Friday 20 September 2019

Waking hours: hypnotherapist Fiona Brennan

Fiona Brennan (39) is a hypnotherapist. For many years she was an actress, but in 2007, she fell out of love with acting and decided to change career. From Sandymount, in Dublin, she still lives there with her husband, Ciaran, and their son, Luca (6)

Fiona Brennan
Fiona Brennan

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

I wake up before 7am. I have become a morning person. Every night, I tell myself that I'm going to wake up feeling good and full of energy and joy. It works.

I have a shower, and then I usually have porridge for breakfast. My husband Ciaran has Newstalk on, but I turn it off. I want my mind to be clear in the mornings, so I prefer to listen to music.

After breakfast, we sit down and meditate together. We do about 15 minutes - a guided meditation where we focus on breathing. Our six-year-old son, Luca, saw us doing it and wanted to join in. He sits still the whole time and now, I think he is better at it than I am.

I think doing this meditation has made a huge difference to us all. You don't react to whatever stresses that might come along. We get Luca ready for school and then Ciaran drops him off, so I can get into work early.

I cycle into work from Sandymount. I resisted the bike for ages, but now I enjoy it. It gives me more time. I see my first client at 8.45am. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist. Basically, this means that I am a therapist who uses hypnosis as my main tool to help people with a variety of issues.

It could be weight-loss, or a person wants to quit smoking, but blushing is also quite a common problem. At the moment, a lot of the clients coming to me are suffering from anxiety and stress. There seems to be an epidemic of it in terms of people who feel overwhelmed. They are trying to juggle family and careers.

I try to look at the whole picture. For example, if somebody comes into me about weight loss, I try to explain to them that losing weight will be a perk of our sessions, but really we need to look at what is going on. Why is this person behaving in a way that they don't want to behave? Often, people will have this internal struggle.

They will wake up and say, 'I'm going to be really good' and before they know it, they have an automatic response to triggers like stress. The reality is that we all have a lot of responsibilities and life can be stressful, so I focus on getting a person back to who they really are. A lot of my work is not just about helping a person overcome something, but helping them realise their full potential. It's really important to listen.

Some people are suffering so much that they cannot stop crying, and others are detached from their suffering, which can be harder. Some will tell you that everything is absolutely fine, but if that is true, then why are they sitting in front of me? Often smoking or overeating is a symptom of something else, like anxiety.

A lot of people feel that they cannot change, and they are almost fatalistic in their approach. They'll say things like, 'I'm a worrier and I've always been like this and there is nothing I can do'. But people weren't born suffering from anxiety or stress, so through the subconscious mind, I try to get them to undo those conditioned responses. I always do a consultation with the client because I need to get as much information as I can and then, eventually, we do the hypnosis.

I get them to breathe deeply and then I ask them to visualise certain things. I bring them to a place of deep relaxation where they will be open to suggestions. They might be drifting, but they are very aware of what is going on. People don't realise that they are in a different state until they can't open their eyes. The hypnosis is for a short period of time, but the full session takes an hour.

I see about four clients a day and I make sure I have a 15-minute break in between each session. I work five days a week and I often see clients at lunchtime, or on Monday evenings.

After work, I pick up my son from school. I'll give him a snack, and then it's the usual activities like swimming or scouts. After that, we sit down to do the homework together. It's a huge relief when it's over.

Being a hypnotherapist is a second career for me. I used to be an actress. I set up my own theatre company, and for many years, I was obsessed with acting. It was a huge part of my life. But in 2007, one night I was on stage and I thought, 'I don't want to do this anymore'. I felt it was taking too much out of me and I wasn't getting enough back. I'm not talking about the rejections of auditions, but it was the actual work itself. I knew I had to do something else.

I wanted to do something to help people. I had always been intrigued by hypnosis and my father had used it to give up cigarettes years ago, so the seed was planted. I found a course and I trained. It was very intensive with exams and lots of hands-on training, but I really enjoyed it. Now I belong to a franchise called Irish Hypnosis.

I go for a hypnotherapy session every six weeks because I believe that the therapists need to look after themselves. It's all about self-care. I say this to my clients too. No matter how many children you have, or how busy you are, you must look after yourself. You have to make sure that you get enough rest and exercise and eat regularly.

So many people neglect themselves, and that can lead to burnout. In the evenings, I love to exercise. I go swimming and I jog and I also do Pilates. I love spending time with my friends and family. I realise the importance of people in my life. I know everyone is so busy, but it's great to make the connection which brings laughter into your life.

When I tell people that I'm a hypnotherapist they say, 'Oh God, I better not look into your eyes or you'll hypnotise me'. I laugh it off. But I think that most people are really intrigued and they are always asking questions, wondering if it would work for them.

I used to be a very anxious and emotional person, but since I did hypnotherapy, I'm more in control and I'm able to deal with stress. I'm happier overall. I'm a much calmer person, and I think my husband is very thankful for that.

In conversation with Ciara Dwyer

See fionabrennanhypnotherapy.com

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