Anxiety - How to help
Anxiety can strike us all. We may be anxious before public speaking, or before getting test results from our doctor or before the beginning of an exam. Anxiety itself is not a bad thing it is one of many psychological reactions that are there to protect us. It often appears as part of threatening or stressful situations helping us predict harm to ourselves and then avoiding it. Mild anxiety while unsettling can let us prepare and protect ourselves.
Anxiety is a problem when the sensitivity and reaction to a situation or situations is out of proportion to the situation encountered. Anxiety can become extremely debilitating making daily life difficult, interfering with what a person can do and affecting sleep patterns.
Stress is one of the biggest causes of anxiety in our lives. We may be stressed at work, school or have worries in our finances or our relationships, this can lead to an anxious reaction about the future. Similarly if we have had a bad experience such as bullying or a car crash, our anxiety can make us very reluctant to put ourselves back in the environment where those things occurred.
The symptoms of anxiety are many and varied such as heart palpitations, trouble concentrating, headaches, irritability or being ‘on edge’ all of the time. Fortunately there are a range of treatment options that can help and alleviate anxiety. As with many health problems a good place to start will be your doctor. Your doctor has a range of treatments that can both deal with symptoms and that can address the anxious behaviour in the longer term.
There are things that you can do for yourself. Building some time to allow yourself to relax. That will mean different things to different people; it might be a bath or music, reading or exercise. The important thing is time away from the stress.
Learning to manage your stress, manage your deadlines, ask yourself who set that deadline (often it is ourselves!) and look at how they might work better for you.
Monitor how you talk to yourself and try to avoid negative thought patterns - these processes often turn into 'worst case scenario' type thoughts. There can be good outcomes, so at least consider that possibility. You should also beware when you run yourself down or call yourself names like slow, stupid, no good. They cannot benefit you and are making you feel worse. Imagine if you would say these things to your best friend – so why say them to yourself.
Probably the most common treatment for anxiety is counselling. Counselling allows you space away from the stressors where you can examine your thoughts and feelings, looking at the causes and triggers for your anxiety. Working with your counsellor you will be able to work out how you would like to react differently to your anxiety and what can be different as a result. It offers a very practical way to deal with those anxious feelings and to deal with them in a way you are comfortable with.
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About Graeme Orr
I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling for both individuals and couples on the Southside of Glasgow.
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