Category Archives: Stress Management

How to Teach Your Child Calm Breathing

breathWhat is “calm breathing”?

Calm breathing is a technique that teaches your child to slow down his or her breathing when feeling stressed or anxious.

When we are anxious, we tend to take short, quick, shallow breaths or even hyperventilate. This type of anxious breathing can make anxiety even worse. Doing calm breathing can help lower your child’s anxiety, and give him or her a sense of control … and of course, it’s something that your child can do by themselves when you’re not around to help and support them. It really is a ‘portable’ tool and no one knows that you’re doing it. This is often very important for children and young people because they don’t want to be seen as different or needing special help in any way.

How to help your child master the technique:

  1. Explain why calm breathing is a good ‘trick’ to learn. You can explain, for example, that taking short quick breaths actually increases other feelings of anxiety (e.g. heart racing, dizziness, or headaches) … and conversely, slow breathing helps to automatically calm you down.
  2. Teach the calm breathing technique: Take a slow breath in through the nose (for about 4 seconds) Hold your breath for 1 or 2 seconds Exhale slowly through the mouth (over about 4 seconds) Wait 2-3 seconds before taking another breath (5-7 seconds for teenagers) Repeat for at least 5 to 10 breaths

bubble‘Bubble blowing’ is a great way to practice some of this and there it’s fun! You have to take a slow, deep breath to make a big bubble, and you have to blow the bubble really slowly or it will pop. Practise doing that with your child. Take a slow, deep breath in, hold it for a second, and then slowly blow some bubbles, the challenge being to make the bubbles as big as possible – that takes control!

For Older Children and Teens: Since calm breathing involves taking slow, controlled breaths from the diaphragm, another way to explain this technique is to present it as “belly breathing”. The steps for this exercise are as follows: Inhale slowly for 4 seconds through the nose. Ask your child to pretend that he or she is blowing up a balloon in the belly, so your child’s belly should inflate when inhaling. Wait 2 seconds, and then slowly exhale through the mouth. Ask your child to pretend that he or she is emptying the balloon of air, so the tummy should deflate. Wait 2 seconds, and then repeat. Helpful Hint: When belly breathing, make sure your child’s upper body (shoulders and chest area) is fairly relaxed and still. Only the belly should be moving! Step 3: Practice, practice, practice! In order for your child to be able to use this new tool effectively, he or she first needs to be an expert at calm breathing.

Rules of practice:practice

  • Practice a couple of times a day, doing 10 calm breaths in a row.
  • Practice when you’re both feeling relaxed (if you’re doing it together)
  • Once your child is really comfortable with the technique, they can start to use it in more anxious or stressful situations
  • It’s a skill – it needs to be learned and practiced if it is going to be useful!

Good Luck,



Happy New Year!


It’s the New Year – a time when we make a new start, make plans for change and look to the future.

For many people, these changes take the form of New Year Resolutions … sometimes heralding significant change and sometimes broken by the second week of January!

What many people overlook, however, is the potential to make changes where it really matters – in your emotional health and well-being.

How about these for starters:

  • Think about what you like doing – and then do more of that – it’s not selfish to spend time on yourself.
  • Become your own best friend.
  • Realise you don’t actually have to spend time with toxic people who make you feel bad about yourself – you can let those people go without a backwards glance.
  • Create a positive attitude … being happy is a positive choice.
  • Stop making excuses not to do things – there’s never a perfect time for anything!
  • Spend some time working out what you really want from 2017 – and then stop procrastinating – go for it.
  • Have more fun! It balances out the sometimes unavoidable boring bits!
  • Approach things head-on – burying your head in the sand when it comes to the practicalities of life (work, money, debt etc) isn’t helpful in the long run.
  • Tailor your resolutions to YOU – most NY Resolutions are a re-hash of what you think you SHOULD be doing, not what you actually WANT to do!

Good Luck!

Judith x


For a range of MP3s – including a FREE Relaxation audio, please use the following link to Bluebell Therapy’s new shop:

September blues …


September can be a difficult time for some children …

Social media is chock full at the moment of the usual ‘back to school’ photos – excited primary school children in their brand new school uniform and a few reluctant teens with embarrassed smiles.  September heralds a new beginning every year – for children, parents and teachers.  But new beginnings can be tricky – sadly, not all children love school … and some find it very stressful.

Tests and assessments bring pressures, as well as having to cope with new teaching styles and personalities and perhaps different expectations and rules.  For some children, change is exciting – but for many others, it’s scary and challenging.

So what can parents do to minimise stress for their children?

  1. Don’t make going back to school into a huge big deal if you know that your child is nervous. We sometimes try to ‘jolly’ children along and create a false sense of excitement.  If it isn’t there, don’t force it! Going back to school is a part of life and approach it in a calm measured way.
  2. In the same way, if you’re feeling anxious about it as a parent, be careful not to pass that anxiety on – children learn by watching the way that you behave.  Be a calming influence – don’t teach them how to be anxious!
  3. Give them the opportunity to talk … but don’t badger them to talk about their feelings if they don’t want to.  Create an atmosphere where they know that you are responsive to their needs and will listen when THEY want to talk.
  4. Look for the positives – what do they enjoy at school? Is there a way they can do more of what they enjoy? Look at after-school clubs and outside activities that cater for their interests. If they find school a tricky place to be sometimes, they need other things that they enjoy.  It’s the same with adults – no one wants to feel that work is the only thing they have in life.  Schoolwork is important – but balance is the key.
  5. Talk to your child’s teachers if they are struggling – teachers can’t do anything about it if they don’t know.
  6. Find activities which help your child to relax.  Yoga is getting more and more popular for teens and younger children and hypno-relaxation is great for kids too as it really taps into their wonderful imaginations.
  7. Get a healthy sense of perspective and encourage them to do the same … education is important but it’s not just about tests and results.  Being a kind person, a good friend and a rounded individual are even more important than what you got in your latest Maths assessment.  Make sure your child knows that.
  8. Don’t make comparisons between your kids – if their older sister always gets great grades, for example, the chances are that they will feel the pressure to compete. Make it clear that you appreciate whatever it is that makes them unique – everyone has different talents and abilities – value them equally.
  9. Lastly, have fun as a family! No one is the perfect parent but find what works for you.


Good luck!


A Little bit of Calm …


When anxiety is on its way …

Anxiety can work by stealth, creeping up on you when you least expect it or it can arrive with a trumpet fanfare … but however it arrives, it makes itself known pretty quickly. Palpitations, headaches, racing heart rate, that horrible feeling of being unable to control what might happen next … all these things and more make anxiety such a formidable enemy. It CAN be defeated – it’s NOT a life sentence … but when it hits, it can sometimes feel that way. Lots of things can help to get rid of anxiety for good … hypnotherapy and counselling can really help, as can lots of self-help techniques to re-discover the positives in life and actively seek them out. But of course it’s difficult to remember that when you’re caught up in a downwards spiral.

So what can you do, in the short term, to manage anxiety?


The idea of a ‘Calcalmboxm Box’ is that you have a box full of things which help you to relax, all on hand, because the last thing you want to do when you’re in the throes of anxiety is to go looking round the house for things to calm you down!

So what could go into your box?

Your calm box needs to work for YOU, so yours will be unique. The best starting point is to have a think about what calms you down. If you don’t know, then have a play with different things.

Here are a few ideas:
sqeeze• Stress balls (there are lots of different ones – have a play!)
• Puzzles/wordsearches/cards are a great distraction if you
enjoy them
• A journal to write down your feelings – it can help to
express yourself (and nobody else will see it!)
• Music which soothes you – some people want relaxing meditation-type music, others want to dance!
• If you get stress-headaches (like I do), include some cooling strips for your head
• Re-connecting with your senses can help – so include something which appeals to each one of your senses
• It can be calming to have a lovely smooth stone or crystal to hold and touch
• For children, I would include some bubble mixture – to bubblesblow a really big bubble, you need to really slow your breathing down. It’s quite relaxing as an adult too!
• Colouring is now an acceptable and enjoyable adult activity! A good colouring book and some felt tips are a must for me – see if they work for you too.

You can find some really lovely free downloadable colouring sheets for adults using the following link:

Best wishes,


Perfection is over-rated … the art of being happy on ‘just good enough’ …


Any parent with children born in the last 20 years or so will recognise the literary phenomenon (!) that is Horrid Henry and his ‘perfect’ brother Peter. For those readers who don’t, basically Perfect Peter, as he is dubbed, is this amazingly good child who never puts a foot wrong. He is clever, well-behaved, polite and … well, just perfect in every conceivable way possible. Is he the most interesting character in the book? – no; Does he has the most fun? – no; Is he the happiest character? – no; Is he the most likely to suffer from anxiety-related issues? – YES …maintaining perfection is just REALLY hard work!

Because perfectionism is not good for us … perfect’ is an adjective which doesn’t reflect reality, yet it is thrucloudst upon us frequently, inviting us to fail at every turn. Sadly, many of us buy into the allure of the ‘perfect’ and wonder why we feel so much anxiety trying to reach it … and so disappointed with ourselves when we don’t.


Targets, objectives, assessments, performance management at work, for example, can all conspire to set parameters for us which can add to pressure and actually be counter-productive. There’s no harm in striving to do well, of course, but often targets are set in an unrealistic way which set people up to fail. Sometimes, it can be a simple as being straight with your boss and saying that you need a bit more time for something. Or just having the strength to say ‘No’ for once. Funnily enough, I left a profession heavily reliant on targets … only to make my own targets for myself in my own business. The difference is that my targets are realistic and, although sometimes challenging, achievable. I also changed my mind-set … ‘failure’ became an opportunity to do something in a different way, a step towards a goal rather than reaching it immediately.

The workplace is just one area where we try to live up to sometimes unrealistic expectations. How many of the women reading this, are working mums …..trying to be the perfect employee AND the perfect mum?? Yes, it’s true that, as women, we can have a great career and a family these days but do we have to be ‘perfect’ at both? Of course not! Do we allow ourselves to shrug it off, dust ourselves down and try again when it all goes tits up? Not as often as we should!


So how do we fight against the Perfectionism myth and minimise anxiety …?

  • Strive to ‘do your best’ rather than achieve perfection … unless you are super-human, the latter really isn’t achievable on an everyday basis.
  • Be realistic when setting yourself targets or expectations and sometimes have the courage to question the expectations given to you by other people. Work out what is possible … and what isn’t and be prepared to stick to that if necessary. You might surprise yourself by achieving much more – and that’s a wonderful bonus!
  • Try to strike a balance between what you want to achieve and accepting what is – there is still room for ambitious hopes and dreams but everything isn’t black and white and it’s perfectly acceptable to reach a compromise.
  • Break down your targets into small steps – that way you’ll feel that you’re achieving lots of things along the way to your final destination. Rome wasn’t built in a day … good things take time!
  • Most of all, be kind to yourself. You are amazing just the way you are – perfection is way over-rated!!

Good luck!

Judith, Bluebell Therapy



Come fly with me..!

It’s that time of year – almost British Summer Time, the occasional ray of sun peeking out from behind the gloom and of course, holiday adverts on the telly! For lots of people, the thought of that week in Spain signifies a bit of excitement, enough to keep them going through the unpredictability of Spring weather in the UK. But for others, it can mean anything from a surge of anxiety to the resignation of yet another holiday in Cornwall. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cornwall … but it’s nice to think that you can dance the tango in Buenos Aires too if you want to!

Flying really is a big issue for many people. It can prey on our vulnerability – anxieties and fears about death, natural disaster, and nowadays, even terrorism … it’s not surprising that it’s one of the most common phobias. And it’s multi-faceted, with elements of claustrophobia, vertigo and agoraphobia – it really is a catch-all phobia!

Sufferers describe the feeling of terror as ‘paralysing’ …. Fear of the process of flying and also anxiety that the fear will take over and cause public loss of control.

So what can you do to help yourself?

  • Tell your travel companions if they don’t already know … they will want to support you. It also means that, if you have a panic attack, you can prep them as to the best things they can do to calm you down and you won’t feel so embarrassed about it.
  • Practice ‘grounding yourself’ – noticing 5 things that you can see, hear, touch, etc in your environment. This can help you if you’re feeling anxious or panicky but focusing on your surroundings can also help you to divert your attention so that you remain calm in the first place.
  • In the same way, engage with those around you – have a chat to your friends and family, acknowledge your anxiety but don’t focus on it, instead re-direct your attentions into something else – activities such as puzzles, reading etc will help you to take your mind off your fears.
  • Try deep breathing, exhaling slowly in a controlled way. A good way to practice this is with some bubble mixture. To be able to blow big bubbles, you need to blow out slowly and gently. I often use bubble mixture to enable young clients to practice their calm breathing but adults can do it too. It’s not silly if it helps and no one sees you practicing at home!
  • Just reciting statistics to someone to ‘prove’ that flying is safe just doesn’t work – if it did, then no one would be fearful of flying. Phobias just don’t work like that. Hypnotherapy, however, is a fantastic way to overcome fear of flying. A therapist will take you through every element of the journey (from booking the holiday to landing!), replacing the fear with feelings of relaxation. It really does work!

In the words of a recent client:

“I can’t thank Judith enough. Every year, we book a holiday because I don’t want to let the family down. I worry for months before we go and while we’re there, I worry about the journey home! This year, I’m looking forward to it. I’m feeling excited about the whole thing and we’re even planning an extra weekend away. I’m no longer limited by my fear and it feels liberating! Thank you”

If you’d like hypnotherapy for your phobia, please contact me at or call 07599136677.

Happy Holidays!

Judith x


How to beat exam stress!


Most of us love the arrival of Spring and Summer …. But for students, whether they’re doing GCSEs, ‘A’ Levels or university exams, the warmer weather can only mean one thing …. Exams!  Nobody likes them, many people hate them and they are the cause of major stress among young people.   And with the ‘testing culture’ ever more entrenched in primary schools too, the pressure is even greater.

So what’s the answer?

Unfortunately exams aren’t going away anytime soon but there ARE things that you can do to make life a bit easier for yourself around exam time.

Here are 8 ways to reduce exam stress:

  1. Plan ahead! You’re never going to cram a couple of years’ worth of notes into your brain the night before the exam – it’s just not possible! The best way to revise is to make yourself a timetable, which sets out when you’re revising each subject and also includes free time, doing stuff that you enjoy. Just like you can’t cram in everything in one night, you also can’t spend every minute of every day working. Balance is the key!
  2. Remember that you are an individual. Work out the best times, places and ways for YOU to revise … your preferences may be completely different from your friend’s – that’s fine as long as it works for YOU!
  3. Keep your energy levels up by eating well.Olympic athletes can’t perform on a can of Coke and a Curly-Wurly …. and you will be doing the brain equivalent of running a marathon, which means you need to be on top form!
  4. Exercise and fresh air really does do you good! A change of scene and a walk round the park or (my personal favourite) a bit of salsa dancing or Zumba really does re-charge your batteries and helps with a healthy dose of perspective …. Exams ARE important but you have a life too!
  5. Yes, you do have time to sleep …! In fact it’s essential if you don’t want to find you’re falling asleep in the middle of a quadratic equation or a history essay.
  6. Talk it through. You may feel that you are alone in feeling stressed about exams but around 700,000 students take their GCSEs every Summer – that represents an awful lot of adrenaline, fear and anxiety. Talking helps – with friends, parents, teachers, school counsellors.
  7. Watch out for symptoms of stress … get to know yourself and your own triggers. Start to watch out for stress-related symptoms in your own body – they may be headaches, tummy aches, breathlessness – everyone is different so you need to learn to know when you’re getting stressed so that you can take some time out and relax.
  8. Treat yourself .. because you deserve it! Do nice things, go out, pamper yourself, acknowledge that exams are hard and you are a superstar for working hard and getting on with it.


Lastly, remember that worry is not a productive emotion. You CAN do something to help your performance in exams beforehand….but once you’ve taken them, move on and enjoy your Summer. Worrying won’t affect your results one way or the other! And results (good or bad) don’t define who you are …. Good Luck


Bluebell Therapy are running an exam stress hypnotherapy course after Easter – please see for further details.

Got that Monday morning feeling ….. Every day???

ID-100367710 (1)

Ever had that feeling that work is like being on a never-ending hamster’s wheel … and that weekends are way too short to properly get off?? If so, you’re not alone!  Lots of things can contribute to high levels of stress and, unfortunately, work is one of them!  The teaching profession ‘boasts’ one of the highest levels of stress – if you needed proof of that, see this article by the BBC, which is a sobering tale of high workload, pressure and physical and mental illness.

So, how stressed are you?? Have a go at our test (from


How well do you handle stress in your life?

  1. I have people I confide in when I’m feeling under pressure who make me feel better.
  2. I feel comfortable expressing how I feel when something is bothering me.
  3. In general, I feel in control of my life and confident in my ability to handle what comes my way.
  4. I find reasons to laugh and feel grateful, even when going through difficulties.
  5. No matter how busy I am, I make it a priority to sleep, exercise, and eat right.
  6. I’m able to calm myself down when I start to feel overwhelmed.

Each “yes” answer represents an important stress coping skill. Each “no” represents an area to work on to become more resilient.

It’s important to be able to express how you feel, to have support, and to stay positive – that much is clear.  BUT … workplaces have a responsibility as well for keeping staff happy and healthy.  It’s good to be positive but, workplace stress is not just a personal thing, it’s political too.

And it makes sense for business – the NHS’s Chief Medical Officer claimed recently that mental health issues, including workplace stress led to the loss of 70 million working days a year, costing the economy between £70-100 billion annually.

In fact, employers have a statutory responsibility to ensure the health and well-being of their employees.

How does YOUR employer measure up??

Here at Bluebell Therapy we offer counselling, hypnotherapy and also regular Relaxation Courses to help people to learn self-management skills.  We also offer training packages to businesses and schools to support people being able to deal effectively with the rigors and potential stresses of a busy lifestyle.  This includes:

  • Practical and emotional strategies to deal with stress
  • Self-awareness exercises so that participants can focus on their own personal experiences and development.
  • A relaxation session, using meditation-type techniques
  • Guidance on achieving self-management techniques at home.

Training is offered with colleague, Kirsty Knight – collectively we are Salus Training. Between us we have a wealth of knowledge and experience in providing training to both young people and adults.  We currently run this programme as a three hour session but we are happy to be flexible. We are also able to offer a free demonstration of what we do to a small group of people should you require it.

Sounds like something that you could benefit from?  Give your employer a nudge then and leave this blog around in an obvious place!

If you would like more details, email us at or

Have a good week!

Best wishes,