Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a normal response to life experiences, a protective mechanism that has evolved over time.  Anxiety is the body’s response to situations that are interpreted as threatening.  For example, anxiety may prevent us from coming into close contact with disease-carrying or poisonous animals such as rats, snakes and spiders; from engaging with a much stronger enemy to whom we are almost sure to lose out; and even from declaring our undying love to someone who is unlikely to spare our feelings.

Anxiety affects our entire being – physiologically, psychologically, emotionally, and behaviourally.  It may involve physiological symptoms like increased heart rate, sweating, dry mouth, constricted breathing, nausea, or feeling like there are knots in your stomach.  Emotionally, you may get irritated more easily than usual or you may become upset.  Behaviourally, you may have difficulty expressing yourself or sabotage your ability to deal with everyday situations. Psychologically, anxiety may leave you feeling detached, like you’re going crazy, or fearful.

It is important to recognize anxiety occurs in many different forms and levels.  It may range from a slight feeling of apprehension before a test to a full blown panic attach where you feel like you’re going to die.  There are many daily situations where anxiety is an expected, appropriate, and reasonable response.  If your anxiety is debilitating your ability to engage in daily tasks then it is important you seek help.

Some questions I ask my clients who are struggling with anxiety are:

-What triggers your anxiety?
-What are the physical symptoms you notice in your body when you experience anxiety? (tightness and shortness of breath, sweaty hands, elevated heart rate etc)
-What are some thoughts that race across your mind?
-What helps you cope when you are feeling anxious?

Remember we will always have some degree of anxiety no matter what we do, but you do not have to let it control you.  Know what your triggers are and anticipate them.  Notice any body sensations, your body may be more aware of the anxiety creeping in before you are.  Utilize any coping strategies that help alleviate your anxiety and remember to breathe!



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