How to reduce anxiety and worry
Anxiety is thought to be the mind's way of protecting us by making us careful of unknown or potentially dangerous situations. It's meant to be useful, but like an overprotective parent, it can be a problem when we become so 'protected' that we find it difficult to do things, or our quality of life is affected.
What is anxiety?
It's thought as many as one in four of us experience a mental health problem like anxiety at some point in our lives. If your anxiety is overpowering, especially if you have physical symptoms such as chest pains, breathlessness or palpitations, you should see your GP before going to a complementary therapist or taking self-help steps. Sometimes there is a physical problem as well which needs a medical answer. However, once this is ruled out there is plenty you can do to help yourself.
It often helps understand why you feel the way you do. Anxiety is related to stress and fear in the way it affects our bodies, but it includes an element of anticipation as well. In other words, stress and fear are reactions to what is actually happening. If something you are you are stressed or fearful about goes away (for example you find out you are not being made redundant after all) the reaction goes too.
Anxiety and worry are often about what might happen so if the problem you are currently worrying about is removed you could simply find yourself anxious about something else instead.
What to do about anxiety
Don't expect too much of yourself when you first begin to challenge your anxiety. It will probably be a slow process. But these tips should help you start to get things under control.
- Exercise helps to reduce anxiety because it helps to produce 'feel good' hormones that lift your mood.
- If your body is getting the nutrients and rest it needs, you'll deal with things better. Eat the healthiest diet you can and make sure you get enough sleep.
- Relaxation and breathing techniques can help control anxiety because they send a message to your brain that the emergency is over and it's time to relax. Find it hard to relax? Download my five-minute freebie relaxation audio. If you like it, buy the longer one!
- Worrying is like trying to predict the future but only what might go wrong. Start to challenge your worries - how realistic are they? What might go right?
- Use the 'but swap' by exchanging what you put before and after the word 'but'. 'I'd really like to drive on the motorway but it's so hard' becomes 'It's hard to drive on the motorway but I really want to do it' which is so much more positive. (Thanks to Trevor Watts for this one.)
- Some people find a worry half hour is useful. Worry for a specific half hour each day, the rest of the time refuse to listen to your negative thoughts.
And remember that if you need help to do all this, contact me for advice.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.