What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is our body’s way of responding to a felt threat. It is an adaptive response that helps us to navigate danger successfully and prepares our bodies to “fight or flee” the threat we are facing.
During episodes of anxiety, or generally anytime we feel out of control or overwhelmed, our bodies release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare us for an adequate response that will increase our chances of getting through that event.
When anxiety becomes a regular pattern in our lives because we feel anxious every day, it can affect our mental health and have a negative impact on our lives. It can also take a toll on our physical health. In the long term the negative effects of constant anxiety can debilitate our immune system and bring broader health issues.
Anxiety may be triggered by many things that we interpret as dangerous, like exams, job interviews, social events, talking in public, being in open spaces and many more. In fact, there is not an exhaustive list of causes of anxiety as potentially anything can trigger our deepest fears.
Different people can react differently to different situations. What makes me anxious may leave you unconcerned, or the very thing that you are so scared of may make someone else laugh.
What seems to be common in feelings of anxiety are two things:
1- That we feel anxious because we believe that something undesirable is going to happen, even if there is no evidence whatsoever to sustain that belief. (We overestimate the danger.)
2- That we believe that we won’t be able to cope well enough with that undesirable event. (We underestimate our coping resources.)
When addressing your anxiety it is important to look at ways you can break the cycle that tends to perpetuate it. For example someone who is anxious when being in social gatherings will tend to behave in accordance with those feelings of perceived danger and avoid social events as much as they can, which consequently will reinforce the belief that social gatherings are a source of threat.
Here are a few points to remember:
- Anxiety is a normal emotion everyone experiences from time to time.
- Anxiety is most of the time time-limited. It may feel as though it may continue forever, but it always decreases over time.
- Anxiety is designed to perform a helpful function: to prepare you for future threats and protect you from danger. So your goal should not be to get rid of it completely, but to reduce it to a level that no longer interferes significantly with your life.
How can counselling help with anxiety?
First of all, in counselling we can look together at different ways of understanding what you are going through. Counselling can provide you with a stable, honest and supportive relationship where you can be in touch with the messages your body is sending you, with self compassion and without judgement. By gaining greater insight into your own feelings and the ways you see yourself and the world around you, you can attain greater self awareness and control over your life.
Working collaboratively we can find ways to understand what particular situations in your life are causing anxiety and explore why. We can identify what beliefs underpin your emotional responses and put them to the test. There are techniques that can help you to be more aware of your thinking and emotions. There are also strategies which will empower you to replace old negative and irrational beliefs about yourself and the world for more rational and positive ones.
We can also find ways of working with practices that have an immediate effect on controlling anxiety, panic attacks and stress, such as controlled breathing and mindfulness which, once learned, can be implemented by yourself anytime you need.
If you have any comments or would like to know more about how counselling can help you to control your anxiety, feel free to email me at: