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Stop Smoking

Stop Smoking

Smoking is a deadly habit, literally as well as mentally, physically and emotionally. First, let’s look at what it takes away from you, which is your confidence, your happiness and your self-esteem. And what does it give you in return? The answer is absolutely nothing. I have heard that smoking is more addictive and harder to stop taking than cocaine, but I don’t believe that’s true (having given up both myself). I think this habit is all down to understanding, then changing your mindset.
We all know that smoking affects our health, wastes our money and traps us in a form of slavery – we know all this and yet all the while, we continue to smoke.
So let’s get a few things straight… We think smoking calms us, relaxes us, relieves stress or boredom. And yet the truth is none of these beliefs are true. Smoking does not calm you down because it is actually quite stressful. You have to get your cigarettes, get your lighter, go outside, stand on the street, breathe tobacco into your lungs, knowing that non-smokers are looking at you, scratching their heads and wondering why? And then you come back inside stinking of smoke and hating yourself.
If that’s not stressful enough from a mental point of view, how about the physical one? That’s where tension and anxiety build up because straight away after you have put out the cigarette, the nicotine – which reaches the brain in eight seconds and causes the chemical release of dopamine (that causes feelings of pleasure and relaxation) – drops and so the body craves the hit again and again. Hence, why cigarettes come in a pack of 20. You see, after 20 minutes the dopamine needs its next “hit” and so out you go again. I think that’s a pretty “stressful” cycle. Tip: If you think about it, what you are looking for is some long, deep breaths. So get outside and take some of those long deep breaths without the cigarette and I promise you when you do that consciously you will already feel better.
Smoking cannot relieve boredom. Have you ever stopped and looked at a smoker? Do they look like they are 100 per cent engrossed in smoking? Exactly. Smoking because you are bored is a pointless argument because boredom is simply a state of mind. Smoking a cigarette as an activity is like saying you like to inject heroin into your arm just because you need to “do something”. The concept of boredom itself is just a mind state where we simply feel uninterested in anything going on. Tip: In this case, find something you really love to get engrossed in. It could be five minutes on social media, watching some YouTube comedy or football, or simply making a cup of coffee.
So seeing smoking as a habit that you can choose to lose is quite powerful. The truth is we can make or break habits every single day. Think about it like this: if you drive a car in the UK you drive on the left, but when you go to France you think nothing of driving on the right. You are breaking a habit in an instant – you aren’t sitting there in a mental battle of not being able to do it. You just think about this habit differently. The point here is that if you enter this habit as a battle with a negative mindset – “I can’t do this” or “It’s just too hard” – then it’s likely that will be the cycle of hell you keep going through when you try to stop.
Alternatively, you can choose to change your thinking to “bring it on”, “I am stronger than a cigarette”, or even “Today I am choosing a healthier habit to get into.” Tip: With regard to thinking that “stopping smoking is going to be hard”, think of it this way – it’s harder to have cancer than it is to stop smoking.
Get help. If you are truly struggling, then hypnotherapy is a great answer to working on the subconscious beliefs you hold. Hypnotherapy to stop smoking has a great success rate and of course if this is something you are interested in, you know where to find me. Finally, start to see cigarettes as they really are – there is no “sacrifice” and when you decide to stop you need to see yourself as “becoming free” – there really is nothing to give up and everything to gain: health, freedom, and most importantly, your self-esteem and confidence back.
If you want to quit this December, come and have a chat with me and let me help you with a life changing hour of hypnosis. Mention you are booking via this email and get 10% off your session. Let’s get you quit this year!
You can see the full article for GQ here 


Be Kind to You

Be Kind To You

My friend Calgary Avansino from British Vogue asked me if I would write an article for her website about how to be kind to yourself. This is obviously one of my most favourite subjects as teaching ourselves how to be nice to ourselves is the key to a happier life. I wanted to share the article with you here. I hope you enjoy it! x
Developing a positive body image and healthy mental attitude is crucial to a woman’s happiness and wellness; except in today’s society, we are finding it harder than ever to be body positive.
We are in a society where we are constantly bombarded with unrealistic images and photographs of women that have been ‘Photoshopped’ or doctored, which is unhelpful if your body image isn’t strong and confident. If we have a healthy body image, we are eating normally, feeling good and taking care of our health because we like ourselves. If we have an unhealthy body image, we are likely to be eating emotionally or in some form of diet disaster, cutting out food groups or throwing ourselves into the gym in an unhealthy fashion. Struggling with body image is not uncommon and I teach people that this can be changed by the way we think, instead of trying to change our bodies! Here are my top tips to quit body bashing once and for all.

Calm down

Stressing out about your body is not helping you. Take a breath and relax. The first thing you need to learn is to get your head in the right place. If you are constantly judging yourself and being mean to yourself, it is going to make everything worse. Remove your judgements.
Exploring ‘why’ you think what you think about yourself and asking yourself kind questions speeds up the process of understanding yourself and therefore changes your perspective and your behaviour. Judging yourself means you remain stuck and closed. Quit the judgement and be kind.

Stop placing yourself as ‘less than’

You are not. You are equal to. There will be some things that you can do and some things that others can do. This is called life. If we could all do and look and be exactly the same as each other, what kind of boring world would that be? Step into your uniqueness and own it. No one is you, and that in itself is a superpower.

Body bashing doesn’t get you where you want to be

If you want to get out of a rut with yourself or you want to stop eating emotionally or draining yourself at the gym, the truth is you have to learn to accept yourself first. You cannot hate yourself thin. Hating yourself leads to bingeing and dieting and restriction and more binging and more dieting and… You get my drift. Learning to accept yourself – where you are now – is the first step towards overcoming any issues you have with your body.
Even if you can try to turn one thought around each day, that will be a great start. Instead of looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking ‘I hate my…’, try ‘I can accept my… because…’ You will be amazed at how learning to accept yourself can bring you the peace you are looking for, and it is then that your body will return to its natural set weight. Quit the hate!

You are more than the size or shape of your body

Today’s society tells women that to be ‘worthy’ you have to be tiny. That is not true. Quit conforming and start questioning. Question who is telling you that to be worth something you have to be a certain size? Who is telling you that to be beautiful you have to be thin? These people might not be right. We live in a culture where people feel it’s okay to comment on your size and shape. It isn’t. Everybody’s body is unique to them and no two are the same, so trying to define your worth by your size is unnecessary. You are more than the shape of your body.

Healthy is more beautiful than any size

Start thinking about ‘health’ rather than ‘size’. Remember that reading magazines and looking at six-packs on Instagram just contributes to the brainwashing of our society and culture. It’s important to remember that a lot of pictures are doctored. Most ‘real’ people look real – that includes scars, stretch marks and spots! If you are going to obsess over social media and pictures in magazines, do it with the right head on.
Get cool with being imperfect. We are all perfectly imperfect and trust me, in the years of coaching I have done, the thousands of clients I have seen, I am yet to meet a ‘perfect’ one. So if you think you know someone who is perfect, I would suggest stepping out of your imaginary world and looking at the facts.

Body love through social media

Social media can actually help you overcome any body issues if you unfollow the people that you think make you feel bad and follow people who are health- and body-loving. Following women with a positive body image, who are real – for example, the new supermodels Ashley Graham or Robyn Lawley, will be beneficial for your confidence. Size and confidence come from within, so looking at pictures of people who promote this will help your body image.

Less comparison

If you still feel the need to compare, take a look at where those thoughts stem from. Did you learn somewhere that you were not good enough? If so, question the hell out of that thought and teach yourself to turn it around. It isn’t true. We are all given a set of beliefs and we all, as adults, have a choice as to whether we choose to hold on to those beliefs or challenge and change them.
My suggestion is any belief you think is keeping you small or holding you back needs to be worked on. Challenge it, look for evidence to prove the opposite is true and then go out into the big wide world with a thought that feels amazing. Because the truth is, you are.
See the full article here.


Podcast: How To Stop Comparing Yourself

Podcast: How To Stop Comparing Yourself

 

The lovely Becki Rabin asked me to appear on her super cool podcast to discuss all things ‘life’ – including how to stop comparing yourself.
In her usual chatty style she threw quite a few important questions at me to answer and if you are interested in self-development you need to listen to this!
During the podcast, I talk about how to:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • How to start believing in yourself.
  • How to start truly believing that you are good enough and worthy enough.
  • How to go out there and grab life with both hands.

To download the podcast…
The podcast is available on Acast, iTunes and SoundCloud.
iTunes link here – go to episode 22: ‘Dropping comparisons and focussing on you’.
I hope you enjoy it!
Jacqueline x


7 Secrets of Restful Sleep

If you haven’t read The Wellness Report over at matchesfashion.com it’s really worth taking a look at their super cool fashion and wellness blog.  I was honoured to have been asked once again to appear on their blog with my advice, this time on how to get a restful and revitalising sleep. If you are struggling with sleep, this article is for you!

7 Secrets of Restful Sleep

Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, once said, ‘The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.’ Indeed, lack of sleep can have severe effects, ranging from weight gain and dry skin to heightened emotions and excess cortisol levels. So how can we learn to sleep better and wake up feeling more refreshed, energised and ready to face the day? Jacqueline Hurst shares her wisdom…

1. Be consistent
Consistency promotes good sleeping patterns. Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each day will teach your body what you want it to do. It will help to keep your body clock in time and promote your natural drive to sleep. If you are awake at night, choose to stay in bed and conserve your energy by lying still and breathing. Don’t disrupt your pattern.
2. Mood lighting

 The blue light from your laptop or smartphone is a lot more stressful on your body than you may realise when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. Many of us still relax in the evenings with bright, artificial lights, which prevents the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Dim the lights in your bedroom and living room, or use candles to stimulate the production of melatonin. Think about putting a baby to bed, you wouldn’t put them in front of bright lights just before bed time, instead you wind them down with soft lighting to ease them sleep. Do the same for yourself.

3. Meditate and breathe
Meditation can help maintain a healthy sleep rhythm and is a great way to relax the mind. Meditating for just 10 minutes a day should help you to notice an increased sense of wellbeing. The beauty of meditation is that you don’t need anything for it, just somewhere quiet and relaxed, like your bedroom. Begin by just following your breath: inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts and don’t worry if you have some thoughts – that’s normal – just keep coming back to the breath.
4. Accept and be mindful
Worrying about not sleeping or imagining how bad things will be if you don’t sleep only helps to increase night-time stress. It’s important to slow your mind down to stop catastrophising or creating anxiety. Bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on the now. Getting the right thoughts in your mind really matters.
5. De-stimulate
Knowing what not to eat or drink can really help with insomnia. Avoiding caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol (which is a stimulant as well as a depressant) and anything high in sugars is key. Caffeine is one of the worst offenders – if you love your coffee or caffeinated tea, drink as much as you want but make sure you stop by midday. That gives your body a good 10-12 hours to recover from the caffeine hit and ensures you’re in a wind-down mode in time for bed.
6. Think natural
Sleep is a natural physiological process that cannot be controlled. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, your body manages and requires sleep in much the same way that it regulates the need for eating and drinking and breathing. Having a reliance on unnatural night-time rituals or pills can fuel sleep anxiety and further sleeplessness.
7. Exercise
I’m not saying stop exercising altogether, but be careful not to exercise too vigorously or too close to bedtime. Intense exercise can lead to the elevation of some hormones (such as cortisol), which may prevent you from drifting off easily. If you’re suffering from sleep issues, try to work out early in the day.
You can read the full article over at Matches Fashion here.

If you are struggling with restful sleep, or any other issues, you can contact me for a 1:1 session in my office, on the phone or via Skype. Alternatively, if you want to feel better but do your self-development online, you can head on over to my school The Life Class and take the Foundation Course.


5 Tips For Boosting Your Self-Esteem

5 Tips For Boosting Your Self-Esteem

If you are your own worst critic and find yourself tortured with feelings of self-doubt, do yourself a favour and take some advice from GQ Therapist, Jacqueline Hurst. You will definitely feel better for it!

Life nowadays can seem like a constant juggle. We are bombarded with unreal images daily on social media, TV and magazines and we can all feel a little overwhelmed as if we haven’t quite reached our full potential. A little bit of this is normal, however, if you feel constantly held back by a sense of self-doubt, it could be more than just the occasional “off day” we all suffer with from time to time. Preventing you from ever achieving your full potential, low self-esteem can be both a debilitating and miserable. Thankfully, for those who do suffer from self-esteem issues, there are a wealth of tips and tricks you can try to help break the cycle and build your confidence back.

What is self-esteem?

The term self-esteem refers to how we view ourselves. Self-esteem is the overall opinion we have and hold about ourselves and the value we place on ourselves as people. Low self-esteem is all about how we view ourselves internally – what we believe about ourselves – and is based on negativity: for example, “I’m unlovable” or “I’m useless” or “I’m worthless”. Of course, most of us have mixed opinions of ourselves, but if your overall opinion is that you are inadequate or inferior, or if you feel that you have no true worth and are not entitled to the good things in life – that you are “undeserving” – then this means your self-esteem is low.

Low self-esteem can be due to the beliefs you have about yourself which you think are fact, but in reality are only really thoughts. These beliefs and thoughts are based on the experiences you’ve had in life, and the messages that these experiences have given you about the person that you are.

As low self-esteem is based on thought process rather than fact, it is really important to gather all the thoughts you hold about yourself that are negative and then start to look for evidence to prove that the opposite is true. For example, if you believe that you are not “lovable”, instead of finding evidence to prove this thought true, you need to start looking for evidence to prove this is not true. You could ask yourself instead “Who does love me?” – you will be able to say “My mum, my dad, my friends, my family, my girl/boyfriend” etc. It becomes hard to believe a thought when you have evidence to prove the opposite is actually true.

If you are suffering from low self-esteem here are my top five tips to overcome it:

1. Question your thoughts

Are you conscious of what you are thinking? Thoughts create feelings, so starting to think carefully about your thoughts is key. Positive thoughts create positive feelings.

2. Be kind to yourself

Tell yourself kind, loving statements that you would say to someone you love. Imagine your best friend next to you talking about you as a person – they would say lovely things like “She’s funny, kind, thoughtful” etc. When you start looking at yourself from a friend’s point of view you will be amazed at how good you really are.

You are unique and perfect just as you are. Comparing is a waste of your time. Instead, remember that someone else’s beauty does not mean the absence of your own.

4. Gratitude is key to feeling better

When you feel down, think about all the wonderful things in your life and the things you have achieved – you’ll soon realize you are pretty special. You cannot feel grateful and miserable at the same time.

5. Perfection does not exist

Good enough, really is good enough.

You can read the full article over at GQ here.


The Life Class

The Life Class has gone LIVE!
I wanted to share with you my recent activity which literally involved sweat and (happy) tears but luckily no blood! The Life Class is my online school which runs two courses, one to become a Certified Life Coach the other is the Foundation Course which is for anyone and everyone who wants to learn how to become their happiest self in less than 5 mins a day.
It’s been sitting online for around 5 years but this year I decided to revamp it, re-brand it and add a tonne more information – I’ve made it even better and I am super excited to share this with you! Here is a short synopsis…

What?

My online courses are a collection of my life’s work. I’ve seen the material transform hundreds of lives. Will it work for everyone? I wish. Will it work for everyone who works it? In my experience, yes!

How?

The course runs automatically and once you sign up you get six stunning modules of life-changing information, with videos, worksheets and notes that you get to keep forever.

Why?

Silly really because, hell, why not?!

When?

Now! Head over to www.thelifeclass.com, there is no time to lose!
What are you waiting for? Go!
Big love,
Jacqueline x


Healthy Body Image

Healthy Body Image

The lovely Madeline Shaw is well known for her amazing recipes on her well being website.  She asked me how to inform her readers on how to get a healthy body image.  As summer is coming up I wanted to share this one with you before you hit the beach so that you go with the right mindset!

7 LIFE CHANGING TIPS FOR A HEALTHIER BODY IMAGE

Developing a positive body image and a healthy mental attitude is crucial to a woman’s happiness and wellness. Many men and woman have feelings about the way they look and they also have quite stringent ideas and feelings about how other people look too! Sadly we are in a society where we are constantly bombarded with unrealistic images, images that are photo shopped or ‘slimmed down’ and this is unhelpful if your body image isn’t strong and confident. Ultimately if we have a healthy body image, we are eating normally, feeling good and taking care of our health but, if we don’t have a healthy body image we are likely to be eating emotionally or in some form of diet disaster. Struggling with body image is not uncommon and I teach people that this can be changed by the way you think, instead of trying to change your body!

1. CALM DOWN
Stressing out about your body is not helping you. Take a breath and relax. The first thing you need to learn to do is get your head right. If you are constantly judging yourself and being mean to yourself it is going to make everything worse. Remove your judgements. When you judge yourself for your size you are being really mean. Taking away the judgement means you LEARN so much more. Exploring why you think what you think about yourself and asking yourself kind questions speeds up the process of understanding yourself and therefore changing your perspective and your behaviour. Judging yourself means you remain stuck and closed. Quit the judgement and be kind.

2. DEAL WITH EMOTIONAL EATING
If you are eating emotionally i.e. when you are not physically hungry, talk to yourself. I know this sounds weird but I use this with my clients A LOT. The next time you are standing at the fridge with the door open using a teaspoon to get to that last bit of Nutella at the bottom of the jar ask yourself this question ‘ If I didn’t care about this Nutella right now, what else would be going on for me?’ The answers will amaze you……..I hate my job, my boyfriend doesn’t understand me, I’m scared about this upcoming exam etc., etc., Once you have some real answers you can start to look at the real stuff going on. Because, it is never about the Nutella……

3. YOU ARE MORE THAN THE SIZE OR SHAPE OF YOUR BODY.
Today’s society tells women that to be ‘worthy’ you have to be tiny. It’s not true. Quit conforming and start questioning. Question everything – who is telling you to be worth something you have to be a certain size? Who is telling you that to be beautiful you have to be thin? It’s likely to be something you have seen, read or heard. These people might not be right! Remember you are living in a society which body bashes all day long. We live in a culture where people feel it’s ok to comment on your size and shape. It isn’t. Everyone is different and everyone has something about them that is truly unique and beautiful.

4. HEALTHY IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN ANY SIZE.
It is not true that one size is more beautiful than another. The truth is in fact that ‘healthy is beautiful’! Start thinking about ‘health’ rather than ‘size’. Remember that reading magazines and looking at six packs on Instagram all day just contributes to the brain washing of your society and culture. It’s important to remember that a lot of pictures are photoshopped and doctored. Most ‘real’ people look real that includes scars, stretch marks and spots! If you are going to obsess over social media and pictures in magazines do it with the right head on! Get cool with being imperfect. I’m not sure about you but the last thing I want to be is perfect. Why? because I know that perfect does not exist so I am not going to aim for something that isn’t real. Instead, focus on getting cool with your perfect imperfections. We are all perfectly imperfect and trust me, in the years of coaching I have done, the thousands of clients I have seen, I am yet to meet a ‘perfect’ one. So if you think you know someone who is perfect, I would suggest stepping out of your imaginary world and looking at the facts.

5. YOU CAN ALWAYS DO A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX.
I love social media, it’s a huge part of my business but at the same time I know that all the pictures of people on there having a great time and looking like they have fabulous lives doesn’t mean I choose to think my life is any less. Remember that people will only post pictures on social media of them looking great. Think about the terribly sad life of L’wren Scott. Her pictures were all private jets and couture clothes. Behind it she was terribly unhappy. Don’t believe the hype. People have real lives no matter what they post on Social Media. Everyone is dealing with something.

6. STOP PLACING YOURSELF AS ‘LESS THAN’. YOU ARE NOT. YOU ARE EQUAL TO.
There will be some things that you can do and some things that others can do. There will be some things you cannot do that others can. This is called life. If we could all do and look and be exactly the same as each other, what kind of boring world would that be? Step into your uniqueness and own it.

7. LESS COMPARISON
Lastly, if you still feel the need to compare, take a look at where those thoughts stem from. Did you learn somewhere that you were not enough? If so, question the hell out of that thought and teach yourself to turn it around. It isn’t true. We are all given a set of beliefs and we all, as adults, have a choice as to whether we choose to hold onto those beliefs or challenge and change them. My suggestion is any belief you think is keeping you small or holding you back needs to be worked on. Challenge it, look for evidence to prove the opposite is true and then go out into the big wide world with a thought that feels amazing. Because the truth is, YOU ARE
See the full article on Madeleine’s site here


Body Positivity

Body Positivity in Six Simple Steps
I wanted to write a blog on body positivity as it seems the wellness world has become a battlefield. There is a lot of flaunting of six packs and ‘Abs are made in the kitchen’ straplines on social media which are coming from people who are promoting a message that isn’t always honest.  I wanted to write this post to keep things in check for you.
Body positivity refers to an acceptance and love of all body types.  This mean no size, shape or skin you are in, is in any way ‘wrong’ and neither is your neighbors.  In 2018 we are starting to see a lot more body positive awareness and social media and magazines are beginning to feature and include more diverse body shapes and sizes.  This is a great step toward helping people to kick the unrealistic concept of achieving only one ideal body type, to the curb. We  still have a long way to go but at least we are moving in that direction.
If you are struggling with body image today, I have six valuable steps to further embrace body positivity below.

  1. Stop comparing.
    Comparison is the thief of joy and when we learn to ‘accept’ that we are all different, it becomes a lot easier to focus on your own side of the street. Being unique is something to be celebrated. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and one woman’s pretty doesn’t take away from your own. When we learn to accept ourselves and start to allow ourselves to be happy with ourselves, just as we are, we can then start to find inner joy.  Focussing on your assets, the things you do like about yourself, the wins you have achieved, the goals you have accomplished, all of these things are a great start. Remind yourself that beauty comes in different shapes and sizes; body positivity is inclusive of everyone, and there is absolutely no wrong ‘body’ shape, size or look.
  2. Take a bloody compliment!!
    When I was learning about body positivity I had to learn how to gracefully accept a compliment. My first reaction was ‘you might think that but you must need glasses!’. Looking back I realise how unkind that was. Accepting compliments with grace is a challenge to start with but it is an important practice on your journey of body positivity.  Accepting compliments it’s a learning game and learning to do it differently takes time but practice is key. it’s okay to simply say thank you without providing a justification, an excuse or an explanation. It’s ok to learn to simply say ‘thank you’. Slowly with practice you will start to believe those compliments. You’ll realise its because you are awesome.
  3. Embrace your “flaws.”
    Being body positive is not just about weight. It’s about accepting all aspects of your body. Its about accepting you have a tummy (because you are a woman), its about accepting you have cellulite (because you are human), its about accepting every part of your body, exactly as you are. Body positivity means recognising that all bodies are worthy of acceptance and praise, and that all bodies are of equal value and worth and all bodies are beautiful in their own right. Its about embracing yourself just as you are.
  4. Have a fitness goal that has nothing to do with appearance.
    Being ‘fit’ has a bad wrap right now. All we see on social media is six packs, messages like ‘strong not skinny’ fitness freaks that are working out in the gym for 2 hours a day and not letting a drop of sugar past their lips, all the whilst, pretending to be ‘normal’. Fitness is a great way to feel strong and powerful, but if your focus is only on calories or weight loss, you’re more likely to resent it as an activity and ultimately stop doing it altogether. One of the best ways to transform body hate into body acceptance is to stop yourself from making any exercise you do, solely about your physical appearance. Start looking at exercise as helping you to be healthy, fit, supple and flexible. Start watching your body help you accomplish these incredible movements and see how your body, is always and has always, been on your side, ready and willing to love you back.
  5. Get in control of what you look at
    I am a big believer in being super careful about what I allow into my vision and my thoughts. What we expose ourselves to has a massive impact on how we feel about ourselves. If you feel social media is affecting you start to control what you look at more closely. Delete anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself, delete anyone who is showing you unrealistic body images and start to follow tons of social media accounts that feature body positivity and body diversity. Be really aware about about the magazines you read, the TV you watch the websites you browse. Get conscious and take control.
  6. Embrace
    Being body positive is not just about your size, shape or weight. It is about accepting all aspects of your body. It’s about embracing you, just as you are, naturally. Body positivity means recognizing that all bodies (yours included!) are worthy of acceptance and praise, and that all bodies are of equal value and beautiful in their own right. Embracing your body starts with acceptance and from there you can start to see how magical it is.

 


Social Anxiety

How to conquer social anxiety

Don’t suffer in shyness. As the GQ therapist I get a lot of questions about social anxiety and I have some clever tips and coaching strategies to overcome crippling social anxiety. Read my answer to this reader’s social anxiety dilema.

Dear GQ therapist,
What’s wrong with me… I do my shopping online and avoid the supermarket, I use email rather than pick up the telephone, and I dread public transport. I have always been shy, but this is getting ridiculous. Can you help?  Oliver, by email

First and foremost, know that many people suffer with shyness and just don’t talk about it. Shyness can be truly debilitating. For most people, it is a learnt behaviour (it could be that their parents lack confidence or are naturally unsociable), but in today’s modern world, with so many technological means of interacting (email, texting, etc), it is easy for people to become isolated. Greater social introversion, less practice with personal connection and face-to-face conversations, and avoidance of awkward, unfamiliar and spontaneous interactions all make the situation worse.

Often, we isolate because of thoughts in our mind. We catastrophise situations where we imagine being rejected or humiliated when talking to people, or we imagine standing in a corner all alone and seeing people whisper about us. When we think of these things, we feel terrified and prefer to avoid the outside world rather than leave the supposed “safety of home”.

I have found that most shy individuals are not comfortable in their own skin. If you are shy, you are also likely to be scared, nervous, intimidated and uncomfortable around other people. You therefore think it’s easier to just not start. Shyness can have some major negative consequences that go beyond not having friends or getting a date – it can affect your health in a variety of ways, your career choice, the amount of money you make and the general quality of your everyday life.

1. Don’t think the worst… think differently

Shyness is spending too much time in your own head, making everything much bigger than it needs to be, with the outcome of any given situation as being wrong, bad or, simply, catastrophic. This is a bad habit that needs effort, energy and practice to be changed. My tip here is that whenever you have a thought in your mind that ends in catastrophe, jot it down and ask yourself, “How can I think about this differently?” or “How would I feel if this actually went well? What would I do differently, say differently or how would I behave differently if the outcome was actually really good?”

2. Avoid perfectionism

Nobody’s perfect. Part of the self-criticism experienced is based on the excessive expectations you may have set for yourself. Your jokes don’t have to have a whole room laughing and your chat doesn’t have to always be brilliant, insightful and witty. In short, lower the standards on yourself and set standards that are easier to maintain. It’s not necessary to be the life and soul of the party in order to categorise your social performance as a social success. In some cases, simply talking to two new people at a party might be the mark of a successful night out.

3. Reduce your sense of self-consciousness

The whole world is not looking at you. Since self-consciousness is a principal cognitive component for many shy people, it is very helpful for such shy people to realise that most people are far more interested in how they look or what they are doing than what anyone else is doing or saying. Realising that other people care more about themselves than about you will make interacting in social situations much more tolerable.

4. Focus on your social successes

Shy people do tend to be overly self-critical of their performance in social situations. In their view, they are never outgoing enough, clever enough, funny enough or anything “enough”. To help overcome this you can begin to minimise the anxiety such expectations create by focusing on your strengths and not only on what you perceive as your weaknesses. Look at the times you were social, you did attend the party, speak to the new man or woman or made a positive telephone call. If you have done these things once you can do them again.

5. Practice makes perfect

Start with (very) small talk and take simple actions: remember that practice makes perfect. A strategy for you to start with to overcome your inhibition is to put yourself in relatively non-threatening situations. This might include taking yourself to a museum, cinema or a game of football, where you will have the opportunity to interact with a lot of people but for a brief period. When you put yourself in these situations, you can practise by saying something as simple as “hello” to as many people as you can – this is a great start. You can also try this out in your daily life by doing things like asking for simple directions, giving a compliment or helping (offer to hold a door open for someone, for example). These are simple ways to practice talking and interacting with people.

6. Find your comfort zone

Do what fits your personality. Not all social situations are for everyone. For example, some people might just not like going to a bar or nightclub – it’s not necessarily because you are shy, it just might not be your thing. I suggest you seek out the situations that are most consistent with you and your temperament and interests. It is easier to overcome or manage any social fear by finding situations in which you feel reasonably comfortable.

7. Practise and develop your conversation skills

Developing conversational skills is key. The trick to successful conversation is to actually have something to say, and there are lots of simple strategies that you can employ. You can start by reading the newspaper or magazines, listen to the radio and build your knowledge fountain so that you can start having brief conversations about today’s news or something simple. News analysis is the basic substance of a lot of social conversations. And when you get that going, you can try to keep the conversation going by asking open-ended questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer. For example: “What do you think of…”

No one is liked by everyone. That’s a truth. Rejection is one of the risks that accompanies engaging in any social interaction. The point here is never to take rejection personally. There may be a variety of reasons that someone is rejected by someone else, none of which may have anything at all to do with the person being rejected. You cannot control the reactions of others or what they think or say or do, so what’s important is that if it doesn’t work out and rejection results, simply select someone else and start again.


GQ Feature: The Life Class

GQ Feature: The Life Class

GQ Magazine loves The Life Class and chose to feature it in this month’s issue – I couldn’t be more proud of this school! The Life Class is an online self-development course for those who don’t want to ‘do’ therapy. It is one of the fastest growing courses in the UK for people who want to do a little work on their mindset and emotional intelligence from the comfort of their own sofa.  I wanted to share this amazing feature with you, it’s in the April issue – out now!
Read the full article here: GQ features The Life Class