Living with anxiety can be a totally debilitating, paralysing experience. It can make even the simplest tasks feel impossible. It can be related to something specific – going outside, meeting new people, health, for instance – or it can be a constant sense of dread and unease not related to anything in particular. It can be a persistent, unrelenting feeling, or it can fluctuate, with some days better than others, and often there is no obvious reason why this might be. It can involve thoughts, usually negative, and worries racing around in the head in often repetitive cycles which are difficult to stop, and feelings of fear and sometimes panic which are hard to soothe.
People who don’t experience anxiety – friends, family, colleagues, bosses, teachers – can find it difficult to understand. They don’t understand how tortuous and all-consuming it can feel, and will often come from a rational point of view – seeing the solution as very straightforward , but because anxiety is often not ‘rational’ this is not actually very helpful. There can also be suspicion, that somehow the person could overcome it if they wanted to, and in doing this, they minimize the anxiety and how overwhelming it can feel.
When people are in the grips of severe anxiety, it can feel that it is impossible for things to change, or to see a way in which anxiety can lose its control over everyday living. However, change is possible, and counselling can play a major part in this. I have seen clients who have been unable to work, or engage in ordinary life, make remarkable progress. It may not be easy, or quick, but change can take place.
So, how can this happen? Often, talking about the anxiety can help – simply having someone to listen and understand without judgement can validate experience. Also, through talking, it is sometimes possible to trace a seemingly inexplicable anxiety back to an event or time in life. Having a handle on why anxiety might be happening, can offer ideas on how to address it.
Sometimes the work can be very practical – identifying specific triggers and how to manage these, and looking at possible coping strategies – for example, listening to guided meditations intended to ease anxiety, can be very helpful when anxiety is preventing sleep. At other times, the work may involve building self-esteem and confidence, which can have a positive effect on anxiety. Whatever approach is used, this is something that would be decided between counsellor and client, and worked on together.
If you are suffering from anxiety, don’t suffer alone – counselling can make a difference. Look at consellors’ profiles and see who you are drawn to; have a first session with someone to see how they work and to see if you feel comfortable with them. Give yourself time – you may want to go away and think about it, before deciding whether you’d like to continue. If it doesn’t feel right with one counsellor, trust your instincts, and arrange to meet with someone else – as someone who is experiencing anxiety you need to feel safe and comfortable with your counsellor. And hold on to the fact that by seeking counselling, you are being pro-active and setting out to make positive changes in your life.