A Heart-Led Approach to Overcoming Stress, Anxiety and the Dangers of Technology: Strategies for Students and Educators Alike, with Founder of Elements Hypnotherapy, Amy Solon: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?

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Ludo Millar 1:37
Hello, and welcome listeners to the 127th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, the host of this podcast Welcome back to regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to the Qualified Tutor Podcast. And of course, a very warm welcome to our guest today. Amy Solon, Amy, welcome to the podcast.

Amy Solon 2:51
Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

Ludo Millar 2:54
That’s our pleasure, really it is. Amy is a hypnotherapist and parenting coach and one of a small number of specialists in the UK teaching and practising a special method called The Goulding Process and otherwise known as Sleeptalk®. If you’ve heard of that before, then great and if you haven’t, then I’m sure we’ll discover a bit more about what that means and what that entails for specialists over the next 25 minutes or so. Now Amy is a former primary school teacher in Northern Ireland but currently resides in the, as we were just discussing, beautiful, Dalgety Bay just north of Edinburgh in Scotland. And when we first spoke, Amy had just come out of a wonderful Edinburgh Fringe Festival performance and was regaling me with tales of past performances that have had an impact on on her and her family including her daughter. Now, no pressure, this time around, Amy, to regale our listeners with similar tales, now that we’re on air. But I’m delighted to be welcoming someone to the podcast with such experience in the lives, minds and experiences of the children and adults she works with. And really, as I’m sure you’ll come to understand, listeners, has such a passion for helping others. Now, Amy, it’s really great to have you on. I wanted to ask: what’s giving you reason to smile today, Amy?

Amy Solon 4:17
Oh gosh, what’s giving me a reason to smile today? I’m looking at the sky, it’s a little bit grey. But it’s raining and rain bizarrely reminds me of oh, because I’m from the west coast of Ireland where it rains 360 days a year maybe, I’m feeling nostalgic. I like the rain. But yeah, you know, we’ve had a lovely summer and as I was just saying to you before we started this podcast, I’ve slipped back very nicely into a work routine unusually. After a weekend away or a week away, I find it hard to get my head back into gear. I don’t feel like I’m there today, I just feel very motivated and focused. So that’s making me smile.

Ludo Millar 5:05
Perhaps because you knew you had such an important conversation coming up?

Amy Solon 5:08
Absolutely. I’ve been thinking about you all day, Ludo. [LAUGHS]

Ludo Millar 5:09
You wouldn’t be the first podcast guest … [LAUGHS] No, Amy, I wonder if you were able to gather any tales from your school days. I know lots of guests have have been able to come up with tales from their past, tales from their teacher of what they were like as a child, what they were like as a school kid. Do you have any kind of memories of any patterns or threads that you remember from school teachers giving you feedback as a child?

Amy Solon 5:49
Yes. When I first started thinking about what came into my mind, I was quite a good girl in school, I wasn’t much of a troublemaker really. Well, I don’t think I was, maybe I was. I think I’ll reflect on that later. But I used to always get in trouble for sneaking my library books into school and reading them under the table. And there was one teacher in particular, Mrs. Gilmore, she said, ‘Amy, put that book away. We’re doing maths or we’re doing geography or we’re doing whatever’. And I’d put it away for a minute, but then I’d get back just because I couldn’t wait to read what would happen next. And I really remember at the end of the school year and the school report, her feedback was that I realised halfway through the year that you weren’t being a bold girl, that you just loved reading so much, that kind of sums me up. I still devour books, and I always have a book in my bag. I don’t have- I’ve forgotten what they’re called. Kindle. I don’t have a Kindle, there has to be a proper paper book that I can feel and smell. I love libraries. I love book shops. I’m surrounded, you can’t see it. But I’m surrounded by books. Yeah, so that’s probably one of my main memories from school that probably sums me up quite well.

Ludo Millar 7:24
A conscientious and very hardworking student, I imagine. I’m sure that’s the teacher’s dream is to have students who just cannot stop reading. So, I mean, Amy, I wonder if that love of reading has kind of directed or at least led the way for what you do now. I mean, obviously, your role at the moment is not a writer but it certainly involves a lot of research and a lot of understanding. The reason behind why the children or adults you work with act and behave like they do. I’ve just wondered is that, what do you think is your why then, Amy? I mean, why do you think you do what you do now?

Amy Solon 8:18
Yeah, well, certainly in relation to your first remark. I’m a storyteller. That’s what I do. Whether I’m working with children, or whether I’m working with adults, I’m using stories. I’m telling stories, whether that’s my own experiences, whether it’s when I work with children, particularly when they’re not necessarily because adults love stories as well. The children’s writer within me is creating these ideas, these tales, these stories with morals, these stories with lessons to be learned. And at my very core, I am a storyteller. I love writing. I always have done and yeah, that definitely has led into my why. I remember in primary school, that question that teachers or even parents or adults ask: ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. I remember so clearly telling a teacher that I wanted to fix people’s problems. I have refined that view today. I’m more about solution-finding and facilitating the process rather than fixing these days. But it definitely, absolutely led me to where I am today.

I graduated with my degree in psychology, postgrad qualifications and teaching, coaching, hypnotherapy, different parenting approaches, amongst lots of other things, and my why has always- I’m very heart-led in what I do, I have to have a very fundamental belief in both the process that I’m working with and my principles. That’s very, very important to me.

Ludo Millar 10:06
Yeah, almost your why is helping other people find their why.

Amy Solon 10:09
Yes. Exactly.

Ludo Millar 10:10
In a nice kind of roundabout way. I think that’s amazing, Amy. And just touching on youngsters there that you mentioned, I mean, stress and anxiety are two kind of broad fields, which you work in. And they have always played a large role in education, but perhaps over the last couple of years have played an unfortunately even greater role in our education system. Can you give us a bit of an insight into the physiology of stress and anxiety? What does it really look and feel like for for children?

Amy Solon 10:48
Yeah, sure. Gosh, there’s so many different ways to explain it, I suppose. I like going back to that storytelling. I like analogies, I like metaphors. And I often use the example of a smoke alarm. We have an inbuilt smoke alarm, essentially, that is alerting us to the dangers that are around us, whatever that might be. It’s a very important system, it’s there to keep us safe, commonly known as a ‘fight or flight’ amongst other things. But many of your listeners I’m sure will have heard of that ‘fight or flight’ response, which is that cascade of chemicals, adrenaline, cortisol, etc, that enable a person to, I suppose, fight in a situation or flee from the situation. I talk often about the times of our ancestors and sabre-toothed tigers, where the fight or flight gave us those chemicals to either spear that tiger or flee from the situation. And then you have those long periods of rest in between the peaks and troughs of stress, I suppose the time has moved on, [but] our physiology hasn’t necessarily; it’s still a very good inbuilt system. But I feel that it’s firing too often and too frequently. And we’re often not seeing the tigers are there, but we don’t see them.

That might be in the place of you know, technology, I feel that we never have the chance to switch off. We’re constantly on the alert because we’re getting pings, notifications. We’re getting, you know, all these horror stories through the media, through different media apps and so on. Emails coming in, WhatsApp notifications, text messages, not being able to switch off, irrespective really of your age, life is becoming more stressful. And that smoke alarm, that internal anxiety system is just firing more frequently. And I suppose what I do is work with people to just dial it down a little bit, to soothe it a little bit too. We don’t want to eliminate it because it serves such an important function but we want to create an environment where we’re, I suppose, responding rather than reacting to the many numerous triggers that we have in our life on a daily basis. You know, those tigers that were few and far between are now very, very frequent and not always visible. I often use the phrase with clients: if the brain can think it, it can scare you with it. And that’s often what anxiety is, it’s thinking about what might happen because the fact is that we don’t know what’s around the corner, what’s down the path and even if the absolute worst thing were to happen, which usually let’s face it, it doesn’t, the chances are we would have the tools, the resources to cope and certainly cope better than we would think we would do.

Ludo Millar 14:00
Absolutely. I love that phrase: if the brain can think it can scare you with it. I mean, that can be such a handy method for overcoming or for helping your clients overcome the anxiety as it starts to descend. I wonder then, I mean turning from the student or the child to the teacher, the tutor or the educator, how can, in that place of work, how can educators overcome stress and anxiety? Is it the same way that children can in their lives?

Amy Solon 14:41
Yeah, it’s a really interesting one because I find that I started, within my hypnotherapy work, I started working with adults and then progressed later on to working with children. But certainly the tools are the same. And I think I’ve said to you before, for instance, I don’t have a smartphone, I do have one, but it’s only my husband’s old phone that is used on the wifi. So it’s here at home. And I don’t have it out and about because it’s not linked up to a number. So I’m not getting constant notifications, because I know that I did have one for a while, but it just mentally didn’t work for me, because I was never switching off. So I often think that that’s maybe even just have a little break for an hour or even half an hour from having the phone and maybe just looking at what’s around because we can get so engrossed in what might happen, what could happen, but we miss a lot of those things that are going on around us.

So I think for anybody, whether you’re an educator, or whether you’re just not getting those moments that feed your soul in some way. So I often talk about and everybody is different and I would never, ever claim that what I do is the, you know, the panacea or the best approach for everybody, but I start my day, I’ve got two little children, they are 4 and 6, I start my day, I get up before everybody else. And I go to my back garden, rain or shine with a cup of tea. And I sit in the back garden and listen to the birds, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes. But that’s my time for me. And then if the rest of the day is go, go, go go go, I can handle that. Because I know I’ve had those first few moments in the day. And sometimes it’s longer than others. Sometimes I get a full half an hour. But I have those moments just to really, I let myself relax to notice what’s going on. Because I think we can miss so much. And even tuning into our senses, I like sitting out in my backyard and I sit in my chair, I just take a few moments to breathe in, notice the fresh air, I’m lucky enough to live close to the sea, so I can often smell the sea salt. [I can] notice what I’m smelling. What am I hearing? Often you hear the birds around you, I’ve got two little squirrels that fight on the fence behind me. So they’re often squabbling. Notice what I’m seeing. And for me, it’s the trees that are surrounding me. And it just enables me to really ground into nature. And I can feel my nervous system beginning to relax.

But there are so many different ways to do that. For some people, it’s going out for a run. For some people, it’s sitting in a coffee shop with a book. For other people, it’s going to the library or you know, there’s no right or wrong. The other thing that I love doing is sea swimming, because that’s where I feel I’m so insignificant in this huge body of water and this tiny little person and everything feels so insignificant to me. But I think taking that time out, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. And I think we can all find 5 minutes that are just about what we need, whatever that is just away from the pings that enable us to forget about it. Because Gosh, I will spend the rest of the day I’m spending the rest of my day looking at my emails, and oh gosh, I forgot to do this or I need to arrange that. So I know that having those few moments, the beginning of the day just sets me up in the right frame.

The other thing that I think can be really helpful. And actually I just brought it along because it’s a really nice thing to do, I use this little stone, you can use any stone and we just have this little palm stone that we use in our house. And at the end of the day, we pass the palm stone around between me and my children, my husband joins in if he’s around and just talk about the things that were good about the day, the things that were nice, the things that we appreciated, the things that we were grateful for. Because that sense of gratitude, I feel is so important. I am probably quite a grateful person, actually, by my very nature. But I noticed that when I’m in that practice of gratitude, that I’m actively looking for more things that make me feel grateful, because there’s so much that I am thankful for.

And I think it’s priming your brain to search for more, essentially the scientific term is the reticular activating system. And if you feed your brain a certain focus, the more you focus on that thing, the more your brain will give you essentially. And if you focus on all the stuff that’s going wrong, well that’s what your brain thinks you want to understand and see. So it gives you that, whereas you can if you change your focus, and we can focus often times on the problem that when we do focus on the solution or the nice things, well we can start carving that new way of perception, perceiving the world and perceiving the good things that are going on for us.

Ludo Millar 20:27
What a beautiful little message, Amy, I’m sure that that is a really very productive activity. I think, listeners who are tuning in here, you know, with those of you who have children, I think that that can be a wonderful activity to bring into the end of the day, even if it’s just a moment where you talk about how you feel that day, you know, even if the gratitude part is not something your children align with or it’s not something they understand to begin with, I think just the act of talking as a minimum is really beneficial and then you can move onto the gratitude thing and I’ve heard that lots of times that you’re living that gratitude and being very purposeful about that. And actually, when, perhaps this ties in a little bit maybe not directly but indirectly, Amy, with this beautiful story about your daughter, you told me last time you spoke being being really engrossed in something so simple as a leaf that she picked up off the floor. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about how that tale ties in with technology and focus in today’s world?

Amy Solon 21:45
Yeah, absolutely. I watched my, I watch both my girls, but my younger daughter particularly she is so caught up in the moment. And it is such an absolute pleasure to watch and I really learned so much simply by observing her because I think I can like so many other people get caught down rabbit holes of worry and to-do lists and what ifs and so on that like I was saying earlier on, you know, half the things we worry about it’s such a pointless exercise. What’s in your control? What can you do about it if you can’t do anything, put the worry aside and move on to the next thing, I know easier said than done of course, it’s often times easier said than done but I watched my little girl who just turned 4 in July and I was watching her I can’t remember where we were last week but she does this in every activity she’s involved in but yeah, she was just following this leaf and she was just so engrossed in this leaf. This leaf was the most magical thing I could have given her, I don’t know the latest gadget I’m not really into gadgets [LAUGHS] so my brain is racking for something cool and I don’t know I’m not a techie so yeah, this leaf was the most amazing thing, she was just following it, she was contouring it with her hands, she was following the textures, she was watching it move, she was blowing it and then watching it come up, come down and this went on I don’t know how long it went on for and she is somebody who’s so present in her body, so present in ourselves, so present in the moment and this is just the way she lives her life and I hope to God she never loses it because what a beautiful way to move through life just being so comfortable in herself, comfortable in her skin; none of these societal limitations that we all have in some respect and I suppose for me, it’s a bit of a funny one in our house because my husband works in smart technology. My tools of choice I’d probably use a stone carver and a rock if I could [LAUGHS] but pen and paper are my weapons of choice. So there’s those two ends of the scale for both of us and we kind of meet in the middle so somehow but yeah, I don’t know, they’re very small so I’m not in that world just yet. But certainly I am pausing on the technology as much as I can. You know, I don’t want them to not be able to use a computer of course, but for as long as I can get away without phones or particular devices and apps and so on. I want to do that because it’s really interesting as well, looking at the psychology behind a lot of these apps and the dopamine hit that you get from scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. And I feel that we children, adults, all of us miss out on what’s actually going on around us.

And I suppose, for me, I am a nature lover, we’re in the outdoors a lot. And I try and incorporate all of that into just our day-to-day lives and our walks and even things. And this might be a tool for parents, for educators, or even just for yourself, to encourage those introducing different breathing techniques for children. Because we don’t always breathe optimally. And there’s so much that we can do with our breath. But even introducing breath through things like flowers and ask them to smell, you know, different roses are different. And even, you know, taking a nice deep breath in … what do you smell … and then breathing it out, and just letting it go. So, simple things like that can be a really effective way to start introducing self-management tools to help people of all ages really, but children, especially

Ludo Millar 26:23
What helpful, helpful tools there, Amy. And I mean that because you’re not giving people schedule- or day-altering activities, large chunks of their day, these are real kind of little things that you can fit around, you know, otherwise potentially busy schedules. And I think that those are really important, almost in response to the busyness of the world that we have, which is perhaps unfortunate, but these tools and strategies that we need to develop have to fit into that. And are aimed at taking you out of that, even if just for a brief moment. But Amy, it sounds like you’re someone who’s very much not bought into that, that kind of technologically-focused and tuned in world too much. And that you’re able to take a step back. I think that’s a really great mode to be in for other listeners to aspire to and those that you work with for sure.

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Ludo Millar 27:32
And now, a word from one half of last week’s guest, Oppidan Education. It’s Walter Kerr.

Walter Kerr 27:37
Thank you very much to Ludo for having Henry and myself on the Qualified Tutor Podcast. We had a wonderful time; we never find much time to reflect and that is I suppose one of the great joys of being a guest on a podcast is that it gives you time to reflect on the business to date and the questions that Ludo posed were interesting and I hope were enjoyable for those who listen to them. It’s funny, I mean there’s lots you enjoy about being a guest on a podcast. The fear is being too self congratulatory and avoiding cliches around just getting started which is often what we hear a lot. But we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the podcast. And what would I say to a future guest? I couldn’t possibly give advice on that but it’s a show good show, we had a fun time and Ludo is a brilliant host.

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Ludo Millar 28:48
We’re just kind of drawing to a close, I mean there’s so much that you’ve packed into there, Amy. You’ve been speaking so eloquently about ways to tune out, ways to self manage as you say, ways to reduce stress. But what’s next for you and what’s next for Amy Solon?

Amy Solon 29:09
Gosh, my mind is always full of different ideas. I’ve over the last few probably the last 6 months I’ve been focusing very much on a course, I suppose, combining my skills, in a certain respect, of yoga, and my hypnotherapy meditation salon. So I’ve been really busy over the last 6-8 months creating these classes, which are very, very popular, which has been wonderful. It’s such a joy to get back after 2 years of not being in a yoga studio to be able to do that again. So now that that’s up and running, it’s kind of looking after itself. I’m moving back and just putting a fresh eye on my parenting work. which I have such a love for. So that will be a large part of my focus over probably over the next 6 months to a year continuing to build on that, continuing to support different families.

And yes, supporting those units to just instil habits and behaviours that can hopefully bring a little bit of calm as well. Because I think you’re right what you said there’s something about the, you don’t want to be putting huge effort into things or changing structures or, you know, people get bored or fail, they don’t have the time. And sometimes the biggest changes can be from the smallest shifts.

And just to pick up very quickly, if you don’t mind, just on something that you said earlier that I think was so important, you spoke about acknowledging people’s feelings, whether that’s you yourself as an educator, as a parent, as a human being, but also those feelings of our children or the children that we’re working with, their feelings are so valid. And I think one thing I am enjoying that has come out post-pandemic is that there’s a greater focus on mental health, people are more open about expressing, and the data and the research really demonstrates that, giving children that platform to express how they’re feeling because their feelings are valid. If they feel mad, that’s okay, because that’s their feelings, their behaviour might not be the best choice, but their feelings are valid, and we can solution-find around, you know, better, more appropriate behaviours. But equally those feelings and expressing those feelings, it’s so important. And the research is indicating very much that it does support better mental health in in later life. So I just wanted to highlight that just a little bit, because that was something really important that you raised earlier on.

Ludo Millar 32:06
Thank you, Amy. That’s another great step for listeners to kind of take after this. In fact, if they want to get in touch with you straight after this, Amy, what is the best way for them to contact you?

Amy Solon 32:19
Yeah, there’s lots of different ways: my Facebook page is Elements Hypnotherapy. I am also on Instagram, but I don’t really use it very much! I’m on LinkedIn as Amy Solon. And my email address or my website is elementshypnotherapy.com. And you can get my email address there as well.

Ludo Millar 32:47
Look at that. Okay, so if there’s a boost and a surge in likes and followers and connections, maybe then you can thank the QT Podcast. Excellent. Yeah. And if there’s not, then, you know, people are just listening in and they’re thinking about what you’re saying and hopefully implementing it. So yeah, that was a hugely important conversation not only because I’ve been meaning to introduce our audience to you Amy for quite some time, but also, as we’re here towards the end of August, and we move into the autumn into the winter, these kind of conversations are really important. We know that seasonal depression, and that kind of thing strikes most as the summer comes to an end, and we move into the cold and longer nights. So yeah, thank you for coming on and discussing those things. I hope you enjoyed talking a little bit about what you do, Amy.

Amy Solon 33:48
I certainly did love the chat. And yeah, I love having the opportunity just to share a little bit more. It was just lovely to speak to you. Thank you, Ludo.

Ludo Millar 34:00
That’s not a problem. Next time we will be talking to a lady called Liberty King, about a few lessons learned from the first year of the NTP, about discovering a little bit more about how we can market ourselves as education businesses. So a really nice range of topics after today’s conversation about stress, anxiety, focus, technology, tuning out; really, really important topics for educators and for ourselves as individuals, Amy, so thank you. And we will see all of you dear listeners next time. Thanks for tuning in. Cheerio.

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Ludo Millar

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Whether you’re a regular listener of this podcast, or you’ve just stumbled across it, join the Qualified Tutor Podcast Group within the Qualified Tutor Community. To stay up to date with our latest news offers workshops and of course, simply to meet other tutors like you, whatever your level is as a tutor, our training courses will be the next step in your professional development. Visit qualified tutor.org/training to find out more about our CPD-Accredited and Ofqual-recognised courses: the first of their kind in the tutoring industry.

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