Dr Linda Papadopoulos

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"Try to get your mind to work for you rather than letting it work against you," says the celebrity psychologist.

Raise Your Game: What techniques can you employ to help yourself relax?

Dr Linda Papadopoulos: There are several techniques you can use to help yourself relax. You need to be able to find a quiet space that you can just 'be' in. So many of us are either living in the past, or living in the future. We're always worrying about what's happened or panicking about what's going to happen.

Take a walk and focus on what's around you, like the way a leaf moves in the wind. Focus on the sounds that you hear. Being in the present is hugely important.

Learn how to recognise your physical cues. When we're tense we hold our anxieties up in our shoulders. You need to recognise when that happens, and do something simple, like rubbing the muscle or moving it in a certain way.

Another good way of relieving stress is by trying to illicit positive memories through smell. A lot of people do this, because smell is very much linked to memory. Try studying with the smell of lavender on your hand, then you can do that in an exam to bring about a relaxed feeling.

It's important to remember that we're all individuals. What relaxes one person will stress out someone else. You need to be creative about what you do. Some people listen to relaxing music. Other people spend time in the gym. You've got to look inside and think 'Where do I feel the most relaxed?'

RYG: Are there methods we can use to perform better under pressure?

Profile

Name:
Dr Linda Papadopoulos

Born:
3 February 1973

From:
Canada

Position:
Psychologist

Achievements:

  • Cosmopolitan magazine's resident psychologist.
  • Regular appearances on Big Brother (UK).

DLP: Our mind affects our body more than most of us can understand. The mind can affect your white cell blood count, skin conditions, medical illness and anxiety.

The mind affects the body in many ways. Try to get your mind to work for you rather than letting it work against you.

You need to recognise negative or irrational thoughts that hold you back. If you decide that you can't do something, that immediately sets parameters and puts obstacles in the way that aren't realistic. Once you've placed them there they're always going to hinder you.

Sit down and ask yourself 'Is it realistic to say I will never be able to do this? What evidence do I have of this?' If you go into situations thinking 'I can't do this,' you're creating a self fulfilling prophecy. You're going to go under and you're not going to nail the job interview, the track meet or whatever else.

Try and be positive. Go in there and say 'There's no reason why I can't do this, I've prepared, and I can see myself doing this.' It's likely you'll have a different outcome. The reason why visualisation works is because people have an expectation to do well.

In life we usually get what we think we deserve. If you think you deserve to do well, because you've put in the hard work, because you're prepared, the odds are you will.

RYG: If I'm a young person about to complete an examination, what do I say to myself to get the best outcome?

DLP: If you're getting ready for a test or a race you need to prepare. Don't wait until the last minute and say 'I'm sure I can do this without any preparation.' Make sure you prepare. Think to yourself 'I've got this many days, this is what I'm going to do,' and think about your preparation.

As well as preparing you also need to take care of yourself. Don't forget that 'me time' we spoke about.

You also need to work on your confidence. This is hugely important. Visualise yourself nailing that exam, or that interview, or that race, the night before. Create the story that you want, not the story that you're afraid of.

RYG: How do we go about minimising negative thoughts and staying positive?

DLP: If there's an obstacle in your way, you need to prepare for it mentally. If you see a hill in front of you on your morning jog, the hill that always beats you, don't try and tackle it all in one go.

Set yourself realistic goals. Say to yourself 'I will conquer that hill.' No-one conquers anything difficult in a day. Do it systematically. For example, on day one, take three steps up the hill, on day ten, make it seven steps. By day twenty you can climb over the hill and have a Rocky Balboa moment (laughs). If something's hard, do it incrementally.

Pat yourself on the back for small achievements along the way. Say to yourself 'You know what, I took those first three steps, it wasn't easy, but I did it.' When you've made the first step, don't be down on yourself because you're not at the tenth step. Celebrate where you are in the here and now.

RYG: Can nicknames have negative consequences?

DLP: When we look at bullying in relation to body image, we find that people who have been given nicknames at school find it really hard to get over them, even in later years.

People come to see me looking absolutely fine, but they get really anxious about their skin, even though whatever problem they had has cleared up. They still have issues because they had a nickname about their skin 10 or 15 years ago.

It's important to remember that nasty nicknames are a symptom of other people's negativity. It's vital that you don't internalise that. If a person goes out of their way to hurt you, it says more about them than it will ever say about you.

Imagine they have a toxic ball and they're trying to give it to you. You can choose to take it on, hold it and say 'They're right, my skin, my nose, my weight,' or you can say 'Do you know what, I'm going to toss that away, I don't need that, that's clearly your stuff, you hold onto it.' Try and move on like that.

When we look at ourselves in the mirror we don't really see what's there. We see the comments of a bully in the playground, or the comments of every glossy magazine that tells us we need to look a certain way. Try and see the person that you really are and you'll be a lot happier.


Once you know what triggers anxiety and increases your heart rate, and what lowers it, then you're better able to cope with things.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos

Celebrity Psychologist

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