Anxiety management is a bit of a misnomer. Anxiety is a natural emotion and most people when they’re trying to “manage” anxiety it means they want to “not feel” anxiety. Instead of trying to “manage” anxiety, let’s change the word choice to “influencing” anxiety.
Tell me if this sounds like you:
- Not wanting to go out and do things you once enjoyed
- Dread going to work
- Difficulty sleeping
- Physical problems like racing heart, clenched jaw or muscles
- Racing thoughts or inability to shut your brain off
- Difficulty making decisions
If these speak to you, you are not crazy and there is nothing “wrong” with you.
Can therapy for anxiety really help me?
Many of my clients will tell me that “anxiety makes me feel crazy” because they know what they’re anxious about is not necessary to be anxious about but it is overtaking every aspect of their world.
Therapy for anxiety is often not a quick fix. The brain is set to survival and we can’t “forget” what we’ve experienced. The brain uses our personal, learned, and witnessed experiences as lessons: Is this safe or not. In a threatening situation, it’s best not to have to think about whether you should run for your life. The brain notices something in the environment that reminds it of something “dangerous” from the past and sets the fight/flight off so you can survive.
As we’re working on “influencing” the anxiety, we have to literally retrain the brain. We have to give it the experiences that this situation is NOT the same as previous situations. It is entirely possible to live a full life despite having anxiety. With continued use of the tools learned in therapy, many people are actually able to reduce their anxiety to almost zero in situations they don’t need to feel anxious even with the brain having past experiences that something similar was “dangerous”.
If anxiety keeps me safe, why would I want to influence it?
There are times that the anxiety response is helpful and there are times it is not. It is important to pay attention to your “gut reaction” to something, but that gut reaction doesn’t MEAN you have to change what you’re doing. It is vital to listen to the body. If we don’t, we won’t know when to eat or void and we’d die. But sometimes the body over reacts due to past experiences. What we can do through influencing the anxiety provide the brain and body the tools for anxiety management so the brain can stop sending the adrenalin or fight/flight chemicals into the body for survival.
What should I do first?
There are a lot of self-help websites and books that may be able to teach you some skills to effectively manage anxiety and feel better. If these are not enough, it may be helpful to reach out to a therapist who can work with you. Again there is nothing wrong with you. Your body and brain are actually working quite properly. But it can be very difficult to manage anxiety on one’s one. If you would like more information, click the button below and let’s see if I can help you get on the track you’re looking for.