Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

Dealing with Fear and Anxiety is a common area of my psychology and coaching work throughout the North East of England ( Newcastle, Northumberland, Carlisle ) and the Borders of Scotland.

I’m sure we can all remember a time when we felt anxious, and anxiety stops many people from doing things they really want to.

Many people say to me that their performance breaks down because of anxiety.  An appropriate amount of anxiety is useful and is necessary for ‘optimum arousal’.  However, when anxiety builds beyond this threshold it can significantly inhibit our performance.

Anxiety itself is not an emotion.  It is a state of over arousal of the autonomous nervous system caused by emotion.  When this arousal reaches a certain threshold the ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered.  Again, this is an unconscious process over which we have little conscious control.

In a brain scan, this shows up as over activity with the left side of the brain.  One way to tackle this ‘in the real world’ is to give the brain so much to do that it cannot concentrate on ‘being anxious’.  However, we all know that when we’re anxious it’s hard to concentrate on anything else, so the distraction is best if it is simple, yet changes and increases our brain activity unconsciously.

Because our hands and fingers are so complex, a great deal of brain power is engaged in using them.  So, any activity using both of our hands (to engage both left and right sides of the brain) will change our brain processing and make anxiety incompatible.

In simple terms, this means if we throw a ball from one hand to the other, we can reduce our level of anxiety.  If we also move our eyes in a certain way we can de-activate the part of the brain processing ‘anxiety’.

The following exercise will achieve this, and you can either do it yourself or talk someone else through it.  When learning this yourself it’s often easier to have someone talk you through the steps.  Read through it fully first.

If you want to practice this and don’t feel anxious, just remember a time when you were really anxious and imagine it now….

  1. Give the anxiety a score out of 10, where ten if most anxious.
  2. Turn the anxiety up – go on, turn it up to at least 9/10.  How can you get it up to 10/10 or 11/10?
  3. Use an object that’s easy to catch (something like a juggling ball, bean bag etc).
  4. Start throwing the object from one hand to the other.  Keep throwing left to right to left to right at a comfortable speed of about the speed of soldiers marching ‘left, right, left, right’ etc.  Keep going.
  5. Notice what happens to your anxiety.  Now for the advanced….
  6. Stop.  Turn the anxiety back up again.  Then start throwing from left to right to left to right and now carry on with your eyes shut.  Keep going and notice what happens to the state?  And for the really advanced….
  7. Stop.  Turn the anxiety back up again.  Then start throwing from left to right again and now look up as high as you can.  Keep going and notice what happens to your state.

The great thing about this method is that it really works anywhere you are.  You might find it useful to practice with different objects.  Have you ever noticed cricketers throwing a ball from one hand to the other before they bowl, or how some presenters toss a pen marker from hand to hand?

To develop your skills in this area, or if you’d like to permanently tackle the cause of your anxiety contact Kim for further information.

Email kim@performingexcellence.co.uk

Telephone 07980 127832

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One Response to Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

  1. Symptoms Symptoms May 11, 2010 at 2:22 pm #

    Last summer/fall, I had intermittent inner ear problems and would get vertigo out of nowhere. The last time it happened I was going 70mph in the left lane of a freeway. I got so freaked out it triggered a full-blown panic attack. I had to pull over and call 911. I went to the hospital and was fine, but ever since then, even 8 months later, I get anxiety when I drive on the freeway. Lucky for me, I have to drive that stretch of road on my way to school 4 times a week but it has still been *really* tough.

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