There is a long article about sleeping pills in today’s Guardian – apparently 1 in 10 of us now take them regularly,  a total of 15.3 million prescriptions costing the NHS £50 million last year, 8.2 million of which were for Zopiclone and Temazepam, the most commonly prescribed drugs for insomnia.  Neither of these drugs are recommended for long term use (more than 2-4 weeks) as they are inclined to cause dependence, can have unpleasant side effects and be very painful and uncomfortable in withdrawal.

I have, however, met probably hundreds of clients who have been taking these drugs every night for years. If GPs stop prescribing, then people will resort to street drug dealers or the internet to obtain drugs of doubtful origin and questionable content.  


So why can't we sleep?              
I ask the same question I asked about depression a few weeks ago, what is  it about our society that causes so many people to have so much trouble sleeping?  I believe that many people’s sleeping problems are caused by an over-stressful life and the inability to turn off their brain at night - we work long hours, often take work home with us or even work from home, are too inclined to check our emails just before we go to bed, leave our smart phones on overnight etc.  I know that if I have had a particularly stressful day, or am dealing  with something I am anxious about, I will either have trouble getting to sleep or wake in the middle of the night and be unable to go back to sleep.  When I was single it was easier, I used to just turn on the light and read till I felt ready for sleep.  Now, not wanting to disturb my partner, I tend to just lie there with my mind whirring – not ideal!  


But I generally find that, as long as I get up at the normal time and keep my routine the same,


 I will sleep fine the next night as I will be very tired.  


Another cause of sleeping problems is, oddly enough, worrying about not sleeping!  We are led to believe that we need 8 hours sleep a night, and if we’re not getting it we tend to obsess about this which has precisely the opposite effect from what we would like!  Many of us in fact need less sleep than this, or can function perfectly well on less as long as we get a longer night every now and then.  And many people, especially older people, are actually sleeping much more than they realise – many times I’ve been told by an elderly person ‘I haven’t closed my eyes all night’ while care workers have said they were sleeping soundly each time they were checked!  

   If you are finding that night after night you are lying awak for hours, then exhaustion will set in and you do need to do something about it. 

What are the options?
    The Guardian article says that CBT can help, and the Government is spending £144 million on increasing NHS access to it ... but my experience is that it is patchy and waiting lists can be very long. NLP can help in a similar way to CBT, and I would urge people to use one of these to learn some stress management techniques before heading for the GP and the sleeping pills route. 

Insomnia is a real problem for some people, and can be very distressing.  But it really is worth learning some simple mind-management techniques and only using medication as a short term last resort.  NLP coaching can help with you learn these techniques, and also help if you've already got a problem with drug dependence.  


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Every body’s talking about the Olympic legacy of encouraging more people to take part in sport, and certainly anything that can be done to improve the nation’s fitness, and especially that of our children, is to be encouraged.  But I’d like to see another legacy – one of us feeling rather more positive about ourselves.

Despite not being a great sports fan I have loved every minute of it from the start of the opening ceremony to the end of the closing, and I can’t wait for the Paralympics to start.  Hasn’t it been lovely with everybody talking about how good we are, how well we’re doing, what a great show we’ve put on?  For two whole weeks all the negativity evaporated, people actually talked to each other, people were smiling – even the newspaper headlines were positive and excited. 

Do we deserve to be so down on ourselves?
Low national self esteem seems to be ‘Great’Britain’s special subject – largely led by the newspapers.  Whenever I remark on this I’m told ‘Good news stories don’t sell newspapers’ – is this really true I wonder?  Have newspaper sales dropped in these weeks – I doubt it; if they have then we get what we deserve.  All the things that have made us feel great about the Olympics from architecture and engineering to creativity and sporting excellence are here all the time – we just choose to ignore them.  

Take a bus more or less anywhere in London or any of our cities, sit on the top deck if you can and you will pass fantastic buildings – old and new – which, if you were a tourist in a foreign city would have you gasping and grabbing your camera.  Thomas Heatherwick who designed the fabulous Olympic cauldron has been designing amazing buildings, structures, furniture and, objects for two decades – including The Rolling Bridge in Paddington (check it out on YouTube) – there has been an exhibition of his work at the V&A this Summer. 

We have incredible orchestras and theatres – our great National Theatre has tickets for £12  
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and  the Royal Festival Hall starts at £9 and regional theatres are also more reasonable. And the London theatre fringe is an absolute mine of brilliant material, generally very inexpensive because nobody is being paid for doing it! Most of our great art galleries and museums are free – how many countries can say that?  And it’s not just the cities - our countryside is second to none (especially when it stops raining!), our gardens are beautiful and our towns and villages all have their own unique history and charm.   


Let's try for a bit of balance
I’m not suggesting we should ignore what’s wrong – the banking scandals, corruption in the Police force and media, the recession, the NHS crises et al.   But why not look at it in context?  When individuals come to us with low self esteem they will often use phrases like ‘I’m useless...or hopeless... or no good’.  To which our first response is generally along the lines of ‘Are you an entirely useless person, or is it more that there are lots of things you are good at, and at the moment you are struggling with [x]’! This changes the focus to the positive and ‘at the moment’ is key –  indicating that what is less than perfect can change.  
 
So, let’s just remember all the things that make Britain great – not just for these few weeks – but permanently, and even when individual stuff doesn’t look that good ‘at the moment’.  I’m sure we’ll all feel better for it!

If there’s something you’re struggling with 'at the moment', check out the rest of our website and get in touch.  



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I was very pleased when I saw that it was #Groomsweek for ‘You and Your Wedding’ on Twitter. The concerns of the male members of the wedding party are often swept under the crystal sprinkled table, whilst more important decisions, such as what colour to have the chair sashes, are made.

As an NLP coach and actor, I regularly coach grooms, best men and fathers of brides to allay their fears and give their best on the big day.

Top concerns among grooms include saying their vows, making their speech and what the best man will say in his speech. 

Here are some top tips for grooms to get the best out of their day (it is their day too you know!):


 Vows
  • Remember why you’re there in the first place. It’s about you and your future wife – you may only say these vows once, so take your time and make sure she hears them.
  • Rehearse your vows out loud – don’t let the wedding be the first time you say them – even if you’re a big ‘lad’ you might be surprised by the emotion of the occasion!
Speeches
  • When writing your speech, focus on the message. This is your soap-box moment – all the people in the room will have been chosen to be there (even your obscure uncles and aunties) – what is important for your guests to know? Write bullet points of the key things you want to say. If you think it’s important to cover these points, then the guests will too. Ask the family of the bride if there is anyone you should mention who isn’t at the reception.
  •  Rehearse your speech out loud. The more you rehearse, it will become ingrained in your muscle memory and it will be like second nature when you’re at the wedding. Mark on it where you want to take breaths – you’ll be surprised how useful this is.

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  • Take a few minutes each day to visualise yourself (on a TV screen) delivering the speech excellently. This will help programme you to expect success rather than failure. 
  • On the day, make yourself responsible for putting the audience at ease – if you’re thinking about how they feel, you’re less likely to be focussing on yourself. 
  • Take a deep sigh-breath before you start and take the audience in. This will calm you down.
  • If you are saying something light hearted, smile - that way the audience will too!
  • It sounds obvious, but read the bullet point first, then look up, take in the whole room and speak. Allow eye contact – it creates connection with the audience and you’ll feel supported by them.

Best Man Speech
  • If he’s your best-man, he’s most likely your best-mate. Communicate to him in advance what the tone of the reception is going to be, what the bride’s family are like, what you expect from him and how far he can take it. A bit of advance notice as to prudish parents is well worth it in the long run!

If you’re getting married soon, congratulations! Feel free to get in touch for some coaching sessions to help prepare you for your big day.



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Curiosity ... the name of the latest Mars exploration rover– a wonderful name for an extraordinary piece of equipment.  Because more than anything it explains why it’s up there!   We’re curious – endlessly– about planets, about space and our place in the Universe, about what other life may exist somewhere and about what our eventual future might be.
  
Curiosity, more than anything else, has been the engine of human development – look at how children learn – the endless why, how, what, when questions that can drive any parent to distraction, especially as the child’s expectation is that the parent should know all the answers!  Think about the inventions we all take for granted bread, cotton, penicillin, plastic – the inventor may have been looking for the answer to a problem, but the curiosity was there – ‘I wonder what would happen if .....’


So why should we stay curious as we age?                 
Looking at the world with a sense of curiosity makes a real difference.  Remember what is was like to be a child when you wanted to know absolutely everything about everything – how happy and exciting life was then when everything seemed new.  Sadly a lot of us lose that sense as the years go by, but you can re-create it. For instance, it’s great to take a curious attitude in your relationships with people  - instead of being angry or complaining about someone’s behaviour, ask questions - ‘I wonder what is happening for him to make him behave that way?’, ‘what would have to be happening for me to behave that way?’  You may find it gives you new insight and helps you to react more  sympathetically and be less stressed by how others behave. 
  

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 Staying curious about what’s going on in the world, new inventions, new artists, new books, new music, new technology adds a real freshness to life. At my age,  it seems to be a popular habit to moan or adopt peers’ opinions, writing things off without making an effort to understand them.  I have found that the more you retain your curiosity the broader your interests will be, the more‘alive’ you will stay as you get older, the more interesting and active a person you will be and the easier you will find it to relate to your children and grandchildren. 


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The British Medical Journal has announced the results of a large scale study has revealing that there is a correlation between even relatively minor mental health issues such as stress and anxiety and premature mortality.  I can’t say I find this particularly surprising, but it’s interesting to have one’s natural instincts verified by scientific research!

What do we mean  by 'stress'?
We talk about ‘feeling stressed’ but often what we’re really describing is a collection of physical and emotional symptoms – these can be different in different people, but common ones are headaches, tension in the neck and shoulders, churning stomach or feeling sick, sleeplessness – or the opposite – extreme tiredness, loss of  appetite,   irritability, weepiness etc.   If we ignore them, and don’t deal effectively with the cause of the stress, the symptoms can become chronic and it’s not surprising that they have a negative impact on our  overall health.   An unfortunately common reaction to stress and anxiety symptoms is to resort to alcohol or drugs - which, while they may make you feel better for a short while, can obviously increase the risks to your health if they become a regular habit.

So what can you do about it?
There’s lots you can do to combat stress, and NLP has a number of excellent techniques.   The first thing is to be aware of your symptoms – listen to your body.  Notice where and when you feel the stress most. What is causing the stress? Is it something you can avoid (a different mode of transport to work for 
example) or, more likely, something you could avoid if you re-evaluate your priorities and have a look at your work/life balance?    
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If it’s something that you really can’t avoid, then the next thing to look at is your reaction to it. There are techniques to help you change the way you react to a particular stimulus so that you can interrupt and stop the onset of the stress or anxiety symptoms. This will enable you to look at and deal with the‘stressful’ situation from a different, and potentially more effective perspective. In addition to reacting to and dealing with ‘stressful’  situations differently,  and preventing their onset through careful planning, there are also lifestyle adjustments that can help reduce stress across the board - for example regular exercise and relaxation.

Stress and anxiety can both be very uncomfortable feelings, as well as damaging to your health.   NLP coaching can help you identify the causes of your ‘stressy’ symptoms and look at ways to manage them. 



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