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Anxiety - the 'Vice-like grip'

Updated: May 20, 2021

“My throat felt constricted – I’d had this invisible vice like grip wrapped around my neck for nths. It was obviously a reaction to the mental anguish I’d become so accustomed to over the years. I was always on edge, and I thought that it was just me”. – this was a quote from a client of mine recently.

Anxiety is the body’s reaction to a challenge - an emotional response to a perceived threat. The right kind of stress can sharpen the mind and reflexes, helping the body perform better, or help you escape a dangerous situation. As anxiety produces a physiological reaction in your body, hormones are released, which results in physical manifestations of stress. These can include slowed digestion, shaking, tunnel vision, accelerated breathing and heart rate, dilation of pupils and flushed skin. This process is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response - Our bodies are poised to either run away from the stressor or stick around and fight against it. Physical sensations include:-

Shortness of breath; Chest/Throat Tightness; Insomnia; Dizziness; Heart Palpitations

Fight-or-flight is a biological response to potential danger. It is an inherent part of being human. Sometimes, just understanding that it’s a normal way to respond to fear, makes a world of difference. The difference is when this is not just a one-off experience to a fear or fright, but a continued response that affects your daily life.

Try to experiment with various coping strategies aimed at releasing physical tension. Try various methods and see what works for you. Try meditation – give it a go and see if you feel less anxious afterwards. Focus on your breathing – there are many breathing techniques that can really help to calm and relax. Go to a local yoga class and see how it makes you feel. Practice grounding techniques, which involve centring yourself via distraction. Get creative and start painting or dancing, or get outdoors and go for a long walk on the beach or park and practice Mindfulness.

If you don't find any of these strategies work, or feel you can't do it alone, you may benefit from some counselling sessions. Different therapeutic techniques have been developed to treat anxiety and have evolved over time. Research consistently indicate that CBT is the most effective treatment strategy for treating a variety of conditions including anxiety. CBT focuses on the "here and now," rather than on the past, with progress made without having to unearth the past. The underlying processes that drive the different anxiety disorders often follow a similar pattern. People with anxiety tend to react to unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and situations in a more extreme way and may try to manage those reactions by avoiding triggers. Unfortunately, this type of avoidance only serves to reinforce fears and worries. Most modern types of therapy address negative thinking and avoidance to help you manage your anxiety. The goal of all therapeutic approaches is to help you understand why you feel the way you feel, what your triggers are, and how you might change your reaction to them, and once you start to recognize your anxiety and your triggers, you can learn to apply the coping skills that you learn in CBT to manage fear, panic, and worry.

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