ALL CONSUMING Severe anxiety can be paralysing.
Anxiety is something that we’ve all heard about. But do we know how to deal with it if it’s overwhelming us? I see anxiety in my practice every day. I can safely say that it is the most common issue that people present with. Young and old, male and female. We all have anxiety to some degree or another and all at different stages in our lifetimes.
Anxiety can be like fuel in a car. It can keep us moving along even when we don’t always feel able. But it can also be like putting petrol into a diesel car. It can stop us going anywhere and can even cause untold internal damage.
We have to know this difference and have the ability to recognise when anxiety has moved from being a positive force to a negative influence in our life.
Think about an exam coming up. Some anxiety can propel a person to prepare and study for the exam. It is just enough anxiety to move us away from the TV and into exam-preparation mode. This is positive. On the other hand, a lot of anxiety can become a mental block and the person is unable to study or prepare in any productive way. Worries about feeling anxious in the exam, worries about failing the exam and worries about the consequences of failing all take over, and no real study gets done. Here, anxiety has become paralysing and a negative influence in the person’s life.
Steps to take
Skills need to be used to override the anxiety and the ability to use these skills needs to be present. I often meet people who know lots of skills to help them with their anxiety but are unable to put them into practice. In such cases, it is important to start somewhere, anywhere, and just put one foot in front of the other, so to speak.
There is no right place to start, the important thing is to just start. If one thing doesn’t work, try another and keep going until something does help. As we are all so different, what works for one person might not be what works for another. Unfortunately, there is no-one-size-fits-all formula.
When anxious, think about actions that make you calm or have helped you to feel calm in the past, and implement some of them. The stronger the anxiety the more of these you will need to do.
It’s different for everyone but some examples of things that are calming are: Mindfulness or meditation, being in nature, going for a walk, spending time with animals, having a good night’s sleep (if possible), listening to or playing music, art and reading a book. These types of skills help most with mild to moderate anxiety.
These strategies can be beneficial, but for more-severe anxiety some extra help may also be needed. Psychotherapy, counselling, support groups and courses on anxiety are further options. In today’s world, anxiety is very common, but remember, it doesn’t have to take over your life.
> Jannah Walshe is a counsellor and psychotherapist based in Castlebar and Westport. A fully accredited member of The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, she can be contacted via www.jannahwalshe.ie, or at firstname.lastname@example.org or 085 1372528.