What is Anxiety?
I used to wake up in the middle of the night, with a racing mind, unable to get back to sleep. My mind would play out conversations, compose emails, review past interactions, and generally feel out of my conscious control.
Sometimes, for no clear reason, I felt like my heart was beating too fast and too hard and I struggled to catch my breath. What I feared was a heart attack turned out to be an anxiety/panic attack. Of course, fearing that I was having a heart attack only made the anxiety attack more intense.
People would tell me to just relax and focus on my breath, but focusing on my breath made it feel more impossible to breathe, which made me think I was going to die, which made my heart pound even faster with fear. I felt stuck in a vicious cycle.
Anxiety is a natural and necessary survival strategy - when we are at risk from some danger in our environment, our nervous system triggers useful physical responses like elevated heart rate and increased sensitivity to our surroundings, so that we are ready to fight or flee the danger. But some of us find that our nervous systems become triggered by everyday situations, when danger isn't present, turning a naturally helpful process into a burden to our well-being.
After living for many years with generalized anxiety, I finally worked with a mental health services provider to learn techniques to help me deal with moments anxiety and establish a general sense of calm within myself. And I am grateful for the opportunity to support others on their journey to free themselves from the burden of chronic anxiety.