What is Anxiety?
Anxiety could be described as apprehension building up towards a perceived threat. The uncertainty of a perceived threat causes excessive worry to build, resulting in anxiety and perhaps panic.
Anxiety can be internal – such as worrying about how you might perform during a speech, public presentation or even something that you can’t quite understand on a conscious level, resulting in a general anxiety disorder. External anxiety disorders are often much more easy to pin point, such as a specific phobia, or a stress response to something that didn’t go well on a previous occasion.
A little bit of anxiety can be a good thing, in fact the right amounts of anxiety would be appropriate at the right time, the problem is when the anxiety reaches unhelpful levels and at unhelpful times!
Levels of anxiety can range from low and mild to the extreme – progressing to become full-on panic attacks. Stress and illness are often side effects of anxiety; some telltale signs could be, IBS, low mood and depression, frequent headaches, and insomnia. Skin complaints also seem to be quite common.
Once the mind learns to worry excessively the anxiety response can become a habit – the mind perceives the threat, and pattern matches to previous experiences of panicking and worry. Each time this happens the anxiety response is strengthened… so we need to break it!
Nature perhaps gave us a stress/panic response in order for us to deal with short term emergencies. It’s during such times (emergencies) that we can experience the ‘Flight or Fight’ response.
The flight or fight response is great – if you are being chased out of your cave by a prehistoric beast or confronted in a dark alley way – sweaty hands and increased oxygen, narrowed focus of attention will most certainly help you prepare for action!
It wouldn’t be so great if you were about to make your wedding speech, go shopping in the mall or attend a job interview, where if the anxiety becomes extreme, you feel the need to vomit, as well as all the other physical symptoms associated with increased anxiety; dry mouth, increased blood pressure, feeling faint, the need to defecate, clammy hands, change in body temperature, digestive discomfort etc!
It’s probably fair to note that extreme panic is not very productive when it comes to surviving modern life, in fact when our anxiety reaches a certain point, the emotional part of the mind takes over nearly completely (the part responsible for basic survival, flight or fight, playing dead) why? Because thousands of years ago we didn’t need to be able to eat, or focus on driving a car etc if we were about to be hunted or eaten alive! And so logical thought shuts down when we become confused or can’t make sense of an emerging and stressful situation; our emotional survival instincts take over.
Tips for dealing with Anxiety
Accept the anxiety – you know what it is, now let’s deal with it!
Watch It – Think about grading it on a scale of 1-10, this helps to see the situation from an outside perspective, monitor it like its something else apart from you
Act – Carry on, act normally, i.e. continue to do what it is you need to do. If you manage this you will start to de-condition the anxiety
Repeat – repeat these steps, notice that you can start to change the level where is it on a scale now?
Expect – Expect the best! What’s the worst that could happen? What’s the best that could happen? So expect the best you might surprise yourself!
With increased stress levels and anxiety, people can start to over breath ‘hyperventilation’ – this in turn causes numerous other symptoms which in turn if not understood can make the sufferer think something worse is going on.
Some symptoms of hyperventilation are:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pains
- Clammy hands
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Feeling dizzy
- Light headedness
How to reduce or stop Hyperventilation – rapidly over breathing
Holding your breath
About 10 seconds of holding your breath can help to re balance the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood. Repeat this 3-4 times or so.
Breathing into a paper bag!
Be careful – you have seen it in the movies but this can help to rapidly restore the blood PH levels by breathing back in the carbon dioxide you exhaled.
Breathing through the nose, take long deep breaths in and out, 7 in and 11 seconds out (7:11 technique).
These techniques work very well for most people. When used with Hypnotherapy they can be much easier to carry out and also the client can benefit from learning self hypnosis techniques.
Tim Houghton is a Hypnotherapist in Brighton and London offering Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy in the area of Harley Street, Chelsea, Westminster, Brighton and Hove.