Five Steps To Combat Stress

Of course the easiest way to reduce stress in your life is to change your life in a way that removes the stressful elements. However, the practicalities of earning a living, feeding a family, and keeping warm might mean that walking out on a stressful job and chilling out on a tropical beach for the rest of your life, seems a little unrealistic.

A lot of stress comes from social demands. The expectations of others cause a great deal internal turmoil – after all, you want to do what you want to do with your time, not what someone else wants you to do. You might want to sit and read, or watch TV, when your other half may prefer you to be doing the dishes, cleaning the house, or painting the fence.

Wider than the immediate home are the expectations of society – you need a job, you need to pay taxes, you need to pay bills on time, you need to attend this wedding or that party, and most of all, you need to not spend your life living it the way you want to.

Now I would suggest that, long-term, you decide what you truly want to do with your life and how you want to live it, but short-term there are things you can do to reduce the burden that stress places on your BodyMind.

Following are the five steps. They will have a significant impact on your stress levels and help you to deal with your difficulties from a much more resilient position. They are not alternatives. You need to take all five steps in order to gain the maximum benefit and you need to engage with them in the order I’ve placed them. Each one prepares you for the next and cumulatively they will have a powerful impact on your stress levels.


Yoga is interesting. At a superficial level it is exercise, at a much deeper level it is life-changing, it is a way of living. Yoga requires nothing more than a mat to exercise on, some comfortable unrestrictive clothing, and a class to attend.

In a yoga class you will be guided through a series of body postures which stretch, and compress, various parts of your body. You don’t have to put your feet behind your neck – though you can if you want to. Yoga is non-competitive. Every class will have people who are not at all bendy and people who are extremely bendy. But yoga is an internal process. It is not about watching others and competing with them. It is about you feeling your way into your body, getting to know your body, and being comfortable with what it can do.

As you continue with yoga, you will notice that you can stretch a little more than you used to be able to. After a year or so you will notice a huge improvement in the flexibility of your body. But the real benefit is for the mind. A good teacher will direct you to pay attention to your body, while you are exercising. The idea is not to stand in, say, the Warrior Pose, while thinking about what you need to buy for tea tonight. It is about standing in that pose and focusing all your attention on the feedback that your body is giving you. This gives your mind a break. With regular practice you will notice stress levels reducing.

Find a class and get into the habit of attending it once a week.


Once the yoga is up and running you need to move on to the next step and that is meditation. The beauty of meditation is that you can do it anywhere you can safely close your eyes for ten minutes. Yoga is a good introduction to the practice of meditation. It gets you used to stillness.

There are many methods you can use to meditate and if you want to attend a class then do so, but I want you to think in terms of meditation for ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes every evening. The usual excuse is I don’t have time. Well just get up ten minutes earlier and go to bed ten minutes later and you have just found the time. The meditation is far more restful than sleep so you actually gain rather than lose.

If you want to explore different techniques then get some books on the subject, but I’ll share with you a simple technique that I use.

Sit comfortably, where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes. Focus all of your attention on the sensation of air moving in and out of your nostrils. Then just breathe. You will find your attention wanders. You will not notice it drifting off, but at some point you will realise that you have wandered away from the focus on your breathing to think about more important things. At this moment of realisation, allow whatever thoughts are present to drift away and return your focus to your breath.

The drifting away and coming back will happen many times in a session. It is not a problem. Meditation, at least in the early stages, is all about learning that you can control where you place your attention and that you can always choose to place it on the breath. When you place it here, your BodyMind relaxes.

You will not notice huge benefits immediately. Meditation needs to become a part of the daily routine. Over time it will induce in you a greater sense of calm and tranquillity – but, like any skill, it needs dedication and practice.

Aerobic Exercise

Exercise is good for you. If you don’t get any, then get some. If you do get some then get more. Aerobic exercise generates endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. Stress makes you feel bad. Exercise counters the effects of stress.

Aerobic exercise is exercise that gets your heart rate up a bit. If you have heart problems, or are unfit then be sensible and have a word with your doctor to find out what is ok for you. Otherwise a light sweat is a good indicator that you are pushing yourself just enough without overdoing it. A heart rate monitor that you wear on your wrist is a handy device to help keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone. The more sophisticated ones bleep at you if you are not putting enough effort in and also when you are overdoing it.

Aerobic doesn’t mean hard work. It means pushing yourself a little. Walking at as fast a pace as you can manage is aerobic exercise. In fact my aerobic exercise involves walking two miles or so three or four days a week with a longer walk at weekends. I also get on my bicycle now and then for a little variety.

Don’t make it so tough you give up. Make it easy and enjoyable so you want to do it on a daily basis.

Spend Time In Nature

If you can, do this at least once a week. Go for a walk where there are trees, or grass, or a clean river or lake. Go where you can see wild birds, and occasionally disturb small mammals. Find a spot, sit down, maybe take a picnic if the weather is suitable, and just rest in the tranquillity. Don’t use the time to plan, or fill your mind with busy-ness. Just sit and be, or walk and be. As you look around notice how nature handles everything. Notice how it changes from season to season.

Allow the peace to reach you.

Take Up a Creative Hobby

In all the years that I’ve been helping people to reduce the stress and anxiety in their lives, I’ve noticed one common factor in the people who struggle most with life. They have no creative outlet. They have no passion for anything. They get up, go to work, come home, go to bed and repeat.

It can be difficult to find time for yourself with the demands of family and smartphones that make bosses, and friends, believe you are available for 24 hours a day to do their bidding.

Nevertheless, find something that interests you and do it. If you don’t know what interests you then pick something at random and try it. If you like it, do more. If you don’t, take another random stab in the dark.

Around 12 years ago I went to a week long series of evening talks at my local library. The subject was the paranormal. It was purely out of curiosity. I ended up joining the group that was running the event and have spent many happy hours on paranormal investigations in some fascinating places.

Two years ago I was staying at a holiday park and had a go at archery – again just out of interest. Subsequently I joined a club and have spent the last 18 months shooting arrows anything from once to three times a week. It’s a great stress reducer because you have to focus on you and your body in order to hit the target.

Follow the clues that your mind provides. If you are curious about something then explore it further and see what happens. It doesn’t matter what it is – gardening, writing, photography, a sport, crochet, cookery…

Just try something out and get your mind onto something other than those that are making your life hell.

Life doesn’t have to be hell. However bad it is, you can do something to make it just a little bit better.


If you’d like to explore in more detail how to reduce the stress in your life then check out my book Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis for a detailed, step by step training course on how to use your mind to help you to live a better life.


How to Feel Good When You Want to Feel Bad

It’s funny isn’t it? I mean how we can drift off into our memories and relive events as if they were real. A scent, a sight, a question – can all send us off on an unintentional journey into a place of pleasure or pain. We can be bumbling along in our own little world, quite ok with everything, and then Bam! Our thoughts take us to a place of heaven or hell and we begin to relive a memory.

That memory brings with it either pleasurable or painful emotions – sensations that we experience in our bodies. Sensations that tell us we are happy or sad.


Do it now. Go back into the past and find a sad memory – perhaps the breakup of what you once dreamed was the perfect relationship; the death of someone close; even a moment of total embarrassment as you made a complete idiot of yourself in the eyes of people who were important in your life. Pull back the pictures in your mind, relive it, and remember the scents, the sounds, the feelings. Spend a few moments reliving it before continuing to read.

How do you feel?

Has your mood changed?

Do a quick body scan and notice any areas of discomfort.

Allow all thoughts of that memory to drift away back into the past where they belong.


Now repeat the exercise, but this time with the best memory you can find. Perhaps it was that first kiss; getting your dream job; a wonderful holiday; holding your son or daughter in your arms for the first time and looking into their beautiful scrunched up face; maybe even a moment when you were overflowing with love for something or someone. Pull back the pictures in your mind, relive it, remember the scents, the sounds, the feelings. Spend a few moments reliving it before continuing to read.

How do you feel?

Has your mood changed?

Do a quick body scan and notice any areas of discomfort.

Allow all thoughts of that memory to drift away back into the past where they belong.

Which exercise did you like the best?

Did either of them bring tears to your eyes?

Is it Really Real?

Now I want you to think carefully about this next sentence.

None of it was real.

They were memories.

Memories aren’t real. They are just sensations that we interpret as pictures, sensations, sounds, and thoughts in our minds. We behave as if they are real. We behave as if they make us who we are. We behave as if they are important.

But they are just illusions.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have them. I like my memories – especially the happy ones. But that doesn’t make them real. That doesn’t mean we should base what we do right now on something that is nothing more than an illusion.

Here’s a little thought experiment for you to do right now. Just imagine, for a moment or two, what would be different if you, and the planet, and everything on it, were created one second ago, and all  those memories that you think are real were already programmed into your brain cells?

They Control You – If You Let Them

Yet you let them control your life.

As I mentioned at the beginning – something happens, a sight, sounds, sensation, scent – and it triggers a memory. That memory shifts your mood. Your mood affects your decision making process and consequently how you experience your life. Let’s say, when you were a baby, a doctor with a big beard stuck a needle in you and handled you roughly. Let’s say, because you were a baby, he didn’t treat you as a person, more as a thing.

So back to today, and you find yourself always a little suspicious and wary of men with beards. You call it intuition and you know that wariness is keeping you safe – you’ve just never realised it’s about beards and never noticed that your intuition never flags up clean-shaven men.

Subliminal Programmes

What happens at a subliminal level is that your natural, programmed, survival instincts – operating outside of your awareness – get triggered whenever a beard is in sight. Those same emotional chemicals, the ones that were released when you did the unpleasant memory exercise earlier, are set free. You notice emotional discomfort and feel a little uncomfortable. It’s just the echo of a memory, but because you can feel it, because you can feel the uncomfortable changes in your mood state, you think it is real.

It Must Be True

If it’s real, it must be true and so you act out a fantasy created by an ancient survival system that works on the basis of if it hurt once, avoid it forever because it might kill you next time.

What you feel, that slide into a negative mood state, is nothing more than chemicals floating around in your blood stream. Chemicals triggered by your primitive survival instincts that were not designed for 21st Century living on a planet with billions of people that you can never avoid.

The exercise you did earlier shifted you first into a negative mood and then into a positive mood in a matter of moments. You can always do this. You can consciously choose what to think about. So next time you feel low, find as good a memory as you can get hold of and use it to lift your mood a little – unless, of course, you enjoy the misery. Use your ability to make conscious choices to focus on thoughts that make you feel good, rather than thoughts that make you feel bad.

And whenever you feel bad, remind yourself, it’s just sensations.

More Help

If you’d like more help on how to shift your thoughts into the positive. My book Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis is a training course that helps you to take control of your mind, your thoughts, and how you feel so that you can consciously shift into a permanently more positive mind set where setbacks are nothing more than temporary glitches in the smooth running of your life.


Are You Overweight and Addicted to Food?

Is food more powerful than your desire to lose weight?

Does food control your life?

Is it almost impossible for you to stop eating once you are full?

Being addicted to food is a strange idea. After all we can’t do without it, can we? So food addiction must be something different from just eating, or just eating a bit too much because that’s, well, that’s just normal.


If you:

  • Eat faster than normal
  • Eat well past the point of fullness
  • Eat frequently when not physically hungry
  • Eat alone or in secret
  • Feel bad or guilty after overeating
  • Feel that you must be different somehow

Then you may have a problem with food that is beyond what most people experience.

If this is you then recognise that losing weight is going to be much tougher for you than it is for others. However, you may like to know that you are not alone in this. There are 12 million people in the UK that suffer from a compulsive eating problem to some extent. Some scientists would like to point to the problem being a genetic disorder, but to my mind if one fifth of the population have the same thing then it’s not really a disorder – it’s normal.

So if it’s not genetic, what else could be causing it?

Genetic? Well sort of

Well it sort of is genetic, but not in a bad way. When you think about it these bodies we appear to inhabit were designed for a very different world from the one they live in now. They were designed as survival machines for life around 100,000 years ago when, if you wanted to eat, you had to go catch an antelope or dig up some roots, or spend all day picking tiny berries. Just finding something to eat used up a huge amount of calories and sometimes food was scarce.

That occasional scarcity of food was what allowed us to develop the ability to carry a surplus around with us in the form of fat deposits. Apart from anything else these helped to keep our bodies warm, and as I mentioned in my book How to Lose Weight Easily, fat burns less energy than muscle so the metabolic cost of carrying it is minimal.

The Sweet Stuff

Survival, back then, was all about the balance between calorie output and calorie input. Sugar is just dense calories; calories are energy; and energy is survival. So we developed a taste for sweet stuff. So much so that we would risk stings and death by climbing trees to raid hives for their honey.

Sweet also came in the form of fully ripened fruit.

There wasn’t a lot of sweet around in the world back then, so what there was, was highly prized and savoured when it was available. Because it was not readily available and life was very physical, a taste for sweet was never detrimental to our health and well-being.

Nowadays everything is sweet. Go to your kitchen cupboard and pick out half a dozen packaged foods. Check the nutrition label, or the ingredients list and I bet most of them will have sugar in some form. If it ends in ose it’s probably sugar e.g. Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Galactose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Glucose solids. There’s a whole load of other stuff that’s also sugar but you probably got bored reading that list, so I’m not going to inflict an even longer one on you.

Fat too

Fats are another problem. Fats are compact calories just like sugar. When you mix fat and sugar together it’s heaven to a body that is, basically, an energy seeking device. The problem is the body has only one way of really letting you know that your calorie intake is less than your calorie expenditure and that’s hunger.

When you pay attention to your body’s messages and eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel full, then everything stays nicely balanced. But the body was never designed to work with sugar or fat in everything. The craving for sweet comes from sweet being in short supply – not available in your kitchen cupboard 24 hours a day. Consequently sweet bypasses the hunger control. Usually the warning for eating too much sugar is nausea or vomiting.

They deliberately trigger an addictive response

This sugar-fat thing is taken advantage of by food manufacturers and they carefully balance sugars, fats and chemical flavours to trigger the same brain receptors that are activated by substances like heroin or cocaine. And they do it quite deliberately to get you hooked and to trigger binge eating.

They do it so successfully that 12 million in the UK now have a serious problem and once they get a taste of sweetness, often mixed with fat, it bypasses conscious control and they just keep on eating.

What can you do?

There’s been a lot of research done around this problem, looking at ways to help people, so here are a few tips.

The first thing you need to do, assuming you’d really like things to change, is to stop beating yourself up when you fail to stick to limits you set yourself. 12 million others, in this country alone, are having the same problem. Manufacturers are working hard to ensure that you fail. So if you do fail, just acknowledge that you did your best, and that there is always next time. Failure is not the end of the world. It’s just a temporary setback on the road to being slimmer.

The next is the easiest, and this works with smokers too. Just don’t buy the unhealthy stuff. I know supermarkets are open 24 hours a day but quite often the effort of going out to buy something sweet and fatty is enough to let you off the hook. You may feel uncomfortable for a while but if you have a glass of water or cup of tea or coffee without sugar, then the urge will pass. Pretend that you have a bad habit that you want to get rid of. The way to remove habits is to engage in alternative behaviours and make it difficult to engage in the habit. Eat an apple, or a banana. I know it’s not what the craving is for, but part of the habit is wanting something sweet in your mouth. But fruit, although containing sugars, does not have them as freely available as in, say, a chocolate bar or biscuit. The body has to work harder to extract them and so fruit satisfies you for longer. Once you start to do that regularly you will find that the sweet things you used to enjoy are starting to taste a little too sweet and you don’t enjoy them as much.

One last tip for you. One of the triggers for compulsive eating is the taste in your mouth. You will find it is actually much easier not to start eating than to stop. This is a case where you can’t get away with just one. If you eat one you’ll eat the packet. It’s much easier to say no to the first than to the second, so don’t eat the first.

This is a complex problem and I’m not suggesting this article will solve it for you. But it will help you to make a start and enjoy a little success. If you would like some more help then check out my book How to Lose Weight Easily which has hints and tips on how to go about losing weight without dieting. Or for a more in depth look at how to take control of your mind-body check out Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis which includes a chapter on using self hypnosis to help you lose weight.


How to Reduce Anxiety in Just Five Minutes

Yes it’s a trick – but it’s a good one. It’s a trick that fools our body into thinking that the danger has passed and so it can stop producing adrenaline and reacting as if life-threatening danger is present.

Not as advanced as we think we are

The problem is not the anxiety; it’s that we’re under-evolved. Our bodies were designed for life around 100,000 years ago when our only mode of transport was our legs and we could only communicate with others by speaking directly to them. There were no employers. There was no money. No bills to pay. And if someone threatened us it was perfectly acceptable to club them over the head.

Danger was always immediate and dealt with when it arose. You didn’t have to go away and worry about the whether the lion was going to eat you in three weeks time. You worried about the lion when it was in front of you and you stopped worrying as soon as the danger had passed. If you were hungry you went out and found some food – you didn’t sit in your mud hut for three days wondering what you were going to do because you were starving.

The adrenaline boost, otherwise known as the fight or flight response, was designed to give you more energy in emergency situations. It was always followed by physical action – running away, climbing a tree, or sticking your spear into something. That physical action cleared it out of your system and after a rest you were good to go.

That was fine and perfect for the life humans once lived.

But then they started thinking.

Too much thinking

One of the things about the body-mind is that it has a tough time telling the difference between imagination and reality. Your body responds to your imagination as if what you were imagining was real. If you don’t believe this just spend a few moments thinking about a lemon. Imagine holding it in your hand, feeling the texture, squeezing it just a little. Then hold it under your nose and inhale that deliciously fresh lemon scent. Then place the lemon on your kitchen counter, pick up a knife and cut it in two. Notice the juice oozing out onto your counter. Can you smell it? Pick up one of the pieces, stick out your tongue and squeeze a few drops of juice onto your tongue.

Now notice the increased salivary activity in your mouth.

There was no lemon.

Imagination is more powerful than reality

Your imagination is so powerful that when you think fearful thoughts – thoughts about something you don’t like or don’t want in your life – your body responds as if you were in real danger. It releases adrenaline, pushes the heart rate up, increases blood pressure, increases respiration rate and a whole bunch of other stuff that you won’t like.

When your life is such that you are worried most of the time, then this situation becomes chronic and your body never gets the break it needs.

So start to notice those times when something happens that causes you to worry. Then notice that your thoughts are focusing on an imagined future. You are predicting all the things that could go wrong, all the worst case scenarios. This is true even if something bad has already happened. You will be imagining life now in the presence of the bad thing having happened – imagining how difficult life will be now, for instance.

Very, very rarely is anything bad happening right now. If something bad is happening right now then do what you can to protect yourself or escape from the situation. If nothing bad is happening right now then that means it either has happened or you imagine it will happen. So recognise this and then notice your breathing.

I mentioned earlier that part of the fight/flight response is increased respiration rate. So notice your breathing and start to slow it down. Slow it down by slowly, a little at a time, deepening your breath.

Slow it down

Most of us, most of the time, breathe quite shallowly into the middle part of our lungs. So place your hand on your abdomen, about the area of your navel, and take the breath into the lower part of your lungs so that you push your hand out. When you breathe out, really pull in your abdominal muscles so that you expel all of the breath – this will pull your hand in towards your spine. It may take a few breaths to get used to this, but once you’ve got it then start to slow down the rate at which you breathe in and out. Really slow down the breath. Breathe as slowly as you can. If you feel any sense of discomfort or breathlessness then just take a few normal breaths before returning to abdominal breathing. Do this for around five minutes.

Good trick

This is the trick I mentioned at the beginning. Slow, relaxed breathing is associated with peace and tranquillity, not danger. So as you establish this easy, relaxed breathing pattern, your body-mind gets the message that everything is ok and we don’t need to do the fight/flight thing any more. This breathing technique breaks the cycle that maintains the anxiety state. It also distracts you from whatever your worry thoughts were because rather than breathing automatically, as we do most of the time, you have taken breathing under conscious control and that takes mind effort and re-directs your thoughts.

Try it and see what happens.

If you want to find out more about how to reduce anxiety check out my video The ABC of Anxiety Relief which goes into a little more detail. It’s only a little over ten minutes long.

If you prefer to read than watch then have a look at my book Change Your Life with Self Hypnosis which is bursting with simple solutions to anxiety and other problems that cause life to be less than we would wish it to be. But it’s a little more than that. It is a training course in discovering how to be Master of your Mind, rather than allowing your mind to be the master of you.



How to Cope When You Can’t

Bills – but no money to pay them?

Worried sick because your Mum is seriously ill?

Bullied at work?

Too much to do, not enough time?


Overwhelming problems come in all shapes and sizes. It’s almost as if we were born worrying. We’ve had help; been to the doctor; we even recognise that worrying doesn’t help – but we can’t seem to stop doing it. It’s as if it’s a part of who we are – a very unfair part – but nevertheless an integral part of our personality. So if it’s me, surely it’s impossible to change? If it’s me, surely I’m just stuck with it, even though it’s so unfair?

Why does it seem to be the good, kind, gentle people, who suffer so? Those who don’t care about the feelings of others seem to live a blessed existence as they sail through life, not caring who they hurt, as long as they come out on top.

Most of the time we just muddle through doing the best we can, surviving one storm and hoping for a brief spell of good weather before the next one turns up.

The trouble is that the next one can sometimes be a hurricane. Not just one problem, but everything going wrong all at once. This is when your world overwhelms you and you just want someone to wave their wand and make it all go away.

All you want to do is curl up and cry. Or maybe have someone give you a magic hug. Or perhaps you just want to go to sleep and never wake up. Life is too hard and you have done nothing to deserve this. You are a good person, but appeals to your God seem to fall on deaf ears.

And when you’re all cried out – the problems remain and you still have no solutions.

Life is Unfair

Life is unfair. Bad people win, and good people lose. You can recognise that and then you can dismiss it as irrelevant to you right now. By right now I actually mean right in this very moment. Not two minutes in the future, or ten minutes in the past.  Not yesterday, and not tomorrow. Right now is an instant in time and it’s the instant you are reading this word, and now this word… Right now is a fleeting thing and trying to catch it is as easy as trying to hold water in a net.

So be aware, reading these words, that as you seek help, as you seek a way out, that the solution will involve you. There is no way out that does not involve you. But your involvement is not coming up with solutions – you will either find those or you won’t. Your involvement is to learn how to use your mind differently from the way you have been trained to use it.

You have been trained to worry.

The Solution

You need to discover a different approach to your problems. I don’t mean ignore them, or pretend they aren’t there. The different approach is to reduce the worry and then open yourself up to solutions. Worry blocks your intuitive sense. Worry blocks your access to the knowingness that holds all the answers you ever need.

So how does that pay the bills?

Paying the bills isn’t the immediate problem. The immediate right now problem is your sense of overwhelm that prevents you from accessing any solutions. Free yourself from that and you may begin to see a way out that you couldn’t see because your anxiety was in the way.

How does that heal my Mum?

Magic? Not Exactly.

I’m not talking about magic, though I can’t deny that when you adopt this approach that magic happens. What you do is to free yourself from the worry so that when you spend time with your Mum you can be fully present with her, and allow yourself to trust that she is being cared for when you aren’t there.

I’m not talking here about solving the problems or pretending they don’t exist or that they don’t need dealing with. I’m talking about freeing up your mind from the anxiety that holds you in its fierce grip and immobilises you.

Become present whenever you notice that your mind has drifted away onto your problems. Do this frequently and your life will change.

More Help

If you’d like to explore in greater detail how to do this then check out my book The Ten Commitments: For When the World Overwhelms You The book is deliberately brief because in a state of overwhelm concentration is difficult, so these are ten very easy steps that you will be able to engage with and which will ease your burden and allow you to get through today. Getting through today can seem a tough prospect when you awaken to face another interminable day. This short book is designed to help you through and to give you the peace that invites in solutions. So check it out now


What to do When Your World Overwhelms You

It’s really strange how our emotions seem to control our lives. Well… perhaps not so much our lives, but how we feel about our lives. You can be sailing along quite happily and then suddenly a big storm appears out of nowhere – just didn’t see it coming – and bang your world is in pieces and the prospect of a return to the idyllic happiness you were experiencing is gone forever.

What did I do wrong?

Is God punishing me?

Has Life got it in for me?

I’m a good person, I don’t deserve this, do I?

These are the kind of thoughts that appear, along with:

How will I cope?

Where will I live?

I feel so lonely.

My words do not even come close to touching the depths of despair that may be drowning you right now.

A few days ago I heard from a friend. Her husband had left her after 20+ years of happy marriage; children moved away, family home – filled with wonderful loving memories – being sold. Life was over and she was distraught and had no idea who to turn to or how to cope with all of this unfairness.

I remember when the same sort of thing happened to me about 20 years ago. My psychologist said something that was the most powerful thing anyone has ever said to me. It was also the last thing I wanted to hear when I was feeling so sorry for my self – knowing that my life, and my happiness was over.

He said…

“Why not you?”

It stopped me in my tracks and made me think. My assumption was this stuff only happened to other people. I was a good person and so deserved good things, not this hellish nightmare. But it slowly dawned on me that I’m just like everyone else and sometimes stuff happens that we don’t like. It doesn’t say anything about us. It doesn’t make a statement about our goodness or our badness.

Sometimes bad stuff happens to good people.

It’s as simple as that.

Once you really get that, you can move on and start to live again.

Once you really get that, you can let go of the past and look towards the future.

Once you really get that, you can see that it is just another challenge, with just another solution.

You don’t have to like the current situation but the sooner you can move to a state of acceptance of what is, the sooner you can move away from it and into a brighter future. While you mourn for the past (and this is a perfectly natural and healthy thing to do – for a while) you are held in the past. When the grieving is finished life will open up once more for you.

But in the meantime you can feel completely overwhelmed and unable to cope with just getting through the day. To that end I wrote The Ten Commitments: For When the World Overwhelms You.

This brief book guides you through the process of how to get through a day when coping with the demands of the world is just too much. I walk you through ten simple steps that you can cope with –  even in the midst of grief.

Help is available to you when your world overwhelms you, and today, it seems that so many people make so many demands on our time, energy, and emotional stability that the experience of being overwhelmed is happening all too frequently. Grab your copy TODAY and if you don’t need it today at least you’ll have it ready for when you do.


Should I Give To Shelter… Or Do Something More Interesting Instead

I was walking through St Helens town centre yesterday afternoon, on my way to meet a friend for a coffee and a chat. My arrival at the meeting place, only a minute late, was simultaneous with being accosted by a very attractive young lady wearing a red top with a Shelter logo on it. She also had around her neck one of those plastic wallet id card thingies on a ribbon – and we all know that wearing one of those in a shopping centre makes you official and, therefore, important.

She started off in typical salesman, or should I be politically correct and say salesperson, fashion, being very nice asking about me and setting a pleasant tone to an encounter with a total stranger who was clearly after my money. My usual response to this kind of situation is to cut to the chase so I asked her what she was selling. I was reassured that nothing was being sold (this is always a lie, because if they didn’t want something from you they wouldn’t be talking to total strangers). I explained that I was meeting someone and already late. A promise to get to the point was made and immediately broken.

After being asked if I had heard of Shelter (a well-known organisation that helps the homeless), which I had, she asked me if I agreed that every child needs a home.

An innocuous no-brainer, it seems.

But, unfortunately for her, not to me.

You see I immediately had a couple of problems even before I attempted to answer. I don’t like loaded questions. When someone asks me what I consider to be a serious question, for which they are genuinely seeking my opinion, I like to think deeply about it to ensure that I don’t provide a valueless knee-jerk response. Because of my prior appointment, my attention was split because part of me was thinking about the meeting that I was getting later for, and part of me wanted to respond.

But back to the loaded question for a minute. There is a sales technique, promoted in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) called the Yes Set. It works on the basis that the more you do something the more likely you are to do it again. So when a salesman (I’ve decided I don’t care about being politically correct) starts talking to a prospect, a prospect that he has found some information about, he will ask a series of questions to which the only answer is yes. This is usually after a little bit of rapport-building chit chat enquiring about health, enjoying the weather, what are you up to, sort of stuff. Once the prospect starts giving signals of comfort the salesman moves on to the ‘Yes Set’. Your name is Fred… waits for a yes, you live at this address… waits for a yes, your date of birth is… waits for yes, and whatever other appropriate questions that the answer has to be a ‘yes’ to.

The theory is that at the end of this series of yeses comes “and would you like to put your signature here” for this thing you don’t want and don’t need but I get lots of commission for. If this is done skilfully most people sign without even realising what they’ve done. And that’s because they were unconscious for most of the process. By unconscious I mean not fully aware and not fully present in the moment.

Loaded questions are questions for which there is only one answer and the questioner already knows what the answer is. Closed questions are questions for which the answer is yes or no. I was being asked a loaded closed question. I don’t like being asked loaded questions under the guise of friendliness and curiosity. I do like being asked questions for which the questioner genuinely would like either an answer, or at least to hear my opinion.

So, with the time pressure that I was applying to myself, I didn’t allow myself time to search for a reasoned answer and simply responded honestly that I didn’t know the answer to that question.

This was not the correct response.

When you fail to give the correct response to a loaded question you disrupt the sales flow, because then, rather than following a mental or written script, the seller has to actually think on their feet and respond from their genuine self. This is something most of them, in my experience, fail at miserably.

At this point my friend walked up to us, the two of them exchanged compliments about hair colour and eye make up and my friend started to walk off with me as though the ShelterLady didn’t exist. At this point she had visions of losing the Prospect she had carefully cultivated and this time really did get straight to the point. The point was effectively give me access to your bank account on a monthly basis forever.

I said no sorry I can’t help and walked away with my friend.

But I’d been asked a question that I hadn’t satisfactorily answered and I couldn’t let it go. I mean it’s such a good loaded question – do you agree that every child needs a home? Apart from my natural resistance to people who just want me to give them money – without my having the opportunity to do some research and find out if the work they are doing is something I feel comfortable about supporting – I felt there was something important here.

I mean I like me. I think I’m a decent guy. My work is helping people and freeing them up so they can live satisfying and peaceful lives. So why couldn’t I just agree with something so obvious. I’m a great fan of ‘Know Thyself’ so it was important for me to find out.

Once we were sitting comfortably, and supplied with coffee and cake, I started to explain what was going on to my friend when she arrived at the meeting place. I find that sometimes, when I’m looking for something elusive, if I start talking it frees up a part of my mind and the answers just come. So I did. And they did.

I was looking at the question from the wrong end. I was provided with an answer, not a question. Every child needs a home is a solution. The question is ‘what does every child need?’ I could answer that one easily. Every child needs support, encouragement, physical safety & security, to be challenged appropriately, and to feel loved. So the real question becomes ‘is a home the only place a child can receive those things?’

In my work I’ve met many people who were coming to me for help because their home did not provide those things. When a home doesn’t provide those things then we usually end up with various degrees of psychological problems – anything from feeling a little insecure to schizophrenia. In the majority of cases it doesn’t seriously screw up our lives, but it does make it less than it could be; and in some instances it seriously screws people up.

The use of the word home in the question was I believe, deliberately emotive. A home is not a house.  A home is not even a roof. But home has implications and associations like family and love. I don’t even believe that a home is just a place where you live. But that’s what home means to me. It may not mean that to you. So the question itself becomes unanswerable without a definition of the word home.

I live on my own. My house is most definitely my home. It’s also my place of work. The only love in it is the love that I bring to it, or the love that arrives when family and friends visit. It’s the same for the support and encouragement. A home does not provide those – people do.

What a child needs is people around him, or her, who love, support, encourage, guide, teach lovingly, challenge safely, and provide a place of security to retreat to in times of need.

I don’t know about you, but I know quite a few homes that aren’t that.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts below.