Monday, 28 July 2008


Today I met Richard Hilliard, Director of Relaxation for Living, an organisation dedicated to helping individuals understand stress and tension, how to deal with them and ultimately to lead happier lives.

Richard, is a former Lloyd's of London insurance man who learned at first hand how stress can be detrimental to health. I won't elaborate here but he was at the top of his game when he was struck by ill health - you can read his story on the Relaxation for Living website. Eventually his path led him to the RFL, where he was taught to deal with stress. The experience changed his health and his life and he is now dedicated to helping other people change theirs.

It is no surprise to learn from Richard that Britain is in the grip of a stress epidemic which the UK Government's National Health Service (NHS) and family doctors (GPs) are not geared up to deal with.

It seems that in a success-driven world, where enough is never enough, many of us are making too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, which is surging through our bodies leading to a whole host of illnesses, both physical and mental . Unfortunately unless we reach breaking point there are few places to get help.

Scientific studies already link excess abdominal fat with excess cortisol. Too much also wears down the immune system which is why stressed-out people age faster than happy and relaxed individuals. There is also evidence that this hormone, known as the "death hormone" among anti-ageing doctors, accelerates shrinkage of the brain.

So if you suffer from stress - the kind that gives you high blood pressure, sleepness nights, palpitations or panic attacks - there are likely three things your GP will do (a) tell you to pull yourself together (b) Prescribe an anti-depressant pill (c) Put you on the waiting list to receive counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy.

Unfortunately there is a 12 month waiting list at most doctors' surgeries in the UK for counselling, according to Richard. So its anyone's guess as to what state you would be in a year later!

RFL works mostly through enlightened GPs who make recommendations to their patients. Then its up to the patient to make contact with their local RFL"teacher". You are then required to sign up and attend four 1.5 hour weekly group sessions at which there will be no more than eight people. You must be committed as there is "homework" inbetween.

The four sessions, are structured in the following way: How to cope with negative thoughts; Posture, muscle and breathing exercises to relieve tension and anxiety; Explanation of how the mind's perception of events can influence the body's response and Lifestyle. The cost of the course varies, from teacher to teacher, but lessons usually start from £15 each.

The RFL method is one of commonsense. Richard explains: "We teach people self-awareness and coping strategies and we help stop them getting into the pattern of negative automatic thoughts (NATS)."

I am concerned to learn that many of those who are seeking help for stress are single women, aged 40+ but this, Richard tells me, is because women are much more ready to do something about stress than men. And in general it is intelligent, likeable and engaging individuals who are more prone to suffer.

The demand for this method of stress relief means there is a huge need for specialist RFL teachers. So if you want to change your life and help others change theirs the RFL would be pleased to hear from you.

If you would like to know more about the RFL method or interested in training as a teacher you can phone direct on 020 7439 4277 or email There is also more information on

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