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Welcome to part two of our blog feature on how to combat your anxieties and phobias! As mentioned in part one, whether your anxiety is persistent, frequent, occasional or completely overwhelming, you really can turn your circumstances around and start to get better. We can help you break the anxiety-inducing habits you might have been carrying around for decades, and help you create new ways of thinking that we are confident will transform your life.

DO YOU REALLY HATE PARTIES?

Lots of people get anxious about social occasions, but you can build resilience through having a ‘dummy run’ before you go.

Close your eyes and visualise yourself walking into a crowded room and interacting (brilliantly!) with an engaged group of friends.

It might sound odd but your brain really cannot tell the difference between something you have actually done and something you have strongly visualised or rehearsed, so doing this a number of times will give your brain the message that you have already done it, and that it went really well.

Another clever pre-party trick is to give a big sigh (inhale deeply then exhale loudly, dropping your shoulders as you do so) which cleverly signals to your brain and body that the onerous task has been completed. Try picturing the event and score your fear out of ten.

Then, while holding that picture in your mind’s eye, sigh deeply. Then sigh again, allowing your shoulders to drop and relax, and then again, sinking into your seat. Keep sighing until your fear about the event is reduced.

STOP RELYING ON DOCTOR GOOGLE

We all worry about our health from time to time but if illness dominates your thoughts, you could be at risk of health anxiety or cyberchondria (a tendency to look up symptoms on the internet). This can be a tough form of anxiety to crack. But it helps to know that health anxiety is usually triggered (and passed on) by an overprotective parent who might have worried about health when you were young and rewarded you with attention when you were ill. It might be caused by a personal experience of a serious health concern or illness.

So look for your trigger, and think about how you started to become anxious about your health. Think rationally – do those reasons still apply? How are you different now from the person you were then? We were able to change the life of one woman who was tormented by the fear that every rash, sniff, cough or headache meant she would die. She came to us in desperation because her marriage was suffering and she’d started to see symptoms of health anxiety in her daughter too. We tracked her trigger to the death of her beloved grandfather when she was 12 years old.

In the 20 years that she’d tried to come to terms with this, she’d somehow lost sight of the fact that he was a heavy smoker and died, aged 76, of lung cancer. We were able to help her see that cigarettes were to be feared, not death itself, and as a non-smoker her risk was very slight. Her relief was palpable.

If you have even slight anxieties about health, it’s a good idea to avoid spending time with people who talk about health, and to try to seek out positives. Instead of Googling your ailments, try researching people who have survived the illnesses that concern you most.

STOP PANIC ATTACKS IN THEIR TRACKS

In our experience, panic attacks are never random and they can be overcome.

It really helps to think of a panic attack as the protective response it is designed to evoke. Your body is just trying to protect you.

Words have a huge impact on how we feel and the term ‘panic attack’ suggests a lack of control so we insist on calling it a ‘protection attack’ instead.

If you find yourself feeling vulnerable, you can sometimes head off anxiety by immediately hunting for memories and images of a time when you laughed uncontrollably. It sounds ridiculously simple, but this will help to distract your mind. If anxiety persists, concentrate on steadying your breathing, and imagine that everything around you has gone into slow motion.

Focus first on sitting comfortably, then think about what you would like for dinner or what you’ll watch on TV that evening.

Finally, force yourself to socialise: smile and seek out conversation. It may be hard at first, but you’ll find that occupying yourself is much easier than worrying about the onset of panicky thoughts.

FROM CLOWNS TO SPIDERS – IT’S EASY TO OVERCOME PHOBIAS

Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder, affecting about ten million people in the UK. Whether your trigger is spiders or lifts, air travel, moths or birds, you’ll know this as a real sense of fear that far outweighs any likely danger your trigger could logically present.

We are probably best known for our success in treating dozens of phobias and we have consistently helped people overcome their fears of anything from water, frogs, snakes, spiders, mice, small spaces, heights, dentists, clowns – and even Simon Cowell.

We’ve discovered that most phobias are picked up in childhood and the trigger is repeatedly evaluated from a child’s perspective. Even though as an adult you might know your phobia is ridiculous, you can’t help behaving like the child who created the phobia in the first place.

GREAT NEWS

 Whatever your phobia, you can overcome it – and fast. First, ask yourself whether your behaviour is acceptable in the grown-up world. Do you scream when you see spiders? Do you flatly refuse to see a dentist, even when you’ve got toothache?

When you are willing to accept that your behaviour is incorrect, you are ready to start making positive changes.

Next, try to think back to how and when your phobia might have been created. Perhaps you had a bad experience with a dentist as a child, or you watched a scary movie about snakes or sharks.

Remember the feelings you experienced at the time and ask yourself whether and how you may have misinterpreted the situation. Do you unfairly misjudge whatever you are phobic to, based on your childhood perspective?

Did the spider/snake/moth or bird actually do anything to harm you? Did it target you? Just because one dentist hurt or embarrassed you, does that mean all dentists are cruel and thoughtless? Are you still unwittingly stuck in that child’s frame of mind? Now look for contrary evidence to prove that you misjudged the situation – it’s time to think like the adult you are.

Aeroplanes can’t be blamed for the turbulence that frightened you, house spiders DO NOT attack humans – they will always try to run. They are also virtually blind and very delicate.

ENGAGING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE

If you find this bit difficult and you struggle to see your fear from any other perspective, ask a trusted friend to suggest a few more balanced alternatives. The aim is to get you to see the situation for what it really was and not for how it might have felt at that time.

Finally, agree to stop being a victim of the item or object based on all the evidence you’ve pulled together. We can cure someone of a phobia in less than an hour, but you might need a little longer to create and confirm new positive associations in your mind.

Build your confidence gradually. Have a few extra lessons if you have a fear of driving, accompany a friend to the dentist before booking your own appointment, look through pictures of spiders while running through all the contrary evidence in your mind.

It can help to rehearse or visualise yourself interacting with the object of your phobia and imagining everything going well.

You have got a journey ahead of you and every journey starts with one small step. Doing one small thing you couldn’t do yesterday will make you realise you are OK, you are safe, and you can build on that tomorrow.

FURTHER HELP

Please keep an eye on our TikTok channel for new uploads every week, with specific videos on anxiety, plus our tips on how to overcome anxiety. Also, we’d love to see you at one of our upcoming workshops this year, where we go into much greater detail on our approach, tips, techniques and methods on how to address and overcome any phobia.