Image of St Ives Harbour illustrating webpage on Anxiety and Panic AttacksCounselling and Hypnotherapy for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Counselling and hypnotherapy are used to help people overcome anxiety and panic attacks.  My aim is to help you learn the skills necessary for reducing anxiety and preventing further recurrences. This will involve:

  • relaxation to reduce chronic tension,
  • techniques to deal with and let go of worrying thoughts and feelings,
  • learning more helpful coping and problem solving strategies, and
  • learning to live with uncertainty.

Please contact me to book an appointment or to find out more.

What is generalised anxiety?

It’s perfectly normal to feel tense, stressed and worried at times.  Stress can even be helpful in certain situations as it can improve your performance or increase your ability to take action. However, anxiety (worrying, feeling stressed or fearful) can become a debilitating and distressing problem. Generalised anxiety involves:

  • Anxiety or worry about several things for prolonged periods of time
  • Anxiety or worry that is excessive and uncontrollable, present most days and interferes with day to day life.

Some of the following symptoms will usually also be present:

  • Feeling restless, nervous, anxious or on edge
  • Feelings of physical tension
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, palpitations, nausea, etc.
  • Poor sleep
  • Feeling tired or exhausted easily
  • Problems concentrating and focusing on a task
  • Feeling easily annoyed or irritable
  • Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen

How many people are affected by anxiety?

About 2% of people develop generalised anxiety at some point in their lives.

What are panic attacks?

Panic attacks cause overwhelming fear and panic.  They can last from a few minutes to hours. Often they happen for no apparent reason.  Whilst panic attacks are quite harmless and treatable, they can feel terrifying.  Symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate, palpitations
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or choking sensations
  • Chest pain or feeling like you are having a heart attack
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling disconnected and distant as if in a dream
  • Sweating, hot flushes or the chills
  • Tingling sensations or numbness
  • Upset stomach

Self-help for anxiety and panic attacks

Some of the self-help suggestions below involve physical activity, therefore, if you have any physical injuries or a history of physical problems, you should consult your doctor before you start on any exercise programme.

Breathing techniques

Breathing techniques can help have a calming effect by slowing your breathing down and reducing your anxiety. Sit upright on a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds (hold your hand flat on your stomach, you should see it rise as you breathe in). Hold your breath for 2 seconds and exhale through your nose for 6 seconds. (Breathe through your mouth if it is difficult to breathe through your nose). If you struggle at first to slow your breathing to the above rate, you could try 3 in, 1 hold and 4 out to begin with. Practice this technique 2 or 3 times a day and it will help you to develop a more relaxed breathing style.

Mental Distraction

Mental distraction can help to take the edge off the symptoms of a panic attack. A simple way of doing this would be to work backwards in your head from 100 deducting 3 each time, e.g. 100, 97, 94… and so on. Alternatively having a small puzzle, one that will fit into a pocket, and requires concentration and manipulation (like those ball and maze games where you have to get the ball into the centre without dropping it down a hole) can help.

Low intensity exercise

Low intensity exercise, such as walking or swimming, have been shown to be of help in reducing anxiety symptoms (NICE).

Chamomile and Ginkgo Biloba

Chamomile and Ginkgo Biloba have been recommended as a treatment in the early stage of generalised anxiety disorder by NICE as a means of preventing progression to drugs treatment.  Look out for the THR (Traditional Herbal Registration) Certification Mark whenever you buy herbal medicinal products.  This means that the product’s production has been regulated and that it is safe, contains no harmful ingredients and the dosage has been verified.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation can help reduce muscle tension that often accompanies anxiety. This technique requires that you tense each muscle group in sequence, holding for 5 seconds, then relaxing for 10 seconds before moving onto the next muscle group. When you tense each muscle group you should feel it but not so much so that it causes pain. This technique works best if you practice it regularly to help you become more aware of where you hold tension in your body and how to release it. The relaxation sequence is:

  1. Right hand and forearm – Make a fist.
  2. Right upper arm – Bend your arm to make a muscle.
  3. Left hand and forearm – Make a fist.
  4. Left upper arm – Bend your arm to make a muscle.
  5. Forehead – Raise your eyebrows as high as you can.
  6. Eyes and cheeks – Squeeze your eyes shut.
  7. Mouth and jaw – Open your mouth as wide as you can.
  8. Neck – Face forward and raise your head to look at the ceiling. Note: Be very careful not to over tense your neck!
  9. Shoulders – Bring your shoulders up to your ears.
  10. Shoulder blades and back – Bring your shoulder blades together as far as you can and push your chest out.
  11. Chest and stomach – Breathe in deeply filling your chest and lungs with air.
  12. Hips and bottom – Tighten your bottom muscles together.
  13. Right upper leg – Tighten your thigh.
  14. Right lower leg – Pull your toes towards you. Beware over tightening your calf muscle and causing cramp.
  15. Right foot – Clench your toes downwards.
  16. Left upper leg – Tighten your thigh.
  17. Left lower leg – Pull your toes towards you. Beware overtightening your calf muscle and causing cramp.
  18. Left foot – Clench your toes downwards.

Visualisation techniques

Visualisation techniques can help to replace frightening fantasies or daydreams that occur during intense anxiety or a panic attack. One visualisation that might help is to think of a time and place when you felt calm and content. Perhaps you were on holiday, visiting a favourite place or just chilling out at home. Next relax, breathe slowly and deeply and bring this image to mind as if you are there now. As you recall this image, what do you notice about yourself and your surroundings? What can you see, hear, taste and smell? What can you physically feel on your skin? Are you warm or cold? Can you feel that sense of contentment and calm? Where do you feel this in your body? Hold this image and feeling for a minute or two. It will help to improve your mood. This technique works best if you practice it regularly so that you can call on it easily when you need help. If you are struggling to remember a pleasant memory you could always make one up, a fantasy will help just as well!