Today I've been asked to talk about Hyper Vigilance, what it is, how it affects you and how to overcome it. So let's jump right in.
It is a state of being overly alert for a prolonged period of time, I'm not just talking a couple of hours but there are certain situations where you are required to be alert for days, weeks, months or even years at a time.
Now being vigilant is great, it helps keep us safe when there is danger nearby, but when we're hyper-vigilant you perceive there to be danger nearby all the time whether there is or not. Every person you pass in the street becomes a potential attacker, the noise of a car door slamming shut is perceived to be gunfire or explosion. -- If this is happening, it becomes a problem and leads to more complex medical conditions particularly associated with your mental health.
When every thought, becomes a worst case scenario, it has a dramatic impact on our health. Your brain begins to create situations to justify the thought in the first place.
I'll give you an example, I had a client come to see me she was in a state of panic and her first words to me on this particular day were, 'My life is shit, I'm dying, I've got cancer.' We talked about what was going on and unpicked what had led her to this conclusion during our session. We discovered that she had found a lump in her chest recently but had not yet been to the doctors but had automatically made the connection that this was the only outcome for her and that she was dying. The situation had caused extreme anxiety and she and many other people live like this on a day to day basis constantly on edge, constantly worried about what is around the corner, seeing danger and threat everywhere all the time. -- It's exhausting.
I'm pleased to tell you that she did visit a medical professional and was able to confirm to me at a later date that she had had a pulled muscle that was very painful and had caused inflammation. You can see that when we're in a state of hypervigilance it plays havoc with our perceptions.
There are other conditions that have a significant impact for example:
There's also a common misconception that PTSD only affects Military or emergency service personnel, or victims of violent crime. However, its actually an event that you find traumatic could trigger hypervigilance. Or it could be that you're dealing with something over a long period of time like, the long-term care of a loved one, or being trapped in a job you hate or being a new mum and constantly aware of every breath that your child is taking. Now, these are all situations where vigilance is necessary the problem here is when you can't switch it off, so what can we do about it?
There are many things you can do to bring yourself back and retrain your brain to stop inventing crises for it to worry about. You can find a plethora of information online, if you look at mindfulness there are books, tutorials, videos, courses just on this one aspect alone. There is also much comfort to be gained from knowing you are not alone.
Here's something that I find particularly useful to use once the danger has passed.
Just going through these things in a safe place will help your brain and body also realised that you are safe and the immediate need to respond to the danger is gone and gives you a chance to calm down.
If you feel that you need more help to break down the hypervigilance/ anxiety cycle then please contact me. I love to help people and can work with you to find a solution, whether that is with me personally or another therapist we can find something that works for you.
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