Anxiety is part of life. It’s a natural response to the stresses we encounter in life, to unexpected events, or to challenging or potentially threatening situations.
Bob remembered feeling his heart begin to race as he came around the corner and saw what had just happened. “Stay focused. Remember your training, and you’ll do fine,” he told himself.
Sarah talked about the day her professor told the class to put their books and notes away, take out a single sheet of paper and a pen in preparation for an unannounced quiz. “I could feel my mind start to go blank,” she said. “But as I put my books under the seat, I saw the coping card I always carry with me. I didn’t have to look at the words; the green color reminded me of calming statements I’d written. “I’m turning my life over to the care of God.”
Alex knew the decision he was about to make would change the direction of his life. Entirely and forever. No going back. He paused for a couple minutes while he practiced the Combat Tactical Breathing skills he learned in the Navy years before. As he slowly breathed out, he pressed “SEND.”
Anxiety is part of life.
The stories that Bob, Sarah, and Alex told are examples people who learned respond successfully to unexpected, challenging or threatening situations. The type of situations that everyone faces at one time or another.
The anxiety Bob, Sarah, and Alex felt in the moment was temporary. While all three remembered their stressful events, none of them felt the same level of anxiety the next day.
Anxiety becomes a problem – a disorder – when the memory of the stressful situation, or our anxious responses don’t decrease over time.
Anxiety becomes a disorder when our anxious thoughts and sensations remain as alarming as they felt when we first went through the event.
It becomes a disorder when our anxious thoughts and sensations get worse over time, or they intrude on our daily activities like going to work or school. Or they interfere with our relationships.
When anxiety doesn’t get resolved, it becomes a disorder.
The term “anxiety disorder’ is an umbrella term covering a number of different types of anxieties, including:
- generalized anxiety disorder
- panic disorder
- fear-related disorders
- social anxiety disorder
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
Whatever type of anxiety that you might be facing today, there is help. You can learn powerful and effective skills to manage your anxiety. In many cases, you may not need medication.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective tools therapists have to help people experiencing anxiety.
CBT is based on the understanding that the anxious feelings and behaviors we experience are a result of the thoughts or beliefs we have about the events we encounter.
Many people suffering with anxiety believe the events they experience are more threatening than they are able to cope with. And they under-estimate their ability to cope with the event.
As a result, they might feel overwhelmed, fearful.
And when feeling overwhelmed or fearful, they may hesitate to take action, or to speak up.
I can trace the beginning of my own experience with a specific anxiety to the day when, as a young boy, I was nearly attacked by a neighbor’s German Shepherd.
The short version of the story is that for some time after the event, whenever I passed the place where it happened, my heart would race, my hands would begin to sweat, and I’d keep looking over my shoulder for any signs of the dog. Today, German Shepherds aren’t my favorite dog, but I’ve learned to separate the event I experience years ago from the any present-day encounter.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, CBT teaches you to ask – and answer – strategic questions that can help change anxious thoughts and beliefs in order to change disabling behaviors.
- What’s the evidence that your thoughts are true?
- Is there any evidence that the thoughts might not be true?
- Is there another way of looking at the situation?
- How would I advise a friend facing similar situation who is having this thought?
- How could I make use of that advise?
(questions edited from Judith Beck’s “Essentials of CBT: The Beck Approach”)
Don’t suffer from anxiety any longer. CBT offers you a powerful and effective tool to defeat your anxiety and regain control over your life.
Contact me if you’d like to learn how I help people recover from anxiety.