Anxiety is an over-reaction to stressful situations that results in psychological or physical symptoms. The main factors that induce anxiety are people’s thoughts or self-talk. The way they think about a situation or themselves causes them to feel uncomfortable or anxious, which leads to a shift in behavior. As a disorder, anxiety is an exaggerated form of worry that can be completely debilitating. The good news is that anxiety can absolutely be managed with coping techniques.
Symptoms of anxiety include:
- Inability to manage thoughts.
- Excessive worry or rumination.
- Restlessness or feeling agitated.
- Avoiding necessary projects or social situations.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Irrational fears or panic attacks.
- Trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Somatic symptoms such as belly aches and headaches.
One of the exercises I do with clients is taking a look at what I call their stress plate. If they are physically in my office, I hand them a paper plate and tell them to divide it up into segments that are causing them stress or anxiety. This helps me evaluate areas that we should work on and determine what techniques may be valuable to them.
When is anxiety problematic?
Some amount of worry is healthy because it acts as a motivator and helps us to keep pushing our limits. However, when it becomes excessive to the point that it starts affecting areas of someone’s life, then it has become more than regular worry. Ordinary anxiety and worry will not cause someone to avoid doing tasks that need to get done. For example, a college student may be so anxious that they avoid studying for tests altogether, resulting in a failing grade. Other examples include anxiety that affects driving or struggling to make oneself go to work.
Treating anxiety is all about teaching self-care and implementing coping tools. From the first consultation session, I show clients how they can manage their symptoms using grounding techniques.
Examples of grounding techniques:
- Deep breathing.
- Taking a walk.
- Listening to or describing surroundings.
- Reciting something from memory.
- Visualizing enjoyable daily tasks.
- Describing a common task.
- Visualizing a favorite place or beloved person.
I try to take a holistic approach to determine when someone needs more than talk therapy. Though typically rare, there are times when someone may benefit from medication. If someone tells me they have felt perfectly fine their whole life and then suddenly started experiencing excessive anxiety, I will suggest they get a check-up to rule out any medical issues.