If you are suffering from anxiety it's very important to know you are not alone. At present 40% of disability worldwide is due to depression and anxiety and according to the most recent Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, there are three million people in the UK with some form of anxiety disorder.

A little bit of anxiety can be beneficial, increasing one's motivation and drive. The problem arises when the anxiety is either too intense or prolonged. In this case, the anxiety becomes debilitating as it starts to interfere with a person's daily life and routine.

Anxiety can affect the whole body. Symptoms may include panic attacks, a tight chest, joint pains, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite and a whole host of other indications.

Modern society does much to increase our levels of stress of anxiety and it's easy to see why it has reached epic proportions. Our fight or flight responses are being constantly activated. We are no longer running from the tiger or bear we may have encountered in our natural environment but instead, an angry boss, competitive colleague or debt collector has taken its place and what makes it worse is that most of the time we can't run. Instead, all the different stresses from all the different areas in our lives accumulate and play havoc on our bodies. Many people simply switch off and become numb as a coping mechanism. This might help in the short run but feelings can never really be repressed or suppressed without repercussions. Your emotions do not want to be silenced, they want to be acknowledged. And if you don't acknowledge them you'll find that your body will create new ways to get your attention. You might start to have nightmares or headaches, you might suddenly come down with a bad case of the flu in which case you are forced to stop and heal. Your feelings are messengers. Your body is simply telling you that it's not happy with where it's at and a change is needed.

Hypnotherapy can help by increasing your self-awareness and letting you get in touch with these feelings. Once a person gets past their defence mechanisms it's easier to regress to the point at where the anxiety started or to simply understand what it is that triggers the stress. Once you face your fear of being fearful you will find you are much calmer. Much like when a stammerer uses paradoxical advertising, acknowledging and admitting he/she has a stammer in front of another person will put him/her at ease because they are no longer fighting against themselves.

By visualising and tapping into what calm feels like to you, you can learn to anchor into those feelings of safety when you need to and start to desensitise yourself to those particular situations that you once found overwhelming. A lot of the time we are overreacting to a situation. By questioning your inner critic, you can break free from the negative thought processes you had running in your mind. Realising why it is that you have that voice, noticing that it had a purpose - to keep you safe - and thanking it for doing so, but deciding that those outdated ways of being are no longer working for you and that you're now ready for change.

Focus is vital. If you spend all your time focusing on your symptoms of stress you will get more stress. If you acknowledge it, change or accept the circumstance that are causing you stress and then make an effort to focus externally by remaining in the present you will notice an instant drop in your anxiety levels. The mind struggles to hold two feelings at the same time. You can't be relaxed and nervous, it's either one or the other.

Further reading

Meet the therapist: Natasha Kelly

Can hypnotherapy cure my IBS?

Anxiety: when does normal emotion become a problem?

Hypnotherapy for body-focused repetitive behaviours

Can hypnotherapy cure my phobias?