Fly Anxiety

Picture of plane flying into the sunset

Those holidays are on their way! As lockdown ends and travel restrictions are eased, many people will be looking forward to taking their first holiday abroad for a few years. As the sun and the sea and the good food beckon you, some of you may find your self developing anxiety about the flight.

You are not alone. Around one in three people develop some form of anxiety when they fly. Most of them can manage a small bit of anxiety by themselves – either they put up with it or maybe have a drink or two to take the edge off it. But there are a small percentage of people for whom the anxiety is really bad.

Flying is actually one of the safest forms of transport. You are more likely to crash while driving to the airport than crashing in the airplane. But this does not stop a lot of people getting nervous about the flight.

33% to 40%People who have some anxiety about flying
2.5% to 5%People who have a crippling anxiety about flying
1 in 3.37 billionThe chances of actually getting killed in an aircraft crash
Fear of Flying in Numbers

Why do people fear flying, even when it is so safe?

The fear comes from that subconscious part of the brain that controls your fight-flight-or-freeze response. That part of your brain is not particularly clever, and once it gets an idea – it tends to stick with it – even if it is wrong. So it’s no good telling yourself that flying is safe – the fight-flight-or-freeze part of the brain doesn’t listen – it just goes ahead and makes you afraid anyway.

Where does a fear of flying come from?

For every person with Aerophobia, it is different. Some people just overthink it, for some it is the lack of control, and for others it is a bad experience of flying in the past. Where it comes from actually doesn’t matter – it’s what you do about it that counts.

What can you do about a fear of flying?

Some people just put up with it. If the anxiety levels are relatively low, they just sit tight and maybe have a drink or two, or take some over-the-counter medication. If you don’t want to do that, some form of therapy can help.

Many forms of therapy use “graded exposure” to help sort out phobias. This gradually introduces you to the source of your fear in small steps at first, exposing you to small parts of your fear, and then, as the fear reduces, expose you to a bit more. This is more complex with flying – because you cannot “fly a small amount” at the start of the process.

How does Hypnotherapy deal with a fear of flying?

Hypnotherapy uses a very different approach. Hypnotherapy recognises that a fear of flying starts with the fight-flight-or-freeze part of the brain. You are not aware of your response until the fear and anxiety hits you. This fear has somehow been programmed into your brain, and you need to “unprogramme” it. So the hypnotherapy starts with a process of scrambling your response to flying – in order to “unprogramme” it. Hypnotherapy then goes on to “reprogramme” the brain so that it can remain calm before and during the flight.

I like to tackle fear of flying in two sessions. The first is a week or two before the flight (to “unprogramme” the brain). The second is a few days before the flight (to “reprograme” the brain). In between the two sessions (and also for the flight itself if they want), my clients listen to a hypnosis audio that helps embed the changes into the unconscious part of their brain.

Everyone has anxiety sometimes

How often do you feel anxiety ... Once a year, a few times a year, once a month, once a week, 2 or 3 times a week, every day ... and where on this scale would you like to be?

Everyone has anxiety sometimes. The difference is that some people only have fleeting moments of anxiety, maybe once a year … while others have anxiety feelings almost every day. For many people, living with anxiety is so normal to them that they do not realise that it is quite possible to live life with little or no anxiety.

The big question is: Has your stress and anxiety reached a stage where you want to do something about it? Knowing that you could reduce your anxiety levels and get back in control of yourself, would you actually want to do that? What would your life be like when the anxiety is gone.

This is not a simple question to answer, because if you do want to do something about it, you need to put some effort in – and there are no miracle cures – it doesn’t change overnight. I tell my clients, “You have spent years training your brain to be anxious, and now it is very good at it. It will not change overnight – but in a few weeks you can make significant changes, once you have decided to put the effort in.”

Infographic: Majority of UK Adults Have Experienced Mental Health Issues | Statista

So, if you have decided that you want to lead a less anxiety-filled life, what can you do about it? There are basically three main avenues that you can pursue:

Self-help – there are lots of things that you can do to help yourself, including exercise, mindfulness, taking a positive outlook on life and so on.
Medication – if you go to your doctor, you may well be prescribed medication to help reduce the anxiety – although the modern trend seems to be to start with therapy first.
Therapy – there are many types of therapy – hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, emotional freedom technique, cuddle therapy and the like.

I help people who want to reduce their anxiety levels using hypnotherapy. In particular, I concentrate on solution-focused hypnotherapy, which looks at what my clients want to achieve rather than digging up their past. I find that typically within 5 to 10 sessions (see note below), my clients have significantly regained control of themselves and are able to live their lives without the symptoms of the anxiety they used to suffer from.

Contact me if you want a chat about your anxiety, and what your want to do. If you want hypnotherapy sessions, I work face-to-face out of my clinic in Fleet, Hampshire, and I also work with clients over Zoom.


Note

I cannot guarantee success in 5 to 10 sessions – some clients take less than 5 and others take more than 10 – but 5 to 10 is about average.

The OCD Cycle

My Obsession with Phone Cables

In the days when we had phones fixed to walls with those twisty cables joining the handset to the phone, I used to feel quite uncomfortable when the twisty cable got twisted round itself in a bit of a tangle. My wife used to laugh at me for taking the phone of the hook and untwisting the cable. It’s not that it gave me any pleasure having a nice neat phone cable, its just that I felt uncomfortable when it was twisted round itself.

Now, most people I know have some little obsession like that. I had a neighbour who would obsessively wash his car every week – whether or not it needed it. And I know plenty of people who fell they must check their social media accounts as soon as they get up in the morning. You might start to consider, what little obsessions you have.

As I say to my friends … everyone’s a little bit OCD.

These little habits we have are not really OCD – because they don’t have a significant impact on our lives. And we actually can stop doing them, even if we don’t want to. It’s when it gets so bad that it starts to interfere with our lives – that’s when we need to do something about it.

The OCD Cycle

Diagram showing the OCD cycle, described in the following paragraphs

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The typical pattern for OCD is called the OCD cycle. It often starts off with some sort of trigger – may be a thought, or something that happens around you. That trigger starts off the OCD cycle.

  1. Something triggers an obsessive thought that goes round and round in your head – usually a worry or very negative thought – this is the obsessive part of the cycle.
  2. The negative thinking creates anxiety; which starts to dominate your brain and re-enforces the negative thinking. The anxiety gradually increases.
  3. You feel compelled to take some specific action. If you think about logically, the compulsion will not resolve the situation, but at this point you are not thinking logically – you just want to get rid of the anxiety. This is the compulsive stage.
  4. The compulsion gives you temporary relief. So just for a short time, the anxiety reduces … until the next time.

A Couple of Examples

OCD can grow so as to completely dominate people’s lives. Here are some examples I have met (with names changed of course) …

John’s OCD was triggered when he was due to leave his flat. He worried obsessively about the house being broken into while he was out. This caused him a huge amount of anxiety that took over his logical thinking patterns. He would compulsively go round each room in his flat checking that the windows were closed and locked – shaking each one vigorously, and then when he had finished he would go round and check them all again, just in case he had missed one. This gave him a temporary relief from the anxiety, but when the OCD really kicked in, he would check a third and fourth time, and eventually stopped leaving his flat altogether.

Jane’s OCD was triggered whenever she ate anything. She worried that the food she ate might have sugar in it and she was certain that any amount of sugar was bad for her. This worry caused her massive anxiety whenever she was about to eat any food. She started checking every label of everything before she ate it – obsessively checking the contents for sugar, and refusing to eat anything that had any sugar – even in trace amounts. Reading all the labels gave here temporary relief from anxiety until she had to eat again. She massively restricted what she would eat, and stopped eating out, or eating anything that anyone else offered her unless she could read the ingredients label first.

How Do You Know If You Have OCD?

Many people with OCD do not recognise that they have a problem – it is so much part of their lives that it has become normal. So ask yourself these questions:

Do you often have worried thoughts going round and round in your head – always worrying about the same thing?
Do you have a something you do to prevent the thing that you are worrying about from happening?
Do you feel compelled to do it – with an almost irresistible urge?
Do other people tell you that what you are doing is over the top?
Do you notice other people in the same situation doing something other than what you would do?

What Can You Do About It?

If you have OCD, or recognise OCD traits in one of your family and friends, you can do something about it. Doctors can prescribe medication – usually SSRI drugs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors). These are also prescribed for anxiety and depression. The purpose of the SSRI medication is to break the cycle at the anxiety stage. If you can reduce the anxiety, then you may not feel the compulsion.

The other forms of treatment for OCD are therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will normally gradually increase your tolerance for the trigger, so that the obsessive thoughts become more in control.

Hypnotherapy is all about allowing the unconscious part of our brain (sometimes referred to as the subconscious) to find new patterns of behaviour. When you are in a very relaxed frame of mind in a trance, the unconscious part of your mind can rewire itself, and deal with the build up of stress that has occurred and not yet been dealt with. This can allow the brain to find its own way to break the OCD cycle in a very relaxed and calm way.

Photo by alevision.co on Unsplash

The Changing Face of Hypnotherapy

Many years ago, I watched the final episode of the TV series MASH (broadcast 1983), where Hawkeye (played by Alan Alda) suffers a severe trauma and as a consequence is taken to a psychiatric hospital. The psychiatrist treats him by forcing him to remember the details of the traumatic event, which he had “suppressed”. Hawkeye recovers from his mental delusions and all is well again.

Of course, this is all rubbish.

There used to be a theory, with its origins in Freudian psychology, that traumatic or bad memories are suppressed. This would lead to psychiatric difficulties, which could be “cured” by resurfacing the suppressed memories. This lead to a lot of therapeutic practices that involved getting the sufferer to re-explore those memories.

In hypnotherapy, “age regression” became the thing to do, whereby a client was asked to go back and relive a time when they were younger, all while under a state of hypnotic trance. Some hypnotherapists even went so far as to do “past life regression”, taking the client back to a memory from a “past life”. Of course, the mind becomes very creative in a hypnotic trance, so it is not surprising when clients create all sorts of experiences that never happened, which they may mistake for memories.

These ideas are all based on the idea that to solve a psychological problem, you need to analyse the problem and understand it – in the same way that you would need to understand why your car doesn’t work before you can fix it. Of course, the brain is far more sophisticated than your car.

Modern hypnotherapy is very different. Finding a solution to psychological problems is much more to do with looking for the way forward. The unconscious part of the brain – the part we are unaware of – is quite capable of reorganising itself, once you consciously start searching for solutions instead of analysing problems.

In a solution-focused hypnotherapy session, you will find yourself talking with the hypnotherapist about what is good in your life, how to get more of it into your life, where you want to go with your life and what positive things you want to achieve. This discussion could be entirely unrelated to the problem you have. The second part of the session will be hypnosis. The hypnotic state gets you nice and relaxed – a relaxed body and a relaxed mind. While this is going on, the unconscious part of the brain – the part we are not aware of – can find time to start reorganising itself along the lines of the positive things that were discussed earlier.

After a few sessions, clients start to realise that their problem is disappearing, and that they are finding a new way forward in life. This is the miracle that I always love to see.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Diets and Detox

As 2022 dawns, I already find that I am being bombarded with adverts encouraging me to try the latest thing to reduce weight. It is true that I put on three pounds over the last couple of weeks, as I relaxed with my family and stopped paying attention to what I was eating. This, combined with the fact that I received gifts of various edible goodies, has resulted in a bit more fat.

And so we make New Year’s resolutions, go on a winter diet, or go for a detoxing “dry January”, to try to get our bodies back to normal. But for many people, this works for a while, and then, when we reach our target, we congratulate ourselves and go back to however we were eating and drinking before. A few months later, all the efforts we made in January have come to nothing.

The problem is that our brains are not wired for the modern age. The most primitive part of our brain does not understand that we have a fridge full of food and a supermarket down the street. Rationally, we know we should only eat and drink what we need to, but our primitive brain encourages us to have another mince pie – and it is very difficult to resist.

Now, if you have the will power, you can resist that primitive part of your brain for a short time while you go on a diet, because you tell yourself, “When I have reached my target, my diet will be over.” But this ends up with us putting all the weight back on – particularly if we are stressed or anxious, because that tricksy primitive part of the brain takes more control as we get more stressed.

If you really want get to a healthy weight and healthy drinking habits, you need to get your stress levels and anxiety under control. That way, you prevent that primitive part of the brain taking too much control, and you can change your eating and drinking habits permanently. You can enjoy your food and drink while only taking on board what you need.

Of course, exercise is important too … but that’s another story.

Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Unsplash

All about anxiety?

This is a brief description of anxiety and why we have it. I do not cover in any detail what to do about it. I will leave that for other posts.

Signs and Symptoms

When we experience anxiety, we usually notice a number of signs and symptoms in our body and mind. People will typically notice one or more of the following:

  • An uncomfortable feeling in the chest or stomach
  • Increased muscle tension
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increase in adrenaline and cortisol in the body
  • Inability to stop worrying that something bad will happen (overthinking)
  • Inability to stop reminding themselves or re-living something bad that happened in the past
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Increased jumpiness at sudden noises or movements
  • Panic attacks

Anxiety comes in different degrees – from mild anxiety to full blown panic attacks.

Anxiety and Excitement

The feeling of anxiety is similar to the feeling of excitement. This is why some people get excited when they go on a rollercoaster or one of those scary rides, and others get panicky and scared. The body gets a similar reaction in both cases – a burst of adrenaline and cortisol. Some people love it and others hate it.

What anxiety is for

Anxiety is basically nature’s way of getting you to focus on potential danger. It is getting ready for the fight-or-flight-or-freeze response to danger. Imagine our ancestors who lived day-to-day by hunting and gathering. If they noticed signs of a pack of dangerous animals hunting in the area, they would become anxious as they went about their daily activities. The anxiety made them focus more of their attention on the possibility that they might be attacked by predators. They would be more aware of noises and movement that they might catch out of the corner of their eyes.

Their anxiety would increase if the danger was imminent. The brain would focus more on the potential danger than on gathering food. And as the danger lessened, the brain would focus more on gathering food than on the danger. Getting the balance right is key.

How the brain gets it wrong

In modern society, in most (but not all) parts of the world, we do not experience life-threatening dangers on a regular basis. But the part of the brain that deals with anxiety (the amygdala) is very primitive, and does not understand the modern world. It is the same brain structure that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had many years ago, and now has to deal with a society that has moved on. So the amygdala sometimes gets it wrong. It creates anxiety when there is no life-threatening event happening around us.

And what is more, once it learns a pattern, the amygdala tends to stick with it. So if someone starts to get anxious when going into a crowded supermarket, say, the amygdala will attempt to repeat the pattern of anxiety next time they go into a crowded supermarket. This pattern then becomes reinforced. Sometimes we can recognise the triggers that give rise to anxiety, and sometimes we cannot. In some cases anxiety is a constant presence.

Everyone had moments of anxiety at sometime in their lives. Even the most calm people will feel a twinge of anxiety if they see a car speeding towards them as they start to cross the road. This is normal. But some people suffer from a large amount of anxiety all or most of the time. Their amygdala has somehow learned to become over-sensitive, creating anxiety when it’s not needed.

Classification of anxiety

Doctors will classify anxiety disorders, but they are all variations on the same thing. The main classification of anxiety disorders are

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

Doing something about it

There are three main approaches to doing something about anxiety. I am not going to cover these in any detail in this post:

  • Self-help – there is a lot of advice available to help you help yourself – including such things as mindfulness, breathing techniques, distraction techniques and so on
  • Therapies – there are many talking and other therapies that can help
  • Medication – prescribed medication can include anti-anxiety medication and antidepressants (which also help with anxiety)

As a hypnotherapist – of course, I would recommend hypnotherapy. But I know that hypnotherapy is not for everyone. You need to make your own decisions about what is best for you. The first step is to decide whether or not your anxiety impacts your life sufficiently for you to want to do something about it. The next thing is to recognise that there are things you can do about it – you are not stuck with it forever. It is at this point that you can start to turn it round.

An Overview of Anxiety, and what you can do about it

Anxiety means different things to different people. To some it is living with a constant state of tension – always jumping at the slightest noise. Some have runaway thoughts in their mind – constant rumination on the bad things that have happened, or that might happen, or that they imagine are happening.

For some, their anxiety manifests itself in physical signs such as IBS, acid reflux, migraines, loss of libido, eczema, excessive sweating, nausea. For others, it appears as behaviour that they don’t seem to be able to control – OCD, nail biting, over-eating, drinking in excess, smoking etc.

Whatever the signs and symptoms that manifest themselves, the sufferer may reach a stage where they decide that they have to do something about it. Everyone has some anxiety in their lives … on occasions. It only becomes a problem when it has a serious negative impact on their lives.

There are three broad ways that you can tackle anxiety: self-help, medication and therapy. Before I look at these in more detail, please note … some of the physical signs and symptoms of anxiety can also be signs or symptoms of physical problems – so make sure you check with your doctor.

Self Help

Most anxiety sufferers start with self-help and there is a wide variety of websites and articles available that will offer suggestions. Some of the key ideas behind these self-help ideas are:

Use mindfulness techniques to help focus the mind on the here-and-now. This prevents the mind wandering into the realm of negative thinking, and trains the anxiety sufferer to be able to have a calm mind rather than ruminating on potential negative outcomes.

Exercise and diet are extremely important factors in overcoming anxiety. Exercise generates the right chemicals in your brain and body to provide that feel-good factor. The right diet can cultivate the right bacteria in your body that is now known to have a significant impact on mood.

Regulating sleep is a key weapon against over-anxiety. The dreaming part of your sleep is the time when your brain sorts out all the unresolved stress. So good sleep hygiene is very important.

Contact with nature is known to help relieve anxiety – so go for a walk in the woods!

Cultivating a positive outlook on life – positive thoughts, activities leading to a positive outcome, positive interaction with other people – all help the right chemicals flow in the brain that reduce anxiety.

Medication

A medical doctor will sometimes prescribe medication for treating anxiety disorders. This will often be a antidepressant such as one of the SSRI group of drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). Although these drugs are called antidepressants, they will also help with anxiety.

There is a chemical in the brain that travels between the neurones called serotonin. A steady flow of serotonin in the brain produces a general feeling of well-being. However, shortly after serotonin is released, it is reabsorbed, so the brain needs a constant supply.

SSRI medication slows down the process of reabsorbing serotonin, so it hangs out in your brain for longer. When you are anxious, you generally feel low, so having serotonin hanging round a bit longer can raise your mood and pull you out of the anxiety a little quicker.

Therapy

There are a wide varieties of therapies available to help with anxiety.

Hypnotherapy is an effective way to reduce anxiety. Hypnotherapy focuses on allowing the sub-conscious part of the brain to process unresolved anxiety and stress in the background, without the sufferer really being aware that this is going on. As a hypnotherapist, I strongly support this type of therapy, as I have seen so many of my clients turn their lives around. However, I also recognise that it is not for everybody.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is widely recommended. In particular, the NHS (UK’s National Health Service) can prescribe CBT therapy as there is scientific study to demonstrate its effectiveness. However, it does not work with everyone.

A wide range of other therapies are available, too many to provide a comprehensive list here. As well as talking therapies such as counselling, there are physical therapies such as Havening, Cuddle therapy and EMDR.

Conclusion

So if you are suffering from anxiety to the point where it seriously impacts your life, I would recommend you do something about it. If you have physical symptoms – check with your doctor first in case there is a physical cause. Self-help is a good start, but if you need additional help you need to look to therapy or medication. Of course, I would always recommend hypnotherapy, but I do recognise that this is not for everyone, and other therapies are available.

Press When Full – Eustress

We all carry stress with us – it’s like having a stress bucket that you are slowly filling up. Now wouldn’t it be great to have a button to press when that bucketful of stress gets too full.

Reduced to its simplest form, stress works like this :

  • Small amounts of stress – good;
  • Large amounts of stress – bad.

We all store stress. I describe this to my clients as a “stress bucket”. We all store the stresses of the day in our stress bucket, and then empty the stress bucket either by resolving the issues that cause it, or during sleep where our brains use dreams to resolve the stresses that we carry. So for well-balanced people, it all balances out in the end.

But it’s when our stress bucket gets too full that problems start to arise.

Everyone has a different capacity for stress. Some have a huge stress bucket and have an enormous capacity for dealing with high pressure situations. Others have a very small stress bucket – maybe it’s a stress teacup – and seem to blow up at the tiniest thing.

But however large your capacity for stress – things will go wrong if it gets too full. We start to develop anxiety, panic attacks, over-thinking problems and a whole range of physical symptoms.

Susan Jeffers is famous for saying, “Feel the fear and do it anyway” – the title of her best-selling self help book. When you are afraid to do something, and you do it anyway, you take on a huge amount of stress. Provided you have the capacity for that amount of stress – this is where you find you can achieve a huge amount. Pushing yourself to the limit of your stress is where we maximise our achievement.

Hans Selye coined the term “eustress” (pronounced as if you are saying, “You-Stress”). It is defined as the stress you need to achieve what you want, but is not so much that you are overwhelmed. This is the good stress – it helps us get out of bed in the morning and go out to achieve stuff.

So it is now widely recognised that “some” stress is good. But having too much stress pushes us into anxiety and panic. If you have a very low amount of stress in your life – you are unlikely to achieve very much. Increasing the amount of stress will allow you to achieve more – this is eustress. But when you are too stressed, your performance and achievement drops, you become anxious and you can suffer from panic attacks.

Another way to describe this is the three zones model

Comfort zone – just doing the stuff we have always done before and are comfortable with. This is the ultra low-stress zone.
Stretch zone – doing new stuff that we are slightly uncomfortable with. It stretches us and pushes us outside our comfort zone. This is the eustress zone.
Panic zone – where we push ourselves too far. We are so far out of our comfort zone that we are filled with anxiety and panic.

Everyone has to learn how much stress they are happy with – how much stress they need to put themselves under to achieve what they want to achieve, without reaching that breaking point. Once you know that – spend your life mostly in you comfort zone, some time in your stretch zone, and avoid the panic zone. Find the point of stress that takes you into a stretch and the point at which you hit the panic zone, and you can live a happy and fulfilled life.

References

Review of “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway”
https://www.solutionsforresilience.com/feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway/

Overview of Eustress
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eustress

Photo

Photo by Brands&People on Unsplash

Covid Safety

Yes – I know its a boring subject, but I thought I ought just to say that I am doing all the right things. I have just done the unpleasant task of sticking a swab up my nose, which I do twice a week to make sure I am not passing Covid on to any of my clients. I have been double jabbed – but I still could be a carrier and not know it – so best make sure.

I always wear a face mask with clients, and insist that they do too – at least until the guidance from the National Council for Hypnotherapy says I don’t need to any more, and they will follow the government guidelines to the letter.

I have to spend time before and after each session cleaning down surfaces – the couch, chairs, in fact any surfaces that someone might have touched, and changing the paper couch roll on the couch to reduce the likelihood of cross contamination.

Such is the life of a hypnotherapist these days. All necessary, but I am looking forward to the day when we can go back to normal.

Anger

I have recently been asked a number of questions about anger – why is it harder to control anger when you are stressed, how to cope when you loose your temper, how to calm your own anger down and so on. In this blog, I explore anger – which is sometimes particularly difficult for people with anxiety.

Anger can manifest itself in all sorts of ways. Most children go through a stage of having temper tantrums, and some carry this on into the rest of their lives. Some people scream and shout when they are angry, and some go quiet even though they are burning with rage on the inside. You can get angry with strangers, or with the ones you love. These can end up in blazing rows, or the coldness of trying to freeze each other out. You can be angry with yourself, when you don’t achieve what you want to achieve, or angry with the world in general, when things don’t go your way.

Whatever the cause, whatever the outcome, its easier to slip into anger when you are stressed.

The Four Stages of Anger

Now you can think of anger happening in four stages:

Stage 1 is the trigger – something happens that kicks you off – Maybe someone cuts you up when you’re driving … or you’re at the airport about to go on holiday and you find you left your passport at home … or your partner just doesn’t seem to listen to you.

Stage 2 is loss of control – the angry part of your brain takes over, and yes, there is a separate part of your brain that deals with anger. It takes over and fills you full of adrenalin and cortisol … you stop thinking clearly as the angry part of your brain dominates the thinking part. This can happen very quickly.

Stage 3 is your immediate reaction – the angry part of your brain, being very stupid, just does what it always does – it gets you to swear, shout or throw things – or for some people, it gets you to go really quiet and still, while inside you’re seething.

Stage 4 is the aftermath – you’ve regained control from the angry part of your brain, but you still have that cortisol running through your veins which keeps you feeling on edge. You may have to apologise to others or sort out whatever it was you just did. And you will have added a lot of stress to that bucket of stress we keep – your brain will need to sort that out.

Reframing Anger

Now people tell me that they need to swear or shout as it relieves the tension. And yes, they are right – that immediate reaction you have after loosing control is a way of relieving the tension. However, you don’t have to loose control in the first place.

You need to train your brain to think differently about things. This takes time and effort; you can’t do it overnight.

Start by recognising what your triggers are. Is it that politician you hate spouting off again, or the kids not getting up in time for school, or maybe its your boss accusing you of doing something you didn’t do. When you know what triggers you, you can start to do something about it.

Once you’ve recognised your triggers, your can reframe them. Find a way to think about them differently.

I remember driving my car, when another car suddenly screeched in front of me and we both swerved and just missed each other. The other driver started shouting and I could hear him swearing at me. But my thought had been, “Phew, that was lucky. I better be really careful the next time I drive down here with idiots like that around.” He then wound down the window shouting rude names at me and giving me the finger. I found myself laughing – poor guy, he had totally lost control and seemed to be trying to make me loose control as well. It’s just a different way of thinking about the triggers.

So if your most hated politician starts spouting off again – just laugh at them and say, “Isn’t it funny how an idiot like that actually believes that rubbish.”

If your kids won’t get up in time to get to school, just tell them calmly that they can be late to school if they want, but they’ll just have to put up with the detention.

If you’re boss accuses you of doing something wrong that you didn’t, just tell them that they got it wrong – or maybe start looking for a better boss.

There are other ways to react instead of being angry. You don’t need to rise to it and loose control. And believe me, you will feel so much better for it, once you learn to shrug your shoulders and brush off any of those triggers. Imagine never having to be angry again.

Acknowledgements

Photo by Raamin ka on Unsplash