How great would it be to never feel anxious?
Sounds great doesn’t it?
If I mention racing pulse, stomach-churning, feeling light-headed, sweaty, being unable to sit still, most of you will probably recognise at least some of those feelings from situations you’ve been in that have triggered your anxiety response.
Why does it feel like this?
When you encounter a perceived threat your body’s natural alarm system releases a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure and boost your energy supplies. At the same time, your digestive system and other ‘non-essential’ functions are suppressed, so it’s not really surprising that it makes us feel a bit queasy.
So what’s the benefit?
The effect of all this is to minimise distraction, intensify our focus and motivate us to act; it’s what’s known as ‘fight or flight’ mode and without it, we would never have survived beyond our cave-dwelling days when we were faced with hungry lions and angry bears on a daily basis.
Be careful what you wish for
Sometimes when I’m seeing a client in a therapy setting and I ask them what their goal is, they say “I don’t want to be anxious”. And I ask “Never?” and they say “That’s right”.
So I explain what’s happening to them, and why, and then I ask them “Imagine you’re about to cross the road, and as you step off the curb you suddenly realise the car heading towards you is travelling twice as fast as you thought it was. How do you want your body to react?”
And they say “Oh…….”, “I see what you did there”
Anxiety as our ally
So you see, anxiety is our ally when we experience it to an appropriate degree and in the right context. We should welcome it and utilise it, not just for crossing the road but for delivering those all-important business presentations, for ensuring we don’t lose sight of our young children in a crowded shop, for prioritising the multitude of work/parenting and self-care tasks that our modern world frequently demands from us; and in a multitude of other situations you can probably think of!
If it gets out of control
If you find your anxiety becoming excessive and having a detrimental effect on your life, there may be one or a number of causes. Ruminating on negative thoughts, misusing our imagination, our attributional style (how personally we take events, how permanent and pervasive we think the effects of those events will be) are just a few examples.
All these causes can be corrected, and excessive anxiety overcome. And it’s easier than you might imagine. If you’re in this situation and you feel you’d like some help, you can take the first step by getting in touch with me below..
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