What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, worry or fear. It is our bodies natural reaction to a perceived threat or danger. The fight/flight system is activated giving us a rush of adrenalin to help us react. We all suffer from this at some point in our lives, whether its an exam, job interview or a dental appointment. These feelings will subside usually after the event.
When we don’t have control we feel fear. When we feel out of control we feel anxious and when we feel anxious we feel out of control and so you get stuck in a loop.
Not knowing what’s ahead, especially in these times. Will I get sick? what if my family get sick? What if I lose my job? How will I pay the bills? Not knowing the rules. The anxiety over these issues can make us feel overwhelmed.
Why we feel anxious
Did you know that 80 per cent of our daily tasks are done unconsciously? That means that 20 per cent of the time we have to really think about what we are doing and if we don’t know what’s going on, our imagination will make it up. Our brain has to make sense of everything and it does not like uncertainty! Our unconscious/subconscious will always try and protect us and it will search through our memories for a similar experience and when it can’t find it, it will make it up. When our imagination comes into play to fill in the gaps it will always create something 10 times more terrifying than the reality of the situation!
How can we control our anxiety?
As I said before, when you feel anxiety, the fight/flight/freeze system is activated and stress hormones are released into our body. This is to help us run away from a perceived danger. Your heart will beat faster to pump blood into your muscles, (to help you run faster) Your breathing will be rapid trying to get more oxygen into your lungs, (for a quick getaway) your digestion is affected so you feel a bit sick (you don’t need to digest food when you are running away from danger) and your brain will go off line (you don’t need to analyse the situation if you are being chased by a tiger) Your mouth goes dry too. (no need to salivate when escaping that tiger)All this can be happening in your body as you are imagining bad things, but you have not moved out of your chair!
Tip 1: To counter this, you can actually reduce the production of adrenalin by taking a deep breath in, and raising your palms to the ceiling, all the time following the movement with your eyes. Hold your breath and hands at the top of the movement for a couple of seconds, turn your palms over and return your hands to your lap or side, all the time following the movement with your eyes. Do this at least 3 times. This is called the balancing breath and as you breath out slowly it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the system that calms and relaxes us. If you are in a place where raising your hands is inappropriate, you can do the breathing and just take your eyes to the ceiling and lower them slowly with the out breath.
Tip 1a: If you’ve got some chewing gum this will cause your mouth to salivate and send a message to calm down the fear instinct.
Tip 2: When you start feeling your heart pumping etc - Try and measure out of 10 how high the feeling is, say you feel it is 7/10 and you want to get the feeling down to 3/10 just do some exercise until you feel the feeling has gone down. You have separated yourself from the ‘anxiety’ and will then be able to disperse the energy and hormones pumping round your body and complete the cycle of the flight fight system. Jumping Jacks is a good one.
Tip 3 If you were to write down 3 headings:
- Things I have control over during lockdown. i.e. wiping everything with anti bacterial wipes, when I exercise, go shopping etc.
- Things I have some control over during lockdown: Home schooling.
- Things I have no control over during lockdown: My job? Will I lose my holiday? Uncertainty doesn’t necessarily guarantee that bad things will happens. It just means that we don’t know yet. Try thinking of other things that you can’t predict and how you cope with these uncertainties.
Tip 4 Try bringing your main fear into your conscious and out of your imagination. Look at what you would do if the situations materialised. Try and face the fear. Things can feel more threatening if we keep avoiding them and your fear will grow stronger. If you started to feel panicky in a certain shop and ran out of it, your fear instinct will tell you that there is something deadly in that store and it will stop you going back into it. Had you stayed in the store until you had calmed down, your brain will not perceive the shop as threatening.
Relaxation is the antidote to fear and Anxiety.
Anything that helps us relax will naturally calm down our anxiety, whether its going for a walk in the country, meditation or yoga. If we can just concentrate on the What is, and forget the what if’s, we can align that anxious feeling. We need anxiety to protect us, it is just a part of us. If we can send a message to that part that we are not facing a threat, it will back down.
You don’t have to go through life letting anxiety keep you from living your best life. If your anxiety has gotten out of hand, hypnotherapy can help with calming down your nervous system and giving you that inner healing work that you need.