Do you feel uptight, irritable, nervous, tense or wound up?
Do you spend a lot of time worrying? Do you often feel nervous, apprehensive or on edge? Do you feel that things are getting on top of you or do you find it hard to relax and 'switch off'? Do you often experience unpleasant physical sensations such as 'butterflies' in your stomach, muscular tension, dizziness or breathlessness? If so, you may be experiencing anxiety.
Am I experiencing anxiety?
How can anxiety affect me?
Anxiety is experienced as uncomfortable physical symptoms such as:
- increased heart rate
- muscular tension
- feelings of breathlessness
Anxiety affects us mentally too.
Anxiety can make us worry and ruminate for large periods of time. Our worries are very often about a variety of issues and our mind will jump quickly between worries. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to control the worries ‘crashing around’ in our heads. Anxiety also influences how we behave. For instance, when we feel anxious, we often avoid doing things that we want to because we are worried about our performance. Anxiety can erode our confidence.
Consequently, anxiety stops us from doing many things and makes life feel very challenging.
What causes anxiety?
Life events - anxiety can develop following stressful life events. Especially if we experience many different pressures all at once. Anxiety can result from feeling that we cannot cope with the demands of life.
Individual thinking manner - anxious people have a tendency to expect the worst. They may also feel like they must be on guard in case something bad happens. They unconsciously believe that by thinking about all the things that could go wrong, they will be better prepared to cope.
Evolutionary reasons - anxiety is a feeling developed to protect us and therefore does have positive benefits. For example, when we are under threat or feel in danger, we automatically become anxious. As a result, our heart beats more quickly which supplies blood to our muscles (which helps us run away from or fight). We sweat (which cools us down during this process) and our breathing changes (which ensures oxygen is delivered to our muscles quickly again preparing us for a quick response).
Biological reasons - it has also been shown that if someone in your immediate family is an anxious person, there is an increased chance that you will have similar personality traits.
It is most likely that a combination of all these factors influence someone's anxiety levels. However, most of our anxiety is driven by unconscious thoughts which is why it is so difficult to reduce our anxiety levels on our own. These negative thoughts diminish our confidence - which makes us more anxious - which makes us more inclined to worry.
We become stuck in a vicious cycle of worry and anxiety.
Can I break my cycle of anxiety?
Yes! But you will need to:
- Understand more about your anxiety.
- Learn how to challenge your unhelpful thoughts.
- Improve your problem-solving skills.
- Learn how to reduce the amount of time you spend worrying.
- Learn how you can feel more relaxed both physically and mentally.
- Learn how to stop avoiding the things that make you anxious.
Counselling can help you to control and reduce your anxiety. A counsellor will help you to explore and understand the unconscious thoughts that trigger your anxiety.
In the counselling sessions, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may be used to identify and challenge the negative thought processes which drive our worries and fears. CBT has proven to be very effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders, as it facilitates personal empowerment as you learn to break the cycle of anxiety.
It can also be a fantastic relief and very therapeutic to get things ‘out of your head’ as you share your worries and anxieties with a counsellor. Talking to a counsellor can, in itself, unburden your emotional load and make your head feel lot lighter!