My career before training as a cognitive hypnotherapist was in the incredibly fast-paced, high-stress world that is the film industry.
I worked painfully long hours, rarely allowing myself time to exercise or eat properly. I worked as an assistant, which is a job that promotes low self-esteem and low self-value, the main theme being ‘your needs don’t matter, you’re here to assist people more important than you’. I’ll be the first to admit it: I burnt out. I didn’t have the knowledge or skills that I now have to deal with the stresses the job brought me and I became resentful.
We are all encouraged to work longer hours and be on email at all times, even when we are on holiday. Women are now struggling with the idea of having the career they’ve always dreamt of yet have the distant worry of how they can keep it up while also being good mothers. Modern pressures are extreme and the NHS is bowing beneath the demand and need for mental health treatment.
In my previous job, I would look around my office at colleagues succumbing to severe anxiety and depression, unable to give everything asked of them while leaving little room for self-care at the end of the day.
One of the main themes of cognitive hypnotherapy is perception and how we can learn to change our previous perceptions to live a healthier and more fulfilled life.
Recent studies show the subconscious is responsible for 90% of our actions and its main goal is to keep us alive. Day in, day out, it’s working hard to protect us from perceived threats. The subconscious takes information and knowledge gathered from events that have occurred over our lifetime and forms patterns that it uses to determine whether a new situation should be deemed as safe or not safe.
Unfortunately, early on in life we do not have the knowledge or logic that we consciously develop as adults, meaning that a dog barking at us as a child can be perceived as a life-threatening event. Our subconscious then takes that event and creates a pattern moving forward through life: dog = danger. This is how problems are created. The work of a cognitive hypnotherapist is to ‘de-hypnotise’ your subconscious out of that problem pattern and reframe the way the subconscious perceives certain situations.
When it comes to a healthy work-life balance, perception is everything. The way we perceive our boss’s reaction to our work, the way we perceive our colleagues’ reaction to our behaviour. Merely the tone of voice we hear in a sentence can change that sentence’s meaning completely.
We, as humans, can either take full internal control of our outcomes or give away control to external factors. For the most part, the human default is the latter. Ever blamed a colleague for you not getting the promotion you wanted? Ever thought it unfair that a colleague received a pay rise he’d asked for when you were stuck on the same salary? Ever blamed an ‘evil’ boss for your career path becoming stagnant? There is always that one guy in the office everyone hates because he seems to be progressing so much faster and being paid more than the rest of you, yet he still leaves the office on time. Sound familiar? The likelihood is, he’s taken internal locus of control.
Internal locus of control (ILOC) is a belief that we can influence events and outcomes in our lives based on our attitude, effort and preparation, whether good or bad. External locus of control (ELOC) is the belief that outside forces are to blame for everything. Believing that you don’t have control over what happens in your life can create anxiety and a negative view of the world. To make the jump from ELOC to ILOC can be the catalyst that changes everything and it all begins with perception.
Look back over your career to a time when you felt you had been unjustly side-lined for a promotion or you couldn’t seem to move up the ladder within a company. Now make a list of everything you did to influence that decision. Did you give 100% to every project? Did you speak to your superior about the company positively, and did you talk of how you felt about yourself fitting in and seeing a future there? Were you bright and amenable every morning when entering the office?
Now bear in mind, this is not a blame game. However, we often don’t give enough reflection time to our past behaviours and tend to blur out any of our actions which might have been perceived as negative to others. This shifts the blame and control from within and projects it on to the reactions of others. It is ELOC. People who do well tend to promote themselves positively. Perhaps offering to make tea for the team despite their more senior position, keeping a positive attitude in the face of problems, working hard on a project and using that hard work to present to their manager as a reason for promotion or pay rise, and taking responsibility for any mistakes they make.
Once you discover that internal locus of control, you will notice the possibilities that open up to you. Taking full responsibility for what happens to you takes the power away from others and puts control back into your hands. If you work hard, you can congratulate yourself. If you have a lazy day, evaluate why you underperformed and what you need to change about your attitude to have a better day tomorrow.
There is no one better-placed to create happiness in your life than yourself. Listen to your head and listen to your body. If your body is telling you to slow down, slow down. If your body is telling you to leave work on time to allow you to walk home and get some steps in, do it. Allow yourself the time it takes to cook nutritious meals from scratch in the evenings, or plan ahead if necessary.
Take ownership, value your self-worth. Be kind to yourself and give your body and brain the nourishment it needs. Make your job work for you and you will thrive. Most importantly, if you do all of the above and you are still miserable, evaluate the pros and cons of what this job is bringing to you. You don’t have to be excited about going to work every morning but if it fills you with dread, recognise that and ask yourself: ‘Is it worth it?’ Take charge of your happiness and make changes if necessary.
You will be more use to yourself and your colleagues if you slow down than if you burn out.