Left unchecked, anxiety can be consuming. For people struggling with it, life can start to look a lot like this:
The moment you wake your mind is racing through the things you have to do and all the ways those things could go wrong. When you think about work responsibilities you tense up with a sense that you will be revealed to be unprepared or incapable. When you think of socializing, a dread wells up around the ways people could judge you. Your mind never turns off and much of your mental energy goes into these fears. Physically you are exhausted and tight from all the stress your worries cause. Despite the exhaustion, when nighttime rolls around you can’t fall asleep, as concerns about tomorrow start to cycle.
Fortunately, therapy for anxiety can help to greatly alleviate distress.
Do you want to discuss how therapy could help you handle anxiety?
Some anxiety is normal and not inherently bad–the capacity to feel anxious is hardwired into us to help us respond to signals of potential threat in our environment, just as the capacity to feel pain helps us to know what potentially hazardous situations we need to stay away from. All animals have the ability to feel anxious and stressed, but humans have the unique capability to imagine potential future threats that have not as of yet occurred.
When you couple this ability with the overwhelming amount of messaging society bombards people with about the different things they need to do and the ways they could be judged as inadequate, and anxiety can start to go off the rails, like an alarm system that never turns off.
Modern living is a hotbed for anxiety
Our capacity to imagine threats is compounded by the reality of the many challenges we face in our fast-paced daily lives.
Many of us are trying to navigate several of the following major contributors to anxiety:
Financial Stress: Money worries, debt, job insecurity, or unemployment can lead to persistent anxiety.
Work Pressure: High-stress jobs, overwork, a critical supervisor, and workplace conflict can contribute to anxiety.
Academic Stress: Students often face high levels of pressure to succeed academically, which can result in anxiety.
Relationship Difficulties: Conflict with a partner, family members, or friends can create significant anxiety.
Life Transitions: Major life changes, such as moving, changing jobs, retirement, or having a baby can trigger anxiety.
Health Issues: Chronic illness, serious disease diagnoses, or unexpected health crises can lead to high levels of anxiety.
Traumatic Events: Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, including accidents, violence, or any kind of abuse or harassment can lead to intense anxiety
Parenting Stress: Raising children, especially in a high-stress environment or as a single parent, can lead to increased anxiety.
Caregiving: Taking care of a loved one who is sick or aging can be emotionally and physically taxing, contributing to feelings of anxiety.
Cultural or Social Pressure: Experiencing discrimination or social pressure due to one’s race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other aspects of identity can lead to increased anxiety.
Anxiety is widespread
If you are struggling with anxiety, you are not alone. About a fifth of the US population was diagnosed with some form of anxiety in the past year. Some of the common symptoms of anxiety are:
Persistent and disruptive worries about things like relationships, work, and finances
Frequent fears of rejection
Becoming obsessively focused on something
Dreading that something bad will occur
Fearing a loss of control
Muscle tightness and pains
Nausea or abdominal distress
Avoiding people and situations that could lead to rejection
Perfectionism and procrastination
People pleasing and difficulty setting boundaries
Compulsive reassurance seeking
Over or under-controlled eating habits
Heavy use of alcohol or substances
Anxiety can take many forms
Anxiety won’t look the same for everyone, and there are many distinct types of it. Some of the most prevalent forms of anxiety include:
Generalized Anxiety: Persistent, chronic worry and tension, even in the absence of clear life stressors
Social Anxiety: Strong self-consciousness and worry about being judged by others, as well as avoidance of many social situations
Panic: feelings of terror that strike suddenly, either out of the blue or from a triggering experience. In addition to terror, these moments may include sweating, chest pain, palpitations, fear of having a heart attack, and feeling like one is “going crazy”
Obsessive-Compulsive Anxiety: Distressing, intrusive thoughts about anxiety-provoking situations, and corresponding compulsive coping behaviors
Post-traumatic Anxiety: Hyper-vigilance for and reactivity to triggering reminders of traumatic experiences
It is common for people to struggle with several forms of anxiety simultaneously.
How I can help you with your anxiety?
For people struggling with significant anxiety, it can be hard to believe that they will ever be able to get their anxiety under control, but it is possible.
I draw on techniques from therapies that have been studied and shown to help reduce anxiety (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, dialectical behavior therapy).
While each person is different and may have unique needs, some of the techniques that frequently help include:
Learning what our emotional triggers are and how we can soothe our minds and bodies in the moments of heightened distress when we have been triggered
Recognizing how hurtful experiences have contributed to negative beliefs about ourselves and others, and learning to reframe those assessments in ways that make the world seem less threatening
Learning how to become less ‘fused’ to our thoughts such that we don’t automatically believe every negative thought our mind produces
Learning how to better ground our minds in the present as opposed to the future where we are apt to worry
Becoming better able to differentiate between what we can and cannot control, and learning how to accept rather than fret over the things that are out of our control
Learning to identify when our mind is making catastrophic predictions about the future and how to reframe those predictions more realistically
Identifying the types of interpersonal experiences that would help us feel more confident and learning how to gradually take the risks we need to connect with others and build that confidence
Developing a compassionate ‘growth’ mindset where our challenges become opportunities to learn, as opposed to a harsh ‘fixed’ mindset where our challenges are viewed as absolute negative reflections of our abilities
Having a positive experience with a therapist where we feel understood, cared for and supported can also be healing in and of itself and help to alleviate anxiety. With commitment we can master our anxiety and allow peacefulness to emerge.
Reach out and let’s talk about how I can help you get on that path.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking with which they were created.” - Albert Einstein
Anxiety can relate to a lot of other emotional challenges. Anxiety that interferes with our ability to engage with important life goals can contribute to depression. Perfectionisticbeliefs caused by anxiety often contribute to difficulties with self-esteem and body image. Anxiety often underlies difficulties with anger management. Trauma can lead to heightened levels of anxiety and difficulties with trust. Acute grief can lead to feelings of vulnerability and anxiety.