ANXIETY & STRESS
IS IT NORMAL TO EXPERIENCE ANXIETY?
Anxiety is a natural response to situations where we feel unsafe, uncertain or not in control. Anxiety is our mind’s primal mechanism to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from harm.
Our subconscious scans our environment to be aware of potential dangers and can trigger the ‘fight or flight’ response. Adrenalin rushes through our body helping us to prepare to fight away the danger or run away (causing physical symptoms).
Fear is about survival so it will take over our minds and body in order to protect. This is great when it is actually helpful and responding to an actual danger, however, modern day anxieties and worries do not require the same physical and emotional response. The mind can easily go into overdrive and respond as if there is a danger, causing reactions that can seem out of perspective and take over our thoughts and actions.
ANXIETY CAN FEEL VERY UNCOMFORTABLE
The experience of anxiety can be highly uncomfortable and can negatively affect daily life. Anxiety is generally perceived as a negative symptom and can be so distressing and disabling that it can be classed as a mental illness.
The anxiety spectrum is wide varying between mild and severe. However, any level of anxiety is often viewed as negative and a feeling we need to get rid of. This can set up a mental battle and a response to use any means to get rid of anxiety, usually at the expense of our health and well-being. The battle with anxiety usually provides only short term relief, using strategies such as avoidance, escapism and seeking control.
If you are struggling with anxiety you may be experiencing:
– A sense of dread
– Feeling constantly on edge
– Difficulty concentrating
You may then try and avoid people and places seeking safety in your ‘comfort zone’. This can be affecting work, relationships and other daily activities.
Anxiety can bring about physical symptoms also including:
– Fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
– Muscle aches and tension
– Trembling or shaking
– Dry mouth
– Excessive sweating
– Shortness of breath
– Feeling sick
– Stomach aches
– Difficulty falling or staying asleep (Insomnia)
– Pins and needles
Anxiety and Stress
There are many reasons as to why you may be struggling with anxiety. One or the following factors may have contributed:-
- Nature and nurture – You may describe yourself as ‘a worrier’. Sometimes this can be part of our personality we were born with or influenced by messages we received in childhood. For example an anxious parent may be constantly pointing out the dangers and using avoidance strategies to cope. This promotes learning that the world is a dangerous place that we must avoid.
- The desire for control – You may have developed a coping strategy around seeking control to help manage the discomfort of uncertainty and risk. This can work when control can be obtained, but in situations where control is difficult to achieve then coping can be difficult.
- Experience of trauma – Traumatic events can stay in the subconcious mind and can be triggered easily in other future situations anytime the brain recognises any small signal that connects the event with the trauma. Therefore it can be triggered in situations that are not dangerous but the fear response has become highly sensitised.
- Dis-regulation of emotions – Not learning or practising helpful coping strategies or the ability to self soothe and be compassionate can lead to emotions being highly uncomfortable. This can trigger a battle with anxiety and the difficulty in knowing how to cope with it.
- Challenging situations – Some situations may be anxiety provoking because anxiety, change, adjustment and uncertainty is part of life. Sometimes we can fight against these events, which isn’t always as helpful as learning how to ride it out and seek useful actions to cope.
- Self doubt – Sometimes it is not the fear itself that is the challenge but the way we can see ourselves coping with difficult scenarios. Those with a stronger sense of their coping ability will not feel as anxious because of their confidence in being able to deal with it.
HOW TO MANAGE ANXIETY
There are many ways to reduce anxiety, some which you may have tried and found helpful to different degrees.
Step 1 – The first step in reducing anxiety is to have a real understanding of anxiety and how it works in the brain and body. You will then feel more in control as you know what is happening so that the experience of fear itself will no longer trigger any further anxiety.
Step 2 – It is also important to work out what it is you really want to change. It can feel scary to change our response to anxiety because although it can be causing difficulties it may also be helping us to feel safe. So you don’t need to change everything! Stepping out of our comfort zone is challenging, so it needs to be a gradual process that taps into the right motivation. We also need to guide our mind to find the right compromise between ensuring safety but also being able to be calm and carry out the activities in our life that we need and want to do.
Step 3 – Get a tool kit of techniques. Cognitive approaches, mindfulness, graded exposure, relaxation, breathing and meaningful activities are key techniques to learn to reduce anxiety.
Step 4 – Practice! To break habits, form new ones and for our minds to see the benefits of new responses, it requires practice. Building it in to daily routine is easier as it doesn’t feel like an added demand.
HOW ESSEX ANXIETY THERAPY CAN HELP
The impact of anxiety can affect other aspects of our mental wellbeing, including low mood, depression and low self-esteem. This is why it is so important to get support. Although it can feel as though you are stuck, there are many helpful ways to get ‘unstuck’.
The Anxiety Therapy Programme offers help to those who are struggling to manage anxious thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It offers a range of tools and techniques including options of relaxation skills, mindfulness and hypnotherapy. Sessions will help support your own unique background and personality, to identify clearer understanding into the brain’s response to anxiety and help to change habits, unhelpful thinking and the response to uncomfortable emotions.
If you’d like to find out about more of any of our therapies and how they can benefit you, please send us a message, email or phone us.