Make peace with our anxiety

Making peace with our anxiety tee

Anxiety is a normal emotion that everyone experiences at different times and in different intensities. Basically, anxiety serves to protect us from danger. It also serves to adapt to the challenges of daily life and the uncertainties that inevitably come our way. However, anxiety can become problematic when it is intense or excessive, when it lasts, or when it interferes with our functioning, our quality of life or our well-being.

The Anxiety manifests itself in three ways:

1- Through physical sensations. For example: heart palpitations, clammy palms, limp legs, tightness in the chest, feeling like you're gasping for air or hyperventilating, feeling like you're losing control or going crazy.

< strong>2-By thoughts. “Studies show that more anxious people manifest negative or catastrophic thoughts or overestimate the likelihood of a negative event occurring. Some of them may also have difficulty dealing with uncertainty,” explains Isabelle Denis, psychologist and professor at the School of Psychology at Laval University.

3- By avoidance or reassurance behaviors.

“Indeed, a more anxious person will take one or more means to quickly reduce their anxiety since it is an emotion that is not very pleasant to live with, although it is not dangerous. For example, if the person is afraid of being sick on the subway, they may avoid taking it, which will reduce their anxiety in the short term. However, in the long term, avoidance contributes to maintaining and even exacerbating anxiety, because the person does not have the chance to go and observe what is really going on in the situation. So his brain continues to believe that his thought is real, that it represents reality,” adds the psychologist.

Thus, to better manage anxiety, because we cannot stop it, we must work on these three components at the same time, namely physical sensations, thoughts and behaviors. “The idea is first to better understand ourselves: how does our anxiety manifest? What physical sensations arise in what situations? What do I tell myself in my head when I am anxious, in short, what are the negative or catastrophic thoughts that I have? ”, explains Isabelle Denis.

In addition, avoidance behaviors must be recognized. “For example, am I trying to run away or avoid situations, thoughts, places, people? Do I often have to be accompanied when I leave my home? Do I often seek reassurance by questioning others or on the internet when I am worried? Once these realizations are made, we can try to better manage our physical sensations with physical activity, yoga, meditation, relaxation or breathing. We can also question our thoughts to see if they represent reality well by asking questions such as: is this really what is likely to happen? What are the chances of this happening? What would I say to a friend who views the situation like me? Finally, we must avoid as much as possible to avoid what we fear”, advises the psychologist and professor.

However, all of this may seem easier said than done and you should not hesitate to be accompanied in these difficult changes by a mental health professional, such as a doctor or a psychologist. To date, studies show that cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective psychological treatment for anxiety problems known as anxiety disorders. Its objectives are, in particular, to work on the physical sensations, thoughts and behaviors that contribute to maintaining or aggravating anxiety. “It is very important to deal with anxiety if it is intense, persistent, and if it harms us in any way because otherwise it is very likely to get worse and lead to other consequences such as depression”, adds in conclusion the psychologist.

A more anxious person will take one or more means to quickly reduce their anxiety since it is an emotion that is not very pleasant to experience, although it is not dangerous.

Isabelle Denis, psychologist and professor

Mélissa's experience with anxiety

Mélissa Roy , who created a Facebook group on the subject, suffered herself from all the consequences of anxiety on her own life, before finding ways to better manage her emotions.

“When you start your day feeling stressed and anxious that you wake up in the morning with a lump in your stomach, feeling like life is a mountain of problems  and you feel like you're not up to it, it can become unbearable,” recalls Mélissa Roy, who suffered from depression at some point in her life.

“We start thinking about how things could go wrong, we make disaster scenarios, we project ourselves in time. We say to ourselves: what will happen if…? And from there everything changes and gets carried away. We feel fear, which activates the stress response in our body,” she explains.

To regain control, Mélissa Roy offers different strategies that have helped her.

  1. Decide to take care of yourself at the first signs instead of waiting to be in distress.
  2. Develop mindfulness practices, focusing our attention on the present moment and what is happening inside ourselves to help us realize that the crisis is in our head. “We can set an alarm a few times a day on our cell phone and check 3 things each time: what are my thoughts? My emotions? My physical sensations? It allows us to better identify where we are and our current needs.”
  3. Take back control of our thoughts. “We have an average of 60,000 thoughts a day, 80% of which are repetitive and/or negative. If we cannot control our first worrying thought, we can, by becoming aware of it, control the next one. Because if we don't, from the first negative thought we leave in our head and we follow it where it takes us. »
  4. Ask yourself the question: am I currently in problem mode or solution mode? Am I making myself a worst-case scenario movie or am I using my imagination to make a more helpful choice and find solutions?
  5. Report to think about an anxiety-provoking subject at another time and allow yourself not to think about it until then. Then objectively assess whether it is a real problem or a made-up problem.
  6. Detaching from our thoughts. “Our thoughts are not necessarily truths. I'm not my thoughts, I have thoughts, it's not my identity.”

The idea is to gradually become aware of our mental paths that lead us to anxiety, to stop them for a moment, and to find positive affirmations that will help us reconnect with more positive emotions.

Mélissa's Facebook group: At peace with my stress and anxiety

We think that imagining the worst is planning, but that's not the case. Imagining the worst is just scaring yourself in the present and that solves absolutely nothing.

Melissa Roy

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