Learning a bit more about anxiety

Anxiety is normal and adaptive! It is a system in our body that helps us to deal with real danger (for example, anxiety allows us to jump out of the way of a dangerous situations) or to perform at our best (for example, it motivates us to prepare for a big presentation or exam). Researchers like Yerkes and Dotson have proven that we in fact perform at our best while experiencing a moderate amount of stress other then no stress at all or, on the other hand, an intense amount of it. A moderate level of anxiety can also help us to give more attention to that which produces it, which means that it can be useful to focus and find an efficient solution. Unfortunately, when we experience an intense level of anxiety, this tends to restrict our attention and our consequent behavior. In these situations we don’t think rationally and logically, and ultimately make the situation even worse for ourselves and others.

When you experience anxiety, your body’s “fight-flight-freeze” response (also called the “adrenaline response”) is triggered. This prepares your body to defend itself. But this response can also happen when something simply feels dangerous, but really isn’t, such as being interviewed for a job. You may feel jittery, on edge, or uncomfortable. You may snap at people or have a hard time thinking clearly. These feelings can become overwhelming enough that make you want to avoid important situations, such as taking exams, going through interviews, investing in relationships.

When we experience high levels of anxiety, what we essentially do is to surrender to intense negative emotions, losing rational and logical thinking when becoming overwhelmed by emotions. This process is also called “amygdala hijack” and contributes to an emotional dysregulation, that is when a person becomes unable to control their emotional responses to certain situations.

Living with anxiety can be perceived like a torture by people experiencing a serious condition. Committing to a treatment is the best way to achieve good results in overcoming anxiety.

How we can work together towards lessening your anxiety?

We will first of all analyze together which are the patterns behind your anxiety and the consequent behaviors. We will also investigate what’s linking your present distress to past experiences and your personal history, to then identify more in depth the triggers of your anxiety and high level of stress. I will then offer you a personalized and effective treatment to work on develop new and more functional strategies to handle your emotive distress and become a resilient person minimizing the impact of anxiety and stress in your life. Resilience is that specific ability that allows us to bounce back from stressors in life that ultimately will improve your concentration and ability to learn, calmness, respond efficiently to situations, improve relationships, overall life satisfaction and physical well-being.

What can you do to decrease your anxiety level?

If you consider your level of anxiety bearable but uncomfortable, the following strategies might help. This is not a cure, it’s just a useful way to start managing it!

Control and slow down your breathing – Severe anxiety symptoms are often linked to poor breathing habits. Many men and women with anxiety suffer from poor breathing habits that contribute to anxiety and many of the most upsetting symptoms. You need to consciously slow down and reduce your breathing, not speed it up or try to take deeper breaths. Doing yoga-like routines can help achieving a more balanced rhythm.

Spend time with someone who’s warm and friendly – Reducing anxiety is often about distraction, your mind needs to go to another place, away from negative though patterns. Open up and talk about what you are experiencing while feeling anxious and explain why, is there a particular problematic situation you are coping with? Maybe they have some tips for you. Sometimes even just taking all the negative thoughts off your chest helps containing anxiety and give more space to more positive feelings. On the other hand, meeting a friend and engaging in recreational activities to distract yourself from a stressful situation/thought, is also a good method to manage negative intense emotions.

Engage in some physical activity – When your mind is living in anxiety, your body is filled with adrenaline. Putting that adrenaline towards aerobic activity can be a great way to decrease your anxiety. While exercising you burn away stress hormones that create anxiety symptoms; you reduce excess energy and tension in your muscles; you release endorphins, which improve your mood; you force healthier breathing and, overall, you distract yourself from feeling anxious.

Eat healthy and respect your sleeping patterns – You need to feel your body and your mind, they have to recover from the enormous amount of energies they lose while you feel anxious. If you’d like to know more about the importance of sleep, watch the video “why do we sleep?” published on the ‘useful links’ page in this website.

Learn more about your anxious thinking and use anxiety as a useful alarm signal – Anxiety doesn’t come out of the blue. Sometimes you can control this anxiety by keeping negative thoughts at bay, learning to dismiss triggers that cause you anxiety. There are different strategies you can try that may be effective, for example 1) keeping a question checklist – when you feel severe anxiety, have a checklist on hand with questions to ask yourself about that anxiety experience. For example: if there is a realistic reason to believe something is wrong; what is the evidence that something is wrong, consider there might be a chance that you are blowing this out of proportion; 2) repeating mantra-like sentences to yourself that make you feel better. An example could be “my anxiety does not control me, I’m controlling it!”

Focus in the here-and-now – Learn to live the moment practicing mindfulness-based exercises. People with anxiety often start to focus too much on how they feel, their worries about the future, how they might come across others. Learning to embrace the idea that you have anxiety and trying to be less focused on yourself and more on good things in life is a good thing to repeat to yourself.

I know, it is easier said that done, but there is no short cut to get rid of anxiety. There are although strategies that can greatly improve your long-term outlook. If you feel that your anxiety is out of control and it’s impacting important areas in your life, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me, I’ll be happy to answer your questions.