This was the headline to an article about tranquiliser abuse among women on the front of the Metro one day this week.  It’s a fairly confusing and not very well written piece, but the gist of it is that, while 3.5% of women in Europe smoke cannabis (the world’s most popular drug), 4.2% abuse tranquilisers.  Dr Peter Swinyard, chairman of the Family Doctors Association apparently said, “Some women just need something to help them get through the day and deal with all the stresses of life such as looking after children and work, or lack of it – and sometimes doctors just dispense pills and sympathy.”

While I think that the Zombie Epidemic headline is very harsh – my experience in addiction services has certainly given me an awareness of how serious the problem of over-use and addiction to prescribed drugs actually is.  Many clients I have seen have been taking diazepam (valium) for decades. But many others, and certainly not only women, have become addicted to other drugs including anti-depressants, sleeping pills and pain killers.  Last year the Guardian reported a 43% increase in anti-depressant prescriptions over 4 years – up to 23 million – I find this figure absolutely staggering.

Is there an alternative?
Why is it that women in particular apparently “need something to help them get through the day”? What sort of society is it where so many people are apparently ‘depressed’ to the point of needing medication – despite Government pledges to increase the amount of money going into ‘talking therapies’? 

I know that, certainly in Surrey, the wait for these talking therapies via the NHS can be 8+ months – if you’re feeling seriously depressed or are not coping that could be way too long – hence, I suspect why doctors tend to prescribe 

anti-depressants which, while they may help in the short term, may also end up causing more problems of dependence and overuse.   

I believe that, for many of these people who are struggling with low mood and feeling unable to cope, some simple advice on sorting out their values and looking at what really matters to them, managing stress and work/life balance, working on their thought patterns, building self-esteem etc could change their outlook dramatically and eliminate their need for drugs or long term ‘therapies’.   

NLP coaching can be remarkably successful in these situations – so if you’re feeling depressed or are struggling to cope, think about giving this a try first before you embark on any potentially addictive drug treatment.  And if you are already having trouble stopping some prescribed medication, check out our Alcohol page which also covers drugs – we can probably help you. 


A long while ago now, I found myself sitting at a desk at the top of a high tower block in a grey office (think rapunzel), head in hands saying, in a rather whiney voice, to anyone who’d listen – “this isn’t what my life should be about!”.

Since then I’ve revisited this statement. What did it really mean? In essence I was seeing that particular period of office work as a deceptively long ‘chapter’ or worse still, a ‘theme’ in the story of my life – one so boring that any editor worth their salt would delete it without a thought, any reader would skip on, hoping it would get more interesting before the end. 

This line of thinking has proved extremely useful in stimulating change – particularly for creative people who, like me, rather like the idea of a biography of their life – the ‘This is Your Life’ programme turning up on their doorstep, red book in hand. If you’re letting the years pass by without really addressing your priorities though, this can be quite a terrifying prospect – enough to shock you into action!

The key questions I look at with my clients are ‘what do you want your life to be about?’, ‘what are the key themes?’, ‘what would you edit/cut?’...and then we take it from there. 

In NLP we would probably call this a ‘different perspective’ – you being the author of the story of your life. Is it a good one? 

You only get to live this particular life once – what do you want yours to be about? And more importantly, what are you going to do about it?


I have recently read ‘A Shed of One’s Own’ by Markus Berkmann – a brilliant description of life from the point of view of a self professed ‘middle-aged’ man. Incidentally labelling yourself as ‘middle-aged’ seems to come with many limitations, but that’s for another blog.

In chapter five there is an interesting observation regarding a ‘Guilt Gap’ between men and women. 

Like Virginia Woolf, most women need a room of one’s own, but even when they have it, they cannot quite escape the guilt that they really should be doing something else. (Dishes to wash? Lawns to mow? Walls to grout?). Whereas men, I believe, feel no such guilt. We know that the women would like us to feel guilty, but we just can’t. So to make everyone’s life a bit easier, we pretend that we are doing something sensible and productive in that shed, to conceal our lack of guilt that we aren’t’.

Ring any bells?! Assuming that the quote above is largely true (though I’m sure that there are many exceptions to the rule) - why is it that women tend to feel guilty more of the time than men?

The causes are presumably numerous. I’m sure that history has something to do with it. Women have fought hard for the right to have equal opportunities in careers and work in the same way as men, but have almost forgotten to add the caveat that this should mean a 50-50 split in all other tasks – household, child-raising etc. Many women have merely added ‘bread-winning’ to their remit, whilst not having removed anything from it. In the current financial climate, many families cannot survive on one income – for most women, working is no longer a choice, but an expectation...there is a lot to do!

Regardless of the causes, what is the solution? Surely it’s healthier to have the ‘male attitude’ rather than punishing ourselves with guilt when we are supposed to be having a lovely time?

“But if I don’t do it, then nobody will!” I hear you cry! 

Ultimately it’s a matter of priorities – how important are you? Where do you see yourself and ‘you time’ in the pecking order? Perhaps everything but ‘You’ gets automatically labelled urgent without considering whether doing the washing up tomorrow (in the vain hope that someone else might do it) would result in the sky falling in, or not. What would more likely result in the metaphorical sky falling in would be you reaching the end of your tether, unhappy and grumpy a lot of the time, collapsing exhausted at the end of every endless day - still 

with a myriad of things left on the infinite ‘to-do’ list...etc. etc. The reason men feel less guilty, more of the time – particularly when they are

taking the time out to enjoy themselves, is because for them they are a priority. They have earned that time to enjoy themselves, and after all, that’s what life is about...isn’t it? Many men believe that time out to enjoy themselves is more urgent, and more important than most other things. I think they’re probably right.  

Here are some top tips to keep the guilt in check:
  • Use Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix – rather than having an endless list, divide your ‘to-do’ activities into a grid - with urgent and not urgent at the top, and important and not important down the side. Make sure that, depending on the level of necessity, “you-time” is in one of the top two boxes. The bottom two boxes tend to fall away anyway.
  • Accept that there will always be something to do, so unless you prioritise ‘you-time’ over other things, you will never get to it at the bottom of the list.
  •  What’s the worst that could happen? When you label things in your mind automatically as urgent, question it. What would happen if you didn’t do it? Is it that bad?
  • Delegate. It sounds harder than it is – clear communication on division of labour in advance can mean everyone gets to make time for themselves.  

NLP Coaching can help you with time management and reducing guilt feelings.


The idea for this blog came to me following a recent coaching session with a client.  I  carried out a ‘values hierarchy’ (as described in Sarah’s blog of 14/5/2012) and, as is often the case it took quite a long time and was quite a mental struggle for this client to identify his values – it doesn’t tend to  be something we think about.  Among others, one that finally came out was ‘making other people happy’. 
‘What a lovely person’, I thought.  Most of the rest of the session concentrated on some common omission from the values hierarchy and we didn’t come back to this in the session.  However, a few days later I received an email from the client. He told me that he had done something nice for some friends he was meeting and they had been very complimentary and obviously enjoyed what he had done. Initially he had told himself that he only did it for the praise he would receive and felt bad about this.  However, given a bit more thought about the sort of things we have been dealing with in his sessions he eventually changed his mind. He realised that when he gets thanks for doing something for someone else it actually isn’t the praise which is the motivating factor, it’s that the praise is a sign that the thing he had done had brought pleasure to somebody else.  This insight made him feel a lot more cheerful – he was living to his values.  If you are not living to your values, then you are unlikely to be happy.

Accepting compliments comes hard to some people
Many people suffering from low self esteem find it very difficult  to accept compliments and praise – they feel they don’t deserve it or, as in this case, manage to find a way to turn round a generous and pleasant gesture into something selfish. 
We all need to feel appreciated – it’s what helps us to feel valued, and valuable. That’s why it’s unusual for small children to suffer from low self esteem – as they start to learn to walk and speak and do all the 101 other things they need to do, they get loads of encouragement and praise from Mum and Dad and everyone else.  When a baby stands up to try walking, and then bumps down on his bottom we still tell   

him what a clever boy he is, we wouldn’t dream of letting him think he was a failure because he didn’t make it across the room.  But then somewhere along the line – probably around 7 or 8 – things change. 

Pressure and criticism tend to take the place of encouragement – the ‘could do better’ style of parenting and school reporting come into play and suddenly the child starts to believe that he’s a disappointment, not living up to people’s expectations. And unless we’re very careful as parents this feeling can carry on into adulthood and low self esteem can become chronic.  But, even if this is where you are now – it’s still quite possible to change it.  If you feel you are inclined to view yourself negatively, here are a few tips which might help:
- Listen out for your internal voice – are the things it is saying fair? Try imagining a friend saying those things, or distorting the voice into another character.·        
- Create a book for your achievements – we often focus way too heavily on our weaknesses or failings. ·        
- Stretch  your comfort zone frequently with a ‘10% new’ attitude – start small and work up – a new route to work, have your lunch somewhere else etc. ·        
- Be curious about other people – it takes the focus off yourself and stops you worrying about how you are performing.

If low self esteem is holding you back– then NLP coaching can help you improve it.