a little anxiety is actually a healthy thing.
Anxiety serves an important function. It alerts us to potential dangers in our environment and motivates us to take action to prevent those dangers from happening.
Anxiety is different than fear. We fear things that are right in front of us right now—like a hungry tiger running towards us. If that’s really happening, then you’ll feel fear and go into fight, flight, or freeze mode.
Anxiety is about the future. We feel anxiety about things that might happen in the future.
Here are 3 examples of healthy anxiety:
If you’re worried about finishing a big project at work, anxiety might motivate you to put together a project plan that clarifies tasks and deadlines.
If you’re nervous that you’re spending too much money, a little healthy anxiety may motivate you to put together a budget.
If you’re concerned about a parent’s health, your anxiety might encourage you to give them a call to see how they’re doing.
But, When anxiety takes over your life, it’s time to get help.
In both healthy and unhealthy anxiety, our mind is trying to deal with thoughts about things that might happen in the future.
In unhealthy anxiety, though, those future situations seem unresolvable or overwhelming. The situation might seem hopeless, like nothing we try to will prevent disaster. We may have visions of catastrophe, ruin, or death. We fear we won’t be able to cope.
Anxiety can become a self-feeding cycle.
It starts with a thought that something bad will happen, and then you notice your muscles are starting to tense up, sending a feedback loop to your brain that there is indeed some sort of threat.
Maybe you start to think of more disasters that might happen.
Consider the example of text taking anxiety:
“I’m not going to have enough time to study for this test. (You start to feel pressure in your chest or butterflies in your stomach.)”
And then more thoughts: “If I don’t pass the test I’ll fail the course. My parents will kill me. They probably won’t pay for college. I won’t be able to get a good job. I’ll be a failure for the rest of my life.“
And on it goes . . . .
Your mind and body start acting as though the predicted threat is actually already occurring, even though in the present moment you aren’t in actual danger.
Long term anxiety can impact our health. Anxiety is associated with weight gain, high blood pressure, and cardiac disease.
If this type of anxiety describes your life, then you can probably benefit from counseling. How do you know if your anxiety is a problem?
Here are some signs of out of control anxiety.
Do you frequently feel on edge or restless?
Do you experience consistent muscle tension or aches in a region like your shoulders, neck, or chest?
Does your anxiety make if difficult to concentrate?
Does feeling anxious make you irritable?
Does worrying interfere with falling or staying asleep?
Does it feel like you’re anxiety is difficult or impossible to control on your own?
Do you frequently turn to medications, drugs, or alcohol to handle stress?
Is anxiety impairing your job performance? Your social life? Your family life?
The more of these symptoms you recognize, the more likely it is that you would benefit from professional help.
In therapy, we break the cycle of tension and anxiety.
I became a therapist in large part due to my own work with anxiety.
Like a lot of gay men, I experienced persistent anxiety. Through the help of both a talented therapist and self study, I found strategies for gaining control over worry. I want to help you find the same peace and relaxation that I found.
In a therapy session, we sit down and discuss your anxiety. When do you feel it most? When do you feel it least? What are anxiety triggers?
We’ll figure out specific strategies you can use to interrupt the anxiety cycle.
Many clients learn how to avoid anxiety provoking thoughts in the first place.
If you’re suffering with anxiety, I hope you’ll set up an appointment.
I’ve helped people just like you deal with stress and tension. You’ll learn coping strategies that you can use daily in your life.
You can feel better.