How Counselling Can Help With Anxiety
Whether you’re finding it hard to deal with the daily grind or you know somebody who is coping with excessive anxiety, counselling can help with anxiety in many ways. Lots of people are scared to seek help for their anxiety; some people downplay it and say that it’s not important, and the stigma around seeing a professional leads people who really need it to suffer on needlessly. Just remember that if something’s affecting your mental well-being, it’s something you should be attempting to deal with before it makes matters even worse.
A counsellor won’t give you a magic pill or wave a wand and take your problems away, but they’ll provide professional support and reassurance, valuable information, strategies, and give you personalised tools to help manage your anxiety.
The first and arguably most important way that counselling can help for anxiety is provide you with the knowledge and information needed to understand it. Anxiety is often a very vaguely described condition, and defining your situation is an important step to getting through it. After all, you can’t change what you can’t comprehend.
Understanding your symptoms is doubly important when it comes to something that affects your mental health. Not understanding your symptoms can lead to more stress and a drained feeling of hopelessness, creating a feedback loop that leads you even worse off.
Talking through your issues with a trained professional helps position yourself, and your counsellor will take steps to ensure that you know the resources and tools available to you. They’ll also be able to help you on an individual level rather than general advice, tailoring it your specific needs and symptoms.
A Plan of Action
A therapist will firstly help you identify the specific triggers and areas in your life most causing you stress. These can sometimes be fairly obvious (your working hours might be too long, or your mortgage might be looming), but they can be subtle and insidious too.
Once you’ve identified the things causing your anxiety, you can sort out a coping plan. This has to deal with each issue on an individual basis; the ways that anxiety manifests can be very different from person to person, and the same methods won’t necessarily work for everyone.
Once you have a plan together on how to minimise the things causing your anxiety, it’s time to start working on your anxiousness as a symptom.
Beginning Cognitive Therapy
Cognitive therapy sounds complicated, but it’s very simple. It’s simply methods and strategies formulated to stop the negative feedback that an anxious or depressed brain feeds itself.
When you’re feeling bad, your brain gets trapped in feeling bad, which makes it feel worse. If you don’t have good thought patterns and coping skills, this keeps looping, making you more and more stressed out.
Cognitive therapy seeks to replace distorted or negative ways of thinking with more constructive cognitive processing, allowing your brain a moment to regain its composure. It’s one of the main ways that counsellors help you — by allowing your brain to help itself.
The core philosophy essentially boils down to this: Our thoughts influence our feelings, which in turn influences our behaviour (which in turn influences our thoughts, etc). By changing the way that we think by instilling better thinking patterns, we change how our mind perceives the world (feelings), and our overall outlook and response changes (behaviour).
Your counsellor will help you start this process, throwing a spanner in the works of your misbehaving psyche to kickstart a positive feedback loop that’ll leave you in a much stronger position to stimulate recovery.
ACT Therapy and Mindfulness
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a contextually focused form of cognitive behavioural psychotherapy that uses mindfulness and behavioural activation to increase clients’ psychological flexibility – their ability to engage in values-based, positive behaviours whilst experiencing difficult thoughts, emotions, or sensations. ACT has been shown to increase effective action; reduce dysfunctional thoughts, feelings, and behaviours; and alleviate psychological distress for individuals with a broad range of mental health issues.
Alongside cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness exercises are some of the most effective treatment methods for anxiety. Mindfulness is a meditative philosophy and movement promoting bringing your mind back to the present moment, which helps ground the brain and centre yourself to create more calmness.
Your counsellor will help guide you to exercises and resources for your first steps into mindfulness, which will invariably start with simple breathing exercises and guided meditation, and other holistic healing practises.
Mindfulness is a calming, stress-relieving addition to most anxiety counselling used in helping people cope with not just anxiety, but also depression and other mental health symptoms. Calming the mind alleviates both the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety; the feeling of being highly-strung is just as much in the mind as the shoulders and neck, and learning how to relax both and position yourself within a more healthy and balanced state is one of the best things you can do for anxiety.