A Very Different Christmas-Holidays in the Time of COVID-19


Christmas is traditionally the time for families to come together, for the exchanging of gifts and the sharing of meals, nights out, and for spending quality time together. But Christmas 2020, in the most unusual of years, promises to be very different for many.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the whole world and brought changes none of us could have imagined as we enjoyed last year’s holidays. Lots of us have spent more time at home, often either alone or with only our immediate families. We’ve travelled less and seen far fewer friends or relatives than we normally would. Lots of people have struggled financially as redundancies rise and opportunities shrink. And sadly, many will be spending the holidays without a loved one who was taken from them this year.

Naturally, many of us will be facing Christmas with mixed feelings. It can be a stressful time anyway, with the demand for everything to be ‘just right’, or wishing it would just hurry up and be over making it less than jolly.

Acceptance and expectation management

So what can we do to get the most from Christmas, which will happen whether we want it to or not?

First of all, accept ‘what is’, rather than focusing on ‘what if’. Travel restrictions, shielding and the Tier systems might be preventing you from seeing everyone you’d like to, or from hosting that special meal you’d been hoping to have. But wishing it was so, and experiencing the disappointment
and frustration of not having that wish met will only result in you having an even less merry Christmas.

Accept that things are as they are for a reason – to keep us and our loved ones safe and to help stop the spread of a deadly disease. By accepting that things might be a little different this year, a little smaller, a little quieter, you might actually begin to enjoy things more. Instead of having to either host or attend a party or meal where perhaps not everyone is able to relax or actually get along with each other, accept and embrace the reality of a smaller, more intimate and cosier Christmas. Doing less is not doing nothing – it can also be an opportunity to relax more. And next year, well who knows, it could be back the usual noisy and chaotic Christmas you are used to!

Secondly, begin managing expectations, your own and others’, sooner rather than later, to avoid hurt and disappointment. If you don’t feel able to spend what you usually would on food and presents, let people know. You might be surprised by how many others feel the same or are in a similar boat. If you don’t feel comfortable mixing with larger groups just yet, remember there is no rule that says you actually have to.

We’ve done so much to stay safe so far, and with a vaccine just around the corner, don’t be afraid to make your concerns heard. Others will either understand or not, neither of which is in your control. You are responsible for your feelings and actions, not theirs.

Whatever we might be used to, and whatever we may really want, what we actually end up getting might well be very different. Holding on to our rigid, unrealistic demands about a ‘perfect’ Christmas might only result in us missing the ‘perfectly good’ Christmas that’s just waiting for us to discover it.

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Confidence & Success with CBT / REBT – Blog #9


Step 4: Creating a Plan (Part Two)

Welcome to the ninth blog in our series on Confidence and Success using Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT).

In previous blogs, we’ve looked at identifying what you want, fact-finding, setting goals and the various problems you may face in achieving these steps.

In the first blog for this step we looked at how to overcome the obstacles of believing creating a plan is too much effort, and that your plan must be perfect. Here, we look at the final two obstacles, not knowing how to write a plan and not being sure you want it enough.

Obstacle 3 “I don’t know how to write a plan” – and how to overcome it

As we had explained earlier a plan is simply a road map to your goals. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. However, some plans, like a business plan or a marketing plan, have a more formal structure. It is understandable that you may be delaying this particular step if you don’t have the knowledge.

If you lack skills or knowledge about creating, developing or writing a plan then the solution is to do something about that. In Step Two of this series (Fact Finding), we looked at various ways you can go about expanding your knowledge, and you can use those same tips here.

The actions you take should be in the best interest of your long term goal.

If, however, you are delaying or avoiding taking action to enhance your skills then you have hit an obstacle that is created by holding unhealthy beliefs.

We have found the common unhealthy beliefs about not knowing how to do something are about the following general themes:

I must be able to perform well or outstandingly all of the time
Others must treat me nicely, considerately or fairly at all times.
Life must be easy, comfortable and effortless

The above three general themes lead to specific off shoot beliefs such as the ones below:

I absolutely should know how to write a plan, the fact that I don’t proves I’m stupid
I must find it easy to learn how to write a plan, if not then I can’t bear it and proves that I’m stupid
I must not be judged as stupid if I ask for help about writing a plan, if I am then it proves that I’m a failure

Reality Check – The MUST

There’s nothing to prove that you MUST write a plan – there is no absolutist Law of Nature that states this. Gravity is an absolutist Law of Nature, where things MUST fall down. What we observe in reality on planet Earth is just that, what we actually observe.

Taking this idea forward do you observe that sometimes we:

  1. Don’t know how to do something
  2. Find things difficult or challenging
  3. Get judged negatively by others

If your answers are yes, then how does believing:

  1. I absolutely should know how to write a plan
  2. I must find it easy to learn how to write a plan
  3. I must not be judged as stupid if I ask for help about writing a plan

alter what can actually happen in reality? It doesn’t, because there is no Law of Nature that says these things must or must not happen to you. If you don’t know, you don’t know. That’s the reality in that moment and demanding that you must know will not alter that fact.

Common Sense

It is completely understandable that you’d want to know how to write a plan, equally it is understandable that you’d want to find learning easy. Additionally, most people would want to others treat them nicely and not judge them as stupid. All perfectly reasonable wishes and wants. Just because you want that it doesn’t follow that it MUST happen though. Your demand does not logically follow from your desire. What would be logical is to keep your wants and desires but take the demand out of them.

There are very few things that MUST happen in nature. Knowing something, finding learning easy and not being judged negatively by others are not them and therefore it doesn’t make sense to dogmatically insist on them.

Helpfulness

It does not help to invest in the above demands. You do not get the returns that you want. What you get is anxiety and a tendency to delay or avoid the task at hand and getting the plan done. These demands are an obstacle to your overall goal.

Low Frustration Tolerance – LFT

Reality Check – LFT

Believing that you can’t bear it you learning how to write a plan was not easy is just not true. If you couldn’t bear it, you’d dire the moment you found this particular task difficult. You’ll be alive, breathing and talking despite the challenge.

Common Sense

Learning how to write a plan may be frustrating or difficult for you. Many people find learning new things tough. You may be one of them. Just because you may find it difficult it doesn’t make sense to believe it’s unbearable though. This is the bit that makes your belief unhealthy. Take this part out of your thinking and you will notice a positive change.

Helpfulness

If you kept your low frustration tolerance belief, about learning to write a plan, up then there will be consequences. You will have negative thoughts about your ability to learn. You will, more likely than not, delay your learning or avoid it completely. You will get the physical symptoms of anxiety, muscular tension, rapid heart rate or even tension headache etc. You are unlikely to successfully complete this step and this will have an impact on whether you achieve your overall goal in a constructive way or not. Apart from these consequences, you will not help yourself to feel confident. Confidence builds from experience and healthy thinking.

Self Damning

Reality Check – Self Damning

You are far too complex to give yourself a global rating of ‘stupid’ or ‘failure’ if you do not find learning to write a plan easy or if you don’t know how to write a plan. This also applies to being negatively judged by others. No one is perfect. We all find some things more difficult than others and we all get judged negatively for various things by others. You do not become a total failure if someone judged as stupid if your plan wasn’t up their expectations. Your brain will still work, you memories don’t fail, your heart doesn’t fail and in reality very little fails about you. Therefore, you are not a failure.

Common Sense

The above failings i.e. knowing, finding things difficult and getting judged negatively do not translate into ‘and therefore you are a total failure or a stupid person’. This leap does not make sense at all. It is this leap into total self damning from a specific failing that is irrational and illogical.

Helpfulness

If you want to remain unconfident then maintaining you self damning belief is the way to go. You would succeed at being unconfident. But your goal is success and confidence. How does damning yourself for not knowing, not finding learning easy or for being judged negatively help you succeed at completing this step and moving forward? Think about its consequences on:

  1. Your emotions
  2. Your thoughts about yourself and abilities
  3. Your behaviour
  4. Your goal
  5. Your success and confidence

What do you need to believe instead?

Obstacle 3 “I’m not sure I want it enough” – how to overcome it

Some people delay completing the task at hand because they are in two minds about whether they really want the goal or not.

To achieve your goal it does have to be something that you want and is in your best interest. You may want something that is not in your best interest of course. We’ve all been guilty of this particular issue at some point or another. For example, may still want to stay with someone even though it definitely not in their best interest.

If you are in two minds about whether to do something or not, then completing a Cost Benefit Analysis may clarify it for you. Cost Benefit Analysis involve weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of two options. The advantages and disadvantages for you as well as the advantages and disadvantages for another significant person/s in your life, are identified; both in the short as well as well as in the long term.

The following is a structured approach to thinking about whether you want to go ahead with your goal or not. It will help you become clearer. If you decide that you want to abandon your goal because you are not that into it, then good. At least you can now focus on other things or not.

If, however, you decide that you do want to carry on, then write your plan.

Tips for Creating a Plan

  • Visualise your overall goal on a daily basis
  • Recall the personal benefits of achieving your goal
  • Challenge your unhealthy beliefs
  • Recite your healthy beliefs and repeat them consistently and forcefully
  • Complete your plan
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect
  • You don’t have to be perfect
  • Accept that effort is necessary
  • Accept that you won’t know certain things but do something about it
  • Accept that you may not have all the skills but do something about it
  • Accept uncertainty
  • Accept the possibilities of failure and negative judgement

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.
Pablo Picasso

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Confidence & Success with CBT / REBT – Blog #8


Step 4: Creating a Plan (Part One)

“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential” Winston Churchill

Welcome to the eighth blog in our series on Confidence and Success using Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT).

In previous blogs, we’ve looked at identifying what you want, fact-finding, setting goals and the various problems you may face in achieving these steps.

In this blog, we’ll be looking at the importance of making a plan of action, and the obstacles, often based on irrational and unhealthy beliefs, we put in the way of even choosing a goal to aim for, never mind starting on the path to achieve it. We’ll then dispute these obstacles, giving you the tools to overcome them and progress towards your ultimate goal of confidence and success.

A plan is your road map from your current reality to your goal, with a time frame. Planning is the creation and maintenance of a plan. A plan, typically, is a list of steps with timing and resources needed to get you to your goal.

You already know how to make plans because you plan on a daily basis. You may plan a party, dinner, a get together, trip to the cinema or theatre, birthdays, Christmas and other festivities, New Year etc. You have the necessary basic skills already.

Why plan?

Because it helps:

  • keep your goal in mind as well as the means of getting there
  • reduce risk
  • give direction
    maintain control
  • encourage creativity and decision making

The objective of the 4th step is creating a plan, the map to your goal. If you have decided on your goal but have avoided making a plan then consider some of the obstacles we have highlighted below. See if they resonate with you and if not think about why you are avoiding planning.

Obstacles to creating a plan:

1. Developing a plan is too hard and dull – it’s too much effort
2. The plan must be perfect
3. I don’t know how to write a plan
4. I’m not sure I want it enough

Obstacle 1 “Developing a plan is too hard and dull – it’s too much effort” – and how to overcome it

Avoiding planning because developing a plan is too hard and dull is provoked by holding an unhealthy belief about hard work and boredom. It really doesn’t bode well for your success and confidence to maintain this belief if you are serious about your goal.

The unhealthy belief about hard work will take the form of the following general themes:

Life must be easy, comfortable and effortless.
I must be able to perform well or outstandingly all of the time.

The above attitude will give rise to many offshoot beliefs as well as specific beliefs such as:

Planning must not be dull, I can’t tolerate dull work.
Making a plan must be easy, I can’t stand it when things are too hard.
I must not find writing a plan difficult, if I do it means I’m useless

The demands cannot be met if you are someone who finds planning difficult and dull. Avoidance of this step is provoked by an unhealthy belief about difficulty, frustration, effort and lack of enjoyment. The demand that you MUST find planning easy or that you MUST not find it dull is the problem.

The Low Frustration Tolerance belief is also at the heart of this problem. You are underestimating your ability to tolerate difficulty or a dull task. You really do not have to enjoy creating a plan in order for you to do it. It would be better if you did but you don’t have to.

Reality Check – Must

Insisting that your current experience of planning be different does not alter its reality. You find planning difficult or dull? OK, so be it. There is no Law of Nature that dictates that it has to be different or the opposite.

This style of CBT is not about helping you put a positive spin on what you feel, think or how you personally experience the task of making a plan. It is about helping you understand that by taking the demand out of your thinking and increasing your frustration tolerance to the tasks and jobs that you don’t like, you can develop confidence and increased chance of success. So we do it by putting the goal sabotaging beliefs to a reality check.

Common Sense

You do not need to alter your personal reality. You can accept that you find planning dull or difficult. This means that you would have preferred that was different because it would have made your life easier. Just because you have preferred your personal reality about planning to have been different it doesn’t follow that it must be so. This is the common sense argument. In essence ‘just because you prefer X, it doesn’t follow that you MUST have X’. Out of the following two statements, which one makes sense:

  1. I would prefer that planning was easy but it doesn’t mean it must be
  2. I would prefer planning to be easy and therefore it absolutely must be

Your demand that planning must be easy or that it mustn’t be dull does not logically follow from the fact that you would have preferred it was nice and easy.

Helpfulness

You may say I don’t care if my belief isn’t realistic or that it doesn’t make sense. You may say that regardless of those two facts you will keep the demand up. It is your life, it is your belief and you have every right not to change anything.

But just focus, for a minute, on your overall goal. How is your demand that planning must be easy, or that it mustn’t be dull helping you move closer to it? It really is unhelpful. It provokes anxiety and avoidance. If you want to achieve success then it may helpful for you to change your thinking and behaviour where planning is concerned.

Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT)

Low Frustration Tolerance is described as an unhealthy/irrational belief that underestimates your ability to cope, tolerate or stand frustration and difficulty with a particular situation. Expressed by statements like; it is intolerable, I can’t cope, I can’t stand it, It is too hard.

Procrastination is often confused with laziness. If you are procrastinating about making a plan because you are finding it difficult or dull then you probably have a Low Frustration Belief linked to your demand i.e. Planning must be easy and if not I can’t stand. Procrastination is defined as putting off a task that is in your best interest to complete by a specific deadline. At the heart of procrastination is usually, but not always, an LFT belief.

Reality Check – LFT

What can we see from doing a reality check? Firstly, if you couldn’t stand or tolerate making a plan because it’s dull or difficult then you would have exploded and turned into a puff of smoke the moment you sat down to make a plan. This doesn’t happen in reality. What you can prove is that you find is difficult and dull. That’s it. Tolerate it? You absolutely have been and are. You can also observe that people manage to complete dull tasks or difficult tasks. Difficult and dull jobs do not kill us.

Common Sense

As we said earlier, it is true that you be someone who finds planning difficult and dull but just because you do it doesn’t follow that you cannot tolerate it. Believing that it is intolerable doesn’t make sense and doesn’t follow from the fact that you find it planning dull or difficult.

Helpfulness

If the reality check and the common sense arguments do not convince you then just think how your LFT about planning is helping you. Does it help to keep believing that you can’t stand or tolerate planning because it’s dull or difficult? Think about what that way of thinking does? How it impacts of your emotions, thinking and behaviour and whether it helps you to get the job done. What’s more important to you avoiding the dullness in the short term or moving towards your bigger goal? It’s your choice.

Obstacle 2 “The plan must be perfect” – how to overcome it

This is a common obstacle to planning and in the implementation of the plan. We will examine the underlying issues about this obstacle. Why do you think some people demand that their plan has to be perfect?

There are a number of reasons but the common ones are:

  1. The individual demands that they must do everything to an outstanding level, otherwise it means they are worthless or a failure
  2. The individual is anxious about negative judgement if they present their plan to others
  3. The individual is anxious about failure

The above demands are based on the following general themes:

  • I must perform well or outstandingly at all times
  • Others must treat me nicely, considerately or fairly at all times
  • Life must be comfortable and hassle free

The above general themes can trigger a multitude of specific beliefs such as:

  • I must write the perfect plan, if I don’t it would awful, unbearable and proves I’m a failure.
  • I must be certain that I will do the plan correctly, it would awful and intolerable if I’m not.
  • The plan has to be perfect, if not then I will fail, which mustn’t happen. If it did, it would awful, I couldn’t handle that, it would mean I’m a total failure.
  • Others must approve of my plan, if they don’t that would awful, and would prove I’m no good.
  • I must certain the plan is 100% fool proof, if not something terrible could happen.

One thing to note is that not all of the derivative beliefs are present with each demand. All or any combination of the three derivative beliefs (Awfulsing, LFT, Self Damning) may be present.

Reality Check – MUST

Looking at all of the beliefs above, the general ones and the specific ones, they are all inconsistent with reality. There is no Law of Universe that says you must write the perfect plan, be in the right mood to write it, be certain that it’s correct and fool proof. That is basically it. If such a Law of Nature existed then all of us would always and in every situation and at all times do things perfectly, be in the right mood to perform a task, be certain and have no doubts.

Common Sense

As we said above it is a nice wish to have. It would be great if we write the perfect, fool proof plan. It would be great to be certain that it won’t fail. But just because we want these things, it doesn’t follow that they MUST happen. It doesn’t make sense to insist just because we’d like it.

Helpfulness

Looking at these demands, it is clear that they will not help you complete your plan. If your plan is an important step, then the above demands would provoke you to feel anxious, have negative thoughts as well as avoid. Letting go of these demands would help you achieve the plan and help you pursue your bigger goal. Overcoming this obstacle by accepting all the possibilities of the different threats and risks would help you overcome your anxiety and feel confident.

Awfulising

Awfulising is an unhealthy/irrational belief that when a demand is not fulfilled, the badness is viewed as 100% or more bad i.e. end of the world bad, nothing else is worse in that moment. It is often expressed as: It is a disaster, It is horrible or awful, terrible It is a catastrophe, It is the end of the world.

Reality Check – Awfulising

If you do not write the perfect plan the world will not come to an end. Worse things exist than failing at writing the perfect plan. The same is equally true if others didn’t approve of you plan. Can you think of what would be worse than this? If you can, then you have just proved that an imperfect plan and all the other possibilities are not the worst things that could happen. We are not saying that you should take an indifferent attitude. We are saying take the horror out it.

Common Sense

It doesn’t make sense to awfulise badness. Just because an imperfect plan would be bad it doesn’t follow that it’s awful. The same goes for the other possibilities. It would be bad if your plan failed but not awful. It’s not good if you are not in the right mood when you want to write a plan but it’s not the end of the world either.

Helpfulness

The helpfulness argument is, essentially, about understanding ‘what’s in it for you if you maintained this belief?’ In this case, what’s in it for you when believe that writing an imperfect plan is awful?
Awfulising an imperfect plan only provokes anxiety. In a state of anxiety, your mind is pre-occupied with creating scenarios of doom and gloom. You are readily distracted from your goal.

It would be more helpful if you kept the badness of your concerns realistic. This means by remembering that bad things exist and happen but the Earth still revolves around the Sun. What would be the benefits to you in taking the horror out of writing an imperfect plan, have others disapprove of it or failing?

Low Frustration Tolerance (LFT)

LFT is particularly present in problems with discomfort, boredom and effort.

Reality Check – LFT

What would happen to you if you produced an imperfect plan, or you were not in the right mood to create the perfect plan? Would you collapse in heap and never recover? Of course not. Believing you cannot bear or tolerate an imperfect plan is simply not true. It is true that it would be undesirable and difficult but it is not true that you couldn’t bear or tolerate them.

Common Sense

Given what we discussed in the reality check argument, you can see that it doesn’t make sense to believe that you cannot bear or tolerate something just because you find it difficult or frustrating. Which of the two following beliefs make sense?

  1. It would be difficult and frustrating for me if I didn’t write the perfect plan but it wouldn’t be unbearable
  2. It would difficult and frustrating for me if I didn’t write the perfect plan and therefore unbearable.
    Helpfulness

An LFT belief about writing an imperfect plan or being uncertain about it is unhelpful to you. Apart from it not being true or sensible it really does not promote success or confidence. It stops you from moving forward and sabotages your goals. Changing your LFT belief to a High Frustration Tolerance (HFT) belief would be far more helpful you.

Self Damning

Reality Check – Self Damning

When you put yourself down, you are operating on the notion that you can, as a human being, be perfect. If you are perfect then you can do so. Obviously this is not the case, but this demanding and self damning belief does not reflect the true nature of who you are. You are not perfect, no human being is. Therefore, it is not true that you are worthless, useless, stupid, or a total failure because of a failing.

Common Sense

American Psychologist Paul Hauck has explained the human self in a very clear yet profound manner. He says the self is ‘every conceivable thing about you that can be rated’. This literally means, all your thoughts, images, feelings, actions and bodily parts are all parts of what makes you you. All these aspects are parts of you. So if you fail at writing the perfect plan, or if you fail to win approval from others over your plan then how does it make sense to believe that your entire self is therefore a failure? It really doesn’t follow does it?

Helpfulness

Damning yourself in such a final way because of a single failing such as not writing the perfect plan is unhelpful. It provokes unhealthy negative emotions like anxiety and depression as well as negative thoughts and destructive behaviours. As a consequence damning yourself is directly linked to your lack of success and lack of confidence. Accepting yourself unconditionally and accepting that you are fallible impacts on your success and sense of confidence in yourself and in overcoming this particular planning obstacle.

In our next blog, we’ll look at the remaining two obstacles to creating a plan: ‘I don’t know how to write a plan’ and ‘I’m not sure I want it enough.’

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Confidence and Success with CBT/REBT – Blog #1
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Confidence & Success with CBT / REBT – Blog #8
Confidence & Success with CBT / REBT – Blog #9
Considering a change in career
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Counselling Skills and Ethics – My experience
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History of Mental Health Treatment
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Maximise Your Full Potential with REBT!
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Narcissism in modern life
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New Year, New You
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How to respond to failure and disappointment
Secret to a good relationship
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Shame and Regret
So, could you become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist?
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