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ANXIETY COUNSELING

"The human body is 70% water - so we're basically cucumbers with anxiety." - Unknown

I think it's good to, first off, normalize the experience of anxiety. We all feel anxious - yes, some more than others perhaps - but it's a survival mechanism that's pretty much locked into us as a species. It becomes a issue when it starts to affect our lives in a persistent or unhealthy way - causing us distress, interfering with our day-to-day activities, or limiting us from enjoying a full life.

Anxiety can happen at any age, but often becomes more pronounced or noticeable in middle age (or older). And, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, women tend to experience anxiety more than men. 

 

Some general symptoms of anxiety include:

  • excessive fear or worry (often irrational or unrealistic)

  • racing or intrusive thoughts 

  • increased/pounding heart rate

  • rapid/shallow breathing

  • trembling/shakiness

  • sweating/body heat/facial redness

  • stomachache/nausea/headaches

  • trouble concentrating/focusing

  • insomnia (ruminating thoughts keeping you awake)

  • avoiding situations/events that might be anxiety-triggering

  • *for social anxiety this avoidance is usually related to events involving other people, especially groups or crowds, but even 1:1 activities can feel overwhelming

Different types of anxieties can include:

  • general anxiety

  • social anxiety

  • OCD (obsessive/compulsive) (this can include hoarding)

  • phobias (including flying anxiety, death anxiety, health anxiety, etc)

  • separation anxiety

*While 'excessive or unrealistic worrying' is an agreed upon symptom of anxiety, our brains can't always tell the difference between what's an unrealistic worry and what isn't - especially in our modern world. Have you ever tried to convince your brain to 'stop worrying?' Doesn't work, does it? 

 

And it can happen in an instant, out of nowhere, and without your consent - often making it feel completely out of your control. Once anxiety kicks in, it floods the body with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline (which causes most of our physical symptoms) - 'survival brain' takes over and 'thinking brain' goes offline. This is why you can't convince your brain to 'stop worrying.'

 

Over time, these released stress/anxiety hormones can affect your health. Long-term exposure to cortisol, for example, can lead to physical changes in our bodies such as hormone imbalance and weight gain. It can also lead to health problems such as IBS, high blood pressure and auto-immune disorders, and can damage our thyroid and adrenals. 

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THERE IS HOPE

Thankfully, anxiety can be managed. Sometimes it involves uncovering the underlying causes, learning ways to cope/self-soothe, or managing thoughts - and sometimes it's just accepting anxiety as part of your genetics (yes, anxiety can be handed down through our DNA).

 

Getting relief from anxiety often involves making a few key lifestyle changes and learning different ways to manage symptoms. It takes work. But, once you learn the skills that work for you, you'll always have them with you whenever you notice anxiety creeping in. 

*This BuzzFeed website has some good 'therapist-approved' tips for managing general anxiety.

Anxiety can be distressing and cause us to lose agency in our lives. Panic attacks, in particular, are a signal our anxiety is reaching a more critical level. Therapy is an excellent resource for learning how to understand and manage anxiety. If you're at this point, please reach out.