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Successful Health Recovery Strategies

by Frances Coombes(more info)

listed in eft, originally published in issue 293 - March 2024

Successful Health Recovery Strategies

I ran Healing Power of the Mind workshops at City Lit London in which learners were encouraged to adopt a positive attitude about their health, and write their own, or adapt other people’s successful health recovery strategies to deal with important health events in their lives.  I did not realize at the time I was collecting the strategies that I would have cause to use so many of them myself.

There are brief strategies for achieving a better than average recovery from different forms of health adversity. i.e. ‘My successful stroke recovery strategy’, …,’Hip replacement operation recovery’,.. ‘Calm’ strategy for before and after hospital procedures’.

Whilst hospital booklets are brilliant at giving accurate and practical outcome summaries, we often recover even quicker when we feel confident we also have our own customized recovery strategy in place that works best for us. Gentle activities such as walking, gardening, things that involve stretching and moving can give us back some control of our body and lessen anxiety.



Waves Meditation


I had an eye operation last year which was helped enormously by the surgeon who before cutting me, said “you will feel pressure, and someone is also going to be gently tapping on your forehead” -  tapping on the forehead helps disrupt pain signals to the brain. We know that touch, such as holding someone’s hand whilst undergoing a procedure helps to reduce the painful feeling. However I did not realize that this simple self-soothing technique that I had integrated into my work and home routine was also being used in operating theatres.  (Brain Sci. 2023 Mar; 13(3): 393.  Social Touch Reduces Pain Perception—An fMRI Study of Cortical Mechanisms).

We can’t always have someone with us holding our hands in stressful situations, so it is helpful to learn a gentle self-soothing technique such as tapping so we can comfort ourselves when feeling anxious or stressed.

Tapping Strategy for Breathing, Clarity and ‘Calm’

See my article on tapping to bring down anxious feelings.  Effectiveness of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) ; Slowing your breathing and brainwaves down by tapping on the facial acupressure points is one of the best ways of bringing yourself to calm.

  • GAMMA is the fastest ‘spikey’ brainwave we have and can happen when we are feeling anxious and hyper focused;
  • BETA is the brainwave we are in when doing day to day activity and problem solving;
  • ALPHA is the state you are in when you are relaxing, say if you are sitting on a park bench looking at nature around you;
  • THETA Is a state of deep relaxation or meditation, theta is the closest state to the conscious and unconscious mind;
  • DELTA would be deep sleep or unconscious when you are not really aware any more.

Question your Beliefs about the Adversity you are Facing

When faced with difficult situations ask some probing questions about your present beliefs about the situation. 

  • ‘Does my present belief about this situation help or hinder me? If my current belief is (i.e. ‘I can’t stand it that this is happening to me’, ‘I can’t handle it’) then what would be a more effective belief to hold?
  • If I adopt a more rational and realistic belief will this new belief help me achieve my aims more effectively?

By challenging our unhelpful negative beliefs about a situation we are facing we can begin to put more helpful beliefs that will support us in place. The ‘calm’ strategy came from one person who changed unhelpful beliefs about having an operation to some more healthy rational beliefs. The main unhelpful beliefs had been about not being in control of my body.

My ‘Calm’ Thinking Strategy for Before Hospital Procedures:

  • I will keep control of my body for as long as I can before the procedure. This involved me walking to the hospital and keeping active for as long as possible before going into the sitting around pre-operative stage;
  • When the time comes, I will hand over control of my body to the surgical team, in the belief that trusting they will do their best to make me as relaxed and comfortable as possible will make the procedure smoother and quicker;
  • I will practice my ‘Calm’ state breathing technique for a couple of weeks before the event and do them in locations where other people are present, such as busy supermarket queues, so that I can evoke the calm state anywhere;
  • Now bring in mental imagery.  As my calm state becomes something I can do automatically I will start bringing in strong mental imagery that focuses, not on the procedure, but on seeing myself leaving the hospital building after the procedure and looking forward to being in a better state. 

The use of technology has brought on a wealth of hand, wrist ulnar nerve entrapment and arm syndromes.  Modelling other people’s strategies for lessening use of one side of the body to give the other side of the body a change to heal helps us gather the other persons beliefs so that we can more easily adopt their skill.

My Strategy for lessening Repetitive Strain Injury

When I felt twinges of RSI in my wrist  I decided to model the skills of someone who wrote equally well with both hands, so I could lessen the strain on my left hand and wrist. Finding an ambidextrous person in class who had acquired the skill of writing with both hands in adulthood was a godsend. James, 51, had broken his right arm at university and taught himself to write fluently with his left hand in order to get his degree.  To find out his strategy, I asked him to remember the first time he had written with his non-dominant hand and run through the scenario with me. 

For James the quickest way to master hand control and writing legibly with a hand that wasn’t used to writing was from a standing position.  The body should be evenly balanced for poise and control of the pen, with the writing surface at a convenient raised kitchen unit height.  As I listened to James, it seemed that standing up made him feel more centred.  Interestingly, James had not been consciously aware of how he made his initial breakthrough to becoming competent or even what his actual strategy had been.

Installing a New Habit

I set my intention to spend six to ten minutes each day for 30 days writing for either clarity, speed or flow.  I maintain my new habit by spending five minutes a day writing ‘to do’ and shopping lists whilst standing up.  Within a month I could write comfortably with either hand.

What to Look for when Modelling Someone Else’s Skill

  • What are the beliefs that support the skill the person is demonstrating? Listen for words such as ‘I believe... ‘I think... ‘It’s important to…
  • Pay attention to how people’s body language changes as they recount their strategy. Physical movements affect how we think, so modelling someone physically will help you to get into synch with their thinking;
  • Don’t ask people ‘why’ they do things, instead ask ‘how’ they do them. This is a cleaner way of questioning which does not impose on their model of the world.

Further Information

Frances Coombes book, Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub. Hodder and Stoughton and Hachette UK’ has many examples of modelling strategies.  She is a psychotherapist and runs on-line Tapping, Introduction to NLP and introduction to REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy) groups on line.


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About Frances Coombes

Frances Coombes Advanced Dip CBT/REBT Dip CBT offers one-to-one therapeutic coaching in North West London and on Zoom.  She is a is a CBT/REBT psychotherapist in North West London, a NLP Master Practitioner and Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapist and runs life coaching groups in London and on Zoom.  She teaches NLP at The City Lit in Central London and tutors at the City Lit and Mary Ward Centre in central London on Using REBT for Managing Stress and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). She runs goal setting and REBT coaching groups for vulnerable people for inner London authorities and charities.  

Her most recent book is Motivate Yourself and Reach Your Goals, pub, November 2013, Hodder Headline. Available on and  For extract visit To inquire or book personal development courses contact Frances on Tel: 07818 896 795; 


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