"Present fears are less than horrible imaginings.”  - William Shakespeare  

A Good Side to Stress?

We can all feel stressed sometimes. It comes with being human and is a normal adaptive response to the challenges and opportunities that life presents. Feeling some stress on occasions can be a good thing because it can help us feel motivated, focus our attention and keep our wits about us.

Anxiety is different. It seems to be associated with sustained levels of stress and the fear that something will go wrong or something bad will happen. Feeling anxious is not a conscious act of will. It is a 'state' we get in when our subconscious mind regularly raises our level of alert to real (or imagined) threats and danger. It is a very uncomfortable and unsettling feeling and can have a big impact on our body, mind and even our life expectancy. 

Anxiety And The Threat Response

When the primitive areas of our mind (e.g. the Limbic System and in particular the Amygdala, Hypothalamus), sense that there could be a threat (real or imaged), stress hormones like adrenaline, and cortisol are released by the adrenal grands. Most cells in our bodies have receptors for these naturally produced hormones and the effects of raised cortisol levels can be felt across many areas of the body and mind.

When stress hormones are released (in super quick time, less than a second), these demand our attention and make us focus what might be a problem. They make us: 

  • zoom in on the potential danger and ignore calm and happy things
  • bias our thinking toward negative issues and events
  • interpret life and the motivations of others more suspiciously
  • react very strongly to small changes
  • have black and white thinking (things are either really really good or really bad, there is nothing in between)

These responses are extremely helpful in real, emergency situations and when we face real dangers. They can even save our life but when they become a generalised and regular state they can be extremely difficult to deal with and make our lives really tough.

Longer Term Raised Anxiety Levels

The effects of longer term raised anxiety are numerous and varied and include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Headaches
  • Tummy problems and irritable bowel symptoms
  • Impatience
  • Low confidence
  • Higher blood pressure and resting heart rate,
  • Irritability
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Less inclination to socialise or do exercise.
  • Raised cortisol levels are also associated with weight gain
  • Repeated trips to our Doctor of health care team
  • Going on a 'quest' to find the 'fault in us'

Long term anxiety is a horrible, uncomfortable and challenging emotion. This is very common though and you are not alone if you are experiencing this.

Helping the subconscious mind reduce the Threat Response

Unfortunately we can't just tell the subconscious mind (our instinct) to 'stop being anxious', to 'get a grip', or to 'just get on with it'. We can't battle our way out of anxiety or just think ourselves to calm. 

Moving out of anxiety requires gentle action and compassionate change to help the subconscious experience the world as safe and calm.  

So how can solution focused hypnotherapy help?

Solution focused Hypnotherapy can help reduce anxiety by:

  • Helping you understand what is going on in our body and brain
  • Giving you tools and techniques to help feel calm and in control
  • Helping you (and your subconscious) visualise and remember how you want to be
  • Helping you see again the non-anxious parts of your life and get a broader perspective
  • Encouraging you to take small steps towards your preferred ways of feeling and being
  • Helping you experience and remember how to feel deeply calm, during hypnosis (or trance)
  • Giving you a self hypnosis audio to listen to at home

Hypnotherapy for anxiety can work very well alongside medical and other treatment provided by your GP and health care team.

It's obvious when we think about it

Essentially, our subconscious senses that the world is calm when we:

  • Breath calmly
  • Think about and focus on positive aspects of our life (as well as the tricky parts)
  • Are curious, playful, engaged in enjoyable activities
  • Move in the world, we have momentum, we exercise
  • Go outside, in nature
  • Spend time with trusted others and feel part of a community
  • Eat well, sleep well
  • Are in calming environments and situations
  • Practice gratitude
  • Receive and give trusted safe touch
  • Have capability to help others
  • Are kind to ourselves

These all give the subconscious signals that the world in safe. When this happens, stress hormones are reduced and mother nature's feel good hormones (like serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin and dopamine) are released to encourage us to do more of the same.

The NHS in England says very similar things about anxiety - Click here to read

How many hypnotherapy sessions will I need?

Improving anxiety sustainably takes a little time and typically requires between 4 and 10 hypnotherapy sessions. Initially these are organised weekly.

Like anything in life, the amount of effort the person is able to make outside of the sessions is a big factor too.  To some extent we have to be the change we seek. We have to guide our subconscious to our preferred life, not through heroic acts, but through small reassuring, doable steps forward.

What are the hypnotherapy sessions like for anxiety?

The sessions are tailored to how you are feeling at the time and the progress you are making. They are typically arranged in 5 parts:

  1. What is working, what has helped, what improvement however small, have you noticed?
  2. What are your best hopes, what would life be like, as you feel better
  3. What is the small step you could take this week towards your preferred feelings
  4. Outcome measures
  5. Hypnosis

In the first 2 or 3 sessions, we are looking for glimmers, the exceptions, the tiny occasions in which the anxiety was less or not there at all.

From then on we normally start to see more significant change with the person feeling much more optimistic, hopeful, confident and calm. 

This leads into a positive reinforcing cycle.

You will know and decide when you feel ready to space the sessions out or when you feel in a good place to move on yourself.

If you would like to find out more

Anxiety is a very strong and uncomfortable emotion but it doesn't have to define you. I know this from personal experience and from supporting many people to feel back in control.

If you would like to find out more, please get in touch and let's have a conversation.

See a short introductory video of me at Chard Natural Health Centre.

Let me help you get that sense of space and wonder back in your life. It's all there waiting for you to claim.

Take good care out there.

Andy Hill