How to Stop Anxiety

By - karengray
04.07.21 06:34 PM

Stress is the physical and psychological reaction to any threat, whether it is real or imagined, or happening internally (like illness or injury) or externally (like being startled). When we feel that we are in danger, even if the threat is small or routine, the brain reacts by initiating the “fight or flight” response and changes happen in our bodies. Our heart rate increases, our breathing becomes more shallow and faster, and chemicals are released to make us feel more alert and ready to handle the threat.

Anxiety is the escalation of that response beyond what is physically and emotionally comfortable. 

Some of the most powerful and effective ways to stop anxiety, even as it's happening, are techniques that directly impact the brain. The methods I teach my clients use hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming to change their state of mind quickly and easily by accessing  the parts of their mind responsible for the anxiety.

Abdominal breathing is a great example of one of these methods. Abdominal breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, the large system of nerves responsible for turning off the stress response. Breathing exercises that use abdominal breathing can train the mind to stay more relaxed more often. Click on the link below to get my Abdominal Breathing tool for Anxiety Relief.

Another very effective and easy to learn technique is a pattern interrupt.

Pattern Interrupts

You can think of having an anxiety attack as being stuck in a loop, or a pattern. If you are able to break that pattern, your mind has a difficult time finding its way back into the anxiety loop.

A pattern interrupt comes from Neuro Linguistic Programming and is a way of changing a person’s mental, emotional, or behavioral state or strategy.  The most basic form of a pattern interrupt is a shock. Imagine someone clapping their hands very loudly in the middle of your sentence and being so surprised by the noise that you forget what you’re saying. Your mind fell off track, and couldn’t find it’s way back right away - leaving some space where you can choose to change direction.

A person can learn to create their own non-shocking pattern interrupts easily, and once they are learned, they can become automatic responses to anxiety.

Step 1: What's the Pattern?

Here is where you can start to look at what the specific pattern of anxiety is. Think about what triggers an anxiety attack. Is it a physical thing, like pain or shortness of breath? Or is it a thought, like fears or worries? Identifying these triggers can serve two purposes. If you are aware of what triggers your anxiety, then you can avoid those triggers whenever possible. If you can’t avoid them, you can recognize what’s happening and remain more in control..

Step 2: Where Does It Derail You?

This part can be a bit tricky for some people. Here is where you want to pinpoint the moment when you get thrown off. It can be subtle for some people, and for others it can be very clear. In anxiety, this is the moment when you may feel like you don’t have control over what’s happening. This is the moment when the autopilot takes over and you are just along for the ride. And this is the point where you can introduce a new behavior, to interrupt the pattern.

Step 3: Create an Interrupt to Break Out of Your Old Pattern

Once you’ve identified the point where things go haywire, this is where you want to install a new behavior. What you can do in that moment that is different from what you have done in the past? Make sure it’s not something you have done before because, let’s be honest, whatever you were doing before wasn’t working.

You can choose almost anything, like reciting a short nursery rhyme, yelling "boo!", singing a song, stand up, clap your hands, count forward by threes starting at the number eight. Take a deep abdominal breath. You get the idea. Pick something that has nothing to do with the mental state you don’t want to be in anymore.

Step 4: Program It!

The next step is to practice it. Every single day, or as often as possible. Close your eyes and take a few deep abdominal breaths and let yourself remember some of those past times when you experienced anxiety, but this time, play them through in a slightly different way. Remember those times from the past when you've had those unwanted feelings, and this time, add in your pattern interrupt. Let yourself imagine that you are using your pattern interrupt and seeing how you’re quickly and easily able to calm down.

This method allows your mind to see a new option with a more desirable outcome, and the more you practice it, the better you get at it, until you are using your pattern interrupt automatically.∎

Free “15 minute De-Stress” hypnosis audio

Free “Abdominal Breathing for Anxiety and Stress Relief” tool

Karen Gray is a Certified Hypnotist, Registered Nurse, and Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life

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