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Author: patahl

The First Step to Any Change

Have you ever wanted to change something in your life and didn’t know where to start?  When you think about it it’s impossible to change something if you’re not aware of it, don’t notice it, or don’t realize you’re doing it. That’s why the first step to any kind of personal change is awareness.

Awareness is more than acknowledging something. True awareness happens when we’re able to catch ourselves doing something as though we’re a witness to ourselves. When we begin to pay attention to how our body feels when we’re stressed or worried, or how we clutch the steering wheel of the car when we’re anxious about driving, we’re on our way to being able to change it.

If you catch yourself telling yourself that you don’t want to go to a party because people will be judging or secretly criticizing you, you can begin to realize that those fears are just that—fears—and they’re not true. And you may go a step further and realize that by not going to the party you’re allowing your anxiety to win and get stronger. By making the choice to go to the party you’re beginning to change the pattern of avoidance and anxiety in your life.

Awareness gives us a choice and choice makes change possible.

AHLways consider: By noticing what’s going on inside you, physically, mentally, and emotionally, as though you’re a witness to yourself you’re on the road to changing it.

“What Will They Think of Me?!” – The Pain of Social Anxiety

You’re sitting in a meeting at work and feeling as though the walls are closing in on you. You’re afraid to say anything for fear of sounding stupid. You quickly glance towards the door knowing that if your anxiety gets too bad you’ll have to escape.

You’ve been invited to a dinner party at the home of your spouse’s boss. You begin to worry that you won’t fit in, that people will judge you, and that they won’t like you. Your mind races to find an excuse not to go.

You’re a high school student who’s afraid that the popular girls are talking about you behind your back. You want to eat lunch with them but you’re afraid they’ll reject you. You start telling yourself that you’re a loser and no one wants to be with you.

Social Anxiety is defined as “fear of interaction with others that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged or evaluated, and consequently it often leads to avoidance of all social events.” It often starts in the teenage years.

It is much more than shyness. Shy people can learn to warm up to others and situations.

AHLways consider: Social Anxiety can be successfully treated with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy which focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing thinking and behavior patterns.

Do you worry about what people are thinking/will think of you? Please leave your comments below!

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

The main characteristic of Social Anxiety, also called Social Phobia, is a fear of being judged or evaluated in social situation or by others. People with Social Anxiety are afraid that they’ll do something to embarrass themselves or appear stupid or boring.

When unable to avoid a social interaction they can become intensely anxious, sometimes having a full blown panic attack. And while they realize that their reaction is extreme they feel powerless to change it.

Social Anxiety can be extremely painful and can rob a person of a good life. People may isolate by avoiding friends and family, they may turn down good job opportunities or travel because of their fear, they may avoid romantic relationships, and their lives can become smaller and smaller.

Social Anxiety is much more than shyness. Fewer than 5% of people with social anxiety seek help when it begins, usually in the teenage years. Left untreated it can open the door to depression and alcoholism.

AHLwaysconsider: Social anxiety may cause people to avoid others and find it painful to interact but with treatment it can decrease significantly and be managed.

Do you find yourself avoiding people and social situations? Please leave your comments below!

What is a Panic Attack?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease in your body that accompanies intrusive thoughts or worry.  Panic is an intense state of anxiety that includes at least four of the following symptoms:

  • Trembling or shaking
  • Numbness or tingling in the body
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Feelings of going crazy or losing control
  • Chills
  • Heat sensations
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Pounding heart or increasing heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Fear that you’re going to die
  • Feeling as though you’re detached from yourself
  • Feeling that you’re choking

When panic first comes on it means that adrenaline has been released in your system. People may feel as though they’re having a heart attack, or that they’re unable to breathe, or that they’re going crazy. The feeling of a panic attack is so intense that people often go to the Emergency Room for help.

Here’s what to do when you feel panic coming on:

First:         Tell yourself this is panic and that it’s adrenaline being released in your system.

Second:   Think of what’s happening as a roller coaster ride that will finally come to an end.

Third:        DON’T FIGHT THE PANIC.

Fourth:      Allow yourself to “ride the wave,” using positive self-statements such as, “I can handle this.” “This will come to an end.” “I’m stronger than the adrenalin,” etc.

Fifth:         Know that the feeling will begin to subside in about 10 minutes and if you don’t  fight it you’ll begin to feel calmer in 20 minutes.

AHLways consider: What you do at the onset of a panic attack will determine whether it intensifies or decreases.

Have you ever had a panic attach or think you did? Please leave your comments below!

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

If you wake up feeling anxious, are a chronic worrier, and imagine the worst case scenario most of the time you may be suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Do you find yourself worrying excessively about your health, your finances, your family, your work?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is more than worrying about a single incident. It’s a way of thinking and reacting to life’s events. “What if I pass out while I”m driving?” “What if I lose my job and become a bag lady?” “What if my child gets hit by a car crossing the street?”

If you’re experiencing three or more of these symptoms:

• restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge

• being easily fatigued

• difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

• irritability

• muscle tension

• sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep)

….and have had these symptoms for at least six months you may be suffering from GAD and may benefit from seeing a mental health professional.

AHLways consider: “What If…” can be answered by “If Then…

Do you find yourself going to worst case scenario and asking yourself “What if…?”? Please leave your comments below!

What is Anxiety?

Very often when something happens that we don’t like or when we think about how things may go wrong with an upcoming event, a personal performance, or an uncertain outcome we may experience anxiety. Our bodies might tense up, we may start shallow breathing, experience rapid heart rate, begin to perspire or feel any number of other body sensations.

This happens because we were designed with a fight/flight/or freeze response that’s built in to protect us from danger or threats. And when this system is triggered adrenalin gets released into our system to help us move faster, escape, fight more fiercely, or freeze in an attempt to avoid danger.

But here’s where it gets tricky: Our system doesn’t know the difference between a realthreat and an imagined one. Or said another way, fear is the response to a real danger. Anxiety is a response to an imagined danger. And the adrenalin flows either way.

When you’re worried about driving on the freeway because you’re afraid you’ll have a panic attack, afraid to go on vacation for fear of leaving your pets and what might happen to them, terrified to speak up in a meeting or a class for fear you’ll sound foolish, worried about what others might think of the way you dress, talk, or how you are as a person, you’re activating your nervous system to respond to these imagined fears as though they’re imminent danger.

And it will obey.

When anxiety gets in the way of your ability to function in a personal or work situation you may have an anxiety disorder which can be treated.

AHLways consider: How we think about events and what we tell ourselves about events will determine how our bodies react and how much anxiety we’ll feel.

Do you think you have anxiety? Please leave your questions or comments below.

Pat Ahl, LPCC, NCC, LLC 2018