Using breathing techniques to calm anxiety

There is growing scientific evidence that breathing techniques can help you get your anxiety under control. These techniques are useful in helping with stress, anxiety and insomnia. In this video, I’m going to talk about how controlled breathing helps … and show you a basic technique that you can do on your own.

Ideas like controlling your breathing, and using your breath to chant … in order to calm yourself down and get into a better state have been around for years … and I used to think that it was all a bit “hippie” and fantastical. But, surprisingly, there is growing scientific evidence to support the theory that it really works.

One idea, that comes from some branches of yoga is alternate nostril breathing – breathing through one nostril for one breath … and the other nostril for the next breath. Or breathing in through one nostril and out through the other.

Chanting “om” is another breathing practice from way back. Taking a deep breath, then slowly chant the word “om” … “Ooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm”

“Follow your breath” is a modern mindfulness exercise. First controlling your breathing – breathing slowly in, hold for a moment, breathe out slowly and hold for a moment. Then just focussing your mind on your breath, paying attention to the feel of it as you breathe in and out.

We see this pattern of exercises that focus attention on breath, and consciously controlling and slowing the breath. These exercises come from all sorts of different places. So does it work … and what is actually going on?

We all know that as our emotions change, our body can change with it. You can generally get an idea of someone’s emotions just by looking at them – are they smiling, frowning, is there tension in the shoulders … or have they dropped down into a relaxed position.

When we are stressed or anxious about something, our sympathetic nervous system comes into play. The brain sends signals to the body to along the sympathetic nervous system to tell it to get ready to deal with something dangerous. Our heart rate increases, our breathing rate increases, our muscles tense and so on. And for this reason, the sympathetic nervous system is sometimes known as the “fight-or-flight nervous system”.

Conversely, when we are relaxed, content and happy. When we are doing something enjoyable like eating or having sex, the brain sends signals to our body along the parasympathetic nervous system. So the parasympathetic nervous system is sometimes colloquially known as the “feed-and-breed nervous system.”

It is less well known that these nervous systems work the other way round too. If our body changes, it engages one of these nervous systems, and our emotions can change as a response. Now, not many people are able to consciously slow their own heart rate down, but we can consciously change our breathing patterns. When you focus attention on your breathing so as to make it slower and more regular, it mimics the pattern you get when you’re relaxed. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms your emotions.

There have been a number of scientific studies to demonstrate that this works. When you focus on slowing down the breathing, the activity in your amygdala – which is the part of the brain dealing with anxiety – reduces. And the activity in the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain dealing with rational thinking and executive function – increases. And in this way, you can become calmer and less stressed.

So how do you apply this controlled breathing technique – what do you actually do?

There may be certain highly stressful situations where you can use a controlled breathing technique to calm you down – just before something important, like an exam or interview. If you have difficult falling asleep – then use it when you are lying in bed ready to go to sleep.

You can also use it as a regular everyday practice to help reduce the general stresses and anxiety of the day. This is sometimes called the “365 technique”. Do it every day – 365 days a year.
3 – the number of sessions you do it every day
6 – roughly the number of breaths you take in a minute
5 – the number of minutes you do it at each session

So, 5 minutes sessions, 3 times a day, 365 days a year. In each session, breath roughly 6 times a minute – that’s about 10 seconds a breathe – breath in for the count of 4 or 5, breath out for the count of 5 or 6. Some people say it is better to have a longer out-breathe than in-breathe. That’s the 365 technique.

So it could go something like this
……

In … 2 … 3 … 4
Out… 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6
In … 2 … 3 … 4
Out… 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6
In … 2 … 3 … 4
and so on for about 5 minutes.

Have a go, you never know, it might work for you.

My name is Tim Maude. I help people who are only just coping. I use hypnotherapy to help get rid of the negative effects of stress and anxiety.

References

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/proper-breathing-brings-better-health/

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/parasympathetic-nervous-system

Acknowledgements

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

What is the difference between anxiety and stress?

I am sometimes asked, “What is the difference between anxiety and stress?” If you look up stress and anxiety on the NHS website, you will find that they are lumped together. The only difference is that there are some specific disorders that the NHS label as “anxiety” – Generalised anxiety disorder, social anxiety, panic disorder etc.

I tend to treat it as a scale – mild stress at one end of the scale, through to major anxiety at the other.

Everyone has a little bit of stress in their lives – even the most laid back, relaxed people feel a tiny bit of stress when their bladder is full and they need to go to relieve themselves. It’s part of life and motivates us to do something towards solving a problem.

When we have a lot on, or we have to get somewhere on time, our stress levels increase. The stress is our bodies reaction to a potential problem. If it didn’t really matter whether all our jobs got done or not, or if there were no consequences if we didn’t get to that meeting on time, then we wouldn’t get stressed about it – but it does matter – so we get stressed.

The worse the consequences are, the more stressed we get. When I was at school, I used to get really stressed about French lessons, because I wasn’t any good at it and the French teacher would get really angry and hand out severe punishments for getting things wrong.

Stress is the feeling we all get that motivates us to avoid something bad happening.
Stress has both physical and mental symptoms. Blood pressure goes up. Our heart rate rises. Muscles tense. It becomes increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything except the bad consequences that we want to avoid. Now a small to moderate amount of stress is fine – it motivates us to avoid bad things happening to us. But it can get out of hand – and we usually call that anxiety.

We can unwittingly train ourselves into anxiety. If we constantly think about bad things that can happen – we can overthink things, we imagine what other people think about us, we can get small concerns out of all proportion – If we constantly think about bad stuff that can happen, our moderate amount of stress can become full-blown anxiety and this leads to all sorts of problems.

Physically, we can get headaches and dizziness; constant muscle tension can lead to tiredness and muscle pain; we can get digestive problems like reflux, IBS, burping, even vomiting; hearts can race and we can get palpitations; some people can get skin complaints or sexual problems.

A common mental problem is overthinking, where we go over and over bad things in our head. Concentration can become difficult as a result, and sometimes it can be difficult to make decisions. Constant worrying can lead to being forgetful and irritable.

Anxiety can effect sleep patterns, encourage you to eat too much, or too little, and you can end up drinking or smoking a lot more than you usually do, as you loose a little bit of self-control.

Other symptoms and side-effects are phobias, OCD, panic attacks, avoidance of social situations and so on.

So everyone has a bit of stress in their lives. Most people manage their lives quite well with a low level of stress. But if you are only just coping with the amount of stress and anxiety you are suffering from, then remember that you can do something about it. There is a solution – self-help, therapy or medication – they all have their place, but you need to take the first step and decide you want to do something about it.

Hashtags

#Stress #Anxiety #Hypnotherapy

See Also

NHS on Stress and Anxiety

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/

Wikipedia on Psychological Stress

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_stress

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

An Overview of Anxiety and Stress

There are loads of people who suffer from stress and anxiety, especially in these uncertain times.  Today, I want to tell you something about it.

Anxiety comes from a primitive part of your brain deep in the limbic system that seems to have a mind of its own. You can’t just say to it, “Today I not going to be anxious or stressed”. It’s not a question of will-power, because that primitive part of your brain won’t listen – It will stress you out anyway.

This primitive part of the brain is designed to protect you from sabre-toothed tigers when you are out hunting or gathering. It makes you on edge and gets your body ready to run the moment a sabre-toothed tiger appears.

So when something happens that makes you upset or angry or even just a bit down, this primitive part of the brain thinks, “Maybe there’s a sabre-toothed tiger around.” And it makes you anxious so that you’ll look out to see where the danger is, and it will get your body ready to run.

Sometimes, the primitive part of the brain gets a bit ahead of itself, and makes you anxious when there’s no reason to be. It can learn to get really good at getting you anxious when there’s nothing there.

The other thing that happens is that all the stresses in your life build up. It’s like you’ve got a bucket in your brain that all your stresses go into, and it’s filling up. Now, when you’re asleep, when you’re dreaming, your brain starts to sort through the bucket and empty it. The problem occurs when you’re filling it up faster than you can empty it.

So you’ve got two problems. One is that the brain has learnt to make you anxious when you don’t need to be, and the second is that you have a bucket full of stress that’s filling up too fast.

Okay … so what do you do about it?

My job is to help people with stress and anxiety in all its forms. I use hypnotherapy to help them learn new non-anxious patterns and also empty their bucket of stress faster than they can fill it up. But what can you do on your own?

Firstly, you can learn to be calm and have that sense of well-being: The key thing here is to practice being positive. You may only manage it for a few seconds to start with, but with regular practice you will build it up. Think about the positive things in your life. Interact with people in a positive way, and do something positive – even if it just doing the washing up. Take a few seconds to acknowledge that you have done something positive.

Gradually, over time, you will find that your brain gets used to being positive, and the anxiety diminishes.

Then you have that bucket full of stress that needs emptying. This is done quite naturally during sleep, so … don’t cut yourself short of sleep. You can empty even more of your bucket by doing things like meditation and mindfulness, or simply doing something that gets you totally absorbed – getting immersed in a good film, or a video game or a sport where you can just switch off and focus totally on something you really enjoy. When you do these things, your mind goes into a light trance and your brain can start sorting out that stress bucket in the background.

Hypnotherapy can speed things up a lot, but you can tackle it yourself. Whatever you choose to do … I wish you all the best.

Photo by Keyur Nandaniya on Unsplash

Stoptober

So Stoptober is here – are you ready to quit smoking?

Hypnotherapy is a great way to stop smoking:

  • It all happens in one session – and that’s it.
  • No need to spend money on patches or vaping afterwards.
  • You save hundreds of pounds in the first year alone.

It’s a simple process:

  • Call me first, I’ll answer any questions you have, and then book you in.
  • Find a quiet, comfy place where you can relax at home.
  • We’ll have one Zoom call lasting a couple of hours – then no more smoking.

Hypnotherapy works

  • Experts say that 90% to 95% of smoking addiction is psychological – not physical.
  • Hypnotherapy helps you reprogramme your brain.
  • Hypnotherapy works when you really want to stop, but somehow you can’t do it on your own.

Just imagine:

  • What will you do with the money you save.
  • How your family will feel about you when you quit for good.
  • All the health problems that you will avoid by quitting now.

Here’s what a client sent me

I had the most surreal hypnotherapy with Tim, I was using this for the first time to quit smoking and since having our appointment I have not touched or thought about a cigarette in 28 days.

Only call me when you really want to stop.

Tim Maude Hypnotherapy

07730 315503

The small print:

  • Calling me to have a chat and ask questions is free and there is no obligation to take it further.
  • Cost is £200 (a fraction of what you will save) for a single quit-smoking session – which will be around 2 hours.
  • During the pandemic, all sessions are conducted over Zoom (or other online video system), as recommended by the National Council for Hypnotherapy.
  • I am sorry, but I cannot offer a guarantee that you will quit forever. Hypnotherapy will only help you if you are fully committed to quitting permanently.
  • I only take on people who really want to quit, so please don’t ask me to help your partner. If they really want to quit, they need to call me themselves.

Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

Pandemic Worries? Pandemic Stress?

Are you one of the many who are stressed by the pandemic? The Health Foundation reported, as early as June this year, that 69% of UK adults are feeling somewhat or very worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) are concerned about a potential mental health crisis with substantial increases in depression, anxiety and insomnia being reported throughout the world.

Worries about catching the virus, worries about the future of their jobs, worries about their children and family, increasing loneliness through isolation, worries about going back to school or work, anger at other people’s behaviour … these are just some of the mental health issues that the world is facing. And they are magnifying other underlying anxieties, depression and other mental health issues

By June this year, mental health had worsened by a staggering 8.1% since the beginning of the pandemic, and this in a time when access to mental health services has reduced.

The NHS has also recognised the issues of increased mental health issues, and has published their “COVID-19 anxiety tips”. When you analyse these 10 tips, you will see that they are all focused on the three P’s – Positive interaction with other people, Positive action through meaningful activities, and Positive thinking.

Hypnotherapy is a great way of helping you reduce your anxiety levels. Bad things (such as COVID-19) happen in the world, and hypnotherapy can never stop that, but it can help you cope with it better. Hypnotherapy can help you forge new neural pathways in your brain that help you reduce anxiety and cope better with everything that life throws at you.

In my practice, I use solution focused hypnotherapy, which looks at finding solutions rather than digging up the past – solutions that are unique to you, not simply generic tips. Following the NHS generic tips on coping with anxiety will be a great help for many people, and is a really good place to start. However, if you want to do more and find solutions that are unique to you, give me a call.

Tim Maude Hypnotherapy

07730 315503

Acknowledgements

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

One Man, Two Guvnors

or … One Brain, Two Minds

In Richard Bean’s play, “One man, Two Guvnors”, an out-of-work skiffle players ends up being employed by two different men and spends his time trying to stop them learning about the other. Anyone who smokes has exactly the same problem – One brain, Two minds

We all know that we have one brain, but what we don’t always recognise is that we have (at least) two minds. We have our rational, conscious mind that thinks it’s in control, making all the decisions. But hidden, outside of our conscious control, we have our primitive mind, that acts like a little child – demanding attention and taking over when it can.

For the smoker, it is the little child that is actually controlling what is going on. Every time your nicotine level drops, there is a small uncomfortable feeling, and your primitive brain spots this. You find yourself reaching for the cigarettes and heading outside, often without even thinking about it – because thinking requires your rational, conscious brain to be in charge and, at this point in time, it’s not.

If you decide you want to stop smoking, your devious primitive brain finds ways around it. It waits for a weak moment and then jumps in. Maybe it’s when you’re stressed, or your friends all seem to be having a good time chatting in the smokers’ area. The primitive brain has a tantrum that is impossible to ignore. Eventually, you give in, you come up with a plausible but erroneous excuse (“Smoking helps me relax”, “I don’t have the will power” etc.) and you’re back smoking again, giving in to the tantrums of the primitive brain.

So if you want to give up smoking permanently, you have to tackle the primitive part of your brain and stop the little child having tantrums. One great way to do this is to use hypnotherapy. It’s fast and effective. One session and you’re done. So when you are fully committed to giving up smoking, give me a call or message me and we can have a chat.

The Story of the Catman

Twenty years ago, if you had put money on boxer Glenn Catley- the Catman – to become super middleweight champion of the world, you would have made yourself a tidy sum. He was really only a middle weight and was up against Markus Beyer, the reigning super middleweight champion of the world. No one expected him to win.

I am never sure of whether or not I really approve of boxing. Nevertheless, this weekend I sat enthralled listening to Glen as he told his story. It was absorbing, touching and exciting, even though I already knew the denouement.

So why did the Catman turn up one Sunday morning to talk to a bunch of clinical hypnotherapists? The answer is simple. He puts his success down to one thing … hypnotherapy. Although I am sure there was a lot of skill and training that went into it as well.

Hypnotherapy is not only good for helping people with problems of anxiety, depression, phobias etc etc, it can also help to improve sports performance. Beyond all expectations and against all the odds, Glenn used hypnotherapy to improve his performance to the point of becoming world champion.

I don’t usually make recommendations, but today I will make an exception. If you ever get a chance to meet Glenn Catley and hear his story, seize the opportunity – you won’t regret it.

Glenn’s website can be found at http://glenncatleytalks.co.uk

Diets and exercise that fail

Have you ever been on a diet, and then six months later found yourself weighing heavier than before? Have you ever tried to loose weight but found yourself cheating without really thinking about it? Have you ever started an exercise regime, but found that you somehow just stopped doing it?

Most experts will tell you that your weight is all about two things – how much you eat and how much you exercise. Sounds obvious doesn’t it. But there is a third factor that plays a massive part – your brain.

The problem is, your brain sometimes works against you. The other day for instance, I noticed an open bag of salted peanuts on the table. As I went to put them away in the cupboard, I tipped a few into my hand and ate them … Why? … I wan’t hungry … I didn’t need to eat … In fact I didn’t really think about it at all. I just ate them automatically. Some part of my brain decided that I should eat the nuts before I even got a chance to think about it.

You see, we have different parts of our brain that all have their different jobs to do. Sometimes they work against each other. One part says, “I need to get to a healthy body weight,” while another (more primitive) part says, “you need food to survive – eat now.” Sometimes the primitive part takes control – particularly when we are under pressure, stressed out or tired. Therein lies the problem.

And guess what – going on a diet or starting an exercise regime often increases the amount of pressure you are under, makes you more stressed and makes you more tired. So that primitive part of the brain gets more control, which puts you under even more pressure … and so on. And guess what … six months later you’re fatter than before. Sound familiar?

So what can we do when our brain works against us?

Hypnotherapy is designed to help the different parts of the brain to work together instead of against each other. People I have helped with their diet tell me that, after a while, they catch themselves eating more healthily and doing more exercise – without even thinking about it. This is because the different parts of their brain are working more closely together and, in particular, they become less stressed and pressured.

If you are one of those people who struggles to control your weight, I am currently doing a special offer on a Weight Management Support Programme. When you start, we will have an initial consultation, where you can tell me what you want to achieve and I can help you understand some of the science behind how the brain works and what you can do about it. Following this, we will have weekly sessions that will help you get the subconscious parts of your brain working for you.

As we are in lockdown – all sessions are conducted online, over Zoom, Skype or Facebook Messenger video.

Search for “Tim Maude Hypnotherapy” and give me a call for an initial chat on the phone.

For the first five callers only, the special offer costs are £10 for the initial consultation, and £30 per session for up to eight sessions. Quote offer code WL101. Offer ends 19th June 2020.

#weightloss #hypnotherapy

Who Hijacked My Brain?

You are eating in a restaurant having a pleasant conversation, when you hear a sudden loud crash behind you. Immediately, you you feel your chest tighten and your heart seems to jump into another gear. You might cry out or swear. You turn towards the noise. Maybe you raise your arms to protect yourself, or throw whatever you have in your hand at the source of the noise. You do all this without thinking, because your conscious mind has been hijacked.

Of course, it is just the waiter who has dropped a tray. He apologises for disturbing you, picks up the tray and walks off. Somewhat embarrassed by your reaction, you turn back and try to pick up the conversation, but forget what you were talking about a few seconds ago.

So who hijacked your brain?

Because it was hijacked … you did not consciously decide to react like that, something hijacked your conscious mind and took over. Different people have different reactions; some will recover control in a second or two; others will have a panic attack or start swearing in anger.

Some people notice that their reaction gets worse when under a lot of stress, or when short of sleep. And it doesn’t matter if they have the intelligence of Einstein or the determination of an Apollo astronaut, everyone’s conscious mind gets hijacked sometimes.

So what was it that hijacked your brain?

Well, to start with, it wasn’t all of your brain that got hijacked, only the conscious part. The culprit is a very primitive part called the amygdala. The reaction we all have is called the “amygdala hijack”.

The amygdala is the brain’s security officer. It checks everything that goes on to see if it is safe. If it thinks that there is some kind of emergency, it takes over control – that’s the amygdala hijack. The amygdala isn’t clever, so it picks something that you’ve done before and reacts by doing it again – sometimes totally inappropriately.

So when you find you loose control, even if only for a second, it’s the amygdala hijack. The amygdala is trying to protect you, but sometimes leaves you red-faced or increasingly stressed. This happens to everyone sometimes, but if it causes you problems in your life, contact me at timmaudehypnotherapy.co.uk/contact, and we will see what hypnotherapy can do for you.


Footnote: The term “Amygdala Hijack” was coined by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence.

Hypno Weight Loss

I have just “come back” from a weekend course (running over Zoom of course) covering solution focused hypnotherapy and weight loss. What I didn’t know was the relationship between weight loss and gain and the stress hormone, cortisol.

For those adrenaline junkies who love the really scary theme park rides, have you ever noticed how there is often a junk food stand at the end of the ride, selling sugary drinks and fatty foods? And have you ever noticed how you crave the junk food as soon as you have finished the ride? That is the cortisol doing your thinking for you.

Cortisol is the main stress hormone. It also regulates other stuff in your body, including how your body uses fats and sugars. If your body produces too much cortisol, it starts to crave sugar and fat. “Comfort food” is so-called because that’s what you eat when you’re stressed.

So reducing stress is one of the ways we can control our eating.

For a summary of Cortisol, see https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol#2