Anxiety is a growing problem...

Anxiety is close to the number one issue that comes through my counselling door. From speaking to local GPs it is also a major concern from their patients. So what is going on for people that they are consumed by such chronic, excessive worry? Anxiety can cause inaction, which is, in its most basic sense, a loss of freedom. What is possible may never come to be and a person may lose sight of living in the present by tending to an imagined future. A person becomes frozen and unable to meet needs and realise goals and aspirations.  They live in the future, consumed by unhealthy thinking and become very 'heady'

You become less able to prioritise matters. Everything that needs to get done becomes the same size to you. Cleaning out the linen closet and paying your bills become equally weighty even though there are far greater penalties for not paying your bills. You begin to lack the perspective about what you must do as opposed to what you might like to do. As a result, too many matters begin to slide, which only makes it even more difficult to prioritise.

You begin to procrastinate. Perhaps you were always a person who got everything done, early even. Procrastination is especially tricky because it can look like productive activity. You may make fabulously detailed lists; they are works of art themselves. You may convince yourself that you can only start here but can’t yet because you have this other task to finish over there. Procrastination is sewing without tying a knot on the end of the thread. All the motions of sewing are made but none of the practical effects are produced.

You are governed by “if onlys” and “what ifs.” This means you spend too much time imagining and then giving weight to what isn’t really the case. You might tell yourself, “I would join the gym if only the boss didn’t require so many hours from me. And what if he thinks I am not committed enough to my job?” This may send you down a path of not only not joining the gym but working even harder to convince your boss of a belief or set of beliefs he doesn’t even hold. You hold yourself back from engaging in the world and taking risks because you are too busy trying to work out 'but what if this happens?'

You consistently second guess yourself. Second guessing yourself is, at rock bottom, not trusting yourself. You might be afraid to make any decisions because you don’t trust your decision making ability. If you do reach a decision, you may feel as if it will be the wrong one because you are the one who made it. This may prompt you to disregard the knowledge you possess or to go against your intuition and gut instinct. Lacking trust in yourself leads to a kind of confirmation bias: everything that doesn’t go well or turns out badly will count as proof that your decision making ability is flawed. To avoid making a bad decision, you make no decision.

You are a perfectionist. You may not hand in a work assignment or finish a project because everything is not absolutely perfect. Anything less than perfection is abject failure. Even a minor mistake has dire consequences, all of which would confirm that you are a type of person you’d rather not be.

You anticipate every possible bad consequence will come to pass. If “bad” means less than perfect, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy,it becomes your story. 'If I am not perfect then I am bad'. Moreover, you tend to be unable to imagine what good consequences might come to pass.

You seek to control everything in the hopes of managing your worry and dread. This may properly belong under the “if only” heading but it can stand on its own too. There’s a saying, “It’s much easier to put on slippers than carpet the world.” Wearing slippers and carpeting the world are two different ways to make walking easier. Putting on the slippers is an action that allows further action of walking. Trying to do the impossible—controlling everything/carpeting the world—hinders doing the possible. You attempt to control your environment and everyone in it; which can have a negative impact on your relationships.

While it might be tempting to run from your anxiety or try to eliminate it entirely from our life, that would mean rejecting part of our human nature. Anxiety can provide an (unwanted) opportunity to assess not just particular choices we are making but more holistically, the way we are living our lives. Most fundamentally, anxiety turns our attention to our greatest task in life, which is to become who we truly are. We become someone when we act. That is to say, we form our identities by having and acting on our principles, commitments, hopes, and dreams. Inaction is unfreedom; it keeps us from being compassionate with ourselves, our friends and family. The most common form of despair is not being who you are