Mind Healing – Conquering Anxieties
Anxiety is like fire. When under control it is essential to modern living, powering our society and heating our homes. When it runs out of control it can, like fire, damage or destroy anything and everything in its path. Anxiety is a natural response which can and does help us survive in the face of physical threats. By triggering the primitive fight or flee response we are able to do with a greater chance of success.
Anxiety often arises in situations where we want and need to stay calm and clear headed – a job interview or promotions board, an exam or test, a first date or when faced by a bullying boss. We know we should stay calm, focused and confident. But that’s pretty hard to do when the your mouth has gone dry, your stomach is churning, your heart racing, you feel sick and giddy, find yourself blushing and sweating or fear-fainting. Suddenly your body is out of control and your mind has gone blank. What on earth is happening and why?
Essentially what is happening is that a primitive mechanism has been triggered in the face of what the emotional regions of your brain perceive as a threat to survival. If you really were faced with a life or death situation where fighting, fleeing or freezing were the only available options then this response could indeed help save your life. Because one can easily and quickly learn to become anxious in situations where there is no genuine threat to survival, a response that evolved to save your life can help to ruin it. The key points to remember are these:
Anxiety – no matter how intense and disabling – is not an illness but an association you have learned. You cannot be ‘cured’ of your anxious feelings any more than you can be ‘cured’ of speaking your native language.
The good news is that you can learn ways of bringing those intense feelings, quickly and effectively, back under your control.
Slow, deep, breathing makes one relaxed while faster, shallower breathing increase anxiety. In this video, I help a young client relaxed deeply merely by showing her how to change the rate and depth of her breathing.
Learning to relax is a valuable skill that requires only a small amount of practice to master. It involves focusing on each major muscle group in turn and, quietly but surely, removing unnecessary tensions.
Relaxing with Biofeedback
Researchers have found people can learn to alter bodily functions once thought to be beyond our conscious control. The best way to do this is by means of equipment known as bio-feed back. One type of device, as shown in The Relaxing Breathe video, measures what is going on below our level of awareness and ‘feeds back’ this information to enable us to learn how to bring these subconscious processes under conscious control. Called Electro-Dermal Response (EDR) biofeedback, the device works by monitoring the body’s resistance to a small electric current passing through the skin. As people become more anxious, sweat gland activity increased and the current flows more easily. As they relax, resistance increases and the current impeded.
Model Train Biofeedback
To create a playful way of using EDR biofeedback, I invented a model train controlled by the person’s physical responses. The more relaxed an individual becomes, the faster the train moves around the track. As anxiety increases, the train first slows and then stops. Watch as an anxious client learns to control a model train through relaxation.
Hand Warming Biofeedback
As people relax, the temperature of their hands rises due to increased blood flow. Stress, tension or anxiety reduce blood flow and the hands cool.
This is part of the primitive Fight – Flight survival response in the face of threat. In preparation for vigorous action involved in either fighting or fleeing, the body need to direct blood away from the skin to the muscles. By deliberately warming your hands you will redirect the blow flow away from the deep muscles and so become more relaxed.
Brain Wave Biofeedback
One can also use equipment that measures electrical patterns in the brain. These changes significantly from a relaxed and calm state to an agitated or anxious one.
As with the EDR controlled train shown shown above, I have developed a model train in an executive brief case which is controlled by electrical impulses in the brain. Contacts are firs placed on the individual’s head to record these impulses of ‘brain waves’ using a device known as an EEG.
The more mentally and physically relaxed an individual becomes, the more Alpha waves are produced.
For an American TV programme, I demonstrate the power of controlling alpha waves with the help of a young Buddhist monk. By placing himself in a high Alpha state he is able to push a 4-ton SUV using a spear with the point against his throat.
This type of neurofeedback can be used in other ways as well. When helping children with HDHD for example.
Biofeedback Training for ADHD
I have used EEG controlled video games to help children diagnosed with ADHD learn to reduce impulsivity and enhance powers of concentration. Research suggests that while it is not successful in all cases, bio-feedback works well in around 40% of them. For the Channel 4 TV programme Embarrassing Bodies, I demonstrated the differences between the brain waves of a teenager diagnosed with ADHD and boy of the same age without this diagnoses. The game was also played by presenter Dr Christian.
Using Biofeedback for Yourself
Various types of bio-feedback can be found and purchased from the Internet. I can also supply three different types of EDR biofeedback.