Help! I'm feeling anxious
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Justin Lee Slaughter. PG Dip. MBACP. Humanistic Integrative Counsellor.
5th July, 20160 Comments
We have all been in a variety of difficult situations that have set our heart's racing at times of perceived pressure. At a job interview, a first date, giving a speech and etcetera. These experiences are often short-lived and pass as quickly as the situations themselves. For those who suffer from anxiety, this does not pass so quickly and can go on for many days, months or even years. Feelings of fear and worry are often prolonged. Debilitating you and affecting every facet of your life. Putting a strain on your relationship with yourself and others. At worst stopping you from working, relating and living a fulfilling life. Take a moment to think of this Swedish proverb:
'Worrying about small things gives them a big shadow'.
Worry, fear and anxiety can be helpful in that we keep ourselves out of danger, from those things we've previously learnt that are threatening. With this in mind, we may rightly be cautious and are able to appropriately way up risk factors in a situation. Anxiety is associated with our archaic 'flight or fight response'. With anxiety, the level of worry is disproportionate to the level of risk, things are perceived and experienced as being a lot worse than they actually are. Symptoms may include: irritability, difficultly sleeping, increased alertness and heightened awareness, apprehension and a sense of impending doom. Sweating, palpitations, increased heart rate and difficulty breathing,
Causes of anxiety are many, multi-faceted and different from individual to individual. Anxiety has links to other mental health issues, such as: depression, negative thinking and post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore an aim in counselling work is to discover and understand how you view yourself and how your experiences inform who you are now. Identifying triggers, patterns, behaviours, feelings and thoughts. As well as paying attention to your past, present and future sense of self, how might these relate your anxiety?
Another aim in counselling is to develop a relationship of trust, warmth and respect for individual difference and diversity can be extremely beneficial. Providing the right environment for reflection, challenge, hope and exploration.
In helping you to talk, counselling can help you understand your anxiety and manage your anxiety.
You may feel that your anxiety appears just 'out of the blue', it happens all too quickly, however under closer exploration you may find it has links with other beliefs, situations and events in your life. It may be that you have kept this to yourself for some time and have difficulty opening up with others therefore you've felt burdened and have increased your anxiousness?
Ways of helping: following are just a handful of the many ways which may help individuals better manage and understand their own anxiety.
Keeping a journal of your anxiety can be a useful way of discovering, expressing, exploring and understanding triggers and patterns in relation to your anxiety. Research shows that writing and keeping a journal can be an extremely beneficial practice. Keeping a journal is an invitation and it often proves useful when given therapeutic homework or tasks. It can provide a good reference point, enable reflexivity and a systematic objectification. Thus helping you manage your thoughts and feelings.
Talk about ‘it’. It has been suggested that anxiety may be exacerbated as it is possible you've been unable to form deep relationships with others, are reluctant to share and therefore keep things to yourself, thus burdening you. So what follows is the idea that talking, better communicating and acknowledging your feelings, developing your relationship with yourself and others can be an important point of change.
The A,B,C approach is a well documented way in which to challenge underlying thoughts and beliefs that may exacerbate and trigger your anxiety. Exploring anxiety through creative avenues such as drawing, writing, play, dialogue, through the use of metaphor and narrative approaches can all be beneficial in increasing understanding and self-awareness.
Mindfulness: through the use of breathing techniques, grounding exercises and psychoeducation around the physiological responses to anxiety are beneficial. Mindfulness includes meditation and relaxation which are well documented ways of helping with anxiety. Another may be physical exercise.
Exploring anxiety, triggers, patterns and your own understanding of it can be useful in developing your awareness, which can be a necessary starting point of change. There are many ways of coping with anxiety. I've only mentioned a few however there are many more. No doubt you'll find your own way that is individual to you. Your thoughts and previous experiences can feed your anxiety. Let's have a look at those and see what you can change.
About the author
I have a background in counselling and psychotherapy, social science and in healthcare with a broad range of experience in both adult and adolescent mental health. I manage a small private practice, I currently volunteer as part of a counselling team at THT Brighton and Hove, as well as working in community mental health support services.
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