Anxiety impacts upon everyone at different times of their life. In this article I’m going to help you explore and and start moving on from anxiety naturally and effectively. It’s quite a read, but the knowledge and awareness that you’ll get from this will be very much worth it. Not only this but you’ll also find out what you’ve been inadvertently doing that has been making your anxiety worse. You’ll also know some brilliant things that you can do to overcome anxiety and take your life to a whole new level!
That being said, why should you listen to me?
In my career as a hypnotherapist I have helped hundreds possibly thousands of people to overcome anxiety and depression. It is perhaps the one thing in life that I am exceptionally good at!
If you are new to my website (and me!) don’t let the ‘hypnosis’ aspect throw you, or make you think that what you’re about to read is going to be in any way fluffy or a little bit ‘out there’. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy is a field that has attracted many doubters simply because it has previously been misunderstood.
Thanks to studies and research into the brain and hypnosis this is no longer the case. We know that hypnotherapy and hypnosis is far from mystical and has proven benefits for you and your amazingly powerful brain.
As a Solution Focused hypnotherapist much of what I do is brain based therapy and the actual hypnosis part is only a part of the therapy.
First of all it is vital for you to start to understand your brain and how anxiety impacts upon it.
The Amazing part of your brain where anxiety does NOT live.
As a human being you are part of the most advanced species on the planet. The reason why you are so amazingly advanced is in large part down to your brain. That 3lbs of flesh in between your ears is the most advanced object in the known universe.
The most advanced part of your brain is what I like to call the intellectual brain. The intellectual brain is mainly the neocortex and in particular the most advanced part being the left prefrontal cortex.
When we have this part of the brain engaged we are confident, we’re motivated and we are full of drive and self belief. It’s also naturally very positive in it’s thinking.
It isn’t just the way that you feel either. When the intellectual brain is engaged you will be more creative, make better decisions and even have better control over your body. In
short, the intellectual brain is phenomenal!
If there were no other parts of your brain I would not need to write this article as you would be happy, operate brilliantly and anxiety would be like a foreign language that you had absolutely no comprehension of.
However there is another part…
The primitive part of your brain that LOVES to make you anxious!
Although your brain is hugely complex, when it comes to anxiety and certainly overcoming it, we can think of the brain in two broad areas. The intellectual brain (that we’ve just discussed) and the primitive brain.
If the intellectual brain is the neocortex part of the brain, then the primitive brain is the limbic system. It is the original part of the brain. It’s emotional, makes irrational decisions and it’s sole function is your survival and the survival of the species.
When you’re operating out of this part of the brain there is no room for complex decision making. There is also no room for happiness, wellbeing, contentment or confidence.
You’ve got two choices fight or run away. Exactly what your anxiety is there for.
When we were prehistoric man and woman this anxiety response saved our lives on countless occasions. When the wild animal approached, your anxious, anxiety inducing primitive brain kicked into action and the anxiety response did what it was there to do.
The hypothalamus (which is part of your anxious primitive brain) released stress hormones into your blood stream. Hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline ensured you were in exactly the right state to fight or run.
It created the physical response of making you sweaty, increasing your heart rate and tensing your muscles.
In short, the anxiety response of engaging your primitive brain was a life saver and maximised your chances of staying alive!
The outdated anxiety response
Fortunately, as humankind has evolved we have less and less life threatening experiences. In fact, many of us can go a life time without being attacked by anything that threatens our life. Whereas this was likely to have been an everyday occurrence for our prehistoric ancestors.
The big problem with the anxious and anxiety inducing primitive brain is that it isn’t the brightest of minds. Whereas the intellectual brain is highly advanced, the primitive brain is extremely basic. It thinks: stress or not stress? Anxiety or not anxiety? Life Threatening or not Life threatening?
Not only this but it cannot tell the difference between worry about an attacking tribesman and worry about an upcoming deadline.
When the primitive brain interprets something as worry or danger it kicks in to save you. So when you need to be calm and composed in order to do well at the meeting, your primitive brain senses danger. Life threatening danger! So it steps in, pumps you full of stress hormones and you find your anxiety levels going through the roof. The worst state to be in when you need to be calm and composed!
What does an anxiety attack feel like?
As you are reading this, I’m sure you already know exactly what the anxiety response, or the anxiety attack feels like. However, if you are still unsure you’ll like feel one or all of the following symptoms
- Racing heart beat (heart palpitations)
- Shortness of breath
- A sense of doom or impending doom
- Chest pain
- Feeling like you might pass out
- An urgency to escape or run away
- Tense muscles
- Feeling like you are in grave danger
How is anxiety created?
In order to do something about your anxiety it is important to realise how anxiety is created in the first place. What causes you to move from the rational and wonderful intellectual brain and engage the anxious primitive part of your brain.
Anxiety is caused by negative thinking.
I’ll say that again as it is extremely important. Anxiety is caused by negative thinking.
There are going to be lots of people who read that and think to themselves ‘negative thinking causes my anxiety!?’ It must be more than that!?
Every event that we encounter in our lives is neutral in terms of the event itself. If I look out the window and it’s raining, this is neutral.
When I think about the rain, however this is when the event loses it’s neutrality.
What I mean by this is if I think to myself. “Great it’s raining, my flowers will get a good soaking! Just what they’ve been needing!”. This is going to make me feel good. It’s going to engage the intellectual brain. I’m going to be feeling good and happy.
However, if the same event happens and I think to myself “I hate the rain! Look how miserable it is out there. I’m not even going to attempt to go out in this. Other day ruined because of the awaul English weather!’.
The same event has happened, yet the negative thinking is going to start bringing me down into the anxious primitive part of the brain. Engaging the part of my brain where anxiety lives.
This one thought might not produce a full blown anxiety attack, but it gives the primitive brain a bit more power and control.
Then when you encounter something that is more likely to cause anxiety, the primitive brain already has its hooks into you.
Another specific example around negative thinking and anxiety is giving a public speech. Here we can clearly see how the event does not cause the anxiety, but our thinking around it does. If it was the event itself that caused anxiety then we know that every single person that had to do a public talk or speech would have an anxiety attack and we just know that this is not the case.
Some people will get prepared for a speech by thinking empowered thought. They will be thinking about what a great opportunity this is etc. This will be engaging their intellectual brain and getting them brilliantly prepared.
However, others will be dwelling on all of the things that might go wrong. How the could look bad or look silly on stage and we know now what part of the brain that this is engaging?
Your imagination can also cause anxiety
The other fascinating aspect about your anxiety inducing primitive part of your brain is that it cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality.
An example is if you have your driving test coming up in two weeks time. Naturally most people will think about this as the date approaches. The draw of the anxious primitive mind to think negatively is very powerful.
If you are worried about the test, the chances are that you think about the test going badly. Intellectually you know that these are just thoughts, but you still experience some of the anxiety responses in your body because parts of your brain cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined.
2 weeks later when you turn up to take your test you think you are doing this for the first time. However, your brain remembers you doing this over and over and each time has gone disastrously. Hardly great preparation! This is another example of when you need to be calm, composed and in control, but because of your negative thoughts you are a trembling mess!
The more negative you think the more anxious you become
Whilst an attack from a wild animal or a rival tribesman will cause your anxious primitive brain to become fully engaged and the anxiety response to be intense, it can also be a gradual process.
The more negative that you think, the more and more the primitive part of your brain kicks in and the more intense the feelings of anxiety become.
In a metaphor that I borrow from psychology you can say that every negative thought is accumulated and stored in a stress bucket. The fuller the stress bucket becomes the more ebnaged the primitive part of the brain becomes.
If it becomes full and overflowing, anxiety becomes a real problem.
Reducing your anxiety with a great night’s sleep
Thankfully our brains have an inbuilt way of reducing your anxiety naturally and autom
atically. It’s part of a process and a natural period of your sleep called REM (Rapid Eye Movement).
When you go to sleep at night your brain enters this pattern of sleep which is often seen as the dream state. In this state your brain is working hard, filing memories of the day away and resetting you for the next day.
One of the functions that your brain does in this state is to take the emotion out of your memories, so that they become more factually based. In this way your brain is resetting so you so that you can start the day with little or noting in your stress bucket.
An example of this is that you may have had an argument with someone at work. When you come and tell your husband/wife about it they say that you should forget about it. However, your annoyed and perhaps a bit emotional about it. Maybe even angry!
One of the functions of REM is to take this negative emotion out of the memory and file it away as simply a factual memory. In this way you wake up the next day and you may have forgotten about the argument. If you’re still thinking about it the likelihood is that your wondering how you let it get to you so much.
The problem with REM sleep is that it takes an enormous amount of energy. Your brain is burning white hot during REM sleep and cannot sustain it for very long.
If you have too much in your stress bucket, it isn’t going to be able to empty it and you’ll often be abruptly awoken if you try to over do your REM sleep. This can then lead to sleep problems and reducing your REM sleep even more, which creates further issues.
Overcoming your anxiety
I am hoping that the above is now showing you how you can start to help yourself to overcome your anxiety.
Firstly we need you to stop piling so much into your stress bucket by improving your thought processes and secondly we need to get you sleeping well to maximise the REM sleep that you’re having.
We are going to come on the the 3 P’s in a moment that will support you overcoming your anxiety. However the 10 minute audio session below should be something that you listen to often (once per day if possible). Make sure that you bookmark this page or even feel free to download it. Get into the habit of having this time to relax.
It is a relaxation session. It will help to relax you and think in a good way. This will start to assist in helping to combat any anxiety and anxious feelings. It can also help to induce a supplement of REM sleep to assist in emptying your stress bucket.
Remember, bookmark this page and try listening everyday for the next 7 days and you’ll see the improvement that this alone has upon the way that you feel and your anxiety.
The 3 P’s to help you overcome your anxiety
So I’m sure you can see from what you’ve read above that we need to banish negative thinking from your world in general. This would be the first of the 3 P’s: Positive thinking.
I say positive thinking because it fits nicely in with the 3 P’s. However, it is more than just positive thinking. Yes, positive thinking is infinitely better than negative thinking to help with your anxiety. However, in order to take things to an even better level I want you to think SOLUTION rather than POSITIVE. So Positive thinking in actual fact is Solution Focused thinking.
If you want a simple explanation of the 3 (and I’m being VERY simple here!), imagine you’ve just lost your job and you have 3 options. Thinking 1) Negatively, 2) Positively, 3) Solution Focused.
Here is how it might be:
Negative thinking: What is the point of applying for jobs there are none out there!
Positive thinking: What is the point of applying for jobs, one is bound to come to me!
Solution focused thinking: I’m determined to get a new job, what is the best way to get one. I know, I’ll get my CV up-to-date. I’ll also make some phone calls to people that I think might be able to help. I’l also….
I’m sure you can see how powerful solution focused thinking can be from this! It is very empowering. It also stops those negative, anxiety inducing thoughts in their tracks!
So, what about the other 2 P’s? Before I tell you about these, I want to show you why they are important and what we get out of them.
Our reward that combats anxiety and makes us feel good
When we were early man and woman we were given a reward for carrying out certain evolutionary tasks that were for our benefit.
Things such as hunting and gathering, looking after our family as well as interacting with other tribes people.
By doing these things the reward gave us confidence, motivation and made us feel happier. It also helped us to cope better with physical pain. All of the rewards that it gave us took us further and further away from the discomfort of anxiety and put us in a better place.
From neuroscience and studies into the brain we now know how these rewards came about. It was the release of various neurotransmitters in our brain. The one that I refer to the most as it seems to be the most important is serotonin.
When we are releasing a nice, steady and constant flow of serotonin we create these wonderful feelings. They also give us the feelings stated above, such as happiness, contentment and motivation.
These days, although we don’t have to go out and hunt and gather, we do still need to be active in a positive way and interact in a positive way. This then produces those amazing feelings and that wonderful release of serotonin that makes us feel better and certainly removes anxiety.
Therefore the other 2 p’s to take you away from anxiety are:
The 4 step plan plan to overcome anxiety
Now you all of the information that you need it’s time to put all of this into action.
- Make sure that you listen to the relaxation often. Everyday if possible. It will help you to relax and it will also give you some extra REM to clear out that stress bucket!
- Positive thinking. Remember that this is really solution focused thinking
- Positive Action. Exercise and being active is a wonderful thing to make you feel good and banish anxiety
- Positive interaction. Meet up with fiends, family and colleagues regularly. Keep the conversation positive, upbeat and happy.
These 4 steps to overcoming anxiety might seem simple. However, when you do them consistently you will start to notice brilliant changes to the way you feel. You’ll feel happier and more confident.By doing this you will also have a positive influence on the quality of your sleep, which is also very important in this process.You’ll cope better with day to day life
Start doing this today and and you’ll push your anxiety out the way as you stride forward with strength and poise!