How to overcome anxiety - Stage one recognising it
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Dr Jonathan Hutchins, MBACP (Accred), C.Psychol, EMDR Therapist, BABCP accred.
6th August, 2010
Anxiety or fear is a very natural response to what we see as a threat in our environment. The fear response gives us three choices when we see something as a threat in our environment (e.g. a fight with our partner, difficulties at work) the responses include:
1. Fighting - we may try to fight the problem/threat by becoming angry and trying to get rid of it.
2. Flight or running away - we all commonly may avoid things that we see as a threat, such as a boss at work who is unhappy with our performance or people who upset us.
3. Freeze - sometimes we can feel overwhelmed or paralysed with fear so our body may freeze up with our heart racing and us sweating. This is common in panic attacks where we may naturally believe that we are having a heart attack because our hearts are racing so much.
As part of all these responses we may find that our heart races, we sweat a lot, we tense up and we are likely to get head aches or stomach aches. This is part of the bodies natural response to give you the energy to either fight or run from the threat. This is because we get a boost of adrenalin into our blood stream and our heart pumps faster to give us more strength in our body. We then will use up all of our resources, so our stomach will digest food quicker leading to stomach ache. We are then likely to sweat because our body is all geared up to respond to the situation.
These bodily reactions were great when we had to fight sabre tooth tigers or woolly mammoths but now they cause us problems because we can't easily use this energy. We can't hit our boss because we see then as a threat, equally we can't easily run away or escape from work so we have to stick with these difficult bodily reactions.
Overall anxiety and the associated bodily reactions are old evolutionary responses to threat that have there uses in our modern day but they can equally cause us problems such as social anxiety, panic attacks, generalised anxiety and having phobias.
Things that you can do to help:
1. Notice if your body does respond in the way that I have said, what is going on around you? what changed? what went through your mind?
2. Once you identify these possible triggers give some thought about why they are threatening, is it like this all the time or are there some times when it doesn't have to be like this?
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