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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is typically a deeply rooted fear, often unconscious and based on irrational thoughts and negative cognitions. It often manifests in a variety of different ways and symptoms. The symptoms can range from behavioral to physical to emotional and often cognitive in nature. Everyone who experiences some form of anxiety does not exhibit the same set of symptoms. 

Regardless of one's own perception of their anxiety, it is often interpreted as a flaw or an impending danger. However, anxiety actually serves as an internal protective mechanism that is a vital part of our human evolution.  Our "Fight or Flight" response, or what is also known as our sympathetic nervous system, alerts us to possible "dangers" in our environment, which causes us to pause and scan our surroundings for any potential threats that might be present. In that regard, healthy anxiety that causes us to be vigilant and aware to potential harm to "save our lives" is a good thing and necessary for our survival as a human race.  However, unhealthy or generalized anxiety can often develop into a state of hypervigilance, often leaving us "stuck" or obsessively focused on an irrational worry.  In turn, this can lead us to have an overwhelming sense of chronic fear and avoidance in our daily lives.  

 

For many who suffer from chronic generalized anxiety, our "fight or flight" alarm system becomes activated too frequently when there is not a valid reason to be excessively cautious in the present moment.  For some, they might have a more sensitive genetic alarm system. For others, they be avoiding an irrational fear that needs to be confronted. While others, have suffered an emotional or physical trauma that needs to be looked at closer and healed internally. 

Looking to reduce your anxiety to zero is not possible or useful. Healthy levels of anxiety area necessity to functioning effectively in today's society. However, anxiety becomes a detriment when it manifests in our bodies and minds to the point of feeling paralyzed and it leads to feeling "stuck" or frozen when it comes to self-activating or making healthy decisions for ourselves. Some of those "frozen states" can manifest as excessively hesitating before taking action or making a decision, constantly ruminating or worrying about the future, paralyzing perfectionism, fear of feedback and criticism, and avoidance of social situations or completing certain tasks (i.e. procrastination).  

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