As I was thinking about what I would like to talk about in my very first blog, I felt slightly anxious and that led me to my answer! Of course, it’s completely natural to feel a surge of nervous, excited anxiety when starting something new. It can propel you on to achieving your best, to reach new heights. Anxiety can also warn you of impending danger, it can be a helpful emotion that we need to survive. Unfortunately, though, anxiety is a huge issue in many people’s lives – from school children to company directors.
Many of the clients that I see, whether for hypnotherapy or counselling, come to me because they are struggling to control their anxiety. This is sometimes related to a very specific event in their life but, more often, is simply ‘everyday anxiety’ – the stresses of work, family and relationships – those things that, in an ideal world, should be a source of enjoyment and fulfilment.
So what can we do to help to reduce anxiety levels, to make life easier and ultimately more satisfying? Obviously if your anxiety is severe or debilitating, you may need to see your doctor or talk things through with a counsellor.There are several strategies that we can all do for ourselves as well, however, and these can really help us to help manage difficult emotions and to relax more.
- Take deep breaths – even this simple step can help because deep, diaphragmatic breathing activates your body’s relaxation response. Practice breathing in through your nose and out slowly through your mouth, as if you were blowing a huge bubble ... too fast and the bubble will burst! Give it a go and practice it so you are ready to put into action when you need to calm down.
- Accept that you’re anxious – and that anxiety is a natural emotion that you can manage. Like any other strong emotion, it tends to peak and then subside. You are learning to ride that wave, breathing deeply, until it subsides. Learn to surf, not become submerged!
- Question your thoughts – when people are anxious, they tend to be bombarded by all sorts of negative or outlandish ideas. The cold that you have may suddenly seem life-threatening, the speech you need to give may seem like an impossibly difficult challenge. Chances are, you are getting things out of proportion. Once you start to question whether your thoughts are based in reality or not, you begin to realise that some of your feelings are based on negative opinion rather than truth ... and you can begin to start controlling your responses and emotions.
- Use positive self-talk – “This anxiety feels bad right now but it will pass and I can use strategies to control it”.
- Use calming visualisation techniques – find out about how meditation and hypnotherapy can help you. Self-hypnosis is also a great way to deal with stress and anxiety and can be learned with practice.
- Focus on the here and now – anxiety is often based on ‘what ifs’ but if you learn to enjoy the moment, the future seems so less threatening a place.
- Focus on enjoyable, meaningful activities – anxiety feeds on obsession; you may feel anxious but that doesn’t need to prevent you from doing other things. And obsessing about something doesn’t actually achieve anything other than making you feel bad.