Anxiety is a health issue that is on the increase.
I am consulting with children as young as 7 years of age who are struggling to go to school because of it.
There are many ways to work with anxiety.
I remember watching a television show where this topic was being discussed.
The common ways put forward to cope with it were “smile”, “take lots of deep breaths”, “set aside some worry time” and “take prescribed medication”.
Obviously, all these will work to some degree. The feedback from viewers indicated the best results were gained from medication. For some, this did not work for them. Quite a few said nothing was working.
So, what do you do?
I classify smiling, taking deep breaths, setting time aside and taking medication as “coping” or “managing”.
When you stop these actions, the problem returns.
The important part is to deal with the problem.
This involves looking at the cause and dealing with it so it no longer affects you.
To do this with anxiety, let’s start by breaking it down.
Best way to examine anxiety is through the following figure.
When in a state of panic, you are feeling totally out of control. The purpose of panic is to get you out of your current perceived danger and into a safe place. For example, a venomous snake chases you. You enter panic mode as every step is longer and faster in your endeavor to get away and be safe.
Panic serves a function: It keeps you safe. Unfortunately, it can do it too well and you can emotionally suffer.
While panic is feeling something like 85 to 100% out of control, anxiety is one step back where you feel, say, 50 to 85% out of control.
The aim (so long as a snake is not chasing you) is to feel calm where you feel totally in control.
It’s not the anxiety that has to be treated. It is the feeling of not being in control.
For example, “John” was suffering anxiety and panic attacks. He had seen a number of therapists and was on medication yet still had the problem.
John hated enclosed places and being constrained in any way. He also hated being in the dark.
On looking for the cause, John remembered visiting his Uncle’s farm. While John was 8 years of age, he was quite cheeky. His Uncle, in order to have some fun, placed John in a thick potato sack and sewed it up.
John couldn’t move. It was pitch black and he couldn’t get out.
In that moment he had a panic attack. It lasted for about 30 seconds until his uncle was able to release him.
In those 30 seconds, he learnt to hate enclosed spaces, being constrained and darkness. His reaction to these was panic (which kept him safe).
While other therapists had told him to breathe through his anxiety, it didn’t work.
Once we re-programmed his 8-year-old memory so it worked for him rather than against him, he was fine being in an enclosed space. He was fine feeling constrained and felt in control when in darkness.
OK, you may be asking how I reprogrammed John’s mind, it’s too much to go through here.
While there are many things that can cause a person to feel anxious, see if you can identify what is causing it. Many of the causes relate to worrying about what others think of you – like with social anxiety.
If you are having trouble dealing it, please seek professional help.