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How to use your brainpower to cut out fast foods

In the last blogpost, you read that it is not lack of willpower that triggers us to eat fast food. 

Fast food is designed to appeal to our inbuilt brain pathways to trigger over-eating, being over-weight, and cravings. 

You now have the knowledge to avoid the “bliss point” foods, and start improving your health and nutrition.

Today we’ll cover the next part of the healthy eating challenge – tips and hints on how to use psychology to replace fast foods with healthier and more enjoyable alternatives.

1) Break the habit

In his TED talk, Judson Brewer (1) explained that the best way to break the habit of eating fast food is to become aware of the mechanics of the craving. How do you feel just before, or when you crave fast food?

Do you feel down? Bored? Stressed? Annoyed?

Analyse the craving, and think of where it is coming from. You might need to think back to what you have been doing, thinking or feeling just before you had the craving. This analysis allows you to examine the craving from an outside viewpoint, and find other ways to relieve the feeling of being e.g. down, bored, stressed or annoyed.

2) Be aware of bliss-point foods and drinks

Bliss-point foods have been processed, with the levels of fat, sugar and salt carefully set to appeal to our brains’ reward circuits. If you think for a moment about the types of processed and fast foods that make you want to keep eating more of them, you’ll get a list of these foods!

Learn our trigger foods. If we bring a list of them to mind consciously, we can admit that they are our triggers. We know the foods that we have found difficult to resist in the past. We are all experts at denying the effect they have on us, and brushing this effect under the ‘mental carpet’!

With this knowledge, we can:-

  • Avoid them (e.g. don’t go past the fast food shop, or if we do, don’t stop!)
  • Replace them with a healthy snack or meal that is similar but homemade (e.g. oven chips instead of chip shop chips). Substitute natural foods for processed fast foods. Substitute water (with a SMALL amount of fruit juice mixed in if required) for sugary drinks including sports drinks and diet drinks.

3) Be aware of stress

Stress may induce food cravings and influence eating behaviours (2, 3, 4). Women under stress have been shown to eat significantly more calories and experience more cravings than non-stressed women (5, 6). Furthermore, stress raises your blood levels of cortisol, a hormone that can make you gain weight, especially in the belly area (7).

Using this research, we can explore the reason for our stress in a compassionate and understanding way.  

We can also use other ways to manage stress:

  • taking exercise
  • doing yoga or meditation
  • taking some deep breaths
  • talking to a friend about what’s bothering us
  • seeking professional help from an anxiety / stress specialist

4) Change your viewpoint

A study in 2013 (8) showed that when people were trained to use cognitive reappraisal when thinking of fast food, their desire for it decreased. (Cognitive reappraisal is where we alter the meaning of a situation so that our emotional response to the situation is changed). 

They were asked to view the craved food as if:

  • they were already feeling very full
  • they just saw the food item sneezed on (yuk!)
  • they could save the item for later
  • It would have a negative effect on them (stomach-ache, weight gain)

So, we can use these techniques of ‘cognitive reappraisal’ to make fast food less appealing.

6) Mindful – slower – eating

This involves eating food more slowly, and not doing other activities while we are eating. It also involves being more aware of what you are feeling emotionally and physically, and what prompts you to eat (e.g. appearance of food, craving, hunger, depression, boredom).

You may have heard of the experiment in eating a raisin (or grape) mindfully. We first pick up the raisin or grape, and look at its texture and shape. Smell it, and think of what its aroma is like. Then place it on your tongue, but don’t chew it yet. Move it around in your mouth and feel the texture. Start to chew it slowly and concentrate on the taste. As you swallow it, remain still and imagine it moving throughout your body.

Of course, we don’t have to eat all foods as slowly as this, but mindful eating involves focusing solely on the taste and texture of the food you are eating and any sensations you feel in that present moment. Mindfulness is a form of meditation, and increases the levels in our body of the anti-anxiety chemical GABA (9, 10).

So that we can concentrate on the food that we’re eating, we can switch off the TV or radio, and make eating our sole activity at the time. Eating mindfully can help us tune into our internal hunger signals and prevent them from being overridden.

Research has also found that when binge eaters practised mindful eating, it reduced binge eating episodes from 4 to 1.5 per week. It also reduced the severity of each binge (11).

So, we can practice mindful eating, concentrate on eating as our only activity when we are doing it, and pay attention to what, when and how much we’re eating.

7) Learn what we’re really eating 

Once we see what’s actually in the fast food that we are consuming, it can help us see it for what it is – processed food with chemicals added.

Many fast food outlets now provide nutritional information about the food that they sell, either in the shop or on their website.

We can look up what is in our favourite go-to snack, and get an unwelcome surprise. We may see a list including fat, sugar, salt, chemicals, and substances that sound like they have come out of a lab (they have!). 


So, in this post we have learnt that there are plenty of ways we can use our brain (or psychological methods) to avoid or decrease consumption of fast foods.

The next part of the healthy eating challenge will cover tips and hints on how to use physical methods (or what we do) to replace fast foods with healthier and more enjoyable alternatives.

© Lisa Billingham, 2020


Are you interested in a personalised weight loss program? You have the choice of the Virtual Gastric Band program (which runs over 4 sessions) or the in-depth Pathway to a Healthier You (which runs over 8 sessions).

If you would like more help with weight loss, or simply wish to find out more information, please email me (Lisa) on sunsetcoasthyp@gmail.com, or call 0403 932311. I will do my best to answer your questions, and to help you decide if I am the best therapist for you. All with no obligation.


References

  1. Brewer, J. (n.d.). A simple way to break a bad habit. TED Talks. https://embed.ted.com/talks/judson_brewer_a_simple_way_to_break_a_bad_habit
  2. Sinha, R., Gu, P., Hart, R., & Guarnaccia, J. B. (2019). Food craving, cortisol and ghrelin responses in modeling highly palatable snack intake in the laboratory. Physiology & behavior, 208, 112563. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.112563
  3. Hormes, J. M., Orloff, N. C., & Timko, C. A. (2014). Chocolate craving and disordered eating. Beyond the gender divide?. Appetite, 83, 185–193. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.08.018
  4. Sinha R. (2018). Role of addiction and stress neurobiology on food intake and obesity. Biological psychology, 131, 5–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2017.05.001
  5. Pacitti, F., Iannitelli, A., Mazza, M., Maraone, A., Zazzara, F., Roselli, V., & Bersani, G. (2011). La versione italiana dell’Attitudes to Chocolate Questionnaire: uno studio di validazione [The Italian version of the Attitudes Chocolate Questionnaire: a validation study]. Rivista di psichiatria, 46(1), 38–43. 
  6. Macedo, D. M., & Diez-Garcia, R. W. (2014). Sweet craving and ghrelin and leptin levels in women during stress. Appetite, 80, 264–270. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.05.031
  7. Tomiyama A. J. (2019). Stress and Obesity. Annual review of psychology, 70, 703–718. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-102936
  8. Giuliani, N. R., Calcott, R. D., & Berkman, E. T. (2013). Piece of cake. Cognitive reappraisal of food craving. Appetite, 64, 56–61. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2012.12.020
  9. Krishnakumar, D., Hamblin, M. R., & Lakshmanan, S. (2015). Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective. Ancient science, 2(1), 13–19. https://doi.org/10.14259/as.v2i1.171
  10. Schnepper, R., Richard, A., Wilhelm, F. H., & Blechert, J. (2019). A combined mindfulness-prolonged chewing intervention reduces body weight, food craving, and emotional eating. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 87(1), 106–111. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000361
  11. Kristeller, J. L., & Hallett, C. B. (1999). An Exploratory Study of a Meditation-based Intervention for Binge Eating Disorder. Journal of health psychology, 4(3), 357–363. https://doi.org/10.1177/135910539900400305
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Fast Food: Do You Really Need It?

How popular is fast food?

Fast food (and other sugary, fatty food) is popular in Australia and can be a leading cause of weight gain and ill-health. 

Over 9% of Australia adults and 7% of children surveyed in 2017 / 2018 consumed sugary drinks daily (1). These were not specifically from fast food outlets, but the percentage is still very high.

In 2011–12, the adults surveyed were getting 33% to 36% of their daily energy intake from foods high in kilojoules, saturated fat, added sugars, added salt and alcohol (this was between 5 to 7 serves per day on average) (1). Again, this percentage does not only include fast foods – it would also include those bought in supermarkets (frozen burgers, ice-cream, etc.)

Why do we eat fast food?

Did you know that our cravings for junk food / fast food are actually encouraged by food manufacturers? They spend an enormous number of research dollars on this! Fast food and snacks contain fat, sugar, salt and other chemicals to trick our bodies into wanting more and more, and over-riding our “stop” signals.

This effort works well, because more than 50% of people report experiencing cravings on a regular basis (3). These can be cravings for sugar, salt, fat or caffeine and can often result in weight gain, food addiction and binge eating (4).

The good news is: if you are aware of your cravings and triggers, they are much easier to avoid. It’s also a lot easier to eat healthily and lose weight.

But why is fatty, sugary, salty food so appealing to us? It goes back to the way that some manufacturers design processed food. There is a specific combination of salty, sweet and fatty flavours called the “bliss point”. Howard Moskowitz, an American market researcher, first coined this phrase and is one of the best known researchers who specialise in this area (2).

This salt, sugar and fat affects our brain in a similar way to drug addictions by triggering the reward pathways in our brain, and encouraging the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of euphoria, bliss, motivation and pleasure (5, 6, 9). This then encourages us to eat these foods again and again, due to context-dependent memory (7), as our brain remembers what made us feel good, and strives to repeat the experience by eating more of the food providing the “bliss point”, especially if we are feeling unhappy for some reason. 

Studies on rats showed that when fat or sugar was eaten separately, the rats stopped eating when they were full. However when combined in the “bliss point” ratio, the rats ate the fat and sugar containing foods “compulsively”, and   the more they consumed, the more they had to consume to get that same pleasure hit next time (8).

The specific amounts of fat, sugar and salt in foods such as crisps, chips, hot chips and fast food over-ride our natural “stop” signals. It can also include foods which we may not consider salty, fatty or sugary, but are found in fast food outlets – e.g. tomato sauce, dips, and mayonnaise.

The following diagram (6) shows how combining fat and sugar influences the pleasure that we get from eating these types of foods:- 

From: Willner, T. & Moncrieff, F. (2020). Can’t stop eating junk food? Here’s why. Second Nature. https://www.secondnature.io/guides/nutrition/cant-stop-eating-junk-food

As well as being highly engineered to trigger our dopamine response, fast food can also be highly processed and low in other nutrients.

The future

Now that you are aware of this, it can be easier to resist fast food, and save money as well as improving your health.  

So now you know that fast food eaters do not lack willpower! Fast food is using our inbuilt brain pathways to trigger over-eating, and cravings. You now have the knowledge to avoid the “bliss point” foods, and start improving your health and nutrition.

© Lisa Billingham, 2020


Are you interested in a personalised weight loss program? You have the choice of the Virtual Gastric Band program (which runs over 4 sessions) or the in-depth Pathway to a Healthier You (which runs over 8 sessions).

If you would like more help with weight loss, or simply wish to find out more information, please email me (Lisa) on sunsetcoasthyp@gmail.com, or call 0403 932311. I will do my best to answer your questions, and to help you decide if I am the best therapist for you. All with no obligation.


References

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019). Poor diet. Cat. no. PHE 249. Canberra: AIHW. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/food-nutrition/poor-diet
  2. Moss, M. (2013). The extraordinary science of junk food. New York Times, 24 February. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  3. Gendall, K. A., Joyce, P. R., & Sullivan, P. F. (1997). Impact of definition on prevalence of food cravings in a random sample of young women. Appetite, 28(1), 63–72. https://doi.org/10.1006/appe.1996.0060
  4. Gendall, K. A., Joyce, P. R., Sullivan, P. F., & Bulik, C. M. (1998). Food cravers: characteristics of those who binge. The International journal of eating disorders, 23(4), 353–360. https://doi.org/10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199805)23:4<353::aid-eat2>3.0.co;2-h
  5. Johnson, P., & Kenny, P. (2010). Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nature Neuroscience 13, 635–641. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2519
  6. Willner, T. & Moncrieff, F. (2020). Can’t stop eating junk food? Here’s why. Second Nature. https://www.secondnature.io/guides/nutrition/cant-stop-eating-junk-food
  7. Brewer, J. (n.d.). A simple way to break a bad habit. TED Talks. https://embed.ted.com/talks/judson_brewer_a_simple_way_to_break_a_bad_habit
  8. Johnson, P. M., & Kenny, P. J. (2010). Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nature neuroscience, 13(5), 635–641. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2519
  9. Ahmed, S. H., Guillem, K., & Vandaele, Y. (2013). Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 16(4), 434–439. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCO.0b013e328361c8b8
  10. Featured photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash
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Why do people say ‘Being overweight isn’t that bad for you’?

This is part of the Healthy Weight Management Series of articles, tips, blogs and videos which is available on the Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy Facebook page .

Can you be healthy while overweight?

Can you be ‘fit’ while ‘fat’?

Commenting on the idea that anyone who is overweight should lose weight, Nadja Hermann states that:

I respect anyone’s decision to set other priorities and happily accept being overweight or obese. Just because you can change a situation, it doesn’t mean you must. That said, it’s important for that decision to be an informed one (1).

Nadja Hermann, The Guardian, 5 January 2019

Does being overweight directly affect your quality of life? It may not be apparent until a few years have passed. But just because the effects of being overweight are not showing doesn’t mean that they are not there.

Girl sitting on top of mountain with arms outstretched

Research studies on effect of weight on health

One study analysed data from healthy and overweight people (2) to find the long-term consequences of obesity with the specific aim of examining so-called “healthily obese” people. A comparison of healthy people (with normal weight) and healthy (but obese) people showed the obese group had a significantly higher risk of dying or developing cardiovascular disease. The conclusion was therefore that the belief you can be “fat but fit” is just a myth.

Another study (3) followed ‘healthy’ obese subjects over 20 years and found that their risk of becoming ill was eight times higher than that of the healthy normal weight group. The risks included diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, sleep apnoea, arthritis/joint problems, fertility problems, asthma, back pain, incontinence, gout and stroke. Over half of the ‘healthy’ obese subjects became unhealthy during the 20 year period.

Excess weight can also make you more susceptible to sleep apnea, joint pain, and arthritis and increase your resistance to insulin, which can lead to diabetes (5).

A paper published online on March 16, 2018, by the European Heart Journal studied almost 300,000 people (normal weight, overweight, or obese) without heart disease. After four years, there was a direct correlation between higher body mass index (BMI) and a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure (5).

In fact, they discovered that the risk increases the more fat a person carries around his or her waist. Within the study, those men who started with a 32-inch waist and a BMI between 22 and 23 (which is considered healthy), and those who added five inches to their waist size raised their heart disease risk by 16%(5). (BMI is calculated by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in metres squared).

It is also worth stating that the BMI may not be accurate for those who are muscular, of short stature, or elderly. For instance, someone who is 5 feet 10 inches and 220 pounds with 12% body fat would be considered obese based on BMI standards. Obviously, someone with 12% body fat is not obese (6).

A study in the Feb. 28, 2018, JAMA Cardiology found that the longer you are overweight, the shorter your life. Middle-aged men (average age 46) who stayed overweight shortened their lives by almost six years compared with those who maintained a normal weight.

It is important to be realistic about our physical fitness, both so that we don’t injure ourselves, but also so that we have a realistic idea of how far we need to go if we want to become fit. In 2013, USA leader of the fat-acceptance movement, Ragen Chastain,  completed a marathon and published an article about it (4). She covered just over 40km in 12 hours and 20 minutes. Her average speed of less than 3.5km (2.2 miles) an hour is much slower than normal walking speed. The marathon had officially ended hours before she crossed the finishing line – the stands removed, the organisers gone. The last participant to complete the race, several hours before Chastain, was a woman in her 70s.

According to the National Institutes of Health’s 1998 report, Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, people who are overweight can be considered healthy if their waist size is less than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, and if they have no more than one of the following conditions:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • High cholesterol

However, they should not gain additional weight and preferably should lose some weight (6).

Steven Blair, of the Cooper Institute in Dallas,  says that people who are obese but fit (according to cardiovascular measurement such as stress tests) have death rates half that of normal-weight people who are unfit. In addition, improving your fitness level usually results in increased muscle mass, which means your body burns more calories all the time (6).

The good news is that if you take off the excess weight, many of the health issues listed above are reversible, even with just a modest amount of weight loss, according to Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of preventive cardiology at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (5).

Healthy eating and regular exercise are good for your health whether or not they lead to weight loss. Losing as little as 5%-10% of body weight is linked to improved cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. Improving your habits — especially eating more healthfully and getting regular exercise — are more important than the numbers on the scale(6).


Are you interested in a personalised weight loss program? You have the choice of the Virtual Gastric Band program (which runs over 4 sessions) or the in-depth Pathway to a Healthier You (which runs over 8 sessions).

If you would like more help with weight loss, or simply wish to find out more information, please email me (Lisa) on sunsetcoasthyp@gmail.com, or call 0403 932311. I will do my best to answer your questions, and to help you decide if I am the best therapist for you. All with no obligation.


References

(1) https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/05/truth-obesity-five-fat-myths-debunked

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24297192

(3) http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/65/1/101

(4) https://danceswithfat.org/2013/12/03/my-big-fat-finished-marathon/

(5) https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-you-be-overweight-and-still-be-fit

(6) https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/can-you-be-fit-fat

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Sneaky ways to be successful at losing weight

This is part of the Healthy Weight Management Series of articles, tips, blogs and videos which is available on the Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy Facebook page .

Why do some people find weight loss so easy?

We all probably know someone who can lose weight fairly easily if they gain a few kilos over the party season. They just put their mind to eating healthier foods, restrict their intake of sugar and fat for a while, maybe exercise a bit more……… and they are back to their ideal weight. They really don’t understand the experience that most people have when they try to lose weight! (1)

However, genetics can play a part in how people find it easy to maintain a healthy weight. If your body takes fewer calories to operate, then you could eat the same as a thinner person, and still have calories or kilojoules left over (which are stored as fat). In addition, as you lose weight, your body takes even fewer calories to maintain your new (lighter) weight, and so your weight may plateau.

What factors can affect weight loss?

Did you know that our cravings for junk food / fast food are actually encouraged by food manufacturers? They spend an unspecified number of research dollars on this! Fast food and snacks contain fat, sugar, salt and other chemicals to trick our bodies into wanting more and more, and over-riding our “stop” signals.

The good news is: if you are aware of your cravings and triggers, they are much easier to avoid. It’s also a lot easier to eat healthily and lose weight.

But why is fatty, sugary, salty food so appealing to us? It goes back to the way that some manufacturers design processed food. There is a specific combination of salty, sweet and fatty flavours called the “bliss point”. Howard Moskowitz, an American market researcher, first coined this phrase and is one of the best known researchers who specialise in this area (2).

This salt, sugar and fat affects our brain in a similar way to drug addictions by triggering the reward pathways in our brain, and encouraging the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of euphoria, bliss, motivation and pleasure (3, 4, 5). This then encourages us to eat these foods again and again, due to context-dependent memory (6), as our brain remembers what made us feel good, and strives to repeat the experience by eating more of the food providing the “bliss point”, especially if we are feeling unhappy for some reason. 

To make weight loss even more interesting, dieting can cause neurological changes that make you more likely to notice fatty and sugary food than before dieting.(7) It is also harder to ignore the food, as the same brain changes make the food taste better, and give a bigger rush of dopamine (which make us feel great).  Dieting also changes hormones, as leptin (a satiety hormone) goes down, which makes the dieter feel more hungry. Dieting may also affect thinking (8) including self-control (9)

Stress (including lack of sleep) may also make high fat, high sugar foods more attractive to you (10, 11).

So, what are some tips to improve these factors so that we can reach a healthy weight?

  • Realise that factors outside your control (e.g. genetics) may play a part in your weight.
  • Ensure that you are eating sufficient food to satisfy you. It does not need to be fatty or sugary food – fill up on vegetables and some fruit. See Australian dietary guidelines (12) for more information.
  • Decrease stress. We are all subject to stress in daily life, but there are numerous methods of decreasing it, either on the spot when a stressful event happens, or lowering our response to stress in general so we are less likely to react (13).
  • Take action to sleep better (if it is an issue for you) (11, 14).

© Lisa Billingham, 2020.


Are you interested in a personalised weight loss program? You have the choice of the Virtual Gastric Band program (which runs over 4 sessions) or the in-depth Pathway to a Healthier You (which runs over 8 sessions)?

If you are interested in finding out more about these or the other help available, please give me (Lisa) a call on 0403 932311.

We can have a chat to answer any of your questions, and to help you decide if I am the best therapist for you. All with no obligation.


References

  1. Mann, T. (2018). Why diets fail. Thin people don’t understand this crucial truth about losing weight. Quartz. https://qz.com/1169082/thin-people-dont-understand-this-crucial-truth-about-losing-weight/
  2. Moss, M. (2013). The extraordinary science of junk food. New York Times, 24 February. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  3. Johnson, P., Kenny, P. (2010). Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats. Nature Neuroscience 13, 635–641. https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.2519
  4. Willner, T. and Moncrieff, F. (2020). Can’t stop eating junk food? Here’s why. Second Nature. https://www.secondnature.io/guides/nutrition/cant-stop-eating-junk-food
  5. Ahmed, S. H., Guillem, K., & Vandaele, Y. (2013). Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 16(4), 434–439. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCO.0b013e328361c8b8
  6. Brewer, J. (n.d.). A simple way to break a bad habit. TED Talks. https://embed.ted.com/talks/judson_brewer_a_simple_way_to_break_a_bad_habit
  7. Stice, E., Burger, K., and Yokum, S. (2013). Caloric deprivation increases responsivity of attention and reward brain regions to intake, anticipated intake, and images of palatable foods. NeuroImage, 67, 322-330. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.11.028
  8. Green, M. W., & Rogers, P. J. (1995). Impaired cognitive functioning during spontaneous dieting. Psychological Medicine25(5), 1003–1010.  https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291700037491
  9. Kemps, E., Tiggemann, M., and Marshall, K. (2005). Relationship between dieting to lose weight and the functioning of the central executive. Appetite, 45 (3), 287-294. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2005.07.002
  10. Ambardekar, N. (2019). Why can’t I lose weight? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/why-cant-i-lose-weight#1
  11. Mosley, M. (2017). Michael Mosley: how to have a better night’s sleep. Radio Times. https://www.radiotimes.com/news/2017-05-11/michael-mosley-how-to-have-a-better-nights-sleep/
  12. National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines-publications/n55
  13. Billingham, L. (2019). Benefits of relaxation and how to do it. Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy blog. https://sunsetcoasthypnotherapy.com.au/2019/03/26/benefits-of-relaxation-and-how-to-do-it/
  14. National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.) What to do when you can’t sleep. SleepFoundation.org https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/treatment/what-do-when-you-cant-sleep

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Do media reports make you stressed and anxious?

Introduction

We live in an increasingly connected world. We have 24-hour news from multiple sources – country-specific (e.g. Australian Broadcasting Corporation or ABC in Australia), and international (e.g. CNN). We can obtain the latest news on any situation from multiple viewpoints at any time we wish.

Many people have been following the progress – rise and fall – of COVID-19 cases across the world since the beginning of 2020. Prior to this, we had multiple reports of terrorist attacks in various countries of the world. Recent news has also shown loss of life and multiple injuries through various activities. There is also regular news coverage of local events that cause concern, such as fighting, shootings, and other crime.

We all can get upset and disturbed by news reports, and it is reasonable to feel stress and anxiety when we hear of such events. One of the reasons that bad news affects us so much is because it is potentially threatening to us, and can make us feel that we are losing control in our lives. Stress, anxiety and concern are normal reactions to events which affect us.

How to take back control

One of the ways we can minimise the effect of such news is to take back control of how we react to the news, and take back control of our lives by making positive changes.

Here are some tips to help you decrease anxiety:-

    • Change your perspective. John Tsilimparis, Director of the Anxiety and Panic Disorder Center of Los Angeles, suggests that people with elevated anxiety feel distressed when they are not in control. The solution to this is to concentrate on controlling what you can within your own life, and focus on what is happening to your loved ones and your life, rather than worrying about what may be happening elsewhere in the world which you cannot control.
    • Focus on the things that you can control. Tsilimparis suggests gaining a wider perspective – like a movie director widening the camera lens to see more of the picture (rather than focusing on just your concern, also focus on positive events happening around you).
    • Realise that life is not black and white. Your neighbourhood or country is not either totally safe or totally unsafe, and just because a crime has been reported on the media does not necessarily mean that your neighbourhood has become unsafe. Consider the likelihood of the event you fear actually occurring, and you may find that it is much lower than you first thought.
    • Realise that bad news is popular in the media. The proportion of good news to bad news does not equal the proportion of good and bad in the world. In addition, news reports are often accompanied by images which show the events in great detail, which can cause further distress. Much more negative news is reported than good news, and there are many positive events which are not reported.

    • Be aware of “fake news”. A report by the University of Canberra (1) found that Australian worry more than the global average about whether what they read is true or not. 62% of Australian news consumers say they are worried about what is real or fake on the internet, which is much higher than the global average (55%).  26% of Australians interviewed for the report said they have started to use more reliable sources of news, and 22% said they have stopped using unreliable sources.
    • Limit exposure to news. 28% of Australians interviewed (1) said they are worn out by the volume of news. Most (88%) of those who are worn out by news, also avoid it. Listening or watching the same negative news repeatedly throughout the day may make you feel worse, so limit your exposure. This may involve turning off the automatic news alert on your mobile device, or only checking your device at specific times throughout the day. This could be during your coffee breaks, or at breakfast or lunch. Try to limit exposure to news directly before bedtime, as this can prey on your mind and keep you awake.
    • Talk about your concerns. This can be to relatives, friends, work colleagues, or even strangers. This may allow you to get a different perspective on the issue, help normalize your feelings, and reassure you. It may even lead to positive action to help the issue (see next point below).
    • Get involved in helping your local community. As an example, if you hear that there is a problem with kids drinking too much alcohol in your neighbourhood, you could get involved with a group (or start a group) to educate children about the dangers of alcohol.
    • Express your emotions. Gail Saltz uses a metaphor for emotions of a beach ball that you are holding under water. Your arms will eventually become tired, and the moment that you tire and stop pressing down on the beach ball, it pops up. She states that emotions are like that – it takes a lot of energy to keep them hidden, and the moment that you stop suppressing them, they resurface. It is always better to address what you are thinking and feeling rather than suppress it.
    • Consider if the reported event will have an effect on you. In today’s world we hear of many events which are distressing, but do not directly affect us, and which we may be unable to change. However, if you allow yourself to be overly concerned by these events, it can lead to ‘catastrophising’, which in turn leads to emotional upset due to the connection between emotions and thoughts. If you decide that you cannot influence an event, and it is not directly affecting you, then do not worry about it.
    • Dispute your beliefs. Become aware of your thoughts, and examine them calmly. If you have an anxiety-producing thought, examine it as if ‘from the outside’ and say to yourself “Here I am – thinking anxious, emotional thoughts again. I am going to assess the situation in a calm manner”.
    • Look after yourself. Watch your eating habits, and continue to take the time to prepare healthy food and eat regular meals. Take regular exercise, as exercise has been proven to have a positive effect on mood.
    • Use meditation or mindfulness. If you find it difficult to sleep, you could use meditation, or mindfulness techniques. Try to go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time each day, as this assists good sleep. It is important to take time to relax, as this will assist you in thinking and reasoning logically about what you may hear in the media.

    • Seek professional help. If you find that despite following the above tips that you are still feeling anxious, you may wish to seek professional help. Professional hypnotherapists can help you work out how to overcome your anxiety by taking an objective and neutral viewpoint, and teach practical strategies that will assist you.

Without a doubt, reported events can absolutely cause anxiety. They take away a sense of control, but by shifting our perspective, we can gain control and decrease anxiety.

As a qualified hypnotherapist, I am trained to assist you with anxiety originating from any situation in your life in a confidential, supportive, non-judgmental way. If you want to know how hypnotherapy can help you deal more effectively with your anxiety feel free to give me a call on 0403 932311 or email sunsetcoasthyp@gmail.com to arrange a no-obligation chat.

References

  1. Fisher, C., Park, S., Lee, J., Fuller, G., Sang, Y. (2019) Digital News Report: Australia 2019. Canberra: News and Media Research Centre. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
  2. Peterson, T.J. (2016) What to Do When Current Events Cause Anxiety. HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
  3. Saltz, J. (2016) How to Manage Your Anxiety Over the Never-Ending Stream of Bad News. Health. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.
  4. Tartakovsky, M. (2018)  Overcoming Anxiety in Today’s Tough, Tuned-in, Plugged-in World. Psych Central. Retrieved on 6 June 2020.

+ woman sitting on couch near window

How to look after your mental health post-lockdown

For most people, the world has changed since the end of 2019. 

We all stayed at home (except for essential trips to the supermarket, and for healthcare). Those with vulnerable health conditions, and the elderly, may have remained in their homes and not ventured out at all. All of this was to keep ourselves safe, but also to safeguard the community in general.

A “new” normal was created of working and socialising via Zoom and Skype, or phoning friends rather than meeting in person. This initially made some people feel anxious and uncertain.

Now, the good news is that many governments are starting to ease restrictions to get the economy, employment and society back to something approaching the “old” normal. It should also help the high levels of anxiety, stress and other mental health problems seen during the lockdown.

But the coronavirus is still with us, and many people may still have fear and anxiety around leaving home, and meeting people again. This has created new words – e.g. “corono-phobia” and “corona-paranoia”– related to the fear and stress of returning to normality. It can be thought of as post-lockdown anxiety – anxiety about further change while COVID-19 is still with us.

If you’re anxious, you’re not alone. Researchers at the Black Dog Institute (1) surveyed more than 5,000 Australian adults during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. They found one in four were very or extremely worried about contracting COVID-19; about half were worried about their loved ones contracting it.

Researchers from Australian National University (ANU) (2) surveyed Australian adults at the end of March, about a week after restaurants and cafes first closed, and with gatherings restricted to two people, and found levels of depression and anxiety were much higher than usual in the community.

They found that the social and financial disruption caused by the restrictions had a much more marked effect than fear of exposure to the coronavirus itself. 

It’s important to realise that these feelings are reasonable. The world has been through rapid change in the past few months. Very few people alive today have experienced anything like this pandemic, and the actions taken to manage it. However, the good news is that we can adapt to change, and there are several ideas and activities that we can do that will help this adaption.

The ANU survey (2) found that restrictions also benefited some of the people surveyed. Around two-thirds of people listed at least one positive impact coronavirus has had on them, such as spending more time with family. 

A recent survey by mental health charity Anxiety UK (3) on more than 700 people in the UK found that the prospect of lockdowns lifting caused more than two-thirds of people to experience an increase in anxiety levels. 

After being inside for a long time, it is naturally going to feel strange and challenging for people to start to return to their pre-pandemic routine. It’s essential therefore that additional support is made available for this group of people.

Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of Anxiety UK

For most people, anxiety about the easing of restrictions will only be temporary.

But how do you know if your fears of coronavirus are out of control? And what can you do about it?

Signs that anxiety is out of control

Your anxiety may be out of control if you notice:

  • your fears are out of proportion to the actual danger (for instance, you’re young with no underlying health issues but wear a mask and gloves to the park for your daily exercise where it’s easy to social distance)
  • the fear and anxiety is intense and persistent (lasting weeks to months)
  • it’s hard to stop worrying about coronavirus
  • you’re actively avoiding situations (for instance, places, people, activities) even when they’re safe
  • you’re spending a lot of your time monitoring your body for signs and symptoms, or searching the internet about the virus
  • you’ve become overly obsessive about cleaning, washing, and decontaminating.
  • you’re avoiding seeking medical care due to fear of contracting coronavirus
  • you’re debilitated with fear

Post-Lockdown Anxiety

This can include:-

  • worry about increased risk of catching the virus through returning to usual activities – using public transport, meeting people face-to-face, going shopping, returning to work, etc.
  • worry about how to do activities you haven’t done for several months – e.g. cooking and entertaining guests, getting up early to reach work in time, sales meetings with prospective clients
  • activities that used to be stressful, but that you haven’t done for a while – e.g. working in the office under the watchful eye of the boss, driving to work in the rush hour, having less control of your work day due to frequent interruptions in the office
  • sensory overload – e.g. traffic, noise, people chatting on the train and in the office

These activities may be worse for someone who was feeling anxious about them before the coronavirus situation. Ironically, living in ‘lockdown’ may have been positive for such people (e.g. those with social anxiety or fear of germs), as they could avoid activities that caused anxiety. They may also have to become ‘desensitised’ to outside / social activities all over again.

The ANU survey (5) found around half of Australians were at least moderately concerned about becoming infected with COVID-19 as restrictions eased.

If you are anxious about leaving your home, you may be wondering if you have developed agoraphobia. Agoraphobia (6) is a fear of or worry about having a panic attack in a place that you can’t escape from, like public transport, crowds or queues. It can include a fear of being in open spaces, enclosed spaces, or anywhere where help would not be available if you had a panic attack.

However, if the above paragraph does not apply to you, and you fear leaving home or feel uncomfortable in public spaces because of the risk of infection with COVID-19, it is more likely that you have anxiety around life after lockdown.

Tips for people who are feeling anxious

  1. Use the skills and techniques that have worked previously for you. If you have experienced anxiety previously, you will know which techniques work for you. Use them! You can also try any new techniques that you feel could help you, but start with the tried and tested techniques.
  2. Practice mindfulness.
  3. Take regular exercise.
  4. Make sure you are getting sufficient sleep. No-one feels good if they are tired!
  5. Reassure yourself that it will get better. For most people, the anxiety will get better as the threat of COVID-19 passes. If anxiety doesn’t go away, it can be treated
  6. Control the media you read and listen to, and how much time you spend on it. Some media outlets are more sensational than others. Choose to pay attention to (read / watch / listen to) media which has balanced coverage. Don’t spend too long on this – checking once a day is probably enough. If there is an important COVID-19 development meanwhile, you will hear about it from a friend or relative!
  7. Think logically about the risk. Over 90% of people infected with coronavirus in Australia have already recovered. The number of cases is also still extremely low in Australia. Even in countries with higher rates of COVID-19, the numbers are generally coming down.
  8. Do not concentrate on your body. When we pay too much attention to our bodies, it can make us notice things we wouldn’t normally notice – aches and pains etc., which then makes us more anxious.
  9. Take things slowly, at your own pace. You do not have to jump into activities “with both feet”. Don’t feel that you need to restart doing all that you used to do. Take it one activity at the time. Maybe start going for a takeaway coffee and walk with your friends twice a week for a few weeks, then re-start going to the gym, then start inviting friends back to your home after a few more weeks, etc.
  10. Focus on what you can control. This can be by choosing some activities from this list, and using them to improve your health.
  11. Follow government advice. This relates to social distancing, hand washing, etc. For Australians, this advice can be found here and is usually included in daily news bulletins on various TV and radio stations.
  12. Get help. Seek advice from your GP, psychologist or a hypnotherapist who specialises in anxiety. There are also community services like LifelineSANE Australia, or Beyond Blue. There are plenty of programs to help with anxiety.

References

  1. Newby, J., O’Moore, K., Tang, S., Christensen, H., Faasse K. (2020). Acute mental health responses during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. British Medical Journal preprint. Available here.
  2. The Australian National COVID-19 Mental Health, Behaviour and Risk Communication Survey. Available here.
  3. Coronaphobia and life after lockdown – Anxiety UK [Internet]. Anxiety UK. 2020 [cited 18 May 2020]. Available here
  4. Anxiety UK survey indicates a further rise in anxiety levels can be expected with easing of lockdown restrictions – Anxiety UK [Internet]. Anxiety UK. 2020 [cited 18 May 2020]. Available here.
  5. Dawel, A., Newman, E., and McCallum, S. (2020). Coronavirus lockdown made many of us anxious. But for some people, returning to ‘normal’ might be scarier. Available here.
  6. HealthDirect. Agoraphobia. Available here.
  7. Newby, J. and Werner-Seidler, A. (2020). 7 ways to manage your #coronaphobia. Available here.
  8. Butterly, A. (2020). Coronavirus anxiety: How to cope with life after lockdown. Available here.
  9. YourMD. (2020). Post-lockdown life: How to look after your physical and mental health. Available here.
+ closeup of cigarette butt

Ditch your smoking habit

Some habits masquerade as our friends, but they are in fact our enemies!

It is sometimes hard to recognise these ‘so-called friends’, as they are so clever at appearing to be useful and attractive in our lives.

Just suppose that you had a friend who offered to:-

  • console you when you are depressed
  • keep you company when you are bored
  • calm you when you are stressed
  • keep you company when you go to social events
  • help you feel confident
  • always be available when you need them

Pretty good friend, aren’t they? Who would not want a friend like that?

However…after they have been your friend for a few years, you might realise that they have been:-

  • worsening your health (affecting your lungs, making you more likely to get diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, etc.)
  • costing you money
  • making you look older than you really are
  • limiting where you can go to socialise (if you want to interact with them)
  • affecting your appearance
  • shortening your lifespan

Ugh! Not such a great friend after all. You wouldn’t put up with this from a human friend, so why put up with it from smoking?

There is evidence that smokers are generally more likely to get respiratory tract infections, like chest infections, and there is evidence that they may be at higher risk of COVID-19 and its complications. People with poor lung health and other conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancer (which can be caused by smoking) are also at higher risk of complications if they do become infected with the virus (1)

Smoking (cigarettes and e-cigarettes) also involves putting your hand to your mouth repeatedly, so smokers may be more vulnerable to COVID-19, as they are touching their face and mouth more often. It’s not known for sure, but it’s also possible the vapour from e-cigarettes may be able to spread the virus (either in the air or as it settles on surfaces). Sharing any type of tobacco or smoking product (for example, cigarettes, e-cigarettes or shisha/waterpipes) can also increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 (1).

The Australian federal government has also increased tobacco excise by 12.5% EVERY YEAR since 2013 (2). This applies to both cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.

Cigarettes now cost around $1 each, $20 for a packet of 20 cigarettes, meaning that an average 40 per day smoker will spend $280 per week or $14,600 per year – the cost of a modest house mortgage – on something that is doing them harm.

Retrain your subconscious mind

This is easy to do –  by breaking the beliefs, associations and triggers related to the smoking, and replacing them with what you want to do instead.

cigarette

Make today the day that you take action to ditch smoking.

In a hypnotherapy session we will uncover the reasons why you started the habit, and why it has continued. We will then plan the new healthy alternative behaviour that you want to do instead, and create positive suggestions to reinforce your desired new feeling, thoughts and behaviour.

Easy and successful therapy

The vast majority of clients do not have any smoking withdrawal symptoms, and they report that they are extremely pleased and proud that they have stopped.

If you are wondering what a hypnotherapy session is like, please see my other blogpost.

Why should I use hypnotherapy instead of the other methods for quitting smoking?

About 90% of people who try to quit use “cold turkey”, although only 5 – 7% succeed with this method. (3)

If you use patches or gum to come off cigarettes, you are still taking the nicotine into your body. Hypnotherapy allows you to break the beliefs and psychological habit of smoking, and to take back control of your behaviour. As part of the hypnotherapy, we will work together to create positive statements which you can use to sustain your success as a non-smoker.

“Hypnosis is the most effective way of giving up smoking, according to the largest ever scientific comparison of ways of breaking the habit.” (4)

Published in New Scientist

Hypnotherapy allows you to break the beliefs and psychological habit of smoking, and expecting to smoke in specific situations. Hypnotherapy will enable you to get back in control by talking to your subconscious mind and breaking the link between smoking and apparent happiness. As part of the hypnotherapy, you can create positive statements which you can use to sustain your success.

References

  1. Quit Coronavirus (COVID-19) and smoking
  2. Piotrowski, D. (2019). Cigarettes soar to $35 a pack after a sneaky 12.5% tax hike – and you won’t believe how much a smoker now spends each year on their habit. Daily Mail
  3. WebMD Ways to quit smoking
  4. Matthews, R. (1992). How one in five have given up smoking. New Scientist, vol. 136, issue 1845.

© 2020 Lisa Billingham, Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy

+ Koala asleep in tree

Self-care – you’re worth it!

In the first blogpost on this topic, we covered some ideas for how to start some self-care.

In today’s post, we will be touching on the fact that you’re worth it! Its worth spending time and resources on self-care. You deserve to focus on your own needs.

In fact, it’s good for those you love when you take care of yourself. You truly can’t fill another’s cup if your own is empty. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to emphasise why its worth caring for yourself, and encourage you to do so in every area of your life.

Mental health is recognised as extremely important during this COVID-19 situation. The Australian Government is also spending $74 million over 2019-20 and 2020-21 on mental health services (1).

It’s Necessary

First and foremost, you must understand that taking time to care for yourself is not selfish in any way. Your needs are just as important as the needs of others. If you do not feel like this, overcoming this mindset is essential to allowing yourself to adequately meet your own needs. Care isn’t a zero-sum concept. When you care for yourself, it doesn’t have to mean you don’t care about others.

Self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. It really is like the airplane air mask instructions. You have to ensure you can breathe before you can help those around you. If you’re tired, rundown and overwhelmed all the time, you absolutely cannot give your best self to others. You also can’t offer yourself the very best. Remember that self-care isn’t selfish.

Take a Time Out

Sometimes just a little bit of alone time is all you need to feel rejuvenated. So why not give yourself a time out? Lock yourself in your room with a nice cup of tea. Listen to some quiet music. Just sit still and think for a bit. It’s a luxury we all can afford.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, journaling can be a very therapeutic activity. Jotting down what you’re grateful for has been proven to be beneficial to well-being. It can also be energizing to simply do a brain dump in which you write down all the things that are floating around in your head. Jotting down dreams for the future might inspire and motivate you to take action. Give it a try.

You’re Worth Spending Time On – All The Time

We often feel pressured to be productive all the time. Being busy is a sign of worth and accomplishment. However, it really doesn’t have to be that way. Just kicking back and doing nothing is important to recharging our batteries. Let yourself have some down time to do something frivolous like binge on your favorite Netflix show, take a nap or just sit and pet your cat. You deserve it.

It Sets a Good Example

If you’re a parent, investing in self-care is not only good for you, it sets a good example for your kids. Even if you don’t have children, taking the time to care for yourself might be inspiring or motivational for those around you. In order for a stigma to end, it has to be normalized. When more of us let the world around us know why self-care matters, they may begin to change their minds about the concept, as well.

It Demands Respect

It also sets a precedent for how you expect others to treat you. When you demonstrate that you value yourself and that you find worth investing time in yourself, they will respond in kind. Learning to say no and set boundaries is good for your relationships. It teaches others how you expect to be treated and makes it clear that you see yourself as a priority. There’s no reason to feel guilty for that.

Society can send mixed messages – “take care of others”, “don’t be selfish” – and these may have been internalised. With practice, you can come to see the benefits of self-care!


If you would like some help with improving work performance and confidence, or simply wish to find out more information, please phone 0403 932311 or email me (Lisa) on sunsetcoasthyp@gmail.com.au. I will do my best to answer any of your questions. All with no obligation.


References

  1. Australian Government Department of Health. (2020). Fact sheet – Coronavirus (COVID-19) National Health Plan. https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/covid-19-national-health-plan-supporting-the-mental-health-of-australians-through-the-coronavirus-pandemic.pdf
  2. Barth, F.D. (2019). Self-Care Is Important: Why Is It So Hard to Practice? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-couch/201905/self-care-is-important-why-is-it-so-hard-practice
  3. Nazish, N. (2017). Practicing Self-Care Is Important: 10 Easy Habits To Get You Started. Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/payout/2017/09/19/practicing-self-care-is-important-10-easy-habits-to-get-you-started/#5526a6b9283a

© 2020 Lisa Billingham
Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy
Perth, Western Australia

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Self-care – its easy!

This is part 1 of a 2-part series on this topic.

Beneficial habits like self-care often go by the wayside during stressful times. And many people have been finding the past few months stressful with e.g. working from home, maybe being temporarily stood down from their job, or having to change their exercise and social routines.

It can be more difficult to focus on what you need to do during these times. The fact is, though, that you still need to take care of yourself.

One way to have a self-care toolkit to help you out during these instances. Having a list of self-care routines can make it easier for you to implement them when needed. There are some other techniques you can employ to get you through these interesting times, too – see below.

Lots of people get the wrong idea about self-care. They feel like it’s splurging to do something good for yourself. It can seem extravagant. I’d like to disagree with that mindset. Self-care is something you deserve. Everyone does. It benefits us all, along with those around us, when we put our own well-being at the forefront. You can’t take care of others – at home or at work – when your own well-being is being neglected. Let’s take a look at some free and low-cost ways you can care for yourself.

Make a List

Let’s start with your self-care backup plan. This is a list of at least five activities you can easily fit in your life during the most stressful periods. Having such a reminder on hand will let you gain the benefits of caring for yourself without having to think about it too much.

This list can include simple reminders like:

  • go to bed early so you get enough sleep,
  • eat nourishing food to keep your energy up or
  • ask for help you need it

These are all things you might forget when you’ve got a lot of responsibility and change on your plate. During these times, the basic foundations of self-care can be the most important. I wrote about some of these in an earlier blogpost.

Make a Care Package

Another way to boost your chances of keeping self-care at the focus during hard times is to prepare a care package ahead of time. This can include some of your favorite little indulgences like a good book, herbal teas, facial mask, fuzzy slippers and classical CD. Include anything that brings you joy. Being able to reach for this package when you’re stressed can mean the world and make a huge difference to your outlook.

Involve Your Support Network

It’s a good idea to reach out to trusted friends and family now to enlist their help for the future.

Talk to your closest confidantes and let them know you would like them to always encourage your self-care routine. Share with them the benefits it’s provided you and tell them you’d appreciate their assistance if they see you aren’t caring for yourself as well as you should be. They may even copy a few tips that you can give them! Sometimes those who know us best can see things we don’t. When your friends and family know to look out for you in this regard, they can reinforce your self-care needs during times of stress.

Reach Out to Someone

Socialising is a crucial part of self-care. Even introverts benefit from interpersonal connection. Humans aren’t meant to be isolated. Pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Sit down and Zoom or Skype with your favourite friend. Meeting up in person for a walk together or a cup of coffee is even better. Connecting to others might just provide the spark you’ve been missing. It’s easier to do this now that COVID-19 restrictions on socialising have eased in many locations.

Change Your Perspective

A change of scenery can be a wonderful source of renewal, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot. Just heading out to walk in your neighborhood might help when you’re feeling fed up in your home. You’ll be surprised what this change of perspective can do for you.

While these are just a few of the countless ways you can indulge in self-care without spending much money, perhaps they’re just the jumpstart you need to begin exploring this concept. You truly do deserve to spend time, energy and effort on your own well-being.

Taking steps to plan now can make maintaining your self-care routine easier in the future. Always remember it’s during the hardest times that you need to nurture yourself the most.

Next week, I’ll be focussing on reinforcing that you deserve self-care. See you then!

References

  1. Barth, F.D. (2019). Self-Care Is Important: Why Is It So Hard to Practice? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/the-couch/201905/self-care-is-important-why-is-it-so-hard-practice
  2. Nazish, N. (2017). Practicing Self-Care Is Important: 10 Easy Habits To Get You Started. Forbes.com. https://www.forbes.com/sites/payout/2017/09/19/practicing-self-care-is-important-10-easy-habits-to-get-you-started/#5526a6b9283a

© 2020 Lisa Billingham
Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy
Perth, Western Australia

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Change how you talk to yourself – beating procrastination – 4

This is the fourth post about how to beat procrastination. If you would like to read the other blogposts on this topic, the first one is available here, the second here and the third here.

Something we haven’t talked about yet is that little voice in our head that either encourages us to go do something else – thus procrastinating, or the other one… the critical one… the one that tells us how much we suck because we didn’t get the things done we set out to do. 

How to tame the little voice in your head

Why is it important to listen to those voices? Because they have an impact on your life both on a conscious and a subconscious level. Let’s start with that negative voice because I think in the long run it’s the most destructive of the two.

Back in the first post of this series on beating procrastination we talked about the importance of forgiving yourself. To quickly recap, it does you no good to beat yourself up over past procrastination and that you should expect to “fail” by procrastinating again here and there. Nobody is perfect. We all have good days and bad days. The important part is to show up and try your best. 

That little negative voice in your head doesn’t help you do that. Become aware of it and when you hear it, defuse it. You can do this by:-

  • responding to it out loud or in writing (via a journal)
  • getting up and doing something else. Do whatever it takes to silence that voice. A great option is to prove it wrong by doing something productive. Over time that voice will speak up less and less unless you indulge it by paying attention to it and letting it ruin your day. 
  • be wary of substituting activities. Tackle the voice in your head that tells you it’s much more fun to do just about anything other than what you should be doing. We all have that voice. It’s why we come up with terms like procrasti-cleaning, and procrasti-crafting. (I used to love procrasti-ironing during exam preparation time – it just became so attractive). We can get pretty innovative when it comes to doing anything but the thing we don’t want to work on and that little voice is feeding us suggestions and cheering us on. 
  • use “yes, and” statements. “Yes, playing video games sounds like a lot of fun and I’m going to play for an hour or so after I get this task done.” Use the suggestions this voice gives you as bribes if they sound like something fun. Ignore them otherwise, or put them off until tomorrow. 

Summary of how to beat procrastination

Well, we are coming to the end of our series on how to get out of your lounge-chair and finally beat procrastination. I hope you’ve been following along and more importantly that you’ve been making progress on at least one of the things you’ve been procrastinating on. We end today with the most important piece of advice and the main lesson I want you to take away from all this. 

Make progress every single day! 

Of course that’s easier said than done. That’s why I’m leaving you today with three simple secrets or strategies to help you. Give them a try and see if you can’t get into the habit of being productive every day instead of procrastinating. 

Secret 1: Plan For It 

It’s easy to make progress every day when you know exactly what you should be working on next. Make a plan and then decide what you will do each day of the week. Write it down in a planner and adjust daily as needed. In the morning, you can see at a glance what it is you should be doing. Then get to work on it first thing before the day gets away from you. I find it helpful to have my planner sitting right in front of me at my desk, keeping me on track. 

Secret 2: Don’t Break The Chain 

There’s something to be said about a chain or a streak. Record every day you don’t procrastinate on something. You can mark it on a monthly calendar, or create a chain of sticky notes, stickers, or even one of those paper chains you used to make in preschool. The goal is simple. Don’t break the chain. Once you have a few days under your belt, you’ll be motivated to go the extra mile and do that one thing you need to do to avoid breaking the streak. 

Secret 3: Check In With Yourself 

As you start to make progress on the things you know you need to be doing, you should feel your anxiety reduce. Instead your will feel your confidence go up. Don’t be surprised to feel proud of your accomplishments. Instead use those feelings to propel you forward to more procrastination free days. Procrastination is a habit. It’s something you learned to do, which means it’s something you can unlearn. Stick with it, make progress every day, and enjoy those feelings of accomplishment. 

Well, I hope this series of posts has helped you get some new ideas on how to beat procrastination. Comment on which tip you found easiest and / or most useful.


Lisa Billingham
Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy
Perth, Western Australia


+ woman running down road, other runners in background

Beating procrastination part 3 – accountability is the key

Beating procrastination can be hard. We do well for a few days, but then old habits set back in, or we get frustrated with our lack of apparent progress. Nothing goes fast enough. If you face a small setback at this point, it may be enough to stop working on what you wanted to accomplish in the first place. Thankfully there’s something you can do to greatly improve your chances of success.

Accountability. 

This is the third post about how to beat procrastination. If you would like to read the earlier blogposts on this topic, they are available here and here.

Track Your Progress 

Start by tracking what you do. You can do this via a simple habit tracker. Use a box for each day of the week and check it off or fill it in when you do the thing you told yourself you would do. Keep tracking until it becomes a habit or until the project is done. 

For larger projects that you may or may not work on a daily basis, it helps to write down your goal and then break it into milestones. Record your progress and how much closer you’re inching to each of your goals. 

Make Daily To-Do Lists 

Write out a list of everything you want to get done for the day. I find it helpful to do this the day before. Play around with how many items you put on that list. You don’t want it to overwhelm you, but you do want to challenge yourself to get more done. The list holds you accountable because you can see in black and white if you procrastinated or not. 

Tell Someone About Your Plans 

If there’s something you’ve been struggling to get done, tell someone else about your plans to finally tackle it. Call a friend, tell your spouse, or announce it on social media. Encourage the people you’re sharing with to check back with you on how you did. It may be the little extra push you need to stop procrastinating. 

Find An Accountability Buddy 

Last but not least, find someone else (ideally someone who’s overcoming procrastination too) and start holding each other accountable. This could be as simple as checking in by SMS once in the morning to declare what you each want to get done, and then again at the end of the day to see what happened. Knowing someone else is there with you (and that you’ll have to say whether you completed your tasks for the day – or not) can be super motivating. 

Give each of these procrastination beating strategies a try and see which ones give you the best results. Like anything else, procrastinating is a habit and you can get out of it and turn yourself into the motivated and productive version of yourself you want to be. 

The next post in this series will cover how to tame the little voice in our heads that encourages us to put things off…

Lisa Billingham
Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy
Perth, Western Australia

+ Person writing 'to-do' list

How to motivate yourself, and avoid distractions – part 2

Ready to stop procrastinating and make progress towards your goals? If you’re one of the many who are now spending much more time at home, these tips could make life easier (and more productive) for you.

This is the second post about how to beat procrastination. If you would like to read the first blogpost on this topic, it is available here.

7 ways to motivate yourself to make progress 

Choose one of these seven simple hacks to motivate yourself into action. Practice it over the next few days or even a week, and then choose the next one and practice it as well over the next few days or a week. Keep going until you are practising all of the tips. Find the ones that make the biggest difference for you. Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, come back to this list and employ one or several of these hacks.  

Tip #1: Pick Something Small 

One of the big reasons we procrastinate is because something feels overwhelming. There’s too much too do, so we choose to forget about it for a little while. It’s a coping mechanism, just not a very productive one. Instead, pick one thing, something small that will give you a ‘quick win’ and make you realise that you can succeed. This creates momentum and forces you to take action. 

Tip #2: Set A Time And Go 

Another hack that works like a charm is to set a timer. Your phone has one built in, as do most smart watches, or you could use a kitchen timer. Set it for fifteen or twenty minutes and chip away at a task you’ve been procrastinating on. Then take a short break, and start again, setting the timer again. This works just as well for declutter your closet as it does for filling out those dreaded expense reports. If twenty minutes feels too long, start with ten. Again, the goal is to start and do something. If this tip resonates with you, you might want to read about the Pomodoro Technique.

Tip #3: Bribe Yourself 

There’s nothing wrong with bribing yourself if that’s what motivates you. Work on a home improvement project for an hour and then watch an episode of your favorite show. Or promise yourself a new gadget or pair of shoes when you finish painting the living room. Come up with something that motivates you and go for it. Remind yourself of the prize at the end of the project whenever you’re tempted to put things off for another day. 

Tip #4: Find An Accountability Partner 

Find someone else who’s either trying to be more productive or beat procrastination themselves. Check in with each other daily via phone, text or videoconference. Share what you want to accomplish and what you will get done today. Knowing you have to report to someone else makes you take action. It’s also motivating to see the other person do the same. Try it.

Tip #5: Measure Your Progress 

When you’re working on something long-term like losing twenty kilograms for example, it can be tempting to procrastinate because it doesn’t seem like you’re making much progress. Instead, prove to yourself that you are getting closer and closer by tracking or measuring it. Make a chart, use a spreadsheet, keep a journal. Find a way to measure your progress and use it to motivate yourself to keep going. 

Tip #6: Remind Yourself Of Your Why 

There’s a reason you’ve decided to do that thing you keep putting off. Think about why you want to get it done. Is it so you get your tax refund? So you can run around with the kids? So you can find the clothes you actually want to wear? Find out your why. Write it down and then keep it front and center. Look at it every day before you get ready to get to work. 

Tip #7: Just Start

This is the easiest but also the most powerful. Just get started. That’s right, sometimes all you have to do is just get moving in the right direction. Do something. Do anything. Even if it’s something super small. You get over that initial hump and start to build some momentum.


If you would like some help to beat procrastination, book a no-obligation discussion or online appointment with me at https://sunsetcoast.as.me/


Don’t let things or people distract you into procrastinating 

You wake up in the morning motivated and ready to tackle whatever it is you’ve been procrastinating on. Or maybe you’re excited about a new project. You drink your coffee, get dressed, and get ready to get going. Then something happens. 

Maybe you open your email, or worse Facebook and get sucked into spending the next few hours on your computer. Or maybe a good friend calls and asks you to go shopping. Or you get an alert that your favorite TV show dropped on Netflix. It doesn’t matter what it is, the point is that there are people and things that will try to distract you into procrastinating. If you let them. 

There’s a simple strategy you can use to keep this from happening. It’s to make the important project you’ve been procrastinating about a priority, and start working on it first thing every morning.

  • The whole process starts the night before. Before you call it a day, sit down and make a simple plan for what you want to get done the next day.
  • Identify the three most important tasks. Maybe they are all focused on one main project, maybe it’s several things you know you should be getting done. 
  • Write these three things down. They don’t have to be anything big. In fact, I find it helpful if they are all items I can do in an hour or less.
  • Look at your list and work on these three most important tasks before you do anything else. When you get up in the morning, get to your office, or start work at home – do these tasks. Don’t look at email. Don’t start playing on your phone. If possible don’t even answer the phone before these three tasks are taken care of. Make them your number one priority. 

This alone will make a huge difference in how your day goes, how productive you are, and of course it keeps you from procrastinating on those projects. Putting them off until the end of the day when you’re too tired to do anything is no longer an option. 


If you would like some help to beat procrastination, book a no-obligation discussion or online appointment with me at https://sunsetcoast.as.me/


Aside from that, simply being more aware of what things, devices, and people tempt you to procrastinate is helpful. When you find yourself putting something off, look back and see if you can pinpoint what caused it. Then take action towards preventing it from happening in the future. 

The next post in this series will explain how to keep yourself accountable.

Lisa Billingham
Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy
Perth, Western Australia