Why You Should Understand Your Anxiety

Why You Should Understand Your Anxiety

Most people want to send their mental baggage on vacation instead of dealing with what is there. I can’t say I blame them. Dealing with anxiety and the emotions associated with it are challenging. That said, there is quite an argument for why you should understand your anxiety. Anxiety looks different to everyone. Some people describe it as waves which build in intensity while others describe it as an emotional tsunami. My goal as a therapist is to help people tie into understanding the triggers for their anxiety while also giving them tools to be able to manage it more effectively. Using basic tools such as journaling and iOS apps like Optimism Online help to drill down deeper into people’s emotional world and act as pre-seismic sensors to help collect small bits of data. In counseling, we look at this data together and help to discern themes and analyze how different tools might help a person as they start to notice waves and tremors in their emotional world.

If you have struggled with anxiety in the past and have not sought help, here are some ways that understanding your anxiety can benefit you:

  • It helps you develop bodily awareness. Anxiety is something that not only occurs in the mind, like some people think. It happens in the body as well. Your heart may start racing, you start sweating, your heart rate increases, and your breathing becomes fast and shallow. You may also develop a stomach ache, headache, or back pain. Becoming aware of these bodily cues provides you with an exceptional way to realize that a bout of anxiety is incoming.  This, in turn, allows you with a chance to do something about it at the present moment.
  • It provides you with a chance to intervene during the moment. Anxiety is something that is easily prone to the snowball effect. Once it gets going, it is difficult to stop. An initial state of little significance builds upon itself, slowly grows, and can result in potentially disastrous consequences. The key to preventing this from happening is to stop it before it starts and changing your behavior; this can be challenge, but we do have some tips to get your started. To start, you can take disconnect from the present situation and take slow and deep breaths. This may take some practice to get down, but this will help stimulate your body’s relaxation response and prevent hyperventilation. Another technique is positive self-talk, which will help increase emotional comfort. You can use phrases such as: “This feeling will pass,” “I will get through this,” or anything that makes you feel comfortable. Remember to avoid negative self-talk, as this will contribute to your anxiety. Lastly, you can practice muscle relaxation because anxiety can cause our body to become tense. To do this exercise, tighten and release muscles one at a time while deeply breathing until you feel some relief.
  • It helps you examine your everyday activities. Although anxiety can be the result of a major stressful or negative event, basic daily activities that you engage in may be causing you anxiety and you might not even be aware of it. This can include overachieving, fear of failure, pleasing others, always trying to find the perfect solution to problems, and much more. Once you start to understand your anxiety, you can reflect upon your daily habits and pinpoint where the anxiety stems from. This will allow you to change those behaviors or be prepared in case you find yourself in an anxiety-provoking situation. Becoming educated about yourself can make it so that anxiety does not continue to shape your life.
  • It may help you see the benefits of anxiety and nervousness. I bet you are thinking: “What? How can anxiety and nervousness possibly be beneficial for anyone?” Well, in recent years, researchers have shown that some anxiety or stress isn’t such a bad thing. There is a form of beneficial stress called eustress, which is defined as: “moderate or normal psychological stress interpreted as being beneficial for the experiencer.” This type of stress keeps us excited about life and motivated in the face of difficult challenges, such as during examinations, making a good impression, playing sports, and more. It gives us that jolt of energy that keeps us focused on the task, makes us attentive to ourselves and our surroundings, and shows us that we actually care about the thing we are about to do. A good example of this is when I was in university. Prior to a difficult test, you would see many students studying furiously, mouths moving, heads bent over paper, reciting line after line. Then there was the other group of students who did not care at all, obviously did not prepare, and would be the first in and first to leave. All of the students studying all had some anxiety, some excitement and that caused them to be the top performers. Not all anxiety is bad, and understanding it can help you realize this.

If you or someone you know in Austin has been struggling or continues to struggle with anxiety or just needs someone to talk to, you can make a counseling appointment and we will find them help. Even if we aren’t the right fit, we are tied into a network of almost 800 professionals who can definitely help. If you would like an overview of what the counseling process entails, you can read about anxiety counseling. For more blog posts relating to anxiety, you can also read Can You Talk Your Way Into Anxiety and How to Cope in Our Crazy World.

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Can Pets Affect Anxiety and Depression?

Can Pets Affect Anxiety and Depression?

Have you ever wondered if pets can affect anxiety and depression? The fight against anxiety and depression just got furry. In 2009, a scientific study done at the Azuba University in Japan (later confirmed by a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia) revealed that a chain reaction can occur with simply watching and petting a dog or cat for a short amount of time; hormones like serotonin and oxytocin levels are increased, which can act to combat depression and anxiety disorders.

Now, it’s not hard to imagine that a pet might make their owner happy on some level. The fur-frenzy over cats (as evident by the steady stream of cat memes on the internet) might be a clue of people’s obsessions with the cute and adorable. So why not apply this ‘feel good’ mojo to those who are most in need of a pick-me-up? Therapists have picked up this scent and been on this track for a while now. Innovations in pet therapy include dogs visiting convicts in prison, cats being brought on a recurring basis to nursing homes, and pets being useful in assuaging anxiety in veteran patients with PTSD. At Just Mind, we sometimes bring our therapy dogs to work and our clients are welcome to do the same as we understand their pets are often a big part of their world.

If you suffer from anxiety and depression, and you’re in the market for a new furry family member, consider the following:

  1. Routine: a pet’s eating & walking schedule and other responsibilities can provide a consistency that may be lacking in your life, and may help you to form a routine of your own.
  2. Fresh Air: owning a dog (or other outside-going pets) is a push to get some outside time every day, along with some exercise and icebreaking interaction with other Fido-loving people at the park who will want to talk about their dogs.
  3. Stability: a pet’s love is unconditional and not prone to waver from day to day, and could end up being one of the most fulfilling and joyous long term relationships of your lifetime.

If you are not ready to commit to caring for a pet, fear not.  Your nearest no-kill animal shelter is most likely looking for volunteers to walk their dogs or play with their kitties on a daily/weekly/monthly basis – whatever you can fit in your schedule. Or, consider asking to pet-sit a friend’s friendly feline for a week to see if it’s something you might want to do long-term. In the meantime, you can peruse the myriad of fluffy cat memes (the internet is lousy with them) and smile. Just try to steer clear from the ‘Grumpy Cat’ memes.

Although our furry friends can provide several benefits to our mental health, if you think that you need more help in conquering anxiety or depression, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment or read about anxiety counseling or depression counseling on our dedicated pages. Looking for more tips to conquer anxiety and depression? You can read Minimize Anxiety and Depression by Living in the Now and The Simplest Way to Overcome Anxiety and Depression.

More on Oxytocin:

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Can You Talk Your Way into Anxiety?

Can You Talk Your Way into Anxiety?

Have you ever wondered if you can you talk your way into anxiety?

A study done by Dr. Amanda J. Rose at the University of Missouri in 2007 found that girls who repeatedly talked over problems with their friends were more apt to develop anxiety and depression.  Talking (and talking, and talking) about a problem with your girlfriends has been termed ‘co-rumination,’ which simply means ruminating over problems with your pals.  Interestingly, the study did not find the same results in males.

Of course, it’s healthy to bounce our issues off a good listener who has your back, but to dwell on an issue or problem over and over again with friends has shown to have negative consequences.  By excessively rehashing and over-analyzing a perceived issue, you run the risk of exacerbating the problem instead of finding the true relief you’re seeking.  And nowadays, with plenty of social networks and a cell phone with text and email capabilities attached to your hip, it’s super-easy to co-ruminate with your BFF 24/7.  Beware.  Though it may feel great to self-disclose and talk with someone who gets it, the obsessive venting can also reinforce, amplify and even trigger negative feelings about your situation.

In the same study, researchers found that having a problem-solving focus to any conversation helped steer the person from wallowing in their troubles.  Instead of simply focusing on the negativity of the situation (like daily trash talking your ex-boyfriend or your soul-sucking job), set a time limit for yourself on how long you will talk about the problem and make an effort to garner specific advice from friends on how to handle the situation.  Focusing on the solution can help elevate your mind out of the quicksand of anxiety and into a space that allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, we can also help by providing you with information about anxiety counseling on our dedicated page or in person, if you are ready to make a counseling appointment.

For additional information about anxiety, you can check out How to Cope in Our Crazy World and Why You Should Understand Your Anxiety.

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