Written by Eva Watson BSW RSW
One of the most prevalent reasons people seek help from a therapist or doctor is due to anxiety or worry. On a daily basis we deal with poverty, natural disasters, employment worries, violence, family issues etc. Anxiety is an intensified emotional response to fear, whether it is real or imagined. Although “healthy” anxiety serves to keep us mentally alert and aware, it can also lead to emotional burn out by keeping us always anticipating the worst or overthinking every minute detail of our lives.
How does Anxiety manifest itself? Here are some examples:
- obsessive compulsive symptoms
- worrying about things that no one else seems concerned about
- restlessness & irritability
- agoraphobia or a dread of being in either closed or unknown environments
- panic attacks
- constant fidgeting, nail biting or skin picking
As with all emotions, there are multiple theories about causes and cures. There are many ways of dealing with anxiety such as: psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness training, exercise, meditation, natural remedies and anti anxiety medications just to name a few.
However, none of these will work effectively or for the long term if we do not examine and learn to understand the co-relation between biology, psychology and spirituality. By learning about these elements and how they can create and also heal anxiety and worry the battle is won.
We all have the capacity to achieve inner calm. Although it is easier for some people more than others, by learning a few simple techniques it is achievable.
Here are some of my favourites:
Identify the early behaviour signs ( am I getting irritated “for no reason’?).
Evaluate the anxiety by asking ‘is this justified?” and if so how can I resolve it? By thinking about how a similar situation was handled successfully before can quickly relieve the immediate stress.
Reduce or”work down” the situation by trying not to turn a small event such as an argument with someone into a full blown crisis “our friendship is over forever”.
Another technique that is helpful and can be done anywhere is to Meditate by bringing your awareness to something that means peace or balance to you. It can be imagining yourself in a safe place,or focussing on the beauty around you, or something as simple as looking at a fly on a wall. By doing so, your breathing and heart rate slow down and that allows space for calmness to enter your body.
This takes alot of practice, but with patience it can be very rewarding.
Although I have never personally experienced having an “anxiety disorder”, I used to worry alot about things that I had absolutely no control over. Through trial and error, and by learning through the experiences of my clients, I found that meditation and the practise called Focusing really works well for me.
On days when I am anxious, separated from my sense of spirit, out of sorts with myself and my life, my eyes rest on things that remind me of why I am here and what my work really is. Gene Gendlin, the founder of Focusing, refers to it as a “felt sense”, others call it intuition or a “gut feeling”. But whatever the name, it is a resource inside of each of us that gives us valuable information if we stop and listen to it. It is incredible how by doing just that, listening to what’s going on, the level of anxiety drops significantly and our capacity for silence and calm expands. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have truly legitimate things to worry about, or that our lives will always be calm, but by learning ways to cope when the “worry monster” strikes, we are able to feel more in control.
Eva Watson, BSW RSW is a registered social worker and has been a therapist for over 30 years. She has a private practice in Aurora Ontario and Bracebridge Ontario and has a great deal of training and experience in working with children, couples, individuals and families. For more information on Eva, visit EvaWatson.ca.