Understanding and overcoming anxiety

Anxiety affects millions of people around the world, affecting them in many ways and often leaving them feeling overwhelmed and helpless. As a therapist, I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact that anxiety can have on individuals, from mild unease to debilitating fear that can disrupt day-to-day functioning. 

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The pervasiveness of anxiety

Anxiety is more than just a fleeting moment of worry or stress. For many, it is a chronic condition that significantly impairs their quality of life. A compelling example comes from a well-known celebrity whose biography I recently read. Despite their fame and success, anxiety had taken a firm hold on their life, dictating their thoughts and actions daily. They described feeling 'stupid' for being anxious, given their outward success and struggled with a sense of shame and confusion. This narrative is all too common, as anxiety does not discriminate based on external achievements or status.

The daily battle with anxiety

Living with anxiety is akin to walking through a minefield. Every step is tentative, fraught with the fear of triggering another episode. Simple tasks like going to the store or attending a social event can become monumental challenges. This constant state of alertness is exhausting and can lead to a cycle of avoidance, where individuals withdraw from activities they once enjoyed, further exacerbating their isolation and anxiety.


Effective therapies for anxiety management

Addressing anxiety requires a multifaceted approach tailored to each individual's unique experiences and triggers. As a therapist, I utilise several therapeutic modalities, including eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Each of these techniques offers unique benefits in helping individuals understand and manage their anxiety.

Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a powerful therapeutic approach that helps individuals process and integrate traumatic memories that contribute to their anxiety. Through guided eye movements, EMDR facilitates the brain's natural healing process, allowing clients to reprocess traumatic memories and reduce their emotional impact. This method is particularly effective for those whose anxiety is rooted in past trauma, enabling them to move forward without the constant shadow of their past experiences.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

NLP focuses on the relationship between language, behaviour, and thought patterns. By understanding and altering these patterns, individuals can change their responses to anxiety-provoking situations. NLP techniques, such as reframing and anchoring, help clients shift their perspective and develop more adaptive coping strategies. This approach empowers individuals to take control of their thoughts and behaviours, reducing the intensity and frequency of their anxiety.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most widely used therapies for anxiety, focusing on identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and beliefs. Through CBT, clients learn to recognise the irrational thoughts that fuel their anxiety and replace them with more realistic and balanced perspectives. This cognitive restructuring is complemented by behavioural interventions, such as exposure therapy, which helps individuals gradually face and overcome their fears in a controlled and supportive environment.


Practical steps to manage anxiety

In addition to formal therapy, there are practical steps that individuals can take to manage their anxiety on a day-to-day basis. Here are some strategies that I often recommend to my clients:

  • Mindfulness and meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help individuals stay grounded in the present moment, reducing the tendency to ruminate on past events or worry about the future.
  • Regular exercise: Physical activity is a natural anxiety reducer, releasing endorphins and promoting a sense of well-being. Even a short daily walk can make a significant difference.
  • Healthy lifestyle choices: Maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol can help stabilise mood and reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Breathing exercises: Deep breathing techniques can quickly calm the nervous system and reduce acute anxiety. Practices such as diaphragmatic breathing or the 7/11 technique are particularly effective.
  • Social support: Connecting with friends, family, or support groups can provide a sense of belonging and reduce feelings of isolation. Sharing experiences with others who understand can be incredibly validating and comforting.

Anxiety is a formidable challenge, but it is not insurmountable. By understanding its nature and employing effective therapeutic strategies, individuals can regain control of their lives and reduce the hold that anxiety has over them. Whether through EMDR, NLP, CBT, or practical self-help strategies, the journey to overcoming anxiety is deeply personal and unique. As a therapist, my goal is to guide and support my clients on this journey, helping them find the strength and resilience to thrive despite their anxiety.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Guildford GU5 & GU2
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Written by Donna Morgan, SNR MNCS Accred ANXIETY, WOMENS HEALTH, CYPT TEENS, CBT EMDR
Guildford GU5 & GU2

Donna Morgan is a highly experienced Humanistic Mental Health Therapist with 26 years of practice. Her passion for helping individuals with their mental health has driven her to develop a compassionate and holistic approach to therapy. Donna firmly believes in treating each client as a unique individual and providing them with personalised support.

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