At some point in our lives we all experience moments of stress; however it can put a strain on the body to experience anxiety on an ongoing basis. When our body’s stress response is chronically elevated, we can develop a host of unhelpful thoughts, behaviors, and other symptoms that can make even just getting through the day seem like a hurdle. Anxiety can stem from a mental health condition or it can also be a normal response to a series of difficult situations.
Anxiety is more than just worrying. While it can involve worries, it is often accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Feelings of fear or panic
- Muscle tension
- Nausea or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Increased heart rate
Anxiety can also take many forms. Sometimes it can take the form of fear or nervousness when in social situations. Other times, people can become very focused on physical symptoms or the fear of becoming ill or diagnosed with a disease. In Generalized Anxiety Disorder, people tend to worry about many different things that could go wrong in the future. Phobias are also very common, existing when a person is extremely terrified of a specific object, experience, or place such as a fear of heights, needles, dogs, or vomiting.
Anxiety affects our capacity to think and evaluate stressful situations clearly, and can be exacerbated by everyday stress. Because of the way that it impacts the brain, it can often be difficult to just “think your way out of” anxiety. When anxiety reaches levels that result in disturbed sleep, panic attacks, or difficulties leaving the house, it can feel like a life sentence.
Working with a therapist can help you begin to identify and change the unhelpful thoughts that show up with your anxiety, to lower your body’s elevated stress response, and to increase your capacity to cope with life’s ups and downs in a calmer, more even-handed way.
For more information on anxiety:
- Canadian Psychological Association – Fact Sheets