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Normal Anxiety or Dysfunctional Anxiety

When your bosses yells at you, when your financial situation hits bottom, or when your child is caught doing drugs, will likely experience a normal degree of anxiety.  Your heart may race, you may feel like you are gearing up for a battle, or you may slip into a sense of “I’ve got to get out of here.”

Anxiety becomes problematic when you know you are reacting as if this experience is more dangerous than it really is.  On the other hand the anxiety may keep you from sleeping or being creative in problem-solving.

Sometimes you will find it’s helpful to look at your assumptions about the situation.  If you know you could lose your job and easily find a different job, than you may relax.  On the other hand, if you feel your lose your marriage and be unable to support your family, you may sweat buckets.  Anxiety tends to rise when we over “catastrophisize” the meaning of the situation.

Sometimes traumatic experiences from childhood can color present day experiences unnecessarily.   If you are a little person and you go into a backyard and this big brown creature bounds up to you and knocks you over and starts licking your face, you may be panicked around dogs for a long time.  But as you begin to help your brain differentiate dogs that are just being friendly and dogs that are like rottweiler you may continue to fear dogs inappropriately.

Anxiety can be crippling but are techniques you can learn to master your fears and be afraid and still do what you need to do. Learning to self soothe makes an enormous difference in your capacity to deal with tense situations.  Some people use relaxation exercises or engage in physical activities.  Mastery is possible and if you continue to have difficulties you may want to seek some psychotherapeutic help.


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