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Stress and Anxiety

What is Stress?

What is Stress?  Why do we experience it? What causes it? Why do we get stressed? Why do I feel anxious? Why does my body respond in this particular way in this situation? How can I stop it?

These are the sort of questions you ask yourself when you experience a feeling of stress or anxiousness.  A feeling of frustration comes over you, and you don’t understand where it’s coming from. 

Stress and how the Subconscious processes it

Stress begins with a thought. It is a thought. It’s a physical response that your body has practiced from your thoughts, memories and reactions from particular previous experiences. Your subconscious remembers those experiences when you find yourself in a similar situation, or think about a particular situation that created that stressful moment initially within you. Each time it is triggered you add more emotion to it. Strengthening the thoughts, reactions and physical responses, thus creating a habit around the thoughts and response. 

Autonomic Nervous System

Your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is regulated in your subconscious. It regulates our bodily functions, moving and maintaining balance automatically between ‘stressful’ activities to ‘rest and digest’ responses when our body is relaxed.

  • Parasympathetic Nervous System – ‘Rest and digest’ response. The body being relaxed, resting, is calm, or feeding.
  • Sympathetic Nervous System – prepares the body for stress related activities, dangerous or stressful situations.

When these are working well together, we have a balanced Autonomic nervous system, controlling our responses to stress in the way we should. When we practice remaining in a stressful emotional state on a regular basis, the subconscious takes this on board and keeps the Autonomic nervous System (ANS) in ‘Sympathetic‘ mode, unable to switch off and return to that place of ‘rest and digest‘. This then creates more stress within the mind and body.

Why and how does this keep happening?

Every experience you have is recorded in your subconscious mind. It is then filed away in your memory bank or memory library so to speak (See The Mind). These experiences will include every second of your life, right back to the third trimester in your mothers womb.

Now, consciously we can’t remember every single experience in our life, but our subconscious does. When we experience something fearful, stressful or frightening and there is strong emotion attached to it, the subconscious logs it away in that memory library. Then…when we experience something similar to that situation or feeling again, our body starts to respond in the same way that it did initially, believing it is going to protect us. It believes it’s doing the right thing for us taking information from our previous experiences.  Your subconscious mind is only doing what it believes to be right for you to protect you from that now current situation. 

Why does the subconscious think it’s protecting us?

We learn a lot from our experiences, and so does the subconscious.  Remembering every single thing about the situation.  It remembers the temperature of the room, colours, sounds, textures and of course your feelings, responses and especially your emotions.

When we find ourselves in that similar situation again, the subconscious ‘pattern matches’. In an instant it brings back the information from the previous experience and creates a response in the same way.  If you responded in panic, fear, anxiousness, heart racing or a particular bodily response, those feelings arise within you instantly to protect you when it finds itself in that position again.

The subconscious thinks it has to respond this way because it doesn’t know any different, it’s been wired that way. 

Fight Flight Freeze FFF

We are all born with a natural response called Fight…Flight…Freeze. This is part of our ‘Sympathetic‘ Nervous System response. The body is alerted automatically. Our hormones and heart rate then surge, sending extra blood to our muscles, ready to respond and protect us.

  • Fight – when we stand our ground and face it head on 
  • Flight – run away from the situation 
  • Freeze – don’t know how to respond, we freeze like a rabbit in the headlights.  

Right back to when man first walked the earth, we have a natural response, ‘Sympathetic’ response, that triggers Cortisol levels that create the natural FFF within us.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone and is made in the cortex of the adrenal glands. This is then released into the blood stream when we enter ‘Sympathetic‘ mode. We are then ready to Fight…take Flight….or Freeze. Obviously if you were faced with a lion in front of you you’d respond in a FFF way, you are not going to sit down and ask the lion to come and sit by you for a cuddle! It’s only natural to protect yourself of course.  But, what happens when this FFF is permanently being triggered? Responses such as, anxiety attacks, panic attacks, feelings of constant fear, and thoughts going round and round in your head, you just can’t shut them down. This ‘Sympathetic‘ mode keeps happening and you are constantly adding to it and experiencing it.

When this is happening, the subconscious has practiced remaining in FFF. It has ‘pattern matched‘ and created a habit of it. Feelings of Stress cause the cortisol levels to rise, which then triggers the FFF mode. If the subconscious remains in these stressful modes most of the time, especially in the stressful world we now live in, it is unable to shut it down. It is running the program!

When FFF is working correctly for us it is a natural response. We need cortisol to survive. It would certainly be triggered if faced with that lion!…but we don’t need it triggered constantly, we don’t have that lion in front of us every single day of the week!!!! We need the ‘Parasympathetic‘ System to return us to our normal balanced relaxed routine.

Covid 19 and Stress

Now….thinking about what has just been explained above…think how much Covid 19 has created chronic stress and anxiety in people since March 2020. People living in fear of the virus, stressful situations regarding communication, getting out of the habit of going out and being fearful of outside. The thought of wearing masks, creating panic attacks, causing worry for many.

Covid 19 has gone on for such a long amount of time, it has most definitely been programmed into people to constantly respond in this way of stress, it’s become a new normal! It takes on average 66 days (2 months) to create a new habit. What new habits have you created without realising? Many people have created a constant ‘Sympathetic‘ FFF response and are finding it hard to switch it off.

Without realising, people have been creating new habits of not communicating properly, being fearful of communicating. They have become anxious when put in a face to face situation, feeling nervous. Imagine the many issues that could arise from these experiences of being locked away from our outside world, we have become a nation of virtual communicators! Imagine what this has done to our children, being kept away from social interaction.

With the understanding of how the mind works, Hypnotherapy can help to create real positive change to help readjust ourselves back into society in a safe and comfortable way that feels right to us.

How can Hypnotherapy help?

Hypnosis allows access to the powerful part of our subconscious mind (see Hypnosis).  Once in a state of Hypnosis you can be guided to create positive changes to release the anxiety, stress, fear, and feelings associated with our experiences. Our subconscious doesn’t understand the difference between reality or whether we are imagining it, so imagine what you can change when you are in a state of hypnosis being guided to create positive change.  

I liken it to ‘updating your App’ on your mobile phone or computer.  The subconscious works in the very same way. We are literally all a walking set of programs. Your brain fires and wires from our experiences so imagine what you can rewire, just by a change of perspective about your experiences.  It can create amazing changes to allow you to move forward in a positive way. 

If you are experiencing stress or anxiety in any way and are interested in Hypnotherapy, please get in touch to find out how Hypnosis could help you to create the change you are looking for. You can make contact via our Contact Form.

Michelle Townsend C.Hyp, D.Hyp, C.I.H, I.H.A, CNHC Registered