Stop. Breathe – Ideas to help you let go of anxiety and stress
I've just taken a few deep, slow breaths before writing this article. Why? I hate writing - I’m not a natural writer and I find writing articles and newsletters the most difficult part of my job. As a result I tend to get quite tense and anxious when I have one to write and often my mind just goes completely blank. Simply taking a few deep breaths helps me to relax into a better frame of mind to “get the job done”.
Your unconscious mind is constantly on the look-out for danger. It doesn't matter if that danger is a real one (like an attacker with a knife) or an imaginary one (like the fear of what other people will think about your writing style).
When your unconscious mind spots a perceived danger it immediately goes into “fight or flight” mode – you may have heard of that. This is when the body and mind prepares itself for fight or to run like hell.
One of the things that happens during this process is that the thinking part of our brain switches off. For survival purposes you don’t want to spend time logically thinking things through – you want to react quickly and instinctively. That’s when you get that completely blank feeling in your mind. I often work with clients who are scared of presentations or meetings at work and they nearly always describe this feeling to me. It doesn't matter how much preparation they have done, as soon as they stand up to speak all of their well-prepared material disappears!
Another common thing to be affected is your breathing - it becomes shallow, quick and high up in your chest. Also your heart beat gets faster, your blood pressure goes up, and your digestive system is affected.
Cognitive hypnotherapy can certainly help you to deal with the root cause of why you are feeling this way and stop it from happening in the future. You can also learn and practice ways of relaxing and coping with stress and anxiety in the moment. But in the meantime here are three ways you can start to feel better today:
Take some deep, slow breaths – 10 is a good number to aim for.
If you are very anxious or stressed you might need to build up to this. You may not go from very quick, fast breathing to slow and deep on the first few breaths. That’s normal and it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Take your time, focus on your breathing and gradually and gently slow it down.
Some of my clients find it helps to count the length of the breath. Others find it helps to imagine breathing in a colour that represents calm relaxation to them. Play around and see what works for you.
Identify the thought that is making you anxious or stressed.
Generally, it isn't a real thing that is causing your anxiety – it is a thought that has passed through your mind. If it is a real thing (e.g. an attacker with a knife) you are absolutely right to feel uncomfortable and do whatever you need to do to get away. But you can start to recognise that it’s a thought that is usually causing the negative feeling. There isn't any real danger.
When I felt anxious before I started writing this article there was no real danger. There were some thoughts running through my head. "What if nobody reads it?", "What if the Hypnotherapy Directory doesn't approve it for publication?", "What will that mean about me?". But at the end of the day, even if one or all of those things turn out to happen it doesn't really affect me.
You can start to identify these thoughts, as you are breathing slowly and deeply and steadily – and then you can start to just let them pass through your mind.
Remember what you can and can’t control.
Sometimes anxiety is caused by worrying about things there is no hope of controlling - i.e. worrying about what people think about us and worrying if we are going to lose our job. Many people also worry about death.
All you are doing when you worry about these things is using up valuable energy - energy you would be much better off spending on the things you enjoy in life.
If you spend all of your time worrying about illness and death whilst you are healthy, you will miss out on all the happy times you should be enjoying with your friends and family. And ultimately, it doesn't matter how much you worry about death I guarantee it will happen to all of us at some point.
Worrying about losing our jobs is a big one in the current economic situation. But worrying doesn't mean you won’t be made redundant – it does nothing to stop it happening. Much better to turn up on time, do the best you can whilst you are there, take any practical steps to make sure your skills are up to date, and then get on and enjoy life.
Next time you are worrying or feeling anxious about something that “might” happen in the future, ask yourself if you can control or change it by worrying. I bet the answer is no. Then ask if there is anything practical you can do to change it. If you fear illness, a practical thing might be to eat a healthier diet. If you fear redundancy, the practical thing might be to get your CV up to date. If there is an action to take - do it.
Then take a few slow, deep breaths and relax.
If you need any help or want to learn more then find a well-qualified hypnotherapist via the Hypnotherapy Directory to help you.
Hypnotherapy Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Brenda Cox
Brenda Cox is a cognitive hypnotherapist and coach based in Colchester and Frinton on Sea, Essex. She has many years experience and specialises in working with clients for anxiety, panic and fears.… Read more
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