Get on top of stress before it gets on top of you!

Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety also known by the labels concern, worry, ˜nerves or nervousness, ˜stress, angst or ˜fear; we may hear ourselves or another say quiet directly I'm scared, I can't cope or ˜I feel as though I'm going mad, I feel under so much pressure.  Or indirectly I feel all prickly, I don't feel myself, I'm feeling all tied up in knots or my heart beats like lead and I'm sure you could add your own.

However anxiety is expressed in words the symptoms a person suffering from stress will have commonalities with every person who is anxious. 

Our nervous system consists of an intricate web of fibers all connected to each other and to all other parts of our inner workd.

Our system has two parts, known as the voluntary nervous system and the involuntary nervous system.

The voluntary nervous system directs the movement of the head and trunk, and we control it more or less as we wish, hence its name.  It consists of the brain and spinal cord, from which a number of paired nerves arise, each ending in the muscle it supplies.

The involuntary nervous system is the second part controlling the internal organs such as the heart, blood vessels, lungs, intestines etc; this system controls the saliva and sweat glands.  Its centre is in the brain and is connected to our bodies with a delicate network of fibres lying on either side of the spinal column; many threadlike branches pass to the internal organs.  This second part is not under our immediate control but “ it is directly affected by our moods.

Counselling for Anxiety Susan Stubbings

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Anxiety is an impulse from our brain which excites the sympathetic nerves to stimulate various regions of our bodies for example our skin and organs such as our hearts and lungs, when we are anxious or scared our breathing becomes rapid and our heart pounds in our chest and we can feel the pounding and we feel more fear.



The sympathetic nerves achieve the pattern when our Adrenal glands receive an impulse from the brain which excites the release of a substance called adrenalin. The adrenalin is then released into our blood stream and travels around our bodies through the network of fibres.  The adrenaline rush keeps us alert to any threats or dangers that may be about to spring forth and consume us for dinner so we can run away or to catch our food when we were cavemen and woman; in this modern age we no longer need the rush of adrenalin on a daily basis but our bodily systems still work the same 'as if' we were still the hunter and the hunted.

When we feel afraid, scared, insecure or bereft we sometimes feel that horrible sensation in the 'pit of our stomach'. This is the most distressing component of fear; however the complete picture of stress includes all the symptoms induced by the release of adrenalin. The intensity of how we experience the feelings of the release of adrenalin will vary on each individual persons personal body and depending how long and how much adrenalin has been released by our adrenal glands.

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Adrenalin can be the cause of a variety of symptoms most people will feel the effects of released adrenalin by experiencing some of the following symptoms:  it is unlikely that any one person will experience all of these symptoms.

PHYSICAL (present and felt in and around your body

  • Palpitations. Breathlessness
  • Chest pain, chronic indigestion, heart burn, belching or nausea
  • Tight band of pain around chest or under bust
  • Headaches, tight band of pain on top of your head similar to how you would image a tight 'halo' would feel if sat on the top of your head
  • Tension around the eyes or bridge of the nose
  • Tingling sensations in fingers or numbness in limbs
  • Trembling, shaking, goose pimples or hairs on arms and legs standing on end
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Sweating, hot flushes, feeling hot or cold
  • Dry mouth, yawning, coughing
  • Sweaty palms
  • Knot in tummy, butterfly feeling, tightness and tension in muscles especially around neck, shoulders and back
  • Stomach ache. Irritable bowel or irritable bowel syndrome, alternating bowel movements i.e. diarrhoea or constipation
  • Constantly wanting to go to the loo to pass water
  • Woman may experience heightened per-menstrual tension, irregular periods or absent period
PSYCHOLOGICAL SYMPTOMS (present in your thoughts/belief system)
  • Sense of fear/dread that something bad is about to happen at any minute and every minute
  • Difficulty sleeping/broken sleep or an inability to get off to sleep which continues for more than a few days.
  • Difficulty in being able to concentrate or focus on tasks even for a few seconds
  • Irritability, confusion, forgetfulness, restless, mental blocks
  • Feeling unreal as if you're not in your conscious mind
  • Fear of the symptoms of anxiety which another person is experiencing
  • Reliving disturbing or traumatic events, flashbacks, panic attacks (periodically)
  • Compulsive behaviours repeating acts over and over again
  • Tearing up, crying or swallowing down, emotional ups and downs, mood changes or low mood
  • Numbing out or emotional blunting 'you feel you have no more emotion positive or negative you feel 'as if' you
       can't access your emotions although you 'feel' your emotion is there and they are intense all at the same time
  • Excessive worry on a daily basis can't switch off thoughts, racing or obsessive thoughts or irrational fears
  • Low confidence, low Self-esteem, weak Self-concept, Self-doubt, second guessing, anticipating or mind reading
        what others are thinking
  • Feeling on edge, wound up or irritable a lot or most of the day

It is unlikely any one person will feel all these symptoms at any one time whilst feeling stressed.  This list is to give the reader an understanding of what can be experienced by the release of adrenalin; if you are suffering with a significant amount of the above symptoms over a length of time it is likely you are suffering from over sensitised adrenal glands and it will be likely that the least little stressor with feel and seem like the end of the world is about to happen. The good news is if you have reached this stage then your individual pattern of anxiety and anxiety fatigue will have reached it pinnacle as such it is unlikely that any new symptoms will occur when adrenaline is released.  The release will just be topping your system up keeping it on high alert.
Situational anxiety - what is it?

Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations, we need a certain amount of adrenalin realise to help us face certain situations in our day for example dealing with an aggressive person, before a meeting with 'the boss', an interview, being made redundant or argument with your spouse; or positive events going to a long awaited concert, a wedding, joining a support group or taking part in a charity event. 
Adjustment Anxiety - What is it?

This is referred to as situational anxiety which quickly arrives as the situation comes and once the situation is over so too is the anxiety; this is a normal response.  Similar to ˜situational anxiety is adjustment anxiety for example following a divorce, bereavement, an accident or illness which may render you disabled and unable to undertake activities which you were once able to perform.  Adjustment anxiety usually develops days or weeks sometimes a few months or as long as two years later as a reaction following a traumatic event and it may include depression. 

Like situational anxiety once you've had time to accept and adjust, had reasonable time to integrate psychologically and emotionally and you have learnt to manage any symptoms or physical impairment then the anxiety usually subsides and you experience fewer triggers and therefore stress symptoms your adrenal glands will begin to calm and return to your usual normal of adrenalin release; you experience situational anxiety appropriate to the situation again.
A note on Depression

Depression is different to anxiety although having prolonged high levels of anxiety can lead to depression. 

Depression is about more than feeling down or sad, people who experience the lows of depression have described it “as a darkness which creeps over me draining me of all emotions sucking me dry leaving me running on empty'  'its not sadness, it's not anger, its hopelessness'. There's no colour, or light or feeling, its nothingness, it's empty, numb and hollowness inside me there's nothing. 

Where as people who suffer anxiety are more likely to express "I feel as high as a kite", "I'm overwhelmed with feelings", "I'm scared of my own shadow" or "I can't sit still" for example.

Depression is the inability to access or be in touch with our past or construct a future, a person suffering with depression may express 'I can't'.    Anxiety on the other hand is the ability to be in contact with the past, unconsciously denying it perhaps whilst at the same time anticipating and predicating what the future will hold assessed on past events; a person suffering anxiety may also express 'I can't'.

 Both avoid living in the here and now; which in reality is all any of us have.


Both anxiety and depression have their roots in chemical imbalance anxiety is overload and depression is shortage and it is no shame to get support from medication for a time in fact it is a sign of wisdom to look after yourself.   If anxiety or depression is interfering with your normal functioning after a week or two of situational anxiety or a month has passed after an adjustment period or if the anxiety felt is not in proportion to the event or persists when the event has past or seems higher than the situation called for or just appears for no reason you can see or understand or where there is no stressful situation to respond too.  Or your mood stays low or only moves lower then it is a good idea to get checked out by a health professional; my motto is
' if in doubt check it out' gain advice from a person who is medically trained such as a general practitioner (GP) Doctor. 

If in doubt check it out

"Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere"

Emma Bombeck

Susan Stubbings Doncaster