Anxiety is our mind’s way of keeping us safe – if we weren’t anxious about anything then I’m pretty certain that my children would have lost the majority of their fingers to door hinges by now. It’s not sensible to run with scissors, play with fire, or walk around an unfamiliar area with your headphones on staring at your expensive phone. So, the ability to sense when there is a threat to our safety allows us to adjust our behaviour to ensure we remain safe – and that’s a positive thing. However, when we begin to feel anxiety over situations where there isn’t a threat – then it becomes a problem.
Like stress, anxiety has developed for a good reason – it’s a survival strategy. It makes us really sensitive to any changes in the environment – particularly noises and movement. Our primitive ancestors would have been hyper-sensitive in this way so that if there was a predator around, their stress-response would kick in and enable them to protect themselves (fight) or escape (flight).
However, the anxiety that our primitive ancestors experienced as a response to feeling physically vulnerable is very different to most types of anxiety that we experience in the modern world. For example, take our fictious client Amy, who feels anxious for weeks in the build-up to giving a presentation at work. Although she consciously knows that the situation is not life threatening (and this brings up a whole host of other feelings, such as shame and frustration, because her conscious mind reasons she is ‘being ridiculous’), her unconscious mind feels vulnerable. If there’s a dispute between the conscious mind – which makes up about 10% of your brain – and the unconscious part – about 90% of your brain – then it’s a safe bet that the unconscious mind will win. So, when the unconscious mind experiences this feeling of vulnerability, it sends a cascade of stress hormones to ‘help’ us deal with that situation.
Those stress hormones are all well and good if we need to fight a predator or run away from a dangerous situation. However, when the cause of our anxiety is the thought of taking a test or being observed in a job role; public speaking; or walking into a room of people (and these are just a few examples of the many, MANY reasons why people experience anxiety) then it can have truly debilitating effects.
Remember those stress-responses we discussed in the Stress Hypnotherapy section? Well, they have a lot to answer for here too.
- Heart palpitations
- Heavy or fast breathing
- Dry mouth
- Feeling dizzy or sick
- ‘Butterflies’ in your stomach, nausea, diarrhoea
- Struggling to sleep
- Feeling on edge or finding it difficult to relax
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Feeling overwhelmed and/or always putting things off
- Wanting to escape
- Feeling irritable, restless or edgy
- Dissociation – you may feel like you are not connected to your body, or you’re watching things happen from a distance without actually feeling them
- Constant worrying
- Catastrophising or feelings of ‘impending doom
- Needing to feel completely in control and that you know exactly what’s happening and when
- Blaming yourself for everything
- Placing unrealistic demands on yourself
N.B. These lists are by no means exhaustive, and everyone experiences anxiety differently.
The reason why anxiety causes so much distress is because it makes us feel out of control. We logically, consciously know that we are not in any real danger, but it doesn’t change the way we unconsciously feel. This battle between the conscious and unconscious makes us feel embarrassment, shame, frustration and utterly helpless.
In a hypnotherapy session, I will help you enter a state of deep relaxation known as trance. In trance, your unconscious mind is more open to suggestion and we can use this to help you regain control, reduce your symptoms, and change the way you respond to anxiety. If there is an underlying cause for the anxiety (which is usually the case), I can help you dig deep to discover why you react in the way that you do and we can release any underlying causes. During the sessions, I will also use a mix of coaching and hypnotherapy to teach you coping strategies and relaxation techniques that you can use yourself, thus helping to realign the conscious and unconscious mind so you no longer feel inner conflict.