Since the Outbreak of covid-19 many of us have had our lives completely turned upside down and we are all struggling in our own ways. It has affected people in different ways. For some just having some space to talk through things can make a huge difference to how they cope.
For others, the lockdown has meant that they have spent a lot of time reflecting on what's important in their lives and what's not, and they may as a result want to make some big changes but without knowing where to start. Sometimes it takes a conversation with somebody skilled who can listen to what it is that you're saying and give you the space to explore it in your own way and help you to actually make a pathway forward for yourself.
I think if there is a silver lining in all of this, it's that we are being given the gift of time and the gift of space to think more clearly.
If you'd like to explore any of this stuff and you'd like some extra support then why don't you make contact with me online today and we can hook up by video link and together we can explore everything that you're struggling with and look at all your ideas and aspirations for the future together.
You will find my contact details on the website.
When we experience anxiety we temporarily move ourselves into the ‘flight or fight mode’. The brain carries out certain activities when this is activated, for example stress hormones are released which support other physiological actions such as an increase in heart activity and this in turn effects lung function; the body is priming us for optimal running or fighting activity. These responses and others were designed to preserve the human species in primitive times when there were a number of threats to our survival. The brain evolved maintaining these primitive responses to threats.
In primitive times it wasn’t appropriate to stop and think creatively, or to ruminate on the productivity of your options. You would have risked being eaten while you sat and pondered! The brain wasn’t a deep thinking brain, it was a finely tuned machine that powered the engine that is the human body, and either increased an individual’s capacity for strength or enabled the body ready for some serious running. Today in this country, we are privileged to rarely find the need to defensively protect ourselves or to run from real physical dangers, yet our systems are still continuing to react as though we are, why is this? Our brains as amazing as they are, seem unable to distinguish between real and perceived reality. A perfect example of this is perhaps how we are triggered to tears when we watch a sad film, the brain responds as though the tragedy unfolding on the screen was real, yet we know it is fictional.
There are lots of experiences that cause humans to feel a sense of vulnerability. A centre in our brain (the amygdala) whose role is to constantly and vigilantly scan our environment for potential dangers, responds rapidly to a sense of vulnerability and triggers a series of physiological responses within our bodies. We call this the ‘fight, flight’ response. Even an official looking letter through the post, if perceived as a threat, can in some individuals trigger this sensitive centre in the brain into action, as can just the thought of taking public transport or attending an interview. There are numerous reasons that an individual might perceive events as threatening and trigger this physiological response, not all of these events will be active threats.
It is possible that in some individuals previous trauma sets up a sensitivity that makes them hypersensitive to certain stimulus, triggering their brains to repeatedly activate this ‘flight or fight’ response. In this instance the individual unsurprisingly feels completely overwhelmed, their internal systems are being highjacked ready for an activity that they are very unlikely to carry out, eg running or fighting, and their bodies are being overloaded with chemicals to enable them to do this.
Anxiety might therefore be considered as a set of symptoms which make up this sense of ‘overwhelm’. These symptoms might include, but this is not an exhaustive list, palpitations, increased excretion of sweat, nervousness or fidgety sensation, a feeling of panic or dread that can’t be explained, rapid breathing or hyperventilation, weakness, aching or twitching muscles, ticks, trembling, insomnia, obsessing, unable to think clearly, paranoia, lethargy, insomnia, headaches, irritability, stomach upsets, unexplained physical pain, dizziness. These symptoms could be attributed to the release of a chemical in the body called Cortisol, this stress hormone is responsible for much of the preparing work that the body does when it is triggered into the ‘fight or flight’ response. Living with these symptoms for long periods of time is exhausting, anxiety often prevents individuals from getting on with daily living, in some cases it becomes impossible to focus on anything but the symptoms they are experiencing.
The biggest concern for someone struggling with anxiety is that their ‘fight or flight’ response is constantly being triggered, initially by a sense of threat and then often in response to experiencing these unpleasant symptoms; this cycle repeatedly floods their system with more stress hormones. The body when preparing an individual to defend itself or to run away stops all brain / body processes not deemed useful for immediate survival, such as those used for problem solving. Staying in a prolonged state of anxiety means that the individual is unlikely to be able to think clearly and problem solving will be impossible. In turn this may add to the distress the individual feels because they can’t ‘think’ their way out of the situation, and this increases their sense of anxiety until it becomes a vicious cycle. Individuals can often stay submerged in the discomfort and confusion of anxiety for long periods of time, this is completely debilitating, isolating even and often prevents individuals from participating in relationships or carrying out any kind of work. Remaining in this state for any length of time could also initiate episodes of depression. Anxious bodies often struggle to maintain good sleeping patterns. The REM sleep stage is particularly important for cellular regeneration, and in healthy sleeping patterns would appear throughout the night in conjunction with deep sleep. It has been shown that reduced or poor quality sleep impacts cognitive abilities, preventing individuals from thinking and functioning effectively.
How does therapy help to reduce anxiety?
Any kind of activity that helps to quieten the ‘fight, flight’ response will help to keep anxiety in check. Learning techniques that focus attention or slow the breath can really help to calm an overwhelmed system. If an individual wants to find ways of reducing their reactiveness to certain stimulus which seem to be triggering them, it is likely they will need to dig a little deeper and get to the root cause, acknowledge the trigger and create new ways of responding. This is usually only made possible through therapy.
Hypnotherapy, EFT and Counselling are all incredibly effective mediums for working with anxiety. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy works by bypassing the amygdala which is constantly scanning our environment for potential threats, this includes new activities that it might regard as suspicious, and then allowing us to implant new thoughts and behaviours around anxiety triggers. Anxiety triggers are sometimes established during childhood. An example of such a trigger could be a response to being near water, because as a child you nearly drowned. Now as an adult being around water does not present the same level of threat but the initial trigger is still providing you with a ‘fight, flight’ response, and around water your heart rate increases, your breathing quickens and you feel light headed and very anxious. Another example of an anxiety trigger might be something more ambiguous, like the fear of being alone. It often proves impossible to uncover the initial event or events that became a trigger for feeling anxious without the support of a therapist, because the answer to this may lay deeply hidden and protected within your psyche. This is a particularly difficult anxiety to manage because it often becomes an anticipated fear in every situation, there is an expectation of being “left alone”, so this impacts romantic relationships and friendships because the individual is always anticipating that the other party will leave them, and is therefore constantly triggering an anxiety response within themselves.
Modern times call for different approaches to the way we manage our fears, not all threats require a ‘fight or flight’ response. We need to be able to respond to the demands and challenges of life in ways that look after us mentally, emotionally and physically, and this is made possible by activating our awareness of how we respond to life, through therapeutic intervention.
EFT works by releasing trapped emotions that might be underpinning or predisposing individuals to experiencing life as full of threats. It releases emotions that sit around an initial traumatic event, and this in turn helps the individual to understand the behaviours or fears that have grown up around the trigger, or why they seem more susceptible than others to experiencing anxiety. We can only alter that which is known to our conscious selves, knowledge gives us more control over how we choose to respond. EFT is a relaxing and quick process. You can learn the technique in minutes and it’s so easy to apply. Then, unlike some forms of therapy, you will be free to use it for yourself outside of the therapy room; it can be used during times of high anxiety, even during panic attacks. EFT and Counselling both help an individual to revisit specific past events that may have set-up the original stress response, and resulted in triggering the ‘fight, flight’ defence system. Stress triggers can remain with us long after the initial event, and take some unpicking which is why working with a therapist can be so beneficial.
Freedom from anxiety
Anyone who suffers with anxiety will know only too well how debilitating and upsetting this can be. Often individual’s will resort to taking prescription drugs to try and lessen the impact but drug therapy isn’t for everyone and if you’re looking for a therapeutic practice that not only clears the catalogue of past traumas but also gives you a technique that can be applied during a crisis or panicky moment then EFT really is for you!
As a therapist I use my various skills to create the right working practice for the individual. Often those people who are familiar with counselling are unsure of EFT to begin with, but they quickly realise the rapid benefits of this therapeutic technique, and enjoy the lightness of this approach. With the addition of hypnotherapy my clients are able to begin healthier sleep routines that support the improvement of their mental health, this often gives them greater control over their lives.
“The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body's processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including:
Memory and concentration impairment
That's why it's so important to learn healthy ways to cope with your life stressors.”
If you’re suffering with anxiety taking action today could stop it from further damaging your health and happiness. Contact me via email, phone or text and we can start your journey of recovery together today. If you’d like an informal chat to decide if I’m the right person to work with please message me and I will arrange a time to call you back.
I will work hard to ensure that your experience of therapy is a positive and uplifting one, even if your story is filled with sadness and trauma.
Therapy should never add to the distress you have experienced or continue to experience