Do you spend your day worried, uneasy, with a vague sense of unease?
Do you feel a constant nagging anxiety?
Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed, trapped, with no way out?
Do you want to feel able to deal with everything life brings? Do you want to wake up every morning feeling calm, confident, assured? Well you can.
Anxiety is normal and is a natural survival mechanism. Everybody needs some level of anxiety: it helps us to recognise danger and to stay out of harm's way. Anxiety is only a problem when we have too much of it and worrying becomes a way of life.
Anxiety can be classified into three groups, generalised anxiety, phobias and panic attacks. This page is about generalised unfocussed anxiety, anxiety that seems to have no specific cause. About five percent of the population suffer from generalised anxiety but few ever seek treatment. Most don't even realise they need treatment or that treatment even exists.
Chronic anxiety can take several sessions to achieve the level of calm and control the client needs.
Anxiety frequently arises when some situation at work or in relationships causes stress and that stress is then applied to other areas. In other cases a person may have been forced to live through a long stressful period and responded by generating a certain level of stress, and that level of anxiety has become a habit. Or the person may have gone through some dramatic stressful situation, and even though the situation is over they cannot let go of the stress and anxiety that it generated. It is as if their anxiety switch is permanently stuck at On.
Chronic anxiety occurs when the person is not aware of any reason for feeling anxious but is unable to stop worrying about the future. Because there is no real reason for the anxiety people start worrying about why they feel anxious which causes even more anxiety and so the problem gets worse. People with unfounded anxiety manage to keep the process under control most of the time but the problem just keeps on. The effort of keeping anxious thoughts under control all the time is itself stressful so the problem feeds on itself.
To manage anxiety effectively is necessary to break the cycle.
The first step is to help the client understand how the anxiety process works and to give them the tools to manage the things that are causing the stress in their life.
The client is taught how to go into a state of deep relaxation. This will temporarily turn off the overactive "fight or flight" response and will reduce the level of stress hormones in the body. Many anxious people can not remember ever being relaxed and don't know how to relax or what relaxation will feel like. Relaxation techniques can be applied instantly and automatically whenever a stressful situation emerges. Just giving the client a break from constant stress can be very beneficial.
Many people with anxiety have fallen into bad habits of breathing that tend to encourage anxiety. A simple exercise can check if this is the case. See the Breathing page for details.
Most of the causes of stress in our daily lives comes from future events that are not stressful in themselves but are things that anxious people can imagine going wrong. Thinking of all the ways that things can wrong triggers more stress and cause more anxiety. Meeting someone, writing a report, going somewhere new - these and other ordinary things can generate overwhelming anxiety which almost guarantees failure which generates even more anxiety. This process is known as catastrophizing.
The client is taught how to use visualisation to create a better picture of how things will turn out. By giving the client the tools to imagine bright outcomes to any situation they automatically defuse potentially stressful situations and therefore break the cycle before it starts.
Everything we do, everything we see or hear automatically causes the subconscious mind to 'go inside' to find matching experiences from the past. This process is normally goes on unnoticed. However for an anxious person, all the retrieved images have the potential for catastrophe. Eating a red apple, for example, might cause the mind to seek previous occasions of eating an apple, or of red things in general. The mind will rapidly flick through its 'filing cabinet' and highlight one or two images or memories. These are normally below the level of conscious awareness but in the brief instant that they flicker across the mind, the anxious person will react with a momentary surge of anxiety without ever being aware of the cause. Every time the person does the same activity or sees the same thing, these same memory retrievals happen.
With practice people can learn to become aware of any images or ideas that cause a reaction. The person can grab the memory, usually as an image, and consciously examine it. If the memory is harmless then it gets let go, if it actually has some kind of negative association then submodality alteration can remove the negative associations.
The client is taught how to use submodality alterations on associations of all kinds and can therefore deal with any type of distressing memory.
The client is given a series of post hypnotic suggestions about how they will behave when confronted with a stressful situation or when they find themselves beginning to catastrophize. The post hypnotic suggestion reminds the client to go into a pre-rehearsed more useful behaviour instead of reacting with stress and panic.
The session includes direct suggestions aimed at increasing the person's confidence in dealing with stressful situations.
The reorientation will include suggestions that common events in the client's daily life will cause them to remember to do their relaxation and visualisation practice.
In many instances anxiety is linked to some more general issue such as lack of self esteem. It is often useful to consider using hypnosis to deal with that wider issue.