I’m not too sure how long ago it was when the word “stress” seemed to arrive in the English language like a fashion accessory that everybody had, but it seems to me that there is currently a new trend of those presenting the problem of anxiety.

I have around 5 patients at the moment who are all coming to see me because of the anxious state they are in. For 2 of those patients, the anxiety affects them when driving, one has anxiety related to work, another has anxiety related to a medical condition and another has anxiety about travelling.

Often people get confused between the difference between anxiety and panic. I would describe anxiety as a feeling that is bubbling under the surface, a feeling of general unease or worry, usually causing a fluttery feeling in the stomach and an increase in the speed of the heart.

Panic is anxiety accelerated, although it would tend to last for a shorter period of time. During panic, the heart rate increases, the breathing changes and the whole body feels tense. The stomach may become unsettled and the body may become sweaty, cold and clammy.

Sometimes those who experience anxiety will also experience panic and those who experience panic may also experience anxiety. At times the anxiety only exists because of the worry that a panic attack may arrive. This can be particularly troublesome if the panic or worry has been associated to a specific trigger- which may happen consciously or unconsciously (so the patient may be aware that there is a trigger to their panic, or they may not be consciously aware of the trigger.) This can happen when an intense state, such as panic or anxiety is experienced and an association is formed between the bad state and something that is seen, heard, felt, smelt or touched. The feeling and the “trigger” need not have any relationship to each other in order for a correlation to be formed. In NLP we would call this process negative anchoring.

I remember once experiencing a period of anxiety (I wouldn’t ever call it panic attacks- not because it wasn’t, more out of principal. I knew as soon as I labeled it up that way that it would start to cause me real trouble.)

Surprisingly the anxiety issue occurred long after I had learned the power of NLP and hypnosis. So I was a little disappointed to find myself in a situation where I was laying in bed at night wondering when my heart would stop beating so loudly. It was an issue that only affected me at night, after the break up of a relationship. Sometimes it would creep up on me during the day but I was generally too busy during the day to care for it so much. It was in the still and quiet of the night that my mind would become alert and active and as a result my heart would speed up and sound as if it was booming out of my chest.

It was tricky to “NLP” myself in the wee small hours and so I found that the key to overcoming the issue was firstly in adjusting my thinking. When I really looked at my thoughts, I realized I was torturing myself with painful thoughts about the broken relationship. When I began to change my thoughts (and what has always worked for me is to think about becoming brilliant. I think about achieving more and being better than I am now, so that in the future, those that doubted or wronged me in some way will be feeling as if they are really missing out by no longer being around me.) Perhaps I was NLPing myself anyway!

The thing that really sticks in my mind with dealing with the anxiety I was experiencing, is that I just kept telling myself “It’s a phase and this phase will pass.” I didn’t mean the in the moment feeling of being anxious, though the phrasing could apply to that too. I mean more the overall issue of having anxiety in my life at that time. I very much thought, wholeheartedly, of it as something that wouldn’t stick around too long. I told myself it’s a bit like grieving, you feel bad for a while, but after a while, life carries on and you forget to keep feeling bad all the time.

For me, making anxiety temporary was what made the real difference, because it told my mind what my expectations were and that I was always expecting that one day I would get into bed at night and forget completely to worry- which I did. When it cropped back up again a few nights later, I didn’t tell myself “Damn it’s back again.” Instead I told myself that I’d gone without it a few nights already, and therefore had evidence I could go to bed without getting anxious. I also told myself that the anxiety that had returned that night was just a blip, that everyone has blips sometimes and that any day now I’d be missing out on the opportunity to lay here in bed at night, looking at the minutes ticking by on my clock, because I’d soon be getting into bed and nodding straight off to sleep instead.

Perhaps it just naturally disappeared on it’s own, or perhaps I really did manage to convince myself to react differently. What do you think?

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