Self confidence

I remember when I was in my teens, I’d struggled with my self-confidence. As I grew up I often avoided doing things because I feared the potential outcome. In my mind, it would all end horribly so I shied away from challenges or new situations. One day, when I was 19 years’ old I headed for the self-help section in a well-known book shop. I looked through various brightly-coloured books, each promising to “change my life”. Then, I came across a rather unassuming book. It didn’t particularly stand out and it was smaller in size than the others, so it was almost lost on the bookshelf. The book that I chose sticks in my mind to this day, even though I no longer have it. It was called “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” by Susan Jeffers and I suspect that most people have heard of it. It was upon reading this book that I gained courage and decided to go and work in America for a few months on my own. If I hadn’t of faced my fear, of being alone, I would never of gained the experience of being a camp counsellor to kids and travelled as much as I did not just in the US but beyond too. I truly began to grow as a person.​

My anxiety is something I’ve had to keep in check to ensure that my negative thoughts don’t take over and lead me into a tailspin. The lessons I learnt from Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, as well as those from my client work, have played a huge part in how I approach my own anxiety and fears now. It’s not the situation, but your thoughts about the situation A negative thought and how we can challenge them in order to move. The trick is to remember that the way we feel about any situation is not related to the actual situation, it’s related to our thoughts about the situation. Remember, a thought is not a fact. Example: You have to give a presentation in front of a few hundred people at work or school/college.

Here are a couple of different ways of thinking about the situation:

Thought 1: “I really hate speaking in front of people, I’m bound to muck this up and look stupid”.

Thought 2: “I get nervous speaking in front of people, but I’ll do my best and it’ll probably give me more confidence to do it again”. So, which thought do you think is more likely to trigger feelings of anxiety, and fears about going through with the presentation?

Hopefully you answered with Thought 1! Even with Thought 2 the anxiety and/or fear may not be completely absent, but that’s okay. It’s natural for new situations to make us feel nervous. The difference is, Thought 1 is more likely to make you feel far worse and possibly pull-out of doing the presentation altogether. Can we be totally free from our fears? You might be thinking: “But surely, if we’re challenging these negative thoughts then we want to try and get rid of our fears completely??”. In an ideal world, yes, it would be wonderful to be free from fear. Or would it? Actually, fear is a healthy emotion. It protects us; keeps us alert to danger, even psychs us up for something important (e.g., a competition). What we don’t want is for our fear to reach such levels that we avoid experiences which might actually be good for our growth and personal development. Time to be courageous? It’s good to try and challenge the thoughts which trigger our fears/anxieties, so that you get into the habit of challenging them more. Our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative, so we have to effectively retrain our brains to think differently. I believe, however, that there are times where we just have to take a huge breath and walk straight towards, and through, our fear. Sometimes we have to do this to prove to ourselves that we can do it and come out the other side (as long as the situation itself isn’t going to physically harm ourselves or anyone else). It is a process and can be scary but the more you push and encourage yourself the easier this becomes. Until one day Anxiety is under your control and not vice versa.

If you don’t try you will not know.

GOOD LIFE GUIDE!

Carl Jung, my favourite of the old psychologist was a great expert and founder of many theories about personality and identity, many of which are used all over the world today. Here is a brief ‘layman termed’ low down on just 5 factors he felt were;

ESSENTIAL TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE

1. Look after your physical and mental health. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that taking care of your body, exercising, eating right, getting the sleep your body needs, and tending to the needs of your mental health can help to make you a happier person overall. The physical benefits of exercise alone is enough to make someone happier. Our bodies release endorphins which when we exercise can provide us with the same level of satisfaction that chocolate can. So rather than fill up on chocolate that could make you feel bloated and full of guilt, spend time outdoors walking. Your body and brain will thank you.

2. Work to improve your relationships. Humans crave love and attention and we are able to satisfy those cravings with our relationships: friends, family, marriages, colleagues and neighbours. Everyone in our lives has the ability to make us feel happy. Of course, we can’t like everyone all the time, and we don’t always get along with everyone all the time, but the general consensus is that someone who is loved and who works to put their relationships first, experiences more happiness overall than people who don’t. Which makes sense if you think about it, people who spend their lives alone don’t tend to be very happy. Sharing your life with people can make you happier. What’s more, spending your life in service of others: your wife, children, friends, extended family, can make you feel happier as well. When we remove our needs from the equation and work to make others happy, we experience a great deal of happiness as a byproduct of those actions.

3. Notice the beauty around you. Yesterday I left my bag, I carry two, on the tube, not noticing I’d left it until a lovely woman ran up to me and gave me it. Totally lost in my thoughts and not of what’s around me. If we want to be happier, we need to slow down and take in the scenery around us. Stop and eat lunch, smell those roses, nap on the sofa, picnic under a tree, give some change to the man on the street, visit a friend, appreciate the beauty that is everywhere. We don’t do this enough as humans. There is always money to make and places to go and projects to deliver. Taking the time to soak up the world around us can help improve our happiness and reduce our stress levels as well. Not to mention not losing things!

4. Enjoy your life, you only live this one once. Everyone’s interest in work varies depending on who you are talking to. There is a great divide between people who live to work and those who work to live. The happiness of employees seems to go up when they enjoy their work and don’t feel like they need to separate their personal from their professional lives. When we feel needed and productive, our levels of happiness go up. While many people don’t put any stock in their jobs at all, those that do experience more satisfaction and better standards of living overall because they take pride in their work and products. 5. Believe in something While formal religion is not necessary to lead a long and happy life, many people, including Jung, believed that having something bigger than yourself to believe in could lead you down a path of happiness. The idea that life doesn’t end when we leave this world is of great comfort to millions of people and it can bring solace and acceptance during particularly difficult times in our lives. If you find yourself struggling to grab hold of happiness, try focusing on one aspect of your life that you can improve upon. Sometimes, the simple of act trying to improve yourself or one’s situation can bring about a great deal of satisfaction and happiness as well. Happy Sunday

Depression

What’s Depression?

First week back and this seems to be the general feel in the room. A New year tends to bring these emotions up, it’s a realisation for many along with relief to know they are not alone and with help can get through. So with this in mind I thought I’d write about the basic’s symptoms and diagnosis. Depression is described in the dictionary as being ‘low in spirit; downcast’. What it actually feels like is that a cloud of lead particles has settled on the soul. It is the heaviest weight we are ever going to feel. It is also the most stubborn of feelings and it can drive a person to despair. It sears our very essence and dirties our vision. It has the lightness of a gas but the weight of a concrete overcoat. It seeps into every crevice of our being. When we are depressed we can’t be bothered with our own potential. We cannot lift our heads enough to see that we have true value in the world.

We cannot give ourselves in close relationships because we become absent in the company of those we love. We care less about how we look, or else we overdo it when we go out to act as a mask to the world. We stumble through the day trying to find some meaning to the feelings that ravage us. We lose our motivation to pursue our true vocation and, in so doing, compromise our soul. We feel like victims – buffeted by the rough winds of life. We cannot grasp onto anything that is solid in order to pull ourselves out of the storm. Either we see nothing but unfairness or we stoop to self-loathing and believe we deserve nothing better. We lose our sense of reason and we are unable to take an objective view on our circumstances and address what is fact and what is fiction. The problem with depression is that it does not allow us to stand still. We either get worse or we get better. One common symptom of depression is mood swings. We can go from feeling ecstatic to feeling suicidal in minutes. We are used to the highs and lows; we thrive on them to give meaning to the day. But this thinking exacerbates the depression by keeping us in a state of anxiety. When the process of recovery from depression begins, it can seem as though nothing is happening, but this may be because we have stopped the backward drag. SOME SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION: • Overwhelming tiredness • Insomnia• Self-loathing • Rage • Immense sadness • Inability to do anything worth while • Feeling stuck • Feeling isolated • Harming ourselves • Feeling lonely • Thoughts of suicide • Not caring whether others like us or not • Having no feelings – numbed • Eating junk • Smoking • Sabotaging friendships • Behaving violently • Stealing • Drug and alcohol abuse • Gambling to excess • Being obsessive about sex • Losing all interest in sex • Abusing children • Compulsively cleaning • Self harm HOW A DOCTOR DIAGNOSES DEPRESSION When we ask for help from our doctor they wont take any of these concerns into account. They have a black and white view of depression which is abstract and doesn’t often relate to how we’re feeling. It’s important to know this and for this reason, here’s what the doctor will ask us to ascertain if we’re clinically depressed (depression that’s diagnosed by a clinician) or we’re just having a bad day. Current National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance uses the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) classification. THE SYMPTOMS A DOCTOR WILL LOOK FOR To diagnose major depression, this requires at least one of the core symptoms: Persistent sadness or low mood nearly every day. Loss of interests or pleasure in most activities. Plus some of the following symptoms: Fatigue or loss of energy. Worthlessness, excessive or inappropriate guilt. Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or actual suicide attempts. Diminished ability to think/concentrate or increased indecision. Psychomotor agitation or retardation. Insomnia/hypersomnia. Changes in appetite and/or weight loss. Symptoms should have been present persistently for at least two weeks and must have caused clinically significant distress and impairment. They should not be due to a physical/organic factor (e.g., substance abuse) or illness (although illness and depression commonly co-exist). Severity is based on the extent of symptoms and their functional impact: Sub threshold depressive symptoms – up to 5 symptoms Mild depression – few, if any, symptoms in excess of the 5 required to make the diagnosis, with symptoms resulting only in minor functional impairment. Moderate depression – symptoms or functional impairment are between ‘mild’ and ‘severe’. Severe depression – most symptoms present and the symptoms markedly interfere with normal function. It can occur with or without psychotic symptoms. Normal sadness exists along a continuum from clinically significant depression: differentiation is based on the severity, persistence and the degree of functional impairment and disability associated with the low mood. Only we really know how bad our depression is. It is very important to make this clear to a doctor. They cannot help us if they are not made aware of how serious the depression is. If we’ve reached out to our doctor then we are probably struggling. There is no shame in admitting you may need help the shame is in not seeking it. Things will get better just ask. As with all these blogs, please pass them on, someone, somewhere may well be grateful. Happy Sunday.

Combat Depression

How you can try to stop feeling depressed:

in 5 ways Depression is a major issue in the world today, with the World Health Organisation estimating that at least 350 million people suffer depression worldwide. Unlike a physical illness like a cold or a fever, depression can’t be cured through medication alone; it requires willpower and perseverance, something that we become stripped of when we become depressed. We fall into a cycle of depression, anxiety, and fear of the depression coming back, and for many who suffer depression, this can last for years or even a lifetime. So how can you stop being depressed? Here are 5 everyday ways: 1) A Human TouchIt may not make much sense the first time you consider it, but one of the best ways to start climbing out of depression is through human touch. What does this mean? Just touch another person and let them touch you. Touch is the first thing we experience when we come into this world. The touch of a mother, a family, a loved one, a friend; it is the feeling most associated with comfort and overcoming pain. When we were kids and we needed to let out pain or sadness, the greatest comfort we could imagine was a tight squeeze or hug from a friend, family member, or even a kind stranger.

The touch of another person has a certain healing power that we often take for granted, but if you find yourself sad and depressed, it may be time to reach out. Literally.

2) Take Photos

Think about how you live your life, how you go about your typical day. Maybe you wake up, get ready for work, commute, sit at your office for several hours, then come back home and relax until you sleep. Or maybe you might not be employed, and your day consists of nothing but sitting around the house. When you live this kind of life, it’s easy to let days fade into one another, with nothing separating one day from another. And there’s nothing more depressing than knowing that weeks, months, and even years are passing by, hardly noticed. So take photos. Whether it’s on your camera or your smartphone, take photos. Every time you go out and see something pretty, interesting, or unique, pull out your camera, find the best angle, and snap. Taking pictures is an easy and rewarding way to create something and appreciate the world. When you find yourself trapped in a head full of depression, we need these baby steps to pick ourselves up again.

3) Enjoy Upbeat Music

Another sad day, and another sad playlist. It feels so right to succumb to our sadness by filling our head with sad and slow music. But feeding your depression only encourages it, making it last longer and hit harder than before. The goal should be to ward off your depression, not to make it feel at home. So what do you do when you don’t want something to feel at home? You change its environment. And for depression, this means changing the music you listen to. Turn on the latest “happy” hits. Something fun and upbeat, something that makes you want to dance. You don’t have to turn your musical tastes upside down; just find something that motivates and inspires you. Sooner or later, with enough willpower, that happy music will become your entire reality.

4) Exercise

Exercise is an amazing way to end depression, and there are two reasons why: mental and chemical. Firstly, who doesn’t like looking good? You don’t have to be superficial and narcissistic to appreciate improvements in your body. Looking good, feeling stronger, and knowing that your body is becoming better all contribute to a brighter and happier outlook. Secondly, the reason why medication often helps depression is because much of depression is related to the chemicals in our brain. Fighting depression is more than just fighting off the sadness and pain in your life; it’s also about ensuring that you have the right chemicals firing off in your head. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, triggering positivity and reducing one’s ability to feel pain.

5) Live Spontaneously

And finally, breaking your routines. As I said above, depression has this uncanny ability to make days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months. You can go by years before noticing a difference in your life, and before you know it, a decade may have passed without you actually doing anything new. So stop waiting. Stop letting depression steal your life away. Go outside and do something. What, exactly? Anything. Be spontaneous—buy tickets to another country, call a friend and ask them to go on an adventure, sign up to a new gym or pick up a new hobby, buy an ice-cream of a totally different flavour, go for a walk in a new place. The point is that you do something, something that wasn’t planned or expected. Depression can take hold and never let go, the trick is to befriend it but don’t depend on it, acknowledge how you feel and explore it. There are no adults in this world, in my opinion, who are totally happy all of the time everyone dips it’s just how far you go. Have the best Sunday possible everyone.

ANXIETY

Anxiety, like water, takes many forms. Water can just be water. But that same H2O can manifest as steam or as ice. It can be life-saving for a person who is dehydrated, or fatal for one who is lost at sea. But what of anxiety? Anxiety too takes many forms. It might raise its head as crushing panic. It might manifest as the sickening flashbacks of post traumatic stress. Then again, it might hang around like an unwelcome houseguest as generalised anxiety or trip us up as a baffling yet powerful phobia. Depression, too, is often fueled by unresolved anxieties.1,2 And certainly anxiety seems to be at the root of OCD of at least some people’s descent into addiction or compulsion as ‘self-medication’. Yes, anxiety is a many-headed SNAKE. In this piece, though, I want to focus specifically on discrete episodes of heightened anxiety. I’ll give you some really useful behavioural tips to help you minimize and control specific bursts of anxiety, such as panic ‘attacks’. The multi-pronged approach to treating anxietyIt goes without saying that we need to learn to relax more often. Relaxation is the antidote to fear and stress. Our behaviour is so often a reflection of what we feel and think, but because we exist in feedback loops, what we do also influences how we feel and think. There are many things we can do to help overcome anxiety, or at least align it so that it’s only there when it needs to be (to motivate us to fight or fly during an actual physical threat). Here we’ll focus on some behavioural interventions. 1. The mysterious power of chewing gumWhy is it, they wanted to know, that chewing gum helps them feel calmer in situations that would usually send them into a spiral of panic? I thought about this. Fear, of course, is a survival instinct. We need it to help protect us from physical threats. You don’t cure anxiety. You help align it, so that it behaves itself and works for you only when it’s really needed. Our instincts, at least in part, are blind. They take their lead, so to speak, partly from what we do and experience. To a degree we train our instincts the way we might train a pet or guard dog. Anything we do that sends the message to the fear instinct that we are not facing a present and immediate threat will cause the fear instinct to back down. Fear is a big investment of energy, and our bodies know that we need to conserve energy and not waste it. So our answer for the friend who sent the chewing gum question becomes clearer. One of the first things to switch off when your fight-or-flight response kicks in is salivation, because you don’t need to be eating if you’re trying not to be eaten! If you are in a tricky situation and you chew gum, the gum makes you salivate. This salivation feeds back to your fear instinct that all must be well, and so all the other symptoms of fear get reduced in a domino effect. By chewing gum in a usually stressful situation, our friend was sending the message to his instinctual mind that “this is so unthreatening that I can afford to chew and salivate!” Any behavior that contradicts the fear narrative, whether it’s salivating, talking, acting normally or staying instead of running, will start calming things down pretty quickly. So let’s look at what behaviours we can encourage in our anxious clients to help them tame their anxiety response. 2. Name the anxietyA 2015 study found that putting feelings into words can reduce physiologic symptoms of anxiety. In fact, the study found that the more words people used to describe their anxiety, the more their symptoms of anxiety reduced. This is really interesting, and something we can communicate to our clients. We can also tell ourselves that subjects in the research study didn’t expect that putting their anxiety into words would reduce their anxiety. But physiological testing showed that it reduced all the same. What’s more, the reduction in anxiety occurred regardless of whether the ‘labels’ people used for their anxiety were spoken or written down. So we might write down in a notebook, in some detail, the way they are feeling when they become anxious. We are encouraged to use as many extreme, even exaggerated, fear words as possible with the assurance that this can help dilute the actual anxiety. We human beings have an innate need to express ourselves. Putting experience into words can dilute its impact, as we have to use the left prefrontal lobe of the brain to verbalize in this way. Since anxiety is essentially an emotion expressed through the right hemisphere of the brain, this activation of the left hemisphere can reduce the experience of anxiety. But in order to show their instincts there is nothing to fear. 3. Face the anxietyIn nature we avoid what might be deadly. But in a more complex world, what we avoid starts to feel threatening even if it most certainly is not. To live a life of avoidance is to live a life of fear. A diminished life. If you want to convince your fear instinct that something is dangerous, it’s simple: just avoid it or avoid it when you come across it. If you happen to panic, for example, in a particular shop, and then run from that shop, as far as your fear instinct is concerned there is something deadly in that shop. Now, simply because you ran away from the shop, it might feel overwhelming, terrifying even, to go back into it. Had you stayed in the shop until you had calmed down, the instinctive conditioning might well have been different. If nothing had happened in the shop and you had regained a sense of calm while you were still in that shop, then the fear instinct would have had no cause to tag that store as a deadly threat. If you stay in a situation rather than run from it, then eventually fear switches off, because if the situation was really life threatening you’d run away. So you train your instincts partly by how you behave. Run away and the fear builds; stay and the fear diminishes. And it works the other way around too. People who make themselves calmly and repeatedly do something that is life threatening are communicating to the fear instinct that what they are doing is not deadly. Think old-time lion tamers putting their heads in lions’ mouths, those fearless souls shooting themselves from the mouths of cannons, or people repeatedly doing parachute jumps. Because they are voluntarily going towards these experiences, the fear response gets the message these experiences are not threatening. Of course, staying in a situation when you are panicking, or going towards a situation you are frightened of, is much easier said than done. But we can help ourselves to do this by: explaining why it is necessary to go towards what we fear, not away from it Using the other feedback alteration strategies in this piece Visit the feared place or situation in your mind while very relaxed and calm. As far as the fear instinct is concerned, to imagine a feared place or time is to experience it for real. 4. Breathe out the anxietyYour body, everybody’s body, seeks balance, or ‘homeostasis’. It is positively looking for a reason to calm down again. Fear is essentially the ‘exercise response’. If you are breathing hard, sweating, gasping and, after a time, shaking with exertion while on the treadmill in the gym, we do not call this panic. We call it exercise. But if your breaths are shallow, your brow is sweaty and your heart is racing when you are, say, sitting down during a meeting, this we don’t call exercise. We call it panic. Actually, the second example is effectively the body preparing for exercise. The symptoms of panic are so close to the symptoms of heavy exercise for a reason: because panic wants you to act in purely physical ways. No one is ‘attacked’ by panic, which is why I don’t like the disempowering metaphor of panic ‘attacks’. Rationalise it call it a panic of thoughts and this should instantly get you thinking why? Again, anything we do to let our instincts know this is not actually a situation that requires a massive investment of our energy will tend to balance out feelings of anxiety pretty fast. 5. Every breath you take.Now, one of the first responses to shift when we tag something as threatening is our breathing. We need to pump around more oxygen for all the heavy exercise our survival requires. What panickers (that is, inappropriate exercise responders) tend to do is gulp air. This is also what we do during heavy exercise, because our muscles need all the oxygen they can get. When we breathe in we activate the sympathetic nervous system – the part that has to do with fight or flight, heavy exercise and arousal. When we breathe out we activate the parasympathetic nervous system – the part that relaxes and calms us. People will often sigh (slowly breathe out) when they are stressed as their body seeks to balance out their arousal levels. We can teach ourselves, what I call, 5/7 breathing, which they can do as soon as they feel at all anxious. This method involves breathing in to the quick count of 5 (not 5 seconds), pausing for a moment, breathing out to the quick count of 7, pausing for a moment again, and repeating. The numbers don’t matter so much. The important thing here is that the out breath is slower and longer than the in breath. And this technique has a ripple effect. There are benefits beyond just directly and quickly calming the person: The focus on breathing is a distraction. The fear response, if it could think, might conclude: “I wouldn’t be focusing on my breathing if there really were an immediate threat!” But even before they focus on their exhalations, we can ask our clients to do something that will help them start to stand aside from the anxiety. 6. Grade the anxietyA year ago I was asked to present to around 20 people, I’d never presented to more than or 3, and suddenly, just before walking out to speak, I started to feel much more anxious than was useful for the situation. I decided to grade the anxiety on a scale from 0 to 10, 0 being no anxiety at all (which would be just plain silly before giving a big talk) and 10 being the most terror I could possibly experience. I decided I was at a 6. Already I’d done a few things to dilute the anxiety. I had reframed it from a feeling to a number. Thinking about numbers is not nearly as scary as thinking about fear. This diluted the fear and also forced me to use the cognitive or thinking centres of my brain, which so often become locked out or ‘hijacked’ by fear. I had put a limit on it. Rather than letting the fear escalate to terror, I had given the fear an upper limit. I had also taken back a sense of control. I had gone into a mindful, observing state. A part of me was outside of the anxiety, watching it. I was not in the anxiety now, I was ‘watching’ it. I then picked a number I’d be happy starting my presentation at. I decided a 3 would be fine. I began to breathe out slowly, and for longer than I breathed in (see tip two). When I’d breathed myself down to a 3, I walked on and began the talk. This took perhaps 20 to 30 seconds. As none of the audience tried to kill me or even screamed or yelled in my direction (amazing!), my fear instinct soon got the message this wasn’t, in fact, a deadly encounter. I began to relax, get into a flow, and even enjoy the experience. This may seem like a really simple intervention, but it can be incredibly effective. The vast majority of panickers can be helped through clinical hypnotic strategies and/or these behavioral ones. For some, however, discharging the energy might be the way forward. 7. Discharge the anxietyApart from being a powerful antidepressant, exercise is a way of switching off panic. When we, for example, sprint or perform push-ups or squats to the point we can’t do any more, we have in effect completed the fight-or-flight response circuit. A 2011 study found that “people with ‘high anxiety sensitivity’ – an intense fear of the nausea, racing heart, dizziness, stomach aches and shortness of breath that accompany panic reacted with less anxiety to a panic-inducing stressor if they had been engaging in high levels of physical activity.” So exercising more intensely, more often, will tend to lower anxiety generally. People who exercise regularly tend to be healthier mentally and less anxious than sedentary types. But sometimes we can prescribe some kind of exercise to do even as anxiety rises in the moment. In a similar case, a woman who felt unduly anxious before making a presentation at work was asked to do (out of sight of her audience) 50 star jumps as fast as she could. She found that once she had got her breath back she was ready to talk and felt “weirdly calm”. Her body had gone through the whole cycle of intense exercise. It now felt like she had survived an emergency, and she couldn’t help but feel calmer. Of course, all the usual sensible checks into health need to apply here. If we exercise intensely to the point we can’t exercise anymore then, as far as our instincts know, we have gone into the fight-or-flight response, and because we are alive at the end of it, we have survived the threat! It can be really hard then to panic. It’s as though some people need to complete the arousal circuit of fight or flight through exercise. This kind of intervention certainly doesn’t have to be as dramatic as the examples above. Simply doing 20 star jumps, or as many push-ups as you can manage (even if it’s not quite one!), will help de-potentiate panic. And that can be effective even some hours before the feared situation. Okay, lastly, we can encourage our clients to be AWARE. Lastly, Teach yourself the AWARE techniqueI sometimes give anxious clients a little card they can get out and use as a prompt whenever they start to find themselves feeling panicky. Create your own or for someone you know. AWARE, of course, is an acronym: Accept that you are feeling anxious, and also name it. Watch the anxiety, and even grade it. Act normal! Breathe as described in tip three, and carry on acting as though there were absolutely no threat. (If you talk, breathe calmly, and stay in the situation, you are showing your fear instinct it doesn’t need to tag the situation as threatening.) Repeat the previous three steps if necessary. Expect the best. You are taking control of the fear instinct and taming and training it. You can see that focusing on these steps, by reading them from a small card if necessary, incorporates many of the principles of the tips given here. In summary…To reduce anxiety quickly and effectively, teach your clients to: Understand how the fear instinct is led in part by what we do. We can train this powerful ‘guard dog’. Avoidance will build fear, while staying or approaching the feared situation will diminish it. Remember, this ‘approach’ can be done psychologically during deep relaxation to quickly retag the situation as non-threatening. Name the feeling, either out loud (if appropriate), internally, or by writing it down. Explain that this has been shown to lessen anxiety even in people who didn’t believe it would! Breathe out longer and more slowly than they breathe in. This will quickly turn off anxiety (which requires that we breathe in rapidly in preparation for heavy exercise). Grade their anxiety, then decide what number they would be happy with in this situation and ‘breathe their way down’ to that level. Utilize regular exercise as a way of minimizing stress and anxiety. You could even have them do short intense bursts of exercise before a stressful event if it’s practical to do so. Use the AWARE technique and carry a card with the steps if need be. Anxiety is there as an occasional power to be utilized in the (hopefully few) times it may really be necessary. To return to my water analogy, we can learn to swim or even surf the waves of adaptive stress – not sink into an abyss of fear. Just as we can use and harness water, we can use the alternating currents of stress and relaxation to build satisfying and meaningful lives. Helping a UPTV client overcome feelings of inferiorityThis client works as a hypnotherapist and knows she is good at what she does. She has helped people overcome terrible phobias and extreme PTSD, but whenever she speaks with academics or people she feels are highly qualified and “clever” she becomes tongue tied and feels inferior. She says she was constantly told she couldn’t learn throughout her childhood but is reluctant to talk about this. Mark reframes different kinds of knowledge (and tells a story about this during hypnosis). He helps her access times when she feels mostable and natural and seeks to link that feeling to times when she communicates with “clever people.” He also encourages her to communicate reassuringly and calmly with her younger self during one of those times she was “lied to” that she couldn’t learn.

Should you try therapy?

There’s a lot that holds us back from trying therapy. There’s the idea that you must be a little mad or harbour some huge strange problem to go and see a therapist.

But therapy is for everyone because it entirely reasonable for a person to be anxious and confused by life, challenged by relationships, family life and the direction of your career. So really the only qualification for going to therapy is to be a normal human being.

There is also the worry about the strangeness of therapy, it will be you and a person you’ve never met to whom you’re expected to divulge nothing less than your inner life. Why not talk to a friend – however, friends are not properly trained to listen, friends interrupt, and sometimes it’s easier to tell someone who has no prior knowledge or expectations of you the big and important things about who you are, furthermore, therapists are the last people ever to judge the concept of a normal human being is far more expansive than that held by society at large. Therapists know how unusual and surprising we are especially around sex and anxiety. They know how surprising we all can be, it doesn’t frighten them, it intrigues and motivates them, that’s why they became therapists in the first place, they are, in the end, interested in mental health that means in helping.

So many of our problems come down to not having enough insight into how our minds work. What we want, what we fear, why we act the way we do, and overwhelmed by certain feelings. The goal of therapy is self-knowledge. By talking a lot to someone who listens very carefully over many weeks, you come to deeper insights into the mind you inhabit. Patterns start to emerge that show a particular way for approaching relationships or dealing with defeat, a recurrent not very helpful approach to dealing with jealousy, an ongoing thing with your sibling or father.

To get the most of therapy you need to approach sessions with honesty, openness and empathy. Every person is unique and the journey is different for each client. Therapy is not a quick fix and often requires time and commitment into the process to find answers into your problems.

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