Reclaim the long-lost summers of your childhood

Gemma Holmes Cognitive Hypnotherapy BlogNow I wasn’t quite around in the summer of ’69 but when I was a child the summers certainly seemed to last forever and I do fondly look back on them as the best days of my life. So whilst on the packed and sweaty tube this morning on the way to work, I got to wondering what it was about childhood summers that made them so great and so stress free.

Here are a few ways to reclaim those happy days to make more of the summer of ’17 (not quite so catchy!).

  1. The school uniform

As a 30-something, one of the stresses of summer is the colourful, skin-bearing, accessorised, never ending wardrobe that we (and the magazines) expect us to own. Summer mornings are therefore spent surrounded by mountains of unsuitable outfits as we scorn the sunshine and declare for the 3rd time that week “I have nothing to wear!” As a primary school child, that was never a problem. That little checked summer dress or grey shorts and polo shirt were thrown on, accessorised with a dashing pair of bright white socks and, if you were a girl, and a really lucky one at that, a pair of those patent Clarke’s shoes with the keyhole in the sole.

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My OCD became my superpower

My OCD became my superpower

Gemma Holmes Cognitive Hypnotherapy OCDBetween the ages of 5 and 10, I had two phases of being controlled by OCD. The one I remember the most seemed to be triggered by the misinterpretation I made about what my Sunday School teacher had told me. I am sure these weren’t her words, but what I took as the meaning went along the lines of “If you don’t like everyone you are a bad person… and bad people go to hell”. There was someone at the time that I did not like. I cannot remember for the life of me who that person was, but it clearly concerned me greatly that I had bad feelings towards someone and was therefore doomed to join all other bad people in the devil’s fiery pit.

Over time, this concern began to plague my thoughts and actions and resulted in obsessive hand washing and daily rituals. The OCD I experienced was unfortunately not the tidying type – I lived in a very messy room with a ‘floordrobe’ of clothes, but rather I had to tighten all the taps before I went to sleep to stop the house from flooding, and I had to say good night to each member of my family in exactly the same way. I suspect the hand washing was an attempt to cleanse myself of the bad thoughts, the rest an attempt to control everything around me so that I wasn’t a bad person who could cause the world to crumble.

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Why mental health is like being on a plane

I recently attending a talk by the mental health charity MIND. It was a fascinating talk in general and I’ll continue to share bits of advice on here and via my Facebook and Twitter accounts. But it was this bit of advice that really stayed with me: “Responding to mental health is like being on a plane – you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you can help others.”

This is a great metaphor, and means the same thing as ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. So often we give all our energy to ensuring that the people around us are ok. We worry about our friends, family, partners, children, even pets, and when we’re so busy checking that our network are doing ok it’s easy to forget to check in with ourselves. And that’s when we run the risk of burning out.

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The unexpected benefit of spring

What a difference a sunny weekend can make! It suddenly seems appropriate to drink prosecco and eat ice cream in the early hours of the afternoon. There’s a glorious waft of BBQs around every corner and every open space is filled with people soaking up the first rays of the year. Everyone seems so much happier when the sun is shining. And it’s the perfect time for a bit of reflection.

When the sun is out we allow ourselves to stop. If we take an hour on a weekend to just sit on the sofa, we feel like we’ve wasted time and are behaving like a slob. But, take yourself out into the garden or local park and no-one would ever think you lazy for spending some quality time sitting on the grass enjoying the weather. Maybe it’s because we never know how long the warm weather will last so we think we must make the most of it! Whatever it is that makes it more ‘acceptable’ to stop when the sun comes out, I’m all for it.

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My January, not Dry January!

If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a few less pounds in the bank and a few more on your belly than you did at the start of December. You’ll be craving your chocolate fix by 10am but cannot bear to see a mince pie again for at least another 10 months. You’ll wish you could click your fingers and have all the Christmas decorations packed away, and you’ll be confused at how you can still feel tired, even after so much time off work.

It’s a cold, gloomy and typically moist (sorry, damp, for those with a strange hatred for the ‘m’ word) month, and the next bank holiday is so far away it’s not even a dot on the horizon. So, what next? You could make a list of grand New Year’s resolutions, which according to Dr Richard Wiseman and his research team you’re only 12% likely to achieve. You could channel your inner Eeyore and mope around for the next 27 days. You could ban yourself from drinking anything containing a percentage…. ooooor instead of Dry Jan, you could try My Jan!

And I don’t actually mean mine, I mean yours. A whole month dedicated to what makes your heart happy. What might that look like?

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“So, what do you do?”

hello-i-amWe’ve all been there. That friend’s party or a networking event where you suddenly find yourself standing in a group of strangers and no-one is talking. The tumbleweed is on standby at the edge of the room, ready to roll in and make the awkwardness all the more apparent, as you wrack your brain for a good ice-breaker to avoid the uncomfortable silence. And before you know it, that gaping void of conversation has been filled with a line more classic than a Rolls-Royce. Those four words that ask “What do you do?”

It’s not the poor quality of the chat that annoys me about this question. It’s the way we all answer it by instantly giving a rather awkward description of our job. But that’s only what we do from 9-5 (ok, so more like 8-7 for most), it is not what we do as a person. It’s what pays us so we can do the rest of our life. So why, oh why, when asked this question, do we not share what we do with the rest of our time?

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Listen to the seasons – it’s time for change

Listen to the seasonsIt’s officially autumn. The leaves are turning stunning shades of reds, browns and oranges. The mornings are crisper and the evenings are arriving earlier than expected. We’re the opposite side of the year to spring and yet somehow autumn always seems like the most obvious time for change to me. Maybe I’m still in tune with the start of the new school year, but there’s something that makes autumn feel like a great time for a fresh start.

However, for many, change is not a welcomed thing. As humans, we like routine. We like to bed in a process for how we ‘do life’. And even if that means we are stuck in a mundane cycle of activity / a job we’re barely satisfied with / a relationship that’s comfortable at best, we’d still rather the familiarity of those things than the unknown alternatives. I find this fear of the unknown is why many of my clients dislike the prospect of change.

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Why I wear makeup

Why I wear makeupThere is a fabulously simple technique we use as Cognitive Hypnotherapists called anchoring. In NLP, “anchoring” is the process of associating an emotional response with a trigger, so that when applied the response can be quickly and subtly reaccessed.

This is a technique widely used by sportsmen, performers and hypnotherapy clients alike. It’s a really simple yet effective way of getting yourself into the right mindset and mode to excel at the task ahead. Often it helps you to elicit the useful feelings you felt in a positive past event, to get you “in the zone”.

If you ever take the second carriage of the due south northern line tube from East Finchley at about 8.04am on a weekday, you’ll probably see a lady with a pink handbag doing her make-up. That lady is me, and I have no qualms about doing my makeup in public. It’s an effective use of otherwise downtime, and means I have more time at home for answering client emails and having my morning coffee. From East Finchley to Euston you’ll therefore see my face go from ‘pale and slightly scary zombie’ to ‘alert and ready to face the world therapist and marketeer’. This means approximately 220 people a week may see my makeup-free or part finished face, and yet this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. And it’s not because I don’t know any of these people. I have bumped into past colleagues, old school friends, even ex boyfriends on this journey before now. So, if it’s not to look good for people I do and don’t know, why do I bother with makeup at all?

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Even the strongest trees can fall

fallen treeA tree stands tall in a forest, seemingly effortless to those around it. It thrives from being well nourished and gains goodness from looking up to the sun. Its roots provide a strong support network to ensure stability. It is not over crowded by others and has room to blossom. This tree is called Andy.

In another forest another tree stands, and though it is strong it does not stand tall for long. The forest is densely populated and the tree feels crowded. It is not well nourished and so does not have the room or the energy to look up to the sun and enjoy the beauty around it. It is troubled by many old branches that cling like problems, soaking up the last of its energy, and has no one to prune it. Its support network breaks down and eventually it falls to the ground. This tree is called Pat.

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You are not a fraud!

fraudBefore I became a hypnotherapist, back when I had an office job in PR, I so often felt like I was just biding my time until I was caught out and my employers realised I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing. I felt like a fraudster waiting to be busted. As if my days of winging it were drawing to a close.

I recall a time I was in a board room in my fancy nancy office surrounded by all the hugely ambitious power women in my company. Though I left this meeting delighted I’d just about held my own, I spent way too much of it wondering why I’d been invited and how to craft my perfectly valid contributions. If only I’d spent more time ‘in the room’ giving my input than thinking about how unworthy my input was, I’d probably have given far more bang for my buck as an employee.

Reassuringly, having had many a client and friend tell me they frequently felt the same, I knew this wasn’t unique to me. So I decided to take some time to think about this feeling, when it most typically comes and what we can do about it.

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