Counselling Psychotherapy - Overcoming Anxiety

Strategies that control anxiety involve the understanding of what anxiety is, where it comes from, why we have anxiety and know how to adequately respond to it.

Many people report feeling isolated as a result of anxiety, some engage in unfulfilling, ineffective or unhealthy relationships, negative self-talk, negative feelings, judge and feel judged. They feel a sense of 'being broken' including low confidence and self-esteem. This is further fuelled by comparing themselves to others or looking for shortcuts to alleviate the mental and physical discomforts associated with anxiety.

In a positive light, anxiety might be seen as a healthy, internal driving force, but when anxiety becomes more than a nuisance it could grow and take our systems to unsustainable levels.

When we think of anxiety, we tend to associate symptoms such as the inability to focus, shortness of breath, sweating and disorientation. But there are many other symptoms associated with anxiety, Such as feeling unable to participate in conversation, hide, or developing phobias and displaying negative behaviours towards others (to avoid interaction). Ironically, people who’ve had anxiety attacks are likely to worry about having their next attack and avoid situations that might trigger them.

"Today I am active and engaged, learning and working; building a new career and enjoying time with my family and friends again. When we started he asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted to be free. Now I am and I couldn't be happier, I haven't been happier. Ever."

Katherine F.

Managing Anxiety

There is no ultimate cure for anxiety. Anxiety treatment is a skillful balancing act between participating in life while having to manage our resources to prevent overwhelm.

Overwhelm leads to ineffective behaviours and rash decision making leading to mistakes and failure. Typically overwhelm and stress amplify anxiety that can lead to physical discomfort, anger, physical disease, serious mental-health issues and autoimmune disorders.

When we forego deliberate reasoning in an attempt to avoid our anxious thoughts, we seek relief in the short-term; we tend to think in absolutes. We gravitate towards shortcuts such as drugs, alcohol, binging (Netflix, food) and 'quick-fix' solutions such as religious sects, ideological affiliation, get-rich-quick schemes; predatory relationships, unsustainable lifestyle choices, etc. Of course, over time, these tend to make our anxiety worse.

With a little help, you can change your approach. Effective treatments require a new approach. You learn to respond from a place of inherent courage and discover your skills, willingness and self-reliance to make it through. All you need is a little interest and curiosity in your (future) wellbeing. And the work is rapid and relatively easy to do!

How to Overcome Anxiety
- The Plan

Treatment for anxiety begins with uncovering what steps lie within our immediate capabilities. Treating anxiety disorders goes beyond cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques to respond to panic attacks and negative thoughts. Medication may be useful to overcome physical symptoms of anxiety but may have unwanted, negative side effects. Taking deep breaths help to reduce stress levels temporarily, but permanent change may need the guidance of an experienced mental health professional.

In life, not all options are obvious, nor their outcomes entirely predictable. You don’t always have control over the situations that contributed to your anxiety, but we can begin by deliberately reducing your anxiety by how you interact with its contributors (strategies). Starting with basic strategies for immediate anxiety relief, followed by long-term and more permanent solutions.

  1. The Unknown
    A significant difference between fear and anxiety is that fear is specific, anxiety isn't. When we fear, we focus on the future manifestation of something specific (re-)occurrence whereas when we're feeling anxious, we feel as if we're facing an imminent and unknown malevolent force, either because it is unpredictable, unknown or beyond our reach. Our mind is resistant to navigate the unknown; it needs to rely on faith in our ability to adapt and respond adequately when necessary. We become extra vigilant, in case we need to react to deploy timely resources and be ready to overcome the unknown (when it shows up). 

    To overcome our fear of the unknown, we must learn to trust, and surrender to, the unknown and the inevitability of outcome; patiently anticipating what the future holds and trust that we'll do our best (and hope that this is enough) when the time comes.  
  2. Manage Inputs  
    An essential part of our long-term strategy must be, to manage what we're exposed to and decide what is important to engage in. We must engage in experiences that build our resilience. 

    In therapy, we explore proven strategies that help you decide what's important and how to create and manage boundaries. We learn to view ourselves as a resource, learning to distribute that resource over time and letting go of what we can't or shouldn't be engaged in.  

    If we don't learn to manage and react to inputs, we'll stay in emergency mode. When we take time to organize and manage inputs, tasks and resources, we save energy and reduce anxiety deliberately.  
  3. More Efficient Processing  
    Anxiety begins when we reach the limits of our ability to deal with priorities. We need to learn how to reduce unneeded overhead and process our priorities efficiently. 

    The most efficient approach to processing our priorities is to train mind-habits that work over time and provide the mind with ample time to resolve and digest through sleep and other input-scarce processes.  

    Learning mental-health habits such as sleep hygiene, self-care practices like yoga, gym, socializing, eating habits, crafts, alone time, etc. will rapidly improve your mind's ability to process anxiety. We will explore several solutions that best match your specific situation.  
  4. Deliberate  
    Anxiety comes from nothing. Its source is the unknown; the unreal, the uncertain. Anxiety can become manageable when we feel secure in reality and become deliberate in our confident actions.

    The world moves at its own pace. Synchronizing with this pace is an efficient way to navigate the world. You waste energy and time when you're out of sync. Being deliberate makes you effective; it saves energy, and you are able to use your time efficiently.  

    Being deliberate means slowing down enough to be effective and only do something once; not perfect, but good enough! Becoming deliberate means learning how to do what you decide you want rather than talking yourself out of making progress.

Anthony Santen SAC Dip(Adv. Psychotherapy) Counselling in Toronto

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