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By ianfielder, Jun 3 2019 06:34AM

Although still not classified as a recognised medical condition, burnout has been included in the World Health Organization’s 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. It is described in the chapter: ‘Factors influencing health status or contact with health services’ – which includes reasons for which people contact health services but that are not classed as illnesses or health conditions.


Burnout is defined in ICD-11 as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”


It is identifiable by three characteristics, claims the WHO:


feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion or increased mental distance from one’s job

feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job

reduced professional efficacy

Burnout refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life, according to the WHO in ICD11.


The World Health Organization has also announced that is to embark on the development of evidence-based guidelines on mental wellbeing in the workplace.


If constant stress has you feeling helpless, disillusioned, and completely exhausted, you may be on the road to burnout. When you’re burned out, problems seem insurmountable, everything looks bleak, and it’s difficult to muster up the energy to care, let alone take action to help yourself. The unhappiness and detachment caused by burnout can threaten your job, your relationships, and your health. But by recognizing the earliest warning signs, you can take steps to prevent it. Or if you’ve already hit breaking point, there are plenty of things you can do to regain your balance and start to feel positive and hopeful again.


Whether you recognize the warning signs of impending burnout or you’re already past the breaking point, trying to push through the exhaustion and continuing as you have been will only cause further emotional and physical damage. Now is the time to pause and change direction by learning how you can help yourself overcome burnout and feel healthy and positive again.


Dealing with burnout requires the “Three R” approach:


Recognize – Watch for the warning signs of burnout


Reverse – Undo the damage by seeking support and managing stress


Resilience – Build your resilience to stress by taking care of your physical and emotional health




By ianfielder, Mar 20 2019 08:45AM



Most people are moderately responsive to hypnosis. This means they can have vivid changes in behaviour and experience in response to hypnotic suggestions. By contrast, a small percentage (around 10-15%) of people are mostly non-responsive. But most research on hypnosis is focused on another small group (10-15%) who are highly responsive.


In this group, suggestions can be used to disrupt pain, or to produce hallucinations and amnesia. Considerable evidence from brain imaging reveals that these individuals are not just faking or imagining these responses. Indeed, the brain acts differently when people respond to hypnotic suggestions than when they imagine or voluntarily produce the same responses.


Preliminary research has shown that highly suggestible individuals may have unusual functioning and connectivity in the prefrontal cortex. This is a brain region that plays a critical role in a range of psychological functions including planning and the monitoring of one's mental states. There is also some evidence that highly suggestible individuals perform more poorly on cognitive tasks known to depend on the prefrontal cortex, such as working memory. However, these results are complicated by the possibility that there might be different sub types of highly suggestible individuals. These neurocognitive differences may lend insights into how highly suggestible individuals respond to suggestions: they may be more responsive because they're less aware of the intentions underlying their responses.

For example, when given a suggestion to not experience pain, they may suppress the pain but not be aware of their intention to do so. This may also explain why they often report that their experience occurred outside their control. Neuroimaging studies have not as yet verified this hypothesis but hypnosis does seem to involve changes in brain regions involved in monitoring of mental states, self-awareness and related functions.


Although the effects of hypnosis may seem unbelievable, it's now well accepted that beliefs and expectations can dramatically impact human perception. It's actually quite similar to the placebo response, in which an ineffective drug or therapeutic treatment is beneficial purely because we believe it will work. In this light, perhaps hypnosis isn't so bizarre after all. Seemingly sensational responses to hypnosis may just be striking instances of the powers of suggestion and beliefs to shape our perception and behaviour. What we think will happen morphs seamlessly into what we ultimately experience. Hypnosis requires the consent of the participant or patient. You cannot be hypnotised against your will and, despite popular misconceptions, there is no evidence that hypnosis could be used to make you commit immoral acts against your will.


Meta-analyses, studies that integrate data from many studies on a specific topic, have shown that hypnosis works quite well when it comes to treating certain conditions. These include irritable bowel syndrome and chronic pain. But for other conditions, however, such as smoking, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the evidence is less clear cut - often because there is a lack of reliable research. But although hypnosis can be valuable for certain conditions and symptoms, it's not a panacea.

Hypnosis probably arises through a complex interaction of neurophysiological and psychological factors - some described here and others unknown. It also seems that these vary across individuals.


Published in Hypnotherapy Society Newsletter March 2019

By ianfielder, Feb 15 2019 02:49PM


Our imagination is an incredibly useful tool. It can soothe us during difficult times and help us solve problems, create new things, and consider possible courses of action. Some researchers have argued that our imagination, which gives us the ability to consider different scenarios, is at the core of what makes humans different from the rest of the animal kingdom. Moreover, existing research has suggested that what we imagine can actually affect our minds and bodies in very concrete ways.

A study that the journal Psychological Science published in 2009 found that when we imagine doing something, our minds and bodies anticipate the imagined action as though it were a real action. The results of another study, which featured in Current Biology in 2013, suggest that imagining that we hear certain sounds or see particular shapes can change how we perceive the world in real time.

Research by a team from the University of Colorado Boulder and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NY, now proves that what we imagine can seem just as real to our brains as actual experiences. As the investigators explain in their study paper, which appears in the journal Neuron, we can harness the power of our imagination to help us overcome persistent fears and anxiety disorders. "This research confirms that imagination is a neurological reality that can impact our brains and bodies in ways that matter for our wellbeing," says Prof. Tor Wager, co-senior author of the study.

When it comes to helping people address their phobias or anxiety disorders, psychologists may recommend "exposure therapy." This approach aims to desensitize a person to stimuli that trigger a fear response by repeatedly exposing them to these stimuli in a completely safe environment. This can help a person disassociate those stimuli from a sense of threat and impending negative consequences.

In the new study, the researchers used functional MRI to scan participants' brains and assess brain activity both in real and imagined situations involving unpleasant triggers. The aim was to see whether and how imagination may help us discard negative associations. "These novel findings bridge a long-standing gap between clinical practice and cognitive neuroscience," notes the study's lead author Marianne Cumella Reddan, who is a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. "This is the first neuroscience study to show that imagining a threat can actually alter the way it is represented in the brain," she adds.

In the study, the research team recruited 68 healthy participants, whom they conditioned to associate a particular sound with receiving an electric shock that was uncomfortable but not painful. They then split the participants into three groups. To those in the first group, the researchers played the sound that the participants now associated with an unpleasant physical experience. Those in the second group had to imagine hearing that same sound instead, while those in the third group - the controls - had to imagine pleasant sounds, such as the trills of birds and the pitter-patter of rain. None of the participants received any further electric shocks.

While the volunteers were either hearing the triggering sound, imagining it, or imagining a pleasant sound, the researchers assessed their brain activity using functional MRI. The team also measured their physiological responses by placing sensors on their skin.

The investigators found that brain activity was very similar in the participants who actually heard the threatening sound and those who only imagined hearing it. In all of these volunteers, the auditory cortex (the brain region that processes sound), the nucleus accumbens (associated with learned fear), and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (which signals exposure to risk) became active.

However, after the participants repeatedly heard or imagined hearing the triggering sound without receiving the expected electric shock, they stopped being afraid. The process had extinguished the association between that sound and an unpleasant experience. This phenomenon is known as "extinction." In the control group, in which the participants had imagined pleasant sounds only, other brain regions lit up in the functional MRI scans, and the negative association between the triggering sound and the electric shock never went away. "Statistically, real and imagined exposure to the threat were not different at the whole brain level, and imagination worked just as well," explains Reddan. "I think a lot of people assume that the way to reduce fear or negative emotion is to imagine something good. In fact, what might be more effective is exactly the opposite: imagining the threat, but without the negative consequences."

The researchers also suggest that, thanks to the power of imagination, we may even be able to "revise" and "update" memories that are unpleasant or unhelpful. "If you have a memory that is no longer useful for you or is crippling you, you can use imagination to tap into it, change it, and re-consolidate it, updating the way you think about and experience something," says Reddan. However, just how vivid each of our imaginations is may affect the outcome of such experiments. Thus, the investigators explain, those with particularly vivid imaginations may benefit the most from "manipulating" unpleasant associations, while those with less active imaginations may not see much of a difference. There is a real need for more research into the powers of imagination, say the researchers, but the current findings emphasize one thing - namely, that we should not underestimate the effect of what we imagine. "Manage your imagination and what you permit yourself to imagine," encourages Prof. Wager. "You can use imagination constructively to shape what your brain learns from experience," he adds.


Published from the Hypnotherapy Society Newsletter




By ianfielder, Dec 22 2018 12:07PM


The pressures of Christmas, the self-reflection of New Year - it takes a lot out of folks! It's really common for therapists to get an influx of new clients between November and February, so we're all well geared up for the kinds of issues which crop up for people around this period. If you want to know more about hypnotherapy there's lots of information on our website which will help you through the process.


Around this time of year, the question we're all asking one another is 'What are your New Year's resolutions?' So much so that many of us make up resolutions just to field the query, even if we have no intention of following through! We promise our friends and ourselves that next year will be the year in which we finally get fit, stick to a diet, mend bridges, take steps towards our dreams, and generally become the person that we'd like to be (or, perhaps, that they'd like us to be).


There's nothing wrong with setting goals for yourself. Setting achievable goals can be a valuable aspect of a steady and healthy self-improvement plan. But, sometimes, pressure to make a New Years' Resolution can feel like pressure to fundamentally change who you are as a person - immediately and for the better. This can lead to negative reflection on the kind of person you are and the direction your life is taking at the moment. And this kind of gloomy rumination can exacerbate mental health issues.

What's more, resolutions made at New Year are actually more likely to fail than resolutions made at any other time of the year. These often inevitable failures can come as a huge blow to self-esteem and mental health. When a New Year's resolution fails, many people feel that they have failed the entire year, let themselves down, and will never be the person they envisaged with such high hopes back in January.


If you're feeling the pressure, or worried that New Year and its resolutions could be triggering for you, here a few tips which might help you to cope.


*Think small. You may well have big hopes, goals, and dreams. But, when it comes to setting resolutions, try to chop these into bite-sized chunks. Go for small, manageable resolutions which you know that you can achieve. This isn't to say that you aren't capable of achieving bigger things - you probably are! But nobody can predict what's upcoming in the year ahead, so it makes sense to leave yourself room to improve rather than to set yourself up for potential failure. So, for example, rather than vowing to lose two dress sizes in the next year, resolve to lose one pound a month (or an achievable equivalent). That way, if you lose two pounds you'll feel proud of yourself, but it also won't feel like a major resolution failure if something crops up which disrupts your diet and exercise regime one month.


*Stay rational. The chimes between the end of December and the beginning of January don't actually mark any kind of physical, metaphysical, or psychological switch. It's a portion of time, like any other. No magical processes start working on the stroke of midnight, and we don't actually become new people as the year changes. This may sound obvious, but many people get caught up in the excitement and rush of the New Year festivities, and forget about the hard work which keeping to resolutions actually takes. The excitement can lead people to make unrealistic resolutions, which don't actually stand up to the rigours of our normal lives. Stay grounded, and don't get carried away with the rush of your New Year's party.


*Go easy on yourself. Most New Years' resolutions fail. It's hard to maintain focus on a single goal for an entire year. But this doesn't make it any easier when we realise that all of our good January intentions have come to nothing. Many people feel like abject failures, and berate themselves for what they see as their lack of willpower, lack of sticking power, greed, or of fundamental character flaws. This kind of self-flagellation is very unhealthy, and can lead to serious mental health decline. If your New Years' resolutions do fall by the wayside, tell yourself that this is a normal and natural thing. You probably had more important things to concentrate on. Let them go, or learn from the experience and formulate more achievable ways of reaching your goals. Don't beat yourself up!




By ianfielder, Oct 15 2018 08:14AM



Life stress events- things like loss of a job, death of a loved one and getting divorced (or married) raise the risk of getting sick. All sorts of other life events also generate stress, with possible negative health effects ranging from catching a cold to major depression to a fatal heart attack.


Certain events inflict severe psychological (and physiological) stress. Death of a spouse, getting diagnosed with a terminal illness and separation of children from parents are indisputably "major stressful life events." But no clear rules have been established to define what features place an event in that category (which makes stress research complicated, with often ambiguous results).

Some researchers hold that stress magnitude hinges on how much "adaptation" is required to cope with it (which is why marriage can be considered especially stressful). A second theory gauges stressfulness as the amount of threat or harm an event poses. Some experts view stress as a mismatch between demands and resources. A fourth view regards "interruption of goals" as the prime feature of a life stress event. These theories about stress-event criteria aren't mutually exclusive but on the whole the "threat or harm" perspective is the most commonly accepted.


Recent stressful life events (major and minor) psychologists may ask about to gauge a person's stress level include everything from the death of a spouse to taking on a mortgage to getting a speeding ticket. Life events commonly included on stress questionnaires may be objectively bad or good, major or minor. They include the death of a spouse, divorce, the loss of a job - or even a big achievement. Some stress checklists focus more on traumatic events, such as assaults; others ask about events that in the last year have brought major or minor changes to everyday life, requiring adaptation or readjustments, even if they are seemingly beneficial (getting a promotion). Some important events related to illness are those that affect social status, self-esteem, identity and physical well-being. Not all are equal in effect, and there's much variation in how people respond.


Depression and heart disease are commonly associated with stressful events, but stress's influence extends to other health problems as well. Stress can boost anxiety and discourage healthy practices such as exercising and eating well. At the same time stress can instigate bad behaviours such as smoking and drinking. All these responses can have negative impacts on important organs (brain, heart, liver), possibly resulting in multiple health problems either by triggering the onset or accelerating the progression of a disease.


Personal traits and situation and the circumstances in which a person lives make them more or less at risk for life stress. Neighbourhoods with low socioeconomic status are sites of higher-than-average levels of stressful events, and people with low personal socioeconomic status have more risk of encountering violence, death of a child and divorce. One stressful event - such as loss of a job - can lead to others (such as loss of income, moving or divorce).


The magnitude of a stressful event's impact depends a lot on the nature of the stress. Most damaging, research indicates, are experiences that threaten an individual's sense of competence or status, striking at a person's core identity. Loss of status, losing a job and interpersonal conflict with spouses or close friends can all exacerbate health problems, from raising the risk of depression to worsening high blood pressure and reducing resistance to respiratory infection.


Chronic stress may have a persistent detrimental effect on the body's disease-fighting immune system. Acute stress, like single traumatic events, may trigger a dramatic worsening of an existing condition, such as heart disease. In that case, a sufficiently powerful stress event can induce a fatal heart attack.


Article reproduced fromthe National Hypnothearpy October 2018 newsletter




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