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Anxiety: Don't Go It Alone

Reaching out when battling anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is characterized as constant worry, stress, or fear that is strong enough to affect and interfere with day-to-day life. Anxiety is a natural response to the many dangers in life although it often becomes blown out of proportion. Anxiety is said to be a fear of connection often resulting from a memory.

Bad memories from early life, even if not consciously remembered, slowly begin to affect our lives. Whether we know it or not we begin to live in constantly fear of reliving those memories. The emotions, pain, or physical harm caused by these memories prevent us from putting ourselves in similar situations.

Is Anxiety Normal?
Occasional anxiety is normal - positive even. It affects all of us everyday. It is our natural response to dangerous or potentially dangerous situations that keeps us out of harm’s way. Our brain is naturally always on the lookout for potential dangers - both those that may harm us physically as well as those that may harm our social standing or our relationships.

Anxiety about ourselves can even be motivating and provide inspiration to push ourselves and achieve greater things. Anxiety about missing out on certain things or not accomplishing something in life can push us to start.

When Anxiety Becomes a Problem
Unfortunately, however, this response is often triggered into overdrive. Instead of helping and protecting us, anxiety becomes debilitating. Prompted by the excessive amounts of stimuli in modern day life, as well as the fact that many of us are not fulfilling our basic human needs for relationship, compassion, and health we begin to become anxious about everything.

Small, trivial situations become blown out of proportion in our mind and a constant, vague sense of dread begins to control our lives. Life becomes plagued by uncertainty and results in the opposite of what anxiety should be a catalyst for- action .

Anxiety about failure, inadequacy, or abandonment results in us remaining in our shells and prevents us from enjoying the pleasures of life, finding fulfillment, and contributing something meaningful to the world.

Anxiety is becoming more and more common especially in youth. Many researchers are looking into this.

Why is Anxiety Increasing?
Some have argued that this increase in anxiety is a result of the unnatural environment in modern life leading to a decrease in health and a lack of fulfillment. Problems like a lack of sleep, poor health, or even other things such as excessive light and poor sleep schedules have all been argued to cause and exacerbate anxiety as hormones become disordered leading to imbalances in the brain.

It has also been argued that one of the major causes of the increase in anxiety is a result of the lack of work in modern society. Some have argued that it is actually the ease and high standard-of-living experienced by so many of us that results in being unfulfilled. Our primal desire to seek out resources or to improve our standard-of-life often remain unrealized, thus leading to a constant feeling that we need to fulfill it. Everything from air conditioning to refrigeration has been argued to contribute subtly to this epidemic.

Others have asserted that the cause of anxiety is excessive stimuli in day-to-day life. The constant noise and light of urban environments, computers, smartphones, the internet, television, billboards, advertisements, etc. all lead to our brain being constantly stressed. Due to this stimuli, our brain feels as though there is always something to be aware of and to look out for.

While the source of intensifying anxiety may be extrinsic, there are internal factors that contribute to this. These may include unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves or others. Expectations to perform beyond the current state of skill development create stress. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow describes the sweet spot between challenge and ability. When we take on a task that is more challenging than our current level of development, we become anxious and overwhelmed. However, if we choose an activity that is not challenging enough we become bored. 

Anxiety can arise when considering that something we say or do may result in others' criticism or rejection of us. We may have had previous experiences when something like this has happened. Part of us remembers and tries to protect us from rejection, filling us with panic, anxiety, or dread.

Consequences of Anxiety
Anxiety can cripple us. It leads to us being unable to fulfill our goals and also to a constant dread about life. Constant anxiety is crippling whether it is subtle or if it culminates in full-blown panic attacks. Working through anxiety can be difficult, however it is certainly not impossible. True improvements can be made in how you respond to stress factors in daily life as well as helping you to identify what these stress factors are. This can help you make changes in your life to help you respond to stress better and to limit the increase of anxiety.

Is Counselling Good for Anxiety?
In addition, therapy can help you to work through some of the underlying causes of anxiety in your life such as fears rooted in childhood. Fleshing these out and coming to terms with them is critical to reducing anxiety and identifying why it has become a problem in your life.

In addition to understanding the causes unique to your anxiety, therapy provides essential help to realize our needs in relationship. Therapy provides us with fulfillment for our desire to be seen and heard. So many of us go through life never discussing our hopes, fears or dreams. Whether we fear judgment, that no one will care, that we have no one to talk to, that our words will be used against us, or that the other will not understand, therapy provides us with an outlet to let our thoughts be heard in an environment free from judgement and manipulation.

As John O’Donohue said, “One of the deepest longings of the human soul is to be seen.”

What is the Best Type of Counselling for Anxiety?
Many forms of therapy help quell the discomfort and intensity of anxiety and help a person better manage when anxiety visits. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been well researched and is the intervention of choice for many counselling professionals. This therapy involves examining the precursors giving rise to anxious feelings and making changes where possible. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another counselling therapy used to reduce anxiety. This treatment aims to reprocess traumatic memories that underly anxiety. Exposure therapy helps a person's nervous system recognize that the feared stimulus will not cause calamity. Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy helps people work with the parts of themselves that are fearful and anxious. Neurofeedback is not talk therapy but addresses anxiety by delivering audio/visual feedback when the brain is anxious and calm, training towards greater awareness of these states and making calm more accessible. 

Counselling provides an opportunity to work out what the deeper, underlying causes of our stresses and fears are. After all, one of the first steps to overcoming anxiety is figuring out why it is affecting your life in the first place.

Therapists at Sojourn Counselling and Neurofeedback offer a safe and gentle space where we can work together with these emotionally charged and heavy experiences that keep you from reaching your full potential in life and relationships.

Anxiety can be crippling, and the causes of it do not disappear on their own. It is necessary that we understand and work with them, rather than trying to fight their existence. It is necessary that we understand why before going forward.

Anxiety is more than “all in your head.” The fight with constant anxiety is an uphill struggle and there’s no reason to go it alone.

If you are struggling with anxiety and would like to speak with a caring professional who can help you address it, make an appointment easily online. One of our well-trained Registered Clinical Counsellors will be pleased to help.

Sojourn serves the Greater Vancouver area and the Fraser Valley including Surrey, Langley, Cloverdale, South Surrey, White Rock, Burnaby, East Vancouver, Downtown, North Vancouver and West Vancouver from our offices in Surrey and North Vancouver.

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