It is considered a part of human nature to attempt to avoid harm and conflict however possible. We tend to be vigilant of much that is around us to protect ourselves from potential threats. There is no wrong with it as it is a common yet beneficial practice for one’s safety. However, when this condition elevates (and then generalises), it can result in hypervigilance. This is a state where a person becomes increasingly sensitive toward their environment. Their surroundings may include any existing factor as well as the people around them. A person is likely to perceive extreme threats even from normal day-to-day situations. It can result in hypersensitivity in individuals that can have an adverse impact on their lives.
Hypervigilance, however, is not a condition in itself. It often has deep-rooted underlying causes that can trigger the state as a person ages. Trauma is one of the most common origins of hypervigilance. Other related reasons can be early childhood trauma, combat experience, or someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Hypervigilance can also be easily related to anxiety. When you become concerned about your surroundings it leads you to be highly aware. Growing abnormally cautious regarding your safety is one of the major signs of hypervigilance. Research has proven that avoiding certain situations, overestimating dangers, and fixating on potential threats are the most usual symptoms of hypervigilance.
”I had this as a rule of life, too much of anything is bad”, says Terence. Similarly, being aware and on guard is necessary but only to a certain extent. Once you exceed its limit, it will definitely start to take a toll on you. Worrying overly about your safety and referring to everything as posing a threat will make you hypervigilant. This can lead to the detriment of your mental condition and have a negative effect on both your mental and physical health.
If you believe that you consistently experience this state then it is likely that it is time for you to take action. Deal with it before the situation worsens. Being vigilant to a healthy level is what provides benefit and can help you avoid genuine danger. This article explains various ways how to reduce hypervigilance. However, do seek the assistance of a professional if it starts to cause real problems in your life that you feel unable to change yourself.
Why is it a problem?
Being hypervigilant may feel like you are protecting yourself. But in reality, it is far from that, in some cases it may even be the opposite. It can gradually consume you and have an impact on the quality of your life and your behaviour. Moreover, it can lead to physical symptoms that are difficult to cope with. Such as sleep deprivation, breakdowns, and can worsen anxiety. Altogether, hypervigilance can affect your personality as well making you antisocial and avoiding contact with others.
It may also result in reaching a permanent state of paranoia where you begin to doubt your relationships. It also hinders your bonding with family and friends. Lastly, it can develop a catastrophic element where you start to imagine the worst possible outcome in every situation. These problems will not only cause you discomfort but can also lead to serious mental illness. Below are some useful ways that can help you reduce hypervigilance effectively.
1. Professional therapy
One of the best ways to deal with hypervigilance is to seek therapy. Life can be challenging and it is okay to get the help you need. There are so many options available, such as cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy (CBH). It is useful to treat anxiety and help you connect with yourself. Talking to an expert helps you see things clearly. Moreover, chances are you will identify what is causing you to be hypervigilant in the first place. Another option is exposure therapy which helps you to constructively face memories of past traumatic events. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) combined with exposure therapy can alter the way you respond to traumatic recollections.
2. Regular exercise
Believe it or not, exercise is one of those things that can have a positive effect on so much in our lives. It does not only have a physical beneficial impact upon your body but also helps to keep your mind healthy. If you want to successfully fight nervous and anxiety outbursts exercise is one good way to go. Exercise has proven to avoid many mental issues that a person is most likely to face. Plus, it can help with hypervigilance while keeping you on the go and diverting your mind focused upon your exertion.
Read this article for more on this subject: Ways Physical Exercise Boosts Mental Health.
Providing peace to your mind should be your top priority. Being mindful of your body and mind is just as important as anything else in life. Especially, to bring down stress levels practicing mindfulness is super beneficial. Healthy exercises like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help to calm your nerves. It also promotes a positive mindset by replacing negative thoughts. Moreover, these exercises can improve both your mental and physical well-being. Practicing mindfulness can help you to communicate with yourself. While encouraging your body to release hormones such as endorphins which greatly help to bring down stress levels.
4. Talk it out
When you feel like you can not help yourself in the state you are in, it can help to let it all out. Friends and family are people who will always want the best for you. Whenever you feel hypervigilant talk to the people you trust most. Tell them how you feel. At times letting it all out is all you need to feel okay again. When you hear yourself voice your own worries helps you analyse the situation better. Moreover, it can help you excavate beneficial advice that can solve the problem for you. Thus, to have people in your life to whom you can talk your heart out is sometimes the therapy you need.
5. Ditch overthinking
Overthinking the littlest things in life can lead you to be hyper-vigilant. Try to calm yourself by engaging yourself in productive activities. Making yourself useful will keep your mind off things that are disturbing you. Overthinking is a common issue that leads to anxiety and makes you hypervigilant. All you need to do is be thoughtful and invest your energy where it will be fruitful. It may seem impossible to keep yourself from overthinking but it really isn’t. The only thing you have to do is strengthen yourself and have faith. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Believe you can and you’re halfway there”.
Read these articles for more on this topic:
– How to Stop Rumination and Overthinking Being Your Downfall.
– How to Control Overthinking.
6. Be present
It is very easy to lose oneself in agonising thoughts. While always focusing on worrying thoughts, we can grow increasingly worried about what might go wrong. However, being present in the moment and connecting with your surroundings can really help. This also helps you to fully live without being concerned about the negative all the time. Moreover, being yourself is also useful key here. There is no need to play pretend in order to be safe. Focusing on neutrality and positivity in life will help you lead a happy and successful one indeed.
7. Connect with nature
Connecting ourselves with nature is important. Hypervigilance can cause us to overlook all the essential things in life which really require our focus. Nature is wonderful. People who have a good nature connectedness are more likely to lead happy and healthier lives. It does not only help generate positivity but also increases joy and calmness. Nature sure is one’s best friend. When you feel like blowing off steam, simply take a walk and you will instantly feel refreshed. It has its way to speak to us and giving us renewed confidence. Improve your mood and feel more active by simply connecting to nature and appreciating its beauty.
8. Practice coping strategies
To cope with hypervigilance you can implement various strategies. Be it spending time with your friends or me-time to calm yourself. Make sure to take slow and deep breaths whenever anxious. Before reacting to a situation, pause and think for a while. Instantly reacting to situations can increase the chances of hypervigilance. Moreover, accepting your emotions and fears is important too. Keep up with your feelings and thoughts while not suppressing them. Be mindful while making friends. Some people can drain your energy which can impact your mental peace. Set healthy boundaries with people in your life and develop the habit of prioritising yourself. All these actions will enhance your well-being and reduce hypervigilance to healthy levels.
9. Mend your sleep cycle
Resting properly is integral for healthy living. Both the human mind and body require sufficient sleep every 24 hours to function productively. Thus, mending your sleep cycle is really important for you to fight hypervigilance. Increased levels of hypervigilance can cause you to be sleep deprived. It does not let you sleep peacefully when you are constantly on the lookout for danger. This deadly deprivation can exacerbate all the other symptoms you may be experiencing. To attain quality sleep you should avoid using your phone before bed. Exert yourself all day long so that you do not have much trouble falling asleep. Moreover, avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine, and a heavy dinner before bed. A healthy sleep cycle will not only help you reduce hypervigilance but also improve your overall life quality.
Show kindness towards yourself no matter what the circumstances are. Self-care is the best way to win in life. Even hypervigilance can take the form of self-care but only if it is not more than needed. Doing things that you like and being there for yourself are important. It is a way for your body to tell you that you matter. It can also be the best way to distract yourself from concerning worries. Adopt a few of your favourite hobbies such as reading, writing, or playing sports. Journaling your emotions and feelings is a great way to take of your inner self. It helps you to reflect on your life and take mindful decisions. Self-care is also manifesting good things for yourself. Work towards your core values and goals to keep going. Never compromise on your happiness and peace as it always comes first.
11. Take time out to unwind
In our constant struggle to improve our living conditions, we can forget to take care of ourselves. It is important to take a break from time to time. Hypervigilance is also the cause of constant happening in our surroundings. However, to keep yourself composed it is integral to relax and carve out some time solely for yourself. It helps you to reflect on your situation and better deal with problems. To function effectively we need to take a step back when everything starts to feel overwhelming. Be it taking a trip to the mountains with friends, going on a mini solo vacation, or simply taking a day off from work. It will definitely help you unwind and reduce stress which will concurrently lessen hypervigilance.
The list of tips and tricks to follow and reduce hypervigilance is endless. One of the most effective practices is to connect with yourself. You know yourself better than anybody else out there. Hence, only you know what can help you best to fight successfully with hypervigilance and reduce it to an acceptable level. Being alert is a good trait to have but you need to keep it under check. Work towards a calmer mind for a healthy lifestyle.
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Very helpful article, thank you Adam. I think most people are pretty stressed at present with a world that does not feel particularly secure. I am a firm believer that the best / only way out is through, but there is a lot of through to negotiate at the moment and none of us is going to be spared. So I found your article ‘grounding’ and it helps to touch base again from time to time with something like this.
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