Anxiety: There is a tiger trying to eat you!
Is anxiety driving you?
Worry is a healthy human emotion. Worry is the feeling that is generated by the thought "something could go wrong here” and it leads to problem solving through planning ahead.
Worry is the emotion you have when you are suddenly thinking "is it safe to drive my car at 200 kilometres per hour along this mountain road with a cliff on one side and a massive drop on the other on an icy morning?" Ideally this thought creates an imagined future of impending doom and leads to us moderating our speed to the conditions. So our worry leads to planning for what could go wrong and then we move forward.
Another example is that if we are worried about passing an assessment or not meeting a goal it leads us to plan how to put our best effort in preparing and planning to meet success. One of my study practices was to make sure I read the assessment thoroughly so I knew exactly what was involved which meant I got worried about starting early enough to get the job done. A lesson I learned the hard way!
Anxiety is worry out of control; thought and emotional process on steroids. Instead of being a helpful instructor giving us a tip, it becomes a raging drill sergeant threatening us and driving us to act in ways anxiety feels we need to behave to survive.
Humans are incredible beings and our brains are complicated systems designed to help us survive and thrive.
At one level the brain is exceptionally clever. It takes in an incredible amount of information through all of our senses and assesses risk, consciously and subconsciously. A human walking through the jungle has the ability to notice the threat of a predator and our fight or flight system surges, dumps adrenaline and gets us ready to fight, hide or run away.
On the other hand it is quite dumb. Our brain sometimes struggles to know the difference between the tiger that is trying to eat us and the tiger we are imagining might eat us but is not actually present in our physical world. Sometimes the tiger we "see" is just a domestic cat trying to get us to feed it.
This is Anxiety. Anxiety is the thought process of "what if" that creates the healthy emotion of worry to run amok with an often (although not always) highly warped threat analysis. It perceives a threat and sends us into self-protection mode. It causes us to shape our lives in ways another part of us feels is not always rational. This often leaves us feeling controlled and trapped by our very real emotions and exhausted by the ways our body reacts to anxiety up to and including full blown panic attacks. It can stop us achieving our hopes, damaging our relationships and robbing us of a lot of the best of our lives.
If you think anxiety has been showing up in your life and messing it up a lot, or maybe you know that you've been avoiding opportunities or relationships a part of you really wants engage with, I encourage you to find a counsellor you feel safe with to unpack the experience you’re having.
A counsellor can help you clarify and understand what is driving your anxiety and help you challenge its hold on your life and help it leave. We also can help develop strategies that work for you to manage anxiety when it does show up.
I would love to help support you.
Find out more about how I could help you in counselling.
If you would like to work with me, make an appointment today. I work out of Cartography Counselling in Tai Tapu near Christchurch, or by Skype.