This is the single most common reason women and men come to see me for psychotherapy. We live in a culture that breeds anxiety. We are constantly multitasking and taking on deadlines that are almost too much for one person to accomplish. As businesses downsize, we take on more and more work of your department and furiously work to keep ahead of the game.
Then there is the homefront, magazines, TV and other our own social circles project shiny and unrealistic images for whatever phase of life we may be in at the time. If you are out of college, do you have the right job; the right mate? If you have kids are they going to the right school or eating organic? The treadmill doesn't seem to turn off unless we lock for the switch or the plug and make some alternate choices. I love the coffee mug that I recently ran across that proudly proclaimed "World's Okayest Mom".
Anxiety also has some biological basis. Many are vulnerable to Generalized Anxiety- or the sense of always being worried or afraid that something bad is going to happen. Also, panic attacks have some biological basis. Those that suffer from them tend to "learn" to get worse when they respond to their symptoms.
Learning how to "turn toward" your anxiety and listen to it can teach you many thing about your life that you may need to attend to instead. Sometime "anxiety" distracts us for the real problems like an unhappy marriage or feeling stuck in a job. Turning toward your anxiety and working with your own "valued actions" makes a powerful impact.
Here are 5 changes you can make right now to significantly impact how anxiety affects you:
- Limit or better yet eliminate caffeine and alcohol (this is a secret gem for anxious folk)
- Learn and practice meditation
- Exercise at least 4 times a week for 20 minutes
- Spend time with people that make you happy and make arrangements to socialize at least weekly.
- "Do something everyday that scares you" (both an Eleanor Roosevelt quote and exposure therapy)
Psychotherapy can be of great benefit to changing your relationship with anxiety. I never say "take away" anxiety because it's a normal and useful emotion and response to situation. Changing your relationship with anxiety takes it's power away and you can slowly learn more adaptive strategies to see that anxiety are often like the bogey men hiding in your closet. The fear of feeling afraid "anxious" is much worse than confronting the thing that worries you.
In therapy we call it building your mindful muscles. If you think any of this may benefit you or a loved one we would encourage you to call us at (773) 517-3448 and schedule your first appointment with Chicago Human Potential.