EARLY MENOPAUSE INCREASES THE RISK OF HEART DISEASE

      If you or someone you know has gone through early menopause which is defined as going through menopause starting at age 29 or younger, then be aware there is greater risk for heart disease. This is caused by the drop in heart-protecting estrogen after menopause. 

     Because I went through menopause after surgery at the age of 29, I am quite interested in new research just published in MENOPAUSE.  The researchers reported that in an eight-year study, women who enter menopause early are twice as likely to suffer from a stroke or heart disease.

    There are a number of things someone going through early menopause can do to lower their risk of cardio-vascular disease.  I always encourage my clients to take care of themselves.  This is particularly true for women who experienced early menopause.  A major goal should be to reduce stress.  It's time to nurture yourself by doing relaxing things, socializing with friends and enjoying creative activities and hobbies.  Establishing certain disciplines like deep breathing, meditation, tai chi or yoga can be valuable ways to deal with stress.  Working with a clinical hypnotherapist to deal with the stresses in your life can be very useful.

   Eating healthy foods including noninflammatory foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits and healthy protein such as fish, minimizing the intake of inflammatory simple sugars found in candy, pasta, white bread and pastries, and taking daily supplements including a multivitamin, CoQ10 (60 mg to 100 mg), magnesium (400 mg to 800 mg), fish oil at your doctor's recommendation and vitamin C (1000 mg) are great ways to lower the risk for heart disease. And exercise is particularly important to protect yourself.  Shoot for at least 200 minutes of exercise per week.  Exercise should be done regularly such as taking a half hour walk every day. 

     If you are a woman who experienced early menopause, it's time to take care of yourself by managing stress, eating well and using supplements and exercising regularly.  If you need help to get motivated to "take care of yourself", a clinical hypnotherapist can help you to do those things and lower your risk of heart disease.

STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR BRUXISM AND TMD

     Ten million Americans suffer from the painful condition known as temporomandibular disorders (TMD).  These disorders affect the facial muscles and or the jaw joint and can cause pain and other symptoms in the ears, neck face and head.  Among common symptoms of TMD are: a clicking or popping sound in the jaw, aching facial pain or face fatigue, headaches and ear pain and stuffiness.  In fact, many people are surprised to learn that people with TMD do not always suffer jaw pain.  Instead misalignments of the jaw and bite can produce painful inflammation causing all the earlier mentioned issues.  Cases of TMD are usually diagnosed by a dentist who may do disk manipulation to temporarily eliminate the pain or make a bite plate appliance to help with tooth grinding.  About five per cent of sufferers may need surgery to get relief.

     So what causes TMD?  Even slight misalignments of the jaw can cause aching pain because of the constant movement of the jaw as we speak, chew and relax and tighten facial muscles.  Another common cause of TMD is bruxism.  This is when people grind their teeth while sleeping. Some people get only occasional pain from bruxism while others are chronic teeth-grinders which can cause long-term damage to teeth and gums.

    So what can be done to deal with these painful side-effects of bruxism?  Of course, you should work with your dentist who can evaluate your bite and the height and tooth positions and make whatever adjustments are needed to relieve discomfort.  This may include grinding down a tooth or adding height with a crown. Your dentist may do disk manipulation or custom-make you a bite plate appliance.

    In addition, you can relieve bruxism by finding ways to manage the stress that exacerbates teeth grinding. Relaxation tips such as massage therapy, biofeedback and hypnotherapy can be helpful.  Hypnosis can be a valuable tool to provide relaxation and relieve the chronic stress.  Manage your stress, relieve bruxism, BE WELL.

PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM DIABETES

      Have you had your blood sugar (glucose) checked this year?  If you haven't, it's time to get this on your schedule.  Be aware that even if you have a routine physical every year, not every doctor tests blood sugar annually. You need to know if you have diabetes or prediabetes.  Diabetes is a disorder in which the body doesn't produce enough insulin or is resistant to the action of insulin.  Insulin is the hormone needed to remove the main source of  the body's energy, glucose) Fortunately, it can be diagnosed early with testing.   The American Diabetes Association advises all adults to get tested every three years. It is important to detect high blood sugar early because the more quickly it is treated the easier it is to prevent serious complications such as strokes, kidney problems and heart attacks.

     The National Institutes of Health recognizes diabetes as one of the most serious common chronic diseases in the United States.  Eighty thousand people are diagnosed with diabetes each year.  In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that by 2050 one in three Amercians could develop diabetes and one in four Americans could have prediabetes.

     Your doctor may recommend a number of different blood tests including FPG (fasting plasma glucose), OGTT (oral glucose tolerance tests) or hemoglobin A1C. These tests will identify the glucose in the blood.  Sometimes even seemingly healthy people can find that their levels are out of a normal range with high levels indicating undiagnosed prediabetes or diabetes or low levels indication hypoglycemia.

    Knowing your numbers is the first step in trying to normalize your glucose levels.  Lowering those numbers can help avoid serious complications.  Being aware of a problem can be the first step to caring for yourself by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. In addition, you may need prescription drugs to help your body metabolize sugar effectively.

    At least eighty percent of people who develop type 2 diabetes are overweight.  Losing just ten pounds can dramatically lower your blood-sugar levels.  A combination of healthy diet emphasizing complex carbohydrates, fish, poultry and low-fat or no-fat dairy products and exercising regularly are basic first steps in dealing with high blood sugar. Since a side effect of diabetes is excess urination, you may become dehydrated. So drink at least eight glasses of water every day. Excess stress can also raise your blood sugar levels.  To get motivated to eat better, move more, drink more water and deal with the stresses in your life. Work with a qualified hypnotherapist to get motivated to bring your blood sugar levels down and protect yourself from diabetes.  

HYPNOSIS FOR A SUCCESSFUL JOB INTERVIEW

     If you have a job interview on your calendar.  It's highly likely you have tried to prepare to do a good job. You've read the books. You have an excellent resume.  You've researched the prospective employer.  When you go to the interview you are well-groomed, on time and have thought through how you intend to present yourself and how you could be of value to your company. 

     Yet too often, people are sabotauged by their nonverbal communication.  Psychologists believe that between 60% and 80% of all communication is nonverbal.  So when you go into an interview, know you're not only being listened to - you are being watched.  Your facial expressions and body language will be sending messages just as much as what you say.

    In this hiring market, there can be many qualified applicants for every job.  You want to present yourself as calm and relaxed.  Get to the apppointment early, so you do not feel rushed and anxious.  Check where your resume and any other papers are in your briefcase before the interview so you can retrieve them quickly during the interview at the appropriate time.  As you are waiting, do a deep breathing exercise.  I tell my clients, "Breathe deeply.  Exhale completely."  Deep breathing can be very calming.  

     When you enter the interviewer's office, be aware of your posture.  Enter without hesitation.  This is your chance to make that important first impression.   Behave the way you want to be perceived - as calm and collected. Handshakes are important.  Match handshakes and hand movements to the other person.  If an interviewer is a hardy handshaker, he will respect the same from the person he is interviewing.  On the other hand, if the interviewer uses moderate pressure, he may think you are trying to dominate if you shake hands in a hard way.

     When you are seated sit forward on the chair.  Keep both feet on the floor.  Cross your legs only if the interviewer does.  Once you are seated, keep your eyes on the interviewer's face.  A wandering gaze can show lack of interest or even disrespect.  Even if the interviewer's eyes' wander, your gaze should be on his/her face.  Keep your hands in view and use slow, calm hand movements.  Speak slowly to convey your calmness to the interviewer.

     The job interview process is hard.  There are a lot of things to remember.  A session with a hypnotherapist can be a wonderful tool to facilitate a calm, productive and successful job interview.

TRYING TO GET PREGNANT AND HYPNOTHERAPY

   If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant for over a year of unrestricted intercourse, you are considered infertile.  For every 100 couples trying to get pregnant, 85 to 90 will be pregnant within one year of trying.  The majority of the ten to fifteen percent who do not conceive will have a medical defect that often can be corrected by some kind of medical intervention. But as many as twenty percent of infertile couples have no physical cause for their infertility.

   Before you give up on having your own biological child, you may want to consider hypnotherapy as a tool in trying to conceive.  To my knowledge there are no extensive research studies on the use of hypnosis with infertile couples, but there is certainly anectdotal evidence of cases of infertile couples becoming pregnant after a hypnotherapy session. 

     Why would this even be possible?  Many physicians theorize that stress can prevent conception.  This could be for a couple of different reasons.  Some doctors believe that stress or anxiety create muscular tension causing the egg to be unable to travel down the fallopian tube.  Another theory is that stress and anxiety may upset the woman's hormonal balance and causes the sperm to be killed when entering the woman's body.  In addition, if people are less stressed, they will likely feel more happy and optimistic which may lead to more frequent sexual relations.  So less stressed people will likely have more opportunities to get pregnant.

     Hypnotherapy is brief therapy and much less expensive than many things couples try for infertility.  If you are dealing with this issue, hypnosis might be just the tool you need to finally get pregnant.

CARETAKERS AND DEMENTIA

     Are you a caretaker of a spouse with dementia?  If you are, you know how exhausting that responsibility is. A study done by Maria Norton, PhD, associate professor of gerontology at Utah State University, Logan, was presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference concluding that spouses of dementia sufferers are at increased risk for dementia, too.  Dr. Norton's research indicated that wives whose husbands had dementia were nearly four times more likely to also develop dementia than women whose husband's did not have dementia.

    If you are a caretaker, you know that the stress of caregiving is a risk factor for dementia. So what can you do to deal with this risk factor?  Seek help - get information on support groups and use them, ask for support from family and friends.  Even an hour away to get your hair cut or get to your own doctor's appointment can relieve the stress you deal with.  Hypnotherapy can be a great tool in dealing with stress. Many professional hypnotherapists allow a client to record the hypnosis session so it can be listened to at home as needed.  Tape recorders are old technology. But tapes can still be found if you have an old recorder.  Your smart phone likely has an app which will allow you to record.  Or small personal recorders can be bought at an electronic store.  Even a lap top could be used to record the session so you could reinforce at home.  Take care of yourself, reduce the stress and your risk for developing dementia.

HYPNOSIS AND PERFORMANCE ANXIETY

      Have you been watching the remarkable performances at the Olympics?  Most of us will never have an opportunity to perform on a world stage in any kind of event from athletics to public speaking to singing a song.  But almost all of us will at some time or another go for a job interview, attend an event where we don't know someone or make a presentation at work.  If just the thought of doing any of those things makes you nervous, you may have performance anxiety.

     Clients often come to me and describe the many physical manifestations of the nervousness that they experience when having to perform in such a situation.  They will describe their hearts racing, hands shaking, sweaty palms and even feeling queasy.  In fact, what they are describing is the perfectly normal release of the hormone adrenaline by their adrenal glands.  Adrenaline is released when we feel threatened.  It dilates blood vessels and breathing passages and boosts our heart rate giving us a burst of energy.  This was very useful when humans were being hunted by large, wild animals.  But, this adrenaline rush, is not so effective when we have to give the presentation at work and can't afford to run away.  If time permits, use your muscles to burn off adrenaline.  Take a brisk walk, tense and relax your muscles or push against a wall with your hands. Deep breathing can be a useful technique to overcome an adrenaline rush.  Slowing yourself down by breathing slowly and deeply, walking more slowly than seems natural, taking a moment before speaking can allow your heart rate to slow and keep you more comfortable. 

     Focusing outwardly rather than inwardly will help as well.  When we are anxious we tend to focus on our own behavior expecially shortcomings and mistakes.  Instead, focus outwardly.  If you are giving a speech, look into the eyes of your audience.  Connect with individuals as real people rather than a collective audience judging you.  As you connect, remember your subject (not you) is the important thing.  Instead of worrying about how people are thinking of you personally, delight in giving your audience the information they have come to hear about.

    And don't expect to be perfect.  Perfectionists often focus on one problem or error and that causes them to lose their confidence or focus and make more errors.  Make your goal to give your performance at your best.  This does not mean perfect.  Be aware that no one else expects perfection.  Those enjoying your performance have made mistakes, too.  People will probably like and relate to you more if you seem human enough to make a mistake.  Instead, focus on sharing why you are there - to compete, to inform, whatever.  If you make a mistake, smile, acknowledge, correct if you need to and move on.

    Of course, performance anxiety is more likely to happen if you haven't prepared.  Do what you need to do - practice, study, rehearse.  Hypnotherapy can be a great way to deal with performance anxiety.  Then go out and enjoy!

FEELING FATIGUED?

      A complaint I hear fairly often in my practice is feeling fatigued.  If you are among those who are "sick and tired of feeling sick and tired", it's time to get some help.  If you are experiencing severe and frequent fatigue, the first step is making an appointment with your medical doctor.  It's likely that you will need a complete medical workup which will include specific tests because fatigue can be caused by hundreds of medical disorders.  Among these are such issues as anemia, diabetes, hepatitis and other liver disorders, infectious mononucleosis, lupus, Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid deficiency. Blood work may also identify problems with muscle chemistry, low magnesium, or inflamation  An infection such as chronic sinusitis could also be an underlying reason for fatigue. If a health issue is identified, it may be medically treated to address your fatigue.  But if your doctor cannot identify a specific underlying cause for your fatigue, your medical treatment options are limited.  Your physician will likely advise you to get more and/or improved sleep and exercise more.

     Psychological conditions such as stress or depression may also be the underlying issue in dealing with fatigue. Your energy may be drained by stress.  So many people only think of major stressors such as a death in the family or losing a job.  But dealing with heavy traffic every day on your commute or feeling anxious about a project at work may leaving you feeling exhausted. One of the most overlooked causes of fatigue is depression.  Your medical doctor may treat  these issues with stress-management programs or antidepressants or recommend psychotherapy.

     There are other things you can do to deal with fatigue.  Drink more water to flush out toxins, eat small meals and protein rich foods that provide a steady source of energy.  An herb used by athletes to improve stamina is ginseng.  Many patients have found that the American form of ginseng with at least 5% ginsenosides is of value in dealing with fatigue.  Three nutrients you might find of value are L-carnitine, coenzyme Q10 and magnesium. A daily B-complex vitamin supplement provides energy as well. Consume alcohol in moderation and eliminate caffeine from your diet. 

    Hypnotherapy can be a valuable tool in dealing with fatigue.  It can be used to deal with insomnia and help you establish good sleeping habits.  It can be used to reinforce good habits like drinking more water, eating well and exercising more.  Don't give up.  It's time to get rid of fatigue and feel energized.

PREHYPERTENSION AND STROKE RISK

     One of our most feared medical emergencies is that of stroke.  There are two kinds of stroke - ischemic stroke which occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blocked artery and hemorrhagic stroke which is caused by bleeding in the brain.  About 90% of all strokes are ischemic strokes.  When stroke occurs a number of symptoms may manifest including: numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg which likely will occur on one side of the body, trouble speaking or understanding, loss of balance or coordination, confusion, dizziness, and severe headache.

     Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the leading risk factor for stroke.  High blood presure is defined as 140/90 mmHG or above. In 2011 an analysis of data on more than 500,000 people with pre-hypertension (above normal reading of 120/80 but below 140/90 high reading) found that those with pre-hypertension were 55% more likely to have a stroke in the next five to 10 years of their life than those with normal blood pressure.

     Have you had your blood pressure checked recently?  Many grocery stores and pharmacies have a free blood pressure monitor that you can check for yourself.  Until age 65, you should have your blood pressure checked at your doctor at least every other year.  At age 65 and after, you should have it checked annually. Your ideal blood pressure may vary based on your specific medical profile including cholesterol screening, a blood test for C-reactive protein and perhaps an ECG to evaluate your heart health. 

     If you have pre-hypertension, you and your doctor may discuss healthy lifestyle changes including, eating heart-smart foods, cutting fat, losing weight if you're overweight, cutting back on salt, quitting smoking and exercising for at least 30 minutes daily. Other treatments under doctor's supervision may include: low-dose aspirin therapy with dosages ranging from 80 mg (a baby aspirin) to 325 mg (one adult aspirin), supplements of folate and vitamin B6 which lowers elevated levels of homocysteine, fish oil capsules containing omega-3 fatty acids which act as anticlotting agents, or prescription medications.

     Lifestyle modifications can also help to minimize stress which is often a precursor to pre-hypertension.  Taking a vacation can help relieve stress that can endanger your health.  Researchers found that men ages 35 to 57 who took a yearly vacation were one-third less likely to die from heart disease than those who did not take a vacation.  Controlling anger will also protect you from stroke and heart disease.  A study of 13,000 people found that those who angered quickly were three times as likely to have a heart attack than their more laid-back friends.  Spending time with friends in quiet conversation, taking a walk, saying a prayer, exercising or meditating can all give you that "time out" you need to minimize stress.  Hypnotherapy can be a great tool for dealing with stress and encouraging you to take care of yourself. By using these tools you can bring those numbers down and the risk of heart disease and stroke as well.

HELP FOR INSTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS/PAINFUL BLADDER SYNDROME

     If you have been diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome (IC/PBS) you are aware of how painful and inconvenient it can be.  IC/PBS affects up to 6% of American women with women being affected more than nine times as often as men.  Symptoms include:  frequent urination (more than 8 times in 24 hours), pain, pressure, or discomfort in the lower pelvis or vulva, bladder pain or pressure, pain during or after sex, an urgent need to urinate and flare-ups during menstruation.  This may all be triggered by a bladder wall becoming inflamed and super-sensitive. This in turn may cause pinpoints of bleeding and ulcers may appear and stiffness and scarring may occur.

    Once you have received a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome, your doctor may prescribe a variety of treatments and medications.  Intravaginal Thiele massage can be done by a physical therapist and you can learn to do the procedure at home.  Electrical nerve stimulation and medications including anti-inflammatories antispasmodics and pain medications may be prescribed.  

     Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes  such as using a personal lubricant for sex, soaking in colloidal oatmeal, reducing the intensity and duration of workouts during flare ups and  making dietary changes.  You should avoid cranberry juice which is acidic and may irritate a sensitive bladder.  Other irritant drinks and foods include: caffeine products (sodas, coffa, tea), carbonated drinks, alcohol, citrus fruits, artificial sweetners, tomato products and spicy foods.  Drinking more water may seem counterintuitive to a person running to the bathroom often.  But skipping on water makes urine more concentrated and more irritating. 

     A technique called bladder retraining may be valuable.  Urinating relieves pain temporarily, but some IC/PBS patients are using the bathroom so often that it reduces the bladder's capacity to hold urine comfortably.  Retraining the bladder involves increasing your typical time between bathroom trips by 15 minutes.  After two weeks, increase by another 15 minutes.  The goals is to continue until you can wait at least two hours.

    Finally, there are mind-body therapies that can be of value including, cranio-sacral therapy, acupuncture, yoga, meditation and hypnotherapy.  Hypnotherapy can be a great tool to deal with the discomfort, prolong the time between trips to the bathroom and reduce stress and increase relaxation.

THE USE OF HYPNOTHERAPY WITH CHILDREN

        In the last week, I have had a number of parents call my office asking if hypnotherapy can be used with children.  The good news is that not only can children be hypnotized but that children are generally more hypnotically responsive than adults.  Children tend to have active imaginations and few, if any, preconceived ideas about hypnosis.

        Although some hypnotherapists work with children under the age of 5 or 6, there is little published research on the effectiveness of hypnosis with toddlers.  I have found that it is difficult for young children to focus enough to address their needs.  If you are seeking hypnotherapy for a young child, you may need to interview several hypnotherapists to find one who has worked successfully with very young children.

       By the age of six, most children are able to comprehend metaphors and have the emotional, linguistic and cognitive capability to make excellent hypnosis subjects.   A study by Olness and Gardner in 1988 found that most hypnotic ability is limited in children less than three years of age and reaches its peak during middle childhood up to the age of fourteen.

       What kinds of things could hypnotherapy be used for in working with children?  Last week I worked with an eleven year old boy who sucked his thumb, a young teenager who had test anxiety and another who procrastinated and a ten year old who wet the bed.  Hypnotherapy can be used in many of the same areas as with an adult.  Habit modification is one of those.  Where an adult doesn't want to give up cigarettes, a child may have difficulty giving up his "blankie".  Undesirable habits like hairpulling, nail biting and overeating may be addressed just like with an adult client.

       Hypnotherapy may also be used in dealing with childhood trauma like physical, mental or emotional abuse.  These issues should be addressed in hypnosis by a psychotherapist who has hypnotherapy training or as an adjunct therapy to the work being done by the psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or psychotherapist.  Note that not everyone who practices hypnotherapy is an appropriate practitioner for a traumatized child.

       Other psychological applications of hypnosis with children include: tics, learning disorders, behavior disorders, anxiety and somatoform disorders. Medical issues that may be addressed with hypnotherapy include: eating disorders, pain management, treatment of nausea and/or vomiting and bed wetting.  Again, These issues should be evaluated by appropriate medical doctors and mental health professionals who may refer a child to a hypnotherapist as part of a treatment plan.

      A couple of notes about the session itself.  The parent or guardian who brings a young child to the session will be in the room during the entire session. Teenagers often prefer their parent to wait in the waiting room so they can talk more openly during the clinical interview that precedes the hypnosis.  Some teenagers are also self-couscious about how they might look during hypnosis (is my mouth open?).  I suggest that the child make the decision after the age of 12 or 13. 

     During my time with the child before hypnosis, my primary goal is to build rapport with the child.  Sometimes I will tell a story or have a toy to help establish that rapport.  I will try to identify an interest to build a relaxing metaphor.  One child last week pictured himself in a "wonderland of toys" (his words).  I suggested he imagine himself there putting his favorite Lego toy together.  Another child liked Sponge Bob Square Pants so he imagined himself in the pineapple house under the sea and eating crabby patties.

    Hypnotherapy is a tool for change.  It can be a valuable tool for children as well as adults. If you are thinking about hypnotherapy for your child, find a well-qualified, highly trained person and then give your child and the hypnotherapist a chance to work together.

FIGHTING FATIUGE

     Are you feeling tired and worn out?  Do you complain about fatigue?  Although anyone can feel tired occasionally, if your fatigue is chronic, it's time to see your doctor.  Severe or frequent fatigue needs to be assessed by your doctor with a complete medical workup which will include bloodwork.  Your doctor will try to diagnose the problem that is causing your tiredness.  Since this can be caused by hundreds of different disorders, the first step is to identify any underlying health issue.

      If your medical doctor cannot identify any illness or specific health problem that is causing the fatigue, then stress or poor sleep habits may be the underlying issue. So the next thing to do to help yourself and relieve the fatigue is to deal with the stresses in your life, exercise more and get sufficient sleep. All of these are issues that can be dealt with effectively in hypnotherapy.  Stress relief, exercise motivation and insomnia relief can be addressed to give you the tools you need to feel healthy and energized once again.

USE OF HYPNOTHERAPY FOR STRESS AND PAIN

      Studies have shown that people who are stressed or depressed are more sensitive to pain.  The pain seemed to increase and be more intense no matter what its source.  Some studies using imaging have shown an increase in activity in areas of the brain associated with pain in patients who were stressed.  This is called stress-induced hyperalgesia.

    If you are suffering from pain caused by emotional issues, seek help for the underlying stress or depression.  Talk to your medical doctor and be honest in describing emotional problems such as anxiety, stress or depression.  There are medications to deal with depression and may reduce pain as well.

   Use distractions to help you be less focused on pain.  Listen to music.  Watch a video.  Participate in a hobby - scrapbook, woodwork, read.  Distract your mind from the pain by calling a friend or getting on facebook. Play a computer game or participate in one of the activities like Pintarest.  Distraction can be a great tool in relieving stress that may be causing your pain to feel worse.

   Hypnotherapy is another tool to deal with stress, depresion, anxiety and pain.  In many cases, hypnotherapy is an adjunct therapy to the medications of your doctor or the treatment of a psychotherapist or counselor.  A recording of the actual session can be a nice tool to use at home for relaxation and to reinforce the work of the session.  By relieving the underlying stress or depression, the pain will be less intense and more manageable.

UNDERSTANDING STRESS AND SLEEP PROBLEMS

      In the past few days, I have had a number of clients complaining of the same two issues - stress and sleep problems.  This makes a lot of sense when you think about it.  The December holidays are a big stress for a lot of people.  Different types of stress are all coming together at the same time. 

     The first type of stress that clients may be experiencing is acute stress.  This stress caused as an immediate reaction to some circumstance and of short duration.  This kind of stress can be caused by trying to catch a plane at the airport or dealing with heavy traffic on the way to a party.  Though acute stress is uncomfortable, it is usually over quickly and often does not cause the problems of chronic stress.

      Chronic stress is stress that lasts during long periods of time and may be caused by different things.  First, there are environmental and job stresses. These may last for years but extra stresses arise at the end of the year.  December job stresses include: finishing off projects before the end of the year, trying to reach or work with people who are unavailable because of holiday travel, parties or who have already mentally shut down for the year and financial pressures as end-of-the-year numbers come in.  Environmental stresses include: all the home preparations necessary for holiday celebrations, crowded stores, and social expectations from family and friends.

      Besides all the external stresses listed above, there are also internally generated stress caused by worrying and being anxious about uncontrollable circumstances.  December seems to trigger high expectations.  We see the beautiful holiday parties portrayed in movies and on tv and shown in the latest life-style magazine and transfer those expectations to our own lives.  We worry about things we can't control - will Uncle Harry's drinking spoil the Christmas dinner?  Will Annie love the gift?  This year as we continue in the Great Recession, many people are worried about financial issues which seem even more problematic at the season of gift giving.  Credit card bills, mortgage payments, medical problems may all be causing anxiety and worry.

      December is often the time of the year when fatigue and overwork build up to a point where the body is unable to re-energize.  We're expected to keep up with all the demands of work, childcare, home maintenance and then add in all the expectations of a Hallmark Christmas.

    It is no wonder that often by the third week in December, people are seeing the effects of all the stress in their lives.  Among them may be physical issues.  With deteriorating immune systems, this may be the time when we are very vulnerable to colds and other viruses. Other physical issues may range from physical fatigue, to decreased interest in sex, to heart problems.  Emotional issues may include irritability and depression.  Eating disorders may be even more of a challenge during the holidays.  It may also cause sleep problems.

     Stress and sleep problems almost become a "which came first"  issue. Lack of sleep doesn't just make you feel tired.  It can actually make you more stressed.  In 2002, the National Sleep Foundation did a study called Sleep in America.  Those who got fewer than six hours of sleep on work days were much  more likely to report feeling stressed than those getting 8 hours (32% for those with six hours versus 16% for 8 hours).  This in turn reflected in their daily lives.  Study respondents agreed that inadequate sleep impaired their work performance (93%), led to health problems (90%) and made it difficult to get along with others (85%).

    On the other side of the coin, those stresses like fatigue, overwork, job stress and internally-generated stress can make it very difficult to get to sleep.  Your body simply does not want to shut down when you are upset.  The stress response produces hormones that act to keep you alert and defensive.  My clients often describe going to bed and immediately becoming aware their mind is racing with thoughts of everything that happened that day.  They think of what they "should have done" and what the "could have said".  They worry about tomorrow and are unable to sleep.

     Finding solutions for stress will in turn help sleep issues.  Exercise is a wonderful way to deal with stress.  By exercising you release endorphins to deal with the stresses.  Nurture yourself:  take a bubble bath, call a friend, take the dog for a walk.  Deep breathing is another way to relieve stress.  Hypnotherapy is an excellent way to do brief therapy to deal with the stresses in your life or with insomnia.  Nurture yourself especially during this holiday season.

HOARDING - A PROBLEM THAT IS PILING UP

       Yesterday I met a delightful client with a problem that is becoming more prevalent all the time.  The lady described her issue as the inability to let go of anything.  Her husband said more bluntly, "She is a hoarder."

      As they described the problem together, it became clear that she evidenced many signs of hoarding.  She kept hundreds of magazines and newspapers and had multiples of many tools such as spatulas and rolls of tape.  This issue had developed into some of the problems associated with hoarding.  They had not had friends over to their home in years because they were embarrassed about showing anyone the inside.  The clutter was blocking doors, hallways and other traffic flow patterns.  And the mess was worrying and frustrating her family.

     This is not an uncommon problem.  An estimated six million to 18 million people suffer from this excessive collecting and clutter in the United States alone.  This has become so prevalent that some communities have set up hoarding task forces to raise awareness of this issue.  In my home area of Northern Virginia, the task force is called the Fairfax County Hoarding Task Force (703) 324-1300.  In other areas it may be called a Neighborhood Service or Crisis Center.

     Before you get worried about the mess in your family room, let me reassure you.  Hoarding is much more than just not having picked up the papers or being a "pack rat."  And being a slob is not necessarily being a hoarder. A hoarder's home is likely to be dangerous from the "stuff" taking over.  If doors and halls are blocked, a person may not be able to escape a fire.  If stacks and piles of magazines, books and papers fall on someone, they may be injured.  Insects and rodents may infest the clutter.

      Like many problems, the hoarder may not recognize they have an issue till other people complain or give an ultimatum.  Often that comes when someone in the family threatens to come in and clean everything up.  This will rarely solve the underlying problem and can cause great emotional turmoil for the hoarder.  Taking away their "stuff' can cause negative effects like grief and depression. Instead, seek help from profesionals - ask your medical doctor for a referral who may recommend a therapist or psychiatrist or the task forces and crisis centers. Hypnotherapy may be another tool a hoarder finds useful in getting the help they need.

RECOVERING FROM TRAUMA

     Almost everyone has experienced trauma at one time or another.  So often when we hear that word, we think of a childhood trauma like physical or sexual abuse or of trauma caused during wartime.  But a person can experience trauma from a fender bender and be afraid to drive or trauma from a home burglary that leaves the person afraid to be in their home.  

     When the traumatized person is not able to overcome the fear, it can exhibit as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia or specific phobia such as fears of flying, heights or blood.  These are ways of putting up a protective wall but do not relieve the fear.

     Sometimes traumatized people are encouraged to "get right back up on the horse".  This may actually cause further harm and the person may be traumatized again.  In some case, individuals are so traumatized that they have trouble seeking help for themselves.  It is always wise to seek professional help as soon as possible.  Family members may have to help facilitate this.  This may consist of brief psychotherapy of somewhere between twelve and twenty sessions.   Medication may be prescribed including sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants.  Medication is usually prescribed as part of a treatment plan to support the therapy. 

     Hypnotherapy is often used as an adjunct therapy to psychotherapy.  Hypnosis may include:  retrieveing traumatic memories, facing them and viewing them clearly in a broader perspective, recalling memories and working through the trauma that they caused, and creating new coping techniques to protect themselves as they leave the trauma behind.  Most hypnotherapists will teach the client relaxation techniques which can be practiced whenever the client is anxious.

       Self-help is also a way to deal with trauma.  This may mean talking to an understanding person or someone who has actually shared the same experience.  Group sessions and support groups are helpful in providing the encouragement and understanding the traumatized person needs.

     Another self-help tool is to use a journal to write about the fears, anger and other negative emotions experienced because of the trauma.  Writing down memories, feelings and nightmares helps to give new insights and understanding about the experience.

     Self-talk is another way to deal with those traumas that limit everyday life.  We talk to ourselves all the time.  Reframe those negative thoughts into positive ones.  If you focus on the negative, the fear will be reinforced.  Rather than think to yourself, "Driving is dangerous. I might have an accident like last time", focus on the positive and tell yourself, "I will drive safely and cautiously and get there safely."

    When it is time to get back on the horse, take small steps.  If you are afraid of flying, just drive out to the airport and watch the planes.  The next time, you might go in the airport.  When you finally fly, take a short trip and experience how easily and comfortably you made the trip.  Each time it will get easier.

     We know that traumatic things happen all the time.  People lose jobs.  People die.  Accidents happen.  The stock market tanks.  With the right tools including  psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, medications, and self-help tools, it is possible to overcome the trauma and get on with your life.

HYPNOSIS FOR FEARS, PHOBIAS AND ANXIETY

     The past week in my area of Northern Virginia has been really interesting.  Last Tuesday we had a 5.8 earthquake which has been followed by several aftershocks.  Two of these were in the 4.5 range.  This may cause many people on the west coast to be amused at our shock and drama.  But earthquakes are not usually a part of our lives.  Because of the earthquake, there was a rockslide on a major traffic artery that upset thousands of commuters.  Mid-week storms came in from the west causing tornado watches and warnings.  Then over the weekend Hurricane Irene came ashore in North Carolina and swept up the east coast.  This morning the announcer on the radio said 25 people have been killed by Irene.

    The reason I mentioned all this drama is because of the number of calls I have had from people who are terrified.  Fear is a natural human emotion.  Sometimes fear is triggered by specific things which most people would consider dangerous or threatening.  In these cases fear may just be the next step up from healthy respect.  It is healthy to respect dangerous situations such as tornadoes and earthquakes.  This respect encourages a person to make appropriate responses such as taking shelter.

    When fear is irrational or becomes so debilitating that it is effecting your life, it is time to seek help.  Hypnotherapy is an excellent way to deal with fear. A persistent illogical fear of a thing or specific situation is called a phobia.  Anxiety about social interactions or performances is called social phobia.  Inexplicable terror such as that experienced in panic attacks or chronic fearful distress called generalized anxiety disorder or GAD may also be experienced.  A well-trained hypnotherapist can be very valuable in helping people to deal with their fears.

LOSE BELLY FAT WITH HYPNOSIS

     If you are carrying extra weight through the midsection and dieting doesn't seem to work, it may help to understand why it's been so hard to lose your belly fat.  The problem may not stem from overeating or lack of exercise but from stress.  Stress affects you not only mentally and emotionally but physically as well.  When a person is stressed, chemicals are released by the brain to the adrenal glands.  The adrenals then created their own chemicals including the key adrenal problem behind belly fat, the steroid cortisol.

     Cortisol increases appetite and keeps blood sugar levels and insulin high which causes the storage of excess blood sugars as fat in the belly.  Unfortunately, diet changes alone do not affect belly fat and often frustrate a dieter when weight loss occurs but the belly still bulges.  In fact in many cases, fixating on diet may actually increase stress producing more cortisol and more belly fat.

     So how do you get out of this circle of frustration?  Certainly continuing to eat healthy foods and move regularly should be part of your plan to lose belly fat.  In addition, research suggests using Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin C.  Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and trout, walnuts and flax.  Supplementation can also be done with omega-3 fish oil supplements.  Be aware that fish oil has a blood thinner action.  So check with your doctor before using the supplement especially if you already take blood thinners.

     In addition, eat vitamin C rich foods which can help with stress and belly fat.  Studies have shown that adrenal glands register vitamin C deficiency as a stress problem and increase cortisol output.  Fruits such as peaches, oranges and strawberries are excellent sources of vitamin C.  Vegetables including sweet red pepper, broccoli, tomatoes and cauliflower also are rich sources of vitamin C.  Supplementing with Vitamin C is also an easy option especially if you are not good about eating your fruits and vegetables.

     Hypnotherapy can be a valuable tool in dealing with the underlying problem of stress.  By creating new tools to deal with the stress including triggering relaxation and controlling anxiety, you can stop the cycle of stress, cortisol production and belly fat.