A quick technique for Anxiety. First lets discuss what is anxiety?
Ever seen a deer momentarily pause as if they had seen something lurking behind the bushes. You notice the deer happily grazing amongst the grass and wild flowers. Its nose twitching and occasionally it stops and tilts its head. Eyes wide- as if its just noticed something..Then suddenly without any warning at all the deer runs off as though its detected a threat. In flights.. another deer in a similar position may have just froze- motionless. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety you will understand that just like that deer we also use our primitive ‘fight/flight’ response when we detect a perceive threat. Even if no such threat exists..
The heart starts pounding, the instant rush of adrenaline that gets us ready to flee in a situation of perceieved threat or even fight…Does this sound familiar?
As human its natural to feel threatened at times however rarely are our anxieties about things anything like that deer. However our body can certainly react in that way… due to our brains ability to condition itself to perceive certain triggers as ‘threats’ For example, a client I once worked with had an fear of doctors due to a previous diagnoses of cancer. Each time she drove passed a hospital she would experience severe anxiety. Her brain had conditioned itself to associate doctors, hospitals as a ‘threat’ to her wellbeing- even where there was none obviously.
This client would then experience debilitating anxiety. Through a course of counselling and hypnotherapy this client learnt not to fear her body’s natural primitive survival response and gradually was able to feel much calmer in the presence of hospitals.
So how can we learn to keep anxiety at bay..? Whilst no substitute for therapy this technique amongst various others may help us feel more in control when the panic starts to set..
Breath. As simple as it sounds- breathing can do wonders in activating the parasympathetic nervous system and calming your physiological responses in the event of anxiety. Ensure that your outbreath is longer than your inbreath; 7/11 breathing could be useful.
Act normal. This may feel very difficult to begin with. Think about it, each time you ‘freak out’ in a situation that causes anxiety you are also unintentionally reinforcing the fear response. By acting normal you are telling the brain that ‘this situation isn’t a threat’ So think about what you wouldn’t do in a situation that ‘wasn’t’ an emergency? You would breath normally, you wouldn’t avoid or run off, talk calmly, smile..’ with practice and consistency you will find over time that you may feel more relaxed in situations that previously triggered the anxiety.
Remember- how you feel will change. How will you feel when the anxiety goes? What will happen? Anxiety does not last- though it can feel at the time that it will.
Separate the anxiety from yourself. Its very easy to become part of the anxiety or feel that the anxiety is a part of you. It isn’t! Remembering that anxiety is a survival mechanism that’s been conditioned in response to a ‘perceived’ threat can be helpful. Remember, what you always ‘feel’ isn’t always a reality of the situation. When referring to the anxiety it may be helpful to use language that detaches it from you. For example, ‘the anxiety’ rather than ‘my’ anxiety.