Sally's Blog

“Tis the season to be Jolly…” Or is it?


Imagine the scene…  

The perfect Christmas dinner has just been demolished and all the family are sitting round the roaring fire. Granny’s supping a sherry, the kids are playing Buckaroo and the adults are enjoying a game of Charades, laughing their heads off.  Perfect. Will your Christmas be like this?

Here’s a few ideas on how you can enjoy or maybe even just get through Christmas this year but first I’ll share with you why ‘the season to be jolly’ can be far from this for many people. Please visit my website for how I can help further with more detailed information on mental health issues at

Illness and bereavement this Christmas  

Why does it seem that so many people fall ill or even pass away over the festive period? Last year my beloved father in law died and our family were in Sweden for his funeral the week before Christmas Day. Now my Dad is ill.  Are you going through bereavement or caring for poorly loved ones or are you suffering with an illness whether physical or emotional?

Caring for yourself and others can be very stressful and left untreated may lead to depression.  Often the situation is not in your control. Having control is an important emotional need for all of us.  Think about what you do have control of right now. Making sure you have sufficient medication in the holiday season is very important.  Visit poorly loved ones as often as you can and if you do have a concern, give yourself ample time to make a GP appointment.  GPs are stretched to unbelievable limits, especially in the Christmas week and New Year, same for A & E departments.  With the flu season upon as make sure those who are vulnerable have had their flu jab.

As a carer you may well be thinking constantly of others and not yourself.  It is not selfish to think about your needs so give yourself a break.  You are no good to anyone if you burn yourself out. If you can, try to normalise the end of an elderly loved one’s life.  We are born and we will die.  Us humans do have a lifespan.  The best we can do is to be kind, forgive (if there have been broken relationships) and spend time with those we love at the end of their lives.  If a loved one has passed away, however difficult the end may have been try to remember a time when you were together and happy.  Sit quietly and bring the memory into your mind for a few minutes.  Breathe slowly and really emerse yourself in the memory, where you both were, what they were wearing, even the smell of their perfume or aftershave.  This can be a great comfort.


Stress this Christmas…

The list is endless of what can make you feel stressed at Christmas and the section on


at my website goes into more detail about the symptoms both physical and emotional.  Stress and anxiety are closely related and the best advice I can give when your heart starts racing, you feel angry, jealous, worried, you breathe too quickly and you can’t think straight is this. Calm yourself down with your breath.

This has worked for my clients and myself so many times and it is amazing to believe that such an easy exercise can reverse a panic attack, prevent an argument and help you to think clearly, quickly and safely.

When you can feel the stress symptoms just beginning or you know there is a stressful situation coming up take yourself to somewhere quiet. If you are in the car, pull over where it is safe and get out and move away.  Better to be sitting but standing is fine too.  Close your eyes and breathe in slowly for the count of seven then out for the count of eleven.  If this is too much you can try five and eight or whatever feels comfortable.  The idea is that you need to breathe out for a longer count than you breathe in.  Feel the breath coming in and out in the stomach, not your chest.  Keep this up for 2 minutes.  Put all your focus on your breath and not your stressful thoughts. Any unwanted thoughts you can notice but then imagine moving them away and return to thinking about your breath.

This exercise works for many reasons but two are: it helps to rebalance the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body and  also it enables you to step back and observe the situation more calmly and with logic.

Anxiety this Christmas…

Whereas stress is something that is real and actually happening, anxiety is what you think will happen or what you thought happened in the past in a negative way.  One of the main reasons that anxiety can take hold is a misuse of your imagination.  Your imagination can be used so successfully to solve problems and find solutions. This is what we were born to do.  When your imagination backfires and becomes damaging is when you begin to think of all different scenarios that could happen. Thoughts go round and round in your head and it becomes impossible to think clearly.  Catastrophic thoughts or black and white thinking come into play. This will not help anyone. Examples of these are “My friend didn’t call me back, she hates me” or “My homework is rubbish, I never get it right”

To calm down begin the breathing exercise for stress as above. Step back from yourself and mentally observe the situation from a distance.  Do you have evidence that the bad thing will happen?  What is the very worst thing that can happen? Is this likely? Think back to a time when you thought something really bad was going to happen and either it didn’t or it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought it would be.  Reframe the issue and see if you can think of an alternative scenario.  An example of this is when a checkout assistant in the supermarket seems sullen and unhelpful, making you feel angry. What if they have just found out they are going to be made redundant and this is their last shift?  Try this with other scenarios during your day and reframe them.  It will keep you calmer and p erhaps help you to be a bit more understanding.


Depression this Christmas  

Depression is normally brought on by a period of stress or anxiety when you have not been able to see a way out of a problem and the future looks bleak.  Separation, the loss of a job or loved one can all lead to depression. Please see the section on depression at the website for a more detailed account and how I can help.  Christmas can be a particularly difficult time.  There may be something that happened to you at Christmas time so when the season is coming up you can pattern match to the bad memory.  What if you prepare yourself this time and stop repeating the same experience?

If the memory is about a place, a group of people. a particular date or an event you are expected to attend which all have reminders say to yourself beforehand that you will break the pattern and do something else. You don’t have to put yourself through the bad stuff.  Make a plan to do something completely different at the ‘trigger’ time and please, make it a pleasant experience.  If a loved one passed away at Christmas, think about them the week before, visit their burial place then. They will understand.  If a partner finished with you or you with them it may not be a good idea to get out all the photos, put on the records you loved together and drink a bottle of vodka.

You have choices!

Money worries cause anxiety which can lead to depression.  Peer pressure and the need to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ can be avoided.  Be honest with your family early on. Explain that there just isn’t enough money in the pot this year for the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Pandora charm bracelet.  If your children are lucky enough to get pocket money then ask them to make a contribution to their presents. A secret Santa gift for little cash means you have remembered loved ones. Don’t feel guilty. It’s just stuff.

Christmas Day with people you don’t get on with. Don’t put yourself through it – again! Arrange to see them before or after Christmas instead.  Here’s some handy phrases to get out of it.

We’re not doing Christmas Day at ours this year.  Our local pub are doing a festive meal and we’ve just managed to bag the last 4 places! We really want to see you though so how does (insert date) sound?

We’ve been invited for Christmas Day by our friends (insert) and we’ve put them off for years so we’re going to theirs.  Will definitely meet up (insert date).

Do you know, we’ve never told you this but actually we don’t really like turkey, mince pies, Christmas cake etc so we’re going for sushi just for a change.

We’ve been a bit stupid and accidently invited the partner’s boss for Christmas Day! Can’t get out of it now.  Will definitely see you before or after.


Overspending at Christmas

At this time of year you cannot avoid the huge, beautiful real Christmas trees that COST A FORTUNE. As for the baubles, tinsel, decorations, lights etc, etc. Give it a rest. Does your house and garden really need to look like a scene from ‘Deck the Halls’?

When I was a kid a wonderful memory was making paper chains. All you need is a pack of coloured paper cut into 2.5cm strips and some pritt stick.  If you can drag your offspring away from their consoles/phones for an hour you’ll be giving you and them some real family time.

You may be able to cut a small tree from a local farm or choose a garden centre that doesn’t have Titchmarsh blaring out from the speakers and go for the cheapest option. Alternatively, go to the town outdoor market or get a small artificial one from Wilco’s.

Go to Church  We live in a more secular society and you don’t have to be a born again Christian to go to a carol or Christingle service.  I am not religious but there’s nothing I like more than belting out ‘O Come All Ye Faithfull’ and watching the kiddies all wanting to be angels – such innocence.  Tell you who might like this – your elderly relatives!

Turkey Many of the traditions are so out of date. I am not a vegan or indeed vegetarian but do you really need to spend up to £100 on a goose or turkey?  There they were, minding there own business, scratching around and being sooo looked after then CHOP!  Surely you can have the food YOU like to eat at a price YOU want to pay.

Lonliness at Christmas Are you likely to be alone this Christmas?  If you want to be alone and are happy about that then you have every right to be. You can get up when you want, eat and drink what you want and listen to your music or watch your TV.

What if the idea of being on your own makes you sad?  Do you know someone who is going to be on their own this Christmas, a neighbour, someone recently bereaved, or someone who has no family or has separated? Can you lay one extra place at your table for that person?  If they feel it will be too much of an imposition, can you pop round with a goody bag and an hour of your time for a chat?


Get out of the house If you are going to be on your own be good to yourself.  Set your alarm and get yourself ready for the day.  If you are able bodied make yourself breakfast and go for a walk.  Walking in nature is uplifting, even in the rain, or just getting some fresh air and walking around where you live will fill some of the day.

Helping others Often when we feel sad or anxious we spend long periods of time on thinking negative thoughts of what could have been or what might be in the future.  Focusing outwards can prevent this. Is there a local food bank or soup kitchen or somewhere you can help others less fortunate than yourself? An hour spent doing something for someone else will give meaning and purpose to your day. Perhaps there is an animal shelter that could do with some help?

Keep yourself busy Just because it is Christmas Day doesn’t mean you have to do Christmassy things.  What about that cupboard you have put off clearing or the shed that needs sorting out?  You can go to any charity shop and pick up a jigsaw puzzle. Any type of arts and crafts activity will give you something to concentrate on.  

Listening to your favourite music relating to good times or watching comedy can help.  So can picking up that book which you have been meaning to read but haven’t had time. Rather than spending long periods of time at home alone are their some shifts you can swap at work?  Your colleague will be grateful for the time off giving you the opportunity of holiday time later in the year.

Pefection Very often at Christmas there is an expectation that everything has to be perfect. Do you know what? It doesn’t.  If you expect that this will be the best Christmas ever, Uncle John will behave, your kids will love their presents, your partner will get that special gift for you, the meal will arrive on time and be delicious, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.  There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of pessimism.  What will be will be.  

Alcohol  Have you been in a situation where alcohol has spoiled your Christmas?  Bringing together groups of people who don’t normally get on or simmering arguments with partners become inflamed when alcohol is in the mix.  So often the day starts early with Champagne or Prosecco, and continues with glasses continually being filled. It’s like no-one has ever had a drink before so they need to consume as much as humanly possible over a ten hour period. Danger!

Enjoying a drink is great when you can handle it.  How about going out a few days before for a celebration knowing that just for Christmas Day you will cut right down or not even drink any alcohol. It is only one day and chances are you will wake up on Boxing Day with a clear conscience (and head), guilt free and feeling very pleased with yourself for a successful and happy Christmas.

There may be one family member or friend who you know will over do it.  I appreciate this is not the easiest conversation to have yet you have the right to a happy day so speak to them beforehand and make it clear that although they are very welcome at your house you will not accept any bad behavior or repeat of a previous alcohol induced bad event.  If they do play up they will be asked to leave.  After all the day is for everyone to enjoy, especially where children are involved.

Remember what is important this Christmas  

1.   Tell the people close to you that you love them and mean it

2.   Make time for others who need you

3.   If you can’t say something nice then zip the lip

4.   Make a conscious effort to include the children

5.   Be realistic about expectations. You don’t need perfection

6.   Think about what you are spending. Keep to a budget

7.   Plan ahead for the meal. So much can be prepared beforehand

8.   Watch the booze

9.   Think about who you really want to spend Christmas with

10.  Have fun!

I hope you have a fantastic Christmas.  I will be here if you need me and invite you to send me an e.mail at

With any worries now or in the New Year.

Posted 1 week ago

Mindful Walking in Nature

Mindful Walking at the Beach

Take a few deep, even breaths and inhale the fresh, salty air. Breathe in any tensions or concerns. Breathe out calmness and relaxation. With every out breath you feel more and more relaxed. Is the beach stony or sandy? If it’s sandy take off your shoes and socks and feel the sand between your toes. Really focus on the feeling. Is the sand cool and wet or warm and dry? If stony then maybe sit down and pick up the pebbles and study them. Feel them in your hands and across your lips. What can you see? Is it cloudy or clear? Is the sky blue? What colour blue? Are there people and dogs or even horses on the beach? Can you see boats or birds? What else? Now lay down and rest with your eyes shut. Breathe slowly and evenly and just ‘be’. Enjoy this relaxing time, listening to the beachy sounds. I hope you have a wonderful seaside mindful experience.

Mindful Walking in the Woods

As a hypnotherapist I invite my clients to go to a special place while in trance. 90% of clients will choose somewhere in nature, a beach or woodland path. This morning began with a twenty minute hill climb with spectacular views. A quick rest to listen to the abundant birds singing in the hedgerows. Carpeted on a clearing before the darkness of the woods we knelt to pick wild mint and thyme. Squeezing the herbs and taking in the mixed heady fragrance was heavenly. The woods beckoned. Black shiny octopus tentacles splayed out of the mighty millenial yew trees. Imagined them awakening and walking Tolkenesque at night. Verdent and splendid the oaks and beech guided us to a descending path to enjoy the larches. The smells of leafy hummus mixed with the new born leaves and unfirling bracken lifted the spirits further. Humid changed to fresh as the mists amongst the trees began to retreat and the sun sent dappled shadows on the path ahead. In such a good mood. That was a joyus, mindful walk. More photos to follow.

Mindful Cloud Gazing

Focus your mind outwards and enjoy the beauty of cloud gazing. These wonderful spring days are perfect for seeing all kinds of clouds. Take a friend. Really study the clouds mindfully. It will lift your mood, get fresh air inside you and exercise is guaranteed to improve your emotional well being. Enjoy your cloudy day and watch out for incredible sunsets too…

Posted 28 weeks ago

Make Sleep Matter

Posted 29 weeks ago
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Posted 29 weeks ago

Make Sleep Matter

Article about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep-

November 22, 2017

    My poor, sleep deprived husband doesn’t begrudge the fact that when I get into bed I am generally asleep after about ten minutes and I sleep through, getting roughly seven hours eleven minutes sleep each night.  I know I get this because I have a Fitbit Charge 2 and it tells me that’s what I get.  It also tells me I get 47% light sleep, 19% deep sleep, 12% awake and 18% REM, so I’m pretty average and I am lucky.

    It’s not always like this of course.  I don’t have a problem getting off to sleep because I am normally tired by 10 o'clock but sometimes I can wake at that worst graveyard time of 2am and when that happens I get up, make myself a cup of tea, hang around, look at the slugs on the cats’ food bowl, stand outside and listen to the owls then return to my bed.

    What is this Fitbit malarky? It’s a wrist band with a watch and gizmos that tell you your heartbeat, how many steps you’ve done, your sleep patterns and all sorts of fancy stuff.  They are about £110 and I love mine.  There are many producers of different models.  I bought it because I wanted to get fit and was very interested in my sleep.  I thought I should be getting eight hours but have now discovered that that’s just not me.  Two late night teenage boys and a hubby who trips, accidentally puts the main light on and flushes the loo while loudly apologising in a ridiculous whisper that he’s woken me up puts paid to any chance of the luxury eight hours.

    But what is it like when you can’t sleep?  Maybe you have horrible insomnia, an illness, meds or not the right sleeping environment or perhaps you have so much on your mind during the day, preventing you from getting off to sleep or waking up once, twice or all through the night.  I know a couple of people who live on about four hours sleep.  I have often been envious of friends who tell me they go to bed at 12.30am and get up at 6.30am.  They get to ‘do’ stuff and have so many more hours to chill.  Know what? I’m not envious anymore because now I know just how important sleep is for a happy and longer life.  It’s true.  All this four hours and going to bed late is really bad for humans and will come back and bite you on the backside in later life.  

So why does sleep matter?

Don’t bother asking a teenager. They manage because they are strong and young and when I was young I had no problem with staying up until 2am during the week and feeling fine the next day and that was with all the naughty stuff I was up to as well (that’s a blog for another day if you’re wondering).

    Let’s get cracking on why sleep is so important and some stuff that I hope will help you to appreciate your sleep more.  Why am I so much the expert? I’m not, however I am a student of the Human Givens College and soon (please oh Godly one) to qualify as a Human Givens Practitioner and they know one hell of a lot about sleep.  I’m also a qualified Hypnotherapist.  So here goes…

    Humans thrive when they get between 7-9 hours sleep per night.  Our ancestors would go to bed when it was dark and awake when it was light. Makes sense.  In our fast moving, techno, political, rather scary lives most of us find it impossible to get this much.  As we all have to work many hours and nowadays we’ll need to work until we’re about seventy-four our evenings are precious so no surprise we want to spend time with our families, partners and friends or just mooch about doing our stuff.  Normally we get a mixture of slow wave sleep and dream sleep with a bit of turning and waking that we are not aware of.  During slow wave sleep all sorts of wonderful scientific things happen to our bodies.  I’m no scientist so to use a metaphor, think of slow wave as dealing with your hardware (bodies and brains) and REM or dream sleep our software (thoughts and emotions).           Evidence based research shows us that in slow wave sleep (SWS) we go through periods of physical healing and recuperation.  Hormones are secreted to help with muscle wear and tear, cells in the brain are refreshed with sugars and the immune system is boosted.  In REM sleep our bodies become paralysed to make way for the huge amount of energy our brains need to dream.  We are in the deepest of trance states and often don’t remember our dreams or if we do, they are the ones that occur in the hours before waking.  REM lasts for up to about 25% of the night on average.  REM or Rapid Eye Movement can be seen in humans by the fluttering behind the eyelids or in cats and dogs when their legs twitch as if running.  Why do we dream and why do the dreams we do remember sometimes feel so real or bizarre?

   Joe Griffin from the Human Givens Institute has researched why we dream for many years and his findings make a lot of sense.  Joe’s research found that we dream at night to deactivate the emotional stuff we get worked up about during the day.  So if, for instance, your boss had a go at you in the office for an unfair reason you might want to give them a right mouthful but of course you don’t if you want to keep your job.  Sitting at the bus stop the most beautiful specimen of a human being walks past.  Do you call out “Corr, you’re gorgeous!?” Unlikely, yet that emotion stays within you.  On your way home someone pulls out in front of you making you slam your brakes on and missing your fender by inches.  Do you jump out, run over to the person and scream at them? Not advisable.  So all these emotions that you don’t act upon stay with you and at night you dream them out.  You need to do this in order to flush out all the emotional arousals to start afresh the next day.

   When you are stressed, worried, anxious, angry or upset you tend to think too hard. Ruminating is the buzz word of today.  You go over and over in your mind the problems and upsets and at night spend even more time dreaming, often waking exhausted and lacking motivation, fuzzy headed and with memory problems.  Tackling the route of your emotional issues will help you get better sleep. Talking to a 'good’ listener who doesn’t jump in with unhelpful advice or finding a solution focused, ethical counsellor can get you back on track.

    As you get much older you may find that your sleep is very sporadic and you tend to nap during the day.  Many older people, or indeed anyone, can suffer with insomnia for years and have put up with it.  Believing you are tough for doing this or thinking “that’s just the way I am” isn’t helpful and you don’t have to live like this.  Maybe you have spent years taking sleeping pills.  Why fill yourself with chemicals when there are alternatives?  Think back to when your sleep problems first started. Was there an event in your life that triggered your poor sleep?  If this is the case help is at at hand. A good therapist will know how to do 'the rewind technique’ and they will be able to neutralise the memory of that first trigger which has left you pattern matching the event subconsciously all these years.  It is a powerful tool and can change your sleeping behaviour quickly and for life.  Just think how wonderful you would feel going to bed at night and getting that 7-9 hours uninterrupted sleep?

    Not trying to teach granny how to suck eggs and I’m sure you know a lot of this already but here are a few tips to help you get a good night’s sleep.  Before you say, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works” think about it.  Have you


made the effort? Have you tried


?  Give it a go for a couple of weeks and then see if you still believe your negative self-talk.  If you really want to get better sleep there may need to be some adjustments to your routine.  It’s up to you …

  1.     Alcohol. Thought I’d start with this one because it really does affect your sleep.  Nothing wrong (in my humble opinion) with a couple of drinks but if you drink way over your unit allowance you will probably go off to sleep OK but by the early hours your body will go into withdrawal which will either make you make up thirsty or wanting to go for a pee or will certainly affect your quality of sleep.
  2.     Too much on your mind.  Rather than trying to go off to sleep with your brain buzzing about what you have to do the next day try keeping a notebook by your bed and jot down your list of things you need to do then forget about it. Time for sleep.
  3.     Caffeine.  Get rid of it altogether or at least stop any caffeine intake after 4pm.  Decaf  is better and hot chocolate is great or chamomile, fruity hot drink or such like.
  4.     Exercise.  Well known for inducing good sleep however try to exercise early in the evening or during the day so you are not wound up like a spring.
  5.     Your bed.  Is this the same mattress you’ve had for ten years with a big dent in it and lumpy? Change your mattress or at least turn it every month or so.
  6.     Your environment.  TV, mobile phone, laptop or iPad. Get rid.  Do you really need to know how many people have 'liked’ your post on Facebook or check the news to discover the world is about to end because all the bees are dying and we’re running out of antibiotics?  And probably not a great idea to watch 'Fast and Furious’ or 'The Conjuring’ before lights out.  
  7.     Pets.  Yes I know it’s sooo cute to have Fido or Felix asleep in your room or on your bed but they will wake you up with their purring, jumping up or wandering around with their favourite toy or kill.  Out they go.
  8.     Darkness and quiet.  Well, we live next to an airport with planes starting at 5am and finishing after 11pm so we’re stuffed.  Black out blinds are brilliant, double glazing great and keeping your room quiet is a must.  Can’t help with your snoring partner I’m afraid.
  9.    Regular sleep times.  This is a hard one for many but just try it for a couple of weeks if you can.  Go to bed at the same time and wake up the same time every night and aim for the 7-9 hours of sleep.  No sleeping at any other time.  Apologies for you shift workers.
  10.    Temperature.  Keep the room at an even temperature, not too hot or too cold.  Having cold feet can wake you up so wear socks if your room is too cool.  
  11.     Waking up in the night.  If you wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep after half an hour get up and do something really boring. I’m talking polishing the family silver (yeah like), washing the kitchen floor by hand or best ever, stand up reading the most boring or hard going book you can find (Moby Dick is good I’ve heard).  Go back to bed and back to sleep.  If you wake up again get up again and repeat the process.  Repeat this process until you can sleep.  
  12.      Wind down before sleep.  Here’s a lovely trick.  When you are lying down and and it’s time for sleep and maybe you still feel a bit wired try some relaxing breathing and visualisation.  It’s called 7/11 breathing (after the shop) but you can do whatever you are comfortable with, just make sure your out breath is longer than your in breath.  Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your body, starting with your feet and focus on your different muscle groups, imagining them relaxing into the bed: your legs, your torso, arms, back, shoulders, neck and head.  Breathe slowly through your nose, in and out.  If you have a bit of a blocked nose, breathe out through your mouth.  Breathe in for the count of 7 and out for the count of 11.  If you run out of breath on the out breath just pause to 11 or your own number and then breathe in slowly.  Do this for about 20 breaths.  While you are are breathing like this think of a special place where you like to wander (somewhere in nature like a wood or beach is often good) and imagine yourself there just slowly walking about.  Use all your senses to really believe you are there.  When you have enjoyed your special place enough breathe normally and think of yourself having the most wonderful sleep.

    I know this might all seem obvious, simplistic or impossible but you’ve got to start somewhere.  I wish you all the very best in your endeavours to get a good night’s sleep.  You deserve it and you need it.

Sweet dreams comrades…

P.S.  To learn more about sleep and dreaming I recommend the book 'Why We Dream’ by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell.

Posted 29 weeks ago
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