Avoiding potential stress while experiencing an ailment

I have recently had a pain in my right knee. For some reason I thought it might be because I was running on uneven ground.

I rested a couple of days and then went running again. I still had the pain. I wondered if it was the distance I was running so I decided to do some sprint work instead. My knee was worse.

I decided not to run and instead use a cross trainer. Again my knee was worse.

I stopped exercise for a fortnight. My knee still got worse.

When I woke in the night and noticed it was painful I decided I better find out what was going on and booked a doctors appointment.

As I explained things I realised I had stopped running and stopped exercise and still my knee was worse.

It was reasonable to test the theory that my knee was hurting because of my running but when things didn’t improve and in fact got worse why did I not realise that running might not the link? I just carried on shutting down and creating links that might be totally unrelated.

We humans love being irrational.

Going to the Doctors allowed me to get expert advice. It might not be the right answer but it increases the possibility of me finding the right answer.

As it happens the Doctor suggested my knee cap might just be grinding a bit and therefore do some exercises that involve bending it a bit more.

I wanted to know if I could continue running and was told it would not hurt as long as I didn’t run too far.

This was all good but I still had uncertainty about the knee. How long should I leave the knee before considering we might not have the answer yet? It was suggested I might want to report back in 3-4 weeks for a progress report. That was great I was now free from worry about the knee. If it got worse I could go back. If it improved I would not need to go back. I was in control. This is the key to so much stress in life, perceived lack of control.

Not running and not exercising had been annoying me. I am also reading a book on ME/CFS type symptoms that is disturbing my sense of progress. Being able to run again allows me to feel good and continue making progress with my health. It might be that I find long term I can’t run and I will need to adjust but here I have taken reasonable steps to get through uncertainty:

  • I found a problem
  • Considered some solutions and tested them
  • Found my solutions didn’t work and sort more expert advice.
  • Remained uncertain about the solution but had a plan of action.

At no point was I stressed. It is very easy to just worry about something and not use that worry to create a plan of action. By not creating a plan of action you end up worrying over and over. The only time you can stop the worry is when you feel you are in control. At all points I monitored my situation and felt in control. This is the key for a stress free life.

(Hopefully I will address the problem the book I am reading in another post when I complete reading the book. I don’t want to ramble too much)

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What is the best way to drive on long country roads?

My weekly trip to my network meeting at Refer On in Sudbury has got me thinking about traffic again. 

When I travel between Braintree and Sudbury on a clear day I enjoy the flowing bends. I like the freedom. It reminds me of riding a motorbike. 

Going to Sudbury at 6.15am is always far nicer than returning at 9.15am. By the return journey the traffic has always built up. 

Traffic on the other side of the road is nearly always in convoys. A vehicle will normally be holding up a line of traffic. There will then be a long stretch of clear road perhaps the odd car between queues and then another line.

There have been times I have driven and put myself under pressure to overtake and there have been times I have been relaxed and just driven at the speed of the car in front. 

So what is the best tactic? That all depends on what you want to achieve doesn’t it?

Lets say you want to get to the destination as quickly as possible. There is a road that runs parallel and is less used. It avoids having to go through Halstead but instead goes through a couple of built up areas. If you feel traffic is bad on the main road you could take the alternative route. Timing the journeys I have never made the average time quicker by going the alternative way. I do get more enjoyment from the route however and it can be less busy but you can still find another line of traffic to crawl behind.

If you stick to one route you are then left with trying to overtake at every opportunity. Some days I have seen cars overtake me and the car I am crawling behind and they disappear off into the distance and yet when it comes to the next town I am still only a car behind them. Other times I have seen them disappear off into the distance and never seen them again. But how far do they get?

One day I left a meeting in front of a friend. I got passed a car he didn’t and did as much overtaking as I could. I don’t know how he drove but at the end of the route I was 3 cars in front. I had made no progress at all and caused myself a lot of stress.

My journey time only normally changes by 1 or 2 minutes on a 25minute journey whether I am trying to overtake or just relaxing.

Overtaking can lead to marginal savings in time but they are small. If time can be saved it maximises your chances of getting their quicker but at what cost?

When overtaking on country lanes there is an increased risk of an accident. There are junctions and bends and you have to be a confident driver or you a risking the lives of others. I have noticed the pressure of looking for safe opportunities does raise my adrenaline so I am putting myself under stress. If you are stressed you are in Flight and Fight mode and that means your critical thinking has been reduced therefore you are more likely to misjudge something or make a mistake.

The pleasure of being released from the queue is appealing to me but often it is short lived as the next queue is only a little way up the road.

My conclusion therefore is it is safest and more healthy to sit in the queues. If you do get a clear piece of road and an opportunity to overtake you can take it but it probably doesn’t pay to be actively looking for the overtaking position.

So how do I entertain myself when stuck in a queue? Well a) I have music on b) I switch to thinking about the cost of travel. I watch how other drivers drive so close to the car in front they are forever braking and accelerating. I therefore try to avoid unnecessary braking and aim to be more gentle on using the accelerator. I notice I tend to over-react to brake lights in front and brake before I have thought so now I remember I have more distance and use my experience more.

It entertains me and reduces the risk of frustration. Perhaps you can find other methods to entertain yourself. The more choice you have the more relaxed you will be when you arrive safely at your destination.

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Confusing Sign

Colouring on the sign causes unconscious confusion

This sign has caused much amusement on British Hypnosis Research trainings. The aim is to stop people writing on the board to the left, and yet the unconscious mind is likely to read the text by colour. It could therefore read the black text decide the left board is for writing on and the red text confirms it is correct by telling it not to write on the right/correct board.

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The missing door knob

The thread has gone in the door knob that for years I have used to shut my front door.

So at the moment I am going out of the house and discovering my hand is wanting to pull a door knob that isn’t there. I know consciously it is not there and yet my hand goes to the right height and location and tries to pull something that is not there.

This is the work of my unconscious mind. It don’t consciously think about moving my hand there. It just happens by itself. The unconscious mind performs many jobs for us.

We don’t think about moving our legs to walk they just perform the movements we spent months learning to do as a toddler.

When typing I don’t look at the keys. My fingers or since I am typing this on my phone, my thumbs, just know where to press. I don’t know consciously where the letters are and yet as I type the words I want to say appear on the screen.

I wonder what you can spot your unconscious mind doing for you?

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“I’m Bored”

Most bored people hate the feeling that way but what do you have to do to be bored?

Can you teach me how to be bored?

Most people have probably thought about boredom when trying to avoid it but how many spend time thinking about its purpose and why and how we become bored.

I spent from 1994 to 2008 absolutely avoiding being inactive and yet not using any energy as I suffered with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

This meant I was forced to find plenty of things to do using many different skills. If I had been reading, I would need to switch to TV, after TV to emails, after emails perhaps a game. Constantly changing the type of activity and thought processes required so that I was “busy” but resting parts of my brain at the same time.

As a consequence of my illness I have almost forgotten how to be bored. My own recollection of the experience is that at times I would be too tired to do anything but equally too tired to sleep and therefore I was “restless”. It was a state I hated and normally had to endure because I had been to a concert a couple of days before and I was still in the middle of a “crash”. A “crash” is in interesting state which would drive me nuts as I wanted to express how it felt to be crashed but my brain was so tired I could not. 

In my case boredom or fear of boredom was a strong motivator.

Leo Tolstoy defined Boredom as “the desire for desires”

You are not happy with how you are feeling and you know you want a different feeling but you don’t know how to get it.

A child when bored possibly has a different perspective on boredom. They feel they have nothing to do and most of what they want to do is probably not possible. They might be stuck at home when they want to go to a friends. They might want a new Xbox game. They sit there bored and can only think how bored they are and come up with a limited set of alternatives.

Arthur Schopenhauer felt “Boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other.”

I now find it incredibly hard to be bored because as soon as I spot an emotion I am fascinated that it should be there. I am curious as to how it feels to be that emotion and wonder what the cause could be. So when I notice that I am bored I instantly start moving away from the feeling because I am curious to experience boredom.

To think about boredom and what it means is probably quite a boring thing to do. So what can you do to shift yourself? If boredom makes you lethargic and unable to think perhaps it is a good idea to have a spent a little time thinking about funny times and events in your life. If you have these written down somewhere or you can recall them easily then you can spend some time enjoying those times again.

This too might seem “boring” in a bored state so perhaps a better thing to do would be go for a walk or do some exercise. Something which doesn’t require thought.

The key is to go and do something different. If it is still boring do something else. Keep changing actives until you find you forget to be bored.

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What benefits do people get from moaning? Please give me examples of moans you have heard

As I watch the world I am fairly convinced people have a natural tenancy to moan.

What is the cause of this?

It would be natural to expect the moaning to lead to progress of some kind but in a lot of cases it seems moaning/complaining is an end in itself.

The answer has to be that it gives us some benefit.

Some people moan because they get sympathy. Some people moan and don’t get sympathy but does it stop them moaning? I suspect some might go on to moan they didn’t get any sympathy! I suspect that while some moans don’t get results over time they do so it pays to moan.

There must be different classes of moaning so I would love it if you could report different moans you have heard. It would allow you to moan about the moaners but in a nice constructive way since it would help me.

People moan about the price of petrol. They don’t expect any change. They feel help helpless and out of control. It seems to be mainly for sympathy and yet most people are in the same boat so they are unlikely to get much sympathy. The process of complaining is a release of frustration at being out of control.

People moan about it being cold out. Nobody can reasonably expect anyone to change the whether so it can’t be for change. The complaint could be for sympathy about the cost of heating or how it makes them feel but again it seems in other cases it is just the release of frustration being therapeutic in itself.

“The standard of schooling is not like it was in my day”: This is a common one. This gives the moaner a sense of superiority. They might want change but mostly they won’t do anything about it. The is also an assumption here that while all schooling has changed it is also all for the worse and of course a lot of the changes will probably have been an improvement overall. Is there therefore some jealousy that standards are softer?

Do you have any alternative points of view? Do you have a moans you can report? Please do share them with me by clicking on the submit button on the side.

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Understanding how others think helps create a solution

I love working with my clients because it is great moving them on but also because it is fascinating seeing how everyone thinks so differently. Some people create links that to others are not their.

Last night my wife demonstrated a new understanding of me. We were at Essex Samba Band and we had a new piece to learn. I have no sense of rhythm and yet now that I have been doing it a year I am getting quite confident at getting things right. The new piece required completely different skills from me however. I spent 5 minutes watching others playing it and I could not even find the pattern for what I was aiming at. It was a completely random piece to me. I need to see the pattern or know the sequence before I can do it. We have taken up Ballroom dancing and I am pathetically slow and new pieces there too. I have to know the sequence and then spend time programming my body to work the way it needs too. This causes a lot of frustration for others. My wife used to not get how I worked because for her she just gets it. Last night she and a friend knew my problem and they worked in my system to help me get it. This new piece it seems will require me to count “1 and 2 and 3 and” etc. I have never managed this since I started Clarinet at 12. However on some pieces I do now count “1, 2, 3, 4” which I could never do either. So this week I will spend time practising counting and hitting on beat 2, the 4th “and” and the 8th “and”. This could take me some time but I know I am improving all the time and the past is not going to limit me.

I love it when faced with a new challenge like this. Growing is what makes life fun.

The more I observe how clients are thinking the easier it is for me to move into their system to help them. This is an essential skill in all areas of life and sadly one that only a few people seem to understand.

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Time Locked thoughts

The value of money blog has reminded me that the other week we got our Scouts to guess the price of various items (rather like the Price is right but with more teams). The quiz was quite tough and the leaders struggled as much as the Scouts.

I was particularly stunned at the price of 1 box of Swan Vesta matches. When I was actively collecting matchboxes many as a kid I knew they were 5p. I had no idea that Tesco would be charging 73p for the now. That seems an awful big rise but comparing them to Wine Gums from the same era I would guess they have only double in value in real times. So first of all I hadn’t appreciated how inflation has grown over the years.

I observed on the night it was at least a good thing the Scouts didn’t know how much a box of matches was since they clearly weren’t smokers. An “Explorer” (14-18 age range) didn’t hide their thought at how stupid I was. They commented “If they smoked they wouldn’t use matches they would use a lighter”.

Thereby my thoughts were exposed as being locked in time. To me smokers always used matches it is what I had grown up seeing. I have never updated that link in my mind. Even though I know a young smoker that uses a lighter I held onto the mistaken believe that it was rare. It had never been an issue so I never tested it or updated this link.

How many other thoughts of mine are “time locked”? How often do that lead me to do things others would do more efficiently? Sometimes it takes an external source to help us out of a problem because we are not aware of how limited our thought patterns are.

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The Value of Money

There is a saying “if you look after the pennies the pounds will take care of themselves.”

At Christmas my daughters thought it would be a good joke to give me some money in pennies. Today I paid in 10.4kg of pennies.

I was impressed at the weight of it and how long it took me to weight it into money bags. My scales weigh to 1g accuracy and they did me proud. I was 1p light on one bag and 1p over on another.

The amount I paid in currently only buys me half a tank of petrol. Once drinks are included it would be difficult for two to eat out on it so we throw money around as if it is nothing. It was therefore good to see what it could represent. I wonder how much money a penny costs to make. Would I have been better off selling it as scrap metal yet I wonder?

I am lead to believe that children today won’t bother picking up a penny today. This got me to thinking what I could have bought with the money in my past. 10.4kg of pennies at different points of my life would have bought me:

23,200 Wine gum type Teddy bears.

18.125 Ib’s of Wine Gums (Sorry but I wanted to work in a Wine Gum factory when I grew up!)

63 weeks of the Ipswich Evening star – Delivered. Or 54 weeks if you wanted the “Green’un” delivered too.

I was going to dismiss the saying as unimportant now but I guess the lack of value you of a penny actually means it is more true. The major consideration now is, is it cost beneficial to look after the pennies? I was surprised to hear accountants don’t worry too much now.

The value of my time even weighing the coins let alone counting them was not beneficial. The time it took the bank to count them and process my transaction was definitely a loss to them.

People worry about money and being made redundant. People have taken their lives and the lives of others because of a lack of money and yet a few years after losing a job and a couple of years of hard times people tend to have stabilised again. Sometimes they are even happier.

I discovered early in my life moving town for increased salary didn’t increase happiness. There were increased costs in the new area and the lack of family contact made us feel poor.

The value of money is most interesting and their a many ways of looking at it. Just as there are many ways of looking at each problem we think we have.

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Driving In The Rain

This morning I had an Network meeting at Refer On in Sudbury, Suffolk. The ground was saturated with recent rain and it was raining and dark. I had a 15 mile drive on country roads. In the summer I love the road between Halstead and Sudbury but this morning the conditions were tough going. The side of the road was a constant river. In some places this came a long way into the carriageway. All you could see was the shiny reflection of the water. You could not spot the depth of any puddle so you would be driving along and all of a sudden find you were being sucked into the side by a large puddle.

I found I was in danger of getting irritated by the conditions.

First of all I wondered why I wasn’t wanting to slow down. I could not think of any reason as I was not in a rush. I was just enjoying the challenge.

This released some potential stress. If I was in a rush then I would find it frustrating but if it was just fun potential signs of stress were just excitement and concerns for safety.

I then started to think how I could maximise my safety while driving at my preferred pace.

I started observing other drivers. Noticing how close to the centre of the road they were. It seems quite a few were central or even on my side of the road.

I also noticed long stretches where I was the only car on the road. Therefore sticking close to the edge of the road was unnecessary.

I then adopted a more flexible driving style. Using the space on the road when it was clearly available but slowing down and being prepared for traffic approaching in the wrong part of the road and for puddles that were deep on my side of the road.

The distraction of the improving my driving helped release any other negative thoughts about the journey and I just enjoyed my trip as usual.

Spotting a problem, thinking about the cause, deciding what I really wanted, reframing situations, positive productive problem solving and distraction are all important principle in my work as a hypnotherapist

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