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  • The Anxiety of Anna

    This is a story about Anna and how anxiety disrupts her life. (All names are fictional however situations similar to this occur for many people on a regular basis.)

    Anna is a 30 year old stay at home mother. She is a member of the Mom’s Morning Out Social Club. Anna feels very comfortable around these ladies because she has known them since elementary school. She is not too keen on meeting new people. She thrives in an environment where she is familiar with everyone. Beverly is the Vice President of the club and Anna needs her vote to open a new position in the club.

    Beverly: “Hi Anna. I wanted to introduce you to a potential member, Sara. She is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). I am so excited because we have not had a new member in nine years!”
    Sara: “Nice to meet you Anna.”
    Anna: “Welcome.”
    [Beverly and Sara speaking amongst each other while Anna tries to hide her panic attack.]

    All of the sudden, Anna begins to feel dizzy. Anna noticed how fast her heart was beating. It felt as if it were about to explode out of her chest. With every ticking second feeling like an eternity, she feels it getting stronger and pumping more furiously.

    Anna(thinking silently): “ Oh, no. What’s happening? Am I going to die this time? Sara must be here to take my role as Treasurer. Beverly is not going to re-nominate me now. Oh no! She doesn’t think I am capable of the job. I do not have as much experience as Sara. I’m not a CPA. Gosh, I look so stupid right now. No Anna. You ARE stupid. Just stupid, stupid, stupid!”

    Anna sat down abruptly. She was feeling embarrassed and confused.
    Anna(thinking to herself): “I’ve got to get out of here. Now!”
    [Beverly and Sara talking amongst themselves for 2 minutes, unaware of how Anna is feeling inside]
    Beverly (turning in Anna’s direction): “Isn’t that right, Anna?”
    Anna(noticing a slight decrease in her heart rate): “ I’ve got to leave. I forgot, my husband is getting off early and we have plans. Sorry. I’ve got to go.”
    [Beverly and Sara looking at each other puzzled as Anna rushes away.]

    For many people with anxiety, this is a scene that plays in their life repeatedly. Having a panic attack can feel life threatening, embarrassing and exhausting. Emotionally you are all over the place. Physically you aren’t able to control your body. You may feel embarrassed that you were not able to control your body and the anxiety seems as if it has planted itself to stay. The following are a few effective strategies to combating anxiety.

    1) Journaling

    This is a way to express what you are feeling. While you are journaling try to answer the when, where, how, what, and who as you write about past experiences. Discuss when the anxiety occurred. Is it during a specific time of day or day of the week? Where were you? Home, in public or another setting? Anna was in a public setting, meeting with familiar people. Who was there? Familiar people were there that Anna has known for a long time with the exception of Sara. What do you think triggered the anxiety? In Anna’s case, it was meeting Sara. Anna has problems meeting new people. The social club’s location and members are all familiar to Anna. An unexpected visitor to the club disrupted the balance in her position within the club. Also, Anna’s perceived threat of a new potential member threatened Anna’s potential role as Treasurer. Most importantly how you dealt with the panic attack. Did you utilize coping skills such as deep breathing, imagery or something else? First, Anna sat down. Sitting is considerably more relaxing than standing. Perhaps if she tried meditation (an evidence based strategy taught in therapy sessions) she could have taken control of the situation and began to feel more relaxed and less tense. Imagining that you are on a beach utilizing your five senses such as, enjoying the sound of the waves, the sand between your feet, seeing the waves, smelling the fish and the sunshine radiating your entire sense of self can also be most helpful in situations like this.

    It’s important for you to look to see if there are patterns. You may not be able to see the patterns in your thoughts, but a therapist will be able to help you identify patterns as negative, positive or indifferent. As time progresses you will be able to look at past, present and future experiences from a different prospective.

    2) Defeating Negative Self talk

    Beverly and Sara did not notice any problems with Anna until she left unexpectedly in a hurry. Anna had racing thoughts of them judging her while the panic attack was happening. Anna began to think of herself as incompetent when she compared herself to Sara. Instead of thinking negatively about her qualifications to be a Treasurer, Anna could have focused on her best attributes that make her qualified for the role. What other positive thoughts do you think she could have said to herself? The key to erasing negative thoughts is to stop them in their tracks and/or replace them with positive ones. Your therapist can assist you with how to replace those thoughts so that you will begin to see the anxiety diminish overtime.

    3) Seek help

    According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects 40 million Americans yet only thirty-six percent of the population seeks professional treatment. Medication management may be needed to help you with anxiety. A physician will be able to determine, if medication is necessary. Your therapist has other coping strategies to share with you to reduce the intensity and frequency.

    You need someone who can help you process your feelings and help you to understand what triggers you. A plan to help you with coping with anxiety will be developed that matches your needs. Speaking with someone can be beneficial to avoid awkward situations. Going into an office for help can be a chore, time consuming or even a risk especially with COVID. You can meet with a therapist online wherever and whenever you want. Click on Contact now to see how a conversation can change your life.