Find out how to create optimism!

Posted December 23, 2013 by greymatterzblog
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image

Everyone experiences challenges and difficulties in life which result to anger, frustration, disappointments, and the like. Sometimes we can’t avoid negative experiences. But despite hardships, happy individuals seem to get through them easily and bounce back to their happy and healthy life. Whilst it is not possible to avoid pessimism completely, here’s why we should all strive hard to inject optimism in our everyday life.

The Hidden Wonders of Optimism

Optimism has long been linked to low stress levels, whereas pessimism is known to boost the levels of stress hormones in the bloodstream, resulting to poorer immunity and increased risk of health problems. But in what other ways does optimism promote good health?

Mounting evidence suggests that keeping a positive view of life could help people recover faster from surgery and effectively cope with serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, and AIDS.

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published a study showing law students who were optimistic at the beginning of the school year had better functioning immune cells than their worried peers by the middle of the first semester.

Optimism also appears to play a crucial role in helping people cope with the challenges and frustrations, even failures that they experience in life.

The surprising thing is, these difficulties are also necessary for one to cultivate positivity. According to research, kids who are protected from failure and adversity are less likely to develop optimism. It’s because when these children make mistakes and learn from them, they develop the resilience needed to overcome the challenges that likely lie ahead.

How to Become More Optimistic

Being optimistic doesn’t mean we should all interpret each and every calamity as a blessing. It simply means that when calamity does strike, we don’t easily give in; rather, we try to learn from it.

And don’t worry if you find it hard to see the glass half full.  There are several ways to cultivate the ‘positive thinker’ in you.

One way is to recognise that your grief and pain, no matter how real and deep they are, are only part of the bigger picture. And that picture also has positive aspects – success, happiness, pleasure, etc. Many people who have developed serious illnesses are still able to find goodness in the painful experiences they have gone through.

For instance, some people who have suffered from life-threatening or incapacitating disease are able to value each day, appreciate the moment, spend more time doing things they are passionate about, inspire others, and get their priorities straight.

Another great strategy to develop optimism is to practice gratefulness. By recognising your strengths, as well as the positive experiences you had, no matter how small they are, you can teach yourself to become optimistic. Let go of the assumption that the world is against you, or you are born ‘loser’.

This assumption has no logical or scientific basis anyway.  Furthermore, understand that the past does not equal the future. You may have gone through difficult experiences in the past. But that doesn’t mean that the same events will happen now.

You can also practise positive affirmations. For example, write down at least three statements about what you want to change in your perspectives (e.g. “Anything is possible”, “I can live my life the way I choose to”, “Never say die!”). Put them in places where you can see them every day, such as your computer monitor (you can probably make a desktop background containing these affirmations), on your bathroom mirror, on your door, etc.

You may not be able to change the circumstances in your life today, but you can change your attitude towards them. If you need help, talk to a health professional to know what methods can help you. Hypnotherapy has been shown to rapidly help people develop a more positive outlook in life.

As always I welcome your thoughts and comments.

regards

Richard Scott
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist
greymatterz.co.uk

Part of the Core Health Centre

Follow me @RichGreymatterz or
www.facebook.com/greymatterzhypnotherapy

Advertisements

Avoid overeating this festive season – Here’s how.

Posted December 21, 2013 by greymatterzblog
Categories: Handy hints and tips

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Image

Let’s face it – this time of the year is often centred on food.

There are special dinners and get-togethers everywhere. This is the time of the year when we get to enjoy great food and we have a very good excuse to indulge! But overeating during holidays leave many people feeling guilty, especially when they notice that they have actually gained a few pounds.

Well, this is really not too bad as long as we are able to get back on track next year and work out those excess fats. But if you are still concerned about gaining weight this holiday season, I have a number of tips for you. It is certainly possible that you enjoy and indulge without overeating… and feeling guilty!

Spare your tummy for the foods you really enjoy.

Don’t eat cookies and junk foods just because they are sitting there or because others are enjoying them. Unless you really want them, spare your tummy for other foods – those that you really love to indulge in. And because it’s holiday season, there are going to be endless buffets featuring tantalising foods. Forget about the rest and simply focus on the foods you want.

Choose a red plate.

In 2012, a group of German and Swiss researchers found that people who are given meals served on a red plate reduced their food intake by as much as 40 per cent. According to them, the colour red may work like a subtle stop signal – like a red traffic light – telling them not to overeat.

Eat healthy most of the time.

If you can’t resist the calorie-dense junk foods served in parties and get-togethers, try as much as possible to eat healthy when you’re at home. Replace those bags of cookies with fresh produce like fruits and vegetables and take those fizzy drinks from your fridge and replace them with smoothie drinks and other healthy beverages. This way, you won’t feel guilty whenever you indulge in not-so-healthy meals at holiday parties.

Watch your portions.

It’s perfectly okay to get some of this and some of that, as long as you are keeping an eye on your food portions. A great strategy is to get bigger portions of the healthy stuff and small portions of the calorie-dense, unhealthy food choices. And don’t forget to watch over the calories you are consuming from beverages. Commercial juice varieties, as well as some beers and spirits are very high in calories. What’s more, they contain large amounts of sugar too.

Drink plenty of water.

A glass of water before mealtime can reduce your hunger pangs or food cravings, making you less likely to overeat. It also helps prevent indigestion, which is common during the holiday season.

Stock up healthy snacks.

If you are going out of town for a vacation, pick up a few healthy snacks just as you would get some bottled water. This will prevent you from indulging in unhealthy snacks along the way.

Don’t skip breakfast.

Just because you will be attending a lunch party doesn’t mean you should forego breakfast. Eating a healthy, fulfilling meal in the morning could save you from a calorie splurge later in the day. Opt for protein-filled foods like lean chicken, hard-boiled egg, a slice or two of brown bread, and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Go easy at 6pm onwards.

Eating late on holidays is common. If you’re craving for pasta, rice and other calorie-dense meals, eat them at lunch. Enjoy fresh vegetable salad, sandwich and a glass of wine maybe for dinner.

Be alcohol savvy.

Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to avoid hangover and dehydration. You will also be reducing your calorie intake this way. Furthermore, try spirits with low-calorie mixers and don’t forget to “drink moderately”.

Drop the guilt.

It won’t help you with anything – it will just make you feel worse this holiday season. What’s more, new research from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand has found that people who felt guilty after overeating tend to gain more weight than those who didn’t feel guilty. The researchers emphasised that the diet controlling habit of guilt ridden-women gets abandoned once they are guilt ridden.

Hope you find these tips useful. Here’s wishing you a wonderful, delicious and fulfilling festive break!

Richard Scott
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist

www.greymatterz.co.uk

Part of the Core Health Centre

12 steps to a great, stress-free Christmas

Posted December 11, 2013 by greymatterzblog
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

image

Christmas is, according to whichever survey you read, always somewhere in the top 20 most stressful events of life – it’s often ranked as highly as sixth. 

Most of the other events are infrequent for most of us (deaths, marriage, divorce, house moves etc), but Christmas comes around with great regularity!

According to one survey, 86% of people say they find buying presents hard work and 65% find Christmas shopping stressful. 

The same survey said that 60% of people felt stressed when finding that a gift they bought for someone proved to be a disappointment. 

However much fun it is, there is no doubt that Christmas is stressful – even for the kids!

So, here are 12 tips for making your Christmas less stressful:

1)      Don’t Take Too  Much On
You are not superwoman (or man) – so if you’ve already agreed to host a party and go to a further 2, do you need to accept extra invitations? 

Think of the stress and not just the potential fun.  In this busy period, there has to be some rest as well as fun. 

Build in plenty of down-time and time to flop.  If you are reading this and thinking, “No chance!” then that merely emphasises just how much you do need to build it in. so insist upon it – everyone will benefit if you have more energy at the key moments.

2)      Plan Ahead with Presents

Buying presents over a few months takes away the stress of having to find them all at once and also spreads the financial burden. 
It’s can be atmospheric to shop when the lights are in the shops and it can be fun, to buy a last special present on Christmas Eve – but you don’t have to do all of your present buying in December.

It’s also not wise to wait too long for something that’s likely to sell out. 

This year, tablets and iPads are expected to be in short supply nearer the day. 

It can be extremely stressful to find that an important present is out of stock everywhere.

3)      Buy Some Things Online

Shop checkout queues can be a really stressful, and some people even suffer trolley rage. 

It is possible to order some food and drink for delivery to your house if you get in quickly enough. 

The few pounds you have to pay for this is worth it for the loss of stress!  Do it early or you’ll worry about whether it will arrive in time or not.

4)      Remember that You Can’t Make Everything Perfect

You are not responsible for everyone’s happiness. 

It might be your job to cook the dinner and pick the presents, but if Aunt Flo is in an awful mood, or Grandma insists on watching 3 hours of continuous soaps and upsets everyone else, it’s not your fault. 

Although, you can help to set the atmosphere, essentially people will make up their own minds whether they’re going to be in the festive spirit or not.  Which brings us nicely onto…

5)      Be Responsible with Alcohol/Going to Parties

Alcohol is either a friend or an enemy at Christmas depending how you treat it. 

Christmas is so stressful that many people (including myself) like to have a small drink just as it’s about to swing into action.

This can be relaxing and can help you to feel jolly – helping to create a festive atmosphere. 

Of course, this does mean just a tipple, as a drunken host or hostess is not a good idea!

If you’re cooking, why not get someone else to be responsible for drinks? 

They should make sure everyone has what they want but doesn’t overdo it.

Since tensions can be high, it’s not a good idea to get so sozzled that you tell your sister exactly what you really think of her and her children! 

That will greatly increase your stress for a long time to come!  This is less likely if you stick to an amount of alcohol you know you can handle well.

Parties are a great time to let your hair down, but it’s a good idea to drink soft drinks interspersed with the booze during the night and some water before bed. 

Overdoing it will often ruin what was otherwise a great night, so one way of dealing with that is to say, “I am going to drink only 4 pints tonight” (or whatever you know you can handle and not suffer the consequences).

If you plan it that way, then you will find you can stick to a sensible limit more easily.

6)      Coping with The In-Laws

Or, as a friend of mine calls them, “the Outlaws.”  If you have wonderful ones then this is no problem at all – move on to the next item.

If yours are hard work, then, you may just have to steal yourself and accept that it’s going to be a strain. 

Knowing what has made it easier in the past can help, as can the notion that you can take 10 minutes out from time to time – agree this with your partner beforehand and work together as a team.

7)      Observe Simplicity

Sometimes, less is more.  Although there are certain things you cannot avoid putting extra effort into at Christmas there may be others that are so stressful that they are not worth the payback.

Is it necessary to prepare every meal as a gourmet feast or to put up so many decorations that your house can be seen from space? 

Even the kids will appreciate doing something more low key for some of the holiday.  If they don’t chill out at some point, there will be tantrums.

8)      Give What You Feel is Reasonable for You

One way we can feel we have done something really useful as opposed to simply having over-indulged is to give something to a charity at this time of year – whether it is with money or with time. 

Don’t get stressed about giving. Just give what you feel is reasonable for you. 

Helping others to enjoy their Christmas can greatly help us to enjoy our own and make us feel connected to the wider world. 

9)      Be Prepared with Christmas Cards

I have got into the habit of starting mine in the last week of November. 

I don’t send them out at that point, but I do have them stamped up and ready to go. 

I find if I do 5 or 6 cards a night for a couple of weeks, it makes life a whole lot easier.  You can do this in front of the tv, so it’s really not much effort this way.

It’s also useful to have a Christmas card list (which you can amend every year). 

Christmas can be a good time to accept that some people go out of your life as well as come into it. I keep a note of who I send to and who sends to me every year. 

Except for very special reasons, if someone doesn’t send me a card three years in a row, I don’t send them one next time. 

Why feel obliged to people who aren’t bothered?  It may be sad, but it’s a part of everyone’s life, and can be stress reducing to realise that you don’t have to hold on to people you met five years ago on holiday or you lived next door to twenty years ago.

10)   Give Time for Relaxation and Time-Out

It is important to have something planned that is stress free around Christmas. 

Many people book a massage or spa session either just before or just after (or both if you have the time and money). 

Perhaps a round of golf or playing some other sport can also do this –if it’s not too cold! 

And of course, there is the Boxing Day football schedule.

Counsellors often have very busy January’s when new clients want to unload the stresses they underwent over the Christmas period.  It can be good to unburden this to an empathic ear.

11)   Go For a Walk

It can be a relief to go for a walk on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day.  It can be a blessed relief from TV, relatives, broken toys and over-indulged stomachs!

Getting out in nature, especially if there is festive weather can really help to lower stress levels.

12)   Having a Spiritual Moment or Keeping the Faith

If you are a religious person it can be the highlight of Christmas to go a Carol Service.

If you’re not it can be lovely just to stop and listen to the Salvation Army play some carols – don’t walk past, however busy you are!

Try to enjoy this non-material aspect of the Festive Season and perhaps stop to throw some money in the box whilst enjoying a bit of the more spiritual side of Christmas.

It can be a relief to take ten minutes out from the manic pace of shopping and lower your pulse rate. 

Christmas is a happy occasion of celebration. Thinking peaceful thoughts towards others helps put the stressful parts into some perspective and keeps our emotions balanced.

If you do find Christmas stressful then remember keep this list handy and it might ease the burden just a little.

Here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Richard Scott
Clinical hypnotherapist
greymatterz.co.uk

Core Health Centre

15 tips to a succesful marriage.

Posted October 18, 2013 by greymatterzblog
Categories: Handy hints and tips

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
happy marriage

happy marriage

In her book “Marriage Rules: A Manual for the Married and the Coupled Up”, relationship expert Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., talks about the simple rules for a remarkable couple relationship:

Be appreciative.

Make at least two positive comments each day. Tell your partner what you admire most about him or her. It could be the delicious barbecue your wife prepared last night or the stunning appearance of your husband in his new shirt.

Lie low on criticism.

Criticisms appear to be more helpful in the beginning of a romantic relationship. But it gets annoying over time. Lie low on giving criticisms, especially those you have already pointed out in the past. Also let go of the unimportant negative remarks that can make your partner feel embarrassed or could reduce his or her confidence.

Give a little more time for yourself. Connect with your friends and family. Pursue your passion. Do things you enjoy. Being married doesn’t mean you have to let go of your individuality.  When your energy is directed to living your life in the best way you can, you don’t get to “over-focus” on your partner in a negative way.

Listen.

Sometimes, the most powerful way to connect and comfort a person is to say nothing but listen.

Take time to listen to them without interrupting, or giving judgements. Listen with an open mind and an open heart. It’s where understanding, empathy and communication starts.

Do it when you say you would.

Never think that your contributions to the relationship compensates for the things you have failed to do or the promises you have broken.

Don’t hesitate to say “I am sorry”.

Even if you know your fault constitutes only 20 per cent of the entire problem. Remember the fact remains that you also did something wrong (no matter how small or insignificant it is) so it is just proper to apologise. This will also encourage your partner to do the same.

Don’t demand an apology.

Just because he or she doesn’t say the magic words “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t want to reconcile with you. Some people say “sorry” through deeds rather than words. Be more sensitive towards your spouse’s way of communicating his or her feelings.

Say it short.

A distant partner may avoid conversations because it may feel ‘awful’ to him or her. So slow down your speech, lower your tone, and speak gently.

Stop the emotional pursuit.

The more you chase a distant partner, the farther he or she gets away. So focus more on living your life in the best way you can. A distant partner is more likely to move towards you when he or she sees you are taking good care of yourself.

Exit a conversation when you start to feel you are being hit “below the belt”. During a heated argument, it’s easy to get flown away by emotions and say words we don’t really mean. If your partner starts to become rude, tell your partner that you are going to stop the conversation until he or she is ready to talk to you calmly and with respect. Be firm.

Cultivate good family values.

Take time to assess your dysfunctional family patterns and make effort to change them for the better.

Turn your partner “on”.

If it’s your partner who always initiates sex, be the one to do it sometimes. This will make your spouse feel more appreciated and loved.

Pursue your own hobbies, wants and goals.

Take a dance or a baking class, travel with friends – cherish life outside your relationship. Keeping the balance between your married and personal life can reduce your stress levels and boost your well-being.

Set boundaries with technology use.

Technology is essential to our daily life but too much of it can affect the quality of our personal relationships. Agree on “time-out rules” where each one of you is prohibited from using mobile phone, computer or any gadget. These rules are best during mealtimes, at least an hour before bedtime, during intimate moments, vacation trips, and the like.

Be willing to compromise for your partner.

But not to the extent that your core values, beliefs, goals and priorities are compromised. Set limits and let your partner know about them.

There you go, sounds quite simple. Do let me know how you get on.

Richard Scott

Clinical Hypnotherapist / Psychotherapist

SNHS Dip.CH, SNHS Adv Dip.CH.Psy, PHPA, ICHM, NHSTA

GREY MATTERZ
Core Health Centre, 55 Beverley Road, Hull HU3 1XL

Hull Office:          01482 22 71 25
Or Mobile:           07843 012 712

Email: info@greymatterz.co.uk
Website: www.greymatterz.co.uk

Turn a failure into a success.

Posted October 7, 2013 by greymatterzblog
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Image

“You might never fail on the scale I did. But it is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.” – JK Rowling

Penniless, recently divorced, and raising a child on her own, JK Rowling wrote her first novel using an old manual typewriter and finished it in year 1995. The manuscript was submitted to 12 publishing companies and was rejected. Fortunately, Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury agreed to publish it but advised Rowling to get a day job because ‘there’s no money in children’s book’. In 1997, Rowling received an £8000 grant from the Scottish Arts Council so she could continue writing. That novel was entitled “Harry Potter” which has sold more than 400 million copies worldwide and has gained international recognition and multiple awards. The last four Harry Potter books have set records as the fastest-selling books in history.

What if Rowling gave up after the first, second, fourth or tenth rejection? She wouldn’t have gained billions, and we wouldn’t have read one of the best novels there are. Rowling failed so many times. But still she succeeded.

Things we can learn from failure

Looking at the bright side of failure is one way to bounce back after being knocked down. It can help restore our self-belief and counter self-criticisms that make failure much harder to bear. But the question is – is there really something good about failing?  If yes, what is it then? Surprisingly, failure teaches us many things about life and resilience.

It spurs humility.

Humility is vital for success. It is something that many people admire about truly successful individuals. Humility is a very attractive quality. It means staying confident and poised without being boastful and arrogant to others. Failure teaches us the art of humility because it allows us to appreciate every single victory or accomplishment as they come.

It opens more opportunities.

Many people are afraid to go out of their comfort zone because they are afraid of failure. So they choose to narrow their lives by sticking to what they had been doing. But taking risks is essential to achieving success. It takes courage to take risks – and we can all develop it through failures.

It makes us wiser.

They say older people are wiser. And that’s not simply because of their experiences, but also of the failures they have gone through in life. Failure helps you discover more about yourself, such as your strengths and weaknesses. It also helps you correct your mistakes. For instance, arriving late to work because you failed to catch the first bus teaches you to wake up early next time. Failing to pass the exam teaches you to study harder. Failing to get the job teaches you to work harder and improve your credentials. Failing to get your investment back teaches you better ways to improve your business.

It brings us courage.

The more we fail, the more courageous we become. The more resilient we become. Failure strengthens our resilience – a trait that is very important to succeed in life. Resilience is the ability to deal with and bounce back from any forms of adversity, may it be related to work, family, relationship, money, etc. Courage helps us survive life’s difficulties, increasing our chances of success.

If you’re going through the painful process of moving on from failure, knowing these things will make you feel better. In life, people are rewarded and praised for their victory. But the truth is – we can learn more from failure than success.

I’d love to hear your comments,

Richard Scott
Clinical Hypnotherapist
greymatterz.co.uk

Be successful – Here’s how!

Posted October 7, 2013 by greymatterzblog
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Image

Set smaller goals and achieve them.

Sometimes, big goals can be overwhelming. And when you can’t reach them, you become much less confident. One trick to increase your confidence is to set small, achievable goals. It really feels good every time you are able to achieve something – that gives you a sense of accomplishment, something you will also experience when you achieve big goals. So try breaking down a big dream into smaller ones and focus on them one at a time. This doesn’t only make you more confident but also makes your journey to success less stressful.

Be kinder to yourself.

Pamper yourself by buying a new pair of shoes or a new dress, or getting a two-hour massage at the spa. When you feel good about yourself, you will feel better in all other things. Treat yourself like you would treat a very good friend.

Be thankful.

All humans are hardwired to improve something. Even the richest people on earth feel that something is still missing. That’s part of being human. We are in constant chase of so many things. Once we have achieved our present goals, we will sure create another one. And the list goes on.

But being too focused on your goals could have a negative impact on your confidence levels. As mentioned, having a sense of accomplishment increases our self-esteem. But how could you experience it if you lack appreciation for what you currently have?

Before going to bed, think about the things that made you happy today as well as the goals you have completed (e.g. finishing work on time, cleaning a room, completing a to-do list, etc) and write them down perhaps. Focusing on what you’ve already achieved strengthens your drive to reach your long-term goals and achieve success despite the challenges you are facing.

Reduce your worrying.

Too often, we put a lot of time and attention thinking about all the ‘what-ifs’ we have in life. What if they don’t like my product? What if I fail in the exam? What if I don’t get promoted? What if – fill in the blank. But here’s the thing. Every day, you only have a certain amount of energy to spend. Instead of wasting it on worrying, why not use it to advance your career, improve your performance, learn about new stuff, and then meet your goals?

Find an inspiration.

Look for someone who has become successful in the career path you are taking and determine the qualities he or she has that you still don’t have. Learn about their good practices, skills and traits that have made them successful. Also research about the failures they have gone through and how they were able to overcome them.

Disarm those critical voices inside you.

Tell your inner critical self to ‘shut up’. If you can’t, just let it speak in a very minimal tone. Imagine a volume control in your brain and reduce it to the lowest level until you couldn’t even understand what those negative internal voices are saying. You can also overthrow those critical voices by filling your mind with positive thoughts.

Optimism has a large role to play in increasing your confidence and achieving success.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

One common habit of individuals who have poor self-esteem is that they keep on comparing themselves with other people – which is not right because everyone of us is uniquely special. Often, comparisons are unfair because you don’t know as much as you think you do about these people. You may think its better, but in reality, it could be 100 times worse.

Lastly, be willing to take risks.

Remember, you miss 100% of the opportunities you never go for. Don’t be afraid to fail or commit mistakes. No person has ever made it to success without experiencing failure even once in their life. You have God-given talents and abilities. Use them to achieve success.

 

Let me know how you go.

Richard Scott
Clinical Hypnotherapist
http://www.greymatterz.co.uk

How to train your BRAIN to perform Under Pressure

Posted September 17, 2013 by greymatterzblog
Categories: Handy hints and tips

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
 Image

3, 2 and 1 – your name has just been called and it’s time to perform.

There you are – standing on the stage, facing a crowd of people. Everyone’s looking at you, from head to foot. As you gaze at those strangers, you felt tension in your arms, neck, hands and all over your body. Everything moves like a slow motion movie. Yes, you are nervous. But the show must has to go on – you’re here to perform. So, what do you do…?

The Science behind ‘Grace under Pressure’

Everybody has the power to create a calm state of mind in order to deal with stress and pressure in an effective way. Studies on the human mind continue to prove that ‘grace under pressure’ is a skill that can be learned and applied in everyday life. And one way to elicit this special skill is to stimulate the vagus nerve.

The vagus never is known as the ‘wandering nerve’ because it has multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem that travel or wander to the lowest viscera of your abdomen, touching your heart and most major organs along the way. When people say “trust your gut”, they are actually saying “trust your vagus nerve”.

The vagus nerve also plays an important role in your body’s ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ system. Signals from your conscious mind travel through the vagus nerve to tell your organs to create an inner-calm state so you can “rest-and-digest” during times of safety or prepare your body for action during dangerous situations.

The vagus nerve has the ability to slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and the activity in your other organs. But sometimes, the vagus nerve’s reflexive responses can backfire. Instead of keeping you calm and ‘in control’, it can intensify your body’s negative responses, making you feel overwhelmed, agitated, stressed and uneasy. You are also likely to experience undesirable physiological symptoms like racing heart, sweaty palms, dry mouth, upset stomach and shakiness.

But here’s the good news – you can actually stimulate your vagus nerve to elicit ‘grace under pressure’ and here’s how to do it:

Breathe, breathe and breathe.

You will be surprised of how a simple breathing technique, which involves repeatedly inhaling and exhaling deeply, can set your mind and body to succeed in a task. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is the key to stimulating the vagus nerve. This results to the slowing down of your heart rate and blood pressure, keeping you calm in times of performance anxiety.

Keep practising.

Your brain, particularly your cerebellum, has the power to store muscle memory, which gives you confidence to perform gracefully under pressure. Without prior preparation, we are forced to rely extensively on our pre-frontal cortex, which could get disengaged and hamper our performance.  So whatever it is – a posing routine, a song, a speech, a music recital, or a corporate presentation, don’t forget to rehearse. It really is helpful.

Match your skills with the challenge.

Creating a state of ‘flow’ involves matching your skill level with the challenge at hand. One good strategy to achieve this is to keep pushing yourself to the limits. Engage in activities that keep you nestled between anxiety and boredom and slowly move on to more challenging activities. This will keep your vagus nerve active but at the same time, not too exhausted.

Get moving.

Cardio-respiratory activities, including strength training and even yoga, stimulate your vagus nerve and harmonise hormones and neurotransmitters linked to ‘grace under pressure’. Exercising also helps steer your mind away from discouraging thoughts. At the same time, it boosts your mood which has a significant effect on your entire performance level.

Be careful who you stay with.

Prior a performance or presentation, stay away from anxious people. Like a cold, anxiety is contagious. The vagus nerve picks up on people’s vibe so if you’re with pessimistic individuals, you’re likely to think the way they do. If the situation doesn’t permit you to stay away from anxious people, engage in calming activities that distract your mind, like listening to music, practising those breathing techniques or even try a positive visualisation technique.

Practise compassion.

This may come as a surprise to you but compassion does have a good deal of benefits to helping you achieve grace under pressure. In a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers discovered a link between high vagal tone index and positive emotions, physical health and positive social connections. They also found that reflecting on positive social connections and working to improve them also caused improvements in vagal tone.

Cultivate optimism.

During stressful situations, you may hear your critical self, saying ‘you can’t do it’, ‘you’re going to fail’, and all other words of discouragement. That’s a normal mental response that is part of your brain’s survival instinct. But by generating positive emotions, you can direct your vagus nerve to work harmoniously with your mind and body to keep you calm and focused in the middle of any challenging task.

I often teach positive visualisation techniques to performers and sports people in order to enhance their abilities and reduce their stress levels. Please feel free to ask me further questions or advice.

Also, if YOU have any techniques which keep you motivated and focussed prior to a performance, please feel free to share them and help others.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Richard Scott
Clinical Hypnotherapist & Psychotherapist
greymatterz.co.uk

Part of the Core Health Centre