Anxiety is Natural
You know that crippling feeling we get such as, before an interview, public speaking, when waiting for some results. Yes, I'm talking about anxiety. Following my last blog post on Anger, I'm going to begin to unpack Anxiety and how we can go about changing it to its earlier counterpart.
Anxiety is a natural process that occurs when we perceive future danger. Adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, increasing the heart rate to supply the body more oxygen for the fight or flight response. Unfortunately for us, this response has not entirely adapted with the times, and we still do experience this process even if the situation is not life or death or necessarily dangerous.
The Albert Ellis Institute says” Anxiety Disorders are characterised by excessive fear and Intense worry which often results in some form of physical distress such as muscle tension, increased heart-rate/respiration, chest or gastrointestinal pain/discomfort) and behavioural avoidance. Anxiety Disorders lead to significant impairment in a person’s social, occupational, and daily functioning.”
Two fitting quotes for Anxiety are:
Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the grip of anxiety or the handle of faith.
Henry Ward Beecher
Neither comprehension nor learning can take place in an atmosphere of anxiety.
Anxiety also comes in different types, they include:
Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) presented as a generalised persistent and exaggerated nervousness that is often, in reality, non-existent in the person's environment.
Obsessive thoughts characterise obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) are thoughts which are intrusive and inappropriate and repetitive behaviours such as hand washing to help reduce the anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder is characterised by a constant, irrational fear of situations where it could be possible to encounter judgement or criticism from other people.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterised by intense fear, helplessness, vulnerability and horror that a person experiences following exposure to a highly traumatic event such as war or the Grenfell Tower Disaster.
Panic Disorder commonly known as panic attacks. Sudden feelings of intense fear characterise them and discomfort such as racing heart, sweating, chest pain, shaking. Panic disorder is accompanied by things such as fear of dying, feelings of detachment, fear of losing control.
Specific Phobia Characterised by a persistent and irrational fear of a particular situation, object, animal, or activity, eg Arachnophobia, claustrophobia etc
Health Anxiety people suffering from this are called Hypochondriacs. It is a preoccupation with or worries about having severe disease, in the absence of any medical proof.
Most of us would have either experienced some degree of one or some of these or know somebody who does. The thing with anxiety is that it blocks us from task-relevant thoughts and triggers us to overestimate and create more negative features in our minds, which does nothing but compound our state of emotional disturbance. Its compounding factors are; trying to stop thoughts, Seeking validation for your fears, Avoiding the anxiety trigger, Spending time with negative people, and shallow breathing.
As the central perception when experiencing anxiety is a threat or a danger of a threat, the first thing to do is notice our thoughts when we are feeling anxious, or we notice it tell physical tail symptoms such as sweating, increased heart rate, sweaty palms. You will more than likely notice that all your thoughts have 'a worst-case scenario' theme without any room for constructive task-relevant ideas at all. This worst-case scenario theme coincides with thoughts of wanting to retreat, Tranquillise feelings through substances and seek reassurance that everything is okay.
These thoughts are irrational, healthy and dogmatic in nature and will always trigger unhealthy negative emotions and behaviour. The trick is to change these through thinking and presence to rational, healthy and flexible ones. Not overestimating and or creating negative features of the situation, and having more task-relevant thought with a clearer head on is a great place to start changing anxiety into healthy Concern.
So next time you're going to interview for that position you want, Preparing for some public speaking or whatever gets you scared about the future, notice the emotion you're feeling, name it and change your thought processes to healthier, flexible and rational alternatives concern before you act. With a little practice, it becomes a part of your life, and you-you reaps the benefits of a greater sense of well-being.
Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, Coach & Mentor
Insightful Conversations Founder