Before we begin, I want to say a few words about how common anxiety actually is. Those people who suffer from it often think that they are strange or exist in a tiny minority.
Nothing could be further from the truth. You have only to scan the news archives to see the list of celebrities who suffer from anxiety before going on stage.
And in my own line of work, I regularly come across incredibly capable and powerful business people with anxieties they keep secret from everyone for fear of looking vulnerable. I have now treated more than 5,000 people, and more than half of them came to see me with anxiety-related issues.
However your anxiety is manifesting itself – be that social anxiety at the bar, stuttering when making a presentation, nervously avoiding flying because of the fear you feel – you are very far from alone.
What perhaps makes you slightly different is that you are ready to accept that anxiety is holding you back, and that you’ve had enough. Because you don’t have to be like this forever. The time has come to deal with it.
And when you are able to finally say goodbye to anxiety, it will feel like your whole world has changed for the better.
Fight, flight, freeze – a primal reaction
Hypnotherapy for anxiety is a proven way of dealing with anxiety. During a session, we will directly target the part of the brain that is responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response.
This is a primal reaction over which we have very little control. If your brain is telling you that the sound of dogs is something to be scared of, then ou can’t easily talk yourself out of it.
Likewise, if your mind goes into overdrive when you have to make a presentation in front of your workmates, that’s just the way you are.
However, hypnotherapy can help to give the mind somewhere else to go instead of fight, flight or freeze. It’s an incredibly powerful way to change the status quo.
Unfortunately, hypnosis is not something I can teach you to do in a blog – it needs to be addressed during a hypnotherapy session, either online or face-to-face.
But I do have an excellent tip that may help.
It is all to do with the way that you speak to yourself. Because people with anxiety are often their own worst enemies.
Feeding a nightmare
I will give you an example of how people sometimes make things worse for themselves when something is bothering them.
I recently saw a client who was scared of public transport. Her particular issue was to do with hygiene and cleanliness. She found trains and buses to be a hive of bacterial horrors and was really struggling to take one.
When we talked about the situation, she told me that she would tell her self repeatedly, “This train is filthy.” “I’m going to get a disease on this bus.” Or, “Why am I the only person that is bothered by this horrible situation?”
These negative mantras were reinforcing her fear and attacking her sense of self-worth on a daily basis. In fact, when she had no choice but to take public transport, she would often repeat these and similar negative phrases every few minutes.
It was not a recipe for success.
A Mr Motivator for the mind
Study after study has shown that the way we talk to ourselves can influence how we feel. People with chronic medical conditions that cause pain, for example, have been shown to feel worse when they tell themselves or others, “It really hurts,” or, “It’s a vicious, stabbing pain.”
These words alone, whether uttered out loud or spoken in the mind, can trigger the fight, flight or freeze response. And this makes the situation worse.
So if you are looking for a way to shake things up a little, try speaking to yourself in a much more positive, kind fashion. A positive mantra can really make a difference.
In every hypnotherapy session that I have with a client, the way you speak to yourself is something I cover in depth.
Because positive, motivational self-talk can make a huge difference to your mental health and overall wellbeing.
For my bacteria-phobic client with an aversion to public transport, part of her treatment involved her finding some new statements to use.
These included, “I will be safe on this train.”
And, “Every night when people go to bed, a team of cleaners get onto this bus to clean it.”
It made a huge difference.
The rules for motivational self-talk
Again, I want to reiterate that this kind of thinking will only get you so far. It does not, and cannot undo what is known as the amygdala hijack.
This is the driver of the fight, flight or freeze response. And as mentioned, hypnotherapy is very good at changing this response.
However, positive thought processes can make a difference. Here are my four golden rules for maximising your chances of it being effective.
1/ Keep everything in the first person. So it’s not so much, “You are able to do this,” but, “I am able to do this.”
2/ Be kind and be strong. Find phrases that are motivational and appealing to you.
3/ Identify the correct delivery. Some people are motivated by a soothing voice, while others are more inclined to react well if they are being barked at – almost as if their inner coach is a drill sergeant. Whichever you choose, the idea is to turn vulnerabilities into something more approaching resilience.
4/ Keep it simple. So, “I can do this. I am okay.” If you need to get specific, you can go longer – but keep it focused. Such as: “I’m going to take a deep breath when I get on stage, and then I’m going to slowly deliver my speech really well.” Longer phrases are hard to follow and to remember.
The sportsman’s secret weapon
Positive mantras of this kind are used commonly in high-level business environments and also the sporting world. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a top-level sportsman today who doesn’t have a method to combat negative thoughts before an event.
They will typically have a complete process designed to get them in the zone, keeping them both focused and positive.
These kind of positive reinforcements are also put to good effect by the armed forces.
I know that one of the elite units was struggling to understand why the failure rate amongst potential recruits was so high. It wasn’t just that the challenges were incredibly difficult, what was puzzling them was why so many people quit so close to the end.
It transpired that many of the people who backed out were besieged by negative thoughts. This was allowing their emotional landscape to become unbearable – and increased their vulnerability.
If you are already vulnerable – par for the course when you are halfway up a mountain and haven’t eaten for 24 hours – then total capitulation can easily follow.
So find a positive mantra that works for you – and reap the benefits.