Recent global events have been life changing in so many different ways for everyone. As we are taking tentative steps to move back into some sort of normality some may struggle to understand what their normality is and for a lot of people, this will be a time when anxiety can begin to creep in, whether it’s a returning old foe or a completely new experience, anxiety is more than just feeling a bit worried or stressed.
Anxiety can be a struggle for anyone and before this pandemic there were approximately 3 million people in the UK living with an anxiety disorder according to Anxiety UK. Recent figures produced by a YouGov poll since lockdown began, show that more than 6 in 10 adults over the age of 18 feel anxious. But how can we distinguish between feeling a bit worried and suffering with anxiety? The signs that you may be suffering from anxiety can be varied and you should always speak to your medical professional, however they can include an overall negative mindset, a feeling of dread or extreme worry, the feeling of panic or loss of control, sleep deprivation, irritability and trouble concentrating, to name a few.
When these symptoms become a part of our day to day lives, even normal tasks can feel overwhelming and it can be difficult to understand where the struggle is coming from. This feeling of despair can go on to manifest itself into more anxiety and very quickly become a vicious cycle.
There are many different ways that anxiety can be managed and not everything will suit everyone, however this week is Mental Health Awareness week and the theme this year is Kindness, so I thought it would be lovely to explore this subject a little deeper and try to understand why kindness can help relieve anxiety and stress.
At a time when we are all scared for our lives, quite literally, acts of kindness have been headlining social media and the news – and quite rightly so.
Kindness can be expressed in many different forms. In sessions with my clients over recent weeks I have heard various tales of random acts of kindness received and given by the client. Doorstep deliveries of cards, flowers picked on walks, home baked cakes, pamper packages, food packages, unexpected kind words, video calls and boxes of chocolates have all provided the giver and the receiver with feelings of community spirit, empathy and love. Very powerful emotions.
Well, one study performed at the University of British Columbia used a group of 146 participants all suffering with Social Anxiety and showed that the group that were instructed to go out and perform an act of kindness were able to do so as they expected a positive response from the receiver. By performing an act of kindness, it decreased their fear of avoiding social situations for fear of a negative response. It also provided a distraction from their own negative fears and thoughts.
When giving the gift of kindness we help raise our oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a positive neurotransmitter and is often referred to as ‘The Love Drug’. It has been found to play a part in reducing anxiety and stress and encourages behaviours such as empathy and trust. Oxytocin is usually activated by social interactions and motivates us to care for others.
As well as acts of kindness, there are lots of ways to raise our oxytocin levels:
Petting your dog. Doggy cuddles might not appeal to everyone, but studies have found that having doggy cuddles with your fave four-legged bestie can raise oxytocin levels. Remember that feeling of coming home from a hard day in the office and being greeted by your pooch, tail wagging, jumping all over you, so happy to see you and you instantly grinning? Well that feeling is oxytocin. Once your oxytocin levels have been raised by your interaction with your pooch you are more than likely to pass that feel good feeling on to another human.
Hugs with a loved one, someone you trust, who makes you feel wonderful and loved, your partner, your children, a friend. Hugs and touch produce oxytocin and can reduce stress and improve your immune system too, so why wouldn’t you? The ‘L’ word Attraction and falling in love with another person produces a whirlwind of positive neurotransmitters such as dopamine which in turn raises your serotonin levels and produces oxytocin. This causes you to feel that rush of emotions that leaves you breathless with happiness.
Kindness doesn’t just have to be gift giving, sometimes just helping out around the house, doing the tea/coffee round at work, paying someone a visit or giving help and advice to a colleague or friend can boost our oxytocin levels. It’s also important to remember that the giver AND the receiver both feel good from acts of kindness. So, if you have been thinking about doing something kind for someone else, now is the time to put that thought into action. Time to stop thinking and just do it! You won’t regret it.
There are many outlets to assist with reducing anxiety and stress and including all of the above into your everyday life will do wonders for alleviating symptoms. However sometimes we reach the point where the thought of taking steps forward can overwhelm us and that is when we need to seek more professional assistance.
Hypnotherapy can help you break the cycle by training your mind to react to situations, that may cause anxiety and stress, in a more positive and productive way. By focusing on the positive aspects of your week instead of dwelling on the negatives, Solution Focused Hypnotherapy will provide you with the tools to take back control of your mind and life. You will learn why your mind may react to certain things from a biological perspective so you can begin to understand your own behaviours from a psychological perspective. This new knowledge will provide you with skills for life that you can take with you and benefit from when things become difficult.
Anxiety is at the root of many different issues that people face, and hypnotherapy can help you regain control of your mind, helping you be you again.
If you would like more information about Hypnotherapy or would like to have a chat to see if I could help you then please get in touch, I will be pleased to help.
Clinical Hypnotherapist and Solution Focused Practitioner
Helping you be YOU again!