Spotlight on Anxiety
Anxiety is the fasting growing mental health issue in the UK today.
Click on these videos to learn how to overcome it
Part 1 - An Introduction
Part 2 - Physical Symptoms
Part 3 - Troublesome Thoughts
Part 4 - Perceived Threat
Part 5 - Negative Thoughts
Part 6 - The Emotion
Part 7 - Comfortable vs Uncomfortable
Part 8 - Pay Attention!
Part 9 - Anxious Thoughts & Feelings
Part 10 - The 3 Steps
Part 11 - Understand it
Part 12 - Accept it
Part 13 - Manage it
Part 14 - Overcome it
Anxiety Success Story
When I met ‘Alan’ for the first time, despite being a tall man of well over 6 feet tall, he had the demeanour of someone a foot shorter. Eyes down cast, shoulders slump he walked in a slow manner into my consultation room. He was struggling with debilitating anxiety that was preventing him leave the house and go to work. Alan enjoyed his job as a lead engineer, but the sudden loss of his grandmother, to whom he was very close, triggered a downward spiral. Alan had lost all interest in all the things he loved like going to watch his local football team each week, going out for meals and going on holidays.
Alan scored his current anxiety as a lowly 2. He explained that his anxiety started age 6 when he was being taught by an abusive teacher. He lost his confidence and to compensate he had become a perfectionist. To achieve this, he had a very strong desire to control every aspect of this life. This was leading to him worrying excessively and this was impacting his close relationships.
Setting achievable goals is an important part of my approach and Alan identified that he wanted to get his anxiety levels to improve to an 8 so that he could return to work. So we set off on what would prove to be a life changing journey for Alan.
"Setting achievable goals is an important part of my approach"
"It was like meeting a different person"
During the first session we agreed to look to achieve a couple of small changes in behaviour around the need for excessive control. A bone of contention in Alan’s home was the weekly shop. He didn’t trust his partner to do the shopping in case something was not bought correctly or an item was missed. Alan agreed to let his partner do the shopping on her own but admitted that this made him very anxious. To help with the anxiety I worked with Alan on learning to calm himself down and feel less anxious. This was achieved through teaching him 7/11 breathing, a simple but effective technique that de-arouses our emotions.
Alan practiced this breathing technique throughout the week. We also explored worst case scenarios. What’s the worst that could happen if the shopping wasn’t done to Alan’s standards? We agreed that if his partner forgot something from the list like the milk, it probably wouldn’t be the end of the world and Alan could simply go out later and pick that up another time. After relaxing Alan deeply, we rehearsed the experience in Alan’s imagination and he agreed this is something he was now equipped to manage.
Greeting Alan at the start of session two I noticed a shift. He was standing taller and smiling. It was like meeting a different person. Alan reported that he found the 7/11 breathing extremely useful and he practised it throughout the week when he started to feel anxious. He was immediately able to calm himself down. With a rather embarrassed smile he also admitted that letting his partner do the shopping was easier than he thought. She did in fact forget something but he was able to put this in its true perspective. He said he was ready to move on to the more challenging goal of returning to work.
Alan enjoyed his job, but it is a stressful one and if not done well would lead to many people being inconvenienced. People often called and shouted at him which made him feel extremely stressed and fuelled his need to control everything around him further. Being a manager of 10 people, he often did their work as well as his, leaving him feeling particularly anxious at weekends. One hostile call like this would ‘ruin his week’ so I decided to prepare Alan for such an eventuality along with the need to ‘let go’ of the desire to control every activity. For this I use guided imagery, a technique often used with elite sports people. This enables clients to prepare for challenging situations using their imagination in a calm and relaxed state.
Alan’s improvement continued. He was able to return to work successfully. In fact there was a major incident at work which led to one of those dreaded calls. Having rehearsed for this scenario he noticed how much calmer whilst having the difficult conversation he was. His heart wasn’t racing, he wasn’t sweating and didn’t feel the need to be sick or go to the toilet, all physical manifestations of the fight or flight response when we feel threatened. He was able to have a calm, rational conversation with the customer and resolve the matter professionally. His week wasn’t ruined this time.
Alan had made great progress after only two sessions by learning to breathe in a relaxed manner and benefiting from guided imagery. I therefore decided to tackle the root cause of Alan’s debilitating anxiety, the emotionally charged memories from when he was six years old at school.
"His week wasn’t ruined this time"
"He now felt ready take on the world again"
To help people overcome traumatic experiences I use the rewind technique which is commonly used to help army veterans suffering with PTSD. The Rewind is a highly effective tool that enables the client to unhook the strong emotions associated with a traumatic memory. The client will always have the memory of the experience, but the emotional charge associated with that memory which is often triggered when they encounter similar situations in their life is turned down or even off. We agreed to set some more goals for the week that involved ‘letting go’ further, particularly around booking his wider family’s holiday through asking others to help rather than him being burden with organising everything.
On greeting Alan for Session 4 you could immediately see there had been a profound shift. He was now standing to his full height, and he had a big beaming smile on his face. He said he felt that the “weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders”. He was now really enjoying his work and wasn’t getting overly stressed. At home he no longer had to do every activity from the shopping to the ironing to make sure it is done ‘in the right way’. He had even started to return to the gym to get fit and had gone to his first football match in months. The rest of his family had got involved in arranging the family holiday. He now scaled his anxiety as 8 out of 10. I asked Alan if he felt like he needed a fifth session. He admitted that whilst he had made significant progress, he was still nervous that he may come off the rails and asked for a fifth session. I asked him to remind himself what he needs to do if he feels anxious when life issues crop up. 7/11 breathing came the response with a warm, knowing smile.
We did meet from a fifth and final session, but Alan said at the start that he now felt in control of his life without the need to control all aspects of it. He admitted that the only reason he had come today was to say thank you for helping him turn his life around and he now felt ready take on the world again.