#Anxiety – what is it and how do I make it go away? Part 4


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One key to reducing anxiety is understanding that a thought is just a thought. It is not a fact and just because you think it, it doesn’t mean that it’s true. It is just a mental event in the brain. Perhaps you have worried in the past that you wouldn’t cope in a particular situation but then gone on to actually do ok? For example, I remember worrying about my driving test – I was worried someone might step out in front of the car, I was worried the examiner would be horrible, I was worried that I’d forget everything I had learned! Well the examiner wasn’t the nicest person but I did pass. All that worry, all that wasted energy and sleepless nights and everything went ok. I had suffered all those nasty symptoms of anxiety and worried over nothing.

It can be incredibly helpful to remember such times when things went ok. In this way you are challenging your anxious thoughts by recalling all the previous situations in which you survived, coped and perhaps even flourished. I find that #hypnotherapy and #self-hypnosis are great tools for helping my clients to do this, while feeling relaxed, comfortable and safe. They learn how to remember these good feelings of coping successfully and how to recall them in their minds and bodies instantly whenever they need to shift into a healthier more helpful state of mind.

Billions of people around the world are feeling anxious right now. Some of them have felt this way for years. They have spent thousands of hours worrying about worry, trying desperately to think their way out of this spiral of anxious thoughts.   Perhaps you believe that if you think about something for long enough or hard enough you will come up with a solution….but then worry even more when you haven’t yet found it. This over-thinking or ruminating is tiring and stops you sleeping properly. People who constantly ruminate often dream more than other people as their tired brains try hard to make sense of what is going on both day and night.

So, despite what we may believe, perhaps the answer doesn’t lie in more and more thinking. To compound this even further, the more you try not to think about your anxiety the more you do. We have probably all played the game of ‘don’t think about a blue elephant’ – what’s the first thing your mind does? In the same way it can be very easy for you to get trapped between worrying about your anxiety and trying not to think about it.

One helpful strategy is to adopt a completely different approach. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, and ruminating on the same old problems, you can focus your mind on better things to think about. We do tend to get what we focus on. A professional footballer for example will train mentally to see the goal going into the net when the ball is kicked, not on the ball going over the post. So how would it feel to focus on doing things that are enjoyable or fun, or that make you appreciate the world around you, or sharing good times with your friends or family, rather than focusing on what may or may not go wrong or cause problems? Keeping your mind focused on positive activities that give you pleasure leave little room for ruminating and worrying. The key is to take action and do something new, interesting or different that gives your mind something better to focus on. Have you ever booked a holiday and then enjoyed the build up to the day you go away, looking forward to and focusing your thinking on all the fun activities you will be doing, all the new, interesting places you will see and the novel experiences you will have? If you haven’t, then start practicing this skill now – find things to look forward to and imagine things going well and yourself enjoying them. Really get into the experience and imagine doing these things in specific detail – and imagine things going well, imagine looking good and feeling good and allow yourself to feel your enjoyment, however fleeting it may feel.

If you suffer from anxiety then you might find this hard to do, or even think about doing at first. For this reason, I use #hypnosis to help my clients to experience carrying out these positive activities in their minds. You have a very powerful imagination. If you doubt this, then think about how powerful it has been, making you believe your anxieties are real and happening. Did you realize that you have been using negative self-hypnosis to sabotage your happiness and well-being? There are ways of harnessing your powerful imagination to help you rather than hinder you. A skilled #hypnotherapist can show you how to do this and help you to experience what you can achieve with a calm, relaxed, positive focus on life’s events.

I specialize in hypnotherapeutic techniques and I work in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

In my next blog I will be talking further about how you can effectively deal with anxious thoughts and feelings.

 

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#Anxiety – what is it and how do I make it go away? Part 3


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In Parts 1 and 2 of this blog on Anxiety, I talked about the how and the why of anxious thoughts and feelings. Today I want to focus on the solutions – how can you make these thoughts and feelings go away?

You can see from understanding the explanation of what anxiety is, how it happens and how it can get out of control, what type of help may be useful. If you think about that bucket of stress I talked about in the last blog, you can see that what you really need is a leaky bucket with lots of holes in it to allow the stress to drain away so that there is never any overflow. Think about what each one of these holes could be for you – something positive that you can do to manage your anxious thoughts and feelings. What actions could you take to make you feel a little bit better?

When you are stressed and anxious your mind is very active – sometimes hypervigilant – busy thinking about all those threats and all the things that could go wrong. When you find strategies for controlling your stress levels and calming down this state of high emotional arousal, you are sending a strong signal to yourself that everything is ok and that there is no real threat or danger in this situation. Your mind then learns to tolerate your anxious thoughts and feelings. What could you do that will allow your mind to relax and feel calmer? Remember that avoidance is not a particularly helpful strategy in the long term!

A good therapist will teach you techniques you can use to calm an anxious mind. I use #hypnotherapy to show my clients how they can achieve a relaxed and calm state of mind for themselves very simply and easily with practice. We spend time rehearsing remaining calm and relaxed in the face of anxious situations so that the mind learns how to cope with such events when they arise. You can then experience anxiety provoking situations remaining calm and in control. I often use #mindfulness techniques to help clients recognise their anxious thoughts and feelings as soon as they begin and once they have that awareness they can learn to let them go. Surprisingly most people lack the knowledge and skills for controlling feelings of stress and anxiety. After all, it’s not something we are generally taught in school – although this is changing and some schools now run mindfulness sessions for pupils to help with concentration and focus in lesson time. You can learn strategies that will help you control your stress levels so that your bucket need never overflow again and there are lots of tips and tricks for keeping stress under control:

  • It is best to deal with problems as they happen. Avoiding situations or bottling up your feelings allows them to grow until you experience that overflow
  • Practice slowing down. A stressed person is usually a very busy person. You don’t have to do everything at 100 miles an hour. Do things mindfully and take time to appreciate what you are achieving
  • You are better doing one thing at a time. Overloading yourself will create stress. Divide up large or unmanageable tasks and then tackle each part one at a time. Prioritise and get the most important parts done first so that you are not stressing about them
  • A good strategy is to act ‘as if ‘ you are relaxed and calm: speak more slowly and relax any tension you are holding in your body. This behaviour will also affect how other people react to you in a positive way
  •  Perhaps other people are expecting too much from you at work or at home. Learn and practice being more assertive – it is ok to say “No”
  •  Treat yourself as you would a good friend or a loved one – be kinder and more compassionate towards yourself
  • Some people believe that smoking helps them relax, but nicotine is in fact a stimulant. The relaxation effect people associate with smoking is nothing more than deep breathing when you inhale. Better, cheaper and healthier to practice the breathing but lose the cigarettes or e-cigs!

So perhaps this is the easiest place to start – learning how to breathe effectively. Yes, I know that we all know how to breathe, but often we breathe in short, shallow breaths and this is especially true when we are stressed or anxious. Take a moment now and notice how you are breathing. Is your breathing very high in your chest, and is your tongue on the roof of your mouth? If so, chances are you are experiencing some stress or anxiety. When you breathe slowly and deeply into your chest, filling your lungs with air and exhale slowly and fully, you are sending a strong, natural signal to your mind and body that you are calm and relaxed and there is no threat to worry about right now. The message you are sending says that here in this moment, you are ok. Most therapists teach their clients the value of this type of relaxed breathing. It’s value is well known and forms part of meditation practices, yoga, pilates, tai chi and martial arts. Perhaps you can give yourself a moment now to practice some deep abdominal slow breathing or a one minute meditation to feel instantly a little better.

If you find things like this difficult – and many people suffering with anxiety and stress do find practicing this type of breathing tricky at first, a skilled therapist will be able to help you and may even teach you mindfulness techniques or self-hypnosis. I specialize in these techniques and I work in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

In my next blog I will be talking further about how you can effectively deal with anxious thoughts and feelings.

 

#Anxiety – what is it and how do I make it go away? Part 2


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In Part 1 of this blog about #anxiety I talked about what anxiety is and how it can make you think and feel. Today I want to talk about something that often confuses people who are struggling with the symptoms of anxiety – how there doesn’t always have to be a specific identifiable cause that created your anxiety.

For some people there is an understandable and very identifiable cause for their anxiety; a traumatic incident, lots of stressors, or they have undergone a significant life event (such as moving house, a separation, or perhaps health problems). For others there appears to be no identifiable cause for the anxiety and this creates distress. Clients often say to me, “I don’t know why I feel like this!” However, levels of stress can build up slowly over time, often without you realising that it is happening.

It can be helpful to think about your stress levels as being like a bucket of water. When you keep adding stressors to the bucket (even everyday little ones like finding a parking space, commuting to work, interactions with work colleagues, friends or members of your family, poor sleep), over time that bucket fills and fills until one day it overflows. This can be a good way of looking at anxiety as it explains how sometimes it can seem to come out of nowhere with no really significant trigger. What has happened is that all the little stressful incidents have been building slowly and gradually, and the trigger for your symptoms of anxiety was often just another small stressor that tipped you over the edge and allowed your bucket to overflow. An anxious mind is a stressed mind.

Most people only seek help for their anxiety when things have reached this overflow point. They have not been handling stress well, so that when the overflow happens they really don’t know what to do to make themselves feel any better. This is certainly the case when people get around to finally asking for help from a doctor or therapist. I have lost count of the number of clients who have said to me, “I wish I had come to see you sooner”. It seems that most of us are quite poor at noticing things are heading this way and even if we do notice, we tend to avoid getting help until anxiety has become unbearable and deeply affecting everyday functioning. Many clients have told me that they see their anxious thoughts and feelings as a sign of weakness, or that they hate admitting that they can’t cope or that they have resisted accepting that they may need help with a ‘mental health’ issue and don’t want this on their medical records. All of them have suffered instead of getting professional help as soon as possible. Stress and anxiety are so common, yet still there is a strange taboo about admitting you may be affected and need support. When people have a physical injury such as a broken arm or a wound that needs stitches they are straight out to get professional help and healing can begin immediately. It seems like common sense to attend physiotherapy appointments to build up stressed muscles, yet often people won’t allow themselves to learn the necessary mental exercises that will heal a stressed mind. I wonder if one day our own mental well-being could be viewed in the same way as physiotherapy is seen for the body?

Perhaps this is not that surprising when the most common behaviour when you are anxious is avoidance. Although avoiding anxiety-provoking situations can provide immediate relief, it is really only ever a short-term solution. Avoiding a situation may seem like the best thing to do at the time, but the mind learns from this behaviour. The next time the situation occurs, you find that your avoidance has reinforced the message that there is a threat, and unsurprisingly the anxiety returns. When you start avoiding things you never get to find out whether your fear about the situation is justified or what would really happen. Many people find themselves eventually experiencing panic attacks, which can be a frightening experience. Some people find themselves eventually worrying about being worried. As soon as you sort out one worry, another worry pops up to take its place. It’s almost as if the anxiety isn’t effectively resolved so it just finds something else to latch onto. This level of anxiety is particularly difficult to live with as it is constantly on your mind. There is no respite, as the anxiety is not tied to a specific situation or event that can change. It can cause problems with sleep, maintaining a job and have a detrimental impact on your relationships. Everyone has worries from time to time, but if you have worry that lasts for months, where the level of worry is out of proportion to the risk, you will greatly benefit from getting professional help. Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialise in helping people overcome anxiety and I work in #York. I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html

In my next blog I will be talking about how you can effectively deal with anxious thoughts and feelings.

 

#Anxiety – what is it and how do I make it go away? Part 1


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Welcome to the first of an 8 part blog on #anxiety. I hope you find the information in this series useful. It is an attempt to share what I have learned, with others who may derive some benefit. I’ve developed lots of ideas and gathered information and techniques from a vast variety of sources over several years, which I can no longer remember, so please forgive me if I haven’t referenced them. The content isn’t meant to be overly academic – it’s purpose is to appeal to the average reader and reflects techniques, ideas, knowledge and skills that I have used to help people overcome their anxiety. Those of us who have struggled with anxiety, know how debilitating it can be, and if this series of blogs can help anyone then it has been worthwhile publishing! Please feel free to share with anyone you know who may need some help, reassurance or understanding.

Over the years I have helped many people to deal effectively with feelings of anxiety. One of the first questions someone looking for help often asks me is: “How can I make it go away?”

First of all, it can be helpful to understand what anxiety is. It is part of being human and therefore something we have all experienced. Perhaps you only notice anxious thoughts and feelings before an important event such as an interview or an exam, or perhaps you are currently feeling anxious most of the time. We know that situations or events causing problems such as work, financial, health or relationship worries create general feelings of being under stress and these feelings can come and go throughout our lives as situations change. Anxiety, however, can persist and often you can’t understand why you feel like this as often there seems to be no real cause that you can identify. It can make you imagine that things in your life are much worse than they actually are, and it can often prevent you from confronting your fears.

People suffering with anxiety often tell me that they feel like they are going mad, or are worried they must have some sort of psychological imbalance. This is usually because they are experiencing all sorts of strange symptoms that are giving them plenty of signals that all is not well.

Common physical symptoms of anxiety can include: increased heart rate, palpitations, muscle tension, “Jelly legs”, tingling in the hands and feet, hyperventilation (over breathing), dizziness, difficulty breathing, wanting to use the toilet more often, feeling sick, tightening across the chest area, headaches, hot flushes, perspiration, dry mouth, shaking, sensing a lump in the throat or choking sensations. Not a nice list!

You may even experience some of the following thoughts and feelings: that you may lose control or go “mad”, have a heart attack/be sick/faint/die/have a brain tumour, feel people are looking at you and observing your anxiety, things seem to be speeding up/slowing down, feel detached from your environment and other people, wanting to escape from the situation or feel on edge and alert to everything around you.

While all this can feel pretty frightening, it is really important to realize that anxiety is in fact natural and normal and these symptoms happen as part of a process of biological functions that have developed to help you. Anxiety is your normal and natural reaction to a challenging event or situation. Put simply, your body is working as it is designed to do – biologically your body is readying itself to either stand and fight a threat or to get out of a threatening situation quickly – (the “fight or flight” response you have probably heard of). Both of these responses require physical action. Your in-built anxiety reaction gives you a necessary boost of adrenaline that increases your heart rate and the amount of oxygen going to your limbs – hence some of those physical symptoms. You have probably experienced that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that most people associate with anxiety – this is physiological evidence of this mechanism kicking in. This automatic mechanism works well when it is needed to help you avoid immediate danger and keep you safe. However, there are problems when it is inappropriately activated during ordinary, everyday situations. Anxiety is often at the heart of many problems that people seek help for. For example, I regularly receive enquiries from people struggling with social anxiety where they are too afraid to go out and mix with other people; health anxiety where people are constantly worried that they have something wrong with them despite doctor’s tests showing otherwise; teenagers and university students who cannot handle the anxiety associated with exams and are worried about damaging their future prospects; people who have failed their driving test numerous times because their nerves have overruled any calm, clear thinking; people faced with public speaking at work who are embarrassed and scared that their careers will be in jeopardy if they cannot perform their duties in a professional way; people who can’t go on the holidays they would love because they are too anxious about flying; and those people who won’t do many ordinary things because their anxiety creates panic attacks. The list is endless, showing that all sorts of problems with anxiety are very common. If you are struggling with anxiety, you are certainly not alone. People in these situations have usually lost most of their confidence, feel quite low and may often develop symptoms of depression alongside the anxiety.

Over the next few blogs I will be talking more about Anxiety and what you can do to help yourself feel better. If you are suffering with anxiety, please consider getting professional help. Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialise in working to help people overcome anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at: www.mindmakeoveruk.com/contact.html