Is there a “secret” to dealing with anxiety?
Many of us come to counselling because we want to learn how to manage our anxiety. For those of us who suffer from bouts of extreme anxiety, we often think there is a secret to life that we just haven’t learnt yet: a secret that will let us get on with our lives without ever feeling anxious again.
This isn’t exactly true. Feelings of anxiety are fueled by the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and are a completely normal and natural part of the way we respond to the stresses of everyday life. A lot of therapies and therapists look to rid us of anxiety, but they miss the point. Our stress response is nature’s way of keeping us alive and out of danger! So it’s not that we need to rid ourselves of anxiety, it’s how we’re interpreting it.
It operates like a ‘thermostat’, meaning; we get used to a certain ‘temperature’, based on our family system, and anything else feels foreign. We literally posture ourselves within all our relationships to keep the ‘perfect temperature’. And that includes the things on the positive end too. (How good can you stand it?)
That means we need to develop a new relationship with our anxiety, it’s only then that we will learn to expand beyond it. We are so pain-avoidant, and have no idea how much suffering we create in our avoidance of feeling legitimate pain.
Now there are some basic principles of self-soothing that once you get the hang of will make a great difference between normal, common-or-garden level anxiety and the kind of anxiety that cripples you into hopelessness and inaction.