We can also feel stressed and anxious when we are unable to cope with the demands on us, our time, our emotions or our energy. This is a normal reaction that everyone experiences from time to time in relation to stressful events or an increase in pressure and demands on us at home or at work. This usually subsides over time once the event has passed or the pressure or demands decrease and we feel supported by those around us.
However, anxiety that continues once the stressful situation has passed, is provoked by non-threatening situations or has no apparent cause becomes problematic. Too much anxiety is counter-productive, preventing us from living fully and enjoying our lives.
When we experience chronic anxiety our bodies are continually in “fight or flight” mode, producing adrenaline and other hormones which affect many parts of our body. We remain in a state of “high alert” and may react strongly to even minor events as if they were a major threat. The resulting physical symptoms can be very distressing, even frightening. I have worked with many clients who have visited their GP or Accident & Emergency department because they are so worried about what they are experiencing.
- not being able to stop or control worrying thoughts
- feeling unable to think, or process information
- feeling tense, nervous or on edge
- feeling alert and watchful all the time
- irritability with yourself and others
- feeling afraid, as if something bad might happen
- behaving in ways intended to avoid or prevent the bad thing happening
- rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, excessive sweating
- digestive problems, diarrhoea, constipation, “butterflies” in the stomach
- panic attacks
Sometimes difficult situations at home or work may be ongoing or we may not have enough support to draw on to help us through. We can get caught up in unhealthy patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that fuel our anxiety in a vicious cycle which can be very destructive.
Over time, anxiety can seriously affect the quality of life and relationships. It can get in the way of our normal activities at home or work, limiting what we can do or feel able to do and sometimes causing us to avoid or withdraw from contact with others.
We can feel begin to feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, stuck in a downward spiral not knowing what to do for the best. Over time anxiety can become debilitating to the point where it may lead to depression and feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Counselling and psychotherapy can be helpful in breaking out of this cycle and preventing greater problems developing. It provides a safe space to explore your feelings, thoughts and behaviours and can help you to identify the causes and triggers for your anxiety. The process can also help you to find effective strategies for addressing the causes and reducing the symptoms of anxiety.