01 Feb 2014
Anxiety-How your body sends you messages

BY: Sara Trayman

Therapy Articles

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Anxiety is such a debilitating experience-you can feel overwhelmed and consumed by it and it as though you are always going to feel this way. Anxiety takes on many different forms including panic attacks, obsessive thoughts, avoiding situations, having outbursts and feeling unable to cope with life. Feeling unable to breathe or to think clearly, our instinct is to do whatever we can to make it go away. So how can anxiety ever be of any use?

Anxiety could be seen as being a message that your body is sending you. This is a message we do not understand how to listen to perhaps because it brings with it paralysing feelings so that we struggle to think or process what is happening. Or it may be that we do not know what we are listening out for.

It can be easier to think about this using a physiological example. We often find it easier to relate to examples that we are used to dealing with such as the physical experience of pain. When we hurt our foot we will get messages of pain telling us that we have done some damage. If we simply take pain killers and continue to run on our foot, assuming that the pain has no function we will further damage ourselves. The pain is the message, from our body, that something needs our attention. Whether that be to seek medical attention or simply that we are over-doing it and need to rest, the pain is something which we need to give us awareness.

Anxiety can function in exactly the same way. Just as we would not want to simply medicate away our pain and ignore the message, the answer is not to simply medicate the anxiety away. When we experience anxiety it is important to take a moment to pay attention to ourselves and be with the anxiety rather than move away from it. Like a small child having a temper tantrum, the anxiety if ignored escalates until it receives some attention. It needs our preoccupation and to be heard. Is it that you are too stressed by something in your life? Do you need to make some changes to improve your ability to care for yourself? Are there things that you are worrying about that you haven’t expressed or acted upon? Is it the result of suppressing other difficult and unpalatable feelings?

It may be that talking these things through with a therapist will be of benefit or it may be that once you start listening to these messages it is something to either tackle on your own or with the help of your loved ones. Either way, try to give the anxiety some of your time and attention and maybe it can guide you towards what is not working so well and help you to either change things or accept the things you cannot change.

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