Here’s an insider secret… everyone has anxiety. Anxiety is just an emotion, not necessarily good or bad. It is your body’s way of keeping you safe by motivating you to scan your environment, problem solve, and fuel up for a fight or flight situation. But in our modern society, we rarely need the surge of energy to fight or run. Instead, we need a level head in order to think through anxiety producing scenarios and problem solve. The very thing our body does to manage stressful situations–charge up limbic system to initiate the fight or flight response–is the very thing that makes it harder to calmly manage day to day anxieties.

As I said, everyone has anxiety, and some level of anxiety can be a good thing. It motivates us and tells us that things are important to us. But when anxiety gets out of control and starts running the show, it might be beneficial to address it head on. Here are 5 signs that anxiety is ruling your life.

1. Your decision making is based on reducing anxiety and avoidance of situations that create anxiety. Avoidance of anxiety producing situations is a calling card of many anxiety disorders. It totally makes sense: something causes stress, increases your anxiety, or frightens you, so you stay away from it. We’re hardwired to respond this way. However, avoidance works great when a predator or a warring faction of humans is pounding on your door. It isn’t a great strategy for today’s modern world–when you can substitute the predators of yesteryear with today’s boss with a deadline, that certification exam that is keeping you from your next raise, or your mother in law with the Thanksgiving turkey at your door. When you are making decisions that perhaps are not in your best interest, which keep you from the activities and pursuits you enjoy, or isolate you from the people you would like to be with, then it may be a sign that your anxiety has taken on it’s own life.

2. Your sleep is affected. People with significant anxiety may have trouble with falling or staying asleep due to worries and troubles cropping up when they close their eyes. Everyone can periodically experience difficulty with sleep. But if you are consistently having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up early, or having poor sleep quality due to worries, ruminating and other anxious rumblings of the brain, then your anxiety may be running the show.

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3. You are experiencing health issues that are caused or exacerbated by anxiety. Anxiety triggers our fight or flight response. This response is characterized by the sympathetic nervous system basically putting “all systems on go.” Our circulatory and respiratory systems go into overdrive to bring oxygen and glucose to all of our cells. Our blood pressure and pulse increase. Our “rest and digest” system shuts down–energy goes to survival and diverts away from activities like digesting food, repairing muscle tissue, and healing the body. Anxiety has a known detrimental impact on many medical issues, and is a leading contributor to others. Digestive issues, tension and migraine headaches, general aches and pains, blood pressure issues… all can frequently be impacted by anxiety. It’s always good to have your medical doctor evaluate these issues, but managing your anxiety may also help to ameliorate your health.

4. You spend a lot of time and/or energy managing your anxiety symptoms. Again, everyone has anxiety. But when that anxiety becomes so big that your time and energy is sapped by trying to manage it, it could be a sign that your anxiety is driving the bus.

5. Anxiety keeps you from enjoying your life. When anxiety is ruling your life, you may no longer enjoy friendships, work pursuits, and leisure activities the way you once did or long to do. The best news about anxiety is that you don’t have to continue to suffer. With the proper treatment–generally considered to be cognitive behavioral and mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy–80% of people experience a significant reduction in anxiety. Take your life back by seeking out anxiety treatment. In the safety of a professional psychotherapeutic relationship, you can explore and understand your anxiety, gain the knowledge needed to fight back against anxiety, and reclaim your life. If you’re in Colorado or Virginia and interested in secure and confidential online psychotherapy options, or local to the south Denver metro area for in office appointments, give me a call. I’m happy to help.

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