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Performance anxiety

Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety Cardiff

Most performers have experienced performance anxiety at some point in their careers. When that “big” opportunity comes along to shine and demonstrate your knowledge, talents and skills, it can be normal to get the “jitters” leading up to and during your performance. Some nervousness is not always a bad thing; it encourages a state of readiness and alertness.

Musical performance anxiety
Performance anxiety can affect the most competent performers

But performance anxiety can devastate the careers of some of the most competent performers. When it is persistent and overwhelming, your own mind can rob you of the endless preparation from which you have passionately dedicated your performing life. For some of you, performance anxiety can adversely suffocate those life-changing, testing situations that seem to fall into your lap once in a while. You plan, rehearse (and revise) for the big day, but find that your anxiety can destroy what you were doing so perfectly whilst practicing just hours or days earlier.

Managing your fear is an essential part of being able to “nail it” in your performance. When you can control your anxiety and the associated symptoms, you are free to demonstrate your creative abilities.

 

What is performance anxiety?

  • As a performer, it can be defined as your perceived conflict between the demands of the performance situation and your ability to meet those demands.
  • Performance anxiety is the overwhelming negative mental, emotional and physical response prompted in a performer when performing.
  • It can be experienced in anticipation of, or during a performance to a given audience (or potential audience if you are making a recording).
  • The heightened negative state of arousal provokes a distressing response that limits or undermines the ability to accomplish the performance in the desired manner.
  • The anxiety can affect you in various ways e.g. hand tremors, nausea, muscular tension, petrification etc. are just some of the unwanted symptoms that you can experience.
  • Unfortunately, the part (or organ) commonly affected by the anxiety is the part primarily used in your performanceg. singers may find that their voice is distorted or musicians will tense up their hands (or their lips/embouchure etc. depending on the instrument played.)
  • Your performance anxiety may be part of a deeper social anxiety trait characterised by shyness, fear of embarrassment, negative social attention and social criticism. Essentially you are preoccupied with what others are thinking about you and this becomes more severe when a certain audience-type is observing you e.g. a competitor. (But not all anxious performers have social anxiety.)

 

Who is affected by performance anxiety?

Performance anxiety can be experienced by anyone. Even the most competent performers can accumulate a few “bad experiences” and the way that you react to it can alter how you function in your future performances.

  • Performing artists and other professionals – You are passionate about expressing your creativity on a day to day basis. You thrive on communicating your chosen art form, but when you develop performance anxiety, it annihilates your spirit and destroys the essence of who you are. Actors, dancers, musicians, singers, comedians, entertainers, athletes, politicians, lecturers and professional speakers are included in this category.
  • Professionals who want to promote themselves – The success of your profession has brought you into the limelight. Your followers request your presence to personally share your expertise. Going on “stage” was not your intended path; it has arrived and now you need to make a decision: confront your fear or hide in the shadows of your potential success. Teachers, writers, lawyers, managers, doctors, engineers and architects are included in this category.
    Performance anxiety during an interview
    Anxiety during an interview can affect your performance
  • Occasional “performers” – You are aware of your performance anxiety but you keep the subject-matter hidden from your peers. You are ashamed to admit it because the issue creates a mass of insecurity. Work requests a presentation from you, but you cleverly manage to avoid it or you delegate it to other subordinate staff. You may be required to speak at an informal occasion now and again e.g. a wedding, or sports presentation, and this is where your avoidance finally catches up with you. Years can go by when all is quiet on the performance front, but when the situation comes knocking at your door, you want to pretend that nobody is in! Avoidance can leak into those informal situations and take you by surprise e.g. with sexual performance anxiety or during in an interview.
  • Anxious “avoiders” – You have known from a very young age that you struggle with social attention and social embarrassment. Your chosen career and social pursuits keep you safe from the threat of being on stage. You know how to avoid these situations and can aggressively refuse the opportunity if it is demanded of you. You may have let down some people close to you e.g. when refusing to give a best man’s speech. You regret not having developed the skills and courage to deal with those special occasions.

 

Types of performance anxiety

Performance anxiety is broadly categorised as a type of social anxiety, but not all performers have social anxiety. As a performer, even without social anxiety your own personal traits can work against you in situations when you are need to perform e.g. when you are a perfectionist.

Performance anxiety can be placed into three broad categories (with some overlap):

1.Cognitive performance anxiety,

2.Social performance anxiety and

3.Skills (or motor) performance anxiety.

  1. Cognitive performance anxiety

This category is defined as the anxiety experienced when using previously learned knowledge and applying it to a specific situation such as a written test or exam in school, college or in your profession. All categories of performance anxiety involve a level of cognitive functioning, but this category considers the use of internal “mind” processes that are usually then written or typed in a time-restricted situation.

Unlike the majority of the situations in the other categories of performance anxiety, there may not be an immediate “audience” in this situation. However, the consequences of the exam could become known to a potential audience e.g. your peer group will know about your grade at a later stage.

Test and exams are the common assessment methods to establish levels of academic competence in school, further and higher education, and employment. The higher the grade, the more likely you will gain entrance into your choice of university and advance your chosen career; exams undoubtedly have a high level of cultural importance.

So what turns the exam into a performance anxiety situation?

Anticipatory (or pre-exam) anxiety – This affects you hours, days or weeks before the big day. It can include issues like whether you have done enough revision, will be able to recall the information on the day or will have the right (or wrong!) questions appearing in the exam. You then worry about the consequences of failing and how this will affect your future career.

Managing anticipatory anxiety is an issue in itself. You have to suspend your ability to deal with something and get it out of the way now because the event takes place in the near future. Anticipatory anxiety tends to fool your mind into believing that you will have a catastrophe e.g. sleep-in and miss your morning exam, have a “mind-blank” or panic attack that numbs your mind for the whole duration. Known stress-related symptoms e.g. insomnia, IBS, nausea can also be added into the overall fear of what might negatively affect the big day.

Anticipatory anxiety also builds up your worry and physical tension levels to such a degree that by the time you get to the exam day, you feel exhausted. High anxiety can also negatively distort your clear thinking; it predisposes you to exaggerate the things that could go wrong.

Exam performance anxiety
Anxiety can block your concentration in an exam

Mid-exam stress/anxiety – You arrive in the exam room and the “fight or flight” mode kicks-in. Having too much adrenaline can stifle your thinking, concentration, understanding, recall and problem-solving abilities. You worry about how the next couple of hours will go, how you can manage your time, and the implications of your unsuccessful exam performance.

Post exam anxiety – “Pens down!” and that’s it, it’s over! Did you interpret that question correctly? Did you forget some of the answers to question 5? Should you discuss with your peers how others have answered it? Or look at your class notes just to ease your mind? What if you haven’t done enough? How will it affect your application or job prospect if you have failed? How long do you have to wait before you know the outcome? These are the common anxious post-exam questions that the student will ruminate over. This accumulates the anxiety into your next exam or series of exams.

Medical background and personality traits – Certain medical conditions, personality types and attitudes can affect your cognitive performance anxiety. If you suffer with general anxiety disorder, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, you are likely to be overwhelmed by the whole exam process.

Your personality traits, values and situation can also affect how you perceive doing exams. They can include:

  • Perfectionism.
  • Being self-critical.
  • Using exam grades as markers for your self-esteem. This can increase the pressure of achieving high grades.
  • Having unrealistic expectations.
  • A fear of failure.
  • Low motivation.
  • Low self confidence.
  • Being in fear of judgements from your family and peer group.
  • Poor study and exam skills. As the pressure mounts, you can overload your timetable of study with little attention to balancing lifestyle habits (diet, sleep, rest and exercise) inhibiting your learning potential, recall and concentration abilities in the exam.
  • Even teachers who are aiming to motivate their students can inadvertently inflict fear (and thus more stress) onto their students. Rather than the highlighting the benefits of passing, teachers may project your mind onto the consequences of failing by saying that “if you don’t pass your exams, you won’t get into University!” A reason for doing this can be because a teacher’s effectiveness is often based on high student outcomes.

 

  1. Social performance anxiety

Social performance anxiety is the anxiety experienced when performing or communicating in a social situation. Social performance anxiety is intensified by general anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder (social phobia).

With social performance anxiety, you are externally focused on the reactions of others. Typically, you are preoccupied with the belief that your audience is criticising, judging or rejecting you in some way. What you say or do (or don’t say or do) has the effect of drawing unwanted attention, generating feelings of embarrassment, humiliation, insecurity and worthlessness. You can become preoccupied with your own anxiety symptoms (e.g. panic attacks, blushing, stammering and physical tension) disrupting how you want to communicate with your audience. You believe that these anxiety symptoms make you “visible” to them and incapable of achieving the high standards you want, or of those expected of you. Anticipation of the event can trigger anxiety for weeks or sometimes months ahead of the situation.

Social performance anxiety can be divided into two areas:

  • Formal social performance anxiety can be defined as the anxiety experienced when you are required to present (usually rehearsed and structured) information to an audience.
  • Informal social performance anxiety can be defined as the anxiety experienced when you are required to communicate socially (either verbally or non-verbally) with your audience.

 

  • Formal social performance anxiety

Formal social performance anxiety usually involves presenting rehearsed (or sometimes spontaneous) content to an audience without their active participation in the situation (i.e. only you are required to speak to your audience). It can also include interactive formal situations where you and what you present are the focus of the situation but the audience are required to respond/interact with you in some way e.g. when teaching or being interviewed.

With rehearsed content, formal social performance anxiety often involves a number of preparatory stages including: researching your content; organising it into a coherent and logical structure; learning, rehearsing and memorising the content; considering any stage management issues and use of visual aids; taking into account any situational and personal limitations, and of course, managing your performance anxiety on the day.

Some common examples include:

  • Public speaking – speaking at a formal dinner, funeral or in a courtroom (as a lawyer or witness giving evidence)
    Formal social performance anxiety
    Giving a formal lecture can seem daunting at first
  • Presentations – promoting yourself/your business, or speaking as part of a school class or college assessment
  • Stage performances – acting in a theatre production or making announcements in a school assembly
  • Lectures – giving a formal lecture to students or other professionals in your niche
  • Speeches – speaking at a wedding or special occasion
  • Interviews – identifying typical questions that you will be asked and rehearsing the most appropriate answers ready for the interview
  • Oral exams – being assessed in language exams or discussing your thesis (viva voce)
  • Meetings – Speaking, presenting or chairing formal meetings at work or for an organisation
  • Singing – Being examined giving a solo vocal performance or as a part of a band in front of an audience
  • Selling or sales performance – The pressure of achieving your sales targets can affect your selling technique

 

  • Informal social performance anxiety

Informal social performance anxiety involves an interactive exchange of talking, listening and reacting to your audience. This situation can include communicating to one person, a group or a much larger audience. The situation is spontaneous and for many, it is more socially demanding; you believe that you can only deal with it when you get there and thus are required to “think on your feet”.

Those who “hide” behind excessive preparation as a way of managing social anxiety in formal situations can struggle with the impromptu nature of these informal situations.

Some common examples include:

  • Meeting new people and making polite conversation
  • Attending parties or large social occasions
  • Being criticised or teased
  • Talking to important people or authority figures e.g. teachers, bosses, police officers
  • Going on a date or chatting someone up
  • Making an important phone call when in the presence of others or when you are alone

In some (more formal) informal social performance anxiety situations, you want to speak or are required to speak without much time to prepare your answer. There is a momentary “spike” in your anxiety which diminishes when you have finished.

Some examples include:

  • Participating in role-play as part of work-based development training
  • Asking/answering a question in class and worrying that you may get the answer wrong
  • Introducing yourself or speaking up in a work meeting
  • Ordering food in a restaurant
  • Answering unrehearsed questions at the end of a presentation, meeting or interview
  • Asking for help – asking for directions when you are lost
  • Dealing with conflict – dealing with aggressive people

Informal social performance anxiety can also involve doing common day-to-day obligations that might “put you in the spotlight” and become the focus of attention in social situations.

  • Being observed whilst eating, drinking, learning, writing or working
  • Walking into a room full of peopleg. a party or classroom
  • Arriving late or having to leave early from a meeting
  • Leaving a cinema or theatre to go to the toilet
  • Doing something that draws attention to you e.g. sneezing, coughing etc. in a lecture room
  • Shopping – feeling visible to other shoppers or sales staff
  • Having your photo taken or being videoed
  • Using a public toilet – feeling so self conscious in the toilet that your bodily functions become affected e.g. you develop shy bladder or feel constipated
  • Being stared at when walking past a group of people
  • Making eye contact with people in general

 

  1. Motor (or skills) performance anxiety
    Skills or motor performance anxiety
    A driving test or just driving can create anxiety

Motor-based (or skills) performance anxiety is the anxiety experienced when physically moving or demonstrating learned (behavioural) skills in front of an audience. The anxiety can also be experienced when performing to a potential audience i.e. when you are being videoed.

As with the other types of performance anxiety, you can experience symptoms for many weeks leading up to the actual performance. The anxiety can affect you during practise or training sessions. It can also affect you when you are away from practise (i.e. when worrying).

The term “motor” performance anxiety is a Latin term from the word movēre. It refers to movement (rather than something exclusively related to cars!) As with the other previous types of performance anxiety, motor performance anxiety can be intensified by general anxiety and social anxiety disorder.

Motor (or skills) performance anxiety can be divided into two areas:

  • Formal motor performance anxiety affects your ability to demonstrate rehearsed “skills” in front of an audience. The skills can be applied in a “closed” or set routine. Or the skills can be performed in an “open” field of play when responding to how others are performing (with you or against you).
  • Informal motor performance anxiety affects your ability to demonstrate everyday physical skills, tasks and movement in more casual and social situations.

 

Formal motor performance anxiety

Formal motor performance anxiety situations can include those situations in which you are taught or coached in training sessions (lessons) leading up to the actual performance. The anxiety usually accumulates as the day of the performance beckons, heightening your physical tension levels and affecting the fluency of your skills. It may peak immediately before or as you start your performance. There may also be specific parts of the performance that are perceived as more difficult/pressured and more likely to force an error. In turn, you believe that the mistake will draw more negative attention e.g. when missing a penalty kick that knocks you out of the cup tournament. Additionally, you may be fearful of your ability to recover during the performance if something were to go dreadfully wrong e.g. having a sustained panic attack or show of nerves during a performance could destroy your reputation!

The anxiety can be associated with any audience members, including a future audience when making a video. They can include your managers, teaching or coaching staff, peers (other team members), the opposition, the general audience/spectators, clients, examiners etc. The audience do not have to be present to generate anxiety; what you tell your future audience (family, peer group or colleagues) about the negative outcome can be a continuous preoccupation during the performance; “what will they think of me?”

As with the other types of performance anxiety, the part of your body that is primarily used in the performance e.g. the hands when playing an instrument, can become excessively tense, dysfunctional and prone to “locking” when compared to how it is freely used during practise.

Some examples of formal motor performance anxiety include:

  • Musical (instrumental) performances – This includes the precise bi-lateral coordination of the arms, hands and fingers used to play instruments (and legs e.g. when playing a drum kit). Woodwind and brass instruments also require the synchronised use of breath and embouchure to create a harmonised sound.
  • Dance performances – Any sequence of rehearsed rhythmical movements that can be mistimed, forgotten or petrified e.g. ballet, tap dancing, modern etc.
  • Skilled stage entertainment – This can include circus acts, magic shows, physical comedy (slapstick, clowning and mime) etc.
  • Practical lectures/presentations/demonstrations – This includes live visual illustration of artistic, creative and educational skills e.g. during cookery demonstrations, when teaching mechanical skills etc.
  • Medical skills – This includes training in hospital wards, clinics or theatre. Skills can include injections, dressing wounds, manipulations, surgical operations etc.
  • Sports performance – This includes any sporting situations with the performance of “closed” skills e.g. throwing darts, shooting at a goal in ball sports, shooting with a rifle, taking a penalty, potting a ball in snooker, golf strokes, serving in tennis, field events in athletics. Or anxiety experienced during “open” match play e.g. tackling, defending, dribbling, sparring, running etc.
  • Driving test – Passing your driving test is your ticket to being mobile and boosts certain job opportunities. The driving test can expose hidden skills-based performance anxiety in a one-off situation that you may have avoided in other parts of your “performing” life. Your driving instructor may be unaware of its severity in driving lessons until you have failed your test (maybe several times).
  • Practical exams – This includes being practically assessed with a time limit in any vocational course e.g. hairdressing, car mechanics, electrician, plumbing etc. A catastrophe in your exam can throw away one of two years of study when anxiety takes hold of your performance.
  • Practical interviews – As with practical exams, you may be required to solve a timed practical problem with very little notice to prepare e.g. build a bridge that can support a small weight using only 5 sheets of paper.

 

Informal motor performance anxiety

Informal motor performance anxiety situations can include those situations which are spontaneous, casual and may not require a (perceived) rehearsed skill; you may believe (because of social expectation or fear of embarrassment) that you just ought to be able to perform the task perfectly in the given situation.

As with other types of performance anxiety, the physical tension accumulates and can peak just before or during the situation. You can also be overwhelmed with your physical anxiety symptoms and they can preoccupy you, affecting your ability to concentrate on the desired task.

How you perceive your audience can affect the level of your anxiety. It can be higher with a larger audience, or because some of the specific members of the audience are considered important or more threatening e.g. your competitor is in the audience. But even with fewer individuals in your audience, your perceived relationship with them can vary the intensity and timing of your anxiety. For example:

  • You may know them well and trust them as is often the case with family and close friends.
  • You may know them to some degree, but may not see them for some time, leaving you unsure of their opinion of you, as can be the case with colleagues or other members of a club.
  • You may not know them at all and are unable to judge their response.

You can assume that the more you know them, the safer you feel, but this isn’t always the case. Some people feel more embarrassed in front of their family performing certain tasks. And for some people, performing in front of strangers can feel safer than group (ii) because you don’t care about them. With group (ii) you have to confront them again at some later stage and it’s that period of time where you are left worrying about their opinion that causes the embarrassment to fester. “What will they say to you when you see them next?!!”

Some examples of informal motor performance anxiety can include:

Sexual performance anxiety
Fear of embarrassment can impact on your sexual performance
  • Sexual performance – Conditions like erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation for men can be influenced by anxiety. Anxiety can also affect women’s sexual arousal with conditions like vaginismus, low sex drive and inorgasmia.
  • Practical training days at workRole-plays are a common training activity that is used to demonstrate the learning of work-related skills. Without the ability to prepare your “presentation script” and identify what each role-play is about, role-plays remain an embarrassing dread for many employees and employers.
  • Trading stress – Making calculated risks when you are facing volatile and uncertain markets can leave the trader feeling petrified when it comes to hitting the “BUY NOW!” button. You can lose sight of your formulaic strategies when your capital is dwindling.
  • Exercising at the gym – When joining a gym or a new exercise class, wanting to look fit and coordinated so that you can blend in with the crowd can take a few sessions. For some fitness novices, the embarrassment of standing out from the crowd is too high. You muster the courage to join the health club and then the anxiety takes over and the attendance level suddenly drops!
  • Being watched whilst eating, drinking, writing, cooking, and driving – These are common daily activities that can draw social attention when your anxiety symptoms inhibit the activity in some way e.g. a shaking hand can stop you writing or a fear of choking can stop you eating or drinking in public.
  • Being observed when working – When you are moved into an open style office from a private office, you can feel self-conscious when making phone calls or feel visible when struggling with difficult new work task.
  • Writer’s or any creator’s block – Completing your book, assignment, project, song, composition, work of art, order etc. for a client/customer or future audience can be obstructed by your perfectionism or deadline stress. Your creative ideas are suppressed by your stressed mind when you are anxious and functioning in “urgency” mode.
  • Operating an unfamiliar device in public – This can include using vending machines, self-service ticket machines, self-service tills or obtaining a parking voucher from a meter. Not knowing how to operate these (sometimes faulty) machines and being too embarrassed to ask for help, is a common reason to avoid using them. Knowing that you have a long queue of people behind you just adds to the pressure.
  • Using a public toilet – Bladder shyness or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can be distressing for the sufferer. You may avoid drinking or eating certain foods or avoid certain social situations depending on the location and layout of the public toilet. When you need to use the toilet, you fear “clamping” your bladder or being constipated. With anxiety-related IBS, being anxious about messing up the toilet with diarrhoea can just make the symptoms worse.
  • Walking or being out in public – When you are agoraphobic, just leaving your home is traumatic. You fear having a panic attack in a public place. When you are away from the “safety” of your home, you feel constantly visible and fearful of your own panic attack response.

 

Informal performance anxiety associated with past traumas, fear or phobias

Some performance situations may not involve an audience, but instead associate with a trauma, fear or phobia from your past. This past trauma prevents you from achieving a specific goal and triggers the past emotional distress e.g. pain, physical tension, nausea, disgust etc.

Some of these situations might be considered as “medical” situations where the individual is required to self-administrate the procedure but “locks” of fails to achieve the goal at the last moment. Examples include:

  • When inserting/removing contact lenses but responding by clamping the eyelids closed.
  • When inserting dentures but failing due to gagging or vomiting.
  • When self-injecting medication with a needle but resisting due to feeling too anxious, tense or disgusted.

 

What causes performance anxiety?

The causes of performance anxiety are related to the causes of social anxiety disorder.

Biological factors – With social anxiety, the part of the brain responsible for regulating the “fight or flight” centre (the amygdala) is active when confronting social situations. This neurological response exaggerates your perceived threat from those people in the social situation. With social anxiety, it’s as if your brain is registering those people present are about to attack you.

There is a genetic factor also linked to social anxiety indicating a possible brain structure and chromosome that can be inherited from your parents.

Socio-psychological factors – The development of social anxiety can be influenced by child-parent interactions. This can happen when a parent (or both parents) with social anxiety encourage social inhibition rather than teaching a child social confidence skills. The developing child can also imitate the parents’ anxious behaviour when the child observes (models) how the parents interact with other people.

Away from one’s parents, the shy developing child can struggle to confront new situations and unfamiliar people. They display a range of insecure and anxious behaviour that researchers define as “Behavioural inhibition”. A child that displays behavioural inhibition is more likely to develop a social phobia.

Traumas such as bullying, social neglect and major social changes e.g. moving schools or a family bereavement can impact on the growing child’s social development. Observing social embarrassment or humiliation towards your peers (or being the focus of it) can further reinforce social anxiety particularly during adolescence. These embarrassing situations traumatise the individual to excessively fear the judgements of others particularly when you need to “perform” (in whatever context) in front of your audience.

Adolescent children can recognise that the degree of social threat in many social situations is irrational, yet you can feel overwhelmed by your anxiety symptoms, avoidance behaviour and feelings of inferiority (it ultimately affects your self-esteem). Some adolescent children can attempt to mask your social anxiety, displaying anger as an alternative way of (not) coping.

By adulthood, many life choices will have been determined by social anxiety. For example, social situations, relationships, exams, hobbies, occupational preferences, promotional prospects etc. can all be limited by the level of perceived social anxiety (or overwhelming social responsibility in the new role or situation). But the socially anxious person can still deny the existence of your condition by disguising your anxiety with superficial excuses for not participating e.g. “I’m not feeling well”, “I’m too busy!” or “It will probably fail, so there’s no point trying!” are common self-limiting coping mechanisms.

Having disguised the social anxiety for much of your life, the threat of say a public speaking obligation in adulthood can expose the need to finally admit that you struggle with it or have the condition (as a specific issue or general disorder or phobia). Avoidance is no longer an option.

 

What are the common performance anxiety symptoms?

Performance anxiety symptoms are not just experienced during the performance; they can be experienced weeks leading up to it. Even after the performance, the negative interpretation of the experience accumulates the “alertness” in preparation for the next one.

There are 4 categories of performance anxiety symptoms:

  1. Cognitive, 2. Physical, 3. Behavioural and 4. Emotional

1. Cognitive performance anxiety symptoms relate to your thoughts and beliefs. They can include:

  • Negative self image e.g. “I don’t think I’m good enough to do this!”
  • Rejecting compliments/praise e.g. “They didn’t mean that; they are only saying this to make me feel good!”
  • Negative self evaluation e.g. “I’m really messing this up!”
  • High self expectations e.g. “I have to make this perfect!”
  • Self blame/responsibility e.g. “I’m going to let the whole team down!”
  • Catastrophic thinking e.g. “If this goes wrong my reputation is ruined!”
  • Superstitious beliefs e.g. “I fail when I have morning exams!”
  • Over-generalising e.g. “Everyone thinks that I’m not capable!”

 

2. Physical performance anxiety symptoms relate to how parts of your body are affected by the “fight or flight” response. The part that you consider to be the most important for the success of your performance can be the part that is most affected by anxiety.

You can be preoccupied with your anxiety or panic attack symptoms to the extent that you (or your symptoms) are believed to be visible to your audience. Your anxiety symptoms can also dominate your attention, causing you to lose concentration, make mistakes, have memory lapses, become petrified etc.

Symptoms can include:

Performance anxiety symptoms
Sweating is a common symptom of performance anxiety
  • Severe muscle tension, spasm, locking or trembling
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Laboured, rapid and shallow breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat that feels like it is pounding, irregular or fluttering
  • Stammering or a strained choking voice that can sound weak, high pitched and shaky
  • Increased sweating and feeling of hotness (or coldness)
  • A knotted stomach or feeling of butterflies
  • Frequent urination
  • Cramped “gurgling” digestion, upset stomach and nervous diarrhoea
  • Feeling nauseous, light-headed, dizzy and distracted
  • Blushing, hot flashes or chills
  • Dry mouth
  • An exaggerated startle response
  • Disturbed sleep and fatigue

 

3. Behavioural performance anxiety symptoms relate to how you attempt to cope with your anxiety symptoms. It generally reflects what you do (or don’t do) leading up to the performance. Ironically, many of these activities make the anxiety worse in the long term.

Symptoms can include:

  • Avoidance behaviour – You avoid individual practises because it reminds you of the anxiety. But in addition to avoiding activities, it can also include avoiding peopleg. seeing those people who are likely to ask about the performance and create further fear or guilt for not attending. Or it can include avoiding situations e.g. training days.
  • Withdrawal – this is similar to avoidance, you may isolate yourself from social interaction and stay housebound. This is because your anxiety is generally affecting your sociability; you don’t want to inflict your worries on anyone.
  • Perfectionism – you may over-practise certain parts of performance creating fatigue and then lose the awareness of other important issues in your life such as your health or relationships.
  • Procrastination – you participate in “pleasant” non-related performance activities to justify that you are busy e.g. cleaning and tidying, but in reality you are avoiding the constructive preparation that will help your performance.
  • Compulsive behaviours – you participate in risky, unhealthy or destructive behaviours to break or divert the hold that anxiety has on you. This can include excessive binge eating, over spending (consumerism), drinking, smoking, drug taking or other addictions. It can also include engaging in high risk, or highly exciting (adrenaline-filled) activities such as aggressive sports, gambling or sexual activity.
  • Attachment – you seek comfort in people who are over-protective of you, or visiting places that will keep you “safe” e.g. staying home. Or you seek comfort in routine or ritualistic activities that comfort your mind such as comfort eating, watching television and social media.

 

4. Emotional performance anxiety symptoms relate to feelings that can accompany your anxiety or they describe the different adjectives that reflect the degree of your anxiety.

Anxiety can be distressing even though you (as a child) may not be able to express how you are feeling at the time. It’s the physical and behavioural components of anxiety that can consciously be the most troublesome in terms of your daily functioning.

Emotional anxiety symptoms can include feeling:

  • Fearful
  • Overwhelmed
  • Panicky
  • Terrified
  • Irritable, jumpy or edgy
  • Sensitive (to criticism or rejection)
  • Preoccupied (with other’s responses)
  • Worried, apprehensive, nervous or uneasy

Over a period of time, the four components of anxiety accumulate and combine to drive you and your performance into submission. Anxiety can destroy your expressive creativity contained within your talents and skills if it is not affectively managed.

 

Common treatments for performance anxiety

Medication – The medication commonly prescribed by your GP for performance anxiety is beta blockers (propranolol and atenolol). A beta blocker will help to dull the physical effects of the stress hormones when the “fight or flight” response is activated. They are best for specific situations, like one-off performances, but they won’t help with the emotional symptoms of anxiety. As with all medication, there can be side effects.

Talking therapy – Talking therapies can include CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Talking therapies aim to help you change your thinking, control your anxiety and confront your performance situations. Some approaches can take a significant time to change your perception of your performance however.

Self-help therapy – This considers certain lifestyle changes that can alter the physical effects of anxiety e.g. doing exercise, meditation or yoga to lower your levels of physical tension. This approach may also consider confronting the behavioural anxiety symptoms that are drowning your energy levels e.g. maintaining healthy sleeping patterns or cutting back on alcohol consumption. Or it can involve gaining help from your teaching professional or colleagues to alter some of the cognitive anxiety symptoms.

 

How can hypnotherapy help your performance anxiety?

Hypnotherapy can help you stay in the “zone”

Hypnotherapy for performance anxiety
Hypnotherapy can help your performance anxiety

The zone is considered to be a state of focused awareness in which you coordinate all of the effective parts of mind and body to achieve a peak level of performance. Hypnotherapy can help access and stay in the zone when stress and anxiety are disturbing your performances.

Anxiety control

Anxiety control is a major part of achieving excellence in your performance situation. When anxiety is high, your cognitive, affective and (motor) skills suffer. Hypnotherapy can offer you “mind tools” that will ensure that you are getting the very best out of your abilities when the situation demands it.

Manage anticipatory anxiety

Anticipatory anxiety can fool your mind into believing that those catastrophes are inevitable. It can consume your mental and physical build-up to the performance day as if that day is happening right now. Anxiety symptoms can disrupt your relaxation time, sleep and sociability. Hypnotherapy can alter that apprehension ensuring that you remain positive and focused on your performance success.

Reframe past traumas

Past traumas act as negative seeds of belief in your historical timeline. That “bad” performance, failure, near miss, injury or criticism gets stored in the deepest part of your mind coated with “Danger – Avoid!” So when you prepare to enter the arena again, your unconscious mind discharges stress signals (adrenaline) to warn you of the threat of a repeat traumatic performance. Hypnotherapy regression techniques can be used to release the emotion of these traumas, so that you can look ahead without the negative emotional bias.

Positive visualisation

Positive visualisation acts as the mental rehearsal for your peak performance experience. Hypnotherapy provides the mental platform to create an intense visualisation of your desired capabilities. When you can visualise performing confidently in front of your feared audience (e.g. assessor, examiner, competitor etc.) you will activate the beliefs, emotions and physical sensations necessary to achieve your reality.

Desensitise your anxiety/panic response

Practising your skills in isolation is very different to performing your skills with your audience. Some “performance” situations that include your feared audience are hard to create until the situation arrives. Along with positive visualisation, hypnotherapy can help you to you “get used” to your audience. By gradually adding your stressors into visualisations in a safe way, you can be desensitised to your threats and feel ready to deal with them on the performance day.

 

For further information on using hypnotherapy to treat your performance anxiety in Cardiff, contact Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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The Zone

The Zone

Access The Zone in Cardiff

 

What is The Zone?

The zone and peak performance
The zone is a state of optimal focused awareness
The Zone (sometimes called the “flow” mental state and the peak performance zone) is considered to be a state of optimal functioning. It is a heightened state of focused awareness and inner clarity in which your acquired knowledge, creativity, emotions, skills, motivation, passion and practised skills are synchronised, automated and “flowing”. You are not “consciously” trying to perform; you have immersed yourself “in” the state of performing The zone is a state of optimal focused awareness and every part of you is harmoniously operating within the essence of your peak performance. You are very much inspired “in” this moment; with no ego or fear of outcomes.When you are in the “zone”, your brainwave activity level is reduced down from the Beta level (which dominates when you are focused on the outside world) to the “Alpha” level. In the Alpha state, you are conscious but you are relaxed. Alpha brain waves dominate when you are being creative, emotionally connected and decisive.  

The informal zone

You will have experienced the zone in informal situations. Have you been immersed in any of the following activities?
  • Having a conversation and being “connected” with your partner.
  • Writing effortless flowing content for your essay or thesis.
  • Feeling drawn into the suspense of a thriller movie.
  • Playing a video game.
  • Reading a good book in a public place and not noticing people walking by.
  • Playing a game of chess and losing track of time.
  • Feeling emotional when hearing someone talk about their journey of achievement.
    The informal zone
    The zone can be accessed in informal situations
  • As an audience member being fascinated by the presenter (lecturer, teacher, speaker or entertainer etc.) and the content of their presentation.
The informal zone is a natural state of relaxed focused awareness. Your behaviour may not be goal-directed as might be in a skilled performance, but you are still fully absorbed in your activity.  

Getting into the zone to enhance your performance

The “performance zone” or “peak performance mind state” is a term that has been synonymous with elite sports performers. Consider the level of concentration and skill demonstrated by professional sports people when participating in golf, shooting or archery, or of elite athletes immediately before and during a sprint track and field event.The performance zone is not exclusive to sports people however, you can sometimes see professional musicians completely absorbed into the emotion of their performance; their eyes are closed and they are barely conscious of their surrounds. Similarly, actors can be seen in the stage sides, deep in concentration and rehearsing their script, just prior to their stage entrance. They then appear on stage seamlessly recalling extensive, emotion-filled dialogue as is reading from an autocue.The performance zone can be considered as a highly productive state of awareness particularly when you can access it to achieve work tasks. Employers value employees who can maintain long periods of concentration.Getting into the performance zone at work is easier if:
  • You are passionate about the task.
  • You believe in the need to complete it.
  • You can develop your creative abilities.
  • You can use/transfer a few previously learned skills.
  • You can visualise (at some level) the potential solution.
  • You have an incentive but it is more intrinsic.
  • The work situation (physical structure, resources, personnel, reasonable timescale etc.) meets your needs to fulfil the task.
  • Life outside work is stable.
  

Strategies to enhance your performance zone

Do you find that in your practise sessions, you are “nailing it” but when it comes to the big occasion, your performance is below standard? If this happens on a regular basis, then it’s time to review your performance strategies. Consider introducing some the following performance zone strategies to boost the performance of your skills:
The zone in sports performance
Focusing in the moment will help you stay in the zone
  • Focus on the requirements of this moment – as close to the present as possible.
  • Remove any judgment about your performance – that includes your own (internal) or from the audience, coach, peers or opposition (external)
  • Centre on the quality of the next one objective and let it go when it’s completed – the result will take care of itself.
  • Cut through perfectionism by focusing on the function of your performance.
  • Distance any external problems or distractions – unload them well before you get on the performance stage or the arena.
  • Identify and focus on the relevant performance cues that are specific to enhancing your performance in your activity e.g. when defending your opponent with the ball in basketball, by watching their midsection, you are less likely to be faked. Discuss this with your coach/teacher.
  • Simplify your approach when you are on the performance stage. Analyse the complexity in the practise session/tutorial, when you are away from the performance stage.
  • Keep your mood playful – that doesn’t mean that your performance is not important; a playful state lowers the stress you place on your performance.
  

How can you practise staying in the performance zone?

In the early stages of your new skill acquisition, you are unlikely to access the zone. This is because you are conscious of what you are doing and what is required of you. You are also unpractised and unrehearsed. It’s a bit like experiencing your first day at work or learning to play a piece of music for the first time; you feel overloaded with information due your own high expectation of wanting to appear capable.With focused practise sessions (e.g. when being coached), the formation of individual practise skills combine to create a network of coordinated schemes. Gradually, the schemes become familiar and fluent. With continued practise the schemes can then become automated and operate at an unconscious level. Repetition is an essential physical part of accessing your performance zone.Is accessing the zone just down to practise? Accessing the zone in performance situations requires the use and development of your imagination, emotions and beliefs. These can then combine with your practised physical skills.
Visualisation and the zone
Visualisation can help you access the zone
Breathing techniques, meditation, mental rehearsal, mindfulness and visualisation are useful tools to help cultivate your performance zone; these mind tools require you to imagine how you want to be during your performance (not what you are dreading happening i.e. the negative “what if’s”). Find a suitable situation in which you can regularly practise the mental rehearsal of your peak performance.Here are some visualisation techniques to practise when you are away from the performance stage, as it gets closer to your performance and during the interval breaks. Find a relaxing situation, close your eyes and use relaxed breathing techniques to lower the level of your brain activity i.e. get into your “alpha” state:
  • Imagine that you are performing at the highest level for your activity, with all the features of your performance present. By doing this, you can train your mind to get used to performing under pressure.
  • Identify your most emotionally confident and resourceful state. Visualise how you would be demonstrating this confidence when performing at your peak level.
  • Recall the feeling of confidence from past experiences of your achievements. Or visualise confidence demonstrated from a role model in your area of expertise. “Paste” this feeling into your next performance.
  • To maximise body (or any part of you, including your voice) functionality, imagine your body part being the perfect “fit” in your performance situation.
  • Practise focusing your mind on empowering affirmations (positive statements), images/symbols, emotions, and words that will inspire, energise and motivate you e.g. passion, power, rhythm, intensity, determination, invincibility, flow, belief etc.
  • Identify and narrow down the key qualitative processes/techniques of your peak performance e.g. fluency and rhythm. Practise imprinting them into your mental scheme.
  • Visualise removing the feeling of “trying”. Instead, access the feeling of “being”.
  

What disrupts the performance zone?

Excessive stress and anxiety can shatter your peak performance zone. When you are worried about something or you are getting frustrated with your performance, your level of brain activity increases. You are taken up, out of the automated “alpha” state and placed back into the “beta” state where you are conscious of your surrounds and trying to force your skills. Stress and anxiety management is thus an important part of staying in the zone.What is your stress? Stress can be different for everyone. What destroys one performer can motivate another. Your beliefs about yourself and your ability are essential components for keeping you mentally focused and in the zone. Negative traits can be learned from early parent conditioning, peer criticism, and your own interpretation of failed performances. Negative traits act as the source of your future insecurities and worries. They pull you away from the present, away from your performance zone. When you can identify the nature of your negative beliefs, you can work on centring this negativity. Using visualisation, you can realign your distortions to remove fear and judgement. With practise you can access positive thinking states.Here are some common negative beliefs (stressors) that can take you out of your performance Zone and ways to correct them:● You doubt yourself and your ability – You don’t believe that you or your skills are good enough to succeed. How you think and communicate also reflects this. In your mind, you believe that you can’t do it!

Zone Tip - Visualise displaying your skills with complete confidence. Picture the peak of your playing abilities to acquire your performance zone.

Stress, anxiety & the zone
Stress can take you out of the zone
● You are a perfectionist – Your refusal to accept anything short of perfection means that you apply yourself rigidly to your performance. This can work when you are in control, but when something takes you off your path, it can strain other parts of your life.

Zone Tip - Visualise having a wider, balanced perspective to access your performance zone.

● You are easily intimidated – Opponents will stare at you, mock you and physically attack you (when the referee is not there) in the hope to rattle you and knock your concentration. They want to undermine your self-worth.

Zone Tip – Visualise keeping your “cool” and boosting your own self esteem to acquire your performance zone.

● You want results now! – You are impatient and that exposes your inability to be disciplined with your effort. When things go wrong you get angry.

Zone Tip – To access your performance zone, visualise having a calmed patience. Imagine reaping your rewards in the long term by staying on your mission.

● You fear (another) injury – Having been injured or seen your peers sit on the sidelines for extensive periods, your fear of injury is holding back your progress. You are restrained and shy in attack.

Zone Tip - Visualise having a mental toughness when you compete. This is a necessary part of acquiring your performance zone.

● You fear failure – Linked to perfectionism, your sensitivity to making mistakes builds your fear of failure. You are so preoccupied with avoiding mistakes that it impedes your ability to do what is right.

Zone Tip - Visualise your ability to bounce back from errors or blips; learning from your mistakes will keep you resilient in your performance zone.

● You try too hard – Your aggressive style overwhelms your skills set. You force your playing style, wrongly equating over-exertion with successful performance. You risk injury and fatigue.

Zone Tip – Visualise balancing your effort with other important skills e.g. agility, rhythm. Appreciate what is “smarter” (not harder) to achieve your performance zone.

● You are sensitive to criticism – Your sensitivity to people’s comments eats away at your soul because you may believe that you need to be right. You become preoccupied with their criticism; it gnaws at your self-esteem and your performance. You are unable to distinguish if it was said as an attack or as feedback to help you improve your abilities.

Zone Tip – Meditate with the comment to identify if there is anything that you can learn from it. Then consider if it can be discussed to clarify its meaning. If not, let it go. Visualise that you are worth more than the attack made on you to keep you in your performance zone.

● You have high expectations – It’s good that you have ambitions, but your high expectations create an inner feeling of constant emptiness. You create unrealistic and unachievable goals that ultimately cause you to doubt your abilities.

Zone Tip – Reorganise your goals so that your interim objectives are realistically achievable. This will lift your confidence in your abilities. Visualise the combination of your long term goals and short term objectives to ultimately achieve what you want.

● You stay in your comfort zone – You underplay your potential and lack the “grit” to go up a few gears when the situation demands it. Low pain threshold, tiredness and apathy prevent you from achieving a higher ranking.

Zone Tip – Visualise your power, resilience and determination to develop your physical and mental stamina. This will keep you in your performance zone.

  

Can the zone be addictive?

The performance zone is a desirable mind state; you develop it to improve your ability in a performance situation. The informal zone however has a more recreational purpose e.g. when being connected in conversation. In the informal zone, you are using the zone to relax or distance yourself from a different situation in your life. Participating in an activity for some “flow” therapy can be a way of switching off and escaping from your external worries. But anything that can be beneficial can be overused when the external stress is persistent.
Gambling & the zone
Zone therapy can be addictive
Overdosing in potentially compulsive activities like playing video games, shopping, sex and gambling can become addictive. They possess a “meditative” yet adrenaline-filled zone of escapism. As the addiction grows, the insatiable need for the “flow” state can be to the neglect of your other responsibilities e.g. family relationships, your health, finances etc. When addictions take over your life, the previous solution to your problem becomes the new problem. 

Hypnotherapy and the zone

What does accessing the performance zone mean to you? Are you looking to improve your sports performance or have the edge over other elite professionals? Maybe your performance anxiety is inhibiting your stage performance in some way. Or perhaps you are looking to improve your creativity in your art or concentration levels for your exams. Hypnotherapy can be the treatment that will accelerate your success.● Hypnotherapy can help you access your performance zone Essentially, the zone or the “flow” mental state is similar to a hypnotic state of awareness. You lose your self-consciousness; your attention is focused and absorbed into the activity, and time has become irrelevant. These are all phenomena commonly experienced in hypnosis.  The hypnotherapy treatment will help you reach deeper levels of concentration when you want to connect with your performance zone.● Hypnotherapy can help you identify your emotional blocksNegative beliefs can weigh down your peak performance zone. If you don’t know what they are, the treatment will be instrumental in helping you identify them. You may already know what they are, but feel overwhelmed by their presence. With your unconscious mind open to suggestion, you can access new positive beliefs, replacing the emotional blocks that are holding you back.● Hypnotherapy can improve your confidence and self-beliefConfidence and self-belief are essential personal characteristics of the performance zone. Your positive thoughts, emotions and behaviour can help you push through your own restrictive barriers. Visualising confidence and self-belief in hypnosis will boost your feeling of superiority over your skilled performance.● Hypnotherapy can help you reframe your past “traumas”The unresolved handling of injuries, criticism, failures, errors, mistakes etc. can remain stored in your mind keeping you safe from having yet another set-back. Traumas that have not been resolved generate your self-doubt, indecision and hesitancy. Once these traumas have been reframed, you can freely access the confidence in your performance zone.
Hypnotherapy Cardiff & the zone
Hypnotherapy can help you access the zone
● Hypnotherapy can intensify your visualisationConscious interference and anxiety can blur your visualisation abilities. You can be wrestling with what you want to achieve and what you are trying to avoid. In hypnosis, your visualisation can be guided without conscious interference, picturing your skills and goals as “real” events. This enhanced mental rehearsal can integrate your mind and body functioning so that it can actualise into your performance.● Hypnotherapy can help you overcome performance anxietyThe cognitive and behavioural symptoms of performance anxiety can devastate your performance zone. To overcome your performance anxiety, your practises need to gradually incorporate “live” situation stress, where you can adjust to your perceived threat e.g. members of your audience. Hypnotherapy can be used to identify the nature of your threat and help you to visualise confidence with your audience. This will help you to lower the anxiety symptoms on the performance day.● Hypnotherapy can change your negative internal self-talkSelf talk is natural to all of us. The various parts of your mind can make themselves known when your emotions are compromised; one part will say “do it!” and the other will say “run away!” Hypnotherapy can help your confident voice dominate your experience in your performance.● Hypnotherapy can help you re-align your goalsHow you are structuring your long-term and short-term goals can make a difference to your experience in your performance zone. Unrealistic goals can leave you doubting your ability. Hypnotherapy will help you make changes that will work with you and your performance aspirations.● Hypnotherapy can help your motivationYour motivation can be deflated when your performance is suffering (and vice versa). Your motives can be re-established to fuel the drive in your area of expertise. Accessing feelings of desire to perform successfully is a fundamental ingredient in accessing your performance zone.

Are you ready to access your performance zone?

  

The Zone Cardiff: for further information on accessing the performance zone, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Cardiff | PTSD Cardiff

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?

Robbery and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Direct traumas can have a serious impact on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a reoccurring stress response that follows the exposure to a traumatic event. PTSD can be acquired when:• You directly experienced the trauma (e.g. you believed you were in danger or your life was threatened). Or you have been involved in managing the traumatic incident (e.g. you helped the person in danger and/or interacted with an attacker in some way). • You witnessed a trauma in close proximity “with your own eyes”, but without direct involvement e.g. you saw someone else in danger, being injured, or actually die. • You learned about the trauma from family or close friends who were involved in the incident. • You were informed about the trauma from external sources e.g. the media such as television news or factual documentaries. External sources are likely to affect you if you are highly sensitive to viewing distressing scenes. They can also re-activate your PTSD symptoms if you have suffered a previously related trauma. 

Does everyone get post-traumatic stress disorder following a trauma?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a distressing reactive revisit to a past traumatic event, but most people do not develop PTSD following the trauma. It is common to have an ‘acute stress response’ within the first month where your mind is coming to terms with the traumatic events. Your understanding of the trauma and the emotional connection that you have made with it is being processed and released. But for about 30% of those who have suffered a trauma, you can find that your symptoms persist for longer than a month. When you have Post-traumatic stress disorder, you are unable to come to terms with the traumatic events and the “normal processing” of the trauma is obstructed. The post-traumatic stress symptoms become the new problem; a series of “aftershocks”, creating the disorder (PTSD) in the long term. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder risk factors

A group of people can be exposed to the same trauma, but only some people in that group will suffer with Post-traumatic stress disorder. So why are some people more likely than others to get PTSD following an exposure to a trauma? Research suggests that genetics can increase your susceptibility to PTSD. So if you are exposed to any traumatic events, what you have inherited from your family genes will dictate how you manage the trauma.Certain subcultures and biological groups can also be vulnerable to Post-traumatic stress disorder. They include those with learning difficulties, mental illness, children and adolescents, females and certain minority groups. It is considered that some of these groups have a heightened sensitivity to trauma, or can have a different biological pathway that affects the brain’s response to trauma.Some risk factors are more situational. They include:
  • Frequency of traumatic events – You have dealt with a number of traumas in your life either due to your occupation, lifestyle or by circumstance. This accumulation of different traumas has compounded your symptoms.
  • Duration of traumas – One or several of your traumas have been experienced over a period of time increasing your feeling of helplessness. You may have been trapped in your traumatic situation for a long period.
  • Suddenness of traumas – When the trauma is unexpected, the degree of alertness is intensified. Sudden shocks prevent any preparation or rehearsed coping strategies.
  • Severity of trauma – This can be subjective depending on your sensitivity and connection with the trauma (some young children have reported being traumatised by horror films). But those traumas in which you are personally involved in (rather than being told about it after the event), have a higher death rate, involve children and involve the mutilation of body parts will increase your risk of Post-traumatic stress disorder. Man-made (rather than natural) traumas are also considered to increase the risk of PTSD possibly because they destroy trust in other human beings.
  • You work in a high risk occupation – This can include the military, police, medical and rescue services.
  • You are a refugee or asylum seeker – Being forced to leave your home, family and friends under harrowing circumstances and then face the uncertainty of rebuilding your life in a new country can be a cause of Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Presence of a prior psychological condition – Having another condition prior to exposure to your trauma e.g. depression, anxiety disorder and high stress levels from a non-related issue may increase the effect of a trauma. It is important to remember that some conditions may not have been diagnosed prior to the trauma. If you have a negative emotional trait e.g. prone to feeling guilt, the negative emotion can influence your negative processing of the incident. Thus if you have survived the trauma and other family members died, excessive guilt would become part of your PTSD symptoms.
  • A lack of support following the trauma – Dealing with the trauma in isolation may mean that you suppress or repress the effects of the trauma. By refusing to accept help or deny that there is an issue, you may be reinforcing your negative interpretation of the trauma e.g. blaming yourself for the trauma or your mistaken handling of the trauma.
    domestic violence and post-traumatic stress disorder
    Post-traumatic stress disorder: you expect your partner to be trustworthy
  • Violence in the homeParental violence in the home can have the same traumatising effect on children as combat has on soldiers. It is thought that those children who have been exposed to violence in the home adapt their brains in the long term to be hyper-aware of external danger, increasing the risk of Post-traumatic stress disorder. Even with domestic violence inflicted on partners, the same adaptive responses can happen in the long-term abused partner. This is because your partner (who you would expect to be trustworthy and nurturing) ends up betraying you. This can cause you to feel abandoned, ashamed and helpless. The traumatising effects accumulate because the abuser often denies the abused person any medical or psychological support. In a family situation, feelings of hopelessness suppress the courage needed to escape with your children to a safe place. Even when you have managed to flee the domestic situation, the “aftershocks” (or PTSD as the condition) continue to haunt you.
There are some factors that are considered to reduce your risk of developing Post-traumatic stress disorder and are given the term “resilience” factors. Believing that you acted positively through the trauma e.g. that you helped to save lives in the face of fear, can lower your risk of developing PTSD. The risk is also lowered when there is time to plan and apply a coping strategy that has helped you and others to “survive” the trauma. Accepting support from people (e.g. family, friends, colleagues, professional counsellors or support groups) to help you “deal” with the trauma can further lower your risk of developing PTSD. 

What traumas cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms can begin following any traumatic event, but usually involve those traumas with intense fear, horror or helplessness. Here are some examples:
  • Personal violent attacks including mugging, robbery, sexual assault and physical abuse.
  • Severe domestic neglect or abuse as a child (or adult).
  • Having a traumatic childbirth as the mother or witnessing partner.
  • Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
  • Serious accidents including road accidents and fires.
  • Military combat including being a prisoner of war.
  • Acts of terrorism including being held hostage.
  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis or major flooding.
  • Witnessing violent injuries or deaths.
  • Losing a partner, member of the family or close friend in distressing circumstances.
These traumatic experiences can compromise your feeling of safety and security. They can weaken your sense of what is fair in your life. When you survive a traumatic experience, it can expose your fear that you (and others close to you) are not invincible. 

What are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms?

There are many Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, but they tend to fall into 4 categories:1. Re-living aspects of the traumaThese are associations that draw you back to the trauma and can be caused internally (in your own mind) or by some external event or situation.
Flashbacks are symptoms of PTSD
Flashbacks are a common symptom of PTSD
• Flashbacks – Flashbacks are intense memories replaying in your mind and feel like you are experiencing the emotions of the trauma over again. Flashbacks can be in the form of images, sounds, smells, feelings and physical sensations (see below). Flashbacks indicate that your mind is struggling to cope and is overwhelmed by the emotion of the trauma. • Nightmares – You can sustain vivid dreams of the actual trauma, disturbing “distorted” dreamed accounts of the trauma (usually emphasising your negative emotions) and unrelated yet adrenaline-filled dreams with night sweats. • Physical responses – You can experience distressing physical symptoms when you are reminded of the trauma e.g. when watching the news or a movie, hearing a sound or seeing images that symbolised the trauma (such as hearing explosions or seeing an object used in the attack). The physical responses can be similar to those experienced in a panic attack.2. Avoidance behaviourWhen you experience a trauma, it is common to exhibit avoidance patterns of behaviour to protect you from the reactions outlined in 1 (above).• Changing routines – At first, subtle changes are made to your routines to try and cope with the associations you have made with your traumatic experience. But the associations grow, making it more difficult to function on a daily basis as more situations, objects, people and events are met with avoidance. • Social isolation – You don’t want people to see your stress reactions, so you avoid certain people or larger groups. But the importance of “having” to go to formal events e.g. a wedding, builds up the anticipatory anxiety, making the situation harder to cope with when the event arrives. • Withdrawal – As you become more aware of your stress reactions in different situations, you lose interest in what you used to enjoy. You withdraw from hobbies, locations, people and events as a way coping with the effects of the trauma. Even when you are with people, you feel tense and self-absorbed because you are confused about where the next anxiety attack will come from. • Depression – Your life feels increasingly out of control since it is dominated by anxiety and other negative emotions (guilt, distrust, self-blame and shame). This situation becomes more hopeless because you ultimately lose the enthusiasm for those things that you once enjoyed. Some trauma survivors feel suicidal. • Emotionally numb – You suppress your emotions to get through each event; it feels like each day is a survival task. You may abuse certain substances e.g. alcohol or drugs. • Amnesia of the traumatic event – Conscious and unconscious “blanking” of the traumatic event is part of your survival method to protect you from re-awakening those distressing emotions.3. Hyper-alertness
Sensory hypersensitivity and post-traumatic stress disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder: Your senses can become hypersensitive
This is where you remain on a state of constant hyper-vigilance causing you to feel tense and irritable.• You are easily startled – Your senses are over-attentive causing you to feel “jumpy” when they are stimulated e.g. loud noises overwhelm you. • Daily functioning is affected – you struggle to concentrate, relax, eat food (due to nausea), and sleep. You develop a variety of stress-related symptoms e.g. migraines, aches and pains. • Impending doom – You are on the continuous “red alert” waiting for something disastrous to happen.4. DetachmentThis is where your mind disengages from reality to keep you safe from further harm. Due to the extreme states of hyper-attentiveness (see 3. above), the constant fatigue can also cause you feel emotionally absent.• You feel disconnected – It’s as if something in your sub-consciousness is constantly drawing your attention, demanding to be dealt with when you are trying to relax. • General amnesia – In addition to forgetting the traumatic event, you struggle to remember recent events and things that need to be done. • Confused identity – You may be questioning who you are and how you ought to behave in situations following your traumatic encounter. • Hallucinations – Depending on the nature of your trauma, you may imagine that the trauma is happening to you again (when in reality nothing is happening). Or you imagine that it is happening to people around you, or affecting certain objects or situations. Images can be distorted, leaving you confused about whether you are really seeing these distortions or are just imagining them. 

Children’s PTSD symptoms

Older children (teenagers) tend to show Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms that are very similar to adults, but they can also be more externally aggressive and disrespectful as a way of coping with the trauma. PTSD Symptoms in children, particularly in the very young, can be different to those experienced by adults. Young children can experience:
  • Insecurity – They worry that something traumatic will happen to you. They feel more anxious when you are about to leave them or are away from them for extended periods. They can be unusually clingy in your presence and seek reassurance that you are not in any danger.
  • Re-living the trauma – A tendency to express the negative emotions of the trauma in art, role-play and stories.
  • Disturbed sleep – Restless nightmares (with sleep walking) directly related to the trauma, or anxious sleep patterns with unidentifiable content.
  • Loss of functional habits – Young children can be become incontinent and suffer with enuresis (bedwetting). Speech patterns can also become inhibited.
  • New fears and phobias – Fears become exaggerated for very young children e.g. fear of the dark, ghosts and monsters.
  • More anxiety-related symptoms – These can include loss of appetite, aches and pains, nausea etc.
  • Aggression – As with older children, younger children can also display anger directly or in the form of tantrums/mood swings.
 

Why does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder happen?

By understanding the difference between normal memory storage and traumatic memory storage, you can appreciate why certain symptoms are experienced following a traumatic incident.Normal memory storage – In basic terms, the brain is like an ever-changing wardrobe full of clothes that has been neatly arranged according to many factors e.g. your beliefs and values. Your brain (wardrobe) prefers that clothes are processed (washed, ironed and labelled) before being placed into the wardrobe. This makes it easy for the retrieval and selection for the clothes in different situations. When you have an experience, you are given some items of clothing to store away in the right place. You may put it on the temporary holding rail if they are “dirty” or doesn’t have a category yet (you haven’t made sense of them) or you may need to “compress” some of the clothes in a category when a section has become full. But the experiences (clothing) need processing before they can be stored comprehensively in the wardrobe.Once stored, the clothing then becomes a memory. When it has been stored in the right place, it can be accessed easily and worn to suit the right occasion. So under normal conditions (low to moderate stress), the storage and retrieval of your clothing (experiences and memories) is an organised and coordinated system (we won’t go into fancy dress parties just yet!)
PTSD and traumatic memory storage
PTSD: your mind has misfiled the traumatic experience
Traumatic memory storage – In traumatic memory storage however (and using the analogy), the processing of the clothing (traumatic experience) is suspended. The traumatic experience increases the load by a few hundred items and because of the stressful nature of the experience, the clothing is heavily soiled. So clothing is randomly stuffed into the wardrobe without being processed, causing the wardrobe doors to bulge in places. The soiled clothing contaminates the other clothes (causing internal conflicts e.g. panic attacks). Feeling overloaded and about to burst open, clothing is expelled back into the processing area (into your consciousness as flashbacks), demanding to be sorted. You end up wearing the wrong clothes to different situations causing your to feel out of place (detached). You can keep throwing the clothes back into the wardrobe unprocessed (as avoidance), but the wardrobe will keep rejecting them until they have been processed properly. Each time that you go back into the wardrobe to access an individual item of clothing (memory), random or traumatic clothes (memories) are forced up into your consciousness.Summary of why Post-traumatic stress disorder happens - During a traumatic experience, high levels of adrenaline are released to help you deal with the trauma. The need to survive is the priority, so the mind interrupts and fragments the processing and storage of the traumatic event until the perceived danger has passed. During this continued red alert period, the “events”, emotions and sensations of the trauma can become distorted. Some memories are “forgotten” and others are re-presented for storage causing the individual to have disturbing flashbacks.Distressing emotions that were experienced at the time of the trauma can also be re-experienced at random moments. This can cause feelings of extreme helplessness and fear because acute anxiety is felt when there is an absence of any external danger. The processing of sensations (e.g. sounds) experienced during the trauma can also be “misfiled” when being presented for memory storage. Hypersensitivity to the sounds heard during the trauma can be increased with Post-traumatic stress disorder and you can suffer hallucinations i.e. believe that you are hearing sounds of gun fire when there are none. The processing and storage abilities in the mind can be restored when the system has been stabilised (i.e. stress and anxiety have been reduced). Repairs to the processing and storage of the traumatic experience can then be completed in gradual stages, re-analysing the experience in manageable “chunks”. 

Common Treatments for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Treatment for Post-traumatic stress disorder will aim to reduce the effect that the acute stress is having on your body. It will also help you deal with the trauma in stages to reduce the symptoms you are experiencing.Medication – In consultation with your doctor or consultant, medication can be prescribed to increase serotonin levels. This can reduce your anxiety and depression and any other symptoms associated with your PTSD. Medication may be chosen as the main treatment when the threat of the trauma is recurrent (e.g. with domestic abuse). It may also be used if other treatments have not been beneficial for you or you prefer not to be treated with trauma focused psychological therapy.Psychological therapy – There are various types of trauma focused therapy (psychotherapy) including
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – CBT can help you challenge your irrational (or distorted) thoughts and feelings associated with the trauma.
  • Exposure therapy – This therapy helps you to gradually deal with the traumatic events in small steps. As you go through the desensitisation process, you relearn how to control your fearful responses to the trauma.
  • Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This therapy incorporates CBT with eye movements, sounds or tapping movements with the hand. As with the other therapies, it aims to reprogram your reactions to the traumatic memories.
Each therapy can have varying degrees of success. This can depend on the skill of the therapist, the issues that you bring to the treatment and the quality of your interaction with your therapist. 

How can Hypnotherapy help your PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and hypnotherapy
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferers are considered to be very receptive to hypnosis
A (2005) study showed that hypnotherapy is an ideal treatment choice for post-traumatic stress disorder because if you suffer with PTSD, you are considered to be very susceptible to hypnosis. This study also showed that symptoms of PTSD are very similar to the phenomena experienced whilst in hypnosis. In another study, hypnotherapy has also been shown to reduce Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.Using the analogy of the wardrobe (above), hypnotherapy can help you unpack the wardrobe of jumbled and contaminated clothes (memories); sort, launder and iron them, and then reorganise and store the contents again into a coherent and orderly arrangement.• Hypnotherapy can help you understand how PTSD is affecting youThis understanding will come more from my experience as a therapist to objectively listen to your individual traumatic account. Your medical history and value system prior to your trauma can heavily bias your coping with the trauma. When you can appreciate how your Post-traumatic stress disorder is affecting you, it can reduce some of your stress symptoms and help you be open to learning new ways of managing your PTSD.• Hypnotherapy can help you to reduce stressIncreased stress levels influence you to perceive innocent situations as threatening ones. Whilst you stay on the “high alert”, you continue to believe that a panic attack that happened in a specific location or social occasion is a new situation to keep away from. Avoidance behaviour is your attempt to cope with your fear, but it only makes those situations worse in your mind. Hypnotherapy incorporates stress reduction as an integral part of the treatment diminishing your state of hyper-vigilance. Learning breathing techniques can also help you to reduce your stress symptoms.• Hypnotherapy can help you identify what is triggering your symptomsPost-traumatic stress disorder triggers can be internally provoked e.g. by an emotion or physical symptom such as a racing heartbeat. They can also be externally generated by events, situations or objects that remind you of the trauma e.g. from reading a similar news item, going to a nearby location or a seeing a person that looked like someone from the original trauma. By indentifying and dissociating these triggers, you can have more control over these situations and reduce your distressing reactions to them.• Hypnotherapy can help you to safely process the trauma in stagesDistressing flashbacks are your mind’s attempt to correct the fragmented processing and storage of the traumatic incident. Visualisation in hypnosis can help you to reprocess and store the traumatic events in a detached and safe way. As a form of graduated exposure, this technique has the benefit of reducing the frequency and severity of anxiety that you are suffering when a flashback is triggered.• Hypnotherapy can reduce your PTSD symptomsPost-traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as flashbacks and detachment can be considered as trance or dream states, similar to the awareness experienced in hypnosis. But PTSD trance states are distressing, whilst hypnotic “trance” is a pleasant relaxed state. PTSD will keep you locked into your traumatic experience replaying the trauma over and over again. The awareness in hypnosis however can used to therapeutically change the content of the flashbacks helping you to have more control over these symptoms.• Hypnotherapy can release the emotions that caused your PTSDStrong negative emotions and beliefs affect the way that you interpret and cope with traumatic stress. They can continue to cause your Post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and often prevent you from closing “chapters” of your trauma. For example flashbacks can express beliefs such as self-blame, guilt and shame as themes that want to be processed and released. Hypnotherapy can provide the platform for emotional release, helping you to re-frame the trauma and reduce the severity of the symptoms that you are now having. 

Hypnotherapy for Post-traumatic stress disorder summary

It is normal to feel anxious when starting any new treatment. As your hypnotherapy course progresses, the feeling of being constantly under threat will reduce. As the meaning of the traumatic events is re-framed, you will be able to think about them in a calmer way and chose when you want to think about them (rather than being overwhelmed by them at inappropriate times).

For further information on treating your post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Cardiff, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Jealousy in relationships

Jealousy in Relationships

What is jealousy in relationships?

Jealousy in relationships can essentially be defined as the insecurity you feel when a rival threatens your relationship in some way. But within your feeling of jealousy, there are a number of different features that can typify what you are experiencing:
Jealousy in relationships
Jealousy is when a rival threatens your relationship
• In addition to your jealousy, you may also be feeling helpless, anxious, angry, resentful, vengeful, betrayed, distrustful, lonely, depressed and disgusted. • The way that you perceive your rival leaves you feeling (physically and emotionally) inadequate and worthless: “They must have something that is better than what I have got.” • As your jealousy persists, you lose your sense of what is real and what is imagined. Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are affected and can become obsessive. You put yourself into negative situations that reinforce your negative beliefs. • Your jealousy can be sexual in nature: you know or believe that your partner has been or they want to be promiscuous. Sexual jealousy can also be provoked where there is no case for actual promiscuity, but an intention for external sexual desire e.g. your partner idolising a celebrity or watching pornography. • Your jealousy can also be emotional in nature: you know or believe that your partner shares a special bond with your imagined rival. Perhaps your partner and imagined rival share the same opinions about an issue or enjoy the same hobby. This bond could develop intimately and threaten your relationship with your partner. Emotional jealousy can also be triggered where your partner’s attention or affection is shared with another person even though there is no sexual connection e.g. giving more attention to a child or parent whilst believing that your partner is neglecting you. • Your jealousy can be projected. This is when you are having thoughts of betraying your partner, but you fail to act on these thoughts because of guilt. Your suppression of these feelings leads you to project these feelings onto your partner, only you believe that your partner is acting out their intentions. You falsely imagine the existence of rivals, even though none exist. • What you have (or believe you have) and value in your relationship is about to be (or has been) lost. So, an agreed (or assumed) boundary with your partner has been wrongly broken by your partner’s supposed involvement with another person i.e. you believe that someone else is gaining what you own or deserve. 

Examples of jealousy in relationships

It is a commonly held view that a small amount of jealousy in relationships can be healthy. Jealousy can remind you how important your partner is to you and it can motivate you to be a better companion. Jealousy can also create the spark to protect your relationship from external threats, particularly when you can discuss the nature of these threats with your partner.In jealousy’s healthier form, consider a typical situation when your partner glances over at an attractive person. You are left with only a mild feeling of unease. You might question your partner by asking them “is something taking your fancy?” With an innocent, yet embarrassed expression they reassuringly squeeze your hand and then reply “just admiring the view!” In this situation, the sensitive communication between you helps any elevating jealousy to be vented. Your open reactions build trust into the relationship because you express your feelings, rather than suppress them.
Jealousy in relationships at home
A delayed reaction to your jealousy
But jealousy has a more destructive side. The reactions can be spiteful, causing you both to feel imprisoned in your own relationship. So, in the above scenario, the reactions would take a different course. The glance is interpreted as a threat to your relationship. There can be an immediate, aggressive attempt to punish your partner as a way of redeeming the worthlessness that you have just felt. If the guilty act has taken place in public, you disguise your anger, giving a fake laugh to ward off any hint of social embarrassment. But it’s just a temporary let-off for the loss of control that you have suffered. The damage has been done and the “fuse” has been lit, steadily burning towards its fatal blow of destruction when you are both home alone. Your partner will think twice next time!Some forms of jealousy can be more insidious. You are helplessly ashamed of your own reactions, so you disguise your direct aggression and retaliate in a way that is disconnected to the offending act; you wreck something that they value and claim ignorance over the damage that has been done.Or maybe your jealous reaction is delayed (but never forgotten). When they next go out with their friends, you find a way to spoil the evening by plaguing them with text messages and phone calls. How else can you divert your brooding anxiety that they might see someone more attractive than you? You seek pity from them for a feigned illness, demanding an early finish to their night. Ultimately, guilt overwhelms them and their return home is the trophy for your strengthening possessiveness.Some of the situations above are typical ways of expressing jealousy in relationships. Your jealousy will have a cause. 

Jealousy in relationships: What causes jealousy?

Some psychologists consider jealousy to be an innate and instinctive response needed for genetic survival; as a species you are genetically pre-disposed to protect what could be taken away from you. But this theory ignores that not everybody suffers with the same level of jealousy. Indeed, there are some individual learned factors that can cause your jealousy in relationships.

Background

Your childhood situation and experiences can contribute to your feelings of jealousy. This can include your position in the family (e.g. being the oldest child), your parent’s handling of sibling rivalry and the way in which you perceived their distribution of time, attention and praise to you and your siblings. Family values of competitiveness can also create an acceptable culture of jealousy at home.Typically, being an only child is considered a situation where feelings of jealousy can be high because as a child you lacked the experience of sharing attention. But this can again vary on the type of attention that you have received from your parents and the way in which you interpreted their attention. Destructive jealousy experienced in adult relationships can originate from the child having too much parental attention (being spoiled) or contrastingly from parental neglect.These background influences of jealousy can lay dormant. They may not always affect your loss of friendships at a young age (unless you believe that you ‘own’ your friends). But as you start having close relationships and establish a trusting bond with your partner, you become aware of how much there is to lose and how painful a break up can be.

Past relationships

When your parents have displayed jealous beliefs or have been involved in affairs, it is easy to form early patterns of repressed insecurity and distrust. At that young age, you would not have known if your parent’s affairs would have caused a divorce. Neither would you have known what its implications would have then meant for you. Fear of abandonment is a common insecurity from early traumas like these and can surface later in your life as jealousy in relationships.This distrust can also be learned from other significant people in your life e.g. siblings or friends who have similarly been betrayed by their partners. The effect of learning this trauma may not be as deep as the effect of your own parents, but it can act to reinforce an already-frail jealous disposition.
Jealousy in relationships betrayal
A past betrayal can damage your trust in all relationships
The effect of a personal betrayal from a past relationship is one of the most powerful contributors to learning destructive jealousy in relationships. If it hasn’t been acquired from the above situations, the effect of this sole past betrayal can overwhelm your handling of a new relationship. Your new partner might be a Saint, but the emotional distrust learned from the previous betrayal influences you to keep your ‘guard up’. Inevitably, you believe that your new partner is destined to cheat on you in the same way as your previous partner did before.Sometimes there has been more than one betrayal in the background which accumulates your jealous feelings. Or maybe you’ve endured a lengthy relationship with a persistent liar who has deceived you for years, despite your friends warning you of what has been happening. You didn’t want to believe it at the time or were not ready to accept that it could be happening to you. When reality hits you, it shocks you and can generate a vengeful attack on your deceitful partner. It can shatter your concept of trust influencing you to believe that all future relationships will go the same way.

Insecurity

Insecurity in relationships is the belief that in some way (consciously or unconsciously), you aren’t good enough for your partner. Given time, your partner will realise this, come to their senses and find somebody else that is a better match for them. Insecurity can relate to one or several issues e.g. you can feel insecure about your attractiveness, an aspect of your personality or your perception of your success. But whatever the nature of your insecure attribute, you are totally convinced about your worthless feature and reject that anyone else could love you for it. When your partner socialises, your fear and possessiveness escalates. You hopelessly compare yourself to your imagined perfect rival, only causing you to feel more insecure and jealous.Your insecurity can also be associated with feeling undeserving of a happy relationship. This can be due to a deeper fear of abandonment. You can cope with poor or mediocre relationships because there is less pain to fear if it goes wrong. But as soon as the relationship is thriving, you panic. You fear that the pain of abandonment will return as you make a commitment with your partner. So you engage in self-sabotaging tactics to push your partner away (a form of “secondary gain”). One method is to make false accusations of their infidelity to down grade the relationship. You play the jealous partner to ease this deeper fear that lives inside of you. It then justifies your break up with them because, you claim, “they were being unfaithful”.

You view your partner as a commodity

Believing that your partner is really “yours” is a term that is deeply ingrained in the common use of our language. But beliefs about “ownership” can be a cause of your jealousy in relationships. Even by saying “your partner” or “your other half” assumes that they belong to you. For the majority of the population these terms are harmless references to someone you share a relationship with. For others, it indicates the existence of a contract e.g. by marriage. But with jealous values dominating in the background, the objectification of your partner heightens that fear of you losing your “property”. Consider that you can only really lose that which you believe you own in the first place.

You want feelings to stay the same

Fixed beliefs about your feelings can be a cause of your jealousy in relationships. In your unrealistic relationship ideals, you believe that the feeling of being in love should never change. You hope that the honeymoon period of your relationship will last forever. But when it does end, your feelings of insecurity increase. You continue to make commitments with your partner e.g. by getting married, buying a house and having children (not always in that order!) But you hopelessly believe that these commitments will bring the old feelings back. The emotional void is filled with resentment as you envy those around you having the excitement of new relationships as you once did during your honeymoon period. You may even develop feelings of attraction towards other people as a way of coping with this void. But rather than accept these common fluctuations of feeling, you begin to become suspicious of your partner also craving these feelings and finding others attractive too. Jealousy starts to filter into your relationship as a projection of what you crave in your own life and believe about feelings staying the same.

You demand guarantees

Your expectation of relationships is unrealistic. As a response to your past betrayals, you now seek certainties from your partner that holds them to unreasonable commitments. The time at which they say that they will return home must be fulfilled or it justifies your aggression. You are eagerly clock-watching as the time ticks up to the agreed arrival time ready to pounce if the “contact has been broken”. This drives your anticipatory anxiety so that even when they make the deadline, you are already wound up and suspicious of minor signs of betrayal evidence. But this insecure handling is not just on a day-to-day level. Your long-term view of the relationship also demands knowledge of the future, as if you can fortune-tell what will happen as “facts”. You have to know that the relationship will last forever. Can that ever be guaranteed? And this unrealistic expectation causes your anger when anything threatens to destroy your dream.

You have a general fear of loss (being replaced)

A fear of losing your partner (or some aspect of them) to a rival defines your jealousy in relationships. But due to your past experiences, your fear of loss is a much deeper fear that causes your jealousy. For example, you may have feared being replaced as a child when siblings were born or when your parents divorced, and this fear is now transferring into your adult relationships. Your fear of loss is also in evidence at work, where you constantly fear losing your job to another colleague despite constant praise from your bosses. Regardless of the situations where this fear of loss presents itself, it has a debilitating effect on your sense of responsibility and confidence. You end up being victim to circumstance; hopelessly clinging to what you have, and fearing that it will be snatched away from you by perceived rivals. With this fear, your partner, your job, your friends etc. are all vulnerable. You may also consider that your favourable outcomes are due to you “being lucky”. It’s as if you have not played an active part in any of your achievements.

Personal psychological factors

Low self esteem and jealousy in relationships
Low self esteem is a major cause of jealousy
In addition to your childhood background and past betrayals, your individual personality traits can cause your jealousy in relationships. Low self-esteem is a core issue closely linked with insecurity (see above). With low self-esteem, you put yourself down and struggle to accept yourself as you are. You rely heavily on acceptance and reinforcement from others. You believe that you don’t deserve good things in life and that you are ‘lucky’ when happiness does come your way. Since you don’t believe that you can contribute to your own success, you live in fear of losing it to someone else. This includes the handling of your relationships, a situation that serves only as a temporary release from your feelings of worthlessness. At the start of your relationship, being desired by your partner boosts your esteem, lifting you into a state of romantic euphoria. But external sources of esteem are more difficult to safeguard. As the relationship settles, your low self-esteem is gradually exposed again. You crave this feeling of importance as before, but lack the internal resources to lift your esteem yourself. So when a rival then threatens your relationship, jealousy can be your defensive reaction to protect this feeling of importance and your relationship.There are other psychological issues that can also cause your jealousy in relationships. Obsessions can be triggered by having general anxiety and numerous traumas related to the same issue e.g. having a number of betrayals in relationships can cause you to obsess over the fear of future betrayals. In an obsessive state of mind, you have difficulty recognising the rationality of your jealous thoughts because your traumatic history prejudices your perspective. Extensive and numerous episodes of betrayal can influence states of paranoia, another cause of jealousy in relationships. With this condition, you can have the exaggerated suspicious belief that numerous people are involved in the betrayal and are constantly scheming to deceive you. In extreme cases that can accompany a mental illness, you can suffer delusions with your jealousy in relationships. With this condition, you are firmly convinced of your betrayed reality despite very strong evidence of the contrary.

Quality of your relationship

There are many factors that can affect the quality of your relationship and the likelihood of developing jealousy. In addition to those listed above, they can also include:• The mismatch between you and your partner’s values e.g. when there has been a row, your partner might use attention from others to lift their own feeling of insecurity and divert the tension in your relationship. Contrastingly, you seek a quick internal resolution between you, causing you to feel jealous and frustrated in your partner’s actions.• The level of each other’s dependency is sometimes called your ‘attachment’ style. When you have an insecure attachment style, you may seek more reassurance and attention from your partner. You can be prone to feelings of jealousy when your partner prefers their own personal space in preference to being ‘glued’ to you.• Your partner is extrovert and you are introvert. You struggle to cope with your partner’s sociability (extroversion) because you prefer to have evenings in together. You may feel jealous when your partner wants the freedom to socialise in larger groups, whilst you feel anxious in larger groups, preferring to socialise in smaller numbers.Many couples can manage these relationship issues above. Your communication styles will play an essential part in how you cope with each other’s differences and feelings of jealousy. 

Jealousy in relationships: How do you know that your jealousy is destroying your relationship?

In a trusting relationship, mild forms of jealousy can be quite endearing to your partner. Due to your naivety, your partner “protects” your insecurity with constant reassurance. Essentially, you recognise that your allegations of jealousy are false and you can readily dismiss your suspicions as pure foolishness.But when you have a fixed, fatalistic belief that your imagined partner’s behaviour is reality, your responses can change from charming to near-abusive. Here some signs that your jealousy is destructive:

• You are controlling

The relationship may have started with amorous signs that you are head-over-heels in love with each other, but as time goes by, the interest in your partner’s life becomes a fixation. You are inquisitive about every detail of what they are doing, where they have been and what they are going to do later. Your constant questioning is aimed at exposing a hidden lie, so your suspicion interrogates your partner with infinite details. If their answers don’t satisfy your suspicions, you will plague their friends or even strangers until each story corresponds with what you want to believe. If there is still no joy, then you can secretly plough through their physical evidence like a private investigator. There are endless sources to test their honesty including checking their phone history and usage history, emails, website search history, car mileage, credit card statements etc.

• You are distrustful

You live in fear that the past wounds of distrust will surface again, but have probably forgotten the events that have caused your original pain. These past events confuse your interpretation of what is happening around you. You see evidence of deception in the most innocent comments, twisting their meaning to signal a threat. A compliment paid to a colleague by your partner is enough to register danger that this colleague could jeopardise your relationship. You may even begin to doubt the integrity of family and close friends; those whom you would otherwise normally trust. Your distrust is so severe that you consider that anyone has the potential to deceive you. But it is not just comments that rattle you; any subtle changes in behaviour can also be viewed with suspicion. Your partner’s desire to get fit or “better” themselves in some way is seen as a sinister attempt to attract a new partner.

• You are possessive

You spin a spidery web of possession and seek to dominate your partner. You want to eliminate their friendship circle by subtly criticising their friends as if they are a bad influence on them. If your partner praises any of your friend’s qualities e.g. hairstyle, you hastily upgrade your hairstyle to shift the attention onto you. You then aim to gradually suffocate your partner’s individuality. You want to be attached to them wherever they go and participate in whatever they do. You won’t allow them the freedom to spend time on their own, nor allow them time with their friends; you are ever-present. If they want to start a new hobby, then you will suddenly be enthusiastic about that activity too, just so that you can be their partner in the class. In the extreme form of possessiveness, you stalk them! You win your trophy when they live a possessed existence and can only turn to you for just about...everything.

• You are aggressive

Anger and jealousy in relationships
Anger is a common expression of jealousy
You seek to control your partner by intimidation. In the early stages of your relationship, your aggression is subtle. You question their whereabouts, wanting to know who they were talking to or why they took so long. But as the relationship develops, you retaliate when you haven’t had the answer that can satisfy your suspicions. So if they were not available at work to give you reassurance when you wanted to speak to them, you will become mysteriously unavailable when they need you; that way, they can get a taste for how it feels! But when that moment of painful jealousy is so overwhelming and they are not available to speak to you, you will seek to destroy those things that they value. You “accidentally” break one item from their collection or destroy something that will take them time to repair. If your perceived rival is available, you may even focus your aggression on them, punishing them for attempting to take away what belongs to you.

• You are convinced that there is a conspiracy

Your alertness to betrayal maintains your suspicions that it’s not just your partner who could deceive you. Gradually, your circle of distrust has extended to your friends and work colleagues. But it continues to grow with the prospect that the whole world is going to desert you. When people talk quietly, it must be about you. You are paranoid that they are making plans to set your partner up with someone who has everything that you lack. Each event is becoming a threat to your security. You struggle with any secret celebrations because you are convinced that the occasion will showcase your biggest fears.

• Your partner is anxious, depressed and isolated

Since you aim to dominate your partner, you may not acknowledge your partner’s deteriorating health and well-being. They have become a model of how you want them to be; controlled and possessed. They used to have their individuality, but in order to placate you, they have stopped having friends and hobbies. Very few courageous people have tried to enlighten you with what is happening, but your jealousy doesn’t hear their cries. You think their depression is related to something else

How can hypnotherapy help jealousy in relationships?

Hypnotherapy can break the obsessive thinking patterns

Hypnotherapy and jealousy in relationships
Hypnotherapy can help you switch to confidence in your relationship
Once you get immersed in repetitive jealous thinking patterns, your anxiety increases. This has the effect of intensifying your controlling behaviour, your distrust, possessiveness and aggression. In a relaxed state, your unconscious mind is more responsive to new hypnotic suggestions that can ‘switch off’ your anxious thoughts and help you learn how to replace them with more confident ones.

Hypnotherapy can help you build your self esteem

The change in your jealous thinking patterns is also enhanced by building your self-esteem. This is an essential part of your treatment for jealousy. When you dismiss your positive attributes, you are more likely to feel threatened by what your perceived rivals have over you. Suggestions are used to help you appreciate what is positive in you and your relationship; it’s so easy to take what is positive for granted!

Hypnotherapy can identify and treat your associated fears and beliefs

Fixed views about how a relationship ‘should be’ can create an inflexible communication style with your partner. Jealousy can be your defensive reaction that masks other associated fears and beliefs e.g. because of your insecurity, unconsciously you want to ‘own’ your partner. Recently you may have completed some relationship therapy with a mention that you have some issues to resolve, or you have come to your own conclusions from your constant relationship break ups. Either way, you are now ready to recognise that you have some unconscious negative beliefs (‘issues’) that could be treated by a skilled hypnotherapist.

Hypnotherapy can release the emotion from past betrayals

The emotion from past betrayals can still be affecting how you are coping with your current relationship. You may be thinking that you are “over it” or have “moved on”, but if your jealousy is destructive, the beliefs and emotions will still be influencing you. Or maybe you are the type of person “who knows what to do but just can’t seem to help yourself”. By treating your self-esteem and releasing the emotion from these past traumas, it can liberate your mind from the negative emotions that are still overwhelming your jealousy. Learning to trust your partner (and your own thoughts) is part of your jealousy treatment.

Encourage effective communication in your relationship

Throughout the course of treatment, your reactions will disclose your communication style and how you are interacting with your partner. Combined with your appraisal of jealous situations in your relationship (and past relationships), you can be guided towards more effective way of communicating. The treatment process will also encourage assertiveness by helping you identify what values your partner brings into your relationship. Your partner’s interest in this process can help you both appreciate the intended resolution of your jealousy. It can make way for a more trusting and rewarding relationship. 

Jealousy in relationships Cardiff: for further information on your jealousy treatment, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Stop Smoking Cardiff

Stop Smoking Cardiff

Stop smoking Cardiff break the habit
Stay stopped: Get ready to lead your life as a non-smoker
Stop Smoking Cardiff: Stopping smoking is just part of the challenge... with Stop Smoking Cardiff the goal is to stay stopped

Stop Smoking Cardiff: Which Hypnotherapy treatment will help you achieve your goal?

It would be dismissive to think that hypnotherapy is the same treatment with every hypnotherapist. But if you have tried a hypnotherapy treatment and have not had a favourable outcome, there could be numerous explanations for this. The cost, the style, the approach, the focus, the emphasis, the techniques and the rapport is different with each hypnotherapist. Then you also need to take into account your hypnotisability and what history, beliefs and expectations that you bring into this process. You are an individual, even if you share a common goal that you want to stop smoking.A successful hypnotherapy treatment involves some cautious research on your part – and only too right! You are spending money on a professional service that could help you make an important life change. Going for the cheapest hypnotherapist could backfire if they are inexperienced and are using hypnotherapy as a part-time hobby. You could also be fooled by persuasive advertising “jargon” because you are desperate to receive help. So what happens? You hastily go along with claims of a “quick fix – one session cure” because you are longing for that magical silver bullet! Understandably, you want to be free of your cigarette smoking chains and will do anything that draws your attention.So how can you differentiate the good from the bad? 

Stop Smoking Cardiff

Can you ask the question “what’s your success rate?”

If you were to ask a hypnotherapist what their success rate was for helping patients to stop smoking, do you think that they would honestly be able to give you a real percentage rate answer? Very few hypnotherapists have undertaken any research worthy of appearing in a reputable medical journal. It’s difficult enough to standardise “hypnosis” let alone reliably measure the outcomes with a large enough sample and with controls in place. They may refer you to other online hypnotherapy research as the standard to expect, but is the online method exactly the same as the method that they are using? Can it be applied to every patient equally?If they did tell you that they are achieving 80%, ask them which journal does their research appear in or ask them to see a copy of the raw data and you might never actually receive the information you want! When they tell you their success rate “is very good”, is this just them giving you what you want to hear i.e. “common sales pitch” to get you through their clinic door? At that precise moment, you have no way of verifying whether their success rate is good or bad.So, will you be asking the question “what’s your success rate?” - I think it’s pointless. 

Stop Smoking Cardiff: What does the research say?

Some research has been done with positive outcomes. For example, research by Elkins & Rajab in 2004, here referenced in abstract, reports that 81% of the 30 patient sample stopped smoking after 3 hypnosis sessions. But other grouped research analysed in the Cochrane Review states that hypnosis has not been able to consistently show its effectiveness as a “one-therapy-cures-all” type of treatment.But don’t ditch hypnotherapy as an option just yet!You may be puzzled by my selling technique here. I am not exactly portraying hypnosis in a sensationally positive light and raising your expectation to “buy this stop smoking treatment now”. That’s because, even as a practising hypnotherapist, I consider that there’s a lot more to the hypnotherapy process that makes it work or in some cases, not work. So disregard the “one session smoking cure” adverts and consider them as nothing more than “attention grabbing”. Let’s face it, if anyone has a treatment that can be demonstrated to be say, 90% effective, the NHS would buy into that method and save itself a fortune.

It’s far cheaper to use a reliably tested method to help patients quit smoking than it is to treat their smoking-related illnesses.

Stop Smoking Cardiff: What is the common approach with hypnotherapy?

Stopping smoking hypnotherapy Cardiff
Which hypnotherapy approach will help you stop smoking?
Hypnotherapists commonly focus the stop smoking treatment into a longer one-session consultation e.g. 2 hours. To make a big impact, you are there for a longer time and charged a double fee (and some more!) to commit you to this short interaction. Do you consider this approach as two separate sessions squeezed into one visit? They will analyse your smoking behaviour, use a stop smoking hypnosis induction (scripted or unscripted) and then they may offer you a generalised stop smoking hypnosis CD to take home. Very rarely, the CD has been tailored to your personal needs.This is a reasonable approach which can work for some patients, some of the time. And when it does change the behaviour (and beliefs) of a smoker after just one (double) session, it can be “headline news”. It’s quite an achievement because for some patients, a twenty year habit has been broken after just one meeting. But according to The Cochrane Review, one-session stop smoking hypnotherapy is no more successful than any other methods available to help you quit smoking.Whether the hypnotherapist’s advert mentioned any follow-up consultations and possible additional costs if the change has not taken place after the first session can be variable. The hypnotherapist may not want to mention more therapy (and costs) after the first session because it could affect your beliefs about being able to stop in one session i.e. if they say that you may need follow-up sessions then maybe the one-treatment approach is destined to fail (even if it is a double session). And this is an important point with psychological treatments: your expectations or what you believe can have an impact on the outcome. 

What makes stopping smoking such a challenge for you on your own?

Smoking cigarettes involves both: 1. A physical addiction to nicotine and 2. A psychological habitSmokers place varying emphases on each part; some of the cigarettes smoked in your day will be related to the nicotine addiction and others related to what you habitually associate with nicotine e.g. it’s time for a break time, it helps you to concentrate, it releases your frustration etc.In order to help you stop smoking (in the short and long term), the successful hypnotherapist will aim to treat your nicotine addiction and its psychological associations. Sometimes, if you smoke infrequently, treating just one part (usually the psychological associations) can be sufficient to help you to stop smoking. A skilled experienced hypnotherapist will analyse what you present in the consultation and treat your relevant issues rather than taking a rather generalised approach and hoping for the best!But I just smoke cigarettes...Yes, over time it ends up that way, which is why it can be arduous trying to stop smoking using willpower alone. When you have been smoking cigarettes for many years, it’s likely that the physical and psychological aspects of smoking have overlapped.Help from an objective professional can benefit you if your own attempts have previously failed. Your personal habitual associations with nicotine can be analysed and treated. In group therapy, the trainer/therapist would need to spend individual time with you to treat your personal smoking issues, rather than treating the group’s needs as a whole. Each smoker is different.You are living “within” the addiction/habit. You respond to the physical needs of nicotine and the associations you have made with it. This means that you confuse physical tension and irritability from a lack of nicotine with that created by stress. Smoking just takes over your life. 

What does the one-session treatment fall short of addressing?

Stopping smoking in one session is not impossible; it just means that several “future” issues need to identified and treated in one go. I’ve helped many patients stop smoking in one session, but it doesn’t mean that the process is over.For some patients, one session is a tall order because once you have left the therapy room (by definition) you are on your own- you’ve had your one session. If you haven’t adapted to your new lifestyle as a non-smoker, then you can easily slide back to smoking without any further help. How do you know that the job is done when the critical stages are yet to come?The one-session approach appears attractive to the smoker who is looking for the cheapest quick-fix. But it needs to have treated these “future” issues without really knowing that they have been treated until the time comes. The critical period is around three days and up to two weeks after you have stopped smoking. Each smoker has different responses to stopping smoking.They include:
Stop smoking Cardiff break the habit
Irritability is a common nicotine withdrawal symptom
• Cravings – Withdrawal symptoms begin after a few hours, peak at around three to five days, diminish and then stop after two weeks. Symptoms can include irritability, tension, headaches, restlessness, frustration, anxiety and even depression. Everyone is different with the severity of their symptoms, but after this period, any symptoms are related to the psychological habit or associations you have made with nicotine. If you have found these symptoms unbearable on previous stopping attempts, support over this period (to keep you focused on the goal) is essential.• Accepting change – Removing a “comfort” leaves a void to fill in your mind (and body). It can be stressful filling this void depending on what other issues you bring to this treatment. The comfort of what you have known and done (smoked cigarettes) has now become ingrained as a way of life. Changing these habits requires a transitional period of adjustment where you replace the old unwanted habits with more desirable ones and embrace those as your new comforts.The confidence that you have accepted this change comes from being in those situations and demonstrating that you can cope. For example, if smoking and drinking alcohol has been one of your social habits, it’s not until you have been out socialising that you can assign confidence in this situation without a cigarette. Yes, you can visualise coping (which will be a big help), but you can only say that you have managed it after the event has happened.I have treated patients who have stopped smoking after the first hypnotherapy treatment, but have been fearful of coping with a social situation involving large groups. They started the treatment with social anxiety and with the goal to stop smoking. The support leading up to the event in the second session is what helped them to confidently socialise in large groups without the need for a cigarette as their comfort. It would have been too much to have helped them stop smoking and prepare them for this social situation in just one session. Before the treatment, their social anxiety trait acted as a block to them stopping smoking and being able to cope socially with large groups of people.• Stress and anxiety associations with nicotine – If you smoke more cigarettes when you are stressed or anxious, then treatment to manage how you handle your stress or anxiety is an important part of converting you into a Non-smoker (see below).Low nicotine levels, stress and anxiety can all create a similar feeling of tension, but smokers forget how to differentiate one from the other over the years of smoking. The deep breathing (used independently by non-smokers) is an essential part of releasing emotional tension; you’ve probably heard the expression “take a deep breath!” So as a smoker when you feel stressed or anxious, you will smoke out of habit to ease your emotional tension (and get your breath). This repletes your nicotine levels and you feel calmer, but it’s the deep breathing that is creating the benefit in this situation; you don’t need the nicotine. When you are under extreme stress, your high nicotine levels can reach a distasteful peak. You may continue smoking excessively until you feel slightly nauseous, but it’s the emotional release from stress that you are seeking, not the nicotine.
Stop smoking Cardiff and stress
Inability to cope with stress is a major reason why people keep smoking
Stress and psychological associations to nicotine are a big part of what keeps you smoking. You fear that you may not be able to cope with your stress without cigarettes, “so it’s better to keep the habit going just in case”.Stress and psychological associations to nicotine also contribute to your restarts. The intensity of a new trauma (e.g. bereavement) links your mind back to how you “coped” with previous traumas. If you believe that smoking got you through your initial trauma, then the deep need returns when you go through another distressing experience. Sometimes, this can be months (or years) after you last smoked a cigarette.The hypnotherapist (in some cases) can begin to identify and treat a few of these issues in the one (double) session and (according to the Cochrane review), only sometimes gets it right to help you stop smoking. 

What does the one-session treatment rely on?

There is a small percentage of the population (about 10%) who are highly suggestible and respond very quickly to hypnosis. The majority of the population (80%) are moderately suggestible and can benefit from a reasonable course of treatment. The other 10% are unresponsive usually because they have a fixed attitude about what to expect (e.g. if you are not sleeping then it’s not hypnosis) or can terrified of the process (e.g. you fear losing control). You can assess your level of suggestibility here.As you can imagine, the highly suggestible population are the ones who respond well to the one-session stop smoking treatment and this is what this approach relies on – highly suggestible patients who seek hypnotherapy as their treatment. But since they only make up a small percentage of the population, it is for this reason (I believe) that the Cochrane Review only gives an average success rate for hypnotherapy for the whole population.If this realistic (two-stage) approach was used with the majority of the population, I think it would increase the overall success rate of hypnotherapy stop smoking treatments. It just needs someone to do empirical research using this approach.The moderately suggestible population desperately want to be “cured” rapidly (and who doesn’t!?) They are in awe of their friends who have been quick-fixed and want the “same” treatment to work for them. They can be “hypnotised” to accept these initial suggestions to stop smoking for a short period of time, but it usually takes longer than one stop smoking session to fully internalise suggestions beyond this stage.New suggestions in the second stage are more effective to help you dissociate your psychological associations with nicotine after you’ve stopped smoking for the critical three to five days. These suggestions can focus you beyond the nicotine depletion stage to assist your progression in the stop smoking programme. This is what converts the (recently stopped) Ex-smoker into the lifestyle-changing Non-smoker (see below). 

The Ex-smoker vs. The Non-smoker

Have you previously stopped smoking for months or even years and have still felt like the cravings have never really gone away?When you stopped smoking, did you still feel like you needed a cigarette in certain situations?Have you frequently stopped smoking for more than a week and then lapsed back into your smoking habit?If you have answered yes to any of these questions, then consider the two very different perspectives of the Ex-smoker and the Non-smoker:
Stop smoking and become the non-smoker
The Ex-smoker still battles with their old smoking habit
As the Ex-smoker, you have broken free of your nicotine addiction for at least a week. You have taken a very determined “will-power” approach to “stop-no-matter-what” and come out of the other side. You deserve recognition for doing something that smokers lack the courage to do – stop smoking! But many of your psychological associations to your nicotine habit still remain. You are given constant desperate reminders of your old habit. A certain mood like anxiety draws you back into smoking cigarettes because you find it hard to breathe through your tension. You are tempted to give-in during socials, when there are other smokers around you or when you are enjoying drinking alcohol. You may even carry cigarettes on you “just in case” the cravings overwhelm you. You constantly fight an internal battle that surrenders when the demands of the situation are high. “Just one cigarette won’t do me any harm...” are your last desperate words before you surrender and get your hit of nicotine. You’re back into the smoking habit again! As the Non-smoker, you have stopped smoking for at least a week and have detached all of your psychological associations with nicotine. You are liberated from your old smoking habits that once frustrated your life in so many ways. As a Non-smoker, you can now appreciate the benefits because you have embraced positive lifestyle habits. You have new independent ways to manage your stress and anxiety. You lead your life as if you have never smoked a cigaretteYou may pity your friends and work colleagues who are addicted to nicotine; it serves as a reminder of the life that once defined you. But smoking is their choice; you are proud to have asserted your choice. As a Non-smoker, you may able to tolerate having smokers around you. Or, maybe now you find the smell of cigarette smoke repulsive, just like the majority of the population who have never taken up the smoking habit.When your stop smoking hypnotherapy treatment has helped you embrace the perspective of the Non-smoker, the therapy is complete. Your life is smoke free!Only when you have distanced yourself from your nicotine addiction can the hypnotherapist realistically analyse and treat any of the remaining psychological associations that remain. The hypnotherapist will help you accept that having stopped smoking: Nothing in your life is “missing” You don’t need to avoid any situations You believe that you can deal with your stress/anxiety without nicotineWhen these issues are clearly visible, then the job of quitting cigarettes has been achieved. 

What is my treatment approach?

In the early part of my first consultation, I want to:• Identify any significant health issues – This is standard practice, you may have some contra-indications to hypnotherapy. • Explore any relevant lifestyle habits – Analyse your stress/anxiety levels and associations with nicotine. • Discuss the background to your smoking habit – Establish your motives for stopping, your emotional blocks and reasons for re-starts (if any).Then, using this information:My first goal in the stop smoking hypnotherapy programme employs techniques to help you stop smoking so that your nicotine levels can deplete. I include teaching you techniques to counter your cravings.My second goal in the stop smoking hypnotherapy programme is to help you dissociate any psychological habits that you may attach to your nicotine addiction/smoking cigarettes.These goals can combine to create an advanced change in your smoking behaviour. This often depends on the issues presented in the early part of the consultation. 

How many sessions are usually needed and what is the frequency?

The stop smoking hypnotherapy programme is usually between one to four sessions. Most patients stop within one or two sessions. Allow up to four sessions to achieve the confidence that you are a non-smoker. The psychological habits are analysed in the early stages but are targeted more intensely as the nicotine levels have depleted.For optimum results the second consultation should be booked three to five days after the first consultation to counter the effects of any remaining cravings. Any follow-up appointments will then be made according to your progress/needs, but are usually made weekly. By committing to becoming a non-smoker, it ensures that you leave the stop smoking hypnotherapy treatment in an independent and confident state.Can stop smoking hypnotherapy courses take longer than four sessions? Where there are background medical conditions such as depression or anxiety disorder that is heavily dependent on smoking as a way of coping, it is advisable to stabilise these conditions first with medication through your GP. Or you can seek therapy e.g. hypnotherapy, that focuses on stabilising these medical conditions. This then places you in a better position to be ready stop smoking. 

How should you prepare for the first consultation?

To achieve maximum benefit from the first hypnotherapy treatment, aim to have your last cigarette prior to your first appointment to stop the smoking process. This helps you to focus your mind on a stopping date which often gives the best results. The sooner you can reach those three to five days of not smoking, the sooner the nicotine will diminish from your body. But everyone is different and if you have already planned to decrease your number of cigarettes in gradual stages, then the treatment can be adapted to your needs. The hypnotherapy techniques will help motivate your mind to stop smoking, break the cycle of your smoking habits and help you cope with your nicotine cravings.Be prepared to get rid of any remaining cigarettes as a clear intention of your goal while your nicotine levels are depleting. The “comfort” of having cigarettes with you can leave you vulnerable if you are under stress from external issues. Yes, it’s easy to get hold of cigarettes from a local shop, but the time it takes you to go and buy them, can be the time it takes for a cravings to develop and subside using the techniques taught in the treatment.Tell people around you about your intentions to stop smoking if it helps them to be more sensitive to your smoking cessation goal. Family and closer friends will make allowances for any craving symptoms. They may also smoke away from you to help you adopt your new habits. 

Can I combine the hypnotherapy treatment with any other methods?

Yes, hypnotherapy can be combined (to help you cope) with any negative symptoms (e.g. an increase in stress, cravings etc.) acquired from stop smoking prescription medication or nicotine replacement, including electronic cigarettes. You can mention your situation in your initial contact.The treatment course length may vary where you seek help with a small change in your behaviour. 

Stop Smoking Cardiff: Can your fears associated with stopping smoking be treated early in the programme?

stop smoking and lose weight
Putting on weight is a common fear of stopping smoking
Yes, these fears act as your personal blocks to you quitting smoking and are discussed in the first consultation. They can relate to your ability to cope with your cravings in the early stages or some of the latter negative effects that may have accumulated before (and caused you to lapse back into smoking again). Common fears of stopping smoking include gaining weight or not being able to deal with your stress. It is important to take these issues into account because your mind will not be fooled into stopping smoking if you believe that by stopping, you will suffer in another aspect of your life. 

Stop Smoking Cardiff: What can you expect after the first appointment?

Most people stop after the first session, but it’s important to consider that each person is different in the way that their addiction and psychological habits have affected them over the years. Just because a friend as stopped immediately using hypnotherapy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will follow the same pattern of behaviour.Some patients prefer to gradually cut down the number of cigarettes, building confidence into their ability to delay the time between each cigarette. If you have successfully coped with delaying the first cigarette of the day (which is usually in the morning), then this helps your confidence to believe that you can then extend the interval between other cigarettes in your day.Other patients are prepared to stop smoking in some situations e.g. around work, but may feel vulnerable and want to smoke in other situations e.g. socially. This gradual process of cutting down of the number of cigarettes you smoke extends the “stopping” treatment stage of the therapy, but can be better suited to your individual needs. The follow-on sessions will treat what is remaining in your smoking habit.Aim to stop smoking, but don’t be disheartened if a situation has triggered a small lapse and you smoke the odd cigarette e.g. you became stressed over an external issue that causes you to cave in and smoke. In these cases, the psychological associations to nicotine have become unconscious, but can be treated as they become apparent to you. Many patients have reacted to their lapse by then becoming more determined to deal with these underlying stressful issues that have caused the lapse.With the first stage of the stop smoking hypnotherapy treatment, you are focusing on stopping smoking and on depleting your nicotine levels. Temporarily, you may choose to constructively avoid situations that you believe would be a threat to you lapsing at this stage of the treatment. After the nicotine depletion stage, your confidence to participate in these situations will form part of the follow-up sessions and the conversion to being a Non-smoker. 

Stop Smoking Cardiff: How can patients feel after having stopped smoking?

There can be numerous withdrawal symptoms to nicotine. You may experience some of these in varying intensity or none of them at all.• Extreme cravings for a cigarette • Disturbed sleeping patterns • Feeling anxious or depressed • Restlessness, frustration and difficulties with concentration • Changes in appetite • HeadachesThese nicotine withdrawal symptoms are temporary and subside after the nicotine levels deplete. Hypnotherapy suggestions can be used to counter the effects of your nicotine withdrawal.If you have temporarily stopped smoking before and can recall struggling to cope with any of these symptoms, the treatment can specifically prepare you to cope with what you anticipate with stopping smoking on this occasion. 

Stop Smoking Cardiff: What happens in the follow-up sessions?

If you have stopped smoking in the first session, the follow-up session will help you deal with any remaining craving symptoms (depending on the timing of the second treatment). It will also focus on any remaining psychological associations that you have with nicotine; the “fears” that you will encounter without having cigarettes available. This process converts the vulnerable Ex-smoker into the Non-smoker. It is important to follow this process through because even though you have stopped smoking, it’s only after the nicotine levels have depleted that these psychological associations become fully understood. It’s tempting to “jump ship” to save money, but there are very few patients who feel ready to embrace life as a non-smoker at this early stage.There are several psychological associations that can be made with nicotine. They are often the “excuses” or fears that people make to keep you smoking. Or these associations act as the reason for your previous relapse and you fear that the situation could overwhelm you again.This process of “undoing” is built into the four session treatment. If you have few (or no) psychological associations however, the treatment is likely to be a shorter course. 

Stop Smoking Cardiff: What psychological associations keep people smoking?

When you are converted you to the Non-smoker, you will embrace an alternative to your “excuse” (or fear) that has previously prevented you from stopping or has caused your lapses back into smoking. When the new perspective is accepted at the cognitive, emotional and behavioural level, the treatment is complete.Smoking is nothing more than an addiction to nicotine, anything else is the addiction fooling your mind!Have you justified (or heard someone else justify their) desire to keep/lapse back into smoking with the following “excuses” or fears?• It’s just a habit; you can stop any time • X... is just as unhealthy as smoking • You’re only harming yourself • Stopping smoking will stress you out/smoking helps you to relax • You will stop cold turkey when you are ready • You don’t buy them/people hand you them • You can’t cope with the withdrawal symptoms • You enjoy smoking • You are healthy in other aspect of your life • You don’t have the willpower/you’ve tried everything • You will quit when...work quietens down/after the holiday etc. • Smoking helps you to concentrate/You work better when you smoke • Smoking gives you a break • You fear putting on weight (you believe that smoking keeps your weight down) • Smoking is your best friend (you fear loneliness) • Cigarettes help you to socialise (you have social anxiety) • Smoking and a drink (alcohol, tea, coffee etc.) go together • Smoking has become part of who you are • It’s your reward • You fear failure (you have failed before) • It’s something to do with your hands • It helps you deal with boredom/waiting around • It helps you cope with...stress/moods (or any other negative emotion) • It wakes you up • Without cigarettes you feel depressed • It helped you cope with a tragedy or bereavement, so you keep smoking just in case of another • It helps you cope with a bad relationship (or it helped you cope with a previous break up/divorce) • Medication/therapy costs too much • Smoking helps you feel important/cool/mature (empowerment) • You would be giving in to defiance (you love to do the opposite of what people tell you to do) • You would be giving in to your partner who wants you to stop smoking (revenge) • Smoking is your only pleasure/vice • Nobody’s perfect • Everyone dies of something • What’s the point? It’s too late/I’m too old, the damage has been done • There’s no evidence that smoking harms your health • You’ve just cut down/you smoke low tar cigarettes
Stop smoking Cardiff quit today
Commit to leading your life as a non-smoker
Being a Non-smoker involves changing your thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviour. Some of your excuses to keep smoking (or restarting) can be reactions to comments and situations that have been held for years.Are you ready to become a Non-smoker?For more self help tips on stopping smoking:How to stop smoking Tips 1How to stop smoking Tips 2 

Stop smoking Cardiff: for further information on becoming a Non-smoker, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction

Treat Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff

Erectile dysfunction Cardiff man disappointed
Erectile dysfunction can affect any age group

Occasional Erectile dysfunction is not an uncommon situation. The impact of stress, anxiety, fatigue and excessive alcohol can temporarily affect your ability to get an erection. More persistent erectile dysfunction however could be a sign of underlying health problems and requires a medical diagnosis. Recurring erectile dysfunction can affect about 10% of the male population in any age group. Its frequency increases with age, even though age is not considered a cause of the condition. In the 50-59 age group the frequency is more than double that of the 18-29 age group.

Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
Definition of erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction, sometimes referred to as impotence, is defined as the inability to achieve and maintain a firm erection for the duration of the chosen sexual activity. It is commonly associated with problems initiating (or continuing) sexual (or anal) intercourse. Erectile dysfunction can also affect oral sex and masturbation.

Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
Implications of erectile dysfunction

Sex is an important part of a fulfilling relationship. But when something is hindering your capacity to enjoy your sex life, it can be challenging for both you and your partner. How can it affect you?

Erectile dysfunction is a sexual condition that can undermine your self-esteem and self-confidence. How you define your masculinity can be deeply rooted in the ability to sexually satisfy your partner. This expectation can create feelings of failure and embarrassment when you are unable to achieve an erection. It is common to avoid sexual relationships rather than confront your embarrassment during an intimate encounter. You may also feel isolated from your peers because if this issue was to become known, you could then be the focus of social humiliation.

In your relationship, how you communicate with your partner can also affect your erectile dysfunction. A lack of open discussion of your condition can cause a misinterpretation of events. When you continuously refuse your partner’s sexual advances, they can easily think that you have rejected them because you no longer find them attractive. The real reason for your refusal however may be based on your own fear of “failure” that you will not be able to satisfy them sexually. This misunderstanding begins to damage their self-esteem, even though attractiveness is not at the heart of the situation. In reality, you are avoiding the potential embarrassment of yet another “let down” and it can cause you to become quite reserved and isolated in your condition.

Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
What happens during an erection?

Before identifying what is causing your erectile dysfunction, it is important to understand what happens when a normal erection takes place. It’s very easy for this physiological process to breakdown.

An erection involves a complex series of functions involving a psychological state of arousal, the nervous system, hormonal and circulatory functions to create localised changes in the penis. Relaxation of the smooth muscle is essential for controlling the flow of blood into the penis.

When aroused, the brain sends signals to the nerves of the penis. Blood flow is increased to the erectile tissues. Sexual stimulation (and continued arousal) encourages the release of chemicals that relax this smooth muscle. Sexual stimulation also dramatically increases and maintains blood flow to the erectile tissues of the penis.

Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff:
What causes erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction can happen at any stage of the erection process. There can be various physical and psychological conditions that contribute to your erectile dysfunction.

Other than by injury or previous surgery, physical conditions include those which affect:

Impotence and the brain
Erections involve a complex series of biological functions

• The flow of blood to your penis -This is the most common physical cause of erectile dysfunction in men over 40 years old. Arteries carrying blood to the penis can become narrowed which means that there is insufficient blood going into the penis to achieve an erection. Several conditions can increase this circulatory risk of erectile dysfunction. They include hypertension (high blood pressure), smoking, heart conditions, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise and high cholesterol.

• The interference of nerve signals – The sending and receiving of nerve impulses can be interrupted by strokes, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Without the essential “message” to open “the blood flood gates” from the brain to the nerves of the penis, they will remain closed.

• The presence (or lack) of hormones/chemicals in drugs – Low levels of testosterone, an overactive or underactive thyroid or excessive levels of cortisol (Cushing’s syndrome) can cause your Erectile dysfunction. Drugs contained in prescribed medication can also contribute to your erectile dysfunction and should be discussed with your doctor before you stop taking any medication. Medication for high blood pressure, diuresis (increased urine production) and certain heart conditions are just a few listed medical conditions that could affect you. Recreational drugs including alcohol can also contribute to your erectile dysfunction.

• The structure (anatomy) of your penis – Certain medical conditions that affect the structural tissue of the penis such as Peyronie’s disease can cause your erectile dysfunction. With this condition, erections can be painful and can be a source of stress and anxiety. Very rarely there can be a “venous leak” which prevents blood from being retained in the erectile tissues once it has been pumped there.

Psychological causes of your erectile dysfunction can develop as a reaction to any of the physical causes listed above.

Psychological causes generally inhibit your erection at the stage of arousal. Without arousal the subsequent stages become affected; the nerve signals to the penis, hormonal changes and blood flow.

A psychological cause of your erectile dysfunction is more probable if you can achieve an erection in some situations, but have problems achieving it in other situations e.g. when masturbating but not during intercourse.

Psychological causes include:

• Stress – Stress related to non-sexual issues e.g. coping with work demands, can contribute to your erectile dysfunction. Stress causes the release of adrenaline which narrows the blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the penis. Stress also inhibits nitric oxide from relaxing (expanding) the blood vessels that are associated with the smooth muscle of the penis.

Once sex is “perceived” as problematic because of your erectile dysfunction, further stress is created by negative emotions connected with your condition e.g. frustration or disappointment. A negative cycle of anticipatory anxiety, negative experiences and emotions exacerbates the condition, creating more tension and a fear of failure.

• Anxiety – As with stress, anxiety about non-sexual issues can also contribute to your erectile dysfunction because the same (stress) chemicals are released with negative emotions.

Anxiety specific to sex can be classified as performance anxiety. If you are young, lack any sexual experience or you are starting a new relationship, the pressure of trying to impress your partner can inhibit your ability to relax. When you then add some negative beliefs like perfectionism, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure or social anxiety, it can overwhelm your sexual confidence. With anxiety, you then worry about your erectile dysfunction happening again. You accumulate the “errors” of the previous experiences and transfer the worry into the next situation. Unfortunately, anxiety can direct your mind to the negative symptom (erectile dysfunction) you are trying so hard to avoid!

You can also be anxious about a part of your body and this anxiety preoccupies your sexual performance. Low self (body) esteem may have been created by “put downs” from other people. Or it has been perpetuated by your own limiting self-beliefs based on internal insecurities and low self-confidence. Essentially, you believe that what you have or what you do is not good enough. You desperately seek trust, acceptance and confidence from your partner in the initial stages of the relationship because you have been scarred from previous (self or other people’s) criticism.

• Depression – Psychological arousal sets up the necessary communication between the brain and your sex organs. Being generally depressed however can negatively alter the brain chemistry necessary to stimulate this pathway. As a result, your depression can cause your erectile dysfunction and ultimately you can have less desire for sex (loss of libido).

Any long term condition (such as erectile dysfunction) that is suppressed or that overwhelms an already-stressed disposition can create a reactive depression. It’s yet another problem that exacerbates a feeling of helplessness where too many negative situations further distresses your state of arousal.

Relationship issues and erectile dysfunction
Tension in your relationship can cause erectile dysfunction

• Relationship problems – A new relationship brings a mixture of excitement and anxiety. You feel under pressure to please your partner sexually (performance anxiety), but haven’t established the level of trust required to communicate any of your insecurities. Your inhibitions and worries can also be exaggerated if you have suffered with erectile dysfunction in past relationships or there has been a lack of sexual relationships more recently. Your self-confidence can diminish without having the opportunity to correct the situation “in practise”.

Unresolved arguments and disputes in established relationships can also be a cause for impotence. Conflicts from issues away from the bedroom can create tension and resentment inside the bedroom. And when sex can sometimes be a spontaneous tension-release from a partner’s sulking, the timing of your erectile dysfunction may add yet another layer of frustration in your relationship. You are trying to break the hostile atmosphere between you, but struggle to find a solution to create peace.

Some erectile dysfunction issues persist because there is poor communication generally or about sex in your relationship. Without discussing these issues, there can be an increased feeling of responsibility if your partner’s sexual needs are high and you are unable to satisfy them. Or the demands may be increased because you are trying to start a family and you are feeling the added pressure of not being able to fulfil your part in conception.

In situations where your partner has low self-esteem issues, you may not want to start any intimacy because if you do not achieve an erection, your erectile dysfunction might suggest that they are not attractive enough to arouse you.

When relationships are recovering from traumas like known infidelity, the betrayal can be very damaging. A lack of trust (when your partner has been unfaithful) or guilt (when you have had the affair) can be another cause for intimacy problems. Indeed, even when your affair is not known by your partner, your own guilt and distracted commitment can still cause your impotence.

• Sexual boredom – Arousal is helped by a feeling of excitement but when sex has become a routine, apathy can take over. Since erectile dysfunction increases with age, it may also coincide with those in long-term relationships where it requires more effort to keep sex exciting with a long-term partner. Inhibited communication can be behind the sexual indifference because you feel embarrassed or ashamed to openly discuss your sexual desires with your partner. Or having communicated your desires, your partner is too embarrassed to participate.

• Other issues – Deeper dysfunctional attitudes towards sex can be rooted in traumatic experiences from childhood. They can include sexual abuse or any sexual traumas that cause a stress/anxiety response when you are being intimate. In certain cases, a sexual phobia can develop where any sexual activity can trigger panic attacks.

Other negative attitudes towards sex may come from inhibited religious beliefs or sexual orientation problems. Even porn addiction has some suggested connections with erectile dysfunction depending on how it is used. It is not clear if sexual boredom, an absence of sex or a method of stress relief drives the porn addiction. The connection with porn may be different for each person, dependent on their background, their personalities and their relationships.

There are some claims that excessive masturbation causes erectile dysfunction, but these claims tend to be anecdotal without an understanding of the nature of sex. They can also be prone to gender bias where the sexually-deprived partner wants to point blame on ‘something’ because their sexual relationship has ‘dried up’.

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Cardiff:
Treating your erectile dysfunction

Medical intervention – A consultation with your doctor or specialist will establish any physiological reason behind your erectile dysfunction e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes or cardio-vascular conditions. Options for treatment relevant to your medical condition will then be identified. In some cases, if your problem is hormonal, your endocrinologist will discuss hormone therapy. If anatomical issues are causing your erectile dysfunction, then surgery could help you. Penile implants (semi-rigid and inflatable) can be inserted, but these are not usually available on the NHS.

Medication – Various medication in the form of phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors are prescribed to increase blood flow to the penis. Each type is taken within a period of anticipated sexual activity and requires a dosage that fits your sexual lifestyle. Your doctor will establish if there are any contra-indications e.g. angina or previous heart attacks. As with all medication, there can be side effects e.g. headaches or indigestion, but the prescription can be altered to ensure these are minimised.

There is usually a cost for this prescription but there are some conditions that are exempt e.g. diabetes. You may be given a free prescription if you have had any relevant medical treatment that could directly cause your erectile dysfunction e.g. kidney transplant.

Approaching your doctor is safer than buying on the internet unless you are buying from a reputable supplier. Speak to your doctor about the effective use of natural remedies e.g. vitamins or herbal remedies. There may be a placebo effect with some remedies, but if you believe the product will help you, then (for psychological erectile dysfunction) it can have the desired effect.

Erectile dysfunction Cardiff treats lifestyle issues
Lifestyle changes can help your erectile dysfunction

Reduce risk factors – There are certain lifestyle conditions that increase the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. These include:
• Being overweight,
• Drinking alcohol before sex or drinking in excess,
• Smoking or taking recreational drugs,
• Being physically inactive,
• Feeling constantly tired, fatigued and sleep-deprived,
• Suffering with stress.

These issues are discussed below.

Vacuum pumps – A vacuum pump is a plastic tube that is attached to a hand or battery operated pump. The penis is inserted into the tube and the air is then drawn out of the tube by the pump. As the suction continues, the vacuum then causes blood to fill the erectile tissues of your penis. Once erect, a rubber ring can then be placed around the base of the penis. This acts to reduce the venous outflow, helping you to maintain an erection.

Like any new device, it takes practise to develop confidence using it. There are contra-indications (anti-coagulant medication) and side effects (possible pain and bruising).

Psychological treatments for erectile dysfunction

If your doctor has dismissed any underlying physiological causes of your ED, then exploring your lifestyle issues and psychological causes can help you treat the underlying reasons for your impotence.

Lifestyle issues and erectile dysfunction -

Impotence and smoking
Stopping smoking can help your circulation

As already mentioned above, there are numerous lifestyle issues that can contribute to your erectile dysfunction.

By stopping smoking, you reduce the risk of damage to arteries throughout the body. Nicotine encourages blood vessels to constrict and as you are aware, blood flow is essential for erections.

By avoiding alcohol, you reduce the short-term impact that it can have on your arousal levels. In excess, alcohol can lower testosterone levels (essential for dilation of blood vessels in the penis). The general advice is to drink in moderation, but get to know your limits and its effect on your arousal levels.

Recreational drugs such as narcotics, stimulants and hallucinogens can also have an impact on sexual functioning. Prescribed drugs can cause your erectile dysfunction but should be continued unless you have consulted with your doctor. Alternative medication may be available.

Reduce your weight if are obese by eating healthily. Obesity can increase your likelihood of atherosclerosis which can reduce blood flow to organs including your penis. Being obese also lowers your levels of testosterone which is essential for sexual function. Testosterone increases the availability of nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels of the penis.

• Take regular moderate exercise. Exercise can help with a number of different health issues. Cardio-vascular exercise can help with more efficient heart and blood vessel functioning to vital organs. It can help to reduce blood pressure (ask your doctor if you have any contraindications to exercise). Muscle tone, general stamina, self-esteem and self-confidence can also be improved. Exercise can help you to lose weight, release your physical tension caused by stress and may help to boost testosterone levels.

Erectile dysfunction Cardiff and stress
Stress and tiredness is a major cause of erectile dysfunction

Anything in excess can be detrimental to your health, so it is important to establish a moderate exercise routine. Long distance cycling can compress the nerves in the pelvic area which can affect arterial blood flow. Moderate your cycle-training if it affects you in this way.

Ensure you have enough relaxation, rest and sleep to counter tiredness and fatigue. Depleted energy levels can be a mood-dampener for your arousal levels. When you are over-tired from a long day at work, the nerve signals from your brain to your sex organs are temporarily interrupted. After a rest period or by the following morning, the situation can be very different! Persistent tiredness and fatigue may indicate another underlying medical condition worthy of investigation by your doctor.

• Manage your stress (see below).

Managing stress and erectile dysfunction

Finding ways to manage your stress can help reduce your erectile dysfunction. You might expect your stress levels to be high during the big life changes that include moving house, being made redundant, changing jobs or being promoted, a change in your relationship (for example a new relationship, separation, divorce, or you are about to become a father). When dealing with these major life events, erectile dysfunction can be fairly common, but your erectile dysfunction should resolve itself as you settle into your life change. You can be more accepting of a temporary situation when you know what is causing your impotence.

When you are under continuous stress, the warning signs might not be obvious. They include emotional reactions like irritability or anger. They can also include physical responses like excessive sweating, changes in your bowel movements and disrupted sleeping patterns. Behaviourally, you may find that habits become excessive or that you procrastinate doing trivial tasks. Erectile dysfunction is one indicator that your stress level is high.

Managing stress can be achieved in several ways. By implementing some of the lifestyle issues above, you may find that this is sufficient to help you cope with the situation (even though the negative situation still exists). It may also reduce the frequency of your erectile dysfunction.

Without pro-actively dealing with your stress, you continue to produce adrenaline and experience the mental and physical effects of this hormone (erectile dysfunction being one of them). Common strategies to manage stress include:

• Talking to others about your problem (off-loading),
• Delegating some of the tasks,
• Problem-solving the situation to eliminate any perceived obstacles,
• Altering your own beliefs and expectations about the situation,
• Finding way to vent your emotions e.g. exercise,
• And learning to relax.

Treating depression and erectile dysfunction

When going through big lifestyle changes, depression can be a common reaction. Sexual arousal is normally lowered by depression. This is because you are not generating enough of the chemicals necessary to stimulate the essential nerve pathways between your brain and your sex organs. Your arousal levels can be low or non-existent depending on the severity of your depression. Those with erectile dysfunction can then develop a further reactive depression (and anxiety) because of the helplessness of your condition

Depression is commonly treated with medication and can be helped with therapy. But there are many strategies that can help you lift your mood and sense of optimism. Some of these strategies are listed above (Lifestyle issues and Managing stress) and involve you:

• Challenging your negative thoughts to elevate you out of your depression
• Setting small achievable goals can give you a feeling of success and help you focus away from your “dark cloud”.
Scheduling goals can help you to re-connect with a moderate level of responsibility where you are in charge. Often depression can be caused by a sense of over-responsibility.
Setting daily goals can also help you to establish a routine. Rumination is common with depression but spending time dwelling on the negatives can pull you down further. Even if you are aiming for a daily 15 minute walk, the exercise can boost your endorphins and help lift your frame of mind.

Treating anxiety and erectile dysfunction

As already mentioned, any negative emotion such as anxiety produces the same stress chemicals that can inhibit your arousal and interfere with nerve signals from the brain to the sexual organs. Your anxiety can be related to non-sexual issues; external events that are dulling your arousal levels e.g. worrying about redundancy. The anxiety can affect many aspects of your life with your erectile dysfunction is one symptom. Medication or therapy is commonly used to treat anxiety, but there are many techniques that can help you cope with your anxiety.

Erectile dysfunction and relaxation
Relaxation can help your erectile dysfunction

Some of these strategies are listed above (Lifestyle issues, Managing stress and Treating depression). Other techniques include:

• Learning relaxation techniques that involve slow, deep abdominal breathing that can help you to ease your physical tension.
• Relaxation techniques can be used with visualisation, where you imagine yourself confidently coping with the situations that are causing you to feel anxious.
• Using this process will help you recognise your anxious negative “self talk”. You can then learn to transform it into believable positive self talk e.g. change “I won’t get this job” into “I have the skills to succeed in this interview”.

Your anxiety can be specific to sexual issues creating a form of sexual performance anxiety. High expectations about your sexual performance can come from a variety of sources. Media portrayal of masculinity can filter down into male youth culture setting up an unrealistic sexual role that you are expected to fulfil. These expectations can be brought into your first sexual encounter as a goal-driven, highly-charged experience (even though you may not really know the ropes yet!) And when it doesn’t go to plan, your perfectionism stores the negative event only to throw up the negative emotion (anxiety) in your future sexual experiences.

If your sexual performance isn’t working for you, consider changing the nature of your performance. Some the strategies above (Lifestyle issues, Managing stress and Treating depression) can help you learn how to relax and approach sex in a different way. The breathing techniques and visualisation of arousal are essential to access a more relaxed state so that your arousal can encourage communication between your brain and sexual organs. In your mind anything that you want to imagine yourself doing will help you.

It can also help to review your underlying beliefs which are making your sexual performance such a pressured experience. Fear of failure, fear of embarrassment and distrust only serve to exaggerate your performance anxiety. Consider what will help you adjust your perspective:

• Does sex have to be perfect every time?
• Is it such a failing if it doesn’t happen this time?
• With erectile dysfunction being so common, is it that embarrassing if it happens today?
• Can I talk to my partner about my worries?
• Can you build up your intimacy in stages?

By considering some of these questions, you begin to challenge your negative habitual thinking. They can help you apply more confident solutions to your anxiety.

Other Self help techniques for erectile dysfunction

Kegel exercises – These exercises are used to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (also known as the PC muscle). These muscles are activated when you stop urinating mid flow. You can practise tensing these muscles anywhere (but don’t actually practise whilst urinating) e.g. whilst sitting in a chair or standing in a queue, tense three times for ten seconds each; rest for ten seconds in between each one. Practise these exercises up to three times per day. It is believed that by having strong pelvic floor muscles, it can increase the blood supply to the sex organs and create a stronger orgasm.

Masturbation

Masturbation is a natural function that can be used to practise your “peak” aroused state. When used in combination with relaxed breathing techniques and visualisation, it can treat your erectile dysfunction.

When masturbating, visualise what epitomises arousal for you – in whatever situation, with whom and doing whatever arouses you – remember that this is a practise of exciting what is in your mind, even if it doesn’t happen in reality. If an image is a turn-off for you, reject it until you have found your personal peak aroused state. Renew the image often. Whether you tell your partner about this image is completely your choice.

The principle is to individually re-programme arousal in your mind so that the nerve pathways between your brain and sex organs can communicate. It is a form of self-hypnosis. When you have mastered your visualisation on your own, you can then consider introducing your visualisation with your partner (see below).

Practical methods with your partner

When erectile dysfunction has clouded the intimacy with your partner, it’s time to get back to the basics and progressively build it up from there. After discussing this issue, agree that this is the way forward. With you having practised relaxed breathing and visualisation with masturbation, you can take your self-hypnosis into this next transitional stage of recovery.

Sensate focus is the term used to emphasise exploratory pleasurable touch with your partner. In the early stages, it is often (but not always) without touching the sexual organs. It helps to take the pressure off the erection and intercourse thereby removing any performance anxiety. It also helps to re-build the arousal response from the brain to the sexual organs over a period of time; a form of re-sensitisation into enjoyable sexual intercourse.

Both partners can benefit when they can admit that the previous system needs to be rejuvenated. The process requires both partners to be open and communicative about what you enjoyed when “exploring” each other and would like to be repeated in the next session. Explore different areas of the body by varying touch (massage can be a useful way of appreciating therapeutic touch), “mouth work” or using any physical aids e.g. vibrators.

You move through each stage say every two weeks, but this can vary. Both of you being ready to progress is more important. In the first stage concentrate on the whole body but not the sexual organs. Then, in the second stage add some sexual organ stimulation in addition to what you want to keep from the first stage. Orgasm is not the emphasis but may happen incidentally.

If the programme is moving successfully, begin some form of penetration in the third stage but without orgasm being the emphasis. Consider different styles of motion, varying of pace, intensity and style of movement. Be prepared to be open about trying positions, using any research material to build your knowledge. Be sensitive to what the other partner is enjoying, without being overly critical if something is not pleasurable.

Relationship therapy

Erectile dysfunction Cardiff: partners are affected too
Erectile dysfunction can affect partners too

Stress and anxiety from unresolved tensions in your relationship can seep into your intimacy. When you are preoccupied with the issues of a major row, your partner may be ready to let go, but until you are ready, these conflicts can block the arousal centre in your mind. Your erectile dysfunction then becomes a new symptom that blocks your sex life.

When your erectile dysfunction has become a worry for you, it’s important to admit this to your partner. You may want to hide the issue because of the embarrassment and fear of failure. But the relationship will not be able to focus on repairing the problem until it’s out in the open. When the hidden issue persists for too long, it can become be too sensitive to discuss openly. And men generally tend to run away from sensitive issues until the issues have reached catastrophic levels. This is where outside help in the form of relationship therapy can objectively deal with “what is not being communicated” and find practical steps to deal with suppressed issues. Often with erectile dysfunction caused by sexual performance anxiety, the hidden issue is that you are trying so hard to please your partner, that it stops you from being able to relax and enjoy sex.

When erectile dysfunction is generally misunderstood by your partner, it can cause a series of new problems. If your partner has low self-esteem issues, then they may misinterpret erectile dysfunction as a loss of attractiveness; they think that you cannot achieve an erection because you no longer find them desirable. They can become angry and resentful. They can even become suspicious that you are having an affair. In reality, what they believe is so far away from what is happening on your side, that these sensitivities create crossed lines of communication. It adds more pressure on you to “do your part” in bed just so that they can feel desired and “good enough”. Ultimately, when they are suspicious and have jealousy issues, it can help them to believe that you are remaining faithful.

Helping your partner with erectile dysfunction

Supporting your partner with erectile dysfunction is essential for his recovery. Talk to him about the condition, his feelings and concerns. He is likely to feel embarrassed about the condition and he will hope that it will right itself. Often it does once it is out in the open. If the erectile dysfunction does not change, encourage him to have the condition diagnosed by a doctor and explore treatment options. Erectile dysfunction is common and by making healthy changes in his lifestyle as a start, it may cure it. If there is a psychological cause then there are still many treatment options available.

As a partner, his erectile dysfunction will be affecting you too. If your attempt to discuss the issue causes further conflicts, it may be better being handled externally by a therapist. Sometimes a condition like this exposes many suppressed issues in both partners of the relationship.

Erectile Dysfunction Treatment Cardiff:
Treating your erectile dysfunction with Hypnotherapy

Erectile dysfunction Cardiff can help your impotence
Hypnotherapy is an effective way to treat your impotence

When your erectile dysfunction is stress or anxiety-related, hypnotherapy can be an efficient way to treat your condition. Different hypnotherapy techniques can be employed to improve your practise methods and treat underlying psychological causes. What can hypnotherapy do for you?

Identify and treat the cause of your erectile dysfunction – The arrival of negative situations like erectile dysfunction can produce feelings of inadequacy; you get trapped in your erectile dysfunction symptoms and you are unable to separate the emotion from your condition. The negative emotion is stored in your mind from past traumatic events. They act as the cause of your erectile dysfunction. The emotion surges up into your consciousness to warn you about the danger of another “distressing” performance when you are next being intimate. Hypnotherapy can identify your past causes and release the emotion from these traumatic events so that you can freely embrace new positive learning states.

Help to reduce stress and anxiety – Whether your stress and anxiety is external or is now part of your erectile dysfunction, hypnotherapy can lower your stress and anxiety responses. By introducing deep relaxation and breathing techniques into your coping skills, you can break the cycle of worry and ease the pressure that is affecting your sexual performance.

Lift your depression – You can feel helpless when a condition like erectile dysfunction interrupts your intimacy. A reactive depression is only natural when you are fearful of starting a new relationship or struggle to maintain the current relationship. Hypnotherapy can stimulate your “sexual arousal” in your mind helping you to re-connect the necessary communication between your brain and sexual organs.

Motivate you to change your lifestyle – Hypnotherapy is renowned for treating habits. If your erectile dysfunction is a symptom of poor lifestyle habits, then hypnotherapy can help you to improve your sleep habits, lose weight, stop smoking, reduce your alcohol, and start exercising.

Treat negative beliefs that are intensifying your erectile dysfunction – Your sexual confidence can be overwhelmed by obsessive negative beliefs. A one-off loss of erection can turn into persistent erectile dysfunction when you interpret the event with perfectionism, fear of failure, fear of embarrassment or social anxiety. Hypnotherapy can help you dissociate these negative beliefs that have merged into your sexual performance.

Visualisation of your arousal – The images and emotions of your arousal can become contaminated with persistent erectile dysfunction; what used to be a natural experience gets blocked by a concrete wall. With fewer positive experiences, it’s natural to avoid the pressure of yet another let down. As you acquire the essential visualisation techniques to practise with, you can boost the confidence back into your sexual relationship.

Build low self-esteem and low self confidence – Any long term condition such as erectile dysfunction can damage your self-esteem and your self-confidence. Avoidance of your intimacy would be an understandable method of coping but this would severely limit the enjoyment of your relationship. In a deeply relaxed state, hypnotherapy can help your unconscious mind accept suggestions that will raise your self-esteem and self-confidence. Hypnotherapy techniques can be employed to anchor your past confident triggers with your intimacy so that you have a stronger belief in you and your abilities.

Erectile dysfunction and a relaxed lifestyle
Hypnotherapy can treat your erectile dysfunction

Stimulate effective communication with your partner – You and your partner are the best people to resolve your erectile dysfunction. But your communication can become strained when you are playing into each other’s sensitivities and you are trying so hard to please the other partner. In your relationship, you are learning about the values that you both bring into the bedroom; it’s easy to misinterpret your responses and make the situation worse with feelings of responsibility. When these issues are dealt with objectively by a professional therapist, it can help you focus on more open and decisive communication that will resolve some of the underlying obstacles.

Erectile Dysfunction Cardiff: For further information on treatment, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Premature Ejaculation

Premature Ejaculation

Premature Ejaculation Treatment in Cardiff

Premature ejaculation is a common sexual problem amongst men under 40, with 30% - 70% of males being affected. The actual figures may be higher because premature ejaculation is viewed as a taboo subject in male youth culture. Men with premature ejaculation may not admit that they have the condition until it is acute. 

Premature Ejaculation Cardiff: Definition of premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation is can be simply defined as ejaculating earlier than you (or your partner) would like. Premature ejaculation usually happens before or shortly after penetration with minimal stimulation. It is an unsatisfying experience for both partners.Premature ejaculation is very subjective in nature. What can be “normal” for one male (and their partner) may be premature (or delayed) compared to the expectations of another relationship. The average time for male ejaculation during intercourse is somewhere between 4 - 8 minutes.Premature ejaculation can be a “lifelong” condition that has existed during puberty or “acquired”, which develops later in life. Both can have biological and psychological causes. 

Premature Ejaculation Cardiff: Implications of premature ejaculation

Premature ejaculation treatment can help your relationship
Premature ejaculation can be distressing for you and your partner
Sex is an important part of a healthy relationship. When something is inhibiting your ability to enjoy a satisfying sex life, it can be distressing for you and your partner. Premature ejaculation is one of several sexual conditions that can inhibit the enjoyment of your intimacy, putting a strain on your relationship.As a short-term problem, premature ejaculation can be an annoyance for both partners. Quite often, the condition can just disappear naturally. But as a long term condition, it can impact on your self-esteem and self-confidence. Some men will avoid new relationships rather than face the frustration and embarrassment of their premature ejaculation.Partners of those with premature ejaculation can also suffer distress. If there are communication problems, saying that there they are dissatisfied might put too much pressure on the man with premature ejaculation, making the condition worse. If your premature ejaculation happens before penetration, there could also be problems with conception. 

Premature Ejaculation Cardiff: What causes premature ejaculation?

Your premature ejaculation may have a biological background and thus it is important to have any biological issues diagnosed by your doctor before exploring a psychological connection. For example hyper-sensitivity of the penis can cause premature ejaculation and this would be identified in your pubescent years during masturbation.Or a medical change could have contributed to your premature ejaculation. Your doctor would test for medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, hormone levels or prostate problems before considering other possibilities. In some cases, drug use or alcohol can cause your premature ejaculation, so your doctor will want to discuss any relevant lifestyle issues.Early background experiences can form negative “hurried” and anxious attitudes towards sex. Fear of being caught masturbating can condition the pubescent child to ejaculate quickly. Traumatic experiences can also be a cause for ejaculatory dysfunction. For example, being caught masturbating (and then being punished for it) or being sexually abused can similarly influence your anxious, guilty or shameful attitude to sex. The effects of these experiences may not become conscious until you enter into a sexual and emotional relationship.In addition to early sexual conditioning being the psychological cause of premature ejaculation, there are other psychological and emotional issues that can cause your ejaculatory dysfunction. Physical tension (held in the pelvic and abdominal muscles) can provoke the ejaculatory reflex and low moods from stress and depression are two major influences. The emotions themselves can act as triggers for your premature ejaculation, so that when you feel stressed or depressed, your premature ejaculation is worse. Other common negative emotions include anxiety, embarrassment, frustration, shame, despair, disappointment, guilt and anger.Other personality traits such as perfectionism can increase anxiety about your sexual performance. You place excessive pressure on yourself to please your partner causing a state of tense hyper-arousal. Being self-critical can also cause you to focus on what has “gone wrong” and project the worry of this “mistake” into the next sexual experience. The negative response to your “mistake” can also be intensified if you have social anxiety. You are more prone to feeling embarrassed about your premature ejaculation, escalating your anxious expectations into the next situation.Sexual performance anxiety is common with sexual inexperience and lack of self-confidence, with the tendency to be over-excited. It can also be evident in new relationships where you may want to impress your partner with your sexual prowess. Any situation in which you place a high level of importance will increase your stress levels and likelihood of premature ejaculation.In new relationships, it may feel like it is too early to communicate and discuss your control and intimacy issues. As the anxious male, you are then unable to establish a level of trust. This can be magnified if you have had premature ejaculation in previous new relationships. The likelihood of premature ejaculation is also increased where there has been absence of intimate relationships for long periods. Your anxiety and hyper-sensitivity can increase without having the opportunity to practise acquired control techniques.But even unresolved problems in established relationships can create ejaculatory dysfunction. Emotional conflicts “outside of the bedroom” can leak into the bedroom, causing tension during your intimacy. This can then create a negative cycle of stress, particularly if the partner is unsupportive of your condition, creating even more performance anxiety.Some premature ejaculation issues are specific to the bedroom and become established because of a lack of communication. For example, there can be increases in your partner’s sexual needs leading to hidden anxiety about pleasing your partner. This high expectation on your performance exacerbates your premature ejaculation, overwhelming your ability to satisfy your partner’s needs. 

Premature Ejaculation Cardiff: Treating your Premature Ejaculation

Medical intervention – After a thorough examination by your doctor, they will diagnose what is causing your premature ejaculation and then explore options for treatment. Oral medication in the form of anti-depressants is commonly prescribed. You may not be depressed, but SSRI’s have the useful side effect of delaying ejaculation. As with any medication there can be negative side effects too. For some people, the stigma of taking an anti-depressant influences them to pursue other treatment methods.Topical applications/condoms – The use of anaesthetic sprays and creams can reduce sensitivity, helping to delay ejaculation. Side effects include reactions to the chemicals used and a reported temporary loss of sensation for the partner. Condoms containing these chemicals can be used to reduce sensitivity. Even without the chemicals, a standard condom can be used to reduce sensitivity during sex and help delay ejaculation. Additional lubrication can have the same benefit.

Self-help methods

When things are persistently going wrong on the “playing field”, it’s time to identify what is causing this and apply the solutions into the training sessions. If you don’t have a partner right now or communication isn’t at its best, this means masturbating on your own and (re) learning to control your arousal as a practise for your next intimate opportunity. Without your partner present, you remove any pressure to perform (performance anxiety) and remove the fear of failure. This helps you develop self-confidence in stages and explore various levels of controlled arousal, rather than “all or nothing” responses.Practical methods include “stop-start” techniques that help you learn to control your ejaculatory response. When masturbating, vary the level of stimulation up to the pre-orgasm stage and then reduce the stimulation so that your arousal fades back down to a moderate level. Continue staying in this “zone” over a number of times during the session until you are ready to climax.The “squeeze” method – This method (by Masters and Johnson) involves first stimulating to erection and then squeezing behind the head of the penis (frenulum) for about 10 seconds to slightly reduce arousal. Continue stimulation to the pre-orgasm stage and then squeeze again until the arousal has reduced. Continue this process of “stimulation and squeeze” until you are ready to climax.Kegel exercises – These exercises involve contracting the PC muscle to control ejaculation. The PC muscle can be identified by stopping the flow if urine when you next go to the toilet. If you can stop urinating and start again, you have engaged the correct muscle. It is this specific pelvic floor muscle that also controls ejaculation. Tension in the abdominals, gluteals or thighs can provoke the ejaculatory response, so these muscles need to be kept relaxed. This is also a useful exercise in muscle tension awareness. Practise tightening the PC muscle three times for ten second intervals; rest for ten seconds in between each one. Then, during masturbation, practise tensing the PC muscle prior to orgasm. This helps to delay ejaculation whilst maintaining a level of stimulation.
Visualisation for premature ejaculation
Breathing techniques & visualisation can treat premature ejaculation
Relaxed breathing – Learning how to take deeper breaths can diminish the ejaculatory reflex. Breathing techniques are commonly used in self-hypnosis, meditation and yoga to relieve stress and muscular tension. By practising slow, deep abdominal breaths when not involved in any sexual activity, you can become aware of which muscles are tense and which ones are relaxed. When you have this internal awareness, you can control and release tension using breathing techniques. As mentioned above, tension in the abdomen, thighs and buttocks can trigger the ejaculatory reflex. Controlled tension in the PC muscle can lower the ejaculatory reflex. Master deep breathing techniques and then integrate this muscular tension/relaxation control into your masturbation.Visualisation – What you visualise in your mind is another way of controlling unconscious bodily functions including your premature ejaculation. These images aren’t just on autopilot. Top professional athletes use positive visualisation to get in “the zone” to enhance their peak performance in sport. They also use it to release the affect of traumatic experiences. What you visualise can also affect what happens during sex. Think of something stressful and your heart will beat faster, your breathing will become shallow and your body will create muscular tension. These conditions are more likely to trigger you premature ejaculation. But if you visualise a calmer state of arousal, then it can help lower your ejaculatory reflex. To begin with, practise visualising “control”, confidence, calmness and deep breathing during sex. Then integrate these images into your masturbation. Avoid visualising “negatives”, because your imagination will take you to the place you don’t want to go! For example, “don’t think of an orange” and you know what happens! “Don’t think of ejaculating quickly...” and you’ll create the tension in your body that does just what you don’t want to happen. With practise, your visualisation can create a range of arousal levels to match the stage of your intimacy e.g. “low” during foreplay and “high” during climax. At advanced levels, this mind control can help you become a master of sexual arousal.Refractory period – The refractory period is the period of “down” time (or recovery) between each ejaculation. It varies greatly between men, ranging from minutes to hours and even days. After the first ejaculation, some men experience less sensitivity during the second erection. This reduced arousal can be used to your advantage by learning about the average time of your refractory period. If the period is quick, you can then masturbate before sex (or early in your foreplay) to release your first hyper-aroused premature ejaculation. This ensures that your second erection will have longer intercourse. Learn about the length of your refractory period during your masturbation.

Practical methods involving partners

Having practised these techniques on your own with masturbation, you can then apply these self-help methods during sex with your partner. When you introduce a new technique into an activity, expect some level of distraction as the new technique falls into place. The important thing is to be patient.There are numerous other methods that can help your premature ejaculation. Vary the length of your foreplay by trying longer (or shorter) periods of time. Change the focus of your foreplay with less (or more) time stimulating the penis. Massage can be a good way of facilitating relaxation in overly tense muscles and naturally reduce the stress levels in the recipient.Having trained yourself to be more aware of your arousal levels, you can also aim to penetrate with lower levels of arousal at the start of intercourse. Maintaining this moderate arousal during sex can be achieved using the following techniques: • Practise slower motions at the start of intercourse and increase speed of rhythm when you want to ejaculate. • Withdraw at intervals to ease the sensation, re-penetrating to increase arousal. • Use circular motions to reduce stimulation rather than deep thrusting motions. • Vary your position. The missionary position (man on top) requires the most muscular tension particularly around the core muscles (abdomen) because you are supporting your whole body weight. This can increase your premature ejaculation. Positions with less postural tension include ‘side-to-side’ and ‘doggy-style’. • You can also have sex with your partner on top of you to reduce your muscular tension. Plus, if you are unable to embrace any of these techniques and your partner is sensitive to your arousal levels, they can also vary the pace and rhythm to help control your premature ejaculation.

Relationship therapy

Stress and anxiety from unresolved conflicts in your relationship can leak into activities in the bedroom. It can affect both partners in different ways, but your premature ejaculation could be a symptom of problems in your relationship. How well are you communicating in general? Can you talk about your sexual needs in a non-judgemental way? It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that when there are problems with your intimacy, it is reflected in the relationship (and vice versa). When left open-ended for too long, the subject-matter can become too delicate to discuss. Men are generally less talkative about these issues, not wanting to admit that there is a problem until it is at catastrophic levels. This is where outside help in the form of relationship therapy can resolve “what isn’t being communicated” and find resolutions that can put you both back on track. The relationship therapy can deal with issues both inside and outside of your intimacy.Sometimes, because of the lack of communication between partners, your premature ejaculation can be attributed to assumptions about the needs of your partner. For example, you may be trying so hard to please your partner in bed, that your “pressure to please” is creating your stress. But maybe your partner is already content and would prefer you to relax more during sex, but his hasn’t been communicated effectively. Or maybe your partner’s slight disappointment with the premature ejaculation is being viewed as a complete failure on your part, making the situation more anxious for you. Actually, in their disappointment, they are reflecting what you are feeling. They are genuinely very keen to help you and are willing to try any methods to put it right. 

Premature Ejaculation Cardiff: Treating your premature ejaculation with hypnotherapy

When your premature ejaculation is anxiety or stress-related, hypnotherapy can be an effective way to treat your condition. Various hypnotherapy techniques can be used to enhance your practise methods and treat the underlying causes. This can ensure a more rapid change than if you were dealing with these techniques on your own. How can hypnotherapy help you?Identify and treat the cause of your premature ejaculation – When negative habits are ruling your life, it can seem like there is no alternative but to continue on your negative path. Your mind stores the emotion from negative past events to warn you about the “danger” of it happening again. But the stress of that past trauma is creating excessive tension and self-limiting beliefs. These past traumas are destroying your confidence. Hypnotherapy can help you identify the causal event and release the emotion, allowing you to access new positive learning states.Break the cycle of expectation – Expectation has a habit of creating your reality. You fear having premature ejaculation and the anticipation builds the anxiety into the condition. Hypnotherapy can serve as a useful method to break these disruptive negative thoughts and replace them with more positive constructive thinking patterns.Relax your ejaculatory response – When you have premature ejaculation, the communication between your unconscious mind and your sexual organs has become “over-excited” with the slightest arousal. In hypnosis, suggestions can be used to calm the ejaculatory response, diminishing the rapid nerve impulses that are provoking your premature ejaculation.Reduce physical tension – Physical tension is a key feature of our premature ejaculation. If you are having problems benefitting from the breathing techniques, hypnotherapy can boost your relaxation response. Relaxation training can then be given in hypnosis to enhance your learning experience.
Premature ejaculation treatment Cardiff
Treat your premature ejaculation with Hypnotherapy
Visualise a controlled arousal – Having an intense visualisation of the experience you want during your intimacy will focus your mind and body towards this reality. In a relaxed hypnotic state, conscious interference will be minimised so that you can embrace the imagery as a “real” experience of controlled arousal. Using self-hypnosis, you can then integrate this template into your intimacy.Build your self-confidence and self-esteem – Long term premature ejaculation can damage your self-confidence and your self-esteem. It can cause you to avoid intimate relationships for fear of the issue happening again. In a deeply relaxed state, your unconscious mind will readily accept suggestions to boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. Your past confident triggers can also be anchored with your intimacy helping you to develop a stronger belief in your ability.Encourage effective communication in your relationship – The best people to deal with your premature ejaculation is you and your partner. But there can be many reasons that your communication is inhibited. When these inhibitions are identified and treated, it can help you (and your partner) deals with the relevant issues more confidently. 

For further information on treating your premature ejaculation in Cardiff, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Treat Your Flying Phobia

Treat Your Flying Phobia

If you are seeking ways to treat your flying phobia, it will require a complete reassessment of some essential issues: how you perceive flying in a plane, the management of your own anxiety and the underlying beliefs that are influencing your reaction.Having a ‘fear of flying’ recognises that when you fly, you suffer with high anxiety. The phobic flyer however avoids flying completely and is extremely distressed when they go anywhere near a plane. They may even suffer anxiety when friend or family member takes a flight. This is the major distinguishing factor between a fear and a phobia: when you have a fear, you somehow manage to get through, whereas when you have a phobia, you keep away!
Six stages to treat your flying phobia
Treat your flying phobia with these six stages
Since you have a flying phobia, let’s consider that for some time, you have abandoned the idea of flying in a plane. You are a master of avoidance strategies, but you are desperate to change this situation and treat your flying phobia. What are the first few steps that will initiate a change? Here are six stages that will help you face your flying phobia so that you can view it as a more manageable task. Be prepared for some deep self-analysis and a strong determination to acquire your coping skills. It may even require some outside help, but we’ll come onto that later.These ‘treat your flying phobia tips’ draw from my years of experience as a clinical hypnotherapist helping patients overcome their flying phobias in Cardiff with hypnotherapy. 

Treat your flying phobia Cardiff #1: Identify your primary belief

Very few flying phobias begin as flying phobias. Flying just happened to fall into the progressive development of an unresolved external fear e.g. a fear of confined spaces. Over time more anxious situations are engulfed by the original fear until any situation can unpredictably set off your panic attack. In your heightened state of alertness, you ultimately ‘panic about panic’, responding to your own internal danger ‘signs’, until no situation appears safe.When you can identify your primary belief however, you are in a better position to confront what is driving your flying phobia. You can then focus on dealing with the primary issue and ignore the minor ones that are fooling your heightened state of alertness.Identifying your primary belief can be achieved with self-hypnosis. Take your time with this visualisation: Imagine a time-line of all your past experiences and as a viewer looking in from the outside, consider all the situations when you first panicked. You may not have realised at the time that it was a panic attack, because you were trying desperately to cope with the situation. You were probably young and felt very distressed. Your mind will have “sited” the situation although you may not have become conscious of it. But it will be there waiting to be identified.Then consider any situations in your past that you made an effort to avoid. With avoidance tendencies, you recognise that there is something uneasy about going into this situation; you just haven’t identified the primary issue behind it.Identifying your primary belief can take you one step closer to being able to treat your flying phobia. If you are struggling with his visualisation, learn some breathing techniques to help you relax and help you use more of your imagination. You can also use this list of fears associated with a fear of flying to help you analyse what lies behind your flying phobia. 

Treat your flying phobia Cardiff #2: Manage your anticipatory anxiety

Dealing with the anxious event whilst it is happening is one thing. Coping with what is ‘churning’ in your mind before the event takes place is the focus of this ‘treat your flying phobia’ tip.
Treat your flying phobia’s fight or flight
Treat your flying phobia by managing your anticipatory anxiety
Anticipatory anxiety is the worrying that precedes your exposure to a future fearful event. It could be fear of a panic attack or an imagined “catastrophe” when flying. It is ‘real’ anxiety that exists in your mind because common sense tells you that “the flight is not happening right now”, but your emotional history is creating symptoms as if you were experiencing it right now!In an attempt to warn you of this danger, your “fight or flight” stress response ‘kicks in’ and generates more anxiety symptoms. Unfortunately, this extra alertness is adding to your distress because these are the symptoms you are desperately trying to avoid. Externally, nothing is happening yet, but you are causing your own false alarm! Your mind is locked in a circle of “what if’s” that could go wrong in the forthcoming flight (but rarely ever does go wrong in that situation).The continuous red alert created by anticipatory anxiety can disrupt your life in many ways including your concentration, your moods and your sleeping patterns. Hyperventilation, palpitations and IBS are commonly experienced on a daily basis. Even when you are doing something routine, the fearful outcome rises up into your awareness and prepares you for the imminent danger, even though it could actually be weeks away.The irony with anticipatory anxiety is that your worry works against you. Your mind is waking you to the place that it is desperately trying to avoid (usually having a panic attack). Don’t think of an orange, and what happens? You think of an orange! If you associate anxiety with an orange, thinking of an orange will generate your anxiety symptoms. If what you historically associate with flying are imagined catastrophic events and/or panic attacks, then when you think about flying, up surges your anxiety symptoms as a warning of these past/future threats.Anticipatory anxiety plays its part in almost all anxiety-related conditions and situations. When you can recognise anticipatory anxiety’s deceptive nature of avoidance, you are in a better position to release your ‘false alarms’ and deal with the situation in hand (i.e. control your emotions when flying).Here are some ways to manage your anticipatory anxiety when you want to treat your flying phobia:• Separate the present from the past/futureAnticipatory anxiety “locks” you into perceiving the build up to the anxious event and the actual fearful situation as one traumatic process. It’s as if you are on a conveyor belt about to be tipped into the fire and the only way to survive it is to avoid it completely. Using this analogy, step off the conveyor belt and break free from the build up (the anticipatory phase). Only then can you consider what you are actually required to do to cope with the situation when it happens.In many cases, you are required to do very little in your phobic situation, as is the case when you fly in a plane. Control your stress symptoms and let the journey take care of itself.• Recognise that being anxious now doesn’t mean it’s going to get worseIt’s easy to think that if you are suffering anxiety now and the flight is a month away, your anxiety will only get worse as the flight draws nearer! But this is anticipatory anxiety fooling your mind again. The majority of anxiety is created leading up to and immediately before the phobic situation. In the phobic situation a very different set of resources are required.Consider the situation where your primary fear is of confined spaces. You will have high anticipatory anxiety just before boarding the plane and prior to take-off. But once the plane has taken off, the anticipatory phase has passed. You are now coping with your confined space and can benefit from the exposure to it.If you fear turbulence, you may run a series of anxiety attacks throughout the flight. This is because you will panic when you experience turbulence. You then switch back to anticipatory anxiety, placing yourself on standby waiting for the next sudden movement of the plane. When you focus your coping skills on dealing with turbulence alone, only then can you become more proficient at overcoming it.• Anticipatory anxiety “feelings” can overshadow a successful outcomeYou already know that previous traumas can keep you on the high alert when facing similar situations again in the future. But what do you take away from the event when the outcome has ended favourably? When the plane has successfully landed at its destination (or you removed the spider from the bathroom), does it mean that you no longer have a phobia?This “light bulb” moment of change can instantly happen in some situations and with some people. This is because the success of the event has altered your deeper beliefs and emotions related to your phobia. But when the success (or the absence of the imagined catastrophe) fails to register with you, it can be because you are measuring the success using your anxiety feelings. It’s as if “you felt anxious at some point, so it must have gone wrong. Better stay on the alert next time just in case!” Inevitably, you stay locked in the anxiety cycle the next time you challenge your phobic situation.Part of the positive re-learning process is to have some anxious feelings, but this doesn’t mean it has failed. Even positive change can create “butterflies”, so expect a degree of anxiety. When you can focus on the success of the outcome, the anticipatory anxiety will no longer keep you locked in anxiety.• Anticipatory anxiety is such a waste of your precious energyYou can now identify that anticipatory anxiety is creating a false alarm and fooling you into believing that the worst possible outcome is going to materialise. But the number of times that the imagined catastrophe has actually happened is probably rare (compared to the times that the imagined catastrophe didn’t happen). Until you can appreciate that all of this emotional preparation is unproductive and is a waste of your effort and energy, you’ll continue to stay on the alert, waiting for your past history to repeat itself.What can you do about this? It takes courage to stare anxiety in the face and ignore your anticipatory anxiety warning signals that just serve to distress you. Only then can you focus your effort on how to cope in the situation that is triggering your anxiety when it actually happens. That’s where the positive emotional benefits will be returned to you.Is keeping busy going to help to you manage the anticipatory anxiety? It can, but you have probably found that when you are doing something routine, the anxiety pops up into your awareness. So it’s not the total solution. It’s ironic that in many cases, you are required to do very little in that situation that is triggering your anxiety. When you are sat on the plane, you can use some techniques to control your anxiety and find some activities that help pass the time; and that’s just about it! For those who rely heavily on distraction as a solution, this is where your mind is compromised. Yes, it helps when you can actively engage in activities, but when they are ‘low intensity’ activities, anxiety will worm its way into your consciousness and overwhelm you.So ‘meet’ with your anticipatory anxiety and let it pass through your mind, right out of the other side! You don’t have to battle with it; your energy is too precious! 

Treat your flying phobia Cardiff # 3: Commit to desensitising your phobia

This ‘treat your flying phobia tip’ assumes that you have identified your primary belief related to your flying phobia. Let’s say that your flying phobia has grown out of a fear of confined spaces. You can now begin to approach moderately anxious situations that are confined but without the same intensity as flying (e.g. lifts or other modes of public transport) and re-learn how to desensitise your response. This is classic systematic desensitisation, and provided you are committed to the re-learning process, you can gradually re-build your confidence in progressive stages.Methods of desensitisation involve creating an anxiety scale from one to ten. Ten on the scale would be a highly anxious situation (flying); one would be a calm situation. On the scale involving confined spaces, identify all of the dynamics that increase the anxiety rating. This can include, the level of commitment, size of the confined space, number of people present (social anxiety), the relationship of the people present (are you more confident when you know them?) etc. The aim is to start low, engaging in various situations and progressively moving up the scale as you relax or get used to these situations. Then challenge the next situation further up on your anxiety scale, until you are ready to cope with flying.
Desensitise anxiety to treat your flying phobia
Stay in the anxious situation until your anxiety diminishes
The process also involves setting up an internal anxiety scale. Ten on the scale is feeling panicky; one is feeling relaxed. When you enter a chosen situation, assess your anxiety level e.g. going into a confined space triggers your anxiety at feeling level of six. Aim to stay in the situation until your anxiety level goes down even slightly so that you feel more relaxed than when you arrived. As long as the situation doesn’t change (i.e. there are no new perceived threats), your anxiety will peak, stabilise and then decrease.The act of staying in the situation until your anxiety level lowers helps you to benefit from exposure to your perceived threat. By repeating this process, you will overcome your fear of the situation over time. However, leaving the situation at the height of your panic state increases your phobic response. A “quick getaway” reinforces your mistaken “claustrophobic solution”; that the quicker you can run away, the calmer you will feel. So wait for the anxiety to diminish and learn some relaxation techniques to facilitate this change.So with your commitment to overcoming progressively anxious situations, the top of the anxiety scale (flying) won’t seem like a huge mountain to climb in one go. You will develop confidence and self-belief en route. The emphasis on “commitment” is also an important requisite. This is because when you commit to a realistic goal, it helps your mind to decisively focus on the method required to achieve the goal. This is in contrast to the effect of anticipatory anxiety (see above) that causes your mind to hesitate and avoid confronting the situation. You’ll keep dithering until you can’t run away any longer, which will generate more anticipatory anxiety. Committing to a realistic goal has with it some notable amounts of stress, but the commitment helps you to step away from the procrastination stage and move into the “how to do it” stage. This is helpful in the process of change and for the beneficial exposure to your fear when you want to treat you flying phobia. 

Treat your flying phobia Cardiff #4: Manage your panic response

Treat your flying phobia panic response
Treat your panic to overcome your phobia
This “treat your flying phobia tip” considers your reaction only. What do all phobias have in common? Regardless of whether your phobia is related to an object, situation or internal fear, you will panic or fear that you will panic. Your panic has become your conditioned response. You believe that by confronting your situation (and/or panicking), it will traumatise you further. When left on autopilot, a panic attack will “lock” onto whatever you believe to be the cause. If you can’t identify the cause then, over time and left untreated, it is likely to generate a social phobia and agoraphobia, spontaneously erupting at random.With a flying phobia, you associate your panic with flying. But the plane, the crew, the journey (or any other part) is not “causing” your panic. It is caused by a series of internal negative programmes now conditioned to keep you on the alert until you can change it.Objects and situations outside of you are harder to “control”. Some situations like flying require you to be a “passive passenger”, allowing what’s around you to take place as a series of compulsory events. You can’t just tell the pilot to pull over for five minutes to give you a break! So part of your reprogramming is about turning this focus away from what’s going on “on the outside”, and giving attention to what’s happening “on the inside!”When you can switch this focus of attention, you will be devoting so much more of your energy and resources onto internal events i.e. the source of your panic. Not an easy task, but is essential to fully take control of what is yours. The control-centre for changing your panic is in your mind, not the object or situation. Trust that the external situation will take care of itself.You may not consider this next activity to be helpful, but persist with it. Momentarily close your eyes as if to meditate so that you can remove some of the visual cues likely to distract you from focusing on the inside. This places your mind into the arena where to can manage your panic. Now imagine closing your eyes on a journey in which you would feel moderately anxious. Does it cause you to feel tense? If it does, then consider practising this in situations in which you consider them to be moderately anxious e.g. when travelling on a bus. It will be a useful resource in your preparation for flying because you are learning to access your internal solutions, rather than being distracted by external false triggers.So having switched your attention to the “inside”, what does your panic present to you? Fearful beliefs can vary from thinking that you are going to die, to being embarrassed in front of your peer group, or thinking that you are losing control that will eventually cause you to breakdown. This is part of your anticipatory anxiety (see treat your flying phobia tip #2). You continue to escalate your response by triggering more fearful beliefs, hyperventilating in your attempt to cope, but this makes your condition worse.The tension in the abdomen or chest is a common feature of panic attacks. By learning how to breathe to reduce your panic, you can alter the course of your physical symptoms. Do use the link to master your breathing techniques because when you are breathing slowly, deeply and abdominally, your physical tension can be lowered. With less physical tension, it diminishes your internal red alert (see treat your flying phobia tip #3) and the conviction of your fearful beliefs. 

Treat your flying phobia Cardiff # 5: Visualise the experience that you WANT

Use visualisation to treat your flying phobia
Visualise the experience that you want
This treat you flying phobia tip focuses on mental rehearsal. Strong visualisations can serve as mental preparation for your desired future experiences. In other words, when you practise imagining a calm flight, your mind will construct a template of you being on a plane, feeling relaxed. Over time, your repetitive positive visualisation can transform your images into your actual experience. So, work on visualising the experience that you WANT.But I can appreciate that when your default position has a flying phobia in the background, the negative impact of your phobia will initially block your attempts to visualise the ‘other side’. Having a flying phobia means that without actively trying to imagine a relaxed flight, there’s ‘the projection room is empty!’ This will need some serious reprogramming!So how do you learn to visualise? The breathing techniques help you to bring your mind down into a relaxed state where you can access chosen thoughts and images. When you are relaxed, it’s easier to be the “director” in your mind, rather than being directed by past traumas.After your breathing techniques, develop a script of your imagined positive experience during your flight. If this seems difficult to create right now, borrow a “script” from a different relaxing experience and transfer the detail into the flying situation. Next, “colour” the script with your relaxed feelings and emotions, making the details as vivid as possible. You could even use somebody else’s experience for your own script if it is easier to construct. Use whatever can be translated easily into your own positive flight scenario.Once the script is written, begin imagining this scene as a situation that has already happened, as this acts to consolidate the belief about your future reality (I know that it literally sounds back to front, but this is the whole idea – in your mind you want to visualise that you’ve already done it!) Re-draught the script as you become more experienced, intensifying the emotions with each practise. It is a gradual process however, so don’t lose faith if the feelings and images don’t seem real enough at this stage. You are learning to create this state of mind; it won’t be mastered in one attempt.Is it easy to get distracted when visualising? Yes, it’s easy for the mind to wander with all the obligations and responsibilities in your life. This is quite normal, but is common when novices also learn to meditate. Being aware that you have gone off your positive flight path is the trigger to placing your mind back onto it again. Keep practising.How long should visualisation take? After the breathing techniques, the positive visualisation can take about ten minutes a day. Expect a more believable visualisation after a few weeks of daily practise. As an actor would learn their script, the frequency helps the process become automatic. Repetition is important with this ‘treat your flying phobia tip’.What is crucial through this process is recognising that your script is helping you access what you “want”, rather than what you “don’t want”. Imagined experiences of you relaxed, coping with your flying experience is the experience you desire. Ask someone to check your script for positivity if it helps you progress with this. 

Treat your flying phobia Cardiff # 6: Be prepared to avoid avoidance

Most people can relate to this ‘treat your flying phobia tip’ only too well. When a situation triggers your anxiety, the common reaction is to avoid the situation again to stop you feeling more anxiety. This is the natural stress response that protects you from a perceived threat. Over time, if you are required to deal with that situation, your confidence is diminished and you doubt your ability to cope. Anticipatory anxiety (see treat your flying phobia tip #2) rules your mind and “offers” you short-term, secure alternatives to your anxious feeling. It convinces you into believing that if you can avoid that situation now, then you will feel better. Avoidance becomes a tempting safe option.But anticipatory anxiety doesn’t help you to see the long-term implications; it just deals with what is immediately up ahead. With you having a flying phobia, you will know only too well how destructive avoidance can be. It is has been a major contributor to the development of your flying phobia. You are aware that by foolishly “dodging it” over time, you will become reliant on that option as a way of coping. Avoidance stifles your progress and it becomes part of a vicious cycle of anxiety; you take short term fixes to feel better now. But it also creates long term problems that take more effort to undo.So what can you do about this once a conditioned response (your flying phobia) has set in? The answer is to label this anxiety cycle for what it is and begin challenging your thinking and your behaviour.Firstly, recognise and admit how avoidance has fooled your mind into the creation of a condition that has rarely actually “done” this to you, but continues to put you on a huge standby, exhausting you with excessive anticipatory anxiety when you so much as think about that situation.Secondly, find a positive anchor in your memories when you overcame adversity. Have you ever been afraid of something and avoided it only to respond with a hardened determination to keep going until you overcame it? If you’re struggling to find something within your memories, then do you know someone else who has done this? Borrow their example and use it as an anchor and building block for change.
Plan ahead to treat your flying phobia
Now’s the time to focus on your flying phobia goal
Thirdly, be honest about your personal avoidance behaviour. What do you keep doing that is safe to justify “not” dealing with your goal? Do you procrastinate by watching television or making a snack? “It’s time to tidy the sock drawer again!” is a good example when avoidance is controlling your mind. Help yourself by listing those trivial tasks that interfere with your goal so that you can “catch” yourself running away from it. With busy lives, the mind can easily prioritise according to what feels the nicest first, sometimes referred to as the path of least resistance. When this procrastinating “strategy” is employed to lead your life, those anxious yet important tasks are going to mount up!Fourthly, plan a realistic goal that relates to your flying phobia (see treat your flying phobia tip #1 and #3) that has only moderate anxiety e.g. aim to overcome confined spaces, until you can relax when using lifts.Be sure to expect some anxiety through this process of change. But this is part of the natural “undoing” development. Exposure to that situation helps you to learn how to manage your anxiety. Once there is momentum, your confidence and skill-resources will grow because you are now “dealing” with anxiety rather than “worrying” about it. In addition to this, the exposure will help you eventually get used to your anxiety, rather than being fearful of it. Your anxiety is something to overcome, rather than run away from. It takes courage to want to challenge something that is a deep-rooted part of human nature.So with the confined spaces scenario, grade your experiences (see treat your flying phobia tip #3) and commit to gradually challenge your confined spaces scale on a weekly basis. Use the breathing techniques to manage your anxiety. 

Treat your flying phobia Cardiff: Summary

So these are the early developmental strategies that can help you treat your flying phobia. It can seem a long road back when a response has become conditioned, but with persistence and determination, you can make a u-turn and steadily work towards your flight goal. Of course, if you are struggling with any of these stages when attempting to treat your flying phobia, then hypnotherapy can offer you that booster with any part of your programme.

For further information on how to treat your flying phobia in Cardiff, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Fear of Flying

Fear of Flying

Fear of flying Cardiff: Definition

A fear of flying is also known as a flying phobia (aerophobia, aviophobia, aviophobia and pteromerhanophobia). It is a fairly common and irrational fear characterised by an intense dread experienced during some part of your flight. 

Fear of flying Cardiff: How it impacts on your life

Fear of flying: panic attack
Fear of flying: panic attacks on a plane can dent your self-confidence
A fear of flying often includes some anticipatory anxiety; moderate anxiety symptoms can accumulate weeks before the day of the flight. If you are committed to your flight, the continued anxiety can disrupt your sleep patterns, concentration and attention levels. Should you fly without help, the anxiety attack on the plane can be embarrassing and humiliating; your self-confidence and self-esteem can be severely dented. You then have to recover to participate in your onward journey (e.g. a work meeting) and then contemplate another trauma with your return flight. When armed with only your fear, the severity of your condition worsens with each new flight. As the new experiences accumulate, the anxiety symptoms can attach to other new fears stifling your general lifestyle.‘Not’ flying can still impact on your life too. Most fears and phobias involve some degree of avoidance behaviour. It is a common way of coping (albeit unsuccessfully) with your fearful condition. You may be the fearful flyer who readily admits that you have a fear of flying and will do all you can to prevent your own traumatic experience. But some of you are too embarrassed or ashamed to admit your condition however. You pretend that it doesn’t exist and find ways to ‘dodge’ flying with irrational excuses, often to the dismay of people (family) around you.But avoidance can have its long term consequences. A fear a flying can impact on your professional career as well. If you can delegate to your subordinate staff and justify it as “part of their development”, it can delay you having to ever deal with the inevitable. But avoidance just makes the fear worse in your mind. When you are required to meet clients abroad and can’t avoid it, the recurring unexplainable last minute “illness” can cost you your job.A fear of flying can also affect your personal life. It prevents you from regularly seeing wider family or friends in another country. It can spoil your own family life, depriving members of your family of a summer holiday abroad.Long-term consequences can also be transferred to other people. Children can “learn” beliefs from authority figures like their parents. As a parent, your biased reactions may end up “teaching” your children your fears without realising it. To counter any feeling of guilt, you may try to avoid flying with them to prevent them “catching” a fear of flying from you. 

Fear of flying Cardiff: What causes a fear of flying?

Fears and phobias can have a genetic cause. This means that you have a predisposition to be anxious. You are more likely to develop irrational fears because it “runs in the family”. With a genetic cause, fears and phobias are thus considered as psychological states “waiting to happen”. It can take a relatively moderate psychological trauma to set up your fear of flying.Outside of genetics, you may have learnt your fear of flying through directly associated experiences. This means that you were previously involved in a “terrifying” flight (or flights) and now connect your fear response (also known as your survival instinct or ‘fight of flight!’ response) with flying in a plane. The mere thought of flying again in the future triggers a release of adrenaline to ward you away from more danger. Being in a situation where you are “forced” to fly can create an anxiety attack. These situations only serve to escalate your fear of flying.Vicarious learning is the term used to describe when you learn anxiety through the experiences of others. As mentioned above, as a young child, you will have “modelled” some of your beliefs and behaviour on your authority figures, usually your parents. Seeing them panic convinces you that “if they are scared of it, then it must be dangerous!” Other significant people such as wider family and friends can also transfer this fear. Teenage hood is a notable period when you live through the experiences of your friends.Although you can learn your fear of flying through significant people, other sources can also be important. Witnessing a traumatic event or seeing strangers having a panic attack “in the flesh” is enough to initiate your fear of that situation. Even seeing something in the media or being told about a traumatic event can “sow seeds” of fearful beliefs. Some of you can relate to how easy it is to be “drawn in” to a real account of something e.g. a documentary, as if you are living the experience when it is being televised.Some fears are unconsciously learnt and can appear to be triggered spontaneously. This is because you haven’t identified the “cause”. Consider a situation when, as sufferer of moderate claustrophobia, you have to sit in the back seat of a two door car. You are anxious throughout the journey. Half way through the journey, the driver makes a sharp swerve away from a potential collision. Understandably, all the passengers are distressed having just avoided a nasty accident. Your anxiety response is more acute because during those few moments of extreme motion, your “escape” was blocked by the front passengers of the two door car. You don’t know it yet, but you have now unconsciously “fused” claustrophobia and extreme motion with a panic attack.The next time you fly, you go through moderate anxiety again because you have claustrophobia. Suddenly, you experience some turbulence and you start to panic. You haven’t consciously made the connection with the car incident yet. There is more turbulence and you continue to suffer more panic attacks. You are anxious and confused because these panic attacks seem to be happening spontaneously.Sometime after the flight, you discuss your panic attacks with a trusted friend. Then it clicks! You realise the association between the car journey, your panic attacks and the turbulence. Your fear of flying is now “actualised”. Turbulence is another trigger for your panic. You are afraid to fly again, in case turbulence causes you the distress of panic attacks. 

Fear of flying Cardiff: Fears related to a fear of flying

In the above example of unconscious learning, the fear of flying has been caused by other indirect situations. This is the case with most of my hypnotherapy patients. These indirect fears have accumulated and “leaked” into flying over time. But this is a common development of unresolved fears – they “trap” more objects and situations until you become housebound (agoraphobic). If you are unable to identify what other situations lie behind your fear of flying, your panic will continue to be spontaneous and uncontrollable.So what other fears and situations can contribute to a fear of flying? The list below contains situations, fears and personality traits that are directly and indirectly related to a fear of flying.• Fear of Turbulence – Turbulence is a common occurrence and is usually caused by changes in air flow. It can make the plane shake, shudder and bump. You interpret these motion changes as a warning that the plane has lost control. Even though the seat belt signs are shown to protect passengers from the effects of extreme turbulence, you believe it is a warning that you are in extreme danger.• Fear of Engine noises – Changes in engine noises are generated when ascending and descending. Mechanical changes are also made in-flight to deal with turbulence. Since you are already in a heightened state of alert, you are sensitive to any new sudden sounds. Flight noises cause you to “jump” and frantically look around for reassurance that you are safe.• Fear of adverse weather conditions – You may have experienced a previous incident (outside of flying) in which the weather caused a catastrophe. You are now predisposed to believe that unfavourable weather conditions will disable the plane midflight. You constantly “weather watch”, checking weather reports in an effort to control your emotions.• Fear of a plane crash – You may have survived a trauma or know someone else who’s plane had crashed. This has set up an anticipation of a repeat experience. You battle with media coverage of new plane crashes in attempt to “exorcise” your demons, but they only serve to re-traumatise you.• Fear of heights – Your fear of heights can accompany a fear of falling. Your visual field is distorted (creating vertigo) when you can look down from a high place without any physical protection (barrier). The plane gives you this, but you are still uneasy. An aisle seat is a must to help control your anxiety, but this is not enough to ease your imagination from running wild. Ironically, something keeps tempting you to have a quick look outside.• Fear of confined spaces
Fear of flying aisle
Fear of flying: Even the aisle can feel claustrophobic
You suffer with claustrophobia and panic when you are unable to leave a situation. Unfortunately, your reflex “solution” – to make a dash for it is withdrawn from you when in a plane. The moment the doors close, you hyperventilate. It’s as if there is no air on board the plane. This leaves you with “unspent” physical tension causing your legs to shake uncontrollably.• Fear of vomiting (emetophobia) or illness – You fear being sick yourself or have a fear of people around you vomiting. This is made worse being in a confined space and having limited opportunity to leave the situation.Fear of being ill whilst abroad (or your fellow travellers being ill) can be a separate fear or one associated a fear of vomiting. Once the plane takes off, it symbolises that you are far away from your home comforts to treat your illness or your family to help take care of you.• You have a toilet phobia – This condition covers a number of situations including:- A fear that you may not get to the toilet in time (bowel or bladder problems). - When you get to the toilet you are unable to ‘go’ (IBS constipation or bladder shy) for fear of people listening. This means other passengers would have to wait a long time. - Because of IBS diarrhoea you fear that you may “mess up” the toilet and would be overwhelmed with embarrassment. The noise and smell can compound your embarrassment in some situations. - Or that you have an OCD-related hygiene issue and are unable to use public toilets for fear of contamination.During your flight, it is common procedure that you remain seated during take-off/landing; using the toilet is prohibited in case of turbulence. There are also limited confined toilets on-board the plane and you may have to queue to use the toilet during busy times. Not being free to go to the toilet when you want causes you anxiety and makes your symptoms worse.• Fear of losing control – In the past, you may have been called a “control freak!” In the way you define “control”, being in a situation where you cannot ‘command’ your surroundings creates anxiety for you. Showing anxiety to your fellow passengers would be embarrassing. You perceive a display of anxiety to be “losing control”.• Fear of trusting people – You are required to place trust in the flight crew to ensure your journey is in safe hands, but you struggle to have faith in people that you cannot see. Instead, you disregard their expertise until you have interacted with them in some way. You remain anxious until you have made this connection.• Fear of fear – You struggle to deal with anticipatory anxiety. Any event that has a series of scheduled events (good or bad), creates anxiety for you. Your anxiety then immobilises you, preventing you from constructively taking active steps to reduce your worry. You procrastinate and “hide” because thinking about the flight/trip causes you some discomfort. You resort to any “unhelpful” distractions until the “last hour” and then panic on the day. You seek quick-fixes and lean heavily on your support network. This adds to their frustration because they have offered their help weeks ago; you just weren’t ready to hear/accept it from them. Each layer of fear triggers another layer of fear, and it just keeps going round and round.• Fear of panic attacks – You are unable to identify the cause of your panic attacks. When they surface, they inflict “terror” in you. You believe panic attacks to be a sign that something far worse is going to happen to you. You feel like you are constantly on “stand-by”.• You have social anxiety – Being amongst strangers generates a moderate amount of anxiety. Your condition means that you fear doing anything that draws attention to yourself or that might cause you embarrassment. You choose an aisle seat because asking someone to move (should you want to say go to the toilet) requires courage. So you may just wait until the passenger next to you leaves their seat or you wait until the journey has ended to go to the toilet.• Fear of falling over – You are unsteady on your feet. Although your feet are on “solid ground”, the motion and thought of being up in the air create vertigo. Your anxiety exacerbates your symptoms, so you may stay pinned to your seat to reduce the fear that you will fall over and hurt yourself.• Fear of falling - Your fear of falling is connected to a fear of heights. In a plane your fear is not as intense as being next to a high cliff edge without a barrier. But being up in the air in any vehicle is enough to cause you moderate anxiety. This is because you believe that something could damage the plane and you will be ejected from your seat into the air at altitude. You wear your seat belt tight throughout your journey.• Fear of flying over water – You believe that when the plane flies over water, you are a few hours away from emergency services. If the plane runs into any trouble, then it will be required to ditch onto the sea. You may be a non-swimmer and you have visions of struggling in cold stormy seas.• Fear of flying at night – You book “day” flights where possible. Without being able to “see” your danger, you remain apprehensive throughout your flight. You constantly seek reassurance from the flight staff. Looking out of the window when you are flying over the sea at night is pointless and creates more worry.• Fear of hijacking – The prospect of the plane being hijacked is very remote with stringent security procedures in place. But the media presentation of a previous hijacking and the horrific accounts from any hostages can traumatise the public into believing that there could be loopholes in the security. You see your fellow passengers as potential threats.• Fear of bombing – As with a fear of hijacking, this is another fear in which you believe the security checks will somehow overlook. You sit through the whole journey petrified that you are sitting above the ill-fated cargo. You believe your fellow passengers may have an exploding device.• Fear of attack – Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, renewed insecurity about the extent to which terrorists will inflict their might has become more uncertain. You travel in fear of a surprise attack from an unknown source.• Fear of security checks – Even though you have nothing to “hide”, you find the security checks intrusive because you fear attention. The “baggage” you carry in your mind triggers a past feeling of guilt that surfaces during tense procedures like going through customs. You are waiting to be accused of something, even though you have done nothing wrong.• Fear of boredom – You have an obsession to keep busy because when you are bored, you worry. Nobody wants a delayed flight, but “hanging around” brings out your obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The fear of being idle is a threat to your equilibrium on those long haul flights.• Fear of the unknown
Fear of flying: fear of the unknown
Fear of flying: Fear of the unknown can make flying a terrifying experience
You prefer to stick with what you already know. With a new experience, your mind can fill the void with what you “have known” in the past even if it is negative. So for the new fliers with a tendency to feel anxious, a potential “exciting curiosity” is filled with dread. Even for the seasoned flier, a new destination or new work obligation can build adrenaline through the flight. Over time a fear of flying is attached to going to a strange place, meeting new people or dealing with a new situation.• Fear that you are leaving your family – You have suffered a previous bereavement when you or the deceased was away from home. The physical distance meant that you struggled to bring closure to your grief. When you or a member of the family travels, the fear of a repeat scenario is created. The plane taking-off symbolises that you may not see them again.• Fear of death – You associate dying with your internal anxiety symptoms. When your heart races, you think you are having a heart attack. So any external situation that causes you anxiety (like flying) soon becomes inextricably linked to your fear of death.Or you fear a painful death and desperately try to control how you may die. You imagine that a plane crash will involve extensive suffering before your demise.As you can see, the list of potential causes of a fear of flying (both direct and indirect) is quite extensive. When you can identify what lies behind your fear of flying, you can then seek more effective ways to cope with and treat your primary issues. 

Fear of flying Cardiff: Do you have a fear of flying?

For the frequent flyer, your travelling arrangements are being dealt with on a regular basis and so you are accustomed to dealing with the various travelling procedures. When you fly occasionally however, moderate levels of anxiety can develop around the day of the flight because these events are not in part of your regular routine. The infrequent events can include: Planning your journey and keeping to the schedule on the day of the flight – Have you packed everything you need...Will you arrive on time for your flight etc? Planning your forward trip – Whether it’s a business or leisure trip, do you know where you are going...Have you prepared for the business meeting ahead etc? Ensuring everything you leave behind is secure and being managed – In work, have you delegated any ongoing projects...Will someone at home deal with any family arrangements etc?You can expect some disruption to your life dealing with the above. But a fear of flying is far more severe than this. So what qualifies as a fear of flying? Firstly, rather than viewing the typical events listed above as a series of manageable small tasks, they all become overwhelming. In addition to this, you have significant levels of anticipatory anxiety that disrupts your lifestyle weeks before your flight.• Sleep patterns are disrupted – You struggle to get to sleep and find that you wake frequently thinking about some aspect of the flight. The cumulative effect of this is tiredness and loss of concentration. You then oversleep and feel tired through the day. • Your mind is pre-occupied – You obsess over your fear, worrying about what could go wrong on the day of the flight. • Your attention is affected – Your mind is “detached”, daydreaming about your fears. Your concentration is distracted by the anxiety of your flight. • Ritualistic habits increase – Any “comforting” habits become more compulsive. Drinking, smoking, nail-biting, hair-twirling etc. whatever habits you have to ease your anxiety increases in frequency and duration. • You procrastinate – Since the flight has fear attached to it, you desperately avoid any tasks related to your trip. Instead of proactively dealing with your journey, you opt for pleasant but non-urgent trivial tasks to ease your discomfort: “Time to tidy the sock drawer!” • You seek avoidance strategies – If it’s time to book the flights, you try to delay the booking because your “diary looks very busy” around the time of the flight. • Anxiety symptoms get worse – Your anxiety symptoms (see below) escalate the closer you get to your flight date.You have a fear of flying if near the time of the flight or during the flight you suffer with one or more of the following anxiety or stress symptoms at an intense level:• Feel nauseous and faintBreathing is laboured and rapid (hyperventilation) • Mouth is dry and speech is stammered • Suffer with IBS and irritable bladderBlush and sweat excessively • Heart beat is forceful and rapid • Find is hard to concentrate and memory is reducedMuscles feel tense, shake uncontrollably or fidget • Become claustrophobic with the need to move (pace) around • Feel self-conscious as if everyone is staring at you • Increase any comforting habits e.g. nail biting • Suffer with anxiety attacks or panic attacksThere are numerous other stress and anxiety symptoms. These listed represent some of the more common ones. 

Fear of flying Cardiff: Treating your fear of flying

There are numerous ways to help treat your fear of flying:• Medication – Your doctor can prescribe medication to help with your anxiety symptoms. They are likely to vary according to the severity of your anxiety and the duration of your flight. There may be some side effects.• Counselling/CBT – These approaches seek to change your negative thoughts and behaviour into more positive ones. Some courses of treatment can be extensive.• Self-help – Reading books and website articles or simply facing your fears can help you to get through challenging situations. Your own subjective beliefs can prejudice your learning however. In addition to this, further negative experiences can reinforce your fear of flying.• Flying courses – These include a group talk followed by an actual flight. If you are the type of person who believes that “when I have done it once, then I’m cured”, then this approach could be helpful to you. The group situation may not get to the heart of any personal issues that you have. If anxious people around you tend to trigger your anxiety then you could be more vulnerable in a group situation like this. 

How can hypnotherapy treat you Fear of flying in Cardiff?

Hypnotherapy is an effective and rapid way of treating your fear of flying in a number of ways: • Control your anxiety – Controlling your anxiety is an essential part of managing your fear of flying. When you are in an anxious state, your perceptions are distorted. You are more likely to interpret events as anxious one. If you suffer anticipatory anxiety then this can affect you days or weeks before your actual flight. Anticipatory anxiety heightens your anxious expectations, taking you to the emotional experience that you are trying to avoid.Self-hypnosis techniques will also help reduce your anxiety symptoms (see above) before and during your flight. Self-hypnosis techniques are far more effective than simple distraction methods, because you are actively dealing with the issue that is central to your fear of flying: the ability to relax during your flight.• Identify and treat unconscious causes of your fear of flying – Without correctly identifying and treating the primary causes behind your fear of flying, the fear remains. You will continue to frantically put energy and effort into the wrong “box”, not understanding why you are in still in fear. This is where the expertise of a professional hypnotherapist can make the difference between dealing with the right issues that removes your fear and “hoping for the best.”• Reframe your past traumas – Unresolved past traumas are stored in your mind to warn you against experiencing yet another trauma. So when your strongest anxious symptom is triggered e.g. by turbulence, anxiety surges up into your consciousness and adrenaline floods your body. The anxious emotion acts like a magnet, pulling your attention into it rather than being able to deal with the situation at hand.Hypnotherapy can help you reframe your past traumas, safely releasing the emotion from the negative event. You can then freely and resourcefully create the emotional experience that you want during your flight.• Release your panic response – Extreme fears and phobias have something in common; there is a panic response associated with the object or situation. When your anxiety trigger has been identified, hypnotherapy can help you dissociate your panic attack from this stimulus. Turbulence becomes just “another event” rather than a cause for your anxiety symptoms. A new relaxation response can then be learned and developed.
Overcome fear of flying with hypnotherapy Cardiff
You can overcome your fear of flying with hypnotherapy Cardiff
 

Fear of flying Cardiff: Summary

For the majority of the population, flying is a natural way of travelling to your destination. It is common method of travel when going on holiday or as part of work obligations. It can be a natural part of your lifestyle too. Choose Hypnotherapy Cardiff to treat your fear of flying and get ready to book your next flight.Flying to your next destination is just a few steps away!

For further information on treating your fear of flying in Cardiff, contact Richard J D’Souza Hypnotherapy Cardiff

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Public Speaking Tips

Public speaking Tips

When you are worrying about a giving a presentation, public speaking tips can offer your mind a release from your anxiety. Public speaking tips can help you to focus on a “process” rather than being consumed by your own self-limiting doubts. They can also help you to portray confidence that you can embrace as your experience grows. Over time your public speaking courage will become a natural part of you, but it takes determination and a desire to succeed; this change rarely happens overnight.
Public speaking tips
Public speaking tips can help you focus on a process
These public speaking tips are written using my experience as a qualified teacher/trainer. They also draw from my experience as a Senior Clinical hypnotherapist for Hypnotherapy Cardiff. Use these public speaking tips to guide you if you have never given a presentation before. Alternatively, you may find one of these public speaking tips helps your preparation in your next presentation.Presentations can take various forms. These public speaking tips are aimed at the typical educational setting where you are given a title and required to present information within a set time limit. This information you present could be personal, factual or emotional. The information generally serves to inform the audience or help shape their opinion about making an informed choice in the present or the future. 

Public speaking tips #1: Research your topic

Researching what you are going to talk about is not one of the most exciting public speaking tips to begin with, but it is an important one. Your presentation could be a disaster if you (or your personality) don’t fall into the following categories: • You ooze self-confidence and love being the centre of attention. It doesn’t matter what you speak about, you just relish the opportunity to be on stage. Even if you messed up, you wouldn’t notice because you possess a hardened exterior called arrogance. • You have developed and mastered your presentation character/role. This allows you to think on your feet and you seamlessly move from one topic to another. You could wax lyrical about anything • You are an expert in your field and can talk for hours because you are qualified and knowledgeable. • All of the above!If you are new to public speaking, given time you can become one or all of the above. In the meantime, research your subject until it you have enough content to play with. 

Public speaking tips #2: Keep your presentation relevant to your aim

What’s that, you don’t have an aim? Then how will you know what is relevant? Ok, so this is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. This really does depend on whether you have been given a presentation with strict criteria to follow or an open-ended title in which you are required to make the decision for yourself.If you have been given the criteria to follow, keep reminding yourself of the meaning behind the criteria. Keep using this in every stage of the process because there’s nothing worse than talking about something that is a million miles away from the title. It is also important to identify any marking structure. The higher the marks allocated to a topic, the more likely you are to devote your time to these topics.If the title is open-ended e.g. Pop music, then give your presentation a direction (your aim) such as “number one hits by (a certain) pop group”. You simply can’t cover every fact in a short presentation.Give a statement of your aim at the beginning with possible subheadings. These can include a few ground rules e.g. asking questions at the end rather than throughout the presentation. You may even give a statement of what you “won’t” present because of certain limitations e.g. time.Factors that can influence your aim include: • Temporal factors: Such as the time you have to prepare (and take into account other obligation), the duration of the presentation or your other obligations that might intrude on this project. • Situational factors: This can include the availability of resources e.g. microphone and lectern, the layout of the room and the size of your audience. • Personal factors: Such as your subject-knowledge, confidence, voice projection, use of non-verbal gestures etc.The more you know about these factors, the more you can shape the precise intentions of your aim. 

Public speaking tips #3: Identify an objective for your audience

Some of these public speaking tips clearly overlap. This one has direct links with public speaking tips #2. Your aim is what you intend to do in your presentation. Your objective considers what your audience will be able to do by the end of your presentation.If your presentation is about your formal one-sided communication of information (i.e. only you speaking), then your objective may simply be about your audience hearing/understanding you and being informed about some facts. One important question to keep asking yourself is “How do I know that they..?” in this case “...can hear me/understand me?”The answer to this might depend on what kind of feedback is available? Are they looking puzzled throughout? Are they laughing at your jokes? What type of questions do they ask at the end? Are you being graded (formal feedback)? The feedback could be immediate or post presentation.An objective is made clearer when it can be expressed in behavioural terms. “Understanding” is not a behavioural objective because the audience may not have been required to do anything to understand. They can just sit there and passively listen.
Public speaking tips: know your audience
Public speaking tips: Know your audience
The feedback may not be known until sometime after the presentation. This is where the objective might be sales-based e.g. gaining 10 sales of your product or service within a month. Or maybe your presentation is influencing your audience to make a decision e.g. vote about a policy you are advocating in the next election.In a didactic situation e.g. teaching or training, the process can include an assessment of the behavioural outcome e.g. the audience needs to write an essay on the content of your presentation. Depending on the value of the essays (feedback), you then evaluate the whole process and make adjustments to your presentation or lesson. 

Public speaking tips #4: Give your presentation a beginning, middle and end

Structuring your content is essential for clarity. Without statements of intent (or limitation), the presentation can appear vague and disjointed. The audience have no concept of your direction or won’t know their involvement in the process.The first stage in public speaking tips #4 is the introduction. This can include some of the following points where they are relevant:• A welcome - Stating who you are, qualifications and experience, situation (“I have been asked to give a presentation by the...”) • State your aim – See public speaking tips #2. “The aim of this presentation is ...” • State any limitations affecting your presentation – Stating what you will not be presenting helps the audience recognise the emphasis you are giving to your presentation. • State any methods you are using: Are you discussing or describing your content? Are you using any visual aids that help your audience anticipate their involvement? This can be an extension of the aim “The aim of the presentation is to compare styles of pop music between two decades. I will be playing some pop music from those decades to demonstrate my analysis.” • State any objective for the audience: See public speaking tips #3. “I would like you to listen to the various styles of music. Please give a vote at the end of your preferred choice.”The next stage in public speaking tips #4 is the middle section. This consists of the main points of the presentation. The main points need to be organised, logical and relevant to the aim. Ideally, your points will be enhanced with additional information and/or visual aids (pictures or diagrams). Following the example used of the pop music presentation, pictures of the pop bands and audible aids (music or video) would complement the presentation and help make it more captivating.Include linking statements sometimes called “signposts” that help the presentation to coherently flow from one point to another. They act as bridging statements and can be used to build rapport with your audience. Signpost statements can:• Summarise what you have just done - “Now that I have discussed...” • Emphasise what you are going to do - “The next section of my presentation will...” • Clarify the importance of a point by linking it back to the aim – “You will notice the statement made by...”Signposts can be created by changing the pitch of your voice e.g. starting a new point with a raised tone of voice. Signposts can also be non-verbal but still serve to navigate the audience through your presentation. They can include moving from one part of the room to another, creating a short pause, switching equipment on or off and glancing at another part of the audience.The last stage of public speaking tips #4 is the end section, sometimes called the conclusion. The end section can make the following points:• Re-emphasise your aim and objective – “In the presentation, I have aimed to... you can now...” • Summarise your main points “I hoped to have been able to show that...” • Mention any closing remarks – For example, thank the audience, inform them of what is happening next, tell them about any exit procedures or a “call to action” regarding further information “Please help yourself to the information booklets..." or “contact me for further help...” • An opportunity for the audience to ask questions – Where appropriate, leave time for questions about any topics presented. Remember that it is better to admit that you don’t know something and be prepared to research the answer for them, than to bluff the way through with a vague answer. 

Public speaking tips #5: Learn how to breathe to control your anxiety

Knowledge and experience can build self-confidence. Along your presentation journey, some useful breathing techniques can help release your anxiety: • In anticipation of a presentation – Use breathing techniques to help you relax when your presentation anxieties “appear” in your mind. Worries have a habit of popping into your mind whilst doing other routine activities. • During the presentation – Breathing techniques can calm your nerves throughout the presentation. Think of it as a useful “vent” when tension builds up. • After the presentation – It can seem like a relief that you would rather not replay in your mind, but “putting the presentation away” can help you build confidence for the next presentation. Use breathing techniques and visualisation to process what you have done well with a feeling of achievement. Then “over trace” the parts that didn’t go so well, imagining your return, tackling any errors that you made. This process can affect how and where you “store” the presentation in your mind. Better to learn from it, than to run away from it!A common problem associated with anxiety is the development of psychosomatic symptoms. These can include shortness of breath, palpitations, blushing, profuse sweating, dryness and constriction in the throat, involuntary tremors in the hand, tendency to stammer, IBS etc. The anxiety sufferer then worries that these symptoms are visible to the audience and desperately tries to conceal them. They are more preoccupied with their psychosomatic symptoms than with the task in hand. Breathing can act as the anxiety diffuser that alleviates the symptoms, allowing you to focus on your presentation.Learn how to breathe now! Learning to breathe outside of any external distraction is essential to being able to control your anxiety. You can then begin to use these breathing techniques in progressively more stressful situations. Thus developing breathing techniques is part of your preparation. Actually, it’s part of how you manage your lifestyle!The use of breathing techniques can be considered a self-hypnosis. This is explained below in public speaking tips #6. 

Public speaking tips #6: Rehearse and visualise your presentation

Here’s a quick summary of where you should be:• Once you have written the content of your presentation, check that it matches your assessment criteria. • Amend any content so that it is relevant to the aims and objectives. • Organise the layout so that it has a distinct beginning, middle and end. • Adjust the content so that it fits into any time constraints.With most of the boxes being ticked, you can now practise (rehearse) your presentation. Some people like to start with a script and condense it down to a few key points. This will involve familiarising some of the content so that keywords can be placed on a hand-sized card/bullet points in PowerPoint. This “condensing” process can help you to recall some of the material from the notes yet still maintain the planned structure (since it’s easy to lose your place!) The condensing stage is important because it stops you “reading from a script” with your head and eyes in your notes throughout the whole presentation.
Public speaking tips: Visualise your presentation
Public speaking tips: Visualise your presentation going well
Now that you are familiar with the content, visualise giving a confident presentation. That’s right, close your eyes for a moment, take a deep breath and imagine being in the situation with everything going well. So, imagine all that you would talk about, feel and see in your audience. Thinking positively means just that! Many people “think” they are thinking positively, when all they are doing is taking their mind to the place that they don’t want to go! Most “positive” thinking in default mode ends up reinforcing the negatives, or it involves anxious worrying about a situation.The process of positive visualisation (thinking) involves giving your mind something to focus on. You can work towards this image by converting your internal (anxiety) symptoms and what is happening around you into positive outcomes.When you are anxious what happens?• Breathing is rapid and short – visualise giving your presentation breathing slowly and deeply and at regular intervals. • Voice becomes quiet and throat feels constricted – visualise speaking with a loud multi-tonal voice and the throat feeling relaxed. • Legs feel like jelly and hands shake – visualise your legs feeling strong and hands feeling relaxed.And so on... Then visualise converting some of your “external” anxieties:• The audience look bored – visualise the audience looking interested and stimulated by your content and use of voice control. Imagine them being on your side! • You fear losing your place – visualise using a prompt card that helps you to move seamlessly from one point to another. • You fear some technology not working – visualise keeping calm and apologising for the “technical issue”. Explain what your audience would have seen as a contingency plan.Visualisation and rehearsals can be done in front of a mirror. You may even wish to practise using a video camera or a trustworthy audience (e.g. your family). With each rehearsal you will build up a positive template and expectation for how you will present on the actual day. This has the effect of lowering your anticipatory anxiety and helps you to feel like the presentation is a natural part of what you do. 

Final public speaking tips

Some of these public speaking tips are summarised in the previous points. Other public speaking tips you will acquire with experience as your confidence grows:• Use memory prompts – A well-rehearsed presentation will flow smoothly. Learn your material until a keyword prompts a sentence or paragraph about that topic. Effective use of PowerPoint or visual aids can also help this process but are secondary to the dialogue you use through your presentation. If you are quoting some complex dialogue, ensure you glance up at the audience at regular intervals. • Project your voice – Develop a “presentation voice” that is loud, multi-tonal, and moderately paced with effective pauses. Recording and listening to your own voice can help you develop your “presentation voice”Your pitch can be maximised when you involve your diaphragm muscles. Imagine speaking to someone in the room next door! That doesn’t mean shouting, but the focus of your voice should be in your abdomen rather than straining your vocal chords.Varying the tone in your voice can help stimulate interest in your audience. Learn to raise and lower the tone of your voice to emphasise and de-emphasise certain parts of your presentation.Vary the pace of your dialogue. If you are anxious, you are likely to speak quickly, so the general advice is to slow down. Momentary pauses can generate a feeling of confidence. Coordinate your relaxed breathing with your voice projection.• Develop a stage presence – This is something that grows with your experience and your confidence. It includes certain points already mentioned such as the content of your presentation and the way you have organised it. It also includes non-verbal aspects of communication such as:Eye contact – Your eye contact can be used to give each person a feeling of importance. Staring at one person in particular can feel intimidating, so pan across your audience slowly in a gentle rotation, as if you want to acknowledge each person present. It’s easy to give too much importance to people in the middle of the audience, so try not to ignore people in the corners of the room.Posture – How you stand/sit can set the tone of your presentation. Standing tall behind a lectern (when there is one available) can be appropriate for a more formal presentation. It gives you somewhere to place your notes whilst still facing the audience. Where the situation is didactic, some people prefer to stand without a “barrier”. Sometimes, sitting on a table can emphasise the informality of the situation. Your movement around the stage can also create a feeling of confidence. Some “purposeful” steps can help counter the tendency to stand rigid when feeling anxious.Facial expressions – A (genuine) smile can indicate that you are comfortable and enjoying what you do. The audience will feed off your body language, helping to put them at ease.
Public speaking tips hand gestures
Public speaking tips: Use some hand gestures to communicate
Hand gestures – Hand gestures can help you to appear animated and interesting. Use a few gestures (but not too many) to emphasise any visual aids. Some psychologists believe that “open hand” gestures can communicate that you are open and honest. Some animation can be better than remaining completely still.Seeing a video of you speaking can be a good way of developing stage presence in the long term. A video can also help identify and reduce any communication “annoyances” e.g. excessive use of hand gestures.Organise your stage – How you arrange the stage and seating (where appropriate) will create a formal or informal atmosphere. As you grow in confidence, organise the stage in the way that helps your communication. Can any visual aids be seen by your audience? You won’t always be able to choose the layout in every venue but it helps to have a concept when you can arrange the stage yourself.• Break down any barriers with your audience – Finding out something about your audience can help you to tailor your presentation to their needs. What is their prior knowledge or learning about this subject? Do they all work for the same organisation? Has the advert targeted a specific need? This information can help you to build rapport with your audience with references to their “group” that they might find interesting. Barriers can also be broken down by speaking to individual members of your audience before and after the presentation. Any feedback that is returned can help you to develop your presentation in the long term.If your presentation is aimed at your peer group as part of an assessment, then find something refreshing to add to the presentation even if it’s some light humour (but keep it to the presentation aim). Hearing numerous presentations on the same topic can be repetitive. Involving members of the audience can be a good way of keeping their interest and keeping the presentation informal.Think of your audience as being on your side; this will ease your anxiety. Surprisingly, they want you to succeed. Giving them a welcome can help put them at ease.• Have some contingency plans – Plan for things to go well, first and foremost. But keep a few back-up plans with solutions in case something goes wrong. A technology failure is rare, but can happen. You can only then do your best to make amends. Apologise for this and then if it means you rely on written notes, then use them! It’s amazing how “character building” situations like this can be.You can’t cover every eventuality, but when left to think on your feet, it serves to...• Believe in yourself – Confidence comes with achievement. If you have never given a presentation, then transfer the feeling of confidence from any other successes you have had in your life. Rehearse the affirmation “I can do this!” as part of your preparation. Public speaking is a continuous journey of learning. Give your presentation, then assess and review your performance. Make changes and try something new when the perceived risk is low. That way, if it goes wrong, it won’t be the end of the world! Public speaking tips can help give you feedback and freshen your strategies. Public speaking tips can remind you that different approaches are required for different situations. More information:Fear of public speaking: Causes and treatmentFear of public speaking and social anxiety 

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