If you hang out on our website long enough, you will know that I used to be a professional trumpet player. In high school, I knew that I needed to get into a good music school to have a chance at making it professionally. I had the resources to apply to only 3 schools. These schools were among the best music schools in the country.
They were only accepting 3-4 freshman trumpet players into each program. What didn’t make it any easier is that hundreds of players were auditioning for these limited openings. I had to travel to each school for an audition. 98% of the admissions decisions were based on playing ability only. It didn’t matter what I had on my resume or what my grades were. All that mattered was how I played on my 3 audition days. The direction of my life and whether or not I achieved my dreams would be based on those 3 audition days. How to help anxiety is what I figured out.
As you might imagine, I had quite a bit of anxiety about applying to these schools. What if I got rejected to all of them? What if I ended up working fast food instead of going to college? What if I had bad auditions? What if I was too nervous at the auditions to play well? Thoughts like these loomed large in my mind as the audition days approached. I started to have trouble sleeping. I got cold sweats, shakiness, and other physical symptoms of anxiety. Unfortunately, anxiety is something that many of us live with everyday. Like anything else, anxiety can be reduced with the right attitude, and the right strategies.
I finally did a few things that helped me control my anxiety about auditioning. I think they will work for you too, but first, let’s talk a little more about anxiety.
What is anxiety?
According to Merriam-Webster, anxiety is defined as apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness over an impending or anticipated ill. In my opinion, the most important words in this definition are impending and anticipated. Both words imply a future circumstance that has not yet happened. Yet, we are choosing to react to it in advance.
That’s like saying that you’re going to go ahead and start feeling bad now, so that if anything negative happens later, you will be prepared! In my case, I decided to start feeling bad about getting rejected to music school before I ever auditioned. It sounds a little ridiculous when you say it like that, doesn’t it? Yet, that’s what anxiety is – feeling bad about the future before it happens. Why do we do it? Well, like anything else, it’s a habit that has been conditioned over time. You can learn to reverse this habit and I’ll show you how to do that shortly.
Two types of anxiety – acute and chronic
Not all anxiety is bad. In certain situations, anxiety can even be helpful. The human nervous system is designed to be “revved up” for short periods of time in response to stressful situations. At these times, the nervous system is running in overdrive, and you experience the symptoms of anxiety. This is known as acute anxiety. Once the situation has passed, however, the nervous system should balance itself back out. However, when a person’s nervous system runs in “overdrive” for a prolonged period of time, they lose the ability to switch it off. At this point, a person is said that have chronic anxiety.
Ways to reduce anxiety/How to help anxiety
Do you remember when you were a child and you thought there was a monster under the bed? The more you thought about it, the more afraid you became. You used your imagination to build up this monster until it was so real, and so scary, that you cried out for mom or dad. That’s how anxiety works. You build up negative expectations in your mind until they become overwhelming.
The best treatment for anxiety is self-treatment. Here are some things you can do on your own to make a profound difference in reducing anxiety.
How to help anxiety method #1 – Stop focusing on anxiety and live in the present
The more you focus on your anxiety, the worse it becomes. It’s like the monster under the bed getting scarier the more you thought about it. Some people are so conditioned to focus on their anxiety that they are anxious about being anxious!
The first step in dealing with anxiety is to get your mind to slow down. To do this, stop thinking about, talking about, or otherwise focusing on your anxiety. Practice slowing your mind down with some sort of mindfulness practice. Self-hypnosis, meditation, and other mindfulness practices (such as focusing on your breathing) are all ways to do this. Look for more information about self-hypnosis at the end of this article.
How to help anxiety method #2 – Face your fears
I once had a dream that, in my opinion, was the perfect metaphor for anxiety. In the dream, I was running from a monster who was absolutely terrifying! For whatever reason, I decided to reach back and grab the monster’s head. When I did, it ripped off easily because his head was made out of paper. Apparently, the “monster” was nothing more than a piece of paper artwork. I woke up laughing at how ridiculous it was that such a scary monster could be made of paper.
The dream reminded me to face life head on. Face your problems and deal with what you are afraid of directly. Just like the monster in my dream, your fear is much worse than the thing you are afraid of.
Start a list of things you are anxious about. For each situation, write down action steps most likely to contribute to a positive outcome. Here are some examples: Are you anxious about your relationship? Start an open dialog with your partner to voice your concerns. Worried your new job won’t work out? Talk to your boss and ask for feedback. Can’t stop thinking about what you’re worried about? Do some meditation to calm your mind.
See how this works? The more you focus on your anxiety, the more anxious you become. The more you focus on solutions and take action, the more confident you become. Anxiety is caused by thinking that a negative outcome will happen. But, when you take action to make a positive outcome more likely, anxiety is reduced.
How to help anxiety method #3 – Use your imagination to control your anxiety
How to help anxiety can come down to the power of visualization. Visualization works because the mind knows no difference between what’s real and what’s vividly imagined. Try this exercise to feel less anxious:
Close your eyes. Think about what you’re worried about. Take about 1-2 minutes and visualize each of the following.
- The worst possible outcome for the situation you are worried about. See yourself handling whatever happens to the best of your ability. Does this remind you of a difficulty you successfully overcame in the past?
- The best possible outcome.
- A “middle ground” outcome. Something that isn’t perfect, but an overall positive result and something you learn from.
Good. How do you feel now? Is the worst possible outcome really that bad? Could you deal with it if you had to? Of course you could!
How to help anxiety – Focusing on realistic outcomes
It’s important to realize that, in real life, the absolute best and worst outcomes rarely actually happen. Usually the middle ground outcome is what you will experience. Do you think you would feel less anxious if you reminded yourself that the worst is unlikely to happen?
Even if the worst DOES happen, it doesn’t matter. The feeling of anxiety comes from thinking that you are unable to deal with an unpleasant outcome. But, when you visualize yourself experiencing that negative outcome AND dealing with it successfully, you will feel less anxious. You will also feel more confident. By doing this exercise, you are seeing yourself as a person who can deal with whatever happens. And the type of person who successfully deals with life situations will not be anxious.
How to help anxiety method #4 – The super simple swish
The NLP Swish pattern is designed to abruptly shift your point of focus, pushing your mind in a new direction. Doing so changes your feelings for the better. Try this:
- Think about something that you’re looking forward to. Fill in the details, make it vivid and rich.
- Now think about something your anxious about
- Now think about the thing you are looking forward to. Fill in some more details.
- Switch between the two images multiple times. Keep going back and forth until the feeling of fear/anxiety dissipates.
Hypnosis: an effective tool for how to help anxiety
Most people treat the physical symptoms of anxiety with medication. However, the physical symptoms are NOT the problem. Where do you think those symptoms come from? Everything about the body’s physiology is governed by the mind. That’s because the sub-conscious, or deep mind, controls the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS). Certain thoughts running at the subconscious level are producing the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Hypnosis is great tool for how to help anxiety. That’s because through hypnosis, you can figure out what’s going on in your mind and change it. When you eliminate the anxious thoughts, you eliminate the anxiety.
When anxiety is beyond hypnosis
Whether or not hypnosis can help with anxiety is a matter of your general function in life. If you experience chronic anxiety, yet remain functional for the most part, hypnosis can certainly help. By functional, I mean that you might have occasional panic attacks, or even chronic anxiety, but you are still able to function at home, work, or school.
When anxiety results in an inability to function in a major area of life, or you have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, you need help beyond hypnosis. At this point, anxiety has become a serious mental health issue, and must be treated by a licensed mental health provider.
Coming to terms with my anxiety
Back when I was auditioning for music schools, I finally came to terms with my anxiety. Here’s how I did it: First, I stopped telling people how anxious I was. I took about 10 minutes a day to focus on my breathing and calm my mind.
Finally, I focused on the possible outcomes. The worst outcome was that I got rejected to all 3 schools. If that happened, I decided I would take a year off from school, work a part-time job, and re-audition the next year. I didn’t want that to happen, but if it did, I could handle it. The best outcome was if I got accepted at all three schools and had my choice of which one to attend. Finally, the middle outcome was getting accepted to some of the schools, but not all of them. I felt like I could also handle this if it happened.
So what really happened? It was the middle outcome. I didn’t get accepted at all of the schools, but the ones I did get accepted to were fine schools. I eventually chose Eastman School of Music, and I credit this school for helping to prepare me for playing professionally.
Coming to terms with YOUR anxiety
Try the 4 techniques in this article and I’m sure that you will feel less anxious and more confident. Also, if you are interested in using self-hypnosis to reduce anxiety, we have a complete course for only $10. Call us at 469-458-0187 and we’ll mail it out to you! Or, schedule a Mind Power Experience and get it for free.
Article by Sean Maness