“Anxiety is the tension between now and later”
In principle anxiety and stress are healthy responses that we all face in our lives. Fear is a commonly shared experience that all of us know in some way or other; it may be the fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of not having physical or emotional security, fear of abandonment etc. We may fear something that can be remedied or we may suffer from deeply rooted fears. Some fears are tangible, others have been handed down in the family. The symptoms of fear (e.g. stomach aches, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, etc.) are normal responses of our nervous system, which has been switched to ‘high alert’ in order for us to be able to fight, flee or freeze.
Sometimes, however, anxiety can be out of context or proportion and overwhelm us. It can significantly interfere with the quality of our lives. People who frequently experience anxiety often fear their own responses and relate to their anxiety as though it is not them. A vicious cycle may form where clients experience anxiety about the possibility of feeling anxious.
In my counselling work with clients who experience anxiety and panic attacks, I have come to realise that anxiety has a lot to do with the disastrous things we imagine may happen, not about what is actually happening now. (“I hope I will not embarrass myself! What if ..... If only ....). This thinking propels us into an imagined future or a past experience while we actually are in the reality of the present moment. As soon as we think about anxiety provoking situations our body responds. We experience anxiety. We then often make the common mistake to believe that because we feel something acutely, it must be true.
My approach is to work with the client in the here and now. Nobody can cope with something that might happen in the future. We can only ever cope and respond to what happens in the present moment. Together we will explore self-help approaches that root the person in their present experience and that can be adapted to the client’s life-style in order to bring relief from anxiety.
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