Are You A Woman Struggling With Debilitating Anxiety?
- Are you finding it nerve-wracking or even impossible to do everyday tasks such as shopping, going to appointments or driving your car?
- Do you find that your anxiety is negatively impacting your family members and isolating you from friends and activities you once enjoyed?
- Are you finding it difficult to control your anxiety at work or school?
- Are you regularly "shoulding" yourself and living with guilt, shame and regret?
- Are you consistently worried about what others think of you OR whether you said or did the "right" thing?
- Do you have an anxious child who is worsening your own anxiety?
If your answer is yes to any, some, or all of the above questions, counselling can help!
Facts About Women and Anxiety
Every woman experiences anxiety at some time. That's normal. Some anxiety is positive and necessary. It helps alert you to a potentially dangerous situation, and it helps motivate you to do your best work. Anxiety becomes a negative force when it becomes excessive, persistent and debilitating.
Do you know that women work 10-20 hours a week more than men? Women are socialized to be care-takers. A common complaint from women is that they take care of everyone else first and themselves last. No wonder women are stressed!
Too much stress results in anxiety disorders. Do you know that women are twice as prone to anxiety disorders to men? So what causes women to be anxious?
Common stressors for anxiety include:
- Body image/Emotional Eating
- Parenting Issues
- Family Dysfunction
- Work/Home Balance
If you consistently experience anxiety, especially over a period of years, your emotional and physical energy reservoirs decrease. You have less and less energy to do the everyday tasks life demands and withdraw from activities and people you once enjoyed. Fatigue and loneliness, and dependence on others become a way of life.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that you don't have to live with the crippling effects of anxiety.
Talk therapy and medication do not successfully heal anxiety. Talking about anxiety often exacerbates it while medication controls but does not cure it.
So what does work?
First, all of us are born into imperfect families where our parents did their best to raise us. However, we carry with us unhealthy patterns learned in our childhood as well as beliefs, expectations and ways of communicating that no longer "work" for us. Identifying and implementing wholesome ways of communicating, especially in times of stress, as well as correcting and modifying beliefs and expectations that are keeping anxiety alive and well result in increased peace and independence.
Second, understanding brain science, commonly referred to as mindfulness or mindsight (Dr. Daniel Siegel's term), results in significantly reducing anxiety. We now know that the brain can change anytime, at any age. When you become anxious, you experience "big feelings" in the right emotional brain. The right brain is so "big" that integration with the left, logical brain is impossible. Integrating the right brain with the left is only possible when you are able to calm your emotional brain. Mindfulness provides anxious women with many techniques and strategies to strengthen the left logical brain and calm the right emotional brain to make good, informed decisions.
Together, implementing the concepts of mindfulness and revising beliefs, expectations and patterns of communication no longer useful are a powerful combination in releasing yourself from the pain and distress of anxiety.
Let's look at two case studies and some strategies and techniques that will demonstrate how brain science and replacing unhealthy patterns and habits can lead to peace and independence from anxiety.
Case Study: The Turkey Story
There is a story told of a young married woman who invited her parents and grandparents over for Thanksgiving dinner. She anxiously prepared everything the way her mother and grandmother had taught her including cutting off the end of the turkey. When her family arrived, she proudly showed off her turkey in her new roasting pan. In unison, her mother and grandmother asked, “Why did you cut the end of the turkey off?” Startled, the young woman replied, “Because that's the way you always prepared it.” Her grandmother and mother glanced at each other and then at her and replied, “That's because we didn't have a big enough roasting pan.”
This young woman was continuing with a belief that once served a purpose, but was no longer useful. Some beliefs in your family-of-origin may well need to be revised or deleted for you to make positive life changes.
Your behaviors and how you communicate, especially under stress, are largely anchored on the expectations (the family “shoulds”) you learned in your family-of-origin. As an adult you may find some of those beliefs and expectations no longer serve you well as described in the following case study.
Case Study: The Negative Impact of Family Expectations on Children
Who: Mother of Two Young Children
Mom of two young children angrily shouts at them when they make mistakes hoping that they will listen to her and do as she asks. Mom senses her children are becoming frightened of her. Mom feels anxious that she can't seem to cope calmly. Family-of-origin study reveals that her own parents wanted her to do better even though she was an exceptional student, held school leadership positions and was well-behaved. They made their expectations and criticisms known angrily and loudly. Mom realized she was treating her children much like her parents treated her.
When this mom experientially “felt” the distress her parents' criticism and anger caused her, she decided that she did not want to pass this pain onto her children. Her first step was to “talk” to herself with kindness, compassion and respect. She set realistic age-appropriate expectations for her children. She committed to the belief that her children's mistakes were opportunities for growth.
When mom started feeling angry, she focused on following her breath in and out to calm herself. She and her children felt less anxious and communication improved among all of them. She felt less judgmental of herself and of them. She was better able to see her own strengths and those of her children.
Releasing Negative Emotions Result in Peace and Well-being
Do you worry constantly and find it difficult to quiet your “busy” mind? You can reduce your anxiety by connecting to your authentic self through:
- Meditative Practices
- Mindful Living
Ways to Connect to Your Authentic Self
Focusing on following your breath in and out is an easy and accessible way to calm your anxiety no matter where you are. One client, a woman in her 40's who was anxious about her two older teenagers, reported on her second session with me that when she found herself feeling anxious over her children, she focused on her breathing. Within a minute, she felt less anxious and her “busy” mind cleared.
Another meditative practice is accessing your place of peace. Many clients identify their place of peace in nature. One mother of two toddlers identified her childhood treehouse as her place of peace. When she found her anxiety creeping up, she envisioned her treehouse and the accompanying feelings of serenity and comfort. Quickly, she regained her composure and calmly resumed her tasks.
Visualization is helpful for many of my clients who pursue artistic endeavours. For one client, purple was the color of anxiety and orange was the color of peace. When she felt “purple” she imagined dropping a few drops of “orange” peace into her “purple” anxiety. As she visualized the purple becoming lighter, her anxiety started to lift.
Affirmations are powerful at dispelling anxiety. Many clients had favorite positive sayings, verses from scripture, lines from hymns or songs they repeated when they felt anxious. Some favorites include:
- Perfect love casteth out fear.
- Nothing lasts forever.
- Count your many blessings, name them one by one.
- The Serenity Prayer
- I am strong and resilient.
Lving mindfully significantly reduces anxiety. For instance, a busy student found that when she ate less canned, packaged, and take-out food, her levels of anxiety lowered considerably. For more information on living mindfully, please read my Free Report, Twelve Keys to Calm Anxiety and my blog.
The Benefits of Counselling with Me
Imagine talking to a counsellor who really understands what you’re going through. And I do! Read my story at www.judithbarnard.com/about-judith. With my personal experience overcoming anxiety and depression combined with my academic creditionals and many years of experience, I am the compassionate, patient and understanding guide you need to walk free from debilitating anxiety to a life of calm, independence and well-being.
I have been fortunate to work with women of all ages as a recreation instructor, Sunday school teacher, public school and university instructor, public servant and therapist. My clients indicate that they come to me because I am understanding, empathic, knowledgeable and calm.
Counselling with me will benefit you in the following ways:
- increased self-esteem
- peace from anxiety
- quicker results with lasting changes
- regulating your emotions
- re-framing negatives into positives
- treating yourself and others with kindness and compassion rather than judgmentally
- emotional and physical well-being
- healthier relationships with your family, friends and colleagues
Often, clients with anxiety feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help. Wouldn't it be better to seek help now rather than wait until your anxiety gets worse?
Are you committed to transforming your anxious life into one of peace, contentment and well-being?
If your answer is yes, your next steps are:
- To contact me for a free 15-minute consultation to discuss how I can best help you heal your anxiety.
- To sign up for my Free Report, Twelve Keys to Calm Anxiety.
Judith Barnard, MSW, RSW
Registered Social Worker
I am located in Richmond. I provide therapy services for Richmond, Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver area including Delta, Vancouver, New Westminster, Surrey and White Rock.