You’ve likely heard the term anxiety before. But let’s break it down: Faith Harper’s definition of anxiety is a state of full body disequilibrium at a level of intensity that demands immediate attention and corrective action on your part. It can be in the face of a real or perceived threat, either present or anticipated.
There are many ways that anxiety can manifest itself in your life. For some it’s general anxiety, for others it’s more to do specifically with social situations, and still others it’s a pervasive pattern of anxious attachment with relationships. Read on to see if any of these experiences feel familiar.
Firstly, for those that may just have a general sense of anxiety…
You feel overwhelmed and stressed most days.
It’s not even that your life is all that stressful from the outside looking in, but the constant racing thoughts about what others may be thinking are incredibly distracting. You overanalyze every small decision, and a major life decision leaves you feeling dizzy and paralyzed. Every day is clouded with planning for the future to the point that when you do find yourself focusing on the present it’s almost alarming. You find yourself coming up with strategies to try and control the chaos of life such as rigid routines in your daily life, or living by the health app you just downloaded.
However, the structure of your life leaves little room for spontaneity and sometimes new relationships. So the cost of analyzing, planning, and structuring is that you don’t really feel fully alive at any given time. Crossing out the to-do lists doesn’t provide any sustainable sense of relief or accomplishment and you’re on to the next list. If this sounds familiar, please keep reading to find out how therapy can help.
Secondly, for those that lean more towards anxiety about social situations…
The process of going to a social outing is exhausting.
It looks like this: first you play stories in your head about what could go wrong, overthinking the social dynamics of the situation such as “Maybe they just invited me because they thought they had to.”
Then, getting ready for the event includes second-guessing every wardrobe decision, when to arrive, and pretty much every embarrassing situation possible runs through your head. If somehow you make it there, your obvious blushing, sweating, or mind blanking out gives you up as an imposter. Your thoughts are so loud in your head about how others are judging you that you don’t actually hear what they say.
You find some excuse to leave early even though it brings a wave of shame it also brings you some sense of momentary relief. Then you’re left with reflecting on every little thing that went wrong while you were there, such as “Did I say that wrong? Do I need to text them?” Meanwhile, you feel alone and exhausted, left with the trap of your own critical thoughts. After that, you convince yourself that more social outings are to be avoided in the future.
However, the cost of avoiding these social situations is the anticipatory build up in your head. For instance, the more you skip out on the outings the scarier they seem. You’re often left feeling lonely and frustrated with your lack of friends. Isolation leads to other problems in your life such as depression, and problems with eating and sleeping. The good news is that you can change this pattern with therapy.
Thirdly, for those that experience anxious attachment in their close relationships…
You are constantly doubting your own lovability.
When you’re in a romantic relationship (which is more often than not) you are gripped by an underlying fear that you will not be able to keep that person. So you hold on tight, often becoming lost in their own needs and desires.
The worst possible thing that could happen is rejection. So you unknowingly become more hypervigilant (heightened awareness or sensitiveness). You analyze your partner’s behaviors, facial expressions, and intentions- scanning for any sense that they might leave you or not love you anymore.
The hypervigilance is exhausting to both you and your partner and eventually the relationship does not feel emotionally safe no matter what your partner says. As a result, the relationship ends just as you feared and you end up feeling lost and not okay. The cycle continues as you enter a new relationship hoping that they will be able to soothe your sense of abandonment- only to end up disappointed later down the line. Therapy is one way you can be more mindful of this cycle to make changes.
If any of this seems familiar, you’re not alone.
Anxiety is pervasive. You did not ask to be anxious, and it is not your fault that you or people around you are suffering because of it. You may even resonate with all three of these types of anxiety; they are not mutually exclusive.
Counseling and research has been done over many years to figure out just what’s going on here. Certainly, a lot of anxiety has to do with differences in the brain related to interpersonal neurobiology and appraisal of social situations (Therapist Uncensored). Sometimes this is because of a lifetime of experiencing less than ideal relationships. Other times it is a more recent event that has shaken us up. Either way, counseling can help reduce symptoms of anxiety.
The good news: you can find relief from general anxiety, social anxiety, and anxious attachment.
Imagine what it would be like to quiet the mental noise you struggle with daily. You could live more in the present moment with a deep sense of intuitive trust and openness.
You could stop caring so much about what others think, and focus on what matters to you. As a result, you could show up to a social outing with ease. Develop a sense of who you are, your own boundaries, and enjoy the differences between you and others. Similarly, you could learn to accept yourself.
Imagine feeling a sense of deep trust and security in your relationships. You can also recognize your own triggers in relationships and be able to communicate them. Learn how to self-soothe. Above all, feel a sense of worth and lovability no matter who you are with.
And you don’t have to deal with this on your own.
How Counseling Can Help
- Typically, folks who are anxious view the body as the enemy in that it can reveal much about how you’re feeling to others beyond your control. Counseling can help you befriend your body when you feel distress by shifting the focus towards a curiosity of what you’re feeling, and what you need/like/want rather than focusing on other’s reactions.
- The counseling room is a great place to practice setting boundaries, and communicating important things that may be difficult for you to say to people in your personal life.
- Counseling can help you explore how your early relational experiences still influence you to this day to make sense of some of the patterns and unresolved psychological injuries you may have experienced so that you can understand the source of some of this pain.
- Counseling can also help you to be more self-compassionate towards your whole self (flaws and all) without all the ick and shame.
Anxiety Counseling in Austin, Texas
My approach to counseling is relational, empathetic, and trauma-informed. I focus on both the thoughts and feelings involved (not too touchy feely nor too cold) in your process. Furthermore, a big part of my work is creating a collaborative environment where we focus on the here and now without judgment.
Ready to take care of you? Let me help you in your journey to find relief.
If you’re interested in connecting, you can e-mail me here.