photo credit: Stephen Poff via photopincc
by Glynis Sherwood
Anxiety is an ‘equal opportunity’ emotion. By that I mean anxiety can occur on every level of our being – our thoughts and beliefs; our actions; our physical body, our relationships and the situations we find ourselves in.
Because it’s uncomfortable at best and painful at worst, most people think of anxiety as the enemy. According to this perspective, anxiety is seen as nothing more than unpleasant thoughts, fears or sensations that need to be stamped out. But to overcome anxiety, it must be understood and even welcomed, as it is a guardian of our psychological well being.
Anxiety as Messenger, GPS and Teacher
How is anxiety a guardian? First of all, anxiety is a messenger. Anxiety comes from deep within your subconscious mind, bearing a red flag to tell you that all is not well in your world. Something needs to improve, change or be adjusted in order to feel at peace.
Understood this way, anxiety is like an internal GPS (Global Positioning System) letting you know that you have gotten off track with who you are and what you need. The anxiety GPS warns you that you need to change your route, choices or attitude.
There are approximately nine main sources of anxiety that if listened to – rather than avoided, feared or medicated – will tell you a lot about what needs attention in your life. Anxiety is a powerful teacher if attended to, as it will not only show you where the problem lies, but how to deal with it.
9 Main Causes of Anxiety and What to Do About Them:
1. Repressed Needs: This mostly involves doing what you think others expect from you, rather than what you want. In other words trying to be someone you are not. It’s important to examine your thoughts and beliefs to find ways to stand up for your ‘authentic’ self, and not give in to internal pressure to put others ahead of yourself. This can be a difficult pattern to break as it’s usually established in childhood and is often unconscious, but can be helped tremendously through the counselling process.
2. Not Listening to a Vulnerability: You may try and push yourself past your physical or emotional limits, believing that this is what you ‘should’ being doing to be a good, successful or worthy person. Again, you need to identify self-defeating beliefs, challenge them, and work with the mental and physical energy you have available to you in order to feel calm and not burn out. Self acceptance is the long term challenge here, as you have likely been plagued by believing you are not good enough.
3. Lacking Competency/Skills: Do you find yourself in nerve wracking social situations and don’t know what to do? For example, you become extremely nervous in groups and don’t know how to calm yourself or act natural. Perhaps you were never shown or encouraged to be comfortable in social situations, or you feel inadequate. Overcoming social anxiety, and the beliefs that lead to this discomfort, requires the development of skills that can be gained through self help resources, such as books and videos, and working with a good therapist.
4. Guilt and Shame: Is there something you did in the past that you either need to apologize or forgive yourself for? Is your guilt realistic? Healthy guilt is about believing you did something that wasn’t OK, learning from your error, and committing to not repeating it. Neurotic guilt is about feeling overly responsible for people or situations that may be outside of your control. It’s important to be able to learn to distinguish between the two. Shame is particularly deadly, and never right, because it makes you believe that you are fundamentally flawed. People who experience excessive guilt, or feel a lot of shame can benefit tremendously from psychotherapy.
5. Outdated Beliefs: Is the way you look at yourself and relationships up to date with who you are now? Do you have a hard time dealing with change, or adjusting to new circumstances? Your belief system may no longer fit your life situation. Perhaps your core beliefs never really served you as they are too limiting or negative. It can be challenging to find out what’s running you as beliefs are often unconscious. Dig deep, and get help if you are having trouble sorting things out.
6. Food: Stimulants like coffee, sugar, soft drinks, refined carbohydrates, and artificial sweeteners can make you feel really anxious. The solution here is simple, just cut these things out. And if this is all that’s troubling you, then you certainly don’t need therapy!
7. Hormones: Women and teenage girls can experience anxiety during their menstrual cycles and menopause. Keep track of when you experience anxiety. If it’s cyclical then you may benefit from a visit to a naturopath or integrated medicine doctor.
8. Stress: For many – possibly most – life in the 21st century is simply too fast. Explore how you can slow things down, even a bit, and take back some down time. Meditation can be a very helpful practice. If you are having trouble gearing down due to workaholic tendencies or guilt, you might benefit from talking to a counsellor.
9. Trauma: Were you injured or abused in the past? Have you experienced traumatic loss? These kinds of experiences can leave you feeling worried, fearful or tense. Traumatic reactions are anxiety based. Therapy is very helpful for trauma, and can teach your body and mind to calm down simultaneously, so you feel less anxious in general.
Need Help Overcoming Anxiety? Contact Glynis to request a counselling appointment
Counselling is available by Video worldwide.
Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor, specializes in recovery from Chronic Anxiety, Trauma, Scapegoating, Low Self Worth, Depression, Grief and Addictive Behaviors. I look forward to hearing from you and helping you achieve the life you want and deserve!