Most clients that I see whether it is through hypnotherapy or counselling have some element of stress and anxiety. Looking at what causes stress and anxiety can help us to better understand our own reactions to it and therefore change our thinking processes.

Stress is often caused by our expectations of others or others expectations of us. Stress can also be a learnt behaviour so for example, to put it simply, how your parents reacted when they got stuck behind a tractor on their rush to work, or how they handled a stressful family reunion will all be passed onto us as children and because parents are the primary caregivers and children learn most things from them, how those children grow and react to stress later on in life will largely depend on the parent’s coping mechanism. If a parent has a glass of wine, or a cigarette or a huge bar of chocolate to make themselves feel better and de-stress after a long day, the child will learn that those coping mechanisms work and adopt those same ways of coping as an adult. However, if the parent reacts differently by finding healthier coping mechanisms such as meditation or exercise, the child will learn that the best way of coping with stress is by looking within, becoming centred and releasing any stress or frustration in a healthy way through exercise and meditation. On a physical level stress goes to the weakest part of the body and we often feel it in our shoulders and lower back. You may find yourself grinding your teeth at night whilst sleeping or not being able to get to sleep at all. Yoga can be a great way of stretching out those muscles to reduce that tension in the back, and the simple art of a few deep breaths will also help to calm the mind.

Anxiety is caused by a fear of the unknown. We put ourselves through hell in our minds wondering what will happen tomorrow, next week or next month. We imagine the worst case scenario and because that is what we focus on the worst case scenario is actually more likely to come about because where our thoughts go is where our energy goes. Of course the absolute worst scenario in reality rarely happens. Fear of the unknown and a fear of change can cause our anxiety to go through the roof! Actually when we focus on the here and now which is the only moment that exists, the only moment which we have any control, there is no real emergency at all. This is why changing our anxious thoughts to positive thoughts and bringing your mind to the here and now by using meditation and mindfulness techniques can be the most powerful thing we can do for ourselves right now. Ultimately you are taking back your power.

Let me tell you something. Stress triggers the autonomic nervous system which runs down the spinal cord and triggers the fight or flight response. The limbic part of the brain which is the reptilian brain can affect our cognitive behaviour causing us to react in a way that is not appropriate. Constant stress will eventually affect us on a physical level as the body is not relaxing properly and so your white blood cells cannot regenerate so your immune system becomes weak. We may experience symptoms such as digestion problems, sweaty hands, increased heart rate, breathing quickens, our temperature can fluctuate and parts of our bodily functions can start to shut down. Physical and emotional problems can come about as a result of stress. Stress appears to be caused by an existing factor but anxiety is a stress that continues after the original stress is gone. Anxiety is an irrational response to a stress even when the source of the stress has gone.

So what can you do to help yourself?
– For every negative thought you have replace it with at least two positive thoughts.
– Spend at least 10 minutes a day just sitting quietly and focusing entirely on the breath. If thoughts come in just acknowledge them, write them down if you have to, but go back to focusing on the breath.
– If you can, engage in some physical exercise.
– Do some yoga to stretch out your body.
– Practice mindfulness. Meditate by doing a body scan and recognise where in the body your stress is residing. Breath into that area and release on the out breath. Breath in calm, breath out tension.
– Incorporate positive affirmations into your day. The subconscious mind only recognises the here and now so even if you are not feeling this way the mind will send signals to the body. Because of this the phrase “I am” is very important. I am happy, I am healthy, I am confident, I am at peace. Incorporate these affirmations into your every day life.
– Most importantly, if you have children around you, think about how you are coping and be mindful of teaching your children how to manage stress and anxiety in a healthy way.

There are lots of tools online to help you with meditation and exercise. I am still working and as all counsellors and hypnotherapists are working from the same online and phone platform, distance is not an obstacle thanks to technology. Don’t be afraid of Zoom or Skype, if you want to make an appointment I am happy to go through how this works with you. If you are feeling stressed or anxious be aware of how seeking therapy at this time can help not just you but your children too.