What is anxiety? Why do we become anxious?
Anxiety is a symptom which tells us that something is getting out of control and/or feeling unsafe. You can ask yourself three questions:
1. Why am I feeling anxious today? This answer will lead you to your own truth and understanding.
2. Is it affecting my body-stomach, head...?
3. Is it affecting my relationships?
Normal anxiety is inevitable in all our lives, and trying to understand yourself in your own time is a good habit to cultivate. If you answer "yes" to question 2 and 3, it is time to do something about it. Too much anxiety begins to cramp your lifestyle. You may also find yourself taking lesser risks and avoiding anxiety provoking situations. The circle of life shrinks and the list of things you can do becomes restricted. Talking to a professional can be helpful, but if your financial security is threatened or you have an addictive issue, restricting your temptations and not gratifying cravings can empower you and make you more in charge of your life.
In other cases, anxiety is provoked in situations like a much awaited job interview; a driving test; meeting a difficult boss; having difficult relations. Anxiety is not all bad, and with a little care it can be understood and limited. On one hand, increased anxiety tells us that something needs doing; you may be anxious before a driving test, but it may help you to prepare more, see it through and, in fact, make you proportionally elated. On the other hand, your increased anxiety may be telling you that something unpleasant is going to happen. It is a signal to say that we are charged up with something, because either the situation demands it or we have 'sussed out' internally that we cannot cope with it. For example, people in a fragile state (like those who are convalescing or have been bullied) may find it difficult to shop in the local market. At times, removing yourself from an unbearable and unbeatable situation can be the only, and perhaps the best, resort.
Therapy can help with anxiety. At times, people come for therapy with anxious symptoms and have not thought of the various links to issues which seem apparently random. Finding these links gives one perspective, and therefore a clearer idea of how to go forward. Maybe in the past one was not ready for an extraordinary situation (illness, bereavement etc), or that it was of such proportions that it bypassed any skills one had to deal with it at the time (for example recession, bereavement, fatal disease, earthquakes). Clients seek therapy for a number of issues that seemed to happen all at once; father passed away; redundancy; break up of relationship. There is a link - a loss -which creates a ripple effect. Such an experience can make you anxious and timid about forthcoming events. One can never prepare for the loss of someone who you communicated with often and shared your world and took guidance from. On the other hand, facing the prospect of dealing with people (in workplace or socially) who are like the ones who have triggered our anger, despair and helplessness in the past will trigger anxiety in the present. Not being in touch with such links may create confusion. Sometimes clients say, "I am anxious, but it cannot be just because of ...". We are so used to coping with unbearable situations that we don't realise at times that we are just coping! Last but not least, our health and any negative variance in it, will trigger our deepest anxiety. After all, our bodies and minds are all that we really have at the end of the day !
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About Smita Kamble
Smita Rajput Kamble is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice in Milton Keynes. She also teaches psychotherapy and runs practitioners' workshops in London.