Reflections of a Hypno-Pharmacist

I already know that my pharmacy background makes me somewhat unique as a hypnotherapist; I bring my science knowledge to what can be thought of as a somewhat ‘ethereal’ therapy, and make it understandable, grounded in science, and evidenced.

But what I hadn’t appreciated until recently was how I bring my therapist’s skill set into my work as a pharmacist.

I had really cut down my pharmacy work as my hypnotherapy clinic had expanded, and as I had started lecturing in hypnotherapy, too.

However, demand for healthcare workers, including locum pharmacist, has soared in recent weeks with the declaration of the Covid19 pandemic and the introduction of stricter isolation rules, so I have been working much more in pharmacies.

As you might imagine, stress & tensions are high, emotional concerns and fears for their safety are escalated among the pharmacy teams and there is genuine pressure from patients and other healthcare workers.

Being able to draw on my knowledge of how the brain works in a stress situation and, perhaps more importantly, how to calm it, has been invaluable both for me, and the teams I work with.

The truth is that humans, while able to invent amazing technology and exist in the complicated socially constructed world we’ve created, are, biologically speaking, still part cavemen. The primitive regions that still exist deep within our brain, far below the surface of that evolved ‘grey matter’ remain unchanged, even now in the 21st century and exist to this day, with the sole purpose to warn us of danger.

In the setting they were designed for danger was tangible, sharp toothed and predatory, and fighting it, outrunning it or just hiding from it were legitimate options, which is why the response of those regions is to flood our physical body with huge amounts of adrenaline, and cortisol, boosting our metabolism, enabling us to escape, or become temporarily violent, strong enough to fight to the death.

Sabre toothed cats and giant cave bears are, mercifully, rare these days; but we retain the ability to turn on that primitive response in response to what that unintelligent part of our brain sees as ‘danger’ or ‘threat’.

In these pandemic days, ‘threat’ has been reinterpreted as being open to infection by this novel Coronavirus, running out of toilet roll or hand sanitiser, or being unable to collect your prescription right now.

And sadly, my pharmacy teams and I have been on the receiving end of that heightened threat response, facing anger, verbal abuse, and aggression.

So how, as a hypnotherapist, has my approach allowed me to cope better?

In my therapy room, I work with my clients to improve their awareness of the small everyday positives – the positive interactions we have with others, the positive actions they take to feel better about themselves and their ability to cope, and by encouraging them to focus more on the positive thoughts that run through their brains during the day.

Recognising these positives causes the release within the intellectual cortex of the brain of neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and others – that make us feel good, and enable us to stay in rational control of our behaviour, by activating the part of our brain that is the newer, evolved and intellectual (non caveman) part.

But we all know that at the moment, we are not all being rational, or fully in control of our behaviour.

We are all worried.

Worried for our own health, worried for those we love, worried about finances, worried that in our work we are putting ourselves at real risk, with minimum protection available to us, worried about how long we will need to take these extra precautions at work and in our lives for. 

My deliberate focus when I’ve been working as a locum pharmacist, has been to support the teams I work with to recognise as many of these little positives as they can, as few and far between as they might seem. A cup of tea, a word of appreciation from a grateful customer, our favourite song playing on the radio, noticing the sun on our lunch break, or simply being grateful for the fact that we are able to go to work and earn money.

I make a conscious choice to model this gratitude for the small wins and make sure that I give compliments, share smiles and diffuse tension, negotiating between staff and patients and making sure everyone gets some mental downtime, even if just for a cuppa.

The neurotransmitters released by acknowledging all these mini-moments means that we are better able to engage the incredible intellect we have spent years evolving, that convoluted grey cortex that holds our experiences and creativity.

The part of our brain that makes us incontrovertibly human.

The part of our brain that can rationalise our worries a bit better.

The part of our brain that can be empathic, realising that the apoplectic shouting customer is probably scared and anxious, and that his anger isn’t aimed at us personally, but at the situation.

The part of our brain that is flexible and able to come up with a plan B, to resolve conflict and problem solve.

The part of our brain that is socially conscious and can paste a smile onto our face to diffuse the complex mix of emotions and stay polite.

The part of our brain that recognises the genuine safety concerns involved in face to face contact at the moment, but makes an assessment that it is part of the essential service we offer as an integral part of the front facing NHS and helps us step up, despite our own fear.

The part of our brain that knows how to deal with all of the above situations, and come back into work day after day.

I am very proud to be part of the NHS and to be able to support such an important service at a time of unprecedented challenges, keeping people well, reassured, preventing day to day health challenges so that they can stay out of hospital and safe.

I am proud to play my part in ensuring staff working under such difficult circumstances have as good a day as I can manage, and are able to cope with the very real demands of dealing with the public right now.

And I am very proud that I can bring the two elements of my working life so closely together so that both my job roles are better for the input of the other!

About the Author: Claire Noyelle practices from her tranquil garden therapy room at her home in Bearsted, Maidstone East, in the heart of the garden county of Kent. Claire is a member of the Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapists, National Council for Hypnotherapy and the Complimentary and Natural Healthcare Council and a member of both the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

If you would like to explore how hypnotherapy can help you to reduce anxiety and worry during this time get in touch to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist. Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Somerset.

Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are all recognised by the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the UK’s leading not-for-profit hypnotherapy professional association.

To find out how you can train as a solution focused hypnotherapist click here for our hypnotherapy school information