I attended my very first counselling session last night for the treatment and hopefully recovery of my anxiety and panic. It is based on a self referral made by myself though the NHS. I’ve waited to start for about 6 weeks, which I feel is a pretty long time, however the amount of people suffering with this, by the amount that attended, is highlighted with the length of time for the courses to begin. They are very popular and free, so I cannot complain.
I am to attend the next 6 or 7 sessions, and I feel it would be a good idea to give an overview of what’s covered so it can support my readers, if they feel the need for advice. Or it may encourage ones to attend something similar. I will post each section of the program on a Thursday following the previous Wednesday evening, and I will share the information with you.
After the initial telephone conversation by counsellors, I was given 3 options for treatment. No 1 would be a 1-1 program of 6 sessions based on 1 thing that was of a concern to me. No 2 was attending with a group of people in the same boat and No 3 was reading information as a course on-line. I chose the group one because I felt that meeting people would be encouraging, which it was. I have met 3 new friends that all in their own way feel the same as me. We have exchanged numbers so that we can support each other; so that’s the beauty of joining a group
Controlling Your Body
The group session was not (and if it was, I would have ran a mile) sitting in a circle introducing ourselves and talking about our problems. It was a room with seats all facing forward watching a couple of counsellors giving talks and showing power points. There was audience participation for asking questions, but no obligation. It was a relaxed and calm atmosphere. The first part centred on ways to control the body by exercise. The speaker pointed out the ways the body, when under stress and anxiety, activates the stress response which creates the ‘Fight or Flight’ reaction. When we see danger our bodies react by sweating, having a faster heart rate, chest pains, tense muscles etc. These responses are beneficial to us, and prepare us from danger, but when it occurs for no reason these symptoms create panic and fear in someone that suffers with anxiety. They cannot control the panic and feel far worse. This is me I’m afraid. Certain things can trigger these feelings and I have panic and anxiety attacks.
Part of the therapy is controlling the body so that the ‘fight or flight’ response isn’t perceived by the anxious persons’ body as a threat. The first skill to use is Exercise Therapy. Exercise is good for us as we all know, and having a regular 30 minutes at least of exercise once a day has been proven to help fight stress, but it has to be regular. You don’t have to get the lycra gear out either. It can be any exercise that is considered moderate, such as a brisk walk.
Other sports you can do are: gym, jogging, swimming, golf, football, badminton or attending a class for yoga or aerobics. Youtube videos are good for this too. It was mentioned that many people haven’t the time for keeping fit this way, so trying to do some at home is a good idea. Gardening, skipping, cleaning, jogging on the spot, walking the dog, taking the stairs, getting off the bus a stop earlier; anything to get rid of the excess adrenaline in our bodies.
There are many hormones that are released in the body because of anxiety, that when built up, can make us feel poorly. When we exercise the feel good hormones ‘Endorphins’ such as serotonin are released which make us feel good. Makes sense doesn’t it?
The 2nd part of the therapy was based on learning deep relaxation. Progressive Muscular Relaxation or PMR, teaches you how to relax your mind and body. You first become aware of the way stress affects the body, and how muscles tense because of it. Once you are aware of it, you can use this audio to get rid of it, (the link just above) It takes time to pick up apparently, but once learned and practised, it becomes second nature and you can do it anywhere.
It should be played every day if possible, and by listening to the deep relaxation audio, about 20 minutes, you will learn how to relax your muscles. You will become aware of the difference between tension and relaxation.
Most people find their concentration wanders for the first few weeks, but relaxation will come naturally. It’s good to lie on the bed or a sofa and try not to become distracted, which is common for people with stress. It’s about clearing your mind for at least 20 minutes a day, and letting the audio guide you to feel fully calm. After a while, you’ll notice there are other relaxation audios on the website that you can access. The next one advised is the rapid relaxation that is based on the same concept, but obviously learning to relax at a faster pace. Once learned, this skill can be used anywhere for quick relaxation if you happen to find yourself in a stressful situation.
I hope these 2 techniques help, and next week I will share the next instalment based on challenging negative thoughts x