Anxiety, it’s just who I am. What if…It’s really not!
Here is what Emma has to say about her experience of learning the Lightning Process for Depression and Anxiety:
I went on the Lightning Process course as I had struggled with anxiety and depression for many years. Someone recommended that I try the course as I had found that nothing had worked for me in the long term and I kept returning to an anxious and depressed state. It was interfering with my life on every level, my relationships were suffering, my work was also suffering and I had reached a point at which I no longer felt like leaving the house.
After day one of the course I started to realise that something was happening inside me, changes were taking place, after the second day I had stopped being anxious altogether. I returned home after the course I felt like a different person. I now have energy, enthusiasm for life, I want to socialise, I feel optimistic, and more importantly I do not feel like I am a slave to the negative feelings I suffered from for so long. I have been given the tools to manage how I feel and to feel great!
I will heartily recommend you to anyone I come across who needs help with anxiety and depression.
So what do we know about anxiety? It can be highly debilitating. It can interfere in client’s lives and stop them from living a full life. It can get in the way of clients goals and dreams, or in fact cause clients to simplify and reduce their everyday world around them.
2004/5 12.8 MILLION working days were lost due to stress, anxiety and depression! (Department of Health).
It’s hard to look at anxiety without mentioning stress, as they are closely connected. Stress is physical or psychological pressure, that is too much for a person to cope with comfortably. This can be an individual thing. We are designed to be resilient to certain levels of stress, however, a series of events occurring at the same time can overload us. Interestingly, feeling anxious can lead to stress, and the stress in turn can allow us to feel anxious, so we can become trapped in a vicious cycle that is hard to remove ourselves from. It is also hard to think of solutions and focus on ways to relax and calm down when we are in this state of mind.
There are actually three elements to anxiety
Physiological (tension, inability to relax, disturbed sleep)
Emotional (imagining catastrophe, sense of apprehension, anticipatory fear)
Cognitive (negative thoughts, poor concentration)
The first useful approach is to learn to relax, truly relax.
You need to find a way that is reliable and works for you.
10, 15 or 30 minutes calm is a wonderful gift to give yourself. It will show you through the experience of changes you can induce on your own body, that things can be different, you can make changes happen. Once you know what true relaxation feels like, you will soon become able to relax yourself quickly whenever you need to. This is a brilliantly effective way of preventing anxiety from escalating in to a panic attack or a fearful thought from leading to a compulsive activity – it leaves you access to the full power of your thinking brain, so you can put your situation into perspective and defuse it on the spot.
A FEW WAYS TO RELAX QUICKLY
Choose one or try them all out, practice the one you like best for at least 10 minutes twice a day.
The 7/11 method
Many people find that the easiest way to relax is to concentrate on their own breathing, so I suggest you try this first. If paying attention to your breathing makes you more anxious then move on to the second method and come back to this one when you feel ready.
Settle yourself comfortably in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure your clothes are loose.
Sit or lie comfortably with your hands side by side in your lap, or your arms by your side and your legs uncrossed.
Close your eyes
Now concentrate on becoming aware of your feet on the floor, your legs and arms where they are resting and your head against the cushion, pillow or chair back.
Keep your shoulders down and take in a really deep breath – it can be helpful to put your hand on your tummy to feel it inflating like a balloon, this lets you know that you’re doing it right.
Then make each out-breath last longer than your in-breath (this is important because the out breath stimulates the body’s natural relaxation response. By changing your pattern of breathing in this way, your body automatically begins to relax.) A good way to do this is to breathe into the count of 7, then breathe out gently and more slowly to the count of 11. If you cannot breathe out for that long, hold your breath for the remainder of the time while you keep counting to 11 and then breathe in again. Alternatively, try breathing in to the count of three and out more slowly to the count of five.
Do this about 10 to 20 times, knowing that you will relax more with each breath.
Concentrate on the counting (try not to let your mind wander off; if it does, just gently bring it back) and feel the welcome sense of calm gradually flowing in.
Try and be aware of how much less tense you feel, just by relaxing your breathing and blocking out your over busy thoughts.
This technique is good for instant relaxation too. Just do it a few times, wherever you are, if you feel tearful or that a panic attack is coming on or you are getting so wound up that you can’t make a simple decision. No one will know you are doing it, so there is no embarrassment to fear.
The Clenched Fist method
Settle yourself comfortably and then make your hands into the tightest fists possible. (long fingernails just clasp both hands tightly together interlocking the fingers)
Look at your fists carefully as you squeeze them harder and harder, being aware of the whiteness of your knuckles, the feeling of your nails against the palms, the pressure of your thumbs against your forefingers and the rigidity of your wrists. Notice too the tension moving up your arms to your elbows and shoulders.
Keep squeezing your fists like this and concentrate on the physical sensations for a moment or two. To help you concentrate, close your eyes.
Then, with all your concentration focused on the change that develops between tension and relaxation, allow your fingers and hands to slowly unwind.
Still with your eyes closed, feel the enjoyable sensation of relaxation spreading quite naturally through your fingers and up along your arms as the tension drains away. You may find this takes the form of whatever your body needs – coolness if you tend to be too hot or warmth if you tend to feel too cold – or else you might just feel a pleasant tingling sensation.
Whatever form it takes, let the relaxing sensation spread through your body, relaxing your brow, your cheek muscles, your jaw, your shoulders, chest and so on down to your toes.
Keep your focus on the falling away of stress and the calming differences you can sense in your body, perhaps imagining it draining away from your feet and disappearing into the floor.
You can keep repeating this for as long as you like, while you enjoy noticing the calming changes occur throughout your body. As your body relaxes, so does your mind.
The Whole body method
Work gradually through the main muscles of your body, tensing each in turn for a count of 10 and then relaxing them. As in the previous technique, this works on the simple mechanical principle that, if you tense muscles and then relax them, your muscles are always more relaxed afterwards than before you tensed them.
Try starting with your feet, move up to your calf muscles, then your knees, your thighs, your tummy muscles and so on.
Create a relaxing and special place
Make relaxing an even more pleasant and rewarding experience by using the time with your eyes closed to waft yourself away mentally to some pleasant imaginary place, or to a real place that you love to go. Could be nature, out in space or doing a sport or activity. Wherever you choose to be and whatever you choose to do there, concentrate on making the occasion as real as it can be. Really try to SEE the colours, HEAR the sounds, FEEL the textures, SMELL the smells.
Deliberately try to calm yourself down in one of these ways, whenever you start becoming overwhelmed with feelings. Just as you can’t contract and relax a muscle at the same time, so you can’t be anxious when you are in a relaxed state. When you’re calm and free from processing thoughts, even for a short period, you have access to the rational part of your brain and can more clearly recognise and question any black – and – white thinking.
Relaxation is a powerful tool against anxiety and well worth investing time to grow this skill for yourself. You CANNOT be relaxed and anxious at the same time, so if you don’t like feeling anxious, choose to feel relaxed instead. I have met many clients who believed they couldn’t relax, or they were no good at it, and I have found this to be easily remedied. If for some reason you are struggling to get results with these relaxation techniques, then contact us, we will be happy to show you how, and you will be amazed at how easy it can be.
There are other things you can do that will also help you to overcome anxiety with practice, take a look at some of these other very useful techniques.
Less time being self absorbed (don’t often realize we are doing it)
Worried about what might happen to them
Worried what other people might think of them
Whether people they love will be harmed
How they are going to cope
How they will find the strength to go on
So a good place to start is to decide to do something for someone else, however if you do a lot of that already try doing something enjoyable for yourself, without worrying while doing it.
Take a walk and really look at what’s around you
Have a conversation and actually listen closely to what they say
Invite friends over and cook a meal
Read a chapter of a book, focusing on the words and meaning
Take up an activity you really engage in
Challenge negative thoughts! Ask yourself are they realistic or biased?
Carry a notebook for a few days and notice how many you have by tallying.
Say STOP, sometimes this is enough
Have a worry half hour, easier to block out intrusive worries when you know they will get your full attention later.
Exaggerate, pile on other things you ‘could’ worry about until their ridiculousness comes into perspective.
Consider the following and then try to come up with some for yourself.
I get anxious in/when….
TIL NOW I’ve been anxious…
All my relationships fail
My previous relationships where unsatisfactory
I’ve never gotten over…
I’m really hurting at the moment
There’s no way out
I haven’t found the best way of dealing with this yet
What are some examples of how you could reframe common unhelpful thoughts you have around anxiety?
Set the record straight, instead of being silent and feeling put down, try to speak up, not to excuse but to explain. It doesn’t matter whether your explanation is accepted or even acknowledged. By standing up firmly for yourself, without being rude, you can’t help but feel better about yourself.
Have a good laugh. Get yourself a joke book, remind yourself of 10 things that recently made you laugh or 10 of the funniest things that ever happened to you. Note them down so you can look at them to break the spell if you get into a trance of anxious thinking at a later date. Remembering stressful things that happened in the past that you can now laugh at. Seeing main characters as cartoon characters, or caricatures or naked.
Laugh 5 times a day (children laugh 300 times a day)
Separate yourself from your anxiety.
When it takes over, calm yourself down. If it feels it is there all of the time, it is because our stress levels have become so high that they have submerged our memories of better times. Think of it as an unwanted visitor. Something outside of yourself and be curios as to why it has bubbled up right now. You are then using the rational part of your brain, the observing self, recognize it for what it is and more easily decide how to respond, instead of getting emotional and letting anxiety take you over. Remember anxiety should serve you, whenever you need that little extra edge like to run a race, make an important speech, dive in the deep end, but you don’t have to serve it! Give it a metaphor (a form like a buzzing bee you can swat away.)
USE THE POSITIVE POWER OF YOUR IMAGINATION.
It is impossible to be in the grip of anxiety unless you are running a fantasy through your brain that is terrifying the life out of you. This is strong evidence of how powerful our imagination is. This alone is sufficient to switch on the PER. This is MISUSE of the imagination, which evolved to help us find both practical and creative solutions to problems.
We all use our imagination all of the time even if we think we are ‘not’ imaginative. What a sofa would look like in our room, what me might wear to an event, how we feel about an upcoming event (we use our imagination and past pattern matching to create a feeling of dread/excitement) we are not able to predict the future J
It is also far more powerful than that, it enables us to look back into the past and apply that solution, with perhaps some appropriate modifications to a challenge we are facing in the future. Just as pilots learn to fly at the hand of a simulator, we can try out options and rehearse probable outcomes in our imagination before testing them out for real. The imagination is our ‘reality simulator’.
EXERCISE Mental Rehearsal
Find a quiet place at a time you won’t be disturbed, and relax yourself, using the method you liked best from the ones described earlier.
Decide on an anxiety-provoking situation that you want to try out a new response to.
Don’t bring it to mind in glorious technicolour with full soundtrack as you might normally see it. Instead VIVIDLY see yourself doing it/reacting calmly and confidently. Tell yourself “I can do this”
If you carry out this procedure several times on different occasions before the day, you are doing something very astute. You are harnessing the power of expectation, once an expectation is set up, the brain wants to carry it out.
Just as you have previously brought on disaster by fantasizing catastrophes, so you can hugely enhance your likelihood of success by creating the expectation you will succeed.
Using your reality simulator in this way whenever you are facing a challenge, is both highly pleasant and an effective way of undoing unhelpful pattern matches.
For events such as driving tests or giving a talk, no amount of imagining will help without real practice though, what it will do is help prevent disabling anxiety from sabotaging all the preparation and practice you have done.
I hope you have found some of these tips useful, I would like to thank my colleagues at the Human Givens Foundation, Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell for their wonderful teaching, and for sharing their depth of knowledge in this area with the world.
I will leave you today with Martin’s Story, he used the Lightning Process for resolving his issues with Depression, Anxiety and Low Self-Esteem.
Being a non-ME/CFS patient, I felt at first a little doubtful about whether the Lightning Process would be as effective for me as it apparently has been for those with that condition. However, I persevered, largely out of desperation deciding to give it a try. My condition has been a chronic lifetime history of episodic anxiety and depression; really both together, the former often leading directly to the latter. Throw into the mixture an unhealthy dose of low self-esteem, and you have a pretty foolproof recipe for mental instability and unhappiness, which had indeed been my lot for large chunks of time. When various environmental triggers started to send me down that slippery slope once again for the umpteenth time, I really felt a concern that her I was this time at an impasse for which there was no way out.
Even seeing those very three things – depression, anxiety and low self-esteem – specifically addressed in Phil Parker’s introductory book did not completely assuage my doubts. It still seemed that the major emphasis, and most of the testimonials, were about ME, with just a few ‘others’ thrown in, which seemed great for those people, but didn’t necessarily promise the same miracles for me.
All I can say now is that I was profoundly mistaken in this impression. The actual truth is that the depression and anxiety ‘communities’, for whatever reason, have not yet made the discovery, en masse, that the much smaller ME community has; namely that this deceptively simple healing modality is capable of effecting changes in their lives, if applied properly, that are certainly nothing short of miraculous.
Within just a few days I felt great changes taking place. I could hardly believe it; with apparent ease it seemed I was able to quickly reverse an entire lifetime of ingrained adverse behaviour patterns; my ‘mood disorders’ which I had felt sure had me in an iron grip that would accompany to my grave, could now be easily jettisoned and replaced by life- enhancing alternatives which promised, on the contrary, a wonderful renewal of life for me in all of its aspects. With increasing enthusiasm I realized that I could apply this process to everything, and anything at all! I could just take anything that was giving me trouble or a problem apply the Process to it, and bingo! I could get the solutions I desired.
The only caveat is one that is emphasized right from the start; you have to do it for yourself, and you have to do it properly. Otherwise nothing much will happen. Simple as that. Luckily I am somewhat ‘OCD’ about doing things exactly right, and I made sure I was with this. I let myself be guided, and checked and rechecked that I was doing it exactly as it should be done.
Well the results speak for themselves. My life is opening up in a wonderful way; I see no reason whatever to think it will not continue to be thus for here on out. I want to sincerely thank Phil Parker for sharing his amazing discovery with me, and I implore anyone else whose life has been jaunted by the terrible darkness of depression and anxiety as mine had been, to take the chance and give this a try
Jacqui is also a Human Givens psychotherapist, and would like to thank Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrell, the founders of Human Givens, for their inspirational books and teachings on managing anxiety, as before having the opportunity to do the lighting process training, many of those skills are invaluable when helping clients to overcome anxiety.