Therapy Tips: Overcoming Anxiety Symptoms

What Are Anxiety Symptoms?

 
Is your life filled with ease, happiness, and satisfaction? Or are you so uneasy about things that life just feels scary and decisions have felt overwhelming? If that last one feels true, you may be having anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety symptoms can include feelings of tension, fear, nervousness, dread, or worry, and can range in intensity from mild concern to full-on panic. The physical signs can include dry mouth, sweaty palms, and feeling the proverbial “butterflies” in your stomach for mild anxiety. But severe anxiety or a panic attack can include a pounding or fast heartbeat, difficulty catching one’s breath, sweating, and shaking.

Whether you are experiencing a few or all of these symptoms, they can be triggered by small things (such as running late) or large events (a death or loss, major life decisions, etc). But keep in mind they don’t always show up during the event. You might experience anxiety as you are trying to relax in the evening or fall asleep.

Pretty much everyone experiences anxiety many times throughout their life, as it is a natural response to an actual or perceived threat or danger. Your nervous system is designed for survival, so it will release adrenaline for a jolt of energy and redirect blood flow to enable fighting or running away. This is what causes the physical feelings described above.
 

 

At What Point Are Anxiety Symptoms Not Normal?

 
Persistent or intense anxiety without an actual threat might suggest that you have an anxiety disorder. In other words, your brain and body are shooting off too many anxiety symptoms without very good reason. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that a little over 18% or one in five Americans will have an anxiety disorder in a given year (NIMH, 2008). The American Psychological Association notes that anxiety disorders are approximately twice as prevalent in women than in men (APA, 2013).
 


 

How can you know if your symptoms are “not normal”? The main criteria therapists use for determining whether your anxiety is “normal” or has become a disorder is if it causes significant distress and results in impairment in important aspects of your life. For example, if it’s making it difficult for you to perform (or simply show up) at work. Some women find their anxiety has notably limited their friendships or romantic relationships.

Imagine if you will, you are chased by an angry and aggressive dog while hiking one day – a very scary experience that may result in feeling anxious in the future! If your anxiety causes you to give up the hiking that you love, it’s possible you have an anxiety disorder. On the other hand, if you are anxious about some future hikes but can calm yourself enough to still enjoy the experience, you may not meet the criteria for an actual disorder. That being said, it would likely improve your quality of life to work on it anyway. A therapist skilled in dealing with anxiety can help you reduce or eliminate your distress.
 

What Is The Best Way To Deal With Anxiety Symptoms?

 

There is no single best way to deal with anxiety for everyone. But there is a “best” way for you. You’ll want to try out a few of the following ideas to see what works best for your unique nervous system, attention style, and how your anxiety symptoms are showing up. For example, someone with anxious, racing thoughts might like to clear their head on a run. But someone with a racing heart and upset stomach might prefer to lay down and do a calming, guided visualization.

Mild anxiety symptoms can be dealt with effectively by using one or more of the following methods:
● Deep breathing exercises
● Calming visualizations
● Affirmations such as “I am safe now”
● Meditation
● Mindfulness practices
● Distractions such as chores or a movie
● Intense physical exercise

If you try these but the anxiety persists, or if it is constant or near-constant, is about things that are not actually threatening you, starts getting in the way of important parts of your life, or rises to the level of panic, it’s time to talk to a therapist.
 

 

Why Can’t I Calm My Anxiety Symptoms?

 

One reason people have trouble calming anxiety symptoms is that they don’t invest the time and energy to apply the suggested methods sufficiently, if at all. They may be unfamiliar with how to do them, assume they won’t work, or feel that practices like mindfulness and meditation just aren’t for them. Additionally, they may try them once and then stop using them; some of these tools are most effective when applied as a practice you revisit daily or a few times a week.
 


 

Another obstacle to clearing up anxiety on your own is that some upsetting experiences are very difficult to get over without help and may result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop when the upsetting experience is so intense that it overwhelms the system’s ability to realize that the danger has passed. In effect, the experience gets stuck and keeps replaying over and over, complete with all the original distress.
 

 

Should I Start Therapy For My Anxiety?

 

Whether your anxiety is mild, severe, or takes the form of PTSD, the good news is that help is available. There are several forms of therapy proven to significantly reduce anxiety. A current favorite is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), owing to its rapid and thorough effects. But there are many other effective types of therapy including cognitive therapy (changing the way you think about the upsetting event), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT—changing the way you feel about the event).
 


 

Because the first visit with a therapist can be anxiety-provoking in itself, it might help to start with a complimentary phone consultation. At Guided Wellness Counseling we always set aside 15 minutes to talk with you, understand why you are seeking counseling and what your goals are. Don’t worry if you’re not entirely sure – we’ll guide you through! Next, we’ll match you with the best therapist for your needs, goals, and schedule. And the best part? You won’t have to wait long for an appointment – we don’t believe in waiting lists! You don’t have to cope with your anxiety alone and therapy can give you the tools you need to feel grounded again.

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Guided Wellness Counseling

Healing Depression, Anxiety, and Trauma in St. George and all of Southern Utah.

EMDR Therapy and EMDR Consultation Services.

720 South River Road Suite E 103, St. George, UT 84790