July 2016
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Hello Readers,

We are in the middle of vacation season when we know we are supposed to relax and enjoy ourselves. For many of us though that is much easier said than done. For those of us who struggle with anxiety it can be difficult to turn off the troubling thoughts in our head and enjoy the moment. In this month's Featured Article, I take a closer look at anxiety. Then take the Quick Quiz to see if you are coping well with day to day anxiety. If your anxiety reaches beyond the mild mark you may want to contact a therapist for some help in developing new ways to cope.

Take care,

At any given time about 18% of Americans are struggling with a bout of anxiety. Most of us will experience one form of anxiety or another within our lifetime. It is the most common form of psychological distress. Yet, many people coping with anxiety do not talk about it because they fear others will think they are being irrational and should just "get over" their fear.

Anxiety is different than fear but it does share some similarities. Fear is a feeling of tension that is associated with a known source of danger. Anxiety is also a feeling of tension but the danger or the threat of danger may be unknown. Anxiety is often anticipatory—worrying about the future. Without current cause, a person may worry about the success of their business or fret over the health and well-being of a child or themselves.

Anxiety is the culprit that wakes us in the night and won't let us go back to sleep. It distracts us and makes us irritable and forgetful. It can cause physical symptoms including shakiness, clammy hands, dry mouth, headaches, neck pain, and heart palpitations.

Often it is a high level of discomfort when facing uncertainty that brings on feelings of anxiousness. We fear that the future will bring challenges that we are not equipped to tackle. The truth is that anxious people are just as successful at handling challenges of day to day life as those who do not suffer with anxiety. It isn't the ability to succeed that suffers but the ability to enjoy. An anxious person may wake up and fret about what the day holds in store. By the end of the day they have adequately addressed all the needs of the day but they have not enjoyed their time because they were anticipating doom throughout the day. Sometimes the impending doom takes no particular shape and cannot be identified yet is ever present.

Learning to accept uncertainty, trust in one's abilities and challenge distorted thoughts about the future are all effective techniques to reduce anxiety. These techniques may be difficult to begin on your own especially if you are in the throes of a bout of anxiety. Working with a therapist is often the most effective way to reduce or recover from anxiety. Meditation, mindfulness training and yoga can also be helpful. In some cases, it is most helpful to combine these approaches with medication.

Addressing Anxiety

Mild anxiety is normal in our daily lives and can be eased with some basic tools. Answer the following questions to find out how well you use some of these tools.

1. When I feel anxious, I take deep breaths to ground myself and calm myself down.

2. To ease some of the tension, I relax my body and physically release the tightness in my shoulders, neck, arms and chest.

3. I vent my feelings of anxiety by writing or talking to someone. This helps get the strong emotions off my chest and out of my body.

4. I channel the tension into some kind of physical activity, such as walking or doing other exercise or yard work.

5. I challenge my anxiety by talking to someone I trust about my thinking or my conclusions.

6. If I know I'm going to be in an anxiety-producing situation I plan a strategy to help me cope.

7. I watch how others approach stressful situations and try adapting their techniques to my own situations.

8. I face challenges and commit to a plan of action, rather than avoiding.

9. I nurture a positive attitude.

10. I seek support from friends, counselors, self-help groups, etc.

Most people experience anxiety during the course of their lives. Some of it is healthy and can motivate us to get the hard things done. However, more intense feelings of anxiety are emotionally painful and can interfere with a person's daily functioning. If you're concerned about your feelings of fear and anxiety, please don't hesitate to call.

Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications

Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems.

Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
Barbara Hill, LCSW-C
6236 Montrose Road
Rockville, MD 20852
Phone: (301) 340-3050