I wanted to know how I can manage anxiety?

So I’m 20 and once throughout lockdown and once recently I started having a lot of anxiety, my anxiety started this time since my dad went into hospital I went a month without him, when I get anxiety I experience a little bit of dissociation. It can be very scary for me.
Asked by Kelly

Hi Kelly, I am sorry to hear that you have been affected by anxiety recently, to help you make a balanced decision on how is best for you to manage it, I will give you some general information on what it is and how therapists may work with it.

I think the first thing to note about anxiety is that it is a natural process our minds and bodies go through and it is experienced by everyone at some point. With this in mind, it is beneficial to remember that anxiety is only an issue when it becomes life limiting in some way. The function of it is to keep us safe when we perceive a threat or danger. The Amygdala in our brain does this by producing chemicals that tell our heart to divert blood flow to the muscles and lungs so that we are ready to take action. Often, our brain unconsciously perceives a threat and can start the physical process before we are even aware there is a threat in our vicinity. So when we begin to sweat, our breathing becomes faster and our heart rates speed up without us understanding why, it can be quite disconcerting. 

This process has been a part of our self-preservation instincts since we were cave people and the fact that you are here means that your ancestors saw the lion in the savannah and ran, rather than stopping to admire the scenery. The issue in our modern world is that the same level of anxiety that would be raised if we were confronted with a lion can also be raised when we are faced with social events or new experiences. Something that is present when anxiety is active no matter the situation that has provoked it, is that we feel out of control about something. Part of our basic needs in order for us to be content and happy as humans is the need to feel in control, as this gives us security and the feeling of being safe. It sounds to me from the information you have provided that this was the case in both experiences you had with anxiety.

The pandemic, although implemented to keep our societies safe, has indeed caused issues with mental wellbeing for a lot of people, especially as there was no fixed dates of when lockdowns would lift and life could return to normal. This would most certainly provoke a feeling of being out of control for the majority of the population. We are social animals which means that we thrive on connection and deteriorate when segregated. This combined with personal difficulties or issues within the home, means that we as therapists have seen an unprecedented dip in mental wellbeing as a result. Your father being taken to hospital would be an especially difficult time for you I am sure. The worry of the impact of his illness on not only your father but also wider consequences would certainly provoke a feeling of being out of control. Your feelings of security that are embedded within your relationship with your father, would only serve to maximize the feelings of anxiety the longer he was absent from your life also. I do hope that he is recovering well.

Anxiety can be treated in a number of ways, including but not limited to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Mindfulness techniques. Through CBT we are able to work with changing how the mind perceives the threat that triggers anxiety, Mindfulness can help to manage symptoms of anxiety through relaxation, breathing and visualization techniques. There are many ways that anxiety can be treated to improve your quality of life, lots of clients choose a multilayered approach to their treatment which can work really well. Not all therapists will have specialisms in every approach so if you are looking to experiment with what works best for you, it may be a good idea to look for a therapist who practices an integrative approach. This is a therapist who has experience in more than one type of therapy and will be able to guide you in your journey. 

I hope that my answer has helped you come to an understanding of what anxiety is and has given you reassurance that there are interventions that can help you manage it. I wish you well with your mental wellbeing in the future. 

Best Wishes 

Claire Howdle

(Psychodynamic, Counsellor)