How to thrive under anxiety, pressure and stress
As the England cricketing team are determined to continue to be successful in the current Test Series (correct at the time of writing this!) and the competitive build-up will soon start for the next football season, all attention is on the high performance of the players.
But being match fit won’t be all that matters. Athletes in all denominations from football and rugby to Formula One know that when it comes to getting the best out of their performance under extreme pressure, it’s all about going to the ‘mental gym’ and being mentally fit as well as physically fit. And we can all adopt this same method in our everyday lives.
The key to better psychological performance is to understand what happens in the brain when we are faced with a stressful situation that makes us feel uncomfortable or threatened.
In these situations, it’s the primitive emotional part of our brain that is activated first, and in that area lies our amygdala which is activated. This helps us to escape from a growling bear or its' modern equivalent. This is part of our evolution and survival instinct that’s known as our ‘fight or flight’.
For us that might be fearful, aggressive, defensive behaviour to enable us to escape from the moment. Or the more passive freeze response where we get overloaded, our minds shut down and we can’t think clearly.
If we’re to perform well under stress we need to call on our intelligent sensible mind, the logical and analytical part of our brain situated in the front area of the lobe known as the left prefrontal cortex.
It’s not that the primitive emotional mind is bad, and the intelligent sensible mind is good, it’s about getting the two minds working together in balance. When we hold onto memories and repeat behavioural patterns that can hinder our everyday lives, we are reacting from our primitive emotional mind.
So, we need to be able to put any negative thinking into perspective so we can lead from the intelligent sensible mind. That way we can adopt a different mindset so we see the threat as a challenge or a positive opportunity for change. Sometimes when we find ourselves trapped in the same old primitive mental response, we end up sabotaging our performance or lives.
Understanding how to turn threats into opportunity is a key component of finding renewal and we can do this by adopting an approach of calmness that decreases the inflammation in a situation and reduces stress and tension.
How hypnotherapy can help
Using trance in hypnotherapy allows us to access the areas in our primitive emotional mind through deep relaxation, which is very similar to when we daydream. Our flight or fight is not alerted and is kept at bay and then we are able to reduce the anxiety and stress that triggers our negative behavioural patterns. A relaxed mind and body balance when in trance can be very beneficial as the ideal state of the body and mind is restful alertness which makes you feel relaxed and fresh. By gaining this experience in trance you can become aware of what it’s like and then you can expand it into your daily life.
The mind-body connection is total, and every experience has consequences simultaneously in your mind and in the trillions of cells in your body. One way to understand how this connection works is through the theme of positive thinking. When you’re feeling positive and light-hearted there’s also a feeling of physical lightness, dexterity, and more energy in your body. On the other hand, depression, sadness, and stressful situations makes us feel heavy, weary, bogged down, and sapped of energy.
We have the choice to nurture more positivity in our lives even amidst stressful situations, and we can do this by shifting our focus which is just one way to turn a threat into an opportunity. Changing your attitude from threat to opportunity can make all the difference.
We are typically happy to go to the gym or take up exercise to make our bodies stronger, but we can sometimes be reluctant to exercise our minds. We can’t meet every challenge immediately but as long as you are staying in the moment and setting your intentions positively, then you’ll be having a good mental workout.
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