Anxiety- what do we do with it?
I started thinking about anxiety this week when my parents took home their brand new puppy Roxy. The first day we took her home she was terrified! Shaking, whining, weeing and when I put her down she froze with fear. I can honestly say it was really hard to watch her and not be able to take away her fear and anxiety. However on reflection, I think about it her fear was perfectly rational. She was in a new strange place without her mum, she didn't know if we were 'safe' people who were going to look after her or hurt her, her body and mind were protecting her in a potentially dangerous situation. This is the same for humans, fears job is to warn us so we don't get hurt and it is telling us that we may not be safe.
Anxiety is a form of fear however with anxiety we are not often in danger but our brain has convinced us that we are and so respond in a way that will protect us. This can be because of our past experiences or feelings that we haven't processed or put into context.
For example, the last time you had a job interview you couldn't answer one of the questions that they asked you. Today you have a new job interview and so your fear is the same thing will happen again leading you to feel really anxious. In reality although this has happened before this is a different job, different situation and different time in your life. The likelihood of this happening again in the exact same way is very low. Your brain doesn't know this unless you tell it! Remind yourself of the reality rather than listening to the anxious thoughts that plague you.
The more I have come to work with anxiety (both with clients and on a personal level) I have come to realise that the more we run away from anxiety, the worse it gets. Roxy soon learn't that her bed was a safe place and so for the first day she would not leave it, however, in a few hours she explored the rest of the living room and realised that this was OK too. As she exposed herself to things that seemed really scary she was able to learn that she was safe and it was fun to be free. Like the puppy, in order to live our lives more freely we have to face our fear and do it anyway. I know that some of you reading this may think 'It's fine to say that Anna but it's not that easy.' I would agree with you! It is far from easy and some things may be harder to face than others. However taking one thought captive at a time and seeing it for what it really is can be a good place to start. We cannot control our thoughts coming into our minds, but we can control how we choose to respond to them and put them back in their place!
Counselling can really help anxiety as it can give you the opportunity to look at 'why' the same anxious thoughts are reoccurring and dominating your life. Some days will be harder than others but knowing that you have some support can go along way to helping you be happier person. If you know a person who struggles with anxiety please know that telling them to 'not worry' or 'to get over it' will not help them. Encouraging them to take hold of their anxiety and seek some support will serve them better. Our fears are often very deep rooted and so we can't just 'stop' we need the tools to know how to manage our thoughts and feelings.
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About Anna Honeysett
I am a BACP member working in private practice in Ashford and Faversham. I am also a group trainer and specialize in eating disorders and addictions. I have also recently run a emotional eating course and an anger management course which have both been successful. I love working with people and seeing them come into freedom through counselling.