How To Deal With Anxiety

What Is Anxiety?

At Sian Jones CBT one of the questions we are often asked  is how to deal with anxiety.

how to deal with anxiety

Anxiety, concern or worry is a natural response to what someone might view as a stressful situation. However, in some cases, worry can become excessive or chronic and can lead to the sufferer fearing certain everyday situations.

The condition of increasingly persistent anxiety is called ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’. Other anxiety-related disorders include panic attacks (severe episodes of anxiety that occur in response to specific triggers) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which is tireless intrusive thoughts or compulsions to carry out specific behaviours, such as hand washing or checking the door is locked.

Typical anxiety consists of exaggerated worries and an expectation of an unknown situation ending negatively. This is often accompanied by a number of physical symptoms, such as nausea, headaches, palpitations muscle tension and frequent urination. These can differ by individual.

Anxiety can become a problem if it impacts on your ability to live your life as you want to. For example, if:-

  • Your feelings of anxiety are very strong or last for a long time
  • Your fears or worries are out of proportion to the situation
  • You avoid situations that you believe might cause you to feel anxious
  • Your worries feel very distressing or are hard to control

You regularly experience the symptoms of anxiety which could include panic attacks.

  • You find it hard to go about your everyday life or do things you enjoy.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is an anxiety disorder can be potentially be disabling. People suffering with OCD become trapped in a pattern of repetitive, irrational thoughts and behaviours. Left untreated, a severe case of OCD can destroy a person’s ability to function at work or school.

Panic Disorder

A person with panic disorder experiences sudden and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pain, heart palpitations or breathlessness. Those who suffer from panic disorder often develop phobias about places where previous episodes have occurred. They also develop fears about experiences that have set off previous attacks, such as taking a flight.

What Causes Anxiety?

Life Events

People commonly experience their first panic attack during stressful periods in their early or adult life. For example experiencing pressure at home, work, relationships or financial problems, bereavement, or illness, all lead to higher anxiety levels. When people’s anxiety levels are heightened, they are more likely to experience panic attacks.

In reality, it is possible that a combination of these factors play a role in the development of anxiety or panic. However, although it is of some interest, it is perhaps less important to know what causes it and more important to know what stops us dealing with it and moving beyond it.

Evolutionary Reasons

People may develop anxiety because of evolutionary factors. It is argued that evolution may have primed us to develop fears around certain dangerous situations, because of the benefit this would have brought in the past. For example, being in situations where escape is difficult would have posed a threat to people back in primitive times as they could be cornered by predators. Similarly, open spaces would also leave people vulnerable to attack. By having an inbuilt tendency to fear these scenarios, people would be more likely to avoid them and keep safe. In other words, we may be predisposed to become anxious and panicky in certain situations to encourage us to avoid them.

Thinking Styles/Core Beliefs

More often than not, when people experience anxiety, they start to develop a thinking style that lends itself to experiencing symptoms of anxiety or panic. Those who have a tendency to misinterpret symptoms of anxiety and panic as dangerous are more at risk. For example, thinking that anxiety symptoms are the beginning of a heart attack can cause anxiety to rise further until it reaches the point of a panic attack. Similarly, people who believe that they are going to have future panic attacks are actually more likely to do so. This is because they look out for signs that one is occurring and as a result, notice small symptoms of anxiety which they then misinterpret in the way described above. Coupled with this, people develop a thinking style that tells them that they are ‘unable to cope’ with certain situations or the feelings of anxiety or panic.

What Keeps Anxiety Going?


People tend to avoid or run away from situations that they believe will trigger anxiety or a panic attack (e.g. trains, restaurants, public talking the cinema etc.). Although this may be an understandable way of coping, it’s actually one of the main reasons that people find it difficult to overcome anxiety. This is because, by avoiding certain situations, you prevent yourself from having the opportunity to prove that you can actually tolerate the feelings better than you think you can.

Also, the longer you have been afraid of a situation and the more you have avoided it, the more daunting it becomes and therefore increasingly difficult to face. Not only this, when you avoid one particular situation, you may well begin to doubt that you will cope in similar situations and start avoiding more and more. Before long the fear reaches such a level that that your life becomes extremely restricted.

Using Safety Behaviours

Often, the only time that someone experiencing anxiety feels capable of facing their feared situations is when they use – what is known as a ’safety behaviour.’ An example of this might be, only going out if you are with someone you trust (who you think can ‘come to your rescue’ if you panic). Or gripping tightly onto a shopping trolley to reduce the chances of panicking. Basically, a safety behaviour is anything you do to try and make it easier to cope with your fears.

Although using safety behaviours might lead you to believe that you are able to cope with your anxiety or panic, this is only in the short term. In the long term they are particularly unhelpful. This is because, like avoidance, safety behaviours stop you from having the opportunity to prove to yourself that you can cope with your fears, without putting such precautions into place. Instead you might put any success down to other factors such as “I only coped because I had my friend with me” and your fears remain in place. Before long your become reliant on these safety behaviours and avoid going places when you are unable to use them.

Increased Self Awareness:

Another factor that helps keep anxiety going is the tendency to be hyper vigilant. This means that your study your body for any sign of physical changes that may suggest a panic attack is on its way. Although you might do this to try and reassure yourself that everything feels normal, this strategy actually makes things worse. This is because you tend to notice small physical changes that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, such as feeling hot, for example. Once a small change has been noticed, you naturally ‘keep your eye’ on it. However, the more you focus on a change, the more anxious you become and a vicious cycle begins that can lead to a panic attack. Alternatively, if you notice a change due you might try and escape the situation that you believe has triggered it. However again, this strategy is short term and particularly unhelpful in the long terms

You will be able to identify with some of the above perhaps and some not. However, in general it will be a combination of all the above factors that play a role in keeping your anxiety going.

How To Deal With Anxiety

Research demonstrates that the most effective treatments for anxiety use with either counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy to firstly try and understand when or why the anxiety first started. Then to challenge any distorted thinking patterns that underlie the condition and then challenge and change any unhelpful behaviours. This means gradually exposing sufferers to the situations they fear. It is not until people have changed both any unhelpful irrational thought patterns that they will start feeling better for the long term.

Both Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and counselling helps people view the feelings of panic in a different way and demonstrates how this will in fact reduce the anxiety.

If you would like some help with how to deal with anxiety, please contact us at Sian Jones CBT and Counselling today.

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How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Works

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a type of talking therapy that looks at how we think about ourselves, other people and the wider world. This thinking then impacts on how we feel and in turn, affects our behaviour.

Thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all linked. Therefore, if we think negative or upsetting thoughts, we will then feel negative or upset. We are then likely to behave in a way that reinforces those thoughts and strengthens the feelings, becoming a vicious cycle.

With the help of CBT we are able to change this negative pattern to a healthier, more rational way of thinking, feeling and behaving. We do this by understanding and making links between what we think, feel and do which can help us make these changes

CBT claims that it’s not an event in itself which causes our negative emotions, but how we interpret, what we believe or what meaning we give to that event or situation. It doesn’t mean we are to blame for our negative thought patterns but we do have an emotional responsibility, which is good news because this means it possible to change them.

shutterstock_506748991 (1)

Here are some examples:-

Description (fact): Your boss pops his head round your office the door in the morning and asks if you can go and see him at the end of the day.

This can then lead to the following thoughts:-

Interpretation: “My boss has asked to see me at the end of the day … I must have done something wrong”

Inference: “My boss has asked to see me at the end of the day … I must have done something wrong and if I have he might fire me”

Evaluation: “My boss has asked to see me at the end of the day …. I must have done something wrong….he might fire me …. Oh no, if he does my life will be over… and I’ll never get another job!”

 Notice that the only ‘fact’ is that the boss popped his head round your door and said he wanted to see you at the end of the day.  Everything else are thought/interpretations – which are automatic and can happen in a matter of seconds!! Such thoughts often lead to feelings of anxiety and are accompanied by physical sensations such as nervous stomach, feeling hot, sweaty palms. These feelings consequently change our behaviour. We may pace up and down, feel restless and want to go home, or perhaps feel unable to concentrate or become withdrawn.

Strangely when we are actually faced with our worst case scenario we always deal with it. We may not like it, but we do deal with it. What troubles us is the ‘thought’ of it happening, the ‘what if’s’ so we end up having unhelpful, irrational thoughts about something that may not even happen at all.  So we spend all day feeling anxious and only to find that when we do meet our boss at the end of the day he is more than likely going to say “I just want to go through some figures with you”!

When people suffer with any unhelpful, negative emotions like anxiety, depression, anger or jealousy, these thoughts, feeling and behaviours are happening regularly, although we are not always aware of it. It often becomes a habit. All we know is that the negative emotion is troubling us. CBT can help break this down and make changes to bring about a more helpful, rational way of thinking.

It is always helpful to discuss the past and understand how our past experiences has influenced our lives.  CBT will look at this, although generally tends to focus more on the present and future, looking for ways to improve our mental wellbeing now and make positive steps for the future. Making changes in what we think will affect our feelings and the way we behave.

CBT is doesn’t necessarily teach us new things but it reminds us of what we already know.  We already know eating healthily and exercise is good for our bodies but we also need to remember that thinking in a more rational and logical way is good for our mental health.

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How Emotionally Intelligent People Express Anger/Frustration

Anger Woman

Most of us don’t like confrontation and will avoid it where possible. However, it’s a fact of life that we can’t run away from it forever. There are times we have to assert ourselves, our boundaries and our needs and others will want to do the same with us.

There are a vast number of unpleasant ways in which we can express anger and frustration, but it’s guaranteed that they will almost, always be unproductive and ineffective. The unhealthy negative emotion of anger is also exhausting. We might think we feel good during a 60 second rant at another person, but one things for sure, once we have calmed down, we always end up feeling bad about ourselves.

Greater Emotional Intelligence Gets You The Results You Actually Want.

Anger – both direct or passive- is meant to communicate something we deem important. However, it tends to have the opposite effect by driving people away. So when what you really want is to connect and be heard, the end result is often the opposite and you can end up destroying your relationships. Any form of aggression is the biggest obstacle to emotionally intelligent communication.

People often think passive-aggressive communication is somehow better or “nicer” – it’s not. In fact, it might actually be worse. The French have an expression for passive aggression: sous-entendu – which means “what is understood underneath.” In other words, you’re saying one thing (that on the surface sounds quite innocent) but you actually mean something quite different (which can be quite vicious). Unfortunately, passive aggression is what many people resort to.

Research shows that a hostile communication style will drive people away: whether you’re aggressive or passive aggressive, people will react negatively to you. They will feel uncomfortable, they won’t understand what is going on and they’ll want to get away from you.

Here’s What To Do Instead

Take responsibility for how you respond to situations and any feelings they make evoke in you.  When we feel angry, it’s all we can think about. If you are feeling angry, take a breath and think things through. Although you might feel desperate to deliver the reasons behind your frustration, your message will not be delivered effectively. When another person is on the receiving end of an angry outburst, all they hear is anger, not what that person is actually saying.

Understand your negative emotions. Are you really angry? Or are you perhaps hurt or jealous instead and lashing out? Sometimes, we think we’re frustrated with a person or a situation, but the truth is, we’re actually feeling pain or the threat of rejection. It takes courage and honesty to take responsibility for the real reasons behind your negative frustrations.

Are you basing your anger on fact or interpretation? It’s easy to jump to conclusions based on feeling surrounding what we believe something to be rather than what is actually is. There’s a useful saying ‘just because we feel bad doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad’. Take the time to find out if your interpretation of a situation that frustrates you is factually true. Or has someone unwittingly fallen short of your expectations/moral code and you’re misplacing blame?  Remember, they are your expectations only and it’s too easy to blame somebody else for how we feel.

Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Focusing on why you’re angry or frustrated keeps you focused on yourself. Research shows that negative emotions make us self-centred, which means there is no room for another person’s perspective, because you’re so locked in your own view of things. Putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes enables you to think through why the other person might be saying a certain thing or acting a certain way. Instead instantly confronting them, just ask them with why they said what they said or did what they did, so you know their exact intentions. The vast majority of people don’t go out of their way to purposefully anger or hurt someone. Sometimes it happens accidentally, but more often than not, the reasons behind someone else’s actions, are about them only, and not about anyone else. By taking the time to understand, without immediately attributing blame, goes a long way in easing any negative emotions you might be experiencing.

Demonstrate compassion. When you take the time to understand another person’s point of view instead of immediately assuming the worst, you are actually inviting effective communication. You are showing respect and consideration for another person’s right to think, feel and act in a certain way. This is important in any communication with other people, but it is especially important in our romantic relationships, because it will develop a deeper relationship based on understanding, respect, compassion and empathy. If you approach someone with aggression; they will feel defensive and angry in return. On the other hand, if you approach the other person with respect and are prepared to listen to their perspective, then they will be more prepared to hear yours in return.

Communicate Skilfully. Share your perspective by using the word “I” and talking about how you feel. Try never to start a conversation with ‘you make me feel’ because in general that come across as a criticism of the other person. However, don’t just talk about your perspective, ask the other person to share their perspective and engage with it sincerely. Show interest in their view and where there are difference and explore together how you can come to a compromise going forward.


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Steps To Help You Stop Worrying About Things You Cant Change

If you struggle with persistent anxiety, it is likely that excessive worrying is partly to blame. Although you may sometimes feel worrying is beneficial in that it protects us from being unprepared or caught off guard, for a vast majority of people it causes more problems than it solves. There are a number of ways cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help reduce excessive worry. One way is through evaluating the worry, to determine whether it is productive or unproductive.

There’s a hard truth in life that some people refuse to accept: We have no control over many of the things that happen in your life and some people who resist this truth are in danger of become control freaks. They micromanage, refuse to delegate tasks and try to force other people to change. They think if they can gain enough control over other people and the situations they find themselves in, they can prevent ‘bad’ things from happening. Although they often don’t think through properly what this ‘bad’ thing actually is.

Some people know they can’t prevent things they don’t want to happen happening, but they worry about them anyway. They fret about everything from natural disasters to deadly diseases. Their worries keep them occupied, but ultimately they waste their time and energy, because worrying doesn’t change anything.

If you find yourself wasting time worrying about things you can’t control, here are five things that can help

Look at what you are able to control.

When you find yourself worrying, take some time to look at the things you do have control over. You can’t prevent a storm from coming, but you can prepare for it. You can’t control how someone else behaves, but you can control how you react to it.

Learn to recognise that, sometimes, all you can control is your response. When you put your energy into the things you can control, you’ll be much more effective

Focus on what you can influence.

You can suggest things to people and influence circumstances but you can’t demand that things to go your way. For example; you can give your child the tools they need to do well in their exams and encourage them to revise but you can’t make them pass. Or you can plan a good party, but you can’t make people have fun.

To have the most influence, you can only focus on changing your behaviour. You can be a good role model and set healthy boundaries for yourself. When you have concerns about someone else’s actions, share your opinion, but only share it once. There is no point in trying to ‘fix’ people who don’t want to be fixed because the only person who gets upset when your expectations are not met, is you.

Identify your fears.

Have a long, hard think and be honest with yourself as to what you are really afraid will happen? Are you predicting a catastrophic outcome? Do you doubt your ability to cope with disappointment if things don’t go your way? Usually, our worst-case scenario doesn’t happen. However, if it does, you will of course deal with it, you just won’t necessarily like it. There’s a good chance you are stronger than you think.

Sometimes people are so busy thinking things such as “I mustn’t lose my job” that they don’t take the time to ask themselves “well what would I do if I did?” People avoid thinking their worst case right through to the end, but by doing this, and acknowledging that you will handle it can help get things in to perspective.

Differentiate between ruminating and problem-solving.

Replaying conversations in your head or imagining catastrophic outcomes over and over again isn’t helpful. But solving a problem is.

Ask yourself whether your thinking is productive. If you are actively solving a problem, such as trying to find ways to increase your chances of success, keep working on solutions.

If, however, you’re wasting your time ruminating, then it’s time to channel your thoughts to become more productive Acknowledge that your thoughts aren’t helpful is a step in the right direction.

shutterstock_156860534Learn to think rationally rather than irrationally.

By changing our thought process and what we tell ourselves can help keep us in check. When you find yourself thinking and catastrophising about something you have no control over then it is unhelpful. Telling yourself “people have to think that I my presentation is good at work tomorrow or it will be terrible!” is irrational – because it doesn’t change the fact that people might not like it. However, if you talk to yourself in a more helpful, rational way, such as “I would prefer it if everyone liked my presentation and it will be disappointing if they don’t, however I will of course deal with it” Then it will help you from stop wasting your energy on things you can’t control.

There are several questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your worry which should give you a better idea whether the worry is helpful or just background noise that only serves to increase your anxiety:

1) What is your worst case scenario in this situation?

2) How many times before has your worst case scenario actually happened?

3) What steps can you take to reduce any like hood that the worst case might happen?

4) What is your best case scenario in this situation?

5) What is the most likely scenario in this situation?

6) List all other possible scenarios/outcomes in this situation? How would you respond/behave?

7) If your worst case scenario was to happen – how would you deal with it? Visualise this in your mind. How would you respond/behave?

8) Is it productive worrying about this? Is it going to change the outcome?




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Tired of Feeling Angry?


Most of us have experienced anger at some point in our life; it’s a common emotion and it can range from irritability through to rage. CBT suggests that anger is an ‘unhealthy negative emotion’ and there is no room for it in our lives – ever. This is because, in general, anger is based on what are called irrational (not fact based) beliefs – that life is unfair and/or someone has violated our internal beliefs about how we think someone ‘should’ or ‘should not’ behave.

Anger can be serious and can have a detrimental effect on your mental and physical health and of the mental and physical health of those around you.

As a result of thinking that we have been unfairly treated/disrespected or that others have broken our moral rules, principals, standards or expectations, we then fall into a ‘catastrophising’ trap where we angrily claim that we can’t or won’t tolerate it! This unhelpful way of thinking leads to anger, which in turn stimulates the body’s adrenaline response resulting in us behaving in (or getting the urge to behave) in a threatening or aggressive manner.

There are often three major MUSTs involved when we feel the emotion of anger:-

  • I have do well, be perfect, outstanding and I have to win the approval of others otherwise it will be awful. I can’t stand it if I am no good and have to always be faultless and people have to think I am right all the time!
  • Other people should do the right things or be a certain way and they should lead their lives according to my principals and beliefs. They should treat me well and be kind and considerate at all times otherwise they are horrible and no good.
  • Life must be easy, without discomfort or inconvenience. I must not have any hassle or else it will be unbearable and unfair.

Expressing Anger

Anger is expressed in different ways. It can be acted out immediately by shouting, throwing or breaking things and more seriously it can result in physical violence. Different people express their anger in different ways. Some suppress their anger and then act in a passive aggressive manner by sulking, withdrawing, being obstructive, giving dirty looks, ignoring someone, manipulating people or situations, withholding information and making excuses.  A person who behaves in this way might not always show that they are angry, but underneath they are.

At other times anger is suppressed and then released in an aggressive burst. This can feel an instant relief but in the long term this is destructive and can lead to other emotional problems.

The Anger Cycle

Some people tend to become angry easily (a “short fuse”) and some have problems controlling their anger. Anger has consequence which often involves hurting other people, usually their feelings, but sometimes physically.  After an angry outburst, we often think very critically of ourselves and our actions, leading us to feel guilt and shame which might result in our withdrawing from others, not wanting to do anything

How CBT Can Help

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) takes the view, that there are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to a situation – which is determined the meaning we attach to it. If we have a tendency to view a situation in a negative, unhelpful way, based on interpretation rather than fact, then it can lead to negative emotions; such as anger.

CBT suggests that it’s not about like or dislike/positive or negative, it’s about rational. CBT doesn’t suggest that you need to ‘like’ it when someone does or says something that you don’t happen to agree with, it just helps you to take responsibility for the reaction to your thoughts and respond more rationally to it. CBT argues that because we are human, at times we are going to feel ‘annoyed’ but anger is a pointless, destructive, unhelpful behaviour which destroys our own lives and the lives of the people around us.

So if you need help with Anger Management – Contact Sian Jones CBT today.Anger-(3)

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Jealousy & Insecurity

Lack of confidence

  No one enjoys feeling jealous or insecure, even though jealousy is an emotion that almost all of us will experience at one point or another. The problem with jealousy isn’t that it comes up from time to time, it’s when we don’t get hold of it.  It can be frightening to experience what happens […]

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Seasonal Effective Disorder (SAD)

Once we get into January and February, it can seem awhile since we felt some warm sunshine.  We are in the depths of winter and the spring time and summer holidays can seem a long way off. We still have a little while before the spring equinox, when the clocks go forward and the days begin to get a bit longer. Although we can have those lovely crisp winter days when the sun shines and there is a blanket of frost, the UK can have many of those grey days that linger on and on and we barely see the sun for weeks on end.

Many people find that they suffer with SAD (seasonal effective disorder) particularly at this time of year.

What is SAD?

Sad can feel like depressive illness. It is thought to be most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter. This can affects levels of hormones (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite.

Symptoms of SAD are wide ranging and can include feelings of feeling ‘down’ or depressed, lack of energy, problems with concentration, anxiety, loss of libido, relationship problems and sudden mood changes.

You may feel you need to speak with your GP who can give you the best advice, but he following information may also be helpful to you:-

There are many simple things you can try that may help improve your feelings, these include taking walks out in the natural light when you can, making your home as light and airy as possible. Taking regular exercise can often lift your mood, along with a healthy balanced diet.

Talk to your family and friends about SAD, so they understand how your mood changes during the winter. This can help them to be more supportive and understanding.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

If you decide to seek out counselling a form of therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can also help.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) takes the view, that there are helpful and unhelpful ways of reacting to a situation – which is determined the meaning we attach to it. If we have a tendency to view a situation in a negative, unhelpful way, based on interpretation rather than fact, then it can lead to negative emotions such as depression or SAD.

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mindfulnessThe ABC of mindfulness

A is for awareness – Becoming more aware of what you are thinking and doing – what’s going on in your mind and body.

B is for “just Being” with your experience.  Avoiding the tendency to respond on auto-pilot and feed problems by creating your own story.

C is for seeing things and responding more wisely.  By creating a gap between the experience and our reaction to, we can make wiser choices.


It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing.

Some people call this awareness ‘mindfulness’ and you can take steps to develop it in your own life. Good mental wellbeing means feeling good about life and yourself and being able to get on with life in the way you want.

You may think about wellbeing in terms of what you have: your income, home or car, or your job perhaps.  However, evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on wellbeing.

Becoming more aware of the present moment means noticing the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that you experience, as well as the thoughts and feelings that occur from one moment to the next.

Mindfulness, sometimes also called “present-centeredness”, can help us enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better.

An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.

Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment.

Awareness of this kind doesn’t start by trying to change or ‘fix’ anything. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.

How mindfulness can help

Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.

When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh many things in the world around us that we have been taking for granted.

Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.

This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.

Most of us have issues that we find hard to let go and mindfulness can help us deal with them more productively. We can ask: ‘Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?”

Awareness of this kind also helps us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and helps us deal with them better.

How you can be mindful

Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness.

Even as we go about our daily lives, we can find new ways of waking up to the world around us. We can notice the sensations of things, the food we eat, the air moving past the body as we walk. All this may sound very small, but it has huge power to interrupt the ‘autopilot’ mode we often engage day to day, and to give us new perspectives on life.

It can be helpful to pick a time – the morning journey to work or a walk at lunchtime – during which you decide to be aware of the sensations created by the world around you. Trying new things, such as sitting in a different seat in meetings or going somewhere new for lunch, can also help you notice the world in a new way.

Similarly, notice the busyness of your mind. Just observe your own thoughts, stand back and watch them floating past, like leaves on a stream. There is no need to try to change the thoughts, or argue with them, or judge them: just observe. This takes practice. It’s about putting the mind in a different mode, in which we see each thought as simply another mental event and not an objective reality that has control over us.

You can practice this anywhere, but it can be especially helpful to take a mindful approach if you realise that, for several minutes, you have been “trapped” in reliving past problems or thinking about potential future worries/problems.

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Anxiety Super Scanner

Anxiety Super Scanners

Each of us has an inbuilt ‘super-scanner’ which is programmed to look for certain signals and the sensitivity of our scanner can vary from person to person.

For example, some people are able to sleep through anything – partners snoring, trains speeding by and thunderstorms. Yet those same people; just after they’ve had a baby can be woken by the slightest sniffle. Some of us appear to have an inbuilt scanner that keeps us alert to certain signals, even when we’re sleeping. It’s constantly scanning for the signal, then triggering the body’s alarm system which wakes us up, even from the deepest sleep, to attend to the baby for example.

Someone who worries about being burgled might have a super-scanner which is set to be highly sensitive to noises that are different from those we normally hear at night. A knocking sound will have them instantly awake, alert and anxious. Upon investigation, they might realise it was a twig tapping against the window, the anxiety subsides – and they can go back to sleep reassured they’re safe.

Our own super-scanners are very personal to us, our thinking style of thinking and any problems we might have. Someone who is feeling depressed is likely to notice only the negative or bad things that happen, or interpret ordinary or positive events in a negative way. Their negative or gloomy super-scanner is working overtime so that they only notice the negative or bad stuff.

Someone who gets anxious in social situations might have a super-scanner that is constantly trying to read situations and people. Looking for a look, a tone of voice, something someone says or does. Trying to interpret what others are thinking or ‘really’ thinking and it is usually a criticism of us despite what they say.  This mind-reading super-scanner is so highly sensitive that it creates meaning where there is none or gives an inaccurate meaning because we cannot know what others think.

If we’re worried about our health, then the super-scanner might be constantly on, scanning for body sensations, which we might then interpret as meaning we’re seriously ill.

If we suffer from panic attacks, then the super-scanner is going to be alert for those physical sensations (e.g. racing heart beat) which we believe indicates we’re in immediate mortal danger!

If we’ve experienced a trauma in the past, then maybe our super-scanner would be scanning for any reminders of that trauma – something we see, hear, smell – anything that reminds us. The scanner then then triggers a distressing flashback.

Someone with low self-esteem might have a super-scanner that works continuously to find situations or triggers which cause us to think critically about ourselves.

Maybe your super-scanner is continuously scanning for something else. Understanding what your own personal super-scanner is doing, will help you understand what is keeping your problem going now.

Once your super-scanner is triggered, your focus of attention is right there. Your scanner and your thoughts react to the scanner zoom into the foreground of your attention, and everything else fades into the background.

We can learn to notice the highly-sensitive super-scanner, and turn the sensitivity dial down. It can be a useful mechanism so we don’t want to turn it off completely, but we can improve our ability to interpret the readings accurately, and adjust the way we react to the scanner.

Notice the scanner:  “Here is that super-scanner again!”

  • Readjust the sensitivity dial: “Okay, the scanner is noticing ������� and that is triggering these unhelpful thoughts and anxiety.”
  • There’s no need to fight the thoughts, you can notice them, accept them and let them pass.
  • Change your focus of attention:
  • Move on – do and/or think about something else.


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About Sian

Sian is a professional and qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist with two practises in Kent. She will work with you to help overcome your issues in a relaxed and comfortable environment.

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