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Anxiety Treatment

What is anxiety

We all experience anxiety at some point in our lives.  It is a natural response to a culture that keeps a fast pace with lots of stimulation. For some of us, anxiety can take over and become the constant.

Anxiety, and it’s close cousin shame, is the experience of not being able to settle comfortably into who you are.  It keeps you in a frenzied state of overwhelm. Anxiety relentlessly batters you with a voice that drives you by “shoulds.”  To this end, anxiety keeps you living in the future under a perpetual state of worry about what you should do and who you should be.  It can be exhausting.

Anxiety’s message ultimately says that who you are now is not right.  In its essence, anxiety demands you be different than how you are.  But, not in that inspirational kind of way, but more in a bullying kind of way.

The enemy of anxiety is acceptance.  Anxiety relentlessly assaults your capacity to be kind and accept yourself as you are. It does this through its convincing voice that says, “you should be doing it differently than you are.”

Anxiety forces you to stay out of your feelings and emotions because anxiety often sees them as signs of weakness and incompetence.

Trusting what you feel in your body is another adversary of anxiety. Anxiety keeps you hovering above yourself, never allowing you to drop down into the heart or the gut of what you really feel or what you might truly know. In this way, anxiety blocks you from trusting your inner knowing. Anxiety prevents you from knowing who you really are.

If you were to sit down and have a chat with your anxiety, it would say, “I’m trying to help you here. I’m not your enemy. You need me.”  Anxiety is very persuasive in this way.

Different from depression, anxiety keeps your nervous system in a perpetual state of tension.  The only sensations that anxiety lets you feel is the activated state of your nervous system: your heart beat racing, a tightness in your chest, shallow breathing, a clenched jaw.

The only reason your nervous system is in this activated state is because anxiety is constantly feeding you “shoulds” about the future that you couldn’t possibly live up to.  Ultimately, anxiety gives you the sense that you have failed before you have even begun. And yet anxiety also gives you just enough energy and obligation to keep trying, continuing, and hoping you just might not fail. When anxiety rules your life, it looks a lot like that horse with the carrot just ahead of him.

You can live without anxiety leading your life.  You can live from a more peaceful and calm you. You can be powerful and productive without anxiety. 

Brief overview of anxiety disorders

A brief overview of anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorder is the broadest category for the following disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobic, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and panic disorder. Each of these have their distinct symptoms which require different treatment. With anxiety disorders, there are four ways that the symptoms reveal themselves: mental apprehension, physical tension, physical symptoms and dissociative anxiety.

The following is a short list of different ways that anxiety can happen in people’s lives:

  • postpartum anxiety
  • anxiety attacks
  • social anxiety
  • performance anxiety
  • sleep anxiety
  • relationship anxiety
  • separation anxiety

How anxiety obstructs you from having authentic relationships

How anxiety obstructs you from having authentic relationships

You know you are having an authentic relationship with someone when you feel relaxed and in the flow of the moment.  Instead of worrying about about what you’re going to say next, you just say what’s true for you as it comes to you.

An authentic relationship can hold angry, sad and scared feelings; it’s not just being happy with someone. Rather, it’s being real with someone about whatever your experience is.  An authentic relationship can often happen through sharing a unique and real experience with another person, such as rock climbing or raising a child or traveling abroad or eating a delicious meal or just going for a walk.  Opportunities for authenticity in relationships are everywhere. All you need to do is notice them and welcome them.

Sometimes we have grief from a loss. And an authentic relationship can help us heal from that grief.

Authenticity means that there is no screen between you and your experience with another person. Anxiety becomes that screen. Anxiety is that voice of self-consciousness that barges in and says, “Am I enough?” or “am I doing it right?” or “will they like me?”  or “I should say something smart.” Anxiety takes us away from being close with another human being.

5 ways to overcome your anxiety

5 ways to overcome your anxiety

If you are inspired to make some changes to overcome your anxiety, then begin the following recommendations in the order they are presented in here.  Each step builds on the previous one.

1.) Stop doing things that make your anxiety worse

You probably know the usual suspects of what amplifies your anxiety. Pick 3 of the following and starting doing them immediately. Track any positive changes you notice as a result. This will help you continue to do them until they become habit.

  • limit screen-time, especially before bed – take a bath or do some breathing and stretching instead
  • drink less coffee and more tea
  • stop watching violent or stressful movies & TV – watch comedies instead
  • start exercising
  • add some down-time to each day, even just 5-10 minutes
  • commit to less so you are less busy and overwhelmed
  • sleep more
  • keep a budget and live within your means
  • take time for self-reflection through journaling and taking walks

 

2.) Use mindfulness for anxiety

Practicing mindfulness allows you to not buy into every single thought and feeling you have.  This can help create a buffer zone between you and your anxiety. Next, you can use your mindfulness to become an expert on the unique voice of your anxiety. For example, what are the top 10 “shoulds” that your anxiety lays on you (e.g., “I should be married by now”).  Track how those “shoulds” show up on a daily basis.

Start by learning about what mindfulness is and how it can help you. The next step is to begin practicing mindfulness because that is where the gold is. If you do well with structure and group support, consider taking a class in the Portland area with mindfulness-educator Laura Martin.  She is excellent.  Otherwise, there are many resources on this website and online in general that can help you start a mindfulness practice today.

 

3.) Apply 3-Part Breathing techniques for anxiety

Learning to manage your nervous system is a powerful tool to overcoming your anxiety.  Practice this 3-breath 3X per day for 5 minutes and you will see positive results immediately.  Eventually, the goal is to use this 3-breath when you notice the classic signs of your nervous system becoming activated: shallow breath, tightness in chest, clenched jaw, faster heartbeat. Click here for instruction on the 3-Part Breath.

 

4.) Develop an inner-voice that promotes acceptance of your feelings & needs

After you have become very familiar with the unique voice of your own anxiety, the next step is to bring attention to a voice in you that offers some acceptance and kindness about what your emotional experience is. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) offers an helpful tool for this called “Self Empathy.” This is where you give yourself space and compassion for whatever your feelings and needs are.

For example, let’s say your child has a temper tantrum.  You catch your anxiety voice chirping in to say, “Just look at him – It’s your fault. You should be a better parent. And then this wouldn’t happen.” A voice of self-empathy might say something like, “Look, your kid is totally freaking out. You are really feeling overwhelmed right now because you are needing some reassurance that you’re doing the best you can do as a parent.”

 

5.) Practice authenticity in your relationships

The ultimate goal in overcoming your anxiety is welcoming authenticity in your relationships.  For additional support, we recommend checking out the work of Brene Brown. This is the last step because it requires you to be able to do all the previous 4 steps.

Take out a piece of paper and make a list of all the meaningful relationships in your life.  Meaningful doesn’t necessarily have to be close.  It could be your spouse but it could also be the person you always see at the dog park that you like talking to when you’re there.

Next, circle the name of three people who you feel safe to try and be more authentic with them.  Every time you see them next month, allow yourself to be as real as you can around them. You’re not looking for some huge change here. They might not even notice. But, you notice. You notice the expressions on your friend’s face when they talk about a recent struggle they’ve had. Or you notice that your wife lights up when you ask her to tell you about the best part of her day.

 

6.) Start individual counseling

Individual counseling gives you the opportunity to explore exactly how anxiety happens inside of you.  Over the course of individual therapy, you can begin to experience a sense of mastery over your anxiety. Eventually, you can learn ways to life your life that exclude anxiety.  Click here to find out if individual therapy is right for you. And click here to learn out how individual therapy works.  Or, if you’re a male, consider joining our Men’s process group to challenge your anxiety.

 

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