Kerry Dolan is a hypnotherapist and NLP Master, who specialises in women’s health, from puberty to menopause. Here she offers her five top tips on how we can make life seem that bit easier as we approach the end of this year
I guess I spent much of my life feeling a bit wrong footed. My parents moved a lot when I was growing up, so it felt as though I was in a perpetual state of being ‘the new girl’. I had hippy leanings and a weird taste in music and, whilst my family have always embraced my quirkiness, I’m not sure I really learned to own it until I became a parent.
I had a break down in my 20s because I found it hard to find my place in the world. I managed to pull myself together, met a good man, got married and became a teacher – because I liked books and helping people and, with a Masters degree in philosophy there wasn’t a more obvious career path. I have had a lot of wonderful experiences as a teacher but, for many years, it fuelled my anxiety.
When I got pregnant with my first child 13 years ago, I took a hypnobirthing class and the techniques I learned there not only gave me a beautiful birth experience but ways to manage my anxiety.
Later, I trained as a hypnobirthing instructor, then a fertility coach and finally a hypnotherapist and NLP Master practitioner. I was lucky. In many ways, motherhood was a kind of chrysalis for me. The stripping back effect that being a mum can have on us allowed me to find better alignment in my life. When my three kids were small, I did a bit of part time teaching and taught hypnobirthing in the evenings. As they grew and started school, I was able to dedicate more and more time to training and working as a hypnotherapist.
My Wombservice practice was doing really well at the beginning of the year and I’m lucky that my work can easily be done online so I was able to switch to virtual appointments and have remained really busy throughout lockdown. In fact, I now have clients from as far away as South Africa as we all get more comfortable with taking things online.
I’m super proud of my Trance for Menopause programme and the simple techniques that I’ve developed to support women with the physical and emotional issues that menopause can throw up. Menopause is a subject I’m really passionate about. It feels like one of the last taboos in women’s health. We are getting better at supporting pregnant women and new mums, but there is still little education and support in the mainstream around menopause. Armed often with only a few horror stories of hot flushes and bad tempers, many women are showing up at midlife unprepared and frightened.
Lockdown 1.0 was okay for us. I realise that not everyone was so lucky. My husband already works from home and my work was easily adapted to working from home. The kids were amazing – they’re pretty good in a crisis and really embraced a spirit of adventure and comradery. One daughter became house chef, the other took care of everyone’s home-schooling needs – including emailing work to teachers for us. My son embarked on a series of bizarre experiments and we all took it in turns to entertain each other with virtual days out. Somewhere, in amongst it all, my husband and I managed to keep our work going and my business really thrived throughout. The kids were – and still are – super respectful and quiet when I have clients.
The second lockdown has been harder in a way. It’s not novel anymore. We’re all a bit bored. The kids were still going to school. I still went to college twice a week. It’s just the fun stuff and the people we’re closest to that we can’t do or see.
I have worked with a lot of people around anxiety and stress – a lot of health anxiety, understandably. Many of my fertility clients have had to deal with extra stresses such as delayed IVF. On the flip side, I think that some people have found more flexibility in working from home which has allowed them to think more about their wellbeing and seek support where maybe they would have felt too busy before. It helps to be able to just click a button a be able to beam your therapist into your living room.
Stress will always trigger the body’s defence system. Seen on a continuum, our bodies range from a state of hypervigilance and absolute alertness to one of absolute tranquillity and calm. Whilst the Fight or Flight response rallies the body to fuel a rapid retreat or a physical attack (not really the most helpful response for most Covid related stressors), the Relaxation Response utilises those valuable resources for general repairs and ‘house-keeping’ in the body. When we operate in the stress response for protracted periods of time, it can take a toll on our physical, emotional and mental health.
I’m a big believer that the tough stuff is where we do most of our learning and growing. As we move into 2021, it can be helpful to reflect on the strength and resilience that you’ve shown, perhaps lessons that you have learned and maybe even some positives that have come from this very challenging year.
Five simple things:
1. Reach out and stay connected to loved ones. I think we are all missing connecting with our wider circle. Meeting up for walks, virtual coffee catch ups and phone chats are keeping me going.
2. Create some variety in your day/week. Have some little treats to look forward to: order a cocktail delivery, get a take away from your favourite restaurant or get a bit of a pamper day going at home.
3. If you find yourself with more time on your hands, think about things that you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time for. Take a class online, pick up a new hobby (or an old one), read, redecorate…
4. Monitor your thoughts. Make sure they are compassionate and honest. Don’t catastrophize. When we imagine future scenarios, the same neural pathways light up that would if they were really happening. In essence, you create the experience of the catastrophe you imagine, along with all the emotions that come with it.
5. Be kind to yourself in every way you possibly can. You deserve it. It’s been a tough year!