Do you suffer from constant worry that does not seem to go away? Do you struggle with negative thoughts that seem to ruin your mood and then ultimately your day? Well, I am here to tell you that this is much more common than you think. You are not alone.
What is Anxiety?
If you are experiencing constant worry and thoughts that seem to overwhelm you with stress and fear, you are most likely suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is a belief that one is in danger, which is first manifested in our body, then in our cognition, and finally in our behaviors. It usually includes feelings of apprehension, uncertainty, doubt, and negative thinking. However, the truth is that anxiety is fear in the absence of actual danger. It is based on assumptions about what we strongly believe will come true, but mostly does not. Research shows that 1 in 5 people will experience anxiety at some point in their lifetime. It can be biological, or it can be learned from your environment.
How does Anxiety exist in your body?
Anxiety presents itself in various ways throughout the body. The amygdala is the part of the brain that regulates emotions and initiates the processes that create both fear and anxiety. It plays the crucial role in anxiety responses to stressful and impactful situations. However, when the amygdala becomes too active, it can overpower the other parts of the brain that regulate emotions and can fill an individual with unnecessary anxiety. When this happens, an individual can experience various bodily sensations, such as heart palpitations, dizziness, muscle and stomach aches, excessive sweating, shaking, dry mouth, and insomnia. Needless to say, not a fun experience.
How does Anxiety exist in your mind?
Not only does anxiety appear in physical sensations, but it also manifests itself in our minds. The most common way this occurs is through cognitive distortions. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Don’t worry, it will make sense soon. Cognitive distortions are inaccurate thinking, perceptions, or beliefs. They involve irrational thought patterns, negative assumptions, and self-talk, which can lead to increased anxiety and can eventually interfere with our lives and relationships. Some examples of common cognitive distortions are jumping to conclusions, blaming oneself, mislabeling, mental filters, and ‘should’ statements. These irrational thoughts include assumptions that certain events are going to unfold in a particular way, blaming oneself or others for factors beyond one’s control, making judgments about oneself, focusing on negative events as opposed to positive ones, and feeling pressure to do certain things. As you can imagine, this can lead to much unnecessary distress and worry that can make you feel suffocated. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you find yourself engaging in these types of thoughts? If you do, it is time to take control of them, instead of letting them control you.
There is no denying that experiencing anxiety can be a scary thing. It can make you feel stressed and on edge. It can give you the sense that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. However, the truth is that you are not alone in that tunnel, and there are ways to get to the other side. Knowing about anxiety can empower you and help you find a way out. There are various therapeutic methods—including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, Somatic Therapy—that can help you become aware of the anxiety you feel, understand it, and eventually learn how to cope with it. The first step, though, is to make the decision to go on that journey. Remember, you are not your anxiety, and anxiety does not define you.
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