A hug a day keeps stress away

This morning, one of my little lads came in and gave me a very BIG hug, holding on for ages.  When he finally let go, I looked and him and asked ” what was that for?”. He just shrugged his shoulders and said “dunno…I just needed a hug” and scooted off. It really made me wonder what it actually is about a hug that makes us feel so much better. So I did a little digging and it turns out that a simple hug is far from simple, there is actually so much that happens when we hug someone –  and pretty much all of it is good!
cats hugging

What’s in a hug?

So here is my summary of the 10 amazing things that happen when you hug someone.
  1. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts your serotonin levels, lifting your mood and making you both feel happy – hence the BIG hug!
  2. Hugs instantly boost oxytocin levels which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation and anger. So helping you feel better!
  3. Hugging boosts self-esteem. From the moment we are born, our family’s use touch and hugging to show us that we are valued and loved, that we are very special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our infant years are still embedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles  we received from our parents whilst growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, so hugs remind us at a subconscious level of that feeling. Therefore, cuddles connect us to our ability to self-love.
  4. The lovely touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety.
  5. Hugging helps you relax. It releases tension in the body and helps take away any pain as it increases circulation into the soft tissues. nothing like a bear hug
  6. Hugs are very much like hypnosis, meditation and laughing they teach us to let go and be present in the moment.
  7. Hugs encourage empathy and understanding, and the energy exchange between two people embracing is an investment in the relationship.
  8. Hugging is like therapy. Research shows that hugging (and also laughter) is extremely effective at healing sickness, disease, loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress.
  9. A hug can actually strengthen your immune system! The warm gentle pressure on the sternum stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.
  10. A hug stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is the opposite to the flight or fight system so helping you feel safe, relaxed and
    calm.group hug

So what are you waiting for? Go give someone a big hug!!

Relaxation and stress managementTo help keep your stress at a healthy level check out my Relaxation and Stress Management track

Find out more about my work at www.natalhypnotherapy.co.uk 

Stress busting tips for Midwives (well anyone in fact)

My top 20 stress busting tips

With the recent reports on the increasing incidence of work related stress in the NHS, these 20 stress busting tips may go someway to helping Midwives (and anyone for that matter!)

What first prompted you to become a midwife?  I imagine the words passion, inspiration, support and empowerment would have featured in there somewhere. Back then, I doubt that words like stress, paperwork, guidelines, protocol or workload entered your mind when considering your future plans. However, more than likely, if you are working in the NHS, these are the norm and as a result you may be experiencing some degree of stress related challenges.

So to give you a little helping hand, here are my top 20 stress busting tips to help you cope with work related stress and which may also then help you reconnect with the reasons you became a midwife in the first place.

Now not all of these may appeal to you so pick and choose – even if you implement just one stress busting top a day you will begin to feel more relaxed, more in control and better able to deal with the daily stresses and strains of midwifery.

 

1.See things in their true perspective – stress can make you feel more sensitive, vulnerable and lacking in self-esteem.  It is so important to keep things in perspective and not to take things cropped-pile-of-pebbles.jpgpersonally. If you are not dealing with a potentially threatening situation, take a step back and think, will this really matter next week? Is it really worth me getting stressed about?

 

2.Take the lid off the pot – talk about the stress you are going through rather than bottle it up. Get together with colleagues for a good natter and whinge – it is a great way to off-load and to realise that you are not alone.

3.Lower the worry rating – worry is such a wasted use of energy.  If you can do something about it now then do it.  If you can’t do anything about it now then mentally park it or write it down so you can spend a few moments worrying about it later if you really need to, and then move on so you can get on with your daily routine without the burden of worry.

Stress busting tip - show midwives some love4.Set up a mutual appreciation group with your colleagues so that each day you have to say one nice thing to each other – identify one good quality, one good action.  Once you start saying them and hearing them it can really lift your mood and self esteem. All too often stress leads to and is compounded by lowered confidence and lack of self esteem. Everyone needs a boost now and again so start the ball rolling and tell your colleagues something positive about their skills or actions!

5.Focus on the positive.  Every day spend a few moments thinking about all the great things about your job, no matter how big or small – great muffins in the canteen, some colleagues, some of the women you care for, the smell of new born babies or the sound of a breastfeeding baby. By being appreciative and thankful of even the tiniest things, it can help reduce stress.

Stress busting tips - create a protective bubble6.Create a protective bubble – this is something I have found incredibly useful as a way of protecting yourself from negative or challenging experiences. Before going to work, imagine you have a protective bubble all around you and any negative experiences, words or actions just bounce off leaving you unaffected.

7.Ask for help – as women who care for others it is often very hard to ask for help.  However sometimes getting a little help from a colleague or manager is enough to take the lid off the bubbling stress pot. Speak up if you’re experiencing a problem, and talk to your manager to find a win-win solution. Remember, its part of their role to help you do this.

8.Take time out to RELAXgirl takes a bath with foam. vector illustrationIt is amazing how many people do not see this as a priority.  Think about ways you like to relax and then put them on a list on the fridge door so you are reminded every day to take time to relax.  Even it is just for a few minutes

9.Coping with difficult colleagues – one of the challenges that can cause stress at work is being in close proximity to difficult colleagues. One thing to always remember is that no matter how much you would like, you cannot change them or their personality.  The only thing you can change is your reactions. So the next time they say or do things which wind you up, take a moment, take a deep breath, accept that you can not change them and provide a calm response which prevents you from getting riled up.

10.Get some fresh air during your shift – not always easy but it is so good to help your blood flow, to breathe fresh air, to re oxygenate and to just “Be” for a bit.

11.Make a list of the things that stress you out – again no matter how big or small.  Go through each one and think of alternative responses. Think of things you can do to prevent the stress from building in the first place.  One thought that always works for me is to remember “and this too shall pass”.  No matter what you are going through, it will pass, it will be over and you will get through it.

nakd bars512.Feed your body and soul – work toward filling your body with food with gives you energy, vitality and a sense of well being. It is all too easy to reach for the chocolates or biscuits as a quick fix, but when you can, fill up on fruit, veg and protein, drink lots of water, drink smoothies, have bags of
healthy snacks. Avoid processed carbs, especially sugar as they are a real stress inducer as your blood sugar levels go all over the place, they contribute to increasing your weight and are highly addictive – not great for beating stress!

13.Make a to do list – sometimes the sheer volume of things that need to be done can cause a stress response. So chunk it down, make a list of what you have to do and then check back to the list so you can tick things off. This helps to increase your self esteem and give you a boost as you can see on the paper that you really are getting things done.

HappyPlace2_l small14.Create mini spa moments in your day – these need only be for 2 minutes. Stop what you are doing, take three deep breaths. Focus on how your body feels. Notice if there is any tension and the just wriggle and relax that part of the body.  Next massage the fleshy bit on your palm between your thumb and forefinger. This helps to relax and disseminate and tension.  Next using both your thumbs, massage the top ridge of your eye socket at the top of your nose then work way around the eye socket. All the time keep taking deep breaths.  You can also visualise being on a beautiful beach on in your favourite garden whilst massaging.  Then circle your shoulders a few times one way and then the other. And finally end with three deep breaths. You can even do this whilst doing a wee!

15.Plan ahead – if you have a stressful situation coming up then use a hypnosis techniques and take some time BEFORE hand to run through the event in your mind and visualise or imagine yourself coping brilliantly, staying calm, focused and positive.  Just by imagining this a few times your mind will gravitate towards those actions when you go into the situation for real.

16.Learn to say no – once again many women who care of others find it hard to say NO. if you are feeling over whelmed then do not take on any more shifts, committees, projects for the time being. As you may tell others, no one is perfect so remember to include yourself in that bucket. Saying no is OK. Saying no to yourself is also OK – you do not always need to fix things, to go the extra mile, to sort out other problems.

relax button17. Identity your triggers – in the job of a midwife, there are many factors that cause stress which you can not change, however we all have some buttons which get pressed and trigger off stress where others may not be stressed.  Take time to notice what has caused you to feel stressed. Identify those triggers then think about ways you could act differently, or maybe ways that others act and then copy them. There may also be more practical things you can do eg if stress comes from hunger, dehydration, lack of fresh air.

essential oil for aromatherapy

18.Take time out to be kind to yourself – again a bit tricky if you are a working mum or work long hours and many shifts. However giving yourself little treats at regular interval gives you something to look forward to, helps you nurture yourself and helps you relax.  Schedule in bubble baths, an hour to read a good book, coffee with friends, an hour to browse fun you tube clips, a visit to a local garden centre, a manicure. Actually put them in your diary and make them happen.

19.Learn quick, easy stress reduction techniques – one of the techniques I teach on all my hypnosis tracks is the “321 relax” – it sets up the suggestions that every time you hear or say the words 321 relax, you take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and allow a growing sense of confidence to build. You can create other triggers so that every time you squeezed your finger and thumb together you relax your shoulders, take a deep breath and so on.  In the beginning you can do this consciously but the more you do it the more automatic it becomes.

Midwife's Companion smaller

20.Listen to my Midwife’s Companion track!! This is a 30 minute hypnosis relaxation track specifically for midwives. It helps with so many of the above points as well as many more suggestions on dealing more effectively with stress in your role as well as stress in your personal life and it is FREE for midwives!
Click Here to for your Free Midwife’s Companion MP3

So which one is your favourite?  Do you have any more stress busting tips to add?

I would love to hear from you in the comments below or on our Facebook page

The secret to coping with labour

scared of giving birth
Are you scared of giving birth?

If you are currently pregnant or even planning to have a baby then the thought of giving birth will have crossed your mind once or twice!  From those cringe worthy sex education videos to One Born Every Minute the message most women get is clear. Birth hurts like hell, that you will be in labour for days, that you are likely to scream the place down and turn the air blue with a few choice words begging for drugs. Is it any wonder then that 8 out of 10 women in a Mother and Baby survey were terrified of giving birth?  So could there be a secret to coping with labour that is not publicly “out there”?

Well, if you were to switch over to the Discovery channel and were to watch a programme of any other mammal giving birth, she would be quiet, calm, mobile and seem to just get on with it.  We know that mammals register and feel pain, yet somehow during labour they don’t seem to show the same characteristics as women on OBEM.

So do you think that maybe there is a chance that women could also experience labour and birth being calm, more in control and better able to deal with the pain? What is this secret to coping with labour and how you can turn from a potential screaming banshee to a calm, serene birthing goddess?

Well, it all comes down to hormones and how you are feeling in the lead up to and during the labour.  If you are scared your body will be in a “fight or flight” mode and birth becomes tough; if you are calm, relax and breathe slowly, your body can just get on with it. To put it into context, imagine you are labouring alone out in the wild. Suppose you saw or even thought you saw a dangerous animal lurking in the shadows. What do you think would happen? Would you have a conscious choice on what happens next? Simply believing there is a wild animal in your birth space would instantly stimulate the “fight or flight” response. Your muscles would tighten, blood would flow to your limbs and contractions would slow down or stop and would not resume until you felt safe.

This fear, whether real or imagined, activates the nervous system to produce adrenaline (danger hormone), which gives you a burst of power to fight or to run away. Your cervix tightens (to prevent giving birth where it is not safe) and the increased level of adrenaline neutralises the oxytocin (the hormone responsible for your contractions) so that your body slows down or even stops labour. All this “fight or flight” preparation uses a great deal of energy and as our bodies were only designed to be in this state for a few minutes, you can imagine that staying in this state for prolonged periods of time will lead to prolonged labour, horribly painful contractions which will be extremely exhausting for both mum and baby.

This is essentially about fear, any fear – fear of pain, fear of dying, fear of tearing. Your nervous system does not know the difference between fear from real danger or imagined fear, from what you may have seen on the tele or told by friends and family and so your body will respond in the same way to both. If you go into labour feeling and being frightened, your system will respond accordingly.

So what is the secret to coping with labour and birth?

Ultimately it is about learning to let go of fear and to work with your body to stay as relaxed and calm as possible. By being able to relax during labour, your body responds in a very different way to the fear scenario described above. When you are relaxed, your breathing is even, ensuring a high level of oxygen is entering both you and your baby’s body, helping your baby remain calm and stable. Increased oxygen stimulates the production of oxytocin (hormone responsible for contractions) and the natural pain-killer, endorphins. As the uterus has no resistance or tension from surrounding muscles, the contractions are more effective and more manageable. Other natural hormones also increase in including relaxin which allows the tissue of the birth canal to relax, soften and expand.

One of the easiest and most relaxing ways to help you shift from being anxious to being calmer, is to listen to a Natal Hypnotherapy album in the weeks leading up to the birth. Over 2000 midwives now recommend award-winning Natal Hypnotherapy  as they have seen how beneficial it can be for both mum and baby. Listening to one of the tracks is a great excuse to go and lie down for half an hour knowing you are doing something really practical and useful to prepare for the birth.

My voice (british accent by the way) guides you into a deeply relaxed state using breathing techniques, guided imagery and visualisation. You can get a free 15 minute track by clicking here. Once you are deeply relaxed, your conscious mind becomes quiet and you become open and receptive to positive suggestions about the birth, learning coping strategies and pain management techniques, all geared towards helping you stay calm and able to deal effectively with contractions.

Hypnobirthing track
Natal Hypnotherapy hypnobirthing

As any midwife will tell you, the secret to coping with labour is to relax and breathe. By listening to a hypnobirthing track over and over again before labour you become brilliant at relaxing and effective breathing and are mentally familiar with the processes of giving birth, which naturally increases your confidence and reduces any fear associated with birth. The hypnotherapy techniques put you in control, so that you have all the coping strategies you need for the big day, no matter who else is there to support you.

You can learn more about how to help yourself during pregnancy and birth with my top tips emails

You can also read Jennifer’s birth story on how she used this secret to coping with labour.

If you’re not sure what this hypnobirthing stuff is like then you can get this FREE pregnancy relaxation hypnobirthing track

Click to download your FREE track

One Born Every Minute – a dad’s journey from a traumatic birth to an inspirational birth

This blog looks at how Paul’s journey took him from coping with a traumatic birth to being an integral part of an inspirational birth.

Channel 4 OBEM
Paul and Nadine talking about their positive expereince of using Natal hypnotherapy

Having met Nadine a few times I knew how much a positive birth experience had meant to her. Especially after the difficulties she had with her first labour. However, as often happens, a father’s perspective of the birth can be somewhat overlooked.

I was therefore so pleased when Paul sent me this video. He gives his perspective of their first difficult birth experience during which he felt like during which they both felt very unprepared and somewhat overwhelmed.  Paul especially felt like a bystander and felt unable to support Nadine in effectively.

When Nadine became pregnant again, they felt so strongly that they wanted to find a different way. Initially, like many partners, Paul was somewhat skeptical about hypnotherapy and had a misguided view of what it meant. However, he goes on to explain so clearly how his view changed once he understood what Natal Hypnotherapy was all about and how much it helped him have a proactive and important role and ultimately an inspirational birth experience.

I won’t give too much away but words like motivational, inspirational, positive, uplifting were words he used to describe the second birth experience.

You can watch his interview here

You can watch Paul and Nadine’s inspirational birth experience on Channel 4’s “One Born Every Minute” at 9pm on August 12th

To learn more about what Paul and Nadine did to prepare Click to download your 5 steps poster

I would love to hear from other partners who felt the same or from mums who saw a similar change in their birth partners.

30 Minutes a day keeps stress at bay

With stress related illnesses on the increase, investing only 30 minutes a day can help everyone deal with the challenges and difficulties that modern day living and worries can bring. No matter how bad your situation, being stressed and anxious will only make it worse. Stress can cause everything from lost libido and depression to a heart attack and is one of the biggest health problems facing people today.

Hypnosis has been shown to be an effective and powerful tool in managing and reducing stress and with the new Relaxation and Stress Management CD/MP3, it takes just half an hour in the privacy of your own home to feel refreshed, calm and confident. At just £10 for the download or £11.99 for the CD, it is becoming a popular way to manage stress, meaning you wont have spend half your salary travelling to a Buddhist retreat to relax!

“I recently lost my job and as a single mum, am facing some major financial and career challenges – I could not believe how just listening to the CD a few times has helped me feel more positive, relaxed and even excited about finding a new way to move forward in my life” Emma, Surrey

This highly effective self-hypnosis CD plays soothing background music while the calming voice of qualified clinical hypnotherapist Maggie Howell takes you into a state of guided relaxation. This will not only help you deal more effectively with stress but also get better sleep, feel more in control and able to deal with all the challenges that you face.

Maggie Howell comments: “These are very challenging times for all of us, where stress levels can reach unacceptable highs. With this CD you can learn techniques to help you manage stressful situations more effectively, put things back in perspective, feel calmer and more in control, whilst providing immediate relaxation in just half an hour.