Anxiety - what can you do about it?
Anxiety; it can produce a stream of constant racing negative thoughts without an off switch. What if I embarrass myself? What if people think badly of me? What if I wear the wrong clothes? What if they find out I am stupid? What if they start an argument?
Often we recognise our thought process is irrational, many of the vivid moments rushing round our head never happen, but it’s not the feeling you have. You know you over-react but you can’t seem to help it.
In essence, there is some truth to this helplessness. When you feel stressed, your body prepares to save itself (the so called fight or flight response). The adrenaline it floods us with keeps us in a high state of readiness. Which would be fine in the short term, but over the long term it causes problems with the physical and emotional systems in the body.
Negative thinking is the foundation on which we build our anxiety, yet there are ways to challenge and control it. You have taken the first step by reading this article, you are aware that there is something to be tackled.
You are ready to react to things you dread (a party full of strangers) poised to jump at the threat. So you keep quiet stay and leave at the earliest opportunity. It wasn’t comfortable but you survived. The next time you are faced with a similar situation you have a behaviour that works, so you do it again and it becomes the go to behaviour. But the cost is the anxiety of groups of people even though you have no rational explanation.
The next step is seeing that fear in the moment. Knowing it is okay to have that fear, the anxiety, and the symptoms. Just giving yourself the space, allows you to challenge the anxious thought is it reasonable? What are the facts? Is there anything I could change?
Often we worry what people think of us, in doing so we offer them power over our lives. As you go about your daily life, see if you can spot those who play the piano in the crowd, now the ones who play badly. Ultimately does it matter anyway if you think they play badly, but they enjoy the time they spend with their instrument?
Have the same compassion for yourself. It’s true some people will judge you, even harshly, but they don’t know you, haven’t shared your experiences and you are choosing to do things that enrich your life. The reality is that many will have no opinion, being too preoccupied with their own anxiety of what you think.
So where does that leave you?
Often anxiety delivers negative thoughts that create a prison, yet the reality is that by challenging and controlling the thoughts and behaviours you have the key. Some people find that talking helps, others manage it themselves, but should you choose to do something about it you can be in control.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.