How to manage fear and anxiety

A few weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast called Invisibilia, which talks about the invisible forces that control human behavior. In one episode, the hosts discussed a woman who doesn’t feel fear as a result of a rare genetic disorder that destroyed a part of her brain called the amygdala. Due to this disorder and her lack of fear, the woman is curious to touch and interact with poisonous snakes, she happily crosses the street to meet a strange man who calls out to her late at night, and she isn’t fazed by a scary haunted house.

Unlike this woman, many of us wrestle with fear on a daily basis, and it can affect our relationships with friends and family. The National Alliance on Mental Illness has identified anxiety disorders as the most common mental illness in America, as they affect around 20 percent of the population at any given time.   Yet, even though anxiety is the most common mental illness in America, there is a lot of stigma surrounding it. As a Washington DC couples counseling therapist, I believe one of the ways to manage anxiety is to get to the root of it: fear. What does fear feel like in your body? How often do you feel it during the day? What’s your relationship with fear: do you push it away (e.g., numbing with alcohol, food, social media, shopping, etc.) or cave to its demands (e.g., disinfecting the entire house on a daily basis)?

In order to manage anxiety, we have to change our relationship with fear. The first step is identifying all the different places in our life that fear pops up and acknowledging fear’s presence through Washington DC couples counseling. So, do you usually feel fear when your partner comes home from work in a bad mood? Are you uneasy when you’re alone in a crowded place? Do you worry constantly about your family’s health, even though everyone seems healthy and happy? Once you are able to identify fear in your life through Rockville MD family counseling, try to sit for a few moments (just five seconds to start) with your fear and anxiety. You might realize that just the process of identifying fear and sitting with it (instead of pushing it away or caving to it’s demands) changes your relationship with fear.

The hard part is that fear is scary. So, sitting with fear makes our stomachs drop, our hearts race, and our mind jump to the worst possible scenarios. Luckily, we know that fear, like all emotions, doesn’t last forever. Our bodies cannot maintain a heightened, physiological state for a prolonged period of time. So, eventually, you can guarantee that your fear will subside, just as sadness and happiness ebbs and flows. When you’re sitting with fear, remind yourself that it is not permanent and in a few moments you will feel something else!

If you practice these strategies and still find yourself plagued by constant worry, doubt, and anxiety, you might want to speak to a Rockville MD family counseling therapist to understand your concerns better and learn skills to handle your worry so it doesn’t interfere significantly with you life and affect your family.

Sources: http://www.wired.com/2010/12/fear-brain-amygdala/

http://www2.nami.org/factsheets/anxietydisorders_factsheet.pdf

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