Working with anxiety
Anxiety is a natural human response to threats. It energises the body, preparing it to respond to danger by either fighting or fleeing. However, anxiety can get in the way of normal daily living if it occurs at the wrong time; if simple, daily stresses and strains become anxiety-provoking. Sometimes, the very thought of getting anxious in a future situation is enough to cause anxiety, a panic attack, or feed an almost perpetual state of anxiety, where expected future problems dwell in the mind, unable to be forgotten until resolved.
Aside from the debilitating physical effects of anxiety and panic attacks, anxiety can lead to obsessive organising and planning, needing to know that there is a concrete way that things will be OK. This can lead to not living in the moment, as daily living becomes interrupted with those unresolved issues. Thoughts drift to solving future problems, or worrying about the consequences instead of living and enjoying the present.
Causes of anxiety vary. Genetics can play a role, as can ongoing health conditions, your diet, and any drugs or medication you may be taking. Your past experiences may also have an impact on your anxiety. In your childhood there may not have been the support you needed to feel secure, so perhaps being alert and anxious was the way you learnt to keep safe. Anxiety can be caused by traumatic events that trigger stress and worry that a similar situation will happen again. A build up of many small stresses and worries can cause anxious feelings, particularly when you’re left with a sense that everywhere you turn is an unresolved issue.
How can counselling help with your anxiety?
A counsellor provides a solid, stable and accepting environment, a non-judgemental space where you can begin to feel safe, and risk taking a moment away from the anxiety of the world outside. Your counsellor will help you to be aware of the sources of support both around and within you, and may encourage you to explore breathing exercises or meditation to help you stay calm in difficult situations and be able to tolerate anxious feelings better. You will get the opportunity to look at your situation and what is happening for you, to be aware of your behaviours and your environment to see if they are contributing to anxiety, and help you explore what you’d like to do about it.
Finally, a counsellor will support you in exploring the negative messages you may have taken on board that are fuelling your anxiety, to look at where they came from and to help you slowly challenge them. To test whether the messages you have about what you ‘should' be doing are actually valid and suitable for you, and to discuss alternative, more supportive messages that will help strengthen and support you in living in the here and now.
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