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Anxiety, the side effect of life?

Last week I watched a documentary on anxiety. As I watched, I could feel the tenseness and fear wash over me as the words and experiences of the female presenter resonated with my own experiences. It wasn’t easy to watch, but utterly fascinating to witness from an outsider the impact of anxiety. The perfectly, irrational, guidebook of the mind that we have become a slave to.

In the therapy room, anxiety, in its wider context and many forms, appears most sessions with most clients. It is both reassuring and alarming to see this issue play out in every type of person, no-one seems to escape its grasp, until you begin the long journey of getting a grasp on it! But I’m not only coming at this from a professional point of view, I’m coming at this as someone who has that anxious process. I feel that my title as therapist has given me an opportunity to witness as an outsider, the look of anxiety that I am all too familiar with, which is why I am so passionate to understand it. The frustration of talking to someone who doesn’t feel anxiety to the far reaches as I have done, seems to fuel it. The words, “don’t worry” or “that will never happen” are all too commonly heard if you decide to voice your anxiety. But as someone who is anxious, it is real, its feels real and it just doesn’t go away.

Anxiety, much like depression has become the acceptable norm in our society. But last week I was left with one question; Why?

I saw a Russell Brand comment recently, he wondered if mankind has achieved too much. This fascinated me. I look around each day and think how much our species has accomplished, yet we still tirelessly work for more and more and more and more. Stopping isn’t an option. As our world becomes more efficient, we must become ‘more’ to keep up.

The awful, ‘what if’s’ of anxiety seem to feed into this big machine. The well-oiled nature of modern-day living is complicated and often exhausting and this can create those feelings of anxiety. So, could anxiety be the natural side effect of the modern world? Something that, without awareness and thought, can’t really be avoided.

Take a moment to think about what makes you anxious. Write it down, maybe.

It would be interesting to see the link between these worries and the life we have created for ourselves.

The problem with anxiety is that, in our minds its real. We have repeatedly told ourselves that, that’s how it can become so sub-conscious. We start to live on a kind of anxious co-pilot. But if we stop and think about it, whatever we are worried about hasn’t even happened yet. Its in-front of us. As I mentioned earlier, we are constantly striving for more and more, constantly looking forward. Looking forward to the next holiday, the next instalment of our favourite movie, next innovation in technology, next breakthrough in science. If we might need it, we will plan it, design it and try and make or do it. Don’t get me wrong, its healthy to evolve, to move forwards, but in the constant way we live, this continuous, sometimes rapid forward movement prevents us from enjoying the here and now. People who are anxious struggle with that, as its not normal to pause……………………………………………then keep going.

With this hypothesis, is it any wonder we have become anxious. Anxious to a point where it is now a condition, a label, treated with drugs (with more side effects). To me, it feels anxiety IT IS THE SIDE EFFECT of today’s living.

It was refreshing to see that the lady in this documentary was ‘prescribed’ sessions with a therapist to support her with her anxiety. A different approach was used to mine, but the idea was the same. We can’t begin to understand what we are feeling or going through until we feel we are able to face it. Anxiety in terms of therapy is a process of acceptance and flexibility. If we have been anxious for many years, it’s unrealistic that a few sessions of therapy will ‘sort it out’, but it could help you understand yourself a little better. To extend that into longer therapy could support you in exploring the way in which you process things, undoing some of those thought patterns you have been telling yourself for years and years, allowing yourself to challenge anxious thoughts.

But, maybe bizarrely anxiety isn’t always a bad thing. A small amount may keep us motivated, make us keep to those deadlines, help keep us safe, but when that balance tips and we feel we are becoming anxious more often than not, that’s when anxiety impacts our life and living becomes a chore, wrapped up neatly with fear of the unknown. As I have mentioned before, it’s about understanding and creating your own equilibrium. So as a therapist, its important to acknowledge that getting rid of an aspect of the client, isn’t an option. You are then effectively ridding them of a part of themselves that makes them unique, therapy is more about supporting the client to fine tune what they already have or who they already are, and exploration and understanding, I believe, is the key to doing that.

As always, these are my views, backed up largely by my own experience. Please feel free to comment or share.

Have a wonderful week and keep up the self-care!!

Over and out……

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