How do you define Anxiety ?

August 20th, 2021
In: Anxiety

After asking a client if they struggle with Anxiety, I received an honest and interesting response: "I'm not sure, how do you define Anxiety?" 

Before discussing this topic further it's important to mention that feeling anxious from time to time is common, and often treatable. Many people that have struggled with Anxiety over long periods of time begin to normalize or try and suppress the symptoms, often to the point that they don't imagine what it would be like to not have anxiety in the future. A crucial component of therapy is to build awareness around what Anxiety is, how it impacts you, and how to make steady progress towards managing and potentially overcoming the symptoms. After some thought this is how I would define Anxiety, and these are the first three steps that might help, as I know they've helped me when I was a teenager: 




- increased heart rate

- shakiness 

- disrupted sleep

- sweating

- tense, stiff or sore muscles (e.g tight jaw) 



- often or constantly feeling overwhelmed 

- sense of dread or like something bad may happen 

- avoidance 

- feeling like your emotions are close to the surface 

- or, feeling numb and suppressing emotions 



- negative thoughts about yourself

- negative thoughts about performance (e.g. work meeting coming up) 

- magnification of the significance of events in the future or past (e.g. social interactions, or a presentation) 

- often worrying about things outside of your control 

- intrusive thoughts 


I believe counselling should be practical, skills based, and the majority of the work should take place outside of session. Here are some tips that may help with Anxiety:



Belly breathing is often an effective way to quiet the nervous system, slow your thinking, and help you feel calm. Try breathing in through your nose, deeply into your diaphragm, pausing briefly then exhaling back out through your nose again. I like a 4-2-4-2 rhythm for breathing (in for 4, hold for 2, out for 4, hold for 2, repeat x5 and daily). 


Bread and Butter of Mental Health:

- self-care: taking time to engage in activities that improve your well-being (e.g. exercise, cup of tea, nap, walk, gardening etc.) 

- self-talk: being kind and compassionate to yourself, using your inner dialogue (e.g. "you are doing your best, keep trying") 

- diet: simply try and eat a healthy, balanced diet

- sleep: put significant effort into your sleep routine and sleep hygiene (e.g. turn of your phone! Read a book, make your bed) 

- exercise: try and exercise outside for 30 minutes each day 


Talk to someone:

If you can reach out to someone you trust and use an I statement to tell them whats going (e.g. "I have been really anxious over the past week and need some help, can we meet up and talk?") 

If you are struggling reach out to a counsellor and start the process! 


Cameron Gibson (M.A., R.C.C) 

Gibson Mental Health

Cameron Gibson
Gibson Mental Health
1537 W 8th, unit # 203, Vancouver, V6J 1T5

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