Normalising Anxiety

Anxiety is very common, affecting 1 in 4 people in Australia alone.  We often view anxiety as a problem to get rid of, and indeed for some people when anxiety becomes excessive or chronic it is understandable they would feel that way. When talking with clients who experience anxiety, I find that understanding the function of this emotion can help to normalise it.

It is helpful to know that without anxiety we would have unlikely survived as a species. From an evolutionary perspective, anxiety can be traced back to our very early ancestors who were required to be constantly vigilant and alert to potential danger. Those with a heightened sense of anxiety were more likely to survive as they had the ability to detect threats and react swiftly to those threats.

Anxiety also played/plays an important part in social bonding and cooperation. As you can appreciate, in a dangerous environment it was vital to be able to know who you could rely on to ensure your survival. Anxiety assisted in these social interactions by recognising potential risks, and establishing and maintaining relationships that would support and protect us.

Now, in modern times, our minds continue to work in the same way to keep us safe, albeit in a different context.

Examples of what may signal danger to us today may be work deadlines, financial pressures, and social expectations; not quite as dangerous as confronting a saber tooth tiger, or being rejected from your tribe to perish, but as far as our mind is concerned danger is danger and it does not try to differentiate.

When we learn to appreciate that our mind is doing what it evolved to do, which is to keep us safe, we can normalise the anxiety and appreciate that we may not be in as much danger as we believe. We can then use our anxiety as a motivator to drive us to act when required, enabling us to problem solve and achieve goals.

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Donna Douglas

Your Calm Caring Compassionate Counsellor

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