Hacking Anxiety: The Powerful Four-Step Formula Calm People Use to Overcome Stress
AUGUST 15, 2020
You’ve finally found it.
The powerful method people around the world are using to control their anxiety…
People who thought their anxiety couldn’t be treated, never mind by themselves…
I’m excited for you to find out how you can control anxiety, rather than the other way around.
But before we get into the ways you can treat anxiety today, we first need to do away with some lies.
Anxiety is a Lie Your Brain Tells You
Intuitively, you know this.
Your anxiety is based in a future that hasn’t happened yet. You know more than half the things you worry about will never actually happen.
And sadly, not only is your brain lying to you.
Other people are too. Anxiety and stress are misunderstood so often that people tell and retell lies about them, simply because they’ve never heard anything different.
Some common lies you may have heard:
Anxiety can only be treated with medication and therapy.
To undo your anxiety, you have to face difficult things in your past.
Long-term anxiety relief isn’t possible.
Other People Lie Because They Don’t Know Any Better
People have been lying to you about anxiety — but not because they want you to suffer.
They’ve done so because they don’t know any better.
They’ll tell you anxiety is hard to overcome…
That it takes months or years to beat…
That you need drugs, therapy, or even both…
Anxiety is Simple to Overcome
For some, that’s a bold statement. But with the right tools, it can be incredibly simple to create a life free from anxiety.
But if you knew how to do it, you’d have done it already.
That’s why you’re here. You’re ready to learn the proven way to overcome anxiety… without doctors, drugs, or deprivation.
You’ll find all that and more in this extensive resource. But first, let’s make sure you’re a good fit for this life-changing info.
Does what I’m about to share sound like you?
The Anti – Anxiety Formula: A Day in the Life
You wake up to another day, and that first jolt of stress and anxiety hits you before you’re even out of bed.
If you’re like other anxiety sufferers, the day has barely even begun, and like clockwork, your brain has you on the anxiety treadmill again.
You get up, and for better or worse, you start the day. Like an old wound, your brain keeps prodding you with anxiety-related thoughts.
“Did I remember to email that person back? I sure hope I did — I might lose my job.”
“I have to remember to pay the car insurance, or I’ll get pulled over, and I can’t afford a ticket.”
“My family hasn’t called in a few weeks. Are they mad at me?”
Maybe thoughts like these pester you day in and day out. Maybe these kind of thoughts are debilitating — they keep you from living the kind of life you deserve.
If this sounds like your life, I’m glad you’re here.
In a few moments, I’ll show you a formula that I’ve used with clients and with myself to begin breaking down even the deepest anxieties.
If you’ve never heard of me before, I want to introduce myself, and to show how I can help you.
HYPNOTIST AND PODCAST HOST
My name is Doug Sands, and I’m a consulting hypnotist. I work with clients like you to rapidly overcome anxiety using hypnosis.
I operate Anywhere Hypnosis, an online hypnosis practice that sees clients all over the world. I specialize in Anxiety Relief, Weight Loss, and Insomia hypnosis.
I also run the Making Meaning podcast, a podcast dedicated to helping people build their own version of a meaningful and fulfilling life.
Here you can find the formula I teach for breaking down the habit of anxiety.
I teach it to my clients to help them create change even before we work together. And you’ll learn it here…
It’s a system with four parts, and I’ll break it down in detail.
But before we go into the formula, we first need to make sure we’re in the right frame of mind.
The Pre-Step: Identifying What Makes it Worse
By now, you probably have a pretty good idea about what your anxiety IS. You know what causes it, and perhaps even why it’s there.
Instead of attempting to identify what causes the anxiety — which can be tough, and can create more worry than it fixes — ask yourself, “What makes this feeling worse?”
Does it feel worse during a certain time of day?
In a certain location?
When you’re around certain people?
When you’re doing certain tasks?
Simply by asking these fundamental questions, you get your brain into the frame of mind to fix it. Be sure to do this step thoroughly before we enter the formula.
Bonus Tip: Because of the way our brain processes while writing, this step becomes much more powerful if you physically write out your answers on paper.
EXAMPLES OF FEAR
Maybe you feel anxious when you hear loud noises:
A dropped pot…
A breaking glass…
Or a passing truck…
Maybe you feel anxious long after watching a scary movie, or when your friend startles you.
EXAMPLES OF WORRY
Maybe your anxiety builds more slowly, generated by worried thoughts:
Worrying why someone is late…
Turning over the meaning of something someone said, again and again…
Obsessing about what might happen in the future…
Direct Anxiety (AKA “Fight, Flight or Freeze”)
There are two different types of anxiety we as humans face.
One is direct. This is the racing heart and shallow breath you get after being startled or scared. It’s caused by the Amygdala, the almond-shaped part of your brain that controls your fear response.
When humans were still part of the food chain, and we had to worry often about getting eaten by animals or killed by weather, this direct form of anxiety was very helpful.
If you heard a loud crack of lightning, that burst of fear might get you to shelter. If you heard a predator passing by, you might freeze so they wouldn’t spot you.
The direct system is all about the Fight, Flight, or Freeze response. This response is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system.
That’s a fancy term, but just remember this: the sympathetic nervous system creates fear and anxiety (sometimes for your own good), and its counterpart, the parasympathetic nervous system, creates feelings of calm.
Almost all animals — including humans — have a direct-style fear system because, in the wild, it’s an effective way to stay safe.
But humans have developed newer, more advanced parts of the brain that separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Apart from letting us think critically and solve complex problems, these parts of our brain also let us worry in new ways.
Imagine a loved one is late getting home. Initially, nothing seems wrong. But perhaps your mind begins to wonder, and then to play out scenarios of what might have happened.
Maybe they got in a crash.
Maybe they broke an ankle.
Maybe they were robbed and beaten, and now they’re lying hurt in an alley somewhere.
By the time they return, having simply been caught up in traffic, you’ve worked yourself up into a terrified state.
Indirect Anxiety (AKA “Worrying”)
This is the Indirect form of anxiety, and it comes from the part of your brain called the Cortex. It takes external events in our lives and studies them to see if there are any threats to our safety.
We humans tell ourselves stories to explain the events around us. It’s a natural part of how we work.
If we’re cut off in traffic, we might think, “That guy’s a jerk!” or if we’re feeling more generous, “Maybe they’re headed to the hospital.”
This is a natural part of being human.
What isn’t natural is when the Indirect System goes too far. It starts making up stories about danger around every corner.
Consider this: it’s nighttime, and you hear a loud noise just outside your house. The noise itself doesn’t startle you, but your mind starts to wonder what caused it.
Maybe it was a burgular, finding the perfect way to break into your house later.
Maybe it was a 1,000-lb grizzly bear rooting through your trash can.
Maybe someone’s planting land mines in your lawn.
In no time, a simple noise becomes amplified into so much more. This happens, in large part, because the parts of your mind outside your conscious awareness — the part we call the “unconscious mind” — are constantly on the lookout for danger.
WHY WE HAVE ANXIETY
The whole point of the unconscious mind is to keep you safe. If your unconscious believes that excessive anxiety keeps you out of situations that might endanger you, it will ramp up that anxiety far beyond what you really need.
This is important: Your brain is giving you anxiety because it believes it’s helping to protect you.
Anxiety = Healthy Response Gone Too Far
Fear, in small doses, helps us. It keeps us from doing things that are dangerous to our health and well-being.
The problem comes when that fear spills over into parts of our life where there is little to no danger at all.
Think of it this way:
When there’s a clear and present danger, that’s called fear.
When there’s no clear and present danger — when the mind is creating dangers or amplifying risks far beyond reason — that’s called anxiety.
Anxiety as a Habit
The more often we feel anxiety, the more likely our brains will return to that state of mind.
I want to emphasize one thing about the way our brains work: the more we do something, the more ingrained that habit becomes. If you feel anxiety often, anxiety becomes a habit.
Neuroscience shows that habits form clear, physical pathways in our neurons — the cells that make up our brains. Habits are literally reshaping the structure of our minds. And like a muscle, the more you repeat a habit, the stronger it becomes.
But the opposite is also true. Modern neuroscience has proven the theory of neuroplasticity: the idea that, no matter how old or rooted-in-place a brain may be, it is always capable of change.
That should give you hope.
If your brain can make anxiety a habit, it can also make a habit of the opposite.
So, what does all this mean for you?
Anxiety is a habit, and like other habits, it can be stopped. Whether it’s direct or indirect, the formula below will help you eliminate that old habit and replace it with the life you choose to live.
The Pattern Interrupt
To break up that habit, you’ve first got to stop doing the habit.
Whenever you start to feel anxiety rising, simply break the pattern (AKA the habit) that your brain has been doing for so long.
One easy way to do this is simply to tell your brain, “STOP”.
It works even more effectively if you shove your open palm out when you do it.
Then, Be Realistic
Often, we worry about things that are completely unrealistic. Instead, tell yourself what’s actually happening.
After you’ve said, “STOP”, tell yourself what’s really true about this situation.
If you were having anxiety about a coming presentation, you might:
- Say “STOP”
- Then say something like, “Nothing terrible is going to happen. I’m practicing this speech, and I’m prepared to deliver it well.”
Why This Works
The Pattern Interrupt comes from a field related to hypnosis called Neuro-Linguistic Programming. In essence, it stops the brain from running that old habit and gives you space to create a new one.
By breaking from the old habit, you weaken it. And by doing it repeatedly — by taking small measures each time you feel anxious — you break up even the strongest of habits.
Now, with all of that established, let’s get to the main event:
The Four-Step Formula Calm People Use to Overcome Anxiety
You can easily remember this formula by its acronym: HEAR.
Think of it this way: you’re listening to what your mind is telling you about that anxiety.
You’ve got some idea of what makes your anxiety feel worse. Now, ask yourself this very important question: “How can I begin to feel better?”
Let’s break down what makes that question so powerful.
The unconscious mind — the part of your mind that remembers your phone number, your loved one’s face, and how to get back to your house — will answer any question you give it.
Go ahead and test this out: ask yourself, “How can I begin to feel better?”
You may notice that part of your mind will start suggesting ideas. This is the unconscious mind answering your question. The unconscious speaks in images and feelings, so often the answers you get may be pictures or emotions that prompt you to an answer.
The key reason we ask, “How?” is that it puts you in process. It gives you ideas to move forward, rather than keeping you stuck in the present
The Danger of “Why?”
The opposite question — “Why?” — is partially what keeps people stuck in anxiety.
If you ask your unconscious mind questions that begin with “Why?” –questions like:
“Why am I so anxious?”
“Why is life so hard?”
“Why do I always feel this way?“
— your unconscious mind will give you answers.
Those answers, whether factually true or not, will only reinforce that negative state, keeping you stuck in anxiety.
Put “How?” to Good Use
Instead, ask “How?” questions:
“How can I move past this anxiety?”
“How will I make changes to feel better in the future?”
“How will I build a life around feeling better than I do now?”
These questions put YOU in the driver’s seat, not your anxiety. They empower you to take action, because your unconscious mind will give you answers that actually help.
Sometimes, this may be the end of the process. Your mind might give you such good answers right off the bat that you discover how to resolve that problem immediately.
If not, follow the rest of the formula: Eliminate, Avoid, or Reduce.
Let’s dive into each one.
Using the power of “How?” questions, ask yourself:
“How can I eliminate what’s causing me to feel anxious?”
Maybe one of the things you identified earlier that makes it feel worse is when you talk politics with someone you care about.
The solution may be easy: stop talking politics with them. Accept that they have their own opinions, and find someone else to discuss your own.
Eliminate that anxiety-causing issue, and often you’ll find the anxiety dries up on its own.
If eating sugar makes your heart beat too fast, and that rushed feeling makes you anxious, cut back on the sugar.
If staying up late and losing sleep makes you anxious the next day, eliminate that problem by going to bed earlier.
If staying in touch with negative “friends” makes you anxious, eliminate them from your life. Think on it: if a so-called “friend” only brings more anxiety to your life, they’re not really a friend. If they’re making you feel worse, eliminate them and move on.
“Eliminate” Takes Back Control
The point of “Eliminate” is that it puts you in the driver’s seat to make the change. We often know — or at least have a good idea — what will resolve the issue. We simply need to feel empowered to make the change.
And then, we need to do it.
By asking yourself what issues you can eliminate, you empower yourself to make the changes you need to make.
If you can’t Eliminate the problem, Avoid it.
Let me be absolutely clear on this one. If you CAN eliminate the issue, you absolutely must. Deal with the problem and get it out of your life
Avoiding the problem only works if you can say to yourself, with 100% certainty, that you did everything in your power to solve it outright.
Avoiding doesn’t mean running away from your problems. If talking to your boss makes you anxious, and you attempt to avoid them by dodging out of the room every time they walk in, you’ve only replaced one problem with another.
Avoiding is about choosing to expose yourself less to the things you know make you anxious.
If there’s a dog in your neighborhood who barks viciously every time you walk past, choose a path that avoids that house.
If there are times of the day where it’s stressful to drive or travel, avoid them by modifying your schedule.
If your uncle Jerry likes to push your buttons every time you visit, and you’ve already done everything you could to fix and eliminate the problem, choose to visit Uncle Jerry less often.
Bonus: Uncle Jerry might get the hint that you no longer stand for that, and he might change on his own.
Avoiding is about putting space between you and the emotional trigger.
People do this all the time in anger management.
When we’re getting too caught up in an emotion like anger, sometimes we need to take a step back.
The same is true for anxiety. Putting space between yourself and whatever’s making you anxious can be a powerfully effective way to deal with the problem.
We all have two types of people in our life: people who lift us up and people who drag us down.
The people who lift us up, we can call Balcony people. They help us improve our lives by lifting us up to a higher level.
The people who drag us down, we call Basement people. Some of these people despise success in others, because it makes them feel worse about themselves.
Basement people will pull you down to their level and make you feel their misery.
The point is this: Spend more time with balcony people and avoid basement people.
Think on it: are there any people in your own life who make you feel more anxious, simply by being around them?
If so, they may be a Basement person. And since you’ve shown you’re ready to live beyond that old anxiety, it may be time to see less of them.
And if you’ve reached this point, having already done everything you could to Eliminate and Avoid the problem…
Sometimes, a problem can’t be fixed by your input alone. When this is the case, it may be best to reduce our sensitivity.
No matter how much control we sometimes believe we have over events and other people, the only things we really have control over are our actions and ourselves. Sometimes if an issue cannot be resolved or avoided, we need to learn to live with it.
That doesn’t mean “Give Up”
Take heart, my friend — I wouldn’t lead you here without giving you resources to help you.
There are many ways to reduce sensitivity to anxiety-causing events. Here are a few I’ve found to be most effective:
1. Change Perspective
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Dr. Wayne Dwyer
By changing the way we view the situation, we often find new ways to deal with the issue. This is, in large part, why this formula works. It gets you to examine the issue from different viewpoints, rather than the same viewpoint that got you where you are now.
Remember, you won’t get away from the results you’ve always gotten unless you do things you’ve never done.
So, to change your perspective, test out these methods:
Consider the problem from another person’s point of view.
What are they looking to get out of the situation? What hopes and fears do they have?
Ask, “What am I missing?”
People have different motives for doing the things they do, and often the real motives behind their actions will surprise you.
Perhaps most difficult of all: Ask yourself, “What am I contributing to this problem?”
Sometimes we lose sight of how our actions impact others. Examining our own actions helps bring this back into focus.
Just by changing perspective, you may discover the problem doesn’t bother you as much as it used to. And for more help changing perspective…
START A PRACTICE
Starting a meditation or yoga practice is an excellent way to strengthen that muscle of changing perspective.
If you’ve got an open mind, give a new philosophy a try. For me, this meant learning more about Buddhism,
One of the key tenets of Buddhism is about changing how we look at events around us. And since Buddhism isn’t technically a religion — since it doesn’t involve a figure as god — you can pair Buddhism with whatever you currently believe.
For those curious, I highly recommend Noah Rasheta’s “Secular Buddhism Podcast“. As a long-standing Buddhist teacher, Rasheta masterfully presents the concepts of Buddhism without pressing any beliefs.
The first five episodes give a bird’s-eye view of the philosophy, and they’re an excellent way to dip a toe in this powerful way of seeing the world.
2. Practice Anti – Anxiety Techniques
Since anxiety is a habit, you may still face it after reading this blog post. Be sure you’re armed with a method you enjoy to reduce that anxiety and weaken that habit. Every time you weaken that habit, you give your brain a chance to learn a more peaceful way of living life.
To truly break down the habit of anxiety, here’s an incredibly powerful model to follow.
Whenever you feel anxiety rise:
Notice and Treat
Notice it — label it as whatever feeling it is — and then treat it with your anxiety relief of choice.
Notice it, and treat it.
Notice it, and treat it.
Notice it, and treat it.
By doing this each time you start to feel anxious, you break down the neural pathways that used to keep that habit in place.
Over time, your brain will get the message. Gradually, you’ll notice the anxiety less and less, because you’ll be teaching your brain new habits to follow.
You may be asking, “How do I actually treat the anxiety?”
And I understand, if you knew how, you probably would have done it already.
Again, take heart: I’m including some of my favorite anti-anxiety techniques below.
Learn the Techniques
Remember, I’m a hypnotist, and Anxiety Relief is something I specialize in.
You can watch the first video by clicking here.
When dealing with my own anxiety, this was the tool I used the most. It’s still one of the best tools I give to my anti-anxiety clients, because it works.
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3. Seek Help
Sometimes, anxiety is so deeply rooted that we need help to break free.
There’s absolutely no shame in seeking help. If you’re in a dark place, the bravest thing you can do is ask for help. It shows you’ve got the strength to be willing to face that problem, and to put it in your past.
Therapy and medications work. They’ve been studied and used for decades, and for some people, these are the best tools available.
Having faced anxiety myself, I know that many have strong feelings against therapy and medications. In my own journey, I found hypnosis as an incredible tool to resolve anxiety. It was less invasive, less expensive, and less time-consuming than traditional therapy.
Hypnosis helped me resolve anxiety without months on a therapeutic couch. It also helped me avoid putting drugs with names I couldn’t pronounce into my body.
All I want you to know is that I’m here for you, to work one-on-one, if that’s what you’d like. To begin, simply schedule a 15-minute phone strategy session.
Let’s review the Anti – Anxiety Formula.
Ask yourself questions that begin with “How”, because this will gear your mind towards finding solutions.
Find ways to eliminate what’s causing your anxiety, and take action on it.
If you can’t Eliminate the issue, find ways to avoid it.
If you can’t Eliminate or Avoid the problem, Reduce your sensitivity. Use techniques to calm anxiety when it arises.
LIVE THE LIFE YOU DESERVE
A Life Without Anxiety
One of my favorite moments is when a client shares how what I gave them helped eliminate anxiety from their life. The joy they show lights up the room.
That’s why I wrote this guide, because I want the same results for you.
By using this formula, you can end the grip that anxiety has had on your life. You can control your anxiety, rather than letting it control you.
Most importantly, you can break out of the anxiety loop you’ve been living in and start living the life you deserve.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Doug Sands is the hypnotist who runs Anywhere Hypnosis, an online hypnosis practice that helps clients all over the world resolve personal issues.
Doug is also the host of the Making Meaning Podcast, a weekly podcast about building the custom life that fulfills you and brings you meaning.