There’s a big difference between feeling anxious and having an anxiety disorder. Everybody feels anxious occasionally: it’s a perfectly normal emotion. Exams, interviews, new work challenges are examples of things that make us all anxious. However, for someone with an anxiety disorder, regular everyday life feels overwhelming.
If you think you have an anxiety disorder, you’re not alone. The Mental Health Foundation reports that in 2013, there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK. It’s reassuring to know that you’re not unusual and that there are tried-and-tested means to help you manage anxiety.
One of the ways that solution focused hypnotherapy can help you is by emptying out your “stress bucket”.
What is a stress bucket?
The stress bucket is a helpful analogy that describes the effects of anxiety. Imagine you have a bucket, and every time something causes you to feel anxious or stressed, a beaker of water is poured in. Tiredness, family issues, work problems, money worries…all the negative thoughts, over-thinking, and fearing the worst will happen… in they all go. And of course, as the stressors build up, the bucket starts to get very full.
We’re all individuals, so we all have our own different buckets. Your stress bucket can take days, months or years to fill up, and it can easily overflow…!
What happens as our stress buckets begin to fill?
To understand more about the stress bucket, let’s put it down for just a moment and look at our brains.
In some ways, we are closer to our primitive ancestors than we think. Our minds have an intellectual, rational evolved part, and the primitive original part. The latter is what we can refer to as the “emotional, primitive’ part of our brain which we share with our ancestors, and this controls our fight-or-flight response. This developed to keep us alert to potential dangers and when our flight or fight response has become too sensitised, we can feel as if we are on hyper-vigilant mode, where we are expecting something to go wrong at any moment and fearing the worst. The primitive/emotional mind is the source of anxiety, anger and depression. If the rational side is temporarily unable to take over and make sense of any fears or worries we have, anxiety builds – and our stress bucket builds up.
A filled bucket needs to be emptied. Good sleep can be very helpful for this. At night, when we enter the REM (rapid eye movement) phase of sleep, our brain is attempting to use up any unspent adrenalin in the body by completing events, emotions and suppressed emotions in our dreams. In this way events get filed away as a narrative which we then have more control over. This overnight process helps to empty the stress bucket.
However, REM sleep is only limited to about 20% of our sleep. If the brain tries to overdo this, we are woken up in the middle of the night, this can explain why some people have disturbed sleep patterns. Therefore, when we have a full stress bucket, the brain isn’t able to empty it with REM sleep alone. Sleep difficulties are a common anxiety symptom.
But – buckets can always be emptied! Just because it’s not emptying automatically at the moment, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done…
How can I empty my stress bucket?
We’ve talked about REM sleep as an essential bucket emptying tool – nature’s siphon, if you like. However, if you have anxiety, it’s likely that sleep doesn’t come as easily to you as it could. It’s always worth trying some simple sleep routines that help improve your sleeping habits.
Unwind before you try to sleep: no social media, work, or frenetic films. The old fashioned remedies of a relaxing bath, a warm drink, and a good book can all help you feel calm before bedtime. Caffeine, alcohol and rich food late at night prevent deep sleep, so avoid all these (and smokers find it harder to fall asleep than non-smokers). Make sure your bedroom is a sleepy haven: no kids, no pets, no bright lights, no telly, and kept at a comfortable temperature.
Make time for you, and doing the things you love to do. Sometimes we get so busy with our hectic lives these pastimes take a back seat, but self-care is important. Sometimes, it can be helpful to peer into your stress bucket to find coping strategies. Can you identify the stress factors and come up with some solutions?
Solution focused hypnotherapy can help empty the stress bucket
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy reduces the levels in the stress bucket through mixed methods, we combine hypnosis with psychotherapy to produce a less anxious mindset. Solution focused hypnotherapy concentrates on the future, helping you to come up with creative solutions to help yourself. Hypnosis creates a contrived trance state, in this state, we can start to replace those anxious feelings with positive thoughts.
I’m Debbie Daltrey, the founder of Great Minds Clinic and an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist . My clinics are in Timperley, Altrincham, and Manchester City Centre. If you need some help to empty your stress bucket, please call me for a confidential chat.