Anxiety is a normal response to an uncertain situation that is not easy to resolve. Although anxiety may well serve to help you prepare for a troublesome period or event (such as the losing of your job, divorce or a shortage of money) it can just as easily highjack the normal day-to-day functioning of your life, making you less able to deal effectively with that looming crisis. Added to this, when you are more stressed than normal, your unconscious mind is prone to interpret even mild feelings of foreboding as a warning that something really bad is about to happen.
There is a fine line between anxiety and stress. Generally, they tend to be set off by similar chemical reactions within the body; with the symptoms of one being not too dissimilar from those of the other. Probably the main difference between the two will lie in their respective underlying causes. Stress tends to be triggered when you are faced by a potentially dangerous situation (either real or perceived), while anxiety is often triggered by worry.
Indeed, if you experience anxiety, it is likely that you will also experience worry – and chronic anxiety is usually the result of persistent worry. Worry occurs when you use your imagination in a rather self-defeating way. The pattern begins with you imagining things somehow going wrong. As your mind then attempts to work through whatever options you may have, it begins to repeatedly visualise various possible outcomes to the situation – often placing an increasing emphasis on the more unpleasant ones. If this busy thought process is left to persist, it can eventually take over your life to the extent that you find it difficult to concentrate, relax or sleep.
It is quite interesting that worry can, in fact, make you feel slightly less anxious for a while. This is because going over a problem in your mind can serve to distract you from your emotions. However, worry tends not to actually solve any problems. To do that, it is usually necessary to evaluate your situation, come up with a proper plan of action and then act on it. With worry you tend not to end up taking very much action at all, but instead simply dwell on a worst-case scenario.
The trouble is that once a problematic pattern of worry has been established, it is not always easy to break. Ironically, the very process of attempting to stop may then cause you to become worried about your actual worrying, further fuelling your anxiety. This then could set off something of a vicious cycle, where your worry and your anxiety end up reinforcing each other in an unhelpful way. But, interestingly, the entire worry/anxiety mechanism will be taking place exclusively within you, and nowhere else.
Not only is anxiety a most unpleasant condition to live with, but it can also have serious consequences for various important aspects of your life. People living with anxiety are, for example, considerably more susceptible to developing conditions such as depression and addictions. It can exacerbate issues related to weight management. It may even have implications for your relationships, your career, your finances as well as your physical health. Indeed, it can serve to suppress the immune system and greatly increase your chances of developing hypertension and heart disease.
Increasingly, we are becoming aware of the importance of our mind/body connection, and the vital part that managing levels of stress and anxiety can play in our health and in our wellbeing. So, if poor anxiety management is affecting your life in any way, please don’t simply ignore it.
Hypnotherapy, and its related disciplines, can be effective in helping. The work we will do together will enable you to find more appropriate ways of seeing the situations you face, as well as more appropriate ways of responding to them. Because anxiety is largely created in your mind, you will find that you really do have the ability to make the changes necessary to enable you to relax, to be more effective and to enjoy life once again – and to do so safely and without the use of drugs.
Read about the depression cycle and about the related states of stress, fear and panic. Please also find articles on uncertainty, a case against the overuse of certain prescription drugs and the way your freeze-fight-or-flight response effects your emotions.
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I've grown certain that the root of all fear is that we've been forced to deny who we are.
Frances Moore Lappe, O Magazine, May 2004