What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a part of all our lives and affects individuals in different ways and at different times. Unlike stress which comes and goes dependent on external factors e.g. work, relationships, illness etc. anxiety can be present even when there is no obvious cause.
Anxiety can make us believe that things are worse than they are, and we often are too anxious to address our fears. People might think that they are ‘going mad’ or they may believe that they have some something wrong with their brains.
People often do not realise that anxiety is a normal human condition and is a natural part of the fight, flight or freeze response. This response existed to keep us wary and on hyper alert from the dangers of living in the wild. If necessary, we would get an adrenalin boost, which increased our heart-rate, and which gave us an oxygen boost to help us run from danger. In modern life, the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling that often comes with anxiety is this primitive mechanism firing up. Unlike, in cave-man times when we had to be ready to escape a tiger for example, nowadays this reaction to even small stress is usually totally inappropriate. It often occurs when we have had a build-up of stress of which, we may or may not, be aware.
How Do I Know If I Have Anxiety?
You may recognise exactly why you are stressed; you may have divorced, moved to a new house, been ill or had some other significant life event. On the other hand, some people have no obvious reason to be suffering from anxiety and this, in itself, can be distressing for them. Imagine your stress levels as being like a bucket of water. Over time we keep adding, what in themselves are often small issues to the bucket and at some point, it tips us over the edge and the bucket overflows; this is like anxiety. Sometimes, there does not appear to be an obvious cause just an accumulation of small stresses. The way to prevent this is to have holes in our bucket which stops the overflow effect. The holes could be meditation, reading, music, yoga, walking in-fact anything that reduces your overall stress levels.
What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety?
Symptoms vary but can encompass a whole range of responses, the most common physical symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased muscle tension
- “Jelly legs”
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Hyperventilation (over breathing)
- Difficulty in breathing
- Wanting to use the toilet more often
- Feeling sick
- Tight band across the chest area
- Tension headaches
- Hot flushes
- Increased perspiration
- Dry mouth
- Choking sensations
Some of the most common psychological symptoms (the thoughts or altered perceptions we have) of anxiety are:
- Thinking that you may lose control and/or go “mad”
- Thinking that you might die
- Thinking that you may have a heart attack/be sick/faint/have a brain tumour
- Feeling that people are looking at you and observing your anxiety
- Feeling as though things are speeding up/slowing down
- Feeling detached from your environment and the people in it
- Feeling like wanting to run away/escape from the situation
- Feeling on edge and alert to everything around you.
The most common behavioural symptom which we do when anxious is to avoid things. When we avoid an anxiety inducing situation there is often short-term relief. This means that whilst it may seem like avoiding is the best thing to do at the time, the anxiety often returns the next time that you face the situation and avoiding it will only psychologically reinforce the message that there is danger. The problem with avoidance is that you never get to find out whether your fear about the situation and what would happen is actually true.
Self Help For Anxiety
It is important to realise that you do not have to put up with Anxiety. It may have seemed ‘normal’ to you for so long that you think that you just have to live with it. Your G.P. can prescribe medication and you may get some benefit from this. However, if you want to get to the root of the problem rather than plaster over the sore spot with medication then I would suggest that you consider Mindfulness and Meditation. There are many free sites on the internet where you can download meditations to help you relax. The aim is to stop the thoughts ‘rampaging’ through your head and generally exhausting you. Meditation and Mindfulness do not come naturally to most of us in this modern world and they will take time to embed. Please persevere with them; your current ‘bad’ habits did not appear over night in fact they evolved over time probably without you noticing them. They will go but it does require patience and perseverance.
If the issues that you are dealing with are too deep or too severe please consider seeing a therapist. Therapy does not have to be expensive, but it is important that you find the right person. A good therapist will offer you a free consultation and will talk you through what is needed and how they can help you. The most important component in therapy is rapport with the therapist.
How Can I Get Over Anxiety?
In the first instance, as a therapist I will show you techniques to use at the point of an anxiety inducing situation. These include breathing exercises, Mindfulness, and EFT, or Tapping, points to reduce the current levels of anxiety and keep them manageable. These direct responses to an anxious event will have an immediate effect on your stress levels and will prevent escalation of anxious thoughts and feelings.
If anxiety has begun to impact regularly on your daily life we can then use both EFT and Hypnotherapy, to explore in more detail when you first had this ‘anxiety’ response to stress. Often, the roots started in childhood and were reinforced throughout your life creating neural pathways in your brain and coping mechanisms which no longer serve you. Once we have identified the early events that caused this reaction in you, we use EFT and Hypnotherapy to eliminate the limiting beliefs you have formed, and we create new positive responses in your brain.
The process can be extremely quick when you consider that we are dealing with things that you have likely carried with you for decades.