If this year’s World Mental Health Day has shown anything, it’s that more of us are
suffering with anxiety than ever. Whether you’re feeling the pressure in your work life or at
home, in your relationships or with food, hypnotherapist and anxiety expert Chloe
Brotheridge is here to support you.
Her experience with anxiety has been a long and winding one. She knew she was shy
from a young age, but things kicked up a gear when she began suffering from panic
attacks at 15. Suddenly, she was exposed to a dark side to life where things could go
wrong; it was the ultimate in not only losing control, but her mind too.
Fast forward to 2010 and anxiety had been holding her back and poisoning her mind for
nearly ten years. Having suffered countless panic attacks, millions of obsessive worries,
several trips to the doctors, and god knows how many missed friendships, messed up
relationships, times she’d doubted myself, restrained the real me and been really, really
mean to myself. Finally, at 24 years old she realised she needed help.
But change didn’t happen overnight. It was a steady process of slowly learning to open
up and talk about her feelings . She admits to finding this SO hard at first, and her path to
recovery was a mix of different techniques and therapies, reading every self-help book
under the sun, and learning to accept herself.
Today, she shares the key tools and insights that helped her the most with the hope that
they can help you too. Over to you Chloe…
1. CHALLENGING BELIEFS
This was an incredibly import/ant step for me in overcoming my anxiety. It’s something that
I learned through therapy as well as my training as a hypnotherapist. We all carry old
beliefs from our past. As kids we’re like sponges, absorbing things that Mum and Dad tell
us, stuff our teachers say, and giving meaning to the experiences we have. As the oldest
child of three, I’d felt a need to be a ‘good girl’ because I didn’t want to upset my Mum –
who would get very stressed when my Dad was working away. I’d taken on a belief that I
needed to be ‘perfect’ to in order to be ‘liked’ and I carried this belief into adulthood. This
meant I put a lot of pressure on myself; suppressing the real me around new people and
never feeling good enough.
The first step to making a change is to identify what negative beliefs are holding you back.
The second step is to create a new belief and start telling yourself that new belief on a
regular basis. For me, it was ‘I am good enough just as I am’ and I used hypnotherapy
(which helps us to embed new positive beliefs into the subconscious mind) and positive
self-talk to change that old view into the new, more supportive one.
2. SHRINK THE FEAR
There’s a saying – ‘Fear shrinks when you walk towards it’ and I absolutely know this to be
true. Anxiety makes you want to hide from your fears, which is totally understandable. The
fear can feel paralysing and impossible to overcome at times. But challenging myself to
move out of my comfort zone was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Whenever you do
something you’re afraid to do, you’re PROVING to yourself ‘I can do this, it’s safe, I’m ok’
and the more you do this, the more confident, capable and calm you become. Things like
going to networking events, public speaking and travelling alone would have once seemed
impossible for me, but now they’re things I enjoy. The only reason I can do them now is
that I slowly pushed myself further and further out of my comfort zone, growing my
confidence in the process.
3. CALM THE MIND
I believed for years that I was just one of those people who ‘couldn’t’ meditate. I couldn’t
sit still, closing my eyes felt boring and it made me too aware of my racing heart. I resisted
it for years. Finally, I discovered something that yogis of India have known for millennia. It’s
called meditation ‘practice’, not meditation ‘perfection’. I let go of needing to be good at
meditating, just doing my 15 minutes dutifully each day and throwing in a few yoga
stretches beforehand, and something ‘clicked’.
The trick is to not beat yourself up if your mind wanders during meditation; you simply
bring your awareness back to your breath (or mantra) as soon as you notice it’s drifted.
Having thoughts during meditation is totally normal and doesn’t mean you have failed. The
thing that convinced me to really give meditation a try was learning about the science
behind it when it comes to anxiety. It changes our brains, reducing the part responsible for
the fight or flight response (the amygdala) and helping the part of our brain that thinks
about the future (the frontal cortex) to become more calm and rational. I started to feel
results gradually, and after a few months of regular practice, I felt as though I’d rewired my
4. DON’T FIGHT THE FEELINGS
A big thing for me was learning to float rather than fight against my feelings. Sounds
counterintuitive right? Why wouldn’t you want to fight your anxiety, it’s the baddie, isn’t it?
But when the famous psychiatrist Carl Jung said ‘What you resist, persists’ he had a point,
especially when it comes to anxiety. Ever found that the harder to fight against your
worries or feelings of panic, the worse they get? For me, learning to float with any anxious
feelings, relax with them and allow them to be there meant that they started to reduce on
their own. It’s a bit like being in the sea and allowing your body to be supported by the salt
water, rather than thrashing and fighting against the tides. If we fight, we just end up
exhausted and panicked but if we relax and float, we are supported.
5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Sounds so obvious – so how come we don’t do it? Self-compassion is one of the most
important things we do for ourselves in life, and for anxiety, it’s crucial. Self-compassion is
like a cushion against the difficulties of life. It makes everything easier. I thought that giving
myself a hard time was motivating me to do better, but in fact beating myself up was
holding me back. It sapped my motivation and meant I was too scared to try things,
knowing I’d give myself hell if I felt I’d failed.
These days, I choose to live my life as though it’s all a ‘training montage’ from an 80’s or
90’s film. Failure is inevitable, but I get up and try again. All the while I remember that my
‘audience’ (my friends and family) love and support me no matter what and that I grow and
learn all the time. We are all in our own training montage, failure is never final and being
kind to ourselves (and others) and trusting in the process is all we need to do.