What is anxiety?
Our bodies are powerful tools. They make all sorts of decisions for us outside our conscious awareness; when to breathe, how to walk, how to watch, how to listen, how to sleep.
When something threatens us, our body prepares itself for one of two things: to fight or run. Adrenalin is released, our heart beats faster, we breathe more quickly and begin to sweat. Our body is working with us to enable us to do what you need to do. If there is no need to use the excess adrenalin or the increased oxygen supply then our body begins to act against us, the decreased carbon dioxide levels in our lungs and blood causes us to feel dizzy and disoriented, we can begin to hyperventilate and panic.
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When anxiety becomes a problem
Anxiety is an everyday part of life. It is our body’s response to a stressful situation and it is both useful and debilitating. We all experience anxiety at one point or another. Managing anxiety appropriately, we can use it to help us perform at our best. Anxiety becomes problematic, however, when we are not able to manage it, control it or harness it, when it gets in the way of us doing things that we want to do or when we spend our lives fearing it and avoiding it.
According to the DWP, we would consider anxiety to be a problem when it is “disproportionate to the severity of the stress, continues after the stressor has gone, or occurs in the absence of any external stressful event”. This means a ‘disorder’ exists when anxiety is present at levels that are no longer helpful, but are instead causing a problem in day-to-day life.
Our 'Overcoming Anxiety Programme' is a complete and guaranteed way of helping those with anxiety.
How can we gain control over our anxiety and begin to manage it in an appropriate way? This is a process that tackles anxiety from two sides:
Managing external stress
These are the things that create stress in our life, our work, our social life, elements external to ourselves that cause us anxiety. These need to be looked at and strategies put in place to minimise these stressful events. We need to ask ourselves: What is causing me stress? What can I do about it? Am I taking on too much? What are the consequences of changing this situation?
We need to find a balance that allows us to minimise stress, but that doesn’t create a tendency to avoid what we need or want to do. The more we avoid anxiety, the more we limit our lives.
Managing our response to stress
Our bodies are designed to respond to stress, to give us the fuel we need to deal with a situation. By understanding more about anxiety and indeed panic attacks and their symptoms we can learn not to fear anxiety itself as much.
Firstly, a panic attack will not kill you. Although it feels incredibly physical and life threatening, it is not. For a complete anxiety management programme that we guarantee will help anxiety sufferers please see our 'Overcoming Anxiety Programme'
Anxiety help and treatments
Anxiety can be treated in a variety of ways, your GP/healthcare provider may suggest trying one, or a combination of the following:
Talking therapies can help with anxiety. In the UK, these are available through the NHS or privately. There are different types of talking therapy and your GP should be able to advise or refer you for a consultation to find which would be best for you. Some therapies look at the causes of your anxiety; others take a more pro-active approach of helping you overcome the feelings you are experiencing right now.
Some therapies that may be considered are:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Applied Relaxation
- Group therapy
There are a range of psychological treatments available to help treat anxiety, some prove to be more effective than others. A number of therapeutic techniques have shown to be helpful in the treatment of anxiety, these commonly include:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a talking therapy that isgoal-oriented. This means it focuses upon a pre-determined outcome that is systematically worked towards. It is a procedure that aims to solve dysfunctional emotions, behaviours and cognitions.
CBT includes a variety of approaches but commonly it will involve challenging problematic or unrealistic beliefs and behaviours by gradually facing activities, objects or situations that may have been avoided. CBT aims to teach the patient new ways of thinking and reacting, reduce fear and enforce positive, healthy ways of behaving.
Like CBT this aims to look at the causes of anxiety and helps you confront your fears in a progression, first in the mind, then in reality. Practicing relaxation and learning ways to reduce anxiety while these fears are faced step by step. This therapy encourages new ways of coping and new positive behaviours to replace the old coping strategies and avoidance.
Individual psychological therapies
Psychodynamic psychotherapy– this is a one-to-one therapy that helps the patient work through unhealthy emotions, any traumatic past experiences and helps them find unconscious sources of conflict in order to work through these to a positive outcome.
Psychodynamic counsellingis similar to psychodynamic psychotherapy with similar approaches, however this may be less intensive and may last for a shorter period of time.
We use the best combined counselling techniques in our Anxiety Programme.
Medications generally prescribed for anxiety include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) these include Fluoxetine, Citalopram and Sertraline, and Benzodiazepines. Sleeping tablets, tranquillisers and sedatives (including Benzodiazepines) may be used as a short-term solution, while SSRI’s may be longer-term.
There are lots of ways you can help yourself reduce your anxiety. These can include:
- Learning to control symptoms
- Breathing exercises
- Distraction techniques
- Assertiveness training
- Healthy Lifestyle (eating and sleeping well are very important)
- Communicating your problems
Many people find alternative therapies very useful. Acupuncture, aromatherapy, colour therapy, there are so many to chose from, there is something for everyone. All can promote inner calm and balance.
Friends and family support
Friends and family of sufferers often feel powerless, but there is a lot we can do to support someone with anxiety. We can:
- Offer help, support and encouragement – it can be easy to become complacent and allow someone to avoid something or to do it for them. When you know there is no danger encourage small steps. Please remember to balance this; it is equally important you do not push someone over his or her capabilities.
- Remind them of their positives (often anxiety knocks self-esteem)
- Validate emotions – it is easy for an onlooker to see there is no danger, but simply saying ‘don’t be silly’ (or the like) is not helpful. Try and listen and talk about why there is a perceived danger, without simply brushing it off because you cannot see one.
- Do not get angry, it can be hard for you too, but anger can only create a divide.
- Listen and allow emotion – whether it is anger, fear or sadness, allowing someone to express these emotions can be a real blessing and help them to come to terms with them.
- Hobbies and distractions – take up a hobby together, perhaps a relaxation class or a simple hobby like crosswords; something that can be practiced in times of anxiety that will help calm and soothe.
- A hug – closeness can help someone who is anxious, however listen, if someone needs space, just reassure him or her this is OK too.