In part one of our anxiety series, we ask Hypnotherapy Directory member and clinical hypnotherapist, Claire Knight about her five-step process to reduce anxiety.
1. Understand the symptoms
Your body’s reaction to fear is a natural and harmless ‘flight or fight’ response. We have evolved to release the hormone adrenalin when there is a perception of danger. That danger, whether real or imagined will produce the same symptoms which we understand as ‘feeling anxious’; i.e. racing heart, churning stomach, nausea, dry mouth, shaking, feelings of unreality etc.
2. Notice your thoughts
By becoming mindfully aware of your thoughts, you can begin to notice how the physical symptoms of anxiety arise from catastrophic thinking and then fear of that ‘anxious feeling’ rather than the situation itself.
3. Break the loop
Our natural instinct to counteract anxiety is to flee or try to fight it. When the fear is in our own minds there is nowhere to run. The fear can only continuously loop, gradually causing the mind and body to become hyper-sensitised to any unusual thoughts and physical feelings (like an engine running too hot).
To break the loop, stop fighting the feelings. Imagine you are in a ‘tug of war’ against those feelings. In the past the more they pulled you, the harder you resisted by trying to make them go away, so setting up a vicious circle. Think what would happen if you just let go of the rope!
4. Accept your feelings
Nature has ensured that no one enjoys feeling anxious, but the surest way of taking back control is to learn to accept these feelings as temporary and just allow them to be there until they subside. Imagine them perhaps, to be like a toddler having a tantrum; you don’t have to like them or want them, just let them be.
Focus on a breathing pattern that allows the outward breath to last twice as long as the inward breath while you imagine yourself floating through those unwelcome feelings.
5. End avoidance
Anxiety can only be calmed by ‘moving into it’ rather than withdrawing from it. The more situations you try to avoid, the more you will find to be anxiety-inducing. Allow yourself to go about your daily life with no excuses. Tell yourself frequently that, ‘you can accept any feelings in your body, you accept without running, you float past without fighting. Your feelings are transient and passing and soon will be gone.’