Stress and anxiety, which we usually associate with dangerous or unpleasant situations, also typically escalate when things are changing – even if the changes are positive. Any major transition in the context of life – a new job, a move, a change in relationship or any big change in routine – generates adjustment stress for adults, children and families.
Although some stress and anxiety is unavoidable, it is important to keep in mind that cognitive and neurological feedback loops tend to escalate and perpetuate worry and low grade fear. These approaches are often helpful in preventing adult anxiety from escalating.
- Positive self-talk. Anxiety is usually future oriented and characterized by a thought process known as “catastrophizing,” which makes us believe things are worse than they really are. “If this unwanted outcome occurs, a host of other bad outcomes will follow. Things are bad now, but they will only get worse.” When you feel anxious, check to see what you are telling yourself. Replace negative, fear based self-talk with positive, reassuring self-talk. “I will be able to deal with this, even if I’m not exactly sure how.”
- Breathe. Anxious people tend to breathe shallowly from their upper chests. The respiratory system sends a “danger” signal to the brain and typically, anxiety escalates in this negative feedback loop. You can break this cycle with a few slow, deep belly breaths as soon as you begin to feel stressed.
- Strengthen interpersonal boundaries. Sometimes people have difficulty saying “no” to unreasonable requests from others. This is a common source of anxiety, especially for women. Psychotherapy can be helpful resource for learning to set and enforce healthy boundaries with others.
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture, acupressure and relaxation techniques can be highly effective tools in managing stress and anxiety.
- Psychotherapy. Many people enter therapy to learn skills to manage anxiety. Sometimes wounds from the past reverberate in the present in the form of anxiety, emotional pain, confusion or unsatisfying patterns of relationships. Sometimes the psychological defenses that helped us survive earlier in life have outlived their usefulness and create suffering in the present but we are unaware of it because the connection is buried deep in our unconscious. Becoming conscious of the root issues causing the problems allows real and lasting transformation to take place.
To schedule an appointment with Maggie Bortz please call 503-730-9509