Anxiety is interesting to work with and I often find myself amazed at how an intelligent, strong minded, successful person, such as the one sat in front of me, could suffer from anxiety. It is the same when I deal with people with limiting beliefs (always arm in arm with anxiety) and a life time of road blocks. Just how can it be?!
We live in a society where there is pressure all the time. Jobs are harder to get so there is pressure on education, the more job seekers the greater the need to stand out from the crowd. Longer hours of work are often expected for higher flying jobs, the cost of living increases and even subliminal peer pressure can impact on the stories we tell ourselves. Technology is such that we don’t get a break – Facebook, Skype, mobile phones …. It just goes on and on and without a moment’s peace, the stress can be unrelenting.
Constant negative self-talk contributes well to the cause. With the pressures comes the pressure to perform; one small set back can set the self-talk off and away the anxiety goes.
You see, what happens is the unconscious mind doesn’t really know fact from fiction. It believes the constant messages received are fact and responds. So if the message is constantly “I can’t do this” or “I’m not good enough” the brain is going to start to believe this. Consider now, that while this is being said a constant picture of failure replays in the mind’s eye, perhaps a particular event; and the stomach churns and breathing shallows. Before you know it you have consistent physical reactions to the self-talk to reinforce the story and convince the brain further. Voila, now you can simply and easily flick into this full sensory story quicker than ever and it becomes fact.
So, what are some simple ways to relieve yourself of anxiety – even when the anxiety is temporary?
When the mind believes it is time to panic the Amygdala activates. It puts the body on high alert sending out adrenalin, increasing the heart rate to pump more blood through and all muscles are tense in preparation to move quickly - The good old primitive “fight or flight” syndrome.
So breathe! Stop what you are doing, go to a quiet space (physically or even just mentally) and focus on slowing your heart rate down; breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth. Place your hand on your stomach and physically feel the stomach expand as you breathe in and reduce as you breathe out. This is using your diaphragm to breathe which is much more affective for your lungs.
Focus on your breath and in your mind’s eye literally, slow your breathing down.
2. Change the Picture
A wise person once said to me “if you don’t like the picture, change it!”
Take the time to implant positive stories. This can be done through mediation, self-hypnosis, mantras, or just replaying simple positive messages. It might be something you tell yourself in the mirror each morning. Whatever it is - see it, say it and feel it with conviction.
When I say feel it, I mean feel it. If negative stories can activate adrenaline and rapid breathing, the positive stories can activate excitement or calmness, invigoration and positive feeling. You are recreating your mind’s beliefs to those that are more resourceful and are true so genuinely notice where you feel those positive feelings so you can easily activate them again quickly.
Take time each night to prepare for the next day. By all means write the list of key things to do (remember to make it achievable!) and set yourself aside 10 minutes to think of the next day. Visualise it going well, you keeping calm and in control. Step yourself through situations that may provide some challenge. You can even do this as you lay down in bed and before you go to sleep.
4. Practise Choice
Choose your attitude. With practise you can easily choose how you want to respond. By choosing how you respond you take the control back. By all means be angry – as long as that is resourceful to a positive outcome but first think what else you can be. What about “curious” or “confused”? What else could it be? When dealing with staff that have made a less than adequate decision I will often ask something along the lines of “I’m curious. What process did you go through to make this decision?” It sounds much better than “What the hell were you thinking” and gives you time to think. They may well have had a perfectly good thought process. Choose your attitude.
5. Commit to the Process
It has taken some time to get to a place of regular anxiety. Unwittingly, you may well have been totally committed to the negative stories you believe, complete with pictures, sounds and feelings and you have been 100% successful. It is important now to show the same amount of dedication in getting yourself back on track to a much more resourceful, happy future and in this, you can again be 100% successful.
Celebrate even the small successes. In work, at home, celebrate. When you celebrate each little break through, the final task doesn’t feel so insurmountable. Break things down to small tasks and celebrate. Keep the fun in the day.
And how is my anxiety client getting on? Much better, thank you.
Through some simple techniques and committing to their daily activities, some of which are included above, they have had some great successes in gaining control again, over just three weeks and I find a different person now comes to visit. What they realised the other day was – they are now making the choice.
Christine Walter is owner of Lodestone. She is a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming and Hypnotherapist who is passionate about helping people achieve their goals and dreams – after all life is to be lived. As well as one on one coaching she is an experienced presenter who enjoys making any training session lively, inviting and a fun learning environment.