapies my knee jerk reaction is often panic and fear just as it always has been. The difference is now I can eventually take a step back and use some of the wonderful techniques open to me.

My first challenges was updating my website to ensure it was compatible with mobile devices. I am not a techy person so my first reaction when I learnt I needed to do this was panic and anxiety. I had a very sleepless night before I took a moment to step back and calm down. I often talk to my clients about using the support networks around them, so many of us believe we have to cope alone. After getting advice from some techy friends I felt my website mountain was not such an impossible climb. I also took time out to use some confidence boosting self hypnosis and some mindfulness to encourage  kindness to myself. Gradually I began to enjoy the challenge and although there are still some things to iron out I am proud of myself for rising to the challenge. 

The next challenge was one I had chosen to embark on. Last year I tried twice to complete a 'leap of faith', this entails climbing up a tall post, standing on a small platform and jumping off ( you have safety equipment on of course!). I was so frustrated that twice i had reached the top and twice I had failed to stand up. I was determined to succeed this time. I used EFT to prepare myself for the task along with using the power of my imagination to really see myself succeeding. These both helped me to believe I could do it. And i did it!  The pride I felt was immense and I hope I've saved that feeling firmly in my memory to call on whenever I need a boost.

 Leap of Faith at Condover Hall 2014...I couldn't stand up on the platform.

Leap of Faith at Condover Hall 2014...I couldn't stand up on the platform.

My third challenge was not something I chose at all. With a simple sneeze I damaged my back and have spent a frustrating week with little mobility and a fair dose of pain. As usual I spent the first day or so completely forgetting about the resources I have to help myself. After getting checked by my GP to ensure I hadn't seriously damaged any nerves etc I began using reflexology to help myself. Reaching my feet was hard at first so I just enjoyed some relaxing warm foot soaks with calming essential oils. Once I could finally get my hands on my feet I was shocked by how much tenderness I found. My spine and hip reflexes were all very painful but I did feel the discomfort was worth it.  I felt an improvement in my movement although I am still a long way off full mobility.  I also tackled my frustration with daily mindfulness meditation. This really has kept me grounded and held my annoyance at bay.

Challenges can be chosen or land in your laps when you least expect them. I wanted to share how a therapist copes with difficulties because I believe it is important for my clients to know two things 

  1. I am human just like them and I can be completely daunted by life's difficulties and feel that I do not have the ability to rise to the challenge
  2. After my panic passes I do practice what I preach because I believe truly in all the therapies I provide.