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How to Make Anxiety Your Best Ally

by Christopher Paul Jones(more info)

listed in anxiety, originally published in issue 283 - January 2023

In this article Harley Street therapist Christopher Paul Jones talks about how anxiety doesn't have to be the enemy, and if reframed in a more positive way it can actually become your best ally.

Anxiety – the all-consuming enemy, anyone who has experienced it, will know that anxiety can be soul destroying and controlling.  It can spoil relationships, career opportunities, and take hostage in your own personal headspace.

 

Inzmam-Khan on Pexels

Courtesy:  Inzmam Khan   on Pexels

https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-in-black-shirt-and-gray-denim-pants-sitting-on-gray-padded-bench-1134204/

 

For anyone who has experienced anxiety, life can become stuck on the pause button.  I'll take that once in a lifetime trip once I'm free from anxiety,  I'll start my dream business, or ask the person I like on a date… once I'm free from my anxiety.

Life can feel like groundhog day, where one day blurs into the next, especially if the anxiety takes over and develops a secondary condition such as agoraphobia, which can leave a person afraid to go out and housebound.

Often the first port of call when looking to treat anxiety, is to go and speak to the doctor. Traditional treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling and medication are often tried by those experiencing anxiety, and though for some they may work, many people report that they resign themselves to the fact that there is no ‘cure’ for anxiety and that it is something that they will just have to live with.

As  a Harley Street Therapist who specializes in anxiety ,  I have worked with people with anxiety in many degrees and levels and one of the first things that I tell them is first of all, to not tell themselves that anxiety is simply a life sentence.

The mind conceives what you believe, and the moment that you make the decision to resign your fate to being a victim of anxiety is the moment that the path is predetermined.

So, what can you do to change the course of your destiny?

Make Anxiety your Best Ally

The first step towards releasing the chains of your anxiety is to first of all accept it, and when I say accept it  I don't mean literally accept it,  in the defeatist sense, rather accept its presence. 

Acknowledge and accept your anxiety and then make a conscious choice to befriend it - and make it your best ally.

In the steps below, I will outline how to do this.

Shine a Light on your ‘Secret’ – Bring Anxiety out of the Closet

Often when you are struggling with anxiety, it becomes almost a ‘dirty little secret’. You’re cancelling another coffee date because you came down with a stomach bug, or you’re choosing not to go for that job interview because you’ve decided to follow a different career path.

For some, this can lead to depression, as it begins to feel like you are constantly ‘lying’ and living a life that’s not congruent.

Coming out of the anxiety closet, and being open about simply living with it, can feel like a massive weight has been lifted, and will reduce the anxiety significantly for many. A client of mine once said that when they told friends and family about their struggles with anxiety that they felt a sense of relief, a feeling of “I can just be myself again”.  Often, there is this double ‘layer’ of anxiety that is triggered by the fear of being ‘seen’ to have anxiety.

So the first step is to take the pressure off – and let those in your inner circle know that you have anxiety.

Next, Recognise Anxiety as your Best Ally

Anxiety for many is seen as this evil enemy. And why wouldn’t you initially see it as that? As I said previously, it can stop you from developing relationships, have you cancel plans and miss out on potentially life changing opportunities at the very last minute.

Anxiety, in a way, can be likened to being in an extremely unpredictable and controlling relationship.

But what if you choose to reframe that? What if you understood that anxiety could actually be your best ally?

Did you know that anxiety is usually a symptom of a fear or phobia?

And with any fear or phobia, anxiety kicks in as a precursor. It acts as that best friend who is there to warn you, that something that may be a potential threat to you, is lurking around the corner.

And it isn’t anxiety who is making all of the important decisions. Just like yourself, anxiety isn’t in the driving seat, it’s actually your subconscious mind that is doing the decision making.

Often, when something happens in childhood, that rationally or irrationally scares us, our subconscious mind makes a mental note to defend us, if we should ever come close to being in contact with anything that was involved in the incident.

This means that from that moment forward, we are controlled by our subconscious decision making, and are driven by our subconscious.

And when the subconscious mind decides to step in and ‘protect you’ from something (even if there is no logic for that), anxiety is often the very first symptom.

Your reptilian brain (the amygdala) fires up and your entire system goes into fight, flight or freeze mode. Your heart begins to race, your palms may feel sweaty, and these are the common symptoms associated with anxiety. Next thing you know, you are anxious about being seen to be anxious and it all becomes too much for you.

Recognizing anxiety as a warning sign that your subconscious mind is being over protective and is at play again, means you can make a conscious choice how to respond to that.

You can begin to see anxiety as your best ally – and make an active and conscious choice on how to respond to it.

Do you panic, and allow your subconscious mind to control things? Or do you make a thought out choice, to not react to it and take a few simple steps to change how you are feeling?

  1. Choose to acknowledge what is actually happening;
  2. Speak directly to your subconscious and let it know that you are going to take care of things;
  3. Thank it for protecting you;
  4. Bring your awareness to your breathing;
  5. Calm your parasympathetic nervous system down with regulated breathing. Try box breathing - in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4, repeat this cycle three times;
  6. Make a calm and conscious assessment of the situation – is there anything to be scared of?
  7. If yes, change your situation and location;
  8. If no, see if you can make a connection between when your anxiety kicks in and what your subconscious mind could be trying to keep you from.

If you can get to the root cause of the matter, the good news is that this can be ‘fixed’ quickly with therapy.

The Role of Therapy in Treating Anxiety

When you understand the root cause behind things, the good news is, it’s pretty easy to resolve things. With my clients, I guide them back to the ‘original’ memory, and we simply change the emotion attached to the experience.

Firstly we remove the original emotion and then we replace it with something more positive. Once my client is feeling positive towards the memory, their subconscious mind releases the fear that was associated with it, and as a side effect of that, also releases the anxiety.

In Conclusion

Often people resign themselves to the lifelong diagnosis of being a person who has anxiety. It’s almost as if the anxiety has become an actual part of them. Recognizing that anxiety can be purely a symptom and that the root cause is something deeper, means that we can ‘reframe’ how we see anxiety and can appreciate it as our biggest ally.

In understanding, that anxiety is the first in line to protect us - means that we can then be a friend to anxiety, and make the conscious choice to ‘take over’.

This will demobilize the active state of anxiety and allows logical thinking (and a calming of the nervous system) to take over.

One can then go about living their day to day existence, knowing and expecting that anxiety may tag along with them, but they are there with the intention of protecting them.

Anxiety then becomes a useful tool to have in the mental tool kit, if we understand its motives and learn how to communicate and relate to it.

This in itself can feel incredibly freeing as we understand that we don’t have to ‘learn to live with anxiety’ and that anxiety actually visits all of us, it just depends on how you respond to it.

Words - Christopher Paul Jones, Harley Street Therapist who specialises in treating fears, phobias and anxiety.

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About Christopher Paul Jones

Christopher Paul Jones Certified Trainer NLP, Master Practitioner NLP, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), aka The Breakthrough Expert, is a therapist based in Harley Street who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and even their phobias; from a fear of public speaking to anxieties around work, Christopher has helped 100s of people ‘let go’ and get their lives back. He even cured his own morbid fear flying, to the extent he was able to take a sightseeing flight through the Pyrenees – strapped to the OUTSIDE of a helicopter! For contact and more information please visit http://christopherpauljones.net
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