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What's the deal with anxiety, anyway?

Updated: Sep 5, 2019

You may recognize your anxiety right off the bat; heart racing, sweaty palms, rapid breathing, head spinning, muscle tension. Or you may not really know what’s going on, but you know that you feel uneasy, are worrying a lot, have trouble sleeping, or are having physical complaints. Anxiety can manifest in many ways and can be crippling in people’s lives. One thing to know is we ALL experience it and it is not all bad. Anxiety helps us in many ways. It can help to motivate or prepare you for action. It's what makes you stay up late studying or work after hours to prepare for that test or presentation at work, to bring an umbrella when the sky is cloudy, leave a potentially dangerous situation when you have that “gut feeling,” and countless other ways.

However, many people find it difficult to think of anxiety in this way. It does not feel like something that is helpful or motivating. It feels awful, like a crushing force that has it’s grip on you. You may have tried many things in an attempt to get rid of or escape your anxiety; avoiding the things that trigger it or practicing skills to lessen it. Maybe you’ve tried medicine or substances or therapy and maybe it worked, temporarily, but did it go away? All together? Never to return again? Likely not. This is because many ways that people use to avoid or reduce their anxiety are temporary in nature and can actually make it worse.

The more we avoid or attempt to escape and get rid of anxiety the more anxiety we actually feel. Think about it. Your feeling anxious about a speech you have to give, you tell yourself “I have to bring this anxiety down or there’s no way I can do this,” you start deep breathing and telling your anxiety to just go away. It doesn’t go away. Guess what you feel then? More anxiety, about your anxiety not going away. This is a vicious cycle that can lead to anxiety and panic disorders. What you will learn here is very different from many other approaches. I will not promise to rid you of your anxiety, however I will teach you new ways of thinking about your anxiety, identifying and distancing from thoughts contributing your anxiety, and practicing skills to allow and accept your anxiety in order to lessen it’s impact on your life. The paradox of anxiety is that the more you can allow and take an accepting stance toward your anxiety the less distressing it actually is.

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