Dr. Eva Helpard
Counselling & Psychotherapy

Anxiety and Stress – When It’s time for Counselling

We all live with anxiety and stress. None of us are immune to the impact that changes in our environment, society, economy, culture and families have in our lives. Nor can we ignore the stress that comes from our own ever-increasing expectations about how to live and what we believe we must have in order to be happy: A house, car, husband/wife, children, good paying job, education, vacations every year, nice clothes, lots of friends  and the list goes on. It is not the desire to meet these standards that causes stress; instead, it arises from our constant negative appraisal of ourselves that tells us we will fail. Fear is created from our imagination that is predicting the future.

Anxiety and stress are actually very important human responses that help us survive in times of danger. They are normal adaptive responses that everyone has when faced with uncertainty and fear. For example, we all feel anxious when our car starts sliding down a slippery road or when we are unexpectedly asked to meet with our boss. In these and many other daily situations, our minds sense danger. Our imagination is now predicting a possible future outcome. This then sends a signal from our brains to our bodies to respond: Fight, Flight or Freeze.

The Fight, Flight or Freeze response is our bodyís natural alarm system that tells us to respond! If we are walking alone at night and someone is following us our bodies send the alarm telling us we have three options: we turn around, puff out our chest and face the person head on (fight), we run as fast as we can to get away (flight) or we stop, jump behind a bush, hide and wait for the person to pass by (freeze). In all three responses, our bodies go through some major changes:

  • Blood and oxygen moves to our extremities: Our bodies prepare to fight or flee by sending blood and oxygen to our major muscles in our legs and arms. This can leave us feeling light headed, dizzy and/or nauseous.
  • Rapid heart beat and breathing: Our heart beats rapidly to get the blood moving to our extremities. Our breathing becomes shallow and speeds up to prepare to run. Sometimes we hyperventilate and canít seem to catch our breath.
  • Muscles tense up and tighten.
  • Senses become heightened: which may feel surreal. We see much better, hear sounds clearly, and become attuned to our surroundings.
  • We sweat more which cools the body but also makes our skin slippery and more difficult for someone to grab a hold of us.
  • We feel numb and tingling sensations as the hair on our bodies stand up. Again, our blood is moving away from the areas that are not needed like our fingers and towards our major muscle groups.

You may now be catching on to how these physical responses to stress can also happen when we are not actually facing danger. Perceiving danger that doesnít really exist brings on what we call anxiety or stress response.  When this response is left unattended over a period of time (called cumulative stress) and becomes overactive (like an overly sensitive smoke alarm system in our bodies), we risk creating what is called an anxiety disorder. All of the symptoms described above are symptoms of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders include panic attacks, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are common in todayís world where one in ten suffer. It is exhausting, uncomfortable and may significantly interfere with our lives and relationships.  If this is you, it may be time for change.

If you believe your stress response has become a problem, itís time to seek out counselling to address it. The sooner you understand how your mind perceives danger and how that perception impacts your stress response, you can gain control and begin to manage your stresses.  Assessment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy and mind-body awareness strategies are all proven effective in the treatment of anxiety.

Call Dr. Eva Helpard today for a counselling appointment: 250-808-2054

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