Elysium, Helping With Stress And Anxiety
by Dr Rebecca Coles – Gales, Clinical Psychologist
When stress or anxiety get out of hand these otherwise healthy emotions can become overwhelming. The right therapy can help find balance again.
Most of us will be able to identify a time in our life when we felt stressed and or anxious. Like all emotions, stress and anxiety can be described as being on a continuum – so we can experience high and low levels of stress and anxiety depending upon the context; and these emotions can sometimes be very helpful or feel really unhelpful.
One way of defining stress is when we feel the physical or emotional demands placed upon us are greater than the resources we have to draw on. Anxiety can be described as an emotion that can result when we perceive a level of ‘threat’ and the threat may be ‘real’ or feared, physical or emotional.
In the short-term stress and anxiety can be facilitative, and we can often forget the helpful and adaptive element of these emotions. For example, think about how a deadline at school or work can sometimes help make us work a bit harder and focus our energies because of the ‘stress’ they may induce in us. Having a slightly raised level of stress and anxiety can help our performance and help us find new resources and solutions.
However, at the other end of the stress and anxiety continuum, we know that heightened levels over a long period of time can feel very unhelpful, and for some people the experiences associated with these emotions can be debilitating and very disabling. Our world can start to feel as though it’s shrinking and nowhere feels safe; the world outside seems to be full of threat and danger. This can come in many different forms, from feeling an overwhelming sense of being judged by others, to fears of being physically incapacitated in some way thus leaving us feeling vulnerable. As a consequence we can experience awful heart palpitations, dizziness, wobbly legs, upset stomachs and even fizzy feelings in our arms and hands. All these physical symptoms can further confirm for us how unsafe we are.
Understandably many people who experience these symptoms, may then ‘retreat’ from the world to try and keep themselves ‘safe’. They may stay at home more, call in sick to work, cancel outings with family and friends. As therapists we recognise that unfortunately this very common way of trying to manage disabling levels of stress and anxiety unwittingly reinforces the sense of threat and maintains a vicious cycle.
If you or someone you love are experiencing something similar to what has been described, the good news is that psychological therapy is very successful in helping manage these symptoms differently. Therapy can help people identify the trigger or triggers for the emotions, plot out the particular vicious cycle they may be experiencing and then tailor specific psychological interventions to help them slowly and surely feel safe in the world again.
For further information and support please contact the Brighton and Hove Clinic on 01273 747464 or email firstname.lastname@example.org