Beyond Worry: How Anxiety Impacts Life and How to Overcome Anxiety
It was teeming with people.
Everyone in a hurried rush.
Sound echoed off the high ceiling in a way that created a muffled but overpoweringly loud cacophony of voices.
I needed to catch the 5:05pm in order to be on time.
Dragging my heavy black suitcase, which was overpacked so as to not forget one single thing, I rushed to the escalator.
I felt a lump in my throat just thinking about having to go underground to the platform.
Did I have the right ticket? Was my train going to crash? Were my belongings going to be stolen?
All alone. By myself. Heading to ride on a speeding train. Under the city. That would go through very dark, narrow tunnels. Alone.
Glancing around, people everywhere scurrying and frenzied. Noise too loud to bare.
The sweat was forming on my brow, my heart began racing faster and faster. The weight of my luggage and my oversized purse heaved over my left shoulder were adding to the heat rising within me.
As I rounded the corner to the escalator, I was confronted with a wall of people. That’s when it hit.
My sight went fuzzy. Everything became dark. Sound disappeared. My heart buckled and pounded out of my chest. My breath seized and I sank weightless into what happened to be an empty corner next to a vending machine. Time stopped. Was I having a heart attack? Dying? It sure felt like it.
Seconds seemed like an eternity.
Having had a panic attack, by myself, in Grand Central Station is an interesting memory.
In all honesty, I am unsure how I managed to gather myself and get on that 5:05pm train. (I attribute it to something much larger and grander than myself alone.)
Anxiety effects up to 40 million Americans. Or 18% of the population, or approximately 1 in 4 people.
Anxiety is a normal human emotion and reaction to stressful situations. Everyone experiences worry and concern from time to time. Some fears and worries are temporary not causing further distress. However, anxiety can persist and interfere with one’s life and ability to function.
Anxiety that worsens over time can result in an anxiety disorder. Major types of anxiety disorders include:
Social Anxiety Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Thankfully, there are effective and efficient ways to cope with anxiety and overcome it.
While causes of anxiety disorders are not entirely understood, research has concluded that there are underlying factors beneath them all. They can include medical conditions, illness, trauma, personality, inherited trait, and drugs or alcohol, among others.
Anxiety is largely caused by being overwhelmed by emotions. The negative reaction(s) to the unpleasant situation and unpleasant feelings then create the sense of being overwhelmed.
Anxiety then worsens and is fed when people avoid or ignore the situations or experiences that cause their anxiety.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety manifests in a variety of physical symptoms, effecting mind, body, and soul. These symptoms can include:
Racing or unwanted thoughts
Irritability or hyper vigilance
Shortness of breath
Sense of impending doom
Anxiety can also contribute to other conditions such as:
Depression, among others
How Counseling Helps Anxiety
In my case, my many unresolved grief experiences mixed with my highly sensitive nature manifested into generalized anxiety. I can personally and professionally attest to the power of counseling to help people transform and overcome their anxiety.
Counseling allows people to have a space and place to process and heal their emotional wounds and to learn healthy and helpful ways to cope with life’s challenges. The collaborative process between client and therapist identifies specific client concerns and factors that contribute to his/her anxiety.
The counseling process enables the client to learn what his/her thoughts are and how those thoughts contribute to anxiety. In addition to examining and changing thoughts and behaviors, the client learns and creates strategies, techniques, and skills to cope with anxiety and reduce symptoms in real life.
It takes practice on the clients part to work to incorporate these newly learned skills into life, but the result is often a reduction or elimination of anxiety symptoms. Sometimes relief from anxiety is experienced after just several sessions.
This process of treating anxiety takes as little or as much time as needed per individual. Treatment is tailored to the uniqueness of each client.
Two people may experience the same event and both perceive the event differently. The event may have no effect on one person and the other person may develop anxiety due to that event. While there is no way to determine what will cause someone to develop anxiety, there are ways to prevent the development of a disorder.
Be actively involved in your life. Spend time doing things you love and be connected to others.
Avoid drugs, alcohol, and caffeine. These substances can contribute to anxiety. And, conversely, cause anxiety thinking about quitting.
Get help early. If you have experienced something that is causing emotional distress, find help. There is no shame in this, but rather courage and admiration for making yourself a priority and taking care of yourself. Your symptoms can be harder to treat the longer you wait.
Finding Relief, Past, Present, Future
The goal of anxiety treatment is relief.
Counseling helps you to address the past and what has contributed to your anxiety. It enables healing and learning that is incorporated into the present to begin to experience relief. This relief is then available for the future, equipping you to establish positive and effective ways to prevent and relieve anxiety going forward.
What works for one person may not be what works best for another. Here are some proven ways, in addition to counseling, to help relieve anxiety:
Challenge negative thoughts
Know that thoughts and feelings are not facts
Move your body- go for a walk, practice yoga, ride a bike (or whatever exercise you like!)
Be mindful of what you eat. Eliminate processed foods/sugar. Eat whole foods like nuts, oranges, spinach, salmon, berries
Try herbal remedies
Wake up early/Go to bed early
Accept your anxiety and actively work to address it
Anxiety is a part of life. Your worries or fears may get better over time, or they may get worse. If you feel like your concerns are impacting your well-being, your relationships, your work, etc. seek help before your symptoms worsen. The sooner you address the issue the better and the quicker you’ll be back to living and enjoying your life.
To begin your path toward anxiety relief, I invite you to connect with me here.