Your heart is racing, there’s a knot in your stomach, a tightness in your chest. You find it hard to focus your mind and concentrate. Your head feels foggy and clouded. You feel like you are on ‘high alert’.
You are not alone. The number of people who wake up every day feeling like this are in the millions.
You may feel anxious as a result of something that has happened, such as being asked to do something at work that you don’t feel comfortable with. You may feel anxious because of a difficult situation you are going through such a company reorganisation or a relationship breakup. You may feel anxious about certain social situations.
Or you may find yourself feeling anxious with no seemingly logical reason why. It may just be a feeling that follows you around and perhaps part of you has come to accept it as normal.
What starts as a feeling of anxiety can then spread to panic attacks, OCD, phobias and other unhelpful ‘coping mechanisms’.
What ever is causing you to feel anxious is irrelevant. When you feel anxious the body is picking up on the signal that something ‘bad is going to happen’. It sets off a chain of physiological changes within you, which get you primed to take action. The body goes into survival mode.
The mind and body are not able to tell the difference between what is a real threat and what is a perceived threat to your survival. It simply acts in response to the signals from you. You can be sat in the park on a warm summers day surrounded by nature and the sound of the birds, but if your mind is thinking of something in your life that is unsettling you, then the body will respond and you will start to feel anxious.
The mind and its imagination have a huge impact on the wellbeing of the body. Things that haven’t even happened are played out time and time again in the mind. Instead of thinking ‘everything will be OK’, most people think of the worst case scenario, which again sends a signal to the body that something bad is going to happen.
How to overcome anxiety
1. Seek professional help
Anxiety is a feeling which is pattern matched back to an earlier experience in life. Something which happened, often when we are children, where we ‘learnt’ to feel anxious. When working with clients to help them overcome anxiety, I use a number of methods such as EFT (Tapping) and Matrix Re-imprinting to help a person ‘track back’ the first time they learnt to feel anxious.
One client for example, had suffered panic attacks for ten years and didn’t know why. Despite endless sessions of CBT he was no further forward. Using EFT we established in a matter of minutes an early experience in an airport where he got lost. We were able to process the memory and clear his panic attacks allowing him to get on with his life.
Seeking professional help can allow you to explore whatever is triggering the mind and body to feel anxious and help overcome anxiety in a safe environment.
2. Watch what you are thinking about
We have around 90,000 thoughts a day. If you are using most of them to imagine things going wrong, then the body will simply follow suit. Start to become more aware of your focus of attention. Mindfulness and meditation are great ways of calming down the mind and allowing you to bring yourself into the present.
The breath is a very powerful resource we have but many don’t use it to its full advantage. When you feel anxious, your breathing changes and becomes shallow, which again sends more signals to the body to prepare for action. When you breathe out for longer than you breathe in, you engage with the ‘parasympathetic’ side of the nervous system, also known as the relaxation response. Focus your mind on your stomach take some slow breathes in followed by longer breathes out. Try breathing in for the count of 7 and out again for the count of 11. This form of breathing will force the body into a more relaxed state and help to calm down the panic response. When the mind is more relaxed it also has greater space in which to think more clearly and rationally, allowing you to then ‘talk yourself’ into feeling better.
For anyone who has been experiencing feeling consistently anxious for a period of time, seeking professional support as my clients have from a hypnotherapist, EFT or Matrix Re-imprinting practitioner will allow you to overcome anxiety quickly and effectively.