The enjoyable way to influence your anxiety
Many clients have spoken to me about anxiety recently. Lockdown can be like a rollercoaster: some days (or even hours) you feel you’ve got it all in perspective. Life seems manageable, there’s a time limit to this experience and you can get through it, maybe enjoy some benefits. Then wham! It could be a news headline, a post on Facebook, a call from a friend, or just out of the blue something that triggers you to spiral into feeling worried and hopeless again. Here’s the good news: getting out of this cycle doesn’t have to be a slog. It can actually be enjoyable.
This is where we can turn to the amazing exercise from Stephen J Covey as a springboard for some clarity. If you’ve never read 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People', it's a wonderful reboot - one of the best. But in the meantime here's a sneak peek at how one of the exercises in the book has helped me, my clients, and might help you too.
Draw a circle on a piece of paper and write all your worries and concerns in this circle. Let yourself go, don’t judge, just get it all on the page. It can be symbols, words, short sentences - the more succinct the better. On another page now draw a big circle and then a smaller circle inside. This is where it starts to get good. The inner circle is your circle of influence.
This inner circle of influence is all the stuff you’re worried about and also can do something about. It leads us to feel emotions like hope, empowerment, decreased stress and optimism. It could be:
- The state of an area of your home resembling a flea market.
- The unwanted direct debits which are chewing up your resources.
- Your fitness regime feeling like ancient history.
- Some annoying, unfinished business at work.
Now go to the outer circle - the stuff that goes here is going into your area of concern. These are things you care about, and perhaps affect you, but over which you have little or no control. By focusing on this area too much we tend to feel emotions like a low mood, victimhood, stress and hopelessness. These could be:
- The state of the economy.
- The break up two years ago.
- The person at the supermarket this morning who didn’t social distance properly.
A really good clue to test if something is in the concern or influence circle is to check the focus of the concern. If it’s in the past, the future, revolves around other people or the big wide world, it’s probably going to fit snugly into your area of concern, at least for now.
Covey says that when we operate in a circle of concern, we are being reactive. We are spending our precious time and energy on things we can’t do anything about. The more time you spend in the circle of concern, the more your circle of influence shrinks.
But when we start to operate from our circle of influence it’s a whole new ball game. We spend our time and energy being proactive. And because this is all the stuff we can do something about it produces a feeling of personal control or agency and decreased anxiety, as well as quite literally giving us some practical things we can get on with doing. And the more time you spend in it, the more that circle of influence expands (and the smaller the circle of concern shrinks), so those positive feelings just grow and grow.
What I love about this is the simplicity of how quick and easy it is to assign worries to the two different areas. But also that we aren’t disregarding the items in our circle of concern - we are mindful that they are a concern for us and acknowledge our feelings towards them. Also this is a fluid process that needs to be reviewed. Many times something was in my circle of concern for a while but then migrated into my circle of influence and vice versa. It’s about really listening to what is in our hearts and minds and giving those thoughts and feelings the right home.
Clients who have worked with me in this way during consultations have found that it illuminates where they want their focus to be, and found it easier to let go of things that aren’t a priority. Also, sometimes there are items in the circle of concern that need a bit of attention so you can be authentically more at peace with doing nothing about them - like the past break up or a difficult situation or personality at work. Equally, there are techniques we can use to enhance your feeling of motivation for that inner circle, to give a sense of momentum to life.
Importantly, clinical hypnotherapy can also provide a therapeutic space where you can cultivate feelings of acceptance and positivity without the need to be assessing and taking action all the time. It also is natural, gentle and what clients consistently tell me is an incredibly enjoyable experience. Many have said it’s like a mind spa. As the Dalai Lama once said “we are human beings not human doings”. It’s important to strike a balance between doing what we can, letting go of what we can't, and being able to feel good being present and nurturing with yourself, wherever you are today.
Hypnotherapy can enhance all these areas by creating a safe space to talk the concerns through, and increase your sense of awareness. By using agreed, collaborative hypnosis techniques we can increase your inner connection and resourcefulness. These techniques can include breathing exercises that link you to more positive emotions and prompts to be more mindful of our thoughts and feelings. There are also delicious visualisations to induce deep relaxation that allow the mind and body to really rest, even after the consultation has ended. Also, by suggesting more positive beliefs, which are more readily absorbed while you are deeply relaxed, these invite us to accept and create the change we want. There are also ways to learn self-hypnosis as a wellness technique for self-management outside consultations.
Altogether, a more enjoyable way to influence your anxiety.
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