As I scrolled through a general health form questionnaire at the doctors recently, I felt unnerved. For a moment I thought “I hope I am not asked about my psychological health, otherwise I might have to write that from time to time I struggle with ‘Anxiety’”.
As a Clinical Psychologist, I constantly educate people that anxiety is a normal part of the stress response that is designed to protect us from danger (often called the ‘fight/flight’ response). So why do we find it so hard to acknowledge such a helpful response?
Fear of the fear is one answer. When we experience anxiety or fear, our instinct is to avoid. This makes it difficult to acknowledge the anxiety we are experiencing, and respond in a helpful way. Instead, we avoid our anxiety because it gives us short term relief.
Society generates the message that anxiety a sign of weakness. We are programmed to think we should be perfect, fearless, flawless, super Mums, super everything! What a recipe for heartache when there is little space to be the imperfect human beings we are, who are (occasionally) overcome by anxiety.
Problems arise when we avoid situations, people or places when we are not actually in danger – like meeting new people, worrying about the future, or being in crowded places. We teach ourselves to be fearful of situations that are actually safe.
Everybody struggles with anxiety in some way, at some time. It is our avoidance of experiencing anxiety or our lack of understanding about it that can cause problems. Beyond Blue’s recent video clip literally introduces people to different types anxiety, and outlines the different ways it can overtake your life without you realising it.
Psychological therapy will help you learn more about anxiety and how it affects your life. It will teach you simple strategies to practice being more accepting of your anxiety, and even learn it is your friend (not your enemy!). And even better, you will learn ways to make sure you can live your life without Anxiety stopping you from doing things.
They are life changing skills that will stay with you forever. What are you waiting for?