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Unpacking Anxiety




We’re all familiar with the sensations that make us feel anxious – being nervous and on edge, our heart racing, feeling hot or breathless and finding it difficult to focus or concentrate.

 

These are natural sensations in response to fear and threat which have served us well for thousands of years, making us aware of physical or social threats that may endanger our very survival.  In short we’re hard wired to feel anxiety because it shapes our behaviour and primes us for fight or flight.


Unfortunately, this anxiety - and the neurological hard wiring that sits behind it - can for some of us result in excessive, intense and persistent anxiety that begins to dominate and take over our lives. That’s when it’s time to get help. Some of us may live with a persistent sense of threat and feel constantly anxious (we call this generalised anxiety). Others may feel sudden and intense anxiety (including panic) that is triggered by specific things (like a spider phobia or intense fear of heights). For others, it's an intense fear of being judged socially (social anxiety) or anxiety linked to triggers around specific traumas. This excessive anxiety is one of the most common mental health problems we struggle with and 37.1% of women and 29.9% of men reported high levels of anxiety in 2022.


Today anxiety is as much a social issue as it is a personal one. We live in a world full of pressures, expectations and obligations. So one of the first steps in counselling is to work through the bigger social environment that you operate in, and secondly to explore possibilities that your anxiety is a response to previous experiences or something else such as identity, loneliness, or the need to be perfect for example.

Because anxiety is often a physical experience as well as one that can take over your thinking, it can be helpful to work with a therapist who uses techniques help you understand and manage all your symptoms and help you feel stable -  bringing mind and body together if you will.  This might  include visualisations, breathing techniques, art and sand tray, writing a letter to your body, or exploring and giving space to your emotions. The aim of this work is to achieve “grounding”:  helping you to feel stable and centred again. The goal of therapy is to help you get out of the world of the worry and learn to be in the present rather than the past or the future.

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