Chloe Brotheridge is a hypnotherapist, anxiety expert and author of 'The Anxiety Solution'
Carl Jung famously said ‘What you resist, persists’ and I’ve found this to be true of anxiety. When you fight against tension, worry and panic, you end up making it a hundred times worse. Instead, I encourage my clients to ‘float’ with anxiety. To accept the feelings rather than trying to make them stop, relaxing into it rather than tensing up and allowing anxiety to ‘be’ there. It’s amazing how when you accept something, it changes, all by itself.
I see lots of women stuck in a cycle of perfectionism, self-criticism and procrastination; they pile loads of pressure on themselves and then feel paralysed by a fear of failure and end up holding themselves back as a result. Experiment with taking the pressure off and putting your well being first; being kind can actually improve your motivation. Who responds well to being bullied, even when it’s coming from yourself? Pressure and strain are not needed to be successful. Take baby steps and celebrate the progress you make.
One of the biggest things women worry about is ‘not being good enough.’ When I was researching my book The Anxiety Solution I asked a lot of women about the things they worry about the most – whether it’s about our bodies, our jobs, our parenting skills or our social lives, a fear of not ‘being’ or ‘doing’ enough plagues many of us. Know that you’re not alone. Even the smartest and most successful women, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, for example, feel like imposters sometimes. Focus on doing your best and on taking the self-critical voice less seriously. Answer back to it by saying ‘thanks for sharing’ and remember that just because you have a thought, it doesn’t make it true.
Emotions are there for a reason; they are signposts, letting you know what you need to change or learn in order to grow as a person and feel happier. Think of your anxiety as a teacher. My anxiety was teaching me to slow down and take care of myself, learning to be kinder to myself in the process. Other clients have told me that their anxiety is a signpost towards learning that making mistakes is ok. What could your anxiety be trying to teach you?
If you’re suffering with anxiety, don’t just steam on ahead, hoping things will get better by themselves. A few years ago when I was super anxious, working two jobs and putting a tonne of pressure on myself things didn’t change until I took a step back and re-evaluated what was truly important for me. I was striving for success, but it wasn’t making me happy and my mental health was suffering. I decided I had to put peace of mind as my priority in order to feel better, so I started to organise my life around that. What is really important to you? Could shifting your priorities help you to feel better?
Everything changed for me when I made meditation a non-negotiable part of my day. For me, it’s like I’m upgrading my brain hardware each time I do it. Everything just runs more smoothly when I meditate. I resisted it for years, telling myself I didn’t have time and had more important things to do. Now I realise it’s the best possible investment of my time. The evidence that meditation helps with anxiety is overwhelming. It helps us to regulate our emotions, be more present and calm the nervous system. If you worry you can’t sit still long enough to meditate, doing 5-10 minutes of yoga stretches beforehand really helps.
It’s much easier to re-frame an emotion than it is to change it. Excitement and anxiety are very closely linked in terms of the physiological response (butterflies, sweating, increased heart rate). A study found that when people tell themselves ‘I’m excited’ whenever they notice anxiety (for example, before a presentation), they handle it much better than if they try to calm themselves down.
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Fear shrinks when you walk towards it. If you find something scary, sometimes the best way to overcome it is to feel the fear and do it anyway. I don’t mean you should jump out of a plane if you have a fear of heights; take it step by step. By slowly challenging yourself to do the things you’re anxious to do, you retrain your nervous system and teach yourself that the situation isn’t, in fact, dangerous. You grow your confidence by learning that you can cope. Whether it’s speaking in public, snowboarding, or starting your own business, take baby steps towards it and watch your anxiety shrink.
The Anxiety Solution (£12.99, Michael Joseph) by Chloe Brotheridge is out now.