Anxiety is not always negative and something we need to eliminate. When within normal limits, it’s handy as it helps alert us to a potential threat and prompts us to take healthy action, e.g. ‘I have an exam next week, I need to revise….’
However, like all our emotions, anxiety is adaptive and therefore the emotion can become disproportionate and spiral out of control….. When adrenaline floods your system, sweat forms on your palms, your heart thuds and your breath becomes shallow and rapid, it feels very real, dangerous and an immediate threat to our wellbeing.
There are two separate (but nonetheless related components) to excessive anxiety.
Firstly, a tendency to overestimate, even ‘catastrophize’ the risk you face. This can take two forms:
- Making a catastrophe out of a real-life situation. For example, you may believe that the aeroplane you are flying in will crash (despite the odds of being killed on a single airline flight in the region of 1 in 29.4 million). Therefore, giving a current situation a truly negative spin which is out of all rational proportion.
- We can also imagine all the things that will go wrong in the future and create a ‘narrative’ or story around these thoughts, ‘it’s all bound to go wrong for me because….’ Chances are, when we believe something will go wrong, it will as we can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and disappointment.
Secondly, a tendency to underestimate your own ability to manage or cope successfully with those risks.
If you do not trust yourself to manage life’s experiences, you may become overwhelmed, fearful and feelings of anxiety can rise well above normal limits. Many fears are never as bad as we anticipate, their ‘bark’ is often far worse than their ‘bite’ and it’s simply our imagination that makes us think otherwise.
Managing our own levels of anxiety is very important as a calm, confident and relaxed approach to life allows for clearer thinking, better job performance, great receptivity to new ideas, better concentration in fact, better just about everything!
Raised anxiety levels are primarily down to personal beliefs and habits and thankfully these can be changed; a new attitude, outlook and behaviour is key.
The first goal for hypnosis is to help you to build relaxation skills and increase your sense of self-control Simply knowing you can relax and take control of your thoughts, feelings and behaviour will, in turn, have a powerful effect to better manage anxiety. Having the skills to deliberately ‘stop and shift’ your own internal experience is very liberating.
Hypnosis can further give you the ability to direct your thoughts (rather than simply react to them) and teach you to distinguish between useful information and useless speculation! Additional skills to enable mind-clearing or mind-focusing to help you direct your thoughts away from catastrophe and towards harmless also contribute towards establishing new patterns of behaviour.
As Aristotle wrote ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellent, therefore, is not an act but a habit’ and hypnosis is a wonderful way of establishing excellent habits for a life free from excessive anxiety.