Putting on the Ritz….

Can I be honest with you? I didn’t want to say anything before in case I put the mockers on it but I really wasn’t looking forward to going back to the UK last week. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see my friends and family but I find that these trips bring lots of little anxieties that, when added together, leave me feeling more than a little stressed out….

Can I be honest with you? I didn’t want to say anything before in case I put the mockers on it but I really wasn’t looking forward to going back to the UK last week. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see my friends and family but I find that these trips bring lots of little anxieties that, when added together, leave me feeling more than a little stressed out….

IMG_3344I don’t really like to fly alone as I find it very boring and it’s not really socially acceptable to grab a strangers hand during a bout of turbulence! This time I had a window seat. I’d like to say that this was allocated by the airlines and was just bad luck (I really don’t like heights) but I’d reserved the seat myself; not enough attention paid or a sub-conscious choice? After establishing that the people in the seat next to me were not the chatty type I decided to close my eyes and pretend to be asleep whilst my stomach turned somersaults…..then something changed. I remembered that excitement has the same physical manifestations as fear. I looked out of the window during take-off and many times during the flight and, do you know what, it was incredible! For the first time I didn’t imagine myself plummeting to the ground and exploding in a ball of flame; I actually felt the excitement of flying…..

Another major cause for anxiety had been revisiting the places where my husband and I had spent a lot of time together and also meeting up with my step-daughter; I have wonderful, wonderful memories associated with both but, at the same time, they both bring pain because they are physical reminders that he’s no longer with me. This time I allowed the memories to come flooding back and accepted the tears that came with them. My step-daughter and I talked openly and honestly about our feelings; we didn’t put on false cheer but cried together, two souls understanding each other’s pain. We were closer in that moment than we had been for a long time and it was wonderful……..

Next I went to visit a dear friend. We were at school together so that will give you an idea of how many years we’ve known each other! She is one of the strongest, kindest people I know and she is battling a very rare type of brain tumour. We haven’t seen each other for a couple of years but all trepidation was put aside; it was as though we’d never been apart. We talked, laughed, reminisced and cried and it all felt totally natural and very, very special…….

IMG_6314Next: I’m not a huge fan of crowds but when my parents proposed that we spend the day in London I thought ‘why not’? I braved the tube and even the loos at the station (awful in case  you were wondering AND they charged 50p for the privilege!). We walked for a few minutes and arrived at The Ritz, there I saw the doorman in full livery which included a top hat. The thought went through my mind that he could make a great addition to a selfie (sad I know). Normally the thought would have left as quickly as it arrived but, on this day, I marched straight up to him and asked if he would mind being in a photo. He agreed readily and was absolutely charming to boot…….

Later on we walked past a jewelers in the Burlington Arcade where I was brought to an abrupt halt by a large diamond that flashed and twinkled at me in a very seductive manner. After forcibly prising my nose from the window, my Dad suggested that I should go in and ask the price as I was obviously so taken with it (was it the drool on my chin that gave it away do you think?). Now, let’s be clear at this point: there were no prices on anything in the window, and you know what they say about having to ask, and you couldn’t just walk in, you had to ring the bell and then wait to see if they liked the look of you. After umming and ahhrring for several moments I pushed the bell and, somewhat surprisingly they ushered me in with a warm smile. I asked to see the ring which was duly presented, with great reverence, on a cushion of black velvet. Ohhhh it was beautiful and a perfect fit so obviously we were meant to be together; I was in love….

It was a that moment that I noticed a very discreet price ticket. I had to read it a couple of times just to make sure that I hadn’t misplaced a decimal point but, no, it did actually say £29,500.00. Hmmmmm! So there I was in a locked shop wearing a ring that carried the same price tag as a small car…what to do? I looked up at the assistant and said very calmly

“It’s beautiful but honestly, now it’s on,  I think that it’s just a bit too flashy for my taste”

Yes, alright, it wasn’t exactly honest but I couldn’t bring myself to scream “how much”????? and then rip it off my finger as though it was a burning brand before storming out of the shop like the hounds of hell were at my heels. Instead I took the slightly duplicitous but altogether more elegant route. I said my goodbyes and the assistant remained utterly charming despite the fact that she hadn’t managed to part me from almost 30 grand in exchange for a small sparkly rock – sanity had prevailed.

I should point out that I have fallen prey to shop assistants in luxury stores before who have managed to separate me from my cash by using sneaky techniques like telling me I look wonderful in whatever it is they are trying to sell. Do you know what I mean? Standing in the shop, in front of the mirror, you are convinced that you will wear/use said item all the time – you get back home, wonder what on earth you were thinking and shove it to the back of the wardrobe where it glares at you reproachfully for ever more.

Anyway, that was my trip back to Blighty. There were smiles, laughs and tears but I am really glad I went; my comfort zone was expanded and I remembered what it was like to be me, without all the bad memories forcing me to put on a false front….

Have a wonderful day everyone and thanks for stopping by :O)

Lisa x

This is Why I Hate Surprises….

Any of you who read my post from yesterday will have realised that  I have teeny problem with thought separation inasmuch as I can’t stop the little buggers taking sides and beating the crap out of each other. One the one hand we have Captain Positive and his little band of perky cheerleaders and on the other Captain Doubt who is constantly throw a spanner in the works or, failing that, beating cheerleaders over the head with them.

Any of you who read my post from yesterday will have realised that  I have teeny problem with thought separation inasmuch as I can’t stop the little buggers taking sides and beating the crap out of each other. One the one hand we have Captain Positive and his little band of perky cheerleaders and on the other Captain Doubt who is constantly throw a spanner in the works or, failing that, beating cheerleaders over the head with it.

Anyway,  I was promised a big surprise last week which led to an inevitable 3 day battle between the two Captains who have set up opposing camps somewhere in my cerebral spaghetti. The surprise giver was my best friend who is the kindest and most well intentioned person in the world. Unfortunately, he seems to think that I am far more well-adjusted than I actually am and dismissed all my pitiful whimperings about hating surprises as well as my increasingly hysterical demands to know what we would be doing, where we would be going, who with etc etc. All he would reveal was that we were going on his motorbike, it would be a new experience and I would have a great time……

Yesterday duly arrived and my friend arrived with his bike and a very large rucksack.

“So I’m carrying the rucksack then?” I was eyeing it suspiciously and it was glaring back.

I tried to pick it up with one hand and then put it back down.

“What the bloody hell have you got in here?????” I was convinced that it was full of rocks.

We argued for a while about the weight of the thing (I thought at least 30kg while he insisted no more than 10!)

“So how far is this place” I asked to try and smother the temptation to find a set of scales

“Just under 200km……..here I’ll help you with the bag”

Panic 2My first thought was ‘just hand the bag back, say thank you very politely and go back indoors’ but then I thought ‘no! stop being such a wussy, your best friend has arranged a lovely surprise for you so suck it up’.

I handed over my sunglasses to be put in the rucksack (fortunately they don’t weight very much) and spotted two things which looked very much like cycling helmets or the helmets you wear to climb mountains…….or jump off bridges attached to giant elastic bands…….

Captains Positive and Doubt were barged out of the way by Sergeant Panic who was  screaming at the top of his lungs and banging frantically on the back of my eyeballs trying to get my attention. The Team Positive cheerleaders pushed him over, sat on him and jammed a pom pom in his mouth…..

I put my foot on the foot peg which is roughly the size of bourbon biscuit and hoisted myself up. The rucksack ensured that my first attempt failed and my second, although successful was anything but elegant.

“By the way [person he knows I don’t like] is coming with us…….” my friend said casually

Sergeant Panic had poked cheerleader 1 in the eye, spat out the pom pom and now had Captain Doubt by the lapels, was shaking him violently and demanding to know why he wasn’t doing anything…….

An hour into the journey and the good Captain and his Sergeant had stuffed all members of Team Positive into the broom cupboard and were sitting down with a number of distant cousins including Paranoia and Anxiety. There is not much to do on the back of a motorbike other than look at the view and listen to the voices in your head; as it was motorway for almost the whole damn journey it was standing room only for negative thoughts after….well, not very long at all really.

I swear I did my best. Captain Positive made a bid for freedom when I saw a sign for an Outdoor Activity Park but he was rugby tackled by Disappointment when I realised where we were actually going.

A race track. To watch a race. With thousands of other bikers.

This was not a new experience at all, there would be no adrenaline rush (which I was desperately praying for by this point as, in my experience, an adrenaline rush can kick the arse of pretty much any negative emotion) and I had worried myself sick for 3 days, for what? Captain Positive chose this moment to point out that that’s exactly why worrying is a waste of time but Corporal Anger kicked him in the crotch and he shut up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love motorbikes, I especially love watching my friends race as it’s exciting watching someone you know hurtle round a track at breakneck speeds but it’s something I’d done many times before. Why give me all this nervous anticipation for an Endurance Race I’d never heard of full of riders I didn’t know??

tantrumI’d like to say that I took all this in my stride, thanked my very kind friend and had a lovely day. I’d like to be able to say that but I can’t because it didn’t happen. Team negative seemed to have taken control of my facial muscles (forcing them into a frown) and my vocal cords (which they’d somehow manipulated so that all I was capable of was hhhmphhh).

Captain Positive, no doubt holed up somewhere with an ice pack on his balls, refused to take part in anything all day so it was party time for Team Negative. All I could focus on was the pain in my back (from the rucksack which would still be heavy on the return 200km journey), the guilt I felt for not appreciating the surprise day out, the unbearable, unrelenting noise, the heat and the masses and masses of people. I tried, I honestly did, not least because I was feeling bad about the way I was treating my best friend but the day just went from bad to worse….

Somehow Team Negative grabbed Granny Agoraphobia from the Sunnydale Retirement Home for Old Neuroses and I started to really panic. I tried to explain to my friend but he was justifiably pissed off with me, because I ‘d been a miserable git all day, and wasn’t really in an understanding mood. In the end, I was in floods of tears and insisted that we go home; I just couldn’t cope any longer. The day had been ruined, Team Negative had won and, as a result, I think I may have lost my best friend……

Lisa

x

 

Fighting Amongst Yourself

Have you ever had a fight with yourself? I don’t mean taking yourself by the scruff of the neck and throwing yourself over the back of the sofa, more a fight within the confines of your own mind. I believe the technical term is ‘internal dialogue’, when the exchange is calm and productive, this is more of an ‘internal slanging match’. It’s as though your thoughts suddenly take against each other……

Have you ever had a fight with yourself? I don’t mean taking yourself by the scruff of the neck and throwing yourself over the back of the sofa, more a fight within the confines of your own mind. I believe the technical term is ‘internal dialogue’, when the exchange is calm and productive, this is more of an ‘internal slanging match’. It’s as though your thoughts suddenly take against each other……

Usually it begins with a single, simple phrase that runs through your mind, dragging a negative, but all too willing, emotion along with it

“I can’t do this!”  says the Captain of team doubt, accompanied by Sergeant Anxiety.

“Of course you can, it’s a wonderful opportunity”

The Captain of team positive thinking takes centre stage flanked by a couple of pom pom waving cheer leaders from Camp self-esteem

“I can’t, it’s too much pressure, I know it’s going to be a disaster”

Team doubt have been joined by Fear (always a big player) and a couple of rejects from Camp self-esteem who were kicked out for ‘not playing well with others’.

“We’ve talked about this. You cannot know what will happen; let go of control and just go where life takes you”

cheerleadersTeam positive thinking have recruited self-confidence (who did not come willingly) The cheerleaders are busy chanting motivational quotes and trying to work out how to build a human pyramid with just the two of them.

 

“Oh bugger off you bloody hippy, what do you know about it”

The rejects from Camp self-esteem take this opportunity to wrestle the pom poms from the cheerleaders and start hitting self-confidence over the head with them; not an eager participant in the first place, he makes a run for it.

“I’m you, you blithering idiot!”

At this point both sides will realise what a nonsense their battle really is or they’ll both take serious offence and launch an all out attack on each other, which results in the owner of the warring thoughts having to lie down in a darkened room for a couple of days.

Viewing my inner dialogue scraps like this is the only way that I can keep them from drawing battle lines and really wrecking my life. Today, I enlisted the help of Common Sense who is currently standing in the middle of the two protagonists with his arms folded and a stern ‘don’t mess with me you bastards’ look on his face.

Why is all this necessary? Well, a couple of my closest friends have organised a surprise for me today.

“I don’t like surprises”

“How do you know, you don’t know what it is, that’s the point of surprises”

“Oh, sod off with your bloody logic, I know what I don’t like”

Sorry, guys, I need to go and give Common Sense a hand, they seem to be giving him a wedgie……..

See you later

Lisa x

 

 

Could You Cope with Life on Death Row?

They start to lose hope that they will ever be free from their emotional restraints and, when their end finally comes, I wonder if they will regret not opening the door to their cage and freeing themselves……?

Just try to imagine it; the last thing you think about before you go to sleep, the first thing you think about when you wake and every hour in between, is the fact that you are going to die. You could live like this for years before the day finally comes: worrying, imagining…..suffering unbearable mental torture. Trapped in a cage with no means of relief from the anxiety and stress gradually…..slowly losing all hope. Knowing that, when the final day comes, you will be filled with regret about the life that you led behind a prison’s walls.

To end up on death row you need to have committed a terrible crime but many people sentence themselves to a life like this. They are so worried about the future, about what may happen to them and how they might suffer that they are mentally imprisoned and suffering all the emotional torture of literal incarceration. They gradually retreat into themselves until their world grows smaller and smaller; until it’s the size of a prison cell. They start to lose hope that they will ever be free from their emotional restraints and, when their end finally comes, I wonder if they will regret not opening the door to their cage and freeing themselves……?

We are born – we die and the bit in between is called LIFE, don’t make it a sentence.

x

Like a Fart in a Colander

My imagination had stalked off in a huff and slammed the door behind it but I’m sure it won’t be long before it throws an other tantrum! However, as long as I’m aware, I should be able to grab it by the scruff of the neck before it can cause too much damage. 

Have you ever had one of those days where, as soon as buttock touches chair, you’re up and rushing around again despite the fact that nothing is really pressing on your time? That was me yesterday, I was like a fart in a colander – didn’t know which hole to get out of first!

tantrumAfter several exhausting hours, I realised what the problem was: I was thinking about all the things that I had to do over the next week and all the additional things that I might have to do. Of course, next week wasn’t here yesterday so all that was actually happening was that my imagination was having a bit of a giggle at my expense. However hard we try to train our minds to work for us, sometimes they just rebel and throw a tantrum for no apparent reason.

If our minds get stuck in a loop going over old memories or thinking about things that could happen in the future it gets all agitated and panicky and that’s when our bodies catch on to the idea and we start to stress out. If we are stressed for a while, our bodies start to suffer and we find that our back aches, we have a more or less permanent headache, stomach cramps or a myriad of other symptoms. Once that starts we find ourselves in a vicious circle – the worry started the physical symptoms and the physical symptoms then cause us to worry and so on……….

ExhaustedOnce I realised what was going on I forced myself to just sit and breathe. Deep breath followed deep breath and eventually my mind stopped rushing around like an idiot and calmed down. In fact, it calmed down so much that I fell asleep for an hour, something my body obviously needed. My imagination had stalked off in a huff and slammed the door behind it but I’m sure it won’t be long before it throws an other tantrum! However, as long as I’m aware, I should be able to grab it by the scruff of the neck before it can cause too much damage.

Meditation is a wonderful way to calm the mind and therefore protect our bodies from stress and illness; this is my favourite guided meditation – I hope you like it :O) x

Having a Bad Day?

All of these things will, of course, irritate you intensely and leave you utterly convinced that, whatever happens today you’re going to feel miserable and horribly victimised by an all knowing deity who obviously has nothing better to do.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just wake up in a bad mood? As soon as you open your eyes, something irritates you? There aren’t many things that can go wrong within the first 5 seconds of you opening your eyes but, if you’re going to have that kind of day, you’ll find something; usually ‘why did I have to wake up so bloody early?!’

Grumpy catOnce your day has started like that it will seem almost as though God has decided that you and you alone will be the target of his wrath. He won’t visit plagues of frogs upon you but he will make sure that it’s raining when you leave for work, He’ll hide your umbrella and make damn sure that any parking spaces even remotely close to your office will magically disappear or be filled with teeny, tiny cars that you only notice at the last minute.  All of these things will, of course, irritate you intensely and leave you utterly convinced that, whatever happens today you’re going to feel miserable and horribly victimised by an all knowing deity who obviously has nothing better to do.

All of this, if you think rationally for a few minutes is complete and utter nonsense, it’s just a series of completely unconnected, random events which you certainly can’t blame God [insert deity of your choice] for; he’s busy and doesn’t have time to hide your umbrella!

Angry office catThe problem is, when we are in this sort of mood the last thing we’ll do is to think rationally so, instead, we tend to focus on all things things that are ‘going wrong’ and we tell everyone who is courageous enough to come and speak to us that we’ll be glad when today is over. When I say courageous – have you felt confident about going over to speak to someone who is huffing and puffing every 5 minutes, has a permanent scowl on their face and has just performed unspeakable acts of violence on their stapler?

As most of us aren’t saints we tend to steer clear of people who are obviously in a bad mood lest we become the brunt of their ill humour. Unfortunately, for the one who is suffering all this mental anguish, this exacerbates the situation. Not only are they having the day from hell but all their colleagues seem to be ignoring them or, worse, whispering about them behind their back! Could this day get any worse?!?!

At this point there are usually 2 roads forward, one is to storm out of the office in a complete huff and take refuge in the toilet for the next 30 minutes (which will obviously result in more whispering and perhaps the odd surreptitious point here and there) or we find a target for our anger and have a go at someone (possibly the same person that we’d enjoyed a muffin and a skinny late with yesterday). Either way we will certainly not end up feeling any better.

grumpy-cat-dont-like-changeAll of these negative feelings have stemmed from the same place – we woke up feeling as though we were going to have a battle on our hands today and, surprise, surprise that’s exactly what happened. To a certain degree our thoughts are a self-fulfilling prophecy – if you tell yourself that you will have a bad day, that’s, more often than not, exactly what you will end up having. In the contrary way of human beings we will even sometimes ignore the repeated efforts of our loved ones to cheer us up in order to make sure that we were right about our prediction for the day.

So, my advice is, the next time you wake up in a bad mood or you are sad for no reason that you can fathom just accept it. Don’t prepare yourself for a battle with God and the rest of the world, just say to yourself: “I’m in a bad mood, it won’t last forever” or “I can’t stop crying but it’s just for now, it will pass” It may be just me but I find that my black mood passes a lot quicker than if I fight against it……… and everything else. The added bonus is that, although my friends and family may see me with a scowl or tears on my face for a little while they won’t spend all day cowering behind the furniture while I search for something to throw at them.

Whatever mood you woke up in this morning, I hope you still manage to have a beautiful day – after all, we never know how many more we’ll have to look forward to :O)

happy cat.jpg

How Many of You are there in there?

I’ve found that the only thing that really works for me is to be aware that, from time to time, a bunch of negative nellies try to work their way into my mind and, when they do I just say these few simple words to myself…….

I realise that I may sound slightly crazy asking this question but have you ever had an argument with yourself? I find myself doing it quite often and am constantly searching for ways to stop. It’s usually when I’m stressed about something; when I’m calm there is only me in my head but when I’m anxious it seems like there’s a whole bunch of other people who want to get in there with me. The worst part of it is that they all tend to speak at the same time and they’re often, without to put to finer point on it, a real pain in the ass! They have nothing positive to say to me and seem to be constantly looking for ways to make my life difficult.

Now before anyone starts looking up numbers for psychologists for me to go an visit, I am perfectly well aware that I reside in my cranium alone but it’s the only way that I can really explain how stress and over-thinking are connected. To give you an example, when I know that I’m going to be meeting new people, I’d really like to be able to be able to show them the ‘real’ me right from the off but my inner dialogue kicks into overdrive:

Me: “Just be yourself”

Cranial interloper 1: “What if they don’t like you”

Cranial interloper 2: “That’s their problem”

Cranial interloper 3: “What’s wrong with me? Why won’t they like me?”

Cranial interloper 4: “There’s nothing wrong with you but they can’t be very nice if they’re going to be all judgy”

Cranial interloper 5: “I don’t think I’m going to like them if they’re going to be like that”

Me: “Shut up the lot of you, they haven’t even opened the bloody door yet!”

HS2599And so it goes on; because the ‘they won’t like me’ scenario has been run through my head like a movie trailer the memory of it (if you will) stays with me and I find myself adjusting my character to try and avoid it becoming a reality. I try to be super pleasant and friendly, probably overly so and often come away from new meetings with a headache and jaw ache from smiling all the time. The problem with over-compensating like this is that:

  1. People I meet for the first time don’t get to see the real me and therefore any judgement they make is based on something other than the genuine article
  2. By trying to connect with them and please them rather than engaging with them on an equal footing, I risk losing any chance of a real friendship with them
  3. It’s very difficult to sustain a ‘faux’ personality for any length of time so, at some point, my real personality will break through and it will be perfectly clear to the other person that the relationship they thought they were building was, in fact, just an illusion.
  4. I’m well aware of what I’m doing and why and so my confidence takes a bashing from the cranial interlopers who gave me the problem in the first place.

In love in parisUnfortunately this is the way that the human mind works. It attaches emotion to past experiences and then uses the memory and the emotion attached to it to prepare us for future, similar situations. When the system works well we ‘look forward’ to things. Maybe you fell in love in Paris and walked hand in hand past the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur feeling nothing but happiness and complete contentment. If so, when you think about going back to Paris those feelings and happy memories will resurface and you will look forward to any future trips with great anticipation.

However, if the next time you go, your flight is delayed, your luggage is lost and it rains every day, it is likely that the negative feelings that have become associated with Paris could start to erode your earlier wonderful memories. If you arrange a third trip your mind will have two sets of memories to choose from and, it’s at that point that you will probably start to stress out and your cranial interlopers will start bickering:

“Just remember how wonderful it was the first time!”

“Yes but look what happened last time, it was awful”

“I know but it could be like the first time this time”

“But what if it rains again?”

And so on and so forth.

lost luggageThis means that the wonderful memory and mental images have been a little tainted. So, before you’ve even booked your flights you’re wondering what you can do to make this trip better than the last and that’s if you’re a positive sort of person! If you’re negative you’ll probably throw your Paris snow globe in the trash and forget about ever going there again.

In my quest to rid myself of the cranial interlopers I’ve have tried untold number of different things; thinking positive didn’t work, at least not by itself. You can tell yourself that Paris will be sunny and warm and romantic as much as you like but if, when you get there, it’s chucking it down and the hotel have no record of your booking, the disappointment will be twice as bad than if you had resigned yourself to the trip being a disaster. It’s better to be positive when you’re actually in the situation: I’ve lost my luggage so that means I can go shopping – that sort of thing.

No, I’ve found that the only thing that really works for me is to be aware that, from time to time, a bunch of negative nellies try to work their way into my mind and, when they do I just say these few simple words to myself…….

“SHUT THE F*** UP!”

It seems to work pretty well ;O)

Want to Live Longer?

you can learn to accept peacefully what you cannot change, smile at this wonderful life we’ve been given and enjoy it for as long as possible.

If the answer is yes (and I’ll assume that it is) then…….smile! Yes, I’m perfectly serious; a recent study has found that there is a direct link between how long we live and how happy we are which is great news for the optimists among us. However, another study, by the Office of National Statistics, suggests that ‘ratings of life satisfaction and happiness were at their lowest, on average, for those aged 45 to 59’ so, the question is, how do we deal with the problems that face us in middle age so we can stay happy and live to a ripe old age?

The first thing is to think about the concept of a ‘problem’ and to remember the words of Reinhold Niebuhr:

Grant me the serenity

Some things that we view as ‘problems’ and which therefore give us stress, we cannot change. For example, many middle aged people worry about their grown up children leaving home; it’s a major life change and is known as ‘empty nest syndrome’ but, realistically, what can you do about it? Do you want to keep your children at home with you forever and deprive them of the opportunity to find their own way in life? No, of course not! So, you have a choice, you can accept that it will happen regardless of how much worrying you can do or you can keep worrying and then accept, after the inevitable has happened, that it changed nothing. Unfortunately, by that point, you will have put your body through untold stress and it won’t thank you for it.

We know that the body will often respond to what the mind believes; this has been demonstrated in many ways over the years: people dying of voodoo hexes for no other reason than that they believed they were cursed, people being cured of illness by taking a placebo or spontaneous remission in cancer because people trust that God will cure them. The effect of stress has been studied in depth by Dr Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology, and he discovered that “”When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well.”

Lissa Rankin M.D. has studied what is known as the Nocebo effect, the placebo effect in reverse. We all know that placebos are often used in scientific experiments as a control; some people are given medicines and some are given sugar pills and no-one in the study group knows who has taken what which means that the results cannot be effected by ‘perceived’ benefits. The Nocebo effect is the negative outcome stemming from a negative perception e.g. when a doctor tells you that you have a low chance of surviving a particular illness, the idea can be lodged in your mind and your body will respond accordingly; a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.

There are many, many studies which deal with our mind’s ability to influence our body so why don’t we use it to our advantage? Stress and worry are effectively our minds playing the same scenario, or worsening scenarios, over and over again so we need to find ways to disrupt this pattern and the easiest way is to do something that requires complete focus. People often find that they relax while playing their chosen sport; they concentrate so hard on what they are doing that there isn’t room in their minds for anything else so whatever was causing them worry or stress is, temporarily, forgotten. Woman practicing yogaMany people have turned to yoga and meditation to relieve stress and anxiety; indeed it has grown so popular that scientists are beginning to study the positive effects of yoga and meditation on certain mental illnesses. The other benefit of yoga is that you don’t need equipment, or to go to a gym and you can start at any age.

We can also consciously interrupt the patterns in our mind that cause us stress. Our imagination creates images and scenarios that are not true, have not happened but our bodies respond as if they are quite real so we need to view those images as if we were watching a film; interested but with a certain detachment. We also have the power to change the images so that they become more positive and therefore less stressful. If you have recurring mental image that’s disturbing you run it through your mind with a funny tune, introduce a quacking duck, an explosion of fireworks or anything that will distort and therefore dis-empower the image; think about how Harry Potter and Co beat the boggart!

There is more and more evidence to suggest that stress and death and happiness and longevity are connected; you can be miserable, suffer physically and mentally and risk dying prematurely OR you can learn to accept peacefully what you cannot change, smile at this wonderful life we’ve been given and enjoy it for as long as possible.