Anxiety is one of the top two reasons why clients come to see us for help with hypnotherapy (the other is depression). Hypnotherapy is extremely helpful, but its important to understand that the solution is in a collaborative approach, there is nothing anyone can do to or for the anxiety sufferer to make it go away – but there are practical things people with anxiety can do to help themselves and change the way they think.
Anxiety is the result of negative thinking or negative forecasting – ‘What If-ing’. Constantly worrying about what might happen, what someone might think about you or someone else’s actions or problems triggers the part of the brain responsible for flight/fight (the Amygdala). Once that happens, the mind then does a risk assessment and focusses your brain even more on potential problems and they become obsessions.
However, simply saying ‘Don’t worry’ isn’t going to cut it – and if you have anxiety, I’m sure plenty of people tell you frequently to stop worrying – I’m sure if you found it easy to stop, you would have already done so. So, what can you do to help yourself:-
1. Self Awareness
Being aware that you’re doing it helps. Often we get into the habit of just constantly worrying about things, worrying about being late, worrying about our health, worrying about others, all manner of things and sometimes don’t actually realise we’re doing it. But what’s really important to understand here is that this negative forecasting is our imagination making up scenarios of what might or might not happen. Yes – we’re making it up. As humans, we find it difficult to deal with ambiguity and if we don’t know something or the outcome of something, our mind will make it up and then – guess what? We believe it, we think it’s true. By realising that this is going on and acknowledging that our imagination has just invented that potential problem, helps us to deal with it.
For example, have you ever sent a text to someone and they haven’t replied and you expected them to. What then happens in your mind – you start thinking of why they haven’t replied and you start thinking what they are thinking – ITS NOT TRUE, your imagination has created it.
2. Focussing Your Mind Elsewhere
When our mind gets into the trap of obsessing or worrying about something, it is difficult to get it to stop. Many clients have given me wonderful feedback about the power of listening to audio books or podcasts. ‘Active listening’ focusses the mind on something positive and captures that imagination which can be the trouble maker in making up things to worry about. If the imagination isn’t directed to something positive, it will default to the negative in people with anxiety. Unlike radio or music in the background, audio books and podcasts focus your mind in an active, engaged way; you have to actually listen or you lose track of what is going on.
3. Hobbies and Interests
I know, people are always saying – ‘get a hobby’. But it is true, you need something to be interested in, a passion or something you look forward to doing. It’s on a similar line to No 2 above, it’s another tool which help to capture your mind and imagination to something positive so it isn’t defaulting to the negative.
You cannot be actively engaged in something you find enjoyable and fun and worrying at the same time, you’re brain can’t do both simultaneously. So find something in your life which you enjoy and make time for it – that’s important, you must put it to the top of your priority list, recognising that it is something you need in your life to keep you mentally healthy and not the thing that you do when everything else is done.
When you create anxiety, you also create stress hormones such as adrenalin. Adrenalin is a useful hormone when there is imminent danger or you have to keep going past your normal point of endurance, but too much of it in a bloodstream all the time is not good and can cause other health problems. If you are putting your mind and body into fight/flight by worrying, the best thing you can do for yourself is simulate the natural response and do something physical. Now, of course you don’t have to go and start a brawl in the street or run a marathon, but physical exercise will burn off the adrenalin you are creating. Tell me you haven’t felt better after exercise before!
People with anxiety rarely relax, if they are not doing something, their mind is and it’s because of this build up of adrenalin that is keeping their mind on red alert. Practicing relaxation techniques, guided meditation or following relaxation tracks or doing something which both engages your mind and relaxes the body will be hugely helpful.