Anxiety, Toxic Stress & Trauma
We know that some stress is good. It helps to motivate and engage in life and usually people report that it “feels good” too. However, too high levels of anxiety and stress do not feel good. Workplace pressures, technology over-use, transitions, family conflict, and even coping with bureaucracy can brew and build a level of stress that is not good– its toxic stress. It feels bad because it is bad and (like a toxin) can invade us physically and emotionally and have negative effects in all areas of our lives. It is not about having a “mental illness” as experiencing toxic levels of stress has become so normalized. People are suffering a lot more than necessary. There are many good reasons to seek out a professional for stress.
Sleep eludes you. As soon as you lie down all of the worries come to mind. You are alert at bed-time and often can’t stay asleep.
You know anxiety is standing in your way. You are not able to do the things your heart desires because of anxiety. But you can’t reason it away.
You find yourself getting upset or angry over “little” things. The reactivity is not you, but you can’t seem to stop. This is effecting your relationships with people you care about.
You are worried about how much you are doing “X” (insert behavior, substance use, activity you don’t want to do less or not at all.) and you know it is not a good coping strategy. You know you are doing this because of stress.
Something is happening in your life that caught you off-guard or blindsided you. You need new support and skills to cope.
You are not able to eat, exercise, or play the way you want to. You think about things you know would help you feel better, but you can’t get yourself to do them.
We all experience anxiety and our lives can be very stressful these days. My clients tend to be highly motivated and accomplished people who are experiencing a diminished ability to focus, sleep, or enjoy life. Many find that, over time, rather than getting better at managing stress, they actually handle stress less effectively. They feel tired, irritable, and trapped. Their vitality and joy is sapped and practice has not made perfect.
Chronic anxiety/stress can lead to health problems, relationship struggles, lack of meaning, and general unhappiness.
My approach to anxiety and stress involves:
- Discovering causes and triggers of anxiety.
- Understanding the physiology of anxiety.
- Learning mindfulness and brain-based practices that reduce stress and increase focus.
- Establishing routines or making changes in habits as needed.
- Replacing anxious mind states with calmer, focused, or positive traits.
Sometimes anxiety, and difficulty focusing or relaxing is a result of one or more traumatic experiences. These can be significant single events like an accident or being a victim of violence. We also have come to understand that trauma reactions also occur as a result of sustained or repeated incidences of shame or neglect in childhood. Unfortunately, this is all too common. A healthy mind approach can help heal trauma by:
- Understanding the nature and physiology of trauma and traumatic memory.
- Work with physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms of trauma.
- Learn body and mind practices that strengthen coping skills.
- Put trauma and trauma symptoms into the past.
- Utilizing approaches such as talk therapy, relaxation, mindfulness, & EMDR
Whether the issue is toxic stress, general anxiety or trauma, a healthy mind approaches experiences with energy and curiosity rather than avoidance and worry. When we are in a healthy mind state we respond rather than react and when things do throw us off balance, we are able to right ourselves easily. The more we find ourselves returning to and practicing mind states that are energized, stable, and flexible in this way, the more faith we have that we can handle anything!