Friends Counseling Service

aging-lotus-blossomAnxiety… that feeling that twists the stomach sends the heart racing and interferes with our sleep.

Anxiety is a natural response to external events or internal thoughts that seem to present a threat to our safety or way of life.  It afflicts people of all ages and in all segments of society.

For some, the feelings arise and subside with time, but for others, the symptoms do not disappear.  Some people live in a chronic state of anxious arousal.

It is now well known that long-term heightened anxiety can cause a number of physical problems including high blood pressure, heart problems and chronic gastro-intestinal difficulties.

The psychological effects of long-term chronic stress may include obsessive thoughts, sleepless nights, insomnia, panic attacks.  Chronic daily stress can lead to difficulties handling the demands of everyday life. Needless to say, this is not a good thing for the body or the soul.

And yet, life is full of habitual and unexpected events and intrusive or obsessive thoughts that make stress management very difficult. What to do?

Research shows that there are some good home-grown remedies for managing anxiety.  We can start by reducing our susceptibility to stress.  Start by eliminating or reducing caffeine intake in all forms, soda, coffee, black tea. A regime of regular vigorous exercise is also very helpful for managing stress.  On the less rigorous side, a relaxing warm bath, a long chat with a good and caring friend, a full-body massage or even a cup of warm milk before bed are old but useful short term stress reducers.

Unfortunately, some people seek relief through use of substances (legal and illegal), addictive behaviors (internet addiction, eating disorders, gambling, shopping, etc.) or excessive alcohol use. While these measures may seem to help in the short term, they can all lead to significant health and emotional problems further down the road.

If anxiety persists, it may be time to seek professional help.  Anxiety is the most treatable of problems.

In psychotherapy the person and therapist explore the causes of the anxiety and together design a program to help alleviate the cause and the symptoms. Often this approach involves increasing one’s confidence to adequately cope with anxiety producing circumstances.

The treatment may also include a consultation with a psychiatrist to discuss the appropriateness of medication.  It may also be recommended that family or group therapy be considered or attendance in a 12-step self-help support group.  Successful alternative therapies for anxiety include mindfulness meditation and yoga.