Taking control of your anxiety
Was there a time when you believed that the constant self-judgement was who you are - your personality, the way you were born? It has been normal to you to constantly mull things over. Your brain is continually working away.
If you have a plan for the evening, you will run through every minor detail from what you will wear, to how you will enter the building. What will you say to the people you speak with? What will you do if you cannot see anybody you know? What will you eat, what will you drink? Will you sit or stand?
You will be worrying and planning, worrying, and planning. When you do not have an event, you'll be thinking about the day’s interactions, or yesterday’s interactions, or why you have not had any interactions.
This is you, it's normal. It's hard work. You feel exhausted.
As you have landed on this article, I think you realise that the thoughts and feelings you experience are anxiety.
For some people, there are physical symptoms that accompany the thoughts. This week in my hypnotherapy practice I have worked with two separate clients that, at the recommendation of paramedics, travelled to hospital via ambulance due to intense chest pain. The diagnosis, for both? Anxiety.
The physical feelings that accompany anxiety should not be taken lightly. At times anxiety can be debilitating.
A first step in the road to a calmer life is recognising anxiety. Here are some of the signs of anxiety:
- negative self-talk
- heart racing / palpitations / chest pain
- feeling different
- feeling as though your brain is going to explode
- sleep disruptions
If you have had a lifetime of defining yourself by these characteristics, it is time to separate them from you.
Understanding the physiological response
Considered as a mental health issue, anxiety leaves the impression that it is all in the mind. Anxiety exists when the brain perceives something as a threat to your life. As a result of this threat, your brain prepares you to deal with it in a physical way. Like a rabbit caught in the headlights, your brain wants you to freeze, run or fight.
Your brain activates the sympathetic nervous system and sends you into a hyper-alert state. Your heart starts to race so that the blood moves oxygen around your body quicker. The pupils dilate so that you can see better.
Ever seen someone with a wide-eyed stare? What is the betting they are struggling with anxiety too?
Your breathing speeds up so that your lungs can take in more oxygen, alongside an infusion of glucose into the bloodstream to give you a boost of energy. Your body is a powerhouse, working instinctively to keep you safe from harm.
Gratitude for the brain and body
Only, meeting your friend for lunch is not a threat to your life. Neither is going out for dinner this evening. Oh, and the work meeting, that is not a threat to your life either. Just for the record, neither is you not becoming the person your parents expect you to be.
Somewhere along the line, your brain has muddled emotional threats as life or death. It's a threat to your ego perhaps, but not to your life.
The more aware you are of yourself, the more you can take control of yourself.
Negative thoughts accentuate the symptoms of anxiety. I have found, over years of helping people move away from anxiety, it is extremely easy to analyse the feelings in the body that feel abnormal.
When you wake in the morning you will find yourself scanning your body to check for signs of anxiety. Is your heart racing? Can you breathe easily? You obsess so much over the physical feelings of anxiety that you know them better than anything else.
I would like you to stop reading for a moment and tell me what you feel like, physically, within your body when you feel good:
- How does your chest feel?
- What do your arms and legs feel like?
- How is your head?
- What do you feel in your stomach?
Few people can answer this. When you struggle with anxiety, you become an expert in anxious feelings. When you are at expert level, you continually strive to improve your expertise by exploring more thoroughly.
But, by transitioning your focus, you can specialise in the 'comfortable' you. A you that feels at peace, free of anxiety. Become a master at knowing the feelings that accompany this state of mind, so that you can use the skills you have perfected to stay in this state of mind.
There is a mantra I love:
The more you focus on what you want rather than what you do not want, the more you will achieve what you want rather than what you do not want.
When you want to feel calm, recall the feelings that you are learning about. Remember what your arms felt like when you were deeply relaxed and imagine this feeling travelling through each arm, into your hands and fingers. Do the same for your legs, chest, and face.
Use the power of your mind to recreate the feelings of calm. The more regularly you do this, the more likely it is to become your habitual state.