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Experiencing anxiety? Think positively: you probably won’t get punched in the face

We’ve all experienced anxiety. Whether it’s before a job interview, a big presentation, a client pitch, a board meeting or asking your girlfriend’s 6ft5, ex-rugby playing Dad with arms the size of both your legs put together for her hand in marriage. Anxiety is a natural and normal part of life. Even the top CEOs who seem unshakable have had moments where they are suddenly questioning their intestinal fortitude. The secret? Courage. Courage simply meaning feel the fear and do it anyway.

When faced with a potentially stressful situation, it is often our thoughts of “I can’t do this”, “What if I fail?” and even “What if he punches me in the face?!” that are the root cause of our anxiety. Through NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), you can learn how by simply changing your thoughts, you can take control of your fears, manage your anxiety and take decisive action.

So what is NLP? I am sure by now, most of you have at least heard of the term, or encountered it at some point in your life. And if you are unfortunate enough to have not come across it yet, then you are in for a treat. You are about to learn something that might just butter your biscuit.

First of all, let me reassure you. NLP is not some mind-control technique where after having spoken to an NLP practitioner you are going to find yourself suddenly taking off all your clothes in the middle of the street shouting “Freedom!”. No. None of that. No matter how hilarious that would be, this is not what NLP is all about.

NLP is simply a model built on the results of a study that observed and noted the most common thought and behavioural patterns of some of the most successful people all across the world. It was then proved by adopting these same traits, anyone could achieve the same level of success. That’s it. No mind control. No woo woo. No naked people running in the streets. Nada. Sorry if that is somewhat disappointing. Hopefully the next few sections will perk you up a bit.

After all the observation, it was concluded that your conditioning (experiences in your life) determine your belief patterns and the thoughts you have in your head (your internal dialogue), which determine what emotions you feel, which then determine your behaviour (what action you take) and what results you get in your life. This means by simply taking control of your thoughts and your emotions you can take all of the necessary action you need to start getting results that you want. Great news right?!

Here’s an example. You want to ask your girlfriend to marry you. However her father (whom you haven’t actually met yet) is actually Darth Vader’s twin brother. Except worse. Not a compassionate bone in his body. Luke Skywalker would have plummeted to his death if this guy had been around. On top of this through various experiences in your life, let’s say you have developed the belief system that you’re a little bit of a sensitive soul who hates confrontation of any kind. This belief leads you to thoughts of Darth Vader 2 telling you a big fat no, punching you in the face and you running off, crying like a baby. This thought then creates an emotional state in you. Fear. Deep. Rooted. Fear. Which then causes you to behave in a certain way and take action. Which in this case is no action. You bottle it completely, you don’t get his permission to marry your girlfriend, and then she dumps you for being a wimp. The end result – you’re single. Again. On the other hand, if you had developed a belief system from your experiences that you could handle anything thrown at you, you would think thoughts such as “He’s not really going to punch me in the face,” or “Even if he does punch me in the face, I can take him!”.  Thoughts such as these would help you feel courageous and you would feel brave enough to ask the burning question at hand. At this point Darth Vader 2 (who’s really a softie and loves knitting sweaters for orphaned kittens) says yes and you get the girl. Woo hoo!

So, how does managing anxiety fit into all of this?

When you are experiencing anxiety check 2 things:

1) What thoughts are you having? What are you focusing on?

Your subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between imagination and reality. Ever woken up from a nightmare with your heart pounding and sweat pouring off you? That’s because your subconscious mind thinks the images it is seeing in your nightmare are happening in reality, and as a result your body kicks into fight or flight mode. Your heart starts to race, your breathing becomes shallow and your blood flows away from your brain to your muscles (think back to high school biology).

If you are focusing on an interview or meeting going badly, you will literally create an image in your mind being in that situation. And with your subconscious mind not being able to distinguish between imagination and reality, it will assume you are experiencing it for real. And as with any situation perceived as dangerous, threatening or scary, your body will initiate the fight or flight response. Then when we feel these changes in our bodies, we interpret them as anxiety – which then increases the feelings of anxiety even further. The key point is that when you feel anxious, you will behave anxiously. And if you are in a job interview, or doing a pitch in front of a massive client, that could be the make or break in the result you will get.

So, what can you think instead? Thoughts that will create better images. For example, how about having a bit of self-belief and imagining it actually going well? Go on. You know you want to.

2) What meaning are you giving to events?

Let’s just say you’re about to interview for a job. And then you start to think “What if I’m not good enough? What if I don’t get this job? What will that mean?”. “Well, if I don’t get this job, then I won’t be able to support my family, and then we will have to sell the house, and the car, and then we’ll be living on the streets, and then we’ll starve, and then we’ll all die!!!” Wooooaaaah there. Easy tiger. Time for a reality check. Ask yourself: is that really true? If you don’t get that job, will you really all die?! Chances are probably not. With fortune on your side, you will most likely simply just get another job elsewhere. So no need for the dramatics. The trick is to think of a better meaning. A meaning that makes you feel good! What if I don’t get this job? Well, at least that means I’ll finally get a chance to do all the DIY around the house and keep the wife happy! (Your number one goal in life gentlemen. You will do well to remember that.)

So there it is. By simply becoming more aware of your thoughts, you will become a master of your emotions and your life! Yes, I know that some of you will have some fairly deep-rooted limiting beliefs and self-doubts that will be driving those old habitual thought patterns of “I can’t do this”, or “I’m not good enough”. But like all habits, habitual thought processes can be broken. Next time you hear yourself saying “I can’t do this because…” simply say “Stop!” and then think about what you want to believe instead. Think of an example where you were good enough. Repeat this new belief to yourself again and again and again, and eventually a new habit will form. Continue like this and those old thought patterns will all become part of a distant memory. Either that, or get yourself an NLP Coach. They’ll sort you out a treat!

For further information about how NLP can help you overcome anxiety, visit my website at or contact me at to book a consultation today.

About the Author

Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.

For further information and inspiration, please visit or follow on Twitter @zetayarwoodLinkedin or Facebook