Thursday, 23 February 2017

How to reset your motivation

Unless you're some kind of superhuman, I think motivation (or more specifically lack of), is a problem that affects us all from time to time. For me this has been a huge issue in the past, and it seems to become a vicious cycle; your motivation dips, which reduces productivity, which reduces motivation even more, and so on. The longer we let this cycle continue, the harder it becomes to break. Luckily, over my many years of demotivation and self-pity, I've discovered a few strategies that help me break free from the dreaded motivational block. Here are my top 3 strategies for claiming back your motivation:

1. Lists.

This is my number one secret weapon when it comes to regaining my motivation. I think one of the biggest factors that contribute to losing our drive is feeling like everything is too much. For me at least, feeling like I have more to do than I can handle causes me to shut everything out, not wanting to do anything at all. When you feel like something is impossible, your brain starts thinking 'well what's the point', causing you to feel physically and mentally deflated. When I find myself in this situation, the first thing I'll do is write lists - as many as I need, literally just write every single thing down. I find it helps to put everything down on paper because it gets it out of your head, helping you to think more clearly. It's surprising how motivating having a list is; it makes things seem much simpler because once you have it down, you can just work through it one at a time without the added stress of juggling everything in your mind. Don't think about the next thing, just go through it one by one at whatever pace works for you and soon enough, once you realise your productivity is increasing, that motivation will creep back too. I find the feeling of crossing things off to-do lists so motivating. It's up to you how you do your lists - personally I like to make them all fancy and colour-coded, but whatever works best for you.

2. Reset and restart.

This is another really effective strategy I use. Sometimes, the 'I'll start tomorrow' excuse can actually be useful (as long as you're not doing it every day)! A lot of the time running out of motivation is due to burning out and doing too much. This causes stress, which in turn causes the 'head in the sand' sort of attitude that comes with lack of motivation. In this case, I often just say to myself 'chill out, and start a fresh tomorrow'. When you're feeling demotivated, there's sometimes nothing better than having a cuppa and a long bath, reading a book and getting a good nights sleep to change your mind-set and revive your energy. Get relaxed and rested, get up in the morning with a (hopefully) fresh attitude, write yourself some to-do lists and get going.

3. Think of the bigger picture

In other cases, lack of motivation can be caused by the feeling that all your efforts are 'getting you nowhere'. When this happens, I find it helpful to take a breather and a step back, and look at the bigger picture. Working out is a great example of this. Day to day, you don't particularly see results. Personally, this can sometimes leave me feeling a little bit deflated; to put your absolute all into your gym sessions and feel like you're getting nothing from it is really disheartening. At this point, I motivate myself by looking at the big picture. I get my progress pictures up and soon realise that I of course HAVE made progress, it's just a slow process and you don't notice every tiny bit of extra muscle or loss of fat. I think this technique can benefit in so many situations. For example at college you may be in the habit of thinking 'I won't do this exam question, it's only one question, it won't make a difference'. However in the long run, doing one becomes two, and two becomes four, and so on, and you realise that a series of small progressions leads to a much bigger progression. In other words - the bigger picture. Remember that every small action counts and allow that to give meaning to all those stupid little tasks you don't want to do because they feel 'pointless'.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

How horror movies can ease anxiety

To even entertain the thought that horror movies can temporarily alleviate anxiety seems ridiculous; it completely defies logic. When you think of films like The Conjuring, Insidious or Sinister, the first things that come to mind are nightmares, lying awake at night and spending half an hour plucking up the courage to go to the toilet. So how could something so fear-inducing actually be calming to anyone?

It seems though, that this might actually be the case. Personally, I've always gained a strange sense of comfort from watching horror movies. I never really thought much of it until a few months ago, when I read somewhere that this is not actually uncommon. From then on I was intrigued, and after bringing up the subject to other people who deal with with anxiety, this theory was confirmed further.

After thinking more deeply about the reasons behind this, I think I may have came up with an explanation; for me at least, I think this makes some sense. For many people, anxiety is a relatively constant thing, although it of course ranges in severity and type. From my own perspective, anxiety seems to be at it's worst when the brain is least occupied. However as any fan will know, good horror films evoke an intense level of focus. I think this focus is key. Although the viewer is scared and anxious, their fear is very specifically related to the movie. Firstly, that fact that our anxiety is pinpointed to one specific 'thing' can be comforting as it (even just for a little while) blocks out the masses of other things to worry about. The anxious mind can be overwhelming, and to be able to pinpoint your thoughts to one specific thing, and be physically unable to think about anything else, can make your mind feel less 'full' and thus in a weird way, more relaxed.

I think the type of fear provided by a scary movie is also significant. Anxiety that comes with daily life feels very real; the whole concept of anxiety is generally the belief that some awful thing actually is, or is going to happen. However, when we are frightened by a film we can usually rationalise it; although we are scared, we are aware that it's not a legitimate fear. It's a type of scary that is much more manageable. I think of it as being similar to the fear we feel in nightmares; even if something terrible is happening, because our brain is somewhat aware it's not a real threat, the fear is much less intense than real-life fear. The combination of your whole attention being forced to focus on the film (most horror movies use suspense, which only makes this focus greater), and the fact that the anxiety caused by the movie is a 'safe' sort of fear, can be a combination that gives a welcome respite to the constantly anxious mind.


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Hypnosis: My experience

Anyone who knows me well enough will be aware of my fear of planes; with my biggest phobias being heights and  confined spaces I guess it's understandable. Strangely I haven't always had this fear, however when all my anxiety issues started, it slowly became more and more of a problem. Ultimately, I became so scared of both flying and simply being out of the country that I felt there was no way I could set foot on a plane.

As a family who regularly went on holidays together, it was a huge problem. In the stage where I could still force myself to go, I felt awful the entire time - just incredibly anxious. One of the last holidays I went on was to Tenerife; I really wanted to enjoy it but it was so difficult. I knew that all of the anxiety stemmed from the flying, but it seemed to plague me constantly, even in completely unrelated ways. I was convinced something terrible was going to happen.

After Tenerife I decided I couldn't do it again. I was gutted but knew I couldn't stand to put myself through so much anxiety. It had got to the point where I would dread going on holiday in the weeks and months beforehand, instead of being excited. However, my Mam came home one day and said she had been talking to someone who'd suggested hypnotherapy. As quite an alternative therapy, I'd never really considered it before, but after researching and hearing about all the phobias it has seemingly cured and the smokers who have quit after a 60 minute session, I was intrigued.

I found a hypnotherapist nearby and booked my first session. On the day I didn't know what to expect, but still felt hopeful. Being a huge Derren Brown fan, I really do believe hypnosis can be a powerful tool. The first appointment was just an assessment; deciding what I hoped to get out of the therapy and how that could be done. The second session was the first time I would actually experience hypnosis. As I was led into the office and sat down on a big, comfy chair I was so nervous. The therapist put one of those little clips on my finger (I think they measure heart rate) and said this was so she could tell when I'd gone into hypnosis. Once I'd got comfortable, she put some calm music on in the background and started speaking. Honestly, to start with I was sat there trying not to laugh - it felt so awkward. I really struggled to relax and keep my eyes closed, but eventually I started feeling calmer. 

Fuelled by eccentric stage performers, I think there's a misconception that hypnosis is this really weird, mystical thing - I guess this is why so many people don't believe it's even real. In reality, it's just a very deeply relaxed state of mind, which allows you to delve into your subconscious and 'rewire' things. However scared I was beforehand, it really isn't frightening at all. From what I've heard, everyone experiences hypnosis in a different way. For me I felt completely normal, but just incredibly relaxed. I noticed a slight tingling feeling in my feet and kind of felt as though I was sinking into the chair, but apart from that I didn't feel anything weird at all. I was completely aware of my surroundings and everything that was being said to me. One thing that shocked me, though, is that at the end of the session the hypnotherapist asked me how long I thought I'd been there, to which I answered 10 minutes. In reality, I'd been there for an hour - apparently it's quite common for time to seemingly move a lot faster when under hypnosis.

If I remember rightly, I had two follow up sessions. In one of these I was taught how to carry out self-hypnosis. This was absolutely fascinating and definitely the most valuable thing I got from the experience. This is a technique I still often use today, sometimes to calm myself but usually just because I enjoy it - it's incredibly relaxing and leaves you feeling so refreshed. It's actually really easy to learn, and I've got quite good at it now; I can immediately recognise when it's working as I get that tell-tale tingling in my feet.

If I cut to the chase, ultimately hypnotherapy did not 'cure' my phobia of flying. Afterwards, I did feel very positive and got on a plane to go to Austria. I was absolutely fine on the way there, even relaxed enough to take pictures whilst landing. Unfortunately, on the flight home the anxiety all came flooding back, which was really disappointing. However despite not achieving my original goal,  I'm definitely glad I tried hypnotherapy, even just for the experience and knowledge of self-hypnosis, which has been so useful to me.


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Bootea teatox: Results and review

When you think of Bootea, the first thing that comes to mind is glamourous celebrity endorsements and images of smiling, fit young women holding up their tea with a huge smile on their face. But does it really live up to the hype? I decided to find out, and at the end of December ordered myself a 28 day Bootea teatox, ready to use throughout January.

Bootea is one of the many 'teatox' brands, which are essentially supposed to be a natural aid to weight loss, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet. The 28 day teatox consists of 28 morning teabags (one for each day) and 14 bedtime teabags (one for every other night).

The first thing I'm going to mention is the taste, as I think this is something a lot of people worry about before buying the product. Personally, I didn't mind it at all. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't completely my cup of tea (no pun intended), but it wasn't unpleasant. The morning tea is really just a green tea with some added ingredients, which make it taste a bit more 'perfume-y' if that makes sense. The bedtime tea just tastes like normal peppermint tea; this was my least favourite of the two but I think that was just personal taste. My only real complaint would be that there was always little bits of leaves left at the bottom of the cup, which made drinking the last bit quite unpleasant.

I will admit I was apprehensive at the start, as I'd heard a few horror stories - but I'd also heard a lot of people rave about it, so I decided that the potential benefits outweighed the risks. I took my before pictures and got started. Luckily, I didn't experience any terrible side-effects, but I did seem to be getting a lot more stomach cramps - usually at night. I am really prone to stomach aches anyway, but I'm convinced this was a result of the teatox. If I'm honest, at one point (near the 14 day mark) I did consider stopping because of this, so at times it was quite a significant issue. However, I pushed on and decided I would see it though to the end, mainly because I didn't want to waste my money! In myself, I didn't notice a huge difference as I went along - some days I felt energetic and less bloated and then the next it would be the other way round.

Although it had not been a bad experience, I was glad to see the end of the teatox at the beginning of this week; mainly because I was looking forward to having my cup of Yorkshire tea in the morning again! The day after my last cup of bootea, I took my after pictures. It was only then I noticed the difference this month had made, and I was definitely pleasantly surprised! Below is my before and after pictures; the left hand side is before, and the right hand side after. The results I've achieved are from a combination of the teatox, 2 litres of water per day, no alcohol and exercising 4 times a week. I've also improved my diet slightly, using recipes from Joe Wicks' 'Lean in 15: The Shape plan' book for a lot of my meals. Don't get me wrong, I've not been eating amazingly or anything, just made a few healthier choices.

My final verdict would be that I feel neutral about Bootea. Granted, I am really happy with my results, but I'm not entirely convinced the teatox made a huge difference. I think the water and exercise are mainly to thank, however I do think the Bootea has sped up the toning process and I'm definitely glad I gave it a try. If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask!