CAN YOU HEAL ANXIETY?
How do you heal anxiety? How does one go about bringing the body back into a relaxed, non vigilant state? How do you learn to meet fear, fearlessly?
I like to work with a combination of techniques treating the body/mind connection, re-training neural pathways and working with the unconscious to bring about change. When your body goes into fight or flight all sorts of messages are sent through your system and 30 chemicals are released. You are being prepared to 'save yourself'. The pathways I have taken with each client vary. There is no 'one size fits all'. Once I understand your needs I can custom-build a treatment for you so that you can live a life without 'switched on' or 'looping' anxiety.
DO YOU HAVE THESE SYMPTOMS?
How do you know if you have anxiety? How does it differ from worry or stress? If you have some or all of these symptoms it is likely you are suffering from anxiety:
Tachycardia (increased heartbeat)
Shaking or tremors
Nausea or tight feeling in belly
Tight, heavy feeling over the chest
Tight feeling in the belly
Sore arms or shoulders and neck
Ruminating or catastrophizing
Feeling of intense fear or dread
Hyper vigilance - (in a high state of alert, planning and anticipating)
What Happens in Therapy?
In our first session together I take notes about your symptoms and your history. We develop a check list of outcomes that will guide us throughout the treatment. It allows us to track progress.
Through the questions I identify these types of things:
Is there is any trauma that needs treating or PTSD
Do you have anticipatory anxiety (anxiety of anxiety)
What triggers you
Family history of anxiety
What you want to achieve from the therapy
How will we know the therapy is working?
TOOLS I USE TO HELP YOU
1. Hypnotherapy and suggestion to retrain the unconscious that it is safe
2. Psychotherapy to work with deeper triggers
3. EMDR if required for trauma and brain re-training
4. NLP if required for retraining the brain
5. Somatic body work to retrain the body/mind connection
6. Cognitive Triggers and Behaviours - what are they?
7. Training in breathing
8. Re-framing ways of thinking and Mantras
9. Take-away Tools
The most common form of therapy for anxiety is CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy. This engages the brain to remain aware of changes in your system so that you can use the breath to switch your system into a state of relaxation. This can be useful but I find using a technique that by-passes the brain and works with the unconscious and working with the body, where all that tension and anxiety is held, more successful.
Anti-depressants are the other most common form of help. Not everyone wants to medicate and you may have to experiment to get the right medication to suit you and it can increase symptoms.
So what exactly does treatment involve?
During hypnotherapy you are taken into a trance which is similar to a guided meditation. It is a very relaxed state where I speak to your unconscious to bring about change so that you can respond differently, release old patterns and become more flexible. Through hypnotherapy you will enter a very calm, peaceful and centred state. It is gentle and evidenced therapy.
Hypnotherapy is actually a psychotherapy tool. EMDR could also be described as a s psychotherapeutic tool. How I work with you varies widely depending upon how you present. Is your anxiety due to an inner critic pushing you relentlessly and punishing you or do you have childhood trauma? Do you catastrophise or are you someone that perhaps lacks confidence?
While in a state of hypnosis we can also do psychotherapy. These are some of the things we may do:
Work with your anxious self to identify what they need to change and feel relaxed
Use the imagination to project into a different type of future - what you can imagine can become real as we create neural pathways, similar to how a professional athlete prepares
Meet the nervous system - we use an imaginative exercise where you get to visualise and meet your nervous system. You may be surprised by it's dominance in your system. We work on calming it, softening it and taking it to nature where it can truly relax. This is a surprisingly powerful and often revealing exercise.
Using the imagination and exposing you to the 'anxiety'. So if you have a fear of flying we immerse you in the preparation for a flight, getting on the flight and the flight itself. Through this process of immersion or 'exposure' we are able to retrain the nervous system that it is safe. We also work somatically (read below) while using exposure.
We grow the confident you and put them in the driver's seat so you have what it takes to meet fear, fearlessly.
If needed, we can work with your inner child, first finding your wise, strong and powerful adult who can step in and look after you. We use all sorts of techniques to bring the child to a place of safety and healing including narrative re-writing (re-imagine the story so you are more empowered) and finding out what the child needs to feel whole again. We can work with parts of you that feel unsafe and unresolved and integrate them into a place of safety and maturity.
All of us have a wise inner guide who knows what you need and what's best for you, it's a matter of connecting with him or her and expanding their power. We all have multiple players within us - the child, the teacher, the pupil, the mother, the victim, the healer... By activating and expanding the part of you that is powerful, matured and wise and bringing them into a leadership position within you, big changes can be made.
This work is closely tied into the somatic work. While in a trance we go can work on a deeper level with your unconscious finding symbols and colours that represent trauma, anxiety and low mood. We can work together to shift and change the unconscious state and to let go of old patterns and bring about a deep change. This is extremely powerful work.
EMDR is short for Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing and it has been evidenced to be highly useful in treating PTSD and trauma. You can read about it here
We establish if there is trauma - when the body first learnt to escalate into fight or flight whether it be through a death, a birth, a traumatising incident such as domestic violence, sexual abuse, an accident, a relationship break-up or bullying. I work with EMDR to help the central nervous system release trauma. This separates the incident or incidents from the high level emotions so you can carry the memory without the emotional load. Not everyone with anxiety needs EMDR.
Neuro linguistic programming was developed to work with the brain, language and programming of self to open up your world view and make you a more successful person. A couple of dudes called Bandler and Grinder developed it and marketed it on the corporate market. While I'm not a huge fan of NLP it does has some really good tools that are useful for working neurally to retrain the brain and replace negative scenarios with positive ones. It can also help with reframing. For example you might decide your world has fallen apart because you have been fired, or you could decide it's given you an opportunity to find a job environment without bullies. Mostly I use NLP to work with trauma and future, confidence building. What you can see and feel you can create.
5.SOMATIC WORK (Body work)
We work through your body while in a trance identifying where you hold your anxiety. We relax these areas (heart, below the heart, stomach) and identify if there are any feelings of tension, terror or anxiety. Is it fluid or frozen, heavy or light? Our nervous system response is reflected in an increased heart rate, nausea and can lead to IBS and other digestive issues. We work with moving toward safe states and unsafe states via the imagination so that you can learn how your body responds. The nervous system is re-trained to relax. You learn how to map your own body and how to truly relax. Clients find this aspect of the treatment very powerful as it opens up their understanding of the body/mind and they often gain clarity and insights that help them move forward.
If you have had a traumatising experience your body may have gone into freeze - sometimes by re-imagining the situation we are able to release trauma in the body. For example if you were sexually abused you may have a different response in your imagination. You may fight or flight. This might mean running away from the event or fighting the perpetrator. As you re-imagine the narrative the body releases the freeze.
6. COGNITIVE TRIGGERS
How we think can trigger how we feel. While hypnosis works from the unconscious to the conscious, CBT works the opposite way. I find it's useful to look at what thoughts trigger anxiety and to find reframes. Do you have a harsh inner critic or perfectionist that pushes you and shames you? How can we flip this so you are dealing with wise inner guide who treats you kindly. We develop positive mantras to help you retrain years of negative schemas.
We work with the breath - using diaphragmatic breathing to slow down your nervous system. Some call this the switch breath as it is a physiological way of turning the system from activated and stressed to relaxed. It is a standard method of self managing anxiety and not to be underestimated :)
Interestingly positive affirmations or mantras are associated with 'new age woowoo'. What is interesting about many of the new age techniques is that as neuroscience takes giant leaps forward we are discovering the science of why certain techniques work. When we think differently we create a different bio chemistry and when we create a different feel-good brain chemistry we create a new neural pathway.
A positive affirmation is something I work with to replace a harsh inner critic or a lack of confidence. If you are someone who defaults to the feeling of shame, imagine being able to replace that with the feeling of self love or confidence. Positive affirmations need to be aligned. If you are a a million miles from loving yourself, saying "I let go of shame and love myself", is not going to resonate. Saying "I let go of shame as I allow the kind me to grow," may work. If we find negative thoughts in our sessions, we find new thoughts to create new neural pathways.
A large part of anxiety healing is about bringing a deep relaxation to the whole system and allowing it to truly rest. This may sound simple but it takes mindfulness to bring relaxation through your life when you are used to being stressed. Some people switched into hyper vigilance at a young age and don't know what it feels like to be relaxed. You have to be committed to the notion of changing the way you interact within your body and the outside world. It is not coincidence that anxiety has increased as the pace of life has increased. Our nervous systems are not designed for the pace and stresses of modern life. Technology is evolving faster than our bodies. When you have anxiety it is like a huge siren screaming 'slow down', 'relax!!'
I have noticed some people get faster results than others. The clients that choose to take up yoga and meditate or do a hypnosis daily, simply get better faster. The results are longer lasting as they have made lifestyle shifts and they are supporting the changes they are making at therapy. Yoga will move that anxiety out of your body so you can find relief.
By taking yourself into a theta state during a guided meditation and by allowing the body to stretch out tension and relax you are contributing enormously to the physiology of your own wellbeing. You are switching the nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic and there a huge physical benefits when you relax the nervous system. You release hormones that help your immune system, will sleep better, your thinking will be clearer and your digestion will be more efficient. You are less likely to be anxious!
I will give you some take-home, self-help tools if needed. These may be triggers on the hand to induce relaxation or links to meditations or a series of imaginative exercises practised like a meditation, to help build new pathways.
This is a review from a client who suffered anxiety for forty years. We worked with EMDR,NLP, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and somatic body work to get this result:
"I have had anxiety since I was very little. It has felt like a big black rock was stuck in my chest. I had tried some counselling in the past, CBT, and similar techniques, but they had limited effect. For a while, I even tried medication but for me, that didn't help.
I found Diana on the internet and that same week we had booked our first session. I had suffered for so long, and I really needed help, and I really wanted change. That was my first step.
Diana got to the core, the absolute core of my fears, and with her gentle guidance, she was able to help me find my way. I guess she kind of made me realise, the answers I needed most, were already there waiting for me.
That was then...Now..well...the anxiety has gone, and I know who I am. That single experience, has given me back "me", and there is nothing there to be afraid of.
Thank you Diana.