How to Deal with Anxiety Problems
Everyone has anxiety; it is a survival instinct that has evolved over millions of years and helps to
protect us from being hurt. We all get anxious at times.
Anxiety prepares us to deal with anything that may harm us by fighting or running away. To fight or flee, the fight-or-flight
response... it is this that makes us feel scared to keep us safe.
In the past, dangerous things that could harm us (and scared us) included the likes of: wild animals, poisonous snakes and
insects, strangers, heights and confined spaces. Being confronted by any of these could have been life threatening.
In the modern world we no longer face the direct threats of our ancestors. They still exist of course: wild animals, dangerous
strangers etc., and could potentially kill us in certain circumstances, but they don't impact our lives as they did.
Today, the things that make us feel scared are more subtle and vague. Their effects build up slowly over time, and
include such things as:-
• Conflict with partners in relationships
• Conflict with family members
• Trouble with work colleagues or the job itself
• Money, bills and fear of debt
• Health, diet and the fear of illness
• The violence in the world as reported daily on the news
All of these can make us feel bad, unhappy and miserable for a long time. They make us uncomfortable, generally discontented and in a very
real way, insecure.
When problems in our life persist or get worse we start to feel bad and insecure more often.
Eventually anxiety (our self protection system) kicks in, mild at first, usually in form of nervousness and apprehension or
some anxiety-related symptom may appear.
We may notice that we are more shaky, sweating more, experiencing heart palpitations, tightness across the chest or blushing
– any symptom related to anxiety may develop. And worrying about these symptoms only makes them worse for it increases
This increased anxiousness reflects our mind and body warning us that something is not right in our life,
something is making us insecure and we need to stop it or get away from it.
If the situation remains unresolved we can become more and more anxious, (with various anxiety symptoms getting worse),
seemingly for no apparent reason.
Today, many people start to become too anxious for the reasons detailed above:
unresolved life situations that cause continuous unhappiness and insecurity.
And the answer to short-term anxiety problems (that seems to have come on for no reason) involves three things:-
1. Establish a reason for the anxiety
Identify any situation in life that is regularly causing unnecessary stress and feelings of insecurity. Accept that such
situations would cause anxiety in anyone and that your anxiety is justified and there for a reason.
This acceptance and giving a reason for the anxiety reduces much of its power. Seeing it as justified and with a reason
rather than being a medical condition or due to "something wrong with us" is the first element of control ... now
we can do something about it.
Stressful, negative life situations should be removed / avoided wherever possible. And when it's not possible to do this we
need to adapt how we react to them to reduce the stress they cause us.
Relaxation is the physiological opposite of tension; it's impossibe for a relaxed muscle to be tense or a calm mind to be
anxious. Find a relaxation technique that is comfortable and effective and practice it regularly. (The 'Progressive Muscle Relaxation' technique developed by
Jacobsen in the 1930's remains one of the most successful methods available).
Endorphines (natural morphine-like chemicals) released by the body during exercise to combat the stress of the excercise help
to alleviate all stress. Physical exercise also provides a release for pent-up nervous energy and numerous studies show exercise
to be better than anti-depressants at alleviating (not curing) depression.
Develop an exercise regime appropriate to age, fitness levels and health (consult medical and fitness professional before
starting any exercise regime) and, again, do it regularly.
Identifying and dealing with any stressful life situation combined with counteracting the mental and physical effects of
anxiety through relaxation and exercise can help to remedy any short-term problems relating to 'unexplained'
Long-Term Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders and Depression
How Anxiety Can Lead to More Serious Problems
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), many phobias (particulary Social
Phobia) and Panic Disorder are classed as anxiety disorders for they involve anxiety. Actually they are caused by
anxiety. So is chronic depression.
There is no doubt that persistent anxiety, if unresolved, can lead to serious problems. Indeed, numerous research
studies show that the first thing many people with long-term anxiety disorders remember about the
start of their problem is "being too anxious" for a long time.
Over time, unresolved anxiety can lead to a whole host of problems as we start to internalize the problem
and it begins to change from external causes to something within our self.
Our own thoughts begin to create anxiety.
Many people will live like this, in a state of heightened anxiety for much of the time. Generally too anxious, feeling
apprehensive and 'on-edge' frequently or getting "over-scared" in many situations.
For others, increased anxiety leads to excessive and uncontrollable worrying.
Some people start to get severe anxiety attacks or panic attacks that come 'out of the blue'.
While others develop irrational fears and phobias (particularly social phobia) or obsessive thoughts and compulsive
A few will become severely depressed.
These problems don't just happen to us. They start off slowly and grow stronger over time. Far from being a mystery, we can
see how they develop every step of the way.
Help for Short-Term Anxiety Problems
If you're exeriencing short-term increased anxiety the answer lies in the three steps detailed earlier.
1. Identify and accept any stressful on-going life situations as the reason for your anxiety ...
remove/avoid/minimise these situations wherever possible
2. Set aside regular time in your life to relax deeply
3. Exercise regularly
Taking real action in these three areas can resolve many short-term anxiety problems.
(See also – Calm Anxiety: Taking Back Control – A new answer for anxiety
Help for Long-Term Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders and Depression
If you have had feelings of insecurity or anxiety for a long time and are now beginning to
• Intrusive worrying thoughts that are getting harder to stop
• Obsessive thoughts that are becoming uncontrollable
• The need to do certain behaviours regularly or starting rituals
• Irrational fears and phobias (particularly over being seriously ill or doing things in front of
• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness that nothing you do can make a difference
You have suffered for years with full blown:-
It's a bit more complicated. For with these problems the cause no longer lies with the life situation that started the
anxiety. Now we have internalized the problem and start to create our own anxiety.
Help for Anxiety Disorders and Depression – A New
Excessive and persistent anxiety, uncontrollable worrying, panic attacks that come out of the blue, obsessive
thoughts and compulsive behaviours, irrational fears and phobias (particularly social phobia), severe depression...
Not disease, disorder or mental illness, these problems involve natural survival instincts common to us all – normal self-protective
thoughts, feelings and behaviours that become over-sensitive, intensified and grossly exaggerated due to negative life experiences...
life experiences that condition us to be afraid. ››
The Collins English Dictionary describes anxiety as "a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of possible
misfortune, danger etc."
And to be anxious is to be "worried and tense".
Latin anxietas gave anxiety in English; the base is Latin anxius, from angere 'to choke'
Self Help Pubs. (US)