"You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” ~Dan Millman
Many people experience anxiety at one time or another in their life. Typically anxiety presents itself at difficult times in our lives, like when we are due to move home, start a new job, take an exam or have a baby. However, if you currently have anxiety and live with it day-to-day, you know just how difficult and debilitating it can be.
The term ‘anxiety’ is often used to describe feelings of fear, unease or worry. Anxiety encompasses the emotional and physical sensations that we experience when we are nervous or worried. Whilst anxiety is a necessary safety feature for human beings, it can become incredibly problematic. As a result, we can experience a response known as ‘fight, flight or freeze’ even when there isn’t a genuine threat.
It’s important to know that anxiety will pass. You are not alone. Specialist support for anxiety is available, and your anxiety is manageable.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety can make things appear worse than they really are. It often stops people doing things that they’d usually like to do, like going outside, meeting up with friends, finding a partner or even expressing their true feelings and emotions. Often the cause of the anxiety can be unclear. I hear clients say, ‘but I don’t know what’s causing my anxiety’. This can be common for many people. Often an Automatic Negative Thought (ANT) can be so quick and flitting, that we don’t notice it. Or, it can be so engrained, that we simply don’t notice it. That’s where therapy comes in. How can overcome anxiety if you don’t know the trigger?
As mentioned earlier, ‘fight, flight or freeze’ is a natural bodily response to dangerous situations. In these situations ‘fight, flight or freeze’ is important for our survival. However, this response is switched on when we experience anxiety. It’s our inner alarm system, designed to protect us from danger. Often my clients speak about the ‘butterfly’ feeling in their stomach, their sweaty palms or their fastened/quickened breathing for example. For many with anxiety though, this can happen at inappropriate times.
I like to describe anxiety like a bucket of water; If we keep adding stressors to the bucket (even tiny ones, like the school run or commuting to work), over time it fills up until one day it overflows (AnxietyUK:2018). This can be a good way of looking at anxiety as it explains why sometimes it can seem to come out of the blue, with no significant trigger.
Counselling for Anxiety
Specialist Counselling and psychotherapy for people experiencing anxiety, in Nuneaton & Hinckley
When to seek support
Sometimes, anxiety can get worse if the stressors continue to build up, without being challenged. For some people, anxiety can become part of normal, everyday life and over time they can believe that it’s ‘not that big a problem’. We can become so used to it that we cover up our feelings and deal with it alone. You deserve support! People do care! You do not need to go it alone!
For those of you that find it difficult to talk with loved ones about what you’re going through - there is help available. I support people with anxiety difficulties, most days.
If you are experiencing physical symptoms, speaking with your GP may help too.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) - If you feel fearful or have anxiety often, but it’s not about anything specific, like a new job, moving home or an upcoming event, you may be diagnosed with GAD. Usually you may feel anxious about everyday tasks, such as work or home stress. Maybe you feel anxious at other times but don’t know its cause.
Phobia - Phobia’s are an intense fear of something. It doesn’t necessarily matter how dangerous or life threatening it may be for you. Coming into close proximity, or even thinking about the feared situation / thing, can cause anxiety.
Panic Disorder - If you experience sudden attacks of fear and panic, it may be a panic attack. Symptoms can include rapid heartbeat, strange chest sensations, shortness of breath, dizziness, tingling, and anxiousness. Hyperventilation, agitation, and withdrawal are common results.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) - OCD comprises of obsessional thoughts followed by compulsive urges. These obsessions are recurring urges, thoughts or images that can cause you to feel anxious. Compulsions are the thoughts that you feel the need to do, or repeat. Compulsions are typically a response to ease the anxiety of an obsession.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - PTSD is a response to experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. You may experience flashbacks or nightmares, making you feel that you’re reliving the fear and anxiety over and over again.
What can help?
Counselling or psychotherapy for anxiety is one treatment.
It's your opportunity to talk through what’s going on whilst getting an understanding of what may be causing your anxiety. It’s also a great opportunity to learn new coping strategies and techniques. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques can be very helpful.
CBT helps you understand how your thoughts can affect both your feelings and emotions. CBT also examines your thoughts, and the way you behave in any given situation, helping you overcome and break free from any overwhelming problem.
I’m trained and experienced in CBT.
Symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety affects everyone differently however there are some common symptoms:
Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, agitation, restlessness, fatigue, fast breathing, sweating, nausea, dizziness, trouble sleeping, feeling irritable, lack of concentration, tense muscles, irrational fears and panic attacks.
Tips to better manage your anxiety
Self-care goes hand in hand with managing your mental health. You can learn new techniques and methods to manage the difficulties of anxiety. It’s important not to let the fear of anxiety rule your life. Having some helpful techniques, and by introducing some self-care methods into your life, can minimise the impact of anxiety.
Here’s some helpful tips:
Remember - There are always ways to overcome anxiety.
Talk to someone - Talking to someone that you trust can really help. Whether that be a friend, family member or a trained professional - it’s a great way to ease the pressure. People care!
Focus on your breathing - When you feel anxious try not to forget the simple things, like breathing. Taking a moment or two, to focus solely on your breathing, can calm you and help you to better manage your anxiety. Try breathing deeply through your nose for 3-4 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 3-4 seconds, keeping your shoulders relaxed. Continue until the feeling has passed.
Keeping a diary - Recording your feelings, and what happens every time you feel anxious, can help identify its triggers. Recording when, where and how your anxiety is triggered can help you manage and cope with future situations. It’s important also to record how you managed situations, where anxiety was troublesome too, as this can act as a reminder that you are in control
Stay active, eat healthily and minimise your intake of alcohol - Alcohol, coffee and cigarettes can make you feel worse. These are stimulants. Stay active and get your body moving as this can minimise anxiety and stress. You don’t need to follow a strict diet or have a tough workout plan. Eating healthy foods and staying active (no matter how little) can really help.
What is my experience?
I've worked with people experiencing anxiety symptoms for many years. I’m trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is thought to be very successful in the treatment of anxiety.
I’ve worked in a wide range of settings, including: community mental health charities, local cancer charities, private rehab centres and local children's services. I also work alongside Judith Sullivan and Associates in Leicestershire and Clarity Well-Being Clinic, North Warwickshire. Every one of these experiences has shaped me into the therapist I am today. In addition, my personal experiences have deeply impacted the insight I am able to bring to my work and my clients.