Anxiety: Signs and Symptoms of a Woman’s Journey

stressed woman

It’s a feeling you know all too well.  Your heart begins to race, your stomach turns to knots, palms begin to sweat and your throat begins to close.  Some people say it feels like a massive adrenaline rush – others report it’s like a heart attack.  Some anxiety in life is normal.  It can bring out the best in us.  But what level of anxiety is too much?

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is characterized by excessive worry, or worry that is out of proportion to the situation or circumstance.  Individuals who struggle with anxiety typically cannot predict anxiety attacks.  They often strike without warning and can last for varying degrees of time.  Anxiety disorders affect approximately 19 million Americans and affect women more so than men.

What Causes Anxiety?

Some of the causes of anxiety may include trauma, long lasting levels of stress, and even heredity.  Anxiety is often fueled by fear.  Fear can either drive you to do things you thought you’d never do or keep you from doing things that you would normally do, thus perpetuating the cycle of anxiety.

Each person’s threshold of anxiety varies, but one thing is always true.  While anxiety isn’t all bad and can have some benefits, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.  Overwhelming levels of anxiety can stop performance in its tracks and can begin to hinder and hurt the situation.

anxiety - performance graph

For example, a woman who is concerned with doing well at her job has tolerable levels of anxiety and completes her job successfully.  When she is given more to do, she becomes fearful that she won’t be able to accomplish it all.  She begins working excessively and distancing from her family.  Recognizing her increasing distance from her family, she begins to have anxiety about not being good enough for them because she’s working so much.  The cycle perpetuates until it is stopped.

This example could be duplicated in any area of life: job, spouse, parenting, and interpersonal relationships – any place where you may feel your performance is measured.   When you look where anxiety is most prevalent, it is often where you think you have failed or have the greatest potential to fail.  Anxiety increases and performance falls.  Talking with a counselor can help you uncover what is driving both anxiety and fear.

Symptoms:

While we all may experience these to some degree (like butterflies in the stomach), an individual who is experiencing intense levels of anxiety will feel like these symptoms are taking over their life.

  1. Physiological symptoms: Heart racing, sweaty palms, tight jaw, neck or shoulder muscles, difficulty breathing
  2. Environmental disruptions:  difficulty sleeping, nightmares, increased shyness in crowds, withdrawal from social activities or marked increase in social activities
  3. Mental symptoms: Typically, a woman dealing with anxiety doesn’t look any different on the outside than one that isn’t.  She struggles intensely in her mind about the ‘what ifs’ of circumstances.  There is a great amount of fear of not measuring up, not being worth it, and not being enough.

Help on the Go:

The following is a list of things to help ease anxiety levels.  These can be done anywhere.  They may even be helpful in preventing your anxiety from skyrocketing!

  1. Deep Breathing: Make sure you are taking deep “belly” breaths.  In through your nose, out through your mouth.  Focus on moving your belly, not your shoulders.
  2. Stress Ball: Find a portable squishy ball. Squeeze as necessary.
  3. Patterned Thinking:  Focus your thoughts on something that can be thought of in a pattern.  For example: “1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4” or “red, blue, orange, green, red, blue, orange, green”
  4. Muscle Relaxation:  Beginning with your feet, tighten a muscle group and hold for ten seconds and relax.  Continue this, moving up your body adding muscle groups, until you are tensing your whole body.  Make sure you are taking good deep breaths during this exercise.

Now what?

If you are facing overwhelming levels of anxiety, please know there is help available.  This is not a journey that needs to be taken alone.  Click Here to schedule an appointment to talk with someone about helping you walk through anxiety.

About Rebecca:

Rebecca Barratt is a licensed professional counselor at The Relationship Center in the Springfield, MO area.  She ministers to individuals, couples, and families as a therapist at The Relationship Center.  She enjoys “Seeing in people what they do not see in themselves and helping them reach their potential”.  Her focus is helping those who struggle with anxiety and depression, grief, and trauma recovery.  Rebecca is dually trained in theology and professional counseling.  She obtained an undergraduate ministry degree with a focus on adolescents and a Master’s degree in professional counseling.  In addition to her clinical practice she is an ordained minister and serves on the Ministerial Education and Guidance Board (MEG) for the Midwest District of the Free Methodist denomination.  Teaching within the church since 1999, Rebecca has been in a pastoral role since 2004.  She integrates her love and knowledge of God and His Word with experience interacting with various age groups.

Rebecca and her husband make their home in Southwest Missouri with their three children.

What is Counseling Like?

What does it mean to trust the process?

People often ask me as they are sitting on the couch if “this is normal.”  This being the angst within them as they work through the tough situations they have faced thus far in life.  As we go deeper into their history and uncover things they’ve worked so hard to cover up, they want to know, “is it worth it?”  Much to their chagrin, I smile kindly and encourage them with a ‘yes, we need to trust the process.’  It is something I’ve watched as being a therapist and something I truly believe in.  However, I have also found that it’s always easier to cheer the running back on who is getting slammed, then to go down and get slammed yourself.

My husband and I have watched our sweet baby boy struggle in body for the last seven months.  We have endured many sleepless nights, discontent temperament, and a rash on his skin that left him miserable.  After many trials with traditional medicine, we had pretty much come to the conclusion that this was his lot for the next five years – that’s what we had been told.  Unsatisfied with this answer, we went to one more specialist who told us it’s not severe eczema that he’s struggled with, it is food allergies.  I then had to stop nursing for three weeks and change little man’s diet.

As I sat on the floor with him the other day asking God why does my son have to struggle, He gently whispered, trust the process.  Trust the knowledge that you have prayed and searched for.  Trust the path that is before you.

What is the purpose of counseling?  To find healing for your heart.  To give time, space, and validation to all that is within you.  Your story matters.  Your heart matters.  To unfold and to allow the salve of the Holy Spirit to heal the wounds.  To learn to trust.  Sometimes we need just a bit more help.  There is no way I would drill my own tooth for a filling or perform surgery on myself.  I go to someone who knows.

A few things I’ve learned:

  1. My specialist knows more than I.  I pride myself in knowing my kiddos inside and out.  Their schedule, their likes and dislikes, their temperament, but this, this I know nothing about.  It’s innate to question, it’s our desire to know.  Sometimes, we need to trust those who know more
  2. The process is hard.  This is one of the most difficult things I’ve walked through.  Everything seems new and foreign, that’s because it is.  But it’s not impossible.
  3. Quitting seems easier.  Sometimes clients will end their therapy prematurely – usually when it gets hard.  No progress is ever made by stopping when it gets tough.  An athlete would never finish the race.  A writer would never finish a book.  There were numerous times I just wanted to hold my son close and nurse him, but that would have hindered his forward progress.  Quitting only satisfies the short term.
  4. Some days are better than others.  As we ‘detoxed’ my son from foods he was allergic to, we had some great days and we had some not so great days.  So it is with therapy.  Some weeks are more challenging than others.  That is part of the process.

It’s not all bad:

  1. Times of joy are more frequent.  As you work through the counseling process, finding healing in your heart, the moments of joy you experience are greater and more often.
  2. Our bond is greater.  As my son learns to trust me in a new way, our bond is strengthened.  When we go through the counseling process, we learn to not only trust others, but to trust ourselves and God.  Our bond with the Lord is strengthened and we rely on Him for the next steps.
  3. He is resilient.  I’ve got one tough little guy, that is for sure.  But that same resilience that he as, we all have.  We are born with it.  Somewhere, along the way, we’ve misplaced it.  Walking through the counseling process can remind you of the resilience within you.  We then take that resilience and apply it to other areas of our lives.
  4. God is faithful.  There have been so many little details that have worked out not because of who I am, but because of who God is.  And I have seen this play out in my clients’ lives.  As they trust the process, God reveals Himself in a new way to them.
  5. The best is yet to come.  I sat on day one wondering when this was going to be over.  Over the next several days I began to see improvement on my little guy.  It wasn’t a massive change at once, but little things I noticed.  I had hope to make it through the next day.  Hope that things will get better if I keep at this.  Hope that where we are at now is not the best he’s going to feel.  Knowing he has much better days ahead of him.  And that makes me smile.  I have hope for my clients.  As they walk this journey, that they have the days that they hope for.  Joyful days, fulfilled days, peaceful days.  I have hope that their best days are ahead of them.  And that makes me smile.

 

About Rebecca:

Rebecca Barratt is a licensed professional counselor in the Springfield, MO area.  She ministers to individuals, couples, and families as a therapist at The Relationship Center.  She enjoys “Seeing in people what they do not see in themselves and helping them reach their potential”.  Her focus is helping those who struggle with anxiety and depression, grief, and trauma recovery.  Rebecca is dually trained in theology and professional counseling.  She obtained an undergraduate ministry degree with a focus on adolescents and a Master’s degree in professional counseling.  In addition to her clinical practice she is an ordained minister and serves on the Ministerial Education and Guidance Board (MEG) for the Midwest District of the Free Methodist denomination.  Teaching within the church since 1999, Rebecca has been in a pastoral role since 2004.  She integrates her love and knowledge of God and His Word with experience interacting with various age groups.

Rebecca and her husband make their home in Southwest Missouri with their three children.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Living Grief: A Life That Contains Chronic Diseases and Illness

Grief

Living Grief

Living Grief: A Life That Contains Chronic Diseases and Illness

More than a cold or the flu, living a life that contains chronic illness is one that proves to be very difficult.  There is a silent pain that you go through.  Your illness may be visible to those around  or invisible to the rest of society, but the pain is real and prevalent.  There is a loss of sense of self, purpose, goals, dreams, and hope.

Why Grieve?

Most often grief is associated with the death of someone, not something.  When you think of grief, usually a funeral is involved.  Grief, however, has many faces.  A living grief is one in which the item or situation being grieved is still alive or very much present.

In Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ book, On Death and Dying, she identifies the five stages of grief:

  1. Denial – a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, or the reality of the situation. “I feel fine.”; “This can’t be happening, not to me.”
  2. Anger– anger can manifest itself in different ways. People can be angry with themselves, or with others, and especially those who are close to them. “Why me? It’s not fair!”; “How can this happen to me?”; ‘”Who is to blame?”
  3. Bargaining – negotiation to postpone or find some sort of compromise that will change or delay the outcome. “I’ll do anything for a few more years.”; “I will give my life savings if…” “Can we still be friends?”
  4. Depression – sets in as you move towards acceptance. It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty when going through this stage. “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?”; “I’m going to die soon so what’s the point?”; “I miss my loved one, why go on?”
  5. Acceptance – this stage is marked by a coming to peace with the loss. “It’s going to be okay.”

These are the stages that you can expect to move through.  They do not necessarily go in order, but you will move in and out of these stages. Grief is not an item to be contained, but a process to be experienced.

LOSS OF CONTROL:

Many facing chronic illness say that they no longer feel in control of their life.  You can no longer do the activities that you once enjoyed doing; you no longer can eat the food you once enjoyed.  Now you have to take more acute care of yourself and micromanage your schedule even more.  There is no longer a sense of individuality and wholeness, but more of trying to rediscover who you are.

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS:

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2005, 133 million Americans had at least one chronic illness.  One quarter of those with chronic illness deal with daily activity limitations. Making adjustments to your daily life is often one of the most difficult things to do.  You are often comfortable with your pre-illness lifestyle or schedule, and that may not be attainable at this point. Whether you have just found out about your chronic illness or have been dealing with it for years, there are adjustments that may need to be made.  There may need to be more or less physical activity, dietary changes, social involvement, or making time to rest.

HELPFUL TIPS:

Some actions that are helpful during this time include;

  1. Staying connected – not only to a therapist, but to friends and family.  The journey you’re on is difficult, especially when trying to do it alone.
  2. Journaling – Writing has an incredible impact on our thinking process.  It forces us to verbalize the inner turmoil and tension that we’re not able to sort out in our head.
  3. Give yourself permission to grieve – So often we forget or don’t realize that this is an event that needs to be grieved.  Give yourself permission to do so, in your time.
  4. Ask for help – Because a chronic illness may not be visible to someone on the outside, there is often shame in asking for help.  Not only is it important to your physical wellbeing, but your emotional wellbeing as well.
  5. Attend support groups – check your local area for support groups that pertain to grief or chronic illness.

What Now?

Perhaps you just found out about a chronic condition that you now need to learn to care for, or maybe you’ve been fighting the reality of your illness for as long as you can remember.  Please know there is help available.  This is not a journey that needs to be taken alone.  Follow this link to schedule an appointment to talk with someone about working through the grief process.

 

About Rebecca:

Rebecca Barratt is a licensed professional counselor in the Springfield, MO area.  She ministers to individuals, couples, and families as a therapist at The Relationship Center.  She enjoys “Seeing in people what they do not see in themselves and helping them reach their potential”.  Her focus is helping those who struggle with anxiety and depression, grief, and trauma recovery.  Rebecca is dually trained in theology and professional counseling.  She obtained an undergraduate ministry degree with a focus on adolescents and a Master’s degree in professional counseling.  In addition to her clinical practice she is an ordained minister and serves on the Ministerial Education and Guidance Board (MEG) for the Midwest District of the Free Methodist denomination.  Teaching within the church since 1999, Rebecca has been in a pastoral role since 2004.  She integrates her love and knowledge of God and His Word with experience interacting with various age groups.

Rebecca and her husband, Robert, make their home in Springfield, MO with their three children.

Resources:

www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm

Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On Death and Dying. New York: Simon & Schuster.