Joann begins to sweat profusely, feels a tightening in her chest and has shortness of breath. She believes she is having a heart attack. After being taken to the hospital, Joann is told that she had a panic attack. Joann was reading a book when it occurred and she is perplexed. It is this type of anxiety that puts people on edge because they do not know when the attack will happen again. This causes them to be anxious about becoming anxious.
More and more people are worried about their job, finances, family, health issues, and relationships. Is it normal to have concerns about life? Absolutely! But when worry becomes excessive with irrational thoughts and these thoughts interrupt your ability to cope and enjoy life, there is where the problem lies.
Some people think what they are experiencing is stress until they have a panic attack. There is a difference between stress and anxiety. Stress is a reaction to daily pressures that are happening in the present. Anxiety is a perceived threat about something that may happen in the near future.
If you have experienced challenges with anxiety you are not alone. According to the Anxiety Depression Association of America, Anxiety Disorders are the number one mental health challenge in America. It affects 40 million American adults with 13 million seeking treatment. Anxiety in children is on the rise as well. They have pressure to make certain scores on test, perform daily, not to mention the social pressure they are under.
The biggest challenge we have in life is right between our ears, the mind. There are two parts of the mind I want to bring to your attention: the intellectual mind and the emotional mind. The intellectual mind is rational, focused, is positive, does not dwell on problems, and seeks to find the solution.
The emotional mind is the total opposite. It is negative, focuses on the worst case scenario, obsesses, focuses on what we do not want, and houses the fight, flight, or freeze trauma response. There is good news, I promise. When someone is aware they are in their emotional mind they have the power to switch to the intellectual mind. Awareness is the beginning of change.
People may think, “I don’t know what is wrong with me. Why am I obsessing over this and thinking crazy thoughts.” Intellectually they know they need to stop but that part of the mind is not the issue. It is the emotional mind that believes there is a threat even though one does not exist.
The mind cannot tell the difference between what is imagined and what is real. So if someone is obsessing about what may happen the mind has no ability to separate a perceived threat from an actual threat. To the emotional mind the perceived threat is indeed a threat.
Therefore, the body reacts to the perceived threat and the individual may begin to shake, the heart beats fast and other physical reactions occur. Unfortunately it is not as easy as telling oneself, “Stop thinking these thoughts.” What is the solution?
Bring indifference to the emotional mind and get it to relax through deep breathing, laughter, mindfulness, or guided imagery. Seek out a mental health clinician that is skilled in working with the emotional mind and the techniques mentioned so that you can “Bring peace to your soul.” You deserve it!
About Sonya Waddell
Sonya Waddell is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is the author of “Single Ladies: Living Holy in a Sexy World” (Amazon)