Home         Symptoms          Treatments          Reviews          About Seb          Fees          Location          Contact

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

how to control anxiety

 

 

For many people out there suffering from anxiety the chance to get some instant relief would be most welcome. No, wait, I’ve played that down too much. The chance to get some instant relief would be like winning the lottery and going on a long holiday to the bahamas! Sadly, if you’re like most anxiety sufferers, you could be sat on the most relaxing beach in the world and still feel like you are about to wobble off the edge of a cliff!

 

 

The Internet is awash with advice on how to calm anxiety quickly. While these articles are useful in that they give the sufferer something to focus on, they are largely ineffective and impractical as long term solutions. The problem is that calming anxiety quickly is easier said than done.

 

 

The most direct way to calm anxiety is to know what is causing it in the first place. Therein lies the heart of the problem – the anxiety sufferer doesn’t know what is cause their anxiety; they experience it as happening to them, and as a consequence it feels largely out of their control. It can feel as if you have two levels of emotion – a surface level of emotion in which you experience emotions as a direct reaction or consequence of things that are actually happening in the present, and a below surface level of emotion in which you appear to be having emotions that aren’t related to the immediate conditions of your environment.

 

 

The lack of control that you experience in relation to the latter can lead to what psychologists refer to as an external locus of control. A person’s locus of control is simply a belief they have about the degree to which they can personally affect the outcome of events in their lives. Locus of control is measured on a continuum ranging from internal to external, and to date there is a wealth of research and evidence to support the fact that people with an external locus of control experience greater levels of anxiety, depression, and stress in their lives. So, herein lies difficulty number 2, which I shall explain sequentially: you experience anxiety or a full blown panic attack, it feels like it’s happening to you and is therefore outside of your control, this perception promotes an external locus of control, you become more anxious and start to think more and more about when it is going to happen again, this then further increases your level of anxiety and may ultimately lead to another panic attack. That, dear friend, is what they call a vicious cycle and there are two effective ways out of this cycle; either locate the cause of the anxiety using some form of psychotherapy, or build up an internal locus of control using some form of psycho-educational therapy, such as CBT, otherwise known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

 

 

For now though, here is some simple advice for helping you to manage the anxiety that you are currently experiencing.

 

 

Acknowledge that you are experiencing the anxiety and allow it to run its course.

 

 

Often you may be tempted to try and override the sensation of anxiety in an attempt to force your control over it. In actuality this added resistance will simply generate more stress; rather than turning up the volume on your emotions you need to turn the volume down. Real control comes from controlling your response to a stimulus, rather than trying to control the stimulus itself.

 

 

GET 'REAL' WITH YOURSELF

 

 

Anyone who has ever experienced a heightened state of anxiety will be familiar with the sudden and intense 'yikes, I think I’m going to die' feeling. While it is easy to chuckle about the ridiculousness of this in hindsight, it feels VERY real when it’s actually happening. We get this feeling because certain brain structures, namely the amygdala, play a central role in our experience of anxiety.

 

 

The amygdala is the seat of our fight or flight response. It has evolved to help us cope with genuine, real-life, real-time, life and death situations. The problem is that this natural survival mechanism can be triggered not only by physical threats but by emotional or psychological ones too.

 

 

Neuroscience research has revealed that the brain stores stressful memories in the unconscious so that they can be used as a template by the amygdala. In other words, the memories supply the amygdala with information about what to avoid in the future. The amygdala uses these unconscious memories, known as implicit memories, as a reference to trigger the release of adrenalin and cortisol, the body's stress hormones that facilitate fight or flight. Therefore if a current real-life situation in anyway mirrors or echoes a former stressful experience your brain prepares you to quickly get away from that negative experience. This is why anxiety often feels like it’s happening to you, or within you, rather then being overtly related to anything in the immediate environment.

 

 

The amygdala exists to keep you alive. Therefore you can get a very real sense that you are going to die when you are experiencing severe anxiety. This kind of catastrophic thinking however only adds to your anxiety level therefore it’s important to get it clear in your mind that you aren’t actually going to die while you’re having a panic attack. Having a wee chuckle to yourself about it at the time will help to diffuse some of the tension and bring down your stress levels. More importantly, reminding yourself that you are actually perfectly safe will send a strong signal to your amygdala to stop sounding the alarm.

 

 

Distract yourself by doing something else

 

 

There is a simple saying in psychotherapy that states you get more of what you focus on. Thinking about - or focusing on - your anxiety will simply lead to more anxiety. By choosing to ignore it and get on with something else you are far more likely to progressively reduce the severity of your anxiety, and by consistently repeating this process of removing the focus from the anxiety to something else you will stop adding unnecessary interest to your anxiety 'account'. In behavioural psychology this is known as a pattern interrupt. By choosing to focus on something else other than your anxiety you will actually strengthen your internal locus of control and that will have the effect of reducing your levels of future anxiety.

 

 

The bottom line is that anxiety can rule your life unless you get it sorted with the help of a competent therapist, but then I would say that wouldn’t I?!  So in the meantime why not go and kick a ball about for a bit or go and get stuck into some really intense origami and stop reading about all this bloody anxiety stuff!

 

 

Back to Blog Contents

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

Submitting Form...

The server encountered an error.

Thanks! I'll get back to you as soon as I can...

© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Home          Symptoms         Treatments         Reviews          About Seb          Fees          Location          Contact 

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

how to control anxiety

 

 

For many people out there suffering from anxiety the chance to get some instant relief would be most welcome. No, wait, I’ve played that down too much. The chance to get some instant relief would be like winning the lottery and going on a long holiday to the bahamas! Sadly, if you’re like most anxiety sufferers, you could be sat on the most relaxing beach in the world and still feel like you are about to wobble off the edge of a cliff!

 

 

The Internet is awash with advice on how to calm anxiety quickly. While these articles are useful in that they give the sufferer something to focus on, they are largely ineffective and impractical as long term solutions. The problem is that calming anxiety quickly is easier said than done.

 

 

The most direct way to calm anxiety is to know what is causing it in the first place. Therein lies the heart of the problem – the anxiety sufferer doesn’t know what is cause their anxiety; they experience it as happening to them, and as a consequence it feels largely out of their control. It can feel as if you have two levels of emotion – a surface level of emotion in which you experience emotions as a direct reaction or consequence of things that are actually happening in the present, and a below surface level of emotion in which you appear to be having emotions that aren’t related to the immediate conditions of your environment.

 

 

The lack of control that you experience in relation to the latter can lead to what psychologists refer to as an external locus of control. A person’s locus of control is simply a belief they have about the degree to which they can personally affect the outcome of events in their lives. Locus of control is measured on a continuum ranging from internal to external, and to date there is a wealth of research and evidence to support the fact that people with an external locus of control experience greater levels of anxiety, depression, and stress in their lives. So, herein lies difficulty number 2, which I shall explain sequentially: you experience anxiety or a full blown panic attack, it feels like it’s happening to you and is therefore outside of your control, this perception promotes an external locus of control, you become more anxious and start to think more and more about when it is going to happen again, this then further increases your level of anxiety and may ultimately lead to another panic attack. That, dear friend, is what they call a vicious cycle and there are two effective ways out of this cycle; either locate the cause of the anxiety using some form of psychotherapy, or build up an internal locus of control using some form of psycho-educational therapy, such as CBT, otherwise known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

 

 

For now though, here is some simple advice for helping you to manage the anxiety that you are currently experiencing.

 

 

Acknowledge that you are experiencing the anxiety and allow it to run its course.

 

 

Often you may be tempted to try and override the sensation of anxiety in an attempt to force your control over it. In actuality this added resistance will simply generate more stress; rather than turning up the volume on your emotions you need to turn the volume down. Real control comes from controlling your response to a stimulus, rather than trying to control the stimulus itself.

 

 

GET 'REAL' WITH YOURSELF

 

 

Anyone who has ever experienced a heightened state of anxiety will be familiar with the sudden and intense 'yikes, I think I’m going to die' feeling. While it is easy to chuckle about the ridiculousness of this in hindsight, it feels VERY real when it’s actually happening. We get this feeling because certain brain structures, namely the amygdala, play a central role in our experience of anxiety.

 

 

The amygdala is the seat of our fight or flight response. It has evolved to help us cope with genuine, real-life, real-time, life and death situations. The problem is that this natural survival mechanism can be triggered not only by physical threats but by emotional or psychological ones too.

 

 

Neuroscience research has revealed that the brain stores stressful memories in the unconscious so that they can be used as a template by the amygdala. In other words, the memories supply the amygdala with information about what to avoid in the future. The amygdala uses these unconscious memories, known as implicit memories, as a reference to trigger the release of adrenalin and cortisol, the body's stress hormones that facilitate fight or flight. Therefore if a current real-life situation in anyway mirrors or echoes a former stressful experience your brain prepares you to quickly get away from that negative experience. This is why anxiety often feels like it’s happening to you, or within you, rather then being overtly related to anything in the immediate environment.

 

 

The amygdala exists to keep you alive. Therefore you can get a very real sense that you are going to die when you are experiencing severe anxiety. This kind of catastrophic thinking however only adds to your anxiety level therefore it’s important to get it clear in your mind that you aren’t actually going to die while you’re having a panic attack. Having a wee chuckle to yourself about it at the time will help to diffuse some of the tension and bring down your stress levels. More importantly, reminding yourself that you are actually perfectly safe will send a strong signal to your amygdala to stop sounding the alarm.

 

 

Distract yourself by doing something else

 

 

There is a simple saying in psychotherapy that states you get more of what you focus on. Thinking about - or focusing on - your anxiety will simply lead to more anxiety. By choosing to ignore it and get on with something else you are far more likely to progressively reduce the severity of your anxiety, and by consistently repeating this process of removing the focus from the anxiety to something else you will stop adding unnecessary interest to your anxiety 'account'. In behavioural psychology this is known as a pattern interrupt. By choosing to focus on something else other than your anxiety you will actually strengthen your internal locus of control and that will have the effect of reducing your levels of future anxiety.

 

 

The bottom line is that anxiety can rule your life unless you get it sorted with the help of a competent therapist, but then I would say that wouldn’t I?!  So in the meantime why not go and kick a ball about for a bit or go and get stuck into some really intense origami and stop reading about all this bloody anxiety stuff!

 

 

Back to Blog Contents