Anxiety - it just stops your life
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
31st December, 20130 Comments
“Anxiety, it just stops your life.” A simple statement from Amanda Seyfried. You might think that the American Actress that has played lead roles in Major films like Mamma Mia, Les Miserables and Red Riding Hood would have very little anxiety - after all, performing and singing in front of all of these people…yet the actress has revealed on several occasions how her life and career have been held back by anxiety and panic attacks, with stage fright being cited as a main reason for never trying the stage.
While we can all wish Ms Seyfried well in her battle with anxiety, there is perhaps some comfort for us all that anxiety can hit anyone, and that outward confidence is not necessarily a guide as to what is going on internally. The reality is that we all feel anxious at times and, if left unchecked, that anxiety can become disabling, preventing us from living our lives to the full; take the man who cannot pick up the phone to query his phone bill because he is scared he would be bothering someone (and, in any case, he might have "got it wrong") as an example; the woman too scared to go parties because, although she is very lonely, is scared of talking to new people. These very real fears prevent so many from being able to fix problems in their lives and find a way to move forward. In the end, it becomes easier to avoid the stage, pick up the phone or go to parties. The anxiety is more painful than anything else.
Yet it is possible to break free of this prison - it may take some effort and courage, but those who make the journey feel that the freedom is worth the effort. Many successfully recover from their anxiety on their own, but remember there is help (doctors, counsellors and so on) that can make the journey easier.
First, take notice of your anxiety. It does have a purpose; it is there to keep you safe - it helps keep you aware of a threat on a dark night. The problem is that your anxiety has become too sensitive, seeing something (or many things) as a threat when they are not.
When you get anxious your body has a biological response; you breathe more quickly, your muscles tense for action, your heartbeat quickens. You need to learn to counteract these, so if you feel yourself becoming anxious try taking deep, slow breaths (count it out in seconds). It is also useful to learn how to perform muscle relaxation or meditation as this allows you to focus on taking the tension away from those areas of the body where it is not welcome.
Finally, when anxiety strikes you need to challenge the automatic thought process. So, perhaps you fear that, in picking up the phone to call a friend, you will be bothering them or that they will be obliged to talk to you. You are anxious that they do not really like you. To challenge this, try to assemble the facts that support your assertion. Well, you notice that they haven’t phoned you for a month. You did have that stupid fight about who was to pay for the tea last time you went out together - maybe she still holds a grudge? Now, look at the facts that don’t support your argument. You parted on good terms despite the fight. She did send you a birthday card last month. As you begin to balance the facts both for and against you can see that there are other possibilities. She may have fallen out with you, but she may have been busy at work or with the family. Perhaps she would appreciate a call. The process can help to challenge our negative bias on anxious thoughts.
Putting all of this into action will start to bring relief from anxiety, but as with all new things it requires practise and there will be setbacks as well as triumphs (hence why so many choose to start with a counsellor). In the end though, anxiety is stealing your life, so you need to stand up and take it back.
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