I think that it’s super important to talk about anxiety because it is one of the most common things that people are currently seeking treatment for, not just in my clinic but all over. I don’t know that I’ve ever admitted a client for treatment who didn’t report anxiety as a major issue.
Some of the sufferers that I’ve worked with had been given an official diagnosis of ‘anxiety’ from a healthcare professional but many were self-diagnosed. All talked about their anxiety as something that they were plagued with on a daily basis and something that caused huge disruption to their everyday lives. Because anxiety is such a big topic, I think it’s important to share a bit about how I work clinically with anxiety, but also how I’ve come to manage it in my own life.
When we first realise that we’re anxious, we set to work on trying to identify what might be causing us distress and worry, but the thing is, there is always something to worry about! So, in some ways, this method is really effective because we quickly identify something that is bothering us and then focus our attention on trying to resolve it. So, for example, if we realise that we are worried about getting somewhere on time, we spend time on planning our route, checking timetables and doing what we can to alleviate that distress and it works. Well, temporarily… We do find that we feel a little better once we’ve done this because we’ve taken control of our emotions and tried to find a solution to our distress, but the thing that no one tells you is that anxiety just exists. Anxiety will latch itself onto anything, so there will always be something for you to focus your attention on to justify its existence. That’s why many sufferers describe just feeling anxious a lot, without even necessarily having any specific significant thing to worry about; the anxiety sits within the body and feels impossible to shift.
When we are feeling anxious, we can often list physical symptoms that describe how we are feeling and I would guess that some of these could include:
– a sense of impending doom
– restricted air flow
– tightness in the chest/throat
– a feeling that you need to respond to something even if you aren’t sure what
– nausea and gastrointestinal problems
If I asked you to think about what fear feels like, I’d bet the list wouldn’t look too different from the one above? I feel that so often what we perceive as anxiety, is actually fear. If we have experienced trauma, then quite often we can find ourselves stuck in a fear cycle of flight, fight or freeze and so many of the symptoms of living in these states are similar to how we would describe anxiety.
I lived every day in a constant state of hypervigilance and just thought that I was an anxious and uptight person. Little did I know that I was living with the fall out of unprocessed trauma. When I was living in this state, I often felt frustrated with myself for not being able to function better and for not just getting on with it. It’s only with recovery that I’ve realised I needed to have more compassion toward myself in order to heal these early wounds. Compassion and kindness are so often the keys to resolving or healing most conflicts, both within ourselves and externally. The more that we focus our attention on nurturing a compassion approach, the more that we aid our own healing.
Symptoms of anxiety aren’t something that are going to disappear overnight but with time and patience, we can learn to cultivate a more loving response to ourselves and this helps us to heal.