Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
– Van Wilder
We all worry sometimes, it’s unavoidable. Worrying is a natural response to stressful situations, which there are plenty of in our daily lives. The social media myth that life is always joyful and breezy is simply not true.
In this post, I am writing about anxiety. Not day-to-day transient worries, but overwhelming anxiety, the kind that you can’t seem to stop or even control. The anxiety that is persistent, intense, and prevents you from enjoying your work or your relationships, actively affecting your feelings of wellbeing. It disrupts your sleep and makes you feel restless and on edge.
There are different types of anxiety such as panic attacks, social anxiety, and general anxiety to name a few. Although they present differently, what they all have in common is that they disrupt your life, infusing your experiences with the underlying worry of impending doom.
As overwhelming as anxiety is, healing is possible. After all, anxiety is treatable! Read on for more information about anxiety and what you can do to improve the quality of your life.
Fear vs Anxiety. What’s the difference?
Fear is the emotional response to a real, clear, imminent danger. It is biological. If, for example, a lion was in front of you, you would feel fear and go into fight, flight, or freeze. This is a good thing; fear ensures our survival.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is worrying about an anticipated event in the future that may or may not happen. Anxiety is worrying about the lion when there is no lion in sight and still having the biological reactions as if the lion were there. Anxiety causes us to transport ourselves into the future, imagining the worst-case scenario, and feeling all the psychological and biological shifts in our body. It’s the unnerving feeling that something bad is going to happen.
Now, a little anxiety is helpful! It alerts us to take action so the uncomfortable feelings go away. It gives us energy, like doing our homework and not procrastinating. Too much anxiety, though, has the opposite effect. Instead of pushing us into action, it paralyzes us.
There is a widely held belief that anxious people are very sensitive to internal changes in their bodies. Subtle internal shifts may sound off “anxiety alarms” in the body, when in fact there is no need to. We know, for example, that many people, while anxious, take short shallow breaths. The thought is that shallow breaths lead to changes with oxygen and CO2 levels that may make some of us more anxious. Taking a few deep diaphragmatic breaths restores us.
The problem occurs when the “anxiety alarms” aren’t working well and stay on even when they aren’t needed. When, for example, for months you are anxious all the time or feeling like the level of anxiety doesn’t match the situation. You feel miserable knowing your anxiety is excessive and you just can’t stop it.
Understanding My Anxiety. Where Do I Start?
First, always consult a medical doctor to rule out the possibility that the excessive anxiety you are experiencing may be caused by a medical condition.
Next, take a look at your lifestyle habits. Are you getting good restful sleep? Eating a healthy nutritious diet? Getting enough exercise? Make sure to also take a look at your alcohol and caffeine consumption. If you notice your consumption is high, consider gradually switching to decaf for your morning cup of coffee and limiting your overall alcohol intake.
Seek out a therapist if your anxiety persists and affects your ability to function in your daily life. Specifically, when you cannot control your anxiety and as a result, your sense of wellbeing, work, and relationships are disrupted. Psychologists are highly trained and will tailor a treatment plan to address your unique needs. There are effective treatments for anxiety and many clients feel relief of symptoms shortly after therapy begins.
Read on for helpful ways that therapy can help reduce anxiety, allowing you to focus your energy on what really matters to you: the things in life that give you peace of mind and bring you meaning.
Calm your thoughts: Whether you have racing thoughts, ruminations, panic or negative critical thoughts, therapy can help you quiet your mind and shift your perspectives. By challenging your negative self-talk, you can have a more balanced, productive, and compassionate voice allowing you to free your mental energy.
Calm the body: Learn relaxation and breathing exercises to help you calm and relax your body. We are one being: the mind influences the body and the body influences the mind.
Explore relationships: Anxiety impacts you and may impact important relationships, both personal and professional. Therapy increases self-awareness and understanding and can help give you tools to improve relationships with others.
The information and tips provided here are intended to help you better understand and cope with anxiety in your life. For some, these tips might be very helpful on their own, but for others, these tips will be most effective when combined with therapy. Pass this article along if you know someone who might be struggling with anxiety. If you are experiencing anxiety and believe therapy is right for you, you are welcome to call (760) 930-0886 to set up a free 20-minute consultation with me, Rakefet Benderly PH.D, a psychologist in San Diego. Together, we can heal in connection.