“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
— DEUTERONOMY 31:6 —
We all feel anxious sometimes. A certain amount of anxiety helps us to be more alert and focused. For example just prior to an exam, a few exam nerves have a positive effect - motivating us, helping us focus our thoughts on the job in hand, making us more alert. Too much anxiety, or constantly being anxious, is unhealthy and detrimental to our lives and relationships.
Anxiety is the body's way of responding to being in danger. Adrenaline is rushed into our bloodstream to enable us to run away or fight. This happens whether the danger is real, or whether we believe the danger is there when actually there is none. It is the body's alarm and survival mechanism. Anxiety can be a life-saving response. It works so well, however, that it often kicks in when it's not needed - when the danger is in our heads rather than in reality. We think we're in danger, so that's enough to trigger the system to go, go, go! People who get anxious tend to get into scanning mode - where they're constantly on the lookout for danger, hyper-alert to any of the signals, and make it more likely that the alarm system will be activated.
Common thoughts that occur relate to our over stimulating or exaggerating the actual threat and underestimating or minimizing our ability to cope.
“I’m in danger right now”
“The worst scenario is going to happen”
“I won’t be able to cope with it”
“I must avoid this at all cost”
“I must fight or flee to escape”
Sometimes people experience any or all the following physical symptoms:
Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate
Trembling or shaking
Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering, or choking
Feelings of impending doom
Feelings of being out of control
Once the anxiety has taken hold, behaviors that follow might include:
Avoiding people, situations, or places
Going to certain places at certain times, e.g. shopping at smaller shops, at less busy times. Only going with someone else
Escape, leave early
Go to the feared situation, but use coping behaviors to get you through: examples include: self talk, holding a drink, smoking more, fiddling with clothes or handbag, avoiding eye contact with others, having an escape plan, medication. These are called 'safety behaviors'.
Safety behaviors can also help to keep your anxiety going. While you depend on them to help you cope, you don't get to find out that without them, the anxiety would reduce and go away on its own.
While avoiding people or situations might help you feel better at that time, it doesn't make your anxiety any better over a longer period. If you're frightened that your anxiety will make you pass out or vomit in the supermarket aisle, you won't find out that won't actually happen, because you don't go. So the belief that it will happen remains, along with the anxiety.
If you can relate to any of the above, know that anxiety is a highly treatable mental health condition. By helping you examine your anxious beliefs, Life Care Counseling can help you to challenge your thoughts, thus positively affecting your emotional state. Therapy teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful objects and situations.