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Anxious Times

Anxiety and Panic Attacks — admin @ 7:46 pm

Here at Counselling Connections we have been noticing that there’s a lot of anxiety about lately. It seems to be spreading like wildfire, fuelled by thoughts about the Economy, the Government and the state of the country. This has a ripple effect as we all know on personal circumstances like unemployment, financial difficulties and worries about the uncertainty of one’s future. This is turn can generate huge anxiety and can impact heavily on us and our relationships.
In an internet café in Drogheda yesterday I listened as a fellow customer conveyed her view of the current political situation. In summary it was her view that we are all doomed …. I was in good form, my mood lightened by the bright wintery sunshine, a crisp cold day. But as if without warning I started to feel anxiety creep up on me, feeling the impact of what she was saying and wondering if I should feel more concerned about these things…. Her anxiety about her future and that of this country was beginning to find a home with me…I decided at that point to make my exit and leave her with her Anxiety. I wasn’t going to take it on. I walked outside the shop and felt the cool air on my face reconnecting with the good feeling the bright winter sun had facilitated prior to entering the shop.
Anxiety can affect the way we think, feel and behave. It can also have a very physical impact on our body. The above example shows how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours all interact within a matter of minutes. It also shows how we have the power to monitor and control our thoughts. Cognitive (Thinking) Behavioural Therapy is a type of counselling that helps you to do this.
My thought as the woman in the cafe was speaking was “maybe I should be more worried….maybe she’s right…” This led me to start feeling anxious. I quickly made a decision not to give this thought fuel by taking it a step further. Instead I saw it as her anxiety and left it with her, which led to a positive behaviour of leaving the shop and feeling the good feelings I had felt earlier.
Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. It is important to understand it is a normal response to any threat to our person. Being slightly nervous can help us to perform better or can help us to deal with danger. The body reacts to a threat by producing adrenaline, a hormone which prepares us for ‘fight or flight’ e.g. if you feel you are being followed on a dark evening in a lonely street, it is normal for you to feel your heart beating faster and your breathing becoming faster. These symptoms are caused by the adrenaline and is your body’s way of preparing, in the event that you need to run. When the emergency is over and you are safely in your car/ home or you realise it wasn’t someone following you, you experience relief but may feel shaken. This is a true reaction of your body; it is not imagined and is a direct result of adrenaline production.
Although it is normal to feel anxious when threatened or under pressure, some people feel anxious quite a lot of the time when they are not really under threat. Although the feelings anxiety produces are unpleasant, they are not dangerous. Anxiety can become a problem when it is severe and prolonged and when it interferes with what we want to do in our daily lives. In anxiety it is usual that a vicious circle is maintained between thinking and feeling (including bodily responses) and behaviour. The type of thinking fuelling your anxiety can be very immediate and even transient. You may not even be aware of those thoughts as you are so used to them. These thoughts are referred to as negative, automatic thoughts and the aim would be to identify what they are, so that you can challenge what truth they hold. The aim is to become good at hi jacking those thoughts before they take hold of you and send you spiralling into anxiety.
It is common for people who suffer from anxiety to avoid situations that make them feel anxious. This can become very problematic as the more you avoid something, the more difficult it will seem to overcome, which in turn will make you more anxious. It is necessary therefore, to keep trying to do things even if they make you feel anxious so that you can prove to yourself that nothing disastrous will happen. Continuing to practice this will eventually allay your anxiety.
There are many reasons for people to feel anxious in the times we live in. Stressful life events like coping with a death, separation/ divorce, losing a job, family problems and financial stress are all understandably worrying. Taking control starts with recognising what’s going on in your mind and body and follows through with taking positive steps to manage this anxiety. In this way anxiety can be seen as a normal response to life changing events but one that does not take over your life.

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