Anxiety is typically experienced as a feeling of discomfort in the body frequently accompanied by troubling thoughts or emotions. When these feelings become overwhelming they can cause us to freeze or have the urge to run away in what people describe as a ‘panic attack’. Anxiety is the body’s way of preparing itself to deal with a threat, or danger, and is also known as the fight or flight response. This is a perfectly natural response when danger is present,
What makes the fight or flight response so particularly stressful is that the body is placed upon high alert so that protective action can be taken immediately. Adrenaline (cortisol) starts to flow, breathing becomes shallower and faster, the body heats up and energy flows away from maintenance processes such as digestion so that it is available in the limbs, where it will be needed most. This is a very energy-intensive response and cannot be maintained for extended periods of time without resulting in exhaustion. Once the perception of danger has past adrenaline levels start to subside, breathing becomes more comfortable and the temperature starts to drop as the body regulates itself. People usually experience this with a sigh of relief!
We can better understand the fight or flight response as our natural capacity for self-preservation whilst stress and anxiety are the discomfort we encounter whilst experiencing the physiological changes brought about by the this response. As humans we have an additional layer of complexity to add to the fight or flight response and that is that we also have the power of thought and imagination. Consequently, even when danger is not present we can convince ourselves that it is and trigger precisely the same physiological responses in the body – a typical example might be our response to ‘things that go bump in the night’- do we hide under the covers or get up and investigate?
So we might say that we have a tendency to feel anxious about something. What we usually mean by this is that we become aware of the uncomfortable feelings when we think about something that has caused us to feel this way in the past. So we create an association in our minds between the object of our concern – sitting an exam, going to the doctors etc, and the uncomfortable sensations in our body. In this way we develop a habitual response and every time we continue to upset ourselves in this way, we make the link ever stronger.
When this response becomes habitual or chronic the body may also start to show signs of discomfort and disease. The most commonly encountered physical signs are tiredness, muscular tension, frequent headaches and lack of appetite (food and sex). There may be unprompted anxiety or panic attacks, disturbed sleep or digestion, outbursts of temper or inappropriate emotional responses addictive behaviours and psychological disturbances leading to a feeling of being ‘out of control’ or simply ‘not being myself’.
People will often adopt a number of different strategies to deal with their anxiety. They may, for example, turn to food, drink or medication in a bid to keep the symptoms at bay. Frequently they will make a conscious effort to avoid the circumstances which prompt them to feel anxious. Unfortunately, whilst providing some short-term relief none of these strategies address the anxiety cycle itself and, if left undisturbed, it will become more deeply embedded in the mind.
Dealing with Anxiety
Recognising that anxiety is a habitual or learned response is the first step to acknowledging that we can do something about it – we can learn to disrupt the cycle and we can learn to become less sensitive to the object of our concerns. At Transformational Hypnosis we address anxiety by helping people to develop their relaxation skills and to challenge the basis of the fears underlying their anxiety. And, as we learn most effectively by doing things we help clients to build the confidence needed to face the things that concern them. Our approach to anxiety focusses on identifying and addressing the underlying concerns and using hypnotherapy to help to overcome them.
The work we do in out hypnotherapy sessions is reinforced using our complimentary audio programme and clients are shown how to do self-hypnosis and develop relaxed, or abdominal breathing to help manage their anxiety symptoms.