Tackling anxiety proactively
Sometimes I wish I had a magic wand, one that I could wave in front of someone and watch as they turn into the person that they want to be. You see, as a hypnotherapist, people often book an appointment with me under the expectation that I will talk them into a trace, re-programme their brain and they will awaken with their problem removed and a new lease of life added. As I write this, I have images of removing a file from a filing cabinet and slotting a new one in its place.
My wish, however, is fleeting, this is not something I dream of being able to do. The reality is every aspect of you comes from your previous experiences. When you speak with a therapist you take your experiences, process, and integrate them into your life so that you can manage the negative consequences today, in a different way. The processing and integrating can take time, months, years even.
So, whilst you have sessions with your therapist and your brain works on in the background, developing and adapting, you will find positivity from a proactive approach to your daily struggles.
Focus your mind with meditation or hypnosis
When we strengthen our body through fitness, training the brain is regularly left out. It is so common to start with the shoulders and move down through the body, covering every muscle group to the toes. The brain is an important area to strengthen through training. Meditation, or hypnosis, is a way to strengthen your mind so that you are in control of your thoughts and actions.
Meditation and hypnosis achieve the same focused state of mind.
Hypnosis is generally solution-focused whilst meditation an exercise to clear the mind, however, you can train your brain with both.
The purpose of meditation is to take control of the thoughts that enter it. With repeated practise, you will be able to live every moment of your life in the same controlled way of thinking. The longer you can meditate for the better. A practising monk will spend eight hours of his day focusing on meditation. However, with a busy lifestyle a short ten-minute meditation each morning is enough to make a great difference to your day.
In our human body, we have something known as the HPA axis. The H stands for hypothalamus and P the pituitary gland, both found just above your brain stem. The A stands for adrenal glands, which are found on top of your kidneys. The role that the HPA axis gets the most credit for is the part it plays in the body’s reaction to stress.
Dysregulation in the HPA axis has been implicated as a reason for depressive and anxiety symptoms. Studies have demonstrated that voluntary exercise alters the release of hormones from the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland which positively alters stress reactivity and anxiety.
Exercise can be as low intensity as feels right for you. Some stretches or a gentle walk count as exercise. Many gyms have classes which make the process straightforward as the instructor creates the workout for you. Many fitness instructors and yoga teachers have free classes on YouTube which relieves financial restrictions and gives variety. The greatest challenge can sometimes be the motivation to start. Putting a walk or workout in your diary can help as you become accountable to yourself.
Journaling involves the writing down of your thoughts, feelings, experiences on a regular basis. Consider it an emotional download diary. Studies have shown that journaling about a specific traumatic event can facilitate growth from the event when the focus is on the emotional expression and cognitive processing.
It is important to keep this focus because focusing on negative emotional expression alone can worsen symptoms. The brain can take time to interpret, process and integrate experiences. Journaling helps this process so that experiences integrate sooner than may have been the case without any form of expression.
Sometimes it feels as though there is not any support, many people go to the GP and find that they hit a brick wall. The first point of call should always be your GP but if you do not get the support you need, start searching elsewhere.
Once you find one support centre it is likely you will hear of more, eventually finding yourself surrounded by a network of support. Social support is a powerful tool for recovery. Try support groups, support clubs, coffee meets – many host both in-person and virtual groups so you can pick what feels most comfortable for you.
Anderson, E.H. and Shivakumar, G., 2013. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in psychiatry, 4, p.27.
Ullrich, P.M. and Lutgendorf, S.K., 2002. Journaling about stressful events: Effects of cognitive processing and emotional expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(3), pp.244-250.
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