A recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development states that stress is for the first time the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual employees. Paul Levrant of Hypnowellness knows more about managing stress than most. He helps people deal with that stress and anxiety using hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy and aims to give them a set of tools for helping them to cope with everyday situations. Workingmums.co.uk spoke to him.
A recent report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development states that stress is for the first time the most common cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual employees.
Paul Levrant of Hypnowellness knows more about managing stress than most. He helps people deal with that stress and anxiety using hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy and aims to give them a set of tools for helping them to cope with everyday situations.
Paul has first-hand experience of work-related stress. He used to be in the import business and was a major supplier of accessories to a huge range of stores, including those owned by retail giant Arcadia. “I spent half the year in China and half in the UK. The pressure was insane,” he says. “People used to get hysterical if a product was late. I remember having a stand-up row with a buyer and telling them that no-one ever died because a handbag was late. There was increasing pressure to get cheaper and cheaper goods so we had to go further and further to less well regulated factories. There comes a point where it becomes ridiculous. I became incredibly anxious and ended up seeking help.”
Paul says he was sitting with a therapist and he wondered how hard it could be to do the therapist’s job. The therapist encouraged him to try it. He already had an interest in hypnotherapy and had met and befriended leading hypnotherapist and psychologist Dr David Waxman by coincidence many years before. “I learnt a lot from him, but it was not until I started to study that it all made sense to me,” he says.
Paul says he realised that hypnotherapy “sat well” with him. “I got it and I looked forward to going to work. I could do it and have a good impact on others. It was worthwhile.”
He threw himself into his training and finished it in half the usual time it takes to qualify. It covered both cognitive behavioural therapy and neuro linguistic programming. “These methods are about dealing with the here and now, about changing behaviour rather than dealing only with the subconscious,” he says. “The aim is to get people to take control of their lives and become their own therapists. I give them the tools they need so they can live and thrive completely independently.”
Paul switched careers some years ago and has not looked back. He didn’t specialise at first, but gradually he began attracting more and more people with anxiety-based problems. He also began to get interested in weight loss which he had covered in his training. He began to study traditional and the many commercial approaches to weight loss. He says that most diets are “designed to fail” and says medical approaches such as fitting a gastric band “miss the point” because they do not deal with people’s behaviour or cravings.
“People can come out of their operations with the same desires like a craving for biscuits and an emotional connection to them,” he says. He recalls one woman who had a band fitted so her stomach capacity was limited, but she still craved chocolate so she would blend it and eat only that. “She was basically dying of malnutrition,” he says. “It’s crazy paying thousands for a person to have an operation which might mean she ends up more ill than she had been before.”
He started thinking of a behaviourist approach which built on the attraction of organisations like Weightwatchers with its sense of structure and belonging; and eventually developed the Hypnodieting Programme. His programme provides a step by step personalised guide to weight loss and includes homework and a personal CD delivered within a fixed number of sessions. He says it is getting fantastic results. He has started training other therapists to be consultants and is associated with a training school in London. He would like to work with the NHS and is trying to agree a trial so that he can measure its cost effectiveness.
Paul says dealing with weight problems has similarities with tackling self esteem issues, which he also treats. “It’s about looking after yourself, taking care of yourself and loving yourself,” he says.
He adds that lack confidence and self esteem can have a particularly detrimental effect on those who are looking for jobs. He says it is about how you attract respect. “If you go to an interview for a job, you need to be aware of how your body language shows that you care about yourself. If you do not show that you are special to yourself, how can you convince someone else you are special and they need to hire you?” he says.
Paul says most of his weight loss clients are women, but those he treats for anxiety and stress are more evenly balanced between men and women. Many are parents who are having to juggle work and family issues and working long hours. They take work home with them and feel guilty about their family. “They feel they are doing nothing satisfactorily,” he says. “They are falling between two stools and their anxiety levels go up as a result and their ability to cope goes down.”
Paul says it is vital to reach these people before they burn out. He is keen to help companies realise the signs of burn out so they can tackle it before it is too late and a member of staff is signed off sick for months. He now heads Hypnowellness Corporate which provides stress audits for company employees and delivers tailored solutions to minimize staff absenteeism due to stress-related conditions.
He says stress and anxiety is getting worse due to the economic situation and people’s perception that they have to work harder and longer hours. Many people also put pressure on themselves to be perfect, he says. “They tend to come to me and say that there is nothing wrong with them, that they just want other people to get off their backs. But if you want to change the way something looks you have to change the way you look at it. You have to deal with the way the world is; not how you would like it to be. It’s about taking a rational decision for your own benefit.”
* Paul Levrant will be writing a series of articles for Workingmums.co.uk offering advice on how to deal with issues such as lack of confidence, anxiety and stress. If you have any questions for him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.