by Nicole VanZuidam, MA, LMFT
The word anxiety and how people view it or understand it seems to have evolved throughout the past 10-15 years. It is not uncommon for someone to say that they have anxiety. What comes to mind when you hear that? Because of the increased awareness of mental health, one’s thoughts might jump to anxiety in its form of a diagnosis, but let’s consider the definition of anxiety.
The New Oxford American dictionary defines it as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. The American Psychology Association describes it as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. These definitions define it as a feeling or an emotion. Emotions are a part of the human experience so it is safe to say that every person experiences the feeling of anxiety and those levels vary according the circumstance we are currently experiencing, as well as how past experiences have influenced our perception. Combining these two things can make feeling anxious a very unique experience for each individual.
It’s likely innumerable the times have you have been told or used the phrase, “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine.” How many times has that proved to be helpful? Worry often feels uncontrollable, just like many other emotions, you cannot help how you feel. What ISwithin our control is what we do with it. When experiencing any strong emotion, two important steps to managing it are identification and communication. Can I recognize what is it I am feeling? Do I know what is contributing to that? How have I communicated that to someone?
Commonly, when feeling anxious, we try to distract ourselves and push it down or out of our mind. Distraction can be a very helpful coping tool AFTER we have completed the first steps of identifying and communicating. Even though our tendency is to escape uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, if we can step towards the fear or worry to explore it, we can more easily diffuse it.
When working with children or adolescents, it is not uncommon for them to express that a worry they have about something feels unacknowledged or they have been told not to worry. If you notice a child feeling anxious or they tell you about a worry they have, try using these steps to help them manage the emotion and work towards relief.
Anxiety can also be more severe and meet criteria for it to be diagnosed. If you find yourself or a loved one struggling with severe, ongoing anxiety that interferes with daily activities, consider exploring treatment. We can easily get caught up in feeling that things will never change or it is just how we are, but there can be relief that allows us to enjoy life more fully. At River Counseling, we can meet you where you are, offering hope. You may schedule an appointment with the Platte office at 605-337-3444. You can also meet with one of the therapists from Sioux Falls Psychological services or Stronghold Counseling from your own computer or smartphone. To schedule an appointment please call 605-334-2696.