Anxiety and stress
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Barbara Boxhall BA Hons. Member MBACP (Accred) Counselling and Mindfulness
1st April, 20150 Comments
Feeling anxious from time to time is a natural part of most people's experience, and can even be a useful reminder to pay attention to what is happening. However during times when difficulties seem to be piling on top of more difficulties, anxiety can become an additional part of the problem, causing even more stress.
There is no doubt that just being alive is very challenging and whether we like it or not we find ourselves having to face all kinds of challenges, including ourselves!
We have highly complex brains and this complexity can explain how anxiety can escalate to become a major part of any problem we face. Deep inside our brain we have the most ancient part, often called the 'reptilian' brain. This part is only concerned with survival and includes the system for flight and fight. Although it's highly effective, it is also very simple. It cannot differentiate between a real threat (such as a bus heading towards us) and a thought about a threat (the bus). It reacts automatically without your say so and you feel the effect. This is called the stress reaction and your body becomes flooded with the stress hormones, adrenalin and cortisol.
Too much of this (and of course we are living in a world where stress is increasing all the time) and anxiety changes from being something useful that we can connect with to warn us away from situations that might not be helpful, to a state which can range anywhere from a constant sense of being driven and tired right through to feelings of panic and overwhelm. It feels difficult to switch off.
We are thinking all the time whether we realise it or not, and although we are not necessarily aware of all our thoughts, the body reacts anyway. Suddenly, sometimes even coming out of the blue, you can find yourself feeling highly anxious wondering what on earth has happened. Understanding that this is not some personal flaw but part of the complexity of being human is the beginning of a new relationship with yourself.
Stress is not all bad and indeed we need a certain amount to motivate us - the problem lies in when there is too much, leading to anxiety which then becomes an additional burden.
Identifying all the different components that trigger anxiety is a practical way start to change the situation. During counselling we can look at all the factors including your habitual ways of going about your life, together with your thought patterns. Becoming more aware without judging yourself starts the process.
Understanding anxiety and what makes you anxious is the first step into developing a new way of being. This new approach will include not only explore anxiety but the problems that interact with it, so that you can see all the components more clearly. Coming to counselling can untangle what may seem too difficult, so that you can discover ways to manage and bring about achievable and sustainable changes in your life. There are many and varied practical steps to help develop the counter-balance of anxiety and stress. During the counselling sessions we can look at those that will work for you and explore ways for you to bring in these changes in the most helpful way.
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