What’s the secret to dealing with anxiety?

Many people come to counselling because they want to learn how to manage their anxiety. Those of us who suffer from bouts of extreme anxiety often think there is a secret to life that we just haven’t learnt yet: a secret ┬áthat will allow us to get on with our lives without ever feeling anxious again.

This isn’t exactly true. Feelings of anxiety are created by the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and are a completely normal and natural part of the way we respond to the stresses of everyday life. Techniques and therapies that make great promises to rid you of all anxiety usually miss the point that our stress response is nature’s way of keeping us alive and out of danger! You know how the saying goes: if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

However, there are some basic principles of self-soothing that once you get the hang of will make the difference between normal, common-or-garden anxiety and the kind of anxiety that cripples you into despair and inaction.

Learn to recognise what is within your control and what is beyond your control

Worrying about things that you cannot control will only increase your anxiety levels. Taking charge of things that you can control will help you to minimise them.

Learn to understand your own unique self-talk

We all talk to ourselves, whether we are conscious of it or not. We all have a unique, on-going personal dialogue between different parts of ourselves that will either exacerbate our anxiety or help to quieten it down. How many times have you told yourself today that you are either stupid or weak or inadequate at dealing with life’s problems? Learning to engage positively with yourself and developing a soothing and helpful self-talk can make a huge difference to your anxiety levels. Therapy helps us to develop this capacity for positive self-talk.

Take time out to do enjoyable things with somebody you like

I know, sounds too simple doesn’t it? But our bodies and brains run on chemical processes and learning to release soothing hormones regulates these systems. The more we learn to self-regulate, the less likelihood there is of normal stress hormones hanging around in our system beyond their usefulness. Doing something enjoyable with someone important to you helps to release the neurotransmitter oxytocin which is the best known method our bodies have of reducing the stress hormones in our system.

Learn how to relax

As I said, our bodies and brains run on chemical processes and anxiety is a result of a build up of stress hormones. Those of us who suffer from debilitating anxiety haven’t learnt to properly regulate our systems so we end up with a build up of negative feelings that aren’t adequately dealt with. Learning to genuinely relax and wind down allows us the space and time to digest the feelings of the day.

And don’t forget:

– don’t sweat the small stuff !

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 5th, 2011 at 3:45 pm and is filed under Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, General, Psychotherapy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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