“Everyone experiences anxiety.”
“Anxiety is normal.”
“Anxiety is healthy and natural and keeps us alive.”
These are phrases that we hear a lot, and to be fair, they are all correct. It is important for these messages to be out there in order to fuel the conversation around mental health. In the therapy room this is also effective, because there is comfort in people being aware that they are not alone in what they are feeling.
However, when your anxiety goes beyond what you see as ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ one of the most powerful steps in learning to live more easily with it is to acknowledge your anxiety and to recognise that it is individual to you. It is your story, and only you truly knows what you are going through at any particular time.
We have worked with people who get anxious about a range of situations; from the performance related (exams, work, presentations, sporting occasions, making speeches) to the everyday living (driving in traffic, planning for an upcoming holiday, sending an email) and everything in between. But the triggers, the impacts, the reactions, the physical sensations and the behaviours are different and individual for everyone to some degree. It is ‘My anxiety’.
When a person in therapy recognises this, it is wonderful opportunity for healing and growth. Witnessing clients taking ownership of their anxiety is a privilege. There is an enormous sense of growth when a client starts referring to ‘My Anxiety’ and moves from avoiding it to turning toward it. So here are some thoughts:
– avoid avoidance and see anxiety as a part of you that you can learn to manage (similar to managing aspects of your physical health).
– get curious about why you feel the way you do at certain times or in certain situations
– Don’t ignore our emotions, explore our emotions. Here is a humourous, but honest look at how learning more about our anxiety and the resultant behaviours (in this instance ‘blame’) can help us grow and develop.
The more we get in touch with our anxiety and our triggers, the more we can learn to remove the impulse to lash out, get angry, blame others, become withdrawn, or whatever behaviours emerge as your anxiety shows itself to the world.
Similarly, we can recognise and react to the physical signs that keep reappearing every time we get anxious. You know those signs? What are they for you? Your heartbeat is too fast, but not as fast as the butterflies in your stomach. Sweaty palms, shallow breathing, gritted teeth or tightness in the shoulders, adrenalin pumping through your body. Everyone feels it in a different way.
By taking steps to own and understand our thoughts and emotions, we move to take back control of how they impact our lives and stop us from being the best we can be. Gaining control of how our thoughts make us feel and make us behave. Imagine how this could be for you? Meeting your negative thoughts and your anxieties as they re-emerge. The same thoughts that have woven themselves around us for years, and saying ‘hello again, let’s try to do things a little differently this time’.
The article is written by Noel, Low Cost Counsellor at DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact the DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.