Wednesday, March 13, 2024

7 Essential Tips for Anxiety - Part 5 Mindfulness


Anxiety is an extremely common problem. It is estimated that Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem this year. In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week. In Australia, one in seven Australians are currently experiencing an anxiety condition. According to Beyond Blue, one quarter of Australians will experience an anxiety condition in their lifetime, while 26.3% of Australians aged 16 to 85 have experienced an anxiety disorder to date.[1] This is equivalent to 4.96 million people having experienced an anxiety disorder in the last 12 months, or 2.71 million people with anxiety right now.[2]

Anxiety is so widespread that it is the most common mental disorder worldwide. 

In 2023 the UK ranked second worst in the world for Mental Health, with Australia ranked 5th worst, but with a new focus on Mental Health in Australia this rankings has reversed, with Australia now in the top 10 best countries. Data from the US National Institute of Mental Health suggest that around 31 percent of adults can expect to experience some type of anxiety disorder in their lifetime.

So which nations have the best mental health? Sweden comes in at number 1, Germany 2, Finland 3, France 4, the Netherlands 5 and Italy 6. Each of these countries either has prioritised mental health as a key performance indicator of health, or has a culture that has resisted the US model of over-work and burnout.

Governments can prioritise spending on mental health resources and public awareness, but what can we do about anxiety as individuals?

There are many potential pathways to managing or overcoming anxiety, including lifestyle change, behavioural therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or hypnosis, practices like mindfulness, yoga or tai-chi, exercise and traditional therapies drawing on herbal or plant-based remedies, and of course pharmaceutical drug therapies. Recent concerns about several classes of anti-anxiety medicines, including benzodiazepines, have led many to search for more natural ways to manage low to moderate levels of anxiety. However, there are cases where anxiety is so severe that pharmaceutical treatment will be the front-line treatment of choice.

It's important to discuss treatment options with your physician and or therapists to determine which path of treatment is right for you, ensuring you do not over-use or misuse these powerful drugs in your attempt to alleviate the distressing symptoms of this condition. Likewise, you should never suddenly cease any treatment, especially drugs for the treatment of anxiety or depression and you should always manage medications under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner. I will discuss the pharmaceutical options and risks later in this blog.

Only about one-third of those who experience anxiety seek formal treatment, and anxiety is one of the most common reasons that people use holistic and alternative modalities.

Previously, I introduced Ayurveda as a source of traditional therapies for treating seasonal allergies, but what does this ancient healing system say about anxiety?

From an Ayurvedic perspective, anxiety is an imbalance in the Vata dosha. Vata is referred to as the “air” principle. Its character is light, dry, and mobile. An imbalance of Vata, mentally or emotionally, is associated with an overabundance of lightness, flightiness or movement with erratic thoughts, worries, obsession, confusion, and difficulty focusing. Vata imbalance is also associated with a hyper-excitable para-sympathetic nervous system and trouble sleeping. If you’ve ever been described as “ungrounded,” that’s a classic description of Vata imbalance. It’s too much energy in the mind, not enough at the feet to anchor you to life, or like a tree that needs a good pruning that has too much growth in the branches leaving not enough energy in the roots. Interestingly the ancient middle eastern practice of Kabbala also sees anxiety as a lack of foundation, or grounding in life. The penultimate sephirot of the Kabbala Tree of Life is Yesod – Foundation, or the connection between all things – this sephirot along with final sephirot - Malkuth (Kingdom) - are the last steps required to incarnate into life and become grounded in the world. All progress stems from this foundation, and fear can only overrun us when we lose it. You’ll see me talk about this later on in this blog. Yesod and Malkuth correspond to the root chakra – Muladhara - in Ayurveda.

Speaking of roots, when Vata is disturbed, you feel ungrounded and disconnected from the earth. In Ayurveda, to treat anxiety/Vata imbalance, you have to stabilize your energy—calm the nervous system, relax the mind, release obsessive thoughts, connect to your body and to the earth, and ultimately surrender to the flow of the Universe. This can involve a range of therapies and practices.

7 Essential Tips to for Anxiety

Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, an Ayurvedic approach will include looking at your whole life to reduce the Vata imbalance and bring energy out of your head and back into your body that may include:

1.       Diet: Avoiding sugary foods, take-away, junk foods like soda and I hate to say it - chocolate - as these foods can be overstimulating. Increase grounding, warm, moist, less oily foods, like, hot cereals (porridge), dairy products, bread and pasta or their gluten-free or vegan equivalents like almond milk and oats

2.       Structure: Staying warm, taking a hot bath with aromatic oils, and avoiding distracting or busy music, stressful work or study zones, or entertainment like violent programs or gaming. Create a sanctuary for yourself where you can control your environment

3.       Mindfulness Use mindfulness techniques, meditation or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, listen to grounding music or guided meditation tracks, learn breathing techniques to help eliminate the use of stimulants like nicotine, coffee, energy drinks, illicit drugs etc.

4.       Sleep: Keeping a regular sleep cycle in tune with your natural circadian rhythm, going to bed before 11pm and waking before 8am. Develop a wind-down routine to eliminate stressful activities like answering work emails or browsing social media at least an hour before bed-time, keep your sleep area free of blue light

5.       Nature: Spending time in nature to ground your energy, get your toes into the sand or dirt, create a small garden, talk to your plants, sit on a rock in the sun, hug a tree or look at pictures of nature

6.       Exercise: Undertaking exercise that grounds, strengthens and warms, hot yoga, weight training or hot pilates

7.       Essential Oils: Supplementing with plant-based remedies like essential oils that include concentrates of grounding ingredients including cinnamon, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, rock salt, sesame seeds, anise, citrus, lavender as either aromatics or ingestibles have been shown to support the parasympathetic nervous system to relax, reducing anxiety and stress

You may or may not have come across these 7 tips. They work best when used in conjunction with each other, and many of them are common sense. So far this week we’ve been working our way through the list of tips in reverse order, starting with Essential Oils, then following on with how Exercise, Nature and Sleep can all become a positive part of a natural anxiety management plan.

Today we’ll focus on Mindfulness.

Natural wellness treatments and lifestyle routines for anxiety

Tip Number 3: Mindfulness

Meditation is a wonderful, evidence-based tool for healing anxiety and is a key tool to help you become more mindful. It is an ancient technology developed over many centuries to gain mastery over the mind. Meditation involves letting go of thoughts, regulating the breath, and surrendering to the pause in the current moment. Meditation could be considered training for the rest of life, and as such, I really believe it should be taught in schools.

If you become skilled at controlling your mind using breathing or a light focus by practising every morning, you can more easily manage your mind during the rest of the day. It is the ultimate antidote to resistance, and it is also a key in the healing of anxiety. You don’t need to be a master to reap the rewards, simply slowing down your out breath so it takes longer than your in breath has an immediate effect on the Vagal nerve,[3] which is at the heart of the parasympathetic nervous system. Breathing techniques improve the tone of the Vagal nerve and improved Vagal tone has been shown to reduce anxiety.[4]

Breath techniques still the mind and provide perspective that allows you to become less attached to what could happen, is happening, or did happen, helping you focus, instead of your emotions and thoughts being pulled in lots of different directions. To heal anxiety at its roots you want to try to find a way to be detached, compassionate and empathetic in the face of fear. Mindfulness trains the mind muscle that can help you in every area of your life, which in turn supports the lifestyle changes necessary to manage and overcome anxiety; it can even help with your food choices, sleep patterns and creating a healthy structure, in your life. Every tip is part of a feedback loop. Manage them well and you’ll build a foundation for wellness; balance them poorly and the opposite will be true.

Here are my top 7 tips for becoming more mindful:

Be More Mindful: 7 Tips to Improve Your Awareness

  1. Meditate: Taking even just 5 minutes to sit quietly and follow your breath can help you feel more conscious and connected for the rest of your day.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time: Ayurveda teaches us that a mind that flits from one thing to the other can easily become overwhelmed, much like the computer analogy I described earlier.
  3. Slow Down: Our sense of time is subjective, the more we rush, the faster things seem to go, when we slow down and become present in the moment, focusing on the task at hand and not jumping ahead we experience more time. The gaps between our breaths, thoughts and actions allows us to become present and complete tasks without procrastinating.
  4. Eat Mindfully: Don’t rush to gulp down your food. Set the table, sit down to eat and allow yourself to taste your food. If you take the time to eat properly you will improve your digestion. There is a strong correlation between the speed of eating, indigestion and anxiety.[5] A 2018 study found that high anxiety may increase stomach acid production, and in turn anxiety impairs digestion by causing acid to leak into the oesophagus, while causing muscle tension around the stomach, increasing pressure and impairing digestion. A 2019 study also showed that people with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) were more likely to experience anxiety and depression.[6]
  5. Limit screen and device time: Screen time and distractedness were already a hot topic prior to Covid-19, but with all the time we’ve been spending isolated in our homes, relying on teleconferencing and apps to connect with each other, it’s become easier to lose ourselves in the digital landscape, but this is not great for our health. [7] While increased or unregulated screen time is linked with a range of negative mental outcomes including anxiety, the good news is that mindful and regulated use of digital devices is linked with increased wellbeing.[8]
  6. Move: We talked about this in detail in our 2nd blog in this anxiety series, moving provides a host of benefits that then allows us to still our mind, and be more present.
  7. Spend Time In Nature: Ditto to this one, our 4th blog showed how important getting outside is to our ability to be present, stay mindful and thus reduce anxiety. [9]

You’re probably beginning to see a pattern here – each one of our tips feeds into the other. Habits, emotions, and psychological stress are part of a feedback loop that arises from a multitude of small or large lifestyle choices. The great news is, as we start to make a change in any one of these areas, there is a flow on effect that makes other lifestyle changes easier.

Stay tuned for more posts focusing on building structure in your life to manage and overcome anxiety.

No discussion about mindfulness or meditation is complete without discussing compassion. It is important to learn to have compassion for yourself for the vulnerability that is life on earth. Deepak Chopra has some useful tools to support meditative or mindful practice you might like to check out here:

I’ve also created a special guided meditation, based on my experience with anxiety patients over 30 years as a hypnotherapist, I'll provide the link in my next post.

It will help you to establish a practice that will support every other step in this program. Just listen and let me do the work of guiding your mind to still for a little while and lay down the foundations you need to live free of anxiety.

This guided meditation is especially wonderful just before bedtime to help you wind-down and sleep.

In Summary

Anxiety is a complex problem and, thus, there are no simple solutions. The greatest improvements I have seen come with dedicated effort across multiple dimensions of life. |As a clinical hypnotherapist for over 30 years, I have seen people experience dramatic improvements in their anxiety levels if these suggestions are consistently and diligently practiced. Think: lifestyle change rather than one-time adjustment.

As Deepak Chopra says, “the journey of self-discovery, taken with an open heart, inevitably leads to healing.”[10]

Yours in Wellness,

Elisabetta Faenza

PhD Candidate

Edinburgh University School of Health in Social Science

P.S. You can find my previous tips for managing anxiety in earlier blogs...












Saturday, September 3, 2022

Your Amazing Brain


What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is often misunderstood as it is a personal experience with few objective points of reference available to the untrained observer. What is agreed is that hypnosis involves and altered state of perception, characterized by a focusing of awareness, stillness of the conscious mind and is accompanied by physiological changes such as slowing of respiration and circulation, muscular relaxation, lacrimation of the eyes and feelings of either heaviness or lightness.

Fortunately advances in electroencephalograph and fMRI technology has allowed researchers to observe what happens to the brain when someone is in a hypnotic state. This has resulted in a better understanding of how hypnosis provides a smooth transition within different brain wave states to elicit the desired response. Think of hypnosis as a form of guided meditation. Both processes result in what is known as an altered state of consciousness or hypnogogic state. In hypnosis this state is utilized to maximise the effect of suggestions or affirmations and to magnify their beneficial effects.

Recent discoveries about the endocannabinoid system have also revealed how hypnosis stimulates the production of naturally occurring endocannabinoids within the body – allowing the experience of time dilation, enhanced memory, distancing from traumatic feelings, and the overcoming of phobias. But don’t worry, you’ll never fail a drug test under the influence of hypnosis alone!

As a clinical hypnotherapist for over 30 years, I have worked in both clinical and workplace settings, helping thousands of people overcome phobias, OCD, addictions, bad habits, nightmares, anxiety and improve their memory, self-esteem, and productivity. Auto-suggestion uses hypnogogic techniques, and done properly is the ultimate for of self-induced mind control. It's more than just relaxing, using affirmations and being positive. These things are important, but on their own, they are no what produces real change.

Real change comes from regaining control of the real-estate within your brain, so it works for you instead of against you; and through repetition, influences the way your body activates or deactivates programming locked deep within your DNA. Profound change is made possible when we unlock our ability to stimulate the production of neurotransmitters that enhance certain brain wave states associated with mental well-being on command, massively speeding up the process of habit change and unlocking the untapped genius of your deep mind.

Scientists categorise these brain wave states from most alert to most relaxed as follows:

·       Beta waves

·       Alpha waves

·       Theta waves

·       Delta waves

·       Gamma waves

Let’s start with the brain wave states we are all more familiar with and experience every day.

Beta waves

  • Alertness
  • Concentration
  • Cognition

When your mind is in a Beta-Wave state, you are wide-awake, alert. Your mind is sharp, focused. It makes connections quickly, easily and you're primed to do work that requires your full attention. In the Beta state, neurons fire abundantly, in rapid succession, helping you achieve peak performance. New ideas and solutions to problems flash like lightning into your mind. Beta training is one of the frequencies that biofeedback therapists use to treat Attention Deficit Disorder.

Beta-centred training helps you prepare to take an exam, play sports, give a presentation, analyse and organize information, and other activities where mental alertness and high levels of concentration are key to your success.

Beta waves range between 13-40 HZ. The Beta state is associated with peak concentration, heightened alertness, hand eye coordination and visual acuity. Nobel Prize Winner Sir Francis Crick and other scientists believe that the 40HZ beta frequency used in many Brain Sync tapes may be key to the act of cognition.

I’ve created a special brain-balance meditation to help induce a beta wave state that you can access for free when you book a session with me:

Alpha waves

  • Relaxation
  • Visualization
  • Creativity

When you begin to relax and unwind, your brain activity slows from the rapid patterns of Beta into the gentler waves of Alpha. Your awareness expands. Fresh creative energy begins to flow. Fears vanish. You experience a liberating sense of peace and well-being. In biofeedback, Alpha training is most recommended for the treatment of stress. Alpha-centred flow meditations help you tap your creativity and are excellent for problem solving, finding new ideas and practicing creative visualization. Choose Alpha programs when you want to attain deep levels of relaxation that are so essential to your health and well-being.

Alpha waves range between 7-12 HZ. This is a place of deep relaxation, but not quite meditation. In Alpha, we begin to access the wealth of creativity that lies just below our conscious awareness - it is the gateway, the entry point that leads into deeper states of consciousness. Alpha is also the home of the frequency known as the Schuman Resonance - the resonant frequency of the earth's electromagnetic field.

You can access this specially designed guided meditation to help you access the Alpha Wave

 State for free when when you book an interactive one-on-one session with me:

Theta waves

  • Meditation
  • Intuition
  • Memory

Going deeper into relaxation, you enter the elusive and mysterious Theta state where brain activity slows almost to the point of sleep, but not quite. This is the therapeutic, hypnogogic state. Theta is the brain state where magic happens in the crucible of your own neurological activity. Theta brings forward heightened receptivity, flashes of dreamlike imagery, inspiration, and your long-forgotten memories. Theta can bring you deep states of meditation or hypnosis. A sensation of "floating." And, because it is an expansive state, in Theta, you may feel your mind expand beyond the boundaries of your body.

Theta rests directly on the threshold of your subconscious. In biofeedback, it is most associated with the deepest levels of meditation. Theta also plays an important part in behaviour modification programs and has been used in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Finally, Theta is an ideal state for super-learning, re-programming your mind, dream recall, and self-hypnosis.

Theta waves range between 4-7 HZ. Theta is one of the more elusive and extraordinary realms we can explore. It is also known as the twilight state, which we normally only experience fleetingly as we rise out of the depths of delta upon waking or drifting off to sleep. In Theta, we are in a waking dream, vivid imagery flashes before the mind's eye and we are receptive to information beyond our normal conscious awareness. Theta has also been identified as the gateway to learning and memory. Theta meditation increases creativity, enhances learning, reduces stress, and awakens intuition and other extrasensory perception skills. Theta is also associated with the release of Anandamide the body’s natural equivalent to the phytocannabinoid THC.

My guided meditation carefully moves the listener from Beta into Gamma, Alpha and Theta states, while gently skimming the edges of Delta. You can access this meditation  for free when you book an interactive one-on-one session with me:

Delta waves

  • Detached Awareness
  • Healing
  • Sleep

Long, slow, undulating. Delta is the slowest of all four brain wave frequencies. Most associated with deep sleep, certain frequencies in the Delta range also trigger the release of Human Growth Hormone so beneficial for healing and regeneration. This is why sleep - deep restorative sleep, the kind that Delta frequencies help induce - is so essential to the healing process. Delta states are crucial to promote conversion from short term to long-term memory.

        Delta is the brain wave signal of the subconscious, the seat from which intuition arises. That means Delta-based programs are not only an ideal choice for their sleep and deep regeneration potential, but also when you want to access your unconscious activity and help that wellspring of information flow to your conscious mind for clearing and for empowerment. Delta waves range between 0-4 HZ.

When we are in REM sleep, we are alternating between low Alpha and high Theta activity, so that alternating our attention between our right and left hemispheres synchronises our brain’s electrical activity into a range somewhere between 6 and 10 HZ, which has been shown in biofeedback to be extremely beneficial physiologically and psychologically.

Using my guided meditation in bed just before you are ready to go to sleep will help you to reach a delta state more easily and enjoy a deep, rejuvenating sleep. Don’t worry if you fall asleep during the meditation! I’ve created a special brain-balance meditation specially to help you sleep more restfully that you can access for free when you book an interactive one-on-one session with me:

Gamma Waves

What on earth are Gamma Brain Waves? Don’t confuse gamma brain waves with gamma rays. If you’re picturing a lab experiment gone wrong - as in the Incredible Hulk - rest assured, gamma rays and gamma brain waves are NOT the same thing.

Gamma rays are the most energetic waves in the electromagnetic spectrum. On Earth, nuclear explosions and lightning produce gamma rays. The ONLY similarity between a gamma ray and a gamma brain wave is that their frequency is extremely fast, with a small amplitude.

Gamma brain waves are a frequency pattern of normal brain activity that measures between 25 and 100 Hz, with around 40 Hz being typical in humans. Gamma waves were essentially unknown before the development of digital EEG (electroencephalography) recorders, since analogue electroencephalography could not measure brain waves at that high frequency (their upper limit is about 25 Hz). Neuroscientists are beginning to discover the marvelous properties of the brain when it produces the gamma frequency.

Gamma brain waves are the fastest brainwave frequency with the smallest amplitude. They are associated with the ‘feeling of bliss’ reported by experienced meditators such as monks and nuns, and with peak concentration and extremely high levels of cognitive functioning. People report similar experiences with Ayahuasca and DMT, however you can achieve this state without the risk inherent in illegal substances or traveling thousands of miles to find a shaman.

Neuroscientists believe that gamma waves are able to link information from all parts of the brain - the gamma wave originates in the thalamus and moves from the back of the brain to the front and back again 40 times per second - not only that, but the entire brain is influenced by the gamma wave. This rapid ‘full sweep’ action makes the gamma state one of peak mental and physical performance. Gamma is the brainwave state of being ‘in the Zone,’ that feeling that you can do anything.

Everyone has gamma brainwave activity, but the amount of gamma waves produced varies. Low amounts of gamma brainwave activity have been linked to learning difficulties, poor memory, and impaired mental processing.

High achievers produce high gamma wave activity.

Benefits of Gamma

People with very high levels of gamma activity are exceptionally intelligent, compassionate, happy, and have excellent memories and strong self-control. IQ scores of people with high gamma wave activity are correspondingly high.

        High gamma activity also corresponds to a state of peak performance. Elite athletes, top-notch musicians and high achievers in all fields produce far more gamma waves than average.

The benefits of producing the gamma frequency are:

·       Increased memory recall (the 40 Hz frequency is known to regulate memory processing); people with high gamma activity have exceptionally vivid and rapid memory recall.

·       Increased sensory perception. Senses are heightened when the brain produces gamma waves. Food tastes better; vision and hearing sharpen; sense of smell becomes more powerful; and your brain becomes far more sensitive to all sensory input. This makes for a much richer sensory experience and a better perception of reality.

·       Increased focus: but this enhanced focus is not necessarily aimed at one individual object or task. In the gamma state, your brain is able to process all sensory information faster and more fully with greater sensitivity; and combine the whole scenario into a highly memorable experience. People with high gamma activity can recall everything about any memorable event - the food they ate, the music they heard, the conversations, the names of people they met, the air temperature, etc.

·       One of the most remarkable properties of the gamma state is the processing speed: the brain is able to process incredible amounts of information very quickly, remember it, and retrieve that memory later.

·       People with high gamma activity are naturally happier, calmer and more at peace. This is Nature’s best anti-depressant (people suffering from depression typically have very low gamma activity).

·       Gamma waves are present during REM sleep and visualization.

·       Compassion comes from a feeling of oneness with all creation. This is the ‘feeling of bliss’ and ecstasy that accompanies high levels of gamma brainwave activity. Meditation and self-hypnosis are ways to learn to produce more gamma waves.

How to Produce More Gamma Brain Wave Activity

You are probably wondering how you can experience increased mental processing, happiness, better perception of reality, incredible focus, better self-control and richer sensory experience that comes with being in gamma? The answer is simple: meditate.

Neuroscientists believe that people can train themselves to produce more of the gamma frequency and it is believed that focusing on compassion and love is the way to do this. When you look at elite athletes, you can see how love creates the gamma state because they love what they’re doing, and they’re immersed in what they love - so gamma is a natural state of consciousness for them! It’s only when they allow temporary set-backs distract them that they fall out of the gamma wave flow state and find themselves struggling.

Meditation sharpens your mental abilities, but by learning to produce more gamma brain waves, you will use your brain in its greatest capacity.

It’s as simple as putting on your headphones and using the free guided meditation audio I’ve created to gently guide you into a relaxed state. And then, when your brain and body are relaxed and blissful, focus on love and compassion.

Many studies have been performed on experienced meditators, most notably Tibetan Buddhist monks and Celestine nuns. Both groups demonstrated the ability to produce gamma waves during meditation. The studies showed a significant increase in brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex (associated with self-control, happiness and compassion) and greatly reduced activity in the amygdala - the brain’s fight or flight centre. This suggests that meditation can make you a happier and more compassionate person!

Something remarkable happened when the monks in the study were asked to focus on feelings of compassion: their brain almost immediately went into the gamma frequency in a very rhythmic and coherent pattern. Food for thought - perhaps meditation makes one’s brain ‘fire’ to the rhythm of universal consciousness?

    As you meditate with the help of my guided meditation and begin feeling that wonderful warmth of oneness where you lose the sense of self and ‘melt’ into universal consciousness, hang on to that feeling. Focus on it. Expand on it. Embody it. Feel love emanating from you and permeating you. Focus on love and you will soon feel the ecstasy and bliss of gamma! You can access this meditation  for free when you book an interactive one-on-one session with me. Just go to my website:

7 Essential Tips for Anxiety - Part 5 Mindfulness

  Anxiety is an extremely common problem. It is estimated that Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health probl...