What is anxiety?
Anxiety is one of the most, if not the most, primitive mechanism to protect us. It is a normal and adaptive response that has lifesaving qualities and warns when we perceive that we are in danger.
Everyone experiences anxiety in different degrees during life and it is characterized by physical symptoms and a pattern of thoughts. This complex mechanism came from cavemen times, where they used it when feeling in danger and activated the fight or flight response.
When an imminent danger presents, our mind sends the signal to our body to run and be safe and activates some physical and mental responses. Sometimes this danger is not real but rather imaginary, the problem is that our body cannot differentiate one from the other.
Anxiety not only manifests with a bunch of physical symptoms but also involves our thoughts. Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety are:
- Muscle tension
- Increase body temperature
- Increase blood pressure
- Body aches
- Stomach discomfort
Since the history of medicine and psychology, anxiety has been the center of many studies. A lot of different medical treatments and psychosocial approaches have been used to defeat anxiety, some of them proved to be successful others not. For example, the Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment, CBT, shows amazing results in a few sessions depending on the reading of the client and knowledge and ability of the therapist. According to CBT there is connection to your thoughts and how you feel; therefore, having or experiencing negative thoughts makes you feel negative (anxious, depressed, disappointed, sad, ashamed, guilty, not worthy, hopeless, helpless, embarrassed, remorseful, inadequate, frustrated, angry, irritable, etc.) whereas having or experiencing positive thoughts makes you feel positive (happy, content, satisfied, loved, liked, accepted, glad, cheerful, hopeful, relaxed, encouraged, successful, proud, respected, secure, etc.)
When it comes to treatment the theory of “one size fits all” does not apply. We experience different symptoms in different degrees. Some clients benefit the most by combining both medical and Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment.
We have good news
Some people have experienced anxiety for many years and been in treatment unsuccessfully, but we have good news, you can be free of anxiety. Many people believe that this process is long and takes years but NO! It takes FIVE simple steps:
- Stop, Accept and Be Honest
Allow yourself to feel what you feel and do not try to control it, nothing is going to happen if you feel, even when it is not a pleasant feeling. Take time for yourself and accept what is going on in your life. Listen what your body and the anxiety are telling you.
- Let your thoughts fly
Identify your negative thoughts and allow yourself to have as many as negative thoughts you want for about 1 to 3 minutes. Then, let them fly without judgment or feeling anything. Just relax and let go of them.
- Stop believing that all your thoughts are real
Not every thought we have is real, most of the time, especially when feeling anxious, they are irrational and unreal. Place yourself in the here and now and live in the present moment. Anxiety comes with either being stuck in the past or worried about the future. Observe your surroundings and yourself, allow the connection.
- You are great
This is the step where you identify your positive traits. Attach to them and feel that you are not just a bunch of negative thoughts, you are more than that. Make a list of your positive traits and values and start living according to them. Accept that things happen in life and let go of the thought of “I need to be in control” and remember that the only thing that you have under control is yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, and your behaviors.
- Express your emotions
Once you identify your negative thoughts, center yourself in the present time, attach to your positive traits and values, and accept your reality, make the right choices, listen to what your body tells you, and decide how you want to live your life. Challenge yourself and your thoughts, empower yourself and be free of anxiety.
Andrea Virdo, LMHC, CPLC, CEBLC, CHNLC