Want to manage your anxiety stress?

The terms anxiety and stress are often referred to by some people experiencing anxiety attacks as one thing by saying they have "anxiety stress" whereas other people may use the two terms interchangeably. 

"Do I have anxiety then or stress?"  I hear you ask.  In reality anxiety and stress are two different things with different symptoms.

Is your anxiety stressing you out?

Anxiety affects not only your physical body but also your emotions and behaviour.  The thing is ... due to evolution anxiety has a job to do.  The function of anxiety is to protect your survival.  When you are faced with a threatening or stressful situation the amygdala in your lower brain or reptilian brain kicks in during what is commonly known as the "fight or flight response". 

The primitive reptilian brain only considers few things: 

  • Can I eat it?
  • Can it eat me?
  • Can I mate with it?

If you decided that it is a threat, your body then prepares to either fight what the problem is or run away.  To do either your body needs more blood in your muscles.  This causes blood from the digestive system to withdraw and circulate to the muscles.  Which is why it is not a good idea to eat when you are stressed and anxious as your stomach and digestive system cannot do their work as most of the blood has been withdrawn to your muscles.

The fight or flight response further increase your heart and breathing rates as well as releasing hormones into your blood stream which causes some of the physical discomforts during anxiety and panic attacks such as:

  • palpitations, chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • shortness of breath and hyperventilation which happens because the balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide.  Hyperventilation is in reality not a lack of oxygen but in fact a lack of carbon dioxide.  
  • dizziness, sweating, headaches
  • nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, urinary frequency, choking feeling
  • aches and pains of muscles in particular neck, shoulders and back, shaking and feeling restless

If we are unfamiliar with these physical effects we might think it sounds like the symptoms of a heart attack.  It is therefore always advisable to check out your circulatory health with your GP or doctor.  

The other symptoms of anxiety relate to the psychological effects which can 

  • make your mind race or go blank which affect decision making, concentration, memory performance and can make you feel confused
  • unwanted, unpleasant and intrusive thoughts which can lead to irrational fears and worries about past and future events
  • anger, impatience, irritability, feeling nervous and on edge
  • fatigue and tiredness, changes in sleep patterns, excessive and vivid dreams

Anxiety can cause behavioural changes where the person experiencing the anxiety episode could

  • avoid certain scenarios or social situations.  When present at a social gathering may experience the urge to want to escape from there.  In extreme cases, both these behaviours relate to fear of distress and even a phobia, but also for fear of having another anxiety or panic attack.
  • engage in repetitive compulsive behaviour in an obsessive way such as checking things on a repeat basis or constantly looking for reassurance

How modern day living raises anxiety levels

Although most of the time you are not in a life threatening situation, the reptilian brain is not sophisticated to differentiate between real life danger and anxieties caused by modern living like running late for work or appointments, playing stressful computer games, exam stress, road rage, bullying, financial pressures and social anxieties.  The effect is the same on your body regardless of the type of pressure.  For that reason anxiety has a purpose to serve you which is that it thinks it is warning you. Although it causes a lot of discomfort ultimately, it shows that you are human and that your "alarm system" is working.  A bit like a smoke alarm in your house that sometimes goes off without there being smoke.  The good thing is that there are coping strategies for managing anxiety.

To further make sense of anxiety you also have to understand stress.  If you are like most people you might think stress is the cause of your distress, but really, stress is a symptom of pressure.

Pressures that cause stressFeeling pressure yet?
  • Pressure is the cause; and
  • Stress the inability to cope with that pressure.

But, again, we cannot just get rid of pressure because we need a certain amount of it. Pressure encourages humans to take risks to reach our full potential.  The problems happen when there is too much pressure without respite and we lack the right coping strategies to manage that.

How do I manage stress then?

STRESS is ever-present in the background and that causes anxiety in many different ways.  Sometimes we are even our own worst enemies by putting that pressure on ourselves out of fear of failure or rejection or for whatever other reason.  Somerset Counselling Therapy can hand you the key to manage your stress situations.

The key to managing stress is

  • to learn to cope with pressure
  • and...the way to cope with pressure is to create a balanced harmonious lifestyle.
Somerset Counselling Therapy can give you the key to manage your stress.

Pressures that can trigger anxiety 

When we keep loading things into our stress buckets and don’t have an outlet “tap” for it that stress bucket will eventually – and usually sooner rather than later – start to overflow.  If you are prone to being a workaholic or self-medicating with drugs or alcohol and not getting enough sleep this can often make your stress bucket overload even quicker.  Unpaid bills, paperwork stuffed in drawers or "to do lists" piling up add to the stress.  Although these may be out of sight they do not go away. 

Most of us wait until our stress buckets are overflowing with pressured situations before we stop; or more like it:  before our bodies just refuse to carry on which can affect our physical, emotional, mental and psychological health.  To maintain better well-being why not start by scheduling in regular things to do that make you feel positive and take out some of the stuff in your stress bucket by dealing with them. 

Contact Somerset Counselling Therapy to get help with the pressures in your life that trigger anxiety and stress for you.

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