No learn about anxiety resources would be complete without looking at emotional resilience. The word comes from ‘resili’ – the Latin word for ‘spring back’ – it’s the process of adapting in the face of adversity.
Think of anxiety a bit like a see-saw with ‘perceived’ ability to cope on one end and demands on the other. When demands are lower that ability to cope, we are OK, when the demands are bigger than our perceived ability to cope, we have a problem, we can learn to be less anxious.
Ego strengthening and emotional resilience are about improving ability to cope. We all use scales of 1 to 10, if our ability is say a grade 4 and a grade 6 problem comes up, we can struggle, if the ability is a 9, then the grade 6 problem is easily handled.
This resilience can be cultivated. The more we learn about anxiety, the more tools we have to cope.
The first step is Realism, being realistic about a situation, for example one of the difficulties with depression is that people often attach inappropriate meaning to events. If a depressed person telephones a friend and they don’t ring back, they might think ’my friend doesn’t like me’ when the actual reason may be that they didn’t even get the message.
Next we look at establishing a goal that we can work towards, a favourable outcome. Now here hypnosis can really help with what we call ‘future pacing’. We all know that hypnosis can help us look back at past problems by regressing. The other side of that coin is looking forward which is equally (if not more) powerful.
Self-discipline is important, abandoning those ‘crutch activities’ that feel safe and familiar. It might be drink or drugs or avoidance. Ego strengthening techniques can really help with this process.
Cultivating wider interests helps because it gives us different versions of ourselves. Think of all the energy an anxious person uses just being anxious, once they are less anxious they have a surplus or energy and time to spend, space to ‘grow into’.
Re-framing is seeing something through a different frame and really important if you want to learn about anxiety. Say you suffer an ankle injury; you may well be focusing on how it stops you doing what you want to do. If you’re a soldier on the front line of a war zone, a simple ankle injury might mean rest and relaxation away from stress and danger.
Here’s a great re-frame that goes directly to the next in our list – Identity. It’s easy to concentrate on all our difficulties and things that have gone wrong. Look though at the old saying ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. That’s re-framing from victim to survivor, think of all the strengths you’ve built up in those hard times!
Flexibility is also key, changing change, making change into opportunity rather than threat. Flexibility is vital for surviving life’s storms, if you bend with the storm winds, you don’t break.
Hypnosis, mindfulness and meditation can all help to moderate outbursts and reinforce neural pathways. Think of your mind like a cornfield for this one. The old outdated negative patterns of thought are like well-trodden paths in the corn, easy to tread again and again. By treading down new paths of positive neural pathways in the corn, like the old ones, they get flatter and flatter, and easier to tread.
A strong social network is good for emotional resilience; reach out in times of difficulty. Today, we live more and more isolated lives, often secure in the belief that Facebook friends mean we’re well supported. Look for support in times of difficulty; seek out therapy if you need to.
For control, look to Victor Frankl, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Moving your locus of control internally rather than externally can make a big difference.
Finally, test the changes, keep a journal and monitor your progress, learn about anxiety with free resources posted on this blog, after all this isn’t work, it’s your life’s work!