Overcoming Anxiety Archives - Brad Greentree

Overcoming Anxiety

The rise of anxiety in our children and 3 things you can do to help them

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“According to statistics provided by beyondblue, it is estimated that in any one year, around 1 million Australian adults will experience depression, and more than 2 million will have anxiety.” (read the full article here).

This is an alarming statistic and a reason why there has been a lot of focus in the media on the rise of anxiety across society, but the rise in children in particular. The rise of mental ill health is having a huge impact upon learning outcomes, social skills and productivity, not to mention increasing suicide rates, drug use, and a whole host of other debilitating and negative outcomes.

Social media and its unrelenting, voracious appetite and attention seeking is a big contributor. Our kids are the first generation to be born into a 24/7 digital world and the constant connection it demands. Their exhausted, time-poor and distracted parents are equally attached and plugged in to the same online world. Facebook, Insta, Twitter, email, news, events, the constant stream of information is literally driving us crazy. And sadly our kids are feeling it too.

There are many things we can do to address this growing epidemic of anxiety. I’ll be talking about these in upcoming posts. But right now you’re reading this post because you have an anxious child or teen and you have no idea what you can do to reach out to them, to help.

Ideally, you need to adopt these strategies, anxiety impacted or not, as early as possible. Once your child is a teen, communication is exponentially more challenging and so introducing new strategies can be a test, but not impossible. In fact, your teen may be relieved at your attempts to reach out when they’re feeling particularly vulnerable.

If you’re a parent of an anxious child below are 3 things you can do to get you feeling a little more resourceful to help them and you address it:

1) Manage your own anxiety around your children. They model your behaviour. Do you suffer from anxiety that hasn’t been addressed? It may be that you did not even realise that you were projecting your own feelings if you are susceptible to anxiety. I have witnessed a parent who is extremely anxious about everything; their child falling over, spiders, strangers, eating hard lollies, playing with others, not playing with others, riding around the block, what they wear, the list goes on. It’s no surprise to find their child was too scared to even go to the toilet by themselves when young, but has now begun to act out as they get older, in response to their mother’s controlling and anxious behaviour. Not only is the child lacking in resilience or a strong sense of self determination and empathy, but their parent has no idea of how to communicate effectively through their own mental fragility.
Or it may be that seeing your child begin to suffer from anxiety that you’re affected, particularly if you have no idea of what to do or how you can help them. We are in a whole new, and often scary world where many of us are ill-equipped to deal with new and unprecedented challenges. You’re not alone but there are things you can do to build the resources you need for such circumstances. Understanding what you bring to the table,  how you’re going to respond, and what you’re going to project are good starting points.

2) Condition your child to think about things going well. This is more than positive thinking, it’s about using positive language. I suggest you begin to consciously clock the language you use when speaking with your children and pay extra attention to how they respond. I hear a lot of ‘be careful’, ‘stop’, ‘no’, ‘don’t’, ‘you’ll hurt yourself’, ‘what were you thinking?’, ‘calm down’. Set yourself a task to really listen to the words you’re choosing to speak to your kids with. Are you using positive, empowering language or negative, critical language? Once you’ve got a handle on how you’re communicating take the next step and begin the process of conditioning your child to think about things going well. Help them set their focus by asking things like ‘what’s the best thing that’s going to happen today, this week?’ and then at the end of the day asking them what were the 3 best things that happened that day. Get into a rhythm of your communication by focusing on the good things that are going to happen or have happened rather than all the things that aren’t going so well. Getting them to fill out a journal with the 3 things they’re grateful for and 3 things that make them feel happy/healthy begins to create new pathways for thinking as well as build more resilience when things don’t go as planned or they hit a road bump. Because let’s face it, things don’t always go as we’d like them to but those that bounce back from setbacks are those that choose how they’re going to respond when things get tough.

3) Get specific. Remember anxiety is a fear of something that has not yet happened. If the situation they were fearing eventuates, it then becomes an emotion of anger, sadness, or guilt, all of which need to be dealt with. However when anxiety rears its head (the situation has not yet happened), ask them what specifically they are anxious about. Use questions such as ‘what are you anxious about specifically?’, ‘how does that make you feel anxious?’ and ‘suppose it worked out well would you still feel anxious?’ instead of ‘why are you feeling anxious?’. For example: your child is facing an exam. This is a real event that’s going to happen but hasn’t happened yet. Understandably they feel apprehensive. However often it escalates to feelings of anxiety leaving them unresourceful. Using ‘what about the exam are you specifically anxious about?’, ‘how does that make you feel anxious?’ and then ‘just suppose you do really well in that exam, having prepared for it, would you still feel anxiety?’ or ‘imagine after receiving the results that you deserve, having prepared for the exam, would you still have anxiety?’These lines of inquiry will uncover and ultimately unpack what is going on inside their head with respect to their feelings around the impending exam, as opposed to ‘why are they feeling anxiety’ which enables them a justification with no ability to address the underlying feelings. These slight tweaks in inquiry can reveal completely different responses enabling an empowered approach to the future event rather than being overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom.

Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues that I see at my trainings. I have helped hundreds of people to equip themselves with tools and resources to overcome and help others overcome anxiety. If you’d like to learn more check out my Make Anxiety History program. Click here for more.

Nature: how we need it to maintain mental health

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This week marks World Environment Day (5 June) and World Oceans Day (8 June). As with these recurring annual days of celebration or recognition I like to use them to acknowledge and engage in new conversations and thinking, especially with respect to mental health.

I must admit, as a dive instructor for many years, and being married to an environmental scientist, I’m pretty passionate about the natural world. But with our busy work schedules I feel as though I just don’t get into it as much as I’d like to. I am incredibly lucky to live near a beautiful waterway where my old boat, Phoenix is moored which I like to potter around on as much as possible.

Having an old boat has given our family so many amazing experiences. My kids were swimming confidently much younger than most. My daughters have both experienced breathing under water (SCUBA diving) much younger than many would. I feel as though I need to take every opportunity to give them as much nature time as I can so they learn to love it as much as we do. But it’s not just about learning to respect nature that’s important for my kids, it’s essential for their mental well being.

You see, being ‘earthed’, where your bare feet touch the soft ground or sand, where you get to really breathe, where you’re away from man made constructs is essential for both your physical and mental well being.

Nature deficit disorder is a phrase coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods meaning that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. Anxiety is way up there among them. Kids need to be outdoors, playing, jumping, exploring, just being and the rise of the micro-managed child means that they’re getting less and less time to be in nature. Screen time is dominating their every waking hour. Any parent can vouch for the fact that they struggle to get their kids off their device, with a range of negative consequences from tantrums and aggression to an inability to free play. And this goes for adults too.

But the lack of time in nature is having dire consequences for another reason. The constant and unrelenting pressure on our natural resources is leading to what scientists predict as being the 6th wave of extinction. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), some 41 percent of amphibians and 26 percent of mammal species are currently facing extinction. Some of the world’s most beloved species are among them. Can you imagine a world without koalas, polar bears, elephants, orangutans, or even the cutest little dolphin you’ve ever seen (30 Vaquita dolphins left in the wild)? We don’t know it enough to love it, to save it.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum, 1968.

That’s pretty heavy stuff. And we’re starting to see huge mental health challenges arise as a result. I know I’ve witnessed an increased level of anxiety and depression in my wife and her scientist colleagues over the past few years. In fact at global science conferences the mental health issues associated with those at the conservation coal face is a growing stream, not only for those working in the field but for humans that have an innate sense of a loss of connection to the natural world. There’s even a thing now called conservation grief for those who have witnessed species and habitats in the midst of the extinction process.

This is not about watching too much depressing news on the TV. This is about humans destroying their own home.

So what can I do I hear you ask? The problems are so huge, I’m just one person. It gives me anxiety just thinking about this stuff. I’ve got my own problems to deal with.

I hear you. Loud and clear.

But there is one simple thing that you can do right now, this afternoon or this weekend that will instantly make you feel better. Guaranteed. Whether you care about the environment or not, this will help heal your soul regardless.

Get back to nature.

The science on the role of nature to heal and improve mental health is in. We need to get out of the constraining, oppressive four walls that surround us at work and home and get some sand or grass under our feet. Frequently. We need to breathe pollution free air. Frequently. We need to lie on the earth and stare up at the clouds. As much as we can.

Check out this cute video for a laugh, but it’s so true.

Happy World No Tobacco Day?!

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Did you even know there was a World No Tobacco Day? No? Well you’re certainly not alone. But we thought it might be a perfect  segue way into talking more about anxiety and the various things that trigger it. And smoking is definitely a trigger, on so many fronts.

“Smoking is highly prevalent across most anxiety disorders. Tobacco use increases risk for the later development of certain anxiety disorders, and smokers with anxiety disorders have more severe withdrawal symptoms during smoking cessation than smokers without anxiety disorders.” Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders, Tobacco Use, and Nicotine: A Critical Review of Interrelationships. Morisette, S. et al. Psychological Bulletin 2007, Vol. 133, No. 2, 245–272

Firstly there’s the actual act of smoking. The ironic thing is that peak anxiety attack, and despite all the associated physiological effects, many people grab a cigarette to ‘calm them down’. What they’re actually wanting to do is to just stop and breathe. And stopping for a smoke is a way to to slow down and breathe. Only problem is what they’re actually breathing in and how it effects the body. Cigarettes contain an addictive stimulant drug, nicotine. Nicotine is known to cause excitement and intensify your worries to make them seem bigger than they are… which can lead to more anxiety (ref). The physiological effects mean that smoking is making your anxiety worse! Researchers have found consistent evidence that stopping smoking is associated with improvements in depression, anxiety, stress, psychological quality of life, and positive feelings compared with continuing smoking (read more).

Secondly there’s the nicotine withdrawal. Quitting cigarettes can be a very stressful process, particularly due to the nicotine being one of the most addictive substances there is. Common symptoms include: cravings for nicotine, restlessness and difficulty sleeping, irritability, anger, anxiety, depressed mood and even getting cold like symptoms, constipation and mouth ulcers (www.quit.org.au). But once you’re through the tough part, and it’s tougher for some than others, you’re done. You’ve got a better chance of reducing your anxiety and depressive mood once you’ve quit.

Thirdly there’s the global impact of the tobacco industry. The top 3 producers of tobacco are China, Brazil and India (www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au). Massive amounts of land is deforested each year to make way for tobacco farms (4% of annual global deforestation, www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au). Pesticides and chemicals are used to maximise crop success but leach out into nearby waterways. Child labour is commonly used on farms in developing nations. And that’s all before the issue of butt littering and fires caused from tossed, lit butts. Cigarette butts are the most common item found in beach cleans ups, globally.

If you’re a smoker, there’s no time like the present to quit, for your health and the health of the planet. Hypnosis and NLP have tried and tested techniques to help you quit the cigs today. If you’re keen to quit and feel like you may need some help feel free to contact Brad.

Anxiety doesn’t discriminate

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In all my years of training and coaching there’s one thing that consistently stands out. Mental health issues: acute ones like anxiety, or chronic ones like depression, can hit anyone. They don’t discriminate.

I’ve seen all ages, all genders, rich and poor, executives, CEOs, teachers and tradies debilitated by mental ill health. Anxiety is one issue that crops up far more than most. And it’s no surprise really. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the western world. In any one year 2 million Australians experience anxiety disorders (Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing). In the US it affects around 40 million people per year. And based on current trends that number is set to rise.  

Sadly many people are too embarrassed to open up about their anxiety, keeping it to themselves, seeing it as a weakness or something that they need to carry alone, especially if they are successful. They’re worried about what their employer, employees, family, peers would think if they opened up about their anxiety or other mental health issues. And in its place they carry around a very heavy burden that is likely to be significantly impacting upon their quality of life.

I recently had a client, a truck driver who was as Aussie as they come, who opened up to me about his life long anxiety. He’d been carrying this around forever and now, coming into middle age, the weight was beginning to get too much. I had not spoken to him for very long, building rapport quickly to enable him to have trust in my ability to help him. It was a sad story. This big tough sounding truckie had suffered from anxiety since he was 3 years old. His mother constantly threatened to suicide, which as a child is pretty much the most frightening thing that could happen, other than actually losing your mum. You can imagine then that his school life was affected and his learning abilities sabotaged as he disassociated from normal life, totally stressed out about his home life. In turn, with poor learning outcomes and poor self confidence his employment opportunities became limited, and as a result, he struggled financially. This train wreck started for him before he was barely conscious and caused by something out of his control. Anxiety had become a part of him and for the most part he had learned how to live with its debilitating impacts. Until now.

He threw himself into work and worked 13 hours a day 6 – 7 days a week. His hard work led him to promotions that he would reject due to the anxiety of change and being able to do something different.  His own treatment was to self medicate with cigarettes and alcohol often dealing with the anxiety by drinking heavily at night. On the outside he appeared to be stoic and and strong. He looked as though he had it all together. He helped others. But on the inside he was a mess. Women were drawn to his kind nature but he would push them away with the feeling that that he was not equipped to be a husband or family man. He left a trail of broken relationships in his wake. 

Sadly this is not a unique story. It’s highly likely that if you’re reading this post, you are suffering from anxiety and may even have a similar, sad story.

The upside is that anxiety, life long held or recently started, is treatable. And pretty quickly. Since acquiring the training and skills to be able to help people in this area over 10 years ago, I have dealt with my own chronic anxiety. I still get stressed out but anxiety doesn’t take over and cloud my ability to function as it had done for the better part of my young life.

With anxiety rates rising exponentially, where I would say we are experiencing an epidemic, I’m determined to help as many people as I can to make anxiety history.

Reclaim your life free of anxiety. Start your journey on making anxiety history today.

Telling your boss about your anxiety – career suicide?

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So you have an anxiety disorder – should you come clean with your boss?

Despite more people than ever before suffering from anxiety disorders, it’s not really openly spoken about particularly in the workplace. I have had highly paid professionals, tradies, surgeons and lawyers tell me how they suffer from acute anxiety yet they  manage to mask it and carry on despite feeling like they can’t function, somehow they manage to still be able to.

The effort required to mask a mental illness can be enormously taxing and leave you feeling utterly depleted, on top of the exhaustion from fighting the mental health issue itself. Mental health issues such as anxiety disorders can be totally debilitating at times yet life doesn’t necessarily stop and wait. Bills still need to be paid, studies still need to be completed, children still need to be looked after. If you are working, a timetable not of your own making must be adhered to, to try and stop the wheels from completely falling off. And for all of that you need to present a self that appears to be functional, to ‘pretend’ that you are fine.

The most common thing I hear is that with a physical injury it’s easy, it can be seen. Any illness of the body presents some kind of symptom that can be seen and measured. But when the mind is unwell most are blind to it, except you.

At a recent workshop I learned that in Australia absenteeism from anxiety disorders cost the business community $2,500 per person per day. That’s not including lost productivity. Considering anxiety is one of the more easily managed mental health issues, not addressing it in the workplace seems to be a lost opportunity for employers. With the right tools in place both employer and employee can benefit from having their anxiety disorders out in the open within the workplace.

I heard a speaker at a workshop the other day say that ‘you can hide everything behind a smile’ when speaking about how his close mates didn’t even know he suffered from bipolar depression. And sadly he hadn’t known about his own father’s battle with mental illness over many years. After years of trying to hide his mental ill health he had been coming clean to his employers for some time, with great success. Not only had employers been receptive to his openness but his work colleagues were more than sympathetic, creating the space and flexibility to meet his varying and unpredictable needs. Although his story may sound like he struck it lucky with a very supportive employer, it’s actually not as rare as you might think.

But there may be barriers, perceived or real, about coming out about your anxiety to your boss:

  1. Weakness – the idea that because you suffer from anxiety you are fragile, weak or that you can’t handle it and therefore are not fully equipped to carry out your duties. This may be the case at peak times of ill health but that’s not all the time.
  2. Unreliable – when and where the anxiety takes its grip is unpredictable and therefore you can’t be relied upon to deliver or contribute when required.
  3. That you’ll be ostracised for being different or sub-standard. Many who suffer from mental ill health feel lonely and isolated thinking they are alone in their suffering, but the real story is that it is more common than ever before. It’s highly likely that a peer, colleague or even your boss could be unwell also.

Mindfulness and employee well being has climbed up companies’ priority list; to improve retention and avoid IP or skills loss. The relief you will feel by sharing your burden with your employer could enable you to be your true self at your workplace and provide you the support and flexibility you need to get you back to optimal health. The only way is up.

Anxiety about being a perfectionist

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Do you suffer from Anxiety due to your desire to be perfect? Is being a perfectionist causing you to not get things done which just leads to more anxiety?

The other day I was working with a client in a coaching session that had completed 10 blog posts on her LinkedIn profile that by all accounts was great content yet she was not comfortable publishing them as she wanted them to be perfect. The questions I asked to find out if this was warranted were as follows:

  • Have you had someone check them for spelling and grammar errors (one of my own personal issues)? The answer was yes.
  • Do you think that the content is of value? The answer was that she had a friend read over them who was in the industry that the content was intended for and her friend said it was very good.
  • So my next question was, if the content is good and will be of value to people that read it and you think it will help your business how do you sleep at night by NOT giving the information to those who will benefit from it? This was a bit of shift for her so as that question was working its way to an answer I asked her “are you a perfectionist?” She smiled and said “well yes I do believe I am”. It was at this point I rolled out my favourite line with our perfectionist.

“If you don’t put it out there how will you ever improve so you can get to perfect?”

You see by not letting yourself get feedback to improve you will never be perfect. Accomplishment and success are a process. You need to not be afraid to put yourself out there in order to improve. As a perfectionist you have to get feedback in order to be perfect (I would suggest that perfection is a worthy goal but shouldn’t be an obstruction), so by not publishing the articles you are not being a perfectionist.

What was interesting was that the real problem becomes apparent and that was that she had anxiety about what people might think so she wanted it to be perfect, however this was stopping her from putting her articles out for people to read and therefore get feedback and clients.

What is 100% for sure is that by holding back on tasks from being complete you are going to have more spinning plates and this burns up your energy and resources leading to anxiety.

So what do you do about this double bind, catch 22 about putting “it” out to get feedback vs being perfect? Well here are some steps.

  • Have someone who will be honest to give you feedback
  • Embrace feedback in whatever form to improve yourself
  • Understand that feedback is nothing personal, its feedback
  • When you are given feedback be it in person or via no response at all, say thank you!

This will enable you to adapt to improve. My last point is that in order to get to your destination quickly, whatever that destination is you need to take action. Taking action is not thinking, writing it down or talking about it. Taking action is doing something that is tangible, tactile and real. This creates completion towards feedback to improve. Now if you have anxiety about improving then get really specific with the thinking, take baby steps forward, they might be small however they are small steps.

One of the tasking options I give all my clients now is a 3-month task of setting daily goals towards their 3-month goal, whatever goal that is. This helps them get really specific on a daily basis. It also forces them to focus on what they want to achieve on a daily basis.

This eliminates anxiety, creates movement and taking action on the task in the future.

I suggest you do the same, set a 12-month, 9-month, 6-month, and 3-month goal in one context –  be it relationship, health and fitness or career and then set daily goals towards that 3 month goal; little action steps that move you towards the 3 month goal.

Now one way of making it real is to have someone hold you accountable, so if you are up for the challenge write your 3-month goal in the comments and like the Facebook post (link) here and we can all hold each other accountable.

What did I do with my client that was procrastinating on her LinkedIn blog post articles? I had her log in to her account and post one live! That’s taking action. Watching her fear dissipate at the time it went live was very interesting: “now that was not so bad was it?”

PTSD – Post Trump Stress Disorder

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Yep, the completely unexpected happened. Donald Trump, an openly divisive, openly racist, openly misogynistic, self-confessed sexual assaulter, climate denier and blatantly hostile candidate is now the President Elect of the United States of America.

Irrespective of your politics and just looking at the man himself, his values and his behavior, you’ve got to question where people are at to have enabled such a thing to happen. What has happened that has brought such an apparently immoral and potentially criminal character with questionable financial records to such a position as to lead a super power?

In the days following the election it has become apparent that Americans supported Trump as a protest vote; to air their grievances at a system or establishment that they feel has failed them. A king hitter from that very establishment is who they chose. It didn’t matter that he’s corrupt, a failed business person, a groper, a spreader of hate and division. It’s a pretty diabolical thing to do given what’s at stake.

I’m not sure about you but my FB feed has been in free fall since. The one thing that’s common is that there are many, many reasonable people all around the world who are now filled with a deep sense of dread and anxiety about what this means, not just for the US but for the world. And that anxiety feels very real for many. My wife was in a deep state of angst. She knows what he’ll do for the environment and climate change, and the subsequent impacts that will have on all of us, human and non-human.

So I wanted to share something that she found on her FB feed from her network and that helped her.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ has a call to action for herself at deeply challenging moments. And that call to action to herself is asking the question: ‘Who do I want to be in this situation?’

In a world that feels as though it’s lost its marbles (think Brexit, Syria, climate change to name a few) it’s easy to feel a sense of hopelessness, angst, depression, and even anger. But this doesn’t serve anyone, least of all you. Yes, crazy, horrible things are happening all over the place, but plugging your emotions wholeheartedly into those horrific things is not going to change the outcome, once done. That’s not to say you can’t feel emotions; of course you will, if you’re anyone other than Trump (and other psychopaths) you are going to feel emotionally affected about horrible things. That’s what normal human beings do. But you need not let it affect you to the point that you can’t function effectively. Being energetically depleted can exacerbate your feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and if not addressed, can lead to physical ill health. You need to feel empowered at challenging times so you can feel as though what you do matters, no matter how small or trivial.

The one thing you CAN control in out of control situations is how you want to respond to it.

This is simple but not easy.

Think of all those babies and children being killed and injured in Syria. Think about what’s happening to species around the world, being wiped out for human profit and greed. Think about people close to you, or maybe even you, going through ill health and potentially terminal illnesses. Think of Trump taking over the Western world. These are big, horrible, devastating things. But you can still choose how you are going to respond to them.

This is actually one of the things I focus on in my trainings and coaching. What Elizabeth Gilbert is suggesting is being at cause rather than at the effect. Are you at cause of what’s happening to you in response to a situation or are you letting yourself be at the effect of what’s happening? When I say ‘letting yourself’ I’m not saying it as a weakness. A lot of this happens at a deeper conscious level. It’s about how you habitually respond to difficult or challenging situations. Do you blame others or do you accept responsibility for what has happened and empower yourself to carry on?

In response to Trump’s win, Elizabeth Gilbert & her partner switched off all devices, lit candles, meditated to gain clarity of what was happening and consciously asked themselves who they wanted to be in this situation. As was their usual response (yours may well be different) they wanted to be: calm, strong, open-hearted, curious, generous, humorous and patient in response to this challenging situation. They chose the same response to a terminal cancer result in Elizabeth’s partner. It doesn’t get more challenging or distressing than that, yet they still chose who they wanted to be in that situation, which undoubtedly made the situation more tolerable, given the circumstances. 

To be human is to be a flawed and emotional creature. You will get plugged in to what’s happening around you but when it all gets too much ask yourself ‘who do I want to be in this situation?’. Take back control over your emotional response. It will make all the difference to you, and everyone around you.

And as for Post Trump Stress Disorder, take comfort that more of the world are feeling what you’re feeling than you can possibly imagine. Now it’s about projecting the person you’re deciding to be in this situation.


Overcoming anxiety – can a medical doctor do it naturally?

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Anxiety has hit epidemic levels within Western societies, and it’s indiscriminate in who succumbs to its effects. Young, old, male, female, CEO, secretary, teacher, doctor. For a number of reasons our world is full with more stuff to do and things to keep us extremely busy. Not to mention that our own expectations that we set are often high enough to make us feel less self worth than we need to do. On a day by day basis, more than ever before, we are in need of tools to enable us to overcome anxiety. No wonder so many people are looking for techniques for overcoming anxiety.

Over the last few months I have been privileged to work with a few really great clients that had come to me with anxiety as their major issue. Each of these clients had different symptoms and each was very different in how they reacted to it. But the common thread was that if left unchecked, the impacts of their anxiety was on track to ruining their lives.

Over the next 3 weeks I am going to go over the sessions that I completed with them and give you some insight into how we achieved the results we did.

This week I am going to talk about a doctor, that had finally finished all his training to be a qualified surgeon, only to be overcome with a strong level of anxiety. His anxiety was to the point that he had physical effects of dizziness and shaking. Imagine if your surgeon had shaking hands? He would find it hard to eat breakfast in the morning and would have to deal with high levels of anxiety as he was driving to work. This in turn was affecting other areas of his life. His wife was worried about him and his father could see that he was on a path that was not anywhere close to what he had planned.

At this point the doctor began to doubt his ability to be a great surgeon. In contrast once he started operating he did a great job, with no anxiety, and was fine. After the day of operations he was reflective and wondered what the fuss was all about, only to do the same behavior the following day. One particular day of the week was the worst; the one with the greatest number of operations booked.

Once he decided to come and see me for a breakthrough session we started working on his pre-session tasking. Here he was able to reduce his anxiety from an 8 or 9 out of 10 with physical symptoms, to a 2 or 3 with no physical symptoms. He had completed 30 days of tasking before he got on a flight to Sydney to see me over two days.

My first mission was to find the trigger and look for any secondary gain. For example, he felt he was made to be a doctor by his family, (they are all doctors),  and now that he has achieved that is he looking for a way to not be a doctor? Or was there a traumatic event that had happened that has left him with anxiety? Or was it just that he had been studying for over 15 years and now that he is qualified and does not have the expectation and plan for the future being his study, that he has an idle mind and is just bored and thinking about what can go wrong more than what can go right?

What I found is that he did like being a surgeon and he was very happy to be qualified. I did find his strategy of how he did the anxiety; I was able to map it out. I was able to find the connections of emotions and how they worked with the anxiety.

What was good about this particular client was that we were able to pinpoint the exact time that the anxiety started. This was a breakthrough in the session as I had content to work with that would enable me to remove the fear on this event and in turn dial down the anxiety in the future.

His first job as a newly certified doctor/surgeon was to go and visit all the medical doctors in the area to promote his services. This was a massive thing to do. Effectively it was like doing door to door sales selling his services. As you can appreciate that is not something medical school would cover – “ OK in this class we’re going to cover the 5 step sales process to selling yourself”. I would imagine that would not be a lesson at med school! Surely you do all those years to become a surgeon so when you finish you go and be a surgeon. The business side of things was not a consideration and not his strong point, understandably.

It was during this time that he spent a lot of time in the car driving around talking to doctors that were not overly welcoming. Some were but many doctors had built their own relationships with specialist surgeons and gave, what he felt, a cold reception.

It was in the car on the way home he had his first anxiety attack. Bingo we had a significant emotional to deal with.

Once I had this we set up our outcomes from the session. We had two:

One was to think of a long operating list and be free of anxiety;

The other was to be able to have breakfast and a coffee in the morning as he had his appetite back. These two outcomes would be our evidence procedure.

At this stage I elicited his values in the context of career and we worked out if his values are motivated by away from what he wants, or towards what he wants. As predicted he was mostly motivated away from what he wants.

This is also my guide in the process to see if I had made the necessary changes, as we would compare this at the end of the session.

Once this was all completed we started the intervention starting with removing the negative emotions from anger through to guilt. Funnily enough fear was the emotion I was expecting to be the big game changer but it turned out to be guilt.

Considering he was a doctor I was thinking that I may have a hard time getting the concept of active imagination and the mind body connection and how a process taking 10 – 15min could complexly change his life and his thinking. Quite the contrary; he was super good at it! As with anything having investment in the process makes a key difference.

Over two days we put all his goals in a positive towards fashion, built up some resilience to the old triggers, and I even completed some hypnosis with him to tie everything up. He was very impressed and shocked by how powerful hypnosis was.

He achieved his results as per the evidence procedure. As we tested it he was unable to feel anything except excitement and confidence as he thought about his future operating lists.

We then gave him some tasking and sent him home to achieve some goals. He, by his own measure, was 98% better but still had some reservation that the anxiety would come back. I reminded him to focus on what he wants and to keep on task with his goals.

Now this is an intelligent man, he should be in charge of his thinking but what he did was allow that 2% to reach 10% and that 10% to reach 30%. We had a few calls on the phone and further confirmed that he was much, much better than before, but he was still putting himself into a negative state.

You see ultimately it’s up to the client to follow the instructions (that they’ve had input into to) and if he chooses not to then he gets the results he gets. Once this was made clear we had another few phone calls and did some short coaching and set up a task that he will do to enable him to focus on what he wants in the context of being a great surgeon. This task was to document every surgery operation process that he does in a way that makes it go well. And every time he performs that surgery to go over his notes and improve them.

The good news is that he did have an incident during surgery with a patient and something did go wrong as is expected in this kind of surgery. He was able to be cool, calm and calculated in his response to the issue, and solved it without it becoming a life threatening issue for the client. Given his track record of anxiety if he had not have been able to be in charge of his thinking I am sure the outcome would have been different.

What tools have you used to overcome anxiety? Does someone close to you suffer from anxiety and you don’t know how you can help? I’m keen to hear your experiences so feel free to express them in the comments section below.