What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is an uncomfortable mental, emotional and physical experience that most of us are very familiar with.  While Anxiety is a natural human response, experiencing too much of it too frequently can be extremely upsetting, frustraing, scary and can escalate to panic.  It affects us as an unpleasant mind-heart-body experience that impacts us mentally, emotionally and physically.

Just as Depression relates to an excessive focus on the past, Anxiety is related to an excessive focus on the future.  We spend a lot of time trying to troubleshoot and strategize avoiding fears and concerns related to worst-case scenario situations and events.  In that respect, we are masterful creators!  When we think of it, and review our lives, we will see that what ended up transpiring was nowhere near what we had anticipated.  Through various psychotherapeutic techniques, such as CBT, we can learn to challenge and re-frame anxiety and panic-provoking thoughts.

Of the 21 symptoms of Anxiety listed on the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), did you know that 15 of them involve physical/bodily sensations?  This is why Anxiety can be so difficult to manage, as it affects us at so many influential ways – a full mind-body experience.  Some of the unpleasant physical and bodily sensations include:

Numbness, feeling hot, wobbliness, shakiness, dizziness, heart-racing, hands trembling, shakiness, difficulty breathing, sweating and many more.

The challenge with Anxiety is that it is an adaptive, evolutionary experience that humans are meant to respond to.  If we couldn’t experience Anxiety, we could be off doing any number of potentially dangerous things that could put us in actual danger.  The issue is that our brains aren’t great at distinguishing the difference between perceived and actual threat.  When there is actual threat, we need Anxiety to be activated so that we can fight or flee.  The stress response that ensues floods us with cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones to mobilize our forces for survival.  The challenge occurs when this response is activated over perceived threat.  The level of tension that gets created in our minds and bodies can feel very un-grounded and escalate feelings of panic and loss of control.

How Can I Manage Anxiety?

Thankfully, our team of talented psychotherapists, as well as our Nutrition Counsellor, are trained to help you learn to manage the symptoms, emotions and sensations related to Anxiety and Panic, in order to reduce and manage the experience more effectively.  Relaxation and grounding techniques are essential to have in our coping skill toolboxes.

When anxious, it’s important to acknowledge that we’re experiencing it.  Even just naming it helps to de-escalate some of the physical sensations involved that influence the escalation of the nervous system stress response.  When we aknowledge that these are the sensations we’re feeling, it helps to ground us.

Another essential technique is to consider what it is that is causing anxiety.  Where are we in our heads?  Are we in the future worrying about something that has not come to pass?  If so, it’s important to bring ourselves back into the currrent moment, which is the only moment that we are able to take action.

Deep breathing is something that people may try, however that can actually escalate the nervous system stress response by forcing our bodies to expand during a period of intense, rigid contraction.  Focusing on our breathing at the capacity we have can help to ground us and as the body starts to relax, we can gently take longer inhalations and longer exhalations.

5 senses grounding is an amazing technique to de-escalate panic and anxious symptoms.  In order to orient yourself to time, space and place, focus on all of the things that you can observe.  Listen to what you can hear and focus on those things.  What can you smell?  Is there a nice scent that you can focus on, or any familiar scents around you?  What can you touch?  Sensing the floor beneath your feet, the experience of your body being held by a chair, couch or bed and reaching out to touch familiar or comforting textures can also ground.  What can you taste?  Can you take a sip of water or tea, chew some gum, taste a mint or eat a bit of nourishing food?  These techniques can bring us back into a more grounded and embodied stance from which we can take action (if necessary).

The main trigger of anxiety is the reality of, or percpetion of, danger.  When in an escalated anxious response, it’s harder to take action (which we rarely ever have to take).  Coming back into our bodies and minds creates the flexibility and adaptabiility that is soothing and enhances our ability to respond to the threat as necessary.

We are here to help.  To learn more or book a consultation call with one of our therapists, please contact us:

© Sunnyside Healing Arts, Inc. 2023

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