I’m feeling anxious right now. What can I do?
When I see a patient, and very often for the first time, they often come into the therapy room feeling anxious, and in a state of high anxiety. This is likely because it’s the presenting issue that needs to be reduced rapidly, in the short-medium, and long term, but also there are other factors at work.
Meeting a psychotherapist for the first time, online or in person, worrying about whether you can be helped (and sometimes being doubtful) plus being uncertain about how this can be achieved are all highly understandable factors that can be at the forefront of people’s minds. People want to get to work on their anxiety straight away and find some form of immediate relief and yet the actual state of them is getting in the way.
This past week I saw a new patient who found me on the web with regard to my work with people who were sent away from home to boarding school. For some boys and girls, this experience, often beginning by the age of eight can have a serious detrimental effect. Some psychologists have described this as ‘boarding school syndrome’ although I prefer my own term of ‘boarding school trauma’. Syndromes cannot be cured but trauma can, so I think framing a negative experience as treatable is at the very least good for morale! I will return to this subject another day, but I mention it here because with my patient last week before anything could be done, their anxiety symptoms had to be brought under control.
If you look up on the web “what you can do to reduce anxiety in the here and now”, you will find everyone’s suggestions are broadly similar. These include:
- Talking to a friend
- Going for a walk
- Deep breathing
- Listening to soothing music
- Writing down your anxieties.
In my experience when severe anxiety has flared up, I have seldom found any of these suggestions to be particularly helpful.
It is true that, overtime, some of these activities could be useful. But when you are in the grip of an acute anxiety attack before a meeting, going for a walk, or journaling, your thoughts seem aggravatingly impractical.
Although cognitive therapy has framed anxiety primarily as a problem with thinking I have found, like most people I suspect, that when we first perceive acute anxiety, it is more a problem of feeling.
But what does it mean to feel anxious?
Conventionally people describe themselves as feeling anxious, rather than saying that they are thinking anxious thoughts. In time we can come to recognise the negative thought patterns, catastrophizing, demanding, and self-damning beliefs that may lie at the heart of our problem state, but in the moment we all just want to feel a bit of relief. The feeling that we’re talking about here is both emotional and physical. Racing heart rate, shortness of breath, feeling sick, feeling dizzy, and tight in the chest are some of the very real symptoms that we urgently want to reduce. Emotionally we can feel lost, powerless, and out of control.
So how can your app help with feeling anxious?
This is where getting straight onto using the Sound therapy of my app is usually my best suggestion. This is because its’ unusual sound seems to have the mechanistic effect of calming down the crackling neural networks that are driving the anxiety. It’s as though the voltage across the emotional, cognitive, and physical system is being turned down. People generally notice this effect within their very first couple of treatment sessions.
As you quickly become familiar and ‘at home’ with the sound two things happen. First, the anxiety about having anxiety reduces, because now you have an effective antidote which you can use 24/7. Second, people become inventive and start to bring their actual problem thinking and experiences to the sound, becoming in effect their own therapists.
In the therapy room, as a patient becomes less and less anxiously activated, the work of cognitive therapy can really begin.
All the time you are feeling like a shaken-up can of coke with the top still on, none of us can hope to problem solve or gain perspective.
So whatever situation you find yourself in, if you need some immediate self-help for the feelings of anxiety, give this a try. Ed can Help is available on both IOS, as well as Android and comes with respective free trials. There are free trials on both platforms meaning there’s no commitment, and you can cancel at anytime.
Check out our video that explains Ed can Help in a little more detail.