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"This book will make you..." Q&A

(81 Posts)
KatGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 02-Jan-14 09:01:34

Modern life can be tough - constant changes, new technology, more choice, work and financial pressure can all add to our stress levels and affect our mental health. But help is at hand from Dr Jessamy Hibberd and lifestyle journalist Jo Usmar who draw on the latest cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to show how to develop coping strategies and learn practical techniques to tack a range of problems quickly and effectively.

They've put together their advice in a new series of books... This Book Will Make You... Calm / Confident / Happy / Sleep (RRP £7.99 each) but will also be answering gransnetters' questions in an exclusive Q&A.

Add yours before 16 January and we'll pick 10 posters at random to win a copy their book (winners get to choose which of the series they would like).

granfromafar Sun 12-Jan-14 14:20:34

I don't often post on here but feel drawn to do so now! How cleverly Susie511 sums up the situation that many of us find ourselves in. I sometimes feel in a difficult place, being full-time carer to mother with Alzheimer's, having given up a good job to do so. Also, our grandchildren live too far away to help with regular caring - what we would give to be able to help out. Who needs to buy self-help books when they are part of Gransnet? Just post on here and you will be flooded with great advice, some of which may be helpful in your situation, and will definitely raise a smile to boot!

georgiakeogh Wed 15-Jan-14 14:38:07

I've tried CBT myself but have difficulty focussing on what I'm actually reading, let alone getting far enough to put it into practise.

Has anyone found a really good starting points for someone with a bit of a flitty brain?

EmmieH Thu 16-Jan-14 10:06:20

I can sometimes find myself feeling overwhelmed when I have too much on and feel my health plummet during these times. If you could give just one piece of advice on how to best cope during busy periods in life, what would that be?

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:24:31


Without wishing to appear rude, there are so many books with similar themes, and so many resources on the internet, what is it that you think make your books different? Surely if tackling such issues was so simple and straightforward, we would all have sorted it all out by now.

Good question! The fact that there are so many resources – books, magazines, internet articles – was what inspired us to write these books in the first place. How do you know what or who to trust? And if you buy one huge book that promises to solve everything, how will you find the tiny paragraph that’s relevant to what you’re going through? We wrote four straight-forward books that offer immediate advice so you don’t have to get lost in reams of confusing or irrelevant drivel. If you’re stressed or suffer from anxiety you know everything in This Book Will Make You Calm will be pertinent. Our books are based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which follows the belief that your mood, thoughts, physical feelings and behavior are all interlinked. The strategies we recommend offer simple ways to stop negative patterns. Not every article or self-help book out there follows this framework – but it works! Simple changes can make the biggest differences, but often we’re not even aware of what we’re doing. For example, say you’re someone who suffers from low self-esteem. You might not even realise you’re indulging thoughts like, ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘everything always happens to me’ as they’re automatic – whizzing through your head unchecked. Those kind of thoughts will make your mood drop, your body feel tense or sluggish and may influence you to behave in unhelpful ways. CBT will make you aware of those thoughts and give you the tools to challenge them so you don’t let them influence your life so much. Same with your behaviour (staying in, cancelling plans, avoiding tasks, snapping at people etc.) and your physical response to situations or your mood (sweating, tensing, fidgeting, heart racing). By identifying your personal responses you can change them for the better. You don’t have to put up with constant low mood, anxiety, sleep problems or insecurity and our books offer simple strategies to make big changes.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:25:44


I'd really like to find a book that provides a dose of oomph! I seem to be one of life's bystanders, sort-of-content to sit and watch the rest of the world having a career, a social life, hobbies, holidays etc. It's not for the lack of opportunity or resources, just a missing drive of some description. Any suggestions?

Hi Mollie. Don’t worry, you’re absolutely not alone. Lots of people feel life is passing them by, but there is an easy way to get more involved. Start simply by planning to do one thing you enjoy each day. Book it into your diary so it’s more ‘official’ (and you’ll feel less inclined to back out). It could be anything – call a family member or friend, visit the local café, go for a walk in the local park or go to the cinema. This will make you feel more confident about making plans and following them through, motivating you to tackle bigger things you might want to try. After a week or so, write down a longer-term plan, maybe going on holiday as you mentioned. Break down the steps you need to achieve this goal following the SMART guideline: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Specific: where do you want to go? Measurable: Yes, you’ll know you’ve gone when you’re there! Achievable: Can you afford to go where you want to? Do you have time? If not can you choose a different destination that costs less or is available to visit when you’re free? Realistic: E.g. Don’t pick Australia if you’re terrified of flying. Pick somewhere you can get to by train or boat. Timely: When will you go? Pick a date/month. By breaking the plan down it’ll seem more manageable and by ticking off the list as you go along you’ll feel more motivated to continue.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:26:22


I'd like a book that would help me sleep! I get off okay but wake up repeatedly through the night - not just to use the loo! I am always amazed when I look at the clock that is is just after 12, then just after 3, then 5-ish. I am normally fully awake by six o'clock which is ridiculous given that I am retired and no longer need to rise at 6.20 as I did in the old days when I worked. I seem to be worn out all day so any help sleeping would be much appreciated :-)

First up, stop clock watching! It only makes you worried about how little sleep you’re actually getting and then your body gets riled up ensuring you’re physically unable to drop off. Instead, turn your clock around and when you wake up in the night don’t look at it! Tell yourself it’s 2am. Your mind will accept this time as it’s still late, but your body won’t panic because as far as it knows you can still get a few hours’ sleep. Also remember, as we get older we need less sleep so don’t worry that you’re not getting as much as you used to as you’ll no longer need the same amount!

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:27:06


I could do with one each of these books! Like others I have tried the self help books in the past but to no avail. I don't sleep (I mean REALLY don't sleep - I am often awake all night). I think this lack of sleep is probably the reason I sometimes get impatient. I have always lacked confidence and used to rely on DH when in social situations - now I am alone I have to force myself to go out otherwise I would spend the day sitting on the sofa, eating chocolates and crisps and playing around on the laptop!

So do you think I am a hopeless case, why do you think your books are any different from the other self help books I have read, and which one would you recommend? Also, why have so many different books, could you not have included all the problems in one book?

You’re absolutely not a hopeless case! A lack of sleep can affect your life in all manner of ways. First up, it’s great that you’re still going out – staying in and cancelling plans is the worst thing you can do for insecurity and low mood. Keep this up! Social support is so important. Secondly, we wrote four separate books rather than one big fat one so you’ll know that everything in that particular book is pertinent to what you’re going through, rather than having to wade through the large sleep and anxiety sections if you suffer from low self-esteem. There’s some cross-over obviously, but huge self-help books packed with everything and anything can be intimidating, whereas with ours you know exactly what you’re getting throughout. We’d recommend the Confident and Sleep books for you! They’re packed with straight-forward tips that will change both your day-to-day life and your night-to-night life.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:27:47


I would love to know how to be more confident/less anxious/ stress free. At the age of 50 I completed my first formal educational qualification a BSc from the OU, 3 years later I graduated with an MSc in Social work. At the age of 54 I became a newly qualified social worker in a C&F team. I love my job and I knew it would be stressful but never imagined how that would actually translate in real life. I struggle with the thought that I may have entered this demanding profession too late in life but hate to think that the time and effort spent in study may be wasted. Maybe the one on confidence would be most appropriate

Yep, the Confident book will definitely help you to realise and appreciate what an extraordinary thing you’ve achieved! Take a moment to step back and look at what you’ve just written – it’s amazing! The time and effort you’ve spent in study will never be wasted even if you do decide to leave your profession, although take some time before making any kind of big decision. It’s often hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re feeling anxious and stressed. Write down a list of all the good things you’ve done in the last month. (Nope, it’s not at all arrogant to recognise what you’ve achieved – we should all do it a lot more.) Don’t miss anything out: have you helped anyone with a problem? Have you assisted anyone in their work? Have you negotiated a tricky situation? Did you make anyone laugh? Have you helped a friend despite being really busy? Only focus on the good things. By writing them down you’re really taking notice of them and giving them the respect they deserve. It’s easy to get bogged down in negatives without appreciating the positives when you feel overwhelmed. Hopefully seeing everything you’ve achieved will put you in a better frame of mind to decide what you want to do in the future.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:28:42


I'd love help towards becoming more confident and less stressed - my workload at the office seems to be ever increasing, which may be just because I'm not handling it right, and even my assistants bully me.

Sorry to hear you feel bullied – it’s an awful situation to be in. Stress and insecurity are two different beasts however, so it might be worth sitting down and trying to work out whether one is a symptom of the other. For example, is your workload making you feel insecure or is your insecurity making your workload feel insurmountable? It’s a subtle, but crucial difference. The Confident book will show you ways to increase your self-esteem, to feel confident in yourself and in your ability to manage your colleagues better. This in turn will affect how able you feel to delegate work or ask for help with your workload, decreasing your stress levels. The Calm book will show you how to face intimidating tasks efficiently and so minimise anxiety. This will in turn boost your confidence in how well you cope with stress and so you’ll feel able to deal with bullying colleagues better! Decide which is the bigger, more immediate problem - the workload or your low self-esteem - and challenge that one first.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:29:19


I quite like reading these sorts of books though. Not all the time of course (not quite that self-obsessed!) but I do like the idea of self-improvement. Often it's just one clear message that comes out of each of them but it's usually quite useful. I'd love the one on keeping calm. I'm a bit prone to anxiety attacks. Any tips on keeping these under control J &J? They tend to happen when I'm out at a restaurant or somewhere like that. Had to walk out on my DS's birthday dinner once which I felt awful about.

It’s important to remember that the physical symptoms you experience when you have an anxiety attack are completely normal (as uncomfortable as they feel!). The accelerated breathing, racing heart and sweating are not something to panic about as they’re all part of your fight or flight response – a natural physical response to a ‘threat’ (whether that threat is real or imaginary doesn’t matter, the response will be the same). If you start worrying about these physical symptoms, your anxiety increases further and it becomes a vicious cycle. Try to distract yourself from the symptoms (remove yourself from the room, sit down and take deep relaxing breaths – there are lots of relaxation techniques in This Book Will Make You Calm) and remind yourself that it is just part of anxiety and your body is just doing what it’s programmed to do. If the anxiety attacks are making your life difficult, think about seeing your GP and asking for a referral, but CBT is an effective treatment for this.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:29:59


A self help book that can 'make you happy' seems a tall order. Happiness comes in so many different guises and is arguably the hardest state to achieve. How do you set about achieving happiness, and is it a continuing process?

You’re right - being happy all the time would be a tall order. We are built to experience a range of emotions and it’s totally normal to experience them all. Also, as you say, what makes people happy varies considerably! However, you can do things to feel happier more of the time. For example, making sure you plan activities into your week that you enjoy, being grateful and appreciating the things you have (a great strategy is to write down three good things that happened to you at the end of every day – we explain this more fully in the answer to Saoirse on this thread), any form of exercise (even walking) and social support (seeing friends or family) are all proven to lift your mood and guard against depression.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:30:26


i like the sound of these books esp the one on sleep. Have you done trials on people to see what works?

All our books are ‘evidence-based’, which means that they are based on the latest research and studies so the strategies and tips are proven to work. I (Jessamy) also work as a Clinical Psychologist and use these techniques to treat the patients I work with so have first-hand experience of their effectiveness.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:30:55


i'm with you MindfulGrandma and I'm offering tips about it to my son who is going through a very tricky time in his relationship with his partner. I get anxious about things sometimes, as we all do and it gets out of control and leads to depression with me (two elderly parents both with dementia living together at home and my husband and I the only carers at present) but I was on anti depressants for 14 years and have now almost come off them (awful cold turkey) so I haven't got that prop and I needed a way of coping with the anxiety and that's when I found mindfulness/meditation. Visualisation is also very good. But in bed when I can't sleep I do a breathing exercise where I imagine I breathe in through a hole in th stop of my head, take the breath right down through my body and out through the soles of my feet then inhale back up through the soles of my feet and out through the top of my head and so on. I find just doing that for a few breaths really calms me down. I got it from a mindfulness/meditation book with cd. It's a distraction technique really but makes you breathe more deeply which in itself is a physical calming tool.

Any tips like the above are very very helpful and can be life lines when you're going through stressful times. I'm open to any good ones!

Mindfulness is a great technique – it helps you become present in the moment and focus outwards rather than inwards. You have to tune into your senses, becoming engaged in what you’re doing and absorbed into the world around you rather than stuck in your head. Taking notice of where you are and what you’re doing is such a simple way of unwinding and it really works. Here are some other ways to be mindful:

Look at everything around you and then concentrate on a specific detail – the texture of a woman’s jacket, the colours around you, what the shops that you’re walking past sell.
Listen - take notice of everything you can hear and try to work out where the sounds are coming from and what they are. Or listen to music, paying attention to the lyrics or trying to identify different instruments, changes in pace, etc.
Feel - keep something in your pocket that has a specific texture – like wood or wool. Touch it and talk yourself through how it feels, using it as a prompt to remind yourself to concentrate on the world around you, rather than your thoughts.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:31:37


I would certainly be interested in the happy book
Not that I am not 'happy' but I have noticed that I am getting more anxious as the years roll on and I have no real reason to be, and do not live as much in the moment as I should.
I would like to nip these habits in the bud, toxic thoughts I think one gransnetter has called them in other posts.
A close member of my family has benefitted from CBT in the past so I know it is a very useful practise.

Over the next week think of three good things that happen to you every day and write them down in your notebook before you go to sleep. It could be that someone opened the door for you, or the bus driver saw you running and waited, you really enjoyed a mug of tea in your favourite mug. It can be anything! Just think of them and write them down. Also reflect on why they happened. This is the most important bit. It’s up to you to determine why things happen and to find the positives in them. For example, you might decide the bus driver waited for you because you smiled at him or just because he’s a nice guy. These reasons will make you see the world – and by reflection yourself – in a more positive light. Paying attention to happier things (by writing them down) is a simple way to lift your mood and allow positive thoughts and emotions in. People who appreciate what they have see reasons to be grateful for what happens to them, look on the bright side and tend to be happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Studies show that gratitude can increase levels of well-being amongst those who cultivate it. Feeling grateful yourself and expressing appreciation to others will make you feel more energetic, optimistic and empathetic. People who undertook this strategy for just one week reported feeling happier up to six months later so there’s no reason to stop after one week if it’s working for you. Build it into your daily routine and you’ll quickly notice a lift in your mood.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:32:03


Hello ladies. I am one of the many ladies of a certain age who finds herself stuck in the sandwich generation. I am a wife, a grandma (and part time carer to my three young grandchildren aged 7, 5 and 4). I have a very sick mum who relies on me quite a lot for shopping and hospital visits (and more often than not entertainment too), a depressed dad (see previous) and an almost 98 year old grandma (see previous times by 100 and then add some).
My husband and I run a small engineering company between us and I very rarely have a minute to call my own. I am sleeping very badly and always have a million things running through my mind which all seem to come to a head in the early hours. I know that I cannot change my situation and would like to learn how to relax and sleep better. I have no problem falling asleep and do so as soon as my head hits the pillow but more often than not I wake up after only a couple of hours with my mind racing and seem to lie there hour after hour unable to go back to sleep. Any advice would be most welcome. Thank you.

If you’ve always thought about and assessed your day while in bed, you’ll automatically start to do it as soon as you lie down. To stop this pattern you need to give yourself time to reflect before you’re lying in bed. Processing what happened, how you felt and what you thought about it is very important. It offers perspective on a situation, a broader view and some clarity. You’re basically tidying up your brain and giving yourself a chance to solve problems and move forward. By building space for this into your day rather than during your sleep time at night you’re going to be more focused, less tired and won’t allow it to interrupt your sleep patterns. Set aside fifteen minutes each day (in the evening is probably best) when you can concentrate on thinking about the things you’d normally go over at night. Write them down so they’re not just tied up in your head. If it’s helpful make it into a to-do list and prioritise the tasks in order of importance. Ensure you tick things off as you complete them to make you feel motivated. Schedule the fifteen-minute slot in your diary so it’s ‘official’ and you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Seeing things written down will give you a distance from them and enable you to sort through them analytically rather than emotionally. Rather than avoiding thinking about difficulties you’re being constructive and this will make you feel calmer and less stressed.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:32:40


I wish I could stop always going into worst case scenario mode about almost everything; I've reached the stage where I feel any optimistic/positive thoughts are unlucky and as long as I'm worrying nothing bad will actually happen [the worry is my hair shirt/penance]. Also realise that post Christmas blues are linked to eating too much. Had eating problems when I was younger [never up to anorexia levels thank goodness] but still feel that eating [or not eating] is a form of control and I only feel happy when I'm eating well. I can [and do] laugh at myself for it, so it doesn't take over my life, but I still wish I could break the mould somehow. I know exactly what to say to someone else that's having negative thoughts, but can't do it myself!

Many people like you feel that worrying will prevent bad things happening – this isn’t true! Thoughts DO NOT have magical powers – they can’t influence events either positively or negatively. Thinking about winning the lottery isn’t going to increase your chances of scooping the jackpot just as thinking about closing that door isn’t going to make it close. It’s important to remember this the next time you find yourself worrying about the outcome of something – it’s what you do that counts. It sounds like you’re good at giving other people advice so next time you’re struggling with something, think to yourself, ‘What would I advise a friend to do now?’ Then try putting that advice into practice. Even if you don’t feel like it, just give it a go. If it can work for your friends, it can work for you.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:33:05


I Lead a very busy life like most folks today, part-time job, Grandchildren to childmind. I also fit in time to exercise and look after myself physically, watch that I eat as healthy as possible, try to manage the effects of onset of Menopause so why? why?why? when my head finally hits the pillow (silk of course to help bedhead hair and prevent wrinkles), freshly laundered sheets, light supper, dark room, warm bath, quiet meditation does the brain switch into the whirly swirly dance around mode with thoughts and worries popping up from nowhere to be tossed about for hours before sleep finally pays a visit??

Establish a firm rule with yourself that the next time negative thoughts dance through your head when you’re in bed you’ll tell yourself, ‘This is not the time. ’ Your bed is for sleeping, not worrying. Just as you now have an allotted time for worrying (you can use worry time in the day as described above for Gillybob), when you’re in bed that’s your allotted time for sleeping – and the times shouldn’t overlap. Whenever you catch yourself stressing or worrying throughout the day, tell yourself you’ll come back to the worry at the specified time and then immediately focus your mind back onto the current task. Be strict with yourself on postponing these thoughts – don’t let your mind wander into these now time-limited zones. It’s become a habit to go over and over the things that are stressing you out, so by postponing them you can build a new, more healthy habit.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:33:42


One of my problems is that I can do 'what if ...?' so much better than 'oh for goodness sake, so what .....?' scenarios, if you know what I mean. So comforting to know that I am not the only person in the country beset by anxiety over most things. I think, too, I must have missed my vocation as a world class actress because I know I give the impression of confidence personified. Friends are always saying how well I cope and how organised and sensible I am. Hah! If only they knew the wimp that's really me. And ten to three in the morning is quite the worst time to try to resolve any problem, real or imagined - and mostly my problems are imagined. The real problem is that I have many blessings (and that's a contradiction in terms!) but can't seem to appreciate how really lucky I am. I do try though!

‘What ifs’ are when you dwell on potential problems that don’t exist yet – you’re imagining worst-case scenarios that you’ll most likely never have to deal with and the worst part is that worrying about a possible future event triggers exactly the same response in your body as if it’s actually happened. You’re so busy picturing the worst-case scenario that you’re living through those emotions – the panic and fear of things going very wrong. It’s important not to let yourself indulge ‘what if’s as it’s not achieving anything except making you feel more anxious. You can stop the cycle by distracting yourself from the thought – by doing something different you aren’t giving the thought any attention and it can’t take hold. Try reading a book, doing a puzzle, listen to music, phone a friend or go out for a walk – anything that will distract you. Also, make a conscious effort instead to focus on thoughts you can control. So rather than, ‘What if I have an argument with my friend tomorrow over the concert I can’t go to?’ becomes ‘I’ll say sorry I can’t go to the concert, but be firm about my decision’.

DrJessamyandJo Tue 21-Jan-14 14:35:08

Thanks so much for all your questions, we hope you find our answers helpful! It sounds like some of you have had a particularly difficult time recently and we'd suggest seeing your GP to chat things through if you feel you need more support.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 21-Jan-14 14:36:21

And a reminder that the series This Book will make you… Calm, Confident, Happy, Sleep by Dr Jessamy Hibberd and Jo Usmar is published by Quercus, £7.99 each.

mollie Tue 21-Jan-14 14:44:40

Thank you, I'll give it a go! smile

Granny23 Tue 21-Jan-14 15:23:09

I am usually pretty sceptical about self help books with their hints and tips but having read through the questions and replies I have found a great deal that makes sense to me and one or two techniques that I will definitely try.

Thank you Jessamy and Jo smile flowers flowers

Lorianne Fri 24-Jan-14 11:03:20

Your books sound just what I need at the moment. I was 'decluttering' the other day and came acoss a Winnie the Pooh Birthday Book. It has quotes and the E.H. Shepard illustrations. One page that struck me was this:

(Illustration: Pooh and Piglet are walking through a strong gale.)

"Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"

"Supposing it didn't," said Pooh after careful thought.

Piglet was comforted by this.

Lorianne Fri 24-Jan-14 11:09:15

This my first (second) post so flowers and sunshine to all fellow GNs.

Tegan Sat 25-Jan-14 16:24:20

Lorianne; You've just made me realise that I've got a book called 'Pooh and the Psychologists' which I've never actually read. Have dug it out to read.