What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is your body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come. When you are anxious you may have shortness of breath, a pounding heart, or trembling hands. Ordinary anxiety is a feeling that comes and goes but does not interfere with your everyday life.
What Does Unhelpful Anxiety Look Like?
Unhelpful anxiety can manifest in different ways, for example: having an excessive fear of a specific object, situation, or activity; extreme fear of being judged by others in social situations; recurring irrational thoughts that lead you to perform specific, repeated behaviours; fear of being away from home or loved ones; anxiety about your health or anxiety following a traumatic event.
Sometimes anxiety can result in what is called a panic attack. A person experiencing a panic attack might feel like they are having a heart attack or that they cannot breathe. These sensations appear to come out of the blue and are very frightening. The person might feel a desperate need to escape wherever they are immediately. They might even seek medical assistance. The experience can feel that it lasts for a long time, however, in actuality, a panic attack generally lasts less than 20 minutes with the worst of it lasting less than 10 minutes. Afterwards, the person will feel extremely tired and drained as the body’s alarm system has been working hard.
If a person suffers from recurrent panic attacks, they may develop a fear of having another attack. This fear may cause them to avoid places where they have had previous attacks, places where they think they might have an attack or in extreme cases, the fear will stop them from leaving their home.
Nearly everyone worries occasionally, and worry is a normal response to problems and the unknown. But there is productive and unproductive worry. Do you play thoughts over and over in your head? Worries and rumination can become the soundtrack of your life. If we are identifying problems and using effective problem-solving strategies, that’s productive worry. But if we are worrying as a way of coping with problems we can’t change, that’s unproductive worry. This just adds more worry and anxiety to our already unpleasant experience, increasing our suffering.
The way unproductive worry works is a thought pops into our mind and quickly escalates into a whole story line. Whether we are worrying about out finances, career, family, or health, we play out hypothetical scenarios in our imagination, often in the form of a “what if” question. Because we can’t actually know the future, we create one in our mind to feel like we have some kind of control over it. And just like anything else, if you worry often enough, it becomes a habit. Worried thoughts can become a hardwired response pattern in the mind. This can interfere with sleep, concentration, and out general well-being.
So, it’s helpful to have tools to fall back on when worries pop up and take us on a ride. At Safe Haven, I can teach you the strategies and behaviour to break this habit of worry.
When Should You Seek Help for Anxiety?
Sometimes the feeling of fear and its physical effects, may be with you all the time and be intense and debilitating. This type of anxiety may cause you to stop doing things you enjoy. It can affect your ability to concentrate, sleep and carry out ordinary tasks. You may avoid stressful situations and in extreme cases avoid going out altogether. It is important to get help to treat anxiety. If you think you might be dealing with anxiety, there are a range of effective treatments, and you can get better. Call or email me today to talk.
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