We all experience anxiety to some degree. The ongoing effects of COVID-19 has even led many of us to experience heightened anxiety.
At its core, anxiety is energy. It is the aliveness, the edginess or restlessness, we feel coursing through our body and minds that signals a quick response to a perceived threat to our emotional safety. In comparison, fear is a reaction (fight or flee) that happens in a fraction of a second, an immediate response to a threat to physical safety. Interestingly, our minds don’t know the difference between an actual physical threat and a perceived emotional threat. Our minds act fast to danger and threat regardless.
At its root, anxiety is part of our built-in stress response system. It is our brilliant and caring attempt to warn us and keep us safe. This response worked well for us in early history as homo sapiens, when the stress response was triggered as a means of survival in order to flee from physical threats like predators.
You could say this system means well. When kept in check, anxiety can be a major motivator and can help us prepare and get through stressful events, like a job interview or a difficult conversation. In essence, your body was built to handle that level of fear and anxiety.
However, your body is not meant to sustain that state of constant fear or anxiety. Instead, the body is designed to move between states of arousal and relaxation. The relaxation response, which is talked about less, takes place when the body recognizes clues of safety, which settles the sympathetic nervous system and activates the parasympathetic system. Simply put, the relaxation response is the opposite of your body’s stress response — your brake pedal to your body’s gas pedal.
When we become stuck in a stress response, our lives become restricted or even paralyzed. We may tire easily or feel more fatigue. Concentration can be impaired. Or we get stuck in an “on” position, staying busy and experiencing excessive anxiety or worry, as though there is always something frightening around the corner. This can make us irritable during the day with ourselves and others, and cause many sleep issues.
Our culture has become highly anxious and stressed, yet we have been taught to believe that we are not supposed to feel anxious. We may internalize these messages, feeling as if there is something wrong with us or our lives if we are experiencing anxiety. We become the problem to fix.
There Is Hope
There is nothing wrong with you, and nothing to be fixed, if you experience anxiety. It is a part of you, not who you are. If you are feeling stuck, or anxiety is limiting you from living the way you desire, there is hope.
Anxiety is a gateway to your aliveness and well-being. A messenger of what matters to you at the core. I believe, working together and taking things one step at a time, you can harness the courage to lean into your experience of anxiety to see what is really needed and what is a habit. Expressions of anxiety I work with include general anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.
In therapy, we get curious about where the anxiety started; how it was helpful; and what it may be protecting you from experiencing. You can learn tools and skills like mindfulness and compassion to become aware, be with, and maybe even befriend your unique expression of anxiety so as to live your full life regardless.
Working together, we can see how feelings, thoughts, sensations, and beliefs are simply part of our experience, can drive our behavior, and can keep us from engaging in life the way we want. The body and mind, when open, flexible, and curious, allow all energy, including anxiety, to flow through and not get stuck.
Call me so we can get started on getting unstuck
“Dawn brings her compassion and deep understanding of what it means to struggle with different aspects of our lives, and it is through this knowing that she offers insight and presence to those that she works with. I highly recommend Dawn as a counselor/therapist.”