Ways to overcome and take control of stress and anxiety
Let’s face it, with everything that’s going on at the moment we are all feeling some level of stress and anxiety. But what can you do when those feelings become overwhelming?
I may be a solution focused hypnotherapist and generally these days my mental health is in a good state. However, I am still only human and I myself have suffered greatly with health anxiety in the past. Inevitably over this pandemic the health anxiety has began to rear its ugly head once again. So, I want to share with you my top hints and tips that I practice myself and share with my clients daily to help them to overcome their fears, worries, limiting beliefs and unhelpful patterns of thought.
Recognizing and managing our ‘new normal’
Currently we are in unknown territory. Everyone is affected by the current world situation we are facing. Our brains do not like change and we are scared of the unknown. We are only human and the primitive (anxious) part of our brains can only see threats as we did in caveman times, meaning we react as if we are being chased by a polar bear so physically we get hot, our heart races, sending blood rushing to our legs allowing us to run. We are encouraged to empty the body of any toxins to make us light, which may cause stomach flutters and encourage us to go to the toilet more, this prepares us to be able to flee but then again, we are human! We are adaptable and resourceful and we have an intellectual brain that we don’t share with other animals, this part of the brain helps us to change those automatic responses created and encouraged by the primitive emotional brain.
It’s important to remember that it is possible to feel OK during this time but it’s also OK and perfectly natural to feel very anxious about what’s happening right now. There is no right or wrong way to feel in this situation.
- Controllable and uncontrollable
Recognizing what we can and can’t control will help us to manage our temporary ‘new normal’. By fully understanding what we do have control over and therefor can change, as well as what we don’t have control over and therefore cannot change, helps us to take stock and feel more content with our lives. For example, we cannot control how the media and social networking sites portray the current pandemic but we CAN limit what we see. We can do this by limiting how much we watch the news, having social media breaks or changing our settings on our Facebook, Instagram and other accounts to only see news from reliable sources. Here, it’s important to recognize what could be a potential trigger. I’m not saying ignore what is happening in the world, but reduce it down as much as you can. Ensure that you are getting any information from a reliable source in order to avoid speculation and focus on the facts.
⦁ Try writing down your worries in 2 separate columns, one with the header ‘Things I can control’ and the other titled ‘Things I cannot control’. When you have done this put it to one side.
⦁ Limit how much you keep updated by watching the news etc. with the current situation if it triggers unhelpful thought patterns. Change your social media settings to reduce your exposure.
- Ensure social distancing DOES NOT mean social isolation.
As humans, we are tribal creatures and we thrive connection with other humans (on the whole!). In this modern world we have plenty of wonderful technology to help us keep in touch with the outside world while living in isolation. Not only can we pick up the phone and talk to each other, we can use video calls to have a cup of tea together, eat dinner together or even watch a film together. There are lots of groups on Facebook offering free sessions for various activities where you can connect with others. Last Saturday my friend and I even took part in a morning rave on a website called Morning Glory Vale. It was great and something I have never done before, it felt as though we were raving together, in the same house. House party is my favorite as it can be used to play interactive games with up to 8 people. There are a lot of community projects and helplines out there that can also help to combat loneliness and isolation at this time.
⦁ Connect with friends and family using voice and video calls – some ideas of platforms you can use are: House party, WhatsApp, Zoom, Facetime and many more.
⦁ Use helplines and online chats such as those on the ‘Mind’ website for support.
⦁ Check out what community projects are local and useful to you.
- Create a routine and try to stick to it
Having a routine helps us feel more organized, in control and motivated. With the right balance, we will have enough routine to prevent chaos in our life, but the routine will be flexible enough to allow for the unexpected and to make room for spontaneous joys.
Having a routine helps in so many different ways, like…
⦁ Helping us to be organized
⦁ Helping the day to run smoothly
⦁ Helping us and our children to feel more secure – let’s face it, it’s not only children that like to know what’s coming next, we do too.
⦁ Helping us and our children to have a sense of control over our lives and what is happening to us.
⦁ Helping our children be more independent. If they know what’s coming next this might encourage them to get their coat and shoes on without being prompted when a walk is on the timetable for example.
My final but most important point here has to be that if things come up that mean you do not stick to your routine, whether it be things that come up out of the blue that are out of your control, you are just having a tough day or you need to catch up on your sleep. That is OK, do not beat yourself up about it, just have a realistic day/time in mind when you will jump back into it to allow you to feel comfortable resting and in control. Its worth reconsidering whether the routine you have created is realistic and if not, its more than ok to change it to better suit the needs of you and your family.
⦁ Create a balanced routine with flexibility.
⦁ Use sites such as twinkle (sign up for FREE) to download and print a free daily planner or if you don’t have a printer copy the layout onto a piece of paper and put it in a place that everyone can see it.
⦁ DO NOT beat yourself up for having days when you don’t stick to it. Forgive yourself and have a day/time in mind when you will get back to following your routine.
⦁ If the routine you have created is not working for you – change it.
- Practice being in the moment – hypnotherapy and mindfulness
By actively trying we can change our thought patterns and processes for new healthier ones that allow us to live for the here and now and feel great. When we are worrying about the future or analyzing the past, we create anxiety which can make us feel out of control. Being in the moment can take practice as again it’s a case of changing thought patterns that have been created over many years. To begin this process, try timetabling into your day a specific time when you focus purely on what is in front of you. Every time your mind wonders off you can say to yourself ‘No, I’m busy right now, I’ll worry about worrying later’. Really pay attention to the environment around you by asking yourself questions such as; ‘What colours can I see? What texture are the objects I can see and feel? How fluffy are the clouds looking today and what shapes do they make? What sounds can I hear?
Practicing any kind of mindfulness helps us to BE in the moment. Hypnotherapy not only allows us to be in the moment but helps us come up with solutions to problems too.
Please remember; when we are focused on our problems we CANNOT come up with the solutions.
⦁ Schedule a time to concentrate purely on being mindful. When your mind tries to wonder, say to yourself ‘No. I’m busy right now, I can worry about that later’. Ask yourself questions such as: What can I hear? What colours and textures can I see? What can I smell? Etc
⦁ Try a guided meditation class online or look for guided meditation on YouTube.
⦁ Try hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy not only helps you to be in the moment but also helps you come up with solutions and builds resilience.
- Try a new habit
The reason I say to try a new habit rather than hobby is because a habit is something that becomes part of your routine. When you practice something everyday for 3 months it becomes an automatic part of your day. Begin by asking yourself what you do you like doing, for example: arts, crafts, singing, dancing, writing, blogging etc. Maybe you have always wanted to learn an instrument? When you have thought about what you like to do really hone in on specifics, for example if you know you like arts think specifically, is it drawing or painting or creating you like to do. If it is creating, does it involve sewing or knitting, or recycling or upcycling etc. etc.? If its knitting, for example, what kind of garment would you like to make? What colours do you want to use etc. A new healthy habit can be absolutely anything you enjoy doing and if it can benefit others too by them enjoying whatever you choose to create this can increase the reward value of our new habit even further and make us feel great.
⦁ Really hone in on what you enjoy doing and remember to be specific!
⦁ Have a look on the internet at sites like ‘Pinterest’ if you are struggling to come up with ideas
⦁ Enjoy creating!
- Diet and exercise
I know, I know, exercise is mentioned in pretty much every article about stress but there is a good reason for this, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. Believe it or not putting physical stress on your body through exercise can relieve mental stress. We experience the benefits of exercise at their strongest when we exercise regularly. Generally, people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety than those who don’t exercise. This is because exercise lowers production of stress hormones in the long run, as well as encouraging the release of happy chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin which are mood enhancing, act as natural painkillers and help us to feel happier and more resilient. Regular exercise improves our sleep cycles and makes us feel more confident.
Our diet also makes a big difference to our stress levels. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables gives us the vitamins and minerals we need to give us a healthy immune system, mind and body helping us to feel well all round. Junk food does give us a good kick of dopamine – another feel good hormone. This is unfortunately short lived and can make us feel low when the short-lived blast of dopamine has worn of. This is why many of us will reach for high fat/high sugar foods when we are feeling a bit poop, as we are looking for that kick of dopamine to help us feel better. It’s important to add here that you should not deprive yourself of these high fat/high sugar snacks you enjoy as telling yourself you can’t have something automatically makes you want it more. This is why it is important to have a balanced diet, enjoying small amounts of the high reward foods you love. Caffeine can be stress inducing as it encourages the heart to beat faster and can create a heart pounding feeling in the chest similar to the feelings you might experience from anxiety. If you love your tea and coffee it might be worth trying decaffeinated.
⦁ Take up a new exercise, whether it be walking, running, dancing, yoga or anything at all that gets your heart pumping.
⦁ Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables but also don’t deprive yourself of foods you really love – just eat them in smaller quantities.
⦁ If you feel anxious try cutting caffeine out of your diet. If you love your tea and coffee check out decaffeinated options.
- Write it down – 3 positives, gratitude
My clients will tell you I bang on about this all the time and although it seems very simple the outcome can be lifechanging. Although we are programmed to be more drawn to the positives, through conditioning, we often focus on the negatives. We forget to see the positives that have taken place throughout our day. Writing down 3 positives a day helps us to bring the positive stuff into our awareness. Like driving a car or anything in life that we have to learn, when we practice repeatedly everyday it becomes automatic and through this practice, we bring the positives into our awareness more naturally making us think in a more positive way, encouraging positive actions and behaviour. Writing down positives and what we are grateful for helps to change the neural pathways in our brains for new healthy positive patterns. Think about it like this, if you imagine a ski slope with fresh snow fall on it completely undisturbed, a sledge goes down the ski slope, and it goes down the same path every time, deepens the path making it more cemented. This path is like our negative thought processes every time we think the same thoughts and go down that same path, we deepen those beliefs. If that belief is positive that is great! However, if that path is negative this can be very damaging so we need to find other pathways down the mountain that are helpful to us. By writing down positives and gratitude daily we cement healthy pathways and patterns that make us feel good!
⦁ Write down 3 positives a day – You might find this a little more difficult to begin with but the more you do it the more natural it will become. This can be absolutely anything from making a good cup of tea, to getting dressed, to having a good hug with your favorite human or furry friend. Tip! If you do this before you go to sleep it will put you in your intellectual mind and encourage a good night’s sleep.
⦁ Write down all of the things you a grateful for, again this might be difficult to start with but surely just the fact you are breathing can be something to be grateful for?
- DON’T believe everything you think!
Have you ever stopped to think about whether what you are thinking is actually true?
Thoughts are not real! Yes, it’s true that they exist in your mind. Thoughts appear there but it doesn’t mean that they are true. These thoughts appear more real the more attention we choose to show them. As most of the thoughts that pop up are negative and aimed at ourselves in some derogatory way, in turn, making us feel bad, it’s really important that we ask ourselves ‘Is this a fact or just what I’m telling myself?’ We are often our own worst critics; we wouldn’t accept someone else talking to us in the same way we think about ourselves so why do we accept it when it comes from ourselves?
⦁ Ask yourself would I let someone else talk to me in the same way I talk to myself?
⦁ Think about it. Try saying to yourself ‘Is this a fact or just something I’m telling myself? Is it helpful?’
- Accept your feelings – don’t try to bat them away
Although its important that we don’t believe everything we think, its also important that we don’t just bat any emotional thoughts that we have about ourselves away. We have to acknowledge them in order to change them. Having said that, acknowledge them is ALL we need to do. We don’t need to entertain them, believe in them or indeed give them any of our attention. Acknowledge their existence and let them go. If we do give them our attention (at least too much attention) this can lead our thought patterns and processes down a negative spiral meaning we are reinforcing them, making them appear more real. Our brain wants to accept these thoughts as fact and as they can often be quite negative this can make things very difficult for us.
⦁ Step 1. Catch your negative thoughts. Step 2. Acknowledge these thoughts. Step 3. Let them go.
⦁ Turn down the volume of these thoughts and reduce their frequency by practicing mindfulness or hypnotherapy.
- Be kind to yourself
FORGIVE YOURSELF! Whatever has happened in the past has happened and there is nothing we can do to change it, besides why would we when all of our experiences have made us who we are today. You are perfect as you are. Know that you have done your best and that’s all you can do. The future is not promised so celebrate yourself today. Concentrate on what you have achieved in life, what kind of person you are and your pure unadulterated AWESOMENESS! Put yourself first, have you ever thought of why when you go on an airplane you have to put your mask on first before putting it on your children or other family members and friends? When you are functioning at your best you can help others to function at their best too.
⦁ Make YOU your number 1 priority
⦁ FORGIVE YOURSELF
⦁ CELEBRATE YOUR AWESOMENESS
Remember: Stress and anxiety don’t come from what’s happening around you it comes from how we choose to think about things. Its like exercising a muscle, the more we practice and train the brain the more we get of what we truly want. Change your thoughts, Change your world.
Have you ever wanted to try Hypnotherapy? Book your FREE initial consultation today. Call or text Anna on 07568562319. Start living the life you deserve to live!