If you experience anxiety on a regular basis you will have a particular pattern or process that you run – comprising of what you think, what you believe, how you feel and how you act – that leads you down the anxiety track. A really effective way to stop anxiety, is to discover, then interrupt and change your habitual thinking/feeling/doing pattern. If you have been experiencing anxiety for a long time, it is likely that your patterns are largely subconscious, which is why it can be difficult to resolve anxiety on your own.
During my sessions with anxious clients, through asking strategic questions and knowing what to look for, I am able to figure out your particular anxiety process and the errors in thinking which prop it up. During your hypnosis session I then address each of these elements in turn, so as to knock down the underlying pillars which have kept the problem in place.
If you would like to start some of this work on your own, I recommend this step-by-step method for you to begin to discover some of your own internal processes, so you can start to become more consciously aware of how you experience anxiety.
1. Write down your thoughts and feelings when you feel anxious.
Monsters hide in the dark. Anxious thoughts can become so automatic that you are not even consciously aware of what is making you feel so stressed. Bring anxious thoughts to the surface by taking time to write them down. All of them, even the one’s you know are ridiculous. Especially the ones you know are ridiculous! Don’t overthink this and try not to judge what you are writing down. See it as a brain dump and just get curious as to what comes out. Becoming aware of what you are thinking about is key to being able to expose and challenge these thoughts. Acknowledging the way that you feel and bringing feelings to light is far more powerful that trying to deny, avoid or supress what you are experiencing.
2. Take an inventory of what you have written down.
Look over what you have written down. Now is the time to get really realistic about what is worth worrying about and about what is actually just fear taking you for a ride. Anxious people tend to focus on the worst case scenario, but how likely is it that what you are worrying about will come to pass? Can you distinguish between what is possible and what is probable? Theoretically anything is possible, but is it likely? Imagine this was someone else’s list of worries. What would you tell them about how realistic these fears are?
For any thoughts that are clearly ridiculous or very unlikely to happen, put a line through them.
3. Make contingencies for things that you have control over.
While many of your anxious thoughts are probably fictitious, there may be some genuine concerns in there that you need to deal with. Identify potential areas that you need to make decisions about or take action on. These should only be things that you have direct control over. For example, the actions or opinions of other people, workplace issues, outcomes of legal proceedings are all examples of things you might be anxious about, but don’t have direct control over.
However what are some initial steps you can take to make some progress or give yourself some peace of mind? What is in your control right now? Don’t think too far in advance for this one, as that will send you into overwhelm. Just look at what is the next right move. This could be talking to someone who could help you, researching a topic so you are more informed, or making a difficult phone call. Anxious people are often avoidant, meaning they don’t necessarily confront issues head on due to fear of the unknown, fear of confrontation, fear of conflict, fear they can’t cope and so on. Look at how you might be avoiding an issue and get real about what you can do now.
4. Accept the things you cannot change.
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The serenity prayer articulates this principle so beautifully. While it’s a difficult one for many of us, it’s clear that trying to control things we have no control over is the fast track to anxiety. Truly acknowledging you don’t have control over a person or situation the situation actually brings a sense of relief, because you have acknowledged the truth of the situation.
In our society surrender is so often equated with weakness, but it is actually the ultimate strength because it requires trust. Trust in yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way. Trust that you can cope with what life brings, and that you will find the resources and help that you need if that’s what you require.
5. Look for the exception, alternative or opposite perspective.
The foundation of this step is to recognise that just because you think a particular thought doesn’t mean it’s true! We are capable of viewing a situation or problem from numerous different perspectives. Most minds tend to lean towards negative thinking in the mistaken belief that this will somehow prevent us from being blindsided if things turn pear-shaped. However the truth is that reaching for a more uplifting and positive, or at the very least more balanced perspective, is what will give us the fortitude to move through the challenges of life with more strength and grace.
So why not choose a perspective that makes you feel better rather than worse?
Search your mind and write down as many alternative scenarios or perspectives as you can. Keep them realistic and believable. Ask yourself: is it possible that this alternative could be true as well?
These steps are a great starting place to begin to unravel your current pattern of anxiety, so you can free yourself from it and start to experience life in a more calm and balanced way.