Anxiety is a normal and healthy emotion. Emotions are neither good nor bad; they are tools to let you know something is going on. With anxiety, it can be hard to believe that it is normal or helpful. Contrary to the messages from Happiness gurus or the Wellness industry that say you should feel happy and relaxed all the time, anxiety does play a helpful role in your daily life. Anxiety is letting you know there is a concern or problem; once the problem is addressed, it has done its job.
Many people feel anxiety when thinking about upcoming exams; in this case, anxiety pushes you to address the problem. You are about to be assessed for your knowledge of a subject, you don’t know the content enough to do well, so you study and feel prepared, and anxiety should be relieved to some extent; you’ve done everything you can.
Anxiety and stress become a problem when they are chronic or stem from trauma. Chronic anxiety never subsides; it never gives you a chance to recover. Several disorders go beyond the normal function of anxiety:
• Generalized anxiety – persistent and excessive worry about seemingly ordinary events and is out of proportion with actual circumstance
• Panic attacks – sudden feelings of intense anxiety and panic, feelings of impending doom, physical symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, and rapid heartbeat, which leads to fears and worry of reoccurring panic attacks
• Social anxiety – high levels of fear, self-consciousness, and anxiety around social situations, fear of embarrassment or being judged by others
• Phobias – significant anxiety when facing a specific situation or object and a strong desire to avoid
There are various strategies for managing anxiety, such as breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, exercise, self-care, mindfulness, journaling or talking with a friend, that many people rely on with great success. Getting curious about your anxiety and understanding the triggers and patterns of how anxiety manifests in your life can also be helpful and provide you with a sense of power and control. Understanding the causes and thought processes that contribute to and perpetuate anxiety is a good step in developing a strategy for dealing with stress and anxiety. Many people find that a change in other areas of their lifestyle dramatically impacts the amount of anxiety they experience.
Several medications are effective for people living with problematic anxiety. A doctor may prescribe certain anti-depressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, anti-anxiety medications such as buspirone, or, in some instances, sedatives or beta blockers. As with all prescribed medications, a doctor’s care is required to decide what is suitable for you and monitor your progress while taking anxiety medications.
If feelings of anxiety and stress are interfering with your everyday life, it may be time to speak to a Dr. or therapist. I can help you manage anxiety and get back to enjoying your life through therapy. I use a non-blaming client-centred approach informed by mindfulness and IFS practices. I will partner with you while we work through your feelings and develop new skills and perspectives toward life and anxiety itself. If you live in Comox Valley and are looking for counselling for anxiety concerns, in person counselling sessions are available. If you are interested in getting help from anywhere in Canada sessions are available virtually.
There are many evidence based approaches to dealing with anxiety that can be helpful on their own. For others a professional can add a level of support to assist in moving past areas where a person is stuck. Take action in honouring and caring for yourself by taking your life back from stress and anxiety.