What is anxiety?
There are times in our lives when we all experience anxiety. It's part of being human. As a counsellor most clients that I see will suffer from some form of anxiety.
What causes anxiety?Anxiety can be triggered by
- Stressful situations in the present which evoke unresolved feelings from the past
- Not feeling in control of our lives
- Anticipating and worrying about fearful feelings in the future
- Negative thought patterns , which can be learnt in childhood
- Finding social interaction difficult. Individuals who have autism spectrum disorder / Asperger's syndrome can suffer from anxiety and social isolation.
What are the effects of anxiety?
Anxiety can result in
- low self esteem
- panic attacks
- poor physical health eg headaches, poor immune system, high blood pressure
- difficulty in relationships
- difficulty in enjoying leisure activities
- erratic sleeping patterns
- increased stress at work
How can counselling help my anxiety?
Seeing a counsellor can help you to develop a tool box of different strategies to manage your anxiety. Here are some examples of techniques that I use to help my clients manage anxiety-
- Accept your anxiety as a vulnerable part of you and feel compassion for that part of you - we are all vulnerable
- Be aware that your anxious thoughts are not your enemy- they are trying to protect you
- Face your anxiety head on
- Allow your feelings without judgment rather than getting rapt up in repetitive thoughts
- Accept it is the nature of the mind to be frentic
- Use breathing techniques to relieve physical tension and focus the mind
- Use visualisation techniques and meditation
- Use mindfulness techniques
- Notice where your feelings are in your body
- Remind yourself that feelings will pass
- Replace negative , self limiting and judging thoughts with compassionate thoughts. Counselling can help to change the neural pathways in your brain.
- Focus your attention on anything pleasant in the present moment eg sunlight, warmth
- Talk to a friend
- Do some exercise - this will help you sleep and use up the adrenalin produced while you were stressed
- Eat healthily -choose food which will maximise your serotonin and dopamine levels
- Avoid caffeine/alcohol
- Notice what is happening in your body and in the environment around you at the present moment
- Identify addictive, self harming behaviour as a distraction from extreme anxiety
- Practice grounding techniques
- Understanding what happens physiologically(eg the flight, fight or freeze reflex) in your body when you are anxious can help you manage the symptoms of anxiety
Listen to BBC Radio 4's programme - All in the Mind - about how mindfulness can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety