What is anxiety?
Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time, and it is a normal response to situations that we perceive as threatening. For example, going to the hospital for an operation, or sitting an exam. Anxiety prepares the body for the “fight or flight” response when in a situation which is perceived as a threat.
Anxiety is designed to help the body to survive, and increases our awareness which in turn aids us to react swiftly and efficiently.
Fight or flight response:
The fight or flight response is an automatic survival mechanism which prepares the body to take action such as run away from a situation that is perceived as life-threatening, and if that’s not possible, then to fight the situation. When the fight or flight response is activated, our emotions, thoughts and reactions change to either attack or escape mode, and body sensations are produced to prepare our body.
What are the causes of anxiety?
Cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT) helps us to understand our issues by breaking them into five smaller parts – Situation, Thoughts, Emotions, Physical Sensations and Behaviour. These five parts are normally interconnected and maintain the problem.
Using this CBT model, we can explain some of the common signs of anxiety:
How can we help?
The symptoms of anxiety can have an impact on a person’s daily functioning, routine and behaviour. These changes can maintain the anxiety and prevent the feeling of relaxation and calmness. Looking at the above example, the stream of physical sensations felt in anxiety may confirm that there is an actual threat, and the negative thought may feel more believable. The anxiety can manifest itself in different ways, such as doing less, becoming more irritable or withdrawn, and reducing the level of achievement and enjoyment in activities.
One of the key ways to overcome anxiety is to gradually confront the distressing situations, to give yourself evidence that there is no real threat. You start by tackling the least fearful situation, this is referred to as graded exposure work. With each achievement it increases the confidence to face other distressing situations, reduces the anxiety, and improves the quality of your daily functioning.
To overcome anxiety it is important to keep doing things, putting yourself in situations gradually and repeatedly, over a prolonged period of time to prove to yourself that there is no threat.
Mindset Rethink can help you to:
- Identify and set specific and manageable goals
- Offer you education on anxiety
- Explain the CBT model to you and how it can help you with breaking the cycle for anxiety
- Evaluate and challenge your negative thoughts
- Create a list of feared situations and collaboratively plan how to do the graded exposure work
- Teach you problem solving and worry management techniques
- Develop your social skills
- Promote your general healthy lifestyle
Complementary therapy techniques
One of the key features of anxiety is the fight or flight response, where you can experience many physiological sensations in your body, and this can reinforce the negative thoughts and emotions. By getting your body in a more relaxed state can help to eliminate some of the physical sensations, and therefore reduce the feeling of anxiety
Relaxation techniques may produce modest short-term reduction of anxiety.
Think of an exercise or activity which helps you to relax, such as doing a breathing exercise, running yourself a bath, going to the gym or listening to your favourite music. Engage in this activity at lease once daily. After doing this, reflect on how it has impacted on your physical state, your emotions and your thoughts.
You may want to test out more activities to see which has greater positive influence, and use it when you are feeling stressed.