Are you prone to excess worry? Do you feel like your worry is disproportionate to the issue at hand? Anxiety is incredibly common, and along with it are some other challenges you might be living with: post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or phobias.
First, it’s important for us not to vilify anxiety. Anxiety is a normal part of life; it gives us the energy to focus a little harder when studying for that big exam, taking care of a new baby, or in preparing more thoroughly before a high-stakes job interview.
But it’s important to distinguish between those times when it gives us a much-needed boost of energy to allow us to circumvent a threat, and those times when the anxiety itself is more real than the supposed threat. In short, anxiety can take on a life of its own if not proactively managed.
Where anxiety becomes a problem in your life is when it takes over the whole show, and actually leads to crippling effects rather than good performance. When it is so overwhelming that you feel paralyzed, or totally panicked.
The “fight, flight, or freeze” nervous system response, aka "stress response," helps our brains and bodies prepare for some perceived danger, up ahead. The problem with anxiety disorders, is that the brain is triggered to initiate a stress response to when there is not imminent danger. Sometimes your brain triggers this response at relatively mundane challenges, like traffic, a move, or starting a new job.
And at other times, your brain starts triggering your stress response when there is no clear reason.
The variety and degree of symptoms are unique to each individual’s history and physiology, but some symptoms are pretty universal (e.g. muscle tension, sweating, rapid heartbeat or breathing, dread, or difficulty sleeping).
HOW DOES THERAPY FOR ANXIETY WORK?
At Oasis, we will teach you to tame your anxiety. If you experience panic symptoms or panic attacks, we will arm you with tools to manage these moments, and over time come to fear them less. Secondarily, we will help you work on the deeper challenges that may be contributing to your anxiety, so over time, you experience fewer panic symptoms.
If you anxiety is connected to big life decisions, we will help you build resilience, and confidence in your choices. We’ll do this by shoring up your strengths and tackling the obstacles. You will learn to better assert your needs to yourself and others, and create healthy boundaries. Over time, your brain and nervous system will learn that they don’t need to create a stress response every time a new transition or big decision comes your way.
We have seen this approach work time and time again to help reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress both for individuals and couples. When you feel more mental and emotional safety, you are freed up to move through life more mindfully, and less anxiously.
The way we do this practically in therapy...
First, we want to know all about your strengths and how we can build on them. I want to know how you’ve gotten out of tough times before.
Then we want to know what’s getting in your way? Where are you getting stuck?
We use a really practical approach of teaching skills and tools that you can start using right away. By lowering your day to day stress, we will free up space to work on the root issue of building confidence. Our goal is long term change, so you can tackle any challenge life throws at you.
— Ayelet Krieger, Clinical Psychologist in Berkeley, CA