Fiona Brennan is a Clinical Hypnotherapist with a busy practice in Dublin. 4, she is a member of the CHPA, the regulatory body for Clinical Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists. Fiona is the regular mental health expert for ‘Mind Yourself’ on the Dermot & Dave show on Today FM, she is a TEDx Speaker and also regularly features in the media as an ambassador of positive psychology and how to manage stress and anxiety.
1 – Understand that anxiety is not your fault!
Why are we dealing with so much anxiety? Understanding the roots of your anxiety is essential and also realising that it is not your fault is the first step to moving away from its crippling effects on your life. Quite simply, you are programmed to survive and you, like us all, have a negative bias that keeps us alive and protects us from danger.
This negative bias is, therefore, strong and for good reason; it is a fundamental part of your survival and must be maintained so that if we are confronted with a threat or trauma we have a strong resource of this energy to help us cope in times of genuine need. Think of this as similar to having savings in the bank which can be used in the case of an emergency. However, this out of date system is constantly being triggered due to the pressures of modern life.
Cortisol (the stress hormone) is constantly triggered and released leaving many of us living in a constant state of fight or flight. This has developed into a pattern of automatic response; we have developed the habit of anxiety.
Anxiety is a multifaceted emotion rooted in a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Biologically, anxiety can be influenced by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, particularly serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which play pivotal roles in mood regulation. Genetics can also predispose certain individuals to anxiety disorders, suggesting a hereditary component.
Psychologically, personal experiences such as traumatic events, childhood adversities, or prolonged stress can make an individual more susceptible to developing anxiety. Cognitive patterns, like persistent negative thoughts or beliefs, can also contribute to anxiety.
Additionally, environmental factors, such as societal pressures, workplace stress, family dynamics, or major life changes, can act as triggers or exacerbators. While everyone might experience moments of anxiety in their lives, chronic or severe anxiety might signal the presence of an anxiety disorder, which can have debilitating effects on an individual’s daily life and overall well-being.
2 – Understand your subconscious power
Your subconscious mind is very open and suggestible and you have a lot more control over it than you may imagine, in fact, you have complete authority over soothing anxiety and focusing on being calm and confident.
Due to the highly impressionable nature of your subconscious, it is important to learn how to communicate with it. If you think your subconscious mind is like a small child and you’re your conscious mind is the parent, everything that you say conditions a response of either fear or love depending on your thoughts, wouldn’t you choose to be kinder and calmer to the child?
Becoming more positive is not about changing who you are, it is about accessing a part of you that is already there. It is about tapping into your higher self, best self or executive self – the part of you that is free and lives moment to moment. This is the power of programming your subconscious to focus on love rather than fear which is what drives anxiety.
3 – Discover a positive self-concept
The way you speak about your life (in your own mind and out loud to others) is essentially a way of creating your own story, both to yourself and to other people. The words that you use to describe yourself, your family, where you live and the work that you do are important. These words from the framework of how you feel about yourself and the life that you have created. How you describe yourself, how you describe your family, your home and your work.
This is the story you tell yourself and has a huge impact on your daily life. YOU are telling the story to yourself. Make it a good one!
How to apply a positive self-concept in everyday life
First thing in the morning and last thing at night visualize yourself going through each day the way you wish to think, feel and behave. As humans, we are unique in our ability to imagine. When you close your eyes and imagine something, your body will respond to the images in your mind as if the event were really happening.
Each day acknowledge what was good about the day and make a point of telling your family and friends about the good or funny things that happened. The mind forms memories through experiences so it is useful to acknowledge positive events and to build on these.
4 – Learn to love and parent yourself
Becoming an adult is essentially about shifting the power and responsibility from your parents to yourself. It is about letting go of any real or perceived hurt and pain from the past and realising that to feel safe, secure and loved you must cultivate these feelings from within. Nobody can love you until you love yourself.
The full realization that you are responsible for yourself is a fundamental step for mental well-being. You have everything you need within yourself, you are complete and whole. Feeling you are worthy of care and love and providing that for yourself is liberation. The most important relationship that you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.
Loving oneself is not just a feel-good mantra; it’s an essential foundation for overall well-being and mental health. Embracing self-love allows individuals to recognize their worth and develop a healthy relationship with themselves.
By accepting and caring for oneself, including one’s imperfections, a person builds resilience and confidence that translates into better handling of life’s challenges.
It promotes mental fortitude and enables one to pursue goals and dreams without the crippling fear of judgment or failure. Moreover, self-love fosters a sense of inner peace that isn’t dependent on external validation or circumstances, thereby creating a more fulfilling and joyful life.
Stop the habit of negative thinking
Negative thinking is a habit and habits must be broken when dealing with anxiety. Negative self-talk (the inner critic) is often a habit of which we are not even aware. By watching your thoughts you can begin to learn a lot about how your mind operates and the effect your thoughts have on your feelings and ultimately how you behave.
When you tell yourself that you have no energy, or that you are fed up, stressed and frustrated then that is what you will feel. Does this sound familiar?
Top love tip: Have a photograph of yourself as a child somewhere you can see it every day. Each time you see it remember that your inner child is still within you. Always choose to speak to yourself with compassion and understanding, as you would speak to a child that needed your help
5 – Start caring for yourself
The habit of practising self-care is essential to implement when dealing with anxiety. Your body responds well to having its needs met and soon recognizes the rewards of a healthy self-care habit. After a period the body craves what the body gets. For example, if your body is regularly exercised it will begin to automatically expect this and feels deprived if it doesn’t get it.
If you have ever had a pet, let alone a child, then you will know how much care and attention is needed to look after them. There is an episode of The Simpsons where Homer is surprised his dog is so angry. ‘Hey, why is the dog so angry,‘ Homer asks, and Bart replies, ‘You never feed him, take him for a walk, or let him go out to pee.’
We wouldn‘t expect our children to wake after a restless four or five hours sleep, forget to feed them breakfast and send them off to school in the morning in the hope that they have time to grab a quick snack at lunch if they have time to stop their school work. Yet many of us treat ourselves in this manner and wonder why we feel worn out, exhausted and struggle to think clearly.
Begin with the basics of physical care. Regular sleep, a balanced diet, and physical activity are foundational. Even small changes, like taking short breaks during your day for a walk or choosing water over a sugary drink, can have significant positive impacts over time.
On the emotional front, it’s essential to recognize and validate your emotions. Allow yourself to feel and process emotions, whether positive or negative. Consider maintaining a journal, seeking therapy, or simply speaking with a trusted confidant to navigate complex feelings. Challenge your mind to ensure intellectual growth.
Take up a new hobby, read, or even enroll in an online class. The brain, much like muscles, needs consistent stimulation to grow and remain sharp. While it’s essential to love and spend time with oneself, human connection is also crucial. Spend time with loved ones, engage in community activities, or simply strike up a conversation with someone new.
Finding moments for reflection, meditation, or connection with nature can provide spiritual nourishment, regardless of religious beliefs. Identify what gives you a sense of purpose and make time for it.
Recognize that it’s okay to say “no.” Prioritizing self-care sometimes means setting boundaries to protect your energy and well-being.
This can be in personal relationships, professional scenarios, or even with how you consume media. Incorporate self-care routines into your daily life. Whether it’s a morning meditation, an evening skincare routine, or simply a few moments of deep breathing throughout the day, rituals can serve as anchor points of tranquility.
It is important to emphasise the necessity of choosing and establishing a self-care programme that works for you. The words to note here are ‘self’ and ‘care’. When you care about yourself you love yourself and have a healthy respect for serving your own needs. With this deep sense of love and compassion.
Top care tip: Your body always knows what it needs and when you slow down the mind we can hear the message it is giving you. Listen actively to the signals from your body each day and develop an open relationship between your body and mind, so that both may flourish.
Our suite of workshops help with many mental health issues including dealing with anxiety in remote workplace and how to manage stress and anxiety and stress. Click below to learn more about our workshops.
*This is not medical advice, please contact a medical professional if you think you need to seek further help.