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

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

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

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