Help! I'm feeling anxious
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Justin Lee Slaughter. Humanistic Integrative Counsellor. MBACP (Reg)
5th July, 20160 Comments
We've all been in a difficult and stressful situation that sets our hearts racing at a time of perceived pressure. At a job interview for an important job, a first date, giving a speech etc. These are often short lived experiences and pass as quickly as the situation themselves. For those who suffer from anxiety, these experiences do not pass so quickly and can go on for many moments, days, months or even years. Feelings of fear, worry and nervousness are often prolonged and worsen. Debilitating individuals and affecting every facet of their lives. Putting a strain on an individuals relationship with themselves and others. At worst stopping someone from working, relating and living a fulfilling life. Take a moment to think of this Swedish proverb:
'Worrying about small things gives them a big shadow.'
Worry, fear and anxiety can be helpful in that we keep ourselves out of danger, from those things we've previously learnt that are threatening. With this in mind, we may rightly be cautious and are able to appropriately weigh up risk factors in a situation. Anxiety is associated with our archaic 'flight or fight response'. With anxiety, the level of worry is disproportionate to the level of risk, things are perceived and experienced as being a lot worse than they actually are.
Symptoms may include irritability, difficulty sleeping, increased alertness and heightened awareness, apprehension, a sense of impending doom, sweating, palpitations, increased heart rate, increased in blood pressure and difficulty breathing, nervousness, nausea and rumination.
Causes of anxiety are many, multi faceted and different from individual to individual. Anxiety has links to other mental health issues such as depression, negative thinking, low self esteem and etc. There are many types of anxiety too. Such as social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or various phobias such as agoraphobia.
An aim in counselling work is to discover and understand an individuals view of themselves and their experiences. Their triggers, patterns, behaviours, thoughts, their past, present and future sense of self. How do all of these inform who they are now in relation to their anxiety?
In helping you to talk, counselling can help you understand your anxiety and manage your anxiety. Perhaps thinking about the following ways of working in relation to working with anxiety can be of some use, sometimes small steps create big changes. You may feel that your anxiety appears 'out of the blue', it happens all too quickly, however often under closer exploration you may find it has links with other things. It may be that you have kept this to yourself for sometime and have difficulty opening up with others therefore you've felt burdened and have increased your anxiousness. So talking and developing a good communicative, emotionally competent relationship can be beneficial.
The following are just a handful of the many ways which may help individuals better manage and understand their own anxiety. Keeping a journal of your anxiety can be a useful way of discovering, expressing, exploring and understanding your triggers and patterns in relation to your anxiety. Thus helping you manage your thoughts and feelings.
Talk about it. It has been suggested that anxiety may be there as it is possible you've been unable to form deep relationships with others, are reluctant to share and therefore keep things to yourself, thus burdening you. So what follows is the idea that talking and developing relationships good relationships with yourself and others can help.
Exploring the anxiety, through creative avenues, drawing, writing, play even, through what we call 'dialoguing', through the use of metaphor or narrative approaches can all be beneficial in increasing understanding and self awareness. Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation are all well documented ways of helping with anxiety. Another may be exercises. These are things which can be facilitated and or explored in the counselling relationship.
Exploring anxiety, its triggers, patterns and your own understanding of it can be useful in developing your awareness and self understanding, which can be a necessary starting point of change. There are many ways of coping with anxiety. I've only mentioned a few, such as: journalling, talking, mindfulness, exercise. However there are many more. No doubt you'll find your own way that is individual to you. Your thoughts and previous experiences can feed your anxiety. Let's have a look at those in a safe, confidential space and see what you can change.
About the author
I have a background in counselling and psychotherapy, social science and in healthcare with a broad range of experience in both adult and adolescent mental health. I manage a small private practice, I currently volunteer as part of a counselling team at THT Brighton and Hove, as well as working in community mental health support services.
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