Whether we are nervous before a first date, worried about the state of the world or concerned about a difficult situation at work – we all experience anxiety.
The key to understanding anxiety is to remember that we all have instinctual, often physical reactions to situations we perceive as dangerous, stressful or outside of our control. When we feel threatened our hearts pound and our thoughts start to race. We may become confused, pro-active, scared, frozen or afterwards experience a prolonged sense of uneasiness. This is part of our innate survival mechanism. This can often be very helpful, motivating us to take immediate or preventative actions like renewing our fire insurance, seeking advice from a lawyer, avoiding a stray dog on the road, putting on nice clothes or studying hard for an upcoming test.
When is Anxiety a Problem?
Anxiety becomes a problem when you experience the symptoms of anxiety or take preventative actions but there is no actual danger present. It is important to recognize anxiety for what it is. It is nothing to be ashamed of. For many people (roughly one in ten adults) their anxiety prevents them from enjoying life and being productive. Individual psychotherapy, on-line therapy or couples counselling can help you better understand the source and impact of you or your partner’s anxiety.
What do the Symptoms of Anxiety Feel Like?
The experience of prolonged anxiety can negatively affect our belief systems, thoughts, bodies, life choices and social interactions. Becoming aware of the symptoms of anxiety is the first step in learning how to cope with anxiety problems. Montreal therapy, couples counselling and online psychotherapy services are available to help you recognize the signs of anxiety and learn how to manage it.
Physical symptoms of anxiety:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heart beating
- Dizziness, loss of balance or numbness
- Nausea or stomach problems
- Sleep issues (insomnia, nightmares)
- Loss or increase in appetite
- Muscle tension
- Frequent and unpredictable panic attacks
- Other physical pain/symptoms that a doctor is unable to diagnose
- Preoccupation with an event (past or future) “ why did I do that…” “ what will people think…”, “ I should have… or shouldn’t have…”
- Excessive worrying about a potential bad outcome “What if….”
- Over thinking things, perfectionism, distrust, paranoia
- Highly critical of self & others
- Making excuses about not doing something basic or avoiding situations in order not to feel anxious (Getting on an airplane, taking to a stranger…)
- Attempting to control or prevent a loved one from doing something due to your own fear
- Micro-management of a situation
- Intense anger, irritability, worry, fear or frustration over small occurrences
Anxiety is very common and is not something you can just tell yourself to get over, you must be kind and forgiving with yourself. It is often the result of a learned response reinforced by thoughts or beliefs that are not based in reality. Some anxiety is biological. It can also be brought on by an ongoing stressful environment or a traumatic past experience. Learning to cope with anxiety takes patience and practice. Many people benefit from a combination of relaxation techniques with an effort to reframe their beliefs or need for control. Support your friends, family, co-workers and loved ones to talk about anxiety in a non-judgmental way.
Don’t be afraid to seek psychotherapy, family therapy or couples counselling services. The Montreal Therapy Centre has a variety of therapists with specialized training in anxiety issues and are there to help you.
Self Help Strategies
- On a scale of 1- 10 how anxious am I on a daily basis?
- How is my anxiety affecting my life and others lives? Is it preventing me from living my life the way I want?
- What is the belief system behind my anxiety? Is this fear based in reality? Am I jumping to conclusions?
- How do I regularly deal with stress? Is it serving me?
- If my anxiety was not an issue- how would I respond to…
- Taking a step back from the situation and looking at it from a neutral perspective
- Recognize negative/ unrealistic though patterns for what they are
- Face your fears slowly one step at a time- anxiety itself will not harm you
- Be kind and forgiving with yourself & reward yourself
- Get out of your head: focus on relaxing, meditate, go for a walk, go dancing, exercise
- Support groups and other psychotherapy services can help you identify faulty thoughts and behavioral patterns associated with anxiety
- Eating well, exercise, relaxation, maintaining human connections and having fun are important aspects of life and help manage stress and anxiety
- You do not have to be defined by your thoughts
- Some things in life are out of your control
- Try to be objective
- Positive intentions go a long way
- Be patient and forgiving
If you think that anxiety might be an issue you are facing, please reach out to someone. Talking is the first step to healing. The Montreal Therapy Centre is there to help you. Book an appointment with one of our therapists here.