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Anxiety in a nutshell
Anxiety is a word that describes how we feel when we are worried, tense or afraid – quite often we worry about things that are about to happen, or which we perceive may happen in the future.
Some Anxiety is normal
Anxiety is actually a normal human response, it can be a protection mechanism where you feel threatened by an oncoming situation, such as giving a presentation (performance anxiety) or stressing about relationships.
Anxiety puts you on red alert.
We humans are built with inherent protection mechanisms to keep us safe. When a threat is perceived our mind instructs the body to release hormones (Adrenaline and Cortisol) that make us more alert to danger, increase our blood flow and heart rate to help us cope with the perceived threat. This process has been with us since the early caveman days when we either stood up to the threat or ran away, often referred to as the “Fight or Flight response”. In the short term this allows us to better deal with the situation and afterwards the body goes into a relaxed mode to help us recover.
There is also another instinctive response and that is “Freeze” which occurs briefly in a situation where the brain may be waiting for further processing, or the person may be watching the perceived danger.
In modern day life those ancient mechanisms are still present and can sometimes react in the same way to protect us in situations that are not life threatening e.g. presenting to large group of people or meeting strangers for the first time. The probable cause is that we have not evolved enough yet where our brain can instinctively make the correct decision based on the modern situation it faces.
Is it normal to be anxious most of the time?
No. Normally people overcome their stress or anxiety in everyday situations which are short term events, however when anxiety becomes more deeply embedded and exists over a longer period of time then it can make you ill.
What is the difference between Anxiety and Stress?
Both can have similar effects on the body, and in my opinion should be treated similarly. Stress is often associated with external root causes e.g. working too many hours, having financial difficulties etc. and over a long time can lead to anxiety. Anxiety is usually more internalised i.e. feelings of dread that something bad may happen and can persist even when the origin of the stress has passed. I treat Stress and Anxiety in a similar fashion in therapy with good results.
Anxiety FAQ - Common signs of anxiety
- Low energy – headaches – stomach upsets – insomnia
- Ache & pains from tense muscles
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
- Loss of libido or performance anxiety
- Nervousness – excess sweating – dry mouth
- Easily agitated and/or moody
- Insomnia and/or Bruxism (teeth grinding)
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
- Unable to relax physically or mentally
- Visiting the toilet more frequently
- Avoiding others and/or social situations
- Experiencing panic attacks
Anxiety FAQ – Some Common Causes of Anxiety
- Past traumatic experiences, i.e. bullying, physical or verbal abuse
- Loss of a loved one, i.e. parent. partner, friend, or a family pet
- Worrying about what might happen in the future
- Feeling pressurised to achieve, i.e. exams, tests, physical performance
- Current or long term issues, e.g. relationships, loss of your job, financial problems
- Relationship problems including divorce or a breakup
- Exhaustion through overwork or stress
Anxiety FAQ – Possible physical causes of anxiety?
- A chronic health condition
- Hormonal imbalance
- Adrenal fatigue
- Prescribed medications
- Recreational drug use or alcohol
- Sleep Apnoea
Please Note: – The above is not a definitive list of physical causes and we do not diagnose or provide medical advice on such conditions. If you feel you have anxiety the first step you should take is to visit a GP or other health professional to rule out any possible physical causes before undergoing therapy.
A Little Self-Help Exercise
Switching it up!
Tell your brain what you want! When you think negatively i.e. “I don’t want….” your brain has to concentrate on the thing you don’t want before it can try to do anything about it. Try reading this….I don’t want to think of a Pink elephant” and see what you think of!
Tell your brain what you want
Try this little exercise. Next time you have a negative thought immediately switch to something you would really love to do, something unconnected to the negative thought, e.g. perhaps you really love swimming. You think something negative e.g. ” I’m afraid to go to town in case something terrible happens” – immediately imagine swimming somewhere really beautiful. Next time you have the same negative thought switch it again and notice that the more you switch the less troublesome the negative thought becomes. It may fade away to nothing or just feel silly to even think of it after a while.