Anxiety is a normal part of life. There are always things to worry about and things that bother us. But when anxiety spirals out of control it can dominate your life with worry and uncomfortable feelings. Worries about money, job, kids, spouses, extended family, and even the state of the country and the planet can quickly overwhelm us. The world is changing in unpredictable ways and this can keep us preoccupied and awake at night. It would be great if we could block out these worries and concerns, but no matter how much we try, these intrusive thoughts come back again and again and we can’t turn them off.
Anxiety can manifest as stress, worry, difficulty sleeping, and can cause panic attacks in certain situations. Worrying about having a panic attack can cause anxiety. Anxiety is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as chest pains, numbness or tingling, neck tension, headaches, or stomach problems. These physical symptoms can be caused by medical problems, can have their origins in past emotional issues, or can be a combination of the two. Emotions are often felt in the body. Worrying can cause our stomachs to end up in knots. Or a troubling memory can cause a nervous stomach which may then result in more troubling thoughts about the situation. Worrying about these symptoms can bring even more anxiety. Worrying can cause uncomfortable body sensations and what is happening in our bodies affects the way we think. This back and forth body/mind interaction of thoughts, feelings, and emotions can be very difficult to keep under control and sometimes becomes unmanageable.
It’s natural to worry about your kids because parents care. Parenting is a huge job and can be very time-consuming, so much so that we often don’t realize it. Kids need so much when they are young and they continue to need help, guidance, and support as they mature. But kids become more and more independent as they get older and spend more time away from the home, which often leads to endless concern and worry in the parents. The world has gotten so complex that parents usually want to shield their children from harm, but this is becoming more and more difficult to do as most kids have phones and internet access which just leads to more worry on the parent’s part. Kids need more independence as they grow, but parents struggle with how much autonomy to give them versus how much to protect them. It’s hard to know whether the foundation and guidance we have given them when they were very young is enough for them to make their own decisions in a confusing world when they are preteens, teens, or young adults. Our children are our most important responsibilities and we want to do whatever we can to ensure they have happy and successful lives. Unfortunately for many parents this just leads to worry, concern, and more anxiety.
Worry About Our Communities
Our communities, the country, and the world seems to be going through massive economic, social, and political upheaval. Politics is getting more and more polarized with less room for compromise and cooperation. It’s hard to put your finger on the causes, but these larger social forces are affecting our communities and our families. You can’t turn on the news without seeing evidence of conflict that seems to be spinning into chaos. We wonder what our own responsibility is to make things better, what we can do, and what we should do. Lots to worry about with no clear-cut answers.
Relationships of all types are important for our happiness. Children, friends, coworkers, and extended family are all important parts of our relational fabric. As adults, usually our most important relationship is with our romantic partner. This may be a husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, domestic partner, or significant other. These partnerships usually start off with passion, optimism, and friendship. But the stress of everyday life and conflicts, both internal and outside the relationship, can erode the friendship and connection and turn what was a source of support into a source of strife, hurt feelings, and isolation. When the state of our relationship is not healthy, this can cause anxiety in one or both partners, often leading to withdrawal and loneliness. There is very little worse than being lonely in a relationship.
Finding a Romantic Partner
Others struggle with finding a romantic partner. You may be dealing with the pain of a recent divorce, unable to move past the difficult memories. You may be trying to date, but unable to meet people that you feel a spark with. Online dating offers the opportunity to meet people, but too often not the right ones. Dating can be unpredictable and scary, with most people you meet in person very different from the person they claim to be in their profile. You worry whether you will ever find someone you are compatible with and can feel a romantic connection with. First dates are very anxiety-provoking and it’s hard to have the confidence to deal with these difficult feelings and persevere long enough to find the right person. The loneliness, longing, and anxiety that are a part of dating can be almost unbearable at times and it’s hard to stay in the dating game without the assurance of a happy ending.
Work and Career Stress
Having a career can be a big source of emotional and financial satisfaction. A job can be rewarding and gratifying as long as we feel like we are challenged and working toward attainable goals. But today’s ever more complex corporate environment can lead to feeling like we can never get on top of things and that can be a source of great anxiety and stress. An office can be a difficult environment where teamwork and productivity take a back seat to selfishness and lack of common goals. When there is so much to do at work, coupled with ever-present laptops and cell phones we often feel that work/life balance is a thing of the past. Somewhere along the line we were told that if we just worked hard enough and smart enough we could have it all, but that promise seems to have evaporated. We often worry that we are not good enough, not working hard enough, or that others are doing it better, all of which are major sources of anxiety. While many of these forces are part of the natural evolution of the workplace, when you are in it, it feels very personal and it is. Often we need specific tools and strategies for our own day-to-day functioning so we can thrive rather than just survive.
Therapy for Anxiety
Anxiety is complex because it can refer to so much. In some ways, anxiety is a catch-all that includes intrusive thoughts, worry, stress, difficult emotions, and uncomfortable body sensations. Anxiety can affect the quality and quantity of sleep as it can cause us to have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep. Anxiety often leads to emotional eating or sometimes a loss of appetite. Because everyone is different and has different lives, anxiety means different things to different people and has different symptoms for everyone. Therapy can help you understand your anxiety, learn the underlying causes, and make the appropriate changes so anxiety stops running your life.
Therapy for anxiety involves understanding your specific symptoms and learning about the underlying causes of these symptoms. There are often specific triggers for anxiety which may bring up body sensations, troubling memories, and worry that doesn’t seem to stop. By learning about these deeper issues, anxiety can shift into something more manageable over time.
But therapy is about more than just insights. It is also about feeling the feelings as well as knowing the facts. By experiencing the emotions, the past can be healed and the present can be experienced and lived more fully.
Feel free to contact me with any questions or to set up an initial consultation.