Returning to work with anxiety

Returning to work and feeling anxious?

Ever since the restrictions have lifted, the majority of people are returning to the workplace now, this has caused a spike in our anxiety calls from women.  Not only are they already anxious about leaving the kids after the past 2 years of quality bonding time, they are also nervous about seeing colleagues that they got a nice break from to put it in polite terms!  Ok a lot people will be happy to get back at it and being social again, but this article is not meant for them.  As hypnotherapists we get calls from people who suffer with social anxiety so it’s fair to say that these people are not overly excited about getting back to work! 

I want to share a story about Kathleen (45) who came to my clinic 3 years ago suffering with Social Anxiety.  Kathleen used to feel so awkward when out in public that, she used to cross the road when she would see someone approaching on her side just to avoid eye contact with them and to avoid any interaction that could be possible with both strangers and people she knew.  Kathleen remembered her school days as being agonising, especially when the teacher would ask her something on the spot.  She found herself sweating profusely, her knees would shake and her tummy would be in a knot!  She always hated returning to work after her summer holidays and Christmas and I’ve no doubt she would be feeling like a complete mess in late 2021 having been told she had to return to work after 18 months working remotely!  Thankfully she had eliminated her anxiety pre-Covid times!

Lunchtime in primary school was another hurdle she had to face each day as kids weren’t as well supervised or nurtured in the playground in the 80s!  She felt nauseous most days when she had to have conversations with people without any preparation or confidence.  She felt ‘wide open’ other wise known as vulnerable.  Kids teased her for being ‘as quiet as a mouse’.  Whilst some people loved lunchtime as they could play games and catch up on what was happening in each other’s lives, unfortunately there were many people like Kathleen who suffered emotionally on a daily basis and the necessary support wasn’t there in those days. 

Kathleen said enough was enough after she became known as the ‘Runaway bride’ in her little village.  She didn’t have many relationships growing up so she began reading self-help literature and educating herself on her mind and body in her mid-late 30s.  When she met Bob, she decided to make a huge effort to park her past and avoid anything that would seem uncomfortable for her to manage for instance going to places with large crowds and confined spaces.  She figured if she avoided all the triggers then Bob would never see the REAL Kathleen in action and he could love her more.  She missed out on so many special occasions especially her friends’ Birthdays, Weddings and Christenings.  Kathleen thought she was ‘parking’ her issues and that they may actually go away if she just pretended they didn’t exist! 

Unfortunately Kathleen learned how to feel nervous, judged, not good enough and weak at the tender age of 4 when a teacher stripped her of her self-worth because she didn’t know the number 3 in primary school.  Imagine!  What sort of teacher could ever think that this was the way to teach.  We never judge as Hypnotherapists but its fair to say this was not an encouraging method of teaching. In the clinic, we were able to use a technique called Regression to help Kathleen get to the root of her anxiety.  Even in her 40s, every time she felt that negative emotion or even the thought that someone would judge her, she would go into panic mode.  The physical symptoms would become so intense if she thought she had to face confrontation or judgement etc.  From my own experience in the clinic, social anxiety seems to be at its worst when our clients had to face people of their own age.  Their own peers In Kathleen’s case this was true but she also remembers having had to deal with people in authority.  Not surprising. 

When Kathleen was preparing for her big day, she could handle all the material things like the dress, the hotel, guest list, flowers etc. but as the date was becoming near she felt extreme overwhelm, she couldn’t control the physical symptoms of panic she was experiencing from sweaty hands to heart palpitations, and wobbly knees to cold sweats.  She made it to the morning of her wedding and had her hair and makeup done.  Once she was back in her own house putting on the dress, she described it as “something just snapped in my mind”, she had a full blown panic attack due to the stress of having to walk down the aisle and have everyone looking at her.  She couldn’t see straight, she was sweaty, both hot and cold alternating, her stomach was sick, her knees and hands were shaky.  Sometimes our clients may only experience 2 or 3 of these symptoms and sometimes they get the whole shebang like Kathleen did. 

She had put all this to the back of her mind and waited until the final hour before dealing with it!  Sure how could she deal with it at this late stage?!!!  She fled the scene!  At that moment her protector in her Subconscious mind more than likely told her to run away and protect herself! 

“You may die from a heart attack walking up that aisle!!!”

Emotion will always override logic! 

Our subconscious mind controls our emotions/feelings, beliefs, protector and long term memory!  When we learn a negative emotion especially in our earlier years we will continue to behave in the same way so for instance when Kathleen was 4 years old, she was humiliated by a teacher and told she was stupid for not knowing the number 3.  This teacher left an imprint on this poor child and every time there was an opportunity to feel this way after the age of 4 she avoided it as much as possible.  So to sum it up on her wedding day…there were 120 guests invited to her wedding and just as she was getting her dress on, she had a panic attack which resulted in her running away to her friend’s house and being unable to face the crowd. 

Luckily, this story has a happy ending!  Bob could see through her anxiety!  He knew her better than anyone else at this stage and expected there may be a significant bump along the way!!!  Kathleen’s friend rang Bob and told him to revert to plan B!  He politely asked the guests to meet them at the hotel and managed to just have their immediate family and bridal party at the chapel!!! 

Poor Kathleen!  You can only imagine the drama if you have never had to experience panic attacks or anxiety!  We managed to remove Kathleen’s physical symptoms of her anxiety and build her confidence to the point now where she cannot get those negative feelings back!  Hypnosis is an extremely powerful way to change our existing subconscious programming so that we can make it work for us, instead of against us!

If you are experiencing any of the negative physical symptoms discussed above as you prepare to return to the workplace, feel free to get in touch with me and we can have a chat to find out if Hypnosis is suitable for you.  Life is for living today!

Rosie Callaghan

Professional Clinical Hypnotherapist Adv. Dip Hypnotherapy ICHI

HDip in Education UL