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What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal response in many situations. It helps us gauge if we’re in danger and whether we need to get away from a particular place or person. The act of worry, fear and anxiety are survival skills that have been instrumental in us staking our claim as the dominant species on this planet. They are all perfectly normal responses to stress and danger. Anxiety becomes a problem when there is no immediate danger, yet we still experience those same pangs and bodily sensations that indicate a threat when, in fact, there is nothing to fear at all.
For some people, anxiety can take over their lives. They find that they just can’t stop worrying, and spend all their time in a state of heightened stress. This can have profound repercussions for their mental and physical health and well-being. They feel profoundly distressed much of the time and can develop a range of physical symptoms, from gastro-intestinal distress to skin problems.
Types of Anxiety Disorders
If, like many people, you have generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), you feel anxious about lots of things, most of the time, rather than worrying about one specific event. You feel worried, you find it hard to concentrate and sleep, and your appetite might be affected.
If you have panic disorder, you suffer from periodic bouts of debilitating panic. You may find that you start to panic about when the next panic attack is going to come, creating a vicious circle. You may also suffer from physical symptoms, including dizziness, sweating, heart palpitations and more.
Some people suffer from very specific types of anxiety, including that of a particular thing or situation, like driving, spiders, or enclosed spaces. This sort of disorder is known as a simple phobia. Anxiety about health can also be extremely problematic.
Other forms include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The former involves stress resulting from a traumatic experience that continues even a long time afterwards, with the latter involving obsessions and engaging in compulsions to mediate these persistent thoughts.
Common Symptoms of Anxiety
- Running away from situations
- Avoiding activities or social situations
- Suppressing or pushing away worrying thoughts and feelings
- Distracting yourself
- Trying to replace “bad” thoughts with “good” ones
- Self-positive talking
- Sticking close to “safe” people or environment
- Reading books written by expert of anxiety disorders
- Using medication, supplements, drugs and alcohol to dull your feelings
Other Behaviours Linked to Anxiety
1.Negative Self Talk
One of the core facets of anxiety is the tendency to come down on yourself for even the smallest of infractions. Over time, this can negatively affect your self-esteem, which can add fuel to the fire of your already existing anxiety or even serve as the starting point of your condition. If you’re constantly using self-limiting language, this will ultimately have an effect on how you imagine other’s view you, as well. It starts and ends with you.
2.Reliving the Past
As hard as it is to accept sometimes, you cannot alter the past. It has been and gone, and no amount of worrying that you can offer will change those events. Although anxiety is generally focused on what may happen in the future, it can just as easily see you concerned with how you were perceived at work, a social event, with family. It’s these thoughts that often feed into how you imagine the future will also unfold.
3.“Predicting” the Future
Anxiety is largely centred around events and activities that you’ll have to engage with in the near future that causes you to imagine scenarios in which the worst possible outcomes take place. It’s the hallmark of all anxiety disorders. But how often do these predictions come true? Very rarely do you find yourself experiencing the exact set of circumstances that you thought would come to pass.
4.Isolating and Avoiding Social Situations
An unavoidable necessity, if you’re suffering from anxiety, is taking time to be alone with yourself. There’s no harm in wanting and needing to detach from company so you can realign with your baseline emotional state. However, it can become a problem when this coping strategy becomes a lifestyle decision. If you continue to self-isolate, it reduces your quality of life and can often lead to the imagining of more scenarios that prevent you from wanting to make social contact.
5.Refusing Help and Not Having a Proper Support Network
It can be hard to overcome even mild cases of anxiety by yourself sometimes. There often comes a point with all mental health challenges that you need to ask for help. In the case of anxiety, it can be especially hard due to the nature of the condition. There is often a deep-seated distrust that sees you unable to make those initial steps towards recovery. But the more you push that support away, the greater you feeling of unworthiness will become along with your anxiety. You have to break the barrier of believing you can get better and that you are worth it.
What Can I do to Stop Worrying?
Worrying is a natural part of the human experience to express concern about how a certain situation is going to turn out. If we didn’t express such emotion, we’d be sleepwalking through life without a care of whether anything happened to us at all – good or bad. Worry isn’t necessarily the problem, itself. The real issue is the power that we allow it to exert over us, which in turn affects our quality of life. With the use of these simple steps detailed below, you can challenge your internal programming and get back to a place of accepting that everything is actually working out just fine.
List Your Worries
There is nothing quite as cathartic as writing down your challenges and seeing them right in front of you. The physical act of writing serves as release, itself. But seeing just how many worries you’re holding onto can be a real eye-opener and the catalyst that’s needed to make real change.
Question Whether Your Worries Are Legitimate
In most instances, our worries can be filed under the hypothetical and worst-case scenario bracket. We can often jump to conclusions and assumptions that rival the work of some fiction writers. It’s important to differentiate between which of your worries are legitimate, real-world concerns and which can be discarded.
Uncertainty Does Not Mean Certain Disaster
For the chronic worrier, uncertainty is not so much a welcome friend as it is the sign that something terrible is about to befall them. It’s understandable why this might be. But some of the best experiences life has to offer are the result of an unexpected surprise. The one thing that is certain about uncertainty is it’s never as bad as you think it will be.
A useful exercise you might try once you have listed your fears is taking them in isolation and repeating parts of the key triggering phrase in a way that normalises the fear. You are not trying to add power to it by doing this, but are instead looking to repeat your chosen phrase so often that, it loses all meaning and hence the power it has over you.
Yourself (Push Your Edge)
If your natural disposition is to worry, then it’s unlikely that you’re someone who likes to challenge themselves very often. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be an empowering exercise by proving to yourself that nothing is ever as bad as it seems. It can also demonstrate that positive experiences can come from placing yourself in uncomfortable situations.
Remember Your Biggest Fears Are Your Biggest Lies
It’s generally the case that the bigger the fear is, the bigger the lie we’re telling ourselves. Worrying is rooted in anxiety and the ‘what if’ mentality of anticipation. As with anxiety, the outcome is never as bad as the eventual result. By becoming mindful of this thought and providing yourself with reference points from your past that prove this to be true, you can then start to step away from these limiting thought-constructs.
Open Up About What’s Bothering You
In addition to the above, talking to someone about your worry and how it’s affecting your life is extremely beneficial. The act of sharing a worry can bring huge relive – both in a friendship and therapeutic setting. Again, this may bring up another worry – the worry of rejection. Focus on some of the techniques above to alleviate yourself of that concern, and don’t underestimate the compassion of those closest to you.
Many of the steps listed above form the basis of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which is an effective way to address your anxieties. It can assist you overcoming your current challenges, allowing you to rewrite your mental programming around fixed ideas that are holding you back.
What is the Treatment for Anxiety?
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a talk therapy that was developed by Professor Aaron T. Becker in the 1960s and was originally intended to treat only depression. However, its success led to it being used for a wide array of psychological disorders. The reason for its effectiveness is it helps people overcome their problems by giving them the ‘tools’ to navigate their day-to-day challenges. The premise of CBT states what passes through our minds as a thought process (cognition) ultimately affects and then becomes our behaviours. The method CBT that employs is to intervene in these processes and create new ones.
This practical aspect and the learning of coping skills is one of the biggest advantages of using CBT for treating your anxiety. These skills that make up the core of a CBT program, also make coming off medication and living a more independent life much easier than if it was attempted without any supporting structure in place.
Right from the outset, you’ll need to be aware of creating a realistic coping plan. If you have a fear of flying, you’re not going to overcome it by taking flying lessons. Making progress is all about taking measured steps towards your ultimate goal.
At this point, it’s also important to point out the difference between a coping strategy and a safety behaviour. Coping strategies help build resistance towards situations that are causing you anxiety – it is progressive. Safety behaviours, on the other hand, can also appear to help in the short-term, but in fact, have a detrimental effect, eating away at your confidence and create co-dependency.
Coping skills you’ll focus on developing using CBT include:
- Ways of recognising your anxiety and stress
- Ways of taking charge of your bodily sensations
- Ways of managing problem thoughts and images
- Ways of changing unhelpful behaviours
- Ways of coping with life in general
Understanding how, why, and when you experience anxiety is one of the key fundamentals to overcoming it in the long-term. By far the most effective way of doing this is by journaling. By keeping records of your physical feelings, thoughts, and how you respond to triggering situations, it allows you to become aware of cyclical patterns that are dictating your actions and thought processes.
The more you engage in this act of self-monitoring, the more you’ll build up a picture of where your anxiety is taking over, so you can devise new ways of getting around. The key to overcoming your anxiety is by identifying and breaking these cycles. But more so than that, replacing those patterns with new, more positive behaviours.
Third Wave CBT for Anxiety
Third waves or the latest generation of CBT therapies including acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness-based CBT and dialectical behavioural therapy among others, suggest a different strategy: it teaches clients to sit with their anxiety and to accept these as part of their human experience. The focus here is on supporting clients to identify what they value in life, choose value directions and commit to actions that lead them in those directions.
To summarize, in contrast with traditional CBT, third waves CBT’s focus goes well beyond symptoms alleviation and control as therapeutic goals. It emphasizes topics such as acceptance, mindfulness, values, spirituality, meaning and purpose, relationship and quality of life. In doing so, they offer a unique and broader view of understanding human suffering and what it means to foster psychological health and well-being.
How Can I Get Treatment For Anxiety In London?
Kennerley, H. (15th May 2014). Overcoming Anxiety: A Book on Prescription Title. Robinson; UK ed. Edition (15th May 2014).
Healthguide. (9th Feb 2018). Therapy for Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved on 17th October, 2019 from, Link
NHS. (16th Jul 2019). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Retrieved on 17th October, 2019 from, Link
Anxiety UK. (2019). Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Retrieved on 17th October, 2019 from, Link
Webmd. (24th Jan 2008) 9 Steps to End Chronic Worrying. Retrieved on 17th September, 2019 from, Link
Help Guide. (Jun 2019) How to Stop Worrying. Retrieved on 17th September, 2019 from, Link
Very Well Mind. (18th Aug 2019) 6 Steps to Help You Stop Worrying so Much. Retrieved on 17th September, 2019 from, Link
Psychology Today. (29th Nov 2018) A Simple But Effective Trick to Stop Worrying so Much. Retrieved on 17th September, 2019 from, Link
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