Anxiety is the state triggered when we imagine worst case scenarios. The core psychological state that drives anxiety is fear, which is obviously an extremely helpful emotion in situations such as coming face to face with a bear. Anxiety is more than fear though- it’s a prolonged emotional state around a future possibility. So, if we did encounter a bear and ran for our lives, that would be a good thing. If we have anxiety about meeting bears and we avoid camping or hiking because of the “what if I see a bear” thought, that’s obviously not so helpful. Ask me how I know that…

Anxiety tells us two things- that the situation we are in is very, very bad and that we have no ability to control it. We then feel anxious, which in turns makes us feel anxious about being anxious…it’s a spiral that’s hard to dig ourselves out of.  Just like depression, anxiety is made worse by the thoughts we have about a specific situation we are in.  “Why can’t I deal with this’, “ What’s wrong with me”,  “I’m having a panic attack and I’m going to die”. As you can imagine, these thoughts are far from productive.  More so, they point to deeper views of yourself or the world: anxiety about going to a party may mean that you are afraid of feeling embarrassed, or appearing uninteresting, anxiety about driving can point to a fear of being out of control.

Symptoms of anxiety are:

  • Physical- sweating, shaking, nausea, upset stomach, numbness, dry mouth
  • Cognitive symptoms- fear of losing control, being unable to cope, fear of negative reactions from others, poor concentration, distractibility, difficulty in reasoning, loss of objectivity, poor memory
  • Behavioral symptoms- avoidance, escape, pursuit of safety, restlessness, agitation, difficulty speaking
  • Emotional symptoms: feeling wound up, tense, frightened, fearful, terrified, edgy, jumpy, agitated, irritated, impatient.

So, what can we do to take anxiety under control? We’ll explore the following: manage the physical symptoms of anxiety ( through breathing techniques) and analyze the thoughts that maintain and increase anxiety.

“ Why can’t I stop feeling this way”

“What’s wrong with me”

 “I am out of control”

Do these thoughts sound familiar? Have you ever stopped to think that they might not be true?