Throughout our lives, feelings of anxiety and low mood are experienced by all of us from time-to-time. However sometimes they can become too much.
Fear and anxiety are natural and necessary human responses. In situations in which we are confronted with an immediate threat or danger as when we step off the pavement and hear the sound of screeching brakes and look up to see a bus hurtling towards us, we experience natural and necessary fear. A fight-or-flight response races through our bodies. Our heart rate increases, our palms start to sweat and the blood rushes to our limbs preparing us for immediate action to escape the threat and get to safety. In such a situation, that is a healthy, adaptive response. This response however may also arise in the absence of a real threat. It may be elicited by a memory of a past experience or by an imagined future danger. The body begins to prepare to fight or flee even when no action is required. We become confused. Furthermore, if we are to fully engage in life we sometimes need to face and take real risks such as a career challenge when we could fail or a social risk when we could be rejected. In such situations, our natural biological predisposition to seek safety and avoid danger may not prove to be the optimal reaction. We need to challenge ourselves. If left untreated, anxiety can begin to take over our lives, filling our minds with thoughts and plans about ‘what if’s’. We become consumed with worry and fear. Our worlds become smaller and our living restricted. and our living becomes restricted.
Symptoms of anxiety may include any of the following:
- Constant or excessive and unrealistic worry or nervousness with little or no reason (Generalized Anxiety)
- Intense fear of a particular object or situation (Specific Phobia)
- Overwhelming self-consciousness in regard to everyday social situations due to a fear of being humiliated or judged (Social Phobia)
- Repetitive, racing or preoccupied thoughts about future or the past (Rumination)
- Mind racing at night and disturbing sleep (Sleep issues)
- Panic attacks during which you experience feelings of being overwhelmed by sudden anxiety as if you are about to have a heart attack or go crazy(Panic attack)
- Avoiding things due to fear or worry (Avoidance strategies leads to reinforcement)
- Headaches, nausea, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath (Physiological symptoms of anxiety)
- Difficulty in paying attention, being present, or remembering things (Anxiety)
- Being constantly preoccupied about the future or the past (Anxiety)
- Increased state of wariness and scrutiny of what is around you (Hypervigilance due to anxiety)
- Obsessive thoughts, fears, urges, images and behaviours (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
Repressed feelings such as fear and anger may manifest themselves as anxiety. Social anxiety (Social Phobia), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety (GAD), panic attacks and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all forms of anxiety. Addictions tend to be rooted in anxiety, as people find themselves increasingly engaging in self-medicating in order to avoid certain overwhelming emotions or get through a certain events.
Anxiety can be stifling. Being on edge affects every facet of our lives, from existential crises to overreacting when the waitress gets an order wrong. Yet as a physiological response, anxiety can not only be mitigated but in fact worked with. Your mind is actually stronger than the anxiety it creates. Through cognitive reframing and practices like mindfulness, anxiety can be transformed into a source for compassion, contentment and deeper self-understanding.