We’ve likely all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. Anxiety is one of the most common psychological conditions today. It is natural to feel anxious when writing exams, presenting for job interviews, performing on stage, meeting new people or facing new situations that are important to us.
Some people, though, experience intense chronic anxiety accompanied by severe emotional and mental strain that interferes with their daily lives— this is no longer normal anxiety. It turns into an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders can include OCD or ADHD (which arise from a physiological basis) and specific phobias or panic attacks (arising from situational experiences).
First, let’s talk about what generally happens when you feel anxious. Often times, you may feel anxiety’s symptoms presenting themselves through physical sensations – sweaty palms, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, etc. This physiological arousal state is the result of your body activating its sympathetic nervous system. Believe it or not, there can be a benefit to your body’s reaction to anxiety as long as it is in measured doses.
The Upside of Anxiety (in Measured Doses)
The activation of your sympathetic nervous system enables you to be more energized and mentally alert so that you can perform at your best. This is the power of the hormone adrenaline and it can lead to people becoming “adrenaline junkies” always searching for the feeling or “high” associated with chronically demanding mental, emotional and physical situations.
Some people actually live their lives to maintain this perpetual stress. However if they do not also give themselves periods to recover or renew via the activation of their parasympathetic nervous system, they will eventually pay a price – perpetually prone to getting sick, feeling emotional exhausted, developing chronic heart, blood pressure problems and ultimately becoming disabled.
People in these circumstances have burned out — physically, emotionally and mentally. This is actually a form of exhaustion. They eventually wear down or exhaust themselves because their sympathetic nervous systems are continuously activated, similar to a car alarm constantly going off — eventually it runs down the car’s battery and the alarm stops working.
External and Internal Anxiety
For most people there are two sources of anxiety, external and internal. External anxiety arises when we believe that we may not or do not have the resources or wherewithal to meet situational demands. Internal anxiety comes from having two conflicting desires, needs, or impulses that cannot be resolved. In each case, the resulting arousal is fuelled by our thoughts or cognitive processes.
Anxiety is often described as “free-floating” so that without you being conscious of it happening, it generalizes by association to a broad range of situations that may have little to no connection to its origins. However, you may experience anxiety because you are thinking about its cause in other situations and inadvertently begin associating the anxiety with these new situations. As such it is then easy to slip into this more generalized or chronic anxiety or stress which can be debilitating.
Treatment Approaches for Anxiety
The most effective treatment approaches or methods combine mental awareness training with personalized desensitization procedures. The overall goal is to develop an approach that creates periods of mental renewal or rejuvenation and inhibits physical and cognitive anxiety reactions.
This personalized counter-conditioning regimen is design to reduce arousal and stress through physical processes such as deep abdominal breathing and mental processes that counter and replace aggravating thoughts with comfortable and relaxing imagery. This counter-conditioning also fosters activation of your body’s natural restorative processes again.
The skilled and experienced therapists at Clear Path Solutions employ mental awareness training and personalized desensitization procedures to help you develop the most effective counter-conditioning methods tailored to your personality and circumstances. With greater awareness of your body and its stress reactions and increased capacity to counter these reactions through relaxation training and other counter-conditioning techniques, you can immediately begin to see benefits without the need for medication.
As you develop effective personalized strategies to master your anxiety, you will gain the confidence to be able to handle future challenging personal, social, and work-related situations with greater ease and achieve greater wellbeing and health into the future.