How to Reduce and Control Your Anxiety

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Cutting through the Worry Knot!

How to Reduce and Control Your Anxiety Level:

Using a whole body-brain-mind approach

And without using drugs, alcohol or escapism!

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By Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne

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The Institute for E-CENT Publications: 2020

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Copyright © Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne, 2020.

Published by: The Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy, 27 Wood End, Keighley Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8HJ, UK

Telephone: 01422 843 629

Promoted by the ABC Bookstore Online UK. Distributed by Amazon outlets.

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Foreword

By Dr Jim Byrne

Preamble

Front cover 2Many people live lives which are tied up in knots of worry, anxiety, fear, apprehension and dread.  They can hardly remember what it was like to feel relaxed, happy and at ease.  This book will teach you how to cut through these kinds of emotional knots, from various angles, one at a time, to produce a state of greatly improved relaxation and ease.

This book will show you how to tackle one thing at a time; one aspect of your anxiety problem(s) at a time; so you do not become overloaded or overwhelmed.

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We have all heard of a ‘Gordian knot’, which is a very difficult or intractable problem.  Many of our problems consist of getting ourselves tied up in knots, trying to avoid the unavoidable difficulties of life.  We also tend to tie ourselves in knots trying to avoid the necessity to take responsibility for our own lives. And we weave some knotty, tangled webs when we fail to be scrupulously honest with ourselves.  (But, of course, our early childhood, which is normally something of a nightmare, tends to throw us into a tangle of knots, which are not of our own making!)Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)

And all of this tangling and knotting goes on as we sleepwalk through our lives.  The important thing is to wake up, and to address the knots in our emotions, and to begin to untangle them, one by one.

Most people would agree that anxiety is a state of feeling fear, fright, alarm, or intense worry[1].  It is an intense emotion, which pains us in a way which is comparable to a physical pain.  It is not easy to ignore or brush off.  It can tighten our breathing, and make us tremble and become clammy. We often feel we are out of control, and in great danger.

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Front cover 2Anxiety is not a disease; not a mental illness. Anxiety – at its best – is part of our normal, innate, mental signalling system which tells us what is happening to us, and what to do about it.  That is to say, it is part of our emotional wiring. Our emotional intelligence.  (For an official definition of anxiety, please see this endnote)[2]. But – at its worst – anxiety, in the body-brain-mind of an individual human being, often proves to be a complex knot of non-conscious self-mismanagement!

Trying to get rid of anxiety with drugs is like hanging two overcoats and a duvet over your burglar alarm bell when it goes off.  The burglar alarm is designed to give you helpful information, which you can then use to guide your action. Should you check to see if a burglar has got into your house? Or call the police? Or realize that you’ve mismanaged your alarm system, producing a false alarm, and that you should therefore switch it off?

Getting rid of the alarm signal, by dampening it down, defeats the whole object of having it in the first place!

Once you understand anxiety correctly, it becomes as useful as a burglar alarm; and you can learn how to manage it correctly.  (It’s just the exaggerated knotting of strands of anxiety, worry and stress that you need to cut through!)

When you buy a burglar alarm, it comes with a little Instruction Book about how to set it; calibrate it; monitor it; reset it; and switch it on and off.Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)

You should have got just such an Instruction Book about your anxiety alarm, from your parents, when you were very young – and some people did.  But if your alarm goes off at all times of day and night, in unhelpful ways, then I guess you were one of the unlucky ones who did not get your Instruction Book.  This current book contains your Instruction Book, plus lots of other backup information, which will help to make you the master of your anxiety, instead of its quaking slave.

Don’t let your burglar alarm make your life a misery. Learn how to use it properly!  (Learn how to cut the inappropriately alarming connections that do not serve you well).

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Front cover 2Just when we thought the state of the economy was the biggest threat to our survival, along came the coronavirus (or Covid-19) pandemic.  So now, many people are extremely anxious about the possibility of serious illness or death; if not of themselves, then at least of some close relative who is weak or vulnerable.

And some elements of the mass media love to whip up this kind of fear.

But even as the virus spreads, it is perfectly possible for any of us to become more anxious about the loss of income, or our small business, or an online presentation we have to do, next week, to an important customer; or a letter we have to write to our bank, to sort out an overdraft to cope with the loss of income due to the lock-down.  And some of us may pick up a whisper that our job is on the line, and then Covid-19 disappears into the shadows, as this new anxiety emerges.

That’s how we are about threats and dangers.  Our body-brain-mind automatically focusses attention upon an apparent threat or danger, and our alarm bell begin to ring, loud and shrill, causing us to quake and quiver. And it is not just humans that are wired up like this.  All animals are wired up by nature (with nerves and hormones) to feel anxiety, which causes us to flee (or freeze) when we sense the arrival of a predator, or some other threat or danger which we sense we cannot defeat. (If we sense that we can defeat the threat, we are more likely to respond with anger!)Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)

However, we cannot flee from Coronavirus; or from the challenge of making a presentation in work or business, or in college, etc.; or from the insecurity of the ‘free market’ economic system which was introduced by Thatcher and Reagan.  But we can learn to manage these and others threats and dangers, if we know how our nervous system works.

So what can you do when faced with a gut-wrenching fear of some threat or danger?  How can you cope?

Firstly, if you wait until a threat or danger manifests itself, you have no choice but to respond with your habitual level of anxiety.  You are a creature of habit, and whatever you did before, you will do it again, and again; until you take action to change how you are wired up (in your central nervous system, which means in your body-brain-mind).

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Front cover 2Secondly, you need to understand:

– How to manage your lifestyle in order to develop a central nervous system which is calm, relaxed, and not overly-sensitive to low-level threats and dangers;

– How to manage your philosophy of life (or your set of values, attitudes and beliefs) so that you have realistic expectations of life; and a self-soothing attitude when dealing with adversities, like threats and dangers.

And, thirdly, you need to:

– Understand which aspect of your anti-anxiety programme you need to prioritize – because you can only work on one aspect at a time (which means one chapter of this book at a time);

– Understand how to change bad, anxiety-inducing lifestyle habits into good habits (as described in Appendix F, below);

– Then make a commitment to change the most important thing that needs changing: (sleep; relaxation; exercise; diet; or philosophy of life);

– And take action by reading the relevant chapter of this book, and implementing your learning.Jim.Nata.Couples.pg.jpg.w300h245 (1)

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In Chapter 1, I will present a small amount of essential theoretical background on current ways of understanding anxiety; and I’ll go into more detail about how to reduce and control it.

I will also introduce you to a quick and easy summary of some of the key actions you can take to begin, immediately, in small, manageable steps, to reduce and control your stress and anxiety level.  By the end of Chapter 1 you will be very well equipped to begin the process of getting your anxiety under conscious control.

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Hebden Bridge, April 2020

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Contents

Foreword……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. v

Chapter 1: Current, popular ways of understanding anxiety…………………………………. 1

Chapter 2: What is anxiety, and how can we quickly and easily control it?…………. 13

Chapter 3: Nine ways to re-frame threats and dangers to reduce their impact…….. 31

Chapter 4: Jacobson´s Progressive Muscle Relaxation, for anxiety problems………. 49

Chapter 5: Dr Jim´s Stress and Anxiety Diet…………………………………………………………. 75

Chapter 6: Sleep and anxiety………………………………………………………………………………. 91

Chapter 7: Physical exercise for anxiety reduction…………………………………………….. 115

Chapter 8: Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………….. 121

References…………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 123

Appendix A: How to practise anti-anxiety breathing…………………………………………. 141

Appendix B: More on nutrition and emotions…………………………………………………… 145

Appendix C: Meditation as anti-anxiety practice………………………………………………. 193

Appendix D: Three strategies to control anxiety and worry……………………………….. 201

Appendix E: Journal writing exercises to calm your body and mind…………………… 211

Appendix F: How to change habits related to anxiety……………………………………….. 231

Appendix G: How to understand and manage your emotions: specifically anxiety 247

Books by the Institute for E-CENT Publications…………………………………………………… 257

Endnotes…………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 265

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[1] Freeman, D. and Freeman, J. (2012) Anxiety: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Page 4.

[2] Defining anxiety: “Anxiety is a feeling of unease, like a worry or fear, which can be mild or severe. Everyone feels anxious from time to time and it usually passes once the situation is over.

“It can make our heart race, we might feel sweaty, shaky or short of breath. Anxiety can also cause changes in our behaviour, such as becoming overly careful or avoiding things that trigger anxiety.

“When anxiety becomes a problem, our worries can be out of proportion with relatively harmless situations. It can feel more intense or overwhelming, and interfere with our everyday lives and relationships.” Source:
https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/anxiety. Accessed on 28th March 2020.

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Get your paperback copy today, from one of the following Amazon outlets:

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Jim and the Buddha, 2That’s all for now.

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