surviving_christmas1Staying indoors, eating and drinking too much of – well, almost everything, healthy or not, ‘locked’ together with difficult family members for longer than usual.. while trying to please everyone. Sometimes the festive season can be very trying. My seasonal survival plan may just help.  (IF you need more – see the freebies at the end.)

  1. FAMILY & FISH – have one thing in common; they go off after a few days! So try to arrange to be together for no longer than a couple of days. At the very least, arrange a break from each other doing your own thing – go for a drive, a long walk, do some simple DIY or other project, go to the cinema or to the pub if you have to!xmas_swim
  2. GET OUTSIDE – It’s all too easy to loll around, feeling full, stodgy and half-awake watching banal telly; don’t! Get out in the fresh air, go for a walk, or something even more strenuous if you are inclined.
  3. IT’S YOUR MIND – Your feelings and emotions are fed by your thoughts, so when things get a bit too much, choose to focus your mind on the more pleasant aspects or the bigger picture (like how important your family is to you). Try the HELICOPTER method (see the box).frowningchild
  4. KIDS ARE BONKERS – they are meant to say just what comes into their heads; only adults monitor and suppress themselves. Some adults are still childlike, some oldies regress, and others are, well, a bit wonky. Try not to take any unpleasant remarks to heart. If all fails, try my boxed fixes.
  5. THEY’LL NEVER BE FIXED – those annoying feature people have are not going to change just for you; it’s hard enough for a trained therapist with willing clients, so don’t waste your time barking orders to the waves not to come in. Try the ‘helicopter out’ trick shown in the box.
  6. AVOID OLD RECORDS – parents and siblings will tend to pull you back into your childhood self, both good and bad. Choose not to hear their attempts to play the same old past records with your feelings and emotions; you have learned better tunes to dance to.
  7. ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE – set up mental protection, just like how a computer is protected from unhealthy or malicious invasions: see the PROTECTIVE FIELD.
  8. DRINK & EAT LESS! Obviously. Avoid overdoing the chocs, coffee.
  9. GIVE IN – Don’t try to be perfect, or do it all yourself; make a simple checklist or plan, and ask for help rather than hinting or complaining.
  10. MENTAL DETOX – as well as getting up and out with physical exercise, do a mental refreshment exercise like the one shown, which is my favourite from ‘Energetic NLP’. See the box.
  11. LET IT OUT – if it all gets too much, then accept it; go outside out of earshot and simply let it rip with a big raspberry or even a scream. Come back when you are calm again.
  12. REMEMBER it’s only XMAS – not your whole life! Keep a perspective. It’s just a difficult MOMENT In TIME, like bad weather, the worst will always pass.
    pudPS IF YOU WANT MORE – TRY ONE OF MY FREE HYPNOSIS AUDIO DOWNLOADS! http://abetterlife-uk.com/free-hypnosis-audios

Free Hypnosis Audios for Xmas

Free Hypnosis Audios for Stress, Weight Control, Sleep Better, Chronic Pain and Alcohol Drinking

As it’s that time of the year for giving, I’ve pulled together for you ALL the hypnosis recordings I’ve made available to download, free. Some are studio quality, and some are simply ‘working recordings’ that you can try as they are. Follow the links:
stress CDStress Reduction

hypnoticgastricbandv5Weight Control

sleepcd Sleep Better

QUITTERNEWStop Smoking 7-day Challenge

painyoutubeChronic Pain Relief

Control Your Drinking


Stress in Schools – Preventative Help

Did you see this article “Young Minds – Schools call in therapists as stress soars among pupils” in last week’s Sunday Times? Education Editor Sian Griffiths’s laid bare the stress levels in our schools, and how they are struggling to cope. Many are calling on private therapists to overcome the backlog and delay in getting help for their students.

Did you know that there is a hypnosis programme that’s been developed for schools throughout the country to help pupils with stress and performance? No one is hypnotise of course – which is a common misunderstanding of what hypnotherapists do. In actual fact  we teach mental resilience and positive thinking strategies to overcome negative self talk and keep focused.

The Educational Performance Programme has been used in the deprived northeast of England, for example in Malet Lambert School, Hull, with great success, and I am looking to make it available in the areas around St. Albans and Luton in Hertfordshire. It’s a three-session group programme plan to build resilience and psychological skills for pupils. Get in touch to find out how it can help you pupils and take a lead in your area.

You can download a copy of the following Press Release as a PDF here

Exam Stress and Enhanced Performance Programme for Students

This programme is designed to help schools and their students enjoy even greater success, while actually reducing the pressure on them. Of course, calmer students makes for and easier life for teachers too. Specifically, the aims are to help staff meet or exceed staff performance targets, and to maintain the school’s edge in the leaguer tables in terms of improving student performance, by making students’ lives less stressful!

For many students, the exam period means facing their fears of failure and the prospect of not being able to retain weeks’ worth of revision. Experienced Hypnotherapist Richard Walker PhD, is looking to reproduce in Hertfordshire the successes in the northeast.

Stephen Logan, Business Champion at Malet Lambert School in Kingston upon Hull, said: “For many students, it isn’t just the anxiety or nerves at the time of the exam, but very often they worry for weeks and months ahead.

“The relaxation and focusing methods have helped our students to better understand how to prepare for an exam by learning new techniques.

“Helping students to overcome their anxiety grow in confidence and feel comfortable about exam conditions has added real value to our students and teaching staff.”

As Richard points out, “No one is hypnotised, and this isn’t magic, or trickery, but simple, concentration techniques which allow individuals to take better control of their emotional state to remain focused and confident under pressure.”

Richard has worked one to one with children over many years to help them overcome various problems. Over the past three years my colleague Sheila Granger has had great success working in schools and educational establishments, using a simple approach that develops students’ own mental abilities and skills to manage stress and create the basis for success.

The programme is delivered to small groups over three sessions, usually weekly, and fit typical school timetable periods of 50 to 55 mins. The first session is designed to identify and counter negative thoughts, backed up with a support CD. The second session primarily focuses on learning and rehearsing solid techniques that produce positive, confident states of mind. The third and final session mentally prepares the student for the specific challenge, usually the exam day.


CONTACT: For more information, please contact Richard Walker here.

“Am I Stressed?” Four Stress Tests

How stressed are you?

It’s not always easy to know if you are indeed stressed. It doesn’t have to mean “stressing out” at people. It can go “inside” where it can do far more harm. Here are four kinds of stress test for you to use.

1. This 30 second test has been created with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for National Stress Awareness Day. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24756311

2. This Simple ten-question test to assess how stressed you are is on my site.

3. This one helps you detect and track your stress symptoms over time:  Track Stress Symptoms

4. This one is the classis Stress vulnerability test for the impact of Life Events

Want to know what is stress really? It’s not what you might have thought. I explain it clearly in my article http://abetterlife-uk.com/what-are-the-facts-about-stress-how-can-you-reduce-stress/


Detecting & Coping with Stress

In an earlier article I explored the question of what is stress really. This gave insights on how to avoid stress. Here we will look at detecting and coping with stress. This is the approach that I use in my stress workshops at a local NHS hospital trust.

Stress can creep up on you, and to catch it early you will need a method to detect it, so that you are aware of it. That’s the first step in my ABC approach to detecting and avoiding stress.

Awareness is about paying attention to emotional and physical changes, asking others who know you, maybe completing a questionnaire, and possibly seeing the doctor if you are seriously concerned.

There are various self-analysis questionnaires you can do, ranging from the quick and simple to the more formal. I have listed some with links at the end of this article.

A good idea is to track the symptoms that you are experiencing month to month. Use the two tables of physical and emotional symptoms that I gave in my previous article, simply circle those which apply to you, then repeat in a month’s time. Are there more of fewer circles?

Balance prompts you to get a wider perspective. Stress can often arise when we get too drawn into an issue, and we lose sight of other aspects in life which, on balance, you may realize is not really so bad. Mentally “step out” and imagine looking at yourself from above any situation which is bothering you. How does it look from there? What can be learnt? Also, look at other aspects of your life, and other activities that you take part in. Let yourself recall past good times, or upcoming events that you are looking forward to.

Choice is about willingness to taking back some power.  Usually we know what we don’t like in life, but we are less good at actually thinking through what we really would like our own life to be like, in any useful practical detail. So after you have stepped back and calmed down, begin to imagine and note down what you would actually like to have your life look like, in detail.

 Even more importantly, ask yourself what did you do bring it about and to keep it? It’s no good waiting for someone else to deliver you a happy stress-free life; other people have their own worries and concerns to deal with. A good starting reframe is the so-called serenity prayer:

Further Analysis

If you really want to get serious and resolve the root of your stress, then these are the kinds of questions I would initially ask you:

  • What precisely is the problem that you are experiencing? What actual factual evidence do you have or what are the symptoms?
  •  What situations trigger it off or makes it worse, and what makes it better? When did it start? What was happening then in your life around that time? What feelings and emotions were associated with those situations? What is the relationship of that to your present situation?
  • If you tracked these feelings way back in your life, what were you earliest memories of having even the faintest of feelings like these?
  • Ask you inner, subconscious mind: What do I need to know or become of aware of in order to resolve this? What do I need to change in my life?  What aspects of my life would I refuse to change?
  • What are my greatest fears or concerns in life? (These concerns may even be the source of your greatest motivations in life.)


These are examples of tests  to detect and measure stress:

Simple ten-question test to assess how stressed you are

Track Stress Symptoms

Stress vulnerability test for the impact of Life Events



Causes of Stress – Life Events

The notion that major events in life can set us up for stress was assessed by Holmes and Raheback in 1967, and their  Stress Scale is still the most often quoted. You can use this to get an indication of what might be behind any signs of stress that you might be experiencing, or to warn you to take steps to reduce stress.

1Holmes, T & Rahe, R (1967). The social readjustment rating scale, Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11:2 pp 213-218

Events and ‘typical’ stress rating

highest risk:
# Death of husband or wife  # Divorce or marital separation  # Jail term  # Death of close family member  # Personal injury or illness  # Marriage  # Loss of job  #Moving house

high risk:
# Marital reconciliation  # Retirement  # Serious illness of family member  # Pregnancy  #Sex difficulties  # New child  # Change of job  # Money problems  # Death of close friend

moderate risk:
# More family arguments  # Big mortgage  # Legal action over debt  # Change in responsibilities at work  # Son or daughter leaving home  # Trouble with in-laws  # Outstanding personal achievement  # Wife begins or stops work  # Begin or end of school  # Change in living conditions  # Revision of personal habits  # Trouble with boss

low risk:
# Change in work hours / conditions  # Change in schools  # Change in recreation  # Change in church activities  # Change in social activities  # Small mortgage or loan  # Change in sleeping habits  # Change in contact with family  # Change in eating habits   # Holidays  # Christmas/annual family gathering  # Minor law-breaking

Do take into account that life events and social changes tend to be particularly stressful when they are:

  • Unpredictable
  • Unfamiliar
  • Major
  • Intense
  • Unavoidable
  • Inevitable

Don’t take the table too literally. It is common for people who feel stressed to search to look for some events to “blame”, but these may be the result, rather than the cause, of the stress. A feeling of not being able to cope with new duties or responsibilities, for example, may be the result of some other possibly unrecognised stress.

You can put a score to each of these events to evaluate your vulnerability to stress. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holmes_and_Rahe_stress_scale 


To help discover the source of your stress, begin by sitting down and asking yourself whether there are any social, physical or emotional factors that are affecting you:

  • How much are you smoking?
  • How much alcohol are you drinking?
  • How little exercise are you taking ?
  • Could you be ill?
  • Is there some new element in your life?
  • Has there been any change in your general circumstances?
  • Have long-standing problems recently become worse?
  • Is someone close to you facing difficulties that affect you?
  • Do you have disagreements about someone or something?
  • Is some situation leaving you feeling that you’re not good enough or at fault?
  • Are you taking or being made to take a new role, or perhaps carrying or being asked to carry too much responsibility?
  • Do you have unspoken fears or frustrations?