When the walls are closing in…
Sometimes breathing is simple and effortless. And sometimes, taking a deep and fulfilling breath seems nearly impossible. When the walls are closing in and anxiety floods our brains, our bodies kick into high gear. Hearts race. Muscles tense. Our bodies pump adrenaline through our veins to survive the crisis in front of us.
This natural defensive mechanism has served our ancestors for millennia, allowing them to escape natural disasters and fight off saber-tooth tigers. In our modern society, we don’t face saber-tooth tigers. Instead, the threats we face include an email from your boss asking for an update on a report or your teacher calling on you in class when you didn’t do your homework. These threats activate our fight-or-flight system, meaning our bodies respond to them as if we were fighting for our lives. Technology’s constant presence in our society allows those threats to invade nearly every aspect of lives. Without the proper skills and boundaries, we can lose our ability to experience meaningful rest and separation from the day’s stress. The result: anxiety.
Because our bodies naturally avoid pain, people with anxiety tend to distance themselves from stressful situations. Although this provides momentary relief, avoidance prevents problem-solving and often causes more anxiety down the road.
Anxiety can look different for different people.
Each person experiences and expresses anxiety in different ways. Consider if you have experienced these symptoms of anxiety and the impact they have on your life:
The smallest things make you angry
Worries are constantly buzzing in your brain
Headaches, stomachaches, and nausea
Eating too much or too little
Difficulty sleeping because you “can’t turn your mind off.”
Becoming paralyzed with fear, unable to make decisions
Unable to catch your breath, hyperventilating
When is anxiety a problem?
Everyone experiences stress and has anxious thoughts, and both play a useful part in managing life’s difficulties. Without stress and anxiety, we would not have the drive needed to deal with whatever hurdles the future holds. With the right amount of stress, we can focus on daily tasks and perform our best. Low intensity anxiety helps us plan for the future by encouraging us to consider what obstacles might prevent us from reaching our goals.
Anxiety becomes a problem when it prevents us from effectively managing life’s stressors. Relationships may suffer as anxiety inhibits our ability to ask for what we need, introduce ourselves to new people, and say no when we need to. We might seek to avoid difficult tasks at school or work, leading to assignments and projects piling up and causing more anxiety. Over time, anxiety can cause our bodies to break down, increasing the likelihood for chronic illnesses.
Fear drives us to find a safe place where we can breathe easily. Cincinnati Center for DBT offers compassionate and researched-based interventions to help you catch your breath and change how you relate to your anxiety. Research demonstrates that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective intervention for anxiety. Thoughts and feelings can become overwhelming and consuming. When you feel caught in the whirlwind of anxiety, we teach you how to change your behaviors and thoughts to effectively reduce anxiety. Imagine learning how to work through those throat-clenching, chest-tightening, nausea-inducing moments of panic!
Because CBT incorporates behavioral interventions, the clinicians at Cincinnati Center for DBT are well-informed about how to address avoidance in a kind and effective way. With the right skills, you can be empowered to face your fears and build a more peaceful life.