Q For about a year I have been waking up early in the morning with a fair amount of anxiety and fear. Although most things in my life are going fine, I have a tendency to be fearful and worried. My family and friends tell me that I create catastrophes in my mind and feel much worse than I need to. I think this may be true. However, I can’t seem to shake it off. Do you have any ideas on how to deal with this?
A Anxiety has a wide range of causes including significant life transitions and challenges, loneliness, trauma, hormonal imbalance, and a generally fearful personality Each person needs to reflect and get feedback from trustworthy and insightful people to understand the issues related to his or her anxiety.
First consider when these feelings began for you. Are they very unusual, given your personality and life circumstances? Were you a fearful and anxious child? How did you interact with other children or adults? Did you fear new situations and teachers? Were you often tense and afraid? Ask your parents or other elders to help you remember and understand your childhood personality or emotional tendencies. This is a useful inquiry for everyone, regardless of their issues as adults, as it engenders self-knowledge and understanding of the origins of our nature.
Also reflect on how your parents or key persons in your life reacted to life situations. Were they trusting and positive or were they likely to be tentative and afraid? Were you around a fair amount of anxiety in your family while growing up? You may have learnt to respond to life changes in an anxious way, given such modeling.
Change and loss can also cause insecurity, as people get comfortable with familiar surroundings and their needs being met in a particular way. Has your life undergone changes that made you more vulnerable and less confident that things will be all right? Take some time and find a quiet place where you can jot down some things to help you become more aware of these junctures in your life.
Another cause may be repressed anger. Anger is a natural response to being hurt, violated, criticized and not receiving or achieving what we wish or deserve. It needs to be acknowledged and worked through. When we do this we also feel the strength of our character and feel that we have some power in the world. When we ignore or repress our anger that emotion can be diverted to resentment, fear, and anxiety. If you are angry about things but keeping it to yourself, start finding a way to express that in a constructive way.
Lastly, regular exercise with fresh air helps your body and mind be more resilient. Are you doing that? This includes walking, running, sports, or yoga. A medical checkup looking at any issues regarding sleep disorders, blood sugar imbalances or hormonal changes are worth exploring. These are all related to anxiety.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com