How to cope with your spider fears

Arachnophobes everywhere recoil '“ for spider season is upon us.

At the beginning of September large male house spiders, gorged from a summer of eating moths and flies, start making their way indoors in search of a mate. So if you’ve started spotting a few sizeable eight-legged ‘guests’ around your home, that’s why.

Obviously those with an aversion to spiders will be rather worried about this, so we have an expert on hand with some tips:-

Keep calm

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Greg Nejedly is a clinical hypnotherapist who helps treat people with arachnophobia, among other fears. He has some useful insights into how you can reduce your anxiety levels, should you encounter one around the house.

“If you saw a spider, you would immediately react to the threat without thinking about it. It’s the natural fight or flight response, albeit a rather exaggerated one in this case.

“When this happens, your heart rate, adrenaline levels and breathing rate all increase very rapidly. It’s very difficult to argue with your subconscious mind directly by telling it to behave itself and calm down because there’s nothing to be worried about here. So instead, we can take an indirect approach by controlling our breathing.

“If we understand that stress equals rapid, shallow breathing and calm equals slow deep breathing, then it makes sense to slow our breathing rate down. By doing so, you’re reversing one of the symptoms of panic and steering your body towards a calmer state. Your mind will also associate a slower rate of breathing with calmness, and help you to mentally relax as well.

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“Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Gently breathe in through your nose (this helps to bring your breathing volume back down to normal) and make sure you are only expanding your belly and NOT your chest. You’re breathing outwards, not upwards. Pause for a moment. Then gently breathe out through your mouth. Take your time exhaling so that you will naturally breathe out for longer than you breathe in. As you breathe out, focus on your belly as the air is being expelled. Keep repeating this process as you gain more control over your breathing.”

A general coping strategy Nejedly notes that “imagination is extremely powerful”, and details a “very powerful and practical technique” to dealing with a general fear of spiders:-

1. Scale your nervousness or anxiety between 0 and 10 (10 being the most).

2. Close your eyes.

3. Imagine an image of the situation you would like to feel better in, and imagine you’re looking through your eyes and hearing through your ears as you’re in this situation. Notice any feelings of nervousness or anxiousness.

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4. Place this image aside and now imagine a second image. See yourself inside the image, handling the situation perfectly, calmly and incredibly confidently. You can be creative here. Some people like to imagine themselves being Superman or getting standing ovations. The more creative, the better.

5. Now, bring up the first image and imagine it right in front of you, as you imagine yourself in the situation, looking through your eyes and hearing through your ears.

6. As soon as this image starts to materialise, blank it out and immediately replace it with the second image.

7. Focus on the second, calm and confident image for five seconds, noticing everything about the way you look, sound and behave that shows you just how calm and confident you are.

8. Open and close your eyes.

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9. Repeat steps 5 through to 8 another 9 times (making a total of 10 repetitions).

10. After the 10th time, stop and check what your anxiety has come down to on the scale between 0 and 10.

11. Repeat steps 5 to 8 another 10 times if you want and check the scale again. Repeat this any number of times until you’ve reached a low enough number on the scale, that feels right to you (a total of 2 or 3 sets should suffice, i.e. 2 or 3 lots of 10 repetitions).

If one gets away from you…

If faced with the dreaded ‘it’s just slipped under the sofa/TV stand moment’, Nejedly advises avoiding swatting the spider with a rolled up newspaper when it emerges.

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“They’re more terrified of you than you are of them. All they’re trying to do is run towards a safe, dark space where they won’t be bothered.

“If no-one has yet rushed to your aid, drawn in by the screaming, then you may have to enlist the help of another brave soul. “If one doesn’t exist nearby, you can always knock on your neighbour’s door and I’m sure they’d be more than happy to help.

“In any case, once the spider has been moved elsewhere, you will feel far more relaxed.”

Try to reduce your everyday stress

If you’re always obsessively checking for spiders whenever you enter a room, Nejedly suggests that reducing stress in your everyday life may help overcome this.

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“Your subconscious mind is primed for your protection. It’s there to ensure your survival, so it continuously scans your environment for potential threats. If we have an overwhelming fear of spiders, then your subconscious will be looking out for them.

“If your general anxiety is higher than it should be as a result of the stress of your job, relationships, and how you feel about yourself, it means that the obsessive part of your mind can take over.

“Lowering our anxiety levels is beneficial in so many ways but it also helps to quieten the obsessional mind. You can achieve this by practising some form of focused relaxation such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness and, of course, self-hypnosis.”