Are you struggling with anxiety?

Struggling with anxiety can be an isolating, unpleasant and debilitating experience. Is it any wonder that the people suffering will try to avoid it?

The problem is this avoidance can stoke the power of anxiety so how can we tackle this increasingly prevalent condition?

This very short article seeks to explore some of the thinking styles that keep the vicious cogs of anxiety going.

The biochemistry associated with anxiety prepares us for the fight, flight or freeze response.

The part of the brain responsible for this could be thought of as an on-board smoke alarm, constantly on the lookout for threats to our survival. It keeps us safe by activating the sympathetic nervous system which enables us to fight or flee. Of course in more primitive times we may have faced threats to our survival on a daily basis and may well have needed to run away from a predator, fight others for our food or automatically become frozen so that we were in less pain whilst being devoured! But what sends these systems into overdrive these days?  

Life experiences, thinking styles and a predisposition all have a part to play.

Unhelpful Thinking Styles:

Unhelpful thinking styles can trigger the survival brain into action and once activated the thinking brain struggles to take control it may become difficult to remember things or challenge our negative thinking. It is easy to see  how this becomes a vicious cycle.

Something bad is going to happen!

If we  regularly overestimate the likelihood of bad things happening to us perhaps based on past experience, this pattern of thinking becomes ingrained. Our internal smoke alarm  may well feel under threat all of the time!

Worrying keeps me safe.

Does worrying keep you safe? If you predict every possible scenario that is likely to occur as a result of  your actions are you be protected from hurt, rejection, danger? .

I must be prepared for every eventuality

Perhaps you believe if you workout every possible thing that might go wrong you will be more prepared to deal with the situation if it occurs. How many of those scenarios ever come into play? How much time have you wasted worrying unnecessarily? Has this style of thinking triggered more anxiety?

If I avoid the situation my anxiety will go away

One of the results of distorted thinking and the anxiety is that it creates is avoidant behaviour. Perhaps you can think of an example where you avoided a social situation because you have thought of too many “potential” dangers. Perhaps you self-sabotaged a promotion because it meant standing up and publicly speaking? Perhaps you have avoided a difficult conversation because you worry about the outcome. Unfortunately when we start to avoid we never get to challenge our fears and distorted predictions so we never get to see that things can take a more positive path and we become locked into that groove of anxiety.

Perhaps I can help you to work out what fuels your anxiety and perhaps together we could get you to step off of that vicious cycle.

Michelle Brown Dip. Couns. MBACP

Are you living your life authentically?

It can be very easy to slip into an inauthentic way of living over the years. Perhaps you have noticed that you say yes when really you mean no, or perhaps you do a job that you hate because you feel it carries more status than the job you would really love to do. Maybe you are constantly striving to earn more money to buy a bigger house or a shinier car when actually what you would like rather do is to work less and enjoy your life a little bit more. Before you know it your own needs, values and and desires have become forgotten and life has slowly moulded you into someone that doesn’t feel quite right.

If you’re lucky something might crop up that shakes up your life a little bit and causes enough of a disturbance for you to look around and question if you life is shaped the way you would like it to be. Sometimes this disturbance can be a loss, redundancy, depression or stress but embrace this as an opportunity to take a long hard look at your life and work out what you want to let go of, fight for, or change?

Deep down we all know what is and isn't working for us but we do ourselves a disservice by choosing to ignore that knowledge whilst pursuing the things we feel we need to achieve and do to feel accepted. It’s much easier for us to risk being ourselves and to start tapping into our authenticity and creativity if we are provided with the right environment, an environment in which we feel safe enough to truly be ourselves without fear of judgement, criticism or reprisals and this is the environment I hope to provide in my practice.

Carl Rogers was an American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology, he said

the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”  (Rogers, 2012)

So what if you were to stop using up all that energy focusing on what you are not, where you are not and how far you have to travel to get to that imagined “good enough” you? What if you were to accept yourself as you were? Perhaps if you were to shift the focus away from non-acceptance and conforming you would be free to listen to your own needs and desires and perhaps that burden of conforming and pleasing others is the very thing that is blocking your path to growth and change?

Perhaps together we could uncover all that suffocated potential, empowering you to do what it is you need to live a more rewarding and authentic life.

Michelle Brown MBACP Registered Counsellor and Psychotherapist and Associate Counsellor for West Kent Mind.

Quote taken from

Rogers, C. (2012). On becoming a person. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Grounding yourself to help relieve overwhelm

Mindfulness #101 

Life can feel so overwhelming at times that it’s not uncommon to feel like you would just like to step off of the constant hamster wheel for a while. The more life is filled with busyness and complexity the more stressed we become and the more disconnected we become from present moment awareness leading ultimately to anxiety. 

When we feel stressed the world can quickly begin to feel like a threatening place, we can start over-reacting to the smallest of triggers and anxiety can whisk us away to the future, where we waste our time trying to magically solve situations that haven’t even arisen yet. 

Thankfully  there is a remedy for this feeling and it isn’t as unlikely as winning the lottery or as improbable as waking up in the morning without any problems it is a more tangible technique which can help right now and that you can start practising today. 

It’s called Grounding and is a way of bringing our awareness back into the present, back into the body and back into the senses. 

To be consciously present in the senses and the body is a powerful way to regulate overwhelm, create connection, passion, compassion and creativity. An anchor to the present moment can aid clarity and focus. 

Grounding  yourself is easy to do and can be of benefit immediately..

Here’s where to start: 

1.   Find somewhere you can sit comfortably for a moment with a straight back and a relaxed body. Make sure both feet are squarely on the floor. I find resting my hands openly, palms up, on my thighs helps me to remain open,

2.   Close your eyes and focus in on your breathing. Breathe slowly and each time you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out some of the tension you are feeling right now.

3.   Notice your connection to the ground through your feet and as you continue to exhale tensions, see if you can notice the sensations in the bottom of your soles.

4.   Now shift your focus to the weight of you body in the chair. Can you feel the connection of you body with the present?

5. Keep breathing deeply and slowly, inhaling peace and exhaling tension. Continue to focus your awareness on the sensations in your feet and the weight of your body in the chair.

6.  Now I invite you to extend your awareness to your entire body, how does it feel in your body, in the present moment, if you mind starts to wonder bring your focus gently and kindly back to your breath. Use your breath as an anchor to your present awareness.

Continue with this until you feel settled and centred, that might be a few minutes, it may take longer on difficult days.

Every time you become overwhelmed of find yourself engaging with anxious thoughts, make a mental effort to hit the STOP button, take a moment and ground yourself.

Michelle Brown dip.couns. MBACP is an experienced registered counsellor practising Integrative Counselling in Tunbridge Wells.


Finding a positive inner voice

Would you spend your whole life with somebody who really wanted you to fail? What would it feel like if every time you made a mistake or things didn’t go the way you planned, that person pitched in to highlight and magnify your failings and made it their mission to tell you how stupid you were for even trying instead of helping you up and brushing you off.

Eventually your self-worth would be destroyed and you would start to believe that you didn’t really deserve to succeed so why were you even trying? What effect do you think that might have on your self-esteem and self-belief? Do you think you would be able to achieve your dreams and attain your goals with them constantly putting you down? Do you think you would keep that person in your life once you realised the effect they were having on you or would you seek out more positive friendships with people that wanted you to do well? 

The sad fact is that without even realising it many of us spend our whole lives with a negative influence like this one keeping us stuck and stopping us reaching our full potential and the worse thing is that this negative influence isn’t a negative partner or friend it is ourselves! We berate ourselves when we get things wrong, we sabotage our potential by telling ourselves we are not good enough, we push people away because we tell ourselves we are unlovable. When we walk around with an internal voice that is critical, unkind and unforgiving is it any wonder that we end up feeling depressed, anxious and inadequate? Therapists call this negative inner voice “the inner critic” and once we start to notice the power it has over our lives we can start taking steps to challenge it, turn down its volume and eventually replace it with an inner cheerleader!

What difference do you think that might make to your life? Can you imagine carrying around an inner voice that brushed off your mistakes and pepped you up, that encouraged you to try again and that was so full of love that you believed you deserved to succeed? Can you envisage loving yourself unconditionally and completely and being true to yourself? How could that sort of positivity impact your life? 

Maybe this is something an empathic counsellor could help you with.