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International Womens Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) aims to raise awareness of issues of inequality and the marginalisation of women around the world. It celebrates the social, cultural and political achievements of women globally.

I grew up in a family with very strong female role models. Both grandmothers had a strong work ethic and believed themselves to be powerful and in control of their lives. Mum worked hard so that she could pursue her passion of travel, sometimes running 3 jobs at a time to afford our holidays. international women's day - The Stresshacker - Sue Smith

Yet with all this power and self-belief cursing through my genes I found myself in extremely disempowering situations whilst growing up. I later realised that to feel truly in control, powerful and strong I had to find peace. Interestingly the earliest documented International Women’s day was on 8th March 1909 when women in Russia demonstrated for peace, oh and bread!

Hopefully we know by now how important it is to support other women but how do we support and empower ourselves?

To be truly empowered I believe we need to be SCABT! And not necessarily in the following order

Support Women Around Us

We need to give ourselves the support and care that we would be willing to give someone who we truly loved. That would mean listening to ourselves, to what we really know deep down inside. Making time to hear our inner truth about our lives, situations, relationships and health challenges for example.

That support might be in the form of caring for ourselves in simple ways, like taking time to languish in a candlelit bath rather than a quick shower. Or maybe by engaging the help of a professional or taking some time away alone.

Congruency – In Harmony

What’s that I hear you ask? You’ll know that you’re congruent when you’re confident and comfortable with yourself where ever you are and pretty much in any situation. For many this comes naturally with the wisdom of age, if you’d rather get there sooner do some work with a therapist or counsellor.

Ask yourself this powerful question “What has to happen for me to feel more comfortable with myself inside and out where ever I am” keep brainstorming this question until you arrive at some good quality answers. Then take your own advice!

Alignment – Of Heart & Mouth

When we’re in alignment everything flows naturally, life becomes easier and we feel balanced and centered. Alignment translated means, a straight line or in correct relative positions. If your heart is aligned with your mouth and mind you will be to speak your truth comfortably and to express your own ideas without fear of judgement. If you’re aligned and in tune with your gut instinct you’ll trust that over and above what you might be being told for example.

Are you sufficiently aligned to express your thoughts or emotions when necessary or do you feel you have to hide how you’re really think and feel?

Struggling with this? Then get my hypnotherapy audio guide support, Assertiveness Now and take the short cut to feeling more at home with your truth. You will also find that a regular yoga practice helps with physical alignment, which in turn encourages more harmony in your mind and body.

Bravery

Owning our truth and growing ourselves up emotionally can be a daunting journey and we need the bravery of a warrior to do so.

How do you become brave? One tip I’ve always used is to look at the worse case scenario. Take yourself mentally to the absolute worse thing that could happen and then explore how you would cope with that. What steps would you take next to deal with the most awful outcome? Often we realise that although not ideal, we could manage that next stage so long as we are true to ourselves.

I often remind clients that if they only had themselves to rely on for the rest of their lives, they will probably be fine!

Truth and Time

To find peace, to be congruent and comfortable, assertive and strong, we need to spend time alone with ourselves to listen in. This can be in the form of simple quiet time without reading, watching or listening to anything and allow inner thoughts to float up to the surface. It might be by using the ‘daily pages’ technique that Julia Cameron proposes in her best seller The Artist’s Way. Meditations and repetitive exercise can provide the space to hear your truth.

Whatever you choose, enjoy moving toward a more empowered you and do please share your thoughts here for others to learn from.

Also please look at our products and courses in The Stresshacker store to help assist you with your journey.

International Women’s Day – 8th March – For more information you can also visit www.internationalwomensday.com

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Down With Depression

Down With Depression
Depression Sucks

When depression descends it‘s not easy to shake yourself out of it and for some just not possible at all, so if that’s you, you might want to stop reading now.

Many people who experience depression say that as part of it, they feel helpless and hopeless and it’s understandable as it can leave you feeling stuck and impotent. Anyone can be hit by depression at any time in life and it’s important  not to judge.

It’s also important to know that it’s not your fault and doubtless you have done and are doing the best you can. It can be very irritating if not downright annoying to have people tell you to snap out of it and I wonder if one of the reasons is that for some, depression is an inward expression of anger. To have well meaning people lay unhelpful platitudes on you, can triggers more frustration and can make the depression even more intense.

My personal experience of depression and that of working with others is that it invariably strikes people who are highly thoughtful, sensitive and usually kind and caring. They ‘feel’ deeply and can struggle with boundaries, because they are used to picking up on the emotions of other’s but aren’t used to protecting themselves from it. Like a sponge they unconsciously mop up negative energy from those around them.

Developing a supportive inner voice can help. Over time I learned to tell myself that ‘this will pass’  and for me it did and thankfully  I did not remain in a permanent state of depression.  Knowing that it would pass I was able to use this knowledge to help myself. I would sit in the same place each time – in my case my wicker meditation chair and remind myself that nothing stays the same and that it would pass. When you’re in the midst of it however you can be forgiven for thinking it wont!

Funny thing is, even some of my closest friends may be surprised to discover that I’ve wrestled with depression and the reason for this is that I’m not a lover of labels, so I’ve chosen to not say that I have had depression. My concern was that it would become ‘my’ depression and I certainly never wanted it to be mine!

Here are a couple of things that have helped me in the past and others I’ve worked with.

Down With Depression
Call a friend

Sit with a trusted friend or therapist and investigate the last 3 or 4 episodes of depression with a view to identifying what the triggers were. Aim to recall what happened the day or the night before. What did you eat or do, what time did you go to bed, what were you watching, who did you see, what activity were you participating in before the depression started? Aim to unearth the patterns that lead to the depression and make them more conscious.

When we throw light on something that has previously been unconscious i.e. in the dark, it usually has the effect of de-potenising it, taking away some of it’s power.

Don’t do this on your own, because you obviously don’t want to trigger an episode.

Once armed with a knowledge of the patterns or people that seem to trigger the depression  you can start looking at things to put in place to avoid those triggers. For example if you realize that depression can start when you lay in bed thinking about things for too long, or listening to the news, train yourself to get up within 5 minutes of waking up, or make the decision to turn off the news and choose something more positive to listen to.

You can use stick thinking i.e. “If I lay here any longer I know I’ll end up with that sinking feeling in my stomach that leads to me feeling really stuck and miserable” or carrot thinking… “If I get up now I can get on with… or meet up with so-and-so to walk her dog, or to just make a nice cup of coffee and listen to the birds singing”

Commit to becoming vigilant and aim to catch the depression as it starts, imagine you’re a spy and your brief is to watch and wait to ‘catch’ it before it takes hold so that you can interrupt the pattern it takes.

Make a decision to do something different until you notice a change no matter how subtle. Even a tiny shift can make a huge change to the way you feel.

That shift might be an arrangement that you strike up with a trusted friend to call them the minute you feel the depression starting so that they can come over to support and motivate you to do something different. This is of course by prior agreement.

Whilst we know that exercise is a great way to combat depression, it isn’t always easy or possible for everyone to join a gym however one simple step that you could take is this.

Stand with your feet hip width apart and raise your arms up slowly up into the air as you breathe in. Then slowly breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing air out with a long sigh as you bring your arms back down. Do this at least 10 times – longer if possible. Do it several times a day on a bad day.

You are lifting your heart and lungs with this simple movement, engaging your cardio-vascular and respiratory systems which change your breath, your mental state and of course your physiology. This can be done sitting down too.

Depression isn’t just a state of mind; it can also be a feeling that emerges somewhere in the body or just outside of it.

Depression has been described by some as a heavy weight, a black hole or a dark cloud hovering over them.  Others say it starts as a sinking feeling in their stomach and some say that it’s like having someone or something sitting on them. No wonder then, that people can feel stuck or disempowered.

It can be helpful to externalize the feelings and one way to do this is by drawing or painting your feelings on paper. No rules, you don’t have to have any artistic skills, nobody else will see this – unless you choose to share it.

When you’ve finished drawing,  bin it, burn it or bury it but get rid of it. By doing so you’re making  a powerful symbolic statement – to your unconscious mind-  that you’re taking action to erase it.

Another powerful thing to do is to write, by hand, letters to people who you feel have a part in your depression whether past, present, dead or alive.  I’ve worked with many people with depression who have been bullied in the past and when they’ve done what I suggest here they have been amazed at the results. You really will feel lighter when you do this.

Write to the bullies, tell them exactly what you think of them.  Let the people who have played a part in the way that you feel, know your truth, tell them exactly how you feel. When you’ve finished the letter  bin it, burn it, or bury it but definitely get rid of it permanently, this is the most important step.   I do not advocate sending the letters – this is for you, it’s your therapy.

Your unconscious mind believes whatever is put into it, so it will believe that  you’ve sent the letters, even though you know at a conscious level you haven’t.

This might sound ridiculously simple but it really can take care of unfinished business in the back of the mind. Don’t take my word for it try it yourself to find out that this powerful exercise really does work!

Anything that you can do to empower yourself will be helpful

So the next time you’re feeling brighter write a list of the things that lift you and allow you to feel glad to be in the world. Put that list on the inside of a cupboard or on a mirror where you can see it to remind yourself to take tiny steps toward a better day.

Although I would never say  I’ll never be depressed again, I do feel fortunate to be free of depression these days. I have used all the tools and tips I write about and whilst I appreciate that they may not be for everyone, I sincerely hope they help someone.

Also please look at our products and courses in The Stresshacker store to help assist you with your journey.

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Who’s In Charge You Or Your Child?

Do you avoid doing jobs because the thought of it stresses you out? Do you give up on your health regime after that first glass of wine? Are you late for things simply because you didn’t leave on time? Chances are you’re letting your inner child take control of your life…
I know, I know, you start out with really good intentions at the begining of the week. You’re going to eat sensible, healthy foods. And yet by Tuesday you’re on your second take-away.

Have you ever considered that your inner child has taken over and is running the show!

Who's In Charge You Or Your Child? Stop Letting Your Child Rule Your Life - The Stresshacker

What Happens When You Let Your Inner Child Rule

That inner whining often goes something like this: “it’s not fair, I’m tired, I don’t want to work, I can’t be bothered to go shopping, I need a treat now, I deserve it!” And giving in to it means that you – the adult – are no longer in charge. Let’s face it if you were, you might be able to have a more grown-up conversation with yourself!

Your inner adult might say something like: “I know you feel like you deserve a treat, but if you do eat those crisps or drink that extra glass of wine, your workout at the gym will feel even harder and ultimately the dress you want to look stunning in next weekend will feel tight and uncomfortable. You’re just hungry let’s get something yummy and healthy to eat right now and if you still want crisps after you can have them!”

Continue reading Who’s In Charge You Or Your Child?

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HAPPY MIND & BODY

Movement Now Hypnosis Program

HAPPY MIND & BODY by The Stresshacker Sue SmithMove Your Body

I sometimes feel that I sit down for too long… but that’s the nature of my work as a Psychotherapist and Life Coach, thankfully I’m able to balance some of that by teaching yoga, walking and swimming. A sedentary lifestyle is not good if you want to stay healthy moreover, it’s ageing too. Scientifically proven as one of the 5 components that make up Wellbeing, exercise and keeping on the move is a must if we want to stay healthier, happier and youthful.

I’m often heard singing the praises of yoga. It really is more than just exercise, it’s a system of health. Other Eastern philosophies such as Chinese Medicine, subscribe to the notion that we have an emotional body. According to these approaches the emotions reside in the organs. You can hear it in language such as “I felt gutted (stomach) or choked” (throat) or “… he had some gall” referring to the gallbladder that is said to process anger, along with it’s partner the liver.

I definitely recognise the existence of an emotional body in my own style of teaching yoga and also when working one-to-one coaching clients. As a client or student of mine you’ll be on the receiving end of my ‘nagging’ or as I like to think of it, encouragement! Prompting you to direct your attention to the tightest or most uncomfortable part of your body and then breathe deeply into it whilst stretching. It facilitates a beautiful release and expansion that often alleviates pain and discomfort. You just feel great afterwards!

I’m often reminded of my favourite saying that the body will express what the mind is concerned with It’s true and I’ve been interested to observe my own body in the last 3 to 4 weeks whilst going through a particularly stressful and emotional time. Although I’m doing the same amount of yoga practice as usual, I’ve really noticed how tight and stiff my muscles and ligaments have become, in fact my body has been aching and tense. I realise that at times like this it’s more important than ever to keep up my yoga practice (it would be so easy to let it slip)! I have found the gentle long held yin poses have been particularly useful in releasing toxic energy (a build up of negative emotions such as fear and anger). HAPPY MIND & BODY by The Stresshacker Sue Smith

Some years ago my colleague and friend Sabine Smith and I created a lovely CD also available as a download called Movement Now. This is a gentle yoga program that we designed for people who haven’t done any exercise at all for a while, people who want a quick easy stretch program, people who are stuck at their desks all day long and people recovering from illness or surgery. It’s really easy to download to your laptop then pop onto your phone then you can practice anywhere anytime. Click here to buy.

The short program is a real energy boost and you’ll also notice that it creates a nice peaceful state mentally and emotionally.

So if you’re going through one of life’s testing times remember to keep up your practice. If you don’t do yoga then walk, swim or do some exercise and keep the demons at bay!

Also please look at our products and courses in The Stresshacker store to help assist you with your journey.

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Three Hour Exams! Tips for revising for exams.

Yes it’s that time of year again! Tips For Revising For Exams

tips revising exams - Tips for revising for exams - The Stresshacker blog by Sue Smith

Many teenagers are revising at the moment and we all know how stressful that can be, so this week’s blog contains top tips for revising and staying cool, calm and confident through the revision period and beyond.

Create a timetable of study

Set short achievable tasks for your revision. It’s important to ‘chunk’ down. After all you can’t revise the whole thing in one go! So break things down into small chunks.

For example, you could revise in 20-minute chunks, set your phone (or alarm) when it goes off, change your activity for at least 5 minutes. Get up and stretch. Go and get a drink.  Play with the dog! Then go back to revising. Naturally if you’re on a roll and studying well, you can skip a break and continue on for the next 20-minute chunk.

Look at the week and decide where, when and how you are going to revise. If you’re unsure, find someone who seems to revise well. Pick their brains and find out what they do to revise, where they do it and how, then copy that formula!

On The Day of Your Exams

Plan a good routine for the day.  It might sound daft but it’s important know exactly where you’re going, it has been known for people go to the wrong place, out of sheer panic!  Not you though. If you have to travel to your place of exam, do a dummy run a week before if necessary. Give yourself as much chance as possible to feel confident.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!

Even planning exactly what you’re going to wear so that you’re in charge of your own temperature will give you a sense of control (Layers are good).

Aim to be early and be prepared. Have your bag and any items that you might need, ready, well ahead of the exam day.

Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!

tips revising exams - Tips for revising for exams - The Stresshacker blog by Sue Smith

Drink plenty of water during study periods and the exam; this has been linked to improved memory power. According to a study at the University of Wales (D.Benton, N Burgess – Appetite, 2009 – Elsevier.) ‘Recall was significantly better on the occasions when water had been consumed’.

Breathe deep then eat

Many students say they feel panicky prior to exams and suffer from anxiety. Many performers feel nervous before they perform and there’s at least one scientific study that says that nerves can help you to perform well, so maybe your anxious feelings are a good thing and they are going to help you to perform well!

Anxiety can sometimes make your tummy tense and your chest tight though and that’s not great.  So try this, sit upright and rest one hand on your heart and one hand on your tummy. I call this the ‘Vagus Hug’ as it puts you in touch with a powerful nerve that runs from the brain through the heart to the gut and it is a powerful communication channel.  Close your eyes and breathe in and count to 3 hold for a couple of seconds and as you breathe out to the count of 5 imagine your hands becoming warm and soothing to your tummy. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the tension melts. Don’t take my word for it, practice it and see for yourself.

Once you feel more relaxed ensure that you eat something prior to the exam. If you feel uptight make sure it’s something easily digestible. Protein is always good and can be easily digestible if it’s something light like an omelette or scrambled eggs. Plan what you will eat on the day – have everything ready.

Are your thoughts serving or sabotaging you?

Watch out for your thoughts they can either be helpful and positive or negative and damaging. Do NOT project negative thoughts into the future… that’s just daft since the future hasn’t happened yet!

You have a choice. What are you saying to yourself about your ability to study? What are you saying to yourself about the exam itself? Modern psychology and hypnotherapy knows that it is possible to ‘future pace’ suggestions.

An example of a good future paced suggestion is “I now revise easily, effortlessly and concentrate with focused attention whenever I revise.”  Or “On the day of the exam I feel confident and relaxed. My recall is sharp and accurate I breeze confidently through each question.” Notice the suggestion is phrased in the ‘here and now’ which is important, since the subconscious mind doesn’t have a sense of past or future, so it prefers suggestions as if they’re already happening.

Obviously if you haven’t done the study or the revision in the first place, this can’t come true but if you’ve done the work – then trust your subconscious mind to serve you. You could be amazed by the results.

Finally, listening to Stress Free With Confidence every night will definitely help you to remain calm and to feel more confident. I suggest listening for a month leading up to the exam and also through your revision period.  Listen on ear-phones each night as you drift off to sleep and let it work for you.

Good luck with your exams and remember you are still a wonderful unique person whatever your results.

Sue x