Almost everybody wants to know how to get rid of anxiety without using medication; but in order to do this you have to start by really understanding the nature of anxiety.
I have some advice that may surprise you because it goes against the grain of many popular self-help theories. It’s really pretty simple; stop trying.
Yup. You heard right. In the 11 or so years I’ve been practising I’ve read a zillion self-help books and come across as many sure fire ways to ‘cure’ anxiety – and none of them work.
This is because you, and me, and the rest of the human race are hardwired to feel fear. We’re more motivated by the stick than the carrot and that’s the way it’s always been. A tiny little part of your brain called the Amygdala is programmed to make you think ‘what bad thing could happen next???’ This heightened fear response is built into our DNA and back in caveman times we needed it to survive.
Not the case nowadays, though; 80% of the fear we feel is unwarranted. Problem is most people don’t know how to separate the fear they do need from the fear they don’t need.
So back to my point about trying to get rid of the anxiety; think of your anxiety as a dragon. The more you try to push it away, the more fire it will breathe at you. On the other hand, if you say ‘welcome old friend’ and invite your anxiety in, it loses its power and doesn’t really have anywhere to go.
The technique of inviting your negative emotions in and observing them rather than trying to banish them is what our Buddhist friends call mindfulness. There are a million things I could say about this topic, but for now if you’re struggling to get a grip, here are my top 3 tips for coming back down to Earth:
ONE: Come Back To Reality
When you’re gripped by anxiety, you are literally in a trance of fear. Usually you’re way off into the future imagining the worst possible scenario and scaring the bejesus out of yourself.
So when that happens, recognise that this is what it is and bring your mind back to the here and now. The recognising bit takes practise, and you won’t always catch yourself but it does get easier with time.
One technique I use is to ask the question ‘is there a problem right now?’ Usually the answer is no. Odds are you are safe, you have food and shelter and you are in no immediate danger.
Yes, you feel a bit yucky, but the sky isn’t falling in…at least not right now. Coming back to the here and now breaks the trance of fear.
TWO: Don’t Fight It
Like I said before the worst thing you can do is try to push your anxiety away. Equally useless are affirmations like ‘everything’s going to be okay’. Why is this statement useless?
Because you don’t actually know that everything is going to be okay – nobody does. Your subconscious mind knows this and it’s not going to fall for it. The only constant in life is change and anything could happen at any time.
A much more useful approach is to see your anxiety for what it is – a mind state. The thing is, anxiety won’t hurt you – and it won’t last forever. Learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions is the best way to manage them. A feeling of anxiety may arise in you, but it is not who you are. A hypnotherapist who is familiar with the technique of mindfulness can work with you to manage these feelings when they arise.
THREE: Don’t Believe The Story
Anxiety is usually preceded by a thought. First, you think about something that makes you anxious (or you feel anxious and have a thought about the feeling of anxiety). Then you believe the story that thought is telling you and then you have an even more disturbing thought – then you get lost in THAT story…..and on it goes.
Believing in the stories your thoughts are telling you is like opening the door to a little girl dressed as a witch on Halloween and believing in that witch. Just because these thoughts and/or predictions about the future are coming up, it doesn’t mean they are going to eventuate. 80% of what you worry about never happens. So don’t believe everything you think!
Remember; it’s all in your DNA. If you’ve been scouring the internet trying to work out how to get rid of your anxiety, stop right here and pay attention: this approach is futile. We all experience a range of emotions, both good and bad. None of these emotions are ‘wrong’ and none of them last. So take comfort in the saying: ‘This too shall pass’. Feel free to contact me here and I will tell you how I can help.