A practical, evidence-based, approach to overcoming anxiety.
Over the last two decades there has been an explosion of knowledge about how the brain and mind work. In the last decade, revolutionary tools based on this knowledge have made their way into clinical practice.
My practice is rooted in these practical new scientifically based tools.
This new approach is about training your brain to have new and more useful habits.
New ways of thinking
When I help clients, I help them quickly identify the anxious processes going on inside their heads. Then I help them build new positive habitual thinking patterns.
Think of somebody who hires a golf coach. Somebody who goes to the professional for help expects to learn new ways of playing the game. Also, the coach identifies patterns of movement the client has that are not helpful and helps remove them.
This is remarkably similar to what I do. You have routine thought processes that could do with regulating or changing; I help you develop new, more helpful thought patterns.
How to feel less anxious
After you experience something, the memory of the initial experience and our feelings about it may well be happening in distinct parts of your brain. This is one of the key new insights in psychology.
It’s the feelings linked to the event that people want to change. After all, they can stop talking about the memory (including in their own head) if they know how.
The next great realisation was that each person who is anxious is doing it in their own unique way. So, one tool may be beneficial to a person but not to another.
When you’re anxious, there are neural circuits activated, as well as the strong sensations and feelings throughout the body. The combination will be unique to you. Most of what you are experiencing right now, is based on your past experiences.
Anxious thought patterns
Think back to when you are anxious. Among your thought processes, you’re likely to be doing at least one of the following:
- talking to yourself inside your head: “What if…”, or “I’m not good enough…”, or thousands of other possibilities
- imagining things going horribly wrong
- recalling past events, re-evaluating them, going over and over: Could you have done it differently? What if that had gone wrong? There are many of these types of looping thoughts
- reconnecting with memories, and therefore experiencing a strong emotional charge in situations that don’t seem to require it
Anxious thought patterns can be changed
Now, in our imagination let’s go to being a new-born baby.
You had no language. Thought pattern 1 above could not happen. Secondly you didn’t know what things were, and you didn’t know they could go wrong. So, your baby brain couldn’t imagine these catastrophes.
The third and fourth thoughts are based on memories. If you don’t yet have any, you can’t reconnect with them.
So, all the above patterns of thinking are learnt by your brain.
And if you can learn to do something, you can learn to do it differently.
Confident, optimistic, or resilient people, when they talk to themselves inside their heads, don’t take troubling thoughts too seriously. They’ve learned to not be hooked by difficult thoughts. Indeed, some people actually say words inside their heads that are useful, encouraging and upbuilding. They have learnt a positive mental habit.
Here’s a second example of positive change. All of us will at times imagine things going wrong. It is a phenomenal survival mechanism evolution has given us. If we can imagine something in the future going wrong and take actions now to reduce the risk or even eliminate it, then this is a survival advantage. What some people can do is, as these thoughts arise, step into a planning and action-taking phase, doing what they need to do to reduce future risks or eliminate them. They too have learnt a positive mental habit.
Identifying your troubling thought patterns
There are certain brain circuits inside your head that are contributing to your anxiety – memories, patterns of thinking, or mental and emotional habits. When you’re experiencing anxiety the relevant brain circuits will be active. When they’re active, they’re identifiable. No need to try and figure out what they are in advance. This technique of diagnosis is far quicker and only focuses on things that are contributing to your anxiety.
It is common for my clients to have high stress levels. They are in demanding careers.
As stress levels rise, the neural circuits associated with anxiety are more likely to trigger. Drop stress levels and the anxiety circuits quietened down. You’ve seen this happen in others. A colleague goes on a relaxing holiday or retreat coming back transformed. Yet days later, as the stress returns, they go back into old patterns.
Reducing stress is helpful, as it can give you greater resilience and resourcefulness, making change easier and quicker. But some anxiety-reducing techniques, based simply on reducing stress levels, only work for a while, because they’re not changing the brain circuits involved with their anxiety.
My strategy –developed over 30 years helping people with anxiety – is to find tools and methods of stress reduction that will work in the demanding everyday lives of my clients.
Solutions for you as a unique individual, with a unique mind
A final new discovery in neuroscience is that you are the foremost expert on you. My approach is to offer techniques I think will work; only you who will know if they do. If not, we will try new techniques, until we find what works for your mind.
If these approaches resonate with your experiences and make sense, please get in touch so we can arrange to have a conversation. My first consultation is free of charge. The objective of this conversation is to put together a clear plan about what might work to get past your anxiety. Just email or call 0114 299 8888 to find out more.