We all have times where we feel nervous, apprehensive or slightly on edge. So when do these normal feelings become a problem? Anxiety exists for all of us, but at times, these feelings become overwhelming and start to take over our lives, impacting on our daily decisions. I decided to write today, about some of the myths surrounding anxiety, to help identify when anxiety has taken over.
Myth 1 - Avoiding stressful situations will reduce my anxiety
A common misconception is that when suffering with extreme anxiety, it is best to avoid stressful situations. In fact, the opposite is true and avoiding situations that might cause you anxiety can actually exacerbate the problem. Avoidance feeds the anxiety as feelings of inadequacy surface and you start to feel even more out of control. The more out of controls you feel, the more you avoid stressful situations and the problem snowballs.
When in a state of anxiety, it can feel impossible to face your fears, however, it is absolutely the best way forward. The situation is not going to go away and you can’t avoid it forever. Knowing this, can compound the problem. Facing the situation however, helps you rewire your anxious brain. If the experience turns out to be positive (or even just the fact that you did it) creates new neurological pathways so next time, the anxiety will be reduced. This process can take time Each time you conquer your fears, you regain more control over your mind and calm the anxiety.
So when anxiety starts to take over……. Feel the fear and do it anyway!!
(Photo by Sydney Rae on Unsplash)
Myth 2 - Anxiety and panic attacks will cause me to pass out
Passing out whilst experiencing anxiety or a panic attack is extremely rare, however feeling like you are going to feint is very common. The reason for this is that experiencing high levels of panic or adrenaline can make you breathe really fast which decreases the level of carbon dioxide in your blood. This sudden drop can cause you to feel sick, dizzy and it can make you feel like you are going to lose consciousness. This can lead to you panicking even more, make your breathing faster and increasing your symptoms. Feinting occurs when your blood pressure has become very low. When experiencing a panic attack, your blood pressure is increased, hence why feinting is extremely unlikely to occur.
The most effective way of reducing your symptoms during an anxiety attack, is to focus on breathing slowly. For example, take a deep breath in to the count of three, breathe out again to the count of three and repeat. Beginning this routine as soon as you start to panic helps you to regain control of your body before the feelings overtake you. Deep breathing triggers our brain to release endorphins, which elicit a feeling of being calm and in control.
Practising your breathing on a regular basis can help you reach this state much easier. Disciplines such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga can all be extremely beneficial in teaching your mind and body to reconnect and breathe in a way that grounds you in a the current moment and helps regain your sense of control.
(Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash)
Myth 3 - Anxiety is not a mental health problem
We all experience anxiety on some level and in certain situations, being nervous is a completely natural reaction. It can even be helpful, motivating and in some cases necessary.
Back in our caveman days, anxiety was the body’s natural way of reacting to a threat or danger. Our ‘fight or flight’ response would be triggered and we would feel the adrenaline coursing through our veins, forcing us to either run, or summon up the energy to fight off our attacker. These days, whilst the predators are not the same, people still face dangers or traumas that trigger this response. This is a normal reaction. The problem comes when the fight or flight response persists, when the danger is no longer present, or if everything is perceived as a danger. If the anxiety occurs and you can find no reason for the fear, then your anxiety might be misplaced. This is often referred to as ‘Generalised Anxiety Disorder’. If you want to read more about this and the other types of anxiety disorders, I recommend the Anxiety UK website. It has a lot of useful information and ways to help overcome these conditions.
Myth 4 - I’m a natural worrier and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s part of who I am.
There are many things we tell ourselves when experiencing persistent anxiety. When anxiety has been in your life for a long time it becomes hard to remember a time when you felt any different. Whilst the anxious feelings can make life very difficult, the feelings are familiar and as strange as it sounds, familiar feelings can often feel safe, no matter how uncomfortable they might be. Change can be unnerving, even more so, for the anxious person. It is for this reason, that many people suffering with anxiety are reluctant to accept that it has become a problem and seek help.
Persistent worriers often convince themselves that if they stop worrying and putting out ‘fires’, then bad things will happen. The problem is that this stops them from living in the current moment. They are subconsciously recalling experiences from the past, which have led to less than desirable outcomes and projecting these onto future events, preventing them from being able to truly enjoy living in the current moment.
The truth is, there is absolutely something you can do about it! Ultimately we do have control over our feelings and emotions, and whilst this concept can sound impossible to achieve at first, with the right help, it is completely within your reach!
(Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash)
Myth 5 - My anxiety won’t go away without medication
This is a myth. There is a wealth of research which has proven that talking therapies can be just as effective for treating anxiety. My experience has also shown me that talking therapies can be more effective in the long-term, as whilst medications can help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety, they don’t address the underlying problem of why the anxiety is occurring in the first place. This can lead to prolonged use, along with an increased tolerance and dependence on the medication.
So how can counselling help? Whilst counselling can’t change what has happened in the past or what is happening around you, it can help you change the way you feel about it. It can help you to understand your anxiety triggers and find ways to manage and even prevent the symptoms. It can help you to regain control over your body's responses and emotions and in turn help you feel in control of your own life, rather than be a bystander, feeling like life is just happening to you.
For more information on how counselling can help, or my counselling practise, please give me a call or check out my website – www.julieannegamecounselling.com