Our Hormones

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Courtesy of sarahmantellphotography.com

If we ever we need evidence in our own lives that the mind and body are as one, look at the times you have been through hormonal changes yourself.  For women it is easy to      relate to the first day of a period as the most likely time our emotions are affected by the delicate balancing act. Even while losing the plot over some mild indiscretion, we are thinking ‘this is over the top but I can’t stop myself, the words are just pouring out of my mouth’. We are likely to burst into tears for no real reason and feel very sorry for ourselves. Then the blood flows and equilibrium returns, unless your hormones are out of balance.

Pregnancy and giving birth is also a time when a woman’s hormones go through many changes and again our emotions join in the roller-coaster ride.  Sometimes they do not get back to perfect balance easily or quickly and we call this ‘post natal depression’ or ‘baby blues’. Getting pregnant in the first place also requires the hormones to be balanced correctly. The stress hormone Cortisol plays a big part in blocking pregnancy. This is to protect us in times of danger or famine from bringing babies into a difficult situation as any Baby Boom’ will attest; they happen just after wars or recessions not during them. So it works both ways, stress hormones are released into our body when our emotions indicate a threat to our survival to give our offspring the best chance of theirs.

If this isn’t enough we also have puberty and menopause to deal with, again at both these times massive hormonal changes affect our emotional selves.

Men do not escape as easily as you would think at first glance, or is that just from a woman’s perspective?  Puberty hits boys hard, not only physically but also emotionally.  Think of a teenage boy and you can be forgiven for thinking that the sweet loving boy you brought up has been abducted and the aliens left you one of theirs.  Don’t worry, the boy you know and love will return sometime in his 20’s when his hormones have settled down.

All is fine for a good few years until he hits his ‘mid-life crisis’, or the male menopause as it is affectionately known.  His emotions are again all over the place and he starts to feel he hasn’t achieved enough, maybe if he changed something on the outside to make him feel the success that everyone else seems to have, he’d feel better.  He may start by buying a sports car but when the feelings, which are on the inside, do not get better he feels a dissatisfaction with his life.
‘… If you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, maybe it is time to feed your own! …’

Our hormones are not a design fault, they prepare our body for the phase of life we are in at that time, to do what we need to do to survive.  The only problem is we do not live a natural life any more.  Stressful situations release hormones in our bodies to protect us but stress is no longer just about a physical short term threat, it is much more likely to be on an emotional level which is harder to spot.  This causes an imbalance in the hormonal system and around and around we go!

It is no wonder we go into the final phase of ‘fight or flight’ which is ‘freeze’.  Do nothing, pull the covers over our heads and hope that the world, or the predator, or depression as it sometimes labelled, goes away.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland along with adrenalin in response to a stressful situation.  This increases blood pressure and blood sugar and suppresses the immune system so that all energy is directed into the ‘fight or flight’ response, ensuring short term survival.

Cortisol also increases gastric acid secretion and appetite to encourage the consumption of calories, especially carbohydrates, thus giving us energy to escape the ‘danger’.  It also shuts down the reproductive system increasing the chance of miscarriage and in some cases temporary infertility.  This affects both the female egg and the male sperm.  Fertility in both men and women can return when Cortisol levels return to normal.

The first steps to recovery with all of these symptoms and more is to look inside for the answers, learn to relax, live in the present and reduce stress.

What is happiness?

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Happiness is not a destination …. it’s a way of life.

Most people would say all they want is to be happy, this suggests right now they are not. That is an awful lot of unhappy people!

What is it all of these people are looking for, what is happiness?

In my experience it is not a bigger better anything, car, house, relationship, money. People turn up at my door, looking mainly to change something about themselves or their circumstances so that they can be happy. All of these things are on the outside, happiness is on the inside. Happiness is simply being comfortable in your own skin, being loving and accepting of yourself …. unconditionally. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Why do we stop accepting ourselves?

We are born accepting ourselves. Have you ever seen a newborn baby worrying about how his or her birth weight compared to someone else’s? Whether their nose too big or the wrong shape and what people will think? Whether Mum and Dad will love them? Is their cot the latest one with bells and whistles on? No, we start out expecting the best because we deserve it. If we are hungry we shout loudly until we are fed, if we are tired we cry until someone lays us down to sleep. We expect our needs for survival to be met and this is our only concern.

The Chinese have a saying, ‘we are born knowing everything and life is an unlearning experience‘.  We are born knowing what we need to survive. These are love, food, shelter and protection. We are wiling to shout loudly to get our needs met. As time goes on we realise that if we shout too much or too loudly our parents (love, food, shelter and protection) start to get stressed and tell us to stop. We are already learning that our needs have to be put second to our parents’ need for peace and quiet because we need them to love us so that they stay with us.

We smile, this seems to make them happy. We have our first disorder of emotions but we have also noticed when we cry for no reason we get loads of attention until we stop at which point they put us down and leave us alone. All children want the undivided attention of their parents and no parent can give it, however perfect they are. By the time we are two, we begin to get more of a sense of self and our power over these adults, who have long since lost their own sense of self. We call it the terrible two’s but it is also the beginning of the end of loving ourselves unconditionally. Manipulating to get attention by being ‘naughty’ gets negative attention but at least it is attention. Most books and TV shows on child rearing teach parents to only reward positive behaviour and most parents think they do that, however then shout or react negatively when the child does something they don’t like and put them on the naughty step. To the child this is also a ‘reward’.

Then there are the things parents say to children without thinking about how the child will take it on. I overheard this in a supermarket, a mother trying to cope with her three year old child’s behaviour said, ‘grow up, behave or you will be the death of me‘. Another said, ‘you are driving me mad‘. These examples are not uncommon, children are like sponges, they take everything on adults throw at them and take responsibility for things they cannot control. A child being told off by her mother with the words, ‘how can you do that when my world is crashing down around me‘, did not know what was going wrong in her mother’s life, only she was responsible for the world crashing down around mother and she grew up with a fear this could happen anywhere she lived.  One of the more unusual phobias I have come across.

It is no wonder even in the most loving families, children grow up into adults who feel less than. Less than what or whom? We then start to look around us to see what it is that others have that seem to make them happy because they are happy, aren’t they? We focus on what we can see they have that we do not, the big house, the car, the relationship, the……. the……. the……. It is endless because as soon as we have any one of those things we realise, ‘it didn’t do it for me after all.

If you are reading this maybe you have come to the point in your life when you know that you will not find ‘it’ on the outside or find it some time in the future when things get better. Happiness is inside you and now, not tomorrow. Stop the endless chatter in your mind that says you are not good enough and look inside to find the real you. You are good enough and you are worth it.

Read about Rosie’s pot of gold on my Mindfulness page. She gets it, you can too.

Exams

Back to School

At this time of the year students of all ages are about to start a new year of study.  This is very exciting but for many the stress of studying and the inevitable exams feels less exciting and more like dread.  Many students, of all ages, feel under pressure to ‘succeed’ and this pressure can come from schools, Colleges and Universities who are themselves under pressure to perform.  Also parents who want the best for their kids yet find them poleaxed by fear and dread of learning, let alone the exam itself.   However, most of the pressure comes from the student themselves and the lack of belief that they are good enough.  Sadly if they believe they are not good enough they will never allow themselves to reach their full potential.

fishReaching our full potential is not about being in competition with anyone else.  No one is any more or any less than another.  We are all able in different ways and learn in different ways, it is a matter of each of us finding our own unique way and being the best we can be, for ourselves.

There has been a 200% increase in the need for counselling for exam stress, with 87,500 visits to the Childline website on this subject. (Daily Echo 30th May 2015).  It costs schools and colleges £480 for each student to re-take key subject exams, therefore it would be beneficial to both students and schools if students were calm and happy when studying and sitting exams.

‘Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.’

Oprah Winfrey

There are many techniques and methods to overcome these stressors and make learning more enjoyable.  Helping increase a child’s self-belief, reduce their stress, teach mindful relaxation, concentration, study motivation and memory recall techniques go a long way toward this.  Along with the dreaded exam nerves, these are just a few of the aspects of the work I do with students, either 1:1 privately or small groups in schools and colleges.  I have 29 years expertise in helping people to believe in themselves and begin to change self-limiting negative thinking patterns.  Neuroscience has now proven this is possible, it is called Neuroplasticity.  The creation of new neuro-pathways in itself creates changes in behaviour and response.  Hey presto, change is born!

Change is not as hard as you would imagine,  we are constantly changing.   If you feel you could benefit from changing any negative feelings you experience when studying, sitting exams or any other area of your life, contact me and I will show you how easy change can be.  This obviously applies to students of all ages!

 

Age

ReikaI was reading an article written by a teenager about her problems with depression and an eating disorder whilst at University. She said that she was sent to a Counsellor for help but the lady was old and how could she know what it was like to be a teenager. I was astounded that an intelligent young lady could believe such a thing, does she think the lady was born old?

The lady had been a child, pubescent, a teenager, a young lady, possibly a mother, may have had fertility problems, relationships, good and bad, seen her own children through their teens, a middle aged woman, been menopausal … and was now an older woman. She will have lived through many failures and successes, ups and downs and survived them. It is a privilege to grow old, not everyone makes it. With age comes an understanding of all the different phases of life, including teens. How many teenagers know what it is like to live through any of the phases of life they will one day face themselves? The biggest lesson age teaches is  ‘.. this too will pass’.

Young people rarely stop to think one day they too will be an old person, or think what it must be like to be dismissed as having nothing to offer any more. Every old person you meet has had a life, many if you stop to listen to them would surprise you with the things they had done in their life.   One lady I met some years ago walking her dog on the beach, looked every day of her eighty something years. She had to sit down at regular intervals to rest weary limbs and catch her breath. She told me about her experiences living in war time, her modelling career, the men who had pursued her, the different businesses she had run, her marriages and her children. This would be quite a life today but in the 1930’s it must have been brave, yet now people were walking past her without giving her the time of day?

How much could that teenage girl learn from listening to her story?

We must remember we will all be old one day, if we are lucky, and in the meantime we have the choice to live each day as if it means something. Release the self destructive behaviour and enjoy the present moment. The lady on the beach still felt twenty years young inside because who you are inside your body does not age! Age is between the ears … so tap into the wisdom of the elderly if you get the opportunity, you may learn something you come to rely on one day.

Google it, to find @pp-iness

HelpKeyGoogle it, to find @pp-iness!

I am amazed at the ease with which we can find out everything there is to know, about any subject imaginable.  Yet the one subject we fail to gain any ‘knowing’ of is ourselves.  We can look up the symptoms we suffer from, or the labels we have been given however there is nothing to be found about the unique person that we are.  We can read how other people with similar experiences to our own feel about those experiences but it does not help, somehow it doesn’t quite fit us.  We have been led to believe there is a quick fix or no fix for all the ills of mankind and all we have to do is Google it, download this app, read this forum or self help book and we will have an answer to sort us out.  However can you find @pp-iness?
I have no apps, forums, blogs or downloads to ‘fix’ you.  I do have the certain knowledge, based on taking thousands of people not at all like you, through a process of self discovery, that you have all the answers within you.  I don’t think you have all you need to know within you, I know you have.  It just requires the right key to open the treasure chest that is your full potential and you will ‘see’.
Neuroscience says, ‘ just think differently’ and you will create new neuro-pathways these will result in new behaviours and although they are right, have you ever tried to ‘just think differently’.  Not that easy when your current thinking has been repeated daily since you were a child.  Do you even know what you think and where those thoughts and beliefs were first formed.  Firstly you need help to become your own observer, step back from yourself and see/ hear what others do. You also need someone who can hold a mirror up to the person you really are.  Step by step you will learn to ‘think differently’ and because it has been a step by step process, rather than an ‘it’ doing it for you, the new pathways will become your familiar route to being you.
A client once told me, although she was a successful business woman she felt like a child hiding behind a big cardboard cut out of a successful business woman and she would soon be found out.  Also it was taking an enormous amount of energy to carry the cardboard cut out around.  I find most people can relate to this feeling in some way and can like her eventually come out and say to themselves, ‘I am amazing’, however it is a very personal journey.  Taking the first step on the journey can seem daunting however once the first step has been taken the rest come naturally, one step at a time.

Building a Bridge

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There is a saying, ‘Find some wood, build a bridge and get over it’.  Although it is meant to encourage the person to get on with their life, I got to thinking about it as a metaphor for the work I do with my clients.

The wood is the building blocks for the foundations we all have within us to change.  Building a bridge with the wood means you need tools and someone with bridge building experience to show you the way, something I have spent many years doing.  Followed by the support and encouragement to know that the bridge you have built is strong enough to be safe for you to get over it.  

The bridge takes you from the wild scary side of a raging river of emotions, to the peace and beauty of a content inner world.

S.A.D.?

stress-pastel-penci-being-smashed-paper-great-force-writing-word-31469469Stress … Anxiety … Depression

Fight … Flight … Freeze

Most of the time we are in fight mode, we feel the fear and do it anyway, we have eustress (good stress).   This is the stress that makes us get up in the morning and go to work  or the gym.  Eustress is beneficial to us, a positive challenge that makes us feel good about ourselves, rather than a negative threat to our survival.  

However what happens when the fight has used up too much energy and we cannot see fight as a positive challenge anymore?

Negative stress eventually shifts us into flight mode, flight means we run away from the problem. Running causes our breathing to become shallow and fast, our hearts beat faster and we perspire, these are the same physical reactions that we have when we are anxious and have panic attacks. 

After extended periods of fight and flight we just want to curl up and hide away, freeze!! Freeze means we do not want to move or take an interest in the world outside of our hiding place, these are the first symptoms of what is now known as depression.

To avoid flight and freeze we need to understand our negative beliefs and move back to eustress.  Our mind and body can now read the situations we face in a positive light.